For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2001 James Melough

11:1.  “And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”

We might note that the request wasn’t made until the Lord had ceased praying.  It is essential that we have a time and place for prayer, without interruption.  Family members should be asked not to intrude on that time, and to cooperate by taking phone calls, etc.

The very fact that the request was made, reminds us that we all need to be taught to pray; and while undoubtedly the disciple was asking the Lord to teach them how to pray, we shouldn’t overlook the fact that many of us need to be taught not only the technique, but also the absolute necessity of prayer, for it is to be feared that in the view of many Christians, prayer is simply an option, and worse - one of relatively little value.  The very fact that the Lord Himself spent so much time in prayer ought to banish that delusion.  If He needed to pray, how much more do we!  And though it may seem like an unnecessary digression, there is no better time than the present to pause in our study of this chapter to look briefly at a few things pertaining to prayer.

First, there is the matter of posture.  The Lord Himself frequently knelt to pray, as did also the disciples, see Lk 22:41; Ac 20:36, but see also Mk 11:25 where He commanded, “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any.”  The point to be grasped is that there is to be an attitude of reverence, and kneeling unquestionably betokens reverence, but so also does standing, e.g., those in the courtroom stand when the judge enters, thus express­ing reverence for the law which he represents.  It seems then, that we should kneel for private prayer, or where relatively few are present for corporate prayer; but ordinarily at the corporate prayer meeting, standi­ng is the more desirable position for the man praying, so that the others may hear what he is saying.  The rules aren’t cast in iron.  Common sense should be used.  Even in private prayer, physical infirmity sometimes makes kneeling impossible or so difficult as to be a distract­ion.  Where there is genuine reverence in the heart, the believer will find an appropriate posture.

It should scarcely be necessary to add that such things as loud use of handkerchiefs, all except emer­gency trips to the bathroom, tardy arrivals, fidgeting, attending to children, etc., contribute little to the spirit of reverence that ought to mark every meeting of the local church.

God doesn’t promise that everything we ask in prayer will be done for us.  There are conditions to be met, and we can’t do more than glance at them here, but he who would be in earnest about prayer should study them in detail.

Here are a few.  Jn 15:7.  “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.”  1 Jn 3:21-22.  “Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.  And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.”

Paul, requesting prayer for himself, said, Heb 8:18,  “Pray for us; for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly.”  He recognized the futility of seeking answers to prayer (even that offered by others on his behalf), if his own conscience wasn’t clear.

There must be obedience.  A holy God can’t grant the requests of those who disobey Him.  When we solicit the prayers of others, we too should be able to say, “We have a clear conscience.”

Disobedience has reduced our prayers and prayer meetings to mere empty formality, and worse, sheer hypocrisy.  C.H. MacIntosh has written, “God is real with us, and He will have us real with Him,” and he goes on to declare that “our prayers are often more like orations than petitions, the repetition of doctrine to God, as though we would teach Him.  The prayer meeting is not the place for lectures or expositions.  The man who would lecture or expound would do better on his feet than on his knees.  The prayer meeting is the place where we are to pray, expressing need, and expecting blessing; confessing weakness, and expecting power.  Reality, sincerity, truth are needed at the prayer meeting.  The prayer meeting is too often the place of ‘fluent utterance of truths and principles’ already well known to everyone, raising the question, ‘Is the man speaking to God or to us?’” 

The same writer continues by quoting Mt 18:19,  “Again I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree (sympho­ni­ze - make one common sound) on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven,” and declaring that, “There must be oneness of mind.  Have we not to deplore the objectless character of our prayer meetings?”

We do well to note that in the early Apostolic Church, “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren.”  And again, “When the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.”  Relative to this, the writer already quoted, laments, “A withering formalism seems to have settled down.... powerless profession, dead routine, stupefying mechanical religiousness....”  

That the problem relates, not only to the prayer meeting, but to all the meetings of the Church, is noted also by MacIntosh, who deplored “... the barrenness, dullness, heaviness, and low tone of our reunions, whether at the table of the Lord, before the mercy-seat, or around the fountain of holy Scripture.” 

Another prerequisite of effective prayer is faith to believe that God will give us what we ask, if it is according to His will, which is “good, and acceptable, and perfect.  “And all things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive, Mt 21:22.  James says, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.  But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed.  For let not that man think that he shall obtain any thing of the Lord,” Jas 1:5.

Importunity is another necessity of effective prayer, see verses 5-10, “And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him?  And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee.  I say unto you, though he will not rise and give him because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.  And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”

This declares the need, not only of persistence, but also of specification, “Le­nd me three loaves.”

While the Lord criticized long prayers, it is clear that the criticism didn’t extend to genuine heart-felt prayer, but to the ostentatious prayers of the Pharisees.  There is nothing wrong with a long prayer, if it is not vague and rambling, and about things in regard to which we really have little or no concern, (note what is really the Lord’s prayer in John 17).  There must be genuine consciousness of the need of what we ask for, and a consuming desire to be given it. 

Perseverance is also essential, see Eph 6:18, and Lk 18:1-8 relative to the widow who importuned the judge persistently until he avenged her.  “Men ought always to pray, and not to faint.”  God may keep us waiting to exercise our faith.  The answer to Daniel’s prayer was delayed for three weeks by the evil spiritual prince of Persia.

How we pray in private is revealed by how we pray in public.  The reason so many prayer meetings are simply a dull religious routine is due to lack of private personal prayer.  We need to be taught, not only how to pray, but also the need to pray!

11:2.  “And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed by thy name.  Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.”

This clearly is an outline or model for prayer, and not something to be parroted mindlessly, as it so often is.  Nor is this “the Lord’s prayer.”  As noted above, the real Lord’s prayer is recorded in John 17.

Two truths are taught in the words “Our Father.”  First, there is relationship.  He is not only our God, but also our Father.  We are His children.  This relationship, made available to believers only by the Lord’s death and resurrection, see Jn 20:17, is unique to believers of the Church age only.       

Then there is revealed the fact that prayer, whether in petition or in worship, is to be addressed only to the Father, in the name of the Son, and in the power of the Holy Spirit.  To change this order excludes one or both of the other Members of the Godhead.  It is to be noted that what seem to be exceptions to this rule are not.  In all the recorded prayers supposedly addressed to the Lord Jesus Christ, they were in face-to-face contexts and not prayer in the normal sense of the word.

This does not in any way demean either the Lord Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit, any more than does God’s appointment of the woman to a place of subjection to the man.  It simply conforms to the pattern which God has established for the presenta­tion of prayer, praise, and worship.

“... which art in heaven.”  As heaven is infinitely higher than the earth, so does this reference to His dwelling place acknowle­dg­e God’s absolute supremacy over all things.

“Hallowed be thy name,” declares the honor and reverence that belong to God because of Who He is.  It teaches us the need of reverence when we approach Him, and of the need to be reverent in the use of His name.  It should never be uttered lightly or in jest.  As is commanded in the Decalogue, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”

“Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.” An essential part of prayer is the expressed desire for the establishment of the kingdom, so that the dishonor done to God by man’s permitted rebellion during this present age, will cease, and the nations instead honor and obey Him.  It is in short the expressed longing that all things be compelled to obey Him, so that there can be peace and blessing on the earth.

11:3.  “Give us day by day our daily bread.”

In this we acknowledge our continuing dependence upon God, that spirit of dependence being our greatest protection against the lawless spirit of independence which may so easily develop, particularly if He has blessed us with temporal prosperity.

Nor should we fail to remember that our need of spiritual bread, the written Word, is even greater than our need of literal bread.

11:4.  “And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us.  And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.”

This is not the judicial forgiveness granted when we trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, but rather the forgiveness which has to do with communion between Father and child.  It is the same as that mentioned in 1 Jn 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  We spoil our communion with our heavenly Father when we refuse to forgive not only those who are also His children, and therefore our brethren and sisters, but when we refuse to forgive the unconverted also.

Relative to being led into temptation, we must understand this in the light of Jas 1:13-14, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: but every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.”  We must also distinguish between those things which God ordains or permits in order to test or refine our faith, and those enticements prompted by the lusts of our old nature.  They are two very different things.  The testings and trials which God ordains or permits are designed to strengthen our faith, and are similar to the refining process to which gold is subjected in order to purify it, as it is written, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation (trial: proof), for when he is tried (when the testing or refining is complete), he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him,” Jas 1:12.

“... but deliver us from evil” is literally “from the evil one, i.e., Satan”).  He is the one who tempts us to gratify the sinful lusts of our old nature.

11:5.  “And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves;”

11:6.  “For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him?”

11:7.  “And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee.”

11:8.  “I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.”

The point of the story is that we are to be importunate, not because God is a reluctant giver Who will grant our requests only, as it were, out of exasperation, but rather to prove by our importunity th­at we are in earnest about what we ask for.  Lack of heartfelt desire for what is requested indicates that we aren’t really in earnest, and if there is one thing God requires it is wholeheartedness.  It is to be remembered that we are stewards of all that God gives us, so if I ask Him for something simply to gratify my own selfish desire, and have no intention of using it for His glory, He is unlikely to give what will only make me guilty of unfaithful stewardship.  All that He gives is to be used wisely and for His glory.  If this were kept in mind it would eliminate many things from the list of our prayer requests.

An incidental lesson is taught in the mention of the three loaves.  The request was specific: for three loaves.  We ought to be equally specific relative to what we ask of God, for again, vagueness simply indicates lack of genuine concern.

Before leaving these verses we might look at another lesson being taught in the fact that the borrower wanted the loaves to meet the need of his journeying friend.  All men are on a journey, from time to eternity, most of them unsaved.  The traveler came at an unexpected and inconvenient hour, and sometimes travelers come to us at equally unexpected and inconvenient times, e.g., the chance caller at the door delivering a package, looking for directions; the person to whom we give a ride; the person who is willing to chat for a few minutes while waiting for a bus or train, etc.  You see we get more visits from fellow travelers to eternity that we are aware of.  We just don’t recognize them as such.  Do we always have “bread” to give them, or are we like the man in the story who had nothing to set before his traveling friend?  Do we petition God importunately for the equivalent of the three loaves, the ability to present the gospel to those who cross our paths in the course of each day?  Do we always carry tracts with us?  Do we memorize gspel verses?  Do we ask God to give us the ability to share our faith?  If not, isn’t it simply hypocrisy to be standing up at the prayer meeting asking vaguely that God will save souls?  Nothing measures sincerity more accurately than importunity.  That’s why God would have us importunate.

11:9.  “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”

11:10.  “For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”

Asking seems to be a more general term than seeking or knocking, and may be meant to encourage us just to ask God for what we want, always, of course, within the guidelines He Himself has laid down.

Seeking appears to be related to the effort to find what is hidden or lost, but worth the search.  For example, the wealth of spiritual truth lying behind the literal language of Scripture is well worth the effort required to find it.  We ought to pray for the wisdom to become better students of the Bible’s symbolic language, so that we may be preserved from sins of ignorance, and so that we may better minister to other believers.  And then there is the matter of ministry to the unconverted.  The Lord Himself came to seek and to save those who were lost.  Surely we too should also seek those lost sheep.  After all, didn’t some Christian care enough about our souls, to seek us?

Knocking clearly implies a desire to have a gate or door opened to us.  Paul, you remember, spoke of “a great door” having been opened to him for the spread of the Gospel, 1 Co 16:9.  Surely we ought to pray that God will open such a door to us, for the fields are white unto harvest, but the laborers are few.  And should we not also be asking Him to open to us a sphere of service where we can use the spiritual gift He has given us, for His glory and the blessing of others?  It is to be feared that the majority of professing Christians today do a lot of asking - for the wrong things - but very little seeking or knocking.

11:11.  “If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?”

The Lord’s using the example of a son asking of a father reminds us that we are God’s children, and He our Father.  But unlike any earthly father, ours is the God of heaven.  His resources are unlimited, His love beyond measure, and His wisdom perfect, the latter two attributes combining to give us always and only the best, so that whether He gives or withholds, we should be satisfied that His answers are always best, and for our eternal profit.

Nor should we miss the significance of the first article mentioned, bread.  As noted already, every Biblical reference to literal bread is meant to teach us something about spiritual food, the written Word.  Its being listed first, as also in verse 3, declares its importance.  We need that spiritual bread even more than that which is literal, but it must not be forgotten that reading the Word will not in itself furnish that bread.  There must be also the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit relative to the spiritual content, for without that enlightenment our reading will be little different from that of the natural man, who cannot understand what he reads.  But that spiritual enlightenment is cut off when the Holy Spirit is grieved and/or quenched, as He is by disobedience.  And there must be obedience also relative to truth revealed, for disobedience following that revelation makes us guilty of wilful sin, which is more heinous in God’s sight than sin of ignorance.  It is to be remembered that under the law there were offerings to expiate the latter, but not the former.  Enlightenment entails obedience - or chastisement and loss of blessing.

A stone’s being presented as the antipode of bread is also instructive, for the reference is to a millstone or a stumbling stone, and this invests the statement with a peculiar significance.  There are several Scriptural references to both millstones and stumbling stones, e.g., Mt 18:8, “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me (believers), it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea,” see also Re 18:21, “And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all.”

Likewise in regard to the stumbling stone, we read, “Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed,” 1 Pe 2:7-8; “And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder,” Mt 21:44.

In this context then, we learn that the reference goes far beyond a literal stone, and refers to that giving which would ultimately bring the son to ruin and judgment.  Only eternity will reveal the millions of sons, who by the foolish giving of indulgent fathers, have been brought to that same tragic end.

Our Father will never indulge the folly of His children.  He loves us too much, and because he does, we should never resent His denials of our petitions.  He knows better than we what is good for us.

The next illustration contrasts a fish and a serpent, and again the reference is to our spiritual food, for fish is almost invariably mentioned in connection with literal food, note for example, the five loaves and two fishes used to feed the multitude in chapter nine, and the fish with which the Lord fed the disciples after His resurrection, as recorded in Jn 21:9-13. But we must note that fish also represent men and women, e.g., when the Lord called the disciples, it was with the promise, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men,” Mt 4:19.  Believers are “fish” which have been caught in the gospel net, dying to their former state, but being raised up in resurrection to walk as new creatures.  Unbelievers are the “fish” which haven’t been “caught.”  Literally and spiritually the only fish which are of use to men are those which have been caught in the net of the gospel. 

This introduces another line of thought.  Food is to strengthen us, but in what way can believers be food for one another, since we can no more eat the literal flesh of other believers than could the Jews the literal flesh of Christ.  There is no mystery. It is by our ministry that we build one another up, and in mentioning fish as a form of food in the context of prayer, God is teaching the need to pray that we will be given that grace which will express itself in edifying other believers.

But the serpent, the Biblical symbol of Satan, set here in contrast with the fish, teaches another truth relative to prayer. There is great need to pray that we be preserved from being serpents in the midst of God’s people, so that instead of building them up we spread the poison of discord amongst them.  How easy it is to do that work unwittingly!  Our constant prayer ought to be that we be preserved from anything that would weaken the bond of peace, as Paul pleads, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” Eph 4:1-3.

11:12.  “Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?”

Food continues to be the subject, this time in the form of an egg, but inasmuch as an egg is primarily connected with reproduction, the truth here may be related to that aspect of prayer which has to do with the reproduction of ourselves through the sowing of the good seed of the gospel, each man led to the Savior being our spiritual son; each woman, our spiritual daughter.  There can be no question that we ought to pray relative to the gospel, not just in a general way, but specifically that we ourselves might be effective instruments in the hand of the Holy Spirit to lead others to the Lord Jesus Christ.  For this we need genuine love for perishing men and women, and we must pray for God to develop that love in our hearts.  We need also wisdom, patience, grace, and a better knowledge of Scripture.  How often do we pray for these things?

Unlike the egg which speaks of nourishment and life, the scorpion inflicts pain and sometimes death, and is used in Scripture as a symbol of the power of Satan, see Lk 10:19.  How much we need to pray that we be preserved from being spiritual scorpions either amongst God’s people or the unconverted!  How easy it is to inflict pain, just by a word or look!  How easy to deal in death by frittering away time in talking with the unconverted about the things of this world, instead of telling them of their need of a Savior through Whom alone they can be saved from eternal death!

These are the things that ought to burden us in prayer, instead of the shallow insincere phrases, and selfish requests which make up most of our prayers.

11:13.  “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?”

The thought here is not that we are to ask for the person of the Holy Spirit (He already indwells every believer), but that we should ask for His power to be put forth through us, that we might be instruments whom He can use.  But if this is to be so, we must be obedient to God’s Word, for disobedience quenches and grieves the Holy Spirit, and renders us unsuitable for His use. 

We should perhaps take a moment to note the difference between being indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and being filled with Him.  The former, which occurs at conversion, is the portion of every believer, and can never be taken away.  Filling, on the other hand, is governed by the degree of our submission to His control. Every measure in which we withhold that submission reduces the extent to which He fills us.  Do we ever really pray for the wisdom to give Him total control?  The lack of His power in our lives supplies the answer.

11:14.  “And he was casting out a devil, and it was dumb.  And it came to pass, when the devil was gone out, the dumb spake; and the people wondered.”

“Dumbness” is an affliction besetting many of God’s people today, and our prayer ought to be that this “demon” will be cast out.  It is written, “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved,” Ro 10:9, yet strangely, multitudes of professing Christians are very reluctant to make that confession before the unconverted.  They are stricken with dumbness, and ought to pray that the “demon” will be exorcised, for it is to be noted that when the former dumb man spoke “the people wondered (admired).”  Whom did they admire?  Surely not the man who had been healed, but the Healer. How will men ever be led to admire Christ if we fail to speak of Him?

11:15.  “But some of them said, He casteth out devils through Beelzebub the chief of the devils.”

Then, as now, there were those who refused to believe, and unable to deny the miracle, attributed it to the power of Satan.  Every generation has its skeptics, those who, as Christ Himself said, refusing to believe the Scriptures, would not believe “though one rose from the dead,” 16:31.  The man who will not believe the Scriptures cannot be saved.

11:16.  “And others, tempting him, sought of him a sign from heaven.”

On the same ground as those who refuse to believe the Scriptures, are those who profess to believe them, but who demand signs for confirmation.  The one is as much a skeptic as the other, and the same truth applies: he who will not accept the written Word by faith, cannot be saved.

11:17.  “But he, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth.”

11:18.  “If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because ye say that I cast out devils through Beelzebub.”  

By this logic He exposed their illogic.  How could Satan succeed by undoing his own work?  In spite of what human wisdom declares to the contrary, there is nothing so illogical as the rejection of Scripture, for he who refuses its testimony is left without answers to such questions as, How, then, do you explain the accuracy of that large area of prophecy which is now confirmed by history?  How do you explain the consistent pattern which characterizes Scriptural numerology, typology, symbolism, etc.?  And these are only a few of the areas in which Scripture is itself the proof of its Divine Authorship.

11:19.  “And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out? therefore shall they be your judges.”

His critics were caught on the horns of a dilemma of their own making.  The power of exorcism could come only from God or Satan, and since there were those of their own who had this power, which they acknowledged to be from God, they could not then say that the Lord was empowered by Satan and not by God.  Thus He very simply dealt with their false charge, much to their chagrin no doubt.

11:20.  “But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you.”

In the corresponding account in Mt 12:28 it is said that the Lord cast out the demons “by the Spirit of God,” indicating that here “the finger of God” is a synonym for the Holy Spirit.  His ability to perform this and other miracles was the proof to faith that the kingdom of God had come to Israel.  The King Himself was the Miracleworker.  Sadly, only a small believing remnant recognized Him.

11:21.  “When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace:”

11:22.  “But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armor wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils.”

The strong man here is clearly Satan, and up till then he had kept his palace and his goods in peace.  No one had been able to resist, much less overcome him.  But with the advent of Christ, a stronger had come, and before Him all the might and power of Satan were as nothing.  He was powerless to keep either his palace or his goods, Christ’s empty tomb being the incontrovertible proof of Satan’s utter defeat.  By submitting Himself to death, the Lord Jesus Christ had penetrated into the very heart of Satan’s kingdom, and returned again leading in His train a countless multitude of those whom Satan had held captive in the realm of death, as it is written, “When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men,” Eph 4:8.

11:23.  “He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth.”

Men are given the inestimable privilege of having a part in Christ’s great victory.  He, having conquered the foe, has returned to heaven, to make preparation for the inauguration of His own glorious kingdom which will supersede that of Satan; and in what might be described as the “mopping up” operations, the Lord offers men a part in the work to be done in preparation for His glorious return.  What fools, then, are those who adhere to Satan’s lost cause!  It is the madness that wilfully chooses to share the terrible fate of Christ’s vanquished adversary, instead of choosing to have a part with the Victor when He returns in glory to establish His kingdom.

Today He offers a pardon to every former foe, but those who refuse that pardon must perish, that is, endure eternal torment with Satan in the lake of fire.

It is to be noted that it isn’t wilful active opposition that is condemned here: it is spineless neutrality.  Not to be actively promoting the cause of Christ is to be guilty of active hindrance.  Not to be gathering, is to be guilty of scattering.  It is to be feared that there are many professing Christians today who try to shelter behind neutrality.  With God there is no neutral ground.  We are either for Him or against Him, and those whose so-called Christianity is marked by seemingly harmless neutrality are being warned to awake out of their stupor.  Neutrality is active opposition to Christ!  Nor should we delude ourselves that prayer and Bible study are active participation with Christ.  They aren’t, unless they are the behind-the-scenes preparation for a fearless confession of Christ before men, and an energetic activity in spreading the gospel.  Apart from this activity in the world, it is to be feared that prayer and Bible study are but the veil with which we seek to disguise active opposition to the cause of Christ.  “He that gathereth not with me scattereth.”  What gathering have we done in the course of our Christian lives?  Have we ever given anyone a tract?  Ever presented anyone with the gospel?  Ever led a soul to Christ?  If the answer is No, there is need to examine ourselves whether we are with Christ or against Him, gathering or scattering.

11:24.  “When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out.”

11:25  “And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished.”

11:26.  “Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.”

This man is not to be mistaken for a convert, but rather one who has undergone mere moral reformation.  He has not exchanged the broad and crowded way for the strait and narrow, but has, as it were, moved over to the clean side of the broad road.  For all his moral reformation, he is just as surely still on the road to hell.

He is said to walk through dry (waterless) places, and this stands in stark contrast with the experience of the born-again man, who can rejoice with the Psalmist in proclaiming, “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters,” Ps 23:2.  Those green pastures and still waters are symbols of the Word of God: the green (color of life) pastures speaking of the Word as food to nurture and strengthen God’s sheep; the still waters speaking of the Word as water to refresh and cleanse them.

The moral but unconverted man can never have this experience, for without the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Word is beyond his comprehension.  He cannot understand the spiritual significance of the literal language.  That realm which is, for the believer, a lush place of green pastures and still waters, is for the moral but unbelieving man, a barren desert, a “dry place.”

This same moral, but unconverted man is continually seeking, but never finding, rest.  With all his morality, he can never be certain that he has done enough to qualify himself for heaven.  There is always the gnawing fear that his best isn’t quite good enough.  It is very different with the believer.  He rests, perfectly satisfied, in the finished work of Christ.

The normal course of such a moral but unconverted man’s life makes easy the interpretation of the seven more wicked spirits.  Such a man becomes proud of his morality, his religion, etc., and he soon begins to despise those who are as he was once; but in God’s sight this is a far worse condition than the original, for when he lived simply to gratify fleshly lusts, there was hope that he might be brought to repentance, and saved; but the facade of self-righteousness is a bastion far more impregnable than that of outright sin.  The outright sinner may be convicted and saved; the self-righteous, rarely if ever.  The last state of such a man is indeed worse than the first.

The primary application of course is to apostate Israel, and it may well be that in the reference to the “seven other spirits more wicked then himself” we are being reminded that in the seven years of the Tribulation only the believing remnant will cling to Christ, while the apostate mass of the nation will worship the beast, and thereby damn their souls.

11:27.  “And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou has sucked.”

11:28.  “But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.”

There was no saving virtue in Mary’s having been the Lord’s mother.  She was saved by her having the faith to believe the word of God, just as is every man or woman, that is, she was saved by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ as her Savior, as is made clear in her own words recorded in Lk 1:46-47, “And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.”

11:29.  “And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet.”

This is the pattern for all gospel preaching.  There must first be the announcement of man’s guilt, and he who seeks to omit that essential step will make no true converts.  Men cannot be saved until they are first convicted of sin.

His denunciation of their seeking a sign reminds us that what is based on sight is not of faith, and is therefore worthless.  Salvation comes only when there is faith to believe the Word of God without accompanying proof of its veracity.

The Lord, however, was going to give them what they wanted - a sign, but a sign that would do them no good, for it would be fulfilled only when they had passed beyond the pale of mercy, and sealed their doom by rejecting and crucifying Him.

He who insists on having only what can be perceived by the senses will never be saved, for saving faith transcends the perception of the senses.

11:30.  “For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall the Son of man be to this generation.”

Faith has no trouble discerning the sign of Jonah, for the believer sees in the experience of that prophet the symbolic foreshadowing of the Lord’s vicarious death and victorious resurrection.  Nor is faith’s vision limited to the understanding of this one type: the spiritual man discerns a thousand such symbolic pictures of Christ in the OT, God in His wisdom thus confirming faith by providing the proof after the faith has been exercised.  And God will never change that order.  Proof is furnished only after faith has been exercised, never before, otherwise it wouldn’t be faith.

The Lord’s reference to Jonah incidentally, attests the validity of the account of that OT prophet, so that to reject the story of Jonah is to impugn the integrity of Christ.

11:31.  “The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation, and condemn them: for she came from the utmost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.”

The reference is to the queen of Sheba’s visit to Solomon as recorded in 1 Ki 10, and the mention of judgment reminds us that all men face judgment, that of the believer being at the Bema, that of the unbeliever being at the great white throne.

We might note incidentally, that her visit to Solomon is a typological picture of the Lord’s Supper, for she represents the Church (her being from the south, the realm of faith, marks her as a typical believer), and her bringing the costly gifts symbolizes the worship offered when we eat the Lord’s Supper.  The meaning of her name also marks her as a figure of the Church, for Sheba means he who is coming; seven; oath, and no spiritual believer will have difficulty seeing in the first of those meanings a reference to the expectation of the Church: she lives in anticipation of the Lord’s return, first to rapture her to heaven, and then to return with her to establish His kingdom, and reign as King of kings, and Lord of lords; while the second meaning seven, the number of perfection and completeness, points to the standing of the Church in God’s sight.  She too is perfect as to righteousness, for Christ’s righteousness is imputed to her, and she is complete: she lacks nothing, all that is Christ’s being also hers.  And the third meaning oath reminds us that all she is and has are guaranteed by the oath of God Himself.  Unlike Adam, she can never fall from her high position.

The queen of Sheba is a beautiful type, not only of the Church, but of every individual comprising that corporate body, and it is to be remembered that what she is, and what she represents, are inseparably linked to faith.  It is the faith of the believer that condemns the unbeliever, for to remain in unbelief is to deliberately reject the Lord Jesus Christ, and that is the unpardonable sin.  The queen of Sheba believed when she saw the magnificence of Solomon who is only a type of Christ: the men of Christ’s day were condemned by the fact that they had the privilege of hearing and seeing Solomon’s great Antitype.

11:32.  “The men of Nineveh shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.”

Nineveh meaning offspring of ease: offspring abiding, is the city to which Jonah was sent, and which repented at his preaching.  Its repentance in response to the preaching of that disobedient prophet condemned the unbelief of the men to whom the Lord preached, for He was the greatest of all the prophets, and the One Whose obedience was unto death.

11:33.  “No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may se the light.”

The lighted candle, as always in Scripture, is the symbol of testimony, so that the man who has lighted it represents one who has become a believer.  The warning therefore, is against the folly of trying to be a secret believer.  It is doubtful if there is such a thing, for though Joseph of Arimathaea is called a secret disciple in Jn 19:38, the secrecy obviously ended with his going in to Pilate to ask for the Lord’s body, for in Mk 15:43 it is recorded that he “went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus.”

The Lord Himself said that the water of life would be a well of water within the believer springing up unto everlasting life.  You can’t dam up a spring.  It will somehow find an outlet.  Ro 10:9 removes all doubt that there must be the verbal confession of Christ, as it is written, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”

Having dealt with the impossibility of secrecy relative to genuine faith, the Lord went on to warn of another danger: that of putting the candlestick under a bushel.  The reference is to the world’s business.  How great is the danger of being so occupied with a job, a career, a business, that there is no testimony!  We may not judge unequivocally relative to a man’s salvation, but we are authorized to look for proof of what is professed, see Mt 7:15-23.  Lack of a verbal confession accompanied by righteous deeds, renders the profession suspect.

11:34.  “The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness.”

Without eyes we would be in the same position as men in total darkness, so it is in this sense that the eye is said to be the light of the body.  But the Lord emphasized the need for the eye to be single (clear), and obviously the nearer a man is to the light the clearer his sight will be.  Since, however, Christ is the light of the world, the lesson then, is that the closer we are to Him the better we will see spiritual things, that is, understand spiritual truths.

The corollary, of course, is that the further we are away from the light, the more obscured will our vision be, and the Lord declared, “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil, for every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.  But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God,” Jn 3:19-21.

Any occupation with sin obscures the light, so if we would enjoy the full benefit of the light that is in Christ we must be obedient to His Word.

11:35.  “Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness.”

This is to be understood against the background that a man is either walking in the light which comes from the Lord Jesus Christ, or in the so called “wisdom” (light) which comes from Satan, the prince of darkness.  Tragically, this is the only “light” possessed by many, and such is their delusion that they scoff at true wisdom, the knowledge of Jesus Christ possessed only by believers.  One of the tests of the true nature of a man’s “light” is whether he is able to discern (see) the spiritual significance of Scripture.

11:36.  “If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light.”

This seems to refer to the filling of the Holy Spirit, a thing not to be confused with the indwelling of that same Holy Spirit. He indwells every believer, but He fills us only to the degree that we are obedient to God’s Word, and since our obedience is a fluctuating thing, so also is the degree of our filling.

11:37.  “And as he spake, a certain Pharisee besought him to dine with him: and he went in, and sat down to meat.”

Nothing is disclosed as to the motive which prompted the Pharisee’s invitation, but it is doubtful that he could possibly have foreseen the result.  As the sequel reveals, however, the Lord obviously saw it as a golden opportunity to continue His presentation of truth.  A practical lesson is that we should also be looking for opportunities to do the same.

11:38.  “And when the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that he had not first washed before dinner.”

It is very possible that the Lord, knowing the mind of the Pharisees, had deliberately ignored the custom of washing, so as to provide an opportunity for His scathing denunciation of their occupation with outward observances by which they sought to parade their imagined righteousness before men, the worthlessness of such outward show in the eye of God being disclosed in the Lord’s condemnation of it.  The lesson is no less applicable today.  Such outward show is still repugnant to God.

11:39.  “And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening (greed) and wickedness.”

Hypocrisy was the besetting sin of the Pharisees.  The outward righteous facade masked inward moral corruption; and the word ravening, meaning rapacious greed, tells us also that their greed of gain was such that they cared little how they acquired wealth. It is to be feared that Pharisaism flourishes in today’s “Christian” world, all too many of those professing faith in Christ, demonstrating that underneath an outward moral mask lies lust for this world’s wealth, with little or no regard for how that wealth is acquired.  Each of us would do well to examine his own life, and ask whether our love of this world and its wealth isn’t greater than our love for the Lord and the things that pertain to His kingdom.  A clue to where our true interests lie will be found in comparing the time and energy we give to the things of the world, and to the advancement of Christ’s kingdom.

In today’s “politically correct” professing church, the Lord would be denounced as utterly lacking in manners for daring to denounce, not only an influen­tial man, but one who was also His host.  In much of Christendom today exposure of sin is sacrificed on the altar of political expediency, with the result that God’s standards have all too often been replaced with man’s.

11:40.  “Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without make that which is within also?”

Man’s little social niceties, like his wisdom, are both denounced by the Lord as folly.  Man deceives only himself.  He can’t deceive God, for He Who made man’s body, made also man’s soul and spirit, and He sees the one just as clearly as He does the other. What folly then, to anger by hypocrisy the only One Who matters: God!  All deceit is abhorrent to God, and we should never forget that when we attempt to deceive men we compound our guilt by doing what God hates.

11:41.  “But rather give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you.”

No contrast could be greater than that which lies between almsgiving and greedy gathering of wealth.  We are not, however, to construe the Lord’s commendation of almsgiving, as teaching that man is made righteous by good works.  All of Scripture contradicts such a notion.  The principle being enunciated here is the same as that recorded in Mt 7:15-16, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.  Ye shall know them by their fruits.”  The man’s manner of living declares more loudly than words whether his heart is right with God.  Love for God will express itself in love for men also, so that instead of greedily amassing wealth, the godly man will be ever ready to use for the blessing of others all that God has committed to his charge, knowing that he is but a steward who must one day render an account of his stewardship.

11:42.  “But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.”

Woe here is literally “a curse on you.”  They were careful to enforce upon others the giving of a tenth of all herbs to God, while they themselves blatantly disregarded plain justice to others, thus demonstrating that in spite of punctilious outward conformity to God’s authority, they had no love for Him, and therefore no love for their fellowmen.  Their small measure of obedience in tithing herbs, couldn’t compensate for their wrong heart condition.  Nor can our conformity in regard to outward observances, compensate for lack of love for God.  If our hearts aren’t right, neither is anything else.

11:43.  “Woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets.”

Again the Lord pronounces a curse upon them, this time for their pride in desiring to appear better than others, their imagined superiority being displayed in their occupying the front row seats in the synagogues, and by expecting to have men bow to them in the market places.

In this also, however, we are overly complacent if we ignore the fact that the very same pride lurks in all of us, and will seek expression, sometimes in ways so subtle as to deceive us into believing that it doesn’t exist.

11:44.  “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them.”

Again the Lord pronounces a woe upon these hypocritical leaders, this time likening them unto graves, their inward corruption being represented by the rotting body in the grave; the danger they were to others being declared in the fact that the exterior facade of pretended righteousness was like the exterior of an unmarked grave over which men would walk unaware that they were treading upon that which defiled them, for in Nu 19:16 it is written, “And whosoever toucheth one that is slain with a sword... or a dead body, or a bone of a man, or a grave, shall be unclean seven days.”  In other words, the very same defilement that clung to these hypocritical leaders, would attach also to those who walked in their false ways.

It may be necessary here to note the significance of the defilement attaching to any contact with a corpse.  The dead body represents the old nature expressing its lusts through the physical body, see Ro 8:10, “And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.”  As the touch of a corpse brought ritual defilement to an Israelite, so does the “touch” or activity of the old nature defile the believer.

All the activity of the scribes and Pharisees was that of the old nature.  They lacked spiritual life.  The scribes, incidentally, were those who kept the written record, not only of the moral and ritualistic la­w, but also of the enormous volume of traditional law which man had added.  They were teachers and interpreters of the law, and generally regarded as having taken the place of the prophets, where­as the Pharisees were more the practitioners of the law, those who set themselves up as examples for the common people to follow.

11:45.  “Then answered one of the lawyers, and said unto him, Master, thus saying thou reproachest us also.”

The scribes were also called lawyers, compare verse 44.

11:46.  “And he said, Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burden with one of your fingers.” 

Inasmuch as they were the self-appointed teachers of God’s law, their guilt was compounded by the fact that they themselves refused to obey the very restrict­ions they imposed on others.  They were, in fact, just as hypocritical as the Pharisees.

A practical lesson for today is that those who teach are responsible to be examples, they themselves doing their best to be models for others, and in this connection we should note that the principal function of elders is to teach, it being written, “The elders which are among you I exhort... feed (teach) the flock of God which is among you... neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock,” 1 Pe 5:1-3.

11:47.  “Woe unto you! for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets, and your fathers killed them.”

The Lord continues to rebuke their hypocrisy.  They built memorial tombs for the bodies of the prophets whom their fathers had slain, yet there was in their own hearts the very same murderous hatred of truth as had impelled their fathers to kill those who had declared that truth. 

It isn’t by what he says, or by outward show that a man reveals his heart attitude towards God: it is by whether he obeys God’s Word.  That same standard measures us also.

11:48.  “Truly ye bear witness that ye allow the deeds of your fathers: for they indeed killed them, and ye build their sepulchres.”

This verse is ambiguous, but the idea seems to be that they were just as hypocritical as their fathers. In building memorial tombs in honor of the slain prophets these Jewish leaders were saying outwardly that they disapproved of their fathers’ having killed the prophets, yet in their evil hearts they themselves were even then plotting to kill the One of whom all the prophets had spoken.  The Lord’s words were a scathing denunciation of the hypocrisy behind which they tried to hide the evil that lurked in their hearts.  In spite of the outward show of righteousness, they too, had they lived in the times of their fathers, would also have murdered God’s prophets.

11:49.  “Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute:”

In the parallel account in Mt 23:34 it is written, “Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:”  This makes it clear that the Lord wasn’t quoting from the OT, but that He was declaring Himself to be the Wisdom of God, as it is written also in 1 Co 1:24, “But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.”

It is clear also that He wasn’t referring exclusively to the prophets sent in the past, but also to those who were ministering then, and those teachers who would minister through­out the coming Church age, He Himself being the greatest of all the prophets, and the foremost target of the venomous hatred of the Jewish leaders.  It is to be noted incidentally that with the completion of the canon of Scripture the prophetic office ceased, being replaced with that of the teacher, as it is written, “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you....” 2 Pe 2:1.

11:50.  “That the blood of the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be requir­ed of this generation;”

That generation would reveal that it was just as wicked as any other in that it would persecute and slay the Lord Who was the Master of all the prophets.

11:51.  “From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation.”

In regard to the blood of Abel, in Ge 4:10-11 we read of God’s word to the guilty Cain, “The voice of they brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.  And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand,” and in Heb 12:22-24 we read further, “But ye are come... to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant; and to the blood of sprinkling that speaketh better things than that of Abel.”

Abel’s blood could only cry for vengeance, but how different is the blood of Christ, of whom Abel is a type!  No blood could make atonement for sin except the blood of Christ.  But we must note also that in connection with the Lord’s blood there is responsibility: man in penitent contrition must present that blood to God for the remission of his sin, or stand eternally guilty of having wantonly shed that blood, despising both it and the One Who willingly shed it at Calvary, his rejection of it for his cleansing bringing upon him the same curse as was incurred by the impenitent Cain.  A solemn warning is pronounced relative to rejection of the Savior’s blood, “Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” Heb 10:29.

The murder of Zechariah is recorded in 2 Ch 24:20-22, (Chronicles is the last book in the Hebrew Bible, and as Abel was the first OT martyr, so was Zechariah the last), and it is interesting to note that his dying words were, “The Lord look upon it, and require it,” that is, Look upon my blood, and avenge it.  The contrast between law and grace is disclosed in the difference between this dying prayer of the OT prophet, and that of the Lord Who said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do,” 23:34.

“... it shall be required of this generation.”  Those hypocritical Jewish leaders were not one whit different from Cain, or from those who had slain Zacharias.  They were even then scheming how they might slay the One of whom Abel and Zacharias were but types, and the Lord knew the murderous hatred that filled their evil hearts.  But a righteous God would eventually call them to account, as He will all who reject the Savior.

11:52.  “Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge; ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.”

The Lord continues to add curse to curse upon these religious hypocrites, this time charging them with having “taken away the key of knowledge,” i.e., for taking the place of teachers while refusing to teach the people truth.  Jesus Christ is the key of knowledge, for it is He Who is presented in every line of Scripture, but those blind leaders of the blind failed to see the Lord in the typological language of the OT, so that even when the One of Whom those Scriptures spoke stood in their midst, they who should have recognized Him, saw only a blasphemer whom they were determined to slay.  They not only refused themselves to enter into life through faith in Him, but by their false teaching led the people astray also.

Little has changed since that day.  Christendom’s apostate teachers are as ignorant of the typological teaching of Scripture as were those apostate Jewish leaders, so that they themselves miss the way, and in their blindness lead others to destruction also.

11:53.  “And as he said these things unto them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to urge him vehemen­tly, and to provoke him to speak of many things:”

11:54.  “Laying wait for him, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him.”

No word from the Lord could penetrate their seared consciences, or pierce the facade of pride and self-righteousness.  Instead of repentantly acknowledging the truth of what He said, and entering into life through faith in Him as their Savior, they became increasingly hostile, and more adamant in their determination to kill Him.  Hoping to entrap Him, they plied Him with questions, ready to pounce on the slightest word that might furnish even the shadow of an excuse for condemning Him to death.

[Luke 12]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough