A Message for the MasterŐs Friends
ŇIn the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops. And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.Ó
We have in this portion of LukeŐs Gospel a message to the MasterŐs friends. While the scribes and Pharisees were laying wait for him, seeking some pretentious ground for hurling vile accusations at him (11:54), as literally thousands of people crowded to hear him, the Lord Jesus turned to his disciples, those men and women who followed him, and particularly to those men whom he had chosen and sent out to preach the gospel, and gave them the message contained in these verses. The message is simple, clear and forthright. I will give it to you in seven statements.
1. The Lord Jesus Christ was an exemplary preacher (v. 1).
This first lesson I take not from our MasterŐs words so much as from his behavior. — "In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy" (v. 1).
Our Lord Jesus was constantly concerned for the welfare of his people. While the scribes and Pharisees were seeking his ruin, his heart and mind were occupied with his chosen. His every thought was focused on his disciples. He did nothing to defend or protect himself. He was concerned for his people.
What an example he is. I pray that he will make me such a preacher, a preacher and a pastor fully devoted to the welfare of GodŐs people, serving the souls of men, with no thought of self-interest!
Now, watch the Master. There were, as I said, literally thousands of people gathered around him. What would he say? How would he speak? Here is God who is love incarnate, the only man who ever loved men perfectly. How will he speak? Surely every preacher will be wise to emulate him.
Our Lord began his message with a severe, public denunciation of the most powerful, influential religious leaders and the religion they represented. Unsparingly, unflinchingly, without partiality, he denounced the scribes and Pharisees as utter hypocrites. How different things might be today if gospel preachers everywhere would follow his example! Our Master was more concerned for the glory of God than the approval of men. He was more concerned for the welfare of menŐs souls than their applause. He was more concerned for his people than for his own reputation, safety and comfort. HereŐs the second lesson:
2. We must constantly guard against hypocrisy (v. 1).
ŇHe began to say unto his disciples first of allÓ — Notice that the Lord Jesus directed his message not to the Pharisees, nor to the multitude, but to his disciples. These were the men he had chosen to be the preachers of his Gospel. It was, therefore, needful that they (and we) be made aware of the pretentious devices and arts of the Scribes and Pharisees. He knew that we need to be warned and prepared for the devices of Satan and his messengers who come as wolves in sheepŐs clothing.
ŇBefore all things, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.Ó — This warning, he says, is to stand before us above all cautions, above all beacons, before all things. Ever beware of this leaven, which will ultimately ruin everything: — HYPOCRISY!
In doctrine and in conduct, the whole of the PhariseesŐ religion was nothing but an outward show of piety. The whole of their religion is outward, designed and practiced for manŐs approval. It is all appearance only.
Our Lord compares it to leaven. Though, perhaps, very small at first, it gradually increases and spreads itself. Like leaven, it lies hidden and covered, and is not easily discerned. Its agenda and influence and effects are not open and above board. But given time, it infects and corrupts the whole of menŐs principles and practices. Religion without Christ puffs and swells men with pride like nothing else. — Beware of every doctrine and religious practice that is obviously intended for show. — Beware of everything that seems pretentious. — Beware, above all else, of your own tendency to such things!
If we would avoid the danger of hypocrisy, the deadly plague of pretense, we must ever seek to be simple, sincere and open, honest with God, especially about ourselves (2 Corinthians 11:2-3).
3. There is a day coming when all things shall be revealed and made known (v. 2).
"For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known." — Our Lord repeated this fact so often that all who heard him must have thought it was a matter he intended for us to lay to heart (Matthew 10:26; Mark 4:22; Luke 8:17). "There is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known." — What a warning this is for hypocrites! What a consolation it is for true believers! Both Job and the Apostle Paul considered it a matter of great joy that all things will be made manifest in that great day (Job 16:19; 1 Corinthians 4:3-4).
4. That which the Lord God has been pleased to reveal to us we must proclaim to the world (v. 3).
"Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops." — Has the Lord God revealed to us the gospel of his grace? Then let us proclaim it from the housetop.
"So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith." (Romans 1:15-17)
5. There are some people in this world whom the Son of God has made to be his friends (v. 4).
Look at the opening line of verse 4. — "And I say unto you my friends.Ó IsnŐt that remarkable? Christ Jesus makes sinners his friends! He is the Friend of publicans and sinners. Rejoice! He is the Friend that sticketh closer than a brother. Give thanks! But here is something else. He has made us his friends.
"Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you." (John 15:14-15)
6. There is nothing so destructive to our faithfulness and usefulness as the fear of man (vv. 4-5).
"And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him."
The fear of man is bondage. The only cure there is for the fear of man is the fear of God. If we fear God, there is no reason to fear anyone else. Life and death are in his hands alone; and none can harm us, except by the will and consent of our heavenly Father.
Learn this, too. — Hell and everlasting judgment and wrath are real.
7. GodŐs elect have nothing to fear (vv. 6-7).
"Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows."
Nothing whatever, whether great or small, can happen to one of GodŐs elect, without GodŐs decree and direction.
The providential government of our great God over everything in this world is a truth which is clearly revealed and constantly taught in the Word of God. Just as the telescope and microscope show us that there is order and design in all the works of GodŐs hand, from the greatest planet down to the least insect, so the Book of God teaches us that there is an infinite wisdom, divine order, and gracious design in all the events of our daily lives. There is no such thing as "chance," "luck," or "accident" in GodŐs creation or in our journey through this world. All is arranged and appointed by God, our heavenly Father. And all things Ňwork together" for our good (Romans 8:28; 11:33-36).
Let us seek to have an abiding sense of GodŐs hand in all our affairs. Our FatherŐs hand measures out our daily portion. All our steps are ordered by him who loves us with an everlasting love. Confidence in GodŐs wise and good providence is a mighty antidote against murmuring and discontent. In the day of trial and disappointment, as in the day of joy and happiness, all is right and all is well done. When we are laid on the bed of sickness, there is a "needs be" for it. Else, it would not come to pass. Because it comes to pass, the very fact that it comes to pass should assure us that it is for our soulsŐ advantage. Let us bow and be still, and bear all things patiently. Ours is Ňan everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sureÓ (2 Samuel 23:5). That which pleases our God ought to please us. Truly, ŇHe hath done all things well!Ó And he will yet do all things well.
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