Many Christians use this scripture as evidence that all Christians are able to “drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”, but is that really true. Let’s take a look at the context of the scripture and what followed after Jesus was taken up into heaven.
The "them" is referring to the apostles, therefore, there is no evidence that all believers can do what the apostles did. What did occur is the word was first preached and the signs and wonders followed to validate the new leadership for the Church. In much the same way Jesus’ miracles were to validate his person and message.
Signs and wonders were to follow those who believe, not the believer following after the signs.
Acts 14:1-3 NIV At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Greeks believed. But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the other Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders (emphasis mine).
Signs and wonders, miracles are not for the Christians who already believe, they accompanied the Gospel and were done in the presence of the unbelievers to have them believe in the message. If we look at the book of Acts who was it that took up a serpent? (not on purpose) Paul an apostle. Who laid hands on the sick? The apostles. This was never a normal occurrence for everyone who was a Christian. It's not that we can't pray for the sick today, we can. And the Lord may use whoever he may wish to today (The Holy Spirit has given some, not all, the Spiritual Gift of Healing). If signs and wonders were to follow all who believe how could one tell who the apostles were. There would be no distinction in leadership. The very reason for the signs and miracles were to appoint the apostles as a governing leadership over Gods new entity the Church. This was not entrusted into everyone's hands that believe but those who were hand picked and spent time with Jesus. Those who were to dispense the new teaching of Jesus God used and validated by working through them signs and miracles like Jesus.
Acts 2:42-43 NIV They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles (emphasis mine).
Acts 5:12 NIV The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. (emphasis mine)
If you are strong in faith you don't need signs and wonders to know that the Father cares for you. You don’t need to be further convinced of God by the exhibiting of power. We don't need signs and wonders to prove that He exists or that He hears our prayers.
Romans 10:17-18 NIV Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.
Without seeing any evidence of supernatural manifestations, we can believe because God has granted us grace to believe based upon the testimony of His Word.
Signs And Wonders Attract, Love Reaches
John 13:34-35 NIV “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
What's the difference between attracting and reaching?
To attract is cause to come to a place or participate by offering something of interest, favorable conditions, or opportunities. To reach is to stretch out in order to touch or grasp something.
God has a strange way of reaching the world. There was a guy who followed and served Jesus for two decades. But one morning he woke up and realized he did not really believe any of it. He prayed for things that God never gave. He asked to hear God’s voice, but never heard a sound. He asked to see God, but never did. So he framed a blank piece of paper and set it on his desk, telling God to write something on it if he was real. Until then, he would live as an atheist. To this day, that paper is blank. Wouldn’t God be wise do one of these things for every living person, so that no one could deny his reality?
Jesus says, “No. I will show myself in a different way.” Perhaps he knew better. After three years of undeniable miracles, people still put him to death. He also knew the story of Israel, how it only took a few months after the miracles of the Exodus for them to bow down before idols. Miracles simply aren’t as convincing as we think. But real-life love between friends, spouses and a community is deeply convincing (especially when that love transcends socio-economic, ethnic and national borders).
This is, perhaps, why Jesus said he would convince the world not through miracles, but through our love.
As missionaries who reach their neighbors and co-workers by loving each other well? When people see and hear our love, they will finally ask: what empowers you to love so strangely? When we answer, “Jesus,” we might just convince someone.