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Chapters 19 and 20
The disciples encouraged in the place of testimony in the world
Luke 12 puts the disciples into this place of testimony by the power of the Holy Ghost, and with the world opposed to them, after the Lord's departure. It is the word and the Holy Ghost, instead of the Messiah on the earth. They were neither to fear opposition, nor to trust in themselves, but to fear God and trust to His help; and the Holy Ghost would teach them what to say. All things should be revealed. God reaches the soul: man can only touch the body. Here that which goes beyond present promises, the connection of the soul with God, is put forward. It is coming out from Judaism to be before God. Their calling was to manifest God in the world at all costs — to manifest Him to faith before all things were made manifest. It might cost them dear before men: Jesus would confess them before angels. It is bringing the disciples into the light as God is in it, and the fear of God by the word and faith when the power of evil was present; all that evil, however secret, would be brought to light.
Nor this only. Blasphemy against the witness given would, in their case, be worse than blaspheming Christ. This might be forgiven (it has been indeed, and will be at the end to the Jews as a nation); but whosoever spoke in blasphemy against the testimony of the disciples blasphemed against the Holy Ghost. It should not be forgiven. But the Lord deals with their heart as well as with their conscience. He encourages them by three things: 1st, the protection of Him who counted the hairs of their head, whatever might be the trials of their faith; 2nd, the fact that, in heaven and before the angels, their faithfulness to Christ in this painful mission should be acknowledged by Him; and 3rd, the importance of their mission, its rejection being more fatally condemning than the rejection of Christ Himself. God had taken a step, and a final step, in His grace and in His testimony. The bringing to light of all things, the care of God, their being confessed by Christ in heaven, the power of the Holy Ghost with them — these are the motives and the encouragements here given to the disciples for their mission after the Lord's departure.
The importance of the soul and the future life
That which follows brings out yet more distinctly the position in which the disciples were placed, according to the counsels of God, by the rejection of Christ (v. 13). The Lord formally refuses to execute justice in Israel. This was not His place. He deals with souls, and directs their attention to another life which outlasts the present; and, instead of dividing the inheritance between the brothers, He warns the multitude to beware of covetousness, instructing them by the parable of the rich man who was suddenly called hence in the midst of his projects. What became of his soul?
The great practical principles to guide the disciples' walk
But, having established this general basis, He turns to His
disciples and teaches them the great practical principles that were
to guide their walk. They were not to think of the morrow, but to
trust in God. Moreover they had no power over it Let them seek the
kingdom of God, and all that they needed should be added. This was
their position in the world that rejected Him. But besides the
Father's heart was interested in them: they were to fear
nothing. It was the Father's good pleasure to give them the
kingdom. Strangers and pilgrims here, their treasure was to be in
heaven; and thus their heart would be there also.* Besides this,
they were to wait for the Lord. Three things were to influence
their souls: the Father would give them the kingdom, their heart's
treasure in heaven, and the expectation of the Lord's return. Until
the Lord should come, they were required to watch — to have their
lamps burning; their whole position should manifest the effect of
the continual expectation of the Lord — should express this
expectation. They were to be as men who waited for Him with their
loins girded; and in that case, when all should be according to the
Lord's own heart, re-established by His power, and they brought
into His Father's house, He would make them sit down, and, in His
turn, gird Himself to serve them.
Waiting for Christ Himself the attitude of the heart
It is of all importance to fix the attention of the reader on
the point, that what the Lord looks for here is not the holding,
however clearly, the Lord's coming at the end of the age, but that
the Christian should be waiting for Him, in a full profession of
Christ, and his heart in spiritual order. Such, the Lord will make
to sit down as guests, but such for ever, in His Father's house
where He has brought them, and will Himself in love minister the
blessing. This love will make the blessings ten thousand fold more
precious, all received from His hand. Love likes to serve,
selfishness to be served. But He did not come to be ministered
to. This love He will never give up. Nothing can be more exquisite
than the grace expressed in these verses, 35 and 37.*
The expectation of the Lord's return with faithfulness in service
On the inquiry of Peter, desirous of knowing to whom Jesus addressed these instructions, the Lord refers him to the responsibility of those to whom He committed duties during His absence. Thus we have the two things that characterise the disciples after the rejection of Christ — the expectation of His return, and service. The expectation, the vigilance that watches with girded loins to receive Him, finds its reward in rest, and in the feast (happiness ministered by Him) at which Jesus girds Himself to serve them; faithfulness in service, by having rule over all that belongs to the Lord of glory. We have seen, besides these special relationships between the walk of the disciples and their position in the world to come, the general truth of the renunciation of the world in which the Saviour had been rejected, and the possession of the kingdom by the gift of the Father.
Unfaithful servants and their Master
In that which He says afterwards of the service of those who bear His name during His absence, the Lord also points out those who will be in this position, but unfaithful; thus characterising those who, while publicly exercising ministry in the church, should have their portion with the unbelievers. The secret of the evil that characterises their unbelief would be found in this, that their hearts would put off the return of Jesus, instead of desiring it and hastening it by their aspirations, and serving with humility in the desire of being found faithful. They will say, He is not coming immediately; and, in consequence, they will do their own will, accommodate themselves to the spirit of the world, and assume authority over their fellow-servants. What a picture of that which has taken place! But their Master (for He was so, although they had not truly served Him) would come at a moment when they did not expect Him, as a thief in the night; and, although professing to be His servants, they should have their portion with unbelievers. Nevertheless there would be a difference between the two; for the servant who knew his own Master's will and did not make ready for Him, as the fruit of his expectations, and did not perform his Master's will, should be severely punished; whilst he who had not the knowledge of His will should be punished less severely. I have added "own" to the word "Master," according to the original, which signifies a recognised relationship with the Lord, and its consequent obligation. The other was ignorant of the explicit will of the Lord, but he committed the evil which in any case he ought not to have done. It is the history of true and false servants of Christ, of the professing church, and of the world in general. But there cannot be a more solemn testimony as to what brought unfaithfulness into the church, and led to its ruin and approaching judgment, namely, the giving up the present expectation of the Lord's coming.
If it shall be required of persons according to their advantages, who will be so guilty as those that call themselves the ministers of the Lord, if they do not serve Him as in expectation of His return?
The rejected Lord comes to bring conflict and fire on the earth
Nevertheless the Lord, thus rejected, was come to bring conflict
and fire on the earth. His presence kindled it even before His
rejection, in the baptism of death through which He was to pass,
was accomplished. It was not, however, till after this that His
love would have full liberty to develop itself in power. Thus His
heart, which was love even according to the infinitude of the
Godhead, was straitened until the atonement gave free course to it,
and to the accomplishment of all the purposes of God, in which His
power should be manifested according to that love, and to which
this atonement was absolutely necessary as the basis of the
reconciliation of all things in heaven and earth.*
The evil of the human heart drawn out by the Saviour's presence
Verse 51-53. He shows in detail the divisions that would be the result of His mission. The world would no more endure faith in the Saviour than it did the Saviour Himself, who was its object and whom it confessed. It is well to note how the presence of the Saviour draws out the evil of the human heart. The state described here is in Micah, the description of the most dreadful state of evil conceivable (Micah 7:1-7).
Warning of the existing signs of the times
He then addresses Himself to the people, to warn them of the existing signs of the times in which they lived. He puts this testimony on a twofold ground: the evident signs which God gave; and the moral proofs which, even without the signs, conscience ought to acknowledge, and which thus oblige them to receive the testimony.
Be they ever so blind, they are in the way to the
judge. Once delivered up, they should not come out till the
chastisement of God was fully executed upon them.* (compare Isaiah
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