The Way of True Faith

Luke 18

 

Tom J. Nettles

 

In the immediately preceding context, Jesus has given urgent exhortation supported by graphic illustration that one must always be ready for the consummation of the Kingdom of God through the glorious return of the Son of Man. Jesus already had inaugurated his kingdom [17:21] by invoking repentance, faith, and gratitude. His work has been with the lowly and the few and must be sealed by his utter rejection by the mighty and the many. This rejection provides the occasion for his substitutionary death [17:25].  Christ’s coming in glory will occur without preceding warning and be welcomed only by those whose lives day by day cherish the hope of his coming [17:22-37; cf. 1 Thess 1:10; 5:1-11, 23, 24; 2 Thess 1:1-10]

Ø       Times of distress will make Christians long for “one of the days of the Son of Man;” They desire his presence, whether in that present state of humiliation or the glory of Christ’s return  22

Ø       None, however, can point out that time of his return or show the signs of it 17:23, 24.

Ø       This present appearance of the Son of Man must end in his death and rejection; 17:25

Ø       His glorious coming will be sudden interrupting the flow of everyday life – 26-30

Ø       His coming will seal the eternal state of all living in the same way that death has sealed the state of who have died before [recall the rich man and Lazarus] 31 ff

Ø       Three times [17:25, 26, 30] Jesus points to his glorious return. He uses “day” twice [24, 30] to refer to the moment of his glorious appearing and the plural “days” [26] once to refer to the span of time in this present age immediately preceding his return.

Ø       When the disciples ask “Where, Lord?” Jesus used a vivid image of a phenomenon of nature, vultures gathering around a corpse, to show that those whose earnest expectation and hope centers on the glory of Christ will be immediately drawn to him at his glorious return.

Ø       Now the unasked  question that Jesus answers in the next chapter is, “What are the characteristics of those that will delight to be gathered to him at his coming?”

 

 

I                      Be assured of Justice for the Elect Luke 17: 1-8

A       The Parable of the unjust judge – Jesus obviously was a master of parables that served to give barbs to spiritual truth. He could use perfect illustrations for he knew both heaven and earth perfectly. His projection of the analogous nature of earthly things, events, and relationships to their heavenly counterpart could never be duplicated by any other teacher. This parable is one to be seen as gaining its power through reverse proportions. Unlike the unjust judge who will be moved only by the interruption of his comfort through the persistent nagging of a discomfited widow, the Lord will with joy and thoroughness answer the prayers of his chosen ones.

B        Jesus will bring about justice for his elect – Jesus came to procure for them by his death all the spiritual blessings promised to them through his representation in the eternal covenant [Titus 1:1-3; Ephesians 1:3, Hebrews 13:20, 21] in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Their requests of him arise from his call and blessing of them. They are not imposing on him but ask from him the things that he is delighted to give as the great overflow of his intrinsic goodness.

C        True faith, however, is rare. Jesus asked rhetorically, if when his day came, would he find faith on the earth. He then demonstrated through parable and through his response to the events that quickly followed why it is possible that true faith will be a rare thing, because left to ourselves it is an impossible thing.

II                    A Mark of true faith is that one mourns his unrighteousness 9-14

A       A great danger lies in comparing our lives with those we consider worse than we. 9-11. As we pointed out in the last lesson, a major problem in the human interaction with the divine is our misappropriation of law and gospel. Jesus gives a very specific instance of this in this story. If our point of comparison for judging our righteousness is another person, we misunderstand that we will not be judged in comparison with others, bu5t with our conformity to the Law of God. “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them” [Gal 3:10]

B        A Great danger lies in thinking that performance of religious activities fits us for heaven. The Pharisee felt that because he was righteous because he evaluated his life by his having the law and maintaining a superficial conformity to its words; the outside of the cup was clean but not the inside. At one time, Paul considered himself righteous because of this external codified behavior, but did not see the internal corruption until the true meaning of “Thou shalt not covet” pierced his conscience. [Romans 7:7-9; Philippians 3:6-9). Paul also talks about those that go about to establish a righteousness of their own and thus miss the righteousness of God [Romans 10:1-4].

C        True knowledge of self involves no comparison with others but isolation of self before God’s character 13  The tax collector knew that before God he could boast of no righteousness but could only ask for mercy. In himself, he was sinful and under condemnation; his only hope rested in a God who had a way to give mercy to sinners.

D        The conclusion. The penitent was justified; the exalter-of-his-own-righteousness will find reason enough for humiliation in hell. If, when Jesus comes again, and finds faith on the earth, it will be because some have discovered their personal emptiness of any claim to merit.

III                  A Mark of true faith is that one is unvarnished in his trust and humility 15-17

A       This event contrasts with the parable by focusing on those who have no social pretensions at all. The disciples had just heard this parable, but rather than hearing it fruitfully, took the part of the Pharisee in acting as if some were in too mean a status to take up the time of Jesus. If their judgment became the basis of who could come to Christ, then none would ever come, for he is above all of us; but we must have one that is indeed above all of us if we are to have an acceptable mediator. If one were to exclude the contemptible and unworthy, then neither children nor adults could come to Jesus; But Jesus welcomes all that come without any pretensions to worthiness but approach him with a sense of delight in his kindness and goodness.

B        It points to the trait of weakness and the necessity of being brought by another – We cannot come on our own strength, but must be shown Christ and his worthiness by the Holy Spirit. He alone can bring us to Christ, having destroyed all our pretension of worthiness.

C        We see the joyful willingness of the Lord Jesus to receive those that are thus brought to him in transparent weakness, utterly unpretentious about any personal accomplishment, for they have none to tout. The kingdom of God is being populated by those that have been given spiritually these particular qualities that are seen in children in their immediate personal relationships.

D        It does not establish an ordinance or justify infant baptism.

IV                  A Mark of True Faith is that one knows that the Law condemns him  18:18-27

A       18-21 -Luke continues with these events that show how Jesus dealt with the Law. The Ruler knew the law but missed its true import by contending that he had kept it

B        22, 23 - He failed to see the covetousness of his life

C        24, 25 - He desired his wealth more than he desired eternal life

D        26, 27 - Earthly riches are deceptive and a great hindrance to true faith

V                    A Mark of true faith is that one values the kingdom of God above all things 28-30

A       Some will leave earthly possessions and relations for the sake of the kingdom

B        They will receive an abundance more in their relations in the kingdom

VI                  True Faith finds its object of trust in the passion of Christ  31-34

A       Jesus calls to mind that the Scripture requires his death. He gave them details about what would happen, so that when their minds were open they would realize that he was not taken by the power of anyone, but freely yielded himself to the Will of god, the word of Scripture, and to the necessities of the curse of the Law.

B        The disciples still do not grasp the significance of this. God did not open their minds to understand the relation of the death of Jesus to the fulfillment of the Law.

VII                A mark of true faith is that one cannot be deterred from coming to Christ 35-43

A       A blind man has  no way to misapprehend his debility

B        When a blind man finds that there is hope for sight, nothing is more important

C        Social pressure and scorn mean nothing to a blind man who knows that healing is within reach

D        This blind man trusted not just Jesus healing powers, but submitted to his majesty and lordship