child02Luke 18 Part 2

15. Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them.

There were some, probably from among the crowds that were constantly gathering around the Lord, who were bringing infants to Him in the hopes that He would touch them. This might seem like a strange thing, and yet when we think of Who the Lord was, we can see why some might wish to do this. Certainly if you were carrying a child and met the Lord Jesus, there would be nothing greater you could think of having Him do for that child than to touch him. The child might be too young to hear His words and believe, and yet in the future you could always say with pride that this child had been touched by the Lord Jesus.

Yet there is nothing like this that we can do today. The Lord is not on earth, and there is no one who can stand in for Him. Some think that getting a child touched by some priest or holy man might have benefit in the eyes of God. Yet this is just religion and superstition, for there is no one on earth who can touch a child and have it mean anything in the sight of God today. If we try to emulate this now, we will just produce some empty religion.

Now these people are doing this, and yet when the disciples see it, they do not like it, and rebuke the people (probably parents) who are doing it. Why they did not like this we cannot say. Yet we do know that children were looked down upon in that society. They were not really productive until they were older, and it was thought that you were not really valuable until you could fend for yourself. In a society where starvation was always just a step away, we can see how such an attitude might develop. Children were often mistreated in that day as well, especially girl children, and made to work harder perhaps than their young years would warrant. In our day, we like to think that we value children more than this, and yet in reality things are much the same. Though we claim respect for childhood, yet children are rarely thought of by adults when they make their important decisions in a self-centered way. At any rate, whatever the cause, these disciples didn’t think that touching these infants was an activity that was worthy of Christ’s time.

16. But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.

The Lord Jesus calls His disciples to Him and sets them straight on this issue. They are to permit the little children to come to Him, and not to forbid them. Children are precious to God because such as these will make up the kingdom of God. What He means by this we see in the following verse.

17. “Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”

The Lord explains that all who enter the kingdom of God must receive it as a little child. A little child believes what he is told, and trusts the one who tells it to him. So must we believe what God tells us in the same way. God wants our trust and our faith to be just like the trust and faith of a little child. If we are too proud, too worldly-wise, too cautious, or too self-reliant to believe God like this, then we can by no means enter His kingdom. For no one can enter God’s future government on the earth without accepting His rule with the same trusting and believing attitude that a little child would have.

By saying this, the Lord declared the little children both capable and welcome to come to Him. Perhaps infants are a bit young to believe anything, but He proclaims little children as having the kind of attitude God is looking for. We thus can say that little children can, indeed, show the kind of trust and faith that God desires. If we should ask therefore if a little child can believe, the answer would be yes.

However, we can also say that for us to tell if a little child has truly believed, the best way to tell is if that child shows his belief as he becomes an adult. Children are great imitators, and greatly desire to please their parents. A child can easily go through the motions of believing to please his eager parents without truly responding to God in his heart. The best way to tell if such is a genuine faith is to see if it continues as the child grows into adulthood. If a child reaches his teenage years and begins to show every sign of being stubbornly rebellious and no sign of believing in or caring about God at all, then that is a very good sign that he never really believed in the first place. Unfortunately, that is about the time many parents go into serious denial. They wish to believe their children to be backsliding, or carnal Christians…anything but not truly a believer. “Little Johnny looked so cute when he bowed his head and closed his eyes and prayed that prayer when he was seven, and I was so happy about it. It can’t be he didn’t mean it…”

We might allow these parents to comfort themselves with their self-delusion, except that they are likely to tell their un-submissive child the same lies they tell themselves, and convince them that they are “getting away with it.” It is not right to tell a child who is set against God in his heart that he is fine because he prayed a prayer once. Far better to let him know that his relationship with God isn’t right, and he needs to get it straightened out or he may miss out on eternal life. Yet we give such children the same false assurance we give ourselves. This does not help them, but hurts them, and keeps them from the true submission and faith that could secure for them through the grace of God a place in His kingdom to come.

18. Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

Now a certain ruler speaks up and asks Him this question. Who this ruler was, we do not know. All we know is that he was a ruler. He wants to know how to inherit eternal life. This was a very good question, and deserved a straight-forward answer from our Lord, which this ruler received.

We might consider for a moment what eternal life actually is. The word in Greek is aionion, which we could make English as “eonian.” Yet we might ask ourselves what this word “eon” means. Many make out that the Greek word aion just means a period of time or an “age.” Yet this is not all the truth, for an aion does not just have to do with a period of time, but also with the character of that period of time. For example, if we spoke of the Nixon administration, there is no doubt that we are speaking of something that lasted a period of time. Yet this phrase does not just mean that period of time, but the character of that time period as far as the rule of the United States of America is concerned. The same is true of aion. It is more than just a period of time, but has to do with the character of that time.

Now does eonian life mean eternal life? “Eternal” can mean “without beginning or end; lasting forever; always existing,” according to dictionary.com. However, this is clearly not what is meant here, for our lives do indeed have a beginning. The second definition on dictionary.com is “perpetual; ceaseless; endless,” and this more fits with the meaning the New King James translators appear to have attached to this word. Yet does this fit with eonian?

Now we can speak of life forever. When I consider this life, it does seem to go very fast. One could well imagine that it would be nice to extend his lifetime. If we could just slow down the aging process so that we could live two times as long, so that we might be twenty years in our twenties, twenty years in our thirties, and so forth, that could be seen as a very good thing. Even three times or more the normal lifespan could be enjoyable. Yet when I think of living forever in a life like this one, I don’t believe that I would want to do it. The problems and difficulties and heartaches of this life, the sin and iniquity we have to contend with, the struggles we have to endure…these things seem like they would just start to wear on me to the point where I just would not want this life to continue forever. Yet that is not the way eternal life will be! Eonian life is not just life forever, but a life the character of which is such that I would want to live it forever. It is a life that flows with every good thing from the hand of God that would make life forever worth living. That is eonian life.

Now there is a period of time in Scripture that is called “THE eon.” We can see this in passages like Hebrews 6:5, which speaks of “the powers of the eon to come.” There is a coming eon, and it is characterized by certain powers that will be at work at that time. Later in Luke 18, we have this phrase “the eon” in verse 30, where we read, “who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the eon to come eonian life.” So this coming eon is connected to eonian life, and eonian life could also be described as life for the eon.

Ultimately, this word “eon” means a “flow.” Our God is a flow-er, and He flows out to the world in our day with grace. Yet when God’s kingdom comes, He will flow out to the world in so much more than this. He will flow out in light, in righteousness, in life, in truth, and in everything that will make this world the way He always intended it to be. Thus that time to come that is characterized by God’s flowing out to the world is called “the eon,” and that eon is the kingdom or government of God.

Now this ruler asked to inherit eonian life. We use our English word “inherit” for receiving a part of a person’s estate when that person dies. Yet the Greek word kleronomeo was used for having a portion or partaking in an allotment. What this man wanted was a portion in life for the eon.

19. So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.

This seems a rather strange statement that the Lord made here. He Himself spoke of a “good” man in Luke 6:45, and Luke 23:50 characterizes Joseph of Arimathea as a “good” man using this same Greek word agathos. So why then does He call only God good?

We need to remember that this was the Lord’s response to what the man asked of Him, and that is how he might inherit eonian life. What this ruler really needed to inherit that life was faith. Now Christ makes a bold statement, proclaiming that only one is good, and that is God. And we have to admit that when it comes right down to it, this is true. When we speak of “good” men, we mean relative to other men, for we know that all men are suffering under the malady of sin and death. None of us is good all the time or in every situation. We all have acted not as we should have or as a “good” person would have in certain situations. There is only One who is thoroughly and completely good, and that is God.

Therefore, by saying this, Christ gives this man an opportunity to think about what he had just said. He called Christ good, and that was true. Yet if He was truly good, then that would imply that He was God Himself, the only One Who is thoroughly good. If the man believed this, that would have been faith. If He had believed what the Lord said and responded accordingly to Christ’s words here, he would have demonstrated faith and thus received the inheritance he requested. Christ may well have paused here to see if the man would respond to this at all, but apparently he did not respond, and so this opportunity to believe passed him by. Therefore, Christ moved on to a more difficult test.

Now some might think that this was a rather difficult test to begin with. The Lord gave the man no indication that he should respond this way. Yet remember the Canaanite woman, to whom the Lord said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” (Matthew 15:26) There was no sign of hope here, and no command for her to cling to or follow. There was just a word from God. Yet this woman laid hold of it, and responded in faith, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” She laid hold of this word and responded in faith. This man could have done the same, yet he did not.

So does this mean, when we call others “good people” in our day, that we are speaking inaccurately? Should we never call anyone “good?” I do not think this is true, for as I pointed out even the Bible Itself describes people this way. Yet we should remember that the goodness of men is only relative. All of us are in fact sinners. It seems we often forget this truth…that no one of us is truly and thoroughly good but God Himself!

20. “You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’”

Since the man does not answer His question about calling Him good, the Lord goes on. He knows that this ruler knows the commandments. He lists five from the Ten Commandments as representative of these.

21. And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.”

The ruler responds, probably not without some pride, that he has kept these things from his youth. Notice that Christ does not question this man’s statement nor accuse him of lying by saying this. This man could very easily have kept these commandments, and I have yet to meet the person who could not if he wanted to. There is nothing forcing us to commit adultery or murder or steal. There is no reason to think that this man had not kept these commandments even as he said.

Yet I think that the Lord had also chosen these commandments particularly because He knew that these were commandments that this man had indeed kept, and probably kept quite easily. Other commandments he might have had to be more hesitant about testifying that he had kept them without fail all his life. Yet the Lord knew that these were the things this man was trusting in for eonian life. He had kept these commandments, and in this was his hope to have a place in God’s kingdom. What he did not realize was what he still lacked. By listing these particular commandments that this man could confidently say he had kept, the Lord is leading him on to see that this is insufficient, and to see what it is that he truly needs.

22. So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

Now our Lord gives him something else to have faith in. He tells him that he still lacks one thing. He tells him to sell all that he has and distribute it to the poor, and consider it that he has treasure in heaven, that is, laid up with God. Then, he is to follow the Lord. The point here is not the giving away of possessions, for that would then mean that a work like this would get one eternal life. This man was already counting on the good things he had done to get him eonian life. To add one more good thing was not the Lord’s point. The point is that He now had a word from God telling him what he should do, and so for him to do it would have been faith on his part, and, in this instance, would have been saving faith, guaranteeing him a place in eonian life to come. The Lord is looking for those who will hear His word and respond to it. That was what this man with all his pious law-keeping still lacked.

Now the Lord never told anyone today that he was supposed to do this. This is no formula for eternal life, nor is there any particular virtue in poverty today. Men may give up many possessions to serve the Lord, and we could honor them for it, yet we cannot say that what they do is faith. This was a command that the Lord gave to this man, and no other. We should not try to appropriate it for ourselves today. This would in fact be the very opposite of faith.

23. But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich.

The Lord had hit this man exactly where his problem lay. This ruler apparently had many possessions, and was unwilling to part with them. Thus, he chose to keep his possessions rather than to keep the Lord’s words in the hope of eonian life. So we begin to get an inkling of why this was the word our Lord gave him to have faith in…to see if he would show more love for God’s Word or for his wealth. Unfortunately, it appears that his wealth won out.

Notice that there is no indication that this man did not believe Christ when He told him that this would get him eternal life. He probably did believe Christ, which is why he was sorrowful when he realized he couldn’t do it. This again shows that faith is not merely belief, but also means acting on that belief in an appropriate manner. It does not matter that this man believed Christ, when he refused to respond. True belief, true faith, demanded that he respond. When he did not, he showed that he did not in fact have faith. There was still something that he lacked.

Oscar Baker in his audio messages suggests that this rich young ruler may have been the man Saul or Paul in his earlier life. By this, he seeks to explain where Paul was during the Lord’s ministry. However, we find this suggestion rather unbelievable, considering the zeal for God that Paul demonstrated in his life. We can hardly agree that the man who both wholeheartedly devoted his all to persecuting the followers of Christ, and then just as wholeheartedly devoted his energy to serving Christ, would have balked at the chance to serve God here merely because he decided he loved money more. If there was one thing Paul was not, it was half-hearted in his devotion to serving God. Whether it was mistakenly persecuting the followers of Christ or zealously supporting them, Paul never did things in his work for God halfway. The idea that he would have chosen money over God in his earlier life seems rather ludicrous. I do not believe that Oscar Baker’s suggestion holds much weight here.

24. And when Jesus saw that he became very sorrowful, He said, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!

Now the Lord Jesus is sorrowful as well because He sees this young ruler rejecting His word and forfeiting the chance to receive eonian life. Thus Christ gives this sad exclamation concerning the rich. How hard it is for them to enter the government of God, He exclaims! The word for “hard” is an unusual one, duskolos, and means with difficulty. We can see the difficulty in this young man, and ultimately it was more than he was willing to give.

25. “For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

There are some who say that the eye of a needle was a small door fixed in a gate whereby men could be let into a city after the large gates had been sealed at night. A camel could not fit through this little door unless it was completely unburdened first. Thus they say that Christ was indicating that in order for a rich man to enter God’s Kingdom, he must first be unburdened of his love for worldly things. Yet this does not match with this passage, for in verse 27 the Lord claims that this was an impossibility with men. Well, it is not impossible to unburden a camel. Whatever the Lord meant by the eye of a needle, He meant something that was not possible for men to do. Yet it is possible with God!

26. And those who heard it said, “Who then can be saved?”

Here we need to note that the rich in Israel were not just those with money. Matthew the tax collector had money, and yet he could never have become one of the rich. The rich were in fact the caste of upper-class individuals who had the power and prestige in Israel. The rich class was made up of such as the Pharisees, scribes, and priests. It was the ruling class, and had all the power. Yet it also had the respect and admiration of the people. They believed, as indeed the rich taught, that they were nearer to God than the common people, and that they had a leg up on others in pleasing God and entering His government.

Now, the Lord has declared that it is nigh impossible for a rich man to enter God’s government. The astonished people wonder how this could be. If these respected rulers cannot get in, then how could any of the common people ever hope to get in? Of course, we understand how wrong their perspective was. They thought these rich men were so much nearer to God than they, when in fact the Lord showed throughout His entire ministry that these rich men were often the farthest from God that they could be. Yet the common people viewed them as being closer to God, and so they wondered at a word from Christ like this.

The rich did indeed have a very difficult time following Christ, and the reason seems to be what they had to give up. They had power, prestige, riches, and influence. To follow Christ would mean having to give up their social standing, give up their cultural influence, give up their wealth, and even give up their friends. The poor, who had very little, had to give up very little. For those who seemed to be so far ahead, what they had to give up seemed so much more, and giving it up so much more difficult to do. Thus, they did indeed have a harder time of it than those who had very little of value to surrender.

27. But He said, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.”

Christ assures them that with God even making a camel go through the eye of a needle is possible, and so is bringing a rich man into the government of God. We know that Paul was a rich man, and with great difficulty did the Lord bring him into the kingdom! And yet bring him He did. In Acts 15:5, we read of some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed, and so we know that God brought them into the government. Therefore, what seemed so impossible God did accomplish. Yet it was not without difficulty.

28. Then Peter said, “See, we have left all and followed You.”

Peter now speaks up here and brings up the sacrifices the disciples had made. He compares himself and his fellow disciples with Christ’s command to the rich man, for they had already left all they had to follow Him. These might seem to be somewhat little sacrifices compared to what the rich man would have had to give up. Yet we should not underestimate the sacrifices of the poor either. Just because you don’t have much doesn’t mean that what you have is not precious to you, or that you are careless about giving it up. The sacrifice of a poor person can mean as much or more than that of a rich person. The Lord himself pointed this would with the widow who put only two small coins into the temple treasury, saying, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.” Luke 21:3-4. Thus, we should not despise the sacrifices of the poor.

Yet Peter seems to have some questionable motives here. He is asking the Lord what they get for having done this. Is this really in the spirit of what the Lord was talking about?

29. So He said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God,

If there was some greed in Peter’s question, the Lord does not seem to respond to it. Indeed, perhaps by His response we should assume that Peter’s question was an innocent and not a selfish one. At any rate, the Lord assures him that he is correct in noting this, and that he and his fellow disciples who left these things have indeed assured themselves of eonian life.

30. “Who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life.”

I think in our materialistic and independent, personal-possessions type society and mindset, we can miss the point of what Christ is saying here. Many have used this verse wrongly to teach a prosperity gospel. They teach that if you give to God, He owes you, and will bring great riches back into your lap. The way they want you to give is usually by giving money to their ministry. Getting talked out of your money does not seem to quite match up with leaving house or parents or brothers or wife or children for the sake of God’s government. Yet this little detail these prosperity preachers don’t seem to take into account.

Yet what was Christ really saying here? Did His disciples really receive many times more of these things in their present life? Would that even be desirable? After all, one of the things listed here is “wife.” Did the disciples get many times more wives for following Christ? Surely not! Moreover, the record of their lives in the book of Acts does not seem to indicate that they received many times more of any of these things.

We need to carefully consider the lives of these disciples in the Acts period before we judge what the Lord meant here. We know that they lived in and became a part of the great unity of believers in the beginning part of the book of Acts. This group of believers became much like one giant family. They shared all, and had all things in common. Thus, though these disciples did not personally own many houses, they were welcome in any house of any of these believers, and could share in those houses as their own. They may not have had more family and relatives, but the believers became family, both in how close they were, for they were of one heart and one soul (Acts 4:32,) and they also cared for each other like family, sharing with each other all that they had. Thus, though these disciples did not receive personally great wealth, they had a great wealth of possessions and family that they shared with all the believers. That is what the Lord meant here by saying they would receive many times more in this present time.

Then, He says, they will receive eonian life in the eon to come. This was assured to these disciples. Yet not to Judas, for though he followed the Lord, he did not give up what he had, but he was actually embezzling money from their common purse, and was a thief. Only those who had truly given these things up for the Lord’s sake got eonian life from doing it.

Advertisements