The eighth sighting of Paul the prophet was the snakebite on the beach at Malta. Having just been saved from “death by shipwreck,” when most people would be happy to sit by a fire and be nursed and ministered to, Paul was out picking sticks and twigs with which to light a fire. Snuggled up between some of the sticks Paul had unknowingly picked up a viper. And vipers are poisonous.
The scene is almost humourous. It seems that as he threw the wood on to the fire, the viper was left hanging on to Paul’s hand by its teeth. The locals that were watching went off into a fantasy heathen world of empty thought. “This man must be a murderer. For even though he escaped death at sea, Justice will not allow him to live.” They watched as Paul shook of the viper and carried on as if nothing had happened. The locals were extremely macabre and stared at Paul waiting for him to swell up, or simply drop dead. But Paul did not even know what was going on. When nothing happened, the locals ceased calling him a murderer and called him a god. The truth was that he was neither murderer (he was in actuality, to be truthful, an ex accomplice to murder), nor was he a god. He was a prophet. The consciousness of the man was so buried in his ownership of an intimate relationship with Christ that he was, by an active, stubborn faith, impervious to the snappings of a poisonous viper.
There may be some silly people who argue against the validity of the latter sections of Mark 16, however, Paul firmly believed verse 18 which fed his faith by saying, “They shall pick up snakes…and it will not hurt them at all.”
To this writer, these accounts, when seen in their combination, scream at me that Paul was a prophet, even though his prophetic gift was seemingly submersed with his apostolic gifting. Unknown to us today as a motive, it is absolutely clear that Luke had a logic and rationale for what he both included, as well as excluded from the book of Acts. I say this because of things like the table immediately below:
“many wonders and miraculous signs were done Paul and Barnabas (the apostles) did
by the apostles” (2:43) many miracles and signs in Iconium (14:3–4)
Lame Man from birth (3:1–10) Lame Man from birth (14:8–11)
Earthquake ends a Prayer meeting (4:31) Earthquake ends prayers sung to God (16:26)
Curses Ananias and Sapphira (5:1–11) Curses Elymas (13:8–12)
Healing with a shadow (5:15) Healing with a handkerchief (19:12)
Peter grants miraculous gifts through hands (8:17) Paul grants miraculous gifts through hands (19:6)
Raises Tabitha from the dead (9:40) Raises Eutychus from the dead (20:9–12)
Peters chains loosed (12:7) Paul’s chains fell off (16:26)
Paralleling Paul and Peter’s ministry was obviously done for a reason. Analysis of Acts and comparing it with Luke’s gospel is to be an area of fruitful study sometime in the future.
Although the role and function of prophet was undoubtedly submerged in the more authoritative apostolic gift that rested on Paul, without any shadow of a doubt the three pronged ministry of healing, deliverance and prophecy – especially of personal prophecy, is the key to a sustained and consistent attack on sin, sickness and the devil in people’s lives. Paul’s management of the miraculous was tied up in not only sustaining, but improving the manifestation of these gifts, by bringing his body soul and spirit more into captivity to Christ and allignment with Christ.