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What Does It Profit?

INTRODUCTION: This particular subject passage is found in similar manner in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, but cannot be located in complete parallel structure in John, although John has some individual similar verses. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the verses preceding this passage have Jesus telling his followers that he will be mistreated, killed, and will rise again on the third day. There follows in Matthew and Mark, an exchange between Peter and Jesus that results in a rebuke to Peter, but Luke spares this detail. There are some other interesting points of comparison and contrast directly within the target text that are worth examining. These few verses define the total surrender Jesus requires of any disciple, and then bring focus to the unmatched value of the eternal state of our soul. What would be your net gain if you had all the wealth, power, and influence throughout the entire world possible for one person, if your soul was lost at your death? Or, what could you possibly possess of your own personal qualities or of any commodity within the world, that you could offer to the Lord of heaven and earth, creator of all that exists, as payment to preserve your soul after the death of the body? As John states in the opening of his gospel, "3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men." (Joh 1:3-4 AV) For detailed study, the parallel passages are divided into groups defined by the individual verses.

Part I of target text KJV [1769]

Matthew 16:24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any [man] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

Mark 8:34 And when he had called the people [unto him] with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

Luke 9:23 And he said to [them] all, If any [man] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.

COMMENTS: Since Mark tells us "And when he had called the people [unto him] with his disciples also" we know that Jesus directed his words to more than just the apostles. Mark also uses the term "whosoever", while Matthew and Luke record "if any man," indicating application of this requirement to all followers of Christ. All three gospels then instruct us to take up our cross (which is to surrender our will as if to our very death) and follow Christ. When the cross was taken up under Roman rule, it meant total humiliation and certain death for the individual. "And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." (Php 2:8 AV) Since Christ did this for us, should we not agree with Paul, and be converted from living by faith in self, to living by faith in Christ. "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." (Ga 2:20 AV) A self-denial that could be compared with the total loss of all self interest at death, includes holding absolutely nothing and no one closer than you hold the Lord, Christ Jesus. This must be true even if the result is that the ones seemingly closest to you, become enemies through their unbelief. "36 And a man's foes [shall be] they of his own household. 37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me." (Mt 10:36-38)

Part II of target text KJV [1769]

Matthew 16:25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

Mark 8:35 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it.

Luke 9:24 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.

COMMENTS: At our death, without choice we will surrender all things that are in and of the world, but Jesus calls believers to do that in practical manner for him, while yet alive in the world. Anything we do to save our physical lives now, will eventually be of non-effect when we reach the end of our natural life, but receiving eternal life in Christ will never end. Jesus spoke of this principal of losing life and finding life earlier in Matthew, in chapter ten. That set of verses starts with a stark statement, "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." (Mt 10:28 AV) Then there are several verses that were used in Part I above, then verse 39 agrees with Part II. "39 He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it." (Mt 10:39) And in the gospel of John, our attention is directed to two states: temporal physical life and eternal spiritual life. "24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. 25 He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. 26 If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will [my] Father honour." (Joh 12:24-26) We would do well to constantly remind ourselves that our physical life is very temporal, and the eternal destination of our soul becomes more prominent day by day. "Whereas ye know not what [shall be] on the morrow. For what [is] your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away." (Jas 4:14 AV) And the verse from Mark in the trio of part II, links the gospel with Christ, and we must believe that gospel completely in order to lose our life to Christ, and thereby find our life in him. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." (Ro 1:16 AV)

Part III of target text KJV [1769]

Matthew 16:26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

Mark 8:36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? 37 Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

Luke 9:25 For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?

COMMENTS: The psalms and other passages of the Spirit breathed Old Testament can complement New Testament truth in ways not surpassed by any writing outside of scripture. "Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness." (Ps 119:36 AV) Whenever Jesus spoke, what he said was the very word of God, therefore of necessity, it was consistent with Old Testament scripture. "And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth." (Lu 12:15 AV) And again, Jesus describes as a fool, the one who acquires riches in this world only, but is not rich towards God. "20 But God said unto him, [Thou] fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? 21 So [is] he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God." (Lu 12:20-21 AV) O that we could learn to consistently lay up treasure in heaven, and not covet things of the world. "33 Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Lu 12:33-34 AV) The psalmist cried to the one he knew was the only one to provide salvation from eternal death. "2 O LORD my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me. 3 O LORD, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit." (Ps 30:2-3 AV) No man can preserve his own soul, but must turn to God for that salvation, because all will bow in total submission before the Lord. "28 For the kingdom [is] the LORD'S: and he [is] the governor among the nations. 29 All [they that be] fat {*having abundance} upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul." (Ps 22:28-29 AV) The ransom to secure our soul, that no one else could ever pay to God, who created and owns everything, is provided by God himself. "24 Then he is gracious unto him, and saith, Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom." (Job 33:24 AV) If we reject God's ransom, and die in our sin, we will be lost without hope of any ransom, because His Holy wrath is unchangeable. "18 Because [there is] wrath, [beware] lest he take thee away with [his] stroke: then a great ransom cannot deliver thee." (Job 36:18 AV) God's great ransom is available if we accept it by faith now, and Jesus provided that ransom. "28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." (Mt 20:28 AV)

Part IV of target text KJV [1769]

Matthew 16:27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.

Mark 8:38 Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

Luke 9:26 For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and [in his] Father's, and of the holy angels.

COMMENTS: Matthew starts this set of verses with the statement from Christ himself, that he will return in the glory of His Father, which very appropriately complements his revealing of his impending mistreatment, death, and resurrection just prior to this set of verses. Matthew then refers to works; whereas Mark and Luke speak first of being ashamed, and then of the glorious return of Christ. The reference to "works" can be reconciled with the concept of "being ashamed" as stated in Mark and Luke. The works that men do [and all have works of one sort or another) either exhibit our self-confidence, or our confidence in Christ. The acceptable works are not our attempt to reach God, but reflect that God has already reached us. "27 Labour {*work{ not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed. 28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? 29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." (Joh 6:27-29 AV) Paul provides an excellent summary about what to deny, how to live with zeal for good works, and that we are to have great expectation in Christ. "11 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; 13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; 14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." (Tit 2:11-14 AV) Any good works that we do are actually from God. "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of [his] good pleasure." (Php 2:13 AV) God has provided the contrast in both the Old Testament and in the New Testament of those who will be ashamed. "Yea, let none that wait on thee be ashamed: let them be ashamed which transgress without cause." (Ps 25:3 AV) "O keep my soul, and deliver me: let me not be ashamed; for I put my trust in thee." (Ps 25:20 AV) "O LORD, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, [and] they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters." (Jer 17:13 AV) "As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed." (Ro 9:33 AV)And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming." (1Jo 2:28 AV).

--- Reflections in prayer ---

Lord, I need your strength to genuinely deny myself, with all the qualities I have inherited through Adam that I easily pursue. It has often been my choice to seek after things in and of the world. Your Word has revealed to me that I must consider myself dead to the world system, because otherwise I cannot truly follow you. You told your disciples of your impending mistreatment, death, and resurrection before you gave them the requirement to take up their cross. Then you, the very King of Glory, willingly gave up your life on the cross to provide the only way to find life through giving it up. Through your Word, I have the true life and light, but I need your Spirit to teach me how to live out this new life to serve you and the gospel.

I believe Lord that a man is not profited by gaining all that the world can offer, if seeking the kingdom of God is not foremost in his practice. As the honest man once told you, I believe, help me in my unbelief. I want to draw upon your Word daily so your truth will purge out all that is not worthy before you. Thank you Lord, for the comfort of your Word, that he who places trust in you will not be ashamed. There truly is no profit if I should gain the whole world, for even a multiple of that gain would be of insufficient value to the God of all creation for the salvation of my soul! So, I agree with Paul, "Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." And now Lord, may I abide in Christ my Savior with confidence that I will not be ashamed at your appearing. Amen.

Published 28 April 2005