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Bible treehuggercomContinuing 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 really 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).

Luke 18:15-17

Let the Children Come to Me

15 Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 17 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”


This passage might look familiar to my longstanding readers. I covered Mark’s version of it in 2012: Mark 10:13-16.

That post will help grieving parents who wonder what happens to their babies that die before they are baptised. John MacArthur and Matthew Henry offer several analyses as to why they are part of the kingdom of God.

Today’s passage reinforces that reassuring message.

MacArthur says that a Jesus was addressing a large crowd. Some parents, moved by what they had seen and heard of Him, began bringing their young children to Him for a blessing (verse 15). However, the disciples had words with the parents. No doubt this might occur in some Christian circumstances today for the usual reasons: don’t bother our teacher with children; people are waiting to hear him speak; stop hindering proceedings.

MacArthur says the disciples acted within Jewish traditions. Although children were brought to their synagogues for blessings and certain high day and holiday prayers were said for children, by and large, teaching was seen as being for those who had reached the age of reason.

MacArthur explains:

Even though the synagogue they had training for children, there were certain boundaries for children. And the adult world of theological discussion about the Kingdom of God was not an appropriate place, nor in their view was it appropriate for Jesus to stop what He was doing to pay attention to these little ones who had capacity to understand or to believe. So they strongly protested the parents’ action.

However, Jesus tells the disciples to allow the children to approach Him because, they too, are part of the kingdom of God (verse 16). Both MacArthur and Henry say that they ranged in age from infants to toddlers. Whereas Matthew and Mark use the word paideia (children) in their accounts, Luke the physician refers to them as brephos, children who were receiving their mothers’ milk. MacArthur says that mothers nursed their children for longer in that era, so some would have been two or three years old.

In Mark’s account, Jesus was indignant. MacArthur says that Luke’s account in the original Greek conveys the same strength with regard to the word ‘called':

Literally in the Greek called is summoned them, a sort of official word. He gave them a summons.

Henry’s commentary explains our Lord’s welcome to children:

The promise is to us, and to our seed and therefore he that has the dispensing of promised blessings will bid them welcome to him with us.

MacArthur says that Jesus’s welcome was unique (emphases mine):

This is the only time our Lord ever spoke blessing on non-believers, only time. It therefore puts them in a very unique category…very unique category. Jesus never pronounces blessing on people outside His Kingdom because there is no blessing for them. And certainly He is not obligated to bless them. But here it is right to bless them, it is wrong to prevent them from being blessed and He does bless them. And so in verse 16 He called for them saying, “Permit the children to come to Me and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Permit the children…literally, let them come…let them come. That’s the positive, aphiemi, let them come. Then the negative, “Don’t ever forbid them,” present tense. Let them come now and don’t ever forbid them ...

Nothing is said about the parents faith. Nothing is said about the parents having circumcised the children so that they were then covenant children. Nothing is said about any covenant at all, parental covenant, national covenant. Nothing is said about baptism. There are no caveats. There are no qualifications. The simple statement is the Kingdom of God belongs to these in this category…babies and children. Jesus uses the word children. They brought babies and He expanded the truth to encompass children. Children would simply be the category of those who are unable to believe savingly. They have not reached the condition of personal accountability. Not an age, it’s a condition and it varies from child to child. They belong to the Kingdom and the Kingdom belongs to them because they’re babies. This is wondrous truth. This is rich truth.

Now if Jesus ever wanted to teach covenantal inclusion in the Kingdom, this would have been the place to put it. If He had said, “The Kingdom of God belongs to all the children of faithful Jews who are part of the covenant,” or if He wanted to say, “The Kingdom of God belongs to all circumcised children who have manifest the sign of the covenant,” or if He wanted to say, “All children who are baptized,” or if He wanted to say, “All children who are not Gentiles,” or if He wanted to say, “All children of parents who are faithful to their covenant to God, all children of those who know God,” but there are no such exceptions, or limitations. Babies because they’re babies, children because they’re children belong to the Kingdom and the Kingdom belongs to them.

Therefore, although they are born with Original Sin, they are too innocent to understand what that is. Condemnation to hell would be unjust.

MacArthur tells us that even Calvinists believe this:

Listen to what Calvin said. “Those little children have not yet any understanding to desire His blessing. But when they are presented to Him, He gently and kindly receives them and dedicates them to the Father by a solemn act of blessing. It would be cruel to exclude that age from the grace of redemption. It is an irreligious audacity to drive from Christ those whom He held in His bosom and to shut the door on them as strangers when He did not wish to forbid them at all.”

B.B. Warfield, the Princeton theologian said this … if death in infancy does depend on God’s providence…and it does…it is assuredly God in His providence who selects this vast multitude to be made participants of His unconditional salvation. This is but to say that they are unconditionally predestinated to salvation from the foundation of the world,” end quote. Warfield says if babies die, they were elect…they were elect.

This raises an important theological point with regard to Arminianism (free will semi-Pelagianism). MacArthur paraphrases what Warfield went on to say:

If only a single infant dying, a single infant dying is saved, the whole Arminian principle is traversed … any infant that is saved without any works. If all infants dying such as…such are saved, not only the majority of the saved, but doubtless the majority of the human race have entered into heaven by a non-Arminian pathway.

It is important to note that this is a special dispensation for those who are too young — or mentally disabled — to understand.

However, that is no reason to leave it there. Faithful, conscientious, loving parents will want to bring their offspring up to embrace the Gospel message. MacArthur gives them this advice:

So what do you do as a parent to maximize those years to bring your children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord? Let me just make three suggestions. Teach them … They have limited knowledge, we’ve heard that. They don’t know right from wrong, good from evil. Teach them. They have limited reasoning power. They have virtually no discretion. They must be taught … Teach them the Word of God. Put them in an environment where others are teaching them the Word of God.

Secondly, model the truth that you hold them to. It doesn’t do any good to tell them it’s good for them if it’s not for you. That kind of hypocrisy is counter-productive totally. You tell them this is the truth and then you show them how important it is by living it. You must be aware absolutely the personal value of truth for your own sake, not just for the sake of your children. You can’t expect your children to really believe something is right if you don’t demonstrate that same conviction. Their perceptive spirits will see through your hypocrisy when you’re doing something to engineer or manipulate them to respond in a certain way instead of authentic parenting, instead of authentic godly living according to the truth that allows your children to see the freedom and the joy and the blessing that comes when you walk in God’s truth. You pass the truth on in teaching and you live it.

And then thirdly, let me suggest that you love your children. What do I mean by that? Let them know your heart is on them. Be affectionate, tender, compassionate, sensitive, sacrificial, generous. Weep with them, laugh with them, sacrifice for them. Protect them from all the avenues of harm that can come into their lives. Don’t provoke them. Don’t exasperate them. Be utterly unselfish. Serve your children. Show them by your actions that the things that matter to them matter to you and sometimes the things that matter to them matter more to you than the things that are important in your world. Reward them when they do well. Make your home a joyful place. Do fun things with them. Love them.

Jesus concludes by pointing out that those who do not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not share it (verse 17).

What does this mean?

It’s that same innocent pleasure toddlers show when we present them with a treat — a toy or sweets. Their faces light up instantly. They express their thanks with a beaming smile.

Our Lord says that we, too, are called — perhaps summoned — to enjoy the promise of salvation in the same way, as Henry says:

with humility and thankfulness, not pretending to merit them as the Pharisee did …

May we express this same delight every day of our lives.

Next time: Luke 18:18-23

Bible ourhomewithgodcomContinuing 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 really 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 Thomas Coke. Coke (1747-1814) was a Welsh lawyer and mayor who later became the first Methodist bishop and Father of Methodist Missions.

Luke 17:28-37

28 Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, 29 but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all— 30 so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. 31 On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. 32Remember Lot’s wife. 33Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. 34 I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. 35 There will be two women (J)grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.”[a] 37 And they said to him, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the corpse[b] is, there the vultures[c] will gather.”


Last week’s post looked at the first part of Jesus’s discourse about the kingdom of God and the Second Coming.

Today’s passage concludes our Lord’s stark lesson on what it will be like. The sinful people of Noah’s time (Luke 17:27) were going about their business when the flood struck. Jesus now mentions another group, those in Sodom, who perished in fire and sulfur (verses 28 and 29).

When Christ returns in glory, there will be a similar dramatic end bringing with it condemnation to sinners (verse 30).

He warns us against being too attached to our worldly goods and our surroundings (verse 31). We mustn’t be like Lot’s wife (verse 32). Matthew Henry explains (emphases mine):

Let them not look back, lest they should be tempted to go back nay, lest that be construed a going back in heart, or an evidence that the heart was left behind. Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt, that she might remain a lasting monument of God’s displeasure against apostates, who begin in the spirit and end in the flesh.

Thomas Coke elaborates:

This unfortunate woman had been informed by angels of the destruction of Sodom, and promised deliverance; but was expressly forbidden to look back, on any account, in the time of her flight; because it was proper that they should flee speedily, in the faith of this divine declaration, and perfectly contented, or at least endeavouring to be so, that they had escaped with their lives. Nevertheless, she presumed to entertain doubts concerning the destruction of her wicked acquaintance, because she did not fully believe the angels’ message. Moreover, being inwardly sorry for the loss of her relations and goods, and at the same time not sufficiently valuing the kindness of God who had sent his angels to preserve her, she lingered behind her husband, discontented and vexed, allowing him and his two daughters to enter into Zoar before her, thereby laying a temptation in Lot’s way to took back upon her, on account of the danger to which she was exposing herself. But no sooner had Lot with his children entered the place of their refuge, than God poured out the fulness of his wrath upon the offending cities. The thunder, the shrieking of the inhabitants, the crashing of the houses falling, were heard at a distance. Lot’s wife, not yet in Zoar, was at length convinced that all was lost; and being exceedingly displeased, she despised the gift of her life; for, in contradiction to the angels’ command, she turned about, and looked round at the dreadful devastation; probably also bewailed her perishing kindred and wealth, (Genesis 19:14.) But her infidelity, her disobedience, her ingratitude, and her love of the world, received a just, though severe rebuke. In an instant she was turned into a pillar of salt, being burned up by the flames, out of whose reach she could not fly; and so was made a perpetual monument of God’s displeasure to all posterity. Her looking back, though in itself a thing indifferent, yet as it was done contrary to the divine prohibition, and expressed such a complication of evil dispositions, was so far from being a small sin, that it fully deserved the punishment inflicted on it

Jesus warns us not to be too attached to our own lives (verse 33); when the time comes, we must be willing to die that we might have eternal life.

However, at that time, Jesus was also warning the Jews about the impending destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, which took place a few decades later in 70 AD. Coke sees it as an instruction not to venture into the city for safety; the humble countryside would be a better refuge. Henry sees Jesus’s words as a command to leave the Jewish faith and to follow Him.

Our Lord goes on to say that God knows His own. Where a couple are together on the night of reckoning, one will be taken to eternal life and the other left to die, condemned (verse 34). The same will be true of two women at a handmill grinding flour (verse 35).

In verse 37, Jesus concludes His discourse by making a reference to the Roman eagle (the word used in older translations) — the bird of prey ready to feast on rotting carcases. He is alluding to the spiritually dead Jewish hierarchy and their followers who have rejected Him.

The verse has another interpretation, a positive one for those who have accepted Christ — the body (used in older translations). They will flock together, wherever they might be. Henry’s commentary states:

wherever the body is, wherever the gospel is preached and ordinances are ministered, thither will pious souls resort, there they will find Christ, and by faith feast upon him.  

Next time: Luke 18:15-17

Bible kevinroosecomContinuing 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 really 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 Thomas Coke. Coke (1747-1814) was a Welsh lawyer and mayor who later became the first Methodist bishop and Father of Methodist Missions.

Luke 17:20-27

The Coming of the Kingdom

20 Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”[h]

22 And he said to the disciples, “The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. 23 And they will say to you, ‘Look, there!’ or ‘Look, here!’ Do not go out or follow them. 24 For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day.[i] 25 But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. 26 Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. 27 They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.


The Pharisees had a worldly idea of what the kingdom of God would be and their enquiry of Jesus (verse 20) is a mocking one. How could this humble man before them possibly know anything of the long-awaited kingdom?

Thomas Coke’s commentary explains:

They had very grand notions of the extent of the Messiah’s kingdom, the number of his subjects, the strength of his armies, the pomp and eclat of his court; and were eager to have that glorious empire speedily erected; or, being inveterate enemies of our Lord, they might ask the question in derision, because every thing about Jesus was so unlike to the Messiah whom they expected.

Jesus told them that the kingdom would not manifest itself in these ways. Matthew Henry says that our Lord’s answer was intended more for the disciples than the Pharisees. The disciples were better able to understand it. The Pharisees’ hearts and minds were closed to Jesus and His message.

Jesus also warned against false prophets talking about their own divination and predictions (verse 21). This was an immediate message to the Jews but also to us today to ignore preachers and notionally Christian authors who arrive at a date for the end of the world. No one knows when the Second Coming will occur.

He elaborates on this in the ensuing verses, specifically directed towards the disciples — and us: the dark days of persecution and waning of faith which makes us long for Christ’s return (verse 22); another warning against following false prophets (verse 23); the statement that His return will be accompanied by terrifying circumstances (verse 24).

For now, the kingdom of God is a spiritual one inside each believer. God’s grace and the Holy Spirit are working through us quietly. Henry tells us (emphases mine):

The kingdom of God will not change men’s outward condition, but their hearts and lives. Then it comes when it makes those humble, and serious, and heavenly, that were proud, and vain, and carnal,–when it weans those from the world that were wedded to the world and therefore look for the kingdom of God in the revolutions of the heart, not of the civil government.

Therefore, it is not liberation theology, big government, theonomy or ecological dogmas which are intended to bring about utopia, heaven on earth or the Second Coming.

Jesus says in Matthew 24:

6And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.

 7For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.

 8All these are the beginning of sorrows.

 9Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.

 10And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.

 11And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.

 12And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.

 13But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

 14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.

Note especially the last verse: that the Gospel will be spread to every corner of the world and then the end comes. We have not reached that point yet, and as one popular Christian online plug-in shows, many remote peoples have still not heard the Good News.

In verse 25, Jesus alludes to His own rejection and death, which must occur before anything else can happen related to the heavenly kingdom. During His ministry, the Jewish establishment actively rejected Him, taunting Him wherever He went.

In verses 26 and 27, He refers to the world in Noah’s time. I posted recently on the biblical account of Noah and his family which gives the background to our Lord’s reference here. God sent the flood because (Genesis 6:5-8):

5 The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. 6 The LORD regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. 7 So the LORD said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.

Jesus says that the Second Coming will take place in similar circumstances. He will come whilst people are going about their daily business with many sinning through revelry, hate and evil.

Daily news reports concern war, crime and atrocities so appalling that it is hard to imagine how much worse things can get. We also live in an increasingly secular Western society. Yet, our Lord calls upon us to stand firm in the faith, as did Noah, regardless of the sin around us.

Henry’s commentary discusses the waxing and waning of the Church:

This looks forward to his disciples in after-ages they must expect much disappointment the gospel will not be always preached with equal liberty and success. Ministers and churches will sometimes be under outward restraints. Teachers will be removed into corners, and solemn assemblies scattered. Then they will wish to see such days of opportunity as they have formerly enjoyed, sabbath days, sacrament days, preaching days, praying days[:] these are days of the Son of man, in which we hear from him, and converse with him. The time may come when we may in vain wish for such days. God teaches us to know the worth of such mercies by the want of them. It concerns us, while they are continued, to improve them, and in the years of plenty to lay up in store for the years of famine. Sometimes they will be under inward restraints, will not have such tokens of the presence of the Son of man with them as they have had. The Spirit is withdrawn from them they see not their signs the angel comes not down to stir the waters there is a great stupidity among the children of men, and a great lukewarmness among the children of God then they shall wish to see such victorious triumphant days of the Son of man as they have sometimes seen, when he has ridden forth with his bow and his crown, conquering and to conquer, but they will not see them. Note, We must not think that Christ’s church and cause are lost because not always alike visible and prevailing

The most important things we can do are to pray for more grace and wisdom during these trying times — and to know what God expects of us. May we take this opportunity and use it wisely, especially where our children are concerned. They, especially, will need to know how to conduct themselves in the years ahead during difficult times among sinful people.

Next week’s entry continues our Lord’s discourse on His Second Coming.

Next time: Luke 17:28-37

Bible GenevaContinuing 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).

Luke 17:1-4

Temptations to Sin

1 And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin[a] are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! 2It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.[b] Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”


These first four verses of Luke 17 give us important lessons about sin, forgiveness and humility.

Jesus urged His disciples to disregard the Pharisees’ system of legalism and hypocrisy. The Pharisees talked about divine law and imposed an onerous burden on ordinary Jews, however, with the help of their colleagues the religious lawyers, found numerous loopholes for their own religious observance. Their elitist system allowed them to ignore the spiritual health of what they might have called ‘the lesser orders’ and possibly caused countless souls to be condemned for eternity.

Yet, as John MacArthur tells us, even the Old Testament pointed to salvation through imputed righteousness not meritorious works. He explains (emphases mine):

Genesis 15:6. Abraham or Abram believed God, and it was imputed to him as righteousness. Because he believed, God credited His own righteousness, completely alien to all of us, to Abraham. Psalm 103:17, “The loving kindness of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting…listen to this…and His righteousness to children’s children.” He just keeps giving His righteousness to every generation of people who believe in Him.

How were you saved in the Old Testament? You were saved in the Old Testament by believing in God as sovereign Creator, all-holy Judge, understanding, therefore, your own sinfulness and repenting of it before God. Acknowledging the fact that salvation could come only on the basis of sovereign grace, because it couldn’t be earned. Embracing the fact that God is a forgiving God by nature. You come to Him offering nothing but your faith, no works whatsoever, realizing that if you were ever to enter into the presence of God and be considered righteous, it’s going to have to be because some alien righteousness is credited to your account. God will accept you on that basis until He can make you fully righteous in His presence.

Furthermore, as God forgives our sins, our responsibility is to forgive others. The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) says:

forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

In the first verse of Luke 17, Jesus speaks against the Pharisees’ condemnation of Him and His ministry. It is also a warning to unbelievers and believers today. If we cause others to disregard Christ as our Saviour through our words and actions, we, too, will be condemned.

That can include all manner of sin which detracts from the Christian message. MacArthur says that the Greek word used there was skandalon, from which we get ‘scandal’, which originally referred to a baited trap:

When the animal grabs the bait, the stick is released, the trap is closed, the animal is caught. That’s a skandalon, it’s a trap. We know we live in a world of traps. We know we live in a world where people are going to be offended. God’s little ones, God’s children, believers, are going to be offended. And by offended, trapped, harmed, hindered. That’s what it’s talking about. The world is full of stumbling blocks. They’re all over the place, to seduce us directly into error, to seduce us into heresy and false understanding of the Scriptures, false understanding of God and Christ, to seduce us in false understandings of how we are to live our Christian lives. And there are scandalous temptations laid out there to directly or indirectly drive us toward sin. There are all kinds of bad examples and there are all kinds of things that lead us away from righteousness. The world is just filled with them and we, of all generations, are exposed to them in a way that prior generations have not been. There was a time, you know, in the world when you had to see the sinner do the sin to see sin. And now you can see the sinner sin at home pumped into your house on your TV. You can read the ugly details of the sinner and his sin in a book or a magazine or a paper or other media exposure. But there was a time when you had to see the sinner sin to know the sin occurred, but now you can experience it constantly in a barrage of images. It’s a different world and there are all kinds of seductions to evil. It’s inevitable that they come.

Our Lord tells us that it would be better to be drowned with a heavy stone around our neck than to cause others to sin (verse 2). Divine punishment will be that severe. MacArthur explains:

The one who sets the offense in motion is guilty before God…guilty before God. It’s a serious thing and God considers it a serious thing … It’s better to stop him now by an execution than to let him keep doing this because if he is a non-believer, he is only going to incur greater damnation, a hotter hell. If he’s a believer, he is only inviting greater chastening and forfeiture of eternal reward. Better that he be dead. Better that he die a horrific death now than to continue to offend and therefore accumulate ongoing damnation.

Why did Jesus choose drowning in this warning? Because it was a Roman import. The Jews were not only terrified of this method of punishment but also considered it as one for Gentiles. Therefore, Jesus’s words have added impact. MacArthur notes:

The Romans did that. The Jews did not do that. In fact, the rabbis taught that drowning was for Gentiles, not for Jews at all.

In verse 3, Jesus says the right thing to do is to call a sinner’s attention to his transgressions. If he acknowledges that he regrets them and turns his behaviour around — repents — then we are to forgive him (or her!). MacArthur says that Jesus speaks of persistent, serious sin:

So we beware of offending and we beware of being indifferent to the sins of others. The Pharisees, they didn’t care about the sinners … We don’t lead people into sin, we lead them out of it. And that starts with rebuke …

Matthew gives the process. The process, is if your brother sins you go to him. If he repents, you gain your brother. It’s over. If he doesn’t repent, you take two or three with you so that you can confront his sin again and confirm his response. If he still doesn’t repent, you tell the church and the whole church goes to call that person back. That’s a concern that holy people have for the debilitating sins that find their way into the lives of the fellowship. This is done out of love. You that are spiritual restore such a one in love…Galatians 6. We don’t sit by and watch some sinner go off into a pattern of sin without caring.

However, MacArthur warns that our Lord did not intend us to turn into nagging busybodies:

Not every sin is to be confronted, please. Love covers a multitude of sins. We don’t want this to go berzerk. It’s those sinful patterns, it’s those sins that are destructive, long-term pattern. It doesn’t mean that every time you say a thoughtless word, or every time you fail to do something you ought to have done, or you have a slip up here or there, somebody has to set confrontation in motion. No … I’ve giving my wife‘s testimony. She couldn’t live with me if she had to confront every failure in my life. This would be a rather dominating feature of life. Love covers. You couldn’t do that with a dear friend, you couldn’t do that even with your children, or children with parents. You couldn’t do that in the fellowship. But there are some sins that effect the life in a turning sense that send it in a new direction and impact the church, and those have to be dealt with. And for those kinds of things, forgiveness becomes conditional. And that’s what he’s talking about. It’s those kinds of sins that you rebuke that must be repented of.

Jesus concludes His brief discourse by saying that if someone sins against us multiple times — even in one day — and says that he repents each time, we are to forgive him each time (verse 4). MacArthur explains that if we do not forgive, God will not completely forgive us, even if we are eternally saved:

Until a believer forgives, he remains in a temporal sense unforgiven. While in an eternal sense we are forgiven, that’s in our justification, in a temporal sense we can be in a condition of being unforgiven in our sanctification. In one sense, all my sins are forgiven because Christ paid the penalty in full. But in another sense, as I go through this world and sin, God will not continually forgive me on a parental level, on a temporal level which opens up blessing and joy to me unless I am forgiving others.

No doubt a number of us have a nemesis in our families or at work or both. They’re draining influences. Our spirits fall a bit every time we encounter them. They might hold grudges against us and we against them. These can last for months or years. Alternatively, we might be angry with a certain institution, e.g. church, employer, political party.

This negative energy, MacArthur says, might well be preventing us from reaching peace of mind in our lives. On this subject, he has an interesting observation, which could well be true:

I think there are Christian people who have had their sins forgiven on an eternal sense, but on a temporal sense, they’re not enjoying the rich fellowship that they should with God and they’re undergoing discipline from Him because they don’t forgive others. They carry around bitterness. I think the emptiness in people’s lives, even those who are Christians, depression, dullness, lack of joy is often due to withheld blessing, withheld forgiveness, guilt and chastening from God.

Offline, I know many churchgoers and clergy who have no end of emotional or psychological problems. My better half often asks, ‘How can a churchgoer or clergyman be clinically depressed?’ MacArthur posits that reason, which seems plausible.

Our modern society is an unforgiving one, even though we believers are always talking about peace, unity and reconciliation. (We had more of all three in the old days when we weren’t talking about them all the time.)

Yet, we look in our hearts and are angry.

We are often calm on the outside, but what’s going on inside?

Some Anglicans are angry because we don’t have female bishops in most of the Anglican Communion. Some leftist churchmen are angry because we don’t have a ‘fair and just’ way of life in a fallen world. Traditionalists and modernists scoff or rail at each other’s interpretation of Christianity. Those are just a few church-oriented examples. The list is endless.

We would do well to pray for grace to forgive others and, in turn, be divinely forgiven. This is why I advocate prayer and Bible reading over a primary focus on things that will never be resolved in this world.

That doesn’t mean we should not try to improve the Church and the secular realm. However, if we turn our attention more to our everyday blessings — and learn to forgive others — we would find this task easier.

As Matthew Henry’s commentary for the first few verses of Luke 17 says:

That we have all need to get our faith strengthened, because, as that grace grows, all other graces grow. The more firmly we believe the doctrine of Christ, and the more confidently we rely upon the grace of Christ, the better it will be with us every way

Next time: Luke 17:20-27

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Bible penngrovechurchofchristorgContinuing 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.

Luke 16:18

Divorce and Remarriage

 18 “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.


Last week’s passage from Luke 16 concluded with:

17But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void.

The context is our Lord’s pointedly rebuking the Pharisees’ hypocrisy.

He takes on divorce because of the way the religious hierarchy approached it, writing their own rules on top of God’s.

John MacArthur tells us that there were many ways in which a man, particularly a highly-placed Pharisee, could divorce his wife. The esteemed Rabbi Hillel devised these and, for those of us who know the name through the Jewish university-oriented charity of the same name, they come as a shock (emphases mine below):

… fortunately for the Pharisees, along came Rabbi Hillel. He lived the last 50 years of B.C. and Rabbi Hillel came up with his very popular interpretation that whatever you decide is uncleanness to you is uncleanness and the point of the passage is when you decide it’s an uncleanness, you have a right to divorce her. They stopped at that point. They didn’t bother with, “and when you remarry you commit adultery,” etc. They had twisted that. Hillel conveniently had worked his machinations with the text to make it a permission to divorce your wife for some uncleanness and go ahead and marry another, total misinterpretation and total misrepresentation and I might just add hastily that false religion is very adept at misinterpretation and unable to make accurate interpretations. And so, by the way, here was Rabbi Hillel’s list. Here are the causes for divorce…burning dinner, lousy food, too much salt, spinning in the street so someone saw her knees, taking her hair down, saying something unkind about her mother-in-law, infertility, not giving you a son, or finding someone prettier makes her in your eyes unclean and then there’s a whole lot of blanks. You can fill in your own, very convenient interpretation, a very happy one for the Pharisees, and they didn’t bother to interpret the rest of it accurately so they were proliferating divorces. When they saw somebody they liked better or somebody that was nicer or they were tired of having lousy food or whatever for any excuse.

The Jewish Encyclopedia says the same thing:

The origin of the Jewish law of divorce is found in the constitution of the patriarchal family. The fundamental principle of its government was the absolute authority of the oldest male ascendent; hence the husband, as the head of the family, divorced the wife at his pleasure. The manner in which Hagar was dismissed by Abraham illustrates the exercise of this authority (Gen. xxi. 9-14). This ancient right of the husband to divorce his wife at his pleasure is the central thought in the entire system of Jewish divorce law. It was not set aside by the Rabbis, though its severity was tempered by numerous restrictive measures. It was not until the eleventh century that the absolute right of the husband to divorce his wife at will was formally abolished.

Both MacArthur and the Jewish Encyclopedia mention Rabbi Shammai, who said that divorce could take place only in the case of sexual infidelity.

The Jewish Encyclopedia explains the difference between the two schools of thought. Please note the last sentence:

In the Mishnaic period the theory of the law that the husband could divorce his wife at will was challenged by the school of Shammai. It interpreted the text of Deut. xxiv. 1 in such a manner as to reach the conclusion that the husband could not divorce his wife except for cause, and that the cause must be sexual immorality (Git. ix. 10; Yer. Soṭah i. 1, 16b). The school of Hillel, however, held that the husband need not assign any reason whatever; that any act on her part which displeased him entitled him to give her a bill of divorce (Giṭ. ib.). The opinion of the school of Hillel prevailed. Philo of Alexandria (“Of Special Laws Relating to Adultery,” etc., ch. v.; English ed., ii. 310, 311) and Josephus (“Ant.” iv. 8) held this opinion. Jesus seems to have held the view of the school of Shammai (Matt. xix. 3-9).

MacArthur explains Jesus’s statement, which condemns frivolous divorces:

“Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause at all?” That’s what they believed. That’s what they did and he answered and said, “Didn’t you read in the book of Genesis that He who created them from the beginning and made them male and female and said, ‘For this cause, a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife. The two shall become one flesh. Consequently, they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together let no man separate.'” Marriage is two people coming together constituting now one flesh indivisible for life. That’s the divine pattern ...

And so Jesus is saying, “Look, you’re accusing Me of being a lawbreaker. You’re the lawbreakers. You’re divorcing your wives all over the place for burning your dinner, for putting too much salt on it, because you found somebody you liked better. I’m upholding that law.” And of course, in the wonderful gospel of Jesus Christ, God forgives all violations of law to the one who repents. They didn’t understand grace and the gospel and they certainly didn’t adhere to a true interpretation of the law.

Matthew 19 has more on this conversation about divorce:

3And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” 4He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” 7They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” 8He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”[a]

This is no doubt why some couples separate in situations where a serious issue other than adultery is involved.

MacArthur explains the Old Testament passages to which Jesus referred:

Jesus here is referring back to that Deuteronomic law in Deuteronomy 24 in which there are no exceptions. He’s simply reiterating that law but that has to be taken in comparison with a couple of other passages. Since God in His common grace had allowed the death penalty for adultery to disappear, and it is a kind of common grace; since God graciously had allowed the nations to go their own way sinfully and not punish adultery with death, there was a provision for divorce under one condition …  Jesus is saying this is taking it all the way back to the original law with the one exception that if there is the cause of immorality, unchastity, sexual sin, then there is a granting of the right to a divorce.

the death penalty not being enforced, even back in Moses’ day, there was a concession that you who have been offended by immoral conduct of a spouse can divorce …

We find the same statement in Matthew 5:31-32:


 31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

These are difficult verses to accept and understand. I struggle with them myself.

On the other hand, for too many couples, divorce is the first thought which comes to mind at the first sign of marital disagreements which could be resolved with care and consideration.

Too many people today also tend to marry because the sex is good and they’re having fun together. When that comes to an end, they look elsewhere. Not so different to the Pharisees, then. Maybe that is a reason why Scripture forbids fornication. As the old saying goes, ‘Kissin’ don’t last, cookin’ do’.

There are also a number of men — I can think of three whom I know personally — who divorced their wives when their sons became teenagers. Being a full-time father seems to have become too much for them. Only one of these men went off with another woman. The others just want to be left alone except on weekends.

Marriage is full of trials and death. It’s not a bed of roses, but a solid friendship between the betrothed enables them as a married couple to survive with a deeper love and affection for each other. God works His grace and blesses an informed choice of spouse. This is why it is important to pray and use discernment when deciding whether to marry.

In closing, Matthew Henry’s commentary has this gem on marriage:

Christ will not allow divorces, for his gospel is intended to strike at the bitter root of men’s corrupt appetites and passions, to kill them, and pluck them up and therefore they must not be so far indulged as that permission did indulge them, for the more they are indulged the more impetuous and headstrong they grow.

Point taken.

Next time: Luke 17:1-4

Bible oldContinuing 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).

Luke 16:14-17

The Law and the Kingdom of God

 14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. 15And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

 16 “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it.[a] 17But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void.


The first 13 verses of Luke 16 concern the Parable of the Dishonest Manager which ends with this verse:

13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

The servant was unfaithful to his master, wasting his possessions and/or stealing his money. Jesus’s parable is an analogy for our wasting or misusing God’s gifts. It is also a warning to those who value money and possessions above God.

John MacArthur has sermons discussing this parable, referencing other Bible verses. One of the sermons says (emphases mine):

… we have a right to money. It comes from God; He gives it to whom He will, sovereignly, in varying amounts. We are told to work for it, to save for it, to plan for it. God will give us all that we need. Everything that we have we manage for Him. If we manage it faithfully it will increase and it will grown and we will be blessed both here and throughout eternity and there will be friends there to welcome us when we arrive who are there because the gospel went to them when we supported it and we’ll find that having been faithful over whatever we had here, we’ll be given much to enjoy there. And having served God not money here, we will enter into the joy of our Lord there.

Another says:

He intends some basic things to occur with whatever it is that we possess. One, support your needs. God knows that you have to survive; you have to live. You’re not supposed to be a charity case. You’re supposed to take care of yourself. The Bible says if a man doesn’t work he doesn’t eat, so you’re given the priority responsibility for you as an individual to take care of our own needs. That is why God has given you what He has given you in terms of resources and talent and opportunity, so you can engage yourself in such a way as to take of yourself, always recognizing that the source of everything is God and using what God has given to meet your needs in a reasonable way.

Secondly then to support your family. And to support your family, would mean if you’re a husband your children and your wife. If you’re a family member and somebody in your extended family has a need you, of course, then become responsible for that extended family as I Timothy 5 says …

A third and very important thing to think about is this: support your nation. The Bible is crystal clear on the fact that we are to pay our taxes, that we are to be good citizens, and we are to render to the government what is due to the government, tax to whom is tax is due, Romans 13, tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom is due …

Moving a little bit beyond that as you use your money for your personal needs, your family needs, and as you pay your taxes, I think it’s reasonable to say that God expects you to enjoy sensible comforts with a worshipping heart. I don’t think we’re supposed to take a vow of poverty and go around in dirty clothes, eating brown bread, and drinking water for the rest of our lives. I don’t think God filled this planet with the richness that He did for us to ignore it and live in some level of destitution. I think we can enjoy a measure, a reasonable comfort with a worshipping and grateful heart.

Matthew 6 has more on this subject, especially the spirit of giving to our place of worship and to the poor.

In today’s verses from Luke, we read that the Pharisees — ‘lovers of money’ — heard Jesus’s parable with derision (verse 14). MacArthur explains that everything they did was for status and public display:

[Matthew 6] Verse 2, “When you do your alms, give your alms, don’t sound a trumpet.” Can you imagine what those Pharisees did? On the way in to give there were thirteen trumped shaped receptacles around the court of women and they would drop money in, they would blow a trumpet to announce their arrival. Look folks, I’m giving, this is how much I’m giving. These are the hypocrites. They did it in the synagogues too. They would give in the synagogues, the local synagogues in the same public way. They do it in the streets, he says in verse 2, that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you they have their reward in full. Their full reward is they were honored by men. No reward from God. You don’t want to give that way, so when you give your alms, this is an interesting way, this is kind of hyperbole, over the top, don’t even let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Be so secret that one side of you doesn’t even know what the other side is doing. Not only do the people around you not know, but it’s that secret. Let your alms be done in secret, and then your father who sees in secret will repay you, believe me in an open way in heaven to come. So your giving is to be secret and humble.

Jesus told the Pharisees that what they did they did for men’s admiration, which God found abominable (verse 15). They did nothing for His glory, despite all their outward appearances.

The condemning words here are ‘those who justify yourselves before men’. Their hearts were spiritually dead, yet they made it look as if all their works meant they were obeying God’s laws. They were all about external style and no spiritual substance. Even worse, they lorded their status over the people. They demanded excessive obedience to the Law, whilst creating loopholes for themselves. This is where the lawyers — theologians — came in to the picture. The lawyers devised the loopholes. They also demanded money from widows and rejected sacrifices brought to the temple because they were not purchased there. They ignored everyone who was not in their elitist circle.

Jesus told them that John the Baptist’s ministry hailed the coming abolition of ceremonial law of what we know as the Old Testament (verse 16). This is because John the Baptist announced the coming of Christ. Jesus referred to Himself and John with the words ‘since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached’.

Then we have Jesus’s statement about everyone forcing themselves into the divine kingdom. Matthew Henry interprets this in the following ways. First, our Lord’s Gospel message is irresistible. Second, it isn’t just for the Jewish people anymore but for the whole world. Third, because it is open to everyone, the relationship between God, our Lord and us is an intensely personal one. Fourth, those who take it to heart might have to struggle against the world for their heavenly reward:

“But,” saith Christ, “now that the gospel is preached the eyes of the people are opened, and as they cannot now have a veneration for the Pharisees, as they have had, so they cannot content themselves with such an indifferency in religion as they have been trained up in, but they press with a holy violence into the kingdom of God.” Note, Those that would go to heaven must take pains, must strive against the stream, must press against the crowd that are going the contrary way.

Jesus concludes by saying that it would be easier for the universe to end than for the law to be invalidated (verse 17). Henry explains:

The moral law is confirmed and ratified, and not one tittle of that fails; the duties enjoined by it are duties still; the sins forbidden by it are sins still. Nay, the precepts of it are explained and enforced by the gospel, and made to appear more spiritual.

We are enjoined to obey the Ten Commandments, which encompass loving God and loving our neighbour as ourselves. In light of the Gospels, we are able to understand them and obey them all the more with our knowledge of Christ, through God’s grace.

Next time: Luke 16:18

Bible evangewomanblogspotcomContinuing 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).

Luke 14:34-35

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

 49I 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[a] the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59Jesus[b] 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

Bible kevinroosecomContinuing 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.

Luke 14:15-24

15When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” 16But he said to him,  “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. 17And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ 19And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ 20And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ 22And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. 24For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.'”


Verses 7-14 which precede today’s reading and follow last week‘s concern Jesus saying that the humble and the lowest will be exalted. He uses the Parable of the Wedding Feast to illustrate this.

Its practical application, whilst instructive, is outweighed by the allegorical application to heaven. John MacArthur explains (emphases mine):

Now what Jesus is saying here is not about social reconstruction. It’s not some kind of etiquette training to be a better hypocrite. It’s not moral motivation. It’s a picture of salvation that ends in final judgment. The judgment of the righteous. The resurrection of the righteous is where those who lived like this, because they were humbled and put their trust in the living God and in His son are then reward[ed] by God

So the assumption, the truth behind the illustration is that honor and blessing and God’s kingdom, salvation eludes those who think they can scramble for it and earn it. Honor and blessing and God’s kingdom come to those who know they don’t have it, they can’t earn it, they don’t deserve it, and they come humbly to God pounding their breast, God, be merciful to me a sinner.

This approach is very different to that of the Pharisees, with whom Jesus is breaking bread. There, He healed a man at his host’s house who was afflicted with dropsy (edema). His seeking out those in need and teaching about humility in all things clearly went against the value the Pharisees placed on temporal and religious status.

One of the guests at the Pharisee’s lunch heard Jesus’s words and exclaimed how blessed all those would be who will partake of the heavenly banquet (verse 15). Matthew Henry offers four reasons why he might have said something when everyone else remained silent:

(1.) Perhaps this man, observing that Christ reproved first the guests and then the master of the house, fearing he should put the company out of humour, started this, to divert the discourse to something else. Or, (2.) Admiring the good rules of humility and charity which Christ had now given, but despairing to see them lived up to in the present degenerate state of things, he longs for the kingdom of God, when these and other good laws shall prevail, and pronounces them blessed who shall have a place in that kingdom. Or, (3.) Christ having mentioned the resurrection of the just, as a recompence for acts of charity to the poor, he here confirms what he said, “Yea, Lord, they that shall be recompensed in the resurrection of the just, shall eat bread in the kingdom, and that is a greater recompence than being reinvited to the table of the greatest man on earth.” Or, (4.) Observing Christ to be silent, after he had given the foregoing lessons, he was willing to draw him in again to further discourse, so wonderfully well-pleased was he with what he said and he knew nothing more likely to engage him than to mention the kingdom of God.

One of the pleasures of reading Henry’s commentary is the practical advice he gives:

Note, Even those that are not of ability to carry on good discourse themselves ought to put in a word now and then, to countenance it, and help it forward.

Jesus continued with a second parable about grand feasts, this one concerning the Great Banquet. This is another lesson about who will be admitted to God’s kingdom.

He says that a man invited many people to a great banquet of his (verse 16). The host here is analogous to God.

When he and his household had prepared the banquet, he sent his servant to gather the invited guests and bring them to his house (verse 17). No one knew exactly when this grand feast was to be, just that they were to be ready at short notice. The servant alludes to Old Testament prophets, John the Baptist and Christ Himself.

However, the would-be guests began making excuses for declining this generous invitation. One had just brought land he wanted to view again (verse 18). Another said he was busy examining new oxen he had just purchased (verse 19). A third said he just got married and would not be able to attend (verse 20).

John MacArthur warns us that they are guilty of putting temporal interests above spiritual ones:

Two of them have to do with possessions, one of them has to do with relationships. And this is typical. That’s all you’ve got in this world. You either have possessions or relationships. You either have animate things in inanimate things. You either [have] stuff or people to fill your life. Disinterest, indifference, self-satisfaction

And, so often, like the Pharisees and the invited guests of the parable, we put people and possessions above our devotion to God and His Son.

Henry has this warning for us by way of commenting about the newlywed of the parable:

Our affection to our relations often proves a hindrance to us in our duty to God. Adam’s excuse was, The woman that thou gavest me persuaded me to eat this here was, The woman persuaded me not to eat. He might have gone and taken his wife along with him they would both have been welcome.

What does the great man of the parable do when his servant gets back to the estate to say that everyone invited declined when they were called (verse 21)? Rightly, he becomes angry. Imagine planning a dinner party today, buying the food, perhaps employing cleaners and caterers, then finding out everyone who accepted your invitation wasn’t coming! You’d be furious.

In the context of the parable, Henry tells us that God is just in shutting out those who reject Him and his mercy. Furthermore, as we know from history, the Romans destroyed the temple in 70 AD. And, if we are like the foolish, unprepared virgins of the famous parable (Matthew 25:1-13), we will be denied admittance to heaven:

Note, The ingratitude of those that slight gospel offers, and the contempt they put upon the God of heaven thereby, are a very great provocation to him, and justly so. Abused mercy turns into the greatest wrath. The doom he passed upon them was, None of the men that were bidden shall taste of my supper. This was like the doom passed upon the ungrateful Israel, when they despised the pleasant land: God swore in his wrath that they should not enter into his rest. Note, Grace despised is grace forfeited, like Esau’s birthright. They that will not have Christ when they may shall not have him when they would. Even those that were bidden, if they slight the invitation, shall be forbidden when the door is shut, the foolish virgins will be denied entrance.

This parable is yet another statement that not all will be saved.

Jesus continued with the parable. The man directed his servant to go into the city, walk thoroughfares great and small, gathering the disabled — with whom no one wanted to associate — to come to his house (verse 21). Once all were seated, the servant saw that there were yet more empty places to be filled (verse 22).  The estate owner told him to go into the countryside to bring people in to fill them (verse 23). He, still filled with righteous anger, said that none of the original invitees will have a place at his table (verse 24).

Not all will be saved. Universalism goes against Holy Scripture.

What we also learn from this is to be merciful and kind to all people, who, despite their physical or mental capacities, are created in God’s image. The same holds true for those of low social status.

We can also read ‘the poor and crippled and blind and lame’ as a reference to those who are spiritually broken; Jesus invites them to come to Him. Indeed, spiritually broken Jews did follow Jesus. God gave our Lord the broken to save and share in His eternal kingdom, His everlasting banquet.

On a historical level, we find that the Jewish hierarchy — analogous to those originally invited to the Great Banquet — rejected God’s invitation to eternal life. Jesus then expanded the invitation to the Gentiles, the rest of the world.

MacArthur sums up the parable of the Great Banquet this way:

Absence at that dinner is due to a rejection of the gospel. The originally invited ones won’t be there. And there are many of you who have been invited. You have heard God’s invitation to the banquet and you have used some lame and ridiculous excuse to refuse to come to Christ. Take this warning, unless you accept God’s invitation to come through Christ, you won’t be there either. No matter how much of an invitation you had you’re going to be like those virgins in Matthew 25, on the outside with no oil in your lamp. A lot of spiritual information and no light.

Anyone who rejects Jesus Christ will never experience heaven. Anyone who rejects Jesus Christ will never experience the celebration God has prepared in heaven for those that love His Son. And the gospel is God’s invitation. Take a look at what ridiculous excuses you might be throwing up that will ultimately exclude you from the greatest opportunity every given.

Let’s pray for more faith through grace, even the simplest ‘Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief’ (Mark 9:24). Let’s make a commitment today to put aside our secular entertainments to read God’s word. Let us ask for grace to be better followers of Christ and for more fruits of faith.

We know not the day or the hour (Matthew 25:13) when we will be called to the divine banquet. May we be ready.

Next time: Luke 14:34-35

Bible treehuggercomContinuing 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.

Luke 14:2-6

2And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy. 3And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” 4But they remained silent. Then he took him and healed him and sent him away. 5And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son[a] or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” 6 And they could not reply to these things.


Luke 13 concludes with two dramatic warnings from our Lord. Emphases mine below.

The Narrow Door (Luke 13:22-30) recounts His advice to enter by the narrow door (verse 24):

24Strive 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!’

Never think that everyone will be saved. Jesus tells us that many will not. John MacArthur says that outward appearances can belie spiritual death:

You can be devout, you can be dutiful, you can be outwardly good, you can be serious about God, you can be a defender of your religion, you can be a fundamentalist. You can be a protector of God’s will. You can be the best of the best of people and you can reject Jesus Christ and your life is a blasphemy to God. It is a slander to His name and you are left in spiritual death and eternal judgment.

The second warning at the end of Luke 13 is Jesus’s lament over Jerusalem (Luke 13:31-35):

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!'”

As Luke 14 opens, Jesus was dining at the house of a leader of the Pharisees (verse 1). The Pharisees were watching His every move.

Jesus saw a man with dropsy (verse 2), which is edema.  The word dropsy comes from the Greek hydrops, the prefix hydro meaning ‘water’. People with certain heart or liver ailments sometimes contract it. Today, they can be treated with diuretics and other medication. In Jesus’s time, there were no such remedies, so the person had to suffer in pain with a swollen body.

Matthew Henry’s commentary posits that the man was too ill and immobile to live on his own:

probably he was some relation of the Pharisee’s, that now lodged in his house, which is more likely than that he should be an invited guest at the table.

Thinking of this man, Jesus asked His host and fellow guests if healing on the Sabbath was allowed (verse 3). Recall that in Luke 13, synagogue leaders censured Him for healing a bent over woman on that day, when all ‘work’ was forbidden. Yet, as He pointed out, the Jews could feed and water their animals.

The Pharisees didn’t respond to Jesus’s question (verse 4). Our Lord turned His attention towards the man with edema. The verse says that He ‘took him’. Henry explains (emphasis in the original):

He took him, that is, he laid hands on him, to cure him epilabomenos, complexus–he embraced him, took him in his arms, big and unwieldy as he was (for so dropsical people generally are), and reduced him to shape. The cure of a dropsy, as much as any disease, one would think, should be gradual yet Christ cured even that disease, perfectly cured it, in a moment.

MacArthur agrees:

Verse 4, “He took hold of him and healed him and sent him away.” That verb took hold of him really strong, very, very strong verb. Epilombano, it’s used in Acts, I think it’s Chapter 19 or Chapter 16, verse 19 and in that particular passage it says “They seized Paul and Silas and dragged them to jail.” Very strong word. It’s used in the gospels of Jesus taking hold of a child and setting them in the midst. He literally wrapped this man up, this bloated man with sick organs manifest in this edemic condition. Why did He did that? He did it without hesitation. He did it forcefully. He did it unmistakably. He did it defiantly. Instead of keeping His distance in the healing the man out of compassion in such a way as it might not be clear what had happened, He just grabs the man, seizes him, crushes him in His arms as if to squeeze the fluid out and gives him a new heart, a new liver, and a new anything else he needed, and creates in the man a whole new set of internal organs.

Astute readers might wonder why Jesus sent the man away afterward. Henry surmised that He was protecting the man from possible verbal attacks from the Pharisees. MacArthur thinks that Jesus sensed the man was so thrilled by being healed that he wanted to go home and tell everyone what happened. In any event, as Henry’s commentary states, the man was unlikely to have been a guest at table.

Our Lord then turned His attention to the Pharisees with a second question, again about healing on the Sabbath (verse 5). Who wouldn’t have the mercy and compassion to rescue his son or animal from falling in the well on the Sabbath?

But they couldn’t answer Him (verse 6). They were spiritually dead, focussed on their interpretation and additions to the law, making it nearly impossible for the people to observe them. Yet, the Pharisees had opt-outs for themselves; which is why they had religious lawyers. The lawyers studied the law and came up with loopholes. However, only the religious leaders knew what these were. They had one easy set of laws for themselves and an onerous set for everyone else. Then they lorded themselves over everyone else. Not only were they religious legalists they were elitists.

In the intervening verses between today’s reading and next week’s, Jesus exhorts the Pharisees — and us — to extend charity towards those who are in need. He advises them to invite people to dinner who cannot repay it either with a meal in kind or with influential favours. This exhortation also serves as a representation of heaven. There is no way we can repay our Lord for His love, His mercy, His ultimate sacrifice. Furthermore, we often think of the high-status souls in heaven, but, as He reminds us, the humble will be exalted (Luke 14:11).

Next time: Luke 14:15-24



Bible readingContinuing 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.

Luke 13:18-21

The Mustard Seed and the Leaven

 18 He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? 19It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.”

 20And again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? 21 It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.”


In last week’s reading, which immediately precedes today’s verses, Jesus rebuked the hypocrisy of synagogue leaders who took issue when, on the Sabbath, He healed a woman who had been bent over for 18 years because of a demon.

In today’s verses Jesus states that the kingdom of God will start out small but grow to the extent that everyone under its influence will benefit (verses 18, 19).

Jesus makes this statement because, as Matthew Henry’s commentary says:

Many perhaps were prejudiced against the gospel, and loth to come in to the obedience of it, because its beginning was so small they were ready to say of Christ, Can this man save us? And of his gospel, Is this likely ever to come to any thing? Now Christ would remove this prejudice, by assuring them that though its beginning was small its latter end should greatly increase so that many should come, should come upon the wing, should fly like a cloud, to lodge in the branches of it with more safety and satisfaction than in the branches of Nebuchadnezzar’s tree, Daniel 4:21.

In order to explain His ministry and the sowing of the seed of His bride the Church, he uses the analogy of the mustard seed which grows into a huge, sturdy bush. Everyone in His audience knew how tiny these seeds were.

John MacArthur says that the mustard seed was the smallest seed in that part of the world in those days. The only seed which approximates it in size is the tobacco seed, which is the size of a full stop (‘period’ to my American readers) seen on this page. However, tobacco was an American plant exported to Europe only in the 16th century.

MacArthur elaborates on the size of a mustard seed bush:

Now a mustard seed produced a bush. Typically it could grow to eight feet high and 15 feet in diameter. That is a big plant. As far as garden plants go, that is the biggest garden plant that they new anything about …

And it grew to be a tree it says, it’s not a timber tree, but a large shrub is in view here. In fact, this thing is so large it says that birds of the air nested in its branches. And the word nested here is permanent dwelling. They set up their home, they put their nests there. It’s branches were big enough and broad enough to build permanent nests in. A little unusual for a garden plant. That’s the picture. They get so big and so sturdy and so strong that the birds find it a good place to put their permanent home. We’re not talking about lighting on it and flying away. We’re talking about building a nest and staying.

Jesus’s ministry produced relatively small results at the time because of unbelief often driven by hypocrisy of the religious hierarchy, hence, His allusion to the mustard seed. Yet, it would continue to grow and spread throughout the world. Civilisation under the influence of Christian belief would come to provide a good, secure life for all. Certainly, there have been exceptions throughout history; nothing is perfect. Civilisation has had to evolve over two millennia. And we all wonder about the world today, including Western society.

Despite that, MacArthur says (emphases mine):

And you know, as the kingdom grows in its external visible form as Christianity develops, what comes with it? The greatest civilization, the most advanced civilization, the greatest comforts, the finest medicine, the best education, the best harnessing of human resources and the resources in the earth. Christianity is the one that brought along all of the graces that grace this otherwise pagan world.

And just like 1 Corinthians 7:14 says, “That an unsaved spouse is sanctified by being married to a Christian.” So unregenerate people are sanctified by being around the influence of the growing kingdom of God. I mean, we who live in America should understand that, right? Don’t call America a Christian nation. It isn’t. But Christians have been such a dominating force in this nation’s history as to have provided the best possible life on the planet for all the non-Christians that nest in the tree of Christianity. So the Lord shows by simple power…a simple parable, don’t underestimate the power, the external growth of this kingdom. Christianity, as we speak today, in name is the largest religion in the world; in the world. And it came from such a small and obscure beginning. Just as Jesus said it would. And nesting in the tree are many nations throughout the history of the world benefiting from the blessing of the growth of the kingdom. That’s the external.

Note his mention that this analogy represents the external Church.

In the next two verses (20, 21) Jesus describes the internal growth of the believer. He compares it to the woman who leavened flour. MacArthur says she would have done this with sour dough culture:

when a young Hebrew girl married, her mother would give her some things as mothers do when girls get married, but one of the things that a mother gave a Hebrew girl was some fermented sour dough. That was a wedding present and she took it to start her first batch of bread in her new family. And it symbolized the wonderful continuity from her family into that new family. There are some things you want to leave behind, like the wretchedness of Egypt. There are some things you want to take with you like the love of a family.

And so this idea of leaven symbolized all kinds of influences. And He is saying so it is with the kingdom.

Jesus is saying that faith transforms one person at a time, just as a relatively small amount of raising agent transforms flour into dough from which one can make bread.

Henry says:

But you must give it time, wait for the issue of the preaching of the gospel to the world, and you will find it does wonders, and alters the property of the souls of men. By degrees the whole will be leavened, even as many as are, like the meal to the leaven, prepared to receive the savour of it.

MacArthur makes two good points about the influence of Christianity in our fallen world. The first ties in nicely with Henry’s perspective of allowing a lot of time for the Gospel to percolate. It concerns the Tsunami relief work which was going on in 2004 when MacArthur preached the sermon I’ve been citing in this post:

many of the relief workers in South Asia helping with the Tsunami victims are Christians. In fact, this word that I received was that Christians are flocking in there realizing that these nations are anti-Christian, persecute Christians, kill Christians, burn churches, etc. I heard a story this week about a whole seminary that was burned to the ground. They know there’s a window of opportunity and that the relief work is permeated by Christians. The world doesn’t know it. The world doesn’t see it. It can’t be seen. But it’s a way that God advances His kingdom, and it comes down to this, it’s you and it’s me in the sphere of our influence. That’s how it happens. It’s not going to happen in the great capitols of the world. It’s not going to happen through bureaucracies and civil government and authority. It’s going to happen the way it’s always going to happen, hidden as we influence the world. What a glorious calling and what a great ending.

MacArthur’s other point is that the Church continues to grow, believer by believer, even in countries which forbid any exercise of religion:

I read recently that 95% of the world’s population presently have part of the Bible or all of the Bible in their language. It’s working. Ninety percent of all tribes have had an opportunity to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. You think about Ethiopia, claims to have something around 35 million “Christians.” Talk about 50 million plus Christians in China. Did you know Cuba has 50 Christian denominations operating there under Fidel Castro? Somebody estimated that about 65,000 people profess to give their lives to Christ daily somewhere in the world.

And about 1,500 new churches start ever week. We don’t need the political power. We don’t need the military power. Christians through the years have gotten that very confused. It happens through influence. And Jesus put it this way, “I will build,” what, “my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” And some day He will come as King of kings and Lord of lords. And at that time, let me tell you folks, every eye will see Him as King of kings and Lord of lords and we will be revealed as the glorious manifestation of the children of God becomes evident to the whole world, and we’ll reign with Him in glory for 1,000 years and then on into eternity forever.

May we rejoice every time someone asks us about the Gospel message. That’s the internal influence leading to further external influence of the Church.

Next time: Luke 14:2-6

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