Luke 11

Luke 11:1-4.

Matt. 6:9-13.

But blessed as receiving Jesus by faith may be, and sitting at His feet in the delight of love to hear from Him more and, more, prayer must not be forgotten. It has an incalculable value for us here below. It is in this world that we pray. Worship is the outgoing of the heart in heaven. Not that worship for us now is not true, for it is the greatest privilege into which the Christian is brought while on earth. A Christian thus anticipates the mind and employment of heaven. He will still, be a worshipper when glorified; but he is a worshipper here, for the hour “now is when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship him.” John 4:23.

Nevertheless, before the soul can worship in anything that, could be said to be the power of the Spirit, prayer is the early and habitual resource day by day; and after Christian worship, is entered into, real prayer abides and always must be for our wants and desires here below.

The disciples felt their need of prayer. They were stirred up to it by the fact that John taught his disciples to pray — They were born of God; but for all that, they lacked power for prayer, their souls were feeble in it. “And it came to pass, as he was in a certain place praying.” No one was so prayerful, so dependent on His God and Father, as Jesus; nor does any Evangelist present this so much as Luke, nor, consequently, under so many different circumstances. “When he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, Lord, teach us to pray,280 even as John also taught his disciples. And he said to them, When ye pray, say, Father,175 Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come.176 Give us our needed bread for each day; and forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one indebted to us; and lead us not into temptation.”177

I fully believe that this is the same prayer substantially that we have in Matthew, at the very same time and place. Luke does not adhere to the mere historic sequence of events any more than Matthew. But there is this difference in the way in which Luke and Matthew relate facts or instructions of the Lord: Matthew puts what our Lord says in a certain dispensational order, leaving out the occasions that drew them forth; Luke puts His instructions in their moral order with the facts they illustrate. Thus Luke introduces prayer at this point, after hearing the Word of Jesus; because the Divine Word is what brings the knowledge of Jesus into the soul, as prayer is the outgoing of the heart to Him Who has given and shown us mercy and revealed it to us in His Word. A man must believe before he prays. “How shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?” (Rom. 10:14.) None can believe without the Word of God; but when one has received the Word of God, if it be only to plough up the conscience and attract the heart, one prays.

Thus, the disciples at this time feel their need of prayer, and the Lord teaches them how to pray. The Lord did not give them prayers suitable to the new position and circumstances they would be brought into after redemption. If He had descanted on prayer about the Church, the body of Christ, or the working of the Spirit by the members of that body, it would have been utterly unintelligible to them. The prayers that we have of Paul afterwards could not have suited the condition of the disciples then, because they were not yet in any such standing. The conduct that would suit a married woman with her husband, etc., would be unbecoming in one who was still unmarried. For a woman who is only affianced to be praying about the children she is going to have when she may never have any, or about the household when the wedding-day may never come, would be most evidently out of season. The Lord Jesus perfectly suited what He said to the condition and circumstances of those whom He addressed. The disciples had not received, though quickened of the Holy Ghost, the indwelling Spirit in the way they were going to have Him; consequently they could not pray as on that ground. It is a blunder to suppose that the gift of the Holy Ghost is conversion. When the Lord Jesus went to heaven, He sent down the Holy Ghost. The saints of the Old Testament were converted, but they had not the Holy Ghost as all have who rest on redemption since Pentecost. The disciples wanted to know how to pray, and the Lord gave them a prayer suited to their then circumstances. Only the Spirit of God has given a difference between the form in Matthew and in Luke. One is as Divinely inspired as the other; nothing can be more perfect than both are. The Gospels are absolutely perfect, each for its own object, and we need them all. The difference of their design affects the prayer, as it does everything else.

Our Lord then directs the disciples to their Father. This is the first and very significant word of the prayer. When believers in addressing God now use the titles of Jehovah or Almighty God, do they not forget that they are Christians? When God was intelligently addressed as Almighty, it was in the days of Abraham and the patriarchs. They were the days of promise. Afterwards, when the nation of Israel was called out and put under law, it was as Jehovah-God that He was known. Now it is as Father that the Christian knows Him. (2 Cor. 6:18.) Luke says simply, “Father” (not “Our Father which art in heaven,” as Matthew has it).281

The first petition is, “Hallowed be thy name.” The desire is that in every case the heart might make God its object; as we hear in James, “the wisdom that cometh down from above is first pure, then peaceable.” (James 3:17.) It first judges by God, and seeks the glory of God. “Hallowed be thy name.” Such is, and ought to be, the prime desire of the renewed mind, that the Father’s name should be sanctified in everything. All else must yield to this. “Hallowed be thy name.”

The next petition is that His kingdom should come. It is not the kingdom of the Son of man, the kingdom of Christ, that is spoken of here, but the Father’s kingdom. It is not it my kingdom come,” but “thy kingdom come.” The Father’s kingdom is distinguished from the Son of man’s kingdom. It is the sphere in which the heavenly saints will shine as the sun. The Son of man’s kingdom is the sphere in which all people, nations, and languages shall serve Him, and out of which the angels of His power shall cast all things that offend. (Matt. 13:41.) Heaven and earth will both be put under the Lord Jesus when He comes, and both will constitute the kingdom of God. But the Father’s kingdom is the upper department, and the Son of man’s kingdom is the lower one. (Compare John 3:3, 12.) The Lord teaches them to pray for the Father’s kingdom. This is blessed and perfect. The Son would teach the children of the Father to wait with reverence and delight for the Father’s glory. This was the animating spring of every thought and feeling of His own heart. But the Father’s kingdom is not all the scene of glory.

Hence He adds elsewhere, “Thy will be done, is in heaven, so in earth.” Though left out of Luke by excellent authority, it is undoubtedly read in the Gospel of Matthew, because the future kingdom will bring in the earth as well as heaven. This confirms the distinction between the Father’s kingdom and the Son’s. Not merely shall heaven be blessed, but the earth. All is to be made subject in fact, as all is put under His feet in title. The will of God is that all should bow to the Son, and that the crucified One should be exalted. The Son loved to exalt and did exalt the Father at all cost; the Father will accomplish His purpose that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:10f.)282

Then comes a petition expressive of dependence on God for our ordinary need. “Give us our needed bread for each day.” It takes up the pure and simple need of the body. The word “daily” is a very imperfect expression in English of the original term. Ἐπιούσιος really means our “sufficient” bread (seemingly a word expressly formed for this idea in contrast with superfluity). One cannot without slighting the wisdom of the Lord ask for more than sufficiency. One ought not to look for more, even from the Lord of heaven and earth. He bids me ask for bread enough for each day’s wants.283 Yet it is thoroughly the spirit of the One Who, after He had fed five thousand men with the five loaves and the two fishes, bade the disciples gather up the fragments which remained, that nothing might be lost. And then and thus twelve baskets were in fact filled. How easy it might have seemed for Him by Whom all was supplied to have exerted His power afresh! He would not have an atom to be thrown away because He had unlimited power. What a lesson for us!

Next comes the need of the soul. “Forgive us our sins.” It is not merely our debts” (as in Matthew 6): a Jew would understand this but Luke, writing particularly for Gentiles, tells the disciples to say, “Forgive us our sins.” This does not refer to a sinner’s forgiveness, when he first comes to the knowledge of the Lord, but to the disciple under the daily government of his Father. How misleading, then, it is to make an unconverted person take the ground of asking forgiveness like a child of God! Under the Gospel the way for the unconverted to receive the remission of sins is by faith in the blood of Jesus, by receiving the Gospel itself.284 The common use of it is to confound all truth by mixing up all, the world and children of God, as if they were alike disciples drawing near and asking forgiveness for their daily sins. The forgiveness of a child is all that is spoken of here, the removal of what hinders communion; not that which the Gospel publishes to the most guilty that believe in the Saviour and Lord, but the daily pardon which the believer needs. It is, therefore, the habitual need of the soul, just as the daily bread was that of the body. “For we also forgive every one indebted to us.” This is remarkable, because it evidently supposes one who has a forgiving spirit already, and no one really has this except he who is forgiven by the grace of God. And God does hold His children to this. How can a man who does not forgive another pretend to enjoy the forgiveness of his own sins before God? There is a righteous government on our Father’s part, and the particular sin which grieves the Lord is not forgiven till we confess it to Him. “If ye do not forgive,” says our Lord in Mark 11:26, “neither will your Father who is in the heavens forgive your offences.” It is the cherishing a spirit entirely antagonistic to the Spirit of the Lord. If there were a child in a family going on in a course of self-will, there would be a bar for the time to mutual good feeling. So with God our Father; if there were a persistently bad spirit towards another, so long the Father does not forgive as a question of communion and of daily intercourse with Himself. It ruins the intelligence of Scripture to make it all a question of eternity. In the Epistles of the New Testament the remedy or duty in such circumstances takes the form, not so much of asking forgiveness as of confession, which goes far deeper. To ask for forgiveness is easy enough, and quickly done (as you may learn from your child); to confess one’s fault in all its gravity is a very humiliating process, and if not with a view to forgiveness and the restoration of communion, it is a mockery of God. To confess, to judge oneself, is therefore far beyond asking forgiveness.

The last clause here should be, “and lead us not into temptation.” The heart, knowing its own weakness, does spread its desire before the Lord; it feels the need of being kept, not of being put to the proof. “Deliver us from evil” is left out in the most ancient copies. The only right and true way of understanding the mind of God, and the best homage to Scripture, is always and only to cleave to that which is undoubtedly of Himself. This is not to take away anything from Scripture; it is to lay aside what is not Scripture. We have these words quite rightly in Matthew besides: we gain by their omission here instead of losing. The question arises, Why should it be given in Matthew and omitted here? “Deliver us from evil” refers, I believe, to the evil one and the exhibition of his power, which a Jew ought always to have before him, that tremendous hour which will be allowed as a final retribution on the nation, before they are delivered for the reign of Christ. As Luke had the Gentiles in view, this was naturally and wisely left out. Deliverance from this scourge would have been less felt by them, and hardly intelligible, as the earthly millennial portion disappears for a similar reason. What is general and moral abides here.285

Luke 11:5-8.

The Lord here enforces prayer, and this on considerations drawn (as often in Luke) from the human heart, as showing still more powerfully what God feels in answer to the earnestness of men.

“He said to them, Who among you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight and say unto him, Friend, let me have three loaves; since a friend of mine on a journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? and he within answering should say, Do not disturb me; the door is already shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise up to give [it] thee. I say unto you, although he will not rise up and give [them] to him because he is his friend, because of his shamelessness, at any rate, he will rise up and give him as many as he wanteth.” The, time may seem ever so inopportune, but although a man may not for friendship’s sake listen to him who requests the loan of bread, he would rather rise and give than expose himself to trouble. Every one knows that this is apt to be the way of a man with the neighbour who is bold enough to press. He might be ever so much annoyed at the importunate suitor, but still to avoid the trouble of a continued appeal at his door, he yields. At least, such is an ordinary case: “Because of his shamelessness he will rise and give him as many as he wanteth.”286

Luke 11:9-13.

Matt. 7:7-11.

If such is the way of selfish, ease-loving man, how much more will the God of all grace hearken to those who cry to Him! He is not weary; He never slumbers nor sleeps; He is full of goodness and compassionate care. “I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given unto you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you”287 — an evident climax, all tending to urgency of supplication before God: not as if God needed it, but man does; and God values the earnestness of man’s heart, although His own is open to the cry of want or distress from the very first. But we know that there are hindrances from other causes, and that the Lord has Himself told us of a kind (speaking of evil spirits) that goes not forth but by prayer and fasting. There we have the highest degree of the soul’s abstraction from all else, giving itself up to God’s power in order to defeat the devil. “For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it will be opened.” There is always in Luke, not only an appeal to the feelings of the heart, and man’s own concession of what even he would do in order to illustrate the ways of God, infinitely more admirable and excellent, but there is also a comprehensiveness which goes far beyond the narrow bounds of Israel. “Every one that asketh receiveth.” Thus we have here the call to importunity of prayer, and the certainty of God’s answer.287a

But this is again enforced on the ground of the relationship of a child with a father. “Of whom of you that is a father shall a son ask bread, and [the father] shall give288 him a stone? or also178 a fish, and instead of a fish shall give him a serpent? or if also he shall ask an egg, shall give him a scorpion?” How contrary to the feelings of a parent, to mock when he affects to give! to give what is injurious instead of what is good! Impossible that a father, speaking now ordinarily of any father, would be guilty of such ways. “If, therefore, ye, being289 evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more will the Father who [is] of heaven 290 give [the] Holy Spirit291 to them that ask him.” In the Gospel of Matthew it is “give good things to them that ask him.”291a

But Luke goes farther, and shows us, not, it is true, the person of the Comforter, as in the Gospel of John, but certainly the Holy Spirit as characterising the gift of the Father’s love to those who ask Him. For we must remember that the disciples had not yet the Holy Spirit. They were born of the Spirit, but this is a very different thing from enjoying the gift of the Spirit. To have the Holy Ghost given is over and above conversion or new birth; it is not life, but power; a privilege superadded to the possession of the new nature, and the chief or only means of enjoying God according to all the instincts of that nature, and consequently of entering into His wisdom in the Word of God. This is the richest distinctive gift of Christianity on earth, as Christ on high, the Head to Whom we are united as His body, is the main heavenly characteristic. Neither of these privileges was true as yet; no one had ever enjoyed them since the beginning of the world. The disciples were told then and encouraged to ask their heavenly Father, Who would surely give the Holy Spirit to those who asked Him. The disciples accordingly continued in prayer, as we know from Acts 1:14; so that even after the Lord died and rose they had not received the Holy Spirit according to this word; they were still expecting. Yet they had received the Spirit as life more abundantly, as the power of His resurrection life; but the gift of the Spirit was something more. It was the indwelling of the Spirit of God, Who would also act in various gifts in the members, and, above all, in baptizing them into one body. All this was accomplished, but not before Pentecost. They were therefore to ask their heavenly Father, and so they did; and the Holy Spirit of promise was given according to the Saviour’s word.179

There may be cases still, I cannot but think, where it would be right thus to ask our Father. This would be souls who are, like the disciples, converted, but who have not yet submitted to the righteousness of God - who do not yet consciously rest on redemption. In such a state it would be hazardous to say they had received the Holy Ghost while they do not enjoy peace with God. When there is a simple rest by faith on the great work of the Lord Jesus, and not merely faith in His person, then the Holy Ghost is given. Where the blood was put the oil followed, according to the types of Leviticus.

Luke 11:14-26.292

Matt. 12:22-30; Mark 3:22-27.

There is great care in this Gospel to show the connection of Satan with men, just as we have seen the privilege of the believer in the possession of the Holy Ghost. The Spirit of God is the power of communion for the new man, for those who are born of God. So Satan is pleased to fill with the power of the demon the old nature of man, in certain cases where God permits him; and the Lord shows the link between the demon and the sickness, weakness, or other malady of body or mind, as we find here in the case of the dumb man: “And he was casting out a demon, and it was dumb; and it came to pass, the demon having gone out, the dumb [man] spoke. And the crowds wondered.” It is evident from this that what produced the lack of speech was not physical infirmity, but the demon that dwelt in the man. Directly the demon left he that had been dumb spoke. What the Lord was occupied with here below was in giving a specimen of that which will characterise the world to come. The powers that He exercised, as others afterwards in virtue of His name, were “the powers of the world [or age] to come,” as they are called in Heb. 6:5. The millennial age will thus afford a full display of the defeat of Satan, to the glory of God, and this in and by man. The Lord’s curing of bodily diseases, and casting out of demons, was a partial exhibition of what will be public and universal in that day.

“The crowds wondered” on this occasion; but the spirit of unbelief is stronger than the power of evidences. Hence, “some from among them said, By Beelzebub,293 the prince of the demons, casts he out demons.” We must distinguish between the instruments of Satan’s power and the devil himself. The word “devils” confounds the two things. It is to say “demons.” “By Beelzebub, the prince of the demons, casts he out demons.” Others did not go quite so far as this; but still, “tempting [him], sought from him a sign out of heaven.” Satan does not lead all in the same way, but he suits his action to the flesh of each. Some men are violent in their unbelief, while others are more religious. Some “tempting [him], sought from him a sign out of heaven.” They were not content with what God had given, though there could be no external proof more convincing than the expulsion of Satan’s power. Hence this was strongly marked at the starting-point of the Lord’s ministry in this Gospel as well as Mark’s. So it was throughout. The Lord, answering their unbelieving thoughts, says, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house set against a house falleth.” It would be suicidal for Satan to undermine his own influence. If also Satan is divided against himself, how shall his kingdom subsist? ye say that I cast out demons by Beelzebub.”

But there is more to be noticed. God had before this occasionally given power to Jews to cast out demons. Faith is always honoured of God; and on the darkest day the Lord did not fall to keep up as it were the holy fire, that His light should not absolutely go out on the earth. “But if I180 by Beelzebub cast out demons, your sons — by whom do they cast [them] out? For this reason they shall be your judges.” No unbelief on their part ever irritated the Lord. Far from this, He could calmly acknowledge what had been of God among them, though this in no way hindered them from denying God Himself present among men.294 “But if by the finger of God295 I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God is come upon you.”

This is an expression of no small importance, “the kingdom of God is come upon you.” In another sense it might be said that the kingdom of God was nigh. Here it is said to be come, because Christ was there. Christ brought, as it were, the kingdom of God in His own person. All others require the kingdom of God to come for them to be in the kingdom; but Christ, being a Divine Person, brought that kingdom in Himself, displaying it by His own power, manifested by the overthrow of Satan, by casting out demons. And yet man was blind, more guiltily so than the poor soul before us was, who could not through his dumbness speak the praises of God. For here, when God had proved His power, they were as blind as ever, they could not see God in it, or rather in Jesus.

When the kingdom of heaven is spoken of, it is never said to be come. It could not be said according to Scripture phrase, “The kingdom of heaven is come unto you.” Thus “the kingdom of heaven” and “the kingdom of God” are not quite identical. They agree so far that what in one Gospel is called the kingdom of heaven is called in another Gospel the kingdom of God. Matthew alone speaks of “the kingdom of heaven,” as Mark, Luke, and John do of “the kingdom of God.” But what is in Matthew called “kingdom of heaven,” is called in the other Gospels “kingdom of God,” of which last Matthew himself speaks in a few passages. The difference is this: that the kingdom of heaven always supposes a change of dispensation consequent on the Saviour’s having taken His place above. He may by and by bring His power below, but He must have come from heaven to bring in the kingdom of heaven. Hence in the future, to establish it in power and glory, it is the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven Who receives that kingdom, and makes it good over all the earth.

The kingdom of heaven never means heaven itself; but rather the rule of the heavens over the earth. When the actual departure on high of the Lord Jesus is spoken of, it is always said to be into heaven, and not into the kingdom of heaven. When the Lord, then, was here below, and manifested His power over Satan, it was the Kingdom of God: it could be so called because the King — the power of God — was there. So here in this place He, by the power of God casting out demons, proved that the kingdom of God was come. What better proof could be asked? Man was totally insufficient for such a work; others might have done so in special answer to prayer. God is always superior to the devil, and it was important that He should prove this from time to time in expelling demons by the sons of Israel who possessed the place of relationship to God that no other people had. But in the Lord’s case it was not occasional, exceptional, or partial, but uniform and universal: even where the disciples themselves, using His name, failed to cast them out, He always did it with a word. The Kingdom of God, therefore, was come as a witness of His power, not yet as a state and sphere of manifestation. Both morally and in power, the kingdom of God was come in Him Who bound the strong man and stripped him of his goods.

And this leads me to another remark. The apostle Paul frequently speaks of the kingdom of God, not as a dispensation but as a moral display. He says that “the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” (Rom. 14:17.) He says, too, that “the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.” (1 Cor. 4:20.) You could not say “the kingdom of heaven” in these cases. Thus we see the reason why Luke particularly can speak of the kingdom of God, for he is the Evangelist who dwells on the moral side more than any other. Hence, too, there is a stronger link between his language and that of St. Paul than between any other two writers of the New Testament.296

Then the Lord introduces a remarkable figure: “When the strong [man] armed keepeth his own house [court], his goods are in peace; but when the stronger than he coming upon [him], overcometh him, he taketh away his panoply297 in which he trusted, and he will divide the spoil [he has taken] from him.” This was going on then. If Satan was the strong man in the figure, Jesus was now stripping him of his goods and dividing his spoils. The whole ministry of Jesus was the evidence of a power superior to Satan in the world. It is true that this did not finally deliver, because it did not touch the judgment of God. It was present and not eternal deliverance. It was the overthrow of Satan, nor, the satisfaction of God. Sin could not yet have been abolished, and judgment must still have remained. No grace, nor power, nor ministry can take away sin, nothing but the sacrifice of Himself.298 That infinitely deeper question was behind, and was settled, not in the life of Jesus, but in His atoning death on the cross. Here He merely speaks of the power then present by a living Christ, which did deliver men from the oppression of Satan, as far as this life was concerned in the world; but not for eternity, not before God. This side of the truth, the victorious power of Christ over Satan in this life, for the earth, has been greatly forgotten in Christendom; and the more so because they bring in the living power of Christ to supplement His death for righteousness and atonement. They have made both life and death necessary for settling the question of a guilty soul for eternity. Consequently they have in practice seen little more than this, forgetting the power of Satan on the one hand, and the power of the Spirit on the other, except in a superstitious way, which only brings the truth into disrepute. These antagonistic realities have been lost sight of; and the grand witness is overlooked that the Lord was giving of a future deliverance of man from Satan’s power, when His kingdom will be, not merely in the Spirit’s power, but in manifestation. All this has well-nigh dropped out of Christendom. The Jews were feeble about eternal deliverance, but held fast the hope of the kingdom, of blessing in the earth and world by the Messiah, when the power of the serpent. would be evidently broken.

Then we find a most solemn principle in verse 23. “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth.” The presence of Christ brought this out, and more particularly when He was being rejected. When Christ was acceptable, there was no moral test; but when public opinion was universally against Him, and it was evident that to follow Christ was to be slighted by the great and wise, then it proved the strongest criterion. So the Lord now says, “He that is not with me is against me.” If I am not with Him I am against Him. The more He is rejected, the more I must throw in my lot with Him. And this is a test, not only for one’s person, but also for one’s work, as it is added here, “He that gathereth not with me scattereth.” The first is more particularly true for the unconverted man, and the second for the converted who is worldly in his work. A man might himself be really with Christ, but yet in his labours he might build or prop up what is of the world. Such a person, no matter what the apparent effects may be, may become the most popular of preachers, and produce widespread effects, philanthropic and religious; but “he that gathereth not with me scattereth,” says the Lord. There is no scattering so real in the sight of God as the gathering of Christians on false principles. It is worse than if they were not gathered at all. There is a deeper hindrance to the truth, because there is a spirit of party and denomination that is necessarily hostile to Christ. A false gathering-point substitutes another centre for Christ, and consequently makes greater confusion. “He that gathereth not with me scattereth.”299

Then we find the picture of the unclean spirit — that is, the spirit of idolatry. It had once possessed the Jewish nation; but here it is applied in the case, not merely of a nation, but of an individual. It acquires a more moral shape than in the Gospel of Matthew, where it is dispensational. “When the unclean spirit hath gone out of the man, he goeth through dry places, seeking rest; and not finding any, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out.” A person might, through evidence and convictions of one sort or another, profess to follow Christ, and be outwardly with Him. But the mere absence of outward evil will never bring a soul to God. God Himself must be known, and Jesus Himself received, not merely the unclean spirit be gone out. A man may leave off evil of a cross kind, he may give up false religion, or, as in this case, idolatry; but all this does not consecrate a man. It is the presence of God in possession of a soul — it is the having a new nature, and not merely the absence of this or that evil — that determines the matter. The unclean spirit can return to the house unless it is already occupied by the power of God’s Spirit, which alone effectually shuts Satan out. “And having come, he findeth it swept and adorned.” No doubt, as compared with heathenism, there is the absence of much that is abominable and offensive Christian truth is owned; and the unclean spirit, therefore, finds the house, when he returns, swept and garnished. This will be true in Christendom, as it may be also in an individual. After a person has through the outward influence of Christ laid aside evil, the power of Satan gathers fresh fuel; and the man falls into worse evil than if he had never professed His name at all. It is not a simple return to what he was, not merely that the old evil re-asserts its energy, but there is a fresh and complete torrent of evil, a new and worse power of the enemy that takes possession of the soul; and “the last, condition of that man becomes worse than the first.”300 An apostate is the most hopeless of all evil men. So it will be with the Jew and so with Christendom; it is the same thing with any man at any time in these circumstances. There is nothing for any one except cleaving to the name of the Lord. Nor is it only a question of glorifying the Lord, but of positive necessity for his own soul.301

Luke 11:27f.302

The power that delivers a man’s body, in this respect breaking the thraldom of Satan, however true, is eclipsed by that which is still more precious. Nevertheless, men could not but feel the homage that was due to power, and this so beneficent. “And it came to pass as he spake these things, a certain woman, lifting up her voice, out of the crowd said to him, Blessed is the womb that has borne thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked.” This gave the Lord occasion to show what was far better. “But he said, Yea, rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep [it].” Without denying the value of Divine power in such a world as this, yet, said our Lord, “rather blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep [it].” The goodness of God sown in nature, for which (though not alone) the Jews were called to wait, would give place to a superior order of blessing. The very badness of the world’s state and of men upon it is the occasion for God to bring in what never passes away, and is destined to endure when the world is gone. There is nothing here below that introduces the eternal like the Word of God. Power, even were it as great as that which Jesus wielded over man or the enemy, is but for a time in its effects; but “he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” (1 John 2:17.) And “he that believeth hath everlasting life.” (John 3:36.) “Rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep [it].” The Word of God is the link between man on earth and God above; it is the seed of incorruptible life, “which liveth and abideth for ever.” (1 Peter 1:25.)

Accordingly here again man is put to the proof. He had been already tested by power, and he who could impute that which cast out Satan to Satan himself was self-condemned, It would make Satan more foolish than the most foolish man, for it is a universal principle that a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. Can it be thought that Satan deliberately destroys his own kingdom and himself? Is he really suicidal? The Jews then showed to what they were fallen when they imputed to Satan the power that cast out demons.

Luke 11:29-32.

Matt. 12:38-42.

And now what became of the Jew,. who heard the Word of God and did not keep it? Nothing more terrible.

“But as the crowds thronged together, he began to say, This generation is a wicked generation: it seeketh a sign; and a sign shall not be given to it but the sign of Jonas.”181 Instead of keeping the Word of God, they were seeking outward tokens. They wanted something visible to their senses, an object tangible in their midst, not only present but earthly and suited to the world. “But there shall no sign be given it but the sign of Jonas the prophet.” The allusion is to one who prophesied in Israel, but who was sent to the Gentiles — to the Minorities.303 “For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, thus shall also the Son of man be to this generation.” He, too, the rejected Messiah, would take the place of Son of man, despised and rejected of men.

But more than this: “a queen of the south” and “men, of Nineveh” are brought before us in another way to condemn the Jews of that day.

“A queen304 of the south shall rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation, and shall condemn them; for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, more than Solomon is here.” This showed her earnestness of purpose to hear the wisdom of Solomon. The wise and wealthy son of David was not the vessel of the Word of God in his ordinary speech as the Lord Jesus was: yet she came without a single miracle to attract her, without a sign to guide or confirm, and heard the wisdom of Solomon: “and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.” Then, again, men of Nineveh themselves, that great city which had been given up to destruction at last — “men of Nineveh shall stand up in the judgment with this generation and shall condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonas.”305 They were willing to own their own evil, their sinfulness, their forgetful ignorance of God, and this at the preaching of Jonas — a prophet comparatively unfaithful, who strove to escape from the mission on which God sent him, “and, behold, more than Jonas is here.” But where were the men of this generation, and what? Did they repent? No more did they repent than they showed what was seen in a queen of the south — earnestness of heart in listening to the wise man of her day. Thus there was a double testimony against them; Gentiles, high or low, at one time or another, rose up to condemn the men of Jerusalem.

Luke 11:33.

Then the Lord brings out another truth, namely, that the fault lay not in the want of signs any more than in the display of power (for we have seen the contrary), but in the state of the heart. That is the only reason why man does not rejoice in or keep the Word of God; it is because his heart is not right with God. No person would prefer darkness to light or pleasure to the Word of God unless the heart were wrong. “No one having lighted a lamp setteth it secret,306 nor under the corn-measure, but on the lamp-stand, that they who enter in may see the light.” So it was with the ways of God. There was no defect in his presentation.

Luke 11:34-36.

Matt. 6:22f.

The Light was come and God set it in a due and commanding position that all who saw it might be profited. Never was there one who held forth the light of God as Jesus did. He never wavered, for He was the Holy One, the Undefiled, separate from sinners. There was no fault therefore to be found with the Medium; Jesus not only showed perfect light in what He said, but was the Light Himself. All His perfection on Him; yet how had men treated it? Alas! there are other conditions necessary. “The lamp of the182 body is thine183 eye [therefore] when184 thine eye is single, thy whole body also is light; but when it is wicked, thy body also is dark.” Here we reach so far what man is. It is not here as in John, that Christ is the Light; there we see His personal glory.307

But Luke always brings in man’s state, or moral condition. “The lamp of the body is thine eye.” Light alone outside does not enable a man to see. If the eye, physically, is powerless, the light makes no impression. As in John, the light may be ever so true, but, according to Luke, the eye also enters the account; and by nature it is evil and only so. It is not only Christ as Light that is wanted. Eyes to see must be given; its actual state must be considered. “[Therefore] when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is light.” It is a question here of moral purpose. If there be no object to divide the heart’s attention, if Christ fills the field of vision, the whole body is light. “But when it is wicked, thy body also is dark.” And is there not evil in looking to other objects from Christ, in turning away from the only One Who is worthy? “When it is evil thy body also is dark. See, therefore, that the light which is in thee be not darkness.” What darkness is comparable to it? This is moral darkness, and fatal to the soul which can see nothing in Christ, or if it seem to see, is evidently indifferent to Christ, indifferent not to one’s own soul alone, but to the eternal truth of God. The eye is evil, the body, therefore, is dark indeed.

“See, therefore, that the light which is in thee be not darkness.” Such is the end of a carelessness and unfaithfulness to truth. This was becoming the confirmed history of Israel. They had, as compared with the Gentiles, possessed Divine light; but “See that the light which is in thee be not darkness.” It was to the last degree becoming their fixed state. They were first indifferent to Christ; finally, they would reject Him to the uttermost — then it would be the darkness of death. “If, therefore, the whole body is light, not having any part dark, it shall be all light, as when the lamp lighteth thee with its brightness.”185 Thus when one has light for oneself, it becomes the means of light for others. In Divine things you cannot separate power for others from testimony to the glory of God.

Luke 11:37-52.

Matt. 23:1-36.

What follows is of a very different character from that which we had before. It is not now the setting aside of Jewish expectations for the Word of God, which the Holy Spirit makes efficacious by judging self, and thus the eye is made single and the whole body full of light. There is no substitution here of God’s Word and spiritual blessing for the Messiah, and all the natural mercies and external glory that Israel looked for then and shall look for by and by. Now it is the moral judgment of Israel in their present state; and for this occasion was given, by a certain Pharisee asking the Lord to dine 308 with him. He goes at once. He in noway chooses what was pleasing to Himself. As He entered into the house of a tax-gatherer, and refused none of the company there, so also He declines not to seat Himself at table with a Pharisee. When He went into the tax-gatherer’s house, the wonder was how He could eat with sinners; the wonder with the Pharisee now is, “that he had not first washed before dinner.” Such was their religion.309 Yet the truth, on the face of things, is that washing is for those who are unclean: He Who was pure and holy did not need it. The Pharisee therefore condemns himself doubly. There is a vague consciousness that he needed cleansing. He shows also his blindness to the personal glory of the Lord Jesus, the only One Who needed nothing from without — the Holy One of Israel, the Holy One of God.

The Lord takes this accordingly as the ground of appeal. He “said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish; but your inward [parts] are full of plunder and wickedness.” Their religion, all protest to the contrary notwithstanding,310 was essentially of the outside; and, far from being clean, they were full of plunder and wickedness, plundering others and wicked themselves. Although they had the highest reputation among the people, the Lord pronounces them fools; and what His Word censures now His judgment will act on by and by. The judgment of God is always according to the Word of God. What is condemned by the Word of God now will certainly be condemned by the Lord Jesus when He takes the judicial throne. But it was the same God Who made both the outside and the inside. “Fools, hath not he who hath made the outside made the inside also?” They had forgotten Him; they were anxious only for what was seen of men. The Lord looks upon the heart. They did not think of this. Unbelief is always blind, and fixes, if there be a difference, on things the least important. The reason is manifest: it seeks the praise of men and not that of God. The Lord Jesus, however, bids them “rather give alms of what ye have311: and, behold, all things are clean unto you.” He knew well that a Pharisee would do nothing less than this — that intense selfishness characterised the whole party. They were faithless and covetous. Him Whom God gave they despised; what they had they kept for themselves. All things therefore were unclean to them.

But there is much more than this. The Lord pronounces successive woes upon them for their zeal about trifles, their love of religious distinction, and their hypocrisy.312 “Woe unto you, Pharisees! for [beginning with that which was seemingly the least evil] ye tithe the mint and the rue and every herb, and pass by the judgment and the love of God: these ye ought to have done, and not have left those aside.” It was really the same root of self, fallen human nature under a religious veil. Why did they thus seek to be distinguished from others? Others gave tithes honestly due to God; the Pharisees laid hold of the most minute points which did not cost much and gave themselves credit in the eyes of men not wiser than themselves, but they slighted judgment and the love of God. Righteousness is a due sense of our relationship to God and man; of it they had no adequate measure whatever before them. The love of God was the last thing that came before or from their hearts.313 “These ye ought to have done, and not have left those aside.” Let them value their infinitesimals if they would, but let them not neglect the greatest duties.

But it was not merely this God-dishonouring pettiness. “Woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye love the first seat in the synagogues, and salutations in the market-places.” Now we come, not so much to personal conduct and pretension to the strictest conscientiousness, but to their love of public reputation for sanctity and of honour in the religious world.

Another ground detected was lower still. “Woe unto you, [scribes, and Pharisees, hypocrites] 186for ye are as the sepulchres which appear not, and the men walking over them do not know [it].” Now they are put with the scribes — people learned in the law, who had the character of being the most punctilious in their conduct: both are alike treated as hypocrites — as sepulchres which appear not. Unremoved death, all uncleanness and corruption, was under these fair-seeming religionists.

One of the lawyers was offended “and said to him, Teacher, in saying these things thou insultest us also.” Then the Lord answers them: “Woe unto you also, doctors of the law! for ye lay upon men burdens heavy to bear, and yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.” They were notorious for their contempt of the very people from whom they derived their importance.314 It is an easy thing to lay burdens upon others; it is hard to bear them. Christianity is the exact opposite of this. Christ comes down first of all and takes the sorest of all burdens, the judgment of our sin and guilt, our condemnation from God; then He leaves us under the Gospel, without that burden. It is true that, till He comes again, we are groaning in the body, waiting not uncertainly but in confidence for Christ to change us even into the likeness of His glorious body. Hence it is that the practical exercise of Christianity is in liberty and joy. No doubt grace brings with it the highest obligations, but they are those of men who are free and who use their liberty for the One whom they love. It was not so with these doctors of the law. They laid burdens upon men that were grievous to be borne, but they themselves did not touch the burdens with one of their fingers. It is only grace that enables one to manifest what the law requires. The doctors of the law were precisely those who showed the least conscience. They thundered the law at others; they did not subject themselves to any of its precepts, except where it suited them. It is grace which purifies the conscience by faith and strengthens it in the will of God.

But if they did not touch any of the burdens that they laid on others, they built the sepulchres of the prophets. This sounded well and holy. What could be more laudable than that they should honour the ancient sufferers and prophets by building their sepulchres? It was really the spirit of the world. First of all they proved that they were the successors of those who killed them, not the successors of the martyrs but of their murderers. Although it seemed the opposite of what their fathers had done, it was the same love of the world which slew the martyrs in that day, and now led men to build their sepulchres in order to make religious capital out of this pious honour. They would fain have the halo that surrounded those men of God thereby to shine upon themselves. It was the love of the world that made the fathers slay them; and the love of the world it was that led their sons to build these sepulchres over them. There was of course nothing of Christ in those who persecuted the martyrs. Was there a whit more in these men bent on empty self-glorification under cover of the righteous victims of old? Therefore says the Lord, “Ye bear witness then and consent to the works of your fathers: for they killed them, and ye build [their sepulchres].”187 And to prove that they were the lineal successors of the murderers of the old martyrs, the Lord adds, “For this reason also the wisdom of God hath said, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of these they shall kill and drive out by persecution.” 815 It is expressly put as the wisdom of God, because it is not what would appear to man. The builders of the sepulchres of the sufferers might seem to be the farthest removed from the persecuting violence of the fathers; but not so. The contrary would soon appear. God would test them soon by sending prophets and apostles, some of whom they would slay, and some they would persecute, getting rid of them all in one way or another. “That the blood of all the prophets, which hath been poured out from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation; from the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, who perished between the altar and the temple; yea, I say unto you, it shall be required of this generation.” This is a searching and solemn principle. Man fails from the first, and God pronounces on it. But it is always the last who is the most guilty, because the cases of former slaying of the prophets ought to have aroused their consciences. Their building of sepulchres for the saints whom their fathers slew proved that they knew how wrong it was. But the heart was unchanged; and hence a similar testimony produced no less results, but more evil. God’s testimony at the present day arouses quite as much hatred as His warnings of old. Hence, little as the Jews thought it (for they had been long without prophets), now that the truth was sent out in power, the same murderous spirit would be manifested, and God would hold the people guilty of all the blood that had been shed from the foundation of the world. Instead of using the example of their fathers to deter them, they followed their guilty footsteps. They were more guilty, because they despised so, solemn a warning.

So it will be in the latter day. There will be a violent outbreak against the witnesses of Jesus, whose blood will be shed like water — a persecution all the more guilty because men will have known it beforehand; they will have owned the guilt of those who did it, and yet they will fall into the same rut themselves. Alas! unbelief is most of all blind to self.

The Lord pronounces finally one more woe. “Woe unto you, the doctors of the law, for ye have taken away the key of knowledge;316 yourselves have entered in and those who were entering in ye have hindered.” So they were doing then as others at this present time. Wisdom was there, truth was there, Christ was there: all that the doctors of the law did was to hinder people from profiting by it, in order to maintain their own importance.

Luke 11:53f.

“And as he said these things to them,188 the scribes and the Pharisees began to press him vehemently, and to make him speak317 of many things.” They wanted Him to commit Himself — that the Lord might utter something for which they could drag Him to their tribunal, “watching him [and seeking]189 to catch something out of his mouth [that they might accuse him].”190 Their hearts were filled, not only with plunder, but with wickedness that would take the shape of violence against the truth and those who bore it, just like their fathers. The first Adam is never changed for the better: he is only evil continually: the more good is shown him, the more evil he proves himself to be.

175 “Father”: so Edd., after BL, 1, Syrsin Amiat., Arm., Origen, Tertullian. ACDE, etc., most cursives (69), Syrcu pesch hcl; most Old Latin, Memph. Aeth. add “Our . . . who art in the heavens” (from Matthew).

176 Here ACD, etc., nearly all cursives, Syrrpesch hcl. Old Latin, Memph. Aeth. insert “Thy will be done as in heaven, also on the earth.” Edd. omit, as BL, 1, Syrrcu sin, Amiat. Arm. Orig., etc. (from Matthew). Instead of, “Thy kingdom come,” Blass, after Gregory of Nyssa, Maximus the Confessor, and Marcion (Tert.), reads “May thy Holy Spirit come upon us and cleanse us,” as to which see W. H., App., p. 60. Such a reading is absolutely unknown to any but the Western text.

177 At the end of verse 4, ACD, etc., most cursives, Syrrcu pesch hcl Old Lat. Memph. Aeth. add 1, but deliver us from the evil one.” Edd. omit, after pm BL, 1, Syrsin Arm. Origen, etc.

178 “Bread . . . or also.” These words, read by Tischendorf, are questioned by Treg., relegated to marg. by W. H., and rejected by Weiss and Blass, after B Sah. Arm. Origen (from Matthew).

179 Cf. “Lectures on Matthew,” p. 183f. (2nd ed.)

180 Weiss retains the emphatic I ( ἐγώ) of D here also.

181 “Jonas”: here AC and later uncials, most cursives, - etc., add “the prophet,” which Edd. reject, following BDL, Amiat., etc. (from Matthew).

182 The body”: so most authorities. D, with most Old Lat., has “thy b.”

183 Thine eye”: so pm ABCD, etc., Old Lat. (Edd.). EG, etc., most cursives, Syrrcu sin Arm. have “the eye.”

184 AC and later uncials, nearly all cursives, Syrrcu sin, read “therefore” besides “when,” which Edd. omit, after BDL Δ, Old Lat. Memph.

185 Blass, but here again alone, follows D with some copies of Old Latin, in omitting this verse.

186 After “you,” AD (but without “hypocrites”), E, etc., most cursives (69), some Syrr. add “scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites.” Edd. omit, as BCL, etc., 1. 33, Syrrcu sin, Amiat. Memph. Arm.

187 [“Their sepulchres”]: ACE, etc., 33, Syrr. Amiat. Memph., have these words, which Edd. omit, after BDL.

188 “As he said these things to them”: so Lachm., followed by Blass, after AD, etc., 1, Syrr. Amiat.; Blass adding “before the people,” which is in DX, Old Lat. Syrrcu sin. Treg., W. H., and Weiss adopt, “And as he went out thence,” after BCL, 33, Memph.

189 [“And seeking”]: these words are in ACD, later uncials, most cursives, Old Lat., etc.; but Edd. reject them, after BL, Memph. Aeth.

190 [“That they might accuse him”]: as ACD, Syrrcu sin; but Edd. omit, as BL, Memph. Aeth. This affords instance of “conflation” (note 3).