No loveless criticism!
Mark 9:38-50 NASB
³⁸John said to Him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to prevent him because he was not following us.”
³⁹But Jesus said, “Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me.
⁴⁰For he who is not against us is for us.
⁴¹For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he will not lose his reward.
⁴²Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.
⁴³If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire ⁴⁴[where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.]
⁴⁵If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell, ⁴⁶[where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.]
⁴⁷If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell, ⁴⁸where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.
⁴⁹For everyone will be salted with fire.
⁵⁰Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.
Some further information:
Whoever serves Jesus and gives Him the glory is on the right side!
Observe the account which John gave Him, of the restraint they had laid upon one from making use of the name of Christ, because he was not of their society.
Though they were ashamed to own their contests for preferment, they seem to boast of this exercise of their authority, and expected their Master would not only justify them in it, but commend them for it; and hoped he would not blame them for desiring to be great, when they would thus use their power for maintaining the honour of the sacred college.
Master, saith John, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, but he followeth not us (Mark 9:38).
It was strange to them, that one who was not a professed disciple and follower of the Christ, should have power to cast out devils, in His name, for that seemed to be peculiar to those whom He called (Mark 6:7).
Some speculate that he was a disciple of John, who made use of the name of the Messiah, not as come, but as near at hand, not knowing that Jesus was the Messiah.
It should rather seem that he made use of the name of Jesus, believing Him to be the Christ, as the other disciples did.
And why not? He received that power from the Christ, whose Spirit, like the wind, blows where it listeth, without such an outward call as the apostles had? And perhaps there were many more such.
Christ’s grace is not tied to the visible church.
It was strange to them, that one who cast out devils in the name of Christ, did not join himself to the apostles, and follow the Christ with them, but should continue to act in separation from them.
I know of nothing that could hinder him from following them, unless because he was loth to leave all to follow them; and if so, that was an ill principle.
The thing did not look well, and therefore the disciples forbade him to make use of Christ’s name as they did, unless he would follow him as they did.
This was like the motion Joshua made concerning Eldad and Medad, that prophesied in the camp, and went not up with the rest to the door of the tabernacle; “My lord Moses, forbid them (Numbers 11:28); restrain them, silence them, for it is a schism.’’
Thus are we apt to imagine that those
▪︎ who do not follow the Christ (read: are not a church member),
▪︎ who do not follow Him with us (read: are not a member of our church or denomination)
▪︎ and who do nothing well (read: who do not just as we do).
cannot belong to the Christ, and cannot be on their way to God’s eternal Kingdom.
But the Lord knows they that are his, however they are dispersed; and this instance gives us a needful caution, to take heed lest we be carried, by an excess of zeal for the unity of the church, and for that which we are sure is right and good, to oppose that which yet may tend to the enlargement of the church, and the advancement of its true interests another way.
Observe the rebuke He gave to them for this (Mark 9:39); which comes down to this: “Forbid him not, nor any other that does likewise.’’
This was like the check Moses gave to Joshua;
Enviest thou for my sake? Note, That which is good, and doeth good, must not be prohibited, though there be some defect or irregularity in the manner of doing it.
Casting out devils, and so destroying Satan’s kingdom, doing this in Christ’s name, and so owning Him to be sent of God, and giving honour to Him as the Fountain of grace, preaching down sin, and preaching up Christ, are good things, very good things, which ought not to be forbidden to any, merely because they follow not with us.
Paul said in Philippians 1:18
In every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice,
The Christ gives two reasons why such should not be forbidden.
● Because we cannot suppose that any man who makes use of Christ’s name in working miracles, should blaspheme His name, as the scribes and Pharisees did. There were those indeed that did in Christ’s name cast out devils, and yet in other respects were workers of iniquity; but they did not speak evil of Christ.
● Because those that differed in communion, while they agreed to fight against Satan under the banner of Christ, ought to look upon one another as on the same side, notwithstanding that difference.
He that is not against us is on our part. As to the great controversy between Christ an Beelzebub, He had said, he that is not with me is against me (Matthew 12:30).
He that will not own the Christ, owns Satan. But as to those that own the Christ, though not in the same circumstances, that follow him, though not with us, we must reckon that though these differ from us, they are not against us, and therefore are on our part, and we must not be any hindrance to their usefulness.
In Mark 9:41 the Christ promises a reward to all those that are in any way kind to his disciples; “Whosoever shall give you a cup of water, when you need it, and will be a refreshment to you, because ye belong to Christ, and are of his family, he shall not lose his reward.’’
▪︎ Note that it is the honour and happiness of Christians, that they belong to the Christ, they have joined themselves to Him, and are owned by Him; they wear His livery and retainers to his family; they are even more nearly related, they are members of His body.
▪︎ Note that they who belong to the Christ, may sometimes be reduced to such straits, as to be glad of a cup of cold water.
▪︎ Note that the relieving of Christ’s poor in their distresses, is a good deed, and will turn a good account; He accepts it, and will reward it.
▪︎ Note what kindness is done to Christ’s poor, must be done them for His sake, and because they belong to Him; for that is it that sanctifies the kindness, and puts a value upon it in the sight of God.
▪︎ Note that this is a reason why we must not discourage those who are serving the interests of Christ’s kingdom, though they are not in every thing of our mind and way.
It comes in here as a reason why those must not be hindered, that cast out devils in Christ’s name, though they did not follow him; for (as Dr. Hammond paraphrases it) “It is not only the great eminent performances which are done by you my constant attendants and disciples, that are accepted by me, but every the least degree of sincere faith and Christian performance, proportionable but to the expressing the least kindness, as giving a cup of water to a disciple of mine for being such, shall be accepted and rewarded.’’
If Christ reckons kindness to us services to him, we ought to reckon services to him kindnesses to us, and to encourage them, though done by those that follow not with us.
○ Observe that He threatens those that offend his little ones, that wilfully are the occasion of sin or trouble to them (Mark 9:42).
Whosoever shall grieve any true Christians, though they be of the weakest, shall oppose their entrance into the ways of God, or discourage and obstruct their progress in those ways, shall either restrain them from doing good, or draw them in to commit sin, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea: his punishment will be very great, and the death and ruin of his soul more terrible than such a death and ruin of his body would be (See Matthew 18:6).
○ Observe that He warns all his followers to take heed of ruining their own souls.
This charity must begin at home; if we must take heed of doing any thing to hinder others from good, and to occasion their sin, much more careful must we be to avoid every thing that will take us off from our duty, or lead us to sin; and that which does so we must part with, though it be ever so dear to us.
This we had twice in Matthew (Matthew 5:29,30, and Matthew 18:8,9). It is here urged somewhat more largely and pressingly; certainly this requires our serious regard, which is so much insisted upon.
○ Observe the case supposed, that when our own hand, or eye, or foot, offend us; that the impure corruption we indulge is as dear to us as an eye or a hand, or that that which is to us as an eye or a hand, is become an invisible temptation to sin, or occasion of it.
▪︎ Suppose the beloved is become a sin, or the sin a beloved.
▪︎ Suppose we cannot keep that which is dear to us, but it will be a snare and a stumbling-block;
▪︎ Suppose we must part with it, or part with Christ and a good conscience.
○ Observe the duty prescribed in that case;
Pluck out the eye, cut off the hand and foot, mortify the darling lust, kill it, crucify it, starve it, make no provision for it.
Let the idols that have been delectable things, be cast away as detestable things; keep at a distance from that which is a temptation, though ever so pleasing.
It is necessary that the part which is gangrened, should be taken off for the preservation of the whole.
Immedicabile vulnus ense recidendum est, ne pars sincera trahatur—The part that is incurably wounded must be cut off, lest the parts that are sound be corrupted.
▪︎ We must put ourselves to pain, that we may not bring ourselves to ruin;
▪︎ self must be denied, that it may not be destroyed.
○ Observe the necessity of doing this.
The flesh must be mortified, that we may enter into life (Mark 9:43,45), into the kingdom of God (Mark 9:47).
Though, by abandoning sin, we may, for the present, feel ourselves as if we were halt and maimed (it may seem to be a force put upon ourselves, and may create us some uneasiness), yet it is for life; and all that men have, they will give for their lives:
It is for a kingdom, the kingdom of God, which we cannot otherwise obtain; these halts and maims will be the marks of the Lord Jesus, will be in that kingdom scars of honour.
○ Observe the danger of not doing this.
The matter is brought to this issue, that either sin must die, or we must die.
If we will lay this Delilah in our bosom, it will betray us; if we be ruled by sin, we shall inevitably be ruined by it; if we must keep our two hands, and two eyes, and two feet, we must with them be cast into hell.
Our Saviour often pressed our duty upon us, from the consideration of the torments of hell, which we run ourselves into if we continue in sin.
With what an emphasis of terror are those words repeated three times here,
Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched! The words are quoted from Isaiah 66:24.
○ Observe the reflections and reproaches of the sinner’s own conscience are the worm that dieth not; which will cleave to the damned soul as the worms do to the dead body, and prey upon it, and never leave it till it is quite devoured.
Son, remember, will set this worm gnawing; and how terrible will it bite that word (Proverbs 5:12,23 ), How have I hated instruction!
The soul that is food to this worm, dies not; and the worm is bred in it, and one with it, and therefore neither doth that die.
Damned sinners will be to eternity accusing, condemning, and upbraiding, themselves with their own follies, which, how much soever they are now in love with them, will at the last bite like a serpent, and sting like an adder.
○ Observe the wrath of God fastening upon a guilty and polluted conscience, is the fire that is not quenched; for it is the wrath of the living God, the eternal God, into whose hands it is a fearful thing to fall.
There are no operations of the Spirit of grace upon the souls of the damned sinners, and therefore there is nothing to alter the nature of the fuel, which must remain for ever combustible; nor is there any application of the merit of Christ to them, and therefore there is nothing to appease or quench the violence of the fire.
Dr. Whitby shows that the eternity of the torments of hell was not only the constant faith of the Christian church, but had been so of the Jewish church.
Josephus saith, The Pharisees held that the souls of the wicked were to be punished with perpetual punishment; and that there was appointed for them a perpetual prison.
And Philo saith, The punishment of the wicked is to live for ever dying, and to be for ever in pains and griefs that never cease.
The two last verses are somewhat difficult, and interpreters agree not in the sense of them; for every one in general, or rather every one of them that are cast into hell, shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt.
Therefore have salt in yourselves.
▪︎ Note that it was appointed by the law of Moses, that every sacrifice should be salted with salt, not to preserve it (for it was to be immediately consumed), but because it was the food of God’s table, and no flesh is eaten without salt; it was therefore particularly required in the meat-offerings (Leviticus 2:13).
▪︎ Note that the nature of man, being corrupt, and as such being called flesh (Genesis 6:3; Psalms 78:39 ), some way or other must be salted, in order to its being a sacrifice to God. The salting of fish (and I think of other things) they call the curing of it.
▪︎ Note that our chief concern is, to present ourselves living sacrifices to the grace of God (Romans 12:1), and, in order to our acceptableness, we must be salted with salt, our corrupt affections must be subdued and mortified, and we must have in our souls a savour of grace. Thus the offering up or sacrificing of the Gentiles is said to be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, as the sacrifices were salted (Romans 15:16).
▪︎ Note that those who have the salt of grace, must make it appear that they have it; that they have salt in themselves, a living principle of grace in their hearts, which works out all corrupt dispositions, and every thing in the soul that tends to putrefaction, and would offend our God, or our own consciences, as unsavoury meat doth. Our speech must be always with grace seasoned with this salt, that no corrupt communication may proceed out of our mouth, but we may loathe it as much as we would to put putrid meat into our mouths.
▪︎ Note that as this gracious salt will keep our own consciences void of offence, so it will keep our conversation with others so, that we may not offend any of Christ’s little ones, but may be at peace one with another.
▪︎ Note that we must not only have this salt of grace, but we must always retain the relish and savour of it; for if this salt lose its saltiness, if a Christian revolt from his Christianity, if he loses the savour of it, and be no longer under the power and influence of it, what can recover him, or wherewith will ye season him? This was said Matthew 5:13 .
▪︎ Note that those that present not themselves living sacrifices to God’s grace, shall be made for ever dying sacrifices to his justice, and since they would not give honor to him, he will get him honor upon them;
• they would not be salted with the salt of divine grace, would not admit that to subdue their corrupt affections, no,
• they would not submit to the operation, could not bear the corrosives that were necessary to eat out the proud flesh, it was to them like cutting off a hand, or plucking out an eye; and therefore in hell they shall be salted with fire; coals of fire shall be scattered upon them (Ezekiel 10:2 ), as salt upon the meat, and brimstone (Job 18:15 ), as fire and brimstone were rained on Sodom; the pleasures they have lived in, shall eat their flesh, as it were with fire (James 5:3).
The pain of mortifying the flesh now is no more to be compared with the punishment for not mortifying it, than salting with burning. And since he had said, that the fire of hell shall not be quenched, but it might be objected, that the fuel will not last always, he here intimates, that by the power of God it shall be made to last always.
For those that are cast into hell, will find the fire to have not only the corroding quality of salt, but also its preserving quality; whence it is used to signify that which is lasting.
A covenant of salt is a perpetual covenant, and Lot’s wife being turned into a pillar of salt, made her a remaining monument of divine vengeance. Now since this will certainly be the doom of those that do not crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts, let us, knowing this terror of the Lord, be persuaded to do it.
Now let us reflect on this
Jesus’ disciples have not quite decided yet.
Well, they want to be servants. But there are also others at work in the name of Jesus who are not like them direct followers of Jesus. And that is actually not possible! John thinks – and with him the other disciples – that he is a bit better after all.
Such a thing must be stopped (Mark 9:38).
They have not yet fully understood Jesus’ lesson in humility.
Of course people need to follow Jesus completely. And we need to awaken them to do so, in a loving manner. We must completely win over someone like that to Him.
You will not achieve that through loveless criticism. Just a little while and it will be that one is for Jesus or against Him. And anyone who is working in His name will not soon shout: “Away with Him!”
Even if someone does not follow Him in all areas of life, by using His name he gives Him the honor of his work (Mark 9:39,40). Come to Him, to be His in all things.
Are you also recruiting people who have not yet fully committed themselves to Jesus?
In Mark 9:40, Jesus speaks of someone who gives his apostles a cup of water to drink. A cup of water is the least one can give to another. This verse is not about hospitality just like that, but about hospitality to those who pass on the Gospel.
By this seemingly insignificant gesture, that person opens himself up to what the apostles are coming to proclaim (Cf. Romans 10:14,15). When he accepts their words, he also opens himself to the words of Jesus.
Such a person will not escape his reward (Mark 9:41).
Question for self-reflection
▪︎ How do you deal with differences between Christians? (Compare Philippians 2:1-5.)
▪︎ Ask the Lord to teach us to respect and serve one another as Christians.
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