For Jesus it was a black and white question. There was no grey area. No middle ground on this one. It was “either / or.” Either from heaven or from man.
Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man? Answer Me.” (Mark 11:29-30 ESV)
The tensions continued to mount between the religious leaders and Jesus. Jesus had just entered Jerusalem and decided to clean house . . . literally (Mark 10:15-19). And now the chief priests and the scribes and the elders wanted to know, “Who gave You this authority?” And Jesus knew this was not sincere inquisitiveness. This was not a head issue that would be resolved by additional facts and data. This was a heart issue. And to expose it, He answered their question with a question. A black and white question. An “either / or” question.
And these self-serving, white washed tombs, tried to take a by. The wouldn’t allow themselves to be backed into a corner. They knew that admitting John’s baptism was divine had serious implications concerning the One John pointed to. And they weren’t about to bow to Jesus. But they also knew that trashing John’s ministry as something concocted by some crazy guy, who wore animal skins, ate locusts, and hung out in the desert, was to go against popular opinion. And they valued popular opinion. So they passed. They took a by. “We don’t know,” they said. They hardened their hearts to what was potentially a life-giving question if they would have dealt with it honestly. A black and white . . . “either / or” . . . life-giving question.
And the “aroma” of my reading in Mark carries over to my reading in 2Corinthians . . .
Working together with Him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. . . . Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God . . . (2Corinthians 6:1, 14-16a ESV)
I shudder at the thought of being able to “receive the grace of God in vain.” But it’s possible. And it seems, it too, is impacted by a black and white, “either / or,” question. Faithful to Christ or arm-in-arm with idolaters? Pursuing light or desiring the things of darkness? Seeking the kingdom of God or adopting the ways of this world.
And, to be clear, I am not suggesting we are not to rub shoulders with the world. We’re in it as salt and light and ambassadors for Christ. But I’m thinking it’s an “either / or” determination when it comes to embracing the world and communing with that which opposes the kingdom of heaven. I kind of hear Jesus’ question, “From heaven or from man? Answer me.”
How we, as God’s people, need to be on guard of being bound and compromised by a discordant association with those in need of the light of the gospel. How we need to beware the prevailing wisdom of man . . . thinking there’s some common ground . . . entertaining the thought that the prevailing culture’s claim to enlightenment might have something to it and that the church needs to “get with the times.”
We are the temple of God . . . we are the recipients of grace. We need to beware of receiving such amazing grace in vain. The old adage is true — we need to be in the world but not of the world. We need to pledge allegiance to the ways of heaven and not be drawn into the things of man. It’s an “either / or” matter of the heart.
“From heaven or from man?” Jesus asks, “Answer Me.”
From heaven, Lord! By the grace of God . . . for the glory of God.