Mark Wolford, a Pentecostal pastor, died during a Pentecostal ritual Sunday (5/27/12) in West Virginia. Reports tell us that 30 minutes into the service Wolford passed around a poisonous timber rattlesnake. The rattlesnake bit him on the thigh and then eventually as the situation worsened Wolford was taken to the hospital where he passed away. Interestingly enough, Wolford's father had passed away earlier in his life at a similar service from a snake bite.
Many times religious snake handlers point to Mark 16:17-18 which says, "And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and if they drink any poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover." Although this was true in the first century we no longer need or have spiritual gifts today; we have the word of God. 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 tells us, "Love never ends. As for prophecies they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away." The only thing that the perfect could be referring to in the context of these verses is the word of God. Now that we have the word of God, spiritual gifts have ceased.
I believe there is a major lesson that we can learn from what happened to Wolford. Misinterpreting the word of God can be deadly. If Wolford had interpreted the word of God correctly he would have known that spiritual gifts had ceased and in all likelihood he would still be alive. If he had interpreted the word of God correctly he would have realized after his father's death that picking up snakes can be harmful. He would have known that even though Mark 16 says "it will not hurt them" it can hurt today because spiritual gifts have ceased.
If we fail to interpret the word of God correctly it can be deadly to us as well. Although depending on what is misinterpreted we may not lose our physical life. Misinterpreting the word of God can cause something much worse to happen; losing our soul.
Think about it. If we fail to interpret what the Bible says about salvation. We won't be saved. If we fail to live the Christian lives that God has shown us how to live; we won't be faithful unto death, and thus receive the crown of life (Rev. 2:10).
I challenge all of us to study the word of God diligently so we know how to live our lives for God. I encourage all to think about the dangers that can come spiritually from misinterpreting scripture. After all misinterpretation of scripture can prove to be deadly!