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

12:1.  “In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trod one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”

The subject of this section is hypocrisy, and the Lord’s reason for addressing His disciples first of all may have been that since they would be those who would be teaching others, there was the danger that they too might become infected with the same hypocritical spirit as marked the Pharisees.  It is easy for a teacher to become puffed up with pride relative to his knowledge, for the possession of knowledge tends to make the teacher feel superior to those he teaches.  There is great need for elders and teachers, and anyone else whose spiritual gift brings him into a place of prominence, to remember that God could just as easily have given that gift to another. 

It is also very easy for those who teach to become careless about being obedient themselves, and to forget that he who teaches others to do what he himself neglects or refuses to do is a hypocrite

Purity of motive and a humble spirit are the antidote for the hypocritical pride which God hates.

Leaven is a biblical symbol of sin, and its application here to the dominant sin of the Pharisees is particularly appropriate, for as leaven puffs up dough so does hypocritical self-righteousness puff up a man with pride

12:2.  “For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known.”

Just as the Lord exposed the corruption which the Pharisees veiled under the cloak of outward righteousness, so will all such hypocrisy be exposed, that exposure occurring at the Bema for the believer, and at the great white throne for the unbeliever.  What folly, then, to be trying to hide what will eventually be fully exposed!  How much better to examine ourselves now in the light of Scripture, and to confess, repent of, and forsake the sin revealed by self-examination, and thus avoid the shame of having it exposed and condemned by the Lord in a soon coming day!

In the present context it seems that “... neither hid, that shall not be known,” may refer to ultimate exposure of ulterior motive, and only eternity will reveal how many seeming good deeds have been done out of a wrong motive.  Motive, however, is all important with God, and should therefore be with us, for if He deems the motive unworthy, the deed is worthless.

12:3.  “Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the house tops.”

The reference is primarily to the evil scheming of the Pharisees against the Lord, His assurance being of a coming day of judgment when all such activity will be exposed and punished.  The warning, however, is to everyone who plots evil, and reminds us that all we say and do is to be impelled by a pure motive, so that in a coming day it will bring the Lord’s commendation rather than His rebuke.

12:4.  “And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.”

Undoubtedly this was prompted by the Lord’s knowledge that the evil Jewish leaders would kill Him and many of His disciples, but with the warning was also the encouragement to be faithful even unto death, since the enemy could do no more than kill the body, an act that transports the soul of the believer into heaven, and delivers him eternally from man’s hatred.

12:5.  “But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.”

Far more to be feared than man who could only kill the body, was God who had also the power to dispose of the soul, banishing that of the unbeliever into hell, and receiving that of the believer into the eternal bliss of heaven.  The warning is just as applicable today as then, for the needless fear of man has not only turned many away from receiving God’s gift of life, but has also silenced the testimony of many a believer.

The fear enjoined here is not that which is associated with anticipation of punishment, but that which springs from reverence and love.

It is to be noted that the souls, not the bodies of unbelievers, go to hell.  Their bodies lie in the grave until the resurrection of damnation, following which the complete man, body, soul, and spirit, will be cast into the lake of fire.

12:6.  “Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?”

12:7.  “But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.”

As encouragement to fear God and disregard the opinions of men, the Lord reminded them that sparrows, of little worth in the estimate of men, were nonetheless remembered by God.  By comparison, man has been placed as ruler over all the earthly creation, that very position indicating man’s relative worth in God’s sight, for it is He Himself Who warns, “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Mk 8:36.  If then, man in his natural state is worth more than all the world, who can begin to measure the value God sets on those whose souls have been redeemed by the death of His Son? He who is of such value to God need fear neither man nor demon.

12:8.  “Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God:”

Confession is an essential part of salvation, as 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.  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation,” Ro 10:9-10.  Significantly, where there has been a genuine conversion, there is also confession to some other person or persons, even if it is only to the one who has led the convert to the Savior, and to those who witness his baptism, and to the elders who interview him relative to reception into the local church.  It ought to follow, however, that the same confession will be made to those to whom we witness in the gospel.

That confession will be reciprocated by the Lord in a soon coming day.  He will acknowledge as His friends, before the angels, all who have confessed Him as Savior before men.

12:9.  “But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God.”

Where a man has never confessed Christ to others, neither will the Lord confess before the angels any knowledge of that man, as it is written, “Then will I profess unto them (unbelievers), I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity,” Mt 7:23, see also Mt 25:12, “Verily I say unto you, I know you not,” and Lk 13:27, “I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.”

12:10.  “And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven.”

This reminds us of the dignity that belongs inherently to the Holy Spirit.  He is no less God than is the Son or the Father, and the blasphemy of the Jewish leaders was that of attributing to Satan, and not the Holy Spirit, the power by which the Lord cast out demons, see 11:15, “He casteth out devils through Beelzebub the chief of the devils.”  Blasphemy against Him is the result, not of ignorance, but of deliberate rejection of God in spite of having a full knowledge of Him; but since that knowledge is imparted by the Holy Spirit, the ultimate blasphemy is to reject the Savior to Whom He bears witness.  Concerning such men it is written, “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries,” Heb 10:26-27. 

It should be noted that blasphemy is not, as is commonly believed, taking the Lord’s name in vain, but rather speaking against any member of the Godhead.

12:11.  “And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say:”

12:12.  “For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.”

Their being persecuted for their faith is not suggested simply as a possibility, but as a certainty “when th­ey bring you.”  The Lord warns all believers, “In the world ye shall have tribulation,” Jn 16:33.  But we are to have no anxious care concerning our defense, for that same Holy Spirit against Whom men may dare to blaspheme, will direct our thoughts, and our speech.

We should note also that this assurance is given relative to the Lord’s servants being brought before religious and civil rulers and judges seeking to persecute them.  It may not be taken by those who preach and teach, as an excuse not to spend adequate time in prayer and study as preparation for preaching the gospel or teaching believers.  Many years ago I knew a man given to this type of extemporaneous preaching, and on one occasion he informed his audience that when he got up to speak he hadn’t any idea what he was going to talk about.  The opinion of many in the audience was that he still had no idea after he had got up.

12:13.  “And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance, with me.”

This request declares the heart of the natural man.  He knows not the value of spiritual things, nor has he any interest in them.  His only concern is with the things of earth, of time and sense. He looks no farther than the present, for to him, what lies beyond natural life is vague and unknown, and unworthy of his attention.  How Satan has blinded the minds of men!  That future is the only thing with which a man ought to be concerned, for throughout that eternal future he will be enjoying the bliss of heaven, or enduring the torment of the lake of fire.

What would this man have been profited if he had received half, or even all of the inheritance?  In a few brief years he would have had to leave it to another, while his own soul went out into eternity.  And if he took that journey as a believer it would have been to receive a better eternal inheritance; but if as an unbeliever, it would have been to experience the eternal remorse of having minded earthly things to the neglect of those that are spiritual.

This, like all else in Scripture, has been written for our instruction.

12:14.  “And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?”

The Lord’s purpose in coming to earth was not to settle disputes, but to warn men of the terrible danger of being distracted by earthly things into neglect of the spiritual and eternal.

12:15.  “And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth­.”

The man’s covetousness was no different from that of any other, for all men are covetous by nature; and the Lord, knowing this, took the opportunity to warn His audience against the folly of valuing temporal riches more than spiritual, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Mk 8: 36.

The only thing having eternal value is God’s gift of eternal life received through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

12:16.  “And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifu­lly:”

12:17.  “And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?”

12:18.  “And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits, and my goods.”

12:19.  “And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.”

12:20.  “But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?”

It isn’t recorded that the rich man ever gave a thought to the fact that it was God Who had caused the ground to produce plentifully; and there are many like him today.  They take credit themselves for the increase of their wealth, imagining that it is the result of their own hard work, their astuteness, their natural talent, etc., nev­er stopping to think that it is God Who has given them the ability, when He might instead have given them weak, sick bodies or minds.

The abundant harvests had created only one problem.  Where was he going to store all the abundance?  It never occurred to him apparently that there were solutions better than that of bigger barns.  Had he stopped to realize that he was simply a steward of what God had given him, and that like all men, he must one day render an account of his stewardship, he might have seen the wisdom of relieving the misery of the poor, while looking to God in faith to continue to supply his own needs, there­by enriching himself for eternity. 

But the only solution that presented itself was the selfish one of building bigger barns.  How many are guilty of the same selfish folly!  Blessed with an abundance, their only thought is to hoard their riches, while they des­pi­se the less fortunate, and increase in pride and independence of God, unaware that one day they will be called to account before that same God.

Having, as he thought, solved the problem of how to store his wealth, he anticipated a long life of ease and pleasure, unaware that he would never build those bigger barns, nor enjoy even one day’s pleasure.  Like Belshazzar (Dan 5), he had come to the last few hours of his life on earth, and before him lay eternity, with no harvests to reap save those of his folly, no ease, no pleasure, no eating and drinking, but instead the endurance of torment without respite in the lake of fire.  Like the similar fool mentioned in Lk 16, he too would plead for just one drop of water to cool his tongue to relieve his torment, but there is no water in that dreadful lake which burns eternally with fire and brimstone (Re 20:10).

Of all the fools on earth, and there are many, none is greater than the man who never considers that, “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment,” Heb 9:27.

12:21.  “So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

This rich man is set before us as a warning against the folly of laying up treasure on earth, when God’s command is to lay up treasure in heaven.  Multitudes today are selling their priceless souls for the baubles of earth, while multitudes of genuine believers are forfeiting eternal treasure for the same worthless trinkets.  While certainly the warning is first to the unconverted, it applies no less to the saint.

Being rich toward God, incidentally, doesn’t primarily relate to giving to God, but rather to possessing His gift of eternal life, for the man who hasn’t accepted that gift is spiritually bankrupt.  He is without hope for eternity.  Giving to God, however, may not be ignored.  Many a believer is making himself poor for eternity by appropriating for his own use what belongs to God, the misappropriation consisting of such things as withholding time, talent, the use of homes, cars, etc., to advance Christ’s kingdom, and by no means least, withholding part of his weekly offering by which we are to acknowledge Him as the Giver of everything we’ve got.

12:22.  “And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for (don’t be anxious or worried about) your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on.”

12:23.  “The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.”

God Himself has appointed each man’s life span, so that no one will die one moment before his appointed time, and that being so, why should we have anxious care relative to providing food to keep our bodies alive?  And so also with clothing.  God Who knows just how much we need a covering, will never permit His own to lack what they need.  Most of our anxious care, however, comes from our failure to distinguish between our needs and our wants. They are two very different things, and the more accurately we distinguish between the two, the greater will be our inward peace, and our eternal blessing.

12:24.  “Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?”

In God’s daily supply of food for the fowls He would teach us how needless it is for those He has redeemed by the blood of His Son, to have anxious care regarding their food.  Since He has given His Son to save us when we were His enemies, will He not be faithful to give us also all we need?  “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” Ro 8:32.

This, however, may not be taken to imply that we shouldn’t bother to work.  It is God Himself Who has commanded, “If any would not work, neither should he eat,” 2 Th 3:10.

12:25.  “And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit?”

This verse is generally understood to relate to the possibility of increasing one’s height, but the latter part is literally, “add a single hour to his life,” “a moment to his years,” “prolong his life a moment.”  As noted already, God has allotted each man’s life span.  No one will die before his appointed time, nor will he live a moment beyond it.

12:26.  “If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest?”

The Lord continues to emphasize the worthlessness of worry relative to temporal need.  But man is a contrary creature.  It is the temporal that he worries about, when his great concern ought to be for the spiritual: the unbeliever’s concern should  be about his soul; and the saint’s, about the quality of his spiritual life.

12:27.  “Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrived like one of these.”

It is significant that the Lord chose the lily, rather than another flower for His illustration, for in Canticles the word occurs eight times, four times describi­ng the bride; once, the lips of the bridegroom; twice speaking of the bridegroom feeding among the lilies; and once of his gathering lilies.  While certainly the reference in this verse is to literal adornment, there can be no question that it relates also to that which is spiritual, and would remind us that just as the lilies, without toil on their part, are made beautiful by God, so are we, because of Christ’s toil at Calvary, made as fair as lilies in His sight, and apart from toil on our part.

We shouldn’t forget, however, that as God has clothed us with Christ’s spotless righteousness, we have an obligation to conform our lives to that of Christ so that men will catch at least glimpses of that beauty reflected in our thoughts, words, and deeds, as it is written, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind ...” Ro 12:2.  Transformation must begin in the mind, for if the mind isn’t Christlike, then the outward morality is nothing less than hypocrisy.

12:28.  “If then God so clothe the grass, which is today in the field, and tomorrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?”

As with the sparrows and their food, so is it also with the lilies and their adornment: we are infinitely more precious to God that any of these things, and His care for them assures us of His unfailing care for us.  But the purpose of His providing that assurance is not just to deliver us from anxious care in regard to temporal needs: it is so that we may, without distract­ion, devote ourselves wholeheartedly to His service.

12:29.  “And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful (disturbed, anxious) mind.”

12:30.  “For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.”

The fact that our Father knows our needs, and is more than willing and able to meet them, ought to banish every anxious thought, and fill our hearts with peace.  If, when we were His enemies, He redeemed our souls at such cost, will He not provide for all our other needs now that we have become His children?   

12:31.  “But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

How perverse we are!  The very things about which we should have no care are those about which we have most, and what we should have the greatest care for is that about which we have the least. Our great concern should be, not with the things of this world, but with those of that eternal kingdom into which God’s grace has brought us.

12:32.  “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

As addressed to the disciples, the reference appears to be to the millennial kingdom, so that as those who would possess that kingdom they need have little concern about how little they might have for the present.  In the future, all would be theirs.  How much more, then, is it incumbent upon us to have little regard for present possessions, since in the future we shall be reigning over the universe with Christ, having been made heirs, and joint heirs with Him!

12:33.  “Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth.”

Clearly it was not the Lord’s intention that this was to be the universal order for the Church, as is obvious by the fact that instructions are given relating to the mutual responsibilities of masters and slaves; while the numerous references to the church meetings being in the homes of individuals makes it clear that many possessed houses and lands.  Martha and Mary, for example, had a home in which they entertained the Lord.  ­It is a principle that is being announced relative to a wrong ambition to make the acquisition of worldly wealth the main objective of the life.  As someone has pointed out, if every Christian gave away everything he had, there would then be nothing left with which to minister to the needs of others.

The great sin connected with the possession of worldly goods is not to possess them, but to forget that we are simply stewards to whose care they have been committed for a little while, and that we must one day render an account of our stewardship at the Bema. Whether entrusted with little or much, what matters is how we exercise our stewardship.  What is used with a view to being worthy of the Master’s commendation is the equivalent of putting our treasure in bags that won’t grow old, and of storing that treasure in the safety of heaven.

12:34.  “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

If our treasure consists only of earthy things, we will be earthy, occupied with earthly things to the neglect of those that are heavenly, bankrupting ourselves for eternity.

12:35.  “Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning:”

The girded loins speak of service; and the burning lights, of testimony to be maintained during the world’s spiritual night time of His absence.  We are to be about the Lord’s business, as He was about His Father’s, remembering always that we are to be His witnesses here on earth.  The salvation of souls is to be our foremost business.

In regard to the loins, we are exhorted in Eph 6:14 to have our loins “girt about with truth,” the explanation being given in Jn 17:17 that, “Thy word is truth.”  The loins are used symbolically in Scripture of strength and of fruitfulness, so that the lesson here in verse 35 is that in proportion as we are acquainted with, and obedient to the written Word, so will our spiritual strength and fruitfulness be.

12:36.  “And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately.”

This indicates that the instruction was first to Israel, for the return of the master from the wedding indicates that this is the return of the Lord in power and glory after the rapture of the Church, to end the Tribulation and establish His millennial  kingdom.  This, however doesn’t negate its applicability to believers of this present Church age.  As Israel is to look with eager expectation for His coming with His bride, we who are that bride are to be looking with the same expectation for His coming to rapture us home to heaven.

12:37.  “Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.”

A question each professing Christian ought to ask is, Will the Lord find me watching for Him when He returns, or have I become so occupied with the things of this world, that I seldom give a thought to His coming?  Remember, He could return today. 

And in this day of a watered down gospel, another question ought to be, Am I really saved?  Can I remember a time and place when I was convicted of sin, when I repented, and trusted Him for the salvation of my soul?  What tragedy it will be to discover too late for remedy, that my lack of watchfulness, my occupation with earthly things, was because I wasn’t a believer, that all I had was an empty profession, and that instead of being raptured to heaven, I’ve been left behind for judgment!

But what a prospect for the believer!  The Lord, Who has already given His life to save us, will deign to serve us when we enter His home.  As literal eating is synonymous with satisfaction, so is it also in the spiritual realm.  What is being declared here in the Lord’s coming forth to serve His own with food, is that we shall be perfectly satisfied when we stand in His presence, as David has written in anticipation of that day, “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness,” Ps 17:15.

Sitting down, incidentally, is the biblical symbol of rest, and in the Lord’s making His servants to sit down, we read the assurance that then the toil, the waiting, the watching, will all be over.  We shall have entered into the same eternal rest as He now enjoys after His earthly toil and travail; and as we shall be satisfied when we see Him, so will He also be satisfied - thought beyond comprehension - when He sees us, for it is written, “... He shall seed his seed (His redeemed) ... the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied ....” Isa 53:10-11.

12:38.  “And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.”

The second watch was from 9:00 p.m. to midnight; and the third, from midnight to 3:00 a.m.  They speak symbolically of the end and the beginning of the day respectively, the former suggesting rest, and the latter, work.  Whether in our hours of rest, or in the midst of our daily work, the expectation of the Lord’s return is to be always before us.  If this were true, what transformation it would work in our lives!  It would keep all things in proper perspective.  There would be neither unnecessary occupation with our jobs or businesses, nor would we be guilty of frittering away with amusements, our leisure hours - precious time that ought to be given to the advancement of His kingdom.

The blessing promised the watchful servants will be ours only to the extent that we do watch for His coming, and live in the constant expectation of it.

12:39.  “And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through.”

12:40.  “Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.”

The thief doesn’t advertise his coming.  He comes when least expected, and to impoverish the person whose house he enters.  The Lord’s coming will also be with unexpected suddenness, but the difference between Him and the thief is that He has given warning, leaving undisclosed only the exact moment.  There is therefore no excuse for anyone’s not being prepared: the sinner making that preparation by trusting Him as Savior; the saint, by living in the constant expectation of His return, and being diligently employed in what pertains to His kingdom.

There is, however, the implication of possible loss at the Lord’s coming.  For the sinner who has ignored the warning of that coming, it will be the eternal loss of his soul; and for the equally heedless saint whose lack of watchfulness will have led him into neglect of the Lord’s service, and into occupation with the worthless things of this world, it will be the eternal loss of reward.  Hence the warning which follows.

The only safeguard against being occupied with the things of the world, is to be occupied with Christ, and to be living in the constant expectation of His return.

12:41.  “Then Peter said unto him, Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us, or even to all?”

The verses which follow make it clear that the warning, as already noted, is to saint and sinner alike.

12:42.  “And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season?”

The Lord begins with the stewardship of the true believer, and inasmuch as rule and distribution of food are emphasized, it may well be that the application is first to elders, for they are to rule the assembly as Christ’s agents, and to feed (teach) those placed in their charge, see for example 1 Pe 5:2-4, “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind: neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.  And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.”

No one will fail to note that this exhortation from the pen of Peter is a virtual repetition of what is recorded here by Luke.  It is significant also that he to whom the Lord addressed the command here in Luke, is the only one of the Apostles who calls himself an elder (1 Pe 5:1), though there is no question that all of them were also elders.  Peter is also the disciple whom the Lord three times in John 21:15-17 com­manded, “Feed my lambs ... feed my sheep ... feed my sheep.”  The principal work of elders is to feed (teach) those committed to their care, for the well-taught believer is the one least likely to fall prey to Satan’s lies.

It is to be remembered, however, that elders are also to be examples to the flock over which God has set them as shepherds.  In contrast with the teaching of the Pharisees which was, “Do as I say,” that of the elders is to be, “Do as I do,” Peter’s admonition being, “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly: not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples (examples) to the flock,” 1 Pe 5:2-3.

12:43.  “Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.”

12:44.  “Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath.”

The Lord will be no man’s debtor.  He will abundan­tly reward whatever is done for Him.  Blessed, incidentally, means happy.  The little while of toil and tears will give place to an eternity of unalloyed happiness in heaven with Christ.

“He will make him ruler over all that he hath” must be understood in the context of the rest of Scripture.  This distinction is not reserved for any single believer, no matter how faithful his service.  The Man Christ Jesus is the only One into Whose hands universal dominion has been committed; but we shall all reign with Him, sharing His administration of what the Father has placed under His rule.  Our place in the hierarchy of that administration, however, is being determined here on earth.  It will be high or low in proportion to the degree that our earthly stewardship has been faithful, as is made clear in Lk 19:17-26.

12:45.  “But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken;”

When the imminence of the Lord’s return is lost sight of, the inevitable result is that that expectation gives place to occupation with the things of this world, and to neglect of that which pertains to the kingdom of heaven.  It is to be kept in mind that while this exhortation applies to every believer, there is obviously a special application to those who have been given the gift of shepherding and teaching.  Such have been directed to feed (teach, nourish) those entrusted to their care, and to be examples to them, see 1 Pe 5:1-4, “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.  And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.”  See also Ac 20:28, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”

The beating of the servants under the steward’s control translates into that arrogance which can all too readily develop in the hearts of elders and teachers, so that instead of remembering that they themselves are also servants, they begin to take the place of masters over those who are in fact their equals.

The eating and drinking also point to a corresponding spiritual state.  The steward begins to cater to the flesh beyond what is necessary.  He takes his ease when he ought to be about his Master’s business; and the drunkenness speaks of dulled spiritual percept­ion induced by occupation with the pleasures of this world.

12:46.  “The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.”

This could never happen to the man living in the constant expectation of the Lord’s return; but a look at Christendom today indicates that there are very many professing Christians who will be caught unprepared, the Lord’s lightning-like return catching them busy with the world’s business and pleasure, to the neglect of His affairs; and we are missing the lesson if we fail to examine our own lives as to whether in fact some or all of this applies to us.  It is very great folly to have this opportunity for self-examination and reformation, and yet to ignore it, so that His coming finds us still occupied with what can only merit His rebuke - or worse: to find that we have been mere false professors without spiritual life at all.

It is unclear whether the steward referred to is a believer or a mere professor (though the latter seems the more likely).  His being cut in two, and his being appointed his portion with the unbelievers, speak of his death, which results in the separation of his soul and spirit from his body, the body being consigned to the grave, and the soul and spirit to hell to await the resurrection of death and ultimate consignment of body, soul and spirit to the eternal torment of the lake of fire.  In either case the results are eternal.  The careless believer will lose his reward; the unbeliever, his soul.

12:47.  “And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.”

12:48.  “But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes.  For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.”

This deals with the matter of responsibility in proportion to light given, and the application is to believer and unbeliever alike.  The eternal loss of reward for the believer who sinned wilfully, will be greater than that of the believer who sinned in ignorance.  And so will it be also relative to unbelie­vers.  The one will have a greater measure of eternal torment in the lake of fire than the other, proportionate to the amount of enlightenment given him on earth.

12:49.  “I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I if it be already kindled?”

12:50.  “But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened (pressed with anguish) till it be accomplished!”

The latter part of the KJ translation of verse 49 yields no obvious meaning, but another translation is, “I am come to send fire on the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled!”

The exact significance of “fire” here is unclear, but is understood by some to have reference to what would result from His death when He would endure the terrible fire of Divine anger against sin, the result of that death being that men would be divided into two classes: believers, and unbelievers, the enmity of the latter against the former being likened also unto devouring fire.  In this context therefore the Lord’s desire for the kindling of that fire is not that he wished to bring division among men, but that He longed to have behind Him the awful experience of expiating sin. 

An obvious practical truth being declared is that there is no middle ground where Christ is concerned.  Men will love Him or hate Him, but none can be neutral, for as He Himself has declared, “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad” (Mt 12:30).  Men are required to make a choice in regard to Christ: to believe in Him as Savior, and live eternally; or remain unbelieving, and perish eternally.  The proof that His coming had already kindled that fire is found in the contrast between the devotion of the disciples, and the bitter antagonism of the Jewish leaders.  The one would die for Him; the other would move heaven and earth to kill Him.

Relative to this zeal for or against Him, it is instructive to consider His loathing of that which lies between the two, as expressed in His condemnation of the church of the Laodiceans, “Because thou art neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth” (Re 3:16).  A question we might well ask ourselves is whether we are on fire for Christ, or whether “Laodice­an” more accurately describes our state.

The baptism, of course, was His death, and the reference to it here would remind us that Christianity isn’t merely a philosophy of morals.  It has to do with life and death, both of them eternal: the one, eternal bliss in heaven; the other, eternal torment in the lake of fire.

The reference to His death as a baptism declares the truth of His being enveloped in death as described in such Scriptures as Ps 69:1,2,14,15, “Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul.  I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me.... Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink: let me be delivered from them that hate me, and out of the deep waters.  Let not the waterflood overflow me, neither let the deep swallow me up, and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me.”  See also Ps 88.

His death is also portrayed as being enveloped in fire, e.g., Ps 102:3, “My bones are burned as an hearth,” and La 1:13, where in the experience of Israel under chastisement God is pointing to the experience of Christ at Calvary, “From above hath he sent fire into my bones, and it prevaileth against them.”

His death was different from that of other men in that it was  voluntary and vicarious, but its terrors were as real for Him as for any other, the evidence being His agony and blood-like sweat and prayer in Gethsemane the night before He went out to “taste death” for every man, i.e., experience death in all its terrible reality.

Straitened is also translated as pent up: pressed with anguish: strained: hampered: under a pressure which prevents a definite choice.  A return to heaven without dying was never a viable option for Christ.  He came to earth for the specific purpose of dying for our sins, so that we might be delivered from the power of death, forgive­n, and fitted for heaven.  His expectation was to pass through death, not around it.  His return to heaven was to be in resurrection, as is ours (except for the generation that will be translated at His coming).

12:51.  “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division:”

This continues to emphasize that Christ is the great Divider of men.  They must trust Him, and live eternally; or disbelieve, and perish eternally, the unbeliever remaining the enemy of God, and by his rejection of Christ, becoming now also the enemy of those who belong to God.  One of the evidences of a genuine conversion is the conflict in the believer between his old nature, and the new.  There is no conflict until he receives the new nature.

Relative to the division between faith and unbelief, we find this division symbolically announced in Ge 1:4-9 where God’s division between darkness and light, sea water and vapor, sea and earth, have spiritual counterparts, specific warning against any intermingling being declared in 2 Co 6:14-18, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? and what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?  And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”

Relative to this verse, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary states that, “Judaism was a family religion, in which the people worshiped by households rather than as individuals.  Jesus foresaw that His claims could cut across family life, and would necessitate individual decisions.”

12:52.  “For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three.”

Like all Biblical numbers, these have a significa­nce beyond the literal, for five speaks of responsibil­ity; three, of manifestation or resurrection; and two, of witness or testimony. The believer, because he has been resurrected out of spiritual death into spiritual life, is responsible to confess (witness) that he is a new creature in Christ), and where that testimony is given, there will inevitably be conflict with those who refuse to trust in Christ.

12:53.  “The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.”

Beyond the literal earthly relationships lie the spiritual.  Beyond the literal father is Satan, the spiritual father of every unbelie­ver.  Beyond the literal mother is the spiritual: Babylon, false religion.  And as always in Scripture, an in-law points to some aspect of the law itself, the daughter-in-law here speaking of one seeking salvation through submission to the law; and the mother-in-law, speaking perhaps of the false church whose deadly lie is that salvation lies in law-keeping.

Conversion brings immediate conflict with all of these.  Satan becomes the believer’s bitter foe, false religion being often his most powerful instrument for the persecution of faith, as is witnessed by Rome’s murderous slaughter of countless believers during the thousand years of the dark ages.  And the law has proved all too often a potent agent in robbing the believer of peace relative to his salvation, every sin evoking Satan’s lie: You’ve broken the law, and lost your salvation.

This spiritual antagonism, however, in no way rules out the literal.  Rarely is there a conversion which doesn’t bring the animosity of unconverted family members and former friends.

12:54.  “And he said also to the people, When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say, There cometh a shower; and so it is.”

12:55.  “And when ye see the south wind blow, ye say, There will be heat; and it cometh to pass.”

12:56.  “Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?”

Having addressed the preceding verses to the disciples, the Lord then turned again to the people, and cited their natural wisdom relative to natural phenomena.  We should note, however, that the shower here is literally a thunder shower, and the heat, that which scorches.  There is an ominous significance to this.  The Lord knew that there were coming upon that worldly-wise but spiritually foolish unbelieving nation, a thunder storm of Divine wrath, and the fierce fire of His anger, which would slay thousands, and scatter the remainder as refugees amongst the hated Gentile nations, for two thousand long bitter years.  But they had neither eyes to see nor ears to hear the truth declared in the Scriptures and reinforced by the Living Word Who stood in their midst. 

Well might He call them hypocrites.  Had they been in as close relationship with Jehovah as they falsely claimed to be, they would have enjoyed that spiritual illumination which would have enabled them to see that this despised Jesus was the One Whose coming had been foretold in their own Scriptures.  But they weren’t near to God.  They were in fact about as far from Him as it is possible to be in spite of all their false profession, as He Himself declared, “Ye hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, Th­is people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoreth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me,” Mt 15:7-8.

Israel’s history, however, is but the symbolic preview of that of the professing church; and as judgment was even then looming over the apostate nation, so is it today about to envelop the apostate world church.  There is in those who comprise that apostate travesty which calls itself the church, the same worldly wisdom, but also the same abysmal ignorance of God’s Word.  They too are unaware that the terrible judgment that overtook rebel Israel in AD 70, is but a type of the long foretold storm of Divine wrath which is about to break on their guilty heads.

Keeping in mind that compass directions have spiritual significance, it is instructive to learn that the thunderstorm comes from the west, the direction that speaks of approach to God.  The coming storm (the Tribulation judgments) will come from the God the world has so long defied.  And the south (direction of faith), and the wind (symbol of the Holy Spirit) declare that He Who now convicts of sin with a view to seeing men saved, will yet be the Agent through Whom the outpouring of God’s terrible judgments will be directed against those who resisted His striving, and refused to believe.

12:57.  “Yea, and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?”

12:58.  “When thou goest with thine adversary to the magistrate, as thou art in the way, give diligence that thou mayest be delivered from him: lest he hale thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and the officer cast thee into prison.”

12:59.  “I tell thee, thou shalt not depart thence, till thou hast paid the very last mite.”

The scene depicted by the Lord is that of a debtor about to be hauled into court for an unpaid debt, and clearly wisdom teaches that it would be better for him to face the fact that the judgment of the court must be in favor of his creditor, so it is to his own advantage to try to reach an out-of-court settlement if at all possible. 

The parable is easily read.  Israel is the debtor and also the representative of all men; God, the Creditor, but a Creditor in a unique situation.  He cannot forgive the debt without impugning His own holy character, for to do so would make Him a liar.  The debt was incurred by Adam when he disobeyed the command, “In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die,” Ge 2:17.  That word must be kept.  Man must die.  But because He has no delight in the death of the sinner, God conceived a plan whereby the debt could be paid, and still allow the debtor to live.  That plan is announced in Jn 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Because Christ has died in place of the debtor, God can now extend the gracious invitation, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow: though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool,” Isa 1:18.  This is exactly what God had been doing for centuries through His prophets, and was now doing through His Son.  He was calling guilty Israel to come and listen to reason, rather than insist on having a legal judgment which could only result in their eternal condemnation.  He was offering her, as He offers all men, a full discharge of the debt which it is impossi­ble for any man ever to repay.

But Israel wouldn’t acknowledge her inability to pay.  She insisted that her vain attempts to keep the law discharged the debt, and left God without any claim against her.  She refused to acknowledge that the very law she professed to keep, she broke daily, thereby compounding the debt, but would ignore those offenses by daring to substitute her own standard of righteousness for God’s.  This is an insult greater than man would offer to man, yet arrogant Israel dared thus to insult the God of heaven!  And so do all who attempt to be justified by law keeping!

The threatened punishment offers the offender no hope, “Thou shalt not depart thence, till thou hast paid the very last mite.” The debt is beyond man’s ability ever to repay, so that to refuse God’s pardon is to condemn oneself to eternal imprisonment in the torment of the lake of fire.

[Luke 13]


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