Sunday, April 7th, 2013
Sectarianism (Part 5)
Jesus Forbids Sectarianism
Now John answered Him, saying, 'Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your Name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.'
But Jesus said, 'Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My Name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is on our side. For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My Name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.'
Mark 9:38-41 (NKJV)
In the Books of Mark and Luke, Jesus warns us about the dangers of sectarianism.
Reconsider these definitions: A sectarian is 'narrow-minded, especially as a result of rigid adherence to a particular sect' (World English Dictionary). Sectarianism is 'excessive devotion to a particular sect, especially in religion' (Random House Dictionary).
Jesus came to break the narrow-minded, rigid and excessive devotion to manmade rules practiced by many Jews of His day, and many Christians of our own. The Bible is not just a history lesson. It's a life lesson that transcends time. Its truth applies to every generation.
In the Scripture above, John reported to Jesus that an outsider was using His Name in spiritual practice. John forbade the man, 'Because He does not follow us.'
Jesus corrected John: 'For he who is not against us is on our side.' Even more, that 'He will by no means lose his reward.' What reward? Eternal life?
In the next verse, Jesus gives us a startling warning: 'But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea' (Mark 9:42).
If you continue reading until the end of Mark 9, you will find more eye-popping words. They pertain to sectarianism: 'I am right, and you are wrong in the way you follow Jesus' (my definition).
Jesus calls these outsiders who believe in Him 'Little Ones.' They may not fully understand Him, or even His Word--but they are whole-heartedly devoted to His service. Therein, do they receive a paid pass into Heaven? Based on His Word, I believe they do.
Even if I'm wrong, I am no one to judge. That's His job.
To Be Continued...
Consider the last words of Mark 9:49-50 (NKJV):
'For everyone will be seasoned with fire, and every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt. Salt is good, but if the salt loses its flavor, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another.'
This much-debated Scripture is often quoted out of context, but I believe it applies to the verses before it--regarding the dangers of sectarianism. Albert Barnes (1798-1870) seems to agree:
Barnes' Notes on the Bible:
'Every one shall be salted with fire - Perhaps no passage in the New Testament has given more perplexity to commentators than this, and it may be impossible now to fix its precise meaning. The common idea affixed to it has been, that as salt preserves from putrefaction, so fire, applied to the wicked in hell, will have the property of preserving them in existence, or they will "be" preserved amid the sprinkling of fire, to be continually in their sufferings a sacrifice to the justice of God; but this meaning is not quite satisfactory. Another opinion has been, that as salt was sprinkled on the victim preparatory to its being devoted to God (see Leviticus 2:13), so would "the apostles," by trials, calamities, etc., represented here by "fire," be prepared as a sacrifice and offering to God. Probably the passage has no reference at all to future punishment; and the difficulty of interpreting it has arisen from supposing it to be connected with the 48th verse, or given as a "reason" for what is said in "that" verse, rather than considering it as designed to illustrate the "general design" of the passage. The main scope of the passage was not to discourse of future punishment; that is brought in incidentally. The chief object of the passage was -
1. To teach the apostles that "other men," not "with them," might be true Christians, Mark 9:38-39.
2. That they ought to be disposed to look favorably upon the slightest evidence that they "might be true believers," Mark 9:41.
3. That they ought to avoid giving "offence" to such feeble and obscure Christians, Mark 9:42.
4. That "everything" calculated to give offence, or to dishonor religion, should be removed, Mark 9:43. And,
5. That everything which would endanger their salvation should be sacrificed; that they should "deny" themselves in every way in order to obtain eternal life. In this way they would be "preserved" to eternal life.
The word "fire," here, therefore denotes self-denials, sacrifices, trials, in keeping ourselves from the gratification of the flesh. As if he had said, "Look at the sacrifice on the altar. It is an offering to God, about to be presented to him. It is sprinkled with "salt, emblematic of purity, of preservation and of fitting it, therefore, for a sacrifice." So "you" are devoted to God. You are sacrifices, victims, offerings to him in his service. To make you "acceptable" offerings, every thing must be done to "preserve" you from sin and to "purify" you. Self-denials, subduing the lusts, enduring trials, removing offences, are the proper "preservatives" in the service of God. Doing this, you will be acceptable offerings and be saved; without this, you will be "unfit" for his eternal service and will be lost.'
P.S. To read the other devotions in this series, please see the Sectarianism series.