Flee From Sin

Flee From Sin: Mark 9:42-50
Pastor John Nicholas
Sunday October 11, 2020

First let me clear up a statement I made last week.  I related the story of Uzzah to 1 Chronicles when it is 2 Samuel 6.

As we enter into this passage let’s remember Mark 9:37 where Jesus said:

Mark 9:37 (NASB95)

37  “Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me.”

And Mark 9:38–39 (NASB95)

38John said to Him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to prevent him because he was not following us.”

39But Jesus said, “Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me.

Both passages speak about believers in Jesus.  Believers who don’t know the cross or the resurrection.  Believers who are arguably new/immature.  Believers who don’t know all of what belief entails.  Believers who need guidance.  Believers who need a shepherd.

Jesus has told the disciples to welcome and not to hinder them.  To accept them as one of His.

And then in v41 who spoke of the fact that all those things that are done for His glory for other believers will not lose their reward.

Jesus gave them slight rebuke, more like instruction on how to accept new followers.  And then spoke of the reward that would follow.

And now he comes to warnings, serious and severe.


42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.

Looking at this passage we can see how it relates to two of the previous passages; v37 and v39.  Using the Greek word, skandalizo, meaning to cause to stumble/fall (also where we derive scandal) is the focus of Jesus’ teaching here.  When we consider these previous two groups, the little children and those who believe that are not part of the group, we can perhaps understand Jesus’ concern.

The concern here is not looking forward but the here and now for these new/inexperienced believers.  As such these immature believers could be easily led astray.  This is where Jesus’ warning finds a home, His care for the immature, or weak, in the faith.  Warning the disciples that were someone to cause them to stumble that a horrible death would be preferable to being the cause of the stumbling.  The image is one of the millstone of a donkey, 3-4 feet in diameter which was pulled on top of another stone to grind the grain.  Jesus was saying that it would be better to have this stone (with the large hole for the axle) affixed around one’s neck and to be thrown in the sea and drowned rather than being the cause of the fall.

This is a serious warning that Jesus verbalizes, one that Peter certainly recalled in this vivid graphic description.  To cause one of them to stumble would be a direct affront to Christ, as we note in v37 to receive them is to receive Christ.  In other words, to cause this was to sin directly against God.

The idea here – there is a new follower of Christ and to do something that would be the cause of him/her to fall away or stumble in their faith would be grievous to the actor.

V43, 45, 47

43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire,

45 If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell,

47 If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell,

Now Jesus turns from the person that causes others to stumble to the issues of the person causing himself to stumble or to fall into sin.    This is the beginning of a trifecta of sayings about how they are to deal with sin as a follower of Christ.

Since this is tripartite in nature we will handle them by talking about the graphic and decisive action that they must take to fight sin.  And the reason for this action which is rooted in the nature of sin itself which is found in our hearts.

Here we must again keep in mind, as we always should, who is the audience and what is being heard.  Of course in this case it is the persecuted church in Rome.  And now Jesus is talking about the removal of body parts to prevent sin.  What could this possibly mean?  How could this be heard? I mean aren’t they already dying?  What could be gained by these statements.

Let’s look and see and we should be able to see the depths of God’s love.

Remember this is the record of Peter’s teachings

And the flow is the removal of the offending hand, the offending foot, and the offending eye.  Three things upon which everyone is dependent.  Jesus has begun this on the right after the offense of causing another to stumble.  That same word skandalizo, to cause to stumble.  But now the cause of offense is the person’s body.  Or is it?  Look at the list.  Hands, feet, eyes.  Obviously the foot itself doesn’t cause the sin.  Nor does the hand or the eye.  It is within the person’s heart where sin is manifest.  In the heart where the curse is found.  If we imagine the list, the eye conceives what the heart wants. The feet take the man where the hands will commit the sin.

Perhaps now you can see the connection.  Before it was better for the man to be cast into the sea and drowned rather than causing one to stumble.  Here it is better to remove the body part than to maintain it and end up in hell.  The seduction of the soul to eternal damnation.

Hell, Gehenna.  The place of eternal suffering and torment.  The word a loose transliteration of the Hebrew Ge-Hinnom – the valley of Hinnom.  The place where the kings of Judah committed great atrocities.  Ahaz and Manasseh sacrificed children to the pagan God Molech (2 Chron. 28:333:6Jer. 7:31).  The old testament tells us that they made their sons ‘pass through the fire’.  Children placed upon the heated bronze arms of the statue of Molech.  This is how they were sacrificed.  A place of horrible sin against God.  Sin where His image bearers were destroyed.  This place, this valley, that good King Josiah defiled.  Ending the practice of human sacrifice.  He turned it into a place for trash, rubbish.  A dumping ground.  Jeremiah 19:6 tells us that it was cursed, renamed the valley of slaughter.

2 Chronicles 28:3 (NASB)

3 Moreover, he burned incense in the valley of Ben-hinnom and burned his sons in fire, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord had driven out before the sons of Israel.

2 Chronicles 33:6 (NASB)

6 He made his sons pass through the fire in the valley of Ben-hinnom; and he practiced witchcraft, used divination, practiced sorcery and dealt with mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking Him to anger.

Jeremiah 7:31 (NASB)

31 They have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, and it did not come into My mind.

This place that the fires burned constantly, that the maggots consumed the refuse.  This is the place that Christ has in mind when He describes Hell.  Jesus who knows exactly what Hell is and what it will look like.  This is how He condescends to their understanding.  He describes Hell as this particular place.  The place that all of them would know.  They would only need to look south of the city to see this smoldering place.

Jesus tells them that Hell is very real.  That it is not just an idea, a concept.  But a physical place.  It is not a place that can be explained away by doing scriptural gymnastics.  Nor do the unforgiven get annihilated.  Jesus’ warnings make sure of that.  Using the Greek work, asbeston, where we get the word asbestos, Jesus tells them that the fire is unquenchable in hell.  That this fire burns eternally.  Never ending.  A fire unlike any they have seen or could fully comprehend.  This is the warning that Jesus gives.  He says look at this place, the horribleness of it, now imagine it far worse and never ending.  That is the result of unforgiven sin.  That is the result of not putting sin to death.

It is this place that must be avoided at all costs.  He tells them that to enter into The Life in v43 – the article is not found in our translations, lame is far better than to holding on to the offensive body part and suffering eternal punishment.  To cut off the hand or the foot, or to tear out the eye is far preferable than to the alternative of hell.

Think about the seriousness of how Jesus is speaking.  He started with the drowning of an individual with a great stone affixed about his neck and has now proceeded to the butchery of the body, dismemberment, to warn of how damaging sin is.

And I know this makes some, if not all, of us uncomfortable.  And it should.  Jesus’ teaching here should make us squirm a bit.  And it is certainly saying something to the persecuted church.

Remember they are already facing dismemberment, torture, and death.  Perhaps we should put ourselves, as best we can, in their shoes.  If this is their state, the pressure must be great to recant their beliefs.  I mean why don’t they just offer the incense to Caesar and say that he is Lord?  It could be that easy and they could go on with their lives.  They wouldn’t have to see family members suffer and die.  They wouldn’t have to participate in the ‘games’.

But this, what could it mean?  I would argue that they are hearing about the temporal nature of this life and the permanent nature of the life thereafter.  That they are hearing of how this life, and trying to hold on to it, can have permanent consequences.  Twice Jesus refers to entering into The Life and once to entering into the Kingdom of God, all in contrast to the unquenchable fires of hell.

Perhaps, and probably, they are hearing the nature of sanctification.  Because they are reading this gospel knowing of the resurrection of Christ.  They know the story and this gospel is meant to encourage them in their suffering.  This gospel is meant to help them to persevere in the faith.  This gospel is meant to strengthen them.  This gospel is meant to help them.  And we will see this as we continue.

V44, v46

44 [where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.]

46 [where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.]

You should be looking at either nothing or a bracketed verse with a footnote at the bottom of the page.  This will be the same for verse 6.  The repetition of v48 in v44 and v46 is not found in the earliest manuscripts.  These two verses were probably added by a scribe for the purpose of the poetic effect of pointing out the solemnity of the other verses.   V48 is found in our oldest manuscripts.


48 where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.

We find the final description of hell.  This is quite graphic and disturbing. Jesus drawing out of Isaiah 66:24.  The same description.   The worms, the maggots, that are consuming the rotting food in the valley will never die.  This is the image of a person in hell being continually and unendingly consumed by their punishment because of their sin.  That these people who have not cut themselves off from the offense in their lives will be entirely and completely and continually consumed in hell.

Isaiah 66:24 (NASB)

24 “Then they will go forth and look

On the corpses of the men

Who have transgressed against Me.

For their worm will not die

And their fire will not be quenched;

And they will be an abhorrence to all mankind.”

He continues that along with the undying worm, the fire itself is never ending.   Burning forever.  That this person is not only continually consumed by the worm but is also continually burned by the fire.  There is no relief.  There is no respite.

We see this in the story of Lazarus and the rich man, Luke 16:19-31.  The rich are in complete and utter torment.  That there is no relief for his pain.  And Jesus is not only mirroring this here but also speaking to the truth of it.  The warning that falls upon this church in Rome.

Luke 16:19-31 (NASB)

The Rich Man and Lazarus

19 “Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day.

20 And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores,

21 and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores.

22 Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried.

23 In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and *saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom.

24 And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’

25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony.

26 And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’

27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house—

28 for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

29 But Abraham *said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’

30 But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’

31 But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”

That the loss of a body part is far superior to the eternal punishment that is to come to those who hold on to their sin.


49 “For everyone will be salted with fire.

Found in this verse, is the start of encouragement.  Jesus tells them that they will be salted with fire.  This is not linked to the fires of hell but of a different nature.  One of the most difficult verses in the New Testament to understand, to translate.  But I think we can get there.  Think about the recipients, the persecuted church in Rome.  Salted can give the idea of preservation.  Plus the fact that it is rooted in the sacrifices of Leviticus 2:13, that the salt is used to season the sacrifice.  That it is offered with all their sacrifices.

Leviticus 2:13 (NASB)

13 Every grain offering of yours, moreover, you shall season with salt, so that the salt of the covenant of your God shall not be lacking from your grain offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt.

Therefore, behind the salting is the idea that fire is somehow part of the life of the believer.  We can better understand this with regard to the persecuted church.  That they are constantly being salted, that is tested by the fire, tested in perseverance.  That they should not be surprised by the troubles of this life.  By the troubles that are happening to them since they are swimming against the flow of the Roman government.  That they are seen as problems.  In fact when Rome burns in 64 AD Nero will blame the Christians.  And the persecution will be heavy.

Not only did Peter teach of this but he himself warned the church of it.  Look at 1 Peter 1:7 where he tells the church that they will be tested by fire.

 1 Peter 1:6-9 (NASB)

6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials,

7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;

8 and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,

9 obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.

These believers should not be surprised, as their savior, Jesus, suffered and died on the Cross.  And in the end.  When they enter The Life, when they enter The Kingdom, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 that everything will burn away that is not of God, wood, hay and stubble.

1 Corinthians 3:12-15 (NASB)

12 Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,

13 each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.

14 If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward.

15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

2 Timothy 4:6 (NASB)

6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.


50 Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

The growth of these believers comes through here.  Again this is not the salt of fire but a different type.  They have been told to be the salt of the earth, Matthew 5:13.  That in the ancient world it was believed salt was necessary for life.  And to a degree this is true.  Therefore, in this regard, they are called to give life into the world.  Not life, as to physical life, but to be that saltiness that proclaims true life, the gospel.

Matthew 5:13-16 (NASB)

Disciples and the World

13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;

15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.

16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

Remember the previous passages that spoke about entering into The Life, The Kingdom of God.  It is only available through the gospel.  This is what the church in Rome is hearing.  Repent and believe that good news. That the blood of Christ was sufficient to forgive your sin.  As such you can persevere through Christ and bring life to a dying world.

So where does this leave us?  I mean was Jesus teaching about the importance of dismemberment?  I certainly hope not.  I hope that you heard much more about the heart of the matter.

Sin and Hell are the big problem for all that fall under the curse.

And all who fall under the curse are all of mankind.

We must never forget that the reason that a person is condemned to hell is unforgiven sin.

And Hell is a horrible place

And it is a place

It is not an idea

Or a concept

But a real location


Which will be populated by all those with unforgiven sin

Don’t forget this Hell is a real location with a population of unforgiven sinners

Hell is described in part as noted here:

  • Furnace of fare
  • Weeping
  • Gnashing of teeth (despair and anger)
  • Eternal fire
  • Eternal punishment
  • Righteous judgment
  • Away from the glory of God’s power
  • Bottomless pit
  • Drinking the full strength of the wine of God’s wrath mixed in the cup of His anger
  • Tormented with fire and brimstone
  • There is no rest day and night from the torment
  • Unquenchable fire
  • An abyss
  • You cannot leave

We have treated the doctrine of Hell much to lightly, much to flippantly

We use the phrase hell in various forms as question, a statement, a funny comment

We describe our jobs as going through hell

Or that our lives are a living hell

Listen to the list again

Hell is described in part as noted here:

  • Furnace of fare
  • Weeping
  • Gnashing of teeth (despair and anger)
  • Eternal fire
  • Eternal punishment
  • Righteous judgment
  • Away from the glory of God’s power
  • Bottomless pit
  • Drinking the full strength of the wine of God’s wrath mixed in the cup of His anger
  • Tormented with fire and brimstone
  • There is no rest day and night from the torment
  • Unquenchable fire
  • An abyss
  • You cannot leave

In reality hell will be populated by the undying in eternal torment

Don’t use it flippantly

There is no possible way to describe what it is like to have the entire focus of God’s wrath upon you

For eternity

Eternity (the dove and the ball of iron) – maybe

And remember Jesus spoke more about Hell than any other person in the scripture

That should tell us something about it

Please remove this phrase from your vernacular

God loves the sinner but hates the sin

First, of all it is not biblical

Secondly, God sends the sinner to Hell not the sin

And these previous ideas of dismemberment to avoid being cast into Hell

This should tell us what He is driving at

Fleeing from Sin

Don’t give it footing in your life

Put it to death

As we spoke before, removing the body part does not remove the sin

It’s not a physical issue

That is not what Jesus is talking about

Jesus is speaking about how one must flee from sin

Flee in the most dramatic fashion

Not only is it horrible to lead a small one into sin

It is equally as bad to lead yourself into sin

You can outwardly keep the 10 commandments

But inwardly break every single one

Outwardly you have kept the law

Inwardly you are condemned to the eternal fires of hell

There is only one way to flee from sin

It is a heart issue

We need to have a heart that is not enslaved to Sin

The heart needs fixed

Instead of the eye being torn out

The heart needs to be cut.

Like the men hearing the Peter’s sermon at Pentecost

Their hearts were cut

And those who are forgiven have had that offending body part removed (and replaced) the heart

Look at Colossians 2:11-14 (NASB)

11 and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ;

12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

13 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions,

14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

When the change occurs

We will be salted with fire

We will be salted with change

We will be salted with persecution

And we are saved

We are then led to Sanctification

We do not have perfection

The heart still leads us astray

But we are saved by His grace

Sanctification  (for some additional clarification see the Baptist confession of Faith – Chapter 13)

The dominion of sin has been put to death in our bodies by the work of Christ on the cross (confirmed via the resurrection)

Romans 6:6 (NASB95)

6knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;

Philippians 2:12 – work out your faith with fear and trembling

John 17:17 – Sanctify them in truth, your word is truth

1 Thessalonians 5:21-23 (NASB95) 

21But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; 

22abstain from every form of evil. 

23Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Romans 6:14 (NASB95) 

14For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. 

We can’t do it perfectly but our hearts have been changed

Romans 7:18 (NASB95) 

18For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 

We continue to grow and we have victory in Christ

Remember Colossians 2:14 – our sin has been nailed to the Cross

14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

The offense in our flesh has been satisfied by the blood of Christ

We live a new life, imperfectly, relying on the joy found in Jesus’ perfection, seeking to become more like Him

We are vine ingrafted on to Him

Knowing like the church in Rome knew

That although great trials and tribulation may come they were to hold on to the faith that they had through the strength of Christ.

Relying on the Spirit to guide them into further sanctification

Looking more and more like Jesus until the day that they left this world and found themselves with Him

Living for Him, through Him, and by Him

Pray, Observe, Apply.

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