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Bible Commentaries

Arno Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
Luke 16

 

 

Verses 1-31

CHAPTER 16

1. The Unjust Steward. (Luke 16:1-12)

2. The Impossible Service. (Luke 16:13)

3. The Deriding Pharisees Answered. (Luke 16:14-17)

4. Concerning Divorce. (Luke 16:18)

5. The Rich Man and Lazarus. (Luke 16:19-31.)

Luke 16:1-12

Let us notice that this story was spoken to the disciples. It contains a number of difficulties. It has well been said “there are knots in it which perhaps will never be untied, until the Lord comes again. We might reasonably expect that a book written by inspiration, as the Bible is, would contain things hard to be understood. The fault lies not in the book, but in ourselves.” The story of the unjust steward is used to teach wisdom in the use of earthly things. What the steward did was an unjust thing, but he acted wisely. “The lord commended the unjust steward because he had done wisely.” Then our Lord makes the statement that “the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.” But what is the application? “And I say unto you, Make yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that when it (not ye) fails, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.” Pages could be filled with interpretations which have been given of this statement. Many of these have been made at the expense of the grace of God, which alone fits a sinner for glory. (Godet gives a novel interpretation: “May not the disciple who reaches heaven without having gained here below the degree of development which is the condition of full communion with God, receive the increase of spiritual life, which is yet wanting to him, by means of those grateful spirits with whom he shared his temporal goods here below?”) Heaven cannot be bought by the rightful use of earthly things. Man as God’s steward has failed and has wasted His goods. But the disciple is to use earthly things, the mammon of unrighteousness, to a wise and advantageous purpose. The Lord’s word may be paraphrased in this wise: “Use the temporal things, the mammon of unrighteousness with an eye to the future, as the steward did his, so that it will be like friends you have made.” “That they may receive you” is indefinite and must be regarded to signify rather “Ye may be received.” We leave this difficult passage by quoting a valuable comment on it: “On the one hand let us beware of opposing that by any use of money we can purchase to ourselves God’s favor and the pardon of our sins. Heaven is not to be bought. Any such interpretation of the verse is most unscriptural. On the other hand, let us beware of shutting our eyes against the doctrine which the verse unmistakably contains. That doctrine plainly is, that a right use of our money in this world, from right motive, will be for our benefit in the world to come. It will not justify us. It will not bear the severity of God’s judgment, any more than other good works. But it shall be an evidence of our grace, which shall befriend our souls. There is such a thing as ‘laying up treasure in heaven,’ and ‘laying up a good foundation against the time to come.’ (Matthew 6:20; 1 Timothy 6:19.)”--Bishop Ryle. That the whole story has a meaning connected with the elder son the Pharisee in the preceding parable must not be overlooked. The Pharisees were avaricious. After the Lord had declared the impossible service, not alone then, but in all times, “Ye cannot serve God and mammon,” the Pharisees, who heard all these things and who were covetous, derided him.

Luke 16:19-31

A solemn paragraph closes the chapter. Avoid the use of the word “parable” in connection with these verses. The Lord said, “There was a certain rich man.” It is history and not a parable. The derision of the Pharisees on account of the Lord’s words about the unjust steward must have been based upon their trust in the law and the promise of the law, that temporal blessings and riches were in store for all who keep the law. The story our Lord relates is aimed once more at the sneering, unbelieving, self-righteous Pharisees.

The rich man had great riches. But his riches were not the evidences of divine favor and blessing. Lazarus, the poor man, had no earthly possessions. Was his poverty an evidence of divine displeasure? Then the Lord, the omniscient Lord, draws aside the veil and reveals what is hidden from the sight of man. Both die. Lazarus is carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom. He had no means to make friends for himself by using the mammon of unrighteousness, so as to be welcomed in the everlasting habitations. And yet he is there. God had in His infinite grace carried him so high. Lazarus’ name means “God is Helper.”

The rich man also died and is in Hades (not in hell; the lake of fire opens after the judgment). He is in torment and sees Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom. He hears that there is no relief, no hope. An impassable gulf is fixed, which separates forever the lost and the saved. Not a ray of hope is given by the Lord, that there is the slightest possibility after death for another chance. Death fixes forever the eternal condition of every human being. Whoever meddles with this solemn truth, whether a Russellite, or Restorationist or whatever name he may bear, rejects the testimony of the Son of God and charges Him with not having spoken the truth. We cannot follow the solemn story in all its details. Future punishment of the wicked, the future conscious punishment of the wicked, the future conscious and eternal punishment of the wicked is denied and sneered at today by the majority of professing Christians. But the Lord Jesus, the friend of sinners, the One who came to seek and to save what is lost, teaches beyond controversy in this solemn story, the future, conscious and eternal punishment of the wicked.

Of late one hears much that the story is a parable, that the rich man typifies the Jew, his torment, their persecutions; the poor man is the Gentile. It is an invention. The story must be forced to mean this. The careful student will soon see how impossible such an application is. Nor is the view new. It was taught by many errorists of past generations.

 


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Bibliography Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Luke 16:4". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gab/luke-16.html. 1913-1922.

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