The Salt of Hell and the Salt of Grace
“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. For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward. And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea. And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.”
Blessed are they to whom God by his Spirit gives grace to “discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not” (Malachi 3:18). Our Savior’s language here is decisive. — “He that is not against us is on our part.” No one can be neutral. Either we serve Christ, or we are opposed to Christ. There is no middle ground. It was said of Solomon, “Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and that hear thy wisdom” (1 Kings 10:8). How much more must it be said of Christ our great King, “Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and that hear thy wisdom!”
The first thing to be learned from this passage is the fact that all who truly serve the Lord Jesus Christ are brethren (vv. 38-42). How sad it is for brethren to isolate themselves from one another! And for brethren to oppose one another is utterly inexcusable. Yet, that is precisely what we see the Apostle John doing here. He said to the Lord Jesus, “Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us.” The man was doing good. He was casting out devils in the name of Christ. But he was not numbered among the Lord’s disciples. He was not a member of their little band. He was fighting the same war, but with a different battalion. That did not set well with John. Therefore he rebuked the man.
John’s rebuke of this man did not set well with the Lord Jesus. He said to John, “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.”
It was an offense to John to see a man casting out devils in the name of Christ who was not numbered among his apostles, who was unknown to the Lord’s known disciples, and was not identified with them. It seemed strange to him that a man was casting out devils in the name of Christ, doing the same work they were doing, who was not associated in any way with the apostles of Christ. Perhaps this man was a disciple of John the Baptist. Perhaps not. We are not told. However, we are told that our Lord Jesus rebuked John for rebuking him. There is a reason for that.
The sad fact is, we are all so proud that we are all prone to think that nothing good can be done unless it is done by us, or by one of those with whom we are identified.
We must never be tolerant toward those who oppose the gospel of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ. Let men call us bigots and slander us as narrow-minded sectarians, if they must. Our responsibility is clear with regard to every form of false religion, every form of freewill, works religion. Our God says to all who would follow him, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you” (2 Corinthians 6:17; Revelation 18:4; Isaiah 48:20; 52:11-12; Jeremiah 50:8, 45; Galatians 1:6-9; 1 John 4:1; 2 John 1:9-11).
I say to all who embrace as brethren those who oppose our God and the gospel of his grace, “Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord?” (2 Chronicles 19:2). There is absolutely no place for compromise with regard to the gospel of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ. That is the cursed way of Balaam. We must never yield to it. Those who do not believe and preach the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ are not with us, but against us. They are not the servants of Christ, but the servants of Satan. They do not do good to the souls of men, but ruin them. With regard to such men, the Lord Jesus Christ spoke very plainly in Matthew 12:30. — “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.”
But here in Mark our Lord Jesus teaches us to bend over backwards and always to be lenient with those who preach the gospel, but, for some reason, do not identify themselves with us. Sometimes faithful men are divided. There came a time when Paul and Barnabas, both faithful men, had to part company. That is a sad fact, but a fact nonetheless. As was the case in Elijah’s day, so it is today. God still has his thousands who have not bowed the knee to Baal. Many of them are simply not known to one another. But if they preach the same message we preach and serve the same Master we serve, they are our brethren. Even if they act out of envy, jealousy, and strife, if they preach the gospel of Christ, let us never be found fighting against them.
There are two relevant passages we should look at which will help us in understanding our Master’s proverbial statement here in Mark (Numbers 11:27-29; Philippians 1:15-18).
“And there ran a young man and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp. And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them. And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the LORD’S people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!” (Numbers 11:27-29)
“Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.” (Philippians 1:15-18)
Let us never be found opposing Christ (vv. 41-42). Those who serve Christ in any way, no matter how insignificant it may seem to be, shall be honored by Christ. — “For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.” It is better that a person had never been born than that he be found persecuting and opposing the Lord’s children. — “And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.”
With those things in mind, let us learn always to be lenient and tolerant toward those who profess to be our brothers and sisters in Christ. We simply do not know who belongs to Christ and who does not. We do not have the ability to discern between sheep and goats, or tares and wheat. Remember, “He that is not against us is on our part.”
Immediately following this, our Lord Jesus shows us the necessity of rigorous self-denial. In verses 43-48 our Savior tells us plainly that we must willingly give up anything and everything, which stands between us and him. The hand and foot which are to be cut off, and the eye that is to be plucked out, if they offend, if they keep us from following Christ, they are idols which we must destroy with our own hands. Though it is as dear to me as my right eye, my right hand, or my right foot, anything that stands between me and Christ, anything that keeps my soul from him, is to be cut off, no matter how painful and costly (Luke 14:26-27, 33). If we would follow Christ, we must go to the cemetery and bury our idols, the sooner the better.
At first sight, our Lord’s teaching in this regard may seem to be hard and rough. But there is a reason for it. Compliance is absolutely essential. If we do not tear every idol from its pedestal in our hearts, the idol we most cherish is sure to drag us down to hell. If we would follow Christ, if we would be his disciples, we must consecrate ourselves to him day by day with deliberate, unyielding determination (Galatians 5:24; 1 Corinthians 9:27).
The third thing plainly revealed in this passage of Scripture is the reality of everlasting hell (vv. 43-49). I do not know what hell is, or where it is. I do not know what the fires of hell are, or what the blackness and darkness of hell are. But I do know this — The Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, warns us repeatedly of a place of torment reserved for the damned, a place where the worm never dies and the fire is not quenched.
These are awful expressions. They call for meditation more than exposition. Ponder them. Consider them. Reflect upon them. Think about them. It matters not whether you regard the language as figurative or literal. If they are taken figuratively, the worm that never dies and the fire that is never quenched are figures of real things.
There is a real place of eternal torment called hell. In hell, the gnawing worm of a guilty conscience never dies or is, to any degree, silenced. In hell the fire of God’s wrath is never quenched. The torments of the damned can never satisfy the wrath and justice of the holy Lord God for sin. Therefore, our Lord makes reference to the sacrifices of the Old Testament in which God required every sacrifice to be salted with salt. In verse 49 he says, “For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt.”
If you die in your sins, if you perish without Christ, you will be cast into hell to suffer the everlasting, indescribable horror of the wrath of God. There the worm of your tormenting conscience will relentlessly gnaw at your soul. There the fires of God’s wrath will burn forever. As salt preserves meat from corruption, the fire of hell is such that it preserves the damned from being consumed.
Here, our Lord Jesus tells us that the fires of God’s wrath in hell will do the same thing that salt does to the flesh of slaughtered animals. As the salt preserves the flesh from putrefaction and corruption, so the fire of hell, while burning, torturing, and tormenting the damned, will preserve their bodies and souls in their being forever. In other words, the very fire that burns will keep them from being consumed. Their souls shall never die. Their bodies will not consume away. They will lose none of their powers, faculties, or senses. Rather, they shall all be intensified! That is what our Lord means by men being salted with fire and the fire being unquenchable!
In hell there will be no mercy, no blood atonement, no grace, no Christ, and no hope!
Salt of Grace
In verse 50 our Lord Jesus speaks about the salt of grace and peace. — “Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.” Let us make certain that we have the salt of God’s grace in us, that salt of grace which will preserve us and sanctify us in Christ. Do not be satisfied with a mere profession of faith. Make sure you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Do not be satisfied with a religious experience. Be sure you have the salt of God’s grace (2 Corinthians 13:5).
And let the children of God have peace with one another. In the Old Testament the covenant of peace is called the covenant of salt (Numbers 18:19; 25:12). Here our Lord Jesus takes opportunity to admonish his disciples, who had just been disputing about who should be greatest, to promote and maintain peace among themselves. It is the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace which is the strength and preserving quality of Gods church in this world. If we would truly promote peace, we must always season our speech with the salt of grace (Colossians 4:6; Ephesians 4:29; Romans 12:18; 14:19; 2 Corinthians 13:11).
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