Introduction: When I started reading the Bible texts for this week’s
lesson I became discouraged. Jesus seems to give a test for believers
that I, frankly, flunk. Why don’t you join me in the study this week
and see how you do on the “test?” If you also flunk the test, I’ve
got an explanation that seems to counter the plain language of the
text. Let’s dive into this study of the Bible and see what you think!

  1. Believe and Do

    1. Read Mark 16:14. Why did Jesus rebuke His disciples?
      (Because they would not believe those who had told them
      that Jesus was alive.)

      1. Why would the disciples have such an attitude? Would
        this not be exactly what they hoped for? (Perhaps it
        is pride. If Jesus does not appear to them, they will
        not believe it. Compare John 20:24-25.)

    2. Read Mark 16:15-16. What makes the difference between
      those who are saved and those who are condemned?
      (Believing in Jesus.)

    3. Read Mark 16:17-18. Is there a test so you can tell
      whether someone sincerely believes? (Jesus says that those
      who believe show certain signs: driving out demons,
      speaking in new tongues, picking up snakes, drinking
      poison, and healing sick people.)

      1. If that is the test, then I can tell you that I flunk
        the test. As far as I can tell, the Spanish class I
        took in college and eating at [an unnamed chain
        restaurant] come as close as I get to any of these

      2. Whenever I want to argue that a text of the Bible
        does not mean what it plainly says, I get nervous.
        This test seems so illogical. Why would picking up
        snakes or drinking poison have anything to do with
        believing in Jesus? (They don’t have any relationship
        that I can see.)

        1. Are we told anywhere else in the Bible to pick
          up snakes or drink poison? Do we ever read about
          Jesus handling snakes or drinking poison? (No to

        2. No commentary I read suggested that we should
          actually drink poison to prove our faith.
          Barnes’ Notes and Adam Clarke’s commentary refer
          to these signs being given to those “in the
          primitive age” or in “primitive times.” Is it
          fair to call Jesus and the disciples “primitive”
          people? (Whenever we start claiming that we are
          more sophisticated than those people in Bible
          times, that also makes me nervous. Seems like
          pride at work. We may have better technology,
          but I doubt we have more emotional

      3. Look at Mark 16:17 again. Is there a common
        denominator among all of these signs? (They all deal
        with adversity. Demons, language barriers, snakes,
        poison, and sickness are all obstacles that face the
        disciples as they shared the gospel. I think Jesus is
        saying that a sign that you are a believer is that
        God will remove the serious obstacles to your

        1. Read Acts 28:3-6. Is this an example of the
          understanding that I propose for these verses?
          (Yes. We read of Paul being bitten by a snake,
          not dying, and this being used as a method to
          promote the gospel.)

  2. Belief and Judgment

    1. Read Matthew 25:31-33. What do sheep and goats symbolize?
      (This is another description of those who believe and are
      saved and those who are condemned.)

    2. Read Matthew 25:34-40. How do you fare on this test? (I’m
      feeling a lot better after reading this text than after
      reading Mark 16:17-18. I just finished filling out my tax
      return and I reported hundreds of dollars my wife and I
      donated in food and clothes.)

      1. Does dropping off food and clothing at food pantries
        and charities count? I don’t have a face-to-face
        encounter with whoever is eating or wearing my

        1. Would you like to have a face-to-face encounter
          with the homeless and destitute?

          1. If the answer is “No,” does that mean we
            flunk this test too?

        2. The last two times I had a face-to-face
          encounter with the homeless/destitute, it was
          fine. But, the time before that it was ugly. A
          homeless person with a cell phone (!) called me
          and insisted that I purchase a certain type of
          inflatable mattress and deliver it to the
          homeless shelter because the mattress there was
          unsatisfactory. She kept calling me and
          yelling. It did not seem like this was the
          equivalent of helping Jesus.

    3. Read Matthew 25:41-46. Should we write off this
      “righteousness by faith” nonsense? (No. I see this to be
      very much like our text in Mark. In Mark, Jesus described
      what would happen to His true followers when they met
      adversity in their gospel work. Here, Jesus describes the
      reaction of the true believers to those who are in need.
      If your attitude is to help, and you do help, then you
      reflect what is in your heart – a desire to follow Jesus.)

  3. Belief and Witness

    1. Read Luke 24:45-49. So far, we have seen some tests of
      discipleship which create some doubt in my mind about my
      level of discipleship. What does Jesus promise to us to
      allow us to meet the requirements of discipleship? (The
      Holy Spirit.)

    2. Read Ezekiel 24:3-4. Do you think these people needed
      cooking lessons?

      1. What hint to you find in these verses about the
        problem God is trying to address with His cooking
        story? (He calls them a “rebellious house.” They
        have a spiritual problem.)

    3. Read Ezekiel 24:5. What is the solution to their spiritual
      problem? (To put the pot over the fire and bring it to a

        1. What do you think the fire symbolizes? (The Holy

        2. How about you – is your “pot” over the fire and
          boiling? Or, are you a pot filled with cold
          water and rotting meat? (Perhaps if the
          “temperature” of the Holy Spirit was higher in
          our lives, we would do better on the
          discipleship tests.)

  4. Theory of the Mission

    1. So far we have been talking about the potential
      adversities faced in mission, we have been talking about
      the deeds of mission and we have been talking about the
      power for mission. What is the overarching theory for our
      mission – particularly if you believe we are in the last
      days before Jesus’ Second Coming?

    2. Read Revelation 14:6-7. How does the Bible characterize
      the message of this angel? (It is the “eternal gospel.”)

    3. What is the message? (Get ready for the final judgment!)

      1. How do we do that? (Worship God, fear God, give Him

      2. On what basis does God deserve our worship, fear and
        praise? (He is the Creator!)

        1. Friend, do you understand the basic issue in the
          battle? Do you have the right message?

    4. Timing is a very important thing. Is it possible that I
      (we) do not do very well on the snake-handling, poison
      drinking, demon driving, illness healing scale because
      that was the leading edge of the battle then and the
      leading edge of the battle now is creation/evolution and
      Saturday/Sunday worship?

    5. Can we also consider the sheep/goats story to be mostly
      irrelevant based on timing? (No. That is a story about the
      judgment. God never lets us rest at a simple intellectual
      understanding of the gospel. That understanding must
      permeate our lives and change our attitudes and our

    6. Friend, do you understand the disciple’s mission? Do you
      understand the issues of the last day? Is your
      understanding changing your life?

  5. Next week: Patterns of Discipleship.