SALTED WITH FIRE

“ Everyone will be salted with fire …Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”  (Mark 9:49, 50)

The question, “Why can’t we all just get along,” properly introduces the idea that many have labored to promote, which is unity within the “Church.” Following World War II the world council of churches took place and according to  Wikipedia,

“The council and the movement went forward to continue the efforts of unifying the church globally around the idea of helping all those in need, whether it be a physical, emotional, or spiritual need. The movement led to an understanding amongst the churches that, despite difference, they could join together to be an element of great change in the world. To be an agent of hope and peace amongst the chaos and destruction that humans seem to create. More importantly the council and the movement lead to not only ecumenism but to the forming of councils amongst the denominations that connected churches across continental lines.”

The question that needs to be answered regarding the modern treatment of unity as promoted by the council of churches  is simply, does Ecumenism promote Biblical unity or a unity that would pleases God?  In (Mark 9) beginning at verse 38 the question arose among Jesus’ disciples concerning who should be permitted to cast out demons in Jesus name.  Jesus replied to His disciples who wanted to stifle the man from representing Jesus but who did not follow along with them was simple,

“Do not stop him, because no one who does a miracle in my name will be able soon afterward to say anything bad about me.”  (Mark 9:39)

From this statement of Jesus and many others like it men conclude that Christians should become the least discerning people in all the world.  Judgment of any kind is regarded as a great sin and the cause of all disunity among “Christians” in the church. 

Verses such as (John 7:24),

"Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment,"  and (1 Corinthians 5:11, 12)

“But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler-not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church?”

are never rightly considered in the context of judging as we ought and as directed by God.   

Certainly, there is a judgment that is forbidden within the church. No man is allowed to sit in the place of God and judge another man as though he were God and able to judge the motives of men’s hearts.  Many verses could be quoted that God forbids incorrect judgment, but an equal amount could be quoted to support righteous judgment. 

In Acts chapter 8 we can observe Peter, a pillar of the first church, who made such a judgment.  In Samaria, under the preaching of Philip people believed, and in particular there was a man named Simon who practiced magic, and we are told,

“Even Simon himself believed, and after he was baptized, he stayed close to Philip constantly”  (Acts 8:13)

However, there is a vast difference between the person who receives Jesus in name only and one who authentically lives by the power of His name.  It is the difference between a man who by his own effort strives for acceptance with God by his own good works, and the man who by the internal working of God rises to an otherwise unattainable holiness.  Peter understood that acceptance of sinners by God is not just a matter of justification through the substitutionary work of Christ on the cross.  It was also the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in the transformation of the heart that was necessary also.  Such a transforming work places a love for God and fear of displeasing Him within all those who become His children.  Are they perfect?  No!  But they are changed.  Peter said it this way,

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens…  who are chosen 1:2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood…”     (1 Peter 1:1, 2)

Peter tells us that it is the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit that brings His chosen people into obedience to Jesus Christ.  Apart from obedience to God there can be no acceptance by God.  It is Jesus that justifies our sin before a His holy Father in heaven.

“He (Jesus) who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.”  (Romans 4:25)

It is the work of the Holy Spirit that make us acceptable before God by not allowing us to return to sin as we once did.  Sin will not be a part of the world to come, only righteousness will dwell in the hearts of the redeemed.  Salvation means we are saved from the penalty of sin, but it also means we are saved from the power of sin in this life and completely from the presence of sin in eternity.  So then, apart from the sanctifying work of the Spirit there can be no lasting holiness, apart from which there can be no ongoing acceptance with God. 

Simon believed what Philip preached; but was Simon a true believer?  Did Simon bear the fruit of true repentance?  Did Simon fool the Apostle Peter into thinking he was the real deal or did Peter see beyond his words and discern beyond the mere appearance of things and instead judge with righteous judgment?  The story continues in (Acts 8),

“Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, "Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit." But Peter said to him, "May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity."  (Acts 8:18-23)

By today’s standards of “love” Peter’s words were harsh to say the least.  But remember, Peter witnessed demons cast out in great numbers and whole regions going out to Him and as many as came to Him were healed.  And yet, as written in (John 6:66),

“And He was saying,"For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.  As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.”

No one can come to Jesus on his or her own initiative or terms; to follow Christ by the divine standard of holiness a person must be accepted and empowered by the living God. John said the same when he wrote in his gospel.

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”  (John 1:12, 13, emphasis added)

The Apostles were painfully aware of this reality having witnessed the fall of so many, including one of their own number, namely Judas. 

So Jesus first declared the danger involved with causing a person to stumble who believes in Jesus when He said,

"Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.”  (Mark 9:42)

To be part of the process of defection from Jesus is so bad in God’s eyes, that it would be better than a huge stone were hung around your neck and you were cast into the sea.  Jesus warns everyone of this danger by His use of the word “whoever.”  He then goes on to use the personal pronoun “your,”  “If your hand causes you to stumble,” and directs His remarks to each and every one of us and asks us individually to consider the state of our own soul.  He asks for more than some easy belief that gives nothing more to God than mere words, but He challenges us to consider the authenticity of our conversion experience.  He said,

“If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire.”  (Mark 9:43)

In our Lord’s choice of the word rendered “stumble” in the English, we see a very valuable truth.  The word in the context especially could best be translated, “To cause a person to begin to distrust and desert one whom he ought to trust and obey.”  Jesus is talking about desertion, defection, abandonment, or what the Bible calls apostasy.  The  person who deserts Christ is the person who took it upon himself to follow Christ.  Well isn’t that good, some will say.  No!  Because if God is not bringing about the conversion then the motives are all wrong.  We see wrong motives in the story about Simon, who was willing to believe, but when tempted to make money on the deal he was all too willing to give in to it. 

Some will ask, “then when will we ever all get along in the church?  No one is perfect and we all sin.”  Jesus concluded with the way to unity and peace when He said,

“ Everyone will be salted with fire …Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”  (Mark 9:49, 50)

God is a consuming fire!  The fiery salt of God’s presence is first humbling, it also creates a sorrow for sin in the soul, and unjust judgment leaves a very bad taste in the mouth of those that are broken under the weight of their own sin.  The person moved by the holiness of God and His sensibilities towards sin, will also be directed by God in the path of peace among the members of His church. 

Without proper judgment the church will be corrupted by an add mixture of unredeemed sinners and saints; without a proper fiery salt the church will be corrupted by the absence of a God derived peace.  

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