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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Luke 12

 

 

Verse 1

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.

In the mean time - in close connection, probably, with the foregoing scene, Our Lord had been speaking out more plainly than ever before, as matters were coming to a head between Him and His enemies, and this seems to have suggested to His own mind the warning here. He had just Himself illustriously exemplified His own precepts.

When there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trod one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all - and afterward to the multitudes (Luke 12:54),

Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. As leaven is concealed within the mass on which it operates, yet works diffusively and masterfully, so is it with hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is of two kinds. Pretending to be what we are not, and concealing what we are. Though these are so closely allied that the one runs into the other, it is the latter form of it against which our Lord here warns His disciples. When His name could not be confessed but at the risk of reputation, liberty, property, and life itself, the temptation to unworthy concealment of what they were would of course be exceedingly strong; and it is the consequences of such cowardly and traitorous concealment that our Lord is now to point out. Elsewhere He would have us count the cost of Discipleship before we undertake it: Here He would have us count the cost of hypocrisy-in the sense of shrinking from the confession of His name before men-before we resolve on or give way to that fatal step.


Verse 2-3

For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known.

For there is nothing covered (from view), that shall not be revealed; neither hid (from knowledge), that shall not be known. Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness ... See the notes at Matthew 10:26-27.


Verse 4

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.

And I say unto you, my friends. He calls them "friends" here, not in any loose sense, but, as we think, from the feeling He then had that in this "killing of the body" He and they were going to be affectingly one with the feeling He then had that in this "killing of the body" He and they were going to be affectingly one with each other.

Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do - they may go that length, but there their power ends.}


Verse 5

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.

But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him which after he hath killed - that is, taken away the life of the body, as at length He does even by natural death,

Hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him. How striking the repetition of this word "Fear!" Only the fear of the Greater will effectually expel the fear of the less.


Verse 6

Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?

Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings? In Matthew 10:20, it is, "two for one farthing:" so, if one took two farthings' worth, he got one in addition-of such insignificant value were they.

And (yet) not one of them is forgotten before God:


Verse 7

But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.

But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows. What incomparable teaching-its simplicity imparting to it a wonderful charm!


Verse 8-9

Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God:

Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men ... See the notes at Matthew 10:32-33.


Verse 10

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 whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man ... but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Spirit ... See the notes at Matthew 12:31-32.


Verse 11

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:

12. And when they bring you unto the synagogues ... See the notes at Matthew 10:19-20.


Verse 12

For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 13

And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.

And one of the company said unto him, Master [`Teacher' Didaskale (G1320)], speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me: - q.d., 'Great Preacher of righteousness, help; there is need of Thee in this rapacious world; here am I the victim of injustice, and that from my own brother, who withholds from me my rightful share of the inheritance that has fallen to us.' In this most inopportune intrusion upon the solemnities of our Lord's teaching, there is a mixture of the absurd and the irreverent, the one however occasioning the other. The man had not the least idea that his case was not of as urgent a nature, and as worthy the attention of our Lord, as anything else He could deal with.


Verse 14

And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?

And he said unto him, Man. What a contrast is there between this style of address and "My friends," when encouraging His own faithful disciples resolutely to confess Him in the face of all dangers (Luke 12:4)!

Who made me a judge or a divider over you? A remarkable question, coming from such lips, explicitly repudiating an office which Moses assumed (Exodus 2:14), and afterward was divinely called to exercise. Not for such a purpose was the Son of Cod manifested.


Verse 15

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 said unto them - the immense multitude before Him, (Luke 12:1),

Take heed, and beware of covetousness - `of all covetousness,' or, 'of every kind of covetousness,' is beyond doubt the true reading here. Since this was one of the more plausible forms of it, the Lord would strike at once at the root of the evil.

For a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. A singularly weighty maxim, and not the lees so, because its meaning and its truth are equally evident.


Verses 16-19

And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:

And he spake a parable ... The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall 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. Why is this man called a "fool"? First, Because he deemed a life of secure and abundant earthly enjoyment the summit of human felicity; and next, because, having acquired the means of realizing this, through prosperity in his calling, he flattered himself that he had a long lease of such enjoyment, and nothing to do but to give himself up to it. Nothing else is laid to his charge.


Verse 20

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?

But God said unto him, Fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee. This sudden cutting short of his career is designed to express not only the folly of building securely upon the future, but of throwing one's whole soul into what may at any moment be gone. "His soul being required of him" is put in opposition to his own treatment of it - "I will say to my soul, Soul," etc.

Then whose shall those things be which thou hast provided? Compare Psalms 39:6, "He heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them."


Verse 21

So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. Here is a picture of present folly, and of its awful issue. Such is the man "who is not rich toward God:" he lives to amass and enjoy such riches only as terminate on self, and end with time; but as to God's favour which is life (Psalms 30:5), and precious faith (2 Peter 1:1; James 2:5), and riches in good works (1 Timothy 6:18), and the wisdom which is better than rubies (Proverbs 3:15), and in a word, all that the Lord esteems true riches (Revelation 2:9; Revelation 3:18), he lives and dies a beggar!


Verses 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.

And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought ... This and the twelve following verses are but a repetition, with slight verbal difference, of part of the Sermon on the Mount. See the note at Matthew 6:25-34. But a word or two of explanation on one or two of the verses may be added here.

Verse 25. And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit?

Verse 26. If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest? 'Corroding solicitude will not bring you the least of the things ye fret about, though it may double the evil of wanting them. And if not the least, why vex yourselves about things of more consequence?'

Verse 29. And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind , [ mee (Greek #3361) meteoorizesthe (Greek #3349)] - 'be not of unsettled mind,' or put off your balance.

Verse 32. Fear not, little flock , [ to (Greek #3588) mikron (Greek #3398) poimnion (Greek #4168)] - a double diminutive, which in German can be expressed, but in English only in colloquial language. The tenderness it is designed to convey is plain enough.

For it is your Father's good pleasure , [ hoti (Greek #3754) eudokeesen (Greek #2106) ho (Greek #3588) Pateer (Greek #3962) humoon (Greek #5216)]. On this expression, see the note at Matthew 3:17.

To give you the kingdom. Every word of title little verse is more to be desired than fine gold. How sublime and touching is the contrast between the tender and pitying appellation, "little flock," and the "Good Pleasure" of the Father to give them the Kingdom: the one recalling the insignificance and helplessness of the at that time truly little flock, that literal handful of disciples; the other holding up to their view the eternal love that encircled them, the everlasting arms that were underneath them, and the high inheritance awaiting them! "To give you the Kingdom:" Grand word, exclaims Bengel; then why not bread? Well might He say, "Fear not"!

Verse 33. Sell that ye have, and give alms ... This is but a more vivid expression of Matthew 6:19-20.


Verse 35

Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning;

Let your loins be girded about - to fasten up the long outer garment, which was always done before travel and before work (See 2 Kings 4:29; Acts 12:8; and compare, for the sense, Ephesians 6:14; 1 Peter 1:13.) The meaning is, Be prepared.

And your lights burning;


Verse 36

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.

And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord ... In the corresponding parable of the Virgins (Matthew 25:1, etc.) the preparedness is for the wedding; here it is for return from the wedding. But in both, the thing intended is Preparedness for Christ's Coming.


Verse 37

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.

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. A promise the most august of all Thus will the Bridegroom entertain His friends on the solemn Nuptial Day, says Bengel sweetly.


Verse 38

And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.

And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. To find them ready to receive Him at any hour of day or night, when one might least of all expect Him, is peculiarly blessed. A servant may he truly faithful, even though taken so far unawares that he has not everything in such order and readiness for his master's return as he thinks is due to him, and as he both could and would have had if he had had notice of the time of his coming. In this case he would not be willing to open to him "immediately," but would fly to preparation, and let his master knock again before he admit him, and even then not with full joy. A too common case this with Christians. But if the servant have himself and all under his charge in such a state that at any hour when his master knocks he can open to him "immediately," and hail his return-what an enviable, "blessed" servant is that!


Verse 39

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.

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 - of course; but no credit, no thank to him.


Verse 40

Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.

Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not. So Matthew 24:42; Matthew 24:44; Matthew 25:13, etc. How frequently does this recur in the teaching of our Lord; nor less so in that of His apostles! 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10, etc. Is it as frequently heard now?


Verse 41

Then Peter said unto him, Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us, or even to all?

Then Peter said unto him, Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us, or even to all? He had addressed Himself on this occasion alternately to the Twelve and to the vast assemblage; and Peter, feeling the solemn import of what had just been said coming home to himself, would fain know for which of the two classes it was specially intended.


Verse 42

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? And the Lord said, Who then is. Our Lord answers the question indirectly by another question, from which they were left to gather what it would be: 'To you certainly, in the first instance, representing the "stewards" of the "household" I am about to collect, but generally to all "servants" in My house.'

That faithful and wise steward , [ oikonomos (Greek #3623)] - 'house-steward,' whose it was to distribute to the servants their allotted portion of food. Fidelity is the first requisite in a servant; but wisdom-discretion and judgment in the exercise of his functions-is the next.

Whom his lord shall make (or will deem fit to be made) ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? - that is, whom his lord will advance to the highest post: The reference is of course to the world to come. (See Matthew 25:21; Matthew 25:23.)


Verses 43-45

Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.

Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Of a truth ... 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 men-servants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken. The picture here presented is that of a servant who, in the confidence that his lord's return will not be speedy, throws off the servant and plays the master, maltreating those faithful servants who refuse to join him, seizing on and revelling in the fullness of his master's board; intending, when he has gotten his fill, to resume the mask of fidelity before his master appear.


Verse 46

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.

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 , [ dichotomeesei (Greek #1371) auton (Greek #846)]. Dichotomy, or cleaving a person in two, was a punishment not unknown in the East. Compare Hebrews 11:37, "Sawn asunder;" and 1 Samuel 15:33; Daniel 2:5.

And will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers , [ meta (Greek #3326) toon (Greek #3588) apistoon (Greek #571)] - rather, 'with the unfaithful,' meaning those servants who are found unworthy of trust. In Matthew 24:51 it is, "with the hypocrites;" that is, those falsely calling themselves servants.


Verse 47

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.

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 - his guilt being aggravated by the extent of his knowledge.


Verse 48

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.

But he that knew not - that is, knew it but partially; because some knowledge is presupposed both in the name "servant" of Christ, and in his being liable to punishment at all.

And did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. So that there will be degrees of future punishment, proportioned to the light enjoyed-the knowledge sinned against. Even pagans are not without knowledge enough for future judgment (see the notes at Romans 2:12-16); but the reference here is not to such. It is a solemn truth, and though general, like all other revelations of the future world, discloses a tangible and momentous principle in its awards.

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. So that when we are told that men are to be judged according to the deeds done in the body (Matthew 16:27; Romans 2:6), we are to understand not the actions only, but the principles on which and the whole circumstances in which they were done. Thus equitable will the Judgment be.


Verse 49

I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled?

I am come to send, [ balein (G906), rather, 'to cast'] fire on the earth. By "fire" here we are to understand, as Olshausen expresses it, the higher spiritual element of life which Jesus came to introduce into this earth (compare Matthew 3:11), with reference to its mighty effects in quickening all that is akin to it and destroying all that is opposed. To cause this element of life to take up its abode on earth, and wholly to pervade human hearts with its warmth, was the lofty destiny of the Redeemer. So Calvin, Stier, Alford, etc.

And what will I, if it be already kindled? [ kai (Greek #2532) ti (Greek #5101) theloo (Greek #2309) ei (Greek #1487) eedee (Greek #2235) aneefthee (Greek #381)] - an obscure expression, uttered under deep and half-smothered emotion. In its general import all are agreed, but interpreters differ as to the precise shade of meaning intended. The nearest to the precise meaning seems to be, 'And what should I have to desire if it were but once kindled?'


Verse 50

But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!

But I have a baptism to be baptized with - clearly His own bloody baptism, which had first to take place.

And how am I straitened - not, 'how do I long for its accomplishment,' as many understand it, thus making it but a repetition of the former verse; but 'what a pressure of spirit is upon me'

Till it be accomplished - completed, over! Before a promiscuous audience, such obscure language was perhaps fitting on a theme like this; but O what surges of mysterious emotion in the view of what was now so near at hand does it reveal!


Verse 51

Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division:

Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay - `in the first instance, the reverse.'

But rather division. See the notes at Matthew 10:34-36.


Verse 52-53

For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three.

For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father ... against the son, and the son against the father; the mother ... the daughter ... the mother-in-law ... The connection of all this with the foregoing warnings about Hypocrisy. Covetousness, and Watchfulness, is deeply solemn: 'My conflict hastens apace; Mine over, yours begins; and then, let the servants tread in their Master's steps, uttering their testimony entire and fearless, neither loving nor dreading the world, anticipating awful wrenches of the dearest ties in life, but looking forward, as I do, to the completion of their testimony when, after the tempest, reaching the haven, they shall enter into the joy of their Lord.'


Verses 54-56

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 he said also to the people - rather, 'to the multitudes' [ tois (Greek #3588) ochlois (Greek #3793)]: it is a word of special warning to the thoughtless crowd, before dismissing them.

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 ... Hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time? See the note at Mark 8:11. They were wise in their forecastings as to the things of time, but applied not the same sagacity to things spiritual, and were unable to perceive what a critical, decisive period for the chosen people they had fallen upon.


Verse 57

Yea, and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?

Yea, and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right? They might say, To do this requires more knowledge of Scripture and Providence than we possess; but He sends them to their own conscience, as enough to show them who He was, and win them to immediate discipleship.


Verse 58

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.

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. See the notes at Matthew 5:25-26. It was the urgency of the case with them, and the necessity of immediate decision for their own safety, that drew forth this repetition of those striking words of the Sermon of the Mount.

Remarks:

(1) It will be observed that in dealing with hypocrisy-as indeed with everything else-our Lord passes by all inferior considerations, holding forth only its eternal issues. It is not that these inferior arguments against hypocrisy and other forms of inconsistency in Christians are of no weight. But since apart from the higher considerations they are powerless against the evil tendencies of the heart, and it is from the higher that the lower derive all their real influence, our Lord will not descend to them in His teaching, but concentrates attention upon the final issues of such conduct. This imparted to His teaching a loftiness and a weight perfectly new to those accustomed only to the drivel of the rabbis. In modern times both kinds of teaching have been exemplified in the Christian Church. In times of spiritual death, or prevailing insensibility to eternal things, preachers of ability have wasted their strength in the pulpit, in analyzing the human faculties and expatiating on the natural operation of the principles and passions of our nature.

On such a subject as hypocrisy they would show how unmanly it was to conceal one's sentiments, what a crooked, sneaking, pusillanimous, vacillating disposition it tended to generate, and what general distrust it was apt to beget when it assumed formidable proportions. Such discourses are little else than lectures on practical ethics-very proper in a chair of philosophy, but below the dignity and sanctity of the pulpit. And what has been the effect? Attentive hearers have been entertained perhaps; and the preachers have been complimented upon their ability. But never have the souls of the people been stirred, and never have the evils so exposed been a whit diminished in consequence. But whenever there is any general awakening from spiritual torpor, and the reality of eternal things comes in any good degree to be felt, the pulpit rises to a higher tone, and our Lord's way of treating spiritual things is adopted; the attention of the people is riveted, their souls are stirred, and the fruits of righteousness more or less appear. On this subject it deserves notice, too, that our Lord knows nothing of that false and mawkish refinement which would represent the fear of hell as a selfish and gross motive to present, especially to Christians, to deter them from basely denying or being ashamed of Him. As the meekness and gentleness of Christ were not compromised by such harsh notes as these, so those servants of Christ who soften down all such language, to please 'ears polite,' have little of their Master's spirit. See the notes at Mark 9:43-48, and Remark 5 at the close of that section.

(2) The refusal of our Lord to intermeddle with the affairs of this life as a Judge carries with it a great lesson to all religious teachers. Immense indeed is the influence of religious teachers in the external relations of life, but only when it is indirectly exercised: whenever they interfere directly with secular and political matters, the spell of that influence is broken. If they take a side, as in that case they must do, those on the opposite side cannot help regarding them as adversaries; and this necessarily diminishes, if it does not destroy-with such at least-their professional influence, or the weight they would otherwise carry in their own proper sphere. Whereas, when the ministers of Christ keep themselves aloof from secular disputes and political parties, abiding within their proper sphere, all parties look up to them, and they are often the means of mollifying the bitterest feelings and reconciling the most conflicting interests. Will the servants of Christ weigh this?

(3) Though there is a general preparedness for Christ's coming which belongs to the character of all who truly love Him, even believers may be more or less taken by surprise when He comes. A faithful servant, whose master's return has been delayed long beyond expectation, may cease expecting him at any particular time, and so slacken his preparations for receiving him. When at length he comes and demands admittance, that servant, though not wholly unprepared, may, on hastily glancing over what is under his hand, see many things which might have been in better order, and would, if he had gotten but a very little warning. But he must open to his master without delay. He does so, conscious of his general fidelity, and trusting this will appear to his master's kindly eye, yet unable to welcome him with that full cordiality which he should have wished to feel. And his master is satisfied of his honest fidelity, but falls not to observe, both in the state of his house and the symptoms of confusion which his servant betrays, that He has been taken somewhat by surprise. How different the feeling of that servant who is "always ready," determined that his Master shall not take him by surprise! O the gladness of that welcome which Christ's servants are enabled to give Him when always watching and habitually ready! Is not this what is meant by "having an entrance ministered to us abundantly [ plousioos (Greek #4146)] into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ?" (2 Peter 1:11).

(4) If Christ's religion is like fire cast into the earth, burning up whatever is opposed to it, admitting of no compromise, and working toward its own unimpeded power over people, it is easy to see why its operation is so slow and small at many periods, and in many places and persons. The fire is too often quenched by the systematic attempt to serve two masters. Jesus will have uncompromising decision, even though it set friends or families at variance-whether rending distant or dearest ties. But if this be trying, it has a natural termination. The more resolute the servants of Christ are, the sooner usually does the opposition to them cease. Besides, active opposition, when seen to be hopeless, is often desisted from, while consistency and strength of character command respect, and are often blessed to the gaining even of the most determined enemies.

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Luke 12:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/luke-12.html. 1871-8.

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