The Least Among You, Part II (Mark 9:38-40)

The Least Among You, Part II (Mark 9:38-40)

I.) That They May All Be One

Let us open this morning with considering Jesus Christ’s prayer and desire for His people:

That they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me. And the glory which Thou hast given to Me I have given to them; that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, that the world may know that Thou didst love them, even as Thou didst love Me.”[1]

One of Jesus’ greatest prayers for believers is unity. Believers are to be united, because the Triune God we serve is in perfect unity among The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit. Unity is; therefore, a matter critical to our testimony      as the people of God.

In regard to this unity, the Holy Spirit instructs us:

1.) “Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.”[2]

2.) “Be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus; that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”[3]

3.) “I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree, and there be no divisions among you, but you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.”[4]

4.) Be “diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”[5]

5.) “Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ…standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”[6]

6.) “Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.”[7]

Christ’s church is to be one in: mind, worship, judgment, spirit, and purpose.

Do not fail to notice:

Q.) What is that one purpose?

A.) Striving together for the faith of the gospel to the glory of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Since the unity of the church is so important to Christ it is imperative, we ask this question:

Q.) What is the basis of Christian unity?

A.) It is belief grounded in the truth of the Word of the Living God!

The Scripture is what unites Christians. It is what draws the church to be one in: mind, worship, judgment, spirit, and purpose. True Christian fellowship is only ever experienced around the Scripture, especially its articulation of the gospel.

J.C. Ryle bluntly states:

“Unity without the gospel is a worthless unity; it is the very unity of hell.”

II.) Prideful Sectarianism

As we look at this text, we are presented again with a lesson calling for humility of mind to avoid the dangers of prideful sectarianism.

Sectarianism is a thought process rooted in pride, which leads some believers to view themselves as the only true followers of Christ. If you do not believe exactly what they believe you are not a “Christian.”

It would be like us concluding that:

1.) We are the only true church in Maine, “If you do not gather with us, you are not truly a follower of Christ.”

2.) Baptists are the only ones who will experience forgiveness of sins and eternal life, “If you do not adhere entirely to Baptist doctrine you are dammed.”

Sectarianism destroys the unity of the church.

Realize there is a great danger in misunderstanding what is being taught here. Though this passage warns against prideful sectarianism, it in no way condones ecumenicalism.

Ecumenicalism promotes unity among various beliefs to achieve a common goal by laying aside all doctrinal differences. Realize that sound doctrine divides, and it divides those who are for Christ from those who are against Him. While sectarianism destroys the unity of the church, ecumenicalism unites the church with the unholy.

Such unity is actually forbidden by God when He declares:

“Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the Living God…”[8]

Avoid both sectarian and ecumenical thinking.

III.) He Is Not One Of Us

The disciples pride is manifested here when John confesses to Jesus that they:

“…saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to hinder him because he was not following us.”[9]

Q.) Why is John all of a sudden talking about this?

A.) Jesus has just told them:

“‘Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me.’”[10]

Caring for a fellow Christian is equivalent to caring for Christ and His Father who sent Him. This evidently prompted conviction within John as he recalled the day they “tried to hinder a man” from serving Christ. Their reasoning for doing so was based solely on that fact that the man “was not following” their inner group. John is remembering the day they did not receive “one child like this in My name”. They forbade Him from glorifying God in the name of Christ, because he was not following them.

Make no mistake about it, this man was in fact “casting out demons” in the name of Christ. He is not one of those self-deceived people you read about in Matthew 7:22 who say to Christ:

“Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?”

Jesus will then “declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”[11] Jesus will not say that to this man. Jesus actually validates this man by saying, “no one shall perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward speak evil of Me.” He confirms His working through him.

This man is not like the seven unbelieving Sons of Sceva in the book of Acts, who saw that:

“God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul…and the evil spirits went out…attempted to name over those who had evil spirits in the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, ‘I adjure by Jesus whom Paul preaches.’”

If you are not familiar with the account it does not end well for Sceva’s sons:

“And the evil spirit answered and said to them, ‘I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?’ And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.”[12]

This did not happen to the man the disciples hindered, for the text is clear that he “was casting out demons.”

Now, there is a question that arises here that the Scripture does not actually answer:

Q.) How was this man able to cast demons out?

I believe the Scripture does not answer this because it is not the point of the text. The disciples are not concerned with how he is doing it, they a bothered by the fact he is not part of their group. He is somewhat of an anomaly in the Scripture.

Some have suggested he was part of the 70 Jesus sent, who discovered that “even the demons are subject to us in Your name.”[13] A careful examination of the text would reveal the impossibility of this, because the 70 others were appointed “after this” event.[14]

I personally believe Jesus delegated His authority to this man knowing it would present the opportunity to address the disciple’s prideful sectarianism. We; therefore, should not get caught up in how he was able to do it, but accept that he was able to through the power of Christ.

4.) There is often an unhealthy obsession with the spiritual realm, so I would like to point out what Jesus says to the 70 who rejoiced over such authority:

“Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.”[15]

In other words, “Your subjection to me, which brings about your salvation is far more important than the spirits subjection to you.”

If you want to engage in spiritual warfare all you need to do is teach the truth of God. When we do this we will be “destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God.”[16] When you combat a lie with the truth you engage in warfare, and the truth is “divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.”[17] The lost are fortified in false ideology, and God’s truth is the only thing powerful enough to destroy it. We are not commissioned to cast out demons, but to proclaim the message which saves the lost ensnared by false ideologies.[18]

IV.) He who is not against us is for us

Coming back to our text, we see Jesus responds to John’s confession of hindering this man, saying:

“Do not hinder him, for there is no one who shall perform a miracle in My name, and be able to soon afterward speak evil of Me, for he who is not against us is for us.”[19]

In other words, “Don’t do that! If he were not with us he would not be able to do such things.”

Consider also that their attempt to prohibit the man from casting out a demon would further strengthen the scribes argument that He was not of God but:

“Beelzebul…He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons.”[20]

The disciples pride gave reason for Jesus’ enemies to reproach His name. Here is a man casting out demons in the name of Christ, and Christ’s closest followers are telling him to stop. We must be reminded:

Q.) What was Jesus’ argument against the Scribes after they declared He did things by Satan’s power?

A.) “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.”[21]

The disciple’s sectarianism was displaying division among God’s Kingdom, which consists of those who:

“Are converted and become like children.”

Division among the children of God was manifested by their hindering this man, who was a child in His name. He was one they ought to have been receiving and assisting, not hindering. Since they did not care for Him, they did not care for Christ and His Father who sent Him. Their pride completely blinded them. Their thinking was, “He is not one of us, because he does not follow us.”

Jesus provides them with a discerning principle:

“He who is not against us is for us.”

This is a profound statement that ought to destroy all sectarian thinking within us.

The statement is not:

“He who follows us is for us,” but “He who is not against us.”

We must understand, that this statement leaves absolutely no middle ground. We must consider it conversely:

“He who is not for us, is against us.”

Jesus makes this very point later on in His ministry:

“He who is not with Me is against Me…”[22]

This means people are either for Christ, or they are against Christ. Those who are clearly for Christ, must not be hindered, but received.

V.) The Essentials of Being For Christ

This should draw up a question:

Q.) How do you know if someone is for Christ?

A.) The short answer is conviction and practice.

Someone for Christ is convinced in their core about the essential truths of the Christian faith:

1.) There is only one Holy God.[23] He is one in essence, and eternally exists in three Persons (Father, Son, and Spirit).[24]

2.) Humanity is depraved before Him in sin, and incapable of appeasing His wrath with their works, or even by simply ceasing from sin.[25] Mankind is unrighteous and deserves eternal death under the just wrath of God.[26] They need both, their sins atoned for, and another Person’s righteousness freely given to them.

3.) God the Father; therefore, gave God the Son, who willingly took on human flesh by being conceived of God the Spirit in the womb of a virgin.[27] His not having an earthly father meant He was born without sin, making Him perfect.[28]

4.) Jesus Christ is; therefore, truly God and truly man. [29] Meaning He is the only Person who can mediate between God and man, and bridge the separation and death brought on by sin.[30]

5.) Since mankind cannot work their way to God they are in need of His unmerited favor, which is grace.[31] Only God can save those who cannot save themselves, and He will do so on the basis of faith alone in Christ.

6.) Such faith is placed in the Person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and His atoning work upon the cross:[32] Without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness of sin, so He shed His eternal blood to atone for the sins of world. The Just died for the unjust. Once Jesus was laden with the worlds sins, God poured out His wrath towards sin on Him. Satisfying His justice, appeasing His fury, and proving His righteousness.[33] Before Jesus died He declared that atonement for sin had been made.[34] God proved atonement for sin was made by physically resurrecting Christ from the grave.[35] On the basis of faith alone, God will forgive anyone who repents of their sin and trusts in Christ. Not only will their sins be forgiven, but God will consider them right before Him by giving them His righteousness:

“If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed…Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”[36]

7.) Christ arose never to die again and physically ascended to heaven forty days after His resurrection.[37] Thus He forever lives to make intercession before God on behalf of His people.[38]

8.) There will be a day when He returns both for His people, and to judge the unbeliever.[39]

Someone for Christ is convinced of these truths. They will also love the source of these truths, which is the truth of the Word of the Living God. They will seek to live in light of its truth.

Understand this, that though their:

1.) Comprehension of such truths may be limited.

2.) Love for such truths may be often replaced.

3.) Lives will at times misrepresent these truths.

Christ will not deny that they are for Him, for the faith required to become a child in His name is but the size of a mustard seed.[40]

Such children will be born among a variety of denominations that hold to these essentials of the faith.

VI.) Unity, Not Uniformity

Some believe the numerous denominations among Protestant Evangelicalism today are proof that the true church is seriously divided.

Q.) Are there numerous denominations today?

A.) Yes, but the differences do not lie in the essentials of the faith, but in non-essentials.

When you examine the different denominations you will see believers differ over matters of:

1.) Eschatology; the study of end times. Believers generally differ over the sequence of events in the last days.

2.) Ecclesiology; the study of the church. Believers will differ over church government, and the mode and meaning of baptism.

3.) Pneumatology, the study of the Holy Spirit. Believers differ over whether or not the sign gifts are for today.

4.) Soteriology, the study of salvation. Believers will differ over the sovereignty of God in salvation.

Though Christians may differ on these areas, they are firmly united on the essentials of Christianity. In fact these peripheral differences pale in comparison to the faith that unites every true believer. I appreciate Paul Washer’s observation:

“All believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the singular atoning sacrifice for the sins of humanity, and the only name under heaven by which people can be saved.

All confess with their mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in their hearts that God raised Him from the dead.

All hold to the Scriptures as the infallible standard for faith and practice and seek to submit their lives to its teaching.

All strive to keep themselves unstained by the world and pursue sanctification, without which no one will see the Lord.

All aspire to bear the fruit of the Spirit and to be imitators of God in Christ.

All seek to love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love their neighbors as themselves.

All struggle against sin, mourn over moral failures, confess them to God, and trust in His promise of pardon.

All are waiting for Christ’s return, for they are looking for the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”[41]

Do not allow prideful sectarianism to consume you, and destroy your unity with other believers. We share a “common salvation” and should be striving together to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.”[42]

Be “diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit…one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.”[43]

Christ has prayed for His church to be one so the world may know that the Father:

1.) Has sent Him.

2.) Loves us just as much as He loves His Son

Believers are to be united, because the Triune God we serve is in perfect unity among The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit.

Preserve such a unity to the glory of God!

[1] John 17:21-23

[2] Romans 12:16

[3] Romans 15:5b-6

[4] 1 Corinthians 1:10

[5] Ephesians 4:3

[6] Philippians 1:27

[7] Philippians 2:2

[8] 2 Corinthians 6:14-16

[9] Mark 9:38

[10] Mark 9:37

[11] Matthew 7:23

[12] Acts 19:11-16

[13] Luke 10:17

[14] Luke 10:1

[15] Luke 10:20

[16] 2 Corinthians 10:5

[17] 2 Corinthians 10:4

[18] 1 Corinthians 10:20; Ephesians 2:2-3; 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 2:25-26

[19] Mark 9:39-40

[20] Mark 3:22

[21] Mark 3:24-25

[22] Luke 11:23

[23] Exodus 20:2-3; Deuteronomy 6:4; Isaiah 43:10-11

[24] Genesis 1:26; 11:7; Matthew 3:16-17; 28:19

[25] Romans 3:10-12, 20-26; 4:5; Galatians 2:16

[26] John 3:18, 36; Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:1-3; 1 Thessalonians 1:10

[27] Genesis 3:15; Matthew 1:18-23; Luke 2:26-35; Galatians 4:4; Philippians 2:5-8

[28] 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:22

[29] John 1:1, 14; Philippians 2:7-8; Colossians 2:9; Hebrews 1:8; 2:14

[30] 1 Timothy 2:5

[31] Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7

[32] Mark 10:45; 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18

[33] Romans 3:24-26; 5:8-10

[34] John 19:30

[35] Luke 24:39; Romans 4:25

[36] Romans 10:9-13

[37] Luke 24:50-51; John 16:7; Acts 1:9-10

[38] Hebrews 1:3; 4:15; 7:25; 1 John 2:1

[39] Matthew 24:30; Revelation 19:11-19

[40] Matthew 17:20

[41] The Gospel Call & True Conversion, Paul Washer; Page 158

[42] Jude 3

[43] Ephesians 4:3-6

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