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Bible: What Does Luke 18 Teach Us About Persistent Prayer and Humility?
Will He Find Faith?
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God is Just
Now Christ approaches a discussion of the parousia, having in view both the preceding tribulation and the elect’s need to engage in persistent prayer in light of it (vv. 1-8).
To illustrate the latter, Jesus creates a parable dealing with the relationship between a God-rejecting, misanthropic judge and a recent widow seeking justice from adversaries (vv. 1-3).
Initially unwilling to help her, the judge finally relents when her importunity threatened to wear him out (vv. 4-5).
[Note his rationalization: “Though I do not fear God nor regard man . . . .” He goes against his stated principles in the interest of his sanity and/or physical well being.]
Jesus teaches that, by way of contrast with the “unjust judge” (v. 6), God will surely and “speedily”avenge His suffering, praying elect.
[“Speedily” here means “quickly when the answer begins to come” (vv. 7-8a; see Ryrie, New Testament Study Bible, 143; cf. Rev. 1:1)].
Pondering that day—the Lord does not draw upon His omniscience here—He wonders if He will find true faith at His parousia (v. 8b).
[This comment suggests that only a remnant will survive the Tribulation and enter Christ’s kingdom.
It also speaks loudly in support of a premillennial view of history; the Church will not bring in the kingdom.]
The Publican and the Pharisee
Essential Attitude for Salvation
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Jesus addresses self-righteous misanthropes in still another parable, contrasting the disparate attitudes of a typical Pharisee and an atypical publican (tax collector) while they pray in the temple [vv. 9-14].
First, the Lord notes both the haughty position of the former’s body as he prayed (“stood”) and the curious narcissism of his prayer (“with himself”).
Then He recounts the Pharisee’s self-aggrandizing words, words extolling his lack of bad character (v. 11a) and highlighting his religion-based, man-centered good deeds (v. 12).
In the process of making himself feel good, the Jewish leader gives God a left-handed compliment at the same time he denigrates the publican’s supposed wicked character (vv. 11a, 13a).
Christ also relates the tax collector’s humble penitence, mentioning both his whole body’s location in the temple (“standing afar off”) and the “position” of his eyes and hand (“would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast”) [v. 13b].
While the Pharisee thanks God that he is “righteous,” the publican pleads for God’s mercy, knowing that he is not (v. 13c).
Jesus informs his audience that God “justified” the tax-collector, because he humbled himself before the Lord.
The Pharisee, on the other hand, departs from the temple as lost, in God’s eyes, as he was when he first entered it, because he exalted himself in the Lord’s sight (v. 14).
[By “justified,” does Jesus mean that God saved the publican at this time?
Or does the term signify that the Lord vindicated the penitent one’s attitude toward Him?]
Jesus and a Child
Continuing with the theme of humility, Luke records an incident in which Jesus instructs His disciples not to forbid parents from bringing their infants to Him for a “touch” blessing (vv. 15-16a).
Note the slight, but significant nuance in the meaning of the text when we compare two translations of verse seventeen.
NKJV says,” . . . whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child . . .” whereas NASB records, “whoever . . . like a little child . . . .”
The former suggests that human beings who do not receive the kingdom when they are infants will not enter it at all.
[Does not this nuance leave open the possibility of arguing that baptismal regeneration (christening) is legitimate doctrine?
Could “baby dedications” be far behind in the minds of some sects?]
The latter translation correctly points out the need for people to receive the kingdom with the artlessness and humility of little children.
Luke pens three events consecutively that the other Synoptics also record:
First, Jesus’ discussion with the rich young ruler (vv. 18-23) and His subsequent instruction of His disciples regarding it (vv. 24-30).
[Matthew 19:16-29 and Mark 10:17-30 comment sufficiently upon this event; therefore, I will not deal with it here.]
Second, Jesus’ third prediction of His death and resurrection the other gospels also discuss (vv. 31-34; cf. Mt. 20:17-19; Mk. 10:32-34).
[The only significant differences in Luke are his reference to the Son of Man’s passion fulfilling “all things that are written by the prophets” (v. 31) and his tri-fold assertion that the disciples could not understand Jesus’ prediction and its details (v. 34)].
Finally, the physician’s recounting of the healing of a blind man, whom Mark refers to as Bartimaeus (10:46).
[Only Matthew records that two blind men encountered Jesus in this incident (20:30).
See the commentary in the other Synoptics for further nuances.]
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