In Luke 9:50, Jesus says that “he who is not against us is for us.” Yet in Luke 11:23 Jesus says that “He who is not with Me is against Me.” Which position is correct?
Luke 9:49 - 50
ESV - 49 John answered, "Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us. 50 But Jesus said to him, "Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.
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In Luke 9:49, within the first account, John implies that since the person casting out demons in Christ’s name was outside of their fellowship, he should not be trusted or empowered to invoke Christ’s name, even if for the performance of a good work. But in Mark's account of the event (Mark 9:39), Jesus corrects John: “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me.” In essence, Jesus cautions John and all of His disciples to avoid interfering in the works that others are doing in support of the overall work. There is no good reason to discourage or make enemies out of those who are not working against us, including those whose level of belief and understanding we might judge as lacking. God can and does work with any and all persons as He sees fit. In the second account, the Pharisees had charged Jesus with using the power of Satan, the ruler of demons, to cast out a demon. Beginning in Luke 11:17, Jesus begins to analyze the accusation to reveal its preposterous nature. In essence, He shows how, in the two-sided fight between the Kingdom of God and Satan, neither side can gain—or continue to stand—by assisting the opposition. Since there is no neutral ground between God and Satan, why would Satan help Jesus cast out Satan's own demons? By applying simple logic, Jesus uses the Pharisees’ own words against them, easily concluding, “He that is not with Me is against Me.” Thus, Jesus’ words in these two accounts are not in conflict. In fact, by combining them, there can be seen a unique harmony existing between them. Though there is no neutral ground in our battle with the satanic forces arrayed against us, we should proceed cautiously when we judge the actions of others, to be sure we understand the spirit that motivates them.
You can’t be neutral in following Christ. It’s one or the other: you can’t be “on the fence” when it comes to Him. Either you’re on the rejection side of the line or else you have crossed the line in allegiance to Jesus. There is no middle ground. You can’t be a fence-sitter “mugwump.” RR Dr. Charles Ryrie, one of my Dallas Seminary professors, differentiates the 2 passages, Luke 9:50 & Luke 11:23, thusly: he that is not against us is for us is "the test by which others are tried. In [Luke] 11:23 [it] is a test by which one tries himself." RSB
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