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Bible Commentaries

Ironside's Notes on Selected Books
Luke 12

 

 

Verses 1-12

The Sin That Never Can Be Forgiven -- Luke 12:1-12

“In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, He began to say unto His disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops. And I say unto you My friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear Him, which after He hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear Him. Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows. Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess Me before men, him shall the Son of Man also confess before the angels of God: but he that denieth Me before men shall be denied before the angels of God. And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven. And-when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say: for the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say”- Luke 12:1-12.

Following the pronouncement of the woes upon the Pharisees and lawyers, we find, in the present chapter, Jesus looking forward to a day when He would be no longer here on earth, but His disciples would be here, and they would be the objects of bitter persecution by those who rejected their Lord and spurned the testimony which He gave. In Luke 12:1-3 He warns against unreality. That is something to which we are all prone. It is so easy to pretend to be more than we are. We may appear to be more devoted than we are and assume a profession of piety to which we have not actually attained. So we may well take these words of our Lord to heart. We are told that an innumerable multitude of people were gathered together. The common people loved to hear the Lord Jesus. Actually it was they who sought Him rather than the religious leaders. We are told elsewhere that “the common people heard Him gladly.” But it is one thing to hear Him; it is quite another thing to receive His words into the heart and turn to God in repentance. How many there were in this great group who truly received Christ as Saviour, recognizing their own sinful state and their need of a Deliverer, we have no way of knowing; doubtless many did. But the great majority were simply interested in hearing His message and seeing His works of power. There were so many, we are told, that they trode one upon another; and He began to say to His disciples, “Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” In the Old Testament the Jews were forbidden to have leaven in their homes at Passover time. Leaven is a type or symbol of evil. Throughout all Scripture this holds good. In the Gospels we have the Lord referring to leaven in three different ways. Here He warns His disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and we are told definitely that it is hypocrisy. Elsewhere He warns His disciples to beware of the leaven of the Sadducees--that is materialism, or false doctrine. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead, neither in angels nor in spirits. In another place He warns His disciples against the leaven of Herod, which is worldliness, political corruption: the failure to give God His rightful place in the government of the land. The Herodians courted the favor of the Romans and in order to obtain that favor they were untrue to the revelation which God had given them.

Leaven then is always a type of wickedness, a symbol of evil. Some think of the parable of the leaven, and say, “Surely the leaven hidden in the meal is not a symbol of evil. Is this not the gospel that is gradually converting the whole world?” But, surely the “three measures of meal” is not a picture of the world. It is the meal-offering, a type of the true and perfect humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ. The fact that the woman hid the leaven in the three measures of meal indicates that she was doing something which she knew to be wrong. There was to be no leaven at all in the meal-offering. The parable is not a picture of the gospel working among men, but it is error working where truth has been made known, and giving men wrong ideas concerning the Person and work of our Lord Jesus. Leaven is always evil, never good, and so the disciples were to beware of it in any form. How we need this admonition today! As Christians we are to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness. Our lives should be as open books. We should be able to say with the saintly Fletcher of Madeley, “I would that a mirror might be placed over my heart that men might be enabled to look in and see how true it beats toward God.” Would that this were so of everyone of us, because “there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed.” We may think we are hiding something; we may think we are covering up something by making bold professions, but all is coming out some day and will be fully exposed. It is better to judge every evil way now, rather than wait and have it manifested at the judgment-seat of Christ. We are told that every man’s work shall be manifested of what sort it is. Jesus says, “Whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.” If we would keep that in mind I think it would stop a great deal of gossip. If we realized that everything we whisper about another person, every unkind criticism and evil story which we spread abroad concerning others will at last be made known to them and to everyone else, would it not have a tendency to make us very much more careful as to the use of our tongues? It is all coming out some day for, “Every idle word that men shall speak they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.”

In the second part of this discourse we have an exhortation for the comfort of the disciples because of what they will have to suffer. Soon He, the Master, after having been rejected and crucified, will rise from the dead and be received back into the glory. His people are to be left in the world to tell others of His grace. He said, “I say unto you My friends.” There is something very precious about this expression-“My friends!” He owns as His friends all who love Him and evidence their love by obedience to His Word. “My friends!” How much is involved in that term! When the Lord addresses His own as “My friends” it is because He has a deep personal interest in everyone of them, and there should be a ready response on our part as we claim Him as our “Friend that sticketh closer than a brother.”

In the fifteenth chapter of John our Lord says, “I call you not servants, for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth; but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you.” The master is not expected to open his heart to a servant and reveal all his secrets to him. But our Lord loves to do that very thing to those whom He calls “My friends.” Three times in Scripture Abraham is honored by being called “the friend of God,” for when He was about to bring judgment upon Sodom, God said, “Shall I hide from Abraham that which I am about to do?” In His grace He condescended to “commune with Abraham” as to His purpose. To me it is really thrilling to think that I, who was once a poor sinner on my way to eternal judgment but now saved through infinite grace, am able to look up into the face of the Lord Jesus and say, “Thou art my Friend.”

He said unto them, “My friends, be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear Him, which after He hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you. Fear Him.” After the body is killed the spirit lives on, either in happiness or in misery. Materialists may refuse to believe this, but our Lord definitely affirms it. The soul cannot be destroyed when the body is killed. Matthew reports our Lord as saying, “Fear not them which kill the body and after that are not able to kill the soul, but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” The word “destroy” is used in the sense of lost, elsewhere in the parables-to be lost in hell. Though men might kill the body they cannot touch the soul. When the body dies the soul of the believer departs from the body and is immediately present with the Lord. Who then would fear death with that glorious prospect in view? On the other hand, if one is not right with God he may well fear Him who, after the death of the body, has power to cast the soul into hell. “Yea,” says Jesus, “I say unto you, Fear Him.” There are men today who do not believe in a judgment-day, men who do not believe in hell and punishment after death. But all the arguments that they may bring against these truths cannot take them out of the Word of God. The Scriptures declare that, “It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment.” Our Lord had more to say about judgment after death than any other New Testament preacher.

In the next section of His address the Lord comforts His disciples concerning the experiences through which they may be called upon to pass while they live here on earth: “Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.” Sparrows were very worthless. People trapped them, took them home and dressed them, and sold them on the market at two for a farthing, five for two farthings. They were bought by the poorest people who could afford no better food. Speaking of the five sparrows, Dr. James S. Brookes used to say, “I think that must be how I got saved: four others were converted, and I was just thrown in for good measure.” Jesus says not one of these sparrows are forgotten before God. “Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.” Somebody has said God goes to every sparrow’s funeral! Jesus said not one falls to the ground without the Father’s knowledge. How much more is He interested in you who trust the Father and believe in His Son!

In Luke 12:8-9 He speaks of confessing or denying Him, and this is a very serious thing. “Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess Me before men, him shall the Son of Man also confess before the angels of God: but he that denieth Me before men shall be denied before the angels of God.” Observe, it is not a question of whether you believe that Christ is the Son of God, but it is a question of whether you have definitely confessed Him. “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” There are many people who have heard the gospel story all their lives and possibly do not for a moment question its great truths, but they have received these truths as they accept any other historical facts, and have never trusted their own souls to Christ and confessed Him as their Saviour. Oh, that you might make that confession today! Put yourself on record by saying, “Yes, I confess Jesus Christ the Son of God as my Saviour; I confess that henceforth I take my stand with Him.” If you will so confess Him, then He says, “I will confess you before the angels. I will say that you belong to Me, that you are Mine, that I have bought you with My precious blood.” But on the other hand, no matter how much you may believe concerning Him, if you refuse to own Him as your Saviour, if you deny Him in this day of His rejection, He will refuse to own you; He will deny you in that day of His manifestation, for, “He that denieth Me before men shall be denied before the angels of God.” If you want Him to confess you then, it is incumbent upon you to confess Him now. In Luke 12:10 we come to the solemn truth which suggested the heading for this section: The sin that never can be forgiven. Let us pause here for a moment. The Lord Jesus knew how many had spoken against Him; He knew the wicked things that had been said about Him, but still He declared that all would be forgiven if they would turn to God and put their trust in the One against whom they had sinned. All their sins and iniquities would be blotted out. “But,” He added, “unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven.” While He was here on earth He cast out demons by the power of the Holy Spirit, thus attesting His Messiahship. Some attributed this power to Beelzebub-this is the sin against the Holy Ghost. It was because they were determined not to accept His miracles as evidencing the truth of His testimony that they attributed His work to the devil. For that sin Jesus said there was no forgiveness in that age nor in the age to come. To blaspheme against the Holy Ghost in that age was to refuse to accept the Holy Ghost’s witness to the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the same today. The one sin that never can be forgiven is the final rejection of the Holy Ghost’s testimony to the Lord Jesus. If you reject Christ there is nothing else for you but judgment. All sin-stealing, murder, drunkenness, evil-speaking, maliciousness, hatred-all these were atoned for on Calvary’s cross, and the Holy Spirit came from heaven to bear testimony to this. But if men reject this testimony they deliberately sin against the Holy Ghost. There is no forgiveness for them. Oh, I beg of you, if unsaved, do not risk the continued rejection of Christ, lest you come to a place where for the last time the Holy Ghost will strive with you, and for you there shall be no forgiveness.

In the last two verses of this section our Lord tells His disciples that the same Holy Spirit would be the power by which they were to proclaim the gospel in the days to come: “And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say; for the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.” We have illustrations of this in the Book of Acts. When the apostle Peter was brought before the Sanhedrin he did not work out a great discourse which he was to deliver the next morning. The Holy Ghost gave him utterance. He stood before those men and preached Christ, and he did it with such power that they knew not how to reply to him. When Saul of Tarsus appeared before kings and governors, and high-priests, and rulers of Israel, it was no worked-up message that he gave; but in the power of the Holy Spirit he made his defence in an unanswerable way. The only real preaching today is preaching in the power of the Holy Spirit. We do not say that ministers of the gospel should not give much time to prayer, study, and to the Word that they may be prepared to give that Word when the time comes, but their dependence must be upon the power of the Holy Spirit of God who alone can make that Word fruitful.

Thus our Lord had shown His disciples where their strength was to be found in the days when they were to go forth in His name to proclaim His message to the world. How wonderfully He has honored that Word down through the centuries! And how we can thank Him that He has been pleased to use it so blessedly in the salvation of men and women everywhere, who have received it in faith and so made Christ Jesus their own Saviour and owned Him as their Lord!

 

 

 


Verses 13-21

The Sin And Danger Of Covetousness -- Luke 12:13-21

“And one of the company said unto Him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me. And He said unto him, Man, who made Me a judge or a divider over you? And He said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. And He spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: and he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I hive no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God”- Luke 12:13-21.

There is one sin expressly forbidden in the Ten Commandments that few people think of as wicked: namely, “Thou shalt not covet.” The apostle Paul tells us in the seventh chapter of the Epistle to the Romans that this was the only commandment that convicted him of the sinfulness of his nature. Elsewhere he says that so far as the righteousness of the law was concerned he had lived a blameless life. He had never bowed the knee to an idol; he had never taken the name of God in vain, nor had he dishonored his parents. He had not lied, stolen, murdered, nor been guilty of adultery. He had not committed any of the sins forbidden in the first nine commandments, but when it came to the tenth he had to plead guilty. The commandment said, “Thou shalt not covet.” He found that it actually stirred within his heart unlawful desires, and he realized he was a sinner because of this. Within himself he found all manner of covetousness. He was unable to control his thoughts and desires, and so he knew he was a transgressor of the law. How few people think of covetousness as an actual sin. What is covetousness? It is a desire to grasp that which God has withheld from us though He may have given it to others. We ought to be content with such things as we have, but we grasp after other things which God has not seen fit to bestow upon us; thus we are guilty of the sin of covetousness. It is one of the most subtle of sins. People may put on a show of piety and religiousness and yet be guilty of this sin. Our Lord Jesus Christ reproved men for this sin of covetousness in no uncertain terms.

We have in this instance, the story of a man who came to Jesus and said, “Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.” Now there does not seem to be anything wrong about that. Evidently the father had died and the inheritance had been left in charge of this man’s brother. Perhaps one son was living at home and the other at a distant place, and the son at home concluded the possessions were his. Both brothers may have known Jesus and had great confidence in His justice; so the one said to Him, “Speak to my brother about this matter.” But Jesus did not come into the world to regulate things of that character. He did “not come to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” He said, “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” This very request indicates restlessness, dissatisfaction, a state of the heart reaching out for something which God for the present has withheld. Why not be subject to His will and be content with what He has already given? Beware of covetousness! This is not only love for money, but it is also the attempt to find satisfaction in temporal things. “A man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” We go through life accumulating “things,” many of them absolutely worthless; but we hoard them. We strive to have a beautiful home, more land, more expensive furniture than other people possess, a nicer set for the table, more elegant apparel, and in many other ways we go on hoarding and accumulating, until at last death comes, and my! what a time our executors have dividing up the rubbish! “A man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of things which he possesseth.” Yet people act as though the greatest good on earth consists in adding to their possessions. Some may say, “Well, what should be done with the things we do not need?” Elsewhere the Lord Jesus tells us if we want happiness we should distribute our possessions to others instead of hoarding them for ourselves. The happiest man is not the one who possesses the most, but the man who gives the most, the man who shares with others the good things God has intrusted to him. We can get more happiness in dividing a dollar with someone else than by spending it all on ourselves. The rich young ruler went to Jesus and said, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The Lord said, “Sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven.” He did not mean he could earn salvation by giving away money or goods. But it is quite possible to miss salvation by violating the commandment which says, “Thou shalt not covet.” No man will ever be saved who is living just for himself. He must come to the place where being convicted of his sin, he confesses and turns from it, and puts his trust in Christ alone for salvation. We all do well to take this warning to ourselves: “Take heed and beware of covetous-ness.” Paul said, “For me to live is Christ.” Living for Christ means living for others, and this is life at its best.

The Jews used to say that a child is born into this world with his hand clenched, that is, with his fists clenched, grasping after everything he can obtain. But we die with our hands wide open; we have nothing in them. We cannot take anything with us; we have to go empty-handed. Why hoard things? Why not use them and enjoy them while we live? The Lord related a parable in order to impress this. He told of a certain landowner, a rich man, who thought only of himself and his own comfort, and never realized for a moment that what God had intrusted to him should be used for His glory and for blessing of others. He said, “What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.” There is nothing in this parable to warn us against making proper provision for the future; there is nothing here to condemn any of you housewives who put up fruit in the summer to use in the winter; there is nothing to condemn putting something away while one is earning wages in order to provide for old age. But this man was thinking only of himself. He said, “I will build greater barns and I will bestow all my goods.” If he had said, “I shall not need all these goods. There is that poor widow down the lane who lives in that little cabin… How much it would mean to her to have a little fruit and other things. Then there is that poor crippled boy. I shall leave a lot of things on his doorstep. When he wakens in the morning he will not know from whom they came; he will not know they came from a stingy old man like me. I shall have the joy of knowing I have done something really unselfish.” So he might have gone down the line from one needy person to another. But he was thinking only of himself. He said, “I will bestow all my fruits and goods in this new barn I am going to build, and say to my soul: Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.” A selfish, covetous, godless man thinking only of gratifying his own desires, contemplating a life of ease through the years to come instead of seeking to be the blessing to others he might have been! Smug in his own conceit, smug in his covetousness and grasping spirit, he goes to his bed that night, perhaps between beautiful linen sheets and enjoying every luxury. Suddenly in the midst of the night he is wakened, perhaps with a terrible pain, and he cries, “A heart attack! What is going to happen!” Then he seems to hear ringing down through the darkness of the night, “Fool, tonight thy soul shall be required of thee: and then whose will these goods be?” And within a day or two friends are passing by his coffin. They are looking down into his face and saying, “My, how natural he looks!” Then they go on their way, and within a little while the lawyers are squabbling over his estate, and all the things he laid up are being scattered far and wide. That is the end of earth for the covetous man, but it is not the end of his existence. He goes out into eternity to meet the God whom he has ignored, to meet the God who has showered mercy upon him all his life, but who has never received a thought of gratitude. He goes out into eternity to face the Lord Jesus whose claims he had never recognized. He has been so busy laying up treasures for himself on earth that he has made no provision for eternity.

Let me say to you: no man is rich whatever his wealth may be, however vast his lands and estates may be, if he does not know the Lord Jesus Christ. There were those in the church of Laodicea who said, “I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing.” The Lord Jesus said, “Thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” They thought they had everything, but actually they had nothing! They were without Christ. If one is without Christ he is poorer than the poorest. Such a one may pride himself on having a little of this world’s goods, but he stands before God an absolute pauper. The Lord says to all such, “I counsel you to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich.” That wealth God gives to all who will ask Him. If you do not have Christ you are miserably poor.

After we have trusted Christ we are warned against laying up treasures for ourselves on earth, where moth and rust corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. Even Christians are in danger of this spirit of covetousness. Happy is he who, instead of laying up treasures on earth, is sending treasure on ahead to be enjoyed in heaven. How do I lay up treasure in heaven? Why, everything I do for others in His name, everything that I give to the needy in His name, is treasure deposited in the bank of heaven. Such deposits draw ten thousand per cent interest; for Christ said, “There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, who shall not receive a hundredfold in this life.” A hundredfold is ten thousand per cent. But that is only in this life, for He adds, “And in the world to come life everylasting.”

One may say, “I do not see that there is much wrong in covetousness. What is there about it that is actually wrong?” You may not see anything very serious about it now, but if it keeps you out of heaven you will find it serious indeed. Untold thousands have been kept out of heaven by this sin of covetousness. It has come between them and the salvation of the soul.

 

 

 


Verses 22-34

Living Without Anxiety -- Luke 12:22-34

“And He said unto His disciples, Therefore, I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment. Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls? And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit? If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest? Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothe the grass, which is today in the field, and tomorrow is cast into the oven; how much more will He clothe you, O ye of little faith? And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knowedi that ye have need of these things. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give .you the kingdom. Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in die heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”- Luke 12:22-34.

After relating the sad story of the rich fool, who, despite his carefulness and self-interest, lost everything, Jesus turned to His disciples and talked to them of the blessedness of a life free from care and anxiety, a life of dependence on the living God, who is the Father of all who believe His Word.

He said, “Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.” He was not advocating thriftlessness, nor was He inculcating idleness, nor unconcern as to one’s future responsibilities. The admonition was that His disciples should avoid anxious thought. It is not becoming for a child of God to worry about food and clothing, and how to meet the various needs that arise from day to day. We have seen the motto: “If you worry, you do not trust; if you trust, you do not worry.” It was just this that the Lord sought to impress upon His disciples. Faith can count upon God to meet each need as it arises, provided one is walking in obedience to the Word.

Jesus directed attention to the ravens, which were generally in evidence in Palestine. Unable to either sow or reap they were provided for by their benevolent Creator. It is unthinkable that He should have more concern for the fowls of the air than for His own children.

Besides, what is accomplished by worrying? Can one by anxious thought add to his stature? We grow in height from childhood to maturity as ordered of God. Why not trust Him for the rest?

The lilies of the field, more delicately beautiful than any artistic work of man, are clothed in their lovely garb by God. They neither toil nor spin, yet their’s is a radiant beauty such as even Solomon in all his glory never knew. Every flower, every blade of grass, is a witness of the wisdom and power of the Creator, who is our God and Father. We may be sure that He who displays His providential care over all the lower creation, will not fail to undertake for His own as they commit all their affairs to Him.

To make the obtaining of food and drink the great object of our labor is to miss altogether the true goal of life. The nations of the world who know not God may have no higher standards than these; but it should be otherwise with those to whom He has revealed Himself in grace and compassion.

Put first things first. Seek not that which ministers to selfish desire, but rather seek the kingdom of God, which implies the recognition of the divine authority over all our lives, and all else will be added as God sees fit.

Industriousness and faith go hand in hand. It does not signify, however, that one has real faith in God because he gives up temporal employment and declares he is going to trust the Lord to meet his needs. If so busily engaged in the ministry of the Word that one cannot also labor with his hands, even as Paul sometimes did, he is entitled to look to God in confidence that He will meet every need. But ordinarily it is in full accord with the path of faith to remember that God has said, “If any would not work, neither should he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). And we need to recall the primeval admonition, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread” (Genesis 3:19). No one is more able to impress people with the reality and sterling character of a true Christian experience than the laboring man, or the business executive, who, while working to support himself and his family, lives a life of daily dependence on God, looking to Him to provide the employment whereby his temporal responsibilities are met.

There is a difference between faith and presumption. Faith acts on the revealed Word of God. Presumption attempts to harness God to a human program, and the result is inevitable failure. God has promised to answer the prayer of faith; He has never promised to gratify the desires of men who do not act according to His Word.

During the present age the people of God, who know their loving Father’s care, are a little flock indeed, exposed to the misunderstanding and even the hatred of a cruel and unfeeling world. But to them the promise is given: “It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

Therefore, one, conscious of his relationship to God and the fact that he is an heir of the kingdom, can well afford to hold everything here with a light hand, knowing that eternal riches have been laid up for him in glory, and while passing as a stranger and pilgrim through a hostile scene, he can count on both divine protection and divine provision.

Instead of hoarding earthly treasure, the follower of the Lord Jesus will find his greatest joy in sharing with others the temporal benefits bestowed upon him. No man can really put this world beneath his feet until he has seen a better world above his head. Knowing he is an heir of the kingdom, knowing he is to share that treasure that f ail-eth not, a treasure which thieves cannot filch nor moths destroy, why should he set his heart upon the poor tawdry things of this world, which, as we read elsewhere, are all to perish with the using.

It is simply a question of where the heart is. If we covet worldly pelf and the fading glory of this earth, it is because our hearts are still in the world. But if we have learned to value the eternal riches and the glories that shall never pass away, it is because our hearts are fixed on that Home from which the Saviour came and to which He has returned. So, in Col. 3, we are enjoined to set our affection (or mind) on things above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God. Nothing will ever divorce us from occupation with the passing things of time except the consciousness that our citizenship is in heaven and our portion is there.

This will not lead us to be indifferent to our obligations as temporary residents of this world, nor will it have a tendency to make us indolent or careless as to proper provision for daily life. But it will deliver us from worry and anxiety, and it will give us the quiet confidence which enables us to rest in the Lord as we endeavor to glorify Him in all the responsibilities He puts upon us.

 

 

 


Verses 35-48

Waiting For The Lord's Return -- Luke 12:35-48

“Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; and ye. yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of Man cometh at an hour when ye think not. Then Peter said unto Him, Lord, speakest Thou this parable unto us, or even to all? And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath. But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; the lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more”- Luke 12:35-48.

Our Lord’s Galilean ministry was drawing-rapidly to a close. The time was near when He would go to Jerusalem to die. In view of this and His promised return He urged upon His disciples the importance of loyalty when He should no longer be present with them in person. He was going on to Calvary-there to make an atonement for sin. And in God’s due time He will return, not as He came before-by the gate of birth, as a little Babe, as a lowly Man to be despised-but as King of kings and Lord of lords, to whom every knee shall bow. We read in the Revelation, “Behold, He cometh with clouds: and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him.” It is in view of this great event that He says here, “Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning.” It is the “loins of the mind” of which He speaks (1 Peter 1:13), and the girdle is the truth of God (Ephesians 6:14). In other words, as the flowing garments of the Oriental are held in place by the girdle, so every thought is to be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). The light of testimony is to be kept shining during the time of our Lord’s personal absence. The language is highly figurative. The bridegroom at a wedding ceremony, in the days in which Jesus lived here on earth, would go forth to meet his bride and return with her to his own home. His friends would be properly attired, their loins girded and their lights burning as they went out to meet the bridegroom.

Now we were just as much saved when we were born again as we shall be after we have lived for God for fifty or sixty years. I have known God for fifty years, but I am not more saved now than I was fifty years ago. These years have been wonderful and glad years of service for my Saviour, but as far as my own personal salvation is concerned, I was saved the moment I trusted Christ. I was left here to witness for Him, and you are left here to witness for Him, and so our lamps are to be kept burning. It is possible to become so taken up with the theory of the second coming that we lose sight of the One who is coming. We ought to be occupied with Christ Himself. We do not know when He will come, neither the day nor the hour. It might be today; it may be longer than many of us think, but we are to be always “like unto men that wait for their lord.” Just as the friends of the Eastern bridegroom waited eagerly for him to bring his bride back to his home where they could rejoice together, so we are to maintain an attitude of expectancy while we wait for the return of our Saviour. “Blessed are those servants whom the Lord when He cometh shall find watching.” There is nothing that has such a sanctifying influence on the soul as watching for the Lord’s return. We are called to serve in faithfulness now. When Christ returns it will be His delight to minister to those who have endured and suffered for His name’s sake during His present session at the Father’s right hand (James 1:12). I may be called at any time to meet my Lord; any moment He may come to take me away from this scene-how anxious I should be to see Him! If we are watching and waiting He will make us to sit down together and He will serve us. Is that not wonderful? If we serve Him on earth, He says, He is going to serve us over there. It will be His delight to serve us in the place He has prepared for us.

The Roman watch was three hours long. The night was divided into four watches. If the Lord came in the second watch it would still be dark; if He came in the third watch it would be before the morning dawned. Whenever He comes He will find His servants waiting for Him. Of such He says, “Blessed are those servants.”

If a householder knew that a thief was coming at a given time to appropriate his goods, he would be waiting for him. He would not be taken by surprise but would watch and protect his house. Our Lord would have us always on the alert, for we do not know the hour when He will come.

To unwatchful ones the Lord’s return will be unexpected and even unwelcome, as that of a thief in the night (Revelation 3:3); but it will be far otherwise to those who are instructed out of the Word and are waiting for God’s Son from Heaven (1 Thessalonians 5:4). “Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of Man cometh at an hour when ye think not.” It is all-important to keep this in mind and not attempt to set dates or pretend to know the exact time when the second advent will take place. Jesus has told us, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power” (Acts 1:7).

Simon Peter said, “Lord, speakest Thou this parable unto us, or even to all? And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.” Peter inquired as to whether the illustration was used for themselves alone or for all Christ’s disciples. The answer shows it was intended for all professed believers to the end of the dispensation.

Then the Lord promised that when He comes back He will reward each faithful servant. The true servant of Christ recognizes that whatever truth he has received is a stewardship committed to him to be administered for the good of others, and for which he must some day give account (1 Corinthians 4:1-2). In that day faithfulness will be abundantly rewarded. In Luke 12:43-44 He pronounces a blessing on the servant whom He will find so doing at His return. There is always the temptation to slothfulness and carelessness when the master is not present, but every employer values that type of service which is as conscientiously performed in his absence as when he is personally supervising it. Such a servant will be promoted to a greater stewardship because of his integrity in a lesser position. The servant who forgets that his master may return most unexpectedly and who behaves tyrannically and unfaithfully because he imagines his faults will never be discovered, is due for a rude awakening. “The lord… will come in a day when… he is not aware.” Remark, that it is not exactly the Lord Jesus Himself who is here in view. Christ is speaking in a parable. It is the lord of the wicked and slothful servant who, upon returning, visits condign punishment upon the one who had so misused his position and betrayed his trust. But the lesson is too obvious to need emphasis or explanation.

The Lord then tells of the judgment that will be meted out in that day. God will not be unrighteous in dealing with anyone. “And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.” That which made his conduct so heinous was that he “knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself.” The indignant master will mete out the punishment to suit the offence. “But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.” When one is ignorant of what the master expects he will be dealt with more leniently, although ignorance does not excuse slothfulness. But it is a principle of Scripture that responsibility and privilege go together. Men recognize this in their dealings with one another. So does God Himself, who will deal with each case on its merits.

When God commits any talent, ability, or knowledge of truth to His servants, it is that they may use all for His glory. During our Lord’s present session at the Father’s right hand, His disciples are called upon to represent and act for Him here on earth. This involves our recognition of service as a sacred trust or stewardship committed to us by Christ Jesus, to be administered for His glory and the blessing of a needy world, and to be rewarded at His personal return. To fail to act in accordance with the revealed will of God will cause us to suffer loss when we are called to give an account of our stewardship at the judgment-seat of Christ, where all our works will be tested by the fire of God’s holiness (1 Corinthians 3:13-15).

In studying our Lord’s parables we need to bear in mind the fact that each one was given to emphasize some important line of truth. It is often a mistake to try to fit every part of such an illustration into a theological, or eschatological mould. In the parable of the master and his servants we must not confuse the earthly lord with our divine Lord. The one is used only as an illustration in so far as his character and behavior may coincide with those of Christ.

There are two aspects of Christ’s second advent, though it was no part of our Lord’s purpose in this particular discourse to distinguish between the rapture and the appearing, two stages of His coming again which are developed clearly in the Epistles. It is the fact that He who was going away will return again that is emphasized, and the responsibility of His people is viewed in the light of this great fact. It is the will of God that all our lives should be lived in view of the near return of His Son from Heaven. Are we, like the Thessalonians, serving and waiting with that glorious event as the lodestar of our souls? (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10). Scripture insists on the imminency of Christ’s second coming. If we are to put a millennium between us and that blessed fulfilment of His promise, how, then, can we watch and wait for His return? It is a poor thing to talk of “holding the second coming” if the second coming does not hold us, and mould us, too.

 

 

 


Verses 49-59

The Offence Of The Cross -- Luke 12:49-59

“I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled? But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished! Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: for from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And He said also to the people, When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say, There cometh a shower; and so it is. And when ye see the south wind blow, ye say, There will be heat; and it cometh to pass. Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time? Yea, and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right? When thou goest with thine adversary to the magistrate, as thou art in the way, give diligence that thou mayest be delivered from him; lest he hale thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and the officer cast thee into prison. I tell thee, thou shalt not depart thence, till thou hast paid the very last mite” - Luke 12:49-59.

In the previous verses we noticed that our Saviour is coming again, thus indicating that He was leaving the world for the time being. He left by the way of the Mount of Olives, the cross, and the tomb. He was going away because of the attitude toward Him of His own people, Israel, and of the world in general: “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.” In Hosea 5:15 we read, “I will go and return to My place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek My face: i: their affliction they will seek Me early.” When He came in humiliation the angels announced His birth, proclaiming, “Glory be to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” But men refused to acknowledge Him. He was rejected and crucified. In addressing the people of Israel Peter said, “And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers.” The people of Israel did not recognize in the lowly Saviour, the promised King of the prophetic Scriptures.

In His absence His gospel is to be proclaimed everywhere. When men receive that gospel and come out definitely for the Lord, they, like Him, will be rejected by the world. Christ said in His great High Priestly prayer, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” It means something to be a Christian; it means something to be identified with the One whom the world has rejected. And so as the world hated and rejected Him we need not be surprised if it hates and rejects us-these are the consequences of the cross. Sometime ago when a vote was taken on the best-loved song sung over the radio, “The Old Rugged Cross” was found to be the most popular in the thousands of answers which poured into the offices of one of our leading newspapers. But I am sure there are a vast number of people who sing of “The Old Rugged Cross,” who do not sense the meaning of the cross. Singing of the cross moves their hearts; but they have never yet trusted the One who died upon that cross, nor taken their places in identification with Him in His rejection.

In the opening verses of the present section our Lord refers to this rejection and to that which was to be accomplished on the cross. He said, “I am come to send fire on the earth, and what will I, if it be already kindled?” The symbol of fire speaks of God acting in judgment against sin. Jesus came not to condemn men but to save them; yet the world put itself in the place of condemnation by rejecting Him. God’s test is, “What is your attitude toward My Son?” or, “What think ye of Christ?” If men receive Him, if they trust Him, if they take their places with Him, then they enter into peace and blessedness; but if they spurn Him, then they expose themselves to the wrath and judgment of God. Jesus said, “But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!” He was referring to that baptism of divine judgment which He was to undergo on the cross. We noticed in connection with John’s baptism that it was unto repentance. When people confessed their sins he led them into the waters of baptism. Baptism did not cleanse them from sin but signified repentance. The people went down into the waters of baptism, confessing that they were sinners and that they deserved to die. Jesus took His place with these sinners in this baptism, as pledging Himself to settle for their sins, though He was the sinless One. It was as though He were endorsing the notes which all these debtors were giving to God. When one endorses a note the day eventually comes when it falls due. If the debtor cannot pay, then the endorser must do it. Jesus had endorsed the notes for all these people. Now three-and-one-half years had passed and the fulness of time had come when the notes must be paid, when everything must be settled; and He saw the cross before Him where He was to meet every claim God had against sinners. He said, “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!” His own soul was moved deeply as He looked forward to that cross and to the judgment against sin which He was to endure there.

That cross was to divide the world. The Lord Jesus said, “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division.” Did He not come to give peace? Peace was offered through Him. If men had received Him they would have had peace, but they spurned Him. For nearly two thousand years war and confusion have prevailed instead of the peace promised by the prophets of old through Messiah’s advent. Peace will not come until He returns. In the meantime there will be strife and distress: “For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” Thus it has been ever since He left this scene. Families and nations have been broken up and divided, all because of their attitude toward the Lord Jesus. Many of us know something of that. Those of you who were born into families where the gospel was not known and loved, and yet through the grace of God you were reached and saved, know something of the bitter opposition of those intimately related to you. It has cost many of you a great deal of suffering for the Lord’s sake. Other members of your family called you a fanatic and a fool because you trusted the Saviour. But it is for you to go on trusting Him and to be faithful to Him because of the grace that has saved you. He has pardoned you, and by that very fact you may be sure that He is interested in all your family. Ask Him to bring the others to Himself. But until that takes place do not become discouraged. Before you were saved you did not understand why Christians could give up gladly everything for Christ’s sake, and so you need not expect to be understood now by those who are still in their sins.

Let me warn you who are already Christians: Do not play fast and loose with the world which crucified your Lord. I always feel sad when earnest young people inquire if there is any harm in this or in that. It is better to ask, “Will it honor my Lord?” “Will it make me more Christ-like?” “Will it make me more spiritual?” You may do freely that which will have a tendency to create in your soul a greater appreciation of Christ.

He is coming back again one of these days! He went away as the rejected One; He is coming back as the glorified One. When He came the first time the people could not discern the signs of the times, and there is danger lest we should be just as ignorant in regard to His second coming. He said: “When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straight-way ye say, There cometh a shower; and so it is. And when ye see the south wind blow, ye say, There will be heat; and it cometh to pass.” They had the Scriptures of the prophets in their hands, and yet they could not see the signs which were being fulfilled all about them. We have the Bible today, and there are many things being fulfilled which tell us of the near return of our Lord; but how few there are who realize this! “Yea, and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?” The standard is the Word of God. Study the Scriptures and you will learn from them the path you should take as you pass through this world. “When thou goest with thine adversary to the magistrate, as thou art in the way, give diligence that thou mayest be delivered from him; lest he hale thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and the officer cast thee into prison. I tell thee, thou shalt not depart thence, till thou hast paid the very last mite.” In other words, try to settle this matter out of court. Do not wait until the day of manifestation, whether you think of the judgment of the Christ-less at the Great White Throne, or whether you think of the day when the Lord shall descend from heaven and His own shall appear before Him. Do not leave matters to be straightened out till that day. It is better to face everything in this life and so obtain the certainty of divine forgiveness now. It will be too late to put things right in eternity. No man by any effort of his own, by any merit that he might accumulate, can ever meet the demands of Divine justice. But Christ has paid for all who will trust in Him! Justified by faith before God we are responsible to so behave toward our brethren here on earth that we shall keep a conscience void of offence toward God and man.

 

 

 

 


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Bibliography Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Luke 12:4". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/isn/luke-12.html. 1914.

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Wednesday, February 20th, 2019
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