Sunday, 10 April 2011

LUKE (Chapter 17) - The purification of the holy place in order to come to “the end of all flesh” (Part 6)


In and by Christ, we must (be willing to) be cleansed of all sinful words and actions which may be exchanged from man to man. We must live in that abundant love of God, whereby we, too, become merciful and gracious towards our neighbor.

This new chapter discusses the irritations and temptations our old nature can cause in the heart and life of our brothers and sisters in Christ. In and by Christ, we must be (willing to be) delivered from our old nature, especially from all actions and/or words which give cause to irritation and temptation; wherewith we may offend our brothers and sisters, and whereby their progress (or growth) in God's Kingdom may be hampered or prevented.

Luke 17 verse 1-2: "Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, then that he should offend one of these little ones."

By "one of these little ones" the Lord Jesus means a sincere child of God; a person (large or small, young or old) who, like a child, knows that he is dependent on the Father in everything. The Lord Jesus not for nothing depicted His greatest Gospel preachers as little children: "And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me" (Matthew 18:5). "Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, re-ceiveth not me, but him that sent me" (Mark 9:37). Compare also with Luke 9:48. "And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward" (Matthew 10:42). "Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 18:10). By "their angels" is meant "the born-again spirits, of God’s children which serve God" All being well the believing person who is truly born again of God, must be just as humble as Him, Who said: "...and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart" (Matthew 11:29). When Jesus, our heavenly King, was here on earth, He did not walk as a Prince in Palestine (the present-day Israel), but as a humble Servant of God the Father, with as His only and greatest desire: to save sinners for eternity. How very differently, strayed far from this divine example, many Christians and preachers, who preach God's Word, walk among their fellow believers and neighbors today! Let us not bring to irritation and temptation our neighbors, and certainly not those "little ones" (namely our brothers and sisters); whereby we, as it were, bring them to resentment and sin. That is also the reason why God says that for such believers it might be better "that a millstone were hanged about their necks and they be cast into the sea"; whereby is meant that it would be better that such unbelievers (possibly by force) be removed from the fellowship (the congregation of brothers and sisters; the church), that they no longer hinder or block the others' way to salvation, holiness and justice. Not for nothing God says: "Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm" (1 Chronicles 16:22; Psalm 105:15). "For he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of His eye" (Zechariah 2:8b). Christ would rather see the opposite of the (sinful) attitude which causes sin and temptation in the Church; namely the fruit of the Holy Spirit, which must grow to fullness in the NEW MAN; this is the true fellowship! For love towards our brothers (and sisters) is the characteristic of being children of the Lord Jesus. "A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to an-other" (John 13:34-35).

In and by Christ, we must (be willing to) be delivered from all spitefulness.

According to the Lord, the first attitude which causes sin among fellow believers is spitefulness or implacability in spite of the fact that the other, guilty party possibly already asked for forgiveness.

Luke 17 verse 3-4: "Take heed to yourselves: if thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him."

For the Lord proclaims a gospel of reconciliation. "To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:19). He, Who paid for us an unpayable debt, wants us to live in the same spirit towards each other. He wanted to express this in the parable of the unmerciful servant; which we can read in Matthew 18:23-35, and which ends with these words: "And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses." Does not "the Lord's prayer", the model prayer the Lord gave us, teach the same thing? "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" (Matthew 6:12). The Scriptures then continue in the verses 14 and 15 with: "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, our heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." We serve a merciful God, Who wants His children to be merciful as well as a result of the mighty, inner workings of His Spirit. "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy" we are taught by one of the basic rules of Jesus' sermon on the mount (Matthew 5:7). This is why He also gave us the parable of "the good (merciful) Samaritan" in Luke 10:25-37. His express demand with regard to His children is: "Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful" (Luke 6:36). Returning to our subject we see the reaction of the disciples, who, on hearing His teaching, answer with:

Luke 17 verse 5-6: "And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith. And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamore tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you."

Indeed, no man can fulfill this rule for living in his own strength. By his faith in God, he must be justified in such a way, that he can do this, for "the just shall live by faith" (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11, Hebrews 10:38). Faith in God and in His wonderful promises make possible the impossible!

In and by Christ, we must (be willing to) be delivered from all conceit/vanity that we ourselves are quite something already.

If there is something that upsets the relationship between brothers and sisters, it would certainly be the irritating sin of pride: namely thinking we are a lot more than others.

Luke 17 verse 7-10: "But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? and will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink? Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow (think) not. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done (only) that which was our duty to do."

When we, by the grace of our high God, may serve because He called us (personally and for that "special" task), let us then not imagine to be better or more spiritual than the other, "common" brothers and sisters; thinking to be "bood buddies" already with our God, and already belonging to the group of His "chosen confidants"! It would suit us, saved sinners, to "condescend to men of low estate" (Romans 12:16b); for how easy "the old man" within us, if he is not yet completely destroyed by the inwardly working power of the Spirit, would rise again, and destroy all the spiritual work of the Holy Spirit in us. Let us therefore follow the advice of Jesus, and say to ourselves: "We are unprofitable servants; for we have only done that which was our duty to do." One day all weakness and all our sinful "flesh" will have died (off) by His workings in us (1 Peter 2:24), and we then could live and walk entirely in His resurrection power. Even, or especially, when we are truly humble of heart and expect everything from Him, then we, by faith (and that correct state of the heart), could now already say jubilantly: "...we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is" (1 John 3:2). All glory to God for this!

CLICK HERE if you want to read this study (Chapter 17) – that is to long for the Blog.

By E. van den Worm