Mishandling Scripture


Mishandling Scripture

Just recently Pastor John preached on the beginning of Acts 28. This is the story of how the apostle Paul, a shipwrecked prisoner on the island of Malta, gets bit by a poisonous snake. The local residents of the island keep waiting for him to swell up and die, but he is not harmed at all.

This is one of the three passages used by certain fringe groups to support the practice of snake handling. In some churches they bring out poisonous snakes at some point in the service for people to pick up and handle. They consider the practice of snake handling to be part of their worship.

However, the story in Acts 28 most certainly does not teach this type of snake handling. Paul does not pick up the snake on purpose. The snake jumps out at him while he is putting wood on the fire. The author of the book of Acts appears to relate this story as proof that Paul is innocent of the charges for which he has been arrested. The islanders see that the prisoner Paul has been bitten by the snake, and they think that Paul is being judged by the gods. When Paul suffers no ill effects from the bite, the implication is that Paul is innocent. So this passage has little bearing on the practice of snake handling.  


Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?

holy spirit

“Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”

That is the question that Paul asked twelve disciples of John the Baptist in the city of Ephesus in Acts 19:2. Not only had they not received the Holy Spirit, but they were unaware that the Spirit had arrived at Pentecost (Acts 2).


If someone were to ask you that question, how would you respond?


Paul thought it was an important question to ask those twelve in Ephesus, and it is an important question to ask yourself. Have you received the Holy Spirit?


Everyone who believes in Jesus receives the Holy Spirit.


Passages like 1 Corinthians 12:13 teach that every believer – every member of the body of Christ – has received the Holy Spirit. 


Can God use imperfect people?

Can God use imperfect, incomplete people like you and me?


He can, he will, and he does. We know this because he used imperfect, incomplete Apollos. Here’s what you need to know about Apollos from Acts 18:24-28.


1. Apollos had huge gaps in his theology

Apollos was a knowledgeable man from Alexandria in Egypt. He was teaching about Christ, but he was “acquainted only with the baptism of John” (Acts 18:25), meaning he was a disciple of John the Baptist. We can’t be certain of the details, but probably he did not know about Jesus’ death and resurrection or the coming of the Holy Spirit.


2. Apollos used his gifts and limited knowledge to the fullest

It is debated whether or not Apollos was a true believer when he first began his ministry, but it is clear that he used what little knowledge he had to great effect. He arrived in the big city of Ephesus (now in modern day Turkey) and began to teach and preach eloquently and passionately from the Scriptures (Acts 18:24-26).


3. God used other believers to fill in Apollos’ gaps

God sent Priscilla and Aquila to Ephesus. Priscilla and Aquila were believers who had spent some time with Paul in the city of Corinth (Acts 18:1-3). They heard Apollos teaching in the synagogue in Ephesus. They delicately pulled him aside and “explained to him the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:26).


4. Apollos’ ministry grew in scope and impact

Apparently Apollos was receptive to the instruction of Priscilla and Aquila. As a result, he traveled beyond Ephesus to the region of Achaia (now in modern day Greece). There it appears he had a tremendous impact for the gospel – helping the believers and refuting their opponents (Acts 18:27-28). He especially had a significant influence on the major port city of Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:12; 3:4-5).


Apollos was imperfect and incomplete, just as we are, but he responded positively to the truth he was given and passionately did what he believed God was calling him to do. God used other believers to teach him and refine him, and Apollos submitted to their help. As a result, his ministry influence expanded.


So use what knowledge and gifts you have. Do all that you know God wants you to do. Let God worry about your imperfections. He will send you the circumstances and the people you need to refine you. As you let God refine you, your ministry can only deepen and grow.


What I Heard is a blog in which one of our members (usually Assistant Pastor Randy Curtis) reflects on a thought or two from the most recent Sunday morning sermon [hyperlink to sermon page]. The blog provides a means of remembering, thinking further about, and applying the words of the Bible discussed in depth on Sunday morning.