The Fork in the Road: An Email from a Church of Christ Preacher, Part 2

forkintheroadI get emails —



I was speaking to a preacher friend of mine today about this topic (salvation issues vs. opinionated issues), and he is very conservative/traditional. He speaks for a pretty large congregation (several hundred), and I know he had struggled with the same thing as far as proper discernment on these issues is concerned.

His bottom line is basically my bottom line. Either the church of Christ must back way off of its current stance of “marking/withdrawing of fellowship” and completely reevaluate, or we must be prepared to mark and divide over any and every little thing we disagree on. If not, why not? There really is no middle ground.

I have divided up the mainstream churches into categories based on different responses given to the below situation. I call the first group of mainstream brethren the “inconsistent brethren.”


I know most mainstream brethren have “marked” and “withdrawn fellowship” or at least won’t have any type of fellowship with churches of Christ who have introduced the mechanical instrument into worship. Here is the basic set up argument:

1. Worship must be done in spirit and in truth (Jn. 4:24).

2. Mechanical instruments are an addition that violates the manner of singing in worship.

3. Therefore, I cannot fellowship brethren who practice or condone mechanical instruments in worship.

Sounds like a simple, sound and decent argument (assuming mechanical instruments in worship are wrong).

Ok, so while the above might sound like a good argument and preach like a good argument, it has many flaws as far as consistency is concerned and the “inconsistent brethren” ignore it.

For example, there are mainstream brethren who believe, promote and practice praying directly to Jesus. There are mainstream brethren who condemn and preach against this practice. However, I know of brethren who believe it is wrong to pray to Jesus but will not mark or withdraw fellowship over this; yet they will mark and withdraw fellowship over mechanical instruments. This is why I call them the “inconsistent brethren.”

This is highly inconsistent because the basic set up argument would have to be the same:

1. Worship must be done in spirit and in truth (Jn. 4:24).

2. Praying to Jesus is a doctrine contrary to true worship that violates the manner of prayer.

3. Therefore, I cannot fellowship brethren who hold or practice a position that condones false ways to pray.

Sounds like a simple, sound and decent argument (by the way, this is just assuming praying to Jesus is wrong).

So how come most brethren do not withdraw fellowship over praying to Jesus? They cannot argue that it doesn’t changes the nature of worship, because it does! If they argue that it does matter, then why are they not withdrawing? This is inconsistent.

If they argue that it is not a matter of salvation, then I would ask on what basis (and how did one gauge and arrive at that conclusion?)


Wait, wait, wait! (I can hear some brethren chomping at the bit right about now). “You are assuming that we shouldn’t withdraw fellowship from brethren who pray to Jesus, but I do and I have!” Ah, yes, now we have moved on to the next set of brethren. I will call these the “infallible brethren.” These are the brethren that, when shown an inconsistency, reply back with that famous saying, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” In other words, they would quickly “strip” the above argument away by saying, “You are right, we do need to start withdrawing from those who pray to Jesus since we believe it is wrong.”

So, are these brethren right? Is this the answer? Hardly! I came up with a list of differences between mainstream brethren to show that this theory of “everyone who doesn’t agree with me on everything is wrong and must be withdrawn from” is almost comical (if it weren’t so sad). Here is my short list. (Literally, this is my short list. I am not trying to be funny or sarcastic.)

1. Multiple assembly groups instead of one assembly (cluster groups or two AM assemblies on Sunday)

2. Elder selection

3. Elder qualifications (one wife, faithful children, children inside or outside the home, etc.)

4. Elders authority

5. AD 70 Doctrine

6. Social Drinking

7. Gospel Singing groups outside the assembly

8. Praise teams inside the assembly (praise teams w/o women, praise teams wrong all together)

9. Gospel mechanical instrumental music outside assembly

10. Holy Spirit (how He dwells and works)

11. Handclapping in worship singing

12. Handclapping for speakers/preacher

13. Handclapping at baptisms

14. Children’s church

15. Lord’s Supper (should it be served more than once on Sunday? When it is served a 2nd time, can they leave the assembly and go to another room, etc.?)

16. Does the Hadean realm still exist or do we go to heaven or hell when we die?

17. Birth control/contraceptives

18. MDR (mental divorce, literal divorce, reason for divorce, Pauline Privilege, legal separation, etc.)

19. Fundraisers/giving/bake sales

20. Holidays (celebrate them at all? Celebrate them religiously in any way? etc.)

21. Women teaching young “Christian” boys in class

22. Women working outside of homes.

23. Homeschool only?

24. Women talking in Bible class.

25. Husband/wife team teaching to a mixed audience

26. Women writing articles for males to read online

27. Female interpreters (including sign language)

28. Versions of the Bible

29. Prom

30. Mixed Swimming (can you at all? Can you as long as you wear modest clothing? etc.)

31. What is modest dress?

32. Puppets/skits inside assembly (or VBS only)

33. Dramas (in assembly or VBS/special events only)

34. Elders overseeing works and congregations in other countries

35. Literal 6 day creation/theistic evolution

36. Grace views

37. Dating/kissing

38. Parenting

39. Tattoos

40. Smoking

41. Make up

42. Chewing Tobacco

43. Head coverings (not for today? for today but covering is hair? for today and literal covering must be used? etc.)

44. Gambling (bingo, raffles at schools, etc.)

45. Gymnasiums

46. Youth ministers (are they authorized, should it be parents/deacons, could a woman be paid to serve/lead other women? etc.)

47. Attendance (must I come all the time, Sunday AM only? etc. etc.)

48. Gospel accounts (are they part of NT doctrine or OT doctrine)

As I said before, this is my short list off the top of my head. If I researched this out (which I am planning on doing), I am confident I’d find hundreds, if not thousands, of beliefs and doctrines the so-called “united” mainstream brethren disagree on but still accept, tolerate and fellowship one another.

These brethren believe we have to withdraw on everything that they think is sin (by the way, I want to emphasis the fact that it is what “they think” is sin). If they are consistent, then they not only have to agree with me on 47 items listed above to be in fellowship, but they would have to agree with me on all 48. If there was just “one” thing we disagreed on, we couldn’t be in fellowship!

But, it goes even further than that with these infallible brethren. They say that it is not enough to just abstain from the practice … no, no, no … You must preach against it and agree with them.

So, let’s say mainstream brother A says, “Yeah, I have no problem right now with social drinking, but I have no desire for it, so I don’t.” The typical response from an infallible brother B would be, “What? You don’t believe someone is going to hell if they socially drink? I can’t fellowship with you until you tell me you believe social drinking is a sin. In fact, I am marking you as a heretic.”

Sadly, these are much more common scenarios than most would care to believe. So, it is not enough to be unified in what we do, we also have to be unified on every single doctrine.

Now, what is interesting about these “infallible brethren” is that they are the ones who throw out words like “matters of opinion” just as quickly as anybody else does. These are also the brethren that would say ignorance is never, ever covered by grace no matter what!

I would challenge anyone to go through the list above and put each subject in either “matter of opinion” or “matter of salvation” and then explain why that is the case. I would then ask a question: What if someone doesn’t have a position on one of the above doctrines? What if you have studied a position out and I haven’t even heard of it? What if I am ignorant at this time of a position? Has God’s grace covered me until this time on any given particular issue in which I have no cognitive belief?

If an infallible brother answers “yes,” then they have given up their own position that God’s grace never covers ignorant sin committed. If an infallible brother answers “no,” then they can never know they are saved nor could they ever be in fellowship with anyone until they know that person agrees with them on everything.

The common response to this by the “infallible brother” is something like this: “Well, you have to give people time to study of course. We must have patience. It will also depend on where they are at during their spiritual journey and how long they have become a Christian. We can only act upon what we know.” This tends to be the “cop out” answer.

However, this still doesn’t deal with the question. Let’s say you give someone time to study the issue out and have patience with them. Even then, the “infallible brethren” are at a standstill in their argument. First off, how long should you give them to study the issue out? What if one person believes they are having patience but another believes the time is up?  Furthermore (and most importantly), I do not know of two single brothers who agree on every single one of the doctrines above.

I have worked with some of the strictest brethren. Even many of them, in honest discussion, reveal to me the same concerns I have. So, how then could the “infallible brethren” teach a doctrine that they themselves can’t even live? If the whole brotherhood the world over is supposed to be unified in the way the infallible brethren believe it is, then how come they can’t find even one more person who has figured out all of the right answers other than themselves? Honesty with one’s self shows this position to be false.


You then have another set of mainstream brethren: the “apathetic brethren.” These are the brethren that could care less about truth, and they only believe what they believe because it is what they have been taught. They are not concerned with consistency; they are not concerned with thinking through their arguments. In fact, they usually don’t even have an argument for what they believe in. They just simply “come to church” and go through the motions.

Right now, I haven’t posed a solution. I realize that. I have only shown what the solution is not. I plan on showing some possible solutions in our following correspondence. I look forward to hearing back from you soon.



Dear reader,

You may enjoy this post from a very long time ago. It’s one my first few posts, from back in 2007.

If you want to really have fun with a class survey, ask the questions as True/False and then ask them to circle those questions that are salvation issues. The class will quickly find themselves very frustrated, having no idea how to decide.

By the way, you skipped the “I am God” group. This group decides which issues are salvation issues based on how obvious the answer is to them.

No one will declare X a salvation issue unless he is very sure of the answer. Over time, as his opinion becomes assuredness, the intellect of the preacher becomes the standard by which the world is saved or damned.

The more he studies, the more people become damned. When he is finally 100% convinced on a subject, what was once a matter of opinion becomes a matter of salvation, and thousands of souls shift positions between saved and lost, heaven and hell.

He becomes God.


About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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40 Responses to The Fork in the Road: An Email from a Church of Christ Preacher, Part 2

  1. Royce Ogle says:

    Doesn’t this whole problem exist because of a poor understanding of the gospel? It is painfully obvious that many of our coc folks are teaching “another gospel” whose Saviour is self.

    What did Jesus accomplish for sinners? It is far more than “a 2nd chance” to be good enough.

  2. Dwight says:

    Wo w I am the first to comment. This is perhaps one of the most bothering thing about the conservative branch is that they are inconsistant and make excuses. CERN is promoted as the way to interpret, but is not used consistantly. Take for example I Cor.11. Next to the heavily used Lord’s Supper discussion is the discussion on the headship of God and application. All of I Cor.11 is a command, but not all of I Cor.11 is taken seriously. CERN doesn’t apply in certain instances which involve human reasonings. I am of the thought that if God said it, then we should at least acknowledge its reason for being there and if we can apply it then we should try to apply it. And then we flip over to the time of the Lord’s Supper, first day of the week, which is mentioned (one example), but not commanded and then we enforce that as if that was commanded. We will use historical narrative against musical instrumentals, but won’t use it for one cup or wine in communion which changed to grape juice and multiple cups in the late 1800s. It is sad that it has taken me twenty-some years to see past a certain line of teachings to get this far.

  3. Dwight says:

    Royce, I’m nost sure it is because of a poor understanding, but rather a self-limiting understanding and I think they are two different things, unless you are saying that the gospel is just the message of Christ and not scripture in general. I may not be able to grasp all of the scriptures, but I can grasp the important things, but when I limit what I can grasp, then I only see that which I wish to see. In some ways we have made it a point to understand the gospel, but not to understand God. We emphasize the what, but not the why. We push sacrifice over mercy or make mercy a command along with sacrifice. It is more of a twisting to see the side we want to see. None of it is good though.

  4. All of this ignores Paul’s teaching in Romans 14. Ironically, many who extract Romans 16:17 from its context use “mark them who cause division contrary to the doctrine delivered to you” ignore the doctrine Paul had delivered in Romans 14, just 2 chapters before!

  5. BTW, Dwight, what does CERN mean? CENI, I know, but who is CERN?

  6. Jim Haugland says:

    No wonder some think CoC is a cult and have chosen to leave and worship elsewhere.

  7. Dwight says:

    My bad CERN is involved in Super Collider testing. I meant CENI. If you would have looked at Jesus you would have thought he was a cult leader and maybe he was as he developed a faith based on his teachings and faith in Him. But it would be the only cult that is worth joining and even so he didn’t lock people out and seperate from people over human resaonings, which gave a big leeway of and for liberty.

  8. John says:

    The one thing that groups like the CoC seem to forget is that you cannot govern a person’s mind and heart. We are living in a time of great changes, religious and social, and while many leave the church in which they grew up seeking one in which they can be free to express their convictions, others make the decision to stay in the church of their youth, living their consciences before God and being quite comfortable in not always voicing the changes they are going through. No longer can it be assumed that long time members from “faithful” families hold fast to the doctrines that are cherished and preached. If we look back over the last thirty years or so we can see even those who were considered leaders in the church, to everyone’s shock, suddenly walking away and joining themselves to another denomination. These decisions did not happen over night.

    While each congregation will work within itself to lay a theological foundation they believe is Biblical and relevant, the convictions in the pew will continue to become increasingly varied. It’s not 1955 any more; not even ’95.

  9. Mark says:

    There is also much diversity in the pews these days. In the 1950s, most southerners lived in the south and had a particular mindset. People in the northeast (yankees) were of a different mindset. The periodicals were a source of information on issues, albeit some were a bit one sided. It was also easier to keep down the multiple opinions which are so prevalent today. Now, the northeast is full of southerners and everyone else and Houston is full of people from the northeast. This does not even include California and those from/in other nations.

    This may mean that the text, though not taken out of context, of the Bible becomes even more important as former regional opinions in matters won’t hold up in a diverse congregation. Also, people can get on the internet and get opinions from priests, rabbis, ecclesiastical scholars, and even other cofC ministers of both genders. This will/has put fear in many people who want to keep all opinions the same and condemn those with different opinions.

    The author of the aforementioned letter left out four significant issues from the list.
    Women cofC ministers.
    Abortion rights
    Homosexual rights
    Deacons vs committees

    The middle two are the most politically volatile. Today, there is a group of female cofC DMin candidates that are about to finish, and they are going to be competing for positions aka “calls” just like the male students are. They also have followings on blogs and one is currently on staff in a cofC and preaches from the pulpit fairly often. Her sermons are online. Another is the new chaplain at Pepperdine. These females are quite good and highly competent.

  10. Joe Baggett says:

    I always wondered if miraculously these issues were to disappear; what would we do in the cofC? If we didn’t spend the majority of our time arguing, writing, publishing, programming, funding all for doctrinal perfection the enforcement and castigation of those who are “wrong”, what would we do? We might spend the majority of the time “doing” and “becoming” what fewer people disagree on like feeding hungry, clothing and housing the needy, visiting people in jail, giving beyond what we are able, taking care of the least of these, and the list would go on. I have long since believed that this central issue of believing that doctrinal perfection is what God is most concerned with and that any doctrinal error would jeopardize our eternity is a lie and is the Devils greatest weapon in keeping the cofC from becoming and doing what we really could be if this was not our focus and identity. But sense this is engrained in so many people’s consciences in the cofC it will be very difficult because questioning one’s conscience is one of the scariest things a human can do is question their own conscience. God be with us.

  11. Ray Downen says:

    Another matter which might concern sincere believers. What IS THE NAME of Christ’s churches today? Is it “Church of Christ”? Or “church of Christ”? I prefer “Christian Church.” Many avoid a name honoring Jesus and use other non-Biblical names for His churches. How are we to recognize brethren when they attend a church with a “wrong” name?

  12. Johnny says:

    I think he told us “by this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
    He didn’t say by the name on the sign.

  13. Dwight says:

    Names are a convention of man, not God, when it comes to churches. Names divide as people divide by name. Names are not intrinsiclly bad, as “Christian” is not bad and it will make you a denomination by default, but man has a tendency to take a name and divide along that name, which is sectarian. Jesus and/or the apostles never mentioned a name. Even those that were dividing based on names was using the name of Christ, which you think would be good, but it wasn’t as they were using it as a dividing point. It is about time we recognize people by thier character and not by a name tag or designation. Johnny used the right verse. We need to stop thinking as seperate local entities and think as a heavenly entity with local representations. We can argue that a name honoring Jesus is good, but we could not argue that it is correct or more correct than any other name that we submit as those who use the name of Christ may or not be of Christ in spirit and truth.

  14. Some of us would agree that we ought to stop withdrawing fellowship altogether, except on the biblical basis of denying the sonship of Jesus Christ, either by teaching or behavior.

  15. Eric says:

    I’ve heard divorce and remarriage are an issue as well. I personally don’t believe in divorce, but I could not refuse to fellowship with those who do so. Thankfully God is far more forgiving than we are.

  16. Jay Guin says:

    Jerry wrote,

    All of this ignores Paul’s teaching in Romans 14. Ironically, many who extract Romans 16:17 from its context use “mark them who cause division contrary to the doctrine delivered to you” ignore the doctrine Paul had delivered in Romans 14, just 2 chapters before!


  17. Alabama John says:

    In places like the military and prisons there are no church titles most of the time, especially stress times, but just folks getting together to study and worship God. Amazing how well that goes.
    Word gets out there is to be a bible discussion and people just come. Talk about from the heart prayers, no memorized lines.

  18. Dwight says:

    Rom. 16:17 says “note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the dioctrine which you have learned” as those who are actively engaged in divisiveness. This I think has nothing to do with a difference in doctrine, but rather the spirit of divisivness. The doctrine learned was of unity in Christ. In regards to those who engaged in blatant sin they were to not eat with them from an individual basis. It is interesting in that this Rom.16: 17-20 is in the middle of Paul telling them to accept these people and greet them as brothers and sisters. Paul seems to always refer back to what He has just taught and what He had just taught was Rom.14 and 15 on unity.

  19. Joe Baggett says:

    I will submit a rhetorical question. If we could “fellowship” more with those whom have theological differences both in and outside of the cofC; how much more feeding of the hungry, taking care of the needy, visiting the imprisoned, spreading of the kingdom, new people coming to faith, taking care of “the least of these” do think we could accomplish together? Believe me when Jesus talks about the Day of Judgment he does not mention anything about doctrinal or theological perfection but he does say whatever you did for the least of these truly I tell you did to me. This is the result of our failure to understand the nature of God and it is the true spiritual failure. Not just the emotional scars of division but the fact that our ability to do the things that Jesus and the Apostles said were the most important has been severely limited!
    I can see so many people when we get to heaven that will account that they were as doctrinally sound as they possibly could be in their understanding but would have a hard time answering what we did for “the least of these”!

  20. Dwight says:

    This was Jesus point with the rich young ruler who said that he had done everything that Jesus had listed. But had he really? Jesus then told him to sell all he had and give it to the poor. This command by Jesus was not what they would have considered Law as there was no Law that said you must give away all that you had and give to the poor. Jesus was speaking to the heart of him. He was selfish and uncompassionate towards those who had none. He did not love his neighbor as himself as he would not give his money to his neighbor because he put his value in those things. What Jesus did not say was, “Do you go to the Temple? How many times do you pray? Do Sing? Do you sing correctly?” Why, because “God desires mercy rather than sacrifice.” God would rather have us treat our brother well in a Godly way in the same way God treats us, than treat God with a physical offering to get his blessing.

  21. JES says:

    We need to get back to the Scriptures with humility, prayer & fasting as Paul directed. Studying to rightly divide the Scriptures. Only then will the Spirit transform our hearts into Christ likeness instead of modern day Pharisees.

    It’s time for a real Reformation!

  22. Sigh. Paul did not say to study to rightly divide the scripture. And you have this process exactly backwards. Only when the Spirit begins to transform our hearts, are we able to grasp the meaning of the scripture. We had the Spirit given to us by Jesus well before we had the New Testament. It still works that way. We are led by the Spirit, and informed by the scriptures, not the other way around. “Get the Bible right first” is the recipe we hae been following to Pharisaism for years.

  23. Alabama John says:


    I want to talk with that young ruler when I get to heaven and apologize for all of us.

    He came wanting to follow Jesus. He wanted to follow Him right then as others had.

    Jesus gave him something to do before he could follow him.

    He went away disappointed. None of the apostles were told to do anything to follow but did so immediately. Come follow me!

    I believe since he had followed everything all his life he didn’t quit, as is taught by us, but did go back sell everything but his expensive (underwear) gown needed to hide his nakedness and came to Jesus to follow him but Jesus was being led away by soldiers.

    Some teach that was Mark following almost naked, but he was poor, (no rich garment) and what would be the point of him not being fully clothed?

    I believe it was the (formerly rich) young ruler continuing to obediently follow as his past record demonstrated.

  24. Dwight says:

    Alabama John,
    the apostles were poor fishermen who really had nothing in the first place. The sermon on the mount was directed at those who had nothing, at least physically. The rich young ruler was made an example of because he put those riches ahead of Christ and others. It is nice to imagine that the rich young ruler self-corrected himself, but we are told that at the point of decision he chose not to follow Jesus. This should be a word of caution to all of us. We shouldn’t let things get in our way of giving of ourselves, The RYR did all of the works, but not what was required of his heart towards others, He desired salvation, so was this just another thing that he desired to be filled and what of others that he could fill with help? There were many who turned thier backs on Jesus because of thier lack of selflesness and putting thier faith in physical things.

  25. Alabama John says:

    he did not chose to not follow Jesus, Jesus ordered him to go back and sell all his riches and he did in my estimation. He went away disappointed as he had much to have to sell and that took time. He wanted to follow Jesus right then. He didn’t change his mind, or way of thinking but, did as he always had done, obey.
    WE always tend to teach rich people are bad but that is not so. The lesson for us is to be as he was and obey even if it means selling our riches as he did.

  26. Dwight says:

    I understand, but Jesus request was for him to follow him. In fact this concept was repeated numerous times to others who did the same thing. Some wanted to go back and bury their dead, but Jesus wanted them now. In this way the apostles answered. There is no further scriptures that tells what the rich young ruler did, except to turn and walk away…sorrowfully. We cannot not assume that he did what Jesus wanted as the text says, “But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” The jest is that the RYR didn’t want eternal life so bad as to cheerfully trade for his earthly possessions. I’m not judging the RYR by his riches, after all Nicdemus was rich, but Nicodemus was not like the RYR.

    Now why we are on this conversation is beyond me as my point was that Jesus didn’t ask of the RYR to do more things to inherit eternal life like what he had been doing, but to rather show the right attitude in giving and in service to others.

  27. Dwight says:

    I fully agree with the synopsis of the article. Many are contradictory in what they will and what they won’t allow as sinful. But there have been some changes, even among the conservative coCs as some 10-20 years ago dancing no matter what type was sinful, but now not so much. Now there is an attempt to define the type dancing as sinful. Most within the conservative coC might not notice the shift, but it is there, thus marking a change from something that is across the board sinful in nature to something that is sinful when it meets the nature of something sinful, such as being lewd. Now on the other hand there is a movement by some to more strictness by some as they believe the conservative coCs are becoming apostate in many things.

  28. Monty says:

    Don’t know how you get the young ruler sold all he and and came and followed Jesus. Interesting twist to say the least.

  29. AJ,

    What makes you sure the rich young man went and did what Jesus said to do? You said he had always obeyed. I ask, “Had he always been obedient?” He said he had obeyed the commandments. Had he? The very first one is to have no other gods before Jehovah. How then did his great wealth keep him from following Jesus?

    You surmised earlier that the rich young man was the young man who fled naked from the arrest of Jesus? What makes you think this? I can as easily surmise that this was John Mark, the cousin of Barnabas as early tradition says. You said this man was poor, having only a single garment. Or is it possible that the last supper was in his family’s home? Under this scenario, Judas could have gone to that home to find Jesus before heading to the garden with his band of soldiers or temple guards. Mark could have hastily leaped out of bed and run to warn Jesus. Any direct evidence of this? Only the tradition of the ECFs plus the fact that only Mark relates this incident. A plausible scenario? I think it so – but as an earlier comment notes, yours is an interesting view on the story.

  30. Alabama John says:

    That is my point, others had things they wanted to do before following but Jesus said come follow now, right now. I don’t know of another person wanting to follow Jesus that was told to go do something, anything, before coming back to follow me. Jesus saw him coming and loved him it says and as a child told me one time, “Maybe Jesus was wanting to save this young man from the hardships Jesus knew were coming. Sure sounds like something Jesus would do.”
    I couldn’t argue with that.

    The text only says he went away sorrowfully, not why. Could of been he came to follow Jesus and was given a task to do before he could come back and follow as he wanted and that made him sorrowful. If so, how would he optimistically explain this to those he left, all packed up to go follow Jesus?
    Heck that would make me sorrowful too and not being the good obedient man as he was, a little ticked off.

    If I wanted to give an important, sure to get done, task to someone, I would give it to the one that had been the most obedient and for the longest time as that proved their nature.
    I assume no more than the way it has been told assumes and interprets to fit their interpretation of him being a bad rich person not wanting to give the riches up. Lesson helps contribution on Sunday mornings. It says the one that came when Jesus was in a captive position was in a costly garment. Doesn’t that fit the rich young ruler better than poor John Mark? Why was he down to his underwear, would John Mark be? Could it be because he had sold everything but that bare necessity?

    Supposition, yes, but no more than the way we have told it for many years. Actually less.

    Anyway, one is a very positive story and the other is a negative one, which would you like to believe and tell?

  31. Where did you get that John Mark was poor? You also stated that all of the apostles were poor. Some may have been, but Jesus tended to pick busy people, not loafers. The sons of Zebedee were partners in a business that employed others – fishermen, to be sure, but evidently a prosperous business. Peter and Andrew were also partners with them. Matthew was a tax collector, and have you ever known a poor tax collector? Saul of Tarsus was a highly trained scholar and Rabbinic teacher, as well as a skilled tradesman.

    When the RYM went away sorrowful, these men said, “We have left everything to follow you.” When Jesus called, they came. Not so the RYM. The disciples followed Jesus who though he was rich, yet he became poor for the sake of the kingdom. So, I lean more to the usual understanding of this story, not because I despise rich people, for quite a number of them left earthly wealth to follow Jesus. Rather, from the text itself. This rich man went away sorrowfully, instead of cheerfully giving up his wealth.

    The greatest virtue I see in your ‘take’ on it is that it is a novel approach that is redemptive of the man who came to. Jesus to ask about a ‘good thing’ to do to inherit eternal life. His response to Jesus’ first reply has more similarity to the prayer of the Pharisee in the temple than to those who came to the Jordan confessing their sins. Though he knew something was missing, but he could not make the leap to accept what Jesus told him to do to find what was missing. I view him as Jesus did – a man to be loved, but also pitied.

  32. Johnny says:

    It is a tradition in many circles that the RYR was John Mark. Mark 10:21 being referenced as a clue where Mark says Jesus “loved” the RYR, a phrase not recorded in the other gospels. Tradition yes, but one believed by many.

  33. Dwight says:

    There are many assumptions being made here with little actual proof of anything. The RYR went away sorrowful and we don’t know if he came back or not as there is nothing that says he did. could it have been John Mark, maybe…maybe not, but again Jesus was looking for a response to his message and the RYR responded the wrong way in sorrow, because he was rich. The RYR did not follow Jesus at any point, but as stated he he did follow the Law, which Jesus also followed the Law. Jesus gave the RYR a task that wasn’t part of the Law, but a test of the heart.
    By the way it is possible that all of the Pharisees that Jesus personally rebuked later turned to God and we really shouldn’t make to much of the fact that he came down hard on them and they rejected Him as that is a negative approach, they just misunderstood. Sometimes the lessons that were taught are stark reminders that they, as we, are human and as human are wrapped up in our humanity and our pride and earthly desires. We must learn from these examples to be otherwise.

  34. Monty says:

    If the RYR was truly seeking eternal life, and he truly desired to have Jesus give him a precise answer of what he lacked, and then Jesus says, “OK, try this on for size” and he gave him the “answer” that he specifically needed and the one he was searching for, and the guy isn’t jumping up and down saying “Yes!, Yes!” “I’ll go right now Lord and sell all that I have and give it to the poor just as you say.” But instead walks away without so much as saying a word to Jesus and is sad? Spin it however you want, but that doesn’t seem much like a happy scenario to me. Compare his response to Zaccheus’ response. Perhaps the guy did eventually make a change, but there isn’t much to hang your hat on to me.

  35. Alabama John says:


    How much like the Pharisees are we?

    The lesson learned from the story of the RYR is:

    1) We should sell all that we have and give to the poor as Jesus told him to do or be lost as we teach and preach the story the RYR?

    2) Don’t ask, obey as we see it and keep our riches, whatever they may be.

    I’ve never known anyone to point to this story as an example and explanation of why they sold all they had and gave to the poor.

  36. Dwight says:

    But in the days of Jesus they did just that in Acts 2 and then there is the example of Annanias and Saphira, who said that they were doing this but didn’t, lied and died. So just because we don’t know anybody who has done this doesn’t mean that it wasn’t being done. I will not condemn one who doesn’t do this as I hope no one condemns me, but I will stand up and applaud anyone who does. Did Jesus go around telling all of the people to sell all they had? There is no proof of this, so Jesus knew what this one person lacked and exploited it, because He was asked by the person. There is a good chance that if we asked we would be confronted with our own faults.

  37. Monty says:

    I’ve only met or heard about one person who actually washed feet, although serving one another and not thinking too highly of yourself is the example. Just like with the RYR, I haven’t known anyone who ever sold “all they had” and gave it to the poor, but it’s a great example of not allowing wealth to be your God. Anything can become our idol, sometime unawares(as with the RYR), sometimes we know it, and it often does. You are right though, there is a lesson there for us, and it’s not to go sell all. But the danger in trusting in mammon.

  38. Grace says:

    The word “ruler” translated in Greek is “archon”, is one who has administrative authority, leader, official or magistrate. It is used of various Jewish leaders, of those in charge of a synagogue and members of the Sanhedrin.

    The young ruler sides with the Pharisees rather than the Sadducees, the Sadducees didn’t believe in life after death.

    Jesus cites commands from the sacred and moral law pointing the ruler to the Ten Commandments, all of which any Temple authority would know.

    The young ruler’s response is, “All these I have kept since I was a boy” (Luke 18:21). The rulers of the Temple held that they indeed kept the law in its entirety. Their view of the commandments were different than God’s.

    Jesus’ view of keeping the commandments goes far beyond the legalistic interpretations of His time, He relates murder to anger.

    Jesus said the ruler lacked one thing, He wasn’t saying the man had lived a perfect life. Jesus was meeting the ruler where he was in his mind to help him face his real condition.

    The young man can’t understand anything Jesus tells him unless he grasps that our relative standards of goodness are much, much different than God’s absolute goodness and God’s standards of righteousness.

    Ask people in other world religions how we get to heaven and they will say, “You go to heaven if you do good. You go to hell if you do bad things.” The man was thinking carnally that eternal life is something that one earns or merits by what he does.

    Jesus wasn’t telling the young ruler to keep the commandments to be saved. Jesus wanted to get him to realize that he couldn’t keep every single commandment. The ruler already thought his law keeping would save him, what he couldn’t get was that he needed a Savior.

  39. Monty says:

    Jesus, didn’t tell the RYR to go and sell all he had and give it to the poor and you won’t have anything. Jesus told him sell it, give it to the poor, come and follow me and he would have treasure in heaven. He was still going to be rich, just in a different setting. He said he wanted eternal life. But the cost of giving up all his wealth(albeit temporarily) was too great a cost. He had so identified himself by his wealth(and the status it brings with it) he simply couldn’t imagine himself becoming without. The cost was too high for him. Again, a lesson for all of us, to not allow ourselves to be more defined by anything other than being a follower of Jesus.

  40. Alabama John says:

    And yet the riches of the young ruler were nothing compared to the riches we have. His mind couldn’t conceive of riches like ours.

    Begs the question, what would we do if told the same thing? Or even worse, is this an example of what is expected of us in order to follow Jesus acceptably?

    I of course interpret this to only mean him or any others like the apostles, not me.

    Maybe I’m more like the RYR than I thought.

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