*Did the Jews confuse the purpose of Christ’s first coming?
*Are the worst sinners punished the most?
*What does it take to enter the Kingdom of God?
*What is true charity in the eyes of God?
*What does it mean to count the cost?
In Luke 12:51-53 Jesus dispelled the notion, commonly thought today, that He had come to bring peace to the world. This was explained in Number Ten of this series, so we need not dwell on it here. The confusion arose because Jewish scholars, studying the Old Testament, could not distinguish between Christ’s First and Second Coming. Jesus did not come to bring peace to the Earth at His First Coming. Notice what He said:
Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law (Luke 12:51-53).
What Jesus stated here was that the truth itself would generate division. Those called of God would often find themselves opposed by those who are not called. Those who accept the truth of God can expect antagonism. “. . . A man’s foes shall be they of his own household” (Matt. 10:36). There will be no peace on the Earth until Christ returns and a basic change in human nature occurs. What took place at Christ’s First Coming and what will take place at Christ’s Second Coming should not be confused.
There is another teaching of Jesus in the next chapter of Luke. Notice what is said:
There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish (Luke 13:1-5).
Those who gave this information to Jesus were likely trying to elicit some kind of sympathetic response or censure out of Him for Pilate’s bloody behavior. But how did Jesus respond? Jesus did not deny the fact that these Galileans were sinners. He simply pointed out that they were not the worst sinners just because this evil befell them. He, then, demonstrated the really big picture, that evil things do not necessarily happen because some are more wicked than others. Rather, the fate of all men will be death if they do not repent of their sins. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). What really counts is gaining eternal life, but this first requires repentance. So, Jesus told those who addressed Him on the matter of Pilate that they would eventually suffer the same fate-death-if they did not repent. Paul described repentance in 2 Corinthians 7:10. He wrote, “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.” That is, true remorse for one’s sins will lead to salvation. Embarrassment and remorse for being exposed is not true repentance. It is temporary in nature and will eventually lead to death. True repentance is heartfelt, sincere, and permanent.
Then, in a parable, Jesus went on to explain that repentance requires fruits. Earlier, John the Baptist had said, “Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance. . .” (Luke 3:8). Notice what Jesus said:
. . . A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down (Luke 13:6-9).
What will be the fate, then, of those who refuse to bring forth fruits to repentance? Just as Jesus said, “ye shall all likewise perish.”
Jesus was asked the question: “Are there few that be saved?” (Luke 13:23). What was His reply? “Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able” (Luke 13:24). Those who really seek the Kingdom of God, Jesus said, would not do so in a leisurely manner. It would take strenuous effort. Those who seek to enter the Kingdom of God with only a half-hearted effort are bound to fail. They refuse to strive hard enough. Then Jesus warned:
When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. . . (Luke 13:25-28).
Calling oneself a Christian and associating with Christians, Jesus said, is not enough. Unless one earnestly strives and individually brings forth fruits for repentance there will be no realization of the goal. When the cut-off point is reached, it will be too late. One who knows the truth of God, and fails to practice it, is a superficial Christian. James wrote, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (Jas. 4:17). Only pure dedication and strenuous determination will prevail in that day. A lax, laid back, attitude will end in failure. Christianity is easy to profess but very difficult to live. Only by the help of God’s Holy Spirit can one overcome and qualify for the Kingdom of God.
Another teaching Jesus gave begins in Luke 14:7.
And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief [places]; saying unto them, When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the [chief place]; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have [honor] in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted (Luke 14:7-11).
Then Jesus went on to explain another aspect-a feast given for the purpose of gain, that is, one held to receive some advantage in return, one given with the wrong motive. “Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee” (Luke 14:12). Rather, Jesus said, “But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just” (vv. 13-14).
This is true service, Jesus said, not the kind of ostentatious show given to receive favors in return. The lesson here is that if one is striving to exalt himself, he will assume a status that is not necessarily his and will curry the favor of others. These things should not be done. It is not necessary to “sell oneself.” Live a Christian life and that should be sufficient. Any praise to be given should come from God, not from oneself.
A lesson of great importance is given in Luke 14:25-33. It has to do with counting the cost. “And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, 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” (Luke 14:25-26). The Bible does not teach hate. The translation in this verse for “hate” should be “to love less by comparison.” What Jesus meant was that in order to be a true follower of Him, one must love his relatives less than he loves God. A stand for the truth must take precedence over the desire of family members, if necessary. Then, Jesus said, “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27). A cross is a burden. So, in some cases a burden must be borne, whether it means giving up loved ones, a job, an occupation that is ungodly, or whatever. One who follows Christ must be willing to pay whatever price is required.
For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:28-33).
Counting the cost means understanding what the cost is. Too many assume they understand what the Bible requires of them, but they are woefully lacking in knowledge. This is why Jesus said what He did above. One who is a true follower of Christ must be willing to give up all, if necessary. These are strong words, and some of us may be required to do so. One must know what he is doing in order to count the cost.