J. N. Darby.
(Notes and Comments Vol. 6.)
The next thing to undividedly hearing the word of Jesus is supplication directed by Him. Further, we have the Lord Himself in the position of prayer, and the expression, I apprehend, of His dependence and desire while walking in humiliation here below, rejected as we have seen Him been. The coming of His Father's kingdom - how full must His heart have been of it! The place of repose and power in blessing for all, for a world that knew not blessing, and joy for them that suffered in it! How continually we find Him here the humbled One! Hearing His word, and prayer are the two great instruments of His kingdom.
199 - 1. We have noticed the order to end of chapter 10. Then comes that by which we exercise the power of the kingdom here, and the instruction concerning it, its objects, as to man's perseverance, and God's character, and dependence, as Father. Its Gentile character, which is full of instruction and interest, may be observed in the note following.
- 2. I am afraid, without adequate research, of trusting to the rejection of the passages as here given, though their insertion for correspondence sake by ignorant persons is much more likely than their omission, if adequate careful testimony be afforded. If they be just they will afford much insight into the character of the desires of the (Gentile) Church as compared with the Jewish portion or character of the promises; for example, the omission of "Thy will be done," would be very marked. "Who art in heaven," I take to be Jewish, as contrasting His dwelling place with theirs. Thus: "Hear thou from heaven thy dwelling place." He "is in heaven and thou upon earth, therefore let thy words be few." "The heaven, and heaven of heavens," etc. "The earth hath he given to the children of men"; see 2 Chr. 6:18. Psalm 115, however, from which the former quotation is taken, seems most strongly to mark it. Indeed I should perhaps say that the expression "But our God is in heaven" (veloheynu vash-shamayim) is taken from it. It was the point of faith with the Jews, and so expressed in that psalm in the trial of the latter day, when they were reproached by those who to all appearance had possessed themselves of the earth, having relinquished all heavenly hopes. With us really it is a matter of faith to believe there is a God of the earth; "They stand before the God of the earth," therefore He says. Not but that the prophetic Spirit went higher, as Isaiah 65. So remark the omission of me battologesete (use not vain repetitions; Matt. 6:7). We do not say: "Who art in the heavens," because we have been made to sit there, etc. And again: "Ye are come," etc. It is there we know God and, as we have said, it is that His power is on earth is the matter of our faith, and where it is tried on evil's account because it is as though there were no God. And it is against the ungodly heathen, infidels, apostates from the Father and the Son that Psalm 58 has its force; so in the end of Psalm 9. Perhaps too the position of "Thy" is emphatic dispensatorily. The Lord God was the Jews' Father in righteousness, the Gentile believers' in adoption of election. Till His kingdom came they had no portion, but when we say: "Who art in the heavens," it assumes that we have a portion and place upon earth. The "Father who from heaven" (v. 13) is characteristic, not local, as we have noted of "from" (ex) specially, and without the article. We may note also the subject of the gift there "Holy Spirit"; compare Matthew 7:11, "The Father." The Father is to both in Christ, the Father of the age to come, but especially according to their respective characters. There is something more exalted in the desire of the Gentile, more special in that of the Jew in faith. "To-day" (semeron) is also in my opinion Jewish, the subject of present petition. I suspect there will be great force put into the mouth of a Remnant, or believing Jew in the latter day, and deep interest in: "Forgive us our debts," etc. The petition here, though full of substance as to the soul in its moral character, and even more so, i.e., more definitely, it is sins it speaks of, and so "To every one" (panti) has not such specific force. Perhaps Zechariah 3 may explain the "Save us" (rhusai) of Matthew 6:13.
200 Also the Father and the Son come and make their abode with us, and this would seem excluded if we said distinctively "Who art in the heavens." The passage in Matthew is clearly Jewish as being in the Sermon on the Mount, exposition, and holds Jewish ground of entrance into the kingdom, although in all its moral characteristics and hopes, its spirit, it reaches out into the kingdom of heaven. It is a Jew of the then times entering into the kingdom of heaven, and looking out therefore for the Father's kingdom.
I would note the character here of the prayer proposed. It is the revelation of the Name of Father to His little flock, the men given Him out of the world. Then the revelation of the first desire of His own heart at all cost to Himself - "hallowed be thy name." This must be the first desire of holiness, and the true position of dependence on the Father of glory. Next, the knowledge of blessing in His glory - "thy kingdom come." The sense of evil quickens this when the relation of Father in love is fully known and felt, as in Jesus. It comes in here justly as to time too, for the Messiah in present blessing having been rejected, He, always submissive and dependent, but full of holiness and love, looks up for the Father's blessing. The rejection of Messiah made the Father's kingdom the only and perfect hope of blessing. It was now no longer too the full display of temporal blessing in assured abundance, future supplies, but the meeting of a stranger's necessities - strangers now, Messiah being rejected, passing onward to another kingdom, and made utterly strangers here, never to be settled or rested here - "Give us our needed bread for each day." It refers then to grace in the way, from the recognition of and dependence on grace: "Forgive us our sins, for we forgive those who are indebted to us; and lead us not into temptation," i.e., as a chastisement or trial in the midst of a world of evil.
201 It was not the security of righteousness when a righteous God by His government attached necessary blessing to righteous, but the spirit of meekness to others in the sense of evil in itself, looking for mercy, and the consciousness of danger and temptation casting on our Father that He should not try us by it. It is not at all the knowledge of the gospel, nor the demand of the Holy Ghost, but the expression of the holy desires of a Remnant who had stepped by higher thoughts, or rather into necessarily higher thoughts by the rejection of the chief of all the lower blessings by man, but beloved and Son of the Father, and thus morally brought into thoughts suited to the position, but not having received the answer of the accomplishment of another dispensation of blessing, nor knowledge of the power by which it was to be conducted. Still the great moral principles of it were laid in the desires of the Father's Name being sanctified, the consciousness of the need of mercy and that He could be applied to for it, the spirit of love or mercy to others, and this expressed by strangers who were passing on to hopes founded on known relationship of love, but of yet unaccomplished glory and blessing - the result of the revelation of the Father's Name to disciples for whom the work was not yet actually accomplished by a rejected Messiah, which should place them on entirely new ground, but who were taught and made to taste in this its moral sweetness and dependence. It is exceedingly lovely in connection especially with its place in this gospel.
In confirmation of the way in which, however deep the moral principles of the objects, the form of the Lord's prayer applies to these circumstances of the apostles economically, i.e., to the dispensation in which He then exercised His ministry, we find the prayer for the Holy Ghost added here as a distinct thing (v. 13) and not in the prayer at all. The prayer is not here as definitely Jewish as in Matthew. There it was given at the beginning of His course in instructions designating the moral principles of His kingdom which would reveal the Father, here at the close of it on His rejection, when what was definitely earthly and Jewish is not stated, as passing for them and for a season into higher scenes. The giving of the Spirit in reply to prayer is given as a fresh instruction, an answer to the importunity of the asker, and an expression of the goodness of the Father.
202 I find two great principles of prayer here, the latter specially relative to the Holy Spirit. First, that whose efficacy is described as lying in importunity. This is not spoken of the Father; in Him liberality is spoken of, and sure kindness, from the very relationship. Here it is "Because of his shamelessness" (anaideian). It may be a friend that seeks it, but it is rendered to the importunity. Here God acts supremely, and according to His own thoughts, in a supremacy which maintains righteousness while it brings forth glory according to His purpose, a glory in which His fulness shall be displayed, as His love indeed accomplished - but as to which, if I may so speak, He expects to and must be glorified, in which faith must be exercised acting on the holy and amazing consciousness of His power, and bearing in its bosom the reproaches of the mighty, and the dealings of God with evil. We read of Christ Himself; He "Was heard because of his piety," and at that time "Being in an agony he prayed more earnestly." I do not say this is the only case, but it is ever a meeting of the demands of the Lord in faith. It is connected with the hindrances evil puts in the way of God's blessing, and the holy and jealous God, righteously jealous of His own character, must deal with the evil in dealing with the supplication. "It became him for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings." Thus, if there be evil in the Church, and the introduction of the working of the wicked one and I pray for blessing, I cannot have the blessing but in bearing in spirit (for efficaciously Christ has done it, and therefore I can so pray) but bearing in spirit the evil so that, the Lord's character in grace being fully honoured, He can give the blessing and restore from the power of the evil. I do not believe there was a case the Lord wrought in which His Spirit did not undergo the sorrow of the evil, so as to draw forth the complacency of His Father in union with whom He put forth the power of the cure. In intercession the Church and the saint has share in this work of Christ. It is not atonement but (which is true also in atonement) a full moral honour done to God. Hence, too, "Labouring earnestly in prayer for you all." In a word, the spirit and heart must go through the full results of the moral character of God as exercising supremacy in holiness on the case, that the blessing may flow forth on the soul. Hence it is there are cases unto death which cannot be prayed for, because they are such that, though not exercising the judgment, the Church is forced by the evil to take part, as it were, with God against the evil, unable to separate it from the evil doer as a failure and weakness, and thus is silenced. It is not its part to judge, and cannot intercede. There is some difference between the Church and the individual, because the Church is looked at as possessing and even administering the charity of God, whereas the individual acts in individual faith, and so bears the burden. Cases of sin in the whole body may arise, which are however analogous. The difference was like the sin of the whole congregation, and an individual when the congregation was at peace. This importunity first then, and primarily, secures the vindication of the holy supremacy of God; but dependence in respect of our weakness and nothingness, and His supremacy, are taught too - subjection and humbleness. Besides, faith is exercised, and intimacy with God wrought in the soul thereby, intimacy connected with dependence. Often, as we have seen, it is connected with God's moral government of others, and Satan's claim thereby, whence the suffering in intercession noticed above; and see Daniel.
203 Then there is instruction in the deep need which the thing prayed for supplies, and hence faith wrought in entire dependence as gift where there was only weakness, or even evil in the use of the answer. The great thing presented here is the exercise of faith, and the sense of necessity. We see the character of the hindrance in the case of the widow and her adversary. There is also in this intercession instruction in all the ways and counsels of God concerning His Church, and the things prayed for. Conscience in the light of the Spirit being brought near to God, the hindrances, the difficulties, the counsels of God in allowing them, His righteous judgment in it, in overcoming them in some holy place of wisdom, are given in communion with our God, and thus intimacy of service is wrought with Him, and, though beginning in sorrow, it ends in blessing and the sense of that special honour and blessing, "God's fellow-workmen," while dependence and humbleness, the only state in which this can be, is specially maintained. But in principle faith and dependence are that which are brought into exercise, and negligence of heart is effectually corrected. The Lord also uses this to encourage in the certainty of receiving: "And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one," etc. These different forms are put purposely to meet every case in which desire, need, or spiritual difficulty and energy might be called out, so that the heart might have no excuse in its negligence. Also the idea is presented of a God who gives, who opens to those without, who acts not on the previous privileges but upon existing faith and need, on the moral position of those to whom the answer is afforded. And hence it is: "Every one that asks." Hence any Gentile, whose heart is so touched, can come in, whose heart seeks aid and supply from God. And thus the character of this part of the gospel is fully also maintained. In this first part grace, or giving to whomsoever, is stated, but it is gift to need coming in the exercise of faith. God is accessible in affluent grace, but, as He is to be approached, the whole condition of him who approaches is brought into question, or of that in respect of which the petition is presented. Next, we have the subject of gift properly needed in the case to which they and the whole work of God was now brought, and founded in full grace on the character and relationship in which grace had now placed them, placed them not perhaps yet in the consciousness of their own position but in the revelation of the Father to them, as One too who was heavenly, and the deduction of the consequences flowing from the necessity of that character. In a word, it was not now merely God in holiness accessible to whosoever asked and sought, but a Father, in the kindness and perfection of His heavenly character, dealing in the love and consistency with such a relationship as viewed above with those who by this relationship could enter into the enjoyment of, and by it too would soon have the need of that which could realise to them, and assure the joy, and fortify, and direct them in the need according to the character of which it was the witness. It is a blessed argument from the imperfection of man to the perfection of God in man's favour.
205 Doubt might be cast upon the condition of the soon to be deserted disciples, upon the portion they might reckon on as by the death of Christ separated from earthly hope, and cast out with Him from all possible human dependence, on principles which broke them off from all that could sustain in the world, and in fact left them in the position of adversaries with it, as a hostile strength, really the enemy's. In answer to this, they are cast at once on the heavenly Father, and the endowment of the Spirit as their strength - really accomplished to them, but here only abstractedly stated, that it might rest not on a fact proved but on the certain constancy of God's character. Here then we have a Father's love giving, and giving freely according to need, and according to the feeling and willingness of a Father's heart, as before God accessible in the palace of His testimonies of holiness to those who sought Him. Still here we have to remark that the case presented is not desires, the consequences of the endowment, and therefore it is not said: Your Father, as by the Spirit knowing the relationship, but the endowment itself in answer to the desire, as that on which they could reckon from the character of a heavenly Father (not merely Jehovah Elohim) for this met the then need of the disciples as separated. It was introducing them into that which met them where they were, and would be the seal of the certainty of the grace which had met them, and their strength in the position into which they were introduced. In what follows, there is the evidence of the presence of the power of the Spirit in Jesus anointed as Man, and hence speaking in the consciousness of the certainty and power of the truth He announced to others, and the controversies into which it brought, and through which it sustained by the consciousness and power of its presence. It may be remembered that in this gospel Jesus is presented as receiving the Holy Ghost on praying.
- 9. "And I say unto you." I believe I have noticed this as a form in which the Lord applies the results of a parable, when the principles of the conduct stated in it are not in accordance with the operations of the divine mind. I am not aware that the expression is recorded by other evangelists than Luke.
- 13. "The Holy Spirit," this is the only gift of the (Gentile) Church; the rest it has only in earnest. As for earthly gifts, they are in no wise its position; care we may cast upon God, He provides the things we have need of for those seeking the kingdom.
206 - 14-26. We have the power in this ministry manifested, the power against which it was manifested, and the consequences to the world.
But the presence and power of the Holy Ghost had been manifested in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, and, while the disciples had yet to seek for the power of the Holy Ghost to be present with themselves, the Jewish nation were thus accomplishing their guilt in denying and blaspheming His power And indeed the possessed man was just a type of the operation of grace in power on the Remnant of the people. Others in the midst of 10,000 miracles seek a sign. The Lord in principle morally judges the nation on these two grounds, but the point of moral condemnation is, they did not hear His word. He shows, as to the first, the discernment of the thoughts of their heart, then shows the perfect absurdity and therefore pure malice of the charge. Their own sons cast them out, and they should judge their wickedness. But, for the fact was admitted, it was by the finger of God that the devils were cast out, then the kingdom of God was come among them. They would give the credit to Satan rather than admit that God had visited them in goodness. They proved themselves therein the children of Satan. The real truth was then - a great conflict was manifested between Christ by the power and finger of God, and Satan. It was not merely a question of Jewish reception, it went deeper. And this conflict really existing, they must take one side or the other. He was casting out Satan, and spoiling his goods. They must side with Satan or with God. Christ was the only Centre. No Jewish nation, nay, nor no Church could now hold this ground. It might be in blessing gathered, but could not be the One gathered to, though all the saved might be brought there. But Jewish centrality was gone indeed then. The Person of Christ under the law as giving it was the Centre, but now in flesh and in the manifestation of power. He was the only Centre. Whoever gathered not with Him scattered. By progressive rejection, the Lord becomes the necessary and manifested Centre of His own rights. It gradually ceased to have the character of benefits on rejecting Israel, and became the manifestation of His glory against those that rejected Him. And thus all was centred in Him; whoever was not with Him, etc., for they must take the one side or the other. And whoever did not gather with Him scattered.
207 The Holy Ghost was the great Manifester and energy of power. Where this was not, the unclean spirit might leave a man, and the form of piety be there, but the Holy Ghost is not, and the unclean spirit returns with abundance more, and the last state is worse than the first. This is a solemn revelation of the dispensations of God's house: "Out of a man." But there is no fellowship or dwelling of God there. It is thus his house. The restless spirit of evil, removed it may be in the dispensations of God by the outward effects of mercy, has, though long wandering, not lost his remembrance of his house. Providence, the dealings of God have long kept him at a distance, but though empty it has not ceased to be his house. On his return, there is nothing to impede his entrance, no power of the Lord there. It is still, however swept and ornamented, the empty house of Satan; he comes there with his friends, and it is worse than before. The interferences of providences prolonging the time and celebrating mercy, blessed to many, in that blessing dispel Satan; but many houses are left thereby untenanted - the Holy Ghost, the presence of Christ is not there. By degrees Satan, restless ever, finds occasion to return and, as we have said, there is nothing to impede his entrance, and finding this with renewed energy, conscious of the absence and desertion of the interfering power which expelled him once, he takes possession of the house where he knows there is none to disturb him; for when he was gone none other came. There was form while power acted close by, but no presence of power, and in its proved emptiness he takes possession, and the case is hopelessly worse than before. Before, Satan was there in a deceived heart, whence he had not been expelled even by the sense of power near and its effect on the heart; now, that effect is shown to be no presence of divine power there, and he takes possession on the evidence of it.
This is a dispensation of divine government much to study. There is much force rested here on "my house whence I came out" - the marauding power of Satan so distinctly pointed out, and there being no security against it but the presence of the Spirit of God, the house being filled. It was a very solemn judgment, or here rather relation, of which the application is left. This is supreme providence and government permitting evil as the punishment of evil, leaving, the most solemn of judgments, evil to itself. The Lord actually judges them on plain simple ground, cognisable by conscience.
208 - 15. I may remark here we have everything peculiar to the Jews left out, as in Matthew "So shall it be to this wicked generation," and here tines (some). It is given not for the facts, but for the general principles, for all God's facts are general principles.
- 29. Then that in which the essence of its power and responsibility consists, not any human feelings or associations with the Lord, not signs nor miracles but the hearing, testimony, and power of the word, the preaching and wisdom of the Son of man. The point of this passage is to show the responsibility on the preaching of Christ. Jonas was a sign, as here instanced, not as in the whale's belly but as preaching without miracle to the Ninevites who, though unlettered heathens, repented. So the heathen Queen of Sheba was so desirous of wisdom she came, with no miracle or sign for witness, to Solomon for what she should hear, and a greater than Solomon was there. The first point is, who are blessed, and then the responsibility, and the reason of its rejection and darkness. It is an important passage; we may compare Hebrews 4 and 1 Corinthians 14.
Having spoken of the Holy Ghost and the necessity of His presence and power, otherwise entire liability to the power of Satan, of those merely under the effect of some externally expulsive power, the Lord turns to contrast - for all this is the introduction of new thoughts and a new dispensation - all natural affection to Him, all that could associate with Him after the flesh, and which in fact identified Him with Judaism in the flesh, with the reception and keeping of the word. It was in contrast of course therefore with any effect on the mere natural feelings, though true as such. In a word, the reception of the word is now brought forward as now the source and characteristic of true blessing. Natural associations with Messiah were doubtless blessing, but the divine word and its reception were clearly on a higher and far more exalted and full ground. He disowns that now, for the other was now coming in. Messiah would have been the Crown of natural blessing, had there been any good in nature, but there was none, and the divine word was the source or instrument of a life and blessing which carried beyond nature to God by the communicating the divine nature. The word of God heard and kept is the apparent form of this to the conscience; they really are the form and character of divine life and power. We have thus the Holy Ghost, present power of the kingdom of God, and the word brought in contrast with the iniquity of the nation and its fairest natural associations, the birth of Messiah, and also with the worst iniquity of Satan in the human mind and its fairest and most touching affections. All must be new, for the old is all condemned as evil or profitless, and was now ready to vanish away. How apt in spirit to return to it! And how is the Church fallen by doing so!
209 - 32. The testimony then of the truth seems the great practical power of the ministry. Activity, simplicity of object in this scene characteristic of its intended and reception power. They are made for a witness, and this as it enters so to be given out, that it may be the witness of what is received.
It is clear that this by introducing a moral principle (and that in contrast with the natural associations and birth of Messiah) introduced on moral ground the Gentile. The Lord turned to realities with God from a rebellious and proud rejecting form. But He proceeds to pronounce the judgment actually on the generation publicly. He uses no longer any restraints nor precautions with the nation now fully manifested. "This generation is evil; it seeketh a sign." And while the previous word is introduced by the Spirit to show the transfer to moral blessing in the judgment of the old, the Lord returns to the word of temptation presented of general unbelief, as He had replied to the blasphemy of apostate and diabolical rejection; here to unbelief, and this He addresses to the multitude generally as before "to them" (autois) for those who are saved must be separated from the generation. Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly, and Messiah the Lord was to be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, and thus to the Jews Jonas was a sign. But here the Lord speaks of Jonas as a sign to the Ninevites, a sign of merciful testimony, and so was He to the entire nation - a sign of approaching judgment to that generation, if they did not repent, and thus were the Jews condemned in comparison with them, for they repented at the preaching of Jonas, and a greater than Jonas was there. The presence of Jesus in testimony was the sign given to the Jewish nation, as Jonas to the Ninevites, for this presence was mercy. Thus the Queen of the South would rise up in judgment with this generation and condemn it, still contrasting realities with the guilt of formal privileges. She came to hear Solomon and a greater was there. It is evidently the word and its power by His Person is in question, not the miracle of Jonas. The men of Nineveh should do so, they repented at the preaching of Jonas, and a greater was there. It was also a national repentance, though the refusal was positive guilt. In either case the Lord shows a moral effect among Gentiles. The Lord then proceeds to discuss its presentation as light not privilege, the principle of its rejection, and the source and character of its rejection, and the judgment connected with it, and that in bold denunciation of it to the proudest of the self-righteous amongst them. The whole principle of God's dealing as to His mission, for that was now just what was in discussion, viewed in His rejection, but applicable to all their conduct.
210 Christ our Lord had come in the character of Light. It was not to be hid, nor was it in them. The rejection was the consequence, because of their darkness. It was not merely for enjoyment, for royalty, but for light. The Lord had come, this would disturb the haunts of darkness, but being come as Light, He had come to make manifest, and to manifest. "No one having lighted a candle puts it under a bushel, or in secret, but on a candlestick, that all who enter in may see the light." This was the Lord's place at present, to make things morally manifest by Himself, the Light.
But there was another point connected with this - the motives. This Light, when really received, became the motives of conduct and way. The truth presented tried the motives; if objects other than following God were in the mind, it became an instant stumbling block. The light of the body was the eye; there might be plenty of light in the world, but the light of the body was the eye. If there was simplicity of intention, if the heart was simply directed to God Himself thus manifested, the whole body was light. It was not each part having light for itself. This it was as the light of the whole. But if what our mind was directed to, the object in our eye, was not simple and consequently necessarily evil, the whole body was full of darkness; all went wrong. This governed and characterised all, was the moral character of the whole, whatever its form or appearance might be, were it truth and purity itself. Motives, i.e., God Himself thus revealed, formed the whole principle of understanding, judgment and light. It is a completely new broad moral principle of all possible importance - no question of Jewish ordinances and privileges, but of light come in, and singleness of purpose which received the light because (through grace) Light was its object - light not abstractedly previously, but light by grace loved when light came. For here is a mistake. Little light may be received candidly, but often candour and readiness to receive the truth is boasted of previous to any light being there. This supposes light in se in the man, and good, and is only the pride of the supremacy of mind. It is willing subjection to light produced by the Lord which is here spoken of, not abstract goodness and sincerity which would not, in fact, need light. There is an object, a candle lighted, something shining and receiving, i.e., singleness, and sincerity of heart, for God's truth and authority are in it. There may be other objects, other light, and so the light in me be darkness, false instruction, passions and affections determined on an object which distracts and ends in self and Satan, but there is no abstract singleness of eye without an object, for where is the simplicity where there is nothing at all? This however it is, or evil. But we have to take heed not merely that our passions or personal objects do not hinder the light, for these are not called light, but that the very instruction, religious system be not formed for the sanctioning of these evil objects by Satan. The eye is then evil, but it is evil, having the authority of light by the system we are in, supposed light. But if indeed the eye be single, then the whole body is full of light, and if the whole body be full of light - blessed consequence! no part is dark. This may seem tautology to man, but the Lord knew the value of His words. When the Spirit stamps them to us, no darkness shall be there, it is a complete deliverance - the whole shall be light, positive light. It may seem tautology to say: Heaven is heavenly. But to those to whom what is heavenly is known, it conveys everything. Those who know the light, and God is in the light, will know what it is to say: It shall be all light, actively, actually light, and everything enlightened as when the bright shining of a candle gives light.
211 - 33. Note, this marks the continuance of the testimony, though He was rejected, and what was needed to be a true testimony.
212 - 35. This is a warning taken from the Jew's case. We must remark it is "The light that is in thee." It is not anything presented, but the condition of the mind, and hence, whatever the instrument of obscurity, it is therein the motives of the heart which govern. A false religion, for example even, puts the soul in the light, but it leaves in the darkness of our own malicious or covetous motives. This was the case with the Jews, and the false religion does but harden in this as nominally the light. Judaism, as taken up by the corrupt motives of men, could make them ready to kill the Saviour, and forms replaced righteousness and opinions and authority renewal before God. In these cases the direction of religion rests in a caste that it may not rest in the conscience and the Lord, and so the single eye is set aside. The divine ordering of all things gave the occasion of the application of these principles, and the Lord was now plain in His judgment of the individuals - for it was judgment, and it was mercy to be plain as to them for others.
The reception of testimony is the light of the soul. If it enters in the pure power in which it leaves God, it shall give perfectness of principle which shall give light upon all the ways of conduct and spirit. But if the reception be mixed in its motive or oblique in its spirit it, the very testimony, will be a minister of darkness; see the case of Simon Magus, and the statement of Paul in 2 Corinthian 4, inclusive, and 1 Thessalonians 2. It is not then truth, for everything will taste of the vessel it is in. If by grace it enters and is itself, it is itself there, and the whole body is light; if by human will, or the outward manifestation of power it is recognised as true as a general act in the world - human will is human will still, and as dark as ever. When it does thus enlighten every part of the judgment, it is not merely that it is right, but there is a bright light of truth shines, and effulgent in and with and on every step, and the whole soul itself is enlightened with the light shed on every part of its ways, and the circumstances it is placed in. The power of testimony making the singleness of Object (by the revelation of Christ as all and in all) is the light, and renewal of heart unto God, for the truth is the moral reflection of the glory of God in truth and in character, and received in its truth, and so as occupying and constituting renewingly in power the mind, is conversion and renewing into His image in righteousness and true holiness, and the whole soul is formed into the reflection of the truth, and therefore answers, as an image, to God.
213 - 37, et seq. How little turns a man of ceremonies, whose soul is not opened, from the objects about which it was curious or concerned in the things of God! And how does the Master mind of truth, formed on and occupied with it, find even in the circumstances which occupy the mind of one engaged with them, the occasion of drawing out the full principles of truth and divine righteousness!
The dissection of false principles is needful where the form of religion so easily assumes a garb of sanctity, hateful indeed in character but imposing on many whom ignorance which it sustains or rather cultivates by the imposition of this cloak, and moral error in the root of things, subject to its influence. The Lord detects an utterly unclean inside with much pretence and pride withal. Purity within gives humility, for it is connected with conscience, and the holy and cheerful sense of God's presence, and being in us and with us, which indeed is the root and stay of purity of mind. It is recklessness of spirit within which gives pride which, for its own objects, may put on any form without, but therein also easily detects and shows itself to the eye experienced in moral good and evil, and single-eyed so as to be full of light, for this is our wisdom. For what is impure easily shows on what is pure, however dressed or concealed. So in our hearts, and this is the wisdom of the simple, and is perfect. ~o judge of character, not himself purified, can know another as the simple purified man, if the acts or expressions of another be once before him. "That which doth make manifest is light," but Christ is here the full detecting Light. But we cannot know them but so far as we are brought into His image, for that is light in us, and as far as we have it we are judges.
From this verse (v. 37) and on, we have the sure and unmitigated judgment of the Lord on the various forms which the lifeless religion of the conductors of the people took, expressed in many ways, but constant and unmingled judgment, and thereon the necessary sacrifice of all in a condemned world, and the largeness, voluntariness, and activity of grace on the part of God the Saviour. The world withal is condemned as to its principles, as the Jews for their state. The first ground of condemnation is the substitution of forms, and outward cleansings, and services which the flesh can render, for cleanness of heart and the Spirit of love. If that be there, all external things are clean. Money continually occupies the heart when there is only a form of religion, for it represents the world. Respect and pre-eminence is another form of this, though white without they were all unclean within. Next, the lawyers are condemned, and with this character, imposing religion strictly on others, and saving the conscience thus from the trouble of observing it. The Lord is fearless now, as we have observed, in unmitigated judgment.
214 - 39. This is not merely personal hypocrisy in a true system, but hypocrisy of system. The principles are the same, but here it is contrasted, as systematised, with the principles of the divine kingdom which reflects in principle the image and character of God - not merely evil, but the principle of evil in the form of falsehood systematically imposing itself on the fears and thoughts of men. But it is folly as well as deceit, deceived as well as deceiving, for a man cannot deceive without being deceived, and, not having communion with God, must (to have power over man) put that which is without instead of that which is within. Strictness in minute matters of ceremony, failure in principle in obvious cases of rectitude and mercy (for the senses become stupefied) this detects it. These are the broad general principles, and therewith the evidence of an unchanged heart - covetousness. Its formal character and judgment follows.
- 43. The Lord gives their character while He detects their principles. An unsuspecting mind goes on often not seeing the character of certain acts, but stating the act according to its truth exhibits the motive which the truth of, i.e., of the facts exhibiting it, is well known. Hypocrisy of outward religion, and the pride of place in religion, ever go together; for indeed there is no other reason for the hypocrisy save folly.
- 46. We have another mark of false religion. Being turned into a law it is imposed, according to the will of those who take advantage of it, on its unsuspecting votaries, and thus their character and authority kept up, while they subject themselves to no such ways. It is one of the marks of the wilfulness and hopelessness of the evil, to whom God says: "Woe."
- 47. Another mark is attaching sanctity to themselves by much honour paid to those who have suffered for the truth - saints and martyrs of old - while indeed they have the principles of and are descendants in character and truth of those who killed them. A notable mark! Yea, in this very honour their principles are developed.
215 It might not appear at first why building the sepulchres showed approbation of those who killed them, but they took up their place, as it were. They sought in it their own honour instead of receiving the testimony of the prophets which would have humbled them in the very dust, for the moral and utter ruin of the nation, instead of adorning, as if it was all well, the tombs of all that was good in it. Holy fear at the prophets' rebuke would never have adorned the prophets' sepulchres. It was the spirit of this world. The assurance of continuance, or at least perseverance in present things, notwithstanding sin which the prophets had denounced, the form of piety to the dead, for credit to themselves which rejected the testimony of the living - it was all self-approbation in evil, and so reckoning on continuance. They really carried on the works of their fathers. But a plainer and clearer evidence of this would be given in the wisdom of God. Prophets and apostles (messengers) would be sent to them, and it would be proved what spirit they were of As to the testimony of God, they would kill and crucify. Note, the doctors of the law, the expositors of the law, took the lead, or specially were in the principle of this; as nearer to the law in pride they rejected the testimony sent. The Pharisees were hypocrites, and so judged, but these perverted their nearness to the word in their carnal hatred to any real testimony to their own conscience. As they honoured the testimony that they might have the honour of it when once it was not found on their conscience, building its repentance and perfecting the work of those who rejected it, so, when occasion was offered, they would show the identity of their principle. Having the credit of the law and knowledge, they could least of all bear a testimony to themselves as evil. Hence, in pride and fear, they take to themselves all the springs of knowledge. They do not enter in, for they must do that as learners needy and ruined, and give up their character as doctors to be poor sinners as the rest, and consequently those that are entering in they hinder. And they would condemn themselves, and, besides all, their character and honour go for nothing. This is a great dishonour to God as sending knowledge in grace, having judged the forms of piety and knowledge. Where personal responsibility and conscience was not, their resource, as ever, was to press Him with all manner of questions, not seeking, and incapable of, truth, and convicted of evil themselves, if at least they could make void and neutralise the truth and goodness of God in convicting Him of error. This we must ever attend to.
216 - 50. This judicial word of our Lord's is worthy of all attention. This was the counsel of God's plan, thus solemnly pronounced by the Lord, that, as they thus inherited the spirit and sonship of their fathers, they should, as the end and climax of their schemes and rebellion, fill up and bring to its head the spirit and fulness of their wickedness, that all might be sought at their hands. Such is the method of God! Detected hypocrisy rages against the Author of its detection, and having lost its value, as hypocrisy or breaking through in its real hatred of the truth, that thorough debasement of heart and principle which is involved in the deliberate use of what is good for our own ends, breaks through when its selfishness seems in danger. And then comes judgment by its iniquity against those who loved the truth, because they were a light which showed their darkness. This pretence of good then is the worst moral state possible, for the open wickedness which follows is, as it were, preparation for judgment. Thus God says: I will accomplish their wickedness - I will send them what is good that they may show their enmity against it. God goes on warning while wickedness is increasing, then leaves it to itself and it grows confident, and well-pleased with itself, because it is separated from God, and has set up for itself, as it were; then delighting itself in very wickedness in hypocrisy, for God's leaving it gives opportunity for this. It was an accomplishment of the spirit of wickedness, with the sin of the others before them. The Lord closing the system sends to find the fruits of warning and patience - fruit suited to their pretence of their exclusive character of "The people" - for when men have lost the sense and value of moral truth, they set up for being something special, as, e.g., the Church. Then, the instant God appears, their state and enmity to Him is discovered, and shows itself in the darkest colours. Everything on which they had prided and distinguished themselves, being void of truth, when the truth came, was detected, and their madness showing itself in deliberate enmity, what was shown only in fruits before, now shows itself as the form and substance and essence of their system, and they are justly punished as for all. For the tree which bore it, and whose suckers were shooting up then, has now grown out into manifestation and corporate identity to be acted on.
217 - 52. The next point of hypocritical systematic religion is the depriving, under the pretence of expounding and being the persons to apply to others the truth and force of the Law, those who were the objects of it of the direct application of the convincing knowledge-giving word to their hearts and consciences, taking away the key of knowledge so that they could not go in for themselves without their leave and opening the door; and in result not going in themselves, and only using their title to instruct as a right to hinder their entering into the knowledge of what God has set before men in this word by which He reveals His grace, and makes men responsible.
- 53, 54. Such is ever the conduct of the hypocritical professors of false religion. Having nothing of moral truth to bring forward nor to answer to the evidence of deceit and fraud, which their acts when stated exhibit, their endeavour is to puzzle and perplex those who state it, that, by the want of clearness and evidence in their charge, or by committing themselves by being unable to answer some irrelevant, or unguardedly answering some captious and cunning, question they may lay hold on what they say, so as to accuse them as bearing against admitted principles, and so throw the charge and burden and conviction off their own consciences where the truth and light of truth had fixed it. Here, the Spirit in conclusion has shown their act itself in its true light as part of their system.
This chapter, partially noted, is very full. It is all founded on the continuance of testimony, the setting up of light consequent on and connected with His rejection. First, satanic deceit and murder contrasted with the light according to which they were to walk, present light and judgment. This is the first principle. Then goodness or love, and confidence in it. Next confession or denial of Son of man; then, blaspheming or speaking by the Holy Ghost. This closes that contrast. Then Christ, not setting the world right, but dealing with the individual's heart and soul for another world. This is bringing another world's light in. Next, love as regards the disciples, and their path as to worldly things. They were to get out of the snare the world was in, in this respect. Then (vv. 35, 36) His coming for saints waiting for Him (vv. 42, 43) for servants serving Him - blessing and rule; but the giving out of this light would make Christendom more responsible than the heathen. This closes verse 48. But His full rejection which was to bring all this was really through the light which shone in Him producing its certain fruits. Yet His work of love was, as it were, shut up till His death for all that. The state is the worst imaginable; Micah 7. But the unconverted should have discovered the times, and natural conscience would have decided between Him and His adversaries. But He was in the way with them, and if they did not bow and agree they would go to prison. The general resulting judgment of Jerusalem goes on to the end of chapter 13.
218 Observe how very strongly responsibility and divine care and power are brought out in the beginning of this chapter. First, verses 2-7, all to be in the light and fear of Him who can cast into hell after death, but the very hairs of their head numbered - they were not to fear, they were of value to God. They were to confess Christ, own Him publicly and actively, or they would be denied. But then he who blasphemed their service was worse than those who spoke against the Son of man. And if persecuted and brought before magistrates, the Holy Ghost would speak in them. They were not to be anxious and prepare what they had to say, i.e., integrity and truth in them before God - providential care - confession of Christ, and the power of the Holy Ghost to carry them through it.
Next, the Lord refuses government in righteousness which hereafter He will have (as He had then the right) but turns to the state of the heart as regards the world, and the path of faith as regards His disciples. Their heavenly Father knew they needed food and raiment. What they were to seek was the kingdom, and that He would give them. The mixture of responsibility and assured grace still continues. Next, they were to have done with earthly treasure and wait for Christ, their loins girded and their lights burning. In this part the Lord though addressing the Jewish Remnant, and speaking of His return as Son of man, yet makes their portion with Himself. It is the known disciples separated to Himself while on earth, and though of universal application, and figuratively placing them in heaven, yet looks at them as the Remnant on earth. It is not a revelation of the rapture - that is special. What follows goes definitely forth to all, and the professing Church is looked at as in the world, whether faithful or unfaithful. It is Christ's servant and minister in the world which is spoken of. Still even verses 41-48 refer to earth; government of all things, or judgment of the professing Church, and all on earth. The former part though referring to servants gives the higher blessing; verses 49-53 gives the effect of His coming on earth, showing His own suffering as needed to let out into liberty the love with which He was animated; verses 54-59, puts definitely the case of Israel as in the way with Jehovah to judgment, how they ought to have discerned that time, and even without signs have discerned what was right. In chapter 13, we have the positive warnings, the judgment going on, grace instead of law with hypocrisy, the character of the kingdom with the need of earnestness - for otherwise they would be outside, and strangers owned their place - mere rejoicing in present blessings would not do. Jerusalem must be the grave of witness, but Christ would continue His service, which nothing could hinder, till His time was come. Chapter 14 pursues the same subject, only with larger moral development. The rising of grace over the law and covenant proving the hypocrisy of those who held to the latter, is repeated, and these principles are developed, founded on the circumstances which were before the Lord's eyes. Self-abasement contrasted with self-exaltation, grace-conduct contrasted with the spirit of the world, to be blessed at the resurrection of the just. Then the parabolic illustration of what was taking place (in grace, though grace rejected by Israel) in Israel and the world. The witness that men, if they would follow Christ, must take up the cross wholly, the cost of following Christ was to be counted. If the salt lost its savour, it was good for nothing. What follows (chaps. 15, 16) brings out the whole system of grace, and the revelation of another world or rather heaven, forming the judgment of things in this, and so clearing all. What preceded was dispensationally and morally preparatory; here the principles of the new system itself are fully brought out.
219 The Lord pursues His testimony to the strong and explicit bringing of all things into the light, and the breaking down of all formality, of all that could be presented to man, and the certain bringing of all things into the light. But as this breaking down of all formalism and bringing of all things now into the light of glory, had its operation and present effect by the death of Messiah, the Lord Jesus, the power of Satan not being yet set aside, the most complete rejection, even to death, was the result, very probably, of bringing in the light, during the period of Satan's power, into a dark world. The Lord had led the way in this Himself, teaching us not only by divine knowledge, but by sympathy and experience of what was here. We have to refer to Him who searcheth the hearts and judges the soul as the body in the day when the secrets of men's hearts shall be revealed, and to seek a purity suited to that day. But the introduction by grace of light which condemns the impurity and evil of the world, produces the enmity and malice of the world; verse 4 here shows it, and the Lord is now plainly exposing as suffering these things. "I have given them" (therefore it is written) "Thy word, and the world hath hated them." O Lord, make us faithful, for in truth we are very weak, and in Thy grace bring in the light, walking in the light! These are the principles stated of the Lord. First, God's necessary determination to bring everything to light. This applied to all that was secret among the disciples. It would all be brought out, and that humanly even; which note well. But then as to the danger of walking in the light, they were not to fear those who could kill the body, but God who could kill the soul - yea, they were to fear Him. Jesus perfectly feared God, and was of quick understanding in it, and suffered the death of those who could kill the body. Further, even here not a hair of their head but was counted by Him who cared for the sparrows, and they, precious word! were of much more value. For our God has made it of faith to believe that He cares much for us, very much. This is great grace.
220 But, further, besides the providence of perfect divine goodness and care for His own now, there was the result in relation with the Son of man thus humbled in God's behalf. For whosoever confessed Him before men should be confessed before the Angels of God. There would be a return and answer of glory before the Angels of God, for shame before men, and he who denied Him before men would be denied by Him before the Angels of God, for Christ had taken His shame here below, but all before God would melt, and therefore own Him. He was content with shame, though He felt it far more deeply than any, because His sensibilities and His love were perfect. No entrance of evil or sin had ever hardened His heart; but that God might be fully glorified here, and for the glory that was His there in the presence of God, He bore all. He came to suffer. He had hidden His glory to effect grace. He had come amongst evil and sin, expecting to find it, and to give a subject to divine glory in His humiliation. This was the patience of God. But He was to be glorified, and as He came to do and to bear in a sort of concealment in love, claiming nothing, so the Holy Ghost would come in the title and asserting the glory of God, and in the glory of God, and claiming subjection to this glory, and bearing witness to the grace demonstrating the glory in power. A word spoken against Him would not be forgiven. But here in grace this is attached to the disciples to console and comfort them in their weakness. He might be slighted, but if He by whom they would speak was slighted, it would be unpardonable. Such were the principles, the warnings, the motives, and the encouragements attached to a mission founded on death, and perhaps conducting to it, but which was the bringing in of light by grace into a world of darkness. Accordingly, in verse 11, the Lord applies the presence of the Spirit to their circumstances of trial. If the Spirit was spoken against, it was unpardonable, but when they were brought by the hostility of the world before magistrates and rulers, the Holy Ghost would aid them, or rather speak by them.
221 The Lord thereon proceeds to adjudge the position of the world. Jewish blessing had lost its place, the true light now shining. He declines accordingly to judge any judgment now, and only warns against the folly of the love of the things which gave occasion to this judgment. The soul in its position before God was what was now in question. Further, as regards the disciples, this took away the occasion of carefulness. The life (which was now understood) was much more than this, and the body than raiment. It had to say to the Lord - His life and glory. The Lord having stated this principle enforces it by this, that they could not effect anything, and that the Lord's care did, even for the ravens and lilies. Further, all the heathen of this world sought these things, they were the desires of the natural heart, and their heavenly Father, in whose Name they stood, knew they had need of these things, and actually, if they sought the kingdom of God and His righteousness, these things will be added. The whole ground of the disciples' position in the world, consequent on the rejection of Christ, is thus set. This is carried on to the kingdom, first viewed in a purely heavenly character (v. 33) and then waiting for the Lord (v. 34 et seq.). Their position, we have seen, was one of trial of faith, of opposition by the world, and the power of Satan. But the little flock were not to fear. He whose light and Name brought them into trial, the Father of the rejected Jesus, would give them the kingdom. Verse 32 comes at the same time as a sweet and blessed answer to verse 31. The principle of comfort indeed - but devotedness is called for, urging them to seek the kingdom of God, to give themselves up to Him, seek His kingdom not themselves, and with the promise that the needed temporal things would be given them. But the Lord's heart breaks out here over them, in the manifestation of the fulness of grace. It was not merely providential care while they were labouring. The kingdom itself was theirs. It was the Father's good pleasure to give them the kingdom. His thoughts and delight were much more than to supply need. It was just this kingdom.
222 From verse 1 to end of verse 13, we have the Spirit, principle, and actual direction in which they were to carry on the ministry of the truth in the midst of the hypocrisy, trial and violence He had just been alluding to, and of which, as far as related to conscience, He had just been detailing the principle. Here He directs and warns them as to the results, as actually in the world. It is addressed to His disciples, but it was no fearful compromise by which He inculcated His principles. But, while He addressed it to those whom it was expedient and concerned to know it, He did it in the presence of an immense multitude, as one willing to act on that of which He spake, that what He spoke in the ear should be proclaimed on the housetops. There is a great lesson in the manner of this.
- 1. Coming from God they had no need to be concealed, nor did it suit their mission (compare our Lord's answer to the High Priest), compare also Romans 1:16, and 2 Corinthians 4. Your doctrine is the light, act suitably, beware of any want of openness, as if it were a selfish system you were following, or any want of sincerity as though cunning could gain your end. Besides, it is useless, for all shall come out. I did not send it not to come to light, and to light it shall come. This is universally true by the judicial bringing forth of all things by God; I say: All things. But in fact it shall be true. I tell you judicially, in your ministry, God will exercise the spirit of judgment on your ministry, and all that you are and have said shall be brought to light, for I have set you in the world as detecting, as light. Satan knows it, and will bring all out to light he can, if there be anything inconsistent with light, and in this he will act by right of the purpose which I have appointed you to, for I have set it to be made known, and your official character will be acted upon. However, our Lord states the broad principle of the system, warning them accordingly to beware of the spirit of hypocrisy in anything, for Light was the name and characteristic of His ministry in the midst of evil.
223 - 4. This, however, would necessarily bring them into conflict with a world that hated the light, and felt one that brought it an enemy for detecting it, and showing it to itself. The Lord meets this fear therefore with encouragement very graciously, "To you, my friends," with very strong and important truth, to set it straight in point of wisdom and duty. They can kill the body, assuming this, for humanly speaking they can, for that is the place of adversity and the devil's power (as to this) but no more. Fear therefore rather Him who has power over body and soul to cast into hell, yea, "Fear him." But farther, not a sparrow could fall to the ground without their Father (or as here more generically and not specifically) without God. But such was His care over them, the very hairs of their head were numbered. "Fear not therefore" - adding (vv. 8, 9) as principle, warning, and promise, as immediately connected with the actual confession of Himself in the world, as the moral point of faithfulness, the consequences of that confession or the contrary.
- 6, 7. These verses give the counter motive in the way of encouragement; verse 8, counter-motive as to the result; verse 10, from the presence of the Holy Ghost. Note, you have "God" (their "Father," Matt. 10:29) Himself as Son of man (Matt. 10:33, as Son) and the Holy Ghost, not in Matthew in this place but in another connection as mere encouragement, verses 19, 20; that of the whole chapter, compare Matthew 12:31.
- 12. But there was another principle and Agent to be introduced, connected with this subject - the Holy Spirit sent by the Son and, in office, the Witness of the Son. Denying the Son implied knowing Him, not really knowing what a person was about, but that which was wilful. Speaking evil of Him in ignorance, it was ignorant in unbelief, God took no account of, would not charge it. It was indeed sin, but would be forgiven, looked at in mercy rather as matter of compassion through love. But one blaspheming against the Holy Ghost, who was Light and Witness of His glory, was opposing light and witness, and would not be forgiven. It was opposing the very Witness of His glory. That that was spoken against Him in ignorance of and denying His glory, was forgiven, and forgave itself, i.e., it denied and did not refuse witness of, and therefore showed itself ignorance. It was an act done while ignorant, and not against the witness of the Spirit, for that is the point. It is not the ignorance arising from shutting one's eyes, and opposing the light of the Spirit, but ignorance as contrasted with that as such. Such was the danger and warning; on the other hand, the blessing contained within this principle of the presence of the Spirit, that it would teach them in their emergencies of mind, in fulfilment of the duty imposed, confessing Him (as they were not to fear as to their body) what they were to say and what they were to speak when, and at the time they needed, so that all was provided for for them. Observe now the order which is very perfect and very practical. The great subject is the witness and confession of Christ, of that which they have within.
224 It runs thus: Beware of hypocrisy - for the great general principle God acts upon bringing everything to light - then meeting the fear generated by this: You had much better fear God - the principle having been stated. Besides God will, in point of fact, take care of you - then, having stated what was to be avoided, and discussed the wisdom of the principle, and its supports against fear, the service in which it was to be exercised, with its actual and just or retributive results, the confessing Him before men. But the peculiar manner in which this was to be done, and its special responsibility, and what was to be their special support as to their competency, is then stated. Were we to indulge ourselves, we might see that this instruction flowed from a deeper source, and was a development of the offices of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit in the work of redemption, or rather bringing into restoration the principles of light out of evil in the manifestation of the Son by the Spirit, as a tangible instrument by which it was developed, and man's part in it, and how brought out to light, good or evil, with the perfect and certain plan of the invisible God in and through it all, and in this is extremely interesting; compare, which runs deeply to the abstract principles of this through the manifestation, 1 John 1.
225 - 13. Here the special malicious action of Satan is closed, and his general influence as the spirit of the world is entered on; see verses 2 and 4. Now men to verse 21, then disciples to verse 48; all founded on breach with Israel, founded on chapter 11:15. Verse 49 takes up the question of Israel again (compare verses 58, 59 and beginning of chapter 13) and refers to His death.
From verse 13 to chapter 13:9, seems to me to be substantially one discourse or section. It embraces indeed a great many associated subjects dependent on it, but it all hangs on the character in which Christ now entered His ministry, and the footing on which He placed, or on which the kingdom was placed, as expressed in verse 14 in reply to the question in verse 13. It may be divided at these points, verses 31, 49, 59, and chapter 13:9. It was an important point, after the consideration of the place in which the believing witness was placed, to have the ground generally declared of what character generally, as to the kingdom, our Lord appeared. This was supplied by the question of someone who wished our Lord to take this place, the place of regulating distributive justice, and producing righteousness on earth. Such He disclaimed in fact then, and proceeds thereupon to show the principles of the kingdom, the inward principles, as then manifested, in which it was contrasted with the world, its present object which would not be answered by the introduction of general righteousness outwardly in the world, which neither was practicable according to the dispensations of God; for that which was manifested during the interval of our Lord's presence was of equal importance, though not of the same rest or glory as that in which He should take the glory of the power. It was the Enos state of the Church, in which its faithfulness, grace, and separation from the world were manifested, as in Him, save as perfect in Himself at His first coming. In this it was a witness of that through the power received at His resurrection, as He in His own faithfulness, and by the presence of the Father as understood in faith by Him through the Spirit dwelling in Him without measure. So the Church, save that it is sanctified in Him as in the glory, save that it is still His. In this accordingly our Lord in His gracious condescension instructs us. The first is the broad general principle that our life is not in them; see note on verse 15. It is this question of God with the soul (for there God has His question now) on which it all hangs. Life (zoe) does not consist. "I will say to my soul" (psuche); he thought his soul was in this, but he was a fool (aphron). "This night thy soul shall be required of thee; and whose shall be what thou hast prepared?" Leave every thing a man must. The only question is between grace for Christ and necessity for nothing. On the whole this is the case and condition of a man, "Who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich towards God"; here characteristic, without article - "rich" (plouton).
226 - 15. He says as a principle of life to the multitude: "Keep yourselves from all covetousness," for your life is not in this. But He draws from the consideration of this subject this guide to His disciples: "Be not anxious about what is necessary," adding many considerations why they should not, for God recognises the necessity of food and clothing, and will therefore provide for them that trust in Him, so as that they need not be anxious. But He warns all to keep from covetousness as an evil in itself. It is common with our Lord in His discourses to address Himself to the multitude on the principles of good and evil, life and death, and to His disciples on principles on the same subjects flowing from their state of grace and faith.
- 22. This begins another branch of this part of the subject: "To his disciples." If these be the general principles, if it be thus with the world, do you who have a Father, even the Father, not be anxious or take thought for your soul or body, "What ye shall eat … nor what ye shall put on." I had customarily thought that this contained merely an a fortiori argument, that if God had given the greater He would surely give the less. But there is more - to you, believers, the soul or life must be more than merely meat. It is not that which it will occasion to you the care of; and the body worth more than raiment, as if that were the only thing it should give occasion to you for thought about, when indeed it was to put on and be the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. This, however, was not yet revealed. It was, however, more than clothing, there was something more in it than that, and Christ spoke from, though He did not declare that knowledge, and so justly, for His subject, as it was comparative teaching, He was occupied with, and not express revelation of promise. Well then! if they be so, your thoughts should be in another channel, rising above such a view of the soul and body. Yet there is more in this. This is the natural care of it, for the natural man cannot go beyond it; "Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die." Do not therefore take thought for the body or life, for taking thought for them, as in the world, is always natural and of the natural man. The life concerned service for God - eternal life, all He had to give that was life. But He proceeds to assign positive grounds operative upon them as believers in this world, to wit, instead of making these things the end of their thoughts as to soul and body, and their god as unbelievers must - to know God, and therein that these were subsidiary things which He provided when He was owned as God, for these things were His and under His ordering, and that He cared for them, and for much less even than they.
227 - 24. As to food, "Consider the ravens," etc., and God nourisheth them, and ye are better than birds. Neither can ye do the least thing in providing for yourselves as to this body of yours.
- 28. I observe it is "God," not "Your Father," as the characteristic style here. This is an additional argument. The first was as believers, the soul and body have quite different objects and privileges, but even as to these exercise faith in God. As to food, "Consider the ravens" - for God's actual providing care and your own weakness. As to clothing, "Consider the lilies." "If … the grass," etc. And generally (v. 29) "seek not what ye shall eat or drink," nor be making consultations in your mind. This may (in an evil sense) become those that do not know God, but your Father knows you want these things. What is not your life ye are foolish to seek, and to you, believers, your soul and body is worth a great deal more than these things. These things, which your life and body do need, your Father knows it does, and indeed provides that which is of much less value. Such are the principles on which believers are to act, as associated with the world.
- 32. But the Lord stretches up, as it were, upon higher ground. Believers there is a special object about; you take higher ground. "Fear not, little flock, it has been the Father's" mind and "good pleasure to give you the kingdom." The kingdom! Sit loose to, get rid of the things that you have, and rest in, and provide things such as the Father gives to the heirs of His kingdom; act the part of kings, as persons called to and having a higher inheritance, and give alms. And there is a reason - it is a separating principle - let your treasure be there, your heart will be there also, you will be formed for God. It is not, observe, the value of the gifts meritoriously, but the effect internally. Such is the position, the suitable position of believers in the kingdom of the Lord; hereunto are they called. God is not ashamed to be called their God.
228 But further, as to their position, and character, and establishing motives: Be not only loose, and living with your hearts upon what is yours, in fellowship with God, be as men looking for the positive subversion of the present state of things, not as desirable in itself, but as waiting for their Lord, as thereby indeed responsible for His absence. It forms especially their character (they are always expecting) their loins girded and their lights burning. All is as if Christ was then come, or on His way actually. It is also as "For their Lord." And "He that shall come will come." We may remark the perfectness of the principles, here set forward, of the kingdom, and the intervening dispensation as here set forward - perfect assurance which is the root of all godly service and familiarity of holiness: "Fear not, it is your Father's good pleasure to give," founded on the holy, influencing favour of the Father, "Your Father." For the assurance of the Christian, as we have often said, is not the assurance of safety merely, but the assurance of love, of a child.
We have here the place and relationship of Christ beautifully. "It is the Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." Christ then even in heavenly places in the cloud beyond the kingdom takes, as He has taken for ever, for us the place of Servant, girds Himself, and comes forth and serves us. This is beautiful. Yet afterwards we have in the inheritance Christ Lord, and we are servants though He makes the faithful one ruler over all that He has. All this is beautifully in its place.
- 33-37. This paragraph is worthy of all study as exhibiting the high and holy confidence, motives (and therefore character) and watchfulness of the Christian, crowned with that which is its glory and crown. He will gird Himself, and make them sit down to meat, and will go forth and serve them.
- 35. This is the state for blessing; verse 42, the service for inheritance.
229 - 36. Observe the introduction of this paragraph, and consider whether it be merely of the type or the thing spoken of; if so, it throws large light on the passage.
- 37. I suspect this has a special primary Jewish reference; if so, the return from the marriage would be manifest. It shows, I think, not only that we shall be happy in the blessed enjoyment of what is heavenly, but that the Lord Jesus - blessed thought! - will still minister to us of His own fulness of blessing. He makes them sit down to meat, and comes forth, and serves them. It is not the thought of communicating of His own fulness in Himself, but it is of causing them to feast where He places them in rest, and ministering to their happiness - an infinite source of joy! Verse 44 is the conferred inheritance; so that we have both parts of the heavenly joy. The condition of the world, Jews, and saints is fully drawn out here.
- 38. It is remarkable that men have turned that uncertainty, which was ordered to keep men always expecting, though the time was not by and bye, and that it should be used by men as a reason for not expecting at all.
I do not know if I have clearly noticed the full character of verse 35 and following. After the gracious encouragement of verse 32, we have the treasure and affections and the heart directed to the Lord's coming, the constant expectation of whom was to characterise the Christian. The result of this is perfect blessedness in the house, rest and the finest of the wheat, and Christ occupied with serving us for our joy. What follows is service, and here it is not the joy within, but ruling over all His goods. Both these are the portion of the saints. But on earth we must find the opposition of the world of man's flesh marring our nearest affections.
Besides what is noted, in heaven we do not want lights burning. The glory of God lightens it, and the Lamb is its lamp. In this dark world we have to shine as lights - open profession. But this is, whatever the blessing, a strain on faith, as having our loins girded. It is not rest but diligence of heart. Affections tucked up, and confession made. Lights in a dark world. When He comes we sit and enjoy the best of heaven, He Himself ministering to us. According to gift we take in this world this service of love - we minister Christ to His household in the service of love; only here it is measured and suited - there it is full and the fulness of Christ.
230 Note too, further, the fire was already kindled, persecution and rejection - what man was - drove back Christ's love so that He was straitened till the baptism of death was accomplished, but when this very rejection rose (the time being come) to its height, it took the character of that baptism, and only opened the floodgates of full unmingled love. Such is the wisdom of God. We must have the fire, but we enjoy the flow of love infinitely more blessedly than if sin had not been there, for it is love above all hindrances, properly divine, superior to evil, redeeming love, and none of the fire can separate us from it.
- 39. Here end the general principles as applied to believers, and, acting upon them, the general concluding statement is more abstract, and leads to the question of Peter, which is the occasion of most important prophetic statement relative, morally relative, to the (Gentile) Church.
- 41. This is a question by which the statement is specifically made available to the ultimate history of the (Gentile) Church. For though it ought not to have been so, I see distinctly that the fulness of the manifestation of grace here rested in and was confined to the Jewish incorporation in which the Church was founded. The root bore it, and all its vigour here was therein shown, yet it ought not as to us to be so. And so the Lord leaves it, "Who then is?" The fact is that though partially true, yet a posteriori it will appear that none were found save he who therefore took the power to himself. But it is put as a responsible uncertainty, and those who are faithful even though unavailingly so, for it may be so, shall be recognised in that day - unavailingly as to apparent public result to man in the world, but they ought not to despair nor faint, and more faith would do more work. Yet how much more excellent is the uncertainty in which the Lord has left it i.e., the responsibility of the Church to feed, yet withal supposing the case, and showing the consequences of neglect. The case put is the Church assuming authority instead of acting as the responsible servant of an absent Master, in the spirit in which such would, with all the wisdom which one who had communion with Him would, and the carefulness of service towards others as valuable to Him, yet therein and thereby keeping them in order towards Him, and doing the work of substitute-authority, not by authority but by service. Let us observe then the assumption of authority, as though the waiting One was not just going to return, and had left the reins in the hand merely to hold in care and not in will, is the spirit of evil and unfaithfulness, and in fact apostasy in the Church. I say the spirit of it, for it is assuming it in lieu of Christ, arising from putting out of remembrance for our own sake, i.e., in atheism. Observe this assumes the flock.
231 They were attached to now, and associated with the heavenly character of the kingdom. This world was nought. But what they had of this world they could turn into the heavenly privilege of doing good, and have their treasure in the heavens, where there would be no losing it, and so their heart would be kept there. Thus their character would be heavenly. In the meantime they were to be there as waiting for their Lord, the return of their Lord from the wedding, that when He came and knocked, they might open to Him immediately. The Lord will return from the wedding when He visits His disciples here below, so that there would be applicability to them; but the general aim of the heavenly effect of the calling is here in question. They were to be here, separate from earthly things and waiting for Christ. Their then position, it is true, was of the earthly disciples, but He was calling them to heavenly hopes, into which He enters more fully a few verses further on. Here only they were to be on the watch. It is not prophecy but character and position. There are no signs; they were to be heavenly, separate and waiting for Christ. In chapters 17 and 21 we have historical signs and circumstances for people upon earth; here separation in spirit from it. For those who thus wait, Jesus is still a Servant. He will make them sit down to meat, and come forth and serve them. Girded to serve as Man, His ear has been bored in death, and in joy He comes forth delighting in disciples so walking. It is His joy to release them from their endurance, and watching, and service. Their faithfulness is His delight, and He sets them to the feast, and honours their faithfulness in honouring them with delight. Thus they were left therefore in uncertainty, and so the Church is left; it has no time. It is always to wait, because it has no time. Every moment is its time in desire and duty, as the world's for negligence and carelessness. The Jews have a time, days and years and earthly computations belong to them, and therefore signs; to us it may be second watch or third watch. Blessed only, if we are found watching. It is an hour we take pleasure in. This is a very important point.
232 In that which follows, Peter putting the question of the application of the passage, we have the portion of those who serve faithfully in the Church distinctly and positively given. It is not merely waiting faithfully. They will be set down to the feast, but serving faithfully they will be set over all His goods - an encouraging thought, though not the highest in the patience of labour in hope. He who distributes faithfully to the need of the household - our present service - shall be set over all the Lord's goods, and He is Heir of all things and Lord of all, when He returns to take possession of all He made and will inherit. On the other hand, the principle and character of the Church's apostasy is putting off in heart the Lord's coming. This is the great economic stay of heavenly-mindedness, and by which the Church preserves its own peculiar calling and character. The expectation of the Lord kept the servant on the watch, and detached from the world, and faithful in the service to be rendered to the Lord's household. On the other hand, the putting it off left him to his own will. The servant says not: My Lord will not come. It is not a doctrinal denial, but: "My Lord delayeth his coming." Next, He acts with authority and violence towards the servants, not as serving them for his Lord's sake, and as done to Him. Further, he mixes with the world; he eats and drinks with the drunken. Well! the Lord of that servant, for that servant has a Lord though he has acted so independently, will come when he does not expect it, make good His authority, and though long in the house, set there in a certain sense, his portion is appointed with the unbelievers in judgment. Such is the portion of the apostate Church, as of the nation which preceded it, and failed like it.
Further, there would be in detail a righteous adjudgment to the servant - he who knew, and did it not, many stripes, and he who knew it not, and did it not, few stripes. All was in ruin, all guilty; sin and neglect had produced ignorance. But the righteous distinction would be made. Note, they would be treated in the responsibility of the place they held, though they might not serve nor have spiritual right there. And so to whom much was given, of him much would be required, and if much has been afforded, more will be demanded. Thus the Lord unfolds the place and principles of service, as before of position, through His rejection and its consequences, and sole force. Further, we have to note here a manifest distinction between the called Church, called to wait for its Lord, and the ignorance of heathenism and the like, and the far more terrible portion of the Church. That servant, alluding specially to the one of whom He had just spoken, who knew his Lord's will and prepared not himself, i.e., for his Lord that was coming, and did not do according to His will, shall be beaten with many stripes - but he who - it is not said: Did not prepare himself, for he was not at all in that position, but "Committed things worthy of stripes," acted evilly according to his natural heart, as a heathen might do, shall be beaten with few stripes. The distinction is clear, and the judgment of the Lord as righteous, so is it solemn thereon, exceeding solemn, for the professing Church.
233 And again (v. 43) "That servant," i.e., who was put in the place to feed. Faithfulness in the stewardship in absence is the warrant for placing over much, even over "All his goods." It is the conservative power of the Church, faithfulness in which would constitute it over all the Lord's possessions; yet shall it be true of the Remnant, though, that it might be even here of grace, this was a manifest failure. But as to the corporate body it is (v. 45) "If that servant should say," etc. So ever has been the way. The condition as a body has failed, but the Lord has had a people who have lived by His faithfulness, on the principle in faithfulness, who have had the privileges in His faithfulness and mercy in Christ, which the body have forfeited, and which indeed was altogether forfeited in their formal proposal, and their feelings will be accordingly. The apostle opened this as to the times of old fully, and spoke of this to come on its moral responsibility as here, which was the only way it could be so effectually spoken of as regarded that responsibility. And when the condition came in which was the healthfully trying subject of moral discernment, then it became appropriately applicable prophetically. But the whole moral estate of the Church in the latter days is most fully and strongly depicted in this passage. I suspect verse 47 means the Church, and verse 48 those who ought to have been converted, but the unconverted heathen world. I have thought it was Protestantism, and the religions of ignorance. The principle is broadly stated in general, and thus indeed we may always learn and apply. But the Lord's reflections on these subjects, drawn from the full sources of the whole scenes, present to His mind in the Spirit-taught purpose of their realities rests, and then under the guidance of God (for as the Spirit was not given in measure, yet it is only, as it were, the heads given to us - certain eyelet holes, small in the light and but as isolated in itself, but looked at close in the same Spirit in measure giving inlet to see and scan much, and the general purpose of what is within) give us the affecting consideration of the result; for these heads give all the moral force when seen, they shine with the light that is within, and distinctively, for we could not simply bear the blaze.
234 - 45. There are two points mark this state of the rulers of the Church - self-indulgence, and the assumption of authority as such founded on their assuming to be in the Lord's place, and putting away the idea of His coming again, so as to lose the sense of their own tenure. Wherever therefore this thought began to work in the Church, i.e., where they were not presently looking for His coming, this spirit found scope and began to work. The right thought of it is THE ground of service.
- 48. This closes the exhortation. Then the fruit of His rejection, but even before it the effect was produced. Still His death must come in for the outflowing of the counsel of God in love.
- 49. The Lord pursues the effect of the gospel of a rejected Saviour. He was come to send a fire on the earth, not the crown of natural creation earthly blessing among His people. Messiah - the Head and Crown, but cast out and rejected by the will of man and the rejection of His people - He stands in the place, not of the Head and Bond of Creation, but of the occasion of ill-will, division, and animosity and judgment. "I am come to send a fire on the earth." This would be by the testimony to Him rejected but accepted of God. But what could He now seek or think of, if before the time, as it were, even then in His lifetime, the living Messiah who, in form at least, came as the Head of blessing and the Bringer of peace, was the Kindler of this fire? He could wish now for nothing. His natural mission was turned (and necessarily) into the opposite. His other glory was not come. Nothing could come of the first, and the second was yet with the Father. But the truth was there was something needful before Him; He had a baptism to be baptised with. He had His own portion to go through in this, and all the results must be deferred till then. The blessing, and the title of blessing and peace, and over creation depended on the accomplishment of that which set Him in redemption power through suffering in that; see Hebrews 2. Thence, as became God the Sovereign, for whom and by whom are all things, He could assert His title to bless, and bless in spite of the power of evil; here, creation being ruined, He could not. Hence, how was He straitened till it was accomplished! He could neither bless in the ruin (now fully discovered in His rejection, for He came to bless, or to present blessing, while because so come it was proved irreparably bad, and actually rejected it by its will, in the nearest point to Himself, the favoured Jews) nor in spite of the ruin from a new source, for His baptism of this, to wit, of death and consequent resurrection, was not yet accomplished. But, though He could not bless yet in spite of the evil (though He might heal a few sick folk) at any rate the evil and opposition was fully manifested in the race He came amongst, so that He could say: "From henceforth" (v. 52), for we have seen all this discourse was on His rejection. In the sense of this His rejection, the discovery of the state of things by it, the Lord says: "Suppose ye that I am come to send peace on earth?" Though peace on earth was the nature and essence here of His coming, if received, and shall be when in power, and therefore producing effect, and not seeking it - "I tell you, Nay, but rather division." This opposition of effect and principle opens a vast field of view on the judgment of the condition of the world into which He came, and its entire state of ruin and alienation, and the presentation of the good only making this active.
235 The introduction of a new principle would break up the closest ties, and strongest bonds of nature. But this was proved in what was nearest to God, nearest to the Lord (and hence whose opposition was the strongest and most prominent) being evil, as if blessing had been then it would have been, as it shall be in the new world, chief in blessing. It took place, and here is applied to the Jews - there the principle had its force and application, for there the Lord came. It is one which carries its truth with it; it was signalised there, as the law was withal. This application, essentially to them, of the great truth, application founded on the fact that He came to them, follows hereon.
The Lord having thus in pressure of Spirit explained His position, turns to the multitude and explains theirs connected with it, for judgment hung by it on the whole nation. They discerned the signs of earth and heaven, but the dealings of God with themselves they saw nothing of. They had the form of the Lord's people, but conscience was not at work; they were hypocrites. This time when the Lord was in the way with them, and presented to them they could not discern. How did not they discern? For there is something astonishing to the power and simplicity of truth in the utter obscurity of error and want of integrity, for when the eye is single the whole body is full of light. It is daylight, and nothing seen or understood! "Yea, why of yourselves judge ye not what is right?" Conscience ought to have judged the Lord; and the evidence of His glory not being there, they ought, oppressed by their own consciences of the state of things, and how matters stood in Jerusalem before God, for it was written with a sunbeam. For, continues the Lord, in human affairs you would well have the prudence to make up the matter with your adversary, knowing you were wrong and anticipating the judgment. For indeed, as the Lord thus plainly declares as the result of all this discourse (i.e., as to them) the Lord was in the way with them, and did they not submit and reconcile themselves to the Lord now, approaching judgment in the way, they would soon be delivered to the judicial dealings of the Lord, and not come out till they had "received of the Lord double of all their sins." The actual state of His beloved but rejecting, and rebellious, and therefore necessarily judged and chastened people, but being His they will come out, for by this shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged, and they shall be restored by the faithfulness and supreme mercy of the Lord's love, when the chastening is accomplished.
236 "I am come to send fire upon earth," i.e., I am come, drawing from the forethought of the result of the preceding statement, I am come to bring judgment upon the earth, but judgment which has its operation in the mutual destruction and devouring of the world within itself. It is sent down from heaven, cast upon earth, but it finds its fuel there. This was to be the full result of the manifestation of Christ, for the course of the Lord's mind previously in judging of the final state of the Church had led Him to this, i.e., of Christ witnessed of as glorified, quod nota. But what even if now My very manifestation in humiliation, before the glory appears, cause this spirit of destruction? The Lord speaks of it as certain, as surely coming - "I am come to send," as a fact, but with reference of horror at its necessity - His nature averted from judgment, His Spirit not. However He Himself, the Lord observes, must go through the fiery baptism and passage point of His death before this could be fully brought out. Still He was straitened till He should have passed through it, for that was the great crisis of triumph in which the power of darkness should make its critical effort against the light of the Redeeming Man who then should appear in the glory of salvation. But, as it were, the sensitive murmurings of their exposed enmity were then even accumulating, on one hand a pregnant witness of the fire to be kindled, and on the other pressing upon the Spirit of the Lord as of that which He had to go through and overcome, for evil is turned into judgment when Christ has triumphed, and the devil is always his own executioner, and so indeed man.
237 This point, this crisis, even His own death, in which all the question was settled as to power, the Lord came to. Hitherto, upon the basis of the result in the Church, the Lord's mind had been working in Spirit all through, as it were, upon His part in the awful conflict in light and darkness, with immersion and emergence of His glory. As to His trial in it, it had been brought, through the results of the Christ and the purpose of His mission, to the "Shall have been accomplished" of this crisis, and baptism of His soul in the power, the horribleness, the death-whelming power of evil, which was till He said: "It is finished," John 19:30. Then it was gone through in mind, in Spirit. Then He breaks out into the strength of practical results: "Think ye that I have come to give peace in the earth? Nay, I say unto you." It is very beautiful and most striking - what shall I say more justly? thus to see the Lord emerging in practical warning from the deep, affecting, infinitely deep thoughts which His own mind had been going through, with that strength of confidence of thought which the deep inward view of things gave, as though others were to be undeceived in what nothing but seeing things as He saw them could fully set their minds free and right upon. It is the breaking out from this present perception of truth, where His soul had been in actual feeling, prospective feeling, seeing through it all, yea, in it all: "Think ye that I have come to give peace on earth? Nay, I say to you, but rather division," for from "Henceforth" (for "Already it has been kindled") "there shall be five in one house divided." Remark the force of the expression as looking back upon all that had been in His mind truth. The prophets spoke of that day as to the second coming. The prophets, and Spirit of prophecy in Christ, and throughout also speak of "In that day." But there is a "From henceforth" as to the conflict, the manifestation of an accomplished salvation, a rejected Son of God, a desolate (just now approximating) house of God's people, a tried world, a people sown in the Spirit - all the great mystery of godliness in its moral power and separating energy. This arose from a strength of principle absorbing into itself more powerfully than all existing associations, and indeed also producing the positive hatred of the claim, first from its authority, secondly from its character. The circumstances of the division will show the complete dislocation of ordinary ties. It is not a party formed, but individual principle throwing people into conjunction.
238 - 54. This verse is addressed not to the prophetic character which He was able to use with His disciples as those interested in it, but to the multitude on the principles of personal responsibility, arising out of the thought of the very manifestations of which He was the occasion in the world which gave, in another point of view, occasion to the prophetic declaration. Their responsibility first upon the evident signs of God's dealings with the world. Secondly, their responsibility of judging in their own consciences what was right, and the righteous consequences of the conduct of the Jews. The conclusion derived to them was this - God is in the way with the Jewish Remnant - Come to agreement with Him, that He turn not, yea, that thou turn not Him into a Judge; then He will deal with thee accordingly. He will deliver thee up to the consequences of judgment, and thou shalt not escape till thou hast paid everything, yea, received double of all thy sins. Prophecy is always to the Church, the "Whatsoever I have heard of my Father, I have made known unto you." "Shall I hide from Abraham the thing that I do?" Responsibility to the world and so justly. How long will the Church deny itself its privileges, and say that God ought to treat it, or treat itself as a stepmother, its children as the world? When this was the measure of national judgment, and God dealt with it in measure, then there was a coming out, yet so as by mercy, and as to individuals. And sin - God in His nature was absolutely averse from it, and, the moment He becomes a Judge, must put it out of His sight for ever. The moment He becomes a Judge all is over, but this is not so when it is merely the dealings against Himself in a relative character to which He could adjudge punishment (chastisement) as seemed righteous and good. And it is this restoration of which the prophets are so full. And here the sense of "Against thee only," etc. And when the enemies, the instruments are come to their height of wickedness, they, put out of the way in judgment, will learn the boon of peace to forgiven Israel; see note on verse 58. From verse 54 to end of chapter 13, is the time for the people, as chapter 12:1-53 is the portion of believers on His and their rejection. In chapter 12:54 to end of chapter 13, the state and result of it for the nation is fully brought out. The two passages are, so to speak, the counterpart for the two classes; only in the former passage He rejects setting right order and justice in the nation.
239 - 56, 57. These verses afford the two great principles of the whole question, and make the responsibility of the Church, for it ought to know the signs, and it ought, if a Church, if walking in fellowship with God, to know His mind morally - what could and could not agree with Him. "Can two walk together except they be agreed?"
- 58. The "For" probably marks connection. It follows on verse 57, as to the "For," I suppose, though that of course on the general sense. It applies here to our Lord's proximate coming. God was now in the way with them; surely it was time to agree. "Discern" the signs; "judge" what is right. Why do you not without signs even judge of what is morally due to this people? Why do you not, when God has manifested Himself morally to be in the way with you, see in your own minds the time to come forward for reconciliation, lest you should be destroyed? Verses 58, 59 follow. And with this connects itself the parallel passage in Matthew. God accepts no offering but of a renewed mind, the person acceptable in the way of grace before any offering can be made. Therefore agree whiles thou art in the way quickly. Seek reconciliation. It was so important and so urgent a truth that our Lord brings it in when the moral subject gave occasion for its introduction. And this gives peculiar strength to the connection of the following verses. The main subject ends here at chapter 13:9, inclusive.
The connection, as we have said, is quite manifest, and bears the stamp of the principles we have before adverted to. A special case of judgment (as they supposed) was mentioned to the Lord as He talked on these subjects, falling in, as it were, with the subject. He immediately applies it generally to a broad principle and sure, therefore universal fact. There are two points to be noticed, that which God looked for and must have for His agreement with them, repentance or they would perish. The former was national, this personal. Two could not walk together except they were agreed. This was the one only way of agreement with God. The general result to them, the explication and application is too obvious to need comment. It is a simple and a noble testimony.