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Bible Commentaries

James Gray's Concise Bible Commentary
Luke 17

 

 


Verses 1-19

USE OF OPPORTUNITY

In the last lesson thought was turned towards the heavenly calling of the disciples, of which earthly wealth is not necessarily a part. To the Jews, this was a great change, which we who, unlike them, never had a country on earth allocated to us, cannot well understand. For this reason our Lord now changes the character of His instruction, and shows in the parable of the unjust steward the results of the right use of opportunity, and in the story of the rich man and Lazarus, the perilous consequences of the opposite.

“The lord” of Luke 16:8 is not Jesus Christ, but the steward’s earthly master who commended him for his foresight. The world which the sinner serves commends him in the same way for similar chicanery. On the other hand, Luke 16:9 is to be understood as in the RV. It is not “when ye fail,” but when “it shall fail,” the mammon of the worldly possessions leased to you for a little while, that the eternal friends you have made by the righteous use of it will “receive you into the eternal tabernacles.” We thus see that our future possession, so apt to be viewed as airy and intangible, comes out as a solid and substantial reality.

Of course the covetous Pharisees deride Him for teaching like this (Luke 16:13-15), therefore, after he rebukes them for their fleshly desires (Luke 16:18), He enforces what He has said by the story that follows (Luke 16:19-31). It is not said that this is a parable, and for all we know there may have been two such men on earth whose history in the other world answers to that set forth in language suited to the day. The vail is here lifted by Him who was competent to do it, and the condition of the lost in the unclothed state laid bare before us. Of what use then is earthly wealth so dearly prized by the covetous, if it be expended only in gratifying the selfish desires of its possessor?

This lesson will not be too long if we include the next chapter down to verse 20, where we reach a natural division of the book. The chief feature of that chapter is the healing of the ten lepers (Luke 17:11-19), but the transition to it is our Lord’s discourse to His disciples in the duty of forgiveness (Luke 17:1-10). The occasions for the forgiveness would be many and unavoidable in a life of sin (Luke 17:1-2), but it should never be omitted (Luke 17:3-4). In the presence of such an obligation the disciples might well say “Lord increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5). And yet as He teaches them, it is not faith they require as much as obedience. This obedience should be displayed without self- glorying (Luke 17:6-10).

The story of the ten lepers illustrates four principles of the Gospel: (1) the Lord visited the scenes of their wretchedness unasked; (2) they owned that among themselves, Jews and Samaritans there was no difference; (3) they supplicated divine mercy as those who felt their need of it; and (4) manifesting the obedience of faith they got the desired blessing. It is not till after all this that any difference is seen, and that in the case of the Samaritan. “He who was the most signal example of grace of them all, most valued it.” But what a gainer he was by turning back to glorify God! (Luke 17:19).

QUESTIONS

1. In what sense does Christ now change the character of His instruction?

2. Who is meant by “lord” in Luke 17:8?

3. How does this lesson show that the future hope of the saint is solid and substantial?

4. Have we any positive ground for calling the story of the rich man and Lazarus a parable?

5. How does the incident of the ten lepers illustrate the principles of the Gospel?


Verses 20-30

COMING OF THE KINGDOM

A transition of thought and teaching is marked by the demand of the Pharisees, “when the Kingdom of God should come” (Luke 17:20) the Kingdom of which he had said so much, and which they had been led to expect by the Old Testament prophets. In our Lord’s answer, “within you” (Luke 17:21) is to be taken in the sense of “in the midst of you” (see RV margin), the meaning of which is seen in the context. The Scofield Bible note is informative here:

The Kingdom in its outward form as promised to David and described by the prophets had been rejected by the Jews, so that during this present age it would not ‘come with observation’ i.e., with outward show, but in the hearts of men. Meantime however, it was among them in the Person of the King and His disciples.

The Kingdom would come some day with observation, but prior thereto persecution and suffering would be the lot of Christ’s disciples, so that they would long for its speedy appearing (Luke 17:22). They should be careful lest they be deceived (Luke 17:23), for when it came it would be as open as it would be unexpected (Luke 17:24). Its unexpectedness to the world is illustrated (Luke 17:26-30), and its discriminating judgments (Luke 17:31-37). Of course, the coming of Christ here referred to is not His coming for His church which will be caught up to meet him in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:16), but His manifestation to the world and to Israel after that has taken place.

In view of the persecution and suffering to be experienced prior to that day, the resource of the disciples must be prayer (Luke 18:1-8). The widow is doubtless the godly remnant of the Jews, to which the disciples in their day belonged, and which will be found on the earth between the translation of the church and the appearing of Christ referred to above. Luke 18:8 confirms this application, since the word “faith” there means not “personal faith, but faith in the whole body of revealed truth.” In other words, it will be a time of such apostasy that the truth of God will have departed almost entirely from the earth.

But other traits should characterize the saints of God at that trying time, of which He speaks first in parabolic form (Luke 18:9-14), and afterwards plainly (Luke 18:15-30). The traits emphasized in the parable are lowliness of spirit based on a right apprehension of sin and faith in sacrificial atonement. The Greek for “Be merciful” is used in the Septuagint and in the New Testament in connection with the Mercy seat (Exodus 25:17-18; Exodus 25:21; Hebrews 9:5), and the publican was “thinking not of mere mercy, but of the blood-sprinkled Mercy seat.” His prayer has been paraphrased thus:

“Be toward me as Thou art when Thou lookest upon the atoning blood.”

The thought is carried out in connection with the blessing of the little children (Luke 18:15-17), see especially the last-named verse. And also in the story of the young ruler (Luke 18:18-30) found as well in Matthew and Mark. This last shows the hindrance against which all are to be warned who would enter into the Kingdom.

QUESTIONS

1. Whence is obtained the title of this lesson?

2. What is the meaning of “the Kingdom of God is within you”?

3. How would you explain Luke 17:22?

4. What aspect of the Coming of Christ is referred to in the closing part of this chapter?

5. How would you interpret the parable of the widow and the unjust judge?

6. What is the meaning of “faith” in Luke 18:8?

7. How do you understand the publican’s prayer, “Be merciful”?

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Gray, James. "Commentary on Luke 17:4". The James Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jgc/luke-17.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, November 27th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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