Lesson for April 29, 2012
The background for this week is massive. The texts emphasize the necessity for humility before God [Luke 14:7-12], repentance from sin and an unwavering clinging to Christ as the sinner’s only hope [Luke 13:1-8; 14:25-33], the hardness of heart of sinners [Luke 13:14, 22-35], and the necessity of God’s aggressiveness in getting sinners into the Kingdom [Luke 13:10-17; 14:12-24], and the fact that his aggressive salvific action is not only a display of power and authority but of exuberant and costly grace [13:10-17; all of 15]. I will give a brief out line of chapter 15 before giving attention to the focal passage of Luke 16:13-31. In fact, I assume that the entire chapter of Luke 16 is necessary for a proper understanding of the story of the Rich man and Lazarus. The discussion suggestions and outline of that passage will be in a different sized and style font. Tom J. Nettles
Luke 15 - God Seeks Sinners
Sinners [“the poor crippled, blind, and lame.” 14:21] came to hear Jesus. The Pharisees [those who had excused themselves from the banquet] grumbled because Jesus received sinners. Jesus corrected them by illustrating that he not only receives but seeks and finds sinners. They drew near to hear [14:35].
I The Lost Sheep 1-7
A A sheep goes astray and is lost
B The shepherd seeks him until he finds him
C The shepherd brings home the sheep rejoicing
D All those at home rejoice with him
E That is what heaven is like when a sinner repents [cf. Luke 13:3]
F Clearly Jesus, according to the image used in other passages [e.g. John 10] Jesus is the shepherd that goes after this sheep and will not come home until he finds him. “He will save his people from their sins”
II The Lost Coin 8-10
A A coin is lost
B The woman scours the house until it is found
C Her neighbors rejoice with her
D That is what heaven is like when a sinner repents [cf. Luke 13:5]
III The Lost Sons
A The story is about a man and two sons. 11
B The younger Son – The outcasts of Israel and by extension, the Gentiles, probably
1 Squandered an inheritance and became utterly destitute – Every evidence of the goodness of God has been ignored and God has given them up to even more shocking displays of sin and self-destruction
2 Returned to his senses and understood the source of survival
3 Knew that he had forfeited all claim to acceptance
4 Returned under those circumstances
C The Father
1 Has already freely provided all things
2 Permits the willful ruin of the younger Son
3 Welcomes him back with more elaborate gifts than when he left
D The Older Son – Jews [this seems to be the stress of the parable]
1 Lived in the Father’s house and under the benefits of his resourcefulness and does not realize the benefits of his position
2 Has no love for the younger brother, but only resents his return and the acceptance he receives
3 Cannot appreciate the winsome graciousness of his Father and thus never really enjoys the blessings set before him
IV Jesus emphases
A Jesus reaffirms that he is come to the outcasts [demonstration of Luke 4:18ff]
B The unity of all humanity: all were sheep, all were coins, the two were brothers
1 We are all alike sinful Romans 3
2 All must be converted in the same way Galatians 2
C The Aggressiveness of God in salvation
D The absolute freeness of salvation from our standpoint
E The centrality of the message of repentance Luke 3:3-9 for this emphasis as a major theme of Luke
The Transcendence of Immanence
Transcendence - The independence and self-sufficiency of the divine in its relation to any created thing and its infinite natural superiority in glory and worth
Immanence – The intimate involvement of the divine in every created thing so that creation’s true character and worth may be understood only in terms of divine involvement
II. The Intrinsic Power of Wealth – A transcendent use for a perishable commodity; material things with eternal significance
A. A shrewd manipulation of wealth for temporal advantage 1-8
Ø When charges are brought against this steward of another man’s property, the steward, or manager, does not deny the charge of mishandling the money.
Ø He recognized how important his immediate concerns of comfort were. He thought to himself as a vital part of his planning, “I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’
Ø He used his knowledge of people’s love of money and adjusted the books to give them an advantage and at the same time make for a quicker collection for his master. Knowing his own love for money, he also knows that the debtors look upon money as prestige, pleasure, and power and he lures them into an indebtedness by his releasing them of a significant portion of their debt, thus restoring to them some freedom.
Ø His master recognized his shrewdness and commended him. We are not told that this meant he retained his job or was still dismissed; either way he had cleared a path for a secure future.
Ø Jesus Himself commended this shrewdness and admonished his followers to realize how something like money can be used for eternal value as well as temporal value. 8b, 9 - “For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.” The steward knew that money could be turned into esteem and gratitude and comfort. It represented emotional and relational ties. Even so, it may establish opportunities for the propagation of the gospel.
Ø We must resist the temptation to over-spiritualize the central fact of money in this parable. This is an issue dealt with in many other places in the New Testament, that God uses the sincere generosity of his people in their material possessions to make way for spiritual blessings both for themselves and for others. [Look at 2 Corinthians 8:1-7; 9:6-15; Galatians 6:6-10; Philippians 4:10-20; Philemon 17-22; 3 John 5-8] The application that Jesus makes to the parable reinforces the fact that he really is talking about money in this parable.
One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
B. We must learn the proper use of wealth for eternal advantage 10-13
Ø The “very little” [that is, money, which compared to the goal of living for eternity is indeed, a very little thing] nevertheless demands faithfulness. Jesus does not say that we are to have nothing to do with money, but that it is a test of the true affection of our heart.
Ø The “Much,” the “true”, “your own” is imperishable eternal blessings. Our faithfulness in the perishable, those things that in themselves are morally neutral but take on moral implications through our use of them, gives evidence that the imperishable and truly righteous gifts of our inheritance in heaven are the true center of our affections. [1 Peter 2:3,4]
Ø We must use shrewdness in the use of wealth for it too is given by God as a mean of displaying his glory.
Ø Devotion to God does not mean an abandonment of our relation to creation and society but a purposeful redemption of it.
C. Improper View of Material wealth shows a perverseness in our understanding of the spirituality of the Law 16:14-18
Ø Pharisees affection set on money and public esteem, not true righteousness 14, 15 – The Pharisees had developed a system of casuistry in which they justified their retaining their material possessions to themselves and gave only enough to make a show for the impression of men. The only righteousness they desired was the appearance of it in the eyes of men, including their own eyes, but in doing this they missed the righteousness of God [See Romans 10:1-13]
Ø Their attempt to enter the kingdom apart from a proper understanding of the Law shows their worldly-mindedness and unrighteousness 16, 17 – Since the Pharisees did not rightly understand the Law and the prophets, they did not rightly understand the preaching of repentance in John the Baptizer. Despite their zealous attempts to enter the kingdom of heaven in their own way, by their own energy, their failure to see the true and perfect righteousness called for by the Law makes them come short. They cannot enter the kingdom, no matter what kind of force they use, unless they find a perfect fulfillment of the Law. This comes only in the death and resurrection of Jesus [See Romans 4:22-25]
Ø The adultery law is stated to remind them of their casuistry arising from their willingness to place human tradition over divine intent 18 [cf MT 19]
D. Illustration of Unity between material wealth and spiritual understanding 16:19-31 – This is clearly a parable about the Pharisees and their love of money and their refusal to hear the message of “Moses and the Prophets.”
Ø The rich man had no compassion thus indicating no understanding of the Law; note the elaborate description of his life verse 19;
Ø Lazarus, a fellow human in great need [again an illustration of how love for neighbor indicates a love for God], and not even isolated to a remote location, but at the very gate of the rich man.
Ø His need did not even call for any extraordinary effort, but only a conserving of those things unused by the rich man.
Ø Jesus refers to dogs and crumbs from a table in Matthew 15. Perhaps he intends to indicate that these dogs that licked the sores of Lazarus were owned by the rich man and ate the crumbs from the table that could have sustained the life of Lazarus. The dogs show greater kindness to Lazarus than does the rich man. 21
Ø Both entered into eternity, Lazarus into the place where the true children of Abraham go, the rich man to hell and immediately was in torment. Part of the torment of hell will be the vision of the bliss of heaven and the knowledge of the specific nature of the sins that justly have landed the unregenerate in the tormenting flame.
Ø His misery made him ask for a special intervention
1. He wanted relief, and for the despised Lazarus to provide it; but hell is a place of no mercy.
2. The emphasis on “received” shows that the condition of each in their earthly lifetime was a result of divine providence. The rich man received his riches by providence. Riches are not the result of godliness, and God does not necessarily give wealth to those that are his chosen. Lazarus, an elect child of Abraham, was the most miserable of the poor, yet blessed with spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ Jesus [1 Corinthians 1:27-29; Ephesians 1:3, 4]
3. After death there is no transition from one place to another. Jesus is not indicating that some in heaven may actually wish to transfer to hell. He is emphasizing that these final places of gracious reward on the one hand and deserved punishment on the other are so instituted in the moral order established by God that, one the one hand, punishment can never be completed for those that justly suffer for their sins, and, on the other, the delight that God takes in those that are redeemed by the merits of His Son must have an eternal expression of ever-increasing pleasure. No termination, therefore, can ever be possible for the manifestation of divine justice and grace can never be exhausted.
4. The truth already is present to every child of Abraham in the Law and Prophets. 27-30. A resurrection from the dead will not produce a more powerful external or revelatory impetus for repentance from sin and walking humbly with God. The call to repentance is not simply a matter of piling up greater and greater external evidence bit by bit, but is a matter of having ears to hear what is already present in the revelation of God’s holy purpose in the Law. It is a school master to drive us to Christ, to convince us of the need for redemption, to lead us to seek refuge in the mercies of God, and not to insult his justice by acting as if we match its holy requirement.
Ø Again, Jesus indicates that a person that does not rightly receive the Law cannot receive the Gospel 31
E. In 17:1-10, Jesus gives examples of the attitude that characterizes true conformity to the Law of God and the Message of the prophets.
Ø Care for God’s children – We will never want to be the reason for the spiritual hurt of one of those for whom Christ has died [cf. Romans 14:13-23]
Ø attitude toward sin – We must maintain a willingness both the rebuke sin and grant forgiveness upon repentance
Ø true faith – In light of the context, Jesus has something much greater in mind than the removal of a mulberry bush. HE is talking about the impossibility of faith in our natural condition and that genuine repentance and forgiveness are gifts that come from God that involve an expression of his merciful omnipotence [Ephesians 1:19ff]
Ø servant spirit – In contrast to the Pharisees, true faith never has a spirit of entitlement, or desert.