“Hindrances to Saving Faith”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Mark 9.30-50
Eric is a young 10 year old who is growing up in a Christian home. He has good parents who take him to church. He enjoys going to church. And like most of his friends, he loves singing songs enjoys his teachers and being with his friends. It wasn’t just a social club for Eric. He remembers one summer during vacation Bible school asking Jesus into his heart. That next fall, he was baptized.
Eric knew all the songs, like “Jesus loves me,” and he knew that the Bible was his moral compass for life.
But when Eric hit his teen years, his parents fully expected continued spiritual growth. But that’s not what happened. One Sunday morning on the way home from church, Eric asked a tough question to his parents. “Why do we think that we are right on how to get to heaven but that every other religion is wrong?”
And then he asked, “how can God be loving if he sends people to hell who have never even heard of the name of Jesus?” And then he asked, “how do we know that the Bible is really true?” His parents were flabbergasted. Eric never got his questions answered satisfactorily. Either his parents were unwilling, unable, or just disinterested in Eric’s questions. When Eric asked the many spiritual leaders in the church the same questions, the pastor, deacon and elders were all unable to answer his questions. Nor was a Sunday school teacher able to answer. Pretty soon, Eric stopped asking questions. He began to be disinterested in church and the Bible and Christian fellowship, and got more involved in sports and then video games and began to pursue worldly entertainments.
Pretty soon Eric got out of the house and lived his own life apart from Christ and His church. Eric has left the faith.
What I just described to you is happening at an unprecedented rate. Young people growing up in Christian homes today have access to so many different worldviews and entertainments and Christian people are so ill equipped to help, that we are losing our young people to the world and cults in droves. How are we to handle this? What are the consequences to this? This isn’t just happening to young people. Adults who have been around church their whole lives are disenchanted for one reason or another about the Christian faith.
As I have said on many occasions, God’s people in this generation have failed. We have failed, for one, the coming generation. As the passage before us says, we have caused others to stumble. I want us to look at this word stumble now. What does it mean to cause someone to stumble? Mark 9:42 (NASB) “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.
Whatever it is, it is very serious. In this case, physical death is better.
Mark 9:45 is an example of the rest of the occurrences: “If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell.
Here, stumbling has some relationship to being cast into hell. “Your foot” can cause you to stumble. The result of stumbling here is being cast into hell. Because of this consequence, we can safely conclude then that stumbling has some reference to a hindrance to saving faith. It has reference to a hindrance to saving faith because the stumbling results in an eternal punishment. Only a lack of saving faith results in being cast into hell.
And as we will see, the topic of “stumbling” is really what ties verses 30-50 together. So then, I would like to preach to you on Hindrances to Saving Faith. We will see here is that we can hinder somebody else’s saving faith or someone can hinder his own reception of saving faith.
As we read through this, I’m sure you are aware of the difficult nature of this passage on multiple levels. By God’s grace, we will understand at least the major point of the passage. There are debatable issues in the passage; for one, verses 49 and 50 are among the most difficult verses in all the New Testament. One reference work I have counted 15 different interpretations.
But before we get started this morning, we must be reminded of how the passages we’ve seen in past weeks are put together. Christ predicts his death and resurrection in v.31. This is the second major time when he does this. Both times have the same pattern. Christ predicts his death and resurrection, and then we have the disciple’s response and then we have Christ’s call to discipleship. So, we have three parts that make up each time Christ predicts his death. Christ first predicts his death and resurrection, the disciples respond, and then Christ calls them to discipleship. Mark 9:30-50 is the second occurrence of this cycle.
The first occurrence is found in chapter 8:31-38. Let’s turn back there. Chapter 8 verse 31 is when Jesus predicts that he must die at the hands of the elders and rise again. Now verse 32 Peter responds to this by rebuking Jesus. The response of the disciples, here and in chapter 9, is that they don’t get it. And now thirdly, Jesus makes a call for discipleship in verse 34. The call then it is to take up the cross.
Now, back to chapter 9. Verse 31, Jesus again predicts his death and resurrection. The disciple’s response is that they are afraid to ask him about the question and then in verses 33 and 34 they are actually discussing among themselves who is the greatest. In light of Jesus’ sacrifice, they clearly once again, do not get it. And now once again, beginning in verse 35, Jesus makes a serious call to discipleship. The discussion about the hand, foot, and the way and how we need to be cutting those off, this is all serious talk about our need for serious discipleship. If anyone is considering coming after Jesus, is that person willing to do some serious business that he might not stumble and go to hell?
Because the cycles are very similar in the prediction, the disciple’s response, and the call to discipleship, these instructions in this passage form a commentary of sorts on Jesus’ call to deny yourself and to take up your cross. And if you’re really wondering if this is the man that God has sent to all of humanity that we must follow him deny ourselves, and take up our cross, if you really wanted to know if he is the way, the truth, and the life, just look at what we have in between these two passages in the Transfiguration. God the Father on the Mount of Transfiguration that day gave his approval to what Jesus is saying when he says Mark 9:7 (NASB) “This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!”
So when Jesus says to take up your cross, to deny yourself, to lose your life, plans, ambitions, and wishes for the sake of who Jesus is and for what he has done for you and dying and rising from the dead…. when Jesus says all of that, we hear God the Father give His approval to God the Son’s teaching. “This is my beloved son; listen to him!” So may the Lord help us to listen to him this morning.
The passage contains three hindrances to saving faith. The first one is pride. As we have seen, the disciples are not getting it. They have not as yet received Christ in a saving way. And what we observe in verses 30 to 37 is their pride. When Jesus talks of his own suffering and death and resurrection, ironically, his disciples are talking about who’s the greatest.
Mark 9:30-34 (NASB) 30 From there they went out and began to go through Galilee, and He did not want anyone to know about it. 31 [prediction]For He was teaching His disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later.” 32 [response]But they did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask Him. 33 [continued response] They came to Capernaum; and when He was in the house, He began to question them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest.
So, Jesus predicts his death and resurrection in verse 31 and then in verse 32 they do not understand, they are afraid and in verse 33, Jesus questions them about what they were discussing as they were going on the way. And their answer is very revealing. Not only do they not understand, not only are they afraid, but verse 33, they are discussing with one another who is the greatest.
And these three descriptions (misunderstanding, being afraid of Christ, and discussing who is the greatest) all testify to the fact that they do not understand what it means to be a follower of Christ.
Here they are, Mark notes, that they are walking along on the way. This phrase, “on the way” is significant. It’s used twice in chapter 8 twice in chapter 9 and twice in chapter 10. It is translated different ways in our Bibles, but Mark 10:32 reveals that on the way has reference to on the way to Jerusalem. And what all this means is that they are going toward Jerusalem and it’s in Jerusalem that Jesus dies on the cross. And the whole group is making their journey on this way. The whole group, all of the disciples of Jesus, they are all making their way… to the cross.
And it’s Jesus who is going to die on that cross, but Jesus calls on the disciples to do likewise. Just like Jesus said at the end of chapter 8, you must take up your cross and follow me. You must lose your life. And here they all are and Jesus predicts, “I’m gonna die and rise again from the dead. And here we all are “on the way” to Jerusalem where I’m going to literally die on the cross. And what are you discussing on the way? Jesus says he’s talking about suffering for the sake of sin. What are these supposed disciples of Christ talking about on the way to Jerusalem? And it’s in Jerusalem where they will learn that they must also take up that same cross and die to self. Disciples, what are you talking about on the way?
And to their shame, they are talking about and debating with one another concerning who is the greatest.
And then in verse 35, Jesus sits down, and calls the disciples over to him. At the end of verse 35, he will teach them and then in verses 36-37 he will illustrate.
Verse 35 Jesus says, “if anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.”
Have you caught on to how life in Christ’s kingdom is ironic. If you want to be first you must be last. If you want to save your life you must lose your life for Christ’s sake. This is being a disciple of Jesus. Be “last of all” means the same thing here as being a servant of all.
And then in verse 36, Jesus takes the child and he sets the child before the disciples and then Jesus takes the child in his arms and he says to the disciples
Mark 9:37 (NASB) “Whoever receives one child like this …[like I’m doing] in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me.”
So Jesus entertains their fantasy of desiring to be great and then he redefines what greatness is. Greatness in God’s kingdom is totally antithetical to the world’s understanding of greatness. In this world, you climb the ladder and push anybody off who would get in your way on your way up. But in Christ’s kingdom, you choose the last place. You don’t seek to be served, but you seek to serve and of course Jesus is the prime example. He is the King of glory, yet He came down to earth to die.
Now, Jesus illustrates his teaching to the disciples. They are so concerned about greatness. But being a servant is what really matters.
And when Jesus takes this child, he’s taking a representation of the lowest order in the social scale in the ancient world. Young children are dependent, their under authority, and they have no self-determination for their future yet. And Jesus’ statement in verse 37 is a call on the disciples to not only be last of all or a servant of all or a child, all these are the same thing, not only should you be like this, but Jesus emphasizes here in Mark, that you should also receive such humble lowly servants like this. Not only should you be last of all servant of all or a child like this, but you should receive such people into your life as well. So greatness is not being or receiving a high social standing. Greatness in Christ’s kingdom is being a servant of all and receiving those who are children or servants, as well.
So the major point here is to be like Jesus who embraces the child. Jesus takes this child, or this picture of one who is servant of all, one who is last of all in society or in the church… Jesus takes this humble servant and embraces him. So the big point is not to be like the child but to be like Jesus we embraces such lowly individuals.
Whoever does this in the same way that Jesus does and who has Jesus’ purposes in mind for doing so… Jesus says here, is actually receiving him. If you receive such a lowly servant of Jesus into your midst and assembly with Jesus’ purposes in mind, you’re actually receiving Jesus. And this humble act of kindness then sets off a chain reaction that shakes heaven itself. Not only are you receiving such a humble person with a lowly position, but by doing so you are actually receiving Christ and Jesus says that not only are you receiving him but you are receiving the One who sent Him, God the Father.
And the disciples don’t understand what it’s like to be in the kingdom. They have no idea of Jesus and his death and resurrection …they know He is the Christ….but they don’t understand what he has come to do and how we ought now to respond to one another… The disciples don’t understand what life is like in the kingdom of God and they have not as well taken up their cross and followed after Jesus. They have a desire to be great and that is totally antithetical to the nature of Christ’s kingdom and so they have great pride in their hearts.
And so, in this passage, it’s the disciple’s pride that is actually hindering their saving faith. The 12 disciples of Jesus at least as a group, are not pictured for us as being true believers with saving faith yet. They don’t understand the necessity of His death and resurrection, which are requirements for salvation. Here they are and Jesus is telling them to take up their cross, die to self, and follow me and yet here they are talking about who is the greatest.
So pride is a great hindrance to coming to saving faith. Especially if you are in the church and you want to rule and you want to be considered the greatest.
And the use of Christ’s church for the sake of a power grab is a great hindrance to coming to saving faith. If there are members of an assembly and they coveting a position in the church, it very well could be that in their pride they are blinded to true saving faith.
The disciples were discussing who was greatest. What are we discussing? So as someone who would claim to be a follower of Christ, what are you discussing on the way? On the way as you are supposedly bearing your cross and you are losing your life for the sake of Christ and his gospel… K, is this you? If it is, does your discussion give you away? What is coming out of your mouth as you talk with those who as well claim to be followers of Jesus? If you are boastful, proud or arrogant like the disciples are here, do you really understand the nature of the kingdom that you are claiming to have a part of? So are you in the kingdom? Really? In your pride, do not resist that question. Is your pride keeping you from saving faith?
And like in verse 37, are you willing to receive a child, or one who is last of all or servant of all… Are you willing to receive somebody like this in Jesus’ name? I mean if they are a true servant and they are a lowly individual, the lowest status in society, but they are serving Jesus and they are not part of your group, are you willing to receive such a child or such a servant into your midst?
TRANS: Well, John and the other disciples were not willing to do this. And they admit this in our passage this morning. John says in Mark 9:38 (NASB)[We weren’t willing to receive someone who was serving you in your name, like what you just told us to do…v.38….”Teacher, […if you want to talk about receiving servants…]we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to prevent him because he was not following us.”
So, not only pride, but there is a second hindrance to saving faith which is found in verses 38-42. This one has to do with our responsibility towards other people. And the second hindrance to saving faith is this: preventing others from genuinely ministering for Jesus. Preventing others from genuinely ministering for Jesus can be a hindrance for them to truly come to saving faith.
Preventing others from genuinely ministering for Jesus (vv.38-42)
So, John admits there that this individual was serving Jesus in the name of Jesus, but the disciples did not receive this individual in Jesus’ name, like what Jesus said in verse 37. Jesus says in verse 37 whoever receives a servant, like a child, like someone who is last of all, whoever receives somebody like this in my name receives me. John says verse 38, “Teacher we saw someone who was serving you who was servant of all last of all who is like that child you just described to us…we save him and he was serving you in your name and we tried to prevent him because he wasn’t following us. We didn’t receive him in your name like how you just instructed us to do so.”
So John is confessing here. And this description of John really shows us the mentality of them being the greatest that they still have. So here’s a man and the disciples are observing this man who is successfully casting out demons in the name of Jesus, but the disciples go ahead and instead of encouraging ministry to those poor people, they try to prevent the exorcisms from happening. And the whole reason was this exorcist was not following along with the disciples.
This demonstrates the fact that they still have the mentality of being the greatest. Think of the context of the story. What happened last week? Do you remember the little boy who had that demon? Do you remember the father of the little boy? Do you remember who tried to cast out the demon last week?
So here we have a situation and the disciples were unable to cast out the demon from the little boy and then they go and see that here is someone who is actually casting out demons in Jesus’ name, something that they were not able to do, and they try to prevent this from happening. So it is absurd to prevent this man from doing what they themselves were unable to do in the previous story and it shows that they have this ‘elitist’ mindset; that they are the greatest. You don’t follow us disciples, you’re missing it. No, disciples, you are the ones missing it! “O disciple, are you really getting it?”
But their whole concern is that here is this man supposedly ministering in Jesus’ name and they are concerned that this man is not following Christ around the country-side, maybe this individual really is not a Christian. Maybe he is not a true disciple of Jesus Christ? Maybe he’s not even saved? Should we prevent someone from ministering in Jesus’ name who claims to be a Christian but we don’t know for certain if they are or not because they are not in our little group?
So that’s the situation. There is someone who is not of our group who is genuinely serving Christ. Should we prevent him? Now we may not invite him into our midst to do what he does, but do we actually prevent him from ministering?
Jesus responds to John’s confession in Mark 9:39 (NASB) But Jesus said, “Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me.
So Jesus’ instruction is clearly not to prevent him. Do not prevent or hinder this individual from serving Jesus. And Jesus gives two reasons now for not preventing genuine service in Jesus name. Number one, you should not prevent someone from serving Jesus because Jesus says in verse 39 there is no one who will perform a miracle in my name and be able soon afterward to speak evil of me.
If someone is genuinely serving Christ, he will not speak evil of Christ. This of course is Jesus’ concern here. That this individual not speak evil of Jesus. And Jesus further explains that in verse 40 when he says, “For”…or “in other words”…he who is not against us is for us.”
So don’t prevent someone from genuinely serving Christ because he will not speak evil of Christ. The reason it works that way is because whoever is not against Christ and his church is actually for Christ and his church. That’s the principle on how that works. If he is not against Christ and he’s serving him, he won’t speak evil of him. He will not be against him.
So don’t prevent someone who is genuinely serving Christ because he will not soon speak evil of Christ if he serving Christ.
Now, the second reason for not preventing someone’s genuine service for Christ is found in verse Mark 9:41 (NASB) “For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he will not lose his reward.
Second reason for not preventing genuine service of Christ is because even menial service for Christ is rewarded. So, don’t prevent genuine ministry for Christ b/c even the smallest service is rewarded. And so by not allowing him to genuinely serve Christ, you would be preventing him from receiving reward.
TRANS: Causing someone to lose their reward, that’s not so bad, you say. But, if you fail and actually do prevent someone from genuinely serving Christ, you could be in danger if you cause them to fall away from God v.42.
So don’t prevent someone’s genuine service for Christ because Christ’s testimony will not be in danger because of it. There is also the second reason for not preventing someone’s genuine service for Christ and that is you may cause him to lose a reward. But now, in verse 42, we do have a picture of the seriousness of what happens if we do prevent someone from ministering for Christ.
Mark 9:42 (NASB) “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.
At issue here to understand is who Jesus is referring to when he says “one of these little ones who believe.” Who is that? Well the word “these” must be referring back to something in the context. And we’ve only been talking so far about one kind of person. Back up in verse 35, we are talking about the one who is last of all and servant of all. If you wanted an object lesson on what that would look like, it’s like a child verse 36. And then John responds, “Oh, we have failed to obey you in this. We did not receive one such child that you’re talking about when we did not receive this servant of all, this guy who is exorcising demons. We didn’t receive him, John confesses.
And now Jesus is addressing this person, this last of all, servant of all, child, someone who is not part of your group but who is serving Jesus…if you cause “one of these little ones who believe to stumble….K, so this is the same individual. “These little ones” is the same as the last of all or the servant of all in verse 35 Jesus teaching. Or is the child in Jesus’ illustration or it is this servant the one who is casting out demons in verse 38. You cause one of these little ones, that is, this humble lowly believer, perhaps a new believer, to stumble….. And that’s what is at issue: causing one of these kinds of people to stumble. And this is very serious.
We know it’s very serious because of what we should pay if we were Jesus if we have a choice between the two situations in v.42. Would it be better for me to cause one of these little ones to stumble or would be better if I had a heavy millstone hung around my neck and I was cast into the sea? Which would be better? The answer is having a heavy stone hung around your neck and cast into the sea. That would be better than causing a new believer or someone who professes to be a believer to stumble, to prevent them from believing. And this can all happened if you prevent someone from ministering for Christ.
And as we already noted, “causing someone to stumble” here has reference to, “destroying someone’s faith.”
It is possible for a regenerated individual to be instrumental in the destruction of someone’s faith. And we proved that this causing someone to stumble has reference to destroying someone’s faith when we look at the other occurrences of this word in this context. Verses 43 shows that there is a relationship between stumbling and hell. To stumble means in this context, to stumble means not to believe. If you have stumbled, it means you no longer believe. If you cause someone to stumble you are instrumental in the destruction of their faith.
Now, how can we as truly regenerated people cause little ones who believe in Jesus not to believe? Verse 42 again, whoever causes one of these little ones who believe … See, they believe. And if you destroy the faith of one of these humble believers, it would be better for you to have received some sort of capital punishment first, because in the end, the one who stumbled is no longer a believer.
Now, two things and then we’ll get into verses 43 to 50.
“Stumbling” is not talking about losing your salvation. One of these little ones it says in verse 42…who believe…. K, this doesn’t necessarily refer to possessing saving faith. And the reason that we know that the word believe can be used in this way is by looking at another passage of Scripture, Lk. 8:13. When Jesus gave the parable of the soils, he said that for some, it is possible for them to believe but for a while and then they fall away from God. Luke 8:13 (NASB) “Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away.
So it is possible then for an individual to believe for a while and then turn away from the faith. And all this proves is that they did not have genuine saving faith of Luke 8:15 (NASB) “But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.” Those who stumble did not yet have the kind of faith that takes up the cross and follows after Jesus. They did not have the kind of faith that loses their lives for Jesus and for the sake of His gospel.
So in other words my point in Mark chapter 9 here is that we are not talking about losing someone’s salvation. It is possible to believe in Jesus and yet not having saving faith in Jesus. But we may have in our midst some who say that they are a believer in Jesus and through some action of ours, we prevent them from ever genuinely receiving Christ and being regenerated.
Now, how does this happen today? And this is the second thing I wanted to talk about. How is it that people, especially young people like in the opening story about Eric, how is it that people like Eric are leaving the faith in droves?
Well, George Barna, who is a Christian research enthusiast I suppose, conducted a survey of teens and young adults who are leaving the church. And this could be the equivalent of what I’m talking about this morning from this passage which is how we as regenerated individuals in the church are destroying the faith of others.
How are we contributing to the downfall of the younger generation that is coming up… How are we contributing to their disconnection from church?
Now, I will give several reasons from the survey. You may or may not agree with each of these that they say is the reason why they are leaving the church. And some of these reasons are unfounded and they may just reveal that they have a worldly heart and they are not believers. Nevertheless, my point here is we need to be know how to address these issues with people when they come up. If we refuse to address the issues, we’re in big trouble. So, if someone in this congregation gives one of these reasons for leaving this church, how would you respond?
Reason #1 for young people leaving churches– Churches seem overprotective.
People in this group said Christians demonize everything outside of the church.
They also said that the church is ignoring the problems of the real world.
20% of the respondents said “My church is too concerned that movies, music, and video games are harmful.”
I know how to respond to young people or anybody saying this. Do you?
#2 Christianity is shallow, for example, they say that God seems to be missing from my experience of church. Others said the Bible is not taught clearly or often enough.
The third reason is that churches come across as antagonistic to science. This is the whole creation/evolution debate. We must be able to properly explain this to our children while upholding the scientific method.
Young people …fourthly …leave the church over a concern on how to live up to the church’s expectations of purity. They are so concerned about how to be pure when the culture they are so greatly exposed to makes immorality out to be a god. Parents, shield your kids from the evil influences of the world.
They asked the question as well that Eric did, “why is Christianity right and everything else is wrong?” And this is asked in a culture that esteems open-mindedness and tolerance and acceptance of others. But Christianity seems so exclusive.
K, these are just some of the points from the survey. But my point in bringing up this is to say that we ought not prevent people from going on for Christ because of how we are operating in the church. We need to take careful measures to make sure that we are addressing the issues that are at hand in a proper and timely fashion so as to ensure that we are not putting a stumbling block in someone’s way who potentially could go on for Christ and produce 100 fold!
So, the point of v. 42 is to say that this is a real warning: When someone appears to have received Christ but regeneration has not happened, if you are instrumental in them departing from the faith because you prevented them from going on for Christ in some way, it is so serious that an early, humiliating death would have been better.
And it’s humiliating because v.42 says if you do that, it would… literally… “better for him if a millstone turned by a donkey is hung” around your neck and you be thrown in the sea.
TRANS: That’s our relationship to others, now let’s deal with ourselves. Are we really saved disciples of Christ. “Young person or you who are considering leaving the faith, your parents/church/me…we all might be used by Satan to get you to abandon the faith. Now, this would show that you were never regenerated, but what will happen is that you’ll likely view something in this world as more attractive as well. You can blame someone else, but Christ in these next verses places the ultimate responsibility of discipleship on those who actually stumble, those who no longer believe.
So what we have in verses 43-49 is the third hindrance to saving faith. We have looked at how pride affected the disciples. We just finished talking about how believers who were genuinely regenerated can affect the faith of others. But now, Jesus focuses in on those who would consider being a disciple of Christ. In verses 43-49 are really an extended commentary on the call to discipleship that Jesus gave us at the end of chapter 8. This is similar language to taking up your cross and following after him.
It’s only those people who understand who Jesus is that he is God in flesh. And it’s only those people who understand that he has come to die for sins and be raised from the dead… And it’s only those people as we have it there at the end of chapter 8, it is only those people who are genuine disciples of Jesus Christ who have taken up their cross and follow after him. You must have all three. You cannot save your own life. You will lose it if you hold on to your own life. To gain the eternal life that Christ offers, you must lose your life for him for who he is, and for what he has done on the cross and in his resurrection. You must lose your life for that.
Failure to perform radical spiritual amputation (vv.43-49)
Similarly now in verses 43 to 49, as a commentary on that understanding in chapter 8, it’s only those people who have, similar to taking up a cross…it’s only those people who have performed radical spiritual self- amputation who can be followers of Jesus Christ. And really this imagery of cutting off your hand, and cutting off your own foot, and cutting out your eye, this terminology all is relating to our discipleship. There is no believer in here who is genuinely saved who has genuinely come to saving faith in Jesus Christ who has not cut off his hand. Just like there is no believer in here who is genuinely saved and has eternal life who has not taken up his execution device and has lost his life for the sake of Jesus.
Both of these pictures, taking up an execution device and cutting off your own hand are graphic illustrations for us to wake up and to come to grips with whether or not we have truly repented. Really these verses are all graphic illustrations of repentance. Have you lost your life for Christ? Be done with yourself; turn on yourself, be your own enemy, suspect yourself of murdering God. Hate your own life; hate yourself; stop slapping God in the face.
What Jesus is demanding in verses 43, 45, 47 is one and the same. He says it three different ways to emphasize the point so that you get it. He is graphic 3 different times so that you make sure that it sticks in your memory.
A hand, foot, or an eye are all something that we consider to be of incalculable value to us. What value can you place on your eye, your hand, or your foot? You would almost give anything to keep them wouldn’t you? Now, Jesus is saying, if there is something in your life that you consider to have incalculable value and that thing in your life is preventing you from believing in Jesus that is, it is causing you to stumble, it is preventing you from believing in Jesus… there’s something in your life that is preventing you from going forward with Christ, Christ is calling on you to perform self-dismemberment. Make a break from that thing in your life that is preventing you from receiving Christ in a saving way. Cut off that thing in your life that has got such a hold on you that it prevents you from receiving Christ.
People love their sin. They will seek out their sin. If your sin is keeping you from trusting Christ in a saving way, Christ is calling on you cut that out of your life…cut it off. It will hurt. It will hurt like cutting off your hand, but you must do it. If it actually worked this way, it would be better to have eternal life limping on one foot or blind in one eye, than having both eyes or both feet or both hands and rush headlong into the fires of hell.
And to motivate you further to make a decision for Christ, Christ describes hell in verse 48. It is a place where the worm doesn’t die and the fire is not quenched. And the point here is to say that it keeps going. The destroying eating worm doesn’t die; destruction continues. And the fire is never quenched; it keeps on going… it never stops this is eternal hellfire.
And if you wonder how that could be that someone in hell could be there forever and not be destroyed…how does that work… the reason for that is found in verse 49 when it says that everyone in hell there everyone will be salted with fire, everyone in hell is preserved in the flames.
And I would like for us to understand the with there as “in.” You can translate it that way. As well, and this is a difficult verse, please understand salt as being a preservative. Salt keeps food from going bad in times with refrigeration. And the word “everyone” here is almost if not always defined by its context so it has reference to somebody who is in hell.
So with that understanding then, know this verse 48 that hell is everlasting and people will always be in there burning and they can stay in there burning in that fire and not be totally consumed because verse 49 everyone in hell will be preserved in the fire. There will be some sort of preservation of the person in the fires of hell.
So, now you ought to be motivated to make a decision for Christ. This is Christ’s purpose for talking about this here! “If something you view as having incalculable value is preventing you from believing Jesus, perform radical spiritual self-dismemberment.” Repent.
TRANS: Now these are some of the two most debated verses and this is my take on it today. But as we apply this now to ourselves, Jesus makes the application for us as believers and as disciples who are not in danger of hell fire.
Those of us who have been regenerated, eternal punishment for unbelievers motivates us to have peace with others.
Eternal punishment for unbelievers motivates us to have peace with others (v.50)
Now, keep in mind how this whole passage got started in the first place. This all started when the disciples were discussing with one another who was the greatest. Then they prevented somebody from ministering in their own pride.
Application of all this: Finally, the contention over who’s the greatest is completely resolved by the exhortation “be at peace with one another.” Christ had been warning you about being instrumental in someone leaving the faith. He has also warned people considering discipleship or claiming to be disciples, that repentance, as the picture of self-dismemberment illustrates, is necessary. And the failure to do so will result in everlasting fire in hell. Salt is again carried over into verse 50 in the idea of preservation and how salt preserves food is also carried over.
Look at v.50 more closely now. Salt is good; the preservation power of salt is good. We are to have this preserving power in ourselves. But if this preserving agent does not have the preserving power how are you going to make it so that it does have its preserving power? In other words, we should have salt in ourselves, which means concretely we should be at peace with one another. The failure to be at peace with one another is like becoming unsalty. And being at peace with one another is like being salty.
So, as regenerated believers have peace with one another we are preserving others from casting off their unsaving faith in our assembly so that they might be saved. We’re not driving true unbelievers away when we have peace with one another. So the way we conduct ourselves has a direct impact on whether others receive Christ in a saving way. But if we fail to retain people in our assembly because of lack of Christian conduct, how will we regain our good testimony? And with the context as a whole and hellfire as a motivation, let’s be at peace with one another, shall we? The eternal life of other people depends on how we conduct ourselves.
Let’s sing about being at peace with one another then. 219. If you are in anyway unsure of your relationship with Christ, please let me know, immediately. Let’s talk about this. This is not something to put off.