By Hoyt Houchen
Question: Would you please explain Mark 9:38-40 and Luke 9:49,50? Christ said “not to hinder” yet many denominations do and claim many things in the name of Christ.
Reply: The account in Mark 9:38-40 is as follows: “John said unto him, Teacher, we saw one casting out demons in thy name; and we forbade him, because he followed not us. But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man who shall do a mighty work in my name, and be able to speak evil of me.” The incident as recorded by Mark is developed a little more fully than that of Luke; but they are parallel accounts, so the wording is about the same.
Neither this passage nor any other Bible passage justifies denominationalism. In our text, we see a man who was casting out demons in the name of Christ. John and the other disciples had forbidden him because he was not following with them, but was independent of the group. However, Jesus said, “Forbid him not: for he that is not against you is for you” (Lk.9:50).
The explanation of this passage is found in the expression “in thy name.” This man was casting out demons in the name of Jesus. He was doing what Jesus authorized; thus, this was not the reason that John and the other disciples forbade the man. They did not forbid him because he was casting out demons in the name of Christ, but because “he followeth not with us.” This was their reason. Simply because this man was working apart from the disciples did not make his work unauthorized. His work was sanctioned, even though he was unknown to John and the other disciples. This is why Jesus encouraged the man’s work. Brethren today may be separated by thousands of miles and may be unknown to one another; but if they are all doing the Lord’s work, the Lord endorses them. It is refreshing to meet brethren in distant fields who are doing what the New Testament authorizes them to do.
“In the name of the Lord” means by the Lord’s authority but we should carefully note that all who claim to be doing their work in the name of the Lord are not doing so. The Scriptures alone must determine this. Those who sprinkle and pour water, claiming it to be baptism, or who use mechanical instruments in worship, are not doing these things in the name of the Lord even though they claim to be. The man whom John was forbidding was not in that category; he was working in harmony with the Lord’s will. Anyone should be encouraged to do this.
It is only right and proper to forbid a person to act if his action is wrong. For instance, the mouths of false teachers should be stopped (Tit. 1:10, 11). But on the other hand, if we find those who are acting in accord with the teaching of God’s word, they should be encouraged. We are not to forbid people’s actions only upon the basis that they are unknown to us and not in our own particular circle of activity. This is the mistake John and the other disciples made – “he followeth not with us.” Although denominationalism may teach and practice some things which are scriptural, it promotes division and its very existence is the antithesis of the unity for which Jesus prayed (Jn.17:20,21) and for which Paul wrote (1 Cor. 1:10). Denominationalism does not exist “in the name of Christ,” and therefore it is without divine sanction.
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 17, p. 522
September 6, 1984