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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary
Luke 6



Verse 12


‘He … continued all night in prayer.’

Luke 6:12

Our Lord’s choice of the Twelve marks a crisis in His ministry. Before the choice He spent the night in prayer. The praying Christ! We find in His prayers

I. A revelation.—The prayers of our Lord reveal to us His true nature. (a) We see how perfect was His manhood, and how like ours His life in its dependence, submission, and communion with God. (b) We see He was higher than man, that He was God, for while man asks for mercy, He was sinless.

II. An example.—The prayers of our Lord teach us how to pray. (a) There is a strained spirituality which thinks stated times and definite acts of prayer unnecessary. But the Lord went aside to pray. (b) There is a perverted spirituality which regards public worship as a substitute for private prayer. Our Lord was constantly in the temple, yet He withdrew into solitary place for prayer. (c) There is a lax spirituality which says that in this busy age to work is to pray. The busiest man that ever lived was Jesus Christ, yet He made time for prayer.

III. An inspiration.—The praying Christ teaches us how real a power prayer is. The answers given to the prayers of Christ are a pledge of ours.

—Bishop F. J. Chavasse.


(1) ‘It is the characterising feature of Luke’s Gospel—more than any other evangelist—that he mentions the prayers of Christ. He does not, indeed, ever give the words—that is the prerogative of John only. With the exception of what Jesus prayed in His last passion, no other writer but John has ever recorded what Jesus said in any prayer. But five times Luke tells us that Jesus prayed—he evidently appreciated the fact.

(2) ‘The eves of all events are solemn calls to prayer. Is to-morrow to summon you to some great duty? Or is it likely that to-morrow will rise on you with some dark cloud? Or do you look for some very bright joy that is to break with the morning light? Then double your evening prayer. Have the comfort, to-morrow, to feel that you go to it well armed! Be sure that you carry the more Presence with you! How many days would have been saved their bitter, bitter regrets if they had had more praying yesterdays!’

Verse 26


‘Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you!’

Luke 6:26

It is more than probable that, if men speak well of you, their judgment of you is fallacious. Men are fallible judges of one another’s real character; yet however fallacious the popular estimate, it has a direct tendency to carry us along with it. Then follow certain practical consequences—all of them, in a Christian point of view, serious and even disastrous. What are they?

I. The loss of humility.—How can he, of whom all men speak well, know what true humility is? Where pride is enthroned there cannot be the mind meet for God’s kingdom.

II. The loss of watchfulness.—If we are not conscious, and painfully conscious, of infirmity and of sinfulness, how can we watch? Why should we watch?

III. The loss of strength.—Praise is an essentially enfeebling and enervating thing. Praise promotes repose; self-satisfaction first, and as its natural result the intermission of effort.

To be well spoken of makes a man covet approbation, and at last live for it. The praise of men has a direct tendency to attach us to earth, and makes us forget heaven. To be a Christian is to have your heart in heaven, where Christ sitteth.

Dean Vaughan.

Verse 36


‘Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.’

Luke 6:36

That there must be some limitation to the scope of such precepts as those recorded in Luke 6:27-38 we may admit, that the exercise of reason and prudence must come in to limit and restrict them is evident, but how and where are we to draw the line?

I. Our Lord was laying down certain broad principles and general maxims for the guidance of His disciples, the spirit of which was to pervade their whole conduct, and which, though in some cases, if pressed to their literal interpretation, liable to abuse, were yet intended to be acted upon in the lives of Christians. I am to forgive any injury, however deadly, done to myself till seven times, ay, till seventy times seven; to forgo any opportunity of vengeance, to seek the highest good of those who have injured me, to reflect by my love, if it may be, something of Christ’s love upon them; but if it be a wrong done to the community I am bound by the higher obligation and welfare of the many to remember that justice is, equally with mercy, an essential attribute of the Most High.

II. But is the divine example, so far as it is exhibited to us in Holy Scripture and in God’s dealings with mankind around us, is it really in accordance with the code here set forth for our observance? How do we explain the presence of so much suffering? That there is a mystery of pain which it is not given us wholly to unravel here we must admit, yet in the darkest dispensation of Providence we are not altogether without a ray of light; we can at least trace the purifying effects of such trials. We have not God’s wisdom and knowledge to judge how much of suffering is needed for the education of any human soul, but we are to follow the pattern of His love and mercy in order to know Him better; and that is to be most clearly read in the intercessory prayer of the Lord Jesus at the supreme moment of His own anguish: ‘Father, forgive them.’ Well may the Apostle bid us ‘be ye kind, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you; be ye therefore followers—imitators—of God, as dear children.’

III. Is it not discouraging to effort to raise a standard which we know it to be impossible for us to reach? Indeed, this were so if we were left to ourselves. But in the Incarnation of the Son of God, and all that flows from it, is our hope and encouragement. He took our nature that we might be partakers of the Divine nature, that by our union with Him that eternal life which He has bestowed upon us may grow on and develop into perfection. And He has provided for us the means of this growth in the ordinances of His Church.

—Bishop Macrorie.



I. The scope of Christian mercy.—In human society, opportunities often occur for obeying the command of the Lord Jesus.

(a) In personal conduct. Christian mercy delights to aid poverty, to relieve pain, to soothe grief, to succour the oppressed, to spare reproach or punishment where there has been offence or injury.

(b) In social institutions and arrangements. Christian mercy has its monuments in schools, asylums, reformatories, hospitals, and missions. In these respects, Christianity is greatly in advance of the most polished pagan society.

II. The quality of Christian mercy. (a) It should be emotional and sympathetic, not hard and mechanical, as if constrained. (b) It should be disinterested. Otherwise it is mere expediency, and perhaps selfishness. We may not be insensible to the reflex influence and good effects of merciful condect.

Verses 36-42


‘Be ye therefore merciful.… Judge not; … Condemn not.… Give.… Cast out first the beam.’

Luke 6:36-42

Our Lord dwells here on what we are to do, not what we are to believe (John 7:17), and He begins by putting before us the blessing and the curse (Luke 6:20-26; Deuteronomy 30:19-20). Have you made your decision? Which course are you pursuing? This is the first great thought in the way of duty, ‘As your Father also is.’ The eye must be fixed on Him to watch for guidance (Psalms 32:8). The ear must be opened to Him to listen for counsel (Psalms 85:8). What is enjoined here?

I. There is counsel about acting mercifully and justly (Luke 6:36; Luke 6:38). It is in four words. (1) ‘Be ye, therefore, merciful’—love as Christ hath loved you. (2) ‘Judge not.’ We ought not to find fault with others, for we ourselves are far from perfect (Romans 2:1-2). If we have the love of God in our hearts, we should rather seek to hide the faults of others (Galatians 6:1; 1 Corinthians 13:4-7). (3) ‘Condemn not.’ This follows upon judging—see what Christ says (John 12:47), and both these bring their own reward (1 Corinthians 11:31). Others will be kind to us, if we are kind to them. (4) ‘Give.’ We have it often in our power to supply the need of another in some way. Why should we not be self-denying? Remember the widow’s giving (1 Kings 17:15-16).

II. There is counsel about being sincere (Luke 6:39-42). Before we think of finding fault in others, we should look to see that there is none in ourselves. The Pharisee could find fault with the publican’s sins, but was not conscious of his own transgressions (Luke 18:11-12). So he was not justified of God (Luke 6:14). The publican only thought of the state of his own heart—‘God be merciful to me a sinner.’ This was sincerity. This is a very difficult lesson to learn. We are so ready to see what is bad in others, so slow to recognise what is wrong in ourselves. The best advice is to study the Bible. We there see ourselves as God sees us. We are reflected as in a glass (James 1:22-25; Hebrews 4:12). And in knowing the state of our hearts, we shall be true to ourselves as well as to others.

These are some of the duties which form the Christian’s life and character.

—Bishop Rowley Hill.


‘The manifest similarity in so many particulars between the discourse of which these words form a part and that which we have from the pen of Matthew as the Sermon on the Mount has led to the common supposition that they are but versions of one and the same discourse, Luke giving it in a much abbreviated form. But besides the difficulties of time and place which beset this theory—Matthew distinctly mentioning that that which he records was delivered on a mountain, Luke no less clearly asserting that this one was uttered on a plain, Matthew placing it before his own call to discipleship and the selection of the twelve Apostles, Luke putting it immediately after these events—there are also differences so large and important as to lead to the conclusion that the discourses are themselves distinct, and delivered on separate occasions, even where the words of a precept or maxim are identical, and where the sequence of thought seems to proceed precisely on parallel.’

Verse 38


‘For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.’

Luke 6:38

I. God’s judgment.—Those words must surely seem to us some of the most awful words in the Bible, for—

(a) They are so plainly the words of that justice which all men acknowledge, that we not only believe, but feel, that they must be true. If we believe in a Judgment at all, then we must look to be dealt with in the same spirit, by the same measures, according to the truth and generosity which we have shown, when it was our turn to show mercy, to pass opinion, to help and share and give. Can any imagine that they may deal with men harshly, but that God ought to deal with themselves tenderly? This, then, is one thing that makes these words so awful, that we see for ourselves that it must be as they say. The other is that, while we feel the certainty of the law—

(b) We cannot see how it will be carried out. It lies in the awful darkness of the time to come. All we know is that, some time or other, a man’s deeds will be returned upon him, and he will find out what God his Maker and Judge thought of his dealings with his brethren by what happens to himself. And the fearful thing to think of is that, for the most part, this is to be in another world—where all things will be different; so much greater; for blessedness and for anguish; where what is to be, is to be for good, and for ever. It is there, for the most part, that this law will have its fulfilment.

II. Man’s judgment.—We must all judge often, and sometimes condemn. The sin is not in judging and condemning, but in doing so without reason—carelessly, unjustly—for the sake of condemning, condemning without mercy and without fear. In this case the same harsh and unsparing judgment awaits ourselves. Dare any one look back into his past and venture to say that he could endure the Judgment if, in God’s justice, what he measured to others was to be exactly measured to him again? Yet that is God’s rule. Can we hear of it and not tremble?

If there were nothing else to drive us to take refuge in God’s offers of mercy in Christ, surely this alone would be enough.

Dean Church.



The text gives us this lesson of reciprocity. If you put other people through the small sieve of criticism, you will be criticised yourself. If you pass harsh judgments upon others, look out! they will pass harsh judgments upon you. On the other hand, if you give, it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, shall men give into your bosom.

I. Reciprocity in nature.—Look on this law as regards nature. People say the world is very much what we make it ourselves. The way you face the world is the way in which the world will stand up and face you. You take a London child into the country and you think perhaps he will admire the beautiful stars. Oh, dear, no! He brings his ideas into the country, and he misses the lamps, and thinks the night hideously dark. The grown-ups go down to the seaside, and they go to the seaside to see life and fashion, and in a sense they see it. Others go to see the sea, which some never seem to notice, and that sea speaks to them of the things that lie beyond. One man goes to London to see the sights, and you take him to see Westminster Abbey because it is one of the sights. You go with an architect, and the architect is lifted up by the architecture of the old church. You take another to the Abbey, and the old church speaks to him of the old faith. It is what men take to the old church the old church speaks back to them.

II. Reciprocity among men.—It is true even more of things concerning men. Some people treat all men as their enemies, and they become so. Others treat them as their friends, and they become so. One master will look upon his men, for instance, as regarding their productive capabilities; and the men reciprocate the view, for they look upon their master from a commercial interest, and the master tries to get all he possibly can out of the men, and the men try to get all they can out of their master. It is natural, and the old feudal idea of common interest between master and men has gone. But the philanthropist thinks differently. His interest is not position or possession, but his interest is in flesh and blood, and it is very soon reciprocated. Hear the caution—it is this: There must be reciprocal action. It must not be all ‘give’ on the one side, and ‘take’ on the other. This is the mistake people make. For instance, a father says to his boy, ‘Take care you mix with good companions,’ thinking that if you mix with good companions it will make you good. If you mix with good companions it will not necessarily make you a good man. There must be the reciprocal action. The great instance, of course, is that of Judas. He mixed and lived with the Apostles and Christ, but it did not make him a good man. Ah, no! there was no reciprocal action. The very fact of the good company he kept made that man the traitor he was. It does sometimes happen that one does all one can for the other side, and there is no response. I know it. The poor wife does all she can for her husband, and he beats her. Then God takes up her cause, and returns the blessing. Hers is a heroic life, and God is on her side, make no mistake. He metes out to her.

III. Reciprocity in religion.—This truth is most emphatically true as regarding religion. Some people look upon religion as an interesting psychological speculation, and it is so. I know no more interesting reading than a comparative view of the religions of the world. Some people come to church because they feel a void in their hearts. Hungry and thirsty, their soul faints in them. And they—what do they find? Some are lifted up by the music; some find what they want in the ceremonial; others feel that the whole being of man needs sacrifice. It is they who feel the necessity of sacrifice and the joy of sacrifice who love to make a little sacrifice themselves.

God gives Himself to those who give themselves to Him. If we approach God with criticism in our hearts, the heavens above us are black with clouds, and we hear the muttering of the distant thunder. But if we look up to heaven through tears, the sky is full of summer sunshine, and from out eternity comes the old Gospel message, ‘Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’

—Rev. A. H. Stanton.

Verse 40


‘The disciple is not above his Master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his Master.’

Luke 6:40

There are two applications of this saying in respect to Christ and His disciples; first to that which is without, to the treatment they must expect from others; next to that which is within, to their character.

I. In outward condition.—The disciple, being no greater than his Master, cannot expect his outward condition to be better than his Master’s. If the world persecuted Christ, it would also persecute His disciples; if it refused to receive His doctrine, so would it refuse to receive theirs. But I think we may carry this lesson still further. Our Master was not a Man of glory, but a Man of sorrows. And can we, His disciples, expect to lead happy lives? Have we any reason to grumble at our poverty when He was not rich? Shall we refuse to bear sickness patiently when we know how much He suffered at the last? Shall we be discontented if our friends are unfaithful, if we are slandered, if men are unjust to us, when we consider all He endured?

II. In character.—We must be like Him in the humility of our actions; we must follow His example in what He did. As He washed His disciples’ feet, so must we be ready to wash each other’s feet. As He gave Himself up for us, so must we give ourselves up for each other. The whole life of Christ was a life of unselfishness. And if Christ thus laboured for us, should we refuse to labour for each other? Should we think it right to be selfish, to consider ourselves first, our own comfort, our own enjoyment, our own ease, and when we have provided for these, then perhaps to do some small thing for each other?

There is a great and glorious possession to look forward to. Every disciple that is perfect should be as His Master. The highest point to which you can attain is being like to Christ, holy as He is.

—Bishop Lord Alwyne Compton.


‘Surely that is true which the Church speaks to us in our hours of sickness, when she says, “There should be no greater comfort to Christian persons than to be made like unto Christ by suffering patiently adversities, troubles, and sicknesses. For He Himself went not up to joy, but first He suffered pain; He entered not into His glory before He was crucified. So truly our way to eternal joy is to suffer here with Christ, and our door to enter into eternal life is gladly to die with Christ, that we may rise again from death, and dwell with Him in everlasting life.’



The word used for ‘perfect’ here is by no means a common one, and is quite a different word from those by which perfection is commonly expressed. It might be rendered fairly well by a word that is very frequently applied both to things and to people. ‘Finished’ is the word I mean. We all know what ‘the finished gentleman’ is; and the language of the text justifies us in transferring these ideas to the higher level of the Christian life. ‘The [finished] Christian shall be as His Master.’

I. The finished Christian.—It is a beautiful and helpful thought, whether you look at it from the point of view of the raw material, or the means employed, or the skill of the Great Worker, or the intrinsic beauty of the finished product. I never see a man tread the upward path, I never see a man growing simply better and more loving as life goes on, without feeling very sure of an influence to which I can give no better name than the power of the Three in One—a merciful Father, a Saviour human and Divine, a Spirit—God’s gift within the man. The man draws nearer and nearer to the finished beauty of the Christian character, which is a thing easier to illustrate than to describe.

(a) No one, I think, can read the First Epistle of St. Peter without the picture of the finished Christian rising to his mind. There is a calmness, there is a resignation, there is a gentleness about it which is indeed a very different thing from the impulsive enthusiasm of St. Peter’s early days. Passion has died down, violence has vanished from the life. It is just a calm and quiet insight into the wisdom of God’s ways, which is just a calm benignity, which is just the steady sunlight of a bright evening, which is the sober judgment of a happy old age.

(b) And think, too, of the Epistles of John. Again it is the voice of a finished Christian. It is the quiet simplicity of the mind of Christ. It is a return to the spotless innocence of childhood. It is the matured sweetness of experience and tenderness and love, so changed from the temper which would call down fire on the inhospitable village of the Samaritans, which would forbid a man from casting out devils who did not follow the twelve, and so different from the ambitious eagerness that asked for a place on the right hand and the left in Christ’s Kingdom.

(c) Here and there we meet it even among ourselves; more often, I believe, among the old than among the young; more often, perhaps, in old-fashioned people than in new-fashioned people; more often in those whose path through life has been rough than in those whose lives have been easy and smooth; more often in those who have been called to suffer than in those who have not; more often—I say it with hesitation—but I think more often among the poor than among the rich.

II. Two practical thoughts.—(a) We must not expect in the unfinished condition that which belongs especially to the complete. (b) We must remember how the Gospel deals with the one broad point of likeness to Christ. ‘Judge not,’ etc. It is, after all, in connection with this that the finished Christian shall be even as his Lord. It is in this—this mercy like the Father’s mercy, this slowness to judge, this unwillingness to condemn, this readiness to pardon, this joy that delights to give—it is in this, I say, more than in anything else, that the beauty of finish, the calm beauty of the completed likeness of the disciple to his Master, would seem to rest.

—Bishop H. L. Paget.

Verse 42


‘Thou hypocrite.’

Luke 6:42

The only sin for which He did not make a plea, or a palliation, a pardon, or a prayer was hypocrisy.

I. The hypocrisy of the Pharisees.—Eight times—in one discourse—Christ uses the strong denunciation, ‘Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!’ Eight times! The first ‘woe’ because they would not themselves accept the Gospel, and prevented others. The second, because they covered wrong and covetousness with a show of long prayers. The third, not because they made proselytes, for that every one who holds the truth is bound to do, to proselytise and bring others to what he believes to be true, but because they made their proselytes bad, and worse than themselves. The fourth, because they destroyed proportions of things, made little things more binding than great things; the gold greater than the Temple; the gift greater than the altar. The fifth, because they were punctilious in small duties, and made them an excuse for neglecting the greater things of ‘judgment, mercy, and faith.’ The sixth because they made outside cleanliness a covering for inside corruption. The seventh, because there was an exterior beauty with an interior death. The eighth, because they were declaring themselves to be the children of—not by descent only but by their likeness to—their persecuting and murderous ancestors! Then, after those eight charges, follows that awful malediction, ‘Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?’ Such then was Christ’s definition of hypocrisy.

II. The hypocrisy of Judas.—Very conspicuous among the hypocrites with whom Jesus had to do was Judas, one of Christ’s more immediate disciples; in fact, the treasurer among them. The love of money was his ruin. But in the end there came on him that tremendous revulsion which so often follows sin. In agony and remorse—do not call it penitence—Judas went to the chief priests, and said, ‘I have sinned, in that I have betrayed innocent blood!’ He flung down the thirty pieces of silver upon the ground, and went and hanged himself! So died the hypocrite, plunging deeper, and deeper, and deeper, till he fell, and the suicide went unto his own place!

The fact is Judas had been conversant with great things—with the great things of God. He had been admitted into the secrets of Christ. Now, such as a man’s privilege, and knowledge of Him, so are his temptations.


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Bibliography Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Luke 6:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, July 10th, 2020
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14
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