Nov 13, 2008

Where you stand on evangelism may be where you stand with Christ

by Dan Grubbs

Here’s a provocative question: Is there any danger for us if we are not actively working for the Kingdom of God? Let me ask it another way: Can someone who has truly been justified live a life with no evidence of being in Christ Jesus?

What prompts this inquiry is my effort to understand Christ’s response to the Pharisees who accused Him of casting out demons by the authority of Satan. Recorded in two accounts – one in Matthew 12 and again in Luke 11 – is where the text for this discussion is found. The two verses are identical in the New American Standard Bible.

“He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.” Matt. 12:30

Meditating on this, I find that I do not have much trouble understanding the principle intellectually. It is when I chew on this and think of application of how this is played out in daily living, I begin to weaken and wonder just how black and white this principle is. I have decided that I am certain this is a black-and-white issue or Christ would not have stated it so.

Matthew Henry’s commentary on the passage also paints a black and white picture of the idea that there is no leeway of degree. He describes it with a metaphor of war: “It is here intimated, that this holy war, which Christ was carrying on with vigour against the devil and his kingdom, was such as would not admit of a neutrality.”

What about in the area of evangelism? Did Christ mean that those who do not answer the Great Commission are “against” Him? How universally do we apply this principle?

My reading of Darby leads me to believe he applied the for-me-against-me principle narrowly, confining it to demonic activity. I might suggest that this was due to the context of the account with the Pharisees.

Yet, Henry eloquently explains, “but in the great quarrel between Christ and the devil, no peace is to be sought, nor any such favourable construction to be made of any indifference in the matter; he that is not hearty for Christ, will be reckoned with as really against him: he that is cold in the cause, is looked upon as an enemy.”

Using Henry’s language, how then do we define “the cause” for Christ? Personally, I gain my answer in the words Christ actually used. To me, the key words to review are “with,” “against,” “gather,” and “scatter.”

Beginning with those who are “with” Christ; the word is translated from the primary preposition “meta”. This carries the idea of accompaniment or to be amid a local presence. In its literary use, “meta” is usually meant to mean to participate with.

For those whom Christ describes as “against” Him, this is translated from the word “kata” which takes on the prepositional understanding of one thing against another, as in physical position. In my mind, I see this as someone being an obstacle. Literary use for this form retains the meaning of “opposition.”

Here is where I begin to see the clarity of Christ’s unequivocal statement. If we are not participating in Christ’s ministry and being obedient to what He’s called us to do, then it seems Christ considers us in opposition to His cause.

Continuing with the short passage, we read the words “gather” and “scatter.” This is where I find a more pragmatic understanding of what Christ was communicating. In metaphorical language, when Christ employed the idea of gathering, He largely was referring to disciple making, which must include Gospel proclamation. I believe that is made clear in the Matthew and Acts versions of the Great Commission.

“Gather” is translated from “sunago” meaning to lead together or to convene or even to assemble. Whether fishing for men or harvesting a ripe field, to me it is clear that Christ is referring to evangelism by using the word gathering.

And, by His either-or approach, Christ teaches that if we’re not gathering by proclamation of the Gospel and making disciples of all men, then we are scattering, “skorpizo”. This wonderful picture word means figuratively to “put to flight” as if running through a plaza full of feeding pigeons causing them all to take off into the air. If we take Christ at His word, unless we are leading others to Him, He sees us as causing other people to flee from Christ.

To call on Henry again, he explains thusly:

Christ expects and requires from those who are with him, that they gather with him; that they not only gather to him themselves, but do all they can in their places to gather others to him, and so to strengthen his interest. Those who will not appear, and act, as furtherers of Christ's kingdom, will be looked upon, and dealt with, as hinderers of it; if we gather not with Christ, we scatter; it is not enough, not to do hurt, but we must do good.

Is this idea unprecedented biblically? I am not saying this is an identical case, but we find in Exodus 32 how God felt about those who were not for Him. Verses 25-28 read:
Now when Moses saw that the people were out of control – for Aaron had let them get out of control to be a derision among their enemies – then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, “Whoever is for the LORD, come to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered together to him. He said to them, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Every man of you put his sword upon his thigh, and go back and forth from gate to gate in the camp, and kill every man his brother, and every man his friend, and every man his neighbor.’” So the sons of Levi did as Moses instructed, and about three thousand men of the people fell that day.
Certainly, I am not saying we should kill those who are not for God. But, from this passage we may at least glean some understanding of how God considers the opposition of man toward Himself.

There is more to our sanctification than evangelism. Even the strongest advocate of personal evangelism would agree. But, in our application of the Christ-taught principle of for and against, I suggest that personal evangelism is where we might begin. I, for one, do not want Christ to consider me as one who scatters simply because I do not personally gather.

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