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 Vol. 3, No. 1                                        Page 9                                                January, 2001

The Sacred Page

Read the Instructions First and Last

By Dennis Gulledge

spinning parchment I've done it plenty of times. Maybe it's a "man thing." I have purchased that item requiring assembly and laid the printed instructions aside thinking, "I can do this on my own." After a lack of mechanical skills result in frustration, I consult the source that I should have gone to in the first place -- the instructions.

The lesson that such experiences teach us I sometimes see applied to the Bible thusly: "When all else fails, read the instructions." I suppose that such is said with good intentions, but life is more important than putting together a bicycle. It is, however, Satan's message to humanity that we can make it on our own, we can chart our own course or we can build our own life.  God and his Word, then, become an emergency measure for those who fail.

In this same vein, Abraham Lincoln is reported to have said, "I have been driven to my knees many times in the full real realization that I had no place else to go." These words are true to life, but is that what religion becomes to us? Is the Bible only for those who have tried all that the world offers and failed? Is prayer reserved for those who have no place else to go? Is salvation a last resort for those who are scared at the prospect of eminent death? No. If we love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, then we will give him first place. Then, we will not waste our lives in futile pursuits before we enjoy the benefits of God, his Word, salvation and prayer!

Was the Apostle
John a Religious Bigot?

By Dennis Gulledge

"Now John answered Him, saying, 'Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.' But Jesus said, 'Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me.' 'For he who is not against us is on our side'" (Mark 9:38-40).

This passage is commonly misinterpreted to suggest that Jesus recognizes and sanctions all religious bodies that claim to follow him. This approach is not new. The old Presbyterian commentator Albert Barnes in 1832 saw this passage as giving us reason "…to rejoice that the kingdom of Christ is advanced, whether by a Presbyterian, an Episcopalian, a Baptist, or a Methodist." William Barclay taught that this passage shows us that "…truth is always bigger than any man's grasp of it. No man can possibly grasp all truth." Therefore, Barclay saw Jesus as saying, (1) "Every man has a right to his own thoughts," (2) "…[W]e must also concede the right to a man to do his own speaking," and, (3) "We must…remember that any doctrine and…belief must finally be judged by the kind of people it produces." Some years ago brother Rick Atchley preached a sermon from this text entitled, "Don't Bother Your Brother." His points were basically three: (1) "Let's not limit God to what we can do," (2) "Let's not limit the kingdom of God to the size of our brotherhood," and (3) "Let's not limit our plea by a sectarian spirit."

In this pluralistic religious age of ours, it is easy for men to see in this passage a divine approval for sectarianism that does not exist. In our day, the only true "sectarians" are those who oppose sectarianism. This passage is typically taken as a rebuke at looking with rejection upon those who do not walk with us (which it is not). It is viewed by some as having Jesus say, in effect, "One church is as good as another" (which he does not). This passage does not sanction denominationalism. To so read it is to misread it. To so interpret it is to misinterpret it. To so apply it is to misapply it.

The passage before us has John forbidding a disciple of Jesus who, like the apostles, cast out demons but did not follow them. That is, he was not in the company of the twelve. Was John correct to forbid him? Jesus said, "Do not forbid him" (Vs. 39). The Bible is a good commentary upon itself. In Luke 10:1-17 we learn that seventy disciples were commissioned in similar fashion to the twelve (Cf. Matthew. 10:1ff). Both groups were empowered to cast out demons (Matthew 10:1; Luke 10:17). In the case before us, John and the disciple whom he forbade were both disciples of Christ. They did not wear names different from Christ's or follow another Lord. No parallel to denominationalism exists here. John and the disciple did the same things. They did not preach and follow different doctrinal systems as denominations do today. John and the disciple acted upon the same authority in Jesus' name (Vs. 38). Denominations do not exist or act by Christ's authority (Matthew 16:18). They exist only as a result of a response to Catholicism in the great apostasy foretold by Paul and seen in church history (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4).

Copyright © 2001 Louis Rushmore. All Rights Reserved.
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