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Jesus Rebukes Legality -- Luke 6:1-11
“And it came to pass on the second sabbath after the first, that He went through the corn fields; and His disciples plucked the ears of corn, and did eat, rubbing them in their hands. And certain of the Pharisees said unto them, Why do ye that which is not lawful to do on the sabbath days? And Jesus answering them said, Have ye not read so much as this, what David did, when himself was an hungred, and they which were with him; how he went into the house of God, and did take and eat the show-bread, and gave also to them that were with him; which it is not lawful to eat but for the priests alone? And He said unto them, That the Son of Man is Lord also of the sabbath. And it came to pass also on another sabbath, that He entered into the synagogue and taught: and there was a man whose right hand was withered. And the scribes and Pharisees watched Him, whether He would heal on the sabbath day; that they might find an accusation against Him. But He knew their thoughts, and said to the man which had the withered hand, Rise up, and stand forth in the midst. And he arose and stood forth. Then said Jesus unto them, I will ask you one thing; Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it? And looking round about them all, He said unto the man, Stretch forth thy hand. And he did so: and his hand was restored whole as the other. And they were filled with madness; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus”- Luke 6:1-11.
We have really two incidents here which took place a week apart. Both have to do with the same general subject; that is, the legalistic attitude of certain of the leaders in Israel in regard to the sabbath, and the manifestations of our Lord’s grace. These men make a burden of the very thing that God has given them for the comfort and blessing of His people, while that which He commended as of more value than any ordinances was ignored completely. God gave the sabbath to Israel for blessing, and commanded that on that day they should not do any work. But one class of people flaunted the Word of the Lord and went to the fields and their business and used the sacred hours of the sabbath in order to enrich themselves. Then there were the rigid legalists who looked upon the sabbath as though it had more or less to do with the salvation of their souls. If they kept it they would be saved, and, if not, they would be lost, and so they added to the Word of the Lord restrictions without number until it was almost impossible for a man to keep in mind all these rules. It is almost amusing to read the Talmud and note these absurd regulations.
Our Lord disregarded these man-made rules. God made the sabbath to be a delight, a means of joy and gladness and help for His people, not linked with hard and fast rules difficult to observe, that they might obtain merit, but because He knew the need of the human body and mind for rest. Then, too, it was His joy to have His people gather together on that day and worship Him. We today are not under these ancient laws of the sabbath. We read in Colossians 2:16, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” We have the Lord’s Day instead.
The sabbath was a shadow of things to come. Man toiled for six days and rested on the seventh. Men toil on through life until they know Christ and enter into rest in Him. The sabbath is a type of Christ, and of the rest He gives.
New Testament believers are taught to observe the first day of the week out of love, recognizing the fact that God has honored it above every other day in bringing His Son back from the dead on the first day of the week. “This is the day that the Lord hath made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” People who spurn the privileges of the Lord’s Day, think nothing of buying and selling, whether necessary or not, and doing their own pleasure on that day, are wronging their own souls. Many professed Christians make it the one day of the week when they can enjoy a game of golf or go on an excursion, instead of valuing the opportunity to use the day to meet with fellow-believers for worship, prayer, and testimony.
Here we are told that our blessed Lord and His disciples were walking through the corn-fields in the countryside. It means wheat, not corn, as we know it. As they walked through the fields of wheat, His disciples plucked the ears and began to eat, rubbing the kernels out in their hands. According to the law of Moses, one might pluck the corn and eat as he went through the fields, but he was not to put the sickle in it. So the Lord and His disciples availed themselves of this privilege. They were rubbing out the kernels of wheat and eating them, but certain of the legalists, the scribes and the Pharisees, who were watching them, said to the Lord, “Why do ye that which is not lawful to do on the sabbath day?” Had the Word of God prohibited it? Why did they use this term, “not lawful”? This was according to tradition. Our Lord answered them by referring to an incident that had occurred many years before. David was fleeing from Saul to escape from his jealous rage. David and they which were with him became an hungred and went to the house of God and asked the priest if he had any bread and he replied that there was none except the showbread. David asked for some of that in order to satisfy his hungry men. The priest complied, and David and his men ate of that bread. Jesus said to them, “Have ye not read so much as this, what David did, when himself was an hungred, and they which were with him; how he went into the house of God, and did take and eat the showbread, and gave also to them that were with him; which it is not lawful to eat but for the priests alone?” The point the Lord Jesus was emphasizing is this that man is more important in the eyes of God than any ritual observance. And yet how slow we are to realize this! David and his men were suffering, and Jesus commends the high priest for giving them the showbread. Our God is a lover of men. and He has given to His people ordinances that they might be used as a blessing, and not made into a burden. “And He said unto them, That the Son of Man is Lord also of the sabbath.” In other words, He was the One who had given the sabbath. These people were finding fault with Him, the Son of Man, the Lord of the sabbath. Here was God manifest in the flesh standing among them, yet they knew Him not.
The second incident was of similar character. “And it came to pass also on another sabbath, that He entered into the synagogue and taught: and there was a man whose right hand was withered.” The one incident occurred outside in the wheat-field and this one in the synagogue. He saw a man with a withered right hand. Jesus always sees the one who is in need. He never overlooks one in distress, always sympathizes with any one who is in trouble. The Sadducees and Pharisees saw this man also. I can imagine they said among themselves, “This is the sabbath day, and if He dares to heal that man on the sabbath we can brand Him as a sabbath-breaker.” You know when people get taken up with some little religious niceties they can be as cruel as savages. These legalists would rather have left this man in his wretched condition than have him healed on the sabbath. So they watched to see what Jesus would do. He knew their thoughts, of course He did, and that speaks of His Deity. He read their inmost thoughts. He knew all that was running through their minds. And so He turned to the man saying, “Rise up, and stand forth in the midst.” I think I can see that poor fellow standing there with such an expectant expression on his face! Is Jesus going to do something for him? The Pharisees and scribes and priests are all watching Him, and Jesus turns to them, and says, “I will ask you one thing: Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? To save life, or destroy it?” The legalists did not dare to reply. They stood there with downcast but angry eyes, and then the Lord Jesus said to the man, “Stretch forth thy hand. And he did so: and his hand was restored whole as the other.” In a moment new life and strength came into the hand. One would have thought that the most hard-hearted man there would have shouted praise to God, but instead these zealots were filled with anger. They wanted to get rid of Him, because He had broken their regulations and did not fit in with their legal standards. They did not realize that He was manifesting the love and graciousness of God. So they would have destroyed Him, but nobody could kill Him till the time came for Him to lay down His life on the cross.
Instead of arguing with these men, He left them and went out in the mountain to talk with God, His Father, to commune with Him whose will He had come to do.
Jesus Commissions The Twelve -- Luke 6:12-16
“And it came to pass in those days that He went into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, He called unto Him His disciples: and of them He chose twelve, whom also He named apostles; Simon, (whom He also named Peter) and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor”- Luke 6:12-16.
We read frequently in this Gospel of the times that our Lord spent in prayer. This is in keeping with its special character as portraying the perfect Manhood of Him who was also God the Son. As Man, He felt not only the need of, but the desire for these seasons of communion with His Father. On this occasion, before choosing the twelve who were to represent Him as His apostles, He spent the entire night on a mountainside, alone with God the Father.
It was not as though He were presenting His own needs to God. It was rather that He was communing with the Father concerning these men, whom He was about to appoint to their high offices, and praying for divine blessing upon them. He ever lived in obedience to the Father’s will, and did nothing except as directed of Him.
If He, the Sinless One, the Divine Man, recognized the place and value of prayer in this way, how much more should we, who are so conscious of our frailty and sinfulness, and so ignorant of what is best for us, spend much time in prayer, seeking wisdom for the path and grace to help in every hour of need. Prayer is not just asking of God. It is talking to God. It involves worship, thanksgiving and communion, as well as supplication and intercession.
On the morrow, following the night of prayer, Jesus called twelve men from the larger group that followed Him, whom He set apart in a special way that they might be with Him and be trained to go forth as His representatives. To them He gave the name of “apostles.” An apostle is a sent one; literally, a missionary. But the apostleship of the twelve involved more than this. They were specially commissioned to represent Christ as His ambassadors, first to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, later to the great Gentile world. Judas, we know, failed in this, but Matthias was chosen to take over his office. Paul was an apostle of a new order, with a special commission for the present age only.
The twelve were separated from temporal employment, and as they went about with their Master they learned to rely on God for sustenance and to share the hardships into which Jesus had entered voluntarily, as a Servant of God and man. Their training was preparatory to the greater mission upon which they were to enter after the death and resurrection of their Lord.
Let me stress one thing in connection with them that is often overlooked. They were a band of comparatively young men. John, we are told by one of the early Church Fathers, was an adolescent when called of Jesus to follow Him. The others, too, were either very young or just in the prime of life. The artists generally represent most of them as elderly men from the beginning of their association with Jesus. But the fact that, except as their lives were cut short by martyrdom, they continued as witnesses for Christ for many years after the new dispensation began, is proof that they were far from being advanced in age when they first gathered about the Saviour. This is suggestive: Youth is the time to yield oneself to Christ for life-service. Too many wait until the flower of life is past before giving heed to the divine call and accepting the cross, with all that it implies. The earlier one is saved and surrendered to the Lord, the more he may be permitted to accomplish for God. Consider the many who heard and heeded the call, while young, to follow Jesus. Think of the young Martin Luther, the college students, John and Charles Wesley, George Whitefield and their associates, the youthful D. L. Moody, the sixteen-year-old Chas. H. Spurgeon, the earnest lad, Wm. Booth, and a host of others who might be named, all illustrating the old couplet which declares that,
“Youth is the time to serve the Lord,
The time to assure the great reward.”
Let us examine this list of young men chosen to be Christ’s apostles. Every name is interesting and suggestive as we recall what Scripture tells us concerning its bearer.
First, we have impetuous, but devoted Simon the fisherman, whom Jesus named Peter: the rock-like man, a stone to be builded upon Christ, the great foundation Rock on whom the whole Church was to rest. He was a man of contradictions, which is to say, that like all true believers, he had two natures. Sometimes we see the flesh in activity, and more often, the spirit. Though he denied his Lord on the night of the betrayal and mock trial before Caiaphas, he became valiant for the truth after the Pentecostal enduement, and eventually, in old age, about A. D. 69 or 70, sealed his testimony by a martyr’s death.
Andrew, Peter’s brother, excelled as a personal worker. It was he who led Peter first to Christ. We do not get much information about his later ministry in Scripture, but wherever he is mentioned he is seen as a helpful man, serving in a humble capacity. According to early Church records, he too was martyred, nailed on a cross.
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, like the two mentioned above, were fishermen. Jesus designated them “Boanerges,” that is, Sons of Thunder. This suggests that they were stormy, energetic young men, very different, so far as John is concerned, to the almost effeminate character generally given him by the artists. James was the first of the twelve to be put to death for the gospel’s sake, “slain with the sword” by Herod’s order. John lived to be over ninety years of age, and though suffering much for Christ, died a natural death at Ephesus.
Philip and Bartholomew (also called Nathaniel) are linked together. They were friends before they knew the Lord and closer comrades afterwards.
Matthew was, as we have seen, a tax-collector under the Roman Government, with his office in Capernaum. He there left all to follow Christ, and probably devoted his wealth to the cause in which he was enlisted.
Because of his attitude following the resurrection, we often call Thomas, the Doubter. But he was more than that. He came to conclusions slowly, but he was faithful and devoted and was ready to go to Judaea with Jesus and die with Him if necessary. He seems to have carried the gospel to India. To this day, there is a church of many members in that land, who call themselves Christians of Saint (or, holy) Thomas.
Of James, the son of Alpheus, we do not know very much. He and his brother Judas (not Iscariot) were cousins of Jesus after the flesh. Judas may be the author of the Epistle that we know as Jude, but the James who wrote the Epistle bearing his name seems to have been a brother of Jesus, an overseer of the church in Jerusalem. Elsewhere this Judas is called Thaddeus.
Simon Zelotes, or the Canaanite, was formerly a member of a secret order that had as its object the overthrow of the Roman Government and the deliverance of the Jews from that authority. He turned from this to Christ as the true Deliverer of Israel.
To all eternity, the last of the group will be known as “Judas the traitor.” Of him our Lord declared, “Good were it for that man if he had never been born!” He was apparently the only Judean of the company, a man of Kerioth, as Iscariot means. He was probably the most cultured of the twelve and their trusted treasurer, but he proved recreant to this responsibility and went down to eternal infamy as the one who fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah, selling the Shepherd of Israel for thirty pieces of silver.
The question is often raised as to why Jesus chose Judas and what his actual relation to Him was. We need to remember that our Lord takes men on their profession of faith in and loyalty to Himself, and then gives them the opportunity to demonstrate the true character of that profession. Judas was, like many in Israel, looking for the Kingdom to be set up in power, and he was possibly sincere in his attachment to Jesus as the Man of the hour. But though a trusted follower, appointed to be the treasurer of the little group of disciples, he was never intrinsically honest (John 12:6; John 13:29) and at heart was described by Jesus at last as a devil (John 6:70). Three years of association with Christ failed to lead to a true appreciation of His Person and to bring him to heart-allegiance to Him as his Lord. It is a solemn warning of the danger of confounding mere profession with real possession of salvation.
As we consider these men, what lessons they bring before us. May it be ours to emulate their virtues and to avoid their faults!
Christ's Ethical Teaching -- Luke 6:17-26
“And He came down with them, and stood in the plain, and the company of His disciples, and a great multitude of people out of all Judaea and Jerusalem, and from the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon, which came to hear Him, and to be healed of their diseases; and they that were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed. And the whole multitude sought to touch Him: for there went virtue out of Him, and healed them all. And He lifted up His eyes on His disciples and said, Blessed be ye poor: for your’s is the kingdom of God. Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh. Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets. But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep. Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets”- Luke 6:17-26.
In considering the Gospel of Luke we have come now to what answers to the similar sermon on the mount, which is given more thoroughly in the Gospel of Matthew. Luke gives us a brief account, whereas in Matthew’s Gospel there are three chapters of the sermon on the mount.
All down through the centuries right-minded people have recognized the fine moral tone and deep spirituality of the sermon on the mount. Generally speaking, that sermon has given us the highest ethical teaching in the world. It is the heart of Christ’s instruction. However, when you examine it carefully, you will find that it is not the gospel at all, for the gospel is the declaration of God concerning His blessed Son. In the sermon on the mount, we do not have any reference made to the work of our Lord Jesus Christ, but it is a message to the disciples from Christ as to how they who profess to know Him should behave. It gives us the principles that will ever characterize His kingdom.
That kingdom is to be set up here eventually. The sermon on the mount sets forth the principles that should control the disciples during the time of His absence, while still rejected by the world. It would be foolish to say that it only applies to the millennium, because it predicates conditions which will not prevail then. There will be no such circumstances in the millennium, as people being called upon to suffer for righteousness’ sake. Here, however, the Lord Jesus speaks of blessings which belong to them in a special way. In that day of triumph Christ’s authority will be recognized everywhere. This sermon gives the principles that should actuate and motivate the disciples while they are waiting for their Master to return in power and glory.
There are many who say that it does not apply at all to us today. But we need to realize that everything that is spiritual in any age applies to the people of God in this dispensation as well as in any other period. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable” for our guidance as we go through this godless world, while waiting for our Lord’s return. Therefore, I cannot ignore any part of the Scripture if I want to be a well-furnished man of God today, living to His glory. What about the law? Do we not recognize the fact that believers are delivered from the law and are under grace? Yes, the curse of the law is what we have been freed from. But the Epistle to the Romans, which tells us that the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made us free from the law of sin and death, also declares that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Everything of a righteous character which the law requires of man will be fulfilled in the lives of godly men and women today.
It is well to remember, as one has said, that, “Some things are right because they are commanded; other things are commanded because they are right.” The law said, “Thou shalt not steal.” But it is always wrong to steal. It was just as wrong to steal in the days from Adam to Noah and from Noah to Moses, as after the law was given. Everything that was morally right in any age applies to us today. Therefore, when it comes to the ethical and spiritual instruction given in the sermon on the mount, we are not to ignore or seek to set it aside.
Now a word or two as to the circumstances under which this sermon was preached. In Matthew 5:0, we read that Jesus went up into a mountain and sat down. But Luke tells us that “He came down with them and stood in the plain, and the company of His disciples, and a great multitude of people out of all Judaea and Jerusalem, and from the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon, which came to hear Him, and to be healed of their diseases.” While standing in the plain, He gives this sermon on the mount. There have been some who have been quick to say that there is a discrepancy here. Matthew says “mountain” and Luke says “plain.” A few years ago it was my privilege to stand with some members of my family at the foot of that mountain, near Capernaum. You can see a road ascending until it comes to a broad tableland and then goes up higher and higher until it reaches the peak. Our Lord went up first “into the mountain,” that is, to the very top. Then in the morning He came down to the plain. “And it came to pass in those days that He went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, He called unto Him His disciples; and of them He chose twelve, whom also He named apostles; and He came down with them and stood in the plain…” And turning to His disciples, while the multitude listened, He spoke to them. There is no contradiction here. The only trouble is that if one does not understand the circumstances he jumps at conclusions. One has well said that the more he studied the Word of God the more he came to the conclusion that no one knows enough to charge that Word with inconsistencies. This is just one such instance.
Now the Lord, having gathered His own about Him, “lifted up his eyes on His disciples and said, Blessed be ye poor: for your’s is the kingdom of God.” This is not mere temporal poverty. He is not saying that men should just be content to be poor, but He is comforting those who are poor by telling them that though they may be poor in this world, they may be rich in faith. It is a remarkable fact that in some way or other the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ are almost always poor. Our Lord said, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head.” The followers of the Lord Jesus, in a large measure, have been among the poor and lowly, but oh, how much the grace and love of Christ has meant to them. How many a lowly and humble home has been brightened by the fellowship of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is not saying a word against rising up from poverty, but is encouraging those who are poor in purse and poor in spirit by assuring them of part in the kingdom of God. It is in Matthew’s account that we find Jesus emphasizes, not simple poverty as to material means, but says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” What does this mean? It is to be without spiritual assets. It is to acknowledge that in yourself you have absolutely nothing to satisfy God, but when you trust His grace then you can say that yours is the kingdom of God.
“Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled.” Matthew says, “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness.” If you feel a great yearning in your soul for something that you have not found in this world, you may take heart and turn to Him who supplies the living bread, which satisfies the hunger of all who put their trust in Him. “Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh.” And oh, how many of God’s people have had to go through trial and distress! Savonarola said, “A Christian’s life consists in trial and distress, doing good and suffering evil.” As you try to follow your Lord in a world like this, many a tear will roll down your face. Your Saviour was a Man of tears, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, but “for the joy that was set before Him He endured the cross, despising the shame, and is now set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” All the suffering the people of God will ever know is right here on earth, for they will have joy forever with Him in the world beyond. But those who seek to find their joy here without Christ will have sorrow and grief in the world beyond.
Then Jesus gives a word to those who are suffering for His name’s sake: “Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake.” You would not like to give up that beatitude, would you, Christians? You would not want to lose the good of it. Thank God, it is always true until Jesus establishes His kingdom and authority over all the world.
“Life with trials hard may press me,
Heaven will give me sweeter rest.”
This is the only world in which we can have that privilege of suffering for His name’s sake. Let our hearts cry out, “Beautiful cross, wonderful cross! I will embrace it.” Jesus said that “whosoever cometh after Me, let him take up his cross and follow Me.”
And now we have the four woes: “Woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.” Even as, on another occasion, the Lord speaks of the once-rich man, suffering in Hades, who had received his good things in this life and now his day was past. When death comes, such are poorer than the poorest.
“Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger.” Those who gorge themselves with present worldly enjoyments, ignoring the more important spiritual realities, will find themselves left in a state of bitter disappointment and unsatisfied yearning when life’s short day is ended.
“Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep.” To live for pleasure and seek after folly and carnal mirth in a scene where there is so much reason to be serious and sober-minded, means to face an eternity of tears and mournings as one realizes the sadness of wasted talents and opportunities.
“Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.” To be highly esteemed by worldlings indicates that one is just part of the world, and the world loves its own; but Jesus said that if we follow Him we need not wonder that the world will hate us, for they hated Him before they hated us. It is no evidence that a man is going on with God because he has the good-will of unspiritual and Christless people. The world delights in those of its own kind. We who are Christians have been called out from this world to the One whom they reject. God give us grace to enter more and more into fellowship with our blessed Lord, who is still in the outside place!
The Book Of The Golden Rule -- Luke 6:27-38
“But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you. Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee: and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for He is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again”- Luke 6:27-38.
Do not these words seem rather strange to come to us in a day like this when so-called civilized nations are in sanguinary warfare and death prevails almost everywhere?1 Of course, we have to remember that our Lord Jesus Christ was speaking to His own disciples. We do not have here, and we might as well frankly face it, instruction for the nations of the world as to how they are to carry on their affairs of government. We find if we go through the Book that, when nations forget God, He uses other nations to punish them. The principle of government runs all through the Bible and it does not conflict with the plan of grace.
1 Written during the 2nd World-War.
We have noticed already that the Sermon on the Mount is not the gospel. It gives us the principles of the kingdom of God, principles which should govern the lives of God’s children at all times. There are some who would ignore what we have here. They insist that it was given to the disciples in Israel and it will only come into effect again just before the coming of Christ at the Second Advent. That is sophistical reasoning. In view of the fact that we are told that the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit, how can we think for a moment that the principles laid down here for the disciples have no application for us? Christ is still the absent One, and we are here where we are bound to be misunderstood and will have to suffer if we bear His name. That is just what our blessed Lord emphasized in His address. “But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you.” Now there is a direct challenge to everyone as individuals. I put the question to you as I put it to my own heart. Do we professed Christians love our enemies? That is the command of the Lord Jesus Christ. If we love our enemies, we will not be glad when they suffer, and certainly we will endeavor to make things no worse for them. He is speaking here of disciples, not of national affairs. If there were Christian nations they would be responsible to live according to such principles. But there are no nations which honor the Lord Jesus Christ completely and yield to His commands. The Christian sailor or soldier needs not to hate his enemy though he serves his country in battle.
Chiang Kai-Shek has sought to maintain an attitude of forbearance and love even toward those who have brought travail to his nation. A missionary tells us how his heart was stirred as that great Chinese leader prayed, “O God, keep me from ever hating the Japanese!” It took grace to pray like that. How often we have heard of Christian soldiers with no hatred in their hearts against their enemies. Yet how often we find even professing Christians with a spirit of malice and hatred toward each other. Nothing is such a hindrance to the work of the Lord as this. We need to remember that Christ has said: “With what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again.” “But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you.” To obey these precepts is to manifest the spirit of Christ. This is love in activity. It was fully displayed in our blessed Lord, who laid down His life for those who were His enemies and who hated Him without cause. When we are born from above (John 3:3), we receive the nature which is divine, and so are enabled in our measure to walk in love toward all men, no matter how injurious and hateful their behavior toward us may be.
Then our Lord continues: “Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.” This is faith’s resource. None are so vicious or depraved but what there is a possibility that they may be reached and softened by means of the throne of God. We touch that throne by prayer. Blessing those who curse us, we intercede with God on their behalf. Again our Lord sets us the example, He who prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
When somebody has been very unkind, instead of meeting him in the same way, get down on your knees and plead for his blessing, and when the Spirit of God speaks to him, his attitude will change. Try it and see. Go alone into the presence of God and ask Him to speak to those hearts in divine love. Pray for those against whom you have been cherishing ill feelings. “And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also.” This is one of the verses that I find a great many of my brethren delight to pass on to the remnant of Israel! It may prove a little inconvenient now, but the Lord meant us to take His words literally. He gave to His disciples an example. He bore reproach uncomplainingly and committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously. Men maltreated Him most cruelly. They dragged Him out to Calvary and nailed Him to the cross. He might have called on God to visit judgment upon them, but He cried out, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” If someone smites us on one cheek, are we willing to endure it and even to face further ill-treatment for Him? “And him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also.” We need not try to press this too literally. Our Lord Himself, when smitten on the one cheek, is not said to have challenged His persecutor to smite the other. It is rather the spirit of retaliation which is here rebuked. The disciple of the Lord Jesus is to be content to suffer wrongfully. Even if sued at the law, he is to be ready to give more than can be legally demanded. It is a standard too high for the unregenerate man, and seldom reached by those who profess to be followers of Christ.
That is manifest grace and it is supplied by Christ. “Give to every man that asketh of thee: and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.” The Christian is to be constantly on the giving side and he does not have to be too particular to see that men deserve everything that they ask from Him. Do you deserve everything that God gives you? Have we not all been ungrateful for what He has given? This does not mean that we can always give everything-that others ask for, but the point is that we are to have the attitude of giving, to be ready to assist and help rather than to oppose.
Observe it is not said that we are to give what every man asks. To do so would often mean to work injustice on others, as for the head of a family to give to beggars what his own household, for whom he is responsible to care (1 Timothy 5:8), might sorely need. There are times when it is better to give faithful advice than to bestow alms. But if one’s goods are taken by force, we can be content to let them go when assured we possess the true riches that shall never pass away.
Now comes the golden rule-“And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.” It has often been said that the Lord Jesus Christ was not original in giving this rule, that it is found in other and older literature of the world. The great Chinese teacher, Confucius (King Futsze), said, “What you would not have others do to you, do not you to them.” That is negative. Our Lord Jesus makes it positive. “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.” Here is benevolence in activity, here is goodness positive, not negative, even looking for an opportunity to emphasize the love and kindness of God to men and women in need all about one, this high standard is only found here in the Book of God.
You can search the literature of the world before Christ came, and you will not find it anywhere. This golden rule was first proclaimed by the blessed Son of God. The Bible is the Book of the golden rule.
Do not make a mistake and think this is the way of salvation. My dear friends, if you had to wait until you obeyed the golden rule, you would never become a Christian. You need to acknowledge that you have sinned against God, and when you trust Christ and accept Him as your Saviour, you become a Christian. Then you are to own Him as your Lord. He will enable you to live out the golden rule. “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.”
In the next part of our passage, the Lord Jesus shows how men profess to be His disciples and yet rise no higher than the world in practical behavior. “For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.” If you only love them that love you what credit is that to you? “And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? For sinners also do even the same.” “And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.” The Lord ridicules those who pretend to be the children of God when they have not reached any higher, so far as practical behavior goes, than those who make no profession at all. We are not to try to overcome evil with evil; but overcome evil with good. Then you are manifesting the spirit of Christ. “But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for He is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.” This is one of the hardest lessons we have to learn. But by obedience to these words, we will be emphasizing our relationship to God our Father, for He is kind to the unthankful and to the evil. “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.”
Then our Lord says something which many of us have never considered. We know that it is in the Bible and yet it has so little influence on our lives: “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.” I wonder who of us can take a test like that and say, “Not guilty!” How quick we are to judge others-to judge people’s motives, to imply evil where it may not exist. How often are judgments unkind and untrue! “Judge not,” our Lord Jesus said, and we pay so little attention to it. “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.” The poet says, “To err is human, to forgive, divine.” Forgive and you shall be forgiven. “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” God is ever a Giver and we are called to be imitators of Him. Let us not be self-centered, always looking for recognition. True joy is found in ministering to others. “It is better,” said Jesus, “to give than to receive.”
If we manifest the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, we shall find that even unsaved and godless men will begin to recognize the fact that we really belong to Christ. It is amazing how grace can overcome evil and sin. You cannot lose if you spend your life giving, but if you spend it by taking in and taking in, you will lose out completely. How many folks are like the Dead Sea. For many centuries the River Jordan has been pouring fresh water down to the Dead Sea, and yet it remains as it has been for centuries. There is no outlet, it has been “taking in” all the time. If you want to know the secret of a happy life, you will find it in obeying the Lord’s word, “Give, and it shall be given unto you.”
In God’s government, He will see to it that we are treated at last as we treat others. The generous heart will receive generously in return. No one ever loses by loving, nor becomes poor by giving, for he has the blessing of those needier than himself.
Christ’s instruction was given for the guidance of His disciples. It is a mistake to suppose that in the teaching of our Lord we have a system of ethics designed to curb the evil propensities of natural men and so raise them to a higher spiritual plane. Nothing will do this but the new birth. When men are born of God, they find in the instruction of Jesus, the principles that guide in living the new life. But we need to remember there must be a life by which we live before we can live the life.
Secure And Insecure Foundations -- Luke 6:39-49
“And He spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? Shall they not both fall into the ditch? The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye. For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh. And why call ye Me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? Whosoever cometh to Me, and heareth My sayings, and doeth them, I will show you to whom he is like: he is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it; for it was founded upon a rock. But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great”- Luke 6:39-49.
In accordance with our Lord’s customary method of instruction, He reverts to parabolic teaching in closing this great discourse. How vivid is the picture brought before our eyes as we hear him say, “Can the blind lead the blind? Shall they not both fall into the ditch?” Could one more aptly set forth the sad results of following unenlightened human teachers instead of being guided by the plain Word of the Lord? It is noticeable that in the First Epistle to Timothy, the sixth chapter, the apostle Paul stresses the importance of taking heed to the words of our Lord Jesus Christ which set forth the teaching that is according to godliness. These words are found in the four Gospels, where we hear the Lord Himself speaking to His disciples. Yet frequently we are told that this instruction is no longer binding upon Christians today, since the fuller revelation of the mystery of the One Body has come m. The sad results of accepting such views are soon seen. Those who set them forth prove to be in very truth blind leaders, and those who accept them blind disciples, and both alike stumble and fall into the ditch of Antinomianism on the one hand or of hard legality on the other. It is well to weigh carefully these words of the apostle, which I quote in full:
“If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. But godliness with contentment is great gain.”
The Master, our blessed Lord, has laid down principles upon which His disciples should order their lives. If we would attain to spiritual perfection we cannot afford to ignore what He has thus set before us. Luke 6:41-42 are almost humorous in the way they ridicule the folly of one attempting to set his brother right, who is himself far from walking in paths of rectitude. “Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” In the Koine, as set forth in the recently discovered records in Egypt, this very word is used by a young man who writes to his mother, speaking of the suffering he has endured because of a beam having gotten under his thumb-nail. It is clear that by beam he really means a splinter, but this splinter seemed so large that he used the term beam to describe it. Undoubtedly, this is what our Lord has in mind. Who, with a splinter in his own eye, can properly discern the condition of a brother’s eye? If I am under the power of sin myself I am in no condition to reprove another. What I need to do is to get right myself and then I can help an erring brother. To take the other attitude is to brand oneself a hypocrite-professing one thing and living another. And so the Lord insists that the beam be cast out first from one’s own eye, and then we shall be able to see clearly to take the mote out of our brother’s eye.
In many places in Scripture, man is pictured as a tree. In the Psalms, the righteous is seen as a palmtree or an olive, beautiful and verdant; whereas the wicked are set forth under the picture of an evil tree, eventually to be cast into the fire. The Lord uses the same figures in the next two verses: a good tree brings forth good fruit; a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit. A man is not a sinner because he sins. He sins because he is a sinner. When one is born of God sin becomes hateful to him and he seeks to order his life in righteousness. So he brings forth fruit unto God. In this way every tree is known by its own fruit. Men do not expect to gather figs from thorn-trees, nor grapes from bramble-bushes. Each bears according to its kind. The man who is yielded to the Lord and seeks to walk in accordance with His Word will bring forth out of the good treasure of his heart that which is good, to the glory of God and the blessing of mankind; while a man inherently evil, who has never been regenerated, will, out of the evil treasure of his heart, bring forth that which is evil. It is the heart that makes the man. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” To profess allegiance to Christ and to call Him Lord while walking in disobedience to His Word, is both folly and hypocrisy. We sing sometimes, and rightly:
“If He is not Lord of all,
Then He is not Lord at all.”
How we need to remember this! His Word should dominate and control in every aspect of our lives. We are all familiar with the parable with which our Lord closes this discourse. He likens the man who hears His Word and obeys it to one who undertook to build a house, and in order that it might be secure, he digged deep and laid the foundation on a rock. Christ Himself is that Rock. It is only as we build on Him that we are secure. Graphically, the Lord pictures the house built on such a foundation as weathering the most violent storm. He says that when the flood arose, the storm beat violently on that house and could not shake it because it was founded on a rock. So it will be with everyone who has trusted Christ as Saviour, and then seeks to walk in obedience to His revealed will.
The disobedient, self-centered man, who hears the Word of Christ, but does not yield his heart to the Saviour, does not trust and obey Him, is likened to a man who, without laying any foundation, built his house upon the earth. When the storm arose and the stream beat violently upon it, it fell, and the ruin of that house was great because it had no secure foundation. The parable explains itself. It needs no illumination of the Spirit of God to make the meaning clear. All that is required is an active conscience and a desire to be right with God. May this be true of all to whom this message comes.
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Luke 6". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13