Luke Chapter 12
Section 76. Warnings and Encouragements, Luke 12:1-7
In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trod one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware you of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. Therefore whatever you have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which you have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops. And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom you shall fear: Fear him, which after he has killed has power to cast into Hell; yes, I say unto you, Fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: you are of more value than many sparrows.
The words which begin this chapter are very striking, when we consider its contents. We are told that "a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another." And what does our Lord do? In the hearing of this multitude He delivers warnings against false teachers, and denounces the sins of the times in which he lived unsparingly, unflinchingly, and without partiality. This was true charity. This was doing the work of a physician. This was the pattern which all His ministers were intended to follow. Well would it have been for the church and the world—if the ministers of Christ had always spoken out as plainly and faithfully as their Master used to do! Their own lives might have been made more uncomfortable by such a course of action—but they would have been far more useful to souls.
The first thing that demands our attention in these verses—is Christ's warning against hypocrisy. This is a warning of which the importance can never be overrated. It was delivered by our Lord more than once, during His earthly ministry. It was intended to be a standing caution to His whole church in every age, and in every part of the world.
It was meant to remind us that the principles of the Pharisees are deeply ingrained in human nature—and that Christians should be always on their guard against them. Hypocrisy is a subtle leaven which the heart is always ready to receive! It is a leaven which once received into the heart, infects the whole character of a man's Christianity. Of this leaven, says our Lord, in words that should often ring in our ears—of this leaven, beware!
Let us ever nail this caution in our memories, and bind it on our hearts. The plague is around us on every side! The danger is at all times. What is the essence of Romanism, and formalism, and ceremonialism? What is it all, but the leaven of the Pharisees under one shape or another? The Pharisees are not extinct! Pharisaism lives still.
If we would not become Pharisees—then let us cultivate a "heart religion". Let us realize daily that the God with whom we have to do, looks far below the outward surface of our profession, and that He measures us by the state of our hearts. Let us be real and true in our Christianity. Let us abhor all part-acting, and affectation, and semblance of devotion—put on for public occasions, but not really felt within.
Our hypocrisy may deceive man, and get us the reputation of being very religious—but it cannot deceive God. "For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be made known."
Whatever we are in religion—let us never wear a cloak or a mask of religion.
"Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account!" Hebrews 4:13
The second thing that demands our attention in these verses—is Christ's warning against the fear of man. "Do not be afraid," He says, "of those who kill the body and after that can do no more."
But this is not all. He not only tells us whom we ought not to fear—but of whom we ought to be afraid. "Fear Him," Jesus says, "Fear Him who, after the killing of the body, has power to cast you into Hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him!" The manner in which the lesson is conveyed, is very striking and impressive. Twice over the exhortation is enforced. "Fear Him!" says our Lord. "Yes, I tell you, Fear Him!"
The fear of man is one of the greatest obstacles which stand between the soul and Heaven. "What will others say of me? What will they think of me? What will others do to me?" How often these little questions have turned the balance against the soul, and kept men bound hand and foot by sin and the devil! Thousands would never hesitate a moment to storm a breach or face a lion—who dare not face the laughter of relatives, neighbors, and friends.
Now if the fear of man has such influence in these times—then how much greater must its influence have been in the days when our Lord was upon earth! If it is hard to follow Christ through ridicule and ill-natured words—then how much harder must it have been to follow Him through prisons, beatings, scourgings, and violent deaths! All these things our Lord Jesus knew well. No wonder that He cries, "Do not be afraid!"
What is the best remedy against the fear of man? How are we to overcome this powerful feeling, and break the chains which it throws around us? There is no remedy like that which our Lord recommends. We must supplant the fear of man, by a higher and more powerful principle—the fear of God. We must look away from those who can only hurt the body—to Him who has all dominion over the soul. We must turn our eyes from those who can only injure us in the present life—to Him who can condemn us to eternal misery in the life to come. Armed with this mighty principle, we shall not play the coward. Seeing Him who is invisible—we shall find the lesser fear melting away before the greater, and the weaker fear disappearing before the stronger.
"I fear God," said Colonel Gardiner, "and therefore there is no one else that I need fear!" It was a noble saying of martyred Bishop Hooper, when a Roman Catholic urged him to save his life by recanting at the stake, "Life is sweet and death is bitter. But eternal life is more sweet—and eternal death is more bitter!"
The last thing that demands our attention in these verses—is Christ's encouragement to persecuted believers. He reminds them of God's providential care over the least of His creatures: "Not one sparrow is forgotten by God!" He goes on to assure them that the same Fatherly care is engaged on behalf of each one of themselves: "The very hairs of your head are all numbered!"
Nothing whatever, whether great or small, can happen to a believer—without God's ordering and permission.
The providential government of God over everything in this world is a truth of which the Greek and Roman philosophers had no conception. It is a truth which is especially revealed to us in the Word of God. Just as the telescope and microscope show us that there is order and design in all the works of God's hand, from the greatest planet down to the least insect—so does the Bible teach us that there is wisdom, order, and design in all the events of our daily life.
There is no such thing as "chance," "luck," or "accident" in the Christian's journey through this world! All is arranged and appointed by God. And God causes all things to work together for the believer's good. Romans 8:28
If we profess to be believers in Jesus Christ—then let us seek to have an abiding sense of God's hand in all that befalls us. Let us strive to realize that our Father's hand is measuring out our daily portion, and that our every step is ordered by Him.
A daily practical faith of this kind, is one grand secret of happiness—and a mighty antidote against murmuring and discontent!
We should try to feel in the day of trial and disappointment—that all is right, and all is well done. We should try to feel on the bed of sickness—that there must be a "needs be" for it. We should say to ourselves, "God could keep these afflictions away from me—if He thought fit. But He does not do so—and therefore they must be for my advantage. I will lie still, and bear them patiently. Whatever pleases God—shall please me!"
Section 77. Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit, Luke 12:8-12
Also I say unto you, Whoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God: But he who denies me before men shall be denied before the angels of God. And whoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemes against the Holy Spirit it shall not be forgiven. And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take you no thought how or what thing you shall answer, or what you shall say: For the Holy Spirit shall teach you in the same hour what you ought to say.
We are taught, firstly, in these verses—that we must confess Christ upon earth, if we expect Him to own us as His saved people at the last day. We must not be ashamed to let all men see that we believe in Christ, and serve Christ, and love Christ, and care more for the praise of Christ than for the praise of man.
The duty of confessing Christ is incumbent on all Christians in every age of the Church. Let us never forget that. It is not for martyrs only—but for all believers, in every rank of life. It is not for great occasions only—but for our daily walk through an evil world. The rich man among the rich, the laborer among laborers, the young among the young, the servant among servants—each and all must be prepared, if they are true Christians, to confess their Master. It needs no blowing a trumpet. It requires no noisy boasting. It needs nothing more than using the daily opportunity. But one thing is certain—if a man loves Jesus, he ought not to be ashamed to let people know it.
The difficulty of confessing Christ is undoubtedly very great. It never was easy at any period. It never will be easy as long as the world stands. It is sure to entail on us laughter, ridicule, contempt, mockery, enmity and persecution. The wicked dislike to see any one better than themselves. The world which hated Christ—will always hate true Christians. But whether we like it or not, whether it is hard or easy—our course is perfectly clear. In one way or another, Christ must be confessed.
The grand motive to stir us up to bold confession is forcibly brought before us in the words which we are now considering. Our Lord declares, that if we do not confess Him before men, He will "not confess us before the angels of God" at the last day. He will refuse to acknowledge us as His people. He will disown us as cowards, faithless and deserters. He will not plead for us. He will not be our Advocate. He will not deliver us from the wrath to come. He will leave us to reap the consequences of our cowardice, and to stand before the judgment bar of God—helpless, defenseless, and unforgiven.
What a dreadful prospect is this! How much turns on this one hinge of "confessing Christ before men!" Surely we ought not to hesitate for a moment. To doubt between two such alternatives, is the height of folly. For us to deny Christ or be ashamed of His Gospel, may get us a little of man's good opinion for a few years—though it will bring us no real peace. But for Christ to deny us at the last day will be ruin in Hell to all eternity! Let us cast away our cowardly fears. Come what will—let us confess Christ!
We are taught, secondly, in these verses—that there is such a thing as an unpardonable sin. Our Lord Jesus Christ declares that "Anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, will not be forgiven."
These solemn words must doubtless be interpreted with scriptural qualification. We must never so expound one part of Scripture, as to make it contradict another. Nothing is impossible with God. The blood of Christ can cleanse away all sin. The very chief of sinners have been pardoned in many instances. These things must never be forgotten. Yet notwithstanding all this, there remains behind a great truth which must not be evaded. There is such a thing as an unforgivable sin.
The sin to which our Lord refers in this passage, appears to be the sin of deliberately rejecting God's truth with the heart, while the truth is clearly known with the head. It is a combination of light in the understanding—and determined wickedness in the will. It is the very sin into which many of the Scribes and Pharisees appear to have fallen, when they rejected the ministry of the Spirit after the day of Pentecost, and refused to believe the preaching of the apostles. It is a sin into which, it may be feared—many constant hearers of the Gospel nowadays fall, by determined clinging to the world. And worst of all, it is a sin which is commonly accompanied by utter deadness, hardness, and insensibility of heart.
The man whose sins will not be forgiven—is precisely the man who will never seek to have them forgiven. This is exactly the root of his dreadful disease. He might be pardoned, but he will not seek to be pardoned. He is Gospel-hardened and "twice dead." His conscience is "seared with a hot iron." (1 Timothy 4:2.)
Let us pray that we may be delivered from a cold, speculative, unsanctified head-knowledge of Christianity. It is a rock on which thousands make shipwreck to all eternity. No heart becomes so hard—as that on which the light shines, but finds no admission. The same fire which melts the wax—hardens the clay. Whatever light we have, let us use it. Whatever knowledge we possess, let us live fully up to it. To be an ignorant heathen, and bow down to idols and stones, is bad enough. But to be called a Christian, and know the theory of the Gospel, and yet cleave to sin and the world with the heart—is to be a candidate for the worst and lowest place in Hell! It is to be as like the devil as is possible!
We are taught, lastly, in this passage—that Christians need not be overly anxious as to what they shall say, when suddenly required to speak for Christ's cause.
The promise which our Lord gives on this subject has a primary reference, no doubt, to public trials like those of Paul before Felix and Festus. It is a promise which hundreds in similar circumstances have found fulfilled to their singular comfort. The lives of many of the Reformers, and others of God's witnesses, are full of striking proofs that the Holy Spirit can teach Christians what to say in time of need.
But there is a secondary sense, in which the promise belongs to all believers, which ought not be overlooked. Occasions are constantly arising in the lives of Christians—when they are suddenly and unexpectedly called upon to speak on behalf of their Master, and to render a reason of their hope. The home circle, the family fireside, the society of friends, the interaction with relatives, the very business of the world—will often furnish such sudden occasions. On such occasions the believer should fall back on the promise now before us. It may be disagreeable, and especially to a young Christian, to be suddenly required to speak before others of religion—and above all if religion is attacked. But let us not be alarmed, or flustered, or cast down, or frantic. If we remember the promise of Christ—then we have no cause to be afraid.
Let us pray for a good memory about Bible promises. We shall find the promises to be an inestimable comfort. There are far more, and far wider promises laid down in Scripture for the comfort of Christ's people—than most of Christ's people are aware of. There are promises for almost every position in which we can be placed, and every event which can befall us.
Among other promises, let us not forget that one which is now before us. We are sometimes called upon to go into company which is not congenial to us, and we go with a troubled and anxious heart. We fear saying what we ought not to say—and not saying what we ought. At such seasons, let us remember this blessed promise, and put our Master in remembrance of it also. So doing He will not fail us or forsake us. Wisdom shall be given to us to speak rightly—the Holy Spirit shall teach us what to say.
Section 78. Parable of the Rich Fool, Luke 12:13-21
And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me. And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you? And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses. And he spoke a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have much goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, You fool, this night your soul shall be required of you: then whose shall those things be, which you have provided? So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
The passage we have now read, affords a singular instance of man's readiness to bring the things of this world into the midst of his religion. We are told that a certain hearer of our Lord asked Him to assist him about his temporal affairs. "Master," he said, "speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me." He probably had some vague idea that Jesus was going to set up a kingdom in this world, and to reign upon earth. He resolves to make an early application about his own financial matters. He entreats our Lord's arbitration about his earthly inheritance. Other of Christ's hearers might be thinking of a portion in the world to come—but this man was one whose chief thoughts evidently ran upon this present life.
How many hearers of the Gospel are just like this man! How many are incessantly planning and scheming about the things of time—even under the very sound of the things of eternity! The natural heart of man is always the same. Even the preaching of Christ, did not arrest the attention of all His hearers. The minister of Christ in the present day, must never be surprised to see worldliness and inattention in the midst of his congregation. The servant must not expect his sermons to be more valued than his Master's.
Let us mark in these verses—the solemn warning which our Lord pronounces against covetousness. "He said unto them: Take heed and beware of covetousness."
It would be vain to dogmatically decide which is the most common sin in the world. It would be safe to say that there is none, at any rate, to which the heart is more prone—than covetousness.
It was this sin which helped to cast down the angels who fell. They were not content with their first estate. They coveted something better.
It was this sin which helped to drive Adam and Eve out of paradise, and bring death and damnation into the world. Our first parents were not satisfied with the things which God gave them in Eden. They coveted, and so they fell.
Covetousness is a sin which, ever since the fall, has been the productive cause of misery and unhappiness upon earth. Wars, quarrels, strifes, divisions, envyings, disputes, jealousies, hatreds of all sorts, both public and private—may nearly all be traced up to this fountain-head of covetousness!
Let the warning which our Lord pronounces, sink down into our hearts, and bear fruit in our lives. Let us strive to learn the lesson which Paul had mastered, when he says, "I have learned to be content in whatever state I am." (Philippians 4:11.) Let us pray for a thorough confidence in God's superintending providence over all our worldly affairs, and God's perfect wisdom in all His arrangements concerning us.
If we have little—then let us be sure that it would be not good for us to have much. If the things that we have are taken away from us—then let us be satisfied that there is a needs be for this. Happy is he who is persuaded that whatever is—is best. He has ceased from vain wishing, and has become "content with such things as he has." (Hebrews 13:5.)
Let us mark, secondly, in these verses—what a withering exposure our Lord makes of the folly of worldly-mindedness. He draws the picture of a rich man of the world, whose mind is wholly set on earthly things. He paints him scheming and planning about his property, as if he was master of his own life, and had but to say, "I will do a thing"—and it would be done.
And then He turns the picture, and shows us God requiring the worldling's soul, and asking the heart-searching question, "You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?"
"Folly," he bids us to learn—nothing less than "folly," is the right word by which to describe the conduct of the man who thinks of nothing but his money. The man who "stores up treasure for himself—but is not rich toward God"—is the man whom God declares to be a fool!
It is a solemn thought, that the character which Jesus brings before us in this parable, is far from being uncommon. Thousands in every age of the world have lived continually doing the very things which are here condemned! Thousands are doing them at this very day! They are laying up treasure upon earth—and thinking of nothing but how to increase it. They are continually adding to their hoards, as if they were to enjoy them forever—and as if there was no death, no judgment, and no world to come!
And yet these are the men who are called clever, and prudent and wise! These are the men who are commended, and flattered and held up to admiration! Truly the Lord sees not as man sees! The Lord declares that rich men who live only for this world, are utter fools!
Let us pray for rich men. Their souls are in great danger!
"Heaven," said a great man on his death-bed, "is a place to which few kings and rich men come."
Even when converted, the rich carry a great weight, and run the race to Heaven under great disadvantages. The possession of money has a most hardening effect upon the conscience. We never know what we may do—if we were to become rich. "The love of money is the root of all evil. While some have coveted after it, they have erred from the faith and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." 1 Timothy 6:10.
Poverty has many disadvantages—but riches destroy far more souls than poverty!
Let us mark, lastly, in these verses—how important it is to be rich towards God. This is true wisdom. This is true providing for time to come. This is genuine prudence. The wise man is he who does not think only of fleeting earthly treasure—but of eternal treasure in Heaven.
When can it be said of a man—that he is rich towards God? Never until he is rich in grace, and rich in faith, and rich in good works! Never until he has applied to Jesus Christ—and bought from Him, gold tried in the fire! (Revelation 3:18.) Never until he has a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens! Never until his name is inscribed in the book of life, and is an heir of God and a joint heir with Christ! Such a man is truly rich. His treasure is incorruptible. His bank never breaks. His inheritance never fades away.
Man cannot deprive him of it. Death cannot snatch it out of his hands. All things are his already—life, death, things present, and things to come. (1 Corinthians 3:22.) And best of all, what he has now—is nothing compared to what he will have hereafter.
Riches like these are within reach of every sinner who will come to Christ and receive them. May we never rest until they are ours! To obtain them may cost us something in this world. It may bring on us persecution, ridicule and scorn. But let the thought console us, that the Judge of all says, "I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! (Revelation 2:9.) The true Christian is the only man who is really wealthy and wise.
Section 79. Warnings about Worry, Luke 12:22-31
And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what you shall eat; neither for the body, what you shall put on. The life is more than meat, and the body is more than clothing. Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them: how much more are you better than the birds? And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit? If you then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take you thought for the rest? Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith? And seek not you what you shall eat, or what you shall drink, neither be you of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knows that you have need of these things. But rather seek you the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.
We have in these verses—a collection of striking arguments against over-anxiety about the things of this world. At first sight they may seem to some minds simple and common. But the more they are pondered—the more weighty will they appear. An abiding recollection of them would save many Christians an immense amount of trouble.
Christ bids us consider the RAVENS. "They neither sow nor reap. They have neither storehouse nor barn. But God feeds them." Now if the Maker of all things provides for the needs of birds, and orders things so that they have a daily supply of food—then we surely ought not to fear that He will let His spiritual children starve!
Christ bids us look at the LILIES. "They do not toil nor spin—yet Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these." Now if God every year provides these flowers with a fresh supply of living leaves and blossoms—then we surely ought not to doubt His power and willingness to furnish His believing children with all needful clothing.
Christ bids us to remember that a Christian should be ashamed of being as worried as the heathen are. The pagan world may well be worried about food, and clothing and the like. They are sunk in deep ignorance, and know nothing of the real nature of God. But the man who can say of God, "He is my Father," and of Christ, "He is my Savior—ought surely to be above such anxieties and cares. A clear faith in God's providential care, should produce a light trustful heart.
Finally, Christ bids us think of the perfect knowledge of God. Our Father knows that we have need of food and clothing. That thought alone, ought to make us content. All our needs are perfectly known to the Lord of Heaven and earth. He can relieve those needs—whenever He sees fit. He will relieve them—whenever it is good for our souls.
Let the four arguments put forth above—sink deep into our hearts, and bear fruit in our lives. Nothing is more common than an anxious and troubled spirit—and nothing so mars a believer's usefulness, and diminishes his inward peace. Nothing, on the contrary, glorifies God so much as a cheerful spirit in the midst of temporal troubles. It carries a reality with it which even the worldly man can understand. It commends our Christianity, and makes it beautiful in the eyes of men. Faith, and faith alone—will produce this cheerful spirit. The man who can say boldly, "The Lord is my shepherd," is the man who will be able to add, "I shall not lack!" (Psalm 23:1.)
We have, secondly, in these verses—a high standard of living commended to all Christians. It is contained in a short and simple injunction, "Seek the kingdom of God." We are not to give our principal thoughts to the things of this world. We are not so to live as if we had nothing but a body. We are to live like beings who have immortal souls to be lost or saved—a death to die—a God to meet—a judgment to expect—and an eternity in Heaven or in Hell awaiting us.
When can we be said to "seek the kingdom of God?"
We do so when we make it the chief business of our lives to secure a place in the number of saved people—to have our sins pardoned, our hearts renewed, and ourselves made fit for the inheritance of the saints in light.
We do so when we give a primary place in our minds to the interests of God's kingdom—when we labor to increase the number of God's subjects—when we strive to maintain God's cause, and advance God's glory in the world.
The kingdom of God is the only kingdom worth laboring for. All other kingdoms shall, sooner or later—decay and pass away. The statesmen who raise them, are like men who build houses of cards—or children, who make palaces of sand on the seashore. The wealth which constitutes their greatness, is as liable to melt away as the snow in spring!
The kingdom of God is the only kingdom which shall endure forever. Happy are they who belong to it, love it, live for it, pray for it, and labor for its increase and prosperity. Their labor shall not be in vain!
May we give all diligence to make our calling into this kingdom sure! May it be our constant advice to children, relatives, friends, servants, neighbors, "Seek the kingdom!" Whatever else you seek, "Seek first the kingdom of God!"
We have, lastly, in these verse—a marvelous promise held out to those who seek the kingdom of God. Our Lord Jesus declares, "All these things shall be added unto you."
We must take heed that we do not misunderstand the meaning of this passage. We have no right to expect that the Christian tradesman, who neglects his business under pretense of zeal for God's kingdom—will find that his trade prospers, and his affairs all do well. To place such a sense upon the promise, would be nothing less than fanaticism and enthusiasm. It would encourage slothfulness in business, and give occasion to the enemies of God to blaspheme.
The man to whom the promise before us belongs, is the Christian who gives to the things of God their right order and their right place. He does not neglect the worldly duties of his station—but he regards them as of infinitely less importance than the requirements of God. He does not omit due attention to his temporal affairs—but he looks on them as of far less importance than the affairs of his soul.
In short, he aims in all his daily life to put God first—and the world second; to give the second place to the things of his body—and the first place to the things of his soul. This is the man to whom Jesus says, "All these things shall be added unto you."
But how is the promise fulfilled? The answer is short and simple. The man who seeks first God's kingdom—shall never lack anything that is for his good. He may not have as much health as some. He may not have as much wealth as others. He may not have a richly spread table, or royal dainties. But he shall always have enough. "Bread shall be given him—and his water shall be sure." (Isaiah 33:16.) "God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28.) "No good thing will the Lord withhold from those who walk uprightly." (Psalm 84:11.) "I have been young," said David, "and now am old, yet never have I seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging their bread." (Psalm 37:25.)
Section 80. Watchfulness, Luke 12:32-40
Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell that you have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that fails not, where no thief approaches, neither moth corrupts. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; And you yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he comes and knocks, they may open unto him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he comes shall find watching: truly I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. Be you therefore ready also: for the Son of man comes at an hour when you think not.
Let us mark, firstly—what a gracious word of consolation this passage contains for all true believers. The Lord Jesus well knew the hearts of His disciples. He knew how ready they were to be filled with fears of every description:
fears because of the fewness of their number,
fears because of the multitude of their enemies,
fears because of the many difficulties in their way,
fears because of their sense of weakness and unworthiness.
He answers these many fears with a single golden sentence—"Fear not, little flock—it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom!" Luke 12:32
Believers are a "little flock." They always have been, ever since the world began. Professing Christians have sometimes been very many. Baptized people at the present day are a great company. But true Christians are very few. It is foolish to be surprised at this. It is vain to expect it will be otherwise until the Lord comes again. "Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leads unto life—and there are few who find it." (Matthew 7:14.)
All true believers have a glorious "kingdom" awaiting them! Here upon earth—they are often mocked and ridiculed, and persecuted—and, like their Master, despised and rejected by men. But "the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us!" "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear—then shall you also appear with Him in glory." (Romans 8:18, Colossians 3:4.)
Believers are tenderly loved by God the Father. It is "the Father's good pleasure" to give them the kingdom. He does not receive them grudgingly, unwillingly and coldly. He rejoices over them as members of His beloved Son in whom He is well pleased. He regards them as His dear children in Christ. He sees no spot in them. Even now, when He looks down on them from Heaven, in the midst of their infirmities—He is well pleased. And hereafter, when presented before His glory—He will welcome them with exceeding joy. (Jude 24.)
Are we members of Christ's little flock? Then surely we ought not to be afraid. Exceeding great and precious promises are given to us. (2 Peter 1:4.) God is ours, and Christ is ours. Greater are those that are for us—than all that are against us. The world, the flesh, and the devil, are mighty enemies. But with Christ on our side—we have no cause to fear.
Let us mark, secondly—what a striking exhortation these verses contain to seek treasure in Heaven. "Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out—a treasure in Heaven that will not be exhausted—where no thief comes near, and no moth destroys." But this is not all. A mighty, heart-searching principle is laid down to enforce the exhortation. "Where your treasure is—there will your heart be also!"
The language of this charge is doubtless somewhat figurative. Yet the meaning of it is clear and unmistakable. We are to sell—to give up anything, and deny ourselves anything—which stands in the way of our soul's salvation. We are to give—to show charity and kindness to everyone—and to be more ready to spend our money in relieving others, than to hoard it for our own selfish purposes. We are to provide ourselves treasures in Heaven—to make sure that our names are in the book of life—to lay hold of eternal life—to lay up for ourselves evidences which will bear the inspection of the day of judgment.
This is true wisdom. This is real prudence. The man who does well for himself—is the man who gives up everything for Christ's sake. He makes the best of bargains. He carries the cross for a few years in this world—and in the world to come, has everlasting life. He obtains the best of possessions. He carries his riches with him beyond the grave. He is rich in grace here—and he is rich in glory hereafter. And, best of all, what he obtains by faith in Christ—he never loses. It is "that good part which can never be taken away."
Would we know what we are ourselves? Let us see whether we have treasure in Heaven—or whether all our good things are here upon earth. Would we know what our treasure is? Then let us ask ourselves—what we love the most? This is the true test of character. This is the pulse of our religion. It matters little what we say, or what we profess, or what preaching we admire, or what place of worship we attend. What do we most love? On what are our affections set? This is the great question. "Where our treasure is—there will our hearts be also."
Let us mark, lastly—what an instructive picture these verses contain of the frame of mind which the true Christian should endeavor to keep up. Our Lord tells us that we ought to be "like men who wait for their Lord." We ought to live like servants who expect their Master's return—fulfilling our duties in our several stations, and doing nothing which we would not like to be found doing when Christ comes again.
The standard of life which our Lord has set up here, is an exceedingly high one—so high, indeed, that many Christians are apt to flinch from it, and feel cast down. And yet there is nothing here which ought to make a believer afraid. Readiness for the return of Christ to this world, implies nothing which is impossible and unattainable. It requires no angelic perfection. It requires no man to forsake his family, and retire into solitude. It requires nothing more than a life of repentance, faith and holiness.
The man who is living a life of faith in the Son of God—is the man whose "loins are girded," and whose "light is burning." Such a man may have the care of kingdoms on him, like Daniel—or be a servant in a Nero's household, like some in Paul's time. All this matters nothing. If he lives looking unto Jesus—then he is a servant who can "open to Him immediately." Surely it is not too much to ask Christians to be men of this kind. Surely there was a reason why our Lord said, "You must be ready—because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him!"
Are we ourselves living as if we were ready for the second coming of Christ? Well would it be if this question were put to our consciences more frequently. It might keep us back from many a false step in our daily life. It might prevent many a backsliding. The true Christian should not only believe in Christ, and love Christ—he should also look and long for Christ's second coming. If he cannot say from his heart, "Come, Lord Jesus!"—then there must be something wrong about his soul.
Section 81. The Wise and Faithful Servant, Luke 12:41-48
Then Peter said unto him, Lord, speak you this parable unto us, or even to all? And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he comes shall find so doing. Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he has. But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delays his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looks not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.
We learn firstly from these verses—the importance of doing, in our Christianity. Our Lord is speaking of His own second coming. He is comparing His disciples to servants waiting for their master's return, who have each their own work to do during His absence. "Blessed," He says, "is that servant, whom his master, when he comes, shall find so doing."
The warning has doubtless a primary reference to ministers of the Gospel. They are the stewards of God's mysteries, who are specially bound to be found "doing" when Christ comes again. But the words contain a further lesson—which all Christians would do well to consider. That lesson is—the immense importance of a working, practical, diligent, useful religion.
The lesson is one which is greatly needed in the churches of Christ. We hear a great deal about people's intentions, and hopes, and wishes, and feelings, and professions. It would be better if we could hear more about people's practice. It is not the servant who is found wishing and professing—but the servant who is found "doing" whom Jesus calls "blessed."
The lesson is one which many, unhappily, shrink from giving—and many more shrink from receiving. We are gravely told that to talk of "working," and "doing," is 'legalistic', and brings Christians into bondage! Remarks of this kind should never move us. They savor of ignorance or rebellion. The lesson before us is not about justification—but about sanctification; not about saving faith—but about holiness of life. The point is not what a man should do to be saved—but what a saved man ought to do! The teaching of Scripture is clear and express upon this subject, A saved man ought to be "careful to maintain good works." (Titus 3:8.) The desire of a true Christian ought to be—to be found "doing."
If we love life—then let us resolve by God's help, to be "doing" Christians. This is to be like Christ—He "went about doing good." (Acts 10:38.) This is to be like the apostles—they were men of deeds even more than of words. This is to glorify God, "Herein is my Father glorified—that you bear much fruit." (John 15:8.) This is to be useful to the world, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father in Heaven." (Matthew 5:16.)
We learn, secondly, from these verses—the dreadful danger of those who neglect the duties of their calling. Of such our Lord declares, that they shall be "cut in pieces, and their portion appointed with the unbelievers." These words no doubt apply especially to the ministers and teachers of the Gospel. Yet we must not flatter ourselves that they are confined to them. They are probably meant to convey a lesson to all who fill offices of high responsibility. It is a striking fact that when Peter says at the beginning of the passage, "Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?"—our Lord gives him no answer. Whoever occupies a position of trust, and neglects his duties—would do well to ponder this passage, and learn wisdom.
The language which our Lord Jesus uses about slothful and unfaithful servants, is particularly severe. Few places in the Gospels contain such strong expressions as this. It is a vain delusion to suppose that the Gospel speaks nothing but "smooth things." The same loving Savior who holds out mercy to the uttermost to the penitent and believing—never shrinks from holding up the judgments of God against those who despise His counsel.
Let no man deceive us on this subject. There is a Hell for such an one as goes on still in his wickedness—no less than a Heaven for the true believer in Jesus. There is such a thing as "the wrath of the Lamb!" (Revelation 6:16.)
Let us strive so to live, that whenever the heavenly Master comes, we may be found ready to receive Him. Let us watch our hearts with a godly jealousy, and beware of the least symptom of unreadiness for the Lord's appearing. Especially let us beware of any rising disposition to lower our standard of Christian holiness—to dislike people who are more spiritually-minded than ourselves—and to conform to the world. The moment we detect such a disposition in our hearts—we may be sure that our souls are in great peril! The professing Christian who begins to persecute God's people, and to take pleasure in worldly society—is on the high road to eternal ruin!
We learn, lastly, from these verses—that the greater a man's religious light is, the greater is his guilt if he is not converted. The servant which "knew his master's will, but did not do it—shall be beaten with many stripes." "Unto whom much is given—of him shall be much required."
The lesson of these words is one of wide application. It demands the attention of many classes. It should come home to the conscience of every professing Christian. His judgment shall be far more strict, than that of the heathen who never saw the Bible.
It should come home to every hearer of the Gospel. If he remains unconverted—then he is far more guilty than the inhabitant of some dark land, who never hears any teaching but a sort of semi-heathen morality.
It should come home to every child and servant in Christian families. All such are far more blameworthy, in God's sight—than those who live in houses where there is no honor paid to the Word of God and prayer. Let these things never be forgotten. Our judgment at the last day—will be according to our light and opportunities.
What are we doing ourselves with our religious knowledge? Are we using it wisely, and turning it to good account? Or are we content with the barren saying, "We know it—we know it!" and secretly flattering ourselves that the mere knowledge of our Lord's will makes us better than others—while that will is not done?
Let us beware of eternal mistakes! The day will come, when unimproved knowledge—will be found the most perilous of possessions. Thousands will awake to find that they are in a lower place in Hell, than the most ignorant and idolatrous heathen. Their knowledge not used, and their light not followed—will only add to their condemnation.
Section 82. Not Peace—but Division, Luke 12:49-53
I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled? But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened until it be accomplished! Suppose you that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
The sayings of the Lord Jesus in these five verses are particularly weighty and suggestive. They unfold truths which every true Christian would do well to mark and digest. They explain things in the Church, and in the world—which at first sight, are hard to be understood.
We learn for one thing from these verses—how thoroughly the heart of Christ was set on finishing the work which He came into the world to do. He says, "I have a baptism to undergo"—a baptism of suffering, of wounds, of agony, of blood, and of death! Yet none of these things moved Him. He adds, "How distressed I am—until this baptism is accomplished!" The prospect of coming trouble, did not deter Him for a moment. He was ready and willing to endure all things—in order to provide eternal redemption for His people. Zeal for the cause He had taken in hand—was like a burning fire within Him. To advance His Father's glory, to open the door of life to a lost world, to provide a fountain for all sin and impurity by the sacrifice of Himself—were continually the uppermost thoughts of His mind. He was distressed in spirit—until this mighty work was finished.
Forever let us bear in mind that all Christ's sufferings on our behalf—were endured willingly, voluntarily, and of His own free choice. They were not submitted to patiently—merely because He could not avoid them. They were not borne without a murmur—merely because He could not escape them. He lived a humble life for thirty-three years—simply because He loved to do so. He died an agonizing death—with a willing and a ready mind. Both in life and death, He was carrying out the eternal counsel—whereby God was to be glorified and sinners were to be saved. He carried it out with all His heart—as mighty as the struggle was, which it entailed upon His flesh and blood. He delighted to do God's will. He was distressed until it was accomplished.
Let us not doubt that the heart of Christ in Heaven, is the same that it was when He was upon earth. He feels as deep an interest now about the salvation of sinners—as He did formerly about dying in their stead. Jesus never changes. He is the same yesterday, and today and forever. There is in Him—an infinite willingness to receive, pardon, justify, and deliver the souls of men from Hell. Let us strive to realize that willingness, and learn to believe it without doubting, and repose on it without fear. It is a certain fact, if men would only believe it—that Christ is far more willing to save us, than we are to be saved.
Let the zeal of our Lord and Master, be an example to all His people. Let the recollection of His burning readiness to die for us—be like a glowing coal in our memories, and constrain us to live to Him, and not to ourselves. Surely the thought of it should awaken our sleeping hearts, and warm our cold affections, and make us anxious to redeem the time, and do something for His glory. A zealous Savior—ought to have zealous disciples!
We learn, for another thing, from these verses—how useless it is to expect universal peace and harmony from the preaching of the Gospel. The disciples, like most Jews of their day, were probably expecting the Messiah's kingdom immediately to appear. They thought the time was at hand when the wolf would lie down with the lamb, and men would no longer not hurt or destroy. (Isaiah 11:9.) Our Lord saw what was in their hearts, and checked their untimely expectations with a striking saying, "Do you think that I have come to send peace on earth? I tell you, No—but rather division."
There is something at first sight very startling in this saying. It seems hard to reconcile it with the song of angels, which spoke of "peace on earth" as the companion of Christ's Gospel. (Luke 2:14.) Yet as startling as the saying sounds—it is one which facts have proved to be literally true.
Peace is undoubtedly the result of the Gospel wherever it is believed and received. But wherever there are hearers of the Gospel who are hardened, impenitent, and determined to have their sins—the very message of peace, becomes the cause of division! Those who live after the flesh—will hate those who live after the Spirit. Those who are resolved to live for the world—will always act wickedly towards those who are resolved to serve Christ.
We may lament this state of things, but we cannot prevent it. Grace and nature can no more mix together—than oil and water. So long as men are disagreed upon first principles in religion—there can be no real cordiality between them. So long as some men are converted and some are unconverted—there can be no true peace.
Let us beware of unscriptural expectations. If we expect to see people of one heart and one mind, before they are converted—then we shall continually be disappointed.
Thousands of well-meaning people now-a-days are continually crying out for more "unity" among Christians. To attain this, they are ready to sacrifice almost anything, and to throw overboard even sound doctrine—if, by so doing, they can secure peace.
Such people would do well to remember that even gold may be bought too dearly; and that peace is useless—if it is purchased at the expense of truth. Surely they have forgotten the words of Christ, "I came not to send peace, but division."
Let us never be moved by those who charge the Gospel with being the cause of strife and divisions upon earth. Such men only show their ignorance, when they talk in this way. It is not the Gospel which is to blame—but the corrupt heart of man! It is not God's glorious remedy which is in fault—but the diseased nature of Adam's race, which, like a self-willed child, refuses the medicine provided for its cure!
So long as some men and women will not repent and believe, and some will—there must needs be division. To be surprised at it, is the height of folly. The very existence of division—is one proof of Christ's foresight, and of the truth of Christianity.
Let us thank God that a time is coming when there shall be no more divisions on earth, but all shall be of one mind. That time shall be when Jesus, the Prince of Peace, comes again in person, and puts down every enemy under His feet. When Satan is bound, when the wicked are separated from the righteous, and cast down to their own place—then, and not until then, will there be perfect peace. For that blessed time—let us wait, and watch and pray. The night is far spent. The day is at hand. Our divisions are only for a little season—but our peace shall endure to eternity.
Section 83. The Signs of the Times, Luke 12:54-59
And he said also to the people, When you see a cloud rise out of the west, immediately you say, There comes a shower; and so it is. And when you see the south wind blow, you say, There will be heat; and it comes to pass. You hypocrites, you can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that you do not discern this time? Yes, and why even of yourselves judge you not what is right? When you go with your adversary to the magistrate, as you are in the way, give diligence that you may be delivered from him; lest he hale you to the judge, and the judge deliver you to the officer, and the officer cast you into prison. I tell you, you shall not depart thence, until you have paid the very last mite.
The first thing which this passage teaches us—is the duty of noticing the signs of the times. The Jews in our Lord's days neglected this duty. They shut their eyes against events of the most significant character—which were occurring in their own day. They refused to see that prophecies were being fulfilled around them—which were bound up with the coming of Messiah, and that the Messiah Himself must be in the midst of them.
The ministry of John the Baptist had excited attention from one end of the land to the other. The miracles of Christ were great, undeniable, and well-known. But still the eyes of the Jews were blinded. They still obstinately refused to believe that Jesus was the Christ. And hence they drew from our Lord the question, "Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you do not know how to interpret this present time?"
It befits the servants of God, in every age, to observe the public events of their own day, and to compare them with the predictions of unfulfilled prophecy. There is nothing commendable in an ignorant indifference to contemporary history. The true Christian should rather watch the career of governments and nations with a jealous watchfulness—and hail with gladness the slightest indication of the day of the Lord being at hand. The Christian who cannot see the hand of God in history, and does not believe in the gradual movement of all kingdoms towards the final subjection of all things to Christ—is as blind as the Jew!
Let us remember the words of our Lord in the passage before us—and not err after the manner of the Jews. Let us not be blind, and deaf, and insensible to all that God is doing, both in the Church and in the world. May we all have an ear to hear—and a heart to understand! May we not sleep as many do, but watch and discern our time! It is a solemn saying in the book of Revelation, "If you do not wake up—then I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. (Revelation 3:3)
The second thing which this passage teaches us—is the immense importance of seeking reconciliation with God before it is too late. This is a lesson which our Lord illustrates by a parable. He compares us to a man on his way to a magistrate with an adversary, in consequence of a dispute—and describes the course which such a man ought to take.
Like him, we are upon our way to the presence of the eternal Judge. We shall all stand at the judgment bar of God. Like him, we have an adversary. The holy law of God is against us, and contrary to us—and its demands must be satisfied. Like him, we ought to give diligence to get our case settled—before it comes before the Judge. We ought to seek pardon and forgiveness—before we die. Like him, if we let our opportunity slip, the judgment will go against us, and we shall be cast into the eternal prison of Hell.
Such appears to be the meaning of the parable in the passage before us. It in a vivid picture of the care which men ought to take in the great matter of reconciliation with God.
Peace with God is by far the first thing in religion. We are born in sin—and are children of wrath. We have no natural love towards God. The carnal mind is enmity against God. It is impossible that God can take pleasure in us. "The wicked—His soul hates." (Psalm 11:5.) The chief and foremost desire of everyone who professes to have any religion—should be to obtain reconciliation with God. Until this is done—nothing is done. We have nothing worth having in Christianity—until we have peace with God. The law brings us in guilty. The judgment is sure to go against us. Without reconciliation—the end of our life's journey will be eternal Hell.
Peace with God is the principal thing which the Gospel of Christ offers to the soul. Peace and pardon stand in the forefront of its list of privileges, and are offered freely to every one who believes on Jesus.
There is only One who can deliver us from the adversary. Christ is the end of the law for righteousness, to every one who believes. Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law—by being made a curse for us. Christ has blotted out the handwriting that was against us—and has taken it out of the way, nailing it to His cross. Being justified by faith—we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ. There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. The claims of our adversary, are all satisfied by Christ's blood. God can now be just—and yet the justifier of every one who believes on Jesus. A full atonement has been made. The debt has been completely paid. The Judge can say, "Deliver them—for I have found a ransom!" (Job 33:24.)
Let us never rest until we know and feel that we are reconciled to God. Let it not content us to go to Church, to use means of grace, and to be reckoned as Christians—without knowing whether our sins are pardoned, and our souls justified. Let us seek to know that we are one with Christ, and Christ in us. Let us seek to know that our iniquities are forgiven, and our sins covered. Then, and then only—may we lie down in peace, and look forward to judgment without fear.
The time is short. We are traveling on to a day when our lot for eternity must be decided. Let us give all diligence that we may be found safe in that day. The souls that are found without Christ—shall be cast into the hopeless prison of Hell.