Christ’s Call for Holiness (Mark 9:43-48)

Christ’s Call for Holiness (Mark 9:43-48)


I.) Christ’s Call for Holiness

This morning we will be continuing further into Jesus’ hyperbolic teachings with His disciples. Hyperbole being an exaggerated statement or claim that is not intended to be taken literally, but to emphasize a great truth. These portions do not condone ascetism, which is the promotion of maiming oneself for the purpose of spiritual discipline, so do not: Cut off your hand, Cut off your foot, Pluck out your eye, or Cast yourself into the sea with a heavy millstone hung around your neck.

The goal of Jesus’ teaching in hyperbole here is to cut deep into the heart of His disciples so they may begin to grasp the:

1.) Severity of sin.

2.) Reality and eternality of hell.

As we recall, since Christ is inextricably linked with His people, we are to be concerned with our dealings with other Christ followers by:[1]

1.) Caring for their necessities knowing that we are ultimately caring for Christ.[2]

2.) Carefully living among one another so as not to entice into sin those whom Christ’s life is bound to.[3]

Jesus’ teaching goes on to draw our attention away from our dealings with other believers, and to focus it on ourselves and our unity with Him. We see Christ’s call for holiness in His people.


II.) Radical Separation

Jesus’ teaching emphasizes the need for His disciples to radically separate themselves from sin:

1.) “If your hand causes you to stumble, cut if off.”[4]

2.) “If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off.”[5]

3.) “If your eye causes you to stumble, cast it out.”[6]

Separate yourself from sin. Amputate the extremities, and violently tear out your eye.[7] Separate from everything that is contrary to the character and nature of God.

John Piper provides a thoughtful definition of sin:

“What is sin? Sin is the glory of God not honored, the holiness of God not reverenced, the greatness of God not admired, the power of God not praised, the truth of God not sought, the wisdom of God not esteemed, the beauty of God not treasured, the goodness of God not savored, the faithfulness of God not trusted, the promises of God not believed, the commandments of God not obeyed, the justice of God not respected, the wrath of God not feared, the grace of God not cherished, the presence of God not prized, the person of God not loved. That is sin.”

Hands, feet and eyes are life’s necessary faculties. In other words, Jesus uses these body parts to demonstrate that sin needs to be drastically dealt with in every area of our lives. Our lives are to be lived pursuing the holiness, and righteousness, and truth of Christ. Anything; therefore, that hinders such a pursuit needs to be hacked off.


III.) The Severity of Sin

What stresses Jesus’ command to sever sin from our lives is the latter part of each verse:

1.) If your hand causes you to sin, you should cut it off:

“It is better for you to enter life crippled, than having your two hands go into hell, into the unquenchable fire. Where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.”[8]

2.) If your foot causes you to sin, you should cut it off:

“It is better for you to enter life lame, than having your two feet go into hell, where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.”[9]

3.) If your eye cause you to sin, you should cast 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, where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.”[10]

The life He speaks of here should be understood as eternal life, especially since He ends by referring to one entering “The Kingdom of God.” It is better to enter the presence of God crippled, or lame, or with one eye, than to allow sin to remain intact with your person. It is better to experience eternal life forever maimed, than to experience the consequences of that which you have not dealt with.

Notice a failure to not drastically deal with sin results in the consequence of eternal damnation. Jesus confirms not only the reality of hell here, but the eternality of it as well:

“the unquenchable fire. Where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.”[11]

He describes hell as a place of torment where its fire will never be put out. Jesus uses the word Ghenna, which is also known as The Valley of Hinnom located in Jerusalem.[12] He is taking an actual location His disciples know about, and figuratively applying it to eternal fire. The Valley of Hinnom was a place where idolatrous Israel worshipped the God Moloch by burning their infants as sacrifices.[13] Such alters were eventually destroyed under King Josiah.[14] The valley was eventually turned into Jerusalem’s garbage heap. All of Israel’s filth was thrown into it, especially animal carcasses, and the bodies of unburied criminals. A fire continually burned in the valley to consume everything that was being thrown in. The Jews; therefore, metaphorically applied Ghenna to eternal hell. He is quoting the very last words of the prophet Isaiah when He speaks about those whose:[15]

“Worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.”[16]

Isaiah was talking about the final judgment of all who have sinned against the Lord.


IV.) The Holiness of God

One must ask themselves:

Q.) What makes sin so severe?

Q.) Why is hell an eternal reality?

There is one answer:

“Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of Hosts.”[17]

“He is a Holy God.”[18]

“There is no one holy like the Lord.”[19]

“Holy is He…Holy is He…Holy is the Lord our God.”[20]

God’s being holy entails His being set apart from all unrighteousness and imperfection. The unrighteous and the imperfect can never stand before the living God. You cannot take sin into the presence of a Holy God and live to tell the tale. The gospel presents humanity with this dilemma.

Realize that you can cut off all of your body parts and you will still never be totally separated from sin. The book of James tells us:

“Each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lusts. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished it brings forth death.”[21]

Sin comes from within us. You may recall that Jesus taught this earlier:

“That which proceeds out of the man that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of man, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile a man.”[22]

If you want to totally remove sin from your life you will need to violently rip out your heart. Then you will be dead, and you will have to give an account to the Holy One with whom you have to do.[23]

Listen to the Apostle Paul:

“I find then the principle that evil is present in me…”[24]

This is not just true of Paul; this is true of every single one of us. Our question should be the same as Paul’s:

“Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?”[25]

There is only One Person:

“Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”[26]

Jesus emptied Himself by becoming a man obedient to the point of death on the cross.[27] For the joy set before Him, He endured it as the sinless Son of God:[28]

He took our sin upon Himself and shed His blood to atone for our sin. He bore God’s wrath towards us. He suffered the death we were due. Three days later, God raised Him from the dead to demonstrate that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.[29] Those who turn from their sin and trust in Christ will be forgiven of their sins and given His righteousness so they may live with God. All by grace, through faith, in Christ.


V.) Sanctified in Christ

Before us we have the radical call of the gospel for people to turn from their sin and to trust in Christ. We also have the continual call for those who are secure in Christ to drastically deal with sin in their lives.

The Scripture presents an important question:

“Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase.”[30]

The answer is an emphatic, no:

“May it never be,” or “God forbid!”[31]

The reason the answer is so empathic is because Jesus Christ has not only given His life up for us, but He has given His very life to us:

“For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe we shall also live with Him…even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”[32]

Paul says to the Galatians:

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me…”[33]

Paul says to the Philippians:

“Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”[34]

Prior to this he told them:

“He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”[35]

Christ does a sanctifying work in His people. Sanctification being the act whereby God makes His people holy. Sanctification of believers is a rather broad topic:

1.) We are sanctified, which positionally occurs with our justification by faith in Christ’s finished work.[36]

2.) We are being sanctified, which progressively occurs throughout the life of believers justified in Christ.[37]

3.) We will be sanctified, which permanently occurs when Christ glorifies every believer He justified.[38]

There is something we should note about Christ’s work of progressive sanctification in our lives. It is actively separating yourself from sin, and setting yourself apart to the Holy God who has justified you on the basis of faith alone in the work of His Son. It requires both the actions of shunning sin and pursuing His righteousness.

Colossians tells us exactly what to do since our lives are hidden with Christ in God:

“Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth…”[39]

This means to consider yourself dead to sin because sin incurs the wrath of God, which is the very thing Christ saved you from.[40]

We are to; therefore:

“Lay aside the old self with its evil practices…and put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him.”[41]

God saves us in Christ to conform us to Him. Peter says:

“Like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am Holy.’”[42]

This is done by not being:

“Conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance.”[43]

Q.) How do we not walk in ignorance?

A.) Turn to the Word of the Living God!

Follow the model of the Psalmist:

“How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Thy word. With all my heart I have sought Thee; Do not let me wander from Thy commandments. Thy word I have treasured in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee.”[44]


[1] Mark 9:37

[2] Mark 9:41

[3] Mark 9:42

[4] Mark 9:43a

[5] Mark 9:45a

[6] Mark 9:47a

[7] Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance; NT Number: 609 (Cut off) 1544 (Cast Out)

[8] Mark 9:43-44

[9] Mark 9:45-46

[10] Mark 9:45-46

[11] Mark 9:43b-44

[12] Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance; NT Number: 1067 (Geenna)

[13] 1 Kings 11:7; 2 Kings 16:3; Jeremiah 7:31; 32:35

[14] 2 Kings 23:10,14

[15] Isaiah 66:24

[16] Mark 9:44

[17] Isaiah 6:3

[18] Joshua 24:19

[19] 1 Samuel 2:2

[20] Psalm 99:3,5,9

[21] James 1:14-15

[22] Mark 7:20-23

[23] Hebrews 4:13

[24] Romans 7:21

[25] Romans 7:24

[26] Romans 7:25

[27] Philippians

[28] Hebrews 12:2

[29] John 20:31

[30] Romans 6:1

[31] Romans 6:2

[32] Romans 6:5-8,11

[33] Galatians 2:20

[34] Philippians 2:12b-13

[35] Philippians 1:6

[36] 1 Corinthians 1:30;6:11; Ephesians 1:4

[37] Romans 8:13,29; 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:20-24; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4

[38] Romans 8:29-30; Philippians 3:12; 1 John 3:2-3

[39] Colossians 3:5 (KJV)

[40] Colossians 3:6; 1 Thessalonians 1:10

[41] Colossians 3:9-10

[42] 1 Peter 1:15-16; Cross Reference: Leviticus 11:44; 19:2; 20:7

[43] 1 Peter 1:14

[44] Psalm 119:9-11

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