A Question I Was Asked:

Is There a Contradiction Between Matthew 12:30 and Mark 9:40?

"...There seems to me to be a contradiction when Jesus says 'He who is not with me is against me' (Matthew 12:30), and 'Whoever is not against us is for us' (Mark 9:40). These are both NIV texts. I understand the danger of lifting verses out of their contexts, so I have tried to understand the context to understand why he says these two different things, but as yet I have not got any further with it."

Okay. You mention context and with Matthew 12:30 and Mark 9:40 it is particularly essential to get the whole context of these two chapters.

In Matthew 12:30, Jesus is clearly speaking about those who actively oppose the Gospel. He was dealing with Pharisees who were accusing Him of doing mighty works through demons (if they really knew better and understood who Jesus was then they were certainly committing the unpardonable sin). So here the reference is to those who would actively and hatefully oppose the proclamation of the Gospel. In this context, Jesus said, 'He who is not with Me is against Me.' But the context shows just what Jesus meant - He is certainly not speaking about neutrality in the matter!

But in Mark 9:40 the context is entirely different. The disciples had been arguing about who might be considered the greatest but then wished to hide this from Jesus (33-34). Verses 36-37 give the other side of the coin to the Matthew 12 text. He is talking about those people who will welcome - not reject - the Gospel. He is not talking about those who would hatefully reject the Gospel message. In verses 38-41 Jesus reveals that the Church would not be a single exclusivist organisation. His view of discipleship was far more inclusive than the narrow view held by the disciples at that time. Jesus is saying that if people support the Gospel and the name of Christ yet do things a little differently, do not oppose them! (He is not, by the way, talking about heretics as numerous other verses make clear). In this comment, Jesus started to prepare the ground for the fact that there would eventually be many Christian organisations (something which Paul also makes clear: 1 Corinthians 12:4-31).

'For whoever is not against us is for us' does not contradict 'He who is not with me is against me' when you check the context, which one should always do.

Robin A. Brace, 2006.