Luke 6:37-42 Getting a clear view

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Some people are good at pointing out the faults of others.  Christians may appeal to Scripture as a ground for doing this.  But often such people have very little perception of their own faults and may resent anyone who points them out.  What does the Lord have to say about this?  We turn now to consider Luke 6:37-42 Getting a clear view.

1. Sinful judging

Jesus continues to expound the kind of open-hearted, merciful lifestyle that should characterise disciples: ‘Do not judge and you will not be judged’ (v37).  How is this consistent with passages that expect Christians to exercise their critical faculties?  In 1 Corinthians 5 Paul commands the church to deal with immorality and asks, ‘Are you not to judge those inside?’ (v12).  Note also Galatians 1:6-9.  These are cases of the church (especially leaders) exercising biblical discernment, together with corrective discipline.  In Luke 6:37ff Jesus deals with interpersonal relationships and forbids unjust or hypocritical judging of others that involves a critical and self-righteous spirit – a fault-finding attitude.  Hence he says, ‘Do not condemn and you will not be condemned’ – we may be condemned by men, but we will ultimately be condemned by God.  By not judging or condemning we show that we have been changed by grace.  ‘Give…’ (v38) requires open-hearted generosity that results in abundant blessing – ‘A good measure, pressed down’.  The principle of God’s dealings with us is ‘with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.’

2. Wise leadership

The ‘parable’ of v39 about a blind man leading a blind man is puzzling.  The issue is leadership in the spiritual realm.  It is folly for someone lacking spiritual understanding and vision to lead others.  This is especially true of any with responsibilities of leadership in Christ’s church.  So that both do not ‘fall into a pit’ spiritual blindness must be addressed so that the leader will be like his teacher, Christ.  He is to be ‘fully trained’ (v40) – like the nets of Mark 1:19, ready for fruitful work.  First, sin must be dealt with, removing the cause of spiritual blindness.  That fits the context of what follows in v41-42.  When forgiveness is received, the barrier of sin is taken away.  Then we are ‘fully trained’, ready for service, like our teacher.  That is to be the desire of every disciple.

3. Blatant hypocrisy

In v41-42 Jesus continues his instruction concerning clear sightedness regarding our own sins and failures.  There is a place in the church for dealing with the faults of members (see Galatians 6:1 ‘restore him gently’), but the danger of hypocrisy is real.  Jesus uses hyperbole – exaggerated, not literal, language to drive home his point.  The language of ‘speck…plank’ (v41) is vivid, with an element of humour to teach a serious lesson.  A believer offers ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye’ (v42), possibly well-motivated, but ‘you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye’ – ignoring one’s own greater sins and failings.  Our concern should first be our own sins, lest we be hypocrites.  We seek God’s grace in forgiveness, then in love ‘you will see clearly’.  It is a call to Spirit-led self-assessment and repentance.

Luke 6:27-36 Radical Love

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If someone disrespects us, slanders us, ill-treats us or even attacks us, our first reaction may well be to strike back, to repay in kind, perhaps to exceed the original offence.  Individuals and communities can be driven by the desire for revenge for wrongs suffered, real or imaginary.  Jesus shows that the attitude of a disciple is radically different.  We turn now to consider Luke 6:27-36 Radical love.

1. Loving enemies

The teaching many of Jesus’ hearers had received was ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy’ (see Matthew 5:43) – attractive in an occupied country.  Jesus’ command is therefore radical – ‘Love your enemies’ (v27).  He reinforces the point – ‘do good to those who hate you,’ (v27-28).  Disciples are not only to refrain from harming – they are to do positive good.  This requires a mindset shaped by the grace of God.  In the context of abuse suffered because of the Son of Man’ (v22), in view chiefly is persecution for Jesus’ sake.  The response of believers to the world’s hatred is to be ‘Love your enemies’.  It can also be applied in a secondary sense to personal enemies.  By grace the Christian is to ‘Love…do good…bless…pray’.  Do we take literally turning the other cheek (v27) or giving to whoever asks (v30)?  Will we not then be impoverished and exploited?  These are best seen as examples of Jesus’ vivid dramatic statements often used in teaching.  Jesus is requiring a generous spirit, a readiness to forgive, not a willingness to be abused or exploited.

2. Excelling sinners

In v32ff the Lord draws a stark contrast between the outlook of ‘sinners’ and of disciples.  Disciples are not to lose their distinctiveness or adopt the attitudes or lifestyle of sinners.  The crucial test is the kind of love they show.  Note v32 ‘If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  Disciples are to go beyond the love that the world shows.  The same applies to ‘do good…lend’ (v33-34) – it is insufficient to calculate the likelihood of repayment or to respond merely to good received.  Jesus drives the lesson home in v35 – the disciple is to show love that has its focus on the good of the recipient, love to the unlovely and unworthy (v35).  This needs Spirit-given wisdom.  It is crucial to discipleship and provides a powerful witness to a world which operates on different principles.  When Christians are hated by the world, the challenge is especially great (see John 15:19).

3. Imitating God

A disciple never loses by obeying these commands.  In earthly terms he may be exploited, taken for a fool, etc, but in spiritual terms, ‘your reward will be great’ (v35).  The ultimate reward will be received at the Lord’s return – Matthew 25:34.  Rewards are a gift of God’s grace.    Also ‘you will be sons of the Most High’ – love demonstrates that we are sons.  We imitate our Father, manifesting the family likeness.  Note ‘he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked’.  True disciples will increasingly look like the Lord – ‘Be merciful just as your Father is merciful’ (v36).  Mercy is seen supremely in the Messiah who speaks these words.  ‘Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love’ (Ephesians 5:1).

Luke 6:17-26 Preaching on the plain

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Every preacher repeats himself.  In the course of a faithful ministry there are great issues that need to be treated often, especially the fundamentals of salvation and the path of discipleship.  We see in the Gospels that Jesus was no exception to that pattern.  We turn now to consider Luke 6:17-26 Preaching on the plain.

1. The ministry Jesus exercised

Jesus has appointed twelve ‘whom he designated apostles’ (v13), even including Judas Iscariot, whom Jesus knew from the outset would betray him.  The apostles are now openly associated with Jesus’ ministry (v17).  The following teaching is often called the Sermon on the Plain – not the same occasion as the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).  The ministry that Jesus exercises has always 2 elements:

            (i). Word: above all Jesus proclaimed ‘the good news (Mark 1:15).  This word concerns God’s saving work carried out through the Messiah, explaining not only how to enter the Kingdom, but also how to live in it, the theme of v27-49.

            (ii). Deed: people also come ‘to be healed of their diseases’ (v18), and in addition ‘Those troubled by evil spirits were cured’.  Jesus reveals his power over the material and spiritual creation.  The deeds are always supportive of his preaching, authenticating his words.

2. The blessings Jesus promised

Jesus declares certain people to be ‘Blessed’ (‘Truly happy’), which is possible only when living in the Kingdom of God.  These blessings represent a reversal of the world’s outlook – those Jesus pronounces ‘blessed’ are despised by the world.  Those who seek to live according to the Lord’s will must be prepared for the world’s scorn.

            How are we to understand ‘poor…hunger…weep’?  Note ‘because of the Son of Man’ (v22) – these hardships are consequences of discipleship of the Messiah.  Note:

            ‘poor’ – aware of need and trusting in the Lord, they share the bounty of the Kingdom.

            ‘hunger’ – for righteousness – they will ‘be satisfied’, now or in the life to come.

            ‘weep’ – sorrow for sin, theirs and that of others – they will know true joy.

            ‘when men hate you’ – the world is often our enemy, as Jesus knew (John 15:20).

The Lord promises blessing on his people.  They can ‘Rejoice’ (v23) not by denying the hardships but by seeing God’s hand in what they endure.  The reward is finally ‘in heaven’ and they are standing in a tradition of suffering for the Lord’s sake that the prophets endured.

3. The woes Jesus pronounced

Verses 24-26 contrast the world’s values with Kingdom values.  Jesus is not saying that no disciple will ever be rich, etc, but he condemns a life of self-reliance and self-sufficiency.  God is not in the thoughts of these people, much less the centre of life.  This is the life of the ‘natural man’ – like the ‘fool’ (Luke 12:20).  The good things of this life will be left behind and the joy of the Kingdom will never be experienced.  It is a solemn warning.

Revelation 1:5-6 Christ exalted

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For a brief moment at this time of year, many are made aware again of the death and resurrection of Christ.  The attention generally does not last long since Easter cannot be sentimentalised in the way that Christmas can.  Christ crucified and risen, however, is the centre of our Christian faith.  He has risen and is exalted to the highest possible position.  In writing Revelation John was encouraging Christians who faced very hard times.  His focus is on Christ in his triumph and glory. 

1. The position Christ occupies 

In greeting the 7 churches John wishes them ‘Grace and peace’ (v4), a triune blessing.  The focus of attention is then on Christ (v5), in whom all of God’s redemptive purpose and all of history centre.  Note the threefold position he occupies: 

(i)                 ‘the faithful witness’.  He is God’s final word to us (Hebrews 1:2).  He reveals God’s way of salvation and is that way.  He bears utterly faithful witness (John 18:37).

(ii)               ‘the firstborn from the dead’.  Christ is supremely the Risen One, having died and risen again for the salvation of his people.  Without the resurrection there is no salvation (1 Corinthians 15:17).  This event guarantees the work he performed on the cross.  The ‘firstborn’ is the place of supreme honour, not of inferiority.

(iii) ‘the ruler of the kings of the earth.  He wields supreme authority (Matthew 28:18), including authority over all who oppose him.  The Messiah’s reign is God’s response to the rebellion of the nations (Psalm 2). 

2. The salvation Christ provides 

Believers facing persecution need to be reminded of what the Lord has done for them and so John draws attention to the rich gift of salvation.  Three elements are described here: 

(i)                 ‘him who loves us’.  The origin of salvation is the redeeming love of God, a triune love.  Christ loves those chosen in him before creation (Ephesians 1:4, Galatians 2:20).

(ii)               ‘has freed us from our sins by his blood’.  The King sets his people free from the bondage of sin.  We are free because he has taken our sin (1 Peter 2:24).

(iii)      ‘made us to be a kingdom and priests.  Christ, Priest and King, makes us priests and kings.  Already we exercise dominion in Christ (Romans 5:17).  As priests we are living sacrifices (Romans 12:1), giving ourselves in whole-hearted service to the Lord. 

3. The honour Christ receives 

These verses are a doxology – ‘to him be glory and power for ever and ever’ (v6).  Glory belongs to God alone (14:7), and so belongs appropriately to Christ.  Doxology acknowledges what he possesses, it cannot add to his glory.  The term ‘glory’ sums up what God is – Christ is ‘the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being’ (Hebrews 1:3).  His ‘power’ is infinite, sufficient to fulfil his will.  None of his redeemed people will be lost.  This is the voice of faith – ‘Amen’ means ‘May it be so’ – willing acceptance of his lordship.