Vol. 27, 28, 30 New Series December&February, 1966-68 No.s 3, 2, 3, 6
THE GOSPELS

Part 8
THE GREATNESS OF JOHN THE BAPTIST.
Chapter 7 ended as it did partly because it was already long enough and partly on account of the fact that the ideas to follow would impinge on what was being dealt with in Part I. of "Law and the Law" (Vol. 26, p. 76), namely, Luke 16:16. Here the very difficult problem to which Mr. McCraith drew attention was considered, but from one side only: the operation of the Law. He contended that Luke 16:16 is about the point of time when the Law and the Prophets ceased to be in operation and were superseded by the Kingdom of God.

Against this, it was shown that they did not cease to operate, but simply that the proclamation of the Kingdom made possible a drastic change in their operation, within the Kingdom.

As Mr. Alexander Thomson pointed out to me at the time: "We are not told that something superseded the Law and the Prophets (i.e. the Old Testament). The same Law and Prophets are still prophesying."

What Luke 16:16 actually says is literally: "The Law and the Prophets as far as of John." So we can fairly paraphrase it by: "The Law and the Prophets remained without change until the time of John." This filling-in is, I am persuaded, What is here meant. Until the time of John the position of the Law and the Prophets continued exactly as it had been from the start: then a change occurred, and this change was the beginning of their fulfilment, not the termination of their existence or their power.

This assertion is followed first by "thenceforth the Kingdom of God is being evangelized," and then by what seems at first a Very strange comment which has always puzzled expositors: "and everyone is forcing into it and forceful ones are snatching it. Yet it is easier for the heaven and the earth to pass by than for one serif of the Law to fall." At first glance this appears very inconsequential; so it is obvious that We have to liken it to a lock, and look elsewhere for the key.

The Greek Concordance gives us a clue immediately, for the words forcing and forceful occur also in Matt. 11:11-15 a passage that is so important that it is best to set it forth in full and very literally, thus: "Verily, I am saying to you: there has not roused in those born of women (a) greater than John the Baptist. Yet he who is smaller in the Kingdom of the heavens is greater than he. Now from the days of John the Baptist till the present, the Kingdom of the heavens is suffering force, and forceful ones are snatching it. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesy until John's (time); and if you are willing to receive (it), he is Elias, the one who is about to be coming." This is the first occurrence of the name Elias in the Greek Scriptures, and its presence here affords another clue.

For the first occurrence in historical order of the prophet's name is not here but in Luke 1:17, in a passage that is apt to be overlooked in assessing the importance of John the Baptist. This is the disclosure by the angel of the Lord to Zacharias in Luke 1:13-17: "Fear not, Zacharias, because your petition is hearkened to, and your wife Elizabeth shall be bearing you a son, and you shall be calling his name John. And joy shall be to you, and exultation, and many shall be rejoicing at his birth. For he shall be great in sight of the Lord, and wine and intoxicant in no circumstances may he be drinking, and of holy spirit will he be filled while still in his mother's womb. And many of the sons of Israel shall be turning back to the Lord their God. And he shall be coming before in view of Him in spirit and power of Elias, to turn on fathers' hearts in children, and (the) stubborn in prudence of righteous ones, to make ready for the Lord (a) people prepared."

Surely the spiritual person can gather these together and draw the conclusion that God intended from these passages! Our trouble, generally, has been that we have tended to view all this too narrowly. Something tremendous, something altogether new, something of universal significance, came into existence on this earth with the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. John the Baptist in the spirit and power of Elias was the herald of this, the forerunner of the Lord Jesus. Naturally, it was only to be expected that he would be outshone by the One Whom he heralded; but that must not be taken as meaning that he was superseded. Although he receded into the background and then vanished, his work remained and his greatness in that work; for he was the one to whom it was given to prepare the way. He was the last and greatest of those whose works and whose lives pointed to the One Who was coming.

John the Baptist represents the summit of what the Law and the Prophets could do. It, and they, and he, pointed forward to One far greater, to a kingdom far higher than anything that was achieved before, to something destined to grow until it would embrace the whole universe.

The angel's words to Zacharias pointed only to those with whom the Law and the Prophets were primarily concerned; and so also do the two other passages above. The sons of Israel are those directly concerned. And that, too, is the theme of the prophecy of Zacharias after the birth of John the Baptist, one of the loveliest in all the Scriptures (Luke 1:68-79). It starts splendidly: "Worthy of blessing, Lord the God of Israel; seeing that He visits and makes redemption for His people." Then comes salvation for them, David, His holy prophets, covenant, Abraham their father. The form is an introversion, each theme from the climax forwards paired with a previous one. But the correspondences are not all exact ones, and their differences in length and complexity are instructive. Those in the former half lay stress on what God has done, those in the latter what He was about to do through John the Baptist. Compare, for instance, the latter part of v. 70 and the latter part of v. 74 with v. 75, the former part of v. 70 and v. 76, v. 69 and the former part of v. 77, v. 68 and vv. 78, 79.

So we see John the Baptist as the great forerunner, the one entrusted with the special task of preparing the way for his Lord and for the Kingdom which He was about to introduce. Yet, just as He for Whom the road was prepared was the greater, so they who were to enter the Kingdom of the heavens were greater than he who pointed the way. Only because He Who was to come, and what was to come with Him, were so supreme did John the Baptist have to lapse into relative insignificance. Yet, as a poet once wrote (I wish I could trace the reference!)
on this theme of humility:

The saints who wear heaven's brightest crown
In deepest adoration bend.
The weight of glory bows them down
The most when most their souls ascend.
And nearest to the throne shall be
The footstool of humility.

This is the glory of John the Baptist—that he was not only able but wholly willing to diminish, in order that the revelation of his Master might increase in grandeur. That is grace in its highest, noblest form. He enjoyed a privilege that can neither falter nor fade. Would that we could emulate the splendour of his humility!

The other John, the Apostle, was able later on to record as the first testimony of John the Baptist in his Gospel: "This was He of Whom I said, 'He Who is coming behind me has advanced in front of me, seeing that He was first before me.' Seeing that, out of the fulness of Him, we all received; and grace over against grace; seeing that the Law through Moses was given, but the grace and the truth through Jesus Christ came into being." (John 1:15-17). What grace and truth? "Glory as of only begotten from (the) Father, full of grace and truth." The presence of "the" before each of these in v. 17 is a clear reference back to the two words "grace and truth" without "the" in v. 14. So John the Baptist was the first to receive the grace and the truth that came into being through Jesus Christ. The immediate result of his reception of the grace and the truth was that he became not only able but even willing, and more, even glad to take the lower place. It is on this account that I wrote, above, that John the Baptist's willingness to diminish was grace in its highest, noblest form. So John the Baptist stands for ever as the firstfruit of the grace and the truth. It is on this account that the Lord Jesus was able to say that "there has not roused in those born of women (a) greater than John the Baptist" (i.e. "there has not arisen"). It is on this account that the Lord Jesus was nevertheless able to say of John the Baptist: "Yet he who is smaller in the Kingdom of the heavens is greater than he." For John the Baptist was so filled with that grace and that truth which came into being through Jesus Christ that he gladly took an inferior place. He was the herald of the Kingdom, the forerunner; so he had to be less than those of the Kingdom to which he pointed the way. Inferior? Yes, but what a glorious inferiority, gladly to take the place allotted to him, so that the Greater One Who superseded him could assume the full glory to which He was entitled, unhampered by even the faintest suggestion that His forerunner might claim a place with Him.

There is another aspect of the glory and the grandeur of John the Baptist covered by Luke 1:13-17 and all too easily overlooked: "and of holy spirit will he be filled while still in his mother's womb." At Pentecost holy spirit came upon and filled those assembled with the Twelve; but John the Baptist was forerunner in this respect, too. He did not have to wait at all: that filling with holy spirit happened before he was born. So, in this respect as well, John the Baptist was the fulfilment of the grace and the truth which came with Jesus Christ. This fact removes at one stroke any idea that the filling with holy spirit was essentially something that began at Pentecost. That was its first public manifestation; but its first happening is inseparably linked to John the Baptist and therefore with the proclamation of the Kingdom of the heavens.

What, then, is the proper place of John the Baptist? This is set out by John the Baptist himself, related in the Apostle John's Gospel (John 3:27-36), in his answer to a question concerning cleansing by his disciples and a Jew. Here, again at the start, is displayed the utter humility of John the Baptist: "Unable is any man to be getting anything, if it should not have been given to him out of the heaven." Then he defines his mission again, as one despatched in front of the Christ; and he goes on to amplify that with a new disclosure: "He Who has the bride is Bridegroom. Yet the friend of the Bridegroom, the one who has stood and is hearing Him, with joy is rejoicing because of the voice of the Bridegroom. This, then, the joy that is mine, has reached fulfilment. That One must needs be growing, yet I be accepting inferiority."

This phrase "the friend of the Bridegroom" occurs here only; and, in fact, the whole passage is unique. Once and for all it fixes the relationship of John the Baptist to his Lord, the Bridegroom, and to His bride when it is read in conjunction with Rev. 21:2; 9; 22:17.

The word friend also calls to mind the remark by James, where Abraham's faith was reckoned to him as equivalent to righteousness, with the result that he was called "Friend of God" (James 2:23). With that idea in mind we may expect to find the name of John the Baptist; and so it is, in the last reference to him in historical order in the Gospels. This is Matt. 21:32, and the last in Mark and Luke are parallel to it. It reads, "For John came toward you in (a) Way of righteousness, and you do not believe him." And Matthew's first reference to righteousness (3:15) is where the Lord Jesus informs John the Baptist that He should be baptized by him, "for thus it is behooving us to fulfil all righteousness." Nor is this all, for Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth were both righteous in front of God (Luke 1:6) and, as we noted earlier, part of John's mission "in spirit and power of Elias" was to turn on the stubborn in prudence of righteous ones (Luke 1:17).

The greatness and the splendour of John the Baptist have not been appreciated by most of us as they ought to have been; and I confess with shame my past shortcomings in this respect. Yet we had no business to fail so dismally, for over forty years ago Philip Mauro pointed the way to a better understanding of him. Unfortunately, he spoilt his case by going to extremes which are so obviously unsound that they effectually prejudiced it in the eyes of everyone who had perceived the special character of the Evangel entrusted to the Apostle Paul. In practise Mauro lumped together everything heralded by John the Baptist into one "dispensation." He recognized that some things in what is called "Dispensational Truth" are unsound; but he failed to sort them out from that essential part of it which is sound and true. Only when I came to examine these things for myself, and made it my business to do the sorting-out which he could and should have done, did I discover how much there was concerning John the Baptist that most of us had overlooked. By the time when eventually I began to examine the available writings of Philip Mauro on this subject, I found that I had already independently reached the truth he had found. Still, marred though his teaching was by erroneous "dispensational" views, he deserves great credit for the tenacious way he sought and held firmly some unpopular views, and for opening out one aspect of the Greek Scriptures which had been largely neglected; and I am glad, and proud, to have the privilege of giving him some thing of his due.

Echoes of Philip Mauro will appear in what follows, as well as quotations; but as I have now tried to do justice to his achievement, even though warning against his errors, this does not trouble me.

John the Baptist prepared the way for a fresh departure in God's plans which is destined not only to bring to perfect fruition those already declared to Israel through Abraham, Moses and the Prophets, but to bring into view fresh vistas of glory hitherto undreamed of. Mauro failed to perceive the latter; so, as regards many of us, he failed to enforce conviction regarding the former. That was because Scripture research had moved ahead of him in this matter by establishing the great and fundamental distinction between what is inseparably linked to covenant and what is wholly free from all covenant ties. The inadequacy and inaccuracy of Mauro's understanding of these matters comes out clearly in his assertion that John the Baptist was "the true beginning of this present dispensation of grace." For John the Baptist did not "begin" anything, neither was he "the beginning" of anything. He was the forerunner of the One Who was to accomplish the beginning, not only of the fulfilment of Israel's prophecies but of God's great purpose, then unknowable, but later to be revealed in and by His Apostle Paul. He pointed the way to everything that was to follow.

Yet Mauro was wholly right in speaking of "the strange and erroneous notion, now quite widely held, that John was divinely commissioned to announce to the leaders of the Jews the immediate restoration of their national existence and national greatness, and to secure their assent thereto; but that, for some unexplained and wholly unimaginable reason, the Jews rejected the offer of that which was the dearest wish of their hearts, and that in consequence of their refusal, the (supposed) offer of the earthly or millennial kingdom was withdrawn and the restoration thereof was 'postponed' to a later age." And, once again, it must be observed that these words are true of Matthew's Gospel also. The outstanding importance of righteousness in the new conditions about to be brought into being by the Lord Jesus comes out in Matthew's Gospel. Only two other books in the Greek. Scriptures have more to say about righteousness than it has: Romans and 2. Corinthians; and the word righteous itself occurs more often in Matthew than in any other book.

Mauro further writes: "For John the Baptist did not call the Israelites back to their religion, as given to them by Moses, but away from it altogether. To be in error as to this is to be in error as to the very beginning of that new order of things (or new 'dispensation') which John was sent to prepare for and to proclaim. John himself was completely separated from Judaism, having been from his birth (and even before that) consecrated to a purpose which involved the complete setting aside of the national aspirations of the Jews, and the gathering out of all the nations of the world of a people for the Name of the Lord."

If he had avoided the first three words in brackets and added "temporary" after "complete," this would have been wholly true. As it is, he is wholly wrong and he affords an outstanding illustration of the way truth can be turned into a lie by two little twists.

Part 9
PECULIAR TO MARK
Mark's Gospel opens with a brief, almost curt, announcement of its purpose: "Beginning of Evangel of Jesus Christ, Son of God"; then it plunges at once into an account of the ministry of John the Baptist. The ministry is described more briefly by him than in the accounts by Matthew and Luke. After eight verses the baptism of the Lord Jesus by John is briefly described, and then we are told equally briefly: "And straightway the Spirit is casting Him out into the wilderness; and He was in the wilderness forty days, undergoing trial by the Adversary, and He was with the wild beasts, and the angels ministered to Him " (Mark 1:12, 13). In this short statement there are four things peculiar to Mark: the word of immediacy, straightway, the verb casting out, the name Adversary instead of Slanderer, and the reference to the wild beasts.

Now, Andrew Jukes points out at length that Mark's Gospel chiefly dwells on the Lord Jesus "as the patient Servant and Sacrifice for others, spending and being spent to serve the sons of men." In Rev. 4:7 the second living creature was seen as like to cattle. So in the Second Gospel the Lord is revealed in that aspect of service and sacrifice; and this appears in the use of the word eutheOs, straightway, which runs through this Gospel and is a special mark of it, and shows thus the spirit of instant service which characterized the Lord Jesus. We should, however keep in mind that a number of the occurrences of this word peculiar to Mark's Gospel are not about the Lord Jesus at all, such as 4:15; 5:42; 6:25, 27. Nevertheless, the characteristic note of immediacy is thoroughly consistent with its general tone. So also is the use of "casting out" with its note of complete obedience to rule; and the name "Adversary" is more appropriate for the tempter of One Who has taken the lowest place and is therefore too lowly for one named as Slanderer to attack. Similarly, the wild beasts are fit companions for the Lowly One; but there is more to it than that, for the next reference to wild beasts is in Peter's vision of the sheet, in Acts 10:12; 11:6, though some texts omit it in the former. This suggests that Mark had in mind in recording this that the service of the Lord Jesus would be for Gentiles, and all creatures also, as well as Israel. To me, this item suggests also a very different thought: that those whose desire is to serve God can with great profit learn to enjoy the company of the creatures of the wild. Those who love them are usually better, more healthy-minded and balanced, people than the rest of humanity, and more filled with the spirit of service.

Peculiar to Mark are the first two verses of Chapter 2. These furnish an interesting example of the way the Gospels dovetail into one another, for Mark tells us that the assembly in a certain house was so large "that there was no longer room at all, not even at the door." This explains why, because of the throng, the paralysed man had to be let down in his cot through the tiles of the roof (Luke 5:19). Peculiar to Mark, too, are the Lord's words in Mark 2:27: "The sabbath came to be because of mankind and not mankind because of the sabbath." Added here is: "so that the Son of Mankind is Lord of the sabbath also"; where Matt. 12:8 has "for" instead of "so that" and Luke 6:5 simply hoti, that. The sabbath is intended for the service of mankind, so that God's Servant is Lord of the service the sabbath is intended to give.

By the way, we must not take these slight differences as discrepancies, any more than are slight differences in quotations from the Septuagint. The Holy Spirit reserved the right to bring such nuances of meaning into the memories of those who wrote the Gospels; and anyhow we can hardly assume that no sentence was uttered by the Lord only once.

The next passage peculiar to Mark is Mark 3:7-12, where again the Lord Jesus is crowded by throngs. So is the next, 3:20, 21. The references to Satan in vv. 23-27 are described by Mark alone as parables. This is the first occurrence of the word, in the chronological sequence of the Gospels, in Matthew and Mark, but Luke has three earlier ones, Luke 4:23; 5:36; 6:39; but plainly none of these are comparable in scope or depth with those that followed on the crisis recorded in Matthew 13, Mark 4 and Luke 8.

We now come to two of the major problems set by the Gospels. The first is the position in the set of the little parables of Mark 4:21-29. The second is involved in the whole lay-out of Matthew 12:22—13:53 and the parallel passages. The solution I propose is set out in the following table.

Matthew                          Mark                          Luke
12:22-24                           —                               —
—                                 3:20-23                           —
12:25-30                       3:23-27                           —
12:31-32                       3:28-29                           —
12:33-45                          —                                —
12:46-50                       3:30-35                           —
—                                     —                              8:1-3
13:1-9                           4:1-9                             8:4-8
13:10-14                       4:10, 11                        8:9, 10
13:14, 15                      4:12                               8:-10
13:16, 17                         —                                 —
—                                 4:13                                 —
13:18-23                       4:14-20                         8:11-15
13:24-52                         —                                  —
—                                 4:21, 22                         8:16-18
—                                 4:23-34                             —
—                                   —                                8:19-21
13:53                             4:35                               8:22
—                             4:36—6:1                           8:23-56

For convenience, the table is divided into three sections, which we can discuss separately. The first presents no difficulties. The second begins in all three with the Parable of the Sower and the request for the explanation of it. Then comes the reference to the prophecy of Isa. 6:9, 10 (13:14, 15), followed by one verse peculiar to Mark (4:13); whereas Matthew continues the theme of Isaiah (13:16, 17, peculiar to him) right into the explanation of the parable.

So far, so good, for it is in the third that the difficulties begin. By all who believe that the Scriptures are in the fullest sense the Word of God, it is apparently generally accepted that the eight parables of Matt. 13:3-52 form a set complete in itself. I propose to take this for granted, for it is about as certain as anything can be; and open the third section with Matt. 13:24-52, that is, all the eight except the first, concerning which there is no room for dispute. Then we have left over a brief parable about the lamp, absent from Matthew, but common to Mark 4:21, 22; Luke 8:16-18. Lastly, for our present purpose, we have a section, Mark 4:23-34, containing two parables, the first of which is peculiar to Mark, and the second a variant form of the Parable of the Mustard seed in Matt. 13:31, 32.

Now let us take an independent look at these three in Mark, that is to say, trying to see them as they would be if we did not possess Matthew's Gospel or could refrain from confusing our thoughts with memories of it, and keeping in mind Mark's firm purpose to show the Lord Jesus as the suffering Servant of God. But first it is as well to note that the wording of Luke 8:4-18 is very close to Mark 4:1-22; but after that there is nothing corresponding to Mark 4:23-34, which Luke evidently regarded as irrelevant to his own special theme of the perfect humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In Mark 4:13, the present tense, "He is saying" joins what follows securely to vv. 10-12. The whole thing is one discourse, the apparent change in v. 13 being only a movement from one step to the next. The latter half of v. 11 with v. 12 together form a parenthesis, albeit a very necessary one. But in v. 21 we get an abrupt change to "And He said to them." This is repeated in v. 24 and "And He said" appears again in vv. 26 and 30. As Morison points out, Mark's "memoirs are remarkably anecdotal, but not remarkably chronological." And, if we read this passage and then the eight parables of Matt. 13, this fact becomes quite striking. The first four are spoken to the throngs, then the Lord Jesus comes into the house and is approached by the parable of the eight, adding, "Who has ears to be hearing, let him be hearing"; and then, without a pause, goes on to the fifth, sixth and disciples (Matt. 13:36). At their request, He elucidates the second seventh. Then He asks the disciples if they understand and, at "Yes," goes on to utter the eighth. Then we read in v. 53: "And it came to be, when Jesus finishes these parables, He withdraws thence." The whole account is one interlocked scheme of thought; but Mark's is a very different matter. Considering that his Gospel as a whole is a connected account, those in themselves could hardly be more disjointed. Evidently we are expected to regard them as isolated fragments, seeds dropped perhaps at different times and almost casually. This is strongly suggested, too, by the closing words: "And as to such parables much He talked the Word to them, according as they were able to hear; yet apart from parable He talked not to them. Privately, however, to His own disciples He explained all."

Generally this is put alongside Matt. 13:34, 35, but it is not parallel at all. The whole of Mark 4:21-34 inclusive is special to Mark and not to be paralleled elsewhere. Even his parable of the Mustard Seed does not correspond exactly with Matthew's, nor can it be fitted into the context of Matthew's series as appropriately as his own form does. There is no valid reason why we should not keep Mark 4:21-34 together and place it in order after Matt. 13:53.

The essence of Mark's little set of parables is the theme of patient waiting. It is not an exciting theme—patience never is—but it is essential for all true servants of the Lord Jesus. As Mark dwells chiefly on Him as God's faithful Servant, symbolized by the ox, it is only to be expected that this feature should be prominent. Here is the outstanding contrast between Matthew 13 and Mark 4, even though the first parable is the same in both; for we see in the former the history of the Kingdom unfolding throughout this present eon; and in the latter the need for patience during the long wait while it unfolds.

Morison's Commentary on Mark is helpful in this study, and so I am using it to some extent. As he points out, the second parable is generally mistranslated. It should be read: "Is the lamp coming, that under the measure it may be placed, or under the couch; not that it may be being placed upon the lampstand?" It is not any lamp, any measure (modios, the standard receptacle for grain), any couch, but the usual furniture in a house of that time. The true servant of God will make full use Of the light given to him in the ordinary circumstances of life, not keep it to himself, not force it on the unwilling.

What follows in v. 22 amplifies that idea. Where the light exists but is hidden by God, this is in order that His servants should search it out and manifest it. This is the very highest service open to them. That so few care for such service, even when carried out for them, that even fewer are willing in any way at all to perform such service for their Lord, is the measure of the terrible failure of us all. In fact, that anyone should look down almost with contempt on this Gospel, which is in essence the pattern of service, is horrifying beyond measure. For it is not as if there were anything in such passages as these to cross or contradict any of the teachings of the Apostle Paul—quite the contrary! The trouble lies in the hardness of our hearts and our failure to achieve that humility which was the hallmark of the Apostle and his Lord.

Of v. 23 Morison finely says: "It is subsumed that every one actually has ears to hear. Then let every one hear; let him voluntarily listen till he understand. It was one of the Saviour's fine didactic seed-thoughts, which He seems to have very frequently dropped by the way (v. 9). It needs still to be dropped, and dropped time after time into the same ears. There are, comparatively speaking, but few patient and impartial thinkers, in the world." Note Morison's word here, patient for the essence of true service is patient hearing of God's Word and patient thinking about it; and this is the truest prayer as well. O that more of His saints would seek that patience without which they can serve only themselves, not Him!

The same idea lies behind v. 24, "Take heed what you are hearing." The parallel passage in Luke reads, " Take heed how you are hearing" (Luke 8:18). That is the more active side, in tune with Luke's insistence on the Lord's humanity. Mark emphasizes the more passive side, the attitude of the one who is content to be listener but who, nevertheless, will shut his ears to what is not seemly and good. In the next clause, it is "in what measure." The measure in which God's servant metes out treatment of others will be the measure of what he receives in turn. By us this must be read with Gal. 6:6-8; where, primarily, our service of God is in view. This contradicts nothing in Paul's Evangel; for, in that, our service of God is expected to be in no way inferior to that of His earthly people. It is a very terrible thing that we, called to the highest privileges and standing of all, should so often fall grievously below the standard of service expected of God's earthly people, and that so> many teachers who ought to know better are satisfied with, and even encourage, such poverty of standard. The closing pronouncement associated with this parable, in v. 25, has generally been considered as enigmatical and applied exclusively to Israel, without regard to v. 10. Those who asked concerning the parables were those who were about the Lord Jesus, including the Twelve so His extended answer must be to that group of people, not to Israel as a whole nor the Jews nor the Gentiles nor to any sort of "church." If anyone should belong to either of the two, classes envisaged in this group, the answer applies to him. It is perfectly general within that condition: those who have failed to accept the full light that has been offered to them gradually lose the ability to accept it. That is the inner meaning of the Lord's words and, thanks to our sophistication, it is perhaps, clearer to His hearers at the time than to us—but that is due solely to our sophistication; we are so conditioned to the world's ideas that we cannot readily take in God's ideas without explanation in more particular terms.

So we come to the only parable that is Mark's alone. It is such a very little parable, such a humble little parable—but how typical of Mark's purpose! For in this Gospel is the essence of the idea of the patient ox as one representation of the Lord Jesus, and in this parable of the even more patient husband-man quietly carrying on with his livelihood on earth while the seed he has sown carries on with its life as God has willed. This is the perfect picture of God's true servant, placidly doing what God has planned for him to do, without fretting or worrying and above all without fussing or interfering. For the point of the parable is, the inactivity of the sower, one he has sown the seed and completed his part of the task, till the time of harvest is present.

Commenting on this parable, Morison points out that the development of the plant takes place without any manipulation on the part of man. Certainly he can do much in the way of hindering, he can help beforehand by suitable preparation of the soil, he can see to his fences and scare away birds and animals; but otherwise he can do nothing for the growth of the seed. As Paul says in 1. Cor. 3:6, 7, it is God Who makes it grow. Our part is to prepare the soil and sow the seed. Once this is done, nothing further remains for us to do for the crop.

From my own experience, I can in old age see well that this has been true for me. Those who sowed on my behalf saw nothing for their labours; but in due time I happened on various experiences, first this, then that, until the seed began to sprout and then grow. And one outstanding feature of my experience in life is the exceedingly small amount of direct human help I have received toward spiritual growth. I needed to be taught to stand on my own feet; and in time I learnt the lesson, becoming far stronger than ever I could have been otherwise. Let us not, then, lose courage when we see so little direct profit from our service. If we carry on with quiet faith, in patience, in due course harvest will be abundant.

Humility, as we have seen, is an outstanding characteristic of Mark's Gospel; but we must not so treat it as to exclude other features, particularly as they are not so evident.

An instance is the next place where Mark's Gospel contains matter peculiar to itself: the account of the murder of John the Baptist. We have noticed already that when Mark records the same event as Matthew or Luke, his account is almost always the lengthier; and this is a striking example, for it takes the whole of Mark 6:14-30, yet only Matt. 14:1-12 and Luke 9:7-10. However, just why this should be escapes me, and available commentators give no help; but it is good for us to have to keep in mind that there will always on earth be heights and depths in God's Word beyond our reach.

Now come two other passages common to all the three Gospels: Matt. 14:13, 14 and 15-21; Mark 6:31-34 and 35-44; Luke 9:10, 11 and 12-17. In these, Mark is, as before, the fuller account. But immediately following, where Luke is silent, Matt. 14:22-36; Mark 6:45-56, Matthew's account is slightly the fuller. Further on are two short sections peculiar to Mark: 7:32-37 and 8:22-26. Once again, the reason is not evident; but the Lord's plain desire to shun publicity is fully in keeping with the idea of Him in this Gospel as God's Servant; in the former, His request for silence; in the latter, by bringing the blind man out of the village, thus avoiding publicity as far as possible.

Later on, two short passages peculiar to Mark are found, Mark 9:10 and 9:29. Again, there seems to be no evident reason for this; but one interesting question arises: if the critics are correct in insisting that Matthew and Luke used Mark ;as a source, why did they refrain from copying these? Such questions are never answered, probably because they are never asked; yet they pose considerable difficulties for the theories of the critics. For us, there is no difficulty, except in so far as there are depths in God's Word which we have not yet plumbed. That fact can only strengthen our faith that it is divine.

The last two verses of Mark 9 have no parallel passage elsewhere; but the closing words, "and be at peace with one another," summarize what follows them, in the chronological order, in Matt. 18:10-35.

Contrary to general opinion, Mark 10:46-52 is peculiar to Mark and follows in order immediately after Luke 18:43.

The closing events before the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus call for separate examination, as also do those of His resurrection and subsequent appearings.

Part 10
LUKE'S GOSPEL
Luke's Gospel, the third, is the one that corresponds best with the third figure of the Cherubim, the human one, as explained in the vision of the living Creatures in Rev. 4:7. In Luke's Gospel we see special emphasis on the humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ; though, as in the rest, the other aspects of His manifestation in flesh are not entirely neglected. Indeed, this fact, coupled with the circumstance that the four Cherubim are not everywhere described in the same order, has created some confusion among expositors. Attention was drawn to this matter in our Vol. 25, pp. 4-7.

Luke's predominant character is that he shows the Lord Jesus as the pattern Man, and, as Jukes puts it, here "as the pattern Man walks before us, we have men as they are set side by side, in strong and marked contrast, with man as he should be, the Man Christ Jesus." Even so, we must not shut our eyes to the fact that Matthew uses the word anthrOpos, man, considerably more than Luke in his Gospel, and even including Acts with it does not turn the scale; and the same applies to the title "the Son of Man." So, in a measure, in all this we have to read between the lines, as it were, rather than count and dissect. These differences between the Gospels are matters of emphasis rather than clear-cut distinctions. There was a time when one met with complaints that someone could not" see" something in Scripture that another claimed to be obvious to him. Fortunately that sort of thing is less common now, for it is largely subjective and therefore dangerous. If we emphasize what we see, or think we see, we soon tend to see what is not there or become blind to what actually is there.

The human side of Luke's Gospel comes out in the fact that his outlook is full of human feeling and compassion. The preface itself displays this in its careful regard for Theophilus. The first chapter is full of human relationship and sympathies—but here I must refer to Jukes' wonderfully perceptive treatment of this theme in his book, "The Characteristic Differences of the Four Gospels." There is, however, one point that must be stressed: history is something human in essence; and it is Luke who deals with the events of his time as a historian; and it is on him that we have to depend almost entirely for our chronology of the events recorded in the Greek Scriptures.

Once we have left the prefatory matter which occupies the first two chapters of Luke's Gospel, we meet face to face a chronological statement that firmly fixes the place of the start of John the Baptist's ministry in the history of the period (Luke 3:1, 2). By contrast, Matthew says no more than, "Now in those days John the Baptist is coming along, proclaiming in the wilderness of Judea . . ." (Matt. 3:1). The word paraginomai, literally, beside become, has the force of someone appearing on the scene. The general idea is like a person coming beside another or joining a group; and, indeed, presently we are told (Matt. 3:13) of the Lord Jesus coming on the scene from Galilee toward John the Baptist to be baptized. Incidentally,Judas Iscariot similarly came on the scene at Gethsemane to betray Him (Mark 14:43, the only occurrence in Mark). But Luke details more fully than either Matthew or Mark the circumstances of the coming of God's declaration on John the Baptist.

Another thing to be noted about Luke's Gospel is that as it is the third of the four, its chronological framework is to some extent governed by theirs. This enhances the value to us of its chronological statements; but it also makes an occasional parenthesis necessary. The first is Luke 3:19, 20, and then the pedigree according to law of the Lord Jesus following in vv. 23-38. Another is the brief note of time in Luke 5:17, which fits in between v. 2 and v. 3 of Mark 2, which in turn fit in between vv. 1 and 2 of Matthew 9.

With these considerations in mind, we are now able to gather some idea of the chronology of this section of the Gospels. 
This is as follows:

Matthew                          Mark                          Luke                          John
—                                   1: 1-3                            —                             —
—                                      —                             3:1, 2                          —
3:1-4                               1:4                               3:3-6                          —
3:4-6                               1:5, 6                             —                             —
3:7-10                                —                             3:7                              —
—                                      —                             3:8-15                         —
3:11, 12                           1:7, 8                           3:16-18—–                 —
—                                      —                              3:—–18                      —
—                                      —                                 —                          1:15-28
—                                      —                              (3:19, 20)                    —
3:13-15                              —                                 —                            —
3:16, 17                           1:9-11                           3:21, 22                      —
—                                      —                              (3:23-38)                    —
—                                      —                                  —                         1:29-39
As already remarked, the parenthetical passages are shown in brackets.

An ancient problem about the Temptation or Trial of the Lord Jesus is here cleared up. People generally take for granted that there were only three trials, and this creates an apparent contradiction between Matthew and Luke. But, as Dr. Bullinger pointed out, this appearance need not be accepted. The trial continued all the forty days. The first (Luke 4:3, 4) was a request to turn "this stone," one only, into a loaf. In the second {Luke 4:5-8), the words "into a high mountain" are not certainly authentic, and may have been inserted from Matthew's Gospel by copyists. Only "this authority" over the kingdoms of the inhabited earth and the glory of them was offered, and nothing is said about the Lord prostrating Himself. Neither did He say, "Go, Satan" as in Matt. 4:10.

The reader can easily make all the necessary comparisons; but a few salient points can be noted for guidance. At the end of the third trial, the Slanderer had finished his first round; and of his own accord he stood away from the Lord Jesus "until season," as the Greek reads (Luke 4:13). Rotherham renders this "until a fitting opportunity." One might almost paraphrase, "until an appropriate moment" or even" until an opportune occasion." This must have arrived fairly soon, whereupon the Slanderer made a fresh attempt. So Matt. 4:3 speaks of him as "the one trying Him," thus implying an operation already in progress. So Matthew's first trial then takes its place as fourth in the series. It cannot be the same as Luke's first, as the salient feature of it is stones becoming loaves, not one single stone. The Lord's reply, too, is fuller. To make out that the two are merely different accounts of the same event is to accuse one or other of the authors, not merely of careless inaccuracy but of deliberate falsehood. The fifth trial, Matthew's second, also is not quite identical with Luke's third. The sixth is very plainly a repetition of a previous trial. This can only be a repetition of the second of the six, Luke 4:5-8; for Matthew 4:8-10 begins: "Again the Slanderer is taking Him along into a very high mountain. . ." This one word, again, palin, by itself is sufficient to put the matter beyond controversy; for not even the Slanderer could do again something he had not done previously. Apparently Dr. Bullinger was the first to perceive this point; which even Dr. Sewell, in spite of his insistence on microscopic accuracy, failed to observe. Indeed, he even referred achri kairon, until season, to the Agony in the Garden! Yet this is nowhere described as a temptation or trial of the Lord Jesus Himself, though, as a possibility, such trial for the disciples is envisaged in Matt. 26:41; Mark 14:38.

This is the first occasion for two Gospel accounts to dovetail into one another, a fact which tends to emphasize the tremendous importance of the event they describe. Indeed, the sixth trial is the moment of crisis, and of final victory for the Lord Jesus. The Slanderer demanded direct worship and complete surrender; but the Lord Jesus won the struggle of wills, even at the last moment of physical stress; so He was able to assume complete mastery and order the Slanderer: "Go away, Satan!"

This experience begins and ends what is really the first part of the Lord's ministry: His own personal trial, struggle and victory; His success where the first man failed. For the Slanderer, that meant the end of any hope for him of any sort of personal victory against the Lord Jesus. All he could do now was seek revenge, first against the Lord Jesus, then against all who were to believe on Him and share His victory. Having won through Himself, He could now consolidate His position and begin the long process that is to bring Him to ultimate complete triumph. Yet first there had to be the ministry that was to bring Him to the cross and then to His resurrection.

How does this ministry start? Matthew and Mark begin the Kingdom ministry account at Matt. 4:12; Mark 1:14; Luke the ministry to mankind as a whole (Luke 4:16) and John the ministry as the Lamb of God (John 1:35) and presently the first of the Signs (John 2:1-11). Which set comes first in historical order?

One is tempted to decide this for oneself off hand; but on reflection I feel that this temptation should be resisted, as some evidence does exist. As regards the first three Gospels there is no difficulty. Matt. 4:12-, Mark 1:14 and Luke 4:14, 15 can be placed side by side. Then there is the actual opening of the Lord's ministry at Nazareth (Luke 4:16-30). Thereafter, the Lord Jesus leaves Nazareth and dwells in Capernaum (Matt. 4:13; Luke 4:31). The problem is where John's Gospel fits into all this.

It seems to me that we have a fixed point in the call of Peter (Matt. 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; John 1:40-42); but first, where are we to place the previous verses of John 1?

The problem is partly solved when we observe that John 1:32 must be subsequent to Matt. 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22. This verse is part of the consecutive passage John 1:29-39, at any rate. I suggest, therefore, that this passage comes immediately after the account of the Lord's baptism and that there is a considerable gap of time between v. 39 and v. 40 during which the events between Matt. 3:17 and 4:18 and Mark 1:11 to 16 took place. Luke 4:1-32 comes into this space also; and then we make a fresh start with the call of Peter. 
; This section can now be set out thus:
Matthew                          Mark                          Luke                          John
4:1, 2-                             1: 12, 13-                    4:1, 2                          —
—                                     —                              4:3-12                        —
—                                     —                              4:13                           —
4:-2-10                             —                                —                            —
4:11                                1:-13                              —                            —
4:12-                                 —                              4:14, 15                     —
—                                     —                              4:16-32                      —
4:-12-17                         1:14, 15                          —                            —
—                                     —                                 —                         1:40, 41
4:18-22                           1:16-20                          —                         1:42
—                                      —                                —                         1:43—4:54
4:23—8:4                           —                               —                            —
If all this be so, we immediately find that Luke 4:16-32 is the start of the ministry of the Lord Jesus; and once this is appreciated its fittingness becomes apparent, for its vast sweep covers everything—not simply the Kingdom, as in Matt. 4:12-17; Mark 1:14, 15, but the blessing to humanity both immediate and ultimate, which His ministry involves. This is wholly in line with the distinctive human character of Luke's Gospel. Also it clears the way for the special Kingdom ministry set out by Matthew and also for the signs which form a separate section in John's Gospel at the very start and at the very close.

We do not find any more passages peculiar to Luke that are at all extensive till we come to the choice of the twelve disciples, Mark 3:13-18; Luke 6:12-16. This occurs just after Matt. 12:22, 23 and it should be noticed that Matthew does not actually relate this in the time sequence but lists their names in describing an earlier commission (Matt. 10:2-4). Then follows a long passage (Luke 6:17—8:3) which though peculiar to Luke, contains sayings similar to those uttered elsewhere.

No lengthy passages peculiar to Luke appear till after Matt. 19:2; Mark 10:1. Then comes a short passage, Luke 9:57-62, followed by a long one in John 7:11—10:21; and then we get the long passage, Luke 10:1—12:3. After Matt. 19:3-12 and Mark 10:2-12 yet another long passage Luke 11:37—13:34.

Luke 9:57-62 affords a characteristic example of the way the hostile critics treat the Gospels, for they assume that vv. 57-60 are a repetition of Matt. 8:18-22, and assign both to their imaginary source "Q." But that simply will not do. The positions in the historical sequence are quite different. The Matthew account follows after Luke 5:3 which shows the Lord Jesus teaching in a ship slightly away from the shore on Lake Gennesaret. Then comes Matt. 8:18-27, then Luke 5:4-11, then Matt. 8:28—9:1, followed by the double account in Mark 1:40-45 with Luke 5:12-16. On the other hand, the event recorded by Luke takes place after Matt. 19:2; Mark 10:1, while going on the road to Jerusalem.

Luke 10 is, characteristically, chopped up by the critics into bits, some of which are identified by them with more or less -similar passages in Mark and "Q" plus a few snippets permitted to be by Luke; until we get to the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Even so, the introductory question (10:25-28) is attributed by these learned men to a later incident recorded in Mark 12:28-31, solely on the ground that both quote Deut. 6:5 and Lev. 19:18. Naturally, in the eyes of such people it was most improper of the Lord Jesus to quote such a passage on two different occasions! Naturally, too, they ignore the trifling matter that the circumstances of the two quotations were quite unlike. As always, accuracy is of no importance in their eyes.

Nevertheless, Luke 10 affords the first extensive testimony to the aspect of the Lord's ministry which concerns all humanity. This appears in the Lord's private remark to His disciples in Luke 10:24 when we compare His similar words in Matt. 13:17: "many prophets and righteous men"; for in Luke's record the words are "many prophets and kings." The parable that follows came in response to the lawyer's further question: "And who is my associate?" It is notably different from the parables which follow on Matt. 13:17 in that it embodies no secret and was in no way intended to withhold the truth from all but the elect. It is a universal and intensely human story, applicable to all, not only then but ever since; though for the Orthodox, religious, Jew, it contained a bitter sting, in that the priest and Levite stood condemned and the despised Samaritan praised. This enforces the main lesson: that it is not the man of cold correctness, however religious, who has merit but the one who is actuated by love of others.

Much of Luke 11:1 to 18:14 has parallels in Matthew and Mark; but there are several differences in between such passages which show that the circumstances in which the teaching was given were not the same. Moreover there are interspersed several parables peculiar to Luke and specially interesting accordingly. These parables, twelve in all, should be studied as one unit. Moreover, after the third of them two from Matthew 13 are repeated. This is not surprising, for the theme of the Kingdom of God runs like a thread throughout, beginning with a repetition of the "Lord's Prayer" in Matt. 6:9-15. This may well be the explanation why so much material previously used by the Lord Jesus is repeated here: it furnishes the background needed for clarifying the further teaching. Human memory is short; and anyhow it is not for us to criticise, whose understanding of the Gospels is at best so inadequate.

First comes the prayer, then the first of the series of parables (Luke 11:5-8) and the lesson based on it that God's people must earnestly continue in well-doing. After that there are several discourses, some based on queries, culminating in one involving the sin of avarice, which is the occasion for the second parable (Luke 12:16-21). The Lord expands this theme, leading to the subject of coming judgment and the third parable (13:6-9) with its warning of the need to produce fruit. The fourth (14:7-11) stresses the virtue of humility, and the fifth (14:17-24) the fate of those who are too proud to come into the Kingdom of God. The sixth, seventh and eighth (15:3-32) form a brilliantly effective reply to the objection by the Pharisees that the Lord Jesus was receiving sinners and eating together with them. The more puzzling problems appear in Chapter 16; but that should not deflect our attention from the fact that Nos. 6 to 10 form a connected series. Even the apparent change of subject between Nos. 9 and 10 is not really so.

Before me as I write are three different explanations of No. 10 (Luke 16:19-31). Each has some sound points and some unsound ones. The "orthodox" explanation, that this is no parable, but a revelation of the manner of our existence after death, is so utterly irrelevant to the context that one can only marvel that any rational person could accept it. Nobody would, were it not for the fact that most people abandon reason when they open their Bibles. Yet there ought to be no difficulty, provided we keep in mind the key to the whole series: the grumble of the Pharisees and the scribes, "This man is receiving sinners and is eating together with them" (Luke 15:2).

The first of this set of five, No.6 of the whole series, is very simple. One sheep is lost in the wilderness and is found again, to the joy of its owner and his friends and neighbours. So the conclusion is drawn: "There will be joy in heaven over one sinner repenting more than over ninety nine righteous persons who are having no need of repentance." The second follows immediately, its lesson the same: joy over a lost coin found once more. The third, "the Prodigal Son," is much more elaborate, being a further step along the way to the whole truth about this matter. Not only should we rejoice over the sinner who repents, we should also have no trace of envy or jealousy in our minds. And here is the point where the lesson begins to bite. It was quite easy to accept the idea of rejoicing over a repentant sinner; but the further notion that he should be given the place of honour was and is too much for the soulish man to bear.

There is another point about the first two of this set of five parables, which is made in the Note in the 1930 C.V.: "The lost sheep gives us God's side. The lost coin gives us Israel's." The Note to Luke 15:11 is also excellent. The two sons portray the two classes in Israel. "The prodigal son was far from the father's house; the elder brother was far from his heart." No doubt the Pharisees perceived that neither of the two brothers could be regarded as wholly admirable, and resented the idea. The account makes no comment beyond the fact that the Lord turned to His disciples for the next parable; though evidently, as Luke 16:14 tells us, it was intended for the Pharisees to hear even though the Lord Jesus had changed over to the type of parable intended to reveal truth only to those capable of receiving it and to conceal truth from the rest. All the parables have this property in a measure; but in a few some of the truth of which they speak is disclosed, even though its inner meaning remains concealed from the soulish man. The first three of the whole set of twelve reveal some of the truth. Then come two from the special set in Matthew 13 (Luke 13:18-21). These serve as a reminder that even now the truth about the matters of which the Lord was speaking is only partly understood. Perhaps the full comprehension of this section of Luke's Gospel lies still in the future.

The way the ninth and tenth parables are generally misunderstood lends force to the contention above. In the ninth we see the enviousness and selfishness of the Pharisees turning into dishonesty in their stewardship both of God's past grace to Israel and of the new grace and truth which came into being through Jesus Christ. The trouble with these men, and all essentially worldly men, is their inability to think in any but soulish and material terms. So in Luke 16:1-13 the Lord Jesus meets people of that kind on their own ground, and shows by implication that even by their own worldly standards they fail to reach their own minimum requirements of faithfulness and righteousness. "He who is faithful in the most minor matter is faithful also in much, and he who is unrighteous in the most minor matter is unrighteous in much also." The positive side comes first, faithfulness as the first of all virtues, and contrasted with unrighteousness.

This word adikia should not in any circumstances be rendered by injustice. The steward was not in a position to judge anybody, though he was himself certainly open to judgment. Of the twenty-five occurrences of the word, the A.V. has iniquity six times, unrighteousness sixteen wrong once and unjust twice. I have never been able to understand why the Concordant Version chose -just- instead of -righteous- to correspond with the Greek root -dik-, particularly as the logic of fact forced it to use righteousness for dikaiOsunE. It defines righteousness by "the accompaniments of justice, in character and conduct," but no dictionary available to me confirms this definition. Certainly, one who is righteous is also just, and some dictionaries say so; but it is possible to be just without being righteous in other respects. It is a very great pity to thrust a judicial atmosphere on to this group of words, for that has done much to mislead us all on the subject of so-called "justification"!

The Lord Jesus continues (here Rotherham's version is quoted, the better to illustrate the foregoing points): "If, therefore, in the unrighteous Mammon ye became not faithful, who shall commit to your trust the true (riches)? And if in what was another's ye became not faithful, who shall give you your own?" Human history thoroughly confirms His words. Few things are harder than conforming to the standard of absolute righteousness in business matters.

This series of parables is understood best when we appreciate that it exhibits what we call "a vicious circle." An outstanding example of this is Rom. 5:12, where we see sin producing death and mortality producing sin. In these parables the sequence is less simple. The pride and legalism of the Pharisees results in their indifference to the rest of mankind, and this in envy and jealousy, and this in unfaithfulness even to the point of dishonesty, and in pride and legalism once again.

Right through, like a thread, we see the painful truth about the Pharisees, which comes plainly to the surface in the twelfth parable. They claimed to rest securely on Moses and the Prophets yet in fact they were relying entirely on worldly power and fleshly desires. In various parables the Lord Jesus points them to a better way, but they are deaf and blind to it. This explains the apparently inconsequential parenthesis in Luke 16:14-18. Their covetousness blinded them to what was really happening. So the Lord first emphasizes their self-righteousness (16:15) and the folly of it. Then He exposes their evil treatment of the Law and the Prophets and points out, once again, that the Kingdom of God, to which they pointed, is being preached now; and 16:29-31 is a pointed commentary on their attitude to them. Lastly is a reference to Matt. 19:3-12 and the true character of the Pharisees as regards the Law: adultery, unfaithfulness to Jehovah. It all comes down to various aspects, and their consequences, of Israel's besetting sin: unbelief.

What is not generally appreciated is that the two parables of Luke 16 are complementary, so that one of the pair cannot be properly understood without the other. The first assumes (for the sake of argument only) the debased moral standards to which the covetous man descends; the second, the debased superstition to which the unbelieving man descends. As one sort of person always is the other sort as well, the two parables are like the two sides of a coin. For the first, the Lord Jesus presents the attitude of true righteousness; but for the second He has nothing to say beyond pointing back to Moses and the Prophets. Neither story is based on reality: their whole point is (to use the modem jargon) to display "the new morality" and the superstition of the Pharisees in order to expose them. There is an element of irony in both.

Dr. Bullinger, however, does not allow that the account in Luke 16:19-31 is a parable at all. He says: "It is not called a 'parable,' because it cites a notable example of the Pharisees' tradition, which they had brought from Babylon."

But, in fact, only six of the twelve are called parables. These are the second (twice so described, Luke 12:16 and 41), the third, the fourth, the sixth, the eleventh and the twelfth. The seventh, eighth and ninth follow in unbroken succession on the sixth, and so really does the tenth, apart from the connecting matter in Luke 16:14-18. And note the words with which the four start: "Or" (15:8); "Now He said, A certain man had two sons" (15:11); "Now He said to His disciples also, A certain man who was rich" (16:1); "Now a certain man was rich" (16:19). The set in Luke 15 and 16 can logically be put together as one parable in sections, all of which display the: various aspects of the complaint of the Pharisees in Luke 15:2.

Part 11
SOME GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS
Until relatively recently, Christians have always believed that the Four Gospels are very early documents written by the men whose names they traditionally bear. This is "the Christian Tradition" and, in fact, the only thing that can rightly be so described; for the "traditions" that the Apostle Paul wrote of were lost at a very early date. No doubt that was in accordance with God's intention; for if there is anyone thing in this connection more plain than anything else, it is that in the present period if we want the truth about God and His purposes we have got to search for it in the Sacred Scriptures on our own account. If we rely on the traditions of men, little if any of what we get will be the truth. There never has been a time when God's people have needed more to rely on Him for help and yet to stand firmly on their own feet when searching for His truth.

That was the attitude of the Bereans, to whom Paul's argument (set out so cogently in Acts 17:2, 3) was repeated: "In Berea also the word of God was announced by Paul" (v. 13). But these people were "more noble." As Luke puts it: they "receive the Word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, if these things be so." They did not take what they heard on trust. They compared it with the written records they had, that is, the Gospels, to ensure that it was not simply tradition, but something firmly based on historical fact.

The uniqueness of this account underlines its supreme importance. Also does the way it has been distorted by purblind commentators; of whom one at least, entirely failing to perceive the point, destroys it by adding ideas of his own which are completely foreign  to the text. So from him we read: "Here the Jews give them a hearty reception and eagerly examine the ancient Scriptures to see if Paul's message is in accord with their predictions. Consequently many of them believe and the proselytes also, from among the Greeks, receive the word of the Lord," The italics are my own, to show up most plainly the indefensible and inexcusable additions to what this Scripture actually says.

Yet there is nothing like this passage in the whole of the Greek Scriptures. Even the word eugenEs, noble, occurs three times only, in Luke 19:12; Acts 17:11 and 1. Cor. 1:26. This passage displays the supreme importance of the state of mind of those who are evangelized. If they are not "noble" in the sense the Bereans were, if their minds are closed to anything that is not endorsed by the traditions of men, even "Church traditions," if they fail to believe and rely wholly on what God actually has declared, then no evangelization can prevail, not even when carried out by such a one as Paul.

This, we must keep in mind, was only the opening of Paul's ministry of evangelization. No doubt what happened to him in Thessalonica and then in Berea, woke up the Thessalonians to realities. For, long after, Paul wrote to the Thessalonians praising them for their reception of the Evangel and for the evangelistic labours they themselves had undertaken with such conspicuous success. But by that time the Thessalonian Jews are right out of the picture. Those Jews there who did believe soon took second place in influence to those who did not, till, by the time when Paul wrote to this assembly, late in his ministry, the majority of his readers were so overwhelmingly of idolatrous Gentile origin that the Jewish element had become negligible. It was these who had turned away from their idols. Furthermore, by this time believers had learnt the lessons set out in Galatians and Ephesians, so that those Jews had learnt to follow Paul in surrendering their covenant standing and therefore their Jewishness.

Thus we see in this Thessalonian assembly the first one, and the most wholly great one of those planted by Paul; starting off in the face of Jewish opposition and growing in strength and maturity as fresh revelations of truth came to them from Paul. And a truth which has been referred to in these pages before stands out at the very forefront: "This is the Christ the Jesus Whom I am announcing to you" (Acts 17:3); and that assertion is a distinct echo of John 20:31: "Yet these things are written that you should be believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that, believing, life eonian may you be having in His name."

This suggests that they may be a definite doctrinal link between John's Gospel and Acts, thus giving significance to the fact that the latter follows the former in the canonical order. In fact, Acts is the fulfilment of the prophetic side of John's Gospel disclosing step by step the development of that guiding into all the truth which was promised in John 16:12-15.

In harmony with this is the fact that logos, word, occurs far more frequently in Acts than in any other part of the Greek Scriptures, and John comes second in this respect. The Word Who is so much a feature of John 1:1-18 begins to reap His harvest in Acts. John's Gospel uses the expression "the Word of God" once only (10:35) with reference to the Scriptures; but it is all about the One Who Himself was the Word. The whole action in Acts centres around Him, and the expression "the Word of God" occurs ten times in it. The occurrences of this term in Paul's Epistles, also ten in number, make a most interesting and instructive study, and also the five in Revelation.

This way of approaching John's Gospel must sound to those who have previously been steeped in the more extreme "dispensational" ideas strange and even grotesque. Yet unless we place this Gospel in its proper setting at the very start we cannot avoid failing to see it in proper perspective. I confess that for me it long seemed remote and almost irrelevant to the supreme teaching of the Apostle Paul. That idea I once had now becomes to me grotesque to the point of absurdity. Paul's teaching remains supreme for us, but only because the Lord Jesus about Whom he taught was Himself supreme. If we did not believe and have life in His name (John 20:31) Paul's special teaching would be blank to us where it did not make nonsense. Paul's Evangel needs no defence by me, for it stands firmly and squarely upon its own feet; but Paul's Evangel without Jesus the Christ Who forms its massive foundation is nothing. How anyone can believe that Jesus is the Christ while ignoring the Gospel which was specially written to demonstrate that truth, is a mystery.

Thus, if we look objectively at the Greek Scriptures and see them as they actually are, we behold a stately, almost processional, development of their disclosure of the grace and the truth of which the Lord Jesus Christ was full and which came through Him. John's Gospel completes the account of the display on earth of His grace and His truth; then Acts recounts the coming of the Holy Spirit and the expansion far and wide of that grace and that truth. Midway through Acts a fresh and tremendous development begins: the ministry of the Apostle Paul and the beginning of the spread of the saving-work of God to the Gentiles over the whole earth. The first half of Acts is largely the preparation for it, the opening of the way whereby Paul was enabled to begin his ministry; the second half, the steady closure of the ministry to Israel as such and the accounts of Paul's preliminary missionary journeys.

Preliminary missionary journeys, because that is precisely the position. No account is given of other missionary journeys; but from hints dropped from time to time it is very plain that they must have occurred. There are only two references to Paul being in Rome: the account in Acts 28 and the brief remark concerning Onesiphorus in 2. Tim. 1:16-18. The settings and circumstances of these could hardly be more different, so we can safely place the latter as having occurred some years after the conclusion of the "two whole years" in Acts 28:31.

What Paul did during those "two whole years" and did "with all boldness, unforbiddable" is perfectly plain, if only we would take Luke's words at their face value.
He was:

We can and should distinguish between those two strands in order to contemplate their meaning and implications, provided only that we do not attempt to entwine them when we do this. We must make sure that we keep them both intact.

The first heralding or proclaiming, kErussO, was by John the baptist: "Repent! for near is the Kingdom of the heavens" (Matt.2:1-3). Mark and Luke repeat this. Presently, the Lord Jesus proclaimed the same message (Matt. 4:17). Paul's last such message was: "Proclaim the Word!" (2. Tim. 4:2). After proclamation came teaching, didaskO, the first reference to. which is the Lord Jesus teaching in the synagogues and proclaiming the Evangel of the Kingdom (Matt. 4:23). Then He taught what is commonly called "The Sermon on the Mount."

The study of those two words throughout Wigram's Concordance will indicate that the strands are not really separable, Proclamation and teaching went side by side so far as was. possible, and should with us; only when the proclamation was. rejected did no teaching follow. It is futile to attempt to teach those who refuse to limit themselves to what Scripture actually says. So it was in Acts 28:31. When the proclamation was listened to, the teaching followed it, as in God's ways it necessarily must. When the proclamation was rejected, there was no room for the teaching; and this remains true.

What Paul proclaimed was the Kingdom of God. The words kingdom, reign, sovereignty and rule are very different sounds in English; but in Greek they are very much alike, being derived from the same root. This variety of forms in English tends to. hide from us the fact that their meanings are in essence the same. So when we turn to Wigram we discover that words from this Greek root occur seventeen times in the earlier epistles of Paul, twelve in the later, ten times in Hebrews, and six in the remaining epistles. True, they occur many. more times in the Gospels, Acts and Revelation; but it is obviously irrational to exclude them from Paul's teaching, as some would have us do.

Perhaps it might be an interesting and instructive investigation to go carefully through Paul's Epistles and note the passages where commands are given to the reader, and imperious warnings rather than persuasive teaching. That is the character of Romans 5, 6 and 7, and 14, too. In the last, Paul defines the Kingdom of God as "not food and drink," that is to say, not the trifling or routine things of life, "but righteousness and peace and joy in holy spirit" (v. 17). Is it, then, too much to suggest that these three are the main ingredients of the Kingdom of God, so far as we are concerned with proclaiming it?

If this be the truth of the matter—and it is not easy to suggest a way of overthrowing the idea—we can earmark whole chunks of Scripture as distinctively "Kingdom teaching." The word dikaiosunE, righteousness, with associated matters, almost monopolizes Romans 3 to 10. In this light, the five occurrences of the word in Romans 6 take a fresh, sharp point. Are vv. 12-14 anything but an imperious command? Just look again!

Then note the emphasis on obey and obedience in vv. 16-18. Here in this context Paul has nothing to say about believing, but about obeying from the heart the type of teaching (Rotherham: the mould of teaching) "into which you were given over."

This is addressed to believers; that is, to people to whom faith has been reckoned as equivalent to righteousness. The issue of their faith, itself, does not arise: the sole issue is their obedience as slaves; as slaves into obedience, whether to sin or to righteousness.

Another feature of this which seems to be generally over looked is that Paul does not speak everywhere only of believing, but also, as here, of obeying. Rom. 10:16 says: "But not all obey as regards the Evangel." 2. Thess. 1:8 refers to God's vengeance on those who are "not obeying as regards the Evangel of the Lord of us, Jesus Christ." Later in this epistle Paul requires the admonition of anyone who is "not obeying as regards our word through this epistle" (3:14). Near the close of Romans, Paul commends his readers thus: "For your obedience reached out to all. Over you, then, I am rejoicing" (16:19). Finally, the secret referred to in Rom. 16:25-27 is "being made known into faith-obedience, into all the Gentiles."

At first glance, all this is very startling; but that is only because our mortality makes it very difficult for us to perceive truth in perspective, in the round, as it were. We tend to argue to ourselves that it is enough that the Evangel be believed, that it should be obeyed as well is too much. Yet, at the very outset, Paul gives us fair warning. Paul, and by implication his fellow apostles (for note the "we" in Rom. 1:5) "obtained grace and: apostleship into faith-obedience among all the Gentiles, for His name's sake" (Rom. 1:1-7). In actual practise there is no separating faith and obedience. Consequently, in actual practise there is no separating proclaiming the Kingdom of God and teaching that which concerns the Lord Jesus Christ.

For a very long time past I have been protesting against the modern system of doctrine which seeks to drive a wedge between "the church" and "the kingdom," as if the ideas were incompatible. There is no incompatibility now while there are no visible Kingdom glories; there will be none when the time comes for the saving-work of God to return to Israel and the setting of the stage begins for the eventual establishment of God's visible rule and power and glory. The idea that the Lord Jesus cannot rule at all until His rule is evident and complete is a wholly unjustifiable addition to Scripture.

If Paul's proclamation of the Kingdom included its present abeyance, how came he to announce to the Thessalonians that God calls them to His own Kingdom and glory (1. Thess. 2:12)? In thus testifying to them, Paul adds: "And therefore we also are thanking God unintermittingly that, in accepting the word heard from us, you receive of God, not the word of men, but (according as it truly is) the Word of God, which is operating also in you who are believing."

R.B.W. Last updated 10.4.2006