Continuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.
The following Bible passages have been excluded from the three-year Lectionary used by many Catholic and Protestant churches around the world.
Do some clergy using the Lectionary want us understand Holy Scripture in its entirety? You decide.
Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur (sermons cited below).
Salt Without Taste Is Worthless
34 “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? 35It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Our Lord has given strong warnings about belief and condemnation throughout Luke 12, Luke 13 and Luke 14.
Some of those warnings featured in Forbidden Bible Verses, which is why I wonder if the clergy really want us to know what the Bible says. So often, the Lectionary for public worship omits many — although not all — meaty verses which describe the true nature of Christianity and God’s purpose, which Jesus discusses.
For new subscribers or those who have missed some of the past three chapters of Luke, the following are among those excluded from the Lectionary readings:
Luke 12:1-3 – Jesus, leaven of Pharisees, faith, disbelief, false teaching, hypocrisy, secrets
Luke 12:4-7 – Jesus, sparrows, Hell, God’s omniscience, fear of God
Luke 12:8-12 – Jesus, Holy Spirit, blasphemy, unbelief, persecution
Luke 12:22-31 – Jesus, anxiety, worry, material cares, temporal cares
Luke 12:41-48 – Jesus, parable, master and servant, punishment, condemnation
Luke 12:57-59 – Jesus, judgment, examination of conscience
Luke 13:10-17 – Jesus, miracle, healing, bent over woman, mercy, disabling spirit, Satan, hypocrisy, sin, repentance
Luke 13:18-21 – Jesus, parables, mustard seed, leaven, kingdom of heaven
Luke 14:2-6 – Jesus, miracle, man with dropsy, edema, Pharisees
Luke 14:15-24 – parable, Parable of the Great Banquet, Jesus
Fortunately, the Lectionary includes hard-hitting verses such as these (emphases mine):
Not Peace, but Division
49 “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! 51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. 53They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:49-53)
The Narrow Door
22 He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem. 23And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ 26Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ 27But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ 28 In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. 29And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. 30And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” (Luke 13:22-30)
Lament over Jerusalem
31At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. 33Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’ 34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! 35Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!'” (Luke 13:31-35)
The Cost of Discipleship
25Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:25-33)
One cannot help but wonder what would happen if Jesus preached in our churches today. What would our reaction be? If He were to say any of the above, it is likely many in the congregation would complain of being offended and/or walk out. ‘Where’s all-loving, all-forgiving Jesus? I didn’t sign up to this!’ People would no doubt ring the local news outlets and send countless outraged tweets.
In The Cost of Discipleship — the last passage which immediately precedes today’s two verses — Jesus is saying that we mustn’t start what we cannot finish (the tower in verses 28-30). We also have to be prepared to lose our families, even our lives, if we follow Him.
Our Lord Jesus Christ is not a bolt-on extra in our lives.
Yet, over the past decade, Christians — Catholic and Protestant — have succumbed to Moralistic Therapeutic Deism:
Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, or comfy Christianity
Fading ‘memory’ of Christianity, the Divine Butler and false teaching
Forbidden Bible Verses: John 6:16-23
God and His Son have become divine fixers. We pay them heed only when we need something in our lives and often make outrageous promises such as, ‘O Lord, if only you sort out this crisis for me I promise to go to church every Sunday and honour You forever!’ Once pulled out of the mire, we quickly forget about what we promised. The Almighty goes back into our cupboard until the next time we need to call on His services.
We also have parents who decline to raise their children in the faith at home. ‘That’s why I’m sending them to a Christian school. That’s the teachers’ job, not mine.’
Above the laity, however, are the clergy. Evangelicals often come under fire for their conversion practices. Yet, longstanding denominations (e.g. Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Lutheran and Catholic) get involved in making social justice pronouncements or run socio-political programmes and collections in their congregations. Marxist community organisers are connected with a number of urban Catholic parishes in large American cities. Senior Anglican clergy comment publicly on anything under the sun — Sharia, the finance industry and social justice — rather than the Gospel; anyone would think they were writing for The Guardian. Episcopal clergy embrace New Age practices and turn a blind eye to sinful practices. A few years ago Lutheran clergy in the ELCA banded together to promote the idea of climate change; yes, carrying a hessian (burlap) bag to the shops really will guarantee eternal salvation. Some more conservative Lutheran denominations in the United States have embraced an unbiblical quasi-universalism called Universal Objective Justification; congregants speaking out against this can find — and have found — themselves excommunicated. Left-leaning PCUSA has been making more public pronouncements against Israel than about the Gospel.
Then there are the seminaries. Most are an abomination. Anything goes. Let’s reinterpret Holy Scripture. All are saved. Jesus came to redress society’s problems. Jesus’s words support liberation theology. We should honour nature and Gaia. And so on.
All of these aberrations from laity and clergy blind us to the Gospel message, elaborated on in the Epistles.
Is it any wonder that Jesus warns that many who notionally serve in His name will not be admitted to God’s heavenly kingdom?
Then we have Church Growth programmes. All right, let’s look at how well Jesus’s ministry worked out with the spiritually blind and hard of heart. One of the most instructive chapters in the Gospels is John 6, which describes what happened after the Feeding of the Five Thousand. The people return for another miracle. Jesus rebukes them for asking for another divine meal and explains that He is the bread they should be seeking:
58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.
The Words of Eternal Life
60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” 61But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? 62Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.
Returning to Luke’s Gospel, this is why Jesus told people to weigh up the cost of following Him. Don’t do it if you cannot finish the course. Don’t be a fair-weather disciple.
When He says that the believer will ‘hate’ his family and his own life, He doesn’t mean ‘despise’ but to ‘love less’ or ‘prefer less’. This is what the ancient Jews understood by ‘hate’.
On the discipleship that Jesus desires, John MacArthur explains:
Discipleship has the highest cost. Our Lord made it clear. He never held it back. It’s one thing to tell people the gospel, it’s one thing to give the facts, but when you call people to come to Christ, this is where you have to take them. Are you willing to set aside all your past priorities relationally? …
He may take your possessions; He may not. But the point is it doesn’t matter to you because you understand the value of what you’re receiving and you are confessing Him as Lord. Anything less than that, Jesus said, you can’t be My disciple.
In today’s two verses, we read of salt. It can be confusing because few, if any, among us know of salt to lose its flavour. Why would Jesus mention salt?
MacArthur tells us that there was a type of salt which came from the Dead Sea which sometimes had gypsum in it. As such, it was worthless when harvested. However, there was no place to dispose of it:
What do you do with old salt? Well, I’ll tell you one thing, you don’t throw it in the garden. It’ll just kill everything there. They wouldn’t even throw it in a manure pile and that’s a compost heap. That salt is a problem because once it’s useless; it’s really useless … You are the salt of the earth…right? And He even said if salt loses its taste, then what’s its goodness? It has none. So what He’s saying is this. What I’m asking of you is this. Put the past aside, assess the present power and commit to Me for long-term loyalty in the future and I’ll use you for good. I’ll make you a preserving influence for righteousness. You will be the salt of the earth. That’s what He’s asking. Basically, He’s going to change the role you play in society. He’s going to change the role you play in this world. All of the sudden you’re going to be for preservation, for seasoning. Jesus is saying don’t start in letting Me use you unless you intend to be faithful. I’m asking for long-term saltiness. I’m asking for long-term loyalty. And if you are at all corrupted by some spiritual gypsum and you’re going to have a very short span, I’m not interested in those kinds of disciples.
This means that we might lose out on jobs (Christian institutions of higher education listed on a CV are the death knell in the UK), friends (in an increasingly secular, materialistic society), spouses (either potential or present for the same reason). If you want to know what following Jesus is like, come to the UK. Our secular society works on all sorts of misconceptions and incorrect assumptions. Yet, this is what Christians must be prepared for mentally. This is why Jesus says to make very sure you can stay the course.
Of course, there are tragic, extreme examples in the Middle East (Iraq) and Africa (Nigeria), ongoing as I write. Recently, Iraqi Christians had to pay extortionate sums of money in order to leave the country. Nigerian schoolgirls were kidnapped by militant Muslim extremists a few months ago. This is what Jesus meant by being prepared to lose one’s possessions or even one’s life.
Christianity involves serious commitment. Anyone who tells you otherwise doesn’t understand the Gospel. This is why belief in the scriptural doctrine of grace is so essential. It is that divine grace which sustains us.
Of the clergy’s saltiness, Matthew Henry had this to say in the 17th and early 18th centuries. Aberrant preachers existed then, too:
A professor of religion whose mind and manners are depraved is the most insipid animal that can be. If he speaks of the things of God, of which he has had some knowledge, it is so awkwardly that none are the better for it: it is a parable in the mouth of a fool ... Such scandalous professors ought to be cast out of the church, not only because they have forfeited all the honours and privileges of their church-membership, but because there is danger that others will be infected by them.
This is why we have church discipline. Casual Christians and unbelievers think it’s a cruel power-play by senior clergy. It isn’t. Apostate clergy distort their flock’s beliefs and could be sending them to hell in a handcart.
In closing, note Jesus’s last sentence. ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear‘ appears several times in the Gospels. He says this whenever He has an essential point to make. (A comparable expression is ‘Selah’, which features often in the Psalms.) It means to pay attention, listen carefully and heed the message.
Jesus wants our whole commitment for His and God’s purposes. Their kingdom, thankfully, is not of this world.
Next time: Luke 16:14-17