The Period of the Perean Ministry (Part 4)
17. How Many Will Be Saved?
Reference: Lk. 13:22-30
This is a question which many, no doubt, have asked. In our modern world comparatively, few are professing Christians and fewer yet are truly saved people. How was it back in Israel in Jesus’ day? Jesus did not answer this man’s question directly, but instead appeals to his questioner to strive to enter in at the narrow door. (Gate in the A.V. should be door, for it is an entrance to a house.) Christ does not state what the narrow door is, but it is the door that leads to eternal life and salvation.
In a similar illustration in Matt. 7:13, Jesus said: “Enter in at the narrow gate, for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat; because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Jesus in other places declared that He Himself was the Door and the Way, and it seems most reasonable to give that meaning to the “door” before us in this passage.
The door and the way do not lead to heaven as such, but to the Messianic Kingdom which will be established on the earth. When Christ returns the door will be closed and it will be too late to try to enter. There will be great weeping among the unsaved when they see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets, along with those from the east and west, north and south, sit down at the banquet, and themselves cast out. When we remember that there will be great tribulation just before Jesus returns to earth, it will be better understood how different the way will be for those who received Jesus as Messiah. While the principle of Christ as the Way is the same today, our Gospel message is not to strive to enter it, but to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and His vicarious death in order to be saved.
18. Jesus Warned About Herod’s Plot
Reference: Lk. 13:31-33
Jesus, at this time, was journeying from Perea toward Jerusalem through Galilee. Galilee was Herod’s jurisdiction (Lk. 23:7). The Pharisees, surely not to protect Jesus, but apparently to frighten Him, told Him: “Get out of the country; for Herod has determined to kill you.” But Jesus knew their intentions and replied: “Go tell that fox.” It is illuminating the figures under which the Bible characterizes certain people. The Gentiles were referred to as dogs, an unclean and vicious animal at that time. His disciple Simon He called a Rock. He refers to Himself in the verses that follow as a lowly hen who projectingly gathers her chicks under her wings. But Herod was a fox. He had murdered John the Baptist and numerous others in his quest for power. What was the message they were to carry back to Herod?
“Behold, I cast out demons and I do cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.” There is disagreement about the meaning of being perfected. The word, perfect, means to come to an end, and the question is whether Jesus meant His ministry in Galilee would be completed within three days or He would come to the end of His life. We know that His death did not occur within three days, and we do know that He soon after left Herod’s jurisdiction, so that He was out of Herod’s reach. It does seem however, that clearly implied in that “third day” and His being perfected was His death upon the Cross, for He goes on to speak of His death in the next verse: “Nevertheless I must walk today, and tomorrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem.” Jerusalem has been called the slaughterhouse of the prophets. What Jesus is saying is: “It would not be fitting for such a Prophet as I to be killed anywhere but in Jerusalem.” His mention of Jerusalem and its hostility to God’s prophets caused Him to begin weeping over this great city, the account of which follows in the next section.
19. The Lament Over Jerusalem
Reference: Lk. 13:34,35
This lament over Jerusalem took place outside the land of Judea. After He reached Jerusalem He lamented over the city again as recorded in Matt. 23:37-39. Perhaps the most striking thing about this lament is not the tender compassion of Jesus for a people who hated Him, but the mystery of the interaction of the Divine will and the human will. The words, “how often would I” and “ye would not” are actually the words for “to will.” “How often I willed to do it, but you willed otherwise.” There are some who believe that there can be no such a thing as human will if God’s will is sovereign. Others practically make man’s will sovereign by discounting the will of God. But both can be interpreted as being taught in Scripture and human wisdom may not be able to reconcile the existence of both. Some of the difficulties associated with this subject may be alleviated by recognizing the distinction between the two words used for will in the Greek N.T., “thelo,” and “boulomai,” the former implying more the idea of wish, desire, and the latter more the idea of the deliberate exercise of the will, determination. But with all of the lexical helps there is still an unbridged gulf in our understanding of this subject and between Calvinism and Arminianism.
Christ further declared: “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate,” and “Ye shall not see me, until the time when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” The temple was originally God’s house, but Christ now calls it “your house.” It is evident that this prophecy was not fulfilled until the year
Before 70 A.D., when the Romans under Titus destroyed the temple, God gave Israel another opportunity to repent and receive the Kingdom, but again they rejected Christ, persecuted His Apostles and blasphemed the Holy Spirit.
20. Two Parables In the House of a Chief Pharisee
Reference: Lk. 14:1-24
Although the Pharisees opposed Jesus, it seems that He was often invited into their houses to eat. Their motives most often seemed to be that they might find something in His teaching to condemn Him. This occasion took place on the Sabbath day. They were constantly looking for Him to break the Sabbath, the penalty for which was stoning to death (Num. 15:31-36). There was a man present who was afflicted with dropsy and Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees if it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath. By now they apparently had learned not to answer Jesus’ questions, for every time they did, they got themselves into deeper trouble, so they remained silent. Jesus then healed the man and let him go. He asked them again, as He so often did, if their ass or ox fell into a pit on the Sabbath would they pull it out on the Sabbath day? And again, they remained silent.
A. The Parable of the Ambitious Guest. This parable was evoked by the actions of the guests who tried to beat the others to the seats of honor at the table. The parable is a simple lesson in courtesy and humility in social behavior, but it surely has spiritual applications also. The one who exalts himself will be abased and the one who humbles himself will be exalted. There may be exceptions to this rule, at least temporarily, in the social realm, but not in God’s realm.
Then Jesus turned to His host who had invited Him and told him when he made a feast not to invite his friends and relatives and rich neighbors, for they would repay him by inviting him to feasts in their homes. Instead, he should invite the poor and crippled and blind who could not recompense him in this life, then he would be recompensed at the resurrection of the just. The principle is that men will not be rewarded or recompensed by God in resurrection if they have already been rewarded in this life (cf. Matt. 6:1-7). It is certain Jesus did not intend by this parable that people should not be hospitable to family and friends. He was speaking here of parties given to ingratiate one’s self with others for ulterior motives.
B. The Parable of the Great Supper. One of the guests upon hearing Jesus’ words said, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the Kingdom of God.” Jesus answered him with a parable, the nature of which indicates that this seemingly pious remark actually indicated that the man looked upon himself as an elect Israelite who had been predestinated to eat bread at the Messiah’s table in the Kingdom, but who had actually been making excuses in summons to God’s invitation.
This certain man made a great supper and invited His guests: “Come, for all things are ready.” But they all had what they thought were legitimate excuses. So, the Host told His servants to go out into the streets and alleys and bring in the poor and crippled and blind. Having done this the servants reported there were still empty seats, so He sent them out again into the highways and hedgerows to compel them to come in until the house was filled. “None of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.”
There can be no doubt that the ones that were bidden were the people of Israel, particularly the leaders, the rulers of Israel. The poor and crippled and blind are not necessarily representative of the Gentiles, although we know that in the Kingdom all the nations of the earth will be blessed. Paul states an important principle in Rom. 9:6: “For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel.” Mere physical descendants of Abraham are not children of the promise. There is a spiritual Israel but they are also physically the seed of Abraham (Gal. 6:16). Gentile Christians have made the mistake of making themselves to be spiritual Israelites.
21. Parables on Counting the Cost
Reference: Lk. 14:25-35
The healing miracles of Jesus made Him very popular with the common people. Great multitudes followed Him, but they were following Him largely for what they might be benefited and not because of love or dedication to Him. So He turned and said: “If any man come unto me and hate not his father and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” No doubt Jesus was using hyperbole, for to actually hate father and mother is to break God’s commandment. And Paul states: “For no man ever yet hated his own flesh” (Eph. 5:29). What He was saying is that no man could be His disciple who places love for anyone else, even his own self, above his love for Him. He was God and the Law demanded love with the whole of man’s being and powers toward God, while at the same time requiring love for others. If present day church rolls were called of all who did not meet Jesus’ requirement, there would be a drastic drop in membership statistics. We are prone to go for numbers, to make grace to mean relaxation of responsibility, to make Christianity popular. Jesus had only a “little flock” (Lk. 12:32) of real disciples, in spite of the fact that great multitudes thronged Him.
Both the parable of the tower and the parable of the king going to war teach the same lesson. The lesson is stated in vs. 33: “So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” This does not mean a literal forsaking of parents or wife or children, which would be desertion, which again would be the breaking of God’s Law, but one who does not so dedicate all that he has to Christ cannot be His disciple.
Both of these parables are most often misinterpreted. In the first a man planning to build a tower sits down first and counts the cost to be sure he has sufficient money to complete it. Not to do so and having to leave it half finished would expose him to ridicule. This is usually interpreted to mean that before one becomes a Christian he should sit down and see if he thinks he has enough strength to hold out to the end, and if he decides he doesn’t he should forget the whole idea of becoming a Christian. The same interpretation is given to the parable of the king going to war. The king sits down first and consults with his generals whether his army of ten thousand can defeat the other king who has twenty thousand soldiers. And if he sees he has no chance of a victory he sends a message ahead before the battle begins desiring conditions of peace. This stronger King has been made to represent Satan and before declaring war on the Devil one should be sure he is strong enough to defeat him.
But the true interpretation of these parables is just the opposite. When or where in Scripture did God ever tell people to sue for peace with the Devil? Or where did He ever tell people to be sure they were strong enough to live a good life before becoming a Christian? If Scripture teaches anything, it is that the natural man is weak and sinful and incapable of doing anything to please God. And who is the King who confronts the sinner, if it is not Satan? It is God. When we see our weakness and sinfulness and our inability to fight against Him, all we can do is to sue for peace. Don’t wait until the judgment day and then go into battle for your goodness and righteousness. One who thinks himself sufficient to confront God in that way will turn but like the salt in the following parable (vs. 34,35), which lost its savor and was good for nothing but to be cast out. Refer to Matt. 5:13 and Mk. 9:50 for other references to salt.
22. Three Parables of Lost Things:
The Lost Sheep, Lost Coin, and Lost Son
Reference: Lk. 15
These parables were spoken to the Scribes and Pharisees who were complaining because Jesus was receiving sinners and eating with them. They not only did not consider themselves to be sinners; they isolated themselves from those they called sinners and had only hatred for them. Jesus was just the opposite.
In these parables He portrays God’s joy and rejoicing over the repentance of sinners. It is most common for us to talk about the joy of sinners upon finding salvation, but Jesus emphasized the joy of the Father in finding sinners. Grace is emphasized more in Luke than in either Matthew or Mark. The word “grace” does not even appear once in those two gospels, but it is found eight times in the Greek in Luke. The word does not occur in these parables but the working of grace is clearly manifested. The Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin manifest the grace that seeks out the sinner, and the Lost Son manifests the grace that receives the sinner. There is a parable about the Lost Sheep also in Matt. 18:12 which was given as a conclusion to Christ’s teaching about little children, which reinforces the truth that children need to be saved. They are not automatically saved because they are children. A terrible condemnation rests upon one who offends or leads astray one of these little ones.
It is most important to distinguish between repentance and salvation. Repentance is a change of mind and this change of mind is always involved when one is saved. However, one may change his mind and still not be saved. Repentance is not sorrow for sin, although it often does and should result in such sorrow, but sorrow for sin is not to be equated with salvation. Many other factors are involved in the act of salvation. However, one may be truly saved and still have the need for repentance (cf. 2 Cor. 7:8-12).
The question therefore arises whether the parable of the Prodigal Son best represents the original salvation of a sinner, or the restoration of a saint. This problem is complicated by the fact that the Jewish people were, for all practical reasons, in covenant relation with God, which in a sense made them all children of the covenant and children of God. The emphasis of John’s and Jesus’ preaching was repentance for this straying, sinful chosen people of God.
Today, the covenants as such are suspended. No one by nature has a privileged place before God. God has placed all on the same plane and all must believe the gospel about Christ’s death and resurrection to be saved. Only truly saved people are children of God today: under the covenants a whole nation was the people of God which included many whom we would not consider having been saved. This fact is borne out further by the older son in the parable. All acknowledged that he represented the Pharisees, but the Pharisees were the chief enemies of Christ who plotted to have Him put to death, and yet the Pharisee is pictured as a son, and not only as a son, but as a son who had stayed with the father faithfully serving him. To apply the parable to salvation today one must make some changes in the story to fit the facts. For today it might better represent two saved persons, one who had gone away into deep sin and the other who had become self-righteous and unloving.
It will be well to notice a few principles from this parable. The younger son said, “Give me.” This was the moment of his fall. He fell as soon as he desired his father’s wealth apart from his father’s presence and fellowship. Sinners never fall up, they always go down and it was not long before the son found himself down in a pigpen, eating what the swine left. The boy came to himself and then came to his father. The Holy Spirit speaks first to the conscience and then to the heart. The father saw him when he was a great way off and ran and kissed him. No one turns to God without God meeting him more than halfway. The father did not reprimand his son and tell him to go take a bath and find himself some decent clothes. He kissed his son and told the servant to prepare a feast and to bring the best clothes and robe him royally. The son hoped only that his father might take him back as a hired servant, but the father honored him as his son.
The other son was angry and refused to take part in the celebration, thus revealing the true heart condition of the Pharisee who professed to be righteous and law abiding. Actually, he was hateful and opposed to God’s love and mercy and grace.
(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)