The Lord taught the disciples an interesting lesson in this section of scripture. The disciples had come come across a man casting out demons in the name of Jesus, but the man was not following with Jesus and the disciples. The disciples forbade him from continuing to do this work.
But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is for us.” (Verse 39-40)
If anyone is doing a work in the name of the Lord it is a good thing. If they are giving glory to the Lord and to God while doing the work it is a good thing. Clearly Jesus showed that this was acceptable in his sight, for whenever anyone is doing a work for the Lord, the name of the Lord is being honoured and the gospel is being spread.
Does it matter if they are of a different religious following to you or I? Does it matter that they do not follow the Lord in the same way as you or I? Does it make any difference if they are Presbyterian, Methodist, Catholic, Jehovah’s Witness, Salvation Army, Pentecostal, Independent or any other denomination, sect or section of the wider church?
Well according to this scripture it made little difference to Jesus. For if they are doing a work in his name and if the work gives glory to God, then it is a good thing.
Too often we see arguments in the media, and more so online, between Christians of different groups who try to prove that they are right and someone else is wrong. Usually this is around points of doctrine and often about matters that in the total scheme of things are of small importance. The intellectual discussion can be stimulating and I am the first to admit that I have fallen for this myself on many occasions.
However, whether I am right or whether they are right is of little consequence. It is whether the work being done is glorifying God that is important. The discussion can be had and sometimes should be had, but they must be done in love and without argument or recrimination. They should be based upon the scripture as the final arbiter of what is right or wrong. And both parties should listen to the other point of view as that is how we learn. If the point of view can be justified in the scripture and if it aligns with the broader context of the scriptures, then it has value and may add to what we know. The key is to listen and weigh up, then accept or reject the information based on the scripture. When in doubt pray about it.
But back to the point of this section of Mark 9, Paul shows us that people will honour the Lord and worship God in different ways. This can be based on their level of understanding at that point in time, and they should not be shut down for what they believe when they are working in honour of the Lord. Paul showed this saying in Romans 14:1-6,
1 As for the man who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not for disputes over opinions.
2 One believes he may eat anything, while the weak man eats only vegetables.
3 Let not him who eats despise him who abstains, and let not him who abstains pass judgment on him who eats; for God has welcomed him.
4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Master is able to make him stand.
5 One man esteems one day as better than another, while another man esteems all days alike. Let every one be fully convinced in his own mind.
6 He who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. He also who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God; while he who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.
It is weakness in the faith, or a lack of maturity in the Lord that may cause someone to believe or behave differently to ourselves. Then again, we may be the weak ones in some aspect of the faith for the Lord has not yet revealed the matter to us.
Whatever the situation, Paul shows us that we are all servants of the same master and the master, Jesus Christ, will uphold each of us for where we stand at a point in time. He does not expect us to be perfect straight away, but to grow and mature until we become perfected in Christ. Nor are we to judge another person for their beliefs for they are accepted as they are. Paul showed this also in 2 Corinthians 8:12 saying, “For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a man has, not according to what he has not.”
So if we see someone doing any kind of work or ministry for the Lord, we should not condemn it because we do not agree with them. Certainly if it is destructive it should be brought up with the person and if it is in opposition to the truth of the gospel that is a different matter. But if it is acceptable, then we should not discount their work on the basis that their faith and worship is different to ours.
If they are doing the work in honour of the Lord, then it is acceptable. If it does not honour the Lord, then he will deal with them and show them their error. Jesus said in vs. 39, “…no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me.” Jesus will weed out those who are not honouring him when they are doing a work supposedly in his name as he did with the seven sons of Sceva in Acts 19:13-16,
13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to pronounce the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.”
14 Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this.
15 But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?”
16 And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, mastered all of them, and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
The Lord will work with those who are working in his name and will cast out those who are behaving falsely. Let us remember though not to condemn someone doing a work in the name of the Lord just because they do not follow with us. As Jesus said, he who is not with us is against us.
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