Posted by: Bill Hornbeck | January 4, 2019

“he who is not against you is for you.”

Today’s devotion comes from Luke 9:49-56.

“49 John answered and said, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name;  and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow along with us.”  50 But Jesus said to him, “Do not hinder him;  for he who is not against you is for you.”

51 When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem;  52 and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him.  53 But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem.  54 When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”  55 But He turned and rebuked them,  [and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of;  56 for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”]  And they went on to another village.”  Luke 9:49-56.

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How do we understand Jesus’ statement in verse 50:  “he who is not against you is for you.” when compared to a seemingly opposite verse in the following Matthew 12:30?

“He who is not with Me is against Me;  and he who does not gather with Me scatters.”  Matthew 12:30.

The context of Matthew 12:30 is that the preceding section concerns demons and Satan in Matthew 12:25-29 and the foregoing section concerns those who blaspheme the Holy Spirit in Matthew 12:31-32.  They are not with Jesus but are against Him;  they do not gather with Jesus but scatter.

In answer to the question of how do we understand Jesus’ statement in verse 50, there are only two groups and a sharp divide between both groups.  Using the language of “vessels of mercy” and “vessels of wrath” in Romans 9:19-24, there is the group of God’s elect who are vessels of mercy prepared for heaven, who are with God and for God, and there is the group of the non-elect, vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, who are not with God and against God, such that if one is not in the group against God, then that one is in the group for God (using today’s verse 50) and that if one is not in the group with God, then that one is in the group against God (using the language of Matthew 12:30).

But, there is hope!

It may appear superficially that those who do not follow Jesus nor receive Jesus are against Jesus, but they could still be in the group of God’s elect but not yet regenerated by God.  They could be souls for Jesus to save.  Only God knows who are in both groups.  Thus, we see Jesus’ patience and unwillingness to condemn or bring fire down on the man who cast out demons but did not yet follow Jesus in verse 49 and the Samaritans who did not receive Jesus in verses 52 and 53.  Jesus came to save all of God’s elect, and only them, even though they may not appear worthy of salvation.  

We also consider the example of the Apostle Paul who persecuted the church of God.  Paul certainly did not follow Jesus nor receive Jesus at the time that he persecuted the church, and yet God showed grace to him and regenerated him and even made him an apostle.  “For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.  But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain;  but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.”  1 Corinthians 15:9-10.

Consider the following from the Canons of Dordt:

Article 7.  Election is the unchangeable purpose of God, whereby, before the foundation of the world, he hath out of mere grace, according to the sovereign good pleasure of his own will, chosen, from the whole human race, which had fallen through their own fault, from their primitive state of rectitude, into sin and destruction, a certain number of persons to redemption in Christ, whom he from eternity appointed the Mediator and Head of the elect, and the foundation of Salvation.

This elect number, though by nature neither better nor more deserving than the others, but with them involved in one common misery, God hath decreed to give to Christ, to be saved by him, …  FIRST HEAD OF DOCTRINE Of Divine Predestination.

Article 8.  For this was the sovereign counsel, and most gracious will and purpose of God the Father, that the quickening and saving efficacy of the most precious death of his Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing upon them alone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to bring them infallibly to salvation:  …   SECOND HEAD OF DOCTRINE Of the Death of Christ, and the Redemption of Men Thereby.

“for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”  …”  Verse 56.


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