"Forbid Him Not"

A querist asks, “Can you explain Mark 9:38-39 and Luke 9:49-50? How could someone have performed miracles in Jesus’ name, and not followed Him? What application do these verses have for us today?” In Mark 9:38-40 KJV, the text reads, “And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us. But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is on our part.

The ending part of the querist’s first question that states, “and not followed Him,” is not in harmony with the latter part of Mark 9:38 (John speaking), “because he followeth not us.” The “us” in this verse refers to the disciples (cf. Mark 9:31). The reading in Luke 9:49b states, (John speaking) “and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us.

This individual was obviously following the Lord (as a disciple) because the Lord had authorized him to cast out devils (Mark 9:39b – “in my name”). This disciple, however, was not doing the Lord’s work as a member of a “group” (i.e. the Lord’s immediate disciples) but was doing the Lord’s work as an “individual.” Christ declares that this disciple should be treated as an “ally” and not as an “enemy.” John, by a possible attitude of jealousy, thought that only him and the Lord’s immediate disciples should be honored with the power to cast out demons, but he was obviously wrong. In Mark 9:40, our Lord declares that there is no middle ground when it comes to our allegiance to the Lord.

Whether individually or as a group, we’re either “for him” or “against him” (cf. Matthew 12:30). This disciple who was working separate and apart from the group of the Lord’s disciples, was obviously working “for” the Lord’s cause, therefore our Lord admonished his disciples to “Forbid him not” (Mark 9:39a).

The application of the above verses, is that Christians should not be jealous of those who are doing the work of the Lord by His authority, whether individually or as a group. Paul lays down a principle for us in 2 Corinthians 10:17-18 about our “glorying” when he said, “But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.” The standard of our commendation is the Lord’s commendation, not our own commendation.

Mike Riley, Gospel Snippets