Matthew 18:6-14; Mark 9:38-50; Luke 9:49-50
The Result of Sanctification is Peace
As a Christian grows in the Lord, the resulting fruit should be peace. What we mean by this is that as we grow in the grace of our Lord and Savior, there should be a forsaking of the sins that so easily beset us and cause us so much pain and turmoil, and an attendant peace that results therefrom. But we also learn in this passage that the forsaking of sin can be a painful process in and of itself. To describe this process, Scripture minces no words: “And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.” The same is said for feet and eyes. And notice that we cut off one for the sake of saving the other as two are cast into hell; that is, the ultimate penalty is worse than the present sacrifice. Jesus here uses graphic language as he sometimes does to describe the seriousness of the work to be done and the consequences to follow for disobedience; that is, the use of hyperbole does not lessen the importance of his words but heightens it. In short, besetting sin is a serious matter and must not be tolerated in the life of the believer. And the peace that comes from such a process is worth the pain of the sacrifice. We must be seasoned and salted with this sanctifying flame of the Holy Spirit if we shall see the kingdom of heaven.
It is because of these besetting sins that so many offenses happen in this world. Jesus acknowledges that in a world of sin, offenses will occur. But Jesus does not allow this reality to provide cover for his people. Woe to us for such offenses, especially if we offend a little one. These are tender people whose souls are in formation. To offend or despise one of them is not only to hurt him but to corrupt him, to misshapen him while in the very process of maturing. It is a serious matter which our Lord will severely punish. Be patient and tender, both with actual children and “children” in the faith, for it is especially these for whom our Lord leaves the ninety-nine to save the one.
We finally note the incident with which this passage began. The disciples saw someone casting out demons in Jesus’ name and tried to stop him “because he was not following us.” Jesus rebukes them for doing so. The disciples were here expressing a misplaced zeal rooted perhaps in vanity: “Only we can do that, and you’re not part of our group. Stop it!” May we always be gracious, accepting the work that others do for the Lord, which may indeed be better than the work we have done. The Lord has given others of his Spirit as well; may we rejoice and be glad in that.