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Bible Commentaries

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

Luke 6

Verse 1

Luke 6:1

. On the second-first Sabbath It is beyond all question that this Sabbath belonged to some one of the festival-days which the Law enjoined to be observed once every year. Some have thought that there were two festival-days in immediate succession; but as the Jews had arranged their festival-days after the Babylonish captivity so that one day always intervened between them, that opinion is set aside. Others maintain with greater probability, that it was the last day of the solemnity, which was as numerously attended as the first. I am more inclined to favor those who understand by it the second festivity in the year; and this agrees exceedingly well with the name given to it, the second-first Sabbath, because, among the great Sabbaths which were annually observed, it was the second in the order of time. Now the first was the Passover, and it is therefore probable that this was the feast of first-fruits, (Exodus 23:15.)

Verse 8

Luke 6:8

. But he knew their thoughts If Matthew states the truth, they had openly declared by their language what was in their minds; and therefore Christ replies not to their secret thoughts, but to express words. But both may be true, that they spoke plainly, and yet that Christ discerned their secret thoughts; for they did not openly avow their designs, and Matthew himself tells us that their question was intended to take Christ by surprise; and, consequently, Luke means nothing more than that Christ was aware of their insidious designs, though not expressed in words.

Verse 13

Luke 6:13

. Whom also he named Apostles. This may be explained in two ways: either that, at a subsequent period, when he introduced them into their office, he gave them this name, — or that, with a view to their future rank, he bestowed on them this title, in order to inform them why they were separated from the ordinary class, and for what purpose they were destined. The latter view agrees well with the words of Mark: for he says, that Christ appointed twelve to be with him, and to send them forth to preach. He intended to make them his companions, that they might afterwards receive a higher rank: for, as I have already explained, when he says, to be with him, and to send them forth to preach, he does not mean that both were to take place at the same time.

Verse 24

Luke 6:24

. Woe to you that are rich. As Luke has related not more than four kinds of blessings, so he now contrasts with them four curses, so that the clauses mutually correspond. This contrast not only tends to strike terror into the ungodly, but to arouse believers, that they may not be lulled to sleep by the vain and deceitful allurements of the world. We know how prone men are to be intoxicated by prosperity, or ensnared by flattery; and on this account the children of God often envy the reprobate, when they see everything go on prosperously and smoothly with them.

He pronounces a curse on the rich, — not on all the rich, but on those who receive their consolation in the world; that is, who are so completely occupied with their worldly possessions, that they forget the life to come. The meaning is: riches are so far from making a man happy, that they often become the means of his destruction. In any other point of view, the rich are not excluded from the kingdom of heaven, provided they do not become snares for themselves, or fix their hope on the earth, so as to shut against them the kingdom of heaven. This is finely illustrated by Augustine, who, in order to show that riches are not in themselves a hindrance to the children of God, reminds his readers that poor Lazarus was received into the bosom of rich Abraham.

Verse 25

25. Woe to you who are filled. Woe to you who laugh now In the same sense, he pronounces a curse on those who are satiated and full: because they are lifted up by confidence in the blessings of the present life, and reject those blessings which are of a heavenly nature. A similar view must be taken of what he says about laughter: for by those who laugh he means those who have given themselves up to Epicurean mirth, who are plunged in carnal pleasures, and spurn every kind of trouble which would be found necessary for maintaining the glory of God.

Verse 26

26. Woe to you when all men shall applaud you The last woe is intended to correct ambition: for nothing is more common than to seek the applauses of men, or, at least, to be carried away by them; and, in order to guard his disciples against such a course, he points out to them that the favor of men would prove to be their ruin. This warning refers peculiarly to teachers, who have no plague more to be dreaded than ambition: because it is impossible for them not to corrupt the pure doctrine of God, when they, “seek to please men,” (Galatians 1:10.) By the phrase, all men, Christ must be understood to refer to the children of the world, whose applauses are wholly bestowed on deceivers and false prophets: for faithful and conscientious ministers of sound doctrine enjoy the applause and favor of good men. It is only the wicked favor of the flesh that is here condemned: for, as Paul informs us, (Galatians 1:10,) no man who “seeks to please men” can be “the servant of Christ.”

Verse 30

Luke 6:30

. To every one that asketh of thee. The same words, as we shall presently see, are found in Matthew: for it may readily be inferred from the context, that Luke does not here speak of a request to obtain assistance, but of actions at law, which bad men raise for the purpose of carrying off the property of others. From him who takes away what are thine, ask them not again. If it is thought better to read the two clauses separately, I have no objection: and then it will be an exhortation to liberality in giving. As to the second clause, in which Christ forbids us to ask again those things which have been unjustly taken away, it is undoubtedly an exposition of the former doctrine, that we ought to bear patiently “ the spoiling of our goods.” But we must remember what I have already hinted, that we ought not to quibble about words, as if a good man were not permitted to recover what is his own, when God gives him the lawful means. We are only enjoined to exercise patience, that we may not be unduly distressed by the loss of our property, but calmly wait, till the Lord himself shall call the robbers to account.

Verse 35

Luke 6:35

. Lend, expecting nothing again. It is a mistake to confine this statement to usury, as if Christ only forbade his people to be usurers. The preceding part of the discourse shows clearly, that it has a wider reference. After having explained what wicked men are wont to do, — to love their friends, — to assist those from whom they expect some compensations, — to lend to persons like themselves, that they may afterwards receive the like from them, — Christ proceeds to show how much more he demands from his people, — to love their enemies, to show disinterested kindness, to lend without expecting a return. We now see, that the word nothing is improperly explained as referring to usury, or to any interest that is added to the principal: (418) whereas Christ only exhorts us to perform our duties freely, and tells us that mercenary acts are of no account in the sight of God. (419) Not that he absolutely condemns all acts of kindness which are done in the hope of a reward; but he shows that they are of no weight as a testimony of charity; because he alone is truly beneficent to his neighbors, who is led to assist them without any regard to his own advantage, but looks only to the necessities of each. Whether it is ever lawful for Christians to derive profit from lending money, I shall not argue at greater length under this passage, lest I should seem to raise the question unseasonably out of a false meaning which I have now refuted. Christ’s meaning, as I have already explained, is simply this: When believers lend, they ought to go beyond heathens; or, in other words, they ought to exercise pure liberality.

(418) “ De l’usure et accroissement qui vient outre le principal;” — “of usury and increase which comes beyond the principal.” On the lawfulnesss of lending money at interest, the most enlightened men, at the time when our author wrote, were strangley divded in sentiment. His own views were unfolded in a small work, which has been admired by competent judges for the purity of French style, and for enlarged views of Political Economy. After suffering not a little obloquy for his manner of applying the law of God to commercial questions, he has been vindicated by the unanimous opinion of posterity; and his performance, having served its purpose, has been quietly laid on the shelf. We allude to it only to account for the rapid and cursory manner in which he disposes here of a question, on which all who wish to know his opinions may satisfy themselves by perusing his own complete and elaborate statement of the argument. — Ed.

(419) “ Que les plaisirs lesquels les hommes se font les uns aux autres, sous esperance de recompense, ne viennent point en conte devant Dieu.” — “That the gratifications which men give to each other, in expectation of reward, come not into reckoning before God.”

Verse 37

Luke 6:37

. Forgive, and it shall be forgiven to you. Give, and it shall be given to you. This promise, which is added by Luke, means, that the Lord will cause him, who is indulgent, kind, and just to his brethren, to experience the same gentleness from others, and to be treated by them in a generous and friendly manner. Yet it frequently happens, that the children of God receive the very worst reward, and are oppressed by many unjust slanders; and that, to when they have injured no man’s reputation, and even spared the faults of brethren. But this is not inconsistent with what Christ says: for we know, that the promises which relate to the present life do not always hold, and are not without exceptions. Besides, though the Lord permits his people, when innocent, to be unjustly oppressed and almost overwhelmed, he fulfils what he says in another place, that “their uprightness shall break forth as the morning,” (464) (Isaiah 58:8.) In this way, his blessing always rises above all unjust slanders. He subjects believers to unjust reproaches, that he may humble them, and that he may at length maintain the goodness of their cause. It ought also to be taken into the account, that believers themselves, though they endeavor to act justly towards their brethren, are sometimes carried away by excessive severity against brethren, who were either innocent, or not so greatly to be blamed, and thus, by their own fault, provoke against themselves a similar judgment. If they do not receive g ood measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, though this is chargeable on the ingratitude of the world, yet they ought to acknowledge that it was partly deserved: for there is no man who is so kind and indulgent as he ought to be towards his brethren.

(464) In the French version our Author quotes a similar passage from the book of Psalms, (Psalms 37:6;) “and he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noon-day ” — Ed

Verse 39

Luke 6:39

. And he spake to them a parable. Luke relates this saying without mentioning any occurrence, but states generally, that Christ made use of this parable; as in recording many of Christ’s discourses he says nothing as to the occasion on which they were delivered. It is no doubt possible that Christ may have spoken this parable more than once; but, as no place more appropriate was to be found, I have not hesitated to insert here what Luke relates without fixing the time.

Verse 40

Luke 6:40

. The disciple is not above his master, but every one shall be conformed to his master Luke gives this sentence without any connection, as if it had been spoken abruptly in the midst of other discourses; but as Matthew explains very clearly, in this passage, to what it relates, I have chosen not to insert it in any other place. With respect to the translation, I have chosen neither to follow Erasmus nor the old translator, and for the following reason: — The participle κατηρτισμένος, signifies perfect, but signifies also fit and suitable Now, as Christ is speaking, not about perfection, but about resemblance, and must therefore mean, that nothing is more suitable for a disciple than to be formed after the example of his master, the latter meaning appeared to me to be more appropriate.

Verse 43

Luke 6:43

. For the tree is not good This statement, as related by Luke, appears to be a general instruction given by Christ, that by the fruits our opinion of every man ought to be formed, in the same manner as a tree is known by its fruit After having inserted the reproof to hypocrites, who “ perceive a straw in the eye of another, but do not see a beam in their own, ” (verses 41,42,) he immediately adds, For the tree is not good which beareth rotten fruit, nor is the tree rotten which beareth good fruit The illative particle γὰρ, for, appears to connect these two sentences. But as it is certain that Luke, in that sixth chapter, records various discourses of Christ, it is also possible that he may have briefly glanced at what is more fully explained by Matthew. I attach no great importance to the word for, which in other passages is often superfiuous, and appears obviously to be so from the concluding statement.

Verse 45

Luke 6:45

. A good man, out of the good treasure of his heart, bringeth forth good Such is the statement with which Luke concludes the discourse; and I have no doubt that he intended to describe, without a figure, the kind of judgment which Christ orders us to make from the fruits Believers ought to examine carefully what kind of doctrine is taught by those who profess to be the servants of God. “Titles (he says) are of little value, till the speaker give actual evidence that he is sent by God.” Yet I am far from saying, that this passage may not be applied to a general doctrine, And certainly the last clause, out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh, has a more extensive reference than to false prophets: for it is a common proverb. Is it objected, that the tongues of men lie, and that men of the worst hearts are often the best speakers? I reply: Christ merely points out here what is a very ordinary occurrence. For, though hypocrites express in words what is different from the feelings of their hearts, that is no reason why we may not justly and appropriately call the tongue the portrait of the mind.

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Bibliographical Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Luke 6". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cal/luke-6.html. 1840-57.