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Recent news included a story about a snake handling “Pentecostal” preacher who died from a rattlesnake bite. Reportedly, the preacher refused medical treatment. Open Bible Churches disavows misguided scriptural interpretations that cause people to handle snakes as a demonstration during worship, virtually as a litmus test of the anointing of God. History records that the practice arose in the Appalachians around 1910, and it apparently only continues to some extent in that same area. However, the practice attracts attention far beyond the small number of its adherents. It’s even featured in a current television series.

A Kentucky preacher, Jamie Coots (above), died Saturday evening after refusing to be treated.

We lament the loss of life that has occurred because of fixating on one passage of Scripture, Mark 16:17-18 (KJV): And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. Why practitioners of snake handling worship do not also choose to drink poison (deadly thing) as a demonstration of God’s anointing is unknown to us.

While we believe the power of God can be manifested as identified in Mark 16:17-18, we view the deliberate handling of snakes in a worship context, in virtually a dare of bravado to prove one’s anointing, to be in error at best and manipulative at worst. In our view, the Apostle Paul’s experience (Acts 28), when shipwrecked on the island of Malta, is the protection God described in Mark 16. A snake bit Paul’s hand when Paul was handling firewood. Paul grabbed the snake, thus handling it, and threw the snake into the fire. Miraculously, Paul exhibited no ill effects from the snakebite. He had not looked for the snake in order to deliberately handle and prove anything. Rather, God covered Paul with protection when the snake attacked him. If Paul had been near an Urgent Care clinic would we have advocated that he seek help? Absolutely. Even one of Jesus’ disciples, Luke, was a physician. But no care was available for Paul. He was shipwrecked and trying to survive. God provided his care.

God is capable of demonstrating His power without people contorting His Word in order to concoct proof of their anointing with His power. We believe it saddens the Lord’s heart when people attempt to manipulate Him by manipulating His Word.

About The Author

Randall Bach
President of Open Bible Churches

Randall Bach delights in opportunities to serve the Lord, including his current assignment as president of Open Bible Churches. He and Barbara, his wife, have been in ministry for over 46 years and call it “Our adventure together.” Randall loves the church, pastors, and church leaders and is convinced that God loves to work through them to make disciples, develop leaders, and plant churches.