0 Dispensationalism


The Passion Week (Part 2)

4. Christ’s Authority Challenged

References: Matt. 21:23-27; Mk. 11:27-33; Lk. 20:1-8

The chief priests and elders of Israel confronted Jesus even after He had the day before chased all of the merchants and money changers out of the temple, overturning their tables and spilling the coins all over the floor and rebuking them for making His Father’s house a den of robbers. It seems that these rulers were baffled to discover a means of coping with this Jesus, of getting rid of Him before He got rid of them. Their approach of this occasion was to ask Him: “By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?” Truth is always consistent, and error is always inconsistent. All Jesus needed to do was to ask them the right question to put them on the horns of a dilemma. So, He said He would answer their question if they would His first answer His. “The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven or from men?” After putting their heads together and analyzing the question, they realized they would lose regardless of how they answered. And after what must have been a long, embarrassing pause for them, as the multitude stood silently waiting to hear their answer, they replied, “We don’t know.” And Jesus silenced them by saying: “Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.”

Preachers and teachers of the Word would do well to cultivate the art of questioning. Jesus, of course, was a master at it, as He was of all teaching techniques. Instead of getting into involved arguments the use of the right question will often clinch the truth and stop the mouth of the opposition.

5.  The Parable of the Two Sons

Reference: Matt. 21:28-32

This parable was spoken against the chief priests and elders of Israel. They had just been questioning by what authority Jesus had cleansed the temple and Jesus had caught them in their own trap by His question which they were afraid to answer. Although He did not tell them by what authority He did these things, He did give them this parable about the two sons, and again they were confronted with a question: “Which of the two sons did his father’s will?”

Of course, they had to answer that the first one did, who at first refused but later repented and did his father’s bidding. And again, they judged and condemned themselves by their own words. The publicans and harlots had at first said, “no” to God, but later repented at John’s preaching and did the Father’s will, but the chief priests and rulers who offered lip service to God refused to believe John, and even after John had shown them their true heart condition before God they refused to repent.

They had refused to answer Jesus’ previous question of whether John’s baptism was from heaven or from man, for they knew if they said from heaven, Jesus would ask why they didn’t believe him. But Jesus was not going to let them get off the hook so easily. This parable brought out the truth that they didn’t believe John’s message was from heaven and they therefore were rejecting the council of God against themselves.

6.  The Parable of the Vineyard

References: Matt. 21: 33-46; Mk. 12:1-12; Lk. 20:9-19

It is still Tuesday of the Passion week and Jesus is still being confronted by the rulers of Israel. Immediately after relating the parable of the two sons, He follows up with this one about the householder who sublet his vineyard to husbandmen (tenants). At harvest time he sent a servant to collect his share of the crop, but the tenants beat him and sent him back empty handed. The owner then sent one after another of his servants, all of whom they treated shamefully, even killing some of them. Finally the owner decided to send his well-beloved and only son. Surely, they will reverence him.

It is easy to see that Jesus was reviewing the whole history of Israel. God has sent them one prophet after another whom they rejected and mistreated (cf. Heb. 11:35-38). Think of Jeremiah, thrown into the dungeon, Isaiah sawn in two, John, the last of the prophets, beheaded! And now God has sent His beloved and only Son to them. As Jesus was telling this parable these very rulers were plotting how they might kill Him. And so, Jesus continued with His parable. What did the tenants do to his son? They said: “This is the heir to this property. Let us kill him and the vineyard will belong to us.”

Again Jesus asks His question: “What will the lord of the vineyard do to those tenants?” The Jews replied, “He will come and destroy these husbandmen and will give the vineyard to others.” Luke alone tells us when they heard it they said: “God forbid – may it not be so.” They knew that they were the wicked tenants in the parable, but they couldn’t face up to the punishment. Sinners who know the just judgment of God live in the vain hope that it won’t happen to them. And then Luke tells us that the Lord “looked upon them,” no doubt in pity and in hopes of seeing some sign of relenting, but He saw none and said, “What then is this that is written, The stone which the builders rejected, the same was made the head of the corner? Every one that falleth upon that stone shall be broken to pieces, but upon whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder” (Ps. 118:22,23). How could they escape destruction? It was written in the Scriptures that the Stone they were rejecting would become the Head of the corner and would crush them to dust.

Matthew ends with the additional words of Christ: “Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken away from you, and shall be given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” This statement is usually taken to mean that God will take the Kingdom away from the Jews and give it to the Church. There are only two things wrong with this idea. The first is, that the truth about the Church which is the Body of Christ had not as yet been revealed at the time, and the second is that the Church is not a nation. If one thing characterizes the Church it is that it is made up of all nationalities.

The Church of this dispensation is never called a nation, although Israel, as called out of Egypt, is called a church (Acts 7:38). No, the nation Christ speaks about is the New Israel, the nucleus of which was His little flock, for did He not say to His little group of Israelites: “Fear not little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom?” (Lk. 12:32). There will be a nation of Israel in the future to whom the Kingdom will be given.

7.  The Parable of the Marriage Feast

References: Matt. 22:1-14; cf. Lk. 14:15-24

This is the third of the series of parables of warning which Jesus spoke on that Tuesday of the Passion week. It was about a certain king who made a marriage feast for his son and sent out invitations to the guests, and they would not come. He then sent out a second invitation, stating that “All things are ready.” But they made light of it and some even manhandled and killed the king’s servants. So the king sent his army and destroyed these murderers and destroyed their city. He then sent his servants out into the highways, who gathered as many as they could find, and brought them to the feast. But when the king arrived he spotted a man without a wedding garment and asked how he got in without a proper garment. The man was speechless and was bound hand and foot and cast out into outer darkness. And the parable ends with the same words as did the one about the laborers in the vineyard, “For many are called, but few are chosen.”

The parable in Lk. 14 is very similar to this one, but it was given on a different occasion and is in several respects different. In Matthew it is a wedding feast; in Luke a great supper. In Matthew the rejectors are destroyed and their city burned; in Luke there is no mention of punishment. In Matthew there are two invitations sent; in Luke there is only one. In Luke the excuses are enumerated; in Matthew they are not. However, both parables nave the same general interpretation.

At the first invitation the message is simply, “Come to the wedding feast.” But at the second invitation the message is, “All things are ready.” Both of these invitations went out to the rulers of Israel. The first invitation doubtless refers to the ministry of John the Baptist and the earthly ministry of Jesus, when the Kingdom was near at hand. But it was impossible that all things could have been ready at that time for the establishment of the Kingdom, for Christ made it plain, as did the O.T. prophets, that Christ must first suffer and rise from the dead before the Kingdom could be “ready” (cf. Lk. 24:26; 1 Pet. 1:10,11).

Therefore, there could have been no legitimate offer of the Kingdom until after Christ had suffered. All things would then be ready, and this is doubtless what the second invitation refers to. This invitation was extended at Pentecost and during the early Acts period. In keeping with the parable, this second invitation was rejected by Israel and Christ’s servants were persecuted and slain. The next thing in the parable was the destruction of these murderers and the burning of their city, and we know that the Roman Titus carried this out in 70 A.D.

But from Paul’s epistles we learn that instead of the Kingdom program going on and the marriage taking place, God has suspended this whole prophetic program and has begun a new, secret dispensation of the mystery (Eph. 3:1-9). Most commentators see the fulfillment of this parable in the present dispensation when Gentiles are being saved, and of course, there is a parallel. But the real fulfillment belongs to the future when the marriage of the Lamb will take place (Rev. 19:7-10).

Comment must be made on two details in the parable. It is stated that both good and bad were brought into the feast. This shows that the invitation was not based upon human character, but purely upon the grace of God. After man had so miserably treated God’s servants, any favor shown had to be pure grace. The other detail concerns the man who came in without a wedding garment.

It must be remembered that the King provided everything for the guests, including the proper attire. This fellow apparently liked his own suit better than the one the King provided. But when confronted by the King he was speechless. It reminds us of Paul’s statement in Rom. 3:19: “That every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” So this man who was clothed with his own self-righteousness was cast out into outer darkness. The Gospel provides a garment of perfect righteousness as a free gift. Those who reject this garment and insist on appearing before God in their own goodness will surely suffer the fate of the man in the parable.

8.  Three Questions by the Jewish Leaders

References: Matt. 22:15-40; Mk. 12:13-34; Lk. 20:20-40

There were three religious-political groups in Israel. The Herodians were the supporters of King Herod and his government. The Sadducees were the religious liberals who denied the existence of angels or spirit or resurrection. The Pharisees were the religious conservatives who had added to the Word of God many traditions and ceremonies. They were the ritualists. All three groups though otherwise opposed to one another, united in an effort to trip Jesus in His words and find some cause whereby they might condemn Him. Perhaps they were aware of how successful Jesus had been in stumping them with His questions, so they decided to use the same tactics on Him.

The Herodians framed their question to try to get Him in trouble with the government. “Is it lawful to pay tribute to Caesar?” If He said, “No,” they could claim He was a rebel against the government. If He said, “Yes,” then He would have to deny His claims of being the Messiah. They thought they had Him either way, but He didn’t answer yes or no, but asked to see a coin which bore the image of Caesar, and replied: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” This is, of course, a principle which Paul upholds for our present dispensation (cf. Rom. 13:6,7).

Then came the Sadducees, who deny the resurrection and they thought they had figured out a question about the law of marriage which would cause Him to say something whereby they might accuse Him of breaking the Law of Moses. And so, they related the story of seven brothers who carried out the instruction of Moses in Deut. 25:5, all having had the same woman as wife. “Whose wife will she be in the resurrection?” Jesus’ answer to them was that they were ignorant both of the Scriptures and the power of God. Marriage is a relationship in this life only. There will be no such relationship as marriage in the resurrection. There will be no children born in heaven. Resurrection saints will be equal to the angels; that is they can’t be born and they can’t die.

Then Jesus reminded them that at the burning bush Moses called God “the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” The Sadducees accepted only the books of Moses and chimed that Moses did not teach resurrection. But Jesus here quoted from Moses to show that although these patriarchs had been physically dead for years, Moses spoke of them as living.

“God is not the God of the dead but the living.” So, there must be life beyond the grave. If the patriarchs had become non-existent there was no possibility of a resurrection. But they did exist and therefore could be resurrected.

The Pharisees believed in angels and the resurrection and they seemed happy that Jesus had confounded the Sadducees, their religious antagonists. And so, they got together and one of them, a lawyer (Mark calls him a scribe), asked Him a question, tempting Him: “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus answered by quoting Deut. 6:5, and stating the two most important commands, Love for God with one’s whole being, and Love for neighbor as for self. The scribe replied that Jesus had given the right answer and that the fulfilling of these two commands was more important than all of the entire burnt offerings and sacrifices. When Jesus heard his answer, He said: “Thou art not far from the Kingdom of God.” And we read, “after that no man dared to ask him any more questions.” There were doubtless a few Pharisees who were an exception to the rule, who were honest enough to agree with Jesus as this man did.

9.  Christ’s Unanswerable Question

References: Matt. 22:41-46; Mk. 12:35-37; Lk. 20:41-44

We have called this an unanswerable question, not because there is no answer, but because the Jewish leaders found it impossible to answer without admitting the Deity of Jesus Christ. After the Herodians, Sadducees, and Pharisees had exhausted their questions on Jesus, and while the Pharisees were still gathered together, Jesus asked them one more question. When Jesus asked, “What think ye of Christ? whose son is he?” He was not asking, “What do you think of me?” He was asking, “What do you think of the Messiah?” Of course, Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, but the Jews as a whole did not believe Him.

The Pharisees answered that the Messiah was to be the son of David. Then came the further question, “How then doth David in the Spirit call him Lord, saying, The Lord said unto my Lord, sit thou on my right hand until I make thine enemies the footstool of thy feet? If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?” (Ps. 110:1).

Not only did Jesus attest the fact that David wrote the 110th Psalm, and that he wrote it under inspiration, “in the Spirit,” and not in the flesh, but what is most important, he stated that a man who should be born of his seed would also be his Lord. The Messiah, according to David, was to be both man and God. In spite of the compelling evidence of this assertion, not one in the crowd of Pharisees answered a word, which was a clear indication that they had closed their minds to all reason and were determined in their hatred of Jesus to destroy Him by whatever means they could find.

10.     Woes Pronounced Upon the Scribes and Pharisees

References: Matt. 23; Mk. 12:38-40; Lk. 20:45-47

Both Mark and Luke give a very abbreviated account of this incident, each devoting only three verses to it, whereas Matthew takes a whole chapter of 39 verses.

The first three verses are important in showing that Jesus recognized that He was still living under the Mosaic dispensation. He plainly told His disciples to obey everything commanded by those who sat in Moses’ seat. This is a very important principle in correctly understanding the earthly ministry of Christ. The New Testament, technically speaking, had not even begun as late as Matthew 23.

Then Jesus warned His disciples, that although they were to obey the Scribes and Pharisees as they dispensed Moses’ Laws, they were not to imitate their lives, for they say and do not. And then follows the long list of grievances against these leaders. The first twelve verses are addressed to the disciples and bystanders; the remainder of the chapter to the Scribes and Pharisees. The character of these leaders can be summed up in two words: their love for authority to lord it over others, and their love of popularity, to make a great show of their piety before men. The disciples of Jesus were to be just the opposite: none were to lord it over others as Rabbi, or Father, or Master. Father in this context has nothing to do with the family relationship of father, but with the spiritual relationship. They were to recognize only One Master, Father, Teacher, and to make themselves servants of all.

Then turning to the Scribes and Pharisees He pronounces eight woes upon them.

  • They shut the door of the kingdom in men’s faces; they didn’t enter themselves, and they wouldn’t let those enter who were trying
  • They took advantage of widows and foreclosed on their
  • They went to any length to make a proselyte and then made him twice as deserving of going to hell as
  • They made the gold in the temple and the gift on the altar more important than the temple and the altar, by saying that a man is not bound by his oath if he swears by the temple or the altar, but is bound if he swears by the gold or the gift. They were thus demeaning God, for putting the gold before God who dwelt in the temple.
  • They were careful to give a tenth of the seasoning herbs, such as mint, dill, and cumin to God, but neglected the more important matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faithfulness. They strained out gnats but swallowed
  • They scrubbed the outside of the cup clean, but inside they were full of greed and self-indulgence.
  • They were like whitewashed tombs, beautiful on the outside but inside full of dead men’s bones and every kind of
  • They built tombs and monuments for the prophets who were killed by their ancestors, saying that had they been in their father’s shoes they would not have done such deeds. Jesus said,

“So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. How will you escape being condemned to hell? Therefore I am sending to you prophets, and wise men, and teachers. Some you will kill and crucify, others you will flog in your synagogues, and chase them from town to town. As a result the punishment for all innocent men will fall on you, from the murder of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berachiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.”

Then Jesus turned His gaze upon the city of Jerusalem and wept: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children as a hen gathers her chicks, but you would not let me. Now your house is left unto you desolate, for I promise you will not see me any more until you say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”

The house which is left desolate refers primarily to the Temple of God, for God was to forsake it and as we shall see from the next chapter, not one stone would be left standing upon another.

Here too we see the mystery of the will of man working against the will of God. Jesus said, “How often I willed to gather your children, but you willed the opposite.” The same verb, “thelo,” to will, is used in both cases. God does not will any to perish, but some will to perish and they will perish (2 Pet. 3:9; cf. 1 Tim. 2:4).

(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)








0 Dispensationalism


The Passion Week (Part 1)


The importance of this final week of our Lord’s life upon the earth before His death and resurrection may be seen in the comparative space given to it by the Gospel writers. Matthew devotes seven chapters or 25% of his book to it; Mark five chapters, or 31%; Luke about four and a half chapters, or 19%; and John eight chapters, or 40%.

It is also significant that in the Pauline epistles which are specifically addressed to members of the Body of Christ in the present administration of God there is hardly any reference to the events in the earthly ministry of our Lord and that practically all of his epistles are occupied with Christ’s death, burial, resurrection and ascension. In certain passages Paul tells us, for example, that Christ WAS a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers (Rom. 15:8); that Christ “was made of the seed of David according to the flesh,” and skipping over His earthly ministry to Israel he continues, “and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:3,4). The same treatment is seen in Gal. 4:4,5: “But when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”

Paul in no way belittles the earthly ministry of Jesus by thus omitting everything between the birth and death of Christ: he simply recognizes that this ministry was only to the nation of Israel, and that he had been given a new dispensation which was based upon the death, burial and resurrection of Christ and upon His heavenly ministry as Head of the Church which is His Body. It has been estimated that if the entire life of Jesus were written with the same detailed coverage given to the Passion week it would fill about eighty volumes the size of the Bible. There can be no doubt but that God in His Word has placed the greatest of emphasis upon the vicarious death of His Son.

The events of the Passion week all took place in and near Jerusalem. On the first day of this week, which is celebrated by many in Christendom as Palm Sunday, Jesus came from Bethany to Jerusalem and as He entered the city riding upon the colt of an ass the multitudes spread their garments in the way and others put palm branches in the way and they cried: “Hosanna to the Son of David.” This is commonly called the Triumphal Entry. He wept over the city and after going to the temple and looking round about on all things, returned at eventide to Bethany.

On Monday He returned to the temple after cursing a fig tree on the way, and there for the second time He drove out the merchants, overturning their tables and declaring that they had made His Father’s house a den of robbers. In the evening He returned again to Bethany.

Tuesday morning Jesus returned to the City with His disciples, and as they passed the fig tree which He had cursed they saw that it had withered away. In the temple He confronted the chief priests and elders who questioned His authority. A great deal of space is given over to His teaching in the temple. Upon leaving the temple He went over to the mount of Olives and sat with His disciples and taught them about the coming great tribulation and other events which would happen at the end of the age just before His second coming back to earth. At the end of the day He told His disciples: “Ye know that after two days the passover cometh, and the Son of man is delivered up to be crucified.” Meanwhile the chief priests and elders were plotting how they might take Jesus, and Judas Iscariot went to them and offered to betray Jesus to them for thirty pieces of silver. Jesus returned to Bethany and there is apparently no record of what transpired on Wednesday.

On Thursday, the first day of unleavened bread (Luke states that the feast of unleavened bread is called the Passover), the disciples asked Jesus where they should prepare to eat the Passover. He told them of the upper room where they were to make ready and there He ate the Passover and spoke His farewell words to the disciples as recorded in John 13-17. Near midnight Jesus and His disciples (Judas being absent) walked up the valley of Jehoshaphat to the Garden of Gethsemane, where He prayed in agony and sweat as it were great drops of blood. There Judas betrayed Him to the mob of Jews, who arrested Him and dragged Him to the house of Caiaphas, the high priest, where He was tried before the Sanhedrin and condemned to death. From there He was brought before Pilate, the Roman procurator, who found no fault in Him and sent Him to Herod Antipas for his judgment. Herod was happy to see Jesus because he hoped to see Him work a miracle, but Jesus remained mute in his presence and Herod and his men mocked Jesus and sent Him back to Pilate. Pilate finally gave in to the cries of the Jews, “Away with Him! Crucify Him!” He was delivered to the soldiers who led Him forth out of the city, bearing His cross, to Golgotha, where they crucified Him, about nine o’clock in the morning on Friday.

The above order of events is that which is followed by most Bible expositors. However, there are those who contend that Jesus must have been crucified on Wednesday in order to allow for the full three days and three nights in the tomb, a period of 72 hours. The traditional Friday date for the crucifixion allows for only one full day and parts of two other days, but it is argued that Jewish law admitted part of a day as a day. For example, Sir Robert Anderson states: “‘A day and a night make an Onah, a part of an Onah is as the whole.’ Dr. Lightfoot quotes this Jewish saying in his Horae Hebraicae (Matt. 12:40); and he adds: ‘Therefore Christ may truly be said to have been in His grave three Onah.. .the consent of the schools and the dialect of the nation agreeing thereunto.’”

The confusion comes about largely by differences between the Synoptics and John. The Synoptics state positively that Christ ate the Passover with His disciples the night before His crucifixion (Matt. 26:17-19; Lk. 22:15); but John states it was the Preparation of the Passover when Jesus was crucified (John 19:14,31,42), which would seem to indicate that Christ was crucified on Wednesday morning, and that the Passover was eaten the next day, that is, after sunset on our Wednesday, remembering that the Jewish day began at sunset and not at midnight as does ours. This point seems further strengthened by the statement in John 18:28, that the Jews would not enter Pilate’s judgment hall on the morning of the crucifixion, “lest they should be defiled,” and therefore not be able to eat the Passover. It is further argued that the Last Supper was not the Passover and that Christ was crucified at the same time the Jews were killing the Passover lambs, thus perfectly fulfilling the type of Christ as our Passover.

For the benefit of those who would like to study the Wednesday theory further we will give a resumé of Dr. E.W. Bullinger’s outline of the Passion Week.

On our Friday morning, which he identifies as the 9th of Nisan, he has Christ’s first entry into Jerusalem, starting from Bethphage {Matt. 21:8,9), riding upon an ass with its unbroken colt (Matt. 21:1-7}. He cleansed the temple (Matt. 21:12-16) and returned to Bethany.

The Sabbath began at sunset Friday, which Christ spent at Bethany resting. This was the 10th of Nisan.

Then after sunset Saturday which was the beginning of the 11th of Nisan, Jesus attended the supper at Bethany at which He was anointed upon the feet by Mary with a pound of ointment of spikenard. The next morning which was still the 11th of Nisan or Sunday. He made His second entry into Jerusalem, that which is usually called the Triumphal entry (Palm Sunday). This entry started from Bethany and the ride involved only one animal, a colt (Mk. 11:1-7; Lk. 19:29-35; John 12:12). He returned to Bethany for the night.

The next morning, Monday, the 12th of Nisan He cursed the fig tree, made a further cleansing of the temple (Mk. 11:15-17; Lk. 19:45,46). Certain Greeks want to see Him. He teaches in the temple and rulers oppose Him. He returns to Bethany at night.

Tuesday morning, the 13th of Nisan, He returns and the disciples notice the fig tree has withered away. He teaches in the temple and gives the first great prophecy in the temple (Lk. 21:5-36). He then goes to the mount of Olives and gives the second prophecy (Matt. 24:1-51; Mk. 13:1-37). And He tells the disciples that after two days is the Passover. He then returns to Bethany.

After sunset Tuesday, which is the 14th of Nisan, He attends the second supper at Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, and an unnamed woman pours ointment from an alabaster box upon His head. Judas plots to betray Christ.

Preparation for the Last Supper. The supper eaten. Upper room discourse. They go to Gethsemane. The arrest and trial during the night. Wednesday morning the crucifixion. Burial in haste before sunset, when the “high day” of the Feast began.

Three days and three nights in the tomb, from sunset Wednesday to sunset Saturday, 15th, 16th, and 17th of Nisan. The resurrection occurred at around sunset Saturday.31

It will thus be seen that Bullinger has two separate triumphal entries, two separate cleansings of the temple, two separate dinners in His honor at Bethany, and is anointed by two different women. We feel that the minor differences in the records of this series of events can be explained without making separate events out of them, that there is a satisfactory explanation for John’s statements which seem to disagree with the Synoptics. We will therefore follow the more generally accepted view that our Lord was crucified on Friday and arose early Sunday morning, instead of being crucified on Wednesday and being raised at sunset Saturday. For a complete exposition of these differences and a defense for the Friday date, see Sir Robert Anderson’s, The Coming Prince (chapter IX, entitled,”The Paschal Supper”). We will have more to say on this subject when we discuss the resurrection of our Lord.

1.  The So-called Triumphal Entry References:

Matt. 21: 1-11; Mk. 11: 1-11; Lk. 19:29-44; John 12:12-19

We have called this the so-called Triumphal Entry, not to detract from its glory, but to contrast it with the real Triumphal Entry when the Lord Jesus comes again in power and great glory and enters into Jerusalem and establishes His Kingdom. The contrast is between the King coming in meekness riding upon an ass into a city where He will be put to death as a criminal, and the King riding upon a white horse, coming out of heaven to earth to subdue His enemies in a great display of power and glory (Rev. 19:11-16).

Jesus knew that the Prophet Zechariah had predicted that He would be presented to Israel as their King, meekly riding upon a lowly colt of an ass (9:9), and when He reached the mount of Olives He sent His disciples into the village with instructions to bring a colt upon which no one had ever ridden which they would find tied. Here we see His omniscience in knowing all about the colt and its owners and theft reactions, and His Divine power over creation in being able to ride calmly and peaceably upon an animal which had never been broken.

When the multitudes who had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem they went out to meet Him as He came up the Jericho road from Bethany and they cut down palm branches and spread them in the way and others spread their garments in the road and they began praising God and crying: “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.” Hosanna is a word derived from the Hebrew in Ps. 118:25 and has the meaning of “Save now.” Luke tells us that some of the Pharisees told Jesus to rebuke His disciples for saying such things, but Jesus replied: “If these hold their peace, the stones will cry out.” Jesus thus accepted the adoration and worship which the multitudes were bestowing upon Him. Luke also informs us that as He drew near to the city He wept over it for not knowing the things which belonged to its peace and predicted the impending destruction because it knew not the time of its visitation. On “visitation” see 1 Pet. 2:12. Israel did not recognize that God was visiting them.

John also adds an interesting sidelight. He states: “These things understood not his disciples at the first: but where Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him.” John refers to a similar case when Jesus spoke of destroying this temple and of raising it up in three days (cf. 2:19-22).

We do not read that Jesus did any teaching on this day which is now celebrated as Palm Sunday. Mark tells us that He did go into the temple, and when He had looked round about upon all things, it now being eventide, He went out unto Bethany with the Twelve. Bethany was the home of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus and was located on the road to Jericho, about 15 furlongs from Jerusalem, by the mount of Olives. It was from this spot that Jesus had made His entry into Jerusalem as Israel’s King, and it was from the same spot, some forty- seven days later, that He made His entry into heaven (Acts 1:3-9).

2.  Cursing the Fig Tree

References: Matt. 21:18-22; Mk. 11:12-14; 20-26

Jesus had spent Sunday night at Bethany and on Monday morning as He returned to Jerusalem with His disciples He became hungry, and seeing a fig tree He came to it but found nothing on it but leaves. Mark tells us that it was not the season for figs. Matthew in vs. 20 and 21 tells of the withering of the tree after Christ had said: “Let there be no fruit on thee henceforward for ever,” as though it withered immediately, but according to Mark it was on the next morning as they passed by that they observed the tree had withered, not simply the leaves had withered, but it had withered away from the roots. The disciples were greatly impressed how quickly the tree had died.

The question which troubles most readers is why Jesus cursed the tree for not having figs, when it was not the season for figs. Edersheim claims: “It is a well- known fact, that in Palestine the fruit appears before the leaves, and that this fig tree, whether from its exposure or soil, was precocious, is evident from the fact that it was a leaf, which is quite unusual at that season on the mount of Olives.” It was a barren fig tree, like the one we considered in Lk. 13:6-9, which was good only to be chopped down. While there is nothing in the immediate context to point to a symbolic interpretation of the cursing of this barren fig tree, there can be no doubt but that the fig is symbolic of Israel, and the events which were to take place that day when He cleansed the temple and the next day in His teaching in the temple all point to the fact that what had happened to the fig tree was exactly what was going to happen to the nation of Israel. Israel had all of the leaves of religious profession, but for the three years that Jesus came looking for fruit He found none.

While the lesson here is primarily about Israel, the application can be made to people in any dispensation. Fig leaves couldn’t provide a suitable covering for Adam and Eve, and they couldn’t satisfy Christ’s hunger. Note some of the things Paul has to say about fruit bearing in this dispensation: Rom. 1:13; 6:21,22; 7:4,5; 15:28; Gal. 5:22; Eph. 5:9; Phil. 4:17; Col. 1:6.

Peter apparently saw no symbolism in the cursing of the fig tree. It was the miracle that impressed him. Jesus answered Peter and said: “Have faith in God,” and proceeded to use the cursing of the tree as an example of faith and the possibilities of faith in prayer. We believe in the literal interpretation of Scripture, but this does not mean that we refuse to recognize figurative and symbolic language where it exists.

When Christ spoke of a faith that would move mountains, we do not believe He was talking about literal mountains. If He was, then there is no record of any one, including Jesus Himself, who had this kind of faith which actually uprooted a whole mountain and cast it into the sea. To do such a thing would cause great loss of human life and damage to property. Suppose for a moment that some one had the faith to cause the Swiss Alps to be cast into the Mediterranean Sea. Can one begin to imagine how many millions of lives would be snuffed out and the worldwide disaster from earth shocks?

It is well-known that “rooting up mountains” is in common Rabbinic use a hyperbole for doing the impossible or the incredible. It was the absence of faith which caused Israel to be barren. What mighty changes could have come about in world history had Israel manifested that kind of faith in God! Israel’s Kingdom could have been established. The Gentile nations could have been brought into subjection. Wars could have been outlawed. Armaments could have been converted into agricultural tools. That which seems impossible to accomplish through one small nation will some day become an actuality when Israel turns in true faith to God. But God has declared that nothing can now produce that Utopia, not even the greatest of faith, until Christ returns and Israel is converted; for Christ Himself declared that there would be wars and rumors of war until the very end of the age (Matt. 24:6,21).

3.  The Second Cleansing of the Temple

References: Matt. 21:12-17; Mk. 11:15-19; Lk. 19:45-48

It is significant that at the first Passover of Jesus’ ministry He cleansed the Temple by driving out the merchants and overturning the tables of the money changers. When asked for a sign to show His authority, Jesus said: “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again” (John 2:19-22). Now at the last Passover of His ministry He duplicates this act, and as we shall see in the next section, He refuses to state by what authority He has done this.

As Paul points out in Rom 2:17-24 it was God’s original purpose for Israel to bring the knowledge of God to the Gentile nations, but instead they had caused the name of God to be blasphemed among the Gentiles. Jesus said the original purpose of God for the temple was that it should be called a house of prayer for all the nations, but they had made it a den of robbers.

After cleansing the temple, the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple and He healed them. When the chief priests and scribes beheld all of the wonderful works He was doing and when they heard the children crying out in the temple: “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were moved with indignation and demanded that Jesus refrain them. The day before when the crowds cried “Hosanna” as He entered the city and the Pharisees tried to rebuke Him for permitting them to say such things about Him, He replied: “If these should hold their peace, the stones would cry out.” In the temple it was the children praising Him, and His reply to the rulers on this occasion was: “Yea, did ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou has perfected praise?” (Ps. 8:2), “and He left them.” What sad words! He not only left their physical presence and returned to Bethany for the night, but He left them in their sin, bereft of God’s presence.

God can use children as well as adults. Strong cites an incident out of Eliot’s novel: “Silas Marner, the old weaver of Raveloe, so pathetically and vividly described in George Eliot’s novel, was a hard, desolate, godless old miser, but after little Eppie strayed into his miserable cottage that memorable winter night, he began again to believe. ‘I think now,’ he said at last, ‘I can trusten God until I die.’”

(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)


0 Dispensationalism


The Period of the Perean Ministry (Part 7)

35.     The Rich Young Ruler

References: Matt. 19:16-30; Mk. 10:17-31; Lk. 18:18-30

In our interpretation of this story it must be remembered that it took place under the dispensation of Law. When the rich young ruler asked, “What good thing must I do to have eternal life?” the Lord replied with the requirements of the Law. In the dispensation of grace when the jailer asked Paul the same question, Paul replied: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” The question arises, Does the Bible teach two different ways of being saved: by law keeping and by grace apart from law keeping?

Paul makes clear two facts in his epistles. The first is stated in Rom. 2:6,7,13 that “God will render to every man according to his deeds: to them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life. (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified).” On the surface this sounds as though Paul is teaching that man can be justified by keeping the law.  It is rather a statement of God’s just dealing with man. And Paul goes on to show the second fact that there has never been a man since Adam’s fall that could measure up to that standard; for he proves that all have sinned and the conclusion is inescapable: “Therefore by the doing of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20).

Although the young ruler claimed to have kept the Law from his youth, Jesus showed him he had broken the two great commandments of the Law. He didn’t love his neighbor as himself, for he refused to share his wealth with the needy, and he did not love the Lord with all his heart, for he turned away sorrowful and refused to follow the Lord. The ruler had called Jesus Good Master, and Jesus had said, “There is none good, but one, that is, God.” If Jesus was good then He was God. The ruler was not God, therefore he was not good, as he supposed himself to be in his self-righteousness.

The law was given to show man that he is not good, but the Jews as a nation never learned the true intent of the law, as Paul explains in Rom. 10:1-3. Faith is the one thing necessary for pleasing God in every dispensation, but faith was demonstrated in different ways in different dispensations. If God said a flood was coming, faith believed and built an ark. If God said, “without the shedding of blood is no remission,” faith believed and brought an animal sacrifice. But after God had proved the whole human race guilty and had given His Son as the once for all sacrifice for sin, faith no longer engages in things required by the ceremonial law but believes and receives Christ as the all-sufficient sacrifice.

The disciples were astonished by Jesus’ remarks concerning the difficulty of a rich man entering the Kingdom and asked: “Who then can be saved?” Jesus said, “With men it is impossible,” that is, it is impossible for man to save himself. But, “with God all things are possible.” God has done what for man was impossible. He has found a way to justify the ungodly, entirely apart from human merit or goodness.

Matthew, being especially the Kingdom Gospel, records the further remarks of the Apostles which were called forth from Christ’s dealings with the young ruler. They said, “We have left everything and followed you. What will we have?” Jesus told them, “Verily, I say unto you, In the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me shall also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” This is a special reward which Jesus will give to these men, and these only, when He returns to establish the Kingdom of God in this earth. There is personal, spiritual regeneration which the sinner receives when he believes the Gospel and is saved. There is also a regeneration in nature which will occur when Christ returns and removes the curse from nature and restores the earth to its original glory. Peter called it “the times of restitution of all things which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” (cf. Isa. 65:17-25; Rom. 8:21).

36.     The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard

Reference: Matt. 20:1-16

In order to get the setting for this parable we must go back to the conclusion of Ch. 19. The last verse of that chapter reads: “But many that are first shall be last, and the last shall be first.” And the parable ends: “So the last shall be first, and the first last; for many be called, but few chosen.” The parable was told to illustrate the truth at the end of the previous chapter.

The parable also illustrates the sovereignty of God and His purpose in election. The householder went to the marketplace to hire laborers, going very early in the morning, then at nine o’clock, then at noon, and again at three in the afternoon, and finally at five o’clock, each time hiring idle men. He agreed on a wage with the first ones and told the others he would pay them what was right. At the end of the day he called the laborers together and told his steward to pay them, beginning with the last and ending with the first. The ones who worked only one hour got a penny and when the steward came to those who were hired early in the morning, they supposed they get much more, but they too got one penny. When they complained of injustice, the householder replied: “Didn’t you agree to work all day for a penny? It is not lawful for me to do with my own what I desire? Is your eye evil because I am good? It is my will to give unto these last even as unto you.” We are quite sure that modern labor unions would have taken this householder to court for unfair labor practices, even though the men who worked all day got what was generous pay for that period in history. Man, of course, is not sovereign, but God is, and the householder in the parable represents God.

There are several significant things to notice about the parable. The men in the marketplace were idle. They were unemployed. They did not go out looking for work; instead, the householder came to them and gave them a job. This is a picture of man in his lost condition. He is not seeking God, but instead God seeks the sinner (cf. Rom. 3:11; Lk. 19:10). No one would have been saved unless God had taken the initiative and sought out the sinner.

The interpretation of the parable has to do with rewards in the Kingdom. Martin Luther and others have taught that the penny or denarius represents salvation which each receives whether he has labored much or little: all get the same eternal life. However, such an interpretation makes salvation a reward for work, and salvation is always a free gift. Others have supposed the parable teaches that although salvation is a free gift, all of the saved will receive exactly the same reward for their service, but of course such teaching is contrary to almost every passage dealing with rewards (cf. Matt. 16:27; Rev. 20:13). Some have tried to see in the first who were called the Apostles and the later ones the Gentiles, down to the very last ones to be saved before the Lord comes. The context does not bear out such an interpretation. If the Apostles are represented by the workers hired first, then the parable must teach that they will be the very last and least in the Kingdom, which is contradicted by our Lord’s promise that they are going to be reigning as judges over the twelve tribes of Israel.

It appears that the parable was called forth by Peter’s question: “What are we going to get as rewards for our work?” When a child of God takes the attitude expressed by some who were first called that they deserve more than others,  that they have done more for the Lord, it is evident that his motive for service for God is wrong. God will not forget any labor of love (Heb. 6:10), but work that is done, simply for self-aggrandizement is really not a labor of love. Some great world-renowned evangelist may be surprised at the judgment seat of Christ to discover that some humble believer whose name the world has never heard will receive as great, if not greater reward than himself. God is the One who gives abilities and opportunities and apart from His gifts we could do nothing for Him. We may take credit for leading a soul to Christ, when in fact ten other people had more to do with the result than we did. We must ever remember, as Paul tells us, that the worker is really nothing: he may plant or water the seed, but only God can give the increase (1 Cor. 3:5-8). Some who thought they would be first may end up at the end of the line, and others who took no credit to themselves and placed themselves last may end up at the head of the class.

37.     Christ Again Predicts His Crucifixion

References: Matt. 20:17-19; Mk. 10:32-34; Lk. 18:31-34

Jesus is here on His final visit to Jerusalem. He was walking ahead, leading the procession of His disciples. Mark alone tells us of the emotional condition of the disciples. He says they were amazed and afraid. Other translators say they were filled with alarm, were astonished, filled with terror and dread, dismayed and afraid, in a daze and apprehensive, filled with awe and afraid. There must have been something in the demeanor of Jesus, something strange and foreboding in His manner which struck fear into their hearts.

Jesus, knowing their fears and knowing all that would happen to Him in the next few days, took the disciples aside and told them again of all that would befall Him in Jerusalem. He would be delivered to the chief priests and scribes and then to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged, to be killed, and after three days to rise from the dead. And Luke adds: “And they understood none of these things; and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.” The fact that they didn’t understand is evident from subsequent events as seen in the statement of the two on the road to Emmaus (Lk. 24:21), and in the fact none of them believed He had arisen even after the report of the women who first saw Him after His resurrection (Mk. 16:10-14).

As pointed out earlier, although these apostles had been preaching the gospel of the Kingdom for over three years, it is evident that their preaching contained nothing about the redemptive death of Christ and His resurrection, which truths in our dispensation comprise the very heart of the gospel, (1 Cor. 15:1-4). That is why we must turn to the epistles to learn the secret of the Gospel. We find the revelation of the meaning of the death of Christ only after He had accomplished the work of salvation and had ascended back to heaven, from whence He made known the glorious truth of the gospel of the grace of God.

38.     Ambition of James and John

References: Matt. 20:20-28; Mk. 10:35-45; cf. Lk. 12:50

This incident of the two brothers, along with their mother, requesting a place of preeminence in Christ’s Kingdom is first of all a proof that Christ actually taught that He was going to establish a kingdom here on the earth, which was different from the universal Kingdom of God which has always existed. There are so many proofs of this truth in the Gospels that it might seem trite to even mention it, but there are many evangelical Christians who teach that the Jews were completely mistaken in supposing that the Messiah would establish a literal Kingdom upon the earth and therefore there will never be a Millennial, Messianic Kingdom. This teaching is known as A-millennialism. But if the disciples were so carnal and mistaken in believing that Christ was going to establish such a kingdom in the future, why did Christ not correct their false notions about such a kingdom, instead of telling them it was not in His power to make such decisions? There was surely a Kingdom of God in Old Testament times, as well as when Jesus was on earth, but everywhere in the teachings of Christ His Kingdom was always future. It was near at hand but it was not yet a reality. Therefore, there must be a difference between that which was then present and that which had not yet come into existence.

The request of this mother for her two sons, which stirred up such indignation among the other disciples, simply points out one of the weaknesses of fallen human nature: self-aggrandizement. Man likes to exercise authority, to be able to lord it over others. But the prerogative of lording it over belongs to God alone, so that in Christ’s Kingdom or for that matter, in the life of the Christian today, the Lord should be the only lord. If one wants to be greatest, he should be greatest in caring for and serving others. Paul teaches the same spiritual principles (cf. 1 Cor. 12:25; Phil. 2:3,20,21).

The cup and the baptism to which Christ referred (cf. Lk. 12:50), both point to His sufferings and death and the intimation is that the disciples also would suffer a like fate at the hands of the unbelieving world.

39.     The Blind Men Near Jericho

References: Matt. 20:29-34; Mk. 10:46-52; Lk. 18:35-43

There is a supposed contradiction between the Gospels here, in that Matthew says there were two blind men who were healed, whereas Mark and Luke mention only one, and to further complicate the problem Matthew and Mark both say the healing took place as Jesus was leaving Jericho, and Luke says the healing took place as He approached Jericho. If Mark and Luke had stated that Jesus healed only one blind man at Jericho there would be a contradiction with Matthew. It is not a contradiction to mention only one of the two who were healed. As to the other seeming contradiction it should be pointed out that Jericho in the time of Christ was a “double city.” Cobern states regarding excavations made by Dr. Ernest Sellin: “They did however find a large Jewish town (600-400 B.C.), and proved that the Jericho of Jesus’ day was a double city spreading itself out on both sides of the wadi.” Thus Matthew and Mark spoke of leaving one part of the city and Luke spoke of approaching the other part of this double city.

Mark alone gives us the beggar’s name, Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus. He was probably a well-known character in the community, whereas the other beggar was not, and that is probably the reason only Bartimaeus is mentioned. Mark also relates that when told by the crowd that Jesus had stopped and called for him, he not simply “arose,” as in the A.V., but literally “leaped up.”

Jericho was a cursed city (Josh. 6:26 cf. 1 Kgs. 16:34), but wherever Jesus went the curse was lifted. This is no doubt a picture in miniature of what will   happen when Jesus returns and takes away the blindness of Israel and lifts the curse from creation which sin has brought. Christ was made a curse for us to deliver us from the curse of the Law (Gal. 3:13).

40.     The Conversion of Zacchaeus

Reference: Lk. 19:1-10

The Greek grammar shows that Zacchaeus was not bragging about all of the good works he had done in the past, but of what he was going to henceforth do as a result of his conversion. It was common practice for tax-collectors to overcharge, to place fictitious values on property or income in order to enrich themselves. Zacchaeus vows now to restore four-fold to those he had cheated. According to Ex. 22:1 this was the restoration required of a thief. He was thus confessing his sin and calling it by the proper name. The expression in vs. 8, “I give,” has the force of “I now give,” or “from now on I will give.” He was not only going to restore four-fold where he had cheated others, but was going to give half of his wealth to the poor. He thus stands out in bold contrast to the rich young ruler, who was not convicted of his sinfulness and refused to give his wealth to the needy.

There is an interesting play on words in the Greek text. The tree into which Zacchaeus climbed (translated “sycamore”) was the fig-mulberry (sukomorean, a compound of suke, fig, and moron, mulberry). Then in vs. 8, the expression, “taken by false accusation” is the word sukophanteo, a compound of suke, fig, and phanein, to show: a fig-shower or fig-informer (an informant of the law forbidding the exportation of figs from Greece). It is our English word “sycophant.” The word is used only one other time (Lk. 3:14) where it is translated, “accuse falsely.”

Zacchaeus did not let his physical limitations keep him from his determination to see Jesus. We are reminded of the four men who made a hole in the roof in order to let down the palsied man into the presence of Jesus.

Zacchaeus must have been amazed to hear Jesus call him by name when he had never even seen Jesus before. This must have impressed him of the supernatural character of Jesus. Jesus’ words: “Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down, for today I must abide at thy house,” have the ring of kingly authority. Zacchaeus did not extend an invitation, nor did Jesus ask, “May I stay at your house?” It was a command: “I must stay at thy house.”

41.     Parable of the Postponed Kingdom

Reference: Lk. 19:11-28

We are informed that Jesus told this parable because He was near to Jerusalem and because the people supposed the Kingdom of God was going to be set up immediately. The purpose of the parable was to show that the Kingdom would not be established immediately; that the rightful King had to first go into a far country to receive the authority for the Kingdom; and then return to take over the actual Kingship.

It is helpful to understand that a few years prior to this both Herod and his son, Archelaus had gone to Rome to receive authority from Caesar to reign over Judea and had returned to take over the kingship. It is interesting also to note that Jesus spoke this parable in Jericho, the very city from which Herod had gone to Rome and to which he returned and built his palace. Thus the parable is built on an actual historical incident with which the people were familiar.

There is no doubt but that the nobleman represents Jesus Christ, and that the far country represents heaven, and the One from whom the authority is received is the Father. The return must represent the second coming of Christ to earth. There are many Bible interpreters who are fond of spiritualizing the Scriptures, as they call it, although there is nothing spiritual about it. They teach that the Kingdom is purely spiritual; that after His death Jesus went back to heaven in order to establish His Kingdom; that He is now reigning as King, and that all of the promises in the Bible of a literal, physical, earthly kingdom must be spiritualized to mean those blessings which Christians now enjoy; that Jesus will never return to establish a Kingdom on earth, but rather that when He returns He will bring an end to the world with the final judgment and resurrection.

All of these ideas are completely opposite to the teaching of this parable. Herod did not go into the far country and set up his throne there in Rome, and neither is it stated that Christ went to heaven to set up His throne there. Today Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father’s throne (Heb. 8:1; 12:2). And just as Herod’s citizens had sent a message to Caesar saying, “We will not have this man to reign over us,” so the Jews declared they would not have Jesus to reign over them. And as Herod destroyed his enemies when he returned as king, so there will be a judgment when Christ returns as King and the wicked will be destroyed from off the earth. But those servants who were loyal to the King and had taken care of His business while He was away will be rewarded by being made rulers over various cities in the Kingdom. This is one of the clearest and most important dispensational parables concerning the establishment of the Millennial Kingdom at the return of Christ to earth. There is a somewhat similar parable in Matt. 25: 14-30, told a few days later in the Olivet discourse.

42.     Anointing of Jesus By Mary of Bethany

References: Matt. 26:6-13; Mk. 14:3-9; John 11:55-12:11

There are certain problems related to the correlating of these three passages. While the three accounts have much detail in common, there are some differences. The account of the supper at Bethany and the anointing as given by both Matthew and Mark is prefaced by the statement: “ye know that after two days is the feast of passover.” John tells us: “Jesus therefore six days before the passover came to Bethany.. . so they made him a supper there.”

In Matthew and Mark the supper was in the house of Simon the leper, and the woman who anointed Jesus is not mentioned by name. In John nothing is said about Simon the leper, and the woman is named as Mary. This has led some to believe that there were two suppers and two anointings. However, almost everything that transpired at the supper is common to all three records. Most expositors believe that both Matthew and Mark inserted the supper account out of chronological order for a special effect and that therefore there was just one supper. Matthew does not say the supper took place two days before passover, but simply, “When Jesus was in Bethany.” Some have speculated that Simon the leper, now healed, of course, was the husband of Martha.

Martha, Mary, and Lazarus are mentioned by name only by John. Matthew and Mark state that the woman anointed the head of Jesus; John the feet of Jesus. Mark says the ointment was worth above three hundred pence; John says three hundred pence. Matthew and Mark have the disciples indignant over wasting this amount of money; John says it was Judas Iscariot who objected.

None of the differences are really contradictions. Mary could have anointed both His head and His feet. Judas may have started the objection that the ointment could have been sold for three hundred pence, and other of the disciples could have taken sides with Judas and said it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence.

Besides the Lord Jesus there are three characters that stand out in the story. One is Mary. She had sat at the feet of Jesus and learned of Him. She was the only one of the disciples who understood and believed that Jesus would rise from the dead. She anointed His body for burial beforehand. She was not in the group that went to the tomb with spices to anoint His dead body. The Lord rewarded Mary’s love and understanding and devotion by having her name placed in Holy Scripture for millions of people to read about as a memorial to her.

Another character is Judas Iscariot. Here we learn that he was the treasurer for the Apostles and that he was a thief. He objected to what he called Mary’s waste in anointing Jesus with the costly spikenard, because he would like to have seen it sold for three hundred pence and the money put in his bag for his personal use. It may seem strange why Jesus chose a man to be one of His apostles when He knew that he was unsaved. In fact, Jesus stated in John 6:70: “Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?” And knowing he was a thief, why would He permit him to be the treasurer for the group? It may be speculation, but it may be that Jesus chose such a one because He knew that in any group of God’s people in this world there will always be one or more who are not truly saved. If it could happen in a group which Jesus Himself chose, how much more likely it is to happen in assemblies where ordinary men do the choosing? Therefore, as a practical lesson for today, churches need to constantly be on their guard, especially about those who have to do with money matters. Even a saved person may be such a lover of money that he will steal or misapply church funds. Every safeguard possible should be used to protect both the congregation and the one who is in charge of finances.

Paul was very careful about the handling of money from the churches, but in spite of that he was falsely accused of being dishonest. Paul gives some good advice to churches. One of his qualifications for an officer in the church is that he is “not greedy of filthy lucre” (1 Tim. 3:3). He warns against those who will to be rich (1 Tim. 6:9). And he set an example when he took up offerings from the Gentile churches to help the poor saints at Jerusalem. The churches chose certain ones to travel with Paul to see to it that the money got to its proper destination (cf. 2 Cor. 8:16-24).

The third character is Lazarus. John tells us that many of the common people heard that Jesus was there, and they came, not only to see Jesus, but Lazarus who had been raised from the dead. A great number of Jews had become believers through the testimony of Lazarus, so much so that the religious authorities were seeking how they might put Lazarus to death also. We should like to know what experience Lazarus had during the four days he was dead, but God has not been pleased to satisfy our curiosity. We have no idea if Lazarus spoke anything about that experience. When Paul was caught up to the third heaven he saw things which He was forbidden to reveal (2 Cor. 12:4). Perhaps it was the same with Lazarus.

(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)








0 Dispensationalism


The Period of the Perean Ministry (Part 6)

28.    Withdrawal to Ephraim

Reference: John 11:47-54

The reason for the withdrawal to Ephraim was the intense hatred and conniving of the chief priests and the Pharisees. After the miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead, many more of the Jews believe on Jesus and the rulers feared that the whole nation would become His followers unless they took action to stop Him. The chief priests were Sadducees and His bitterest enemies. The reasoning of Caiaphas, the high priest was that if the whole nation acclaimed Jesus as Messiah and King, the Romans would come in with their armies and destroy their nation. Therefore, it is expedient that this one man, Jesus should die for the people, so that the whole nation should not perish. Caiaphas was not preaching substitutionary atonement: he was merely saying it is either Jesus or them. Either they kill Him or they will all get killed. But at the same time it was true: he being the high priest prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation, and not for that nation only (the Jews in the land), but that He should gather in one the children of God which were scattered abroad (the dispersion of Israel). This could not refer to the Gentiles, for they were not the children of God at that stage and they were not scattered abroad. The dispersed Israelites were the covenant children of God and they were scattered among the Gentiles.

It would seem that the Lazarus episode was the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak. Caiaphas said to the others in the Sanhedrin, “Ye know nothing at all.” That is, you don’t understand how serious this matter is. We must take action. And so we read: “From that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death.” It was for that reason that Jesus no longer walked openly among the Jews, but retired to a wilderness area to a town called Ephraim, where He continued with His disciples. This takes us back to the record of the Synoptists who record some of the further events before Jesus went back to Jerusalem for His last Passover, where He Himself became the Passover Lamb.

29. Ten Lepers Healed

Reference: Lk. 17:11-19

This story illustrates again the great variety Jesus used in His healing ministry. These ten lepers in a certain village Jesus passed through stood afar off (cf. Lev. 13:45,46), and cried: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” Jesus did not anoint them, lay hands on them, or go through any kind of ceremony, but simply said: “Go show yourselves to the priest,” for the priest was the one who had to examine the leper and pronounce him either clean or unclean. It was only after they had started off to find a priest that they were healed. But the unusual thing about this miracle is that only one of the ten turned back to thank Jesus and he was a Samaritan. Un-thankfulness is a sign of apostasy. Paul describes the apostasy of the human race in Rom. 1:21 in this way: “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful …” Only one out of ten glorified God and was thankful. Thankfulness is one of the chief attributes of the true believer.

30.     The Coming of the Kingdom

Reference: Lk. 17:20-37

The first two verses of this section are peculiar to Luke. Much of the remainder of the section is repeated in the Olivet Discourse in Matt. 24. We will reserve most of our comments until we get to that part of the narrative.

The Pharisees demanded to know when the Kingdom of God should come. Jesus’ answer has been twisted to mean that the Kingdom of God will never come in a literal sense upon this earth, but that it is entirely a spiritual condition within the hearts of men. Even a superficial reading of the text should be evidence enough that Jesus was not telling these Pharisees who were plotting to kill Him that the Kingdom of God was in their hearts. That would have been the last place to look for the Kingdom of God.

What Jesus said was, “The Kingdom of God is in your midst.” The central theme of Christ’s preaching was that the Kingdom was near. The King of that Kingdom was in their midst. The statement that the Kingdom of God does not come with observation does not contradict all of the other statements of Christ about His visible return in power and great glory to establish His kingdom upon the earth. In fact, just a few verses after vs. 20, Christ states: “For as the lightning, when it lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall the Son of man be in his day.” When Christ came the first time the Kingdom was present in His person. It was in their midst, but it did not come with any spectacular, sudden events. It was like the seed that fell into the soil and gradually developed. It is interesting that the cognate verb of the word “observation” is used in Lk. 6:7; 14:1; and 20:20 of the Pharisees, “And they watched (or observed) Him.” They were watching Him, of course, to try to trap Him in either His words or His works whereby they might accuse Him.

While very similar to parts of the Olivet discourse this section does contain several other statements unique to Luke. One is that the days would come when the disciples would long to see one of the days of the Son of man and would not see it; that is, Jesus would be absent from them and they would be going through persecutions and would have to stand alone.

The other is that besides speaking of “as it was in the days of Noah,” here He says: “Likewise even as it came to pass in the days of Lot, they ate, they drank, they sold, they planted, they builded; but in the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all: after the same manner shall it be in the day that the Son of man is revealed.”

And finally, there is an additional word concerning those who are taken and those who are left which is not in the Olivet account. Many expositors teach that those who are taken are the saints who are raptured at the coming of Christ. It is evident that the ones taken in Noah’s day were taken in the flood and Noah was left. The same was true in Lot’s case. He was left and the others were taken away. But here the disciple asked, “Where, Lord?” and He answered: “Where the body is, thither will the eagles also be gathered together.” Where are they taken? Surely not to heaven, but to judgment, the same one mentioned in Rev. 19:17,18, which is called the “supper of the great God,” when the eagles will consume the bodies of the ungodly.

31. The Parable of the Unjust Judge

Reference: Lk. 18:1-8

This parable is similar to that of the Importunate Friend in Lk. 11:5-10. There the comparison was between two friends, one which came late at night seeking a favor, and the other refusing to get out of bed to help until he was moved by the importunity of his friend. Here the comparison is between a poor widow who has been wronged and an unjust judge who refused to discharge his obligations to the woman, but who finally did so because he became weary of her continual coming to him.

In neither case does Jesus teach that we have to keep praying until God gets weary of hearing our prayers before He will be moved to answer. Rather, the lesson is that if an unjust judge would avenge this widow because of her continual coming to him, how much more will God avenge His elect which cry day and night unto Him?

The application of this prayer parable is also to the time of the great tribulation through which God’s elect remnant of Israel will go, which will immediately precede the coming of the Son of man, referred to in vs. 8. The answer to this prayer will be the outpouring of God’s wrath upon those who have been venting their wrath on God’s elect.

32. The Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican

Reference: Lk. 18:9-14

The preceding parable of the Unjust Judge was also eschatological in nature, having to do with God’s elect in the future tribulation. This one is soteriological, having to do with salvation. However, it must be interpreted dispensationally. The Publican’s prayer, “God be merciful to me a sinner,” has been adopted by many evangelists as the model prayer for new converts, only they add, “and save me for Jesus’ sake.”

While it is true that it is only by the mercy and grace of God that any sinner gets saved, this Publican was not simply asking God to be merciful to him. The verb, “be merciful” is “hilaskomai,” to be propitious. It is the same word translated “reconciliation” in Heb. 2:17. The noun form, “hilasterion” is translated “mercy seat,” in Heb. 9:5. By referring back to Ex. 25:17-21 it will be seen that the mercy seat was the lid of the ark of the covenant which contained two tables of the Law. The Israelite killed his animal sacrifice and the priest took the blood and sprinkled it upon the mercy seat. The blood thus intervened between God and the Law which had been broken and effected an atonement for sin.

No doubt this publican had offered his sacrifice and now he prays that God would accept his offering and be propitiated toward him. This was the divine order before the death of Christ. But now since the death of Christ we learn that God has set forth Christ to be a propitiation through faith in His blood (Rom. 3:25). Therefore, God has already once and for all been propitiated: there is no need to pray for God to do it again. All we need to do is to receive the propitiation and thus be reconciled through the death of His Son. We do not pray for God to send His Son to die for our sins: He has already done that. Why, then, should we tell new converts to pray that God would be propitiated when He already has been? Rather tell the sinner, or the new convert, that God has been propitiated, that is, that His holiness and righteousness have been completely satisfied by the death of His Son, so that He is now free to justify ungodly sinners simply upon believing in Jesus.

The Pharisee trusted in himself that he was righteous and therefore had no need of reconciliation. Jesus said the Pharisee prayed with himself. Even though he told God he was thankful he was not a sinner, his prayer got no higher than his head. He informed God about all of his fine qualities and goodness, while the Publican, convicted of his sinfulness, would not so much as lift up his eyes to heaven, but smote his breast in contrition. This Pharisee fits perfectly into Paul’s description of Israel in Rom. 10:3: “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.” See Paul’s self- righteousness in which he once boasted and what he did with it after his confrontation with Jesus Christ (Phil. 3:4-9).

33. Teaching on Divorce

References: Matt. 19:3-12; Mk. 10:2-12

If we had only Mark’s account of Christ’s discourse on divorce and the two verses in Luke (16:17,18), we might suppose that there was no situation where Christ would permit divorce. But in this account in Matthew, as well as in Matt. 5:32, He does make the exception in the case of fornication. The Pharisees asked Him about the legality of a man putting away his wife for any and every reason. They hoped to find something in His answer by which they could condemn Him.

As usual, Jesus answered by asking them a question: “What did Moses command you?” And they replied that Moses permitted divorce. But Jesus told them that God’s plan from creation was that man and wife become one flesh and remain in that relationship. However, because of the hardness of man’s heart Moses wrote this law permitting divorce. Marriage is a relationship in the flesh, “one flesh,” and therefore death which brings an end to the flesh, brings an end to the marriage, so that the remaining partner is free to marry again.

Jesus plainly taught that a husband who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the same rule holds for the wife. Paul teaches essentially the same principles for this present dispensation. He teaches that death dissolves the marriage bond (Rom. 7:2,3). In the same verses he taught that a divorced person who remarries commits adultery. He went back to the Eden edict that man and wife become one flesh (Eph. 5:31). He taught that married partners should not separate, but if they do they should remain unmarried (1 Cor. 7:10,11,39). He further taught that when one partner dies the other is free to remarry, but only to another believer.

If a man or woman is married to an unbeliever (apparently married before one of them became a believer), the believer should remain with the unbeliever in hopes of converting him or her to the faith, but if the unbeliever deserts the believer, Paul says the believer is not under bondage in such cases (1 Cor. 7:15). Some understand this to mean that the believer is then free to remarry. Paul also teaches, among other things, that officers in the church should have only one wife (1 Tim. 3:2). Living under the dispensation of grace does not mean that the believer is free to sin. Next to our union with Christ, Paul upholds the marriage union as the highest of all human relationships. In fact, he illustrates our union with Christ by the marriage relationship, teaching that having been raised from the dead through  identification with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection, we are married to Him (Rom. 7:4).

Matthew gives us a little added detail in that the disciples, when they heard what Jesus taught about divorce, said, “If that’s the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” Christ’s answer, “All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given,” does not mean that His teaching about divorce applied only to the few who heard it. Rather it applies to the statement of the disciples: “it is better not to marry.” For Jesus goes on to say there are three classes of men who remain unmarried: those who are sexually incapable from birth, those who have been made incapable through surgery, and those who for the sake of the Kingdom of God have chosen to remain single. Paul was an example of the latter (1 Cor. 7:7-9,32). Paul does not command celibacy. He says that every man has his proper gift of God. Some are able to live pure, clean lives apart from marriage. Others do not have this gift, and for them, Paul says, it is better for them to marry.

34. Christ Blesses the Little Children

References: Matt. 19:13-15; Mk. 10:13-16; Lk. 18:15-17

Matthew introduces this section with the word then, which indicates that Jesus’ words on the sanctity of marriage apparently prompted mothers in the audience to bring their children to Jesus for His blessing. It is interesting that Matthew and Mark call them “paidion” (young children) and Luke calls them “brephe” (a new born baby). There was probably quite a range of ages represented. The disciples thought it was beneath the dignity of Jesus to be distracted from His more important work by children, so they scolded the mothers who were pressing forward with their little ones.

Mark says that Jesus was indignant with this action of His disciples. Great emphasis is given throughout the Scriptures on the importance of the proper care and training of children, and yet many pastors, like the disciples of old, think it is below their dignity to minister to such. They always want to be delving into the “deep” things of God. Why waste their years of study and training on such simple folk? Relegate the children to those of lesser or no special training!

Both Mark and Luke record the further application which Christ made that unless one receives the Kingdom of God as a little child, he shall in no wise enter in. Because children are of such a trusting nature it is doubly important that they be given God’s truth to believe, and to be protected from false teaching which they would receive with equal readiness. Parents who take the attitude: “I am not going to force my beliefs on my children. I am going to let them grow up and choose what to believe for themselves,” are not only unwise but are definitely disobedient to the Scripture (Prov. 22:6).

There are certain Christian denominations which teach that the Church is spiritual Israel and therefore heir to Israel’s covenants. They believe that the children who are members of their church family are children of the covenant and therefore have a special relationship to God which other children do not enjoy. They believe baptism has taken the place of circumcision, so that at baptism the infant is regenerated as a child of the covenant. Some call this “presumptive regeneration,” that is, they presume the child is regenerate until later in life the contrary becomes evident. Thus, churches become filled with young people who presume they were regenerated at baptism but are in fact un-regenerated. Regeneration takes place only in association with personal faith in Jesus Christ.

The logical conclusion of infant baptismal regeneration is that unbaptized children are lost and if they die in an unbaptized state, they will be forever separated from God. Rome tries to mitigate this harsh doctrine by teaching that such infants do not actually go into the fires of hell but are confined to a place called “limbus infantium,” forever shut out from heaven.

Much confusion and harm has been done by a failure to distinguish between Israel and the Church of this dispensation, and the relation of people to the covenants of Israel. Baptism never took the place of circumcision in New Testament times. Both were practiced concurrently by the believing Jews. No child is regenerated by baptism. Children are born with a sinful nature and need to be saved as they become able to personally receive Christ as their Savior. They need the redemptive work of Christ the same as an adult. And on the basis of that redemptive work, God is now free in His elective purposes to apply that work to any and every infant that He chooses to remove from this life in infancy. But God has not set an age of accountability, so that we can say, the child is covered by the work of Christ until he is six or twelve years of age. That age may differ widely with different individuals. We cannot begin too early to tell our children the story of God’s great love and grace in giving the Lord Jesus to die for our sins.

(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)








0 Dispensationalism


The Period of the Perean Ministry (Part 5)

23.  Parable of the Unjust Steward

Reference: Lk. 16:1-13

Alford in the Greek Testament states: “No parable in the Gospels has been the subject of so much controversy as this.” The main problem concerns the commendation of this unjust steward by his master. Some contend that according to the laws that governed stewards, this man had the right to discount bills and thus he actually did nothing amiss in thus ingratiating himself with his master’s creditors.

Others think his action in discounting the bills was illegal and that the master’s commendation was not an approval of the act of bilking him out of his rightful due, but simply a recognition of the shrewdness and sagacity of the steward in planning for his future welfare. But if the steward was guilty of malfeasance, why did not the master have him arrested? One answer is that the steward, knowing he would be fired, made up out of his own pocket the amounts he had allowed the creditors to discount their bills, knowing that he would be more than repaid by the favors he might expect from the creditors.

The Companion Bible makes vs. 9 a question: “Do I say unto you, make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness?” And the answer is, “No.” The Living Bible paraphrase also gives this sense, holding that the end does not justify the means. Although the exact meaning of the parable may be hard to come by, it is clear from what follows that it was spoken against the Pharisees, for we read that they being covetous “derided him.” The word “derided” is derived from the word for “nose,” and means “they turned up their noses at Him.” The ancients had an expression, “to hang on the hooked nose,” that is, to turn up the nose and make a hook of it, on which to figuratively hang the subject of ridicule.

The general lessons from the parable are that worldly people show more wisdom in making provision for their future material needs than the children of light do in making provision for their future in the Kingdom; that faithfulness or unfaithfulness do not depend upon the size of the responsibility; that unfaithfulness in caring for another’s goods unfits one for being entrusted with true riches; and that it is impossible to serve two masters.

24.  The Rich Man and Lazarus

Reference: Lk. 16:14-31

There is, of course, a vital connection between this story and what has gone before. Jesus has been dealing in particular with the Pharisees who were sticklers for law observance, and yet many of their traditions had negated the law. That is why Jesus told the parable of the unjust steward, for the Pharisees were lovers of money (covetous – vs. 14); and why He brought up the matter of divorce, for the Pharisees had liberalized divorce far beyond the permission of the law. And that is why He told the story of Dives (Latin for rich) and Lazarus, for no doubt the rich man represents the Pharisees.

This story is often called a parable, although the Scripture does not do so. Since this story, if factual, proves the falsity of all views about death being soul-sleep or non-existence, those who hold such views claim that this is a parable and suppose that they have eliminated the objections posed by this story. But whether it is a parable or not has not the slightest effect upon its reference to death. A parable is a figure of speech in which a story from real life is used to illustrate some higher truth. If consciousness does not continue after death, then it would be impossible to base a higher spiritual truth upon a statement which is false.

Consider, for example, the parables in Matt. 13. If a sower never sowed seeds but only rocks, the parable of the sower would be ridiculous, for rocks never sprout and produce fruit. The same would hold true for the parables of the tares and the mustard seed. If a field was not a plot of ground but only a mental concept, then hiding a treasure in a field would be meaningless. If pearls were dead leaves, it would not make sense for a man to sell all that he had and invest his entire fortune in one dead leaf. If nets were never cast into the sea but only into a vacuum, how could it trap all kinds of fish? And likewise, if death is always complete unconsciousness or non-existence, as some claim, how could the dead be represented as talking to one another?

There are numerous doctrinal questions raised by this story. Perhaps the most evident one is: Was Lazarus saved because he had no enjoyments in this life, and was Dives lost because he did have enjoyment? The context gives ample evidence of why Dives was lost. As representative of the Pharisees he was a hypocrite (12:1); he denied the claims of Jesus Christ (12:9); he was a rich fool (12:20,21); he was an unfaithful steward (12:47,48); he was unrepentant (13:5); he refused John’s baptism (7:30), thereby rejecting the counsel of God. No statement is given why Lazarus was saved, but perhaps his name throws some light upon his character. Lazarus is the Greek name for the Hebrew Eleazar, which means “God is helper.” The fact that the beggar is named but the rich man is not is significant. God calls His own by name.

There is also an eschatological question: Is Abraham’s bosom heaven and is hell or hades where the rich man went, the lake of fire? Apparently, the story dealt with the then present time, for the rich man’s brothers were still alive. The lake of fire had not yet been opened up, but after it is, hades will be cast into it (Rev. 20:14). Although the final judgment had not yet taken place, the unsaved were already in a place of suffering.

Old Testament saints at death went to sheol (Hebrew equivalent to the Greek hades), Genesis 37:35, grave is sheol. Therefore, it would seem that Hades must be divided into two parts, for the saints did not go to the same place as the wicked, yet both went to sheol. The story of Lazarus does present two places with a great gulf fixed between them. Many also believe that Christ went to Hades, for God’s promise was that His soul would not be left in that place (Acts 2:27). Some believe that when Christ ascended He led all of the souls of the saved in the upper compartment of Hades into heaven itself. However that may be, it must be remembered that the saved have not yet been perfected in their resurrection bodies.

Luke 16:24 might seem to contradict this fact, since Dives prays that Lazarus might dip the tip of his finger in water and cool his parched tongue. How could disembodied spirits have fingers and tongues? In answer we can say only that man was made in the image of God, and that God is pure Spirit, and yet God can speak; the Bible speaks  many  times  about  God’s  hand  and  His  arm  (Ps.  44:3;  Isa.  52:  10), and other members which we associate with the body. If pure spirit without bodily parts can have faculties comparable to our bodily parts, it may well be that the human spirit without the physical body has similar counterparts.

This parable or incident from history, whichever way it may be understood, teaches several important lessons. God’s people should have social concern for those less fortunate. The greater wealth God permits one to gain, the greater the responsibility to use it for the good of others. Riches in the life to come are far better than riches in this life.

Decisions made in this life endure for eternity. After death there is a great gulf fixed between the saved and the unsaved. There will be no second chance after death. There is conscious existence after death, either of joy or of sorrow. On the part of the unsaved they would do anything to keep their relatives and friends from sharing their fate. God has given us His Word and if we won’t be persuaded by that Word, nothing will persuade us, even though one rose from the dead. People often say they would believe the Bible if they could see someone come back from the dead and tell them about it. The fact is that some One has come back from the dead and has told us all about it, and still they refuse to believe, all of which shows their insincerity and pretense.

25.  Repentance and Forgiveness

Reference: Lk. 17:1-6

Compare this passage with Matt. 17:20; 18:6,7,15,21,22. Children often play pranks on their fellow-playmates, such as tripping them and causing them to stumble or perhaps fall. Sometimes such pranks can cause very serious injury. It seems that as we grow up, we are prone to transfer this trait from the physical to the moral and spiritual, where the results are even more serious.

Christ said that in the world, constituted as it is, it is inevitable that occasions of stumbling will come, but woe to the one who causes them. The word “skandalon” (from which we get our word scandal) meant originally the part of a trap where the bait was fastened, and then it came to mean a snare or the trap itself. In Scripture it is always used metaphorically of anything that causes prejudice, that hinders others or causes them to fall or stumble. It is translated “occasion to fall (stumble), offense, thing that offends, stumbling block. Almost always the cause of stumbling is evil, as in the present case. On the other hand, the wicked may be caused to stumble by that which is good in itself. Christ Himself is called a “rock of offence,” (Rom. 9:33; 1 Pet. 2:8; 1 Cor. 1:23), and a cause of stumbling to those who are disobedient to the Word. The preaching of the Cross was a stumbling block to Israel. Paul speaks of “the offence of the cross” (Gal. 5:11). Romans 11 is all about Israel’s stumbling and fall. In vs. 9 we read: “And David said, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumbling block, and a recompense unto them.”

Paul shows that the misuse of Christian liberty can be a cause of stumbling: “Let us not therefore judge one another anymore; but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion of falling in his brother’s way” (Rom. 14:13). He also shows that teachings contrary to sound doctrine can be occasions of stumbling (Rom 16:17). Especially serious is that which causes a little child or a young Christian to stumble and go astray. A mature person should be able to protect himself from tripping over such stones and is therefore the more responsible.

A failure to forgive may also be a cause of stumbling. Christ goes on to say: “Take heed to yourselves: if thy brother sin, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against thee seven times in a day, and seven times turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.” There is a great deal of teaching in the Bible about forgiveness and the impression is often gained that forgiveness should be granted to all, regardless of their sins or their attitude. In this teaching of Christ, it is plain that forgiveness is to be granted only after repentance or change of mind on the part of the one who has sinned. God is surely the most gracious and forgiving One in the universe, but does He forgive the unrepentant? Those who refuse to admit they have sinned and therefore refuse to receive the gracious gift of salvation? We may do great harm both against the offender and the one offended by granting blanket forgiveness without any indication of change of attitude on the part of the offender.

We can feel with the disciples when the Lord told them to forgive a brother who offends seven times in one day. That almost seems too much. We can almost hear them sigh: “Lord, increase our faith.” The Lord spoke much in parabolic language and we take His words to have this meaning, when He said: “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye would say unto this sycamine (actually the black mulberry) tree, Be thou rooted up, and be thou planted in the sea, and it would have obeyed you.” This is in itself a parable in answer to the disciples’ request for more faith to be able to live up to Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness. Faith is compared to a mustard seed. The seed is planted in the ground where it has to overcome many obstacles in pushing its seed-leaves up through the hard, lumpy soil. A living faith is something like that; it has power to overcome all obstacles.

26.  Parable on Discharging One’s Duty

Reference: Lk. 17:7-10

The social order has changed much since Biblical times. Slavery was universally practiced. Whereas the word slave occurs but twice in the A.V., the word meaning slave but translated servant appears hundreds of times. Even though our social order has changed, so that we no longer find slavery permitted in most civilized societies, there are still two masters to whom men are slaves: either to God or to Satan. Paul states:

“Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves slaves to obey, his slaves ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the slaves of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered unto you . . . But now being made free from sin, and become slaves to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life” (Rom. 6:16,17,22).

God owns the Christian by right of creation and by right of redemption. We are not our own, we have been bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:19,20).

The parable before us is based upon the duty of the slave to his master. The slave has certain duties which he is supposed to perform. He deserves no praise for doing only what is his duty. Service to the master comes first, before consideration of self. Therefore, Jesus says: “When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say ‘We are unprofitable slaves; we have done that which was our duty to do.'”

Although he has done all his duty, yet he has done nothing except what he ought to have done, so he can claim no merit for himself. He could claim to be profitable only if he had done more than his duty. This parable may give the impression that Jesus is a hard taskmaster, but from the Christian’s viewpoint, if he is truly humble, his very best service for Christ falls short of his ideal. But from the divine standpoint, even though we feel ourselves unworthy and unprofitable, yet He will reward even a cup of cold water given in His name. God sets us free from the slavery of sin and Satan, and we then yield ourselves to Him as His bond-slave. We must never forget that relationship.

27.  Raising of Lazarus

Reference: John 11:1-46

We have already considered its significance in connection with the raising up of the nobleman’s son who was at the point of death. It took place at the beginning of our Lord’s ministry when the nation of Israel was at the point of death, but now at the end of His ministry He has been rejected and Israel is dead spiritually. Having already considered the typical and dispensational aspects of this sign, we will point out a few matters of special interest.

When Jesus said, “This sickness is not unto death,” it might appear that He was mistaken, since Lazarus did die. What He meant was that the final outcome of this sickness would not be death, but that which would glorify God in restoring life to Lazarus.

It seems strange that after saying Jesus loved, in a very special way, these two sisters and their brother that He would delay two whole days before setting out to help them. But God always does things at the right time, and Jesus knew by waiting two days Lazarus would have died and been buried four days before His arrival, and this would give Him the opportunity to demonstrate that He was indeed the Resurrection and the Life, by bringing back to life one whose body had already gone into corruption. No doubt God often delays in answering prayers for similar reasons. The sisters were probably saying, “O, if He would only hurry and get here in time.” And then after He did arrive, all they could say was, “Lord, if thou hadst been here my brother had not died.” But Jesus had told His disciples: “I am glad for your sakes that I was not there.” If we were going to see a loved one who was critically ill we would be sad and disappointed to learn that he had died before we could get to him. If he had been there Lazarus would not have died, for no one ever died in His presence, and He would not have been able to perform this sign.

We have already seen a difference in the spiritual character of Martha and Mary (Lk. 10:38-42). Martha makes a good confession of her faith in Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, and in her belief in the resurrection, and she says exactly the same thing to Jesus that Mary said a little later: “Lord, if thou hadst been here my brother had not died.” But when Mary spoke these words and Jesus saw her weeping, we read: “He groaned in the spirit and was troubled, and said, Where have ye laid him?” and “Jesus wept.” There was something in Mary’s spirituality that touched Jesus far more deeply than in Martha’s.

No doubt the raising from the dead of Lazarus can be used as an illustration of salvation when a spiritually dead person is raised to life. First, it is important to understand that this work of regeneration is wholly the work of God. Jesus did not say, “Now, Lazarus, you do your part and between the two of us we will get you back to life.” Jesus simply shouted: “Lazarus, come forth.” And he came forth bound hand and foot with grave clothes. This was a double miracle. He came out of the cave-tomb even though his binding was tightly wrapped so that he couldn’t move his hands or feet. Although the giving of life is entirely the work of God, there are things that man can do and is responsible for doing. Man could roll away the stone from the door of the tomb, and man could loose him from the grave clothes. Both of these things are the responsibility of the Christian ministry. But sad to say, many converts never get fully loosed from the grave clothes so they can enjoy the freedom and liberty there is in Christ Jesus. Christ spoke of the Son setting us free and Paul exhorts us to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free (Gal. 5:1), and not to be bound with the grave clothes of ritualism.

(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)








0 Dispensationalism


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)








0 Dispensationalism


The Period of the Perean Ministry (Part 3)

9.        The Leaven of the Pharisees

Reference: Lk. 12:1-12

There are a number of warnings against the leaven of the Pharisees, cf. Matt. 16:6, 11; Mk. 8:15, which the Lord described as hypocrisy. A hypocrite is one who plays a false part, one who feigns to be something other than he really is, an actor on the stage who wears a false face. But Jesus declares the day is coming when everything that has been covered up is going to be revealed, when things spoken in secret will be shouted from the housetops.

10.        Parable of the Rich Fool

Reference: Lk. 12:13-34

This parable is introduced as a result of an appeal of a bystander for Jesus to make his brother divide the inheritance with him. Jesus refused, for He apparently saw that this request was motivated by covetousness. A man’s true life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses. Many a rich man has committed suicide because his riches couldn’t buy anything that satisfied him.

There are a number of principles which may be derived from this parable. A man who lays up treasure just for himself is a pauper towards God. The parable points out the uncertainty of life and of worldly riches. Man works hard to amass a fortune and when he is ready to enjoy it the stock market may crash, he may lose his health, or life itself. And what he has laid up for himself is left behind to be enjoyed and perhaps squandered by others. The whole book of Ecclesiastes is a commentary on this parable. “Yes, I hated all my labors which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it unto the man that ú shall be after me. And who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a fool? Yet shall he have rule over all my labor wherein I have labored” (Eccl. 2:18,19 cf. 5:10-17; 6:1,2).

There are many general lessons to be drawn from this parable; however, there are some important dispensational principles also which must be distinguished. These are primarily “Kingdom teachings” and they are addressed to the little flock to whom the Father was going to give the Kingdom (vs. 32). If the mark of a true Christian is selling all that he possesses and giving away every cent of it, there are not many Christians in the world. Many attempts have been made to establish Christian communism, where all things are had in common, as in Acts 4:32, but they have all ended in failure and delusion. The failure was not that of God’s Word, but of refusing to rightly divide that Word. Having all things common worked as long as God’s Kingdom program was in effect in the early Acts period, but after that program was set aside and God began a new dispensation under Paul, the old program fell apart.

By the end of the Acts period these people, who had had all things common so that no one lacked, found themselves destitute, so that Paul had to take up collections from the Gentile churches to help these poor saints at Jerusalem (Rom. 15:25-27). Paul never tells members of the Body of Christ to sell all and give it away. He does tell the believer to work with his own hands, so that he might supply not only his own needs but the needs of others (Eph. 4:28; 1 Thes. 4:11), and if any would not work neither should he eat (2 Thes. 3:10). Paul does not tell the rich to sell everything, but he does charge them to be rich in good works (1 Tim. 6:17,18). Paul’s instructions on Christian giving are to be found especially in 2 Cor. 8 and 9, which he wrote in connection with this collection for the poor saints at Jerusalem. If Paul’s Gentile converts had given away all of their possessions they would not have had anything left to give. Political and economic conditions will be vastly different in the coming Kingdom from what they are in the present world.

11.        Parables on Readiness for the Coming of The Son of Man

Reference: Lk. 12:35-48

There is great emphasis in the Kingdom teachings of Christ upon readiness for the coming of the Son of Man to judge the world and to set up His Kingdom here on the earth (cf Matt. 24:42-51; 25:1-13; Mk. 13:34-37; Lk. 21:36).

There are actually three parables in this section. The first is based upon the bridegroom returning from the wedding and finding his servants ready and waiting for him. The second concerns the unexpected visit of the thief who breaks into the house, and the third that of a wise and an unwise steward, one who always acts in view of his master’s expected return, and the other who acts as though his master will long delay his return. This latter parable ends with a statement of principle upon which judgment will be based: greater punishment for those who knew God’s will but did not prepare themselves to do His will, and lesser punishment for those who did not know. Stated in another way: “Unto whom much is given much will be required. Unto whom little is given, less will be required.”

There is always the danger when speaking of judgments and rewards, to apply these things to the salvation of the soul. It will help to remember that no one, in any dispensation, receives salvation as a reward for his works or faithfulness. The unsaved who are finally cast into the lake of fire are judged and punished according to their works, and therefore there will be degrees of punishment. The saved will also be judged, but not for the penalty of their sin which has been forgiven, but for their service for Christ. This will result in reward or loss of reward. Believers in this present dispensation also are instructed to wait for the coming of the Lord (1 Cor. 1:7; Tit. 2:13), but this coming is not to earth to judge the world and to set up His Kingdom, but His coming in the air to catch up the Church in resurrection and glorification.

12.        The Baptism of Death

Reference: Lk. 12:49-59

Christ’s statement that He had come to bring division on earth rather than peace seems to contradict the angel’s announcement of peace on earth, good will toward men. His object in coming was to bring peace, but the effect of His coming was to bring fire and persecution and division, for the people were divided over Him.

Christ was baptized by John the Baptist at the beginning of His ministry, and now He says I have a baptism which will bring my ministry to a close. The first was a baptism in water, the second a baptism into death. This death baptism would be the culmination of the division among the Jews regarding Him. Through the Apostle Paul it has been revealed that the believer shares in His death baptism through the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit. “Know ye not that all of us who were baptized into Jesus Christ (by the Holy Spirit) were baptized into His death?” (Rom. 6:3). For that reason, Paul could say, “I was crucified together with Christ.” None of this truth of our identification with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection is to be found in the Gospels. It is part of the distinctive revelation given to Paul. (On this death baptism see also Matt. 20:22- 24 and Mk. 10:39).

Christ follows this with a denunciation of the people in that they were able to discern the signs which affected the weather, but were not able to discern or interpret the signs from the Word of God regarding the coming of the Messiah. “This time” in vs. 56 is the time predicted by the prophets, such as Dan. 9:25; see also Matt. 16:2,3.

Then Jesus asked why they could not judge what is right. They were in the wrong and He advised them to do as a man would who was being brought before a judge by an accuser. Settle the matter before you get into court or you will go to jail and stay until you have paid the last penny. This verse is wrongfully used by Roman Catholics to support the idea of purgatory. It is rather advice to get right with God before being hailed into the final judgment from which there is no release, for man can never atone for his own sins.

13.        Repent or Perish

Reference: Lk. 13:1-5

Public calamities often happen and we wonder why certain people should meet such fate. Had they committed some terrible evil? Was God punishing them for their sins? Two such calamities are here mentioned, one in which Pilate had shed the blood of certain Galileans, mixing their blood with the blood of the animal sacrifices they were offering, and the other the death of eighteen men when the tower of Siloam collapsed and crushed them. Jesus said that none of these unfortunate people were greater sinners than the rest, but He predicted, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” It is altogether possible that Jesus had in mind the coming destruction of Jerusalem in which great multitudes perished. The parable which follows bears this out.

14.        Parable of the Unfruitful Fig Tree

Reference: Lk. 13:6-9

There are three basic parables about the fig tree in the Gospels. In two cases the tree was unfruitful. In one it was cursed and withered away (Matt. 21:19), in the other it was cut down. (Cf. Matt. 24:32-35; Mk. 13:28,29; Lk. 21:29-31; for the sign of the Fig.)

Israel is depicted in Scripture under the figure of the Olive Tree, the Fig Tree, and the Vine (cf. Rom. 11:24-26; Isa. 5:7; Jer. 24:1-10). All three are mentioned in Jotham’s fable of the trees in Judg. 9:8-15. The Olive is an evergreen which has great length of life, and is thus a fitting type of Israel’s covenant blessing which will never fail. The Vine seems to refer more to Israel’s spiritual blessings, as set forth in John 15. The Fig probably represents Israel’s national blessings. The Fig was chopped down, but branches of the Vine and the Olive were cut off, so that the covenant and spiritual blessings still existed for those who believed.

The certain man of this parable represents Christ who came to Israel looking for fruit and found none. This is exactly what Christ did in Matt. 21:19 when He cursed the fig tree and it withered away. In this parable, however, the owner of the vineyard told the gardener that He had come for three years looking for fruit and had found none; therefore, cut it down. Why cumbereth it the ground? That is, why is it taking up valuable space and making the ground unproductive. But why did Jesus say, “three years” instead of perhaps two or five? Three years was the length of His public ministry to Israel. But notice that the Dresser of the vineyard interceded in behalf of the fig tree. He said, “Let’s give it one more year. I will cultivate and fertilize it, and if it then bears fruit, well and good, but if it doesn’t, then we will cut it down.”

Traditional interpretation cuts Israel’s fig tree down at the Cross, at the end of Christ’s three-year ministry, and begins an entirely new spiritual order on the day of Pentecost; thus completely negating the plain teaching of this parable. What about the extra year when Israel was to be given another opportunity? What are the historical facts?

First, we know that Christ did intercede for Israel as He hung upon the Cross: “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.” Next, we know that Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, stated in Acts 3:17 that through ignorance Israel and its rulers crucified Christ. And finally, Peter still addressing the people of Israel states: “Unto you first, God having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities” (Acts 3:26).

Whether one bases his teaching on this parable or not, the fact is that Israel was not set aside at the Cross, but because of Christ’s intercession Israel was given another opportunity in the early chapters of Acts to repent and receive her Kingdom blessings. If Israel and her Kingdom were not set aside in early Acts, then it is evident that a new and unprophesied spiritual order did not begin on that notable Pentecost. Instead it was the fulfillment and continuation of Israel’s prophetic Kingdom program.

15.        A Daughter of Abraham Healed

Reference: Lk. 13:10-17

It seems that Jesus intentionally performed many of His healing miracles on the Sabbath day, apparently to show that He was Lord of the Sabbath (Matt. 12:8), and also that the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath (Mk. 2:27,28).

As Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath He saw this woman with a strange illness which Satan had brought upon her, so that for eighteen years she had not been able to stand up straight, but was constantly bowed over. He called the woman and laid His hands on her and pronounced her healed and immediately she stood up straight and glorified God. The president of the synagogue was indignant, got up and announced to the congregation there were six days in the week for working; therefore, come on one of those days to be healed. No wonder that Jesus stood up and no doubt pointed His finger at the ruler and said: “Thou hypocrite; does not each one of you untie your ox or ass and lead it out to drink on the sabbath? Ought not this daughter of Abraham whom Satan has bound be loosed from her infirmity on the sabbath?” This rebuff shamed the leaders and the remainder of the people rejoiced for the glorious things Jesus had done. The contrast is between the bowed over woman who was made straight, and the upright indignant ruler who was forced to bow in shame.

16.        The Parable of the Mustard Seed and the Leaven

Reference: Lk. 13:18-21

They were told again here to meet the immediate need. The word “Then” in vs. 18 shows the connection between what went before and these two parables. The word is actually “therefore.”

Both parables begin with something small which grows into something large: a seed becomes a great tree, and a few cells of yeast multiply until all of the meal is permeated. This is what the Kingdom of God is likened unto. The usual interpretation is that the Gospel begins in a very small way in the hearts of a few and it grows until it converts the whole world. The only thing wrong with this interpretation is that it is contrary to the facts. The world did not get converted under the preaching of the Kingdom Gospel, and it is far from being converted after 2000 years of the preaching of the gospel of the grace of God. It is also contrary to Scripture because Scripture plainly asserts a great apostasy will take place before the return of Christ.

Other parables liken the Kingdom to a field in which good and bad seed is sown and both grow up together until the return of Christ, and to a net cast into the sea that enmeshes both good and rough fish, or to different kinds of soil, some of which produces little if any fruit. Therefore, when we think about the Kingdom of which Jesus was speaking, we must not think of heavenly bliss with everything pure and holy. It is something like the temple at Jerusalem. It is called the temple of God. Jesus called it My Father’s house, but it had become a den of thieves (Matt. 21:12,13). Israel’s Kingdom was the Kingdom of God but it was filled with evil.

Some feel that the fowls of the air which lodged in the mustard tree are representative of Satan’s emissaries, as they apparently are in the parable in Mk. 4:4, which devoured the good seed before it could sprout. Likewise, leaven is always representative of the principle of evil at work. Leaven was excluded from the food and even the homes at Passover (Ex. 13:6,7). Jesus called the false teachings of the Pharisees leaven (Matt. 16: 6). Paul likened leaven to malice and wickedness and warned that a little leaven would leaven the whole lump (1 Cor. 5:6-8). Thus these two parables explain how a daughter of Abraham in the Kingdom of God could be bound by Satan for eighteen years, and how the rulers of the synagogue could be so blinded as to rebuke the Lord for healing this woman on the Sabbath day.

(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)








0 Dispensationalism


The Period of the Perean Ministry (Part 2)

6.     The Feast of Dedication Reference: John 10:22-42

The feast of dedication was not one of the original Mosaic feasts in Israel. This feast was established during the inter-testament period by Judas Maccabaeus when he freed Jerusalem and the Temple from the Greeks in 164 B.C. It was held on the 25th of Chisleu (December), which seems to be good evidence that Jesus was not born on that day. Just three years to the day after Antiochus Epiphanes had desecrated the temple it was rededicated. The word dedication means “renewal.” It was also called the feast of Lights. For the eight days of the festival lights were kindled in the temple and in every Jewish home. Solomon’s porch, according to Josephus, was a remnant of the original temple of Solomon which had remained intact after the Babylonian destruction. It was on the east side and the morning sun would warm the place on a winter morning.

The Jews asked Jesus, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus had told them plainly on several occasions and He repeats His claim to Messiahship again. Jesus attributed their unbelief to the fact that they were not His sheep and therefore did not hear His voice. The case was just the opposite with those who were His sheep.

Verses 28 and 29 are very strong security promises for the believer. “I give (not will give or may give) unto them eternal life and (if it is eternal then it must be true) they shall never perish.” The believer is pictured as being held in the hand of Christ, and His hand held in the Father’s hand, so that no man will ever be able to snatch him out of those almighty hands.

Christ follows this, not only with the claims of Messiahship, but with equality with the Father: “I and my Father are one.” The Greek reads: “I and my Father one we are.” The verb is plural and “one” is neuter singular. If “one” had been masculine, it might have implied “one person.” The neuter implies “one in essence.” The statement thus affirms the distinction of Persons in the Godhead and the unity of essence and nature. But this claim of equality with God, perfectly understood by the Jews, angered the Jews and they took up stones again to kill Him for blasphemy. They could find no fault with the good works which Jesus had done, but for a man to make Himself God was too much. Then Jesus quoted Scripture to them, as He often did: “Is it not written in your law, I have said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken, say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?”

You will notice that Jesus said that this was written “in your law,” that is, the Jew’s law, which means God was calling certain Jews gods. This fact is further emphasized in the statement “to whom the word of God came.” The word of God came only to the people of Israel back then. This does not mean that God called every Israelite a god; howbeit, He did call them all, children of the most High (Ps. 82:6). This verse begins, “I have said,” indicating that God had said this previously.

If we turn back to Ex. 21:6 and 22:8,9, we discover that the word translated “judges” in these verses is the Hebrew “Elohim,” or gods. Moses is also called a god in Ex. 7:1. Thus God called the judges, the prophets, and the rulers “gods” as being His representatives. Jesus is not saying that He is a god only in the sense that the judges of Israel were called gods. But rather, if they could be called gods in an official sense, how much more properly could He, who was sealed and consecrated by the Father, be called, Son of God. After answering their charge of blasphemy He appeals again to the character of His works: If they don’t bear the character of the Father, don’t believe me; but if they do, which you have admitted, believe the testimony of the works, even though you don’t believe me, that you may know, and believe that the Father is in me, and I in Him. Again, they would have stoned Him but He escaped out of their hands. So Jesus went away again “beyond Jordan” where John at the first had baptized and there He abode and many believed on Him, for John’s testimony of Him had proved to be true.

We should point out that Jesus also defended the infallibility of the Scripture on several occasions: here, when He asserted: “The scripture cannot be broken.”

7.     Discourse on Prayer Reference: Lk. 11:1-13

This chapter begins with Jesus teaching some disciples to pray, as John the Baptist taught his disciples to pray. Jesus used almost the same format for prayer as we find in the sermon on the mount. The setting here in Luke seems altogether different from that in Matthew, although the wording of the prayer is very similar.

A The Parable of the Importunate Friend.

Jesus follows this instruction with two parables on prayer. The first is that of the Importunate Friend, and is found only in Luke. On the surface prayer seems to be a very simple thing, simply making request for a particular need. But there is more in the outworking of prayer than human wisdom can fathom. Men rationalize that if God has foreordained and foreknown everything that will ever happen from the beginning, how can man’s prayer cause anything different to happen? We can answer only by saying that God has ordained the means as well as the result, and prayer is often the means. Thus, God foreknew that a missionary would have a particular need and that He would supply that need, but He also foreknew that a group of believers ten thousand miles away would pray for that need and their prayer would be answered.

The present parable deals with the importunity of prayer. Importune means to urge with frequent application, press urgently, be insistent. The parable seems to be saying that if one keeps on asking long enough God will finally give in and grant the request. But on another occasion the Lord said: “When ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking” (Matt. 6:7). The parable is not encouraging man to act like a selfish child, always crying, “Gi’me! Gi’me!” There is more to real prayer than simply saying, “Bless the foreign missionaries,” and then taking the attitude you have discharged your duty and there is no further need to talk to God about it until another urgent request is received. Prayer should be born of concern. If a loved one is at the point of death, we do not pray in that fashion. We continue in prayer pouring out our hearts, and that is a good Pauline admonition: “Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving” (Col. 4:2). The teaching of the parable seems to be if we can by importunity obtain our requests from an unwilling friend, how much more can we expect to receive from a willing Giver?

B The Parable of Fatherhood.

This is a self-explanatory parable of God’s willingness to give good things to His children. Often people think of God only as a Judge whose only motive is to catch us doing wrong, to punish, and to take away our pleasures. God is, of course, a righteous Judge, but the believer has passed out of judgment into God’s family and now knows God as a loving Father. The objects which Christ contrasted in this parable: a stone for a loaf of bread, a serpent for a fish, and a scorpion for an egg, might seem odd at first sight, but there is a similarity in appearance between these pairs of objects. There are also contrasts between an earthly father and the Heavenly Father and between good material gifts and spiritual gifts.

Apparently the Lord did not mean that the Father would give the Person of the Holy Spirit to those who asked, for Christ made it plain that the Holy Spirit could not come as an indwelling presence until He had ascended to the Father (John 16:7). In the Greek text Holy Spirit appears without the definite article, and this usage usually means gifts or endowments of the Spirit. Christ also told His disciples while He was with them the Holy Spirit was also with them, but that later on He would be in them. Believers in the present dispensation do not have to pray that God would give them the Holy Spirit; nor do they have to tarry for Him (Lk. 24:49); they receive Him and are sealed by Him upon believing (Eph. 1:13, where the present participle “after ye believed” should be translated, “upon believing”). Both of these parables lend great encouragement to the child of God to make request to His heavenly Father.

8.     Conflict With the Pharisees

A The Unpardonable Sin: Matt. 12:22-32; Mk. 3:22-30; Lk. 11:14-23.

After healing a man who was blind and dumb, the Pharisees accused Jesus of using Satanic power, but Jesus showed the inconsistency of such a charge, for in that case Satan would be fighting against himself and his kingdom would be destroyed. But if He was casting out demons by the Spirit of God, this was proof that the Kingdom of God had come upon them. He illustrated this truth with the parable of the stronger man (Christ) binding the strong man (Satan) and then spoiling his goods. Matthew and Mark give the added details of what is generally called the unpardonable sin.

Christ stated that all manner of sin against the Son of man would be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Holy Spirit would never be forgiven: it is an eternal sin. This passage has caused many Christians to fear, lest they have committed this sin and have therefore lost their salvation. First of all, it should be evident that anyone who is sincerely concerned about being saved through faith in Christ has not committed this sin. In fact, after one has received the gift of eternal life and has been sealed by the Spirit unto the future day of redemption, there is no sin or power that can separate him from the love of Christ, or as we have recently seen from John 10, nothing that can snatch such a one out of the hands of Christ and the Father.

The unpardonable sin is usually interpreted as ascribing the work of Christ which He wrought through the power of the Holy Spirit to Satan, as these Pharisees were doing. It seems, however, there is a deeper meaning than this, for Jesus Himself prayed that these people who had thus accused Him and finally had Him crucified might be forgiven because they really didn’t know what they were doing. However, when the Holy Spirit was miraculously poured out at Pentecost and the people of Israel were enlightened by the Spirit (cf. Heb. 2:3,4; 6:4-6), they were no longer ignorant of what they were doing. We read in the book of Acts that the Jews blasphemed against the Holy Spirit, which means that that generation of natural Israel committed this sin and they could not be renewed unto repentance. This, we believe, is the true meaning of that sin. It was committed by Israel, and as such it is a sin which cannot be committed today. Every sin is forgivable through faith in Christ, and no sin is forgivable apart from faith in Him.

B The Unclean Spirit Who Returned: Matt. 12:43-45; Lk. 11:24-26.

All we know about demon spirits is what we read in Scripture. Jesus said that when such a spirit goes out of a man he walks through dry places seeking rest and finds none, so he returns to the man from whence he departed and finds the place swept and garnished and then brings with him seven other spirits worse than himself and the latter end of the possessed man is worse than the first. This is apparently not a case where a demon had been cast out by Jesus, for we cannot imagine that these people He healed ended up the worse for His healing. It seems that the demon left of his own accord, at least when he left, the man’s house or body was left empty, unoccupied.

When a person is saved today his body is occupied by the Holy Spirit, which rules out the possibility of an evil spirit coming back to take possession again. It seems that man’s body is either occupied or strongly influenced by either the Holy Spirit or the evil spirit. Paul states that before we were saved, the prince of the power of the air was the spirit that was energizing us (Eph. 2:2). This does not mean that all unsaved people are demon possessed, but it does mean that Satan has access to their spirits and can mightily work in them. But thank God, the Spirit who energizes us is greater than Satan and will not permit him to take control of us, although when the Spirit is grieved and not allowed His rightful place in our lives it is possible for Satan to take advantage of us.

Some feel that this story of the unclean spirit is a case history of Israel. Israel became idolatrous in O.T. times; God sent them into captivity and they gave up their idolatry in reformation without actually committing themselves to God, and now in the days of Christ the demons have come back and the latter state of Israel is worse than it was at the first.

C The Mistaken Woman: Lk. 11:27, 28.

People often make the mistake of placing the emphasis upon the wrong thing. What they say is not necessarily untrue, but the truth is distorted. While Jesus was speaking, a woman in the crowd, apparently admiring Jesus for His wonderful words and works, and perhaps wishing that she had had a son like that, shouted out: “Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked!” The woman was blessing the mother of Jesus, rather than Jesus Himself.

Sad to say, this mistake has become a creed in Christendom. She is honored as the Mother of God, immaculately conceived, assumed up into heaven, where she intercedes for mankind with her Son, Jesus. Mary was indeed highly honored in being chosen to become the human mother of Jesus Christ, but the gentle rebuke of Jesus in answering this woman clearly indicates that Jesus did not give Mary the exalted place above Himself which Rome has given her. Jesus said, “Yea, rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it.” He did not dishonor His human mother, but as far as blessedness was concerned, any humble soul who heard God’s word and obeyed it was more blessed than His mother in the flesh.

D The Sign of the Prophet Jonah: Matt. 12:38-42; Lk. 11:29-32.

It will be noted that Matthew placed the sign of Jonah before the story of the unclean spirit, whereas Luke reverses the order. Matthew includes the statement: “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth,”(cf. Jonah 1:17), whereas Luke simply states: “For even as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation.” The men of Ninevah will rise up in the judgment and condemn the men of Jesus’ day, because they repented at Jonah’s preaching (cf. Jon. 3:5-10), and a greater One than Jonah was there present and they repented not.

The Queen of Sheba will also testify against those of Jesus’ day, for she came from a great distance to hear the wisdom of Solomon (cf. 2 Chron. 9:1-12), and a greater than Solomon was there. The generation which lived through the earthly ministry of Christ bore the greatest responsibility of any generation in the past. Earlier generations had much less light of revelation and yet in many cases they were more responsive than those of Jesus’ day. It is our belief that people in our present generation bear even a greater responsibility than those of Jesus’ day, for we have the full and completed revelation of God’s Word which leaves man totally without any excuse whatsoever.

E Parable of the Lighted Lamp: Lk. 41:33-36; cf. Matt. 5:15; Mk. 4:21; Lk. 8:16; Matt. 6:22,23. See notes on the above passages where this parable is expounded.

F Dining at the Pharisee’s House: Lk. 11:37-54.

The Pharisee who had invited Jesus to dinner marvelled that Jesus did not baptize Himself before reclining at the table. It would have been a great service to the English reader if the translators had always rendered the Greek “baptizo” as baptize, instead of “wash” as in this instance. By saying that Jesus and His disciples did not wash before eating, the impression is left that Jesus paid little attention to bodily cleanliness. Also the true significance of baptism is veiled. Most Christians suppose that baptism has only one meaning and that it is a ceremony to be performed only once at the time they join the church. The Mosaic religion contained many baptisms, according to Heb. 9:10, and the Jews had added many more since Moses’ day. They ceremonially baptized themselves before every meal, as well as baptizing their eating utensils. Jesus not only did not practice these traditions of the elders, but stated that these practices had made void the word of God.

It was no doubt because Jesus understood what was going on in this Pharisee’s mind that He began pronouncing woes upon them. They washed the outside of the cup, the part that man could see, but left the inside dirty and encrusted with mold and corruption. If only they would cleanse the inside they would not have to worry about the outside. They obeyed meticulously the smallest outward requirements of the law, such as tithing of various things, but they passed over judgment and the love of God. They should have done the lesser outward things, but even more they should have done the weightier things that were inward.

He said they were like unmarked tombs that men trample underfoot without knowing it. In another place He called them whitewashed tombs, white on the outside but full of dead men’s bones. There were some lawyers present also, the experts in interpreting the Bible. And they said, “Master, you have insulted us also by your words.” And Jesus fearlessly flayed them also. They placed heavy burdens upon the laity but freed themselves from all obligation. They built tombs for the prophets which their fathers had murdered, thus consenting to the deeds of their fathers. And again we see the great responsibility which devolved upon that generation. He said that the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the beginning of the world, all the way from the blood of Abel down to the blood of Zechariah (2 Chron. 24:20-22), would be required of this generation. The lawyers had taken away the key of knowledge; they had not gone in themselves and they stopped those who were trying to go into the Kingdom.

It had not been a very pleasant dinner party for the Pharisees and Lawyers. After dinner they became very bitter and tried to draw Him out on many subjects, hoping to pounce upon some incriminating statement, whereby they might condemn Him.

For further denunciations of the Pharisees, cf. Matt. 23:4-36 and Mk. 12:38-40.

(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)








0 Dispensationalism


The Period of the Perean Ministry (Part 1)


As stated earlier, it is not possible to fit all of the events of Christ’s ministry into a perfect chronological order. Some writers end the Period of Retirement with Mark 9:50, and insert next a Judean Ministry beginning at Mk. 10:1 taking in the trip from Galilee to Jerusalem and continuing through the Feast of Tabernacles to the Feast of Dedication in John 10. Because the events at these two feasts are recorded only in John it is uncertain exactly where they fit into the Synoptic record. We are beginning the Perean Period with Christ’s final departure from Galilee and ending in His last appearance in Jerusalem. As will be seen the greater part of this period is covered only by Luke. Of the 43 topics in this section, only 9 are common to the Synoptics – 5 are found only in John, and 28 only in Luke.

Perea is not a scriptural name. It is the name used by Josephus to describe the district which the rabbis habitually referred to as “the land beyond Jordan,” which in the Greek is “peran tou Iordanou” (Matt. 4:15; 19:1). It was bounded by Pella in the north to Machaerus in the south and extended from the Jordan river on the west to the desert on the east. Perea was considered as a part of the land of Israel, along with Judea and Galilee and was under the same religious and political laws.

The Final Departure From Galilee

References: Matt. 19:1,2 cf. 8:18-22; Mk. 10:1; Lk. 9:51-62

Much of our Lord’s ministry was in Galilee, but now He is leaving Galilee behind and heading for the eventualities which will transpire in Jerusalem, although there still remains several months of ministry beyond Jordan. The chronology of this section is uncertain. Luke states that when the time had come for Him to be received up, He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem. But following this is the account of certain men who would follow Jesus, but only after they had taken care of other business. This same account is found in Matt. 8, which means that the passage is out of chronological order in either Matthew or Luke, or the same situation happened on two different occasions.

The Lord never made it easy to be a disciple. He reminded these men that even the animals have a place they can call home, but He didn’t own so much as a place to lay His head. We are not told whether the man changed his mind about following Jesus when he learned that. Then Jesus said to another, “Follow me,” but he asked for permission to wait until his father died and was buried, but Jesus said, “Let the dead bury their dead.” This sounds strange, for how could a dead person bury another dead person? Undoubtedly Jesus used “dead” in two different senses. The unsaved are spiritually dead. There are many jobs they can do as well or better than a saved person. The saved person should be sure he is doing God’s work first of all. Another man wanted to wait until he went back home and bid farewell to his friends and family. Many a person has thought of serving Christ, but after consulting with friends and relatives has been dissuaded. It is man’s nature either to be too forward (vs. 57), or too backward (vs. 59), or too undecided (vs. 61).

The Samaritans had no dealings with the Jews (John 4:9), so when Jesus sent His disciples to find lodging in the Samaritan village, they would not receive Him because He was going toward Jerusalem. James and John wanted to call down fire from heaven, and while the fire will fail some day, it was then the day of salvation and not of judgment.

1.     The Mission of the Seventy

Reference: Lk. 10:1-24

Jesus appointed these seventy disciples to go ahead of Him in pairs into every city and village He was going to visit to prepare the way for His coming. Just as the number twelve is significant in connection with Israel, so is the number seventy. Beginning with Jacob, there were seventy souls. that came forth out of his loins (Ex. 1:5). There were seventy elders in Israel (Ex. 24:1,9; Num. 11:16). Israel’s period of captivity in Babylon lasted seventy years (Jer. 25:11). Daniel prophesied that seventy weeks (of years) had been determined upon Israel (9:24 cf. vs. 2). And the ruling body in Israel, the Sanhedrin, was composed of seventy men. The Septuagint was supposedly translated by seventy scholars.

The commission of the seventy disciples was very similar to that of the Twelve, given in Matt. 10. They were to take no supplies with them; they were not to pass the time of day with people on their journey; they were to be entertained at a home that would receive them, and if no one received them they were to wipe the dust off their feet as a gesture of shame against that city and tell them to be sure of the fact that the Kingdom of God had come near unto them. Then Jesus berated the cities in which He had done His mightiest works, stating that they would suffer a sorer judgment than such wicked cities as Tyre and Sidon.

When the Seventy had finished their mission and had returned they were very happy, for they said that even the demons were subject to them through the name of Jesus. Jesus replied: “I was beholding (imperfect) Satan as lightning having fallen (aorist) from heaven.” This may refer to Satan’s original fall, but more likely to what had just been transpiring. While the Seventy were getting the victory over the servants of Satan, Christ was beholding Satan fall as a dazzling flash of light which was quickly extinguished. The divine protection against serpents and scorpions is similar to that given to the Apostles in the commission of Mk. 16:17,18. However, their greater cause of rejoicing was that their names were written in heaven. The disciples were honored above many kings and prophets who never had the privilege of seeing and hearing the things they were experiencing.

2.     The Good Samaritan

Reference: Lk. 10:25-37

The expressed purpose of this parable was to answer the question of the lawyer: “Who is my neighbor?,” and this should be the primary interpretation. The lawyer, one versed in the Mosaic law, was tempting Jesus, that is, trying to trip Him up. As usual, Jesus made His questioner answer his own question. It was most difficult for the Jewish lawyer to admit that a despised Samaritan was a better neighbor than a priest or Levite of the Jews, but that is what he had to admit and that is the primary teaching of the parable.

However, the parable has many applications, and Christians generally make only applications and never use it to teach the human relationship of neighborliness.

A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. Anyone who has visited Jerusalem knows that one literally goes down from Jerusalem, 2500 feet above sea level, to Jericho, 825 feet below sea level. The usual application of the parable makes the certain man who thus went down to represent Adam’s fall.

He was robbed of his innocence and righteousness, mortally wounded and left to die. The priest and the Levite who happened along, when they saw the dying man, passed by on the other side of the road. They represent the Law. The Law cannot forgive, or restore life; it can only condemn and put to death. That is the clear teaching of Paul’s epistles, especially Romans and Galatians.

But then a certain Samaritan came along, and came to where the dying man was, had compassion on him, treated his wounds and bandaged them, put him on his own beast of burden and brought him to the inn and took care of him. And when he left the next day, he gave the host money and promised upon his return to pay the entire bill for caring for this robbed and wounded man, who had no money to pay his own debts, and had no strength to take care of himself.

And in the application, Jesus, of course, is the good Samaritan. In fact, shortly before this incident the Jews had said: “Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan and hast a demon?” (John 8:48). Jesus is the only man who ever loved God with all His heart and His neighbor as Himself. He is the only good, really good, neighbor this world has ever had.

3.     The Visit to Martha and Mary

Reference: Lk. 10:38-42

We often hear of women’s societies in churches which call themselves the Martha Society, but seldom do we hear of a Mary Society, and yet Mary was the one who chose the better part. The inference might be made that Mary was an impractical kind who shirked her household duties; however, the text proves just the opposite. When Martha said: “Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone,” the verb, “hath left,” is in the aorist tense. “She did leave,” indicates that she had been helping until Jesus appeared. The text makes it plain that the house belonged to Martha and she was the one who invited and received Jesus under her roof and was responsible for providing the hospitality. We dare not condemn Martha for what she was doing, for she was doing her best to entertain Jesus in her home, and we can think of many things worse than that. But Martha did not have the spiritual discernment possessed by Mary. She was interested only in providing the outward, physical things for the enjoyment of her Guest, but Mary realized that the Guest had spiritual blessings to bestow, and so took time off from the physical preparations to become spiritually prepared.

The word “cumbered” is an interesting word. This word appears only twice in our A.V., here and in Lk. 13:7; however, they are entirely different words in the Greek. Here the verb means to be distracted. She was distracted from the person of Jesus by the many little chores which needed to be done.

The word “help” is also an unusual word. It is a compound of three words: “to take hold,” “together with,” “reciprocally,” so that Martha said: “Bid her therefore that she take hold and do her part together with me.” This word occurs only one other time, in Rom. 8:26, where we are told that the Spirit “helpeth” our infirmities; that is, the indwelling Holy Spirit takes hold of the heavy end of the load we are called upon to bear and thus helps us in our weakness.

4.     Healing of Man Born Blind

Reference: John 9:1-41

Here we would point out a few principles involved. The first is what we might call the mediate and the immediate cause of disease. Disease is the result of sin, and so naturally the disciples asked: “Who committed the sin which caused this man to be born blind, the man himself or his parents?” In saying that neither this man nor his parents sinned, Jesus did not mean that they had never committed sin, but that it was not their sin which caused the blindness. A man may commit a sin which is the immediate cause of disease, or it may be some defect which he has inherited mediately through his forebears. Ultimately all the sin and disease in the world came in a mediate way from Adam. But in this case Jesus said the man had been born blind that the works of God might be manifested in him. How little did he or his parents have any such concept until the day that Jesus worked this great miracle, for there was no case on record of the restoration of sight to a man born blind. There are doubtless cases today where God has permitted one to be diseased for this very same purpose, that God might do some work through him to bring glory to God, but apart from revelation it would be mere speculation to make such judgments today.

Actually this man was not the only blind person involved. The Jewish rulers in their hatred of Jesus were spiritually blind. They closed their eyes to every bit of evidence: refused to believe the man had been blind until his parents testified he was their son and although they didn’t know how he had received his sight they knew he had been blind from birth. Faced with this evidence they went back to the man and tried to make him confess that Jesus was a sinner. They accused him of being a disciple of this sinner Jesus, but claimed they were Moses’ disciples, and knew not where this Jesus came from. The man marvelled at the ignorance of the rulers: here is a Man restoring sight to the blind and the rulers don’t even know anything about Him. This answer enraged the rulers: “Are you who were born in sin trying to teach us?” And they cast him out.

Up to this point the only thing the man knew for certain was that whereas he was blind, now he could see. When Jesus had heard what the leaders had done, He found the man and asked if he believed on the Son of God, and he replied: “Who is he, Lord, that I might believe?” And Jesus revealed Himself to the man as the Son of God and he believed and worshipped Him. It has often been pointed out that if Jesus accepted the worship of man, and Jesus was not truly God manifested in the flesh, He was guilty of blasphemy and was the greatest imposter the world has ever seen.

In conclusion Jesus told the Pharisees, “For judgment I am come into the world.” He did not mean that He had come to judge the world, for He explicitly stated: “I came not to judge the world, but to save the world” (John 12:47). The original meaning of judgment was separation, such as dividing the sheep from the goats at the judgment of the nations. Thus, His coming into the world resulted in a judgment, a separation between those who believed on Him and those that rejected Him. Phillips catches the idea in his paraphrase: “My coming into this world is itself a judgment – those who cannot see have their eyes opened and those who think they can see become blind.” Some of the Pharisees overheard this and said: “So we’re blind too, are we?” “If you were blind,” returned Jesus, “nobody could blame you, but as you insist, ‘We can see,’ your guilt remains.”

5.     The Good Shepherd

Reference: John 10:1-21

The first five verses of this chapter constitute a parable, but the disciples did not understand what Jesus meant by the parable. In the verses that follow Jesus applies the parable to Himself as the Shepherd who enters in by the door, in contrast to all who came before Him, who climbed in by some other way and were thieves and robbers. Actually the expression “some other way” (vs. 1), means from some other quarter. It is a matter of origin. Christ had been insisting previously that He came from above, from heaven. The others had their origin from a different quarter: they were from the world. Christ is the door for the sheep. It is said that the shepherd, after bringing his flock into the fold, lies down at the entrance, so that any intruder would have to come in contact with him before getting at the sheep. He is thus both shepherd and door. The shepherd’s job is to lead his sheep in and out for pasture so that they might have abundance of life, as well as to protect them from danger. All of this is in contrast to the hirelings, the rulers or shepherds in Israel. Read the entire 34th chapter of Ezekiel for God’s appraisal of these false shepherds, and for God’s plan for the restoration of His flock and fold.

The interpretation of this portion belongs to Israel, as is evident from both the 34th and the 37th chapters of Ezekiel. The traditional interpretation makes the other sheep of vs. 16 to be the Gentiles, which are to be incorporated with Israel into the Church. This mistake has been partly due to a failure to recognize Old Testament prophecy and partly to the inaccurate rendering both in the Vulgate and the A.V. of the words for flock and fold. These two translations ignore the differences between these two words.

The A.V. entirely ignores the distinction between aule, fold, and poimne, flock. The latter word is found in Matt. xxvi. 31; Lk. ii. 8; 1 Cor. ix. 7, and always distinctly meaning a flock, as does also the diminutive poimnion, little flock (Lk. xii. 32; I Pet. v. 2, etc.). Render as Rev., one flock, one shepherd. So Tynd. Compare Ezek. xxxiv. 23. We are not, however, to say with Trench (‘Authorized Version of the New Testament’), that the Jew and the Gentile are the two folds which Christ will gather into a single flock. The heathen are not conceived as a fold but as a dispersion. ‘Nothing is said of one fold under the new dispensation’ (Wescott). It will readily be seen that the incorrect rendering fostered by the carelessness or the mistake of some of the Western fathers, and. by the Vulgate, which renders both words by ovile, fold, has been in the interest of Romish claims.28

Thus, vs. 16 should read: “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold (aules): them also I must lead out, and they shall become one flock (poimne), and one shepherd.”

The Gentiles are nowhere in Scripture represented as being a sheep fold. Instead, it is evident from Ezek. 37 in the sign of the two sticks, that Israel’s one fold became divided into two folds when the northern ten tribes split off from the southern two tribes and became two nations. The prophet was told to take two sticks and write the name of Judah on one and Ephraim on the other, and then to join the two sticks together into one stick. This was a sign of what God was going to do:

Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: and I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel: and one king shall be king to them all; and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all;… And David my servant shall be king over them, and they shall have one shepherd…and the heathen (Gentiles) shall know that I the Lord do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore (Ezek. 37:21,22,24,28).

Here the one shepherd is over the two folds of Israel which have been united into one flock in contrast to the Gentiles. By refusing to interpret literally the Old Testament prophecies and by refusing to recognize the mystery character of the Body of Christ which had not been revealed while Christ was on earth, traditional theologians have applied this passage in John to the Gentiles of the present era. The great blunder of the Church has ever been to identify itself with Israel, appropriating to itself the Israel promises, and leaving only the curses to the Israel to whom the promises were made.

While it is true that Jesus is Israel’s Good Shepherd who gave His life for His sheep, we know that at the same time God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself. Here we need to distinguish between the dispensational and the doctrinal aspects of Christ’s life and ministry.

In laying down His life, Christ made it plain that no man could take His life from Him. He had the power to lay it down and to take it again. This is another evidence of His Deity. The truth of John 9:39 is seen again, in that His words caused a division among the Jews, some claiming He was demon possessed and others asking if a demon could open the eyes of one born blind.

(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)








0 Dispensationalism


Final Period of the Galilean Ministry (Continue)

13. Discipline in the Church and Forgiveness
Reference: Matt. 18:15-35

This is the second time in Matthew that Christ has spoken about His Church. As we have seen in ch. 16:18,19, this Church is associated with the Messianic Kingdom. While it is true that the Kingdom had not yet been established, Christ was in the process of calling out His people for that Kingdom, and that is the meaning of the word “church,” a called out company. The rules He gives here for dealing with a sinning brother are similar to Paul’s instructions for members of the Body of Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 5:3-5; 6:1-5; Gal. 6:1; I Tim. 5:19,20). The binding and loosing on earth and in heaven means that the results of such scriptural proceedings here on earth are approved in heaven. It should be remembered that the Lord was addressing His apostles who were to be judges in Israel.

This fact needs to be remembered also in connection with the promise, “If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.” This prayer promise cannot be isolated from all of the other promises and instruction which Christ gave to His Kingdom apostles. Christians may make two serious mistakes about prayer. One is taking in an unqualified manner the prayer promises for the Kingdom and applying them to the present divine economy, and the other is isolating one particular promise from all of the others. We do not believe that Jesus ever intended to leave the impression that His disciples could ask anything for themselves in prayer without any qualifications whatsoever, with the promise that the Father would grant their request. We have record of a number of things which the disciples asked, which were not only refused, but the disciples were rebuked for asking such things (cf. Matt. 20:21,22; Lk. 9:54). Our Lord laid down several conditions for prayer. It had to be in His name, and that involved more than merely tacking on those three magic words at the end of the prayer. The disciples had to abide in Him and His words abide in them (John 14:13; 15:7). James, who was a Kingdom disciple, surely didn’t believe in unconditional prayer promises (cf. Jas. 1:5-7; 4:3). John likewise lays down conditions (cf. I John 3:20- 22; 5:14). And we surely find no so-called unconditional prayer promises in Paul’s letters to members of the Body of Christ.

This section ends with a discourse on how often we should forgive a brother who sins against us. Peter thought seven times was sufficient, but the Lord said, “Seventy times seven.” The Lord reinforced this teaching with the parable of the King who freely forgave his servant an enormous debt of 10,000 talents, and then the self- same servant refused to forgive his fellow-servant a paltry debt of 100 pennies and had him cast into prison. We cannot estimate the magnitude of the debt of sin which we owed to God and which He has freely forgiven through the death of His Son; therefore we should “forgive one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven us” (Eph. 4:32). Does the command that we forgive mean that we must forgive in a sort of automatic way? Luke gives these words of Jesus which show that forgiveness is conditioned upon repentance: “if thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him” (Lk. 17:4). This is a most important principle which many people forget. God does not forgive unless there is a change of mind on the part of the sinner, and He does not ask us to forgive those who wrong us and who remain adamant in their sin.

14. Christ Attends The Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem
Reference: John 7:1-52

In the introduction to this lesson one is reminded of Joseph and his brothers in the Old Testament, for they did not believe in Joseph, even as the brethren of Jesus did not believe in Him (“not believe” is imperfect – they were habitually unbelieving). They urged Him to leave Galilee and go to the feast in Jerusalem and show his works openly if He was what He claimed to be. But Jesus would not go into Judea, for He knew the Jews there were seeking to kill Him. He let His brothers go up to the feast first and then He went up rather secretly. The Jews at the feast were all looking for Him and inquiring about Him and expressing their beliefs and disbeliefs concerning Him. Then in the middle of the feast which lasted seven days (Lev. 23:34), and came in early autumn, He entered the temple and began teaching. This resulted in many questions being raised by the crowds. “How is it that this unschooled man has such learning?” “Isn’t this the man whom they seek to kill? But lo, he speaks boldly and they say nothing to him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Messiah?” “What is he talking about: Ye shall seek me and not find me; and where I am ye cannot come? Where will he go that we cannot find him? Will he go to the dispersed Jews among the Gentiles and teach the Gentiles?”

Jesus answered some of their questions and asked some of His own. He told them that His learning, His knowledge, His doctrine was not His own, but God’s who had sent Him. He asked, “Why are you plotting to kill me?” They said: “No one’s plotting to kill you; you must be demon possessed.” Jesus asked: “You circumcise a man on the sabbath day that the law of Moses be not broken, then why are you angry at me because I have completely restored to health a man on the sabbath?”

The culmination came on the last day of the feast, which was the most important day. Edersheim, an authority on Jewish antiquities, graphically describes the liturgy performed on that day, which greatly enhances the Scriptural account. Space does not permit quoting all of the preliminary celebrations, sacrifices, chanting of Psalms by the priests, etc. The priest had filled his golden pitcher with water when the temple procession had reached the Pool of Siloam and then returned to the temple to pour out the water at the altar. Edersheim states:

We can have little difficulty in determining at what part of the services of the last day, the Great Day of the Feast, Jesus stood and cried: If anyone thirst let him come unto me and drink! It must have been with special reference to the ceremony of the outpouring of the water, which as we have seen, was considered the central part of the service. Moreover, all would understand that His words must refer to the Holy Spirit, since the rite was universally regarded as symbolical of His outpouring. The forthpouring of the water was immediately followed by the chanting of the Hallel. But after that there must have been a short pause to prepare for the festive sacrifices (the Musaph). It was then, immediately after the symbolic rite of water-pouting, immediately after the people had responded by repeating those lines from Psalm cxviii given thanks, and prayed that Jehovah would send salvation and prosperity, and had shaken their lulabh towards the altar, thus praising with the heart, the mouth, the hands, and then silence had fallen upon them – that there arose, so loud as to be heard throughout the Temple, the Voice of Jesus. He interrupted not the services, for they had for the moment ceased: He interpreted, and He fulfilled them.

What an electrifying sight that must have been, as that Voice rang out in the midst of this great celebration: “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (and John explains “this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified”). There was a mixed reaction among the multitudes. Some said, “Of a truth this is the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” But others objected: “Will the Christ come out of Galilee? Doesn’t the scripture state that the Christ will come of the seed of David and from Bethlehem?” And there was a division and the ones who had been sent to arrest Him returned empty-handed to the chief priests, who asked, “Why did you not bring him?” and they answered, “Never man spake like this man.” Whereupon the Pharisees replied, “Are you also deceived? Have any of the Pharisees believed on him? The common people don’t know the Law; they are accursed.” But there was one Pharisee who secretly believed on Him and he enquired, “Does our law judge any man before it has heard him and knows what he has done?” Nicodemus who had interviewed Jesus at night in secret, and who had been a secret believer, later came openly with Joseph of Arimathea and begged for the body of Jesus from Pilate and prepared the body of Jesus for burial (John 19:38-42). One who is a true believer cannot remain in silence and secrecy forever. When the crisis arises he must speak out and declare his faith.

Jesus’ time had not yet come and the Sanhedrin was again thwarted in their attempts to take Him and put Him to death.

15. The Woman Taken in Adultery
Reference: John 7:53-8:11

After the feast of Tabernacles we read that “they went every man to his own house, but Jesus went unto the Mount of Olives,” where He spent the night and early in the morning He crossed back over the Kidron valley to the Temple and sat down and taught the crowds of people which surrounded Him. The scribes and Pharisees, still looking for some trick whereby they might catch Jesus in their trap, had found a woman who was guilty of adultery and felt sure if they brought her to Jesus, and He let her off with perhaps a rebuke instead of sticking to the law of Moses and inflicting the death penalty on her, they could accuse Him of violating the Law.

It would be interesting to know what it was that Jesus wrote with His finger on the stone floor as He stooped down, while they continued asking Him. Perhaps He hesitated just long enough to make these religious bigots think they had surely trapped Him this time. But then He looked up and said, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” How quickly Jesus had turned the tables on them. They all knew they were sinners, and that was one of the reasons they wanted to get rid of Jesus, because of His preaching against sin. Who of them would have the gall to pick up a stone and hurl at the woman, when everyone in the crowd knew he was guilty of sin, perhaps the very sin of which they were accusing this poor woman.

And so the crowd evaporated, beginning with the oldest, leaving Jesus alone with the woman. It is most instructive to see the divine wisdom with which He then dealt with the woman. “Where are your accusers? Didn’t any man condemn you?” He asked. “No man, Lord,” she replied. Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn thee. Go and sin no more.” If we had been dealing with the woman we probably would have preached a long sermon to her, telling her what an awful sinner she was and thus humiliate her as much as possible. But the woman knew she was a great sinner and that she had come very near to being stoned to death, but she had been saved by the gracious and loving act of Christ, and although we are not told, it is our belief that this woman never again became involved in this sex sin.

Jesus did not condone her sin. It was not His business to enforce the law. He merely showed that the rulers whose duty it was to enforce it, were all as guilty as the woman, and therefore unable to enforce it, because the law required at least two witnesses and none remained to prosecute her.

16. Discourse on The Light of the World
Reference: John 8:12-30

Jesus calls Himself “the Light of the World.” Light is a characteristic term in John’s Gospel and in his first Epistle it portrays the manifestation of the life of God in the person of Jesus. John the Baptist was called a burning and shining light (John 5:35), but there the word is “luchnos,” a lamp. Here the word is “phos.” In John 1:7,8, it is said of John: “The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Phos that all men through him might believe. He (John) was not that Phos, but was sent to bear witness of the Phos.” John was a luchnos, a hand held oil lamp, lighted by Another, in whose brightness men might rejoice for a season and which would ultimately be extinguished. Christ is the True Phos (John 1:9), in antithesis to John, the Eternal Light which never needed to be kindled and which will never be extinguished. Light occurs 23 times in John’s Gospel. God is light essentially (1 John 1:5), and in Him is no darkness, the opposite of Phos. Paul says that whatever makes manifest is light (Eph. 5:13). Light is an emanation which requires an organ adapted for its reception. Light is not apprehended where there is no eye or there is blindness. Man is naturally incapable of receiving spiritual light because as a sinner he lacks the capacity for spiritual truth.

It is illuminating to note that Jesus spoke these words in the Treasury, where there were four golden candelabra, with four golden bowls filled with oil, which were lighted on the first night of the Feast. This may have provided the backdrop for Jesus’ words. Isaiah in four places speaks of the coming Messiah as the Light (cf. 9:2; 42:6; 49:6; 60:1-3). Malachi calls Him “the Sun of righteousness who will arise with healing in his wings,” (4:2). “Wings” refers to the sun’s rays.

This discourse is one of the clearest defenses which Jesus made for His Deity. As the Light of the world He was one with the Father, for only God is Light. He claimed that even if He did bear witness of Himself, His witness was true. He knew where He came from, from the Father, and where He was going. He said He was going to a place where they could not come. He said He was from above, and unless they believed He is the “I am” they would die in their sins. The translators have added “he” to the “I am.” But “I AM” is the covenant name of God in the Old Testament (Ex. 3:14 cf. also John 8:28,58; 13:19; and 18:6). Who else but the great I Am could say, “If ye believe not that I Am, ye shall die in your sins?”

17. The Discourse on True Freedom
Reference: John 8:31-59

The last verse of the preceding section stated: “As he spake these things, many believed on him.” The first verse of this section states: “Jesus then said to those Jews which believed on him.” The A.V. has missed the distinction in the Greek. The latter statement should read: “The Jews which believed him.” There is a difference between believing on and simply believing. Within this group which believed Him were some which truly believed on Him. The following context brings out this fact. He told them if they continued in His word, they would be His disciples indeed. And as we continue, we see these very ones who believed Him arguing that they were Abraham’s seed and had never been in bondage to any one, although they had been in bondage to the four great world empires, Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece, and now Rome. And finally Jesus has to tell them that instead of having Abraham as their father, the Devil is their father. (Refer back to our comments on John 2:23-25.)

Then the Jews called Him a demon-possessed Samaritan. When Jesus claimed that one who kept His saying would never see death, the Jews responded: “Now we know you have a demon. Abraham and all the prophets are dead. Are you greater than Abraham who is dead?” Jesus replied, “Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad.” “Why, you are not fifty years old and have you seen Abraham?” they responded. Then Jesus made another claim to Deity: “Before Abraham was, I AM.” By this time some of these who had previously believed Him took up stones to kill Him, but Jesus hid Himself, slipping through the multitude, and went out of the temple.

The freedom and bondage Jesus spoke about had no reference to political or physical conditions, but to sin and deliverance from it. Israel had been promised both political and spiritual freedom, but the spiritual had to be experienced first, and they are here rejecting it. The unsaved today boast to being free men, just as the Jews did, but Jesus says they are bondslaves. Only those who have been delivered from the guilt and power of sin are sons, and therefore free.

Universal Reconciliationists who teach that ultimately every created intelligence, including the Devil, will be reconciled to God, in reality make God to be the author of sin and therefore justice demands that He finally save everyone. They base this teaching partly on John 8:44, where Jesus stated that the Devil was a murderer “from the beginning.” They make this to mean that the Devil was created as a devil; that he was always a devil from the very beginning of creation.

But there is more than one beginning in the Bible. John 1:1 says that the Word was in existence at the beginning, and that beginning goes back before the first creative acts of God. There was a beginning of the creation of the heavens and the earth. But the beginning of John 8:44 cannot be that earlier beginning, for the word “murderer” is actually in the original, “manslayer.” There could be no manslayer until there was a man to slay. Therefore the beginning from which the Devil was a manslayer was the beginning of the human race. This does not prove that Satan was not the Devil before he caused the human race to fall, but it does destroy the argument that the Devil was created as a Devil.

And besides, there are numerous passages which speak of the fall of Satan (Lk. 10:18; Isa. 14:12; Ezek. 28:15). The teaching of Jesus that these unbelieving Jews were of their father, the Devil, contradicts the liberal’s teaching of the universal Fatherhood of God. God is presented in the Bible as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and as the Father of all who believe and have thereby been born again into the family of God.

(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)