THE PEOPLE WARNED AGAINST FALSE LEADERS
At a time when the crowd was extremely large, the Lord addressed His disciples "first of all," warning them to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. We have seen that their meticulous formality was only a coverup of inward evil. Why? Because their object was to impress the crowd. How great a danger this is even for true disciples! We like the recognition of others and forget to seek only the approval of God. Let us not be influenced by numbers; but remember continually that God searches the motives of our hearts. All that is covered now will eventually be revealed, the Lord said (v.2), and what is hidden now will yet be known. Let us then keep always in view the day of manifestation, when Christ will be manifested and we also fully manifested before Him. Even what we say will be manifested. Sometimes people have spoken carelessly, not realizing a tape recorder was operating, and they have had to later face the embarrassing words they had spoken. How much more solemn when all shall give account to God for every idle word! Let us remember these things were spoken to disciples. Closely linked with this warning is the fear of man, which is another form of opposition to the grace of God. It is often because of fear that we act like hypocrites. but the limit of man's persecution is the killing of the body. Believers have no right reason to fear men. God, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell. That power involves the raising of the unbeliever's body and the judgment of the Great White Throne which results in the torment of the lake of fire. It is God who is really to be feared (v.5). Those who persecute others may think little of this, but how dreadful to think of God mocking when their fear comes (Proverbs 1:24-31)!
The believer is expected to maintain firm confidence in God, combined with wholesome fear, for this God of great glory numbers the very hairs of our head (v.7). Neither does He forget even the sparrow which has so little value to us. Therefore, He will certainly not forget His own people whose value is greater than many sparrows. Believers have therefore no cause of fear. He encouraged them to confess Him before others, saying that He, the Son of Man, will confess before the angels of God. those who confess Him before men. The term "Son of Man" involves His relationship with all mankind: He is in control over all of them. Blessed incentive for our courage of faith! On the other hand, denial of Him will bring denial of us before the angels. What a test of whether our motives are really for His glory! In confessing Him we make it clear that we are fully on His side.
This leads to another form of opposition to the grace of God, that is, the hatred of Christ by man. The Lord faced this squarely, and all true disciples will find it is true. But we still have no reason to fear, for the Lord is in control. The Son of Man would be spoken against (v.10), for man in the flesh is at enmity against Him. Yet with many who opposed Him there was still definite possibility of conversion and forgiveness. Let us remember this and pray for the conversion of those who act as enemies against us. But one who blasphemed against the Holy Spirit would never be forgiven. Mark 3:28-30 explains this clearly. The scribes had accused the Lord Jesus of casting out demons by satanic power (of which Luke 11:15 also speaks). One who openly and intentionally takes such a stand of callous hatred is blaspheming the Spirit -of God by whom Christ was actually casting out demons. This malicious evil, in the face of every witness to the contrary, would never be forgiven. Such people seal their own doom.
Those who hated Christ would hate believers too. But if believers were arrested to face the Jewish council or magistrates, they were told not to predetermine how they were to answer charges against them, or what they should say. The same Spirit of God who energized Christ would energize them and guide them in their words. For the grace of God is greater than the strongest opposition of hatred.
WARNING AS TO COVETOUSNESS
We next meet with another form of opposition to the grace of the Lord Jesus -- the greed of man. This new opposition was occasioned by a man urging the Lord to intercede his man's brother that he might share an inheritance with him. Whether his brother had gotten it honestly or not we do not know, but this has nothing to do with the involvement of the Lord Jesus in the matter. He was not here as a judge or a dispenser of fair play among men. He was here to declare the truth of God and to save people from their sins.
The Lord addressed the whole company, which would include His disciples, telling them to pay serious attention to be watchful against covetousness (v.15), for true life is not to be measured by the amount a man possesses. Many are deceived by this, with tragic results; and though such results may not be reaped during one's lifetime, the tragedy will be eternal if one does not turn to the Lord.
The parable the Lord presents in verses 16-20 is surely applicable to a great number of similar cases in our day. A rich man prospered greatly, with practically everything he touched turning to wealth. But rather than asking the Lord what to do with his great possessions, he consulted with himself, and received only a selfish answer. He decided to enlarge his storage facilities so he would have more than sufficient for many years to come. For all those many years he anticipated indulging in every pleasure he desired.
But suddenly, shockingly, his elaborate plans were interrupted the same night. God spoke and called the poor man (no longer rich) a fool, for that night his soul would be required. The unwelcome intrusion of death, for which he was not prepared, would divest him immediately of all his possessions. Whose then would they be? To whom would he be willing to relinquish them? Solemn question for a selfish man! Greed defeats its own ends, for in striving to gain we lose what we strive for. The man had concentrated on treasure for himself, with no conscience toward God, no concern for treasure in heaven. But one who leaves God out of his plans is a fool indeed. The grace of God had no attraction for him, and without this grace he was left destitute for all eternity!
THE DISEASE OF ANXIETY
One may not be so greedy as to want to selfishly amass great riches, and yet may be a victim of worry and anxiety. This too is in reality opposition to the grace of God, yet even a believer often succumbs to it, for it is His disciples to whom the Lord spoke in verse 22. Parents must be concerned as to the needs of their family, and sometimes the future seems extremely bleak due to health problems, lack of employment, money shortage, lack of education etc., but the Lord encourages implicit faith rather than anxious worry. He cannot fail, though needs press heavily. The question is simply, Is the grace of God sufficient for the child of God? The Lord can be depended on to supply His saints with every necessity of life. For the life is more than the things that we think necessary to support it, and God is concerned for every aspect of life. Certainly we should work to support ourselves and our families (2 Thessalonians 3:10), but worrying is not working.
Even the ravens, unclean birds, totally unadapted to work to store up for the future, are yet fed by God. They have no worry about providing for the future, but find provision as the need arises. It is God who provides for them. It is a pointed object lesson for us, that we should have likewise no anxiety, but simple, unfeigned faith in Him who cares for us with perfect love.
The Lord asked if we can add a cubit (18 inches) to our physical height by worrying. If our anxious thoughts cannot change even the small matters, what is the sense of anxiety in reference to anything? Worry only distresses us and often others too. It can change nothing. Why not then be calm and at peace in trusting the Lord? He has certainly always proven faithful.
As to clothing, the Lord used the example of the lilies, created without ability to work, yet clothed in beauty such as even Solomon with all his wealth was not able to equal. Since God so lavishly gives such beauty to grass, though it exists so briefly, how much more can He be depended on to clothe those whom He has given His Son to redeem!
As to our necessary food and drink for even the immediate future, there is no reason to be in anxious suspense, though we may not see where the provision may come from. In fact, whether our need is met or not, the anxiety will be of no help, though worry is characteristic of the world. Let us remember constantly that our Father knows we have need of all these things if they are necessities, and therefore calmly trust Him and depend on His grace.
More than this, if we seek first the kingdom of God (v.31), that is, the place of honest subjection to His authority, then He will take care of all the details of our needs. In being subject to His authority, we shall have utmost confidence such as will encourage the self-discipline that delights to obey Him. Certainly if we do delight to obey Him we shall not be lazy and forget our responsibility to work in subjection to Him, but we shall trust Him rather than worry.
How few will there be who respond to this call for implicit faith! He calls them a "little flock," so helpless if left to themselves in a desolate land, and amid enemies. He encourages them, "Do not fear," for His own hand was with them, and the kingdom is in true reality theirs, given them by the Father's good pleasure.
The kingdom was not yet publicly manifested, but its inner reality was such as to enable its subjects to sell their property and give alms, for their time on earth was realized as brief, and the exercise of faith was to look forward to a treasure in the heavens. Therefore the disciples were not to hold on to things here, where all could easily be taken away anyway, whether by robbery or by aging and corruption, and for those Jews all was taken by the Romans 40 years later. The same principle holds today: are we using what the Lord has given us for Him or simply to fulfill our greed for the latest fashion, a fancier home, the latest car, etc.?
The heart will be where our treasure -- what we count as valuable -- is. The treasure in the heavens is certainly Christ, for whom we may wisely "suffer the loss of all things," as Paul expressed it (Philippians 3:8). For what sensible person would not be willing to lose what he cannot hold anyway, in order to gain what cannot be lost for eternity?
SERVANTS: FAITHFUL OR UNFAITHFUL?
To value a treasure in heaven encourages our expectation of the coming of the Lord. The waist girded speaks of being prepared for a journey, as Israel was commanded in coming out of Egypt (Exodus 12:11), with no loose flowing ends to impede their feet. Ephesians 6:24 speaks of having our waists girded with truth. Thus it speaks of the truth keeping us in proper self control. The lamps burning pictures the brightness of our testimony before the world that it is Christ whom we serve and for whom we look.
Everything about us should show that we are expectant of the future. Because we wait for our Lord, our character and the actions of our lives should be consistent with the hope we have in Him. So that, "when He will return on occasion of the wedding" (Numerical Bible -- F.W.Grant) we will be prepared to gladly welcome Him (v.36). It is not that Christ is coming after the wedding, but in view of the wedding. The marriage supper of the Lamb will take place after the Rapture (Revelation 19:7-9). Luke is drawing attention to the moral character that is proper in view of the wedding. But when He knocks -- when we have the first indication of His coming, rather than rushing first to make ourselves presentable, we may be fully ready to open immediately -- fully prepared to greet Him.
The Lord pronounced a special blessing for those servants whom He finds watching at His coming. He then added that He will gird Himself, seat them at His table, and will come forth to serve them. They have served Him on earth: then He who is the Lord of glory will serve them. Marvelous grace indeed! But it surely emphasizes the noble dignity of true service, providing a blessed incentive for us also to gladly serve Him now.
Though Luke does not directly refer to the Rapture, yet it is evident that the Lord's coming indicated in verse 38 will be at that time. There were four Roman watches, the evening, the midnight, the rooster-crowing, and the morning (Mark 13:35) But the Lord mentioned only the second and third here. For He will not come as early as impatience might desire; yet not as late as laxity might think. As to history, the midnight watch is now passed, as indicated in Matthew 25:6, "And at midnight a cry was heard, 'Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet Him'." For centuries believers practically "slept", not expecting the Lord's coming, but in the 19th century there was a great awakening to the prospect of that coming. It seems very decisive that this was the midnight cry. Thus we are now we are in the third watch, the rooster-crowing. Thus it appears that He will come for His own in this very watch! For in the fourth watch He will go forth to appear to the remnant of the nation Israel in the turbulence of the great tribulation, as Matthew 14:24-25 illustrates. but the rapture will take place before that time, so we may at any moment expect our Lord to come for us.
However, verse 39 speaks differently. Instead of a servant, we read of the goodman of the house, the ruler, and the Lord's coming is likened to the visit of a thief. He does not come as a thief to the Church, but to the world (1 Thessalonians 5:2-4). The man here had lost his servant character, and was really part of an ungodly world, whatever his profession might have been. We know from other scriptures that this phase of the Lord's coming is at least seven years after the Rapture (Daniel 9:26-27), but Luke is not concerned with the time element, but with the reality of the Lord's coming, whether to reward watchfulness or to judge the careless. What the Lord said in verse 40 is manifestly connected with verse 39. His coming as the Son of Man is His coming to the world in judgment, and it will be at an unexpected hour. Of course it is just as true that no-one knows when he will come for the Church, but that coming is not unexpected and we are to be watching!
Peter did not understand these distinctions, and inquired if the Lord spoke the above only for believers or for everyone. The Lord did not answer this directly, for the time had not come to reveal the truth of the Rapture, as it was revealed later to Paul (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), though in John 14:3 the Lord implied the Rapture but with no reference to the dead in Christ. Here the Lord again drew a line of clearest demarcation between a faithful and wise steward and an unfaithful servant. The first is one whom the Lord has appointed to serve the needs of those in his household. That servant who is faithful to such a charge, not giving up, but continuing till the Lord comes, will be blessed by being given rule over all that He has. "If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him" (2 Timothy 2:12). "He who overcomes shall inherit all things" (Revelation 21:7).
The contrary character is seen in verse 45. Though the man was in the place of a servant, he was not a servant at heart, for he has no heartfelt expectancy of the Lord's coming. Because he was not born of God, he gave up any hope in Christ. He became an apostate. His attitude toward other servants became cruel and hateful, and lost all self-control.
But the Lord will come, and in the case of the faithless servant, judgment will be certain and solemn. We learn later that these two aspects of the Lord's coming (that for believers and that in judgment of the ungodly) will be at least seven years apart (Daniel 9:26-27), but the time is unimportant to Luke compared to the dreadfulness of the punishment of the ungodly, being cut in two and sharing the same awful fate as outright unbelievers who made no profession.
But more seriously still, while many unbelievers are ignorant of the Lord's will and therefore will be beaten with few stripes, the servant who knew that will and ignored it, will be beaten with many stripes. The end in the Lake of Fire is the same for both, for neither have received the grace of God in Christ, but the measure of punishment will differ according to responsibility. The one who has been more privileged is more responsible and must answer for his irresponsibility. The unbeliever may not know the scriptures at all, but is generally responsible for not wanting or trying to know, for he does have the testimony of creation and of conscience for which he is responsible.
CHRIST'S PRESENCE BRINGING FIRE TO THE EARTH
The coming of the Lord Jesus in incarnation was the bringing of fire on the earth. This is the fire of God's holiness seen in discerning judgment, which indeed will be more publicly manifest in a coming day when the eyes of the Lord will be "as a flame of fire" (Revelation 1:14). But the Lord's own ministry discerned things that differed, and the fire was already kindled, either to burn into souls the self-judgment that was proper, or to give them the forewarning of the fire of God that would judge them.
The Lord would be exposed to judgment -- the judgment of God for us -- in the "baptism" that awaited Him -- of the solitary agony of the death of the cross where He bore our sins (1 Peter 2:14). For this purpose He had come, and was "distressed," that is, strictly confined by limits that kept death always as the end in view so far as earth was concerned. He would bear a judgment such as no one else ever could -- the judgment that was due to our sins.
Did people suppose that His coming was to bring peace on earth? (v.51). It was not so. Though angels had announced at His birth, "on earth peace" (Luke 2:14), yet this offered peace was refused by mankind in their rejection of Christ, and peace will not come now until the millennial kingdom. Meanwhile there is a sharp and solemn division between those who receive Him and those who do not. This division would be not only in nations or cities, but in families, with closest relatives divided against each other. We know this will continue through all this day of grace. This division should be expected if one servant is faithful and devoted and another one careless and irresponsible.
SIGNS TO BE DISCERNED
Verses 54 to 57 show that the evidence of division was already present although not all had spiritual eyes to see. The crowds were proficient in discerning the signs of the weather; yet when the signs of more serious storms of the judgment of God were most evident, many people were blinded to this. The presence of the Lord Jesus had revealed both the grace and the truth of the heart of God, and the sin of mankind that opposed the truth of God. Certainly the solemn issues raised by such a confrontation would not just go away: the day of accounting and recompense must come. In fact, there was here a matter of simple righteousness which people's consciences ought to have discerned and judged without difficulty, but instead they made the Son of God their adversary by opposing Him. If they were wise they would have had this matter between them and Him settled before He charged them with an accusation that would mean their eternal judgment.
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Luke 12". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany