And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in your name, and he follows not us: and we forbade him…
The complaint brought by the disciples against the man was, "he followeth not us," — us, the apostles; the complaint says nothing about following Christ. There was a spirit of envy and selfishness in this remark, which would have restrained Christ's favours to the persons of the apostles and their immediate adherents. But our Lord reminds the complainants that the man wrought miracles in their Master's name, as they themselves had owned; i.e., he wrought miracles in conformity to Christ's will, and for the promotion of Christ's glory — i.e., in union with Christ — and not for any private end; therefore the man was with Christ, though he did not personally follow in the company of the apostles, just as John Baptist was with Christ, though not in person; and as all the apostles preaching the gospel and administering the sacraments of Christ in Christ's name in all parts of the world were with one another and with Christ, after He had ascended into heaven. The man was not neuter in the cause, and therefore was not against them; and their Master had authorized him openly by enabling him to work in His name; and therefore the man was with Him, and consequently with His apostles, in heart and spirit, though not in person and presence, and was not to be forbidden or discouraged by them. Thus our Lord delivered a warning against that sectarian spirit which is eager for its own ends rather than for Christ's; and would limit Christ's graces to personal communion with itself, instead of inquiring whether those whom it would exclude from grace are not working in Christ's name — that is, in obedience to His laws, and for the promotion of His glory; and in the unity of His Church, and in the full and free administration of His Word and Sacraments, and so in communion with Him. Besides — even if the man was separated from their communion, and worked miracles in separation (which does not appear to have been the case, for he worked in the name of Christ), what they ought to have forbidden was the being in separation, and not the working miracles. If a man, separated from Christ and His Church, preaches Christ, then Christ approves His own Word, preached by one in separation; but He does not approve the separation itself, any more than God approved the sins of Balaam, Saul, and Caiaphas, and Judas, when He prophesied and preached by their mouths.
(Bishop Christopher Wordsworth.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us.