Devotional Readings

Beyond Luke 18

With all the promotion, hype, and controversy about the movie The Shack coming out (I will post on that later in my delayed Catch of the Week), I was thinking about our associations with pagan ideas, discernment and just how far we are to go in judgment. There is much more I could write on this but here are some initial thoughts and an examination of what old John Gill wrote in the 18th century.

Let’s see where this goes as I am writing it as I read.
In Luke 18 we had Jesus telling about:

Luk 18:15  And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it,they rebuked them.

Luk 18:16  But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.

Luk 18:17  Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.

If we go to the parallel passage in Mark, we find this interesting text sandwiched between Jesus’ teaching example of the child.

Mar 9:38  And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us.

Mar 9:39  But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.

Mar 9:40  For he that is not against us is on our part.

Mar 9:41  For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.

I’m going to turn to Gill’s commentary and maybe add some highlights. But it seems to be an operating point that these acts truely done in the Jesus Christ’s name and by one actually belonging to Christ do have credibility.


Paul is going to write about other things that are clearly wrong in God’s eyes:

1Co 10:20  But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.

1Co 10:21  Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils.

but things doe for God’s glory that is another issue:

1Co 10:31  Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

So what did Gill observe?

Mark 9:38

And John answered him, saying,…. Taking notice of what Christ just now said, and observing how well pleasing it was to him, to receive in a meek and humble manner, the least believer in his name; and reflecting upon an action, in which he and some of his fellow disciples were concerned, and which he perceived was not so agreeable to this rule of Christ, thought proper to relate it to him; that he might have his sense of it, and give him an opportunity of enlarging on a subject, so suitable to the temper and disposition of this beloved disciple.

Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name: very likely he called him Rabbi, as the Syriac version renders it, or Rabboni, as in Joh 20:16, a title commonly given to Christ, both by his disciples and others: the case related, very probably happened, when the disciples being sent forth by Christ to preach the Gospel and cast out devils, took a tour through Judea and Galilee, where they saw this man. 

John was not alone; there were others with him, at least another, who was an eyewitness with him; for the apostles were sent out, by two and two: who this man was, is not said, his name is not mentioned, perhaps was unknown to the apostles; though Beza says, in one ancient exemplar it is read, “we knew one”. 

This person not only attempted to cast out devils, but really did; and that more than one; but in which of Christ’s names he did it, is not expressed;

if in the name of the Messiah, Dr. Lightfoot’s conjecture may be right, that he was one of John’s disciples; who had been baptized in the name of the Messiah, that was just expected to come; to whom, as to others of his disciples, was given a power of casting out devils, to make the way of the Messiah more plain; 

wherefore the reason why he did not cast out devils in the name of Jesus, but in the name of the Messiah, and did not follow him, nor his disciples, was not out of contempt, but ignorance, not knowing that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah

or if he cast out devils in the name of Jesus, which seems most likely, he might be, as others think, a disciple of John’s, who really did believe in Jesus, though he did not associate with, his disciples, but continued with the disciples of John: wherefore it is said,

and he followeth not us; was neither one of the twelve apostles; nor one of the seventy disciples; nor even one of the lower class of the professed disciples of Jesus. This clause is omitted in the Syriac, Arabic, Persic, and Ethiopic versions:

and we forbad him; going on in this way, casting out any more devils:

because he followeth, not us; was not one of their company, nor any of Christ’s disciples; who had received no authority and commission from Christ, to do what he did: wherefore they feared, that by such an irregular way of proceeding, the dignity of Christ would be lessened, and some dishonour and reproach reflected on him: and besides the honour of Christ, they might consult their own; and their case be too much like that of Joshua, when Eldad and Medad prophesied in the camp. This clause is left out in the Vulgate Latin, but stands in all the eastern versions.

Mark 9:39

But Jesus said, forbid him not,…. Neither him, nor any other they should hereafter meet with, who might be casting out devils in his name, giving this as a reason for it;

for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name; or “miracles”, as the Syriac version, as to cast out devils, or heal any sickness and disease,

that can lightly speak evil of me: such a man can never reproach and blaspheme that name, which he makes use of in doing, and by which he does wonderful works; 

no man can call Jesus accursed, who casts out devils in his name; see 1Co 12:3, if he has spoken evil of him before, he cannot do it “again”, as the Persic version renders it, with any face; or he cannot do it “quickly, immediately”, as the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions interpret it: 

there must be some time before such an one apostatizes, if he ever does; he cannot very easily and readily go into a way of blaspheming that name, by which he does his mighty works: his conscience will not admit of it; and besides, it would be contrary to his interest; it must sink his credit, and he lose the esteem and applause of men, he had gained by his miracles; for to dishonour that name, would be to reproach himself.

Mark 9:40

For he that is not against us, is on our part. Many copies read, “he that is not against you, is for you”; as this man; he was not against either Christ, or his disciples; he was doing the same work, promoting the same interest, and destroying the kingdom of Satan: 

and therefore, though he did not follow them, and had not his commission immediately from Christ; yet, inasmuch as he was opposing the same common enemy, and did nothing against them, he ought to be reckoned as one for them, and on their side. It is a proverbial expression, signifying that all that are not against a man, and take not the part of his enemy, are to be accounted his friends.

Mark 9:41

For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink,…. Not only one that does a miracle in the name of Christ, but he that shows the least respect, or does the least kindness to any one of his; See Gill on Mat 10:42; is to be reckoned a friend, and is so accounted by Christ; and will be sooner or later taken notice of by him, especially, if what he does, be it ever so little, is done on his account:

in my name, because ye belong to Christ; or as the Syriac version renders it, “on account that ye are Christ’s”; are his disciples, are called by his name, are partakers of his grace, bear his image and likeness, are loved by him, interested in him, given to him, redeemed by him called by his grace, and shall be with him:

verily l say unto you, he shall not lose his reward; See Gill on Mat 10:42.

Matthew 10:42

And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones,…. Our Lord gradually descends from prophets to righteous men, and from righteous men, to those of the lowest form and class among them; who have the least measure of grace, and share of spiritual light, and knowledge; who are outwardly the poorest, meanest, and most contemptible in the eyes of the world; and are little, even the least of saints, in their own esteem and account: whosoever takes notice but of “one” of these, receives him into his house, and gives him

a cup of cold water only, is regarded, a phrase used to express the least favour, or benefit whatever.

“So says (t) Maimonides, one that calls to his friend to dine with him, and he refuses, and swears, or vows, that he shall not enter into his house, nor will he give him to drink, טפת צונן “a drop of cold water”, &c.”

Moreover, this is said to prevent any objection, on account of the mean and low condition persons may be in, to their relieving necessitous objects; for everyone is capable of doing this, and if they can do no more, it is accepted. Now whosoever takes notice of, and shows favour to the meanest of Christ’s people, though it be but bestowing so small a benefit as a cup of cold water; yet, if it is done

in the name of a disciple, or because that poor person is a disciple of Christ,

verily, says Christ,

I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward: it will be observed another day by Christ, who takes what is done to the least of his brethren, as done to himself. The Jews say many things in praise of hospitality, to תלמיד חכם, “a disciple of a wise man”; and observe (u), that he that hospitably entertains such an one in his house, and causes him to eat and drink, and partake of the goods of his house, there is reason to believe, he shall be much more blessed than the house of Obed Edom was for the ark’s sake, which neither ate nor drank with him; and which may be compared with this passage.

(t) Hilchot Nedarim, c. 8. sect. 10. (u) T. Bab, Beracot, fol. 63. 2. & 64. 1.

So it seems good to listen to these words, take them to heart and try to discern what is really going on. But in any event be aware of doing our Good Works in the name of Jesus, to the Glory of God. 

The Westminster Confession says…

Of Good Works

1. Good works are only such as God hath commanded in his holy Word, and not such as, without the warrant thereof, are devised by men, out of blind zeal, or upon any pretense of good intention.

2. These good works, done in obedience to God’s commandments, are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith: and by them believers manifest their thankfulness, strengthen their assurance, edify their brethren, adorn the profession of the gospel, stop the mouths of the adversaries, and glorify God, whose workmanship they are, created in Christ Jesus thereunto, that, having their fruit unto holiness, they may have the end, eternal life.

3. Their ability to do good works is not at all of themselves, but wholly from the Spirit of Christ. And that they may be enabled thereunto, beside the graces they have already received, there is required an actual influence of the same Holy Spirit, to work in them to will, and to do, of his good pleasure: yet are they not hereupon to grow negligent, as if they were not bound to perform any duty unless upon a special motion of the Spirit; but they ought to be diligent in stirring up the grace of God that is in them.

4. They who, in their obedience, attain to the greatest height which is possible in this life, are so far from being able to supererogate, and to do more than God requires, as that they fall short of much which in duty they are bound to do.

5. We cannot by our best works merit pardon of sin, or eternal life at the hand of God, by reason of the great disproportion that is between them and the glory to come; and the infinite distance that is between us and God, whom, by them, we can neither profit, nor satisfy for the debt of our former sins, but when we have done all we can, we have done but our duty, and are unprofitable servants: and because, as they are good, they proceed from his Spirit; and as they are wrought by us, they are defiled, and mixed with so much weakness and imperfection, that they cannot endure the severity of God’s judgment.

6. Notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in him; not as though they were in this life wholly unblamable and unreprovable in God’s sight; but that he, looking upon them in his Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections.

7. Works done by unregenerate men, although for the matter of them they may be things which God commands; and of good use both to themselves and others: yet, because they proceed not from an heart purified by faith; nor are done in a right manner, according to the Word; nor to a right end, the glory of God, they are therefore sinful, and cannot please God, or make a man meet to receive grace from God: and yet, their neglect of them is more sinful and displeasing unto God.

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