Theme: Cause of Dissension
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
I suppose that in the entire history of the church there has never been a division, however unnecessary or sordid, that has not been justified by some persons on spiritual grounds. Yet if the truth be told, the great majority of them occur for base motives.
This is taught in the incident involving the disciples’ rebuke of the man who had been casting out demons. There were two base motives. In each account of this incident—the story is told in Mark 9:38–41 and Luke 9:49, 50—John’s question is immediately preceded by an account of the disciples’ arguing about who should be greatest and Jesus’ teaching them about the necessity of being a servant, using the example of the little child (Mark 9:33–37; Luke 9:46–48). In other words, there is a connection between these two happenings which teaches—we can hardly miss it—that the disciples’ basic problem was their own pride. They wanted to be important. They were even jockeying for position among themselves. Hence, a demonstration of success by one who was not even of their own number was abhorrent to them.
There is also a second base motive behind the uncharitable judgment passed on the man who was doing exorcisms. To see this we need to go back one more incident in Mark 9 and Luke 9 and remind ourselves that immediately before this, when Jesus had come down from the Mount of Transfiguration with Peter, James, and John, the company had been met by a man who begged Jesus to cast a demon out of his son. He said, “I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not” (Mark 9:18; cf. Luke 9:40). Here is great irony. The disciples had failed to drive out an evil spirit. This should have humbled them and drawn them closer to Jesus to learn more about Him and to draw more closely on His power. But it did not. Instead, we find them arguing about who should be greatest and even rebuking another disciple for what they had failed to accomplish.
The disciples were motivated by jealousy, as well as being filled with pride. And is it not the case that this is what actually prevents much proper cooperation and interaction among Christian groups today? We criticize another group’s theology. But is it not true that we are often actually jealous of what they are accomplishing? We need to deal with this sin if we are to go forward effectively in Christ’s service.
In the case of the man exorcising demons, the disciples were guilty of judging him falsely. What two motives are said to have produced their faulty judgments?
In the church today, how do people try to justify division on spiritual grounds?
Application: Have you ever experienced division in the church? What were the motivations for it? What was the result of such division? What Scripture passages were helpful?