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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible
Luke 11

 

 


Other Authors
Verses 1-54

Valuable Instruction as to Prayer

(vs.1-13)

As this chapter opens the Lord Jesus was exemplifying the character of dependent communion with His Father (that character that He commended in Mary). His example awakened the exercise of at least one of His disciples to desire the Lord to them to pray, for the disciples remembered that John the Baptist taught his disciples to pray.

The prayer the Lord taught (vs.2-4) corresponds to Matthew 6:9-13 and whether it is the same occasion or not, Luke omits some expressions that Matthew includes, making Luke's record quite brief in comparison. It is the Spirit of God who has decided this, giving an outline here morally suitable for the Gospel of Luke, but it is an outline, not intended to be repeated verbally, for there is no closing sentence and no "Amen" included. In fact, even in Matthew the closing sentence, "For Thine is the power...." in the KJV is only an addition by a copyist, for it is not found in the earliest and best manuscripts.

First, God's primacy (our Father) is affirmed, yet in gracious relationship with us. "Hallowed be Your name" is next, which speaks of His dignity as sanctified from all others. Then the desire for His full divine authority is expressed in "Your kingdom come." This is the Father's kingdom, not that of the Son of Man in the millennial reign, but the giving up of the kingdom into the hand of the Father (1 Corinthians 15:24) when the millennium is completed.

Only when the Father's kingdom comes (in eternity) will His will be done on earth as it is in heaven, but our praying for this now will tend to form in us an obedient, subject spirit. Meanwhile, "give us day by day our daily bread" expresses our dependence continually upon His faithful administration. Then the plea for God's mercy in forgiveness of sins is added. This is not the forgiveness of one coming to God for the first time, but rather a Father's forgiveness when His children have sinned, so it has to do with His daily government in the lives of believers. We can only expect this forgiveness insofar as we ourselves are characterized by a forgiving spirit. The last request is negative, "do not lead us into temptation," for we must realize our great weakness and likelihood of failure when put in such circumstances. Peter did not pray this way (Luke 22:33) for he was confident he would not deny his Lord: therefore he had to learn by sad experience.

This prayer was adapted to the need of the disciples at the time before God's great dispensational change in introducing the Church age by means of the gift of the Spirit of God (Acts 2:1-47), following the death and resurrection of Christ. The beautiful expressions in Paul's prayers of Ephesians 1:1-23; Ephesians 3:1-21 and of Colossians 1:1-29 could not possibly have been used in this "disciples' prayer," so it would be a great mistake for us to now limit ourselves to pray simply as the Lord instructed His disciples.

The Lord then had much to add in encouraging the persistent, believing prayer of His own. If one had a friend (not simply a neighbor) and even at midnight went to him to request the loan of three loaves of bread because of an emergency, is it likely that his friend would excuse himself from helping because it would disturb his own comfort? The Lord answered, that if even on the basis of friendship the friend might not be disposed to help at that hour, yet simply because of one's persistence -- his earnest insistence in asking -- his friend will respond (v.8).

It is true that a man may respond simply because he does not want to be bothered by constant asking. This is not God's attitude, but He desires to see in our prayers the reality of earnestness rather than just giving up because no immediate answer to our prayer is forthcoming.

In verse 9 He encouraged an increasing urgency in prayer, not only to ask, but to seek, and more still, to knock with the insistence of one who has serious need. Yet all three degrees of urgency will be answered, for God cares for us in perfection of love. Everyone who asks receives. This supposes the asking to be in subjection to the will of God, for some asked and did not receive because they asked amiss (James 4:3). The one who seeks finds: this too must be genuine, honest seeking the blessing of God, as is also the case with knocking. The door will be opened where faith impels one to knock. In all of this it is faith that is encouraged.

A son asking bread of his father generally has confidence that his father will answer considerately. To give a stone in place of bread would be cruelty: do believers not have more confidence in their Father than this? The stone would be harmless but useless in this case, but if a serpent was given instead of a fish, the substitute would be positively harmful. In prayer therefore let us ask in unwavering faith, assured that our Father will answer in the best way possible for us.

The Lord concluded His treatment of the subject of prayer by reminding His disciples that they themselves were evil, that is, they had an evil nature, therefore their motives were likely to be selfish, yet in spite of this they knew how to give good gifts to their children (v.13). How much more then should He who is perfect in truth and goodness, be depended on to give the greatest of all good gifts to those who ask Him, that is, the gift of the Holy Spirit? This was said to the disciples who at that time had not received the Spirit as an indwelling possession, nor could do so until Christ had been glorified after His death and resurrection (John 7:39). They were encouraged to ask for the Spirit, for it was God's intention to give Him. Now that the Holy Spirit has come and dwells in every believer (Romans 8:9), it would be a mistake for a believer to ask for Him again. We may rather thank God for Him and seek grace to "walk in the Spirit" consistently, for we are blessed today far beyond all we could ask or think.

A Stronger Than Satan

(vs.14-26)

Verse 14 begins a section in which there are seen many forms of opposition to the grace of the Lord Jesus, beginning with the cunning deceit of Satan. The Lord had cast out a demon who had caused his victim to lose ability to speak. But when the demon was cast out his victim was able to speak. The people wondered at such manifest power But the subtlety of Satan was immediately awakened in opposition. He influenced men to accuse the Lord of expelling demons by Satan's power. In fact, such men were willing partners in such gross deception and for them there was no forgiveness (Mark 9:2-30). Satan also attacked through those who sought a sign from heaven. They discounted the Lord's character of moral perfection and His words of pure truth, but rather wanted proof by some miraculous sign. But Satan can produce apparent signs and lying wonders (2 Thessalonians 2:9), so his reason for emphasizing these signs is evident.

The Lord discerned the working of their minds and showed them their inconsistency. Satan claimed that the Lord is using his own (Satan's) power to cast out demons, but if this were the case Satan's kingdom would be divided against itself. It could not possibly stand: it would ruin itself immediately. Satan is certainly not going to use his power deliberately against himself. The word Beelzebub very likely comes from Baal-zebub the Old Testament, meaning "lord of flies," indicating the repulsive character of the evil one.

The Lord then asked a most penetrating question. These same people as above took pleasure in any ability their own sons had to cast out demons, for God had occasionally in the past given the power of doing this to some Jews. Their faith had counted on Him and He had answered. So the Lord asked His critics, "by whom do your sons cast them out?" They were too embarrassed to answer the question, so He added, "therefore they shall be your judges."

Demons had never in such numbers been cast out before the Lord's time. Such work could only be the finger of God, and it required the positive conclusion that the kingdom of God had come upon them. This great work cannot be ignored. In one aspect of it, the kingdom was at hand, but in a very real way it had already come upon them in the person of the King, to whom they gave no recognition. Satan was as a strong man armed, keeping his stronghold, his goods not disturbed so long as his strength prevailed. But a stronger than he, the Son of God, had attacked in overwhelming power, divesting Satan of his goods and armor, dividing the spoils, that is, giving to others the benefit of His victory.

The Lord drew a very decided line in this case. One who was not with Christ was against Him (v.23). There was no middle ground. Men may speak as though they are against Satan while at the very time they are his willing dupes, blinded by unbelief and serving his interests. These are not believers at all. The expression in the latter part of verse 23, "he who does not gather with Me scatters," while true as it is of unbelievers, may include also those believers who do not put the Lord's interests foremost. One may be saved and yet not exercise a character of shepherd care like that of His Lord. If so, he will tend to scatter the sheep, which is really Satan's work as John 10:12 shows us.

In verses 24-26 the Lord added a most solemn warning. The Jews at the time were proud of having cleansed the country of idolatry in a public, outward way. The unclean spirit had gone out, though not said to be "cast out." This was mere outward moral reform, swept and garnished, but not having received the better Occupant, the Lord Jesus. He was available and was the only One able to overcome the power of Satan, but the self-righteous pride of Israel's heart refused Him. Today there are large numbers in the same alarming condition, having an empty religion that caters to their self-righteousness, but with no heart for the Lord Jesus, the Son of God.

The final result will be dreadful. The evil spirit will return to find a congenial atmosphere, reformed, religious, but with plenty of room for seven other evil spirits more wicked than himself. Man's heart is not a vacuum: it craves company. But in rejecting the company of the Son of God, one voluntarily opens the door for satanic occupants. So Israel, in the tribulation period, will accept idolatry worse than they have ever before entertained, blindly receiving the lie of the antichrist which will open the door for an infestation of evil spirits. Similarly, the last state of one who has merely reformed his ways without receiving Christ, will be worse than before his reformation.

ADDRESSING THOSE IN THE BLINDNESS OF NATURAL IGNORANCE

(vs.27-36)

In this section we see another form of opposition to the true grace of God, not this time satanic deception, but fleshly confidence which involved no discernment of what the grace of God really is. This began with the loud words of a women, who, having heard Him speaking, desired to give honor to His mother, not to Him. She saw in Him only that which human nature had produced. But Mary had added nothing whatever to the Lord (He being conceived entirely by the Holy Spirit) and this is a sad case of flesh seeking the credit for producing even the Lord of glory! Her spiritual blindness was reproved by the Lord's simple answer, that blessedness belongs rather to those who hear and keep the Word of God. How vital a matter is this for those who are inclined to worship Mary! The Lord had spoken the words of God: did the woman have a heart to hear and keep these words? Do we have such a heart?

The Lord reproved this dull fleshly mindedness in His following words. The people were crowded thick together (v.29), and He warned this evil generation, who instead of taking to heart the Word of God, desired a sign. One important sign, that of Jonah the prophet, would be given them. Matthew 12:1-50 speaks of Jonah being three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish as symbolical of the death and resurrection of Christ; a great sign indeed, yet ignored by Israel. Luke rather stresses Jonah as being a sign to the Ninevites, and in this case his preaching which produced repentance was foremost, and that among Gentiles. Just so, the emphasis here is on the Word of God, that which works in power to produce repentance and faith.

The men of Ninevah would bear similar witness to that of the Queen of Sheba, they also being Gentiles, but who had no interest in their relationship with God until awakened by the preaching of Jonah, which brought the city to repentance. Now here was a far greater than Jonah preaching the pure word of God to a corrupt nation that had every reason to be concerned about God's claims, but they would not repent, though they callously wanted a sign!

The lighted lamp of verse 33 speaks of the testimony of God. No man hides a lamp when he lights it: it is not intended to be a secret thing. Nor will he put it under a bushel basket. As to God's testimony, we may too easily obscure it through fear (making it a secret) or through busy occupation (of which the bushel speaks). The Lord Jesus did not do this. He let the light shine out in wonderful fullness for all to see: the lamp was on the lampstand. No one had any just excuse for not responding.

Why did they not see? Because their eye was not single. The eye lets in the light: if this perception is transparently honest and straightforward, it is a single eye. But if my perception is blurred by the stubbornness of wanting to see in my own way, this is an evil eye and will result in the whole person being full of spiritual darkness. It is well known, for instance, that two witnesses may report an incident totally differently, often depending on what they want to see.

Therefore what people boast of as their religious "light" or knowledge may be total darkness because their own wills are involved in it. How earnestly we should guard against this! If however, as a result of receiving the true light, our whole body is full of light, having no part dark, that is, all being subject to the light that enters, then all shall be full of light as from the bright shining of a lamp, that lamp being the testimony of Christ. If there is honest willingness to receive the light in every department of one's life, the result will be fullness of light in the soul. Faith will be rewarded with clear, genuine knowledge from Him who is light.

WOES PRONOUNCED AGAINST THE PHARISEES AND LAWYERS

(vs.37-54)

It may have been that the Pharisee of verse 37 was impressed with what he heard, for he urged the Lord to eat with him, and the Lord accepted the invitation. Yet how little had the Lord's words really entered the Pharisee's heart!, for in his thoughts he becomes a critic of the Lord for not observing the religious formality of washing His hands before eating. If one's hands are soiled it is sensible to wash them, but if not, where is the sense of making a religious tradition of washing?

The Lord's words were therefore searching and unsparing, not only as to the man personally, but including his fellow Pharisees. Mere formal observance is a serious evil. Anyone daring to profess spiritual understanding without having his heart penetrated by the light of God's truth, and stressing outward forms of religious observance, is actually opposing God. This is the third form of opposition to the grace of the Lord Jesus -- that of legal formality (vs.37-54). It was tragically true of the Pharisees generally that they were zealous to clean the outside of the cup and platter while inwardly having thoughts of cruelty and greed in reference to the people and of wickedness toward God. Foolish and willingly blinded, they did not consider that the God who made the outward form of things also made what was inward, and He discerned every inward motive; yet they thought the giving of alms would cleanse away every moral evil (v.41).

The Lord pronounced a solemn woe upon the Pharisees, for they were strictly careful to tithe the smallest things, extremely meticulous in certain details, while ignoring honest judgment of good and evil, and ignoring the love of God. Indeed it was God's love that in the first place gave the law to seek to reach men's consciences and hearts by their inability to keep it. Honest self-judgment and appreciation of the love of God were then two matters they should have positively regarded, while not leaving the other matters undone, that is, neither making small things an issue nor ignoring them.

A second "woe" was pronounced on the Pharisees because of their love for prominence and recognition by men in the synagogues and in the streets (v.43). The Lord's reproof was due to their outward show before men, with no concern as to their inward relationship to God. The third "woe" included the scribes, adding the solemn epithet, "hypocrites," and likening them to graves that were concealed in such a way that people who walked over them were not aware of the corruption of death so near at hand. Because of cunning deceit in concealing their own spiritual corruption, they deceived the common people.

Scribes and lawyers were rather closely linked, for scribes began by being simply writers, then virtually became theologians. Eventually they involved themselves with Israel's law from a judicial point of view and thus became lawyers and sometimes doctors of the law (as was Gamalial -- Acts 5:34). They therefore considered themselves to be authoritative interpreters of the law. They could be Pharisees at the same time -- a double evil! A lawyer therefore objected to the Lord's scathing words, for he complained that by implication even the lawyers were reproached (v.45). But if he thought the Lord would retract or modify His words in deference to lawyers, he was mistaken. In fact, the Lord added three "woes" for lawyers also. First, instead of their being concerned to obey the law, they considered themselves enforcers of the law upon others. So they heaped heavy burdens on the people but never lifted a finger to help bear the burden. Too often it is true that one who is rigid in his teaching may be loose in example.

The second woe (v.47) was because the lawyers were foremost in raising monuments on the graves of the prophets, for they knew the history of these men who had often suffered martyrdom at the hands of Israel's leaders. These leaders had hated the prophets while they were living, then flattered them when dead! The Lord spoke of this as a witness to the fact that they were guilty of the murder of the prophets, that is, they were glad they were dead! They were the very sons (in practical character) of those who had killed them.

If they wanted to relegate this murderous persecution to a bygone day, the Lord spoke of the wisdom of God (not that of clever lawyers) as declaring that He would send prophets and apostles, some of whom would be persecuted and killed by the generation then present. Then He announced a principle that is so unacceptable to people generally that it is either ignored or strongly resisted. That principle is that the blood of all the prophets of the past would be required of the present generation; and lest there be any mistake about it, He speaks of the blood of Abel (who was killed by Cain), and down to Zechariah who was killed in the place of his priestly service for God (2 Chronicles 24:20-21). "Yes," the Lord insists "It shall be required of this generation" (v.50). The reason is simply that this generation to whom He spoke maintained the same attitude of refusal of the testimony of God, which they very soon proved in the murder of the Lord Jesus and of various apostles later.

The Lord's final woe to lawyers is because they had taken away the key of knowledge. They did not enter the kingdom themselves, but professing themselves wise, they used their intellect to obscure actual knowledge, thereby also hindering others from entering the kingdom. So they could be counted wise, they kept others in a condition of ignorance! All of these things, from verse 37, show the opposition of mere legal formality to the pure grace of the Lord Jesus, which works in inward reality.

But the scribes and Pharisees (which included lawyers) immediately proved the truth of His words, that inwardly they were full of cruelty and wickedness, for they vehemently urged Him to speak of many things they thought might lead Him to speak in a way they could use against Him (vs.53-54). How vain an effort! He spoke only words of truth and soberness.

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Luke 11:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/luke-11.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 20th, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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