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Bible Commentaries

Sermon Bible Commentary

Luke 18

Verses 1-2

Luke 18:1-2

I. This parable does not teach us to pray. There is no need that it should. Like the belief in a God, the moral sense of right and wrong, the hope of immortality, the expectation of a judgment, prayer seems as much an instinct of the soul as breathing, eating, drinking are instinctive actions of the body, which we need neither to be told, nor to learn, to do.

II. It teaches us how to pray. The point here is the fervour and frequency, the constancy and perseverance, or what has been called, in one word, the importunity of prayer. This implies, at least on our part, stated daily praise. To omit prayer is to go to battle, having left our weapons behind us in the tent; is to go to our daily labour without the strength imparted by a morning meal; is to attempt the bar where breakers roar and rocks hide their rugged heads without taking our pilot on board.

II. The parable teaches persevering prayer. It is hard, fainting work praying. It is harder to pray than to preach. We do not believe what we profess, nor feel what we say, nor wish what we ask; or, if we do, we do not take the right way of getting it. And how can we expect God to answer prayer when He sees, what we ourselves might see, that we are not earnest? If we were we would be urgent, praying in the house, by the way, on our beds, at our business prayer sounding or silent, a constant flowing stream. By constant dropping the water wears a hole in the hardest stone. And who, as he sat on a jutting crag, amid the spray of the roaring, flashing cataract, has not marked how by her constant flow the river has polished its rugged sides, and worn out smooth runnels for its streams. So, as it is only perseverance in grace that can carry us up to heaven, it is only perseverance in prayer that can bring its blessings down. Such is the plan of redemption, the ordinance of God. "The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force."

T. Guthrie, The Parables in the Light of the Present Day, p. 126.

References: Luke 18:1-5 . H.W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xx., p. 125; vol. xxxii., p. 214.Luke 18:1-8 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xv., No. 856; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 346; vol. xiii., p. 331; H. Calderwood, The Parables, p. 147; A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 51; A. Murray, With Christ in the School of Prayer, p. 117; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxii., p. 7. Luke 18:1-14 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. i., p. 382.

Verse 3

Luke 18:3

The Church's Widowhood. That the Church is, nay must be, in a state of widowhood appears from such things as these:

I. The Father's purpose concerning her. That purpose has great things in store for her, in the ages to come; but at present her lot is to be weakness, poverty, hardship, and the endurance of wrong. Through much tribulation she must enter the kingdom.

II. Her conformity to her Lord. He is her pattern, not merely as to character, but as to the whole course of life. In Him she learns what her lot on earth is to be. He, the rejected One, even among His own, she must be rejected too; He, the hated One, she must be hated too. Better treatment than He met with she is not entitled to expect: nor should she wish to have.

III. Her standing by faith. It is the world's unbelief that so specially makes it the world; so it is the Church's faith that makes her what she is, the Church. As one believing in a kingdom to come, she shakes herself free from the entanglements of time. She becomes a stranger here, having no continuing city, but satisfied with the tent of the desert, till she reach the city of habitation.

IV. The condition of the world out of which she is called. It is an evil world. It lieth in wickedness, and her calling is to come out from it, and, like Noah, to condemn it. She has nothing in common with it. All is uncongenial.

V. Her prospects. She is an heir of God, and a joint-heir with Christ Jesus. An everlasting kingdom, an unfading crown, an eternal weight of glory these are her prospects. What has she, then, to do with a world where all these are unrecognised, nay, despised or disowned? In her orphanage, or strangership, or widowhood, she still moves before us as the separated, rejected, lonely one, in the midst of an unfriendly world, that far outnumbers her, and that feels itself strangely incommoded and made uncomfortable by the presence of one who sets light by all the precious and pleasurable things of earth, having her eye and her heart fixed upon something more glorious, of which the world knows nothing.

H. Bonar, Short Sermons, p. 376.

References: Luke 18:3-5 . Homiletic Magazine, vol. vii., p. 81.Luke 18:4 . Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvii., p. 199. Luke 18:5 . Expositor, 1st series, vol. iv., p. 32.Luke 18:6 . Homilist, vol. v., p. 284.

Verses 6-7

Luke 18:6-7

I. What is the central thought of this parable? The answer to this question is obvious. The central thought of the parable is the advantage to be derived from importunity in prayer. And the general fact which the story conveys is this: with man importunity will succeed, when the power of justice or affection would wholly fail. No one, I suppose, can doubt that there are many cases in which this is true, and so far the parable presents no difficulty.

II. But it is quite otherwise when we come to ask What lesson is the parable meant to teach? What parallel is here drawn between the dealings of men with each other and the dealings of God with men? It is no merit, but a fault, in the selfish friend or the unjust judge, that importunity is needed to wring from them that which should have been given to love or justice. How can we argue that because importunity has succeeded with the selfish men, and that altogether by acting on their selfishness, it will therefore succeed with one whose nature is wholly different? A selfish man is teased into granting a request to save himself from personal annoyance. Does this afford any probability that an unselfish man can be similarly influenced. Yet certainly this seems to be the argument of the parable. Here is the only a fortiori argument drawn from the parable which appears to be admissible: we may expect importunate prayer to succeed better with God than with man, not because the means used is stronger in the one case than in the other, but because it has no resistance to overcome. Delay in granting the petition there may be; even ultimate refusal there may be; but both are dictated by the wise mercy of God; and the obstacles by which the selfishness of humanity blocks the way of the petitioner find no place with Him.

J. H. Jellett, The Elder Son and Other Sermons, p. 68.

Reference: Luke 18:7 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 97.

Verse 8

Luke 18:8

I. Notice the peril that of losing faith. Now, faith in reference to questions of revelation has three degrees, and only the last represents it in its completeness, though, indeed, as things go now we are apt to accept even, and only the first, with a sort of thankful surprise. (1) First, there is faith in a personal God, Maker and Owner of the universe, who, in the far distant past, in the mystery of His infinite power and wisdom, summoned everything into being. What theology calls by the cold name of Deism is, however, far beyond the reach of some thinkers now. Because science cannot discover God, reason is pertly bidden to treat Him as if He could not be discovered. (2) Then there is another table-land, whereon faith recognises, not only the being of God, but also His government; refuses to suppose that, exhausted with the labours of creation, He has ever since left the universe to take its own course, or, if after a fashion governing it, handcuffed by His own laws. (3) The third and final stage of Christian faith is, where the spirit of man worships the God of the creeds. God, that is, revealed and reconciled in His Incarnate Son, who, after He had perfected our redemption by His death, rose from the grave, and went back to heaven, from whence He sent His Holy Spirit to build up His Church among men, until in the end of the days He comes back with His holy angels to judge both the quick and the dead. It is this faith with a few all of it, with many some of it that seems now to be perishing out of our midst, so as already to justify the Saviour's mournful question, "When I come back who will there be to believe on Me?

II. Such is our peril, but what is our safeguard? (1) We must each do the work given him to do, each be at his post. Let us more thoroughly master, more minutely examine, more devoutly study, more sincerely Love, the great doctrines of our religion, never treating them as if they were something to be ashamed of, unfit for reasoning men and this superior time. (2) Then let us use, and enjoy, and deepen our faith by sharing it with others. The brightest, and bravest, and strongest, and blessedest souls, are those which feel their religion a trust; their faith a profession before many witnesses; their warfare not only fighting for themselves, but contending for their Master; their crown, when it comes to them from the King's hand sparkling beyond the brightness of the firmament, with the precious salvation of a brother's soul.

Bishop Thorold, Good Words, 1880, p. 60.

I. Faith may mean no more than an assent to what is told. But the true account of faith is this a belief in every revelation made by God, an acceptance of Divine grace in every mode and channel through which it is conveyed.

II. Why should Christ look for faith above all spiritual graces on His return? Because faith is the organ by which we accept both revelation and grace. Therefore, so far as His influence on man is concerned, Almighty God depends upon our faith. It is a condition of the success of His work; it is the only force which we can employ to frustrate His infinite power.

III. You cannot pray unless you have faith that the thing you want is in the hand of God to give.

IV. Besides men's faith in prayer, Christ's words point to their ready will to welcome Him on His return.

C. W. Furse, Sermons at Richmond, p. 85.

I. Christ will come again after His Resurrection in three different senses: (1) He will come again finally, and in the highest sense, when this world shall end, and we shall all rise to judgment; (2) He will come to each one of us finally, in the highest sense, when we each of us receive His call to die; (3) He has come more than once, and I believe He will come more than once again, not finally, nor in the highest sense, either to all mankind or to each individual, but in a lower sense, and affording a sort of type or image of the higher: I mean, when He comes to bring upon the earth, or on some one or more nations, a great season of suffering, in which "the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low." In this sense, He is said to have come when he destroyed Jerusalem; in this sense, also, He came more than three hundred years afterwards, when He destroyed the empire of Rome.

II. Now let us mark His own question. "When the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith upon the earth?" And let us see what would be the answer to it, supposing that His coming in each one of the three senses which I have spoken of should be near, even at the doors. (1) May we for a moment be allowed to conceive the unspeakable awfulness of His coming in the highest sense of all? Should we then be filled with fear in our inmost hearts, as if certain death were coming upon us? or should we look up to Him whom we beheld amidst the blessed company of His saints and angels, as to one whom we have long known, long loved, long desired to see? (2) What would be our feelings were God to come in our generation in the lower sense of the term, if He were to visit this nation with a season of great misery, with famine and pestilence and war? Blessed are they who, like the three men in Nebuchadnezzar's furnace, walk in their souls unhurt amidst the furnace of evil times, because the Son of God is with them. (3) When the Son of man cometh to us at death, shall He find faith in us? If we have no faith in Him now, we shall have none when He cometh; the lamp is not burning in us, but gone out. And when the cry strikes our ears that the Bridegroom is coming it will be too late to kindle it again; for while we are vainly going about to buy the oil, He comes, and they who are ready not who hope to be ready by-and-by can alone go in with Him to the marriage.

T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. v., p. 15.

References: Luke 18:8 . A. P. Stanley, Church of England Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 229; J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 2nd series, p. 66; Preacher's Monthly, vol. viii., p. 242.Luke 18:9 . F. W. Robertson, The Human Race and Other Sermons, p. 36; C. Jones, Church of England Pulpit, vol. x., p. 543.Luke 18:9-14 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 346; Ibid., vol. iv., p. 478; Ibid., vol. xiii., p. 332; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 81; R. C. Trench, Notes on the Parables, p. 500; H. Calderwood, The Parables, p. 79; A. B. Bruce, The Parabolic Teach ing of Christ, p. 312.

Verses 10-13

Luke 18:10-13

There are five points in which the Pharisee and the publican agree; there are five points in which they differ, and there are five special lessons which the incident urges upon the attention of all men in all ages.

I. The points in which they agree are obvious. (1) They had the same object. Their object was to pray. (2) They got to the same place. Two men went up into the Temple. They met on common ground; they both spoke in the Temple. (3) They were in the Temple at the same time. That is clear from the fact that the Pharisee said with a contemptuous side-nod of his lofty head, "or even as this publican." (4) They addressed the same God. (5) Each of the men talked about himself. Each described his own case.

II. Look next at the five points of dissimilarity. (1) The one was self-satisfied, the other was self-discontented. Not one word of self-depreciation escapes the lips of the Pharisee; not one word of self-praise is uttered by the publican. (2) The Pharisee was socially contemptuous, the publican was self-condemned. The Pharisee made short work of other men. He detached himself from society, standing loftily above it, and awarding to it the most self-complacent maledictions. The publican made no reference to other men. He was filled with self-shame and self-sorrow. The question lay between himself and God, not between himself and other men. (3) The one lived in duty; the other hoped in mercy. He only truly lives who lives in hope of the mercy of God. The Pharisee showed a well-brushed coat, the publican pointed to a wounded heart. (4) The Pharisee saw separate points of excellence, whereas the publican was stunned by the condition of the whole character. (5) The one was flippant, the other was reverent. Where there is no reverence, there can be no worship.

III. What are the lessons which the incident urges upon the attention of men in all ages? (1) That self-righteousness is unrighteousness; (2) that self-trust is practical atheism; (3) that social contempt is not personal piety; (4) that self-boasting goes before destruction: (5) that man's only standing-ground before God is the ground of God's sovereign mercy.

Parker, City Temple, vol. i., p. 145.

References: Luke 18:10 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 428; A. P. Stanley, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xii., p. 136; Preacher's Monthly, vol. x., p. 219; R. S. Browne, Sussex Sermons, p. 153; Bishop Lightfoot, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvii., p. 65.Luke 18:10-14 . Homilist, new series, vol. iii., p. 158; vol. iv., p. 465.Luke 18:11 . J. Keble, Sermons for Sundays after Trinity, part i., p. 406; H. P. Liddon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxii., p. 113.Luke 18:12 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 236; A. Plummer, Church of England Pulpit, vol. xxi., p. 207. Luke 18:13 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iv., No. 216; J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 7th series, p. 65; 4th series, p. 199; G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines of Sermons, p. 245; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 74; R. Scott, University Sermons, p. 182.

Verse 14

Luke 18:14

Self-Righteousness.

I. We are not saved from the danger of self-righteousness by our full knowledge and hearty recognition of the doctrines of grace. The Pharisee did not dream of taking to himself the credit of the excellence which he supposed himself to have attained to. He acknowledged it to be all God's work in him. He carries with him the spirit of trusting to himself that he is righteous, and despising others, at the very moment that he is thanking God who has made him to differ from them.

II. Righteousness is not self-righteousness. The irreligious man is apt to set down as self-righteous every one who can claim to be better than he pretends to be. There is nothing wrong in being righteous, or in doing good works. The only thing to be frightened about is, if the righteousness be not real, or the works not truly good. The less the real righteousness, the greater the danger of self-righteousness.

III. The best practical rule for avoiding the dangers which arise from comparing ourselves with others is to strive to keep ever before our minds as our rule of life, the character of Him who gave us an example, that we should follow in His steps. There is no example, but one, which may not mislead us mislead us even when we have succeeded in arriving at the standard we aim at, or in going beyond it. There is but One in striving to resemble whom we can never be led astray; One whose character the more closely we study and the more thoroughly we love, the more nearly we approach to be perfect, even as our Father which is in heaven is perfect. The contemplation of such an Example, and the contrast which you know yourself to be, cannot but deepen your sense of sin, and drive you to the supplication "God, be merciful to me sinner.

G. Salmon, Non-miraculous Christianity, p. 187.

References: Luke 18:14 . R. Winterbotham, Sermons and Expositions, p. 243; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. v., p. 31.Luke 18:15 , Luke 18:16 . J. Vaughan, Sermons to Children, 3rd series, p. 72.Luke 18:15-17 . Shepherd, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 309. Luke 18:15-27 . A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 251.

Verse 16

Luke 18:16

I. One sense in which this text is true is, that the great company of those who are indeed the Saviour's people is made up of those who resemble little children in certain distinctive features of their character. The Church Militant, and far more the Church Triumphant, consists of such as these unsophisticated ones, fresh from God who is our home their birth, perhaps, for what we know, a sleep and a forgetting; and the heaven they came from still around them in their infancy, as a poet of the purest inspiration has sung such in temper, in disposition, in character. Of all things you could point to in this world, the thing that could give you the best idea of the essential spirit that is most childlike, is the spirit of an innocent and happy little child. Like teachable, like humble, like gentle, like affectionate, like confiding should all true Christians be. Even worldly genius has told how beautiful it is to see something yet of the child's warm heart in the man with hoary hairs; something of the unspoiled freshness of infancy and its home-bred simplicity, abiding still with one who has seen the great world, and borne an honoured part in its conflicts and toils; one of those who, as St. Paul would have it, in malice are children, but in understanding are men.

II. There is another sense in which these words may be taken, which may well be cherished by most of our firesides. I believe that we may take these words of our Saviour in their literal meaning, as implying that the kingdom of God, the assembly of redeemed souls in heaven, is in great measure made up of little children. All that die in infancy are saved, and half the human beings born into this world die in infancy. If the entire human race should be gathered, sanctified, and forgiven, before the throne above, still each second one there would never have known more of this sinful and sorrowful world than comes within the brief experience of early childhood.

"God took them in His mercy, as lambs untasked, untried;

He fought the fight for them; He won the victory, and they are sanctified."

A. K. H. B., Graver Thoughts of a Country Parson, 3rd series, p. 141.

References: Luke 18:16 . Sermons for Boys and Girls, p. 102; Outline Sermons to Children, p. 171; S. A. Brooke, Christ in Modern Life, p. 275.Luke 18:17 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiv., No. 1439; E. W. Shalders, Christian World Pulpit, vol. viii., p. 3.Luke 18:22 . E. R. Conder, Drops and Rocks, p. 249. Luke 18:25 . Expositor, 1st series, vol. iii., p. 369. Luke 18:27 . Homiletic Magazine, vol. xvi., p. 233.Luke 18:28-30 . H. B. Bruce, The Training of Twelve, p. 262.Luke 18:29 . H. P. Liddon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. viii., p. 153.Luke 18:30 . Phillips Brooks, Twenty Sermons, p. 316.

Verse 31

Luke 18:31

Why Christ suffered.

I. The answer to this question is very simple. He suffered as a sacrifice for the sin of the world. It was the ultimate and perfecting act of His obedience, to carry down into death that death-sentenced nature which He had taken into the Godhead; to subject His Divine Person to the dark and to us utterly mysterious contact with the actuality of death; and to put by His almighty power of casting off from Himself the sentence of death which He bore about Him. This is why Christ died; that He might in His own Body, as the Second Head and including Representative of mankind, pay the penalty of death which rested on that manhood which was summed up in Him. The Godhead of our blessed Lord is an element absolutely necessary to the belief of even the least portion of the benefits and effects of His death. If a man do not firmly and clearly hold that, he has not a notion of what is meant by the doctrine of Christ's atonement for sin. His entire oneness with the Father lies at the very root of all.

II. I proceed to our second enquiry. Granted, that it was necessary for Christ to submit to death in order to the taking away of the sin of the world, why did He die as He did? First I say in answer, that we cannot tell how much of deep humiliation and desertion and anguish was absolutely necessary, in the covenant which infinite wisdom arranged, to make that death the full and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world. The analogy of the Redeemer's whole life leads us to the humble inference that nothing less than such an amount of self-denial, and endurance of pain, and contradiction of sinners, was enough for the accomplishment of His mighty purpose, even in its hidden and unfathomable recesses, where it flowed forth from unity with the Father's will. (2) But if we look at this same matter from another and a human point of view, even to us there may be made plain and full and sufficient reason why these sufferings should have been undertaken. Our blessed Lord sums it up for us in a few simple words "I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Me." These stupendous sufferings of the Son of God were undertaken to put away sin; the sin of the world; the sin of each man; and they were undertaken that each man might be mightily constrained by the power of the Divine love shown in them, to take up the freedom thus purchased for him; to see himself complete in Christ his satisfaction before God; to live as Christ's freeman, prevailing over and conquering sin, and daily renewed with God.

H. Alford, Sermons on Christian Doctrine, p. 166.

Verses 31-36

Luke 18:31-36

I. The announcement by Christ of His approaching sacrifice was the announcement of the solution to the enigma which all the ages of mankind had been endeavouring to solve how to obtain peace with a justly offended God. The need of such a propitiation combined with a deep sense of human misery, runs through all heathen religious systems; all have their legends of a bygone golden age, when gods and men lived in closer union, when the earth brought forth of its own accord all that could minister to man's requirements or delight, and universal justice prevailed among mankind. All religions have been occupied with the sense of sin, its origin and its abolition. Under the deep sense of the need of reconciliation, the heathen of old thought that they could actually of themselves do what would atone for their sins. We see in their sacrifice a strange admixture of what is highest and what is lowest, a miserable delusion, and yet a near guess at the true solution of the problem that they were unable to solve.

II. The sacrifice of Christ at once sanctioned and abolished all the sacrificial worship that preceded it; and, as a matter of history, we find that after the sacrifice of Christ, animal sacrifice with shedding of blood came suddenly to an end, while henceforth sacrificial terms and expressions began to group themselves round one Person and one Head the Lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world. And this faith affords a wondrous confirmation of the death of Christ as the true atonement for the sins of the whole world, we cannot understand sacrifice rightly until we survey from the height of Golgotha; until we seek to understand it from this point of view, we are like the disciples in the text, who, when our Lord spoke of His approaching sacrifice, "understood none of these things."

R. Baker, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiii., p. 81.

References: Luke 18:31 . Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 89; J. M. Neale, Sermons in a Religious House, vol. ii., pp. 321, 331; H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Sunday Sermonettes for a Year, p. 49. Luke 18:31-34 ; A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 282.Luke 18:34 . Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. viii., p. 60; Preacher's Monthly, vol. vii., p. 211; J. Keble, Sermons for Holy Week, p. 1.Luke 18:35 . Homilist, vol. v., p. 52.Luke 18:35-43 . T. Birkett Dover, The Ministry of Mercy, p. 196; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 56. Luke 18:36 . Parker, Christian Commonwealth, vol. vi., p. 539. Luke 18:36-37 . J. Stoughton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. v., p. 113.Luke 18:37 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xv., No. 906; Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvii., p. 95.Luke 18:41 . Homiletic Magazine, vol. xii., p. 80. Luke 18:42 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xx., No. 1162; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 89; J. Keble, Sermons from Septuagesima to Ash Wednesday, p. 191.Luke 18:0 F. D. Maurice, The Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven, p. 277.

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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Luke 18". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/sbc/luke-18.html.