Sermon #121                                                 Luke Sermons


     Title:          “That Which is Highly

                        Esteemed Among Men

     Text:          Luke 16:13-18

     Subject:     Things Abominable to God

     Date:         Sunday Evening—March 21, 2004

     Tape #       Y-8b

     Readings:   Bob Poncer and Bobbie Estes



(Luke 16:13-18)  “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. (14) And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him. (15) And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God. (16) The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. (17) And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail. (18) Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.”


My message is found in Luke 16. I want to talk you as plainly as possible, praying that God the Holy Spirit will teach us the meaning of our Lord’s words in verse 15 and graciously drive it home to our hearts. Our Savior declares (Lk. 16:15), ― “That which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.” That is my message. ― “That which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.


Single Heart


The Lord Jesus concluded his parable of the unjust steward with these words, found in Luke 16:13: ― “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.


I.       The lesson he here declares is unmistakable. ― If we would worship and serve our God, we must worship him and serve him with a single, undivided heart.


The Lord looketh on the heart.” In all things concerning faith in Christ, obedience to our God and worship, the heart is the principle thing. “The Lord looketh on the heart.”


(Prov 23:26)  “My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.”


(Prov 4:23)  “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”


The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart” he will not despise. The one thing he requires of all who come to him in faith is the heart, a sincere, single, undivided heart. The heart was the one thing lacking in the rich young ruler. The heart was the thing the Scribes and Pharisees would not give. The heart the one thing none will give to God, except the Lord God create a broken, contrite, single, undivided heart in us by his omnipotent grace. Faith in Christ is the surrender of myself to him. It is giving up my life to him. ― Not a partial consecration, but the entire consecration of myself to my God. Is that, or is it not, the doctrine of Christ?


(Luke 14:26-27)  “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. (27) And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”


(Luke 14:33)  “So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.”


(Mark 8:34-37)  “And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. (35) For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it. (36) For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? (37) Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”


The plain and simple fact is ― “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” ― We are not the servants of God, we do not trust Christ as our Lord, if we do not give up ourselves so entirely to his service as to make mammon, that is, all our worldly gain, serviceable to us in his service, his will, and his glory.


If we love the world and seek to hold on to the things of the world, we will hate God and despise his grace. Our worship of, service to, and faith in God will be made to be subservient to our worldly interests. We will use the things of God to serve the world.


If we love God and seek to hold on to him, serving his kingdom and his glory, his Son and his gospel, then we will hate the world and despise all that it offers. That simply means, when the world comes into competition with God, we throw the world away and hold our God and Savior. We make our business and worldly interests subservient to the worship of, obedience to, and service for our God. We make the things of the world to be neither more nor less than instruments with which we serve the Lord God.


Illustration: The Preacher and the Businessman


It is a useless show of hypocrisy to claim that we are worshippers and servants of God, when in reality we only serve ourselves. God in heaven cannot be served with a divided heart.


That fact is so obviously revealed in the New Testament that dispute regarding it would seem to be unthinkable. Yet, multitudes in this world try to do the thing our Master declares is impossible. They try to be friends of the world and friends of God at the same time. Do I speak to you? Your conscience forces you to be religious. But your heart is chained to earthly things. You live in constant unrest. You have too much religion to be happy in the world and you have too much of the world in your heart to be happy in religion. You labor to do that which cannot be done. You are striving to “serve God and mammon.”


·       Whole-hearted, decisive faith is that which our Lord requires.

·       Whole-hearted, decisive faith is that which is the key contentment and peace in this world.

·       Half-heartedness brings up an evil report of the good land and of God’s promise.

·       Whole-hearted faith in Christ, like Caleb, is of another spirit and follows the Lord fully, saying, ― “The Lord will bring us into this land and give it to us.”


“The more entirely we live, not to ourselves, but to Him who died for us, the more powerfully shall we realize what it is to have ‘joy and peace in believing’ (Rom. 15:13). If it is worthwhile to serve Christ at all, let us serve Him with all our heart, and soul, and mind and strength…If we cannot make up our minds to give up everything for Christ's sake, we must not expect Christ to own us at the last day. He will have all our hearts or none. “Whoever will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God’ (James 4:4). The end of undecided and half-hearted Christians will be to be cast out forever.”                                                (J. C. Ryle)


Sneering Religionists


II.    When the Scribes and Pharisees heard our Lord’s parable of the unjust steward and the conclusion he drew from it, “they derided him.” ― These lost religionists turned up their noses in contempt at our Savior’s doctrine.


(Luke 16:14)  “And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him.”


When the Pharisees, a money-loving, money-obsessed bunch of religionists, heard the Master say these things, they rolled their eyes, dismissing him as hopelessly out of touch.


These covetous men, these lovers of the world, turned up their noses, made faces at the Son of God, and sneered at him. They laughed and scoffed at his doctrine. These men professed to be, and everyone highly regarded them as being, lovers of God; but that which was the master passion of their hearts was the love of the world.


“These men were filled with scorn for this poor, Galilean peasant who talked like that about money. To them, the teaching Jesus had been giving was so preposterous that they could not restrain their mockery.”                                   (G. Campbell Morgan)


There are many in pulpits and churches around the world today who are of the same opinion. They are moral. They are religious. But they tell us that such things as our Lord here emphatically declares are not practical. What blasphemy there is in the use of that word “practical”!


·       When religious people talk about “being practical,” “teaching practical things,” practical doctrine,” and practical godliness,” what they usually mean is ― “We’ve heard enough about Christ and his gospel. That no longer appeals to us!”

·       When they talk about devotion and consecration to the Son of God as something “excessive” and “impractical,” they are only attempting to cover their own rebellion, self-interests, and love of the world.

·       Nothing, in all the world, is more reasonable and practical than the whole-hearted consecration of our lives to our God and Savior (Rom. 12:1-2).


That man or woman who loves the world, no matter how religious he or she may be, betrays himself by the object of his affection.


(1 John 2:15-17)  “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (16) For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. (17) And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”


A Biting Reply


III. The Master had already stung their consciences. They knew he had been talking about them. And, now, in verse 15, our Savior gives a biting reply to their sneers. ― God sees right through the mask of hypocrisy. He knows every man’s heart.


(Luke 16:15)  “And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.”


Hiding behind the mask of religious devotion, these men passed themselves off as being great lovers of God and of his law. But their religion was nothing but a mask to hide their covetousness, their love of all that can be gained in this world. Here, our Lord unmasked the Pharisees publicly.


In essence, he is saying, “You are masters at making yourselves look good in front of others, but God knows what’s behind the appearance. What society sees and calls “monumental,” God sees through and calls “monstrous.” In doing so, he gives us two, sobering lessons, if we have ears to hear them.


A.   God knoweth your hearts.


B.   That which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God


That which is high in the estimation of men is an abomination in the sight of God. That is to say, those who attempt to justify themselves by their works, ever making a show of religion godliness before men, are a stench in the nostrils of God in heaven, who knows their hearts.


They are a stench in his nostrils and all their religion is a stench in his nostrils. Their religion and holiness, their devotion and ceremonies, their zeal and their prayers are a stench to God! Everything by which they gain the applause of men as “holy, devoted, godly people,” everything by which they gain the world they covet, is an abomination to God.


What was our Lord referring to here? Did he have anything specific in mind? Hear his own words and see…


(Mat 6:1-4)  “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. (2) Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. (3) But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: (4) That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.”


(Mat 6:5-8)  “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. (6) But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. (7) But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. (8) Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.”


(Mat 6:16-18)  “Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. (17) But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; (18) That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.”


(Mat 23:1-8)  “Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, (2) Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: (3) All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. (4) For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. (5) But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, (6) And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, (7) And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. (8) But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.”


(Mat 23:15)  “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.”


(Mat 23:23-25)  “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. (24) Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. (25) Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.”


(Mat 23:27-28)  “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. (28) Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.”


(Mat 23:29-33)  “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, (30) And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. (31) Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. (32) Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. (33) Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?”


God’s opinion of a man’s goodness and his own opinion of his goodness are not quite the same. Your opinion of your righteousness and God’s opinion of it are as different as heaven and hell.


(Isa 1:10-15)  “Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah. (11) To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. (12) When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? (13) Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. (14) Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. (15) And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.”


(Isa 65:2-5)  “I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts; (3) A people that provoketh me to anger continually to my face; that sacrificeth in gardens, and burneth incense upon altars of brick (Altars of Works Ex. 20); (4) Which remain among the graves, and lodge in the monuments, which eat swine's flesh, and broth of abominable things is in their vessels; (5) Which say, Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou. These are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burneth all the day.”


·       God loves what men despise: ― Mercy! ― Grace! ― Lovingkindness! ― and Faith!

·       Men love what God despises: ― A Form of Godliness! ― A Religious Show! ― and The Praise of Men!


(Psa 49:16-20)  “Be not thou afraid when one is made rich, when the glory of his house is increased; (17) For when he dieth he shall carry nothing away: his glory shall not descend after him. (18) Though while he lived he blessed his soul: and men will praise thee, when thou doest well to thyself. (19) He shall go to the generation of his fathers; they shall never see light. (20) Man that is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish.”


Legalists and the Law


IV.           In verses 16-18 our Lord exposes the legalists’ contempt for God’s holy law. ― The fact is All who claim to live by the law would destroy the law.


All who want you to believe that they are holy, that they live by the law of God and make themselves holy by their obedience to God really despise the law and endeavor to destroy it by lowering it to their level. This is exactly what our Lord charged against the Pharisees and all their followers in these three verses.


Legalists love to show their obedience to the law, though they despise it inwardly. (Illus. How often we hear legalists say, ― “If I didn’t believe I was still under the law, I could go out and live any way I wanted to.” With their own words they are judged.) Believers delight in the law after the inward man.


A New Age


A.    Our Savior declares, in verse 16, that the law and the prophets have now been fulfilled and a new age has begun.


(Luke 16:16)  “The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.”


In the strictest sense, the law and the prophets were not fulfilled until Christ died and rose again. But John the Baptist appeared as the forerunner of the Christ, preparing the way before him, announcing the beginning of this present gospel age. Since the day John the Baptist pointed to him and cried, “Behold, the Lamb f God that taketh away the sin of the world,” the types and shadows of the law have been fulfilled.


The kingdom of God no longer has any connection with meats, and drinks, and ceremonies, and bondage. It is not outward, but inward. The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost (Rom. 14:17). In this gospel age, we no longer call men and women to duties and ceremonies, but to Christ himself, preaching the kingdom of God.


The law portrayed eternal things in the words of temporal things and spiritual things by carnal things. The gospel deals only with the spiritual and the eternal. The old things of the legal age have passed away. We are no longer looking for a kingdom to come, but proclaiming a kingdom established, and pressing men and women into it.


·       A Kingdom Established by Christ

·       A Kingdom Established upon Righteousness

·       A Kingdom of Which Christ is the King

·       A Kingdom of Grace

·       A Kingdom Everlasting


Pressing In


In the last line of verse 16 we read, “the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.” What do those words mean? Certainly, our Lord does not mean for us to understand that all men are trying to get into his kingdom. These Pharisees weren’t! They not only would not enter the kingdom, they did everything they could to block others from entering, just as our modern religionists do by their…


·       Traditions

·       Ceremonies

·       Altar Calls

·       Scripted Prayers

·       Displays of Piety


So what does is mean? ― The word translated “presseth” in verse 16 is used in only one other place in the New Testament (Matt. 11:12). It means, as it is translated in Matthew, “suffereth violence.”


(Mat 11:12)  “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.”


Everyone who enters the kingdom strives to enter in at the strait gate. He strives against all the religion and religious duties, against all the saying of prayers and doing of penance, against all the laws and ceremonies by which lost religionists would keep them from Christ.


Word Fulfilled


B.    In verse 17 our Lord declares that the Word of God stands and must be fulfilled in every detail.


(Luke 16:17)  “And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.”


Apply these words to the Mosaic law or to the whole of divine revelation in the Old Testament, or to both. They mean exactly the same thing. Our Lord is here declaring, lest any foolishly say (as many do!) that since they are fulfilled, the law and the prophets have been destroyed. Fulfilled is not destroyed, but fulfilled!


As all the law was exactly fulfilled, so every Word of God stands forever. Not one word written in he Book of God shall fall to the ground. God’s Word is sure and unalterable!


With regard to God’s holy law, the preaching of the kingdom of God (the preaching of the gospel) does not lessen it, or destroy it. Not at all! The preaching of the gospels maintains the utter severity, strictness, and justice of the law, and its fulfillment by Christ as our Substitute (Rom. 3:24-26; 8:1-4; 9:33-10:4).


(Rom 3:24-26)  “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: (25) Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; (26) To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”


(Rom 8:1-4)  “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (2) For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. (3) For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: (4) That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”


(Rom 9:31-33)  “But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. (32) Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; (33) As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.”


(Rom 10:1-4)  “Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. (2) For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. (3) For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. (4) For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.”


Committeth Adultery


C.   To enforce what he says in verse 17, our Lord declares to these self-righteous, self-serving, mean-spirited legalists that the specific law they were most flagrantly guilty of perverting, violating and trying to destroy means exactly the same thing today as it did when Moses wrote it in Deuteronomy 24.


(Luke 16:18)  “Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.”


The Word of God is crystal clear. ― Marriage is the lifelong union of a man and a woman (Gen. 1:27; 24). Any man or woman who breaks that union, except upon the grounds of or because of adultery or abandonment (Matt. 5:31-32; 19:1-9; 1 Cor. 7:15), and marries another commits adultery.


The Pharisees were flagrant in their disregard of God’s law in this regard. The famous rabbi Hillel, who lived during the days of Herod I, had the right to divorce his wife if she burned his food! Another rabbi (Akiba) taught that a man could divorce his wife if he found a woman who was prettier!


So commonly and easily did these fine religious people divorce their wives and marry another, that when our Lord’s disciples heard what he had to say about it, they were shocked. ― They said, “If the case of the man be so with his wife,” if a man cannot put away his wife for any and every cause as the Pharisees do (Matt. 19:3), “it is not good to marry” (Matt. 19:10).


Does that sound familiar? All this looseness and laxity, all this contempt for God’s law was promoted by men who pretended to be lovers of it and zealous for it, while they lowered it to their own level. In reality, they were men who simply used religion and God and the Bible to gratify their own lusts, promote their own praise, and secure their high esteem in the eyes of men.


Why here?


Many seem to have great difficulty trying to figure out why the Lord Jesus said what he did in verse 18 in this context. They think it is out of place, that it has nothing to do with the parable in verses 1-13, the comments in verses 14-17, or the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in verse 19-31.


They are all mistaken. In verse 18 our Lord sticks his finger right on the ever-swelling chest of every proud legalist, exposing his hypocrisy, and says, “Like the unjust steward, you live for yourself. Your religion, your great piety, that you think will get you into heaven is carrying you rapidly, headlong into hell. And, soon, you who are so rich in your own eyes will lift up you eyes in hell and see all God’s poor Lazarus’s, all these publicans and sinners who trust me alone for acceptance with God, these who come to me at Mercy’s open gate as poor, needy beggars seeking grace, these who feed with me at the Father’s bounteous table, these you will see in all the riches of heavenly glory with me. Then, then, you will remember your imaginary riches and good things to the everlasting torment of your soul.”


(Mat 5:20)  “For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”


Oh, poor, guilty, needy sinners, come to Christ as filthy, empty handed, naked beggars and find in him the righteousness that God requires. Everything God requires is in him. And God gives it freely to all who need it.


(1 Cor 1:30-31)  “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: (31) That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”