Theme: How We View Other Disciples
This week’s lessons remind us of the need to show unity in the gospel with other believers, including those who are different from us.
Scripture: Mark 9:33-40
Discipleship is personal, but it is not personalistic. It always involves our relationships to others who also profess to be disciples. But are they disciples? As I ask that question I am not referring to those many people in the church who are essentially like us—ethnically, denominationally, or in terms of our particular religious experience. We do not have trouble with these people, because affirming them is really just affirming ourselves. When I ask, “But are they disciples?” I am referring to people who claim to be disciples but who are different from us. I am asking: How should we regard them? What should our relationship to these different disciples be? 
This question came up during our Lord’s earthly ministry and occasioned another of His important sayings. The disciples had been arguing about who should be the greatest, and Jesus had replied by an object lesson. He had placed a child before them, saying, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all—he is the greatest.”
The disciples did not always understand what Jesus was saying when He spoke like this. But on this occasion John at least seemed to understand. He remembered an incident that had taken place not long before. He and the others had met a man who had been casting out demons in Jesus’ name. He was not part of their company, so John and the other disciple had commanded the man to stop. Since Jesus had spoken of welcoming a little child and not offending him, John wondered if maybe he and the others had been guilty of doing this in the case of the independent disciple. He was not of their number. He did not seem to have been authorized by Jesus. But had they done right? John said, “Master, we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.” He was asking, “We did right, didn’t we?”
Jesus replied by a great statement concerning proper tolerance in religion: “Do not stop him, for whoever is not against you is for you” (Luke 9:46-50). He was telling them that the exorcist did not have to be among their limited number or in their particular association to be a disciple.
Before we draw conclusions as to what a Christian’s relationship to other professed believers should be, we need to examine this story carefully. One of the things we need to see is that although in this case Jesus said that the one who is not against us (and Him) is for us, it does not follow that there could never be a case or circumstance in which a person could be opposed to Christ’s kingdom.
One warning that this possibility exists is found in what on the surface is a direct contradiction to Christ’s teachings in this story. In Luke 9:50 Jesus declared, “Whoever is not against you is for you.” But just two chapters later, in Luke 11:23, Jesus said, “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters.” These sentences seem utterly opposed; yet both are true, because they are speaking to different situations. 
In the second instance Jesus was speaking of the believer’s conflict with Satan, showing that in that struggle there can never be room for neutrality. Some who were present were claiming that Jesus was casting out demons by Satan’s power. In the earlier instance this was not the case. Norval Geldenhuys says, “It is a question of someone who believed in Jesus to such an extent that he cast out demons in his name and who revealed such a humble attitude that he allowed the disciples to forbid him to continue the work.”1
Study Questions:

What difference is Dr. Boice referring to when he speaks of discipleship that is personal and discipleship that is personalistic? 
Read Mark 9:36-37.  From the lesson, how does it shed light on vv. 38-40?
What explanation is given as to how Luke 9:50 and Luke 11:23 are both true?

1Norval Geldenhuys, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1977), p. 289.

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