A Question I Was Asked:

Is There Any Contradiction Between Mark 9:38-41 and Matthew 7:21-23?

My Response:

Okay, let us look at these two Scriptures, (NIV throughout):

Mark 9:38-41

38. '”Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”

39. “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “No-one who does a MIRACLE in My Name can in the next moment say anything bad about Me,

40. for whoever is not against us is for us.

41. I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in My Name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.”

('Miracle' is emphasised because it is the subject of the e mailers query).

Matthew 7:21-23

21. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

22. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your Name, and in your Name drive out demons and perform many MIRACLES?'

23. Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from Me, you evildoers!'”

(Again, 'miracles' is emphasised because it is apparently the subject of the questioner's query).

Actually several questions arise here.

1. A Comparison of 'Miracles.'

First of all, regarding 'miracles' in Mark 9: 38-41, these were genuine miracles done through the power of the Holy Spirit of God!

But in Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus knew that their claim was erroneous and exaggerated: these were not miracles performed through the power of the Spirit of God. Either the miracles were fraudulent and dishonest claims, or if miraculous things really had happened, they had happened only through the power of demons! This might seem a little scary but the Bible makes it quite clear that demons can perform 'signs and wonders.' See 2 Thessalonians 2:9:

'The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders.'

We can rest assured that nobody who performs a miracle through the very Spirit of God will be in rebellion against Jesus Christ – such a thing is just not possible! That would make God a house divided against Himself!

So the group in Matthew are fraudulent preachers and teachers who had claimed to be genuine followers of Christ and had – undoubtedly – deceived many, yes, perhaps even millions. Without doubt, such false teachers who change and pervert the message of the gospel into a different message about wealth and success in this present age could well be included in this group. But there are further questions here:

2. The Church Would Not Be One Instituition.

By refusing to forbid other preachers who knew the Name and Power of Jesus and of His Gospel but who had not been present with Jesus and the disciples, Jesus was revealing that the New Testament Church of God would not be just one organised, instituitionalized structure! In Mark 9:38-41 it is immediately clear that John had assumed that Christians would just be one organised grouping of people. Jesus was effectively saying, 'No don't expect that!'

Later on Paul carefully corroborated this approach: Carefully study all of 1 Corinthians 12.

Evangelicals especially need to understand that while certain things are essential: the correct gospel message, for example, it is possible to explain things a little differently and to still be genuine followers of Christ which is why the denominational system was not all bad. Not understanding this point, a few mistakenly continue to long for 'Christian unity.' BUT THERE ALREADY IS CHRISTIAN UNITY since there is only one Body of Christ.

Perhaps it is not surprising that it is primarly liberals who pray for “unity” - their error is in only looking at physical appearances; true unity among Christians already exists since there is only one body and when God looks down from Heaven He sees that one body – He is not confused by such things as denominations! Jesus explained to John that not all true believers would be found in one grouping and Paul later made this even more clear. But there is even a third point here:

3. Rewards For Those Favourable to the Church.
People reveal their salvific status by how they respond to, and treat Christians. We sometimes expect every single person in our lives to become Christians right here and now but many Scriptures show that it is foolish to expect that. However, '...Anyone who gives you a cup of water in My Name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.' In the Final Judgment people who did not, perhaps, become Christians during this life but who had been generally helpful to the Church and to Christians and who had not persecuted where they could have done so are going to be in a much stronger position than those who had been continual enemies of the Christian gospel. Indeed, for those who are continual enemies of Christ and of His precious Gospel it is one of the surest and saddest signs of their eventual fate.

I hope that these comments help clarify the fact that these two Scriptures in no way contradict each other and a comparison of the two can actually teach us many things.

Robin A. Brace, 2006.