“He Who Is Not Against Us Is For Us”

Joe R. Price

The apostles of Christ had just been disputing with each other about who was greatest among them (Mk. 9:33-34). Jesus patiently taught them, as He would on numerous occasions, that greatness in His kingdom is measured by humble service, not prominent position (Mk. 9:35). Using a child to illustrate His point, Jesus teaches us to receive one another in His name. One apostle would later write, “Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility”(1 Pet. 5:5). Pride can be our undoing as it disrupts the body of Christ.

But wait! The apostles saw a man “casting out demons in Your (Jesus’s, jrp) name” and told him to stop “because he does not follow us” (Mk. 9:38). What was the problem here? The apostles were being territorial. They were trying to protect their “greatness” in the kingdom! After all, Jesus had given them the power to work such miracles (Mk. 3:14-15). The man they saw was not one of the twelve. He was not a part of their company. He must not be allowed to work in Jesus’ name! (Never mind that the man could only do such work with Jesus’ approval, or that Jesus had given such powers to more than just the 12! -- Lk. 10:1, 9) The fact is, the 12 had recently failed to cast out a demon (Mk. 9:18). Now, they come across someone else doing what they could not do! Truly, pride and jealousy are deceptive and damning traits! Both are seen here as we study the reaction and the words of the apostles.

Some have tried to use this passage to approve of “Christians” in all the churches. Such is a misuse of the passage. Jesus nowhere endorses false doctrine or false practices, here or in any other text. Neither does Jesus say that one can be saved without following Him (cf. Jno. 8:12; 14:6). What He does say is that even though the man was not in the immediate company of Himself and the twelve, the man’s work was consistent with Jesus’ authority and purposes. The man should not be caused to stumble by the apostles’ rebuke (Mk. 9:38, 42-43). The man was on their side because he was on Jesus’ side. He was doing the work of God by the authority of Jesus. He should have been encouraged, not hindered (v. 38-39). “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.” (Mk. 9:41)

Our should be willing to endorse and encourage every person who is walking in the truth of Christ (1 Jno. 2:3-6; 2 Jno. 4-6, 9-11; 3 Jno. 5-8). And, we must refrain from all elements of pride and jealousy which choke out brotherly love while generating partyism and factionalism (Gal. 5:19-21; 1 Cor. 3:1-3). That which enables both is child-like humility (Mk. 9:35).

We must not try to make Jesus say something in Mark 9:38-41 which He did not say. Jesus forbids sectarianism in this passage, He does not endorse it! Those who would justify doctrinal differences by using this text greatly err. The man was not in doctrinal error, he was working in the name of Jesus. His work was not against Jesus and His apostles, but in harmony with the Lord. Therefore, “he who is not against us is on our side” (v. 40).

We must be careful to avoid pride and jealousy in the kingdom of God. All humble service to others in the name of Christ will be rewarded. But, the one who causes another to stumble will certainly lose his soul (Mk. 9:41-43).