SIR ROBERT ANDERSON
Secret Service Theologian
TEXTS OF THE BIBLE
"Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit to
his stature? " (Matthew vi. 27 Luke xii. 25).
ALL the Lords words were the expression of Divine wisdom, but the words here attributed to Him savour of human folly. During "the great war" many a would-be recruit has longed to be an inch or two taller; but no one except "a freak dwarf " ever wished to add half a yard to his height ! Moreover, no sane person could imagine that this might be attained by "taking thought"; and yet according to our text, the Lord represented it as a mere trifle in comparison with the ordinary cares of life.
The primary and common meaning of hêlikia is age. But as growth in years brings physical development, the word acquired the secondary meaning of stature and it is used in that sense in Luke xix. 3. In Luke ii. 52. also, it is thus translated. But Bloomfield there renders it age, "as being more agreeable to classic usage" (Greek Test.); and in his note on Ephesians iv. 13. the same eminent Greek scholar writes, " Hélikia here does not mean stature but full age"; that is, the maturity of our spiriftial being - a correction that throws new light upon the passage. So, also. in John ix. 21 and 23 the parents of the blind man to whom the Lord gave sight said, " He is of age, ask him." In Hebrews ix. 11, the only other passage where the word occurs, it means " the time of life" in a special sense.
In the R.V., the phrase "taking thought" rightly gives place to "being anxious." The Christian should be always thoughtful, but never anxious always careful, but never full of care. The Lords words then might be freely rendered, " Who of you by giving way to anxiety can add a single step to the length of his life path ? " Reasonable care may extend it by many a cubit, but corroding anxiety can only ftnd to shorten it. When writing his fathers memoir, the late Sir .James Paget, the eminent surgeon. used the striking phrase that his death was due to "that rarest of all causes of death, old age" And it is not the aged only who undesignedly commit suicide through failing to "take thought."
Enter ye in at the strait gate Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it "(Matthew vii. 3, 14).
We are told that in Eastern cities there are small gates in out-of-the-way corners, which are approached by straitened (R.V.) and little-used paths, which would be noticed only by those who seek for them. And, of course, such gates and paths are in striking contrast to the great city gate and the main road which leads to it. The allegory of these verses would be understood by all to whom the Lord was speaking. But Westerners seem to miss its meaning.
As the "wide gate," to which the broad way leads, symbolises destruction, the narrow gate must symbolise life. And therefore the usual exegesis., that the straitened way " svmbolises a holy walk, is in direct opposition to the teaching of the passage and of the truth of the gospel. For there can be no holiness of walk until we receive life as Gods gift in grace. Moreover, the warning which immediately follows, beginning with the words. "Beware of false prophets," plainly indicates that the contrast which the Lord intends is not between an evil life and a holy life, but between "religion " and Himself. No sane man believes that Divine favour can be won by an evil life. But that it is to be won by a religious life is the creed of the human heart the wide world over.
And this perverted instinct of human nature leads many real Christians to misread any passage of Scripture that can be perverted to indicate that the seeming simplicity and "trueness" of the Gospel must be taken with reserve, and that its words are not to be trusted in the way we can trust the words of honourable men. For the sinner must needs seek for the way which leads to life, and knock at the door when he finds it ; and this we are told is not so easy as the words would lead us to suppose! If any reader of this page should harbour such a thought, let him mark the words which preface the invitation of verse 13, "Every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened " (v. 8).
"The Son of Man hath not where to lay His head" (Matthew viii. 20).
This is the first occurrence of this Messianic title in the New Testament, and in Scripture a first occurrence is often significant. In the Old Testament - as, for example, in Ezekiel - " Son of Man " is often used as an emphatic Hebraism, for man: but John v. 27 is the only New Testament passage where it occurs in this sense. Because He is man, all judgment is committed to the Lord Jesus. The English reader misses the significance which the Greek article lends to the words elsewhere; but it is recognised by scholars. And there can be no doubt. as to the significance which the Lord Himself attached to this, His favourite title. When, for example, He here exclaimed, "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, hut the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head," it is clear that the contrast His words were intended to enforce was between the highest and the lowest. The humblest creature has a home, hut He, the Son of Man, descended from heaven, was an outcast wanderer. And on the last occasion on which He used the title, when on His defence before the Sanhedrin, his purpose in declaring Himself to he the Soti of Man of Daniels vision (ch. vii. 13) was to assert His personal and inherent right to heavenly glory.
For it was not His human birth that constituted Him the Son of Man. That birth was indeed the fulfilment of the promise which the name implied but, as He declared explicitly, the Son of Man "descended out of heaven" (John iii. 13) ; and He added, who is in heaven," which, as Alford notices, certainly implies "whose place is in heaven." And again He said, "What and if ye shall see the Son of Man ascend up where lie was before ? " (John vi. 72). When, therefore, He proclaims that "the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost " - " came to give His life a ransom for many "- faith responds in the language of that noble hymn, "When Thou tookest upon Thee to deliver man, Thou didst not abhor the virgins womb." For the virgin-birth was but a stage in the fulfilment of His mission. And tins throws light upon the words of the creation story, " Let us make man in our image, after our likeness (Genesis i. 26). For the " type" - using the word in the biologists sense - is not the creature of Eden, but He after whose likeness the creature was fashioned.
One point more. Though the title "The Son of Man" occurs so frequently in relation to the earthly people of the covenant, the Lord is never so designated with reference to the heavenly people of this Christian age. Never once, therefore, is it found in the Epistles - - a fact that exposes, and ought to bar. the error which is so generally accepted as truth, that "the coming of the Son of Man" of Matthew xxiv., and elsewhere in the First Gospel, is the same event as the Lords coming to bring this "Christian dispensation" to an end, and to call His heavenly people home.
"Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel till the Son of Man be come" (Matthew x. 23).
This statenient must apparently he dismissed as a hopeless enigma, or rejected as a sheer blunder. But to the Christian who has learned to recognise the dispensational and prophetic character of the First Gospel, its meaning is clear ; and a. peruusal of the preceding introductory chapter will render further explanation unnecessary. "The hope of the Church - to use Bengels phrase - is not "the coming of the Son of Man" to earth in fulfilment of Messianic prophecy, but the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to call up to heaven His people of the heavenly election of tIme present dispensation. And this dispensation, and the distinctive truths relating to it, were "mysteries" till revealed until the earthly people were set aside. But these, and other similar words, will be received and acted on by Hebrew disciples in days to come, just as they would have been received and acted on by time disciples of the Lords earthly ministry if the Christian dispensation had not intervened.
"Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he" (Matthew xi. 11).
As the R.V. margin reminds us, the Greek is the comparative, not the superlative. But "he that is lesser" is intolerable as an English rendering. We might read it "the little one," a word that the Lord uses of His disciples in chapter x. 42. Although the great Chrysostom adopted it, the gloss that the Lord was thus referring to Himself is really unworthy of consideration. "For such an interpretation is surely adverse to the spirit of the whole discourse. We may certainly say that our Lord in such a passage as this would not designate Himself as he that is least compared with John, in any sense" (Alford). And it is certain that "the little one in the Kingdom" is not personally greater than the greatest of the prophets. It is clearly a question of dispensational position. The prophets were heralds of the coming kingdom; whereas, now, even the humblest disciple was a citizen of the kingdom. And the same applies in principle to the heavenly election of the Body of Christ. The least of its members is greater than the greatest of a bygone economy not personally - far from it - but dispensationally.
Some of us who are inclined to think highly of ourselves, here and now, will appear very small indeed personally in comparison with the faith heroes whose names are enshrined in the head-roll of Hebrews xi.
"And from the days of John the Baptist, until now, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force" (Matthew xi. I 2).
This verse is a veritable crux; and expositors generally convey the impression that they are not satisfied with the explanations they give of it. The rendering of our English versions clearly suggests the thought of a hostile, aggressive movement against the kingdom of heaven. But this is quite foreign to the context. And surely the way in which the main word, on which the exegesis of the verse depends, was used by the Lord in a kindred passage ought to guide us here.
In Luke xvi. 16 we read, "The law and the prophets were until John since that time the kingdom of God is preached, a.nd every man presseth into it."Now, time word here rendered" presseth into it is identical with that which is translated " suffereth violence" in our present verse. And one of its Lexicon meanings is, "to carry a point by obstinate perseverance." Can there be any doubt then that the Lord was here referring, not to a hostile movement against the kingdom, but to the forceful impetuosity of His nominal disciples? For example, the thousands of men whom He fed to satiety with a basketful of bread and fish were so eager to proclaim Him King that He had to hide Himself from them. And that this was His meaning here is established by the fact that the word rendered "take it by force," is that which occurs in John vi. 15, "When Jesus perceived that they would come and take Him by force, to make Him a King, He departed again into a mountain Himself alone."
The attitude and conduct of the Jewish leaders toward him were marked, not by violence, but by mingled hatred, cunning, and timidity. Again and again they would have seized Him, but that they feared the people. And if time Lord hid Himself from the provincial Jews, it was not because they were hostile, but because, knowing what was in man. He would not "commit Himself unto them," for they were merely miracle-made disciples (John ii. 23 - 25). Or, to use the Apostles phrase in Galatians ii. 15, they were merely "Jews by nature." Just as now, "all who profess and call themselves Christians" are nominally the people of God, so was it then with Jews. And every Jew was looking for the Messiah. But the "Jews by nature" wanted a Messiah who would free them from the Roman yoke. And they rightly judged that a man with seemingly unlimited miraculous powers could win their deliverance. Their hopes were carnal, and they were ready to attain the realisation of them by carnal means. Thus it was that "the kingdom of heaven was suffering violence."
"So shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matthew xii. 40).
Some people find here a clear proof that Scripture has erred ; others that the Lord was crucified on the Thursday. But in this both critics and "reconcilers " merely display their ignorance. "Three days and three nights" was a familiar idiomatic phrase to cover a period that included any part of three days. We need not go outside Scripture to exemplify this. The Egyptian mentioned in 1 Samuel xxx, 11 - 13 had had neither food nor drink for "three days and t.hree nights," and yet it was only three days since he had fallen sick. So, again, in 2 Chronicles x. 5, 12, we read that Rehoboam said to the Israelites, "Come again unto me after three days . . . so they came to him on the third day." And in Esther iv. 16 and v. 1, we aee told that the queen ordered a fast for three days, and yet she held a banquet on the third day.
But Matthew xxvii. 63. 64 would settle the question. even if it stood alone. Four-and-twenty hours after the Lords burial, the Jews came to Pilate and said, "We remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command, therefore, that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day." And if that Sunday had passed, leaving the seal upon the tomb unbroken, the guard would have been withdrawn, and the Pharisees would have proclaimed their triumph. In nine passages do the Gospels record His words that He would rise "on the third day"; and in 1 Corinthians xv. 4 the Apostle Paul proclaimed the fact as an integral part of the gospel.
Though this may puzzle a theological college, no prison chaplain would need to explain it to his congregation. For our law reckons time on this same system. Though our legal day is a day and a night - twenty-four hours beginning at midnight - any part of a day counts as a day. Therefore, under a sentence of three days imprisonment a prisoner is usually discharged on the morning of the third day, no matter how late on the first day he reaches the prison. Under such a sentence a prisoner is seldom more than forty hours in gaol, and I have had official cognizance of cases where the detention was, in fact, only for thirty-three hours.
And this mode of reckoning and of speaking was as familiar to the Jews as it is to our prison officials and the habitués of our criminal courts. In his Horce Hebraicce, Dr. John Lightfoot quotes time Jewish saying, "A day and a night make one Onah, and a part of an Onah is as the whole." And he adds, "Therefore, Cimrist may truly be said to have been in the grave three Onoth." To object that as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whales belly, the Lord must have been in the grave for that full period is a transparent blunder; for, of course, the period intended in the Jonah narrative must be computed in accordance with "the dialect of the nation" (Lightfoot).
"Lest they should be converted, and I should heal them" (Matthew xiii. 15).
These words are misunderstood by many a Christian; and to not a few they are a real trouble. For they seem strangely out of keeping with the spirit of the Lords ministry. But His words should always be studied in relation to their context and to the circumstances in which they were spoken. The " text-card system " of Bible study is a fruitful cause of misunderstanding and error.
During the early period of the Lords ministry His words of grace and works of power were abundant, and they were open and free to all - witness the narrative of chapter iv. 23 - 25, a passage which attracts but little notice. It had been a time of noontide sunshine in the spiritual sphere, such as even that favoured land had never experienced before. But the religious leaders of the people closed their eyes against the light; and, as chapter xii. 14 informs us, their obduracy and hate culminated in their summoning a council to compass His destruction. And the latter section of that chapter records the awful words in which He pronounced their doom. Their day of visitation was over, and a sentence of spiritual blindness and deafness was pronounced upon them. From that time, therefore, His public teaching became veiled in parables (ch. xiii.).
The change was so startling that the disciples came to Him with one accord to seek an explanation; and the passage from which time above words are taken gives His reply to their inquiries. Darkness was now to fall upon those who had despised the light.
But, as when darkness covered the land of Egypt, the Hebrews still had light, so was it here, for His parables were fully explained to the disciples.
The principle involved in this passage, therefore, is neither exceptional nor novel. Though the gospel amnesty which grace proclaims makes no exceptions, for Divine grace has no limits, there are limits to the time within which the amnesty avails. And if sinners despise grace there is nothing for them but judgment, stern and inexorable. And the word goes forth, even in this age of grace, albeit judgment waits, "Ephraim is joined to idols ; let him alone." This is an awfully solemn truth which explains the mystery of many a life.
"The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened " (Matthew xiii. 33).
The accepted interpretation of this parable takes the leaven to symbolise the good influence of Christianity in the world. It is admitted, however, even by the exponents of that view, that everywhere else in Scripture leaven is "symbolic of pollution and corruption." The question arises then, What meaning was the parable intended to convey to those who heard it ? And having regard to the religious beliefs and deep-seated prejudices of the Jews, can there be any reasonable doubt as to the answer? Suppose that when time Lord had finished His teaching, some Rabbi had explained to the hearers that the leaven in the parable represented a Divine purifying agency, the amazement his words would have excited would have been such as a Christian congregation today would feel if their minister - a staunch "teetotaller," withal - exemplified the spread of the gospel by the "permeating influence" of a glass of brandy smuggled into the family coffee-pot. "Smuggled," I say advisedly, for a specially significant word in the parable is entirely ignored in the received exegesis. When making bread in the course of her household duties, a woman would naturally put leaven into the meal. But here the woman conceals the leaven in the meal, the inference being an obvious one, that she does it surreptitiously, and with a sinister purpose. Now a parable is defined by theologians as a fictitious story, invented to illustrate a truth.
But why "fictitious"? It has been supposed that some of the parables narrate real and not fictitious events. And if this very reasonable supposition be well founded, a case may at that very time have engaged public attention, where some evil woman had thus corrupted the "three measures of meal" that had been set apart for an offering.
But, it is urged, the alternative reading of the parable is vetoed on two grounds. First, by the very fact that the kingdom of heaven is said to be like leaven, and therefore the leaven must symbolise good and not evil. Here the theologians forget their definition of a parable. For a parable must be read in its entirety as presenting the truth which time Lord intends it to teach. Were this remembered, Scripture would not be brought into contempt by such puerilities of exegesis as that the Good Samaritans two pence represent the two Sacraments ! or that, here, the three measures of meal symbolise either "body, soul, and spirit," or else "the descendants of the three sons of Noah " ! Tradition tells us that, from earliest times, this was the usual amount of meal prepared for a baking (Genesis xviii. 6). And it may have been on this account that it was the quantity prescribed for a meal-offering.
The second ground of veto is that the alternative reading of the parable would make it conflict with the teaching of Scripture respecting the course and issue of this Christian dispensation. But so far from this being the case, it is in fact the accredited exegesis of it which brings it into flagrant opposition to Scripture. Many a standard treatise might be cited in support of this statement. But having regard to the space limits of this note, a single testimony must suffice ; and it shall be that of a distinguished theologian who is an uncompromising champion of the "orthodox" exposition of the parable.
In his commentary upon Matthew xii. 43, Dean Alford, after explaining "the direct application of the passage to the Jewish people," writes as follows
"Strikingly parallel with this runs the history of the Christian Church. Not long after the apostolic times, the golden calves of idolatry were set up by the Church of Rome. What the effect of the Captivity was to the Jews. that of time Reformation has been to Christendom. The first evil spirit has been cast out. But by the growth of hypocrisy, secularity, and Rationalism, the house has become empty, swept, and garnished : swept and garnished by the decencies of civilisation and discoveries of secular knowledge, but empty of living and earnest faith. And he must read prophecy but ill who does not see under all these seeming improvements the preparation for the final development of the man of sin, the great repossession when idolatry and the seven worse spirits shall bring the outward frame of so-called Christendom to a fearful end."
Is it possible to reconcile Dean Alfords exposition of the leaven parable with these pregnant and solemn words about the long-drawn-out apostasv and coming doom of the professing Christian Church ?
"I will give unto thee (Peter) the keys of the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew xvi. iv).
But little need be added here to what has been said in the Introductory Chapter about "the kingdom of heaven." The great Apostasy which claims to be the keeper of Holy Writ is so ignorant of Holy Writ that it confounds the kingdom of heaven with the Church of this dispensation. The kingdom of heaven is the kingdom of Hebrew prophecy rebating to earth and the earthly people of the covenant. And Peter was "the Apostle of the Circumcision." To him it was, therefore, that the Pentecostal proclamation to Israel was entrusted (Acts ii. 22, iii. 12). And when "the word which God sent unto the children of Israel " was to be carried to Gentile proselytes, he was the appointed messenger (Acts x. 36). For among the Twelve Peter held t.he foremost place, and it was because there were twelve tribes of Israel that the Apostles of the Ministry were twelve in number (Matthew xix. 28).
Throughout what theologians call the Hebraic portion of the Acts, the Apostle Peter is the foremost figure, and his ministry is pre-eminent. But Israel remained impenitent; and in the thirteenth chapter the Apostles Paul and Barnabas were divinely " separated" to preach to the Gentiles, and the name of the Apostle of the Circumcision disappears from the narrative. In the first twelve chapters of Acts it occurs no less than fifty-six times, but, save in chapter xv. 7, it is never found once in the last sixteen chapters of the book.
"There be some standing here which shall not see death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom" (Matthew xvi. 28).
The following is the most approved exposition of this passage, and lest any one should suspect me of mis-stating a view which I reject, I give it in Dean Alfords words
"This declaration refers in its full meaning . . . to the destruction of Jerusalem, and the full manifestation of the kingdom of Christ by the annihilation of the Jewish polity." Was there ever a more amazing example of "nightmare exegesis" ? Did the disciples know that this was what they were asking for when they uttered the words the Lord had taught them, "Thy kingdom come"? They prayed that prayer with knowledge of the truth so plainly revealed in Scripture, that "the kingdom " would bring the restoration of the Jewish polity and relief from the Roman yoke. If, therefore, there be no other explanation of the passage open to us, let us humbly confess our ignorance, and leave it unexplained.
But before we yield to a "counsel of despair," let us clear our minds of all preconceptions, and study afresh the whole passage from chapter xvi. 28 to chapter xvii. 8. And reading it unbroken by the chapter division, let us consider whether it does not afford us the solution we seek.
Most great commentators agree that the Lord was pointing to some definite event which would occur during the lifetime of some of His disciples. But they urge, not without some show of reason, that the words "shall not taste of death" imply a somewhat remote event. Suppose, then, we omit these words, and read the passage thus, "Verily I say unto you, there are some standing here who shall see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom." Should we need the words of 2 Peter i. 16 - 18 to convince us that it was fulfilled at the Transfiguration?
There was one other event, and only one, in the life of the disciples which might claim consideration if a drastic "spiritualising " of the Lords language could be allowed, namely, the Day of Pentecost. But that would leave equally unexplained the words above omitted. The question remains, therefore, how can they be accounted for? I would answer boldly that if we must make choice between leaving this difficulty unsolved and adopting an unscriptural "nightmare" exegesis of the passage, we shall do well to adopt the former alternative. I venture to suggest, however, that we might possibly find a very simple solution of it if we knew what was working in the minds of the disciples at the time.
Certain statements in the Gospels indicate that they were "dull of hearing" about much of the Lords teaching. And if they treated the truth of the kingdom in its spiritual aspect in the manner that most of us now treat the truth of His Coming, relegating it to the sphere of mere doctrine and sentinment, may not the above omitted words have been a graciously veiled rebuke? It would be easy to offer many a plausible suggestion respecting the Lords purpose in speaking thus. But while we may freely attempt to analyse the thoughts of the disciples in such a case, any speculating about what was passing in the mind of our Divine Lord would be to trench on sacred ground.
I must not omit to notice yet another exposition of our verse ; but I notice it only for reprobation, albeit it is sanctioned by some eminent authorities. It is that time Lord was here referring to "His ultimate glorious coming." This view solves the question above discussed by rejecting the "difficult words" of time verse as being absolutely untrue. Such passages as Mark xiii. 32 and Acts i. 7 explain why the Lord refused to specify " times and seasons " ; and seeing that in the case before us He definitely fixed a time limit, the fulfilment of His words could have no reference to "times and season," or, in other words, to events foretold in prophecy. The proposed exegesis, moreover, betrays strange neglect of Scripture. For it is certain that the " ultimate glorious coming" will be long ages after "the Coming of the Son of Man in His kingdom" - a thousand years at least. And some would tell us that here "a thousand years" is an abstract term to mean an indefinitely vast era of time.
"Go and sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor" (Matthew xix. 21) (Mark X. 21; Luke xviii. 22).
If we are Christs disciples, why do we not act on this? the infidel mockingly demands. And our answer is plain: because it is not addressed to us. The Lord knows each heart and each life, and He deals with each in infinite wisdom. Another man. we read, besought the Lord for permission to follow Him, but "Return to thine own house" was the Lords answer to his appeal (Luke viii. 38, 39). And Lazarus of Bethany, whom the Lord loved, had possessions but instead of telling him to part with them, the Lord became his guest. And in the case of the Apostle Peter, so far from desiring him to sell his house in Capernaum, the Lord made His home there.
"God has no pleasure in fools." And to take every word of Scripture to ones self, irrespective of the circumstances in which it was spoken, is to be a very mischievous kind of fool ; for such folly brings discredit upon Holy Writ. Our answer to the infidel, then, is that Scripture teaches us that a Christiaim who, having others dependent on him, sells all that he has and gives it to the poor, has denied the faith. and is worse than an infidel. (1 Timothy v. 8). But is not. "community of goods" enjoined by Acts iv. 34 - 37? Assuredly not. The Apostles words to Ananias (ch. v. 4) make it clear that the disciples were under no obligation to part with their possessions. Their doing so was a " freewill offering." And the passage is misread because the distinctive character of that brief Pentecostal dispensation is ignored. It was a waiting time.
During the last Carlist rising in Spain a wealthy Marquis was said to have mortgaged his estate, and to have thrown the proceeds into the war-chest of the insurrection. It was a reasonable act. on the part of any one who believed in the success of the Pretenders cause. And the Hebrew disciples of Pentecostal days were living in the hopes inspired 1w the prophecy and promise recorded in Acts iii. 19 - 11.
"For many be called, but few chosen " (Matthew xx.
Intelligent students of Scripture take note of the first occurrence of important words. And in this verse we have the first occurrence of the word "elect." The striking fact that the Lord here uses it with reference, not to salvation, but to service, may cause surprise to many, hut not to those who have studied the use of the word in the Greek Version of the Hebrew Scriptures, which, as we know, exercised a very marked influence upon the language of the New Testament. For in most, if not all, of its occurrences in the Septuagint it is used to express excellence and appreciation.
The first is in Genesis xxiii. 6. In response to Abrahams appeal for a burial-place for Sarah. the children of Heth replied, "In the best of our sepnlchircs bury thy dead." It is used again six times in Genesis four times of choice cattle, and twice of choice ears of corn (ch. xli.). Its first occurrence in a higher sense is its application to Joshua in Numbers xi. 28 (where the LXX reading is "the chosen one"). And in Isaiah xxviii. 16 it is stamped with its highest value by its application to the Lord Himself (ci. 1 Peter ii. 6).
"Words are the counters of wise men, the money of fools"; and a word may, in one connection, stand for gold, and, in another, for some coin of inferior metal. But expositors are apt to forget this, and to treat the counters as though they were coins. This has had deplorable results in relation to the parable which ends with our present verse. Not only does it rob us of important teaching and solemn warning respecting the Lords service, but it operates as a flagrant denial of the truth of the gospel. The parable does not describe the case of the man who sends out his servants to bring in the destitute to the banquet which his invited guests have despised (Luke xiv. 16 - 22) ; but of the householder who goes out to hire labourers to work in his vineyard .And every man he hires receives the wages promised him; hut it is only some of them who earn special appreciation and approval. Mark the order and significance of the words many are klêtoi. but few are eklekloi. According to our ordinary usc of the word, few were chosen, for that is implied in the hiring. But here the choosing is at the end of the days labour. Are we. then, to conclude that the Divine decree which fixes our eternal destiny awaits. and is dependent upon, the value of our service ?
Embedded in this parable there are some most important truths that we are prone to foret. The fact that it is the householder himself who hires the labourers points to a truth which is enforced in man a Scripture - the truth, namely, that although God entrusts to His servants the duty of seeking the lost, and bidding them to the banquet of salvation, the call to service is His own prerogative.
And no less clear is the teaching of the parable for those who are called to labour in the Lords vineyard. As we know from other Scriptures, it is "the service of sons," and not, as some would tell us, of sinners on probation, whose eternal destiny will depend on the character and value of their service. And we must not confound "the judgment-seat of Christ" with "the great white throne." Not that the issue of either judgment will be the eternal destiny of men - that will be manifested by the resurrection ; and yet both have to do with our earthly life, "the things done in the body " (2 Corinthians v. 10) or " the things written in the books" (Revelation xx. 12).
But, I repeat, it is to labourers in the vineyard that this parable specially refers. And the question at issue will be whether the labourer shall be eklektos, or, as the alternative, adokimos (to use the Apostles word in 1 Corinthians ix. 27). But any exposition which treats either the Lords parable or the Apostles warning words as though they referred to the eternal salvation, or the eternal doom, of men, not only perverts these Scriptures, but betrays ignorance or neglect of the great truth of salvation by grace through faith.
"This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fullfilled" (Matthew xxiv. 34).
This is a favourite verse with the Rationalists for in their ignorance they cite it as discrediting Holy Scripture. Is it not clear, they ask, that the Lords words have failed? Here is Dean Alfords interpretation of it: "It may he well to show that genea has in Hellenistic Greek the meaning of a race or family of people. See Jeremiah viii. 3, 70. Compare Matthew xxiii. 36 with verse 35 This generation did not slay Zacharious - so that the whole people are addressed. See also chapter ii. 45, in which the meaning absolutely requires this sense." He further cites chapter xvii. 17 ; Luke xvi. 8 and xvii. 25; Acts xi. 40; Phiilippians ii. 15. And he adds, "In all these places genca is genos, or nearly so."
Some scholars explain the passage by reference to the fact that the word rendered "this" may with equal correctness be translated "that." Thus the statement would mean that the same generation which sees the setting up of the abomination of desolations (v. 15) will see all these things come to pass.
Our only difficulty, therefore, in interpreting it is that it involves our adjudicating between alternative solutions which are equally satisfactory and equally scholarly.
"Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins"(Matthew xxv. i).
"How (it is asked) is the kingdom of heaven like ten virgins? " The question exemplifies a popular, but very erroneous, mode of reading the parables. As the Dictionary tells us, a parable is "a story of something which might have happened, told to illustrate some doctrine, or to make sonic duty clear." To understand the parable ariglit, therefore, we must study it as a whole, and with reference to the particular doctrine or duty it is designed to teach. And in this case the thirteenth verse leaves no doubt as to its purport - " Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of Man comcth."
But this parable is too often read without noticing the emphatic word with which it begins : " Then - at the period spoken of at the end of the last chapter, namely, the coming of the Lord to His personal reign - not at His final coming to judgment" (Alford). To be still more accurate and explicit, it is the Lords coming as " Son of Man " - an event which is later in time, and wholly distinct from, the Coming which is the special hope of the Christian in this Christian age. "The hope of the Church," to use Bengels phrase, is a "mystery" truth which was not revealed until Israel was set aside.
"Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew xxviii, 19, R.V.).
The closing passages of tue Four Gospels have always been a difficulty with theologians, and often a cause of perplexity to Christians generally. And it is round the last five verses of Matthew that the difficulties chiefly cluster. Indeed to any one who is dependent on our Authorised Version they seem overwhelming. For the chapter seems to record the fact that after the resurrection the eleven disciples forthwith left Jerusalem for the appointed trysting-place in Galilee, and there received the parting commands of their risen Lord. But this, of course, is entirely inconsistent with the narratives of Luke and John. Dean Alford here speaks of " the imperfect and fragmentary nature of the materials out of which our narrative is built." But the idea is absurd that any one of the Apostles could, to his dying day. forget the Lords appearing to them on the evening of the resurrection, and again after eight days. But if on five different occasions our Lord appeared to a company of His disciples, how is it that this Evangelist records but one ? Why does Mattllew ignore the Lords appearings to His gathered disciples in Jerusalem ? This is but part of a wider question : Why does the First Gospel ignore Jerusalem altogether, so far as it is possible to ignore it, in the record of our Lords ministry ?
The purpose of the First Gospel iii the Divine scheme of revelation is to present Christ as Israels Messiah. And Galilee was prophetically and dispensationally associatcd with the godly remnant which, if the apostasv of the nation. was divinely regarded as the true Israel. Therefore is it that the Lords ministry in Galilee has such prominence in this Gospel . According to Matthew the last words spoken to the Eleven before the agony in Gethsemane were, that after He was risen again He would go before them into Galilee (ch. xxvi. 32). And the first message sent to His brethren after the resurrection, first by the mouth of the angel who appeared to the women at the sepulchre. and afterwards by His own lips, was that He would meet them in Galilee (ch. xxviii. 7, 10).
What, then, is needed to complete the book ? If unchecked by the Spirit of God, the Apostle would doubtless have given a record of the events of those forty days. It is idle to talk of " fragmentary materials." Any one of the disciples could have compiled such a narrative; but it would have been wholly foreign to the scope and purpose of the First Gospel. As it is the Galilee ministry which is the burden of it, all that remains is to record how, in the scene of that ministry, the Lord gathered His disciples round him, and gave them those pregnant and intensely prophetic words with which that Gospel closes.
But who were the disciples thus addressed? It is rightly assumed that this was the occasion when our Lord appeared to above five hundrcd brethren at once. If it was not here, then this, the most important event, of the forty days, is unnoticed in the Gospels, which is an incredible supposition. The message from the sepulchre will throw light on this. As the Lord intended to meet the Eleven that very evening, why should He send them a command to go into Galilee? And, as He was about to reveal Himself to Peter, why should the women be made the bearers of such a message? Is it not obvious that the message was intended for the whole company of the disciples?
Let us now consider verses 16 and 17. "Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them; and when they saw Him they worshipped Him: but some doubted." Read by itself, the narrative seems clear and simple but read in the light of what other Gospels tell us, it seems misleading and false. But the error is suggested by the English rendering of the text. The first word of the sixteenth verse appears to he emphatic, whereas it is not in the original at all. The word rendered "then" in the A.V. and "but" in the R.V. is what the grammarians call "the de resumptive," which is often untranslatable, and sometimes untranslated. In the first verse of this chapter, for instance, it is ignored for the mere fact that the verse is made the beginning of a new chapter conveys to the English reader much the same sense that the use of the particle in question does in Greek. And so here. The sixteenth verse begins a new paragraph, and it might fitly begin a new chapter. It is not a continuation of a consecutive narrative, but the record of a special event.
"The eleven disciples went into Galilee, into the mountain where Jesus had appointed them." But why the eleven disciples, if above five hundred brethren repaired to the trysting-place ? The reason is not doubtful. The Apostles words in 1 Corinthians xv. 6 indicate plainly that the appearing to the five hundred brethren was a matter of general knowledge in the Church. No less so was the fact that " the eleven " remained in Jerusalem after the main company of the disciples had repaired to Galilee. That they were expressly enjoined to remain in Jerusalem until the fulfilment of "the promise of the Father," and that they still remained in Jerusalem when the Church was scattered by the Stephen persecution - these also, doubtless, were well-known facts, the public property of all the believers. What wonder, then, if the Apostle should record with emphasis that the eleven disciples went into Galilee." That the rest were there was a fact well known to all ; but that the Eleven were present needed to be placed on record.
To the English reader this mention of the Eleven seems to lend prominence to the "theys" in the sentence following: "And when they saw Him, they worshipped." But the pronouns are not in the Greek. To say, "And when He was seen He was worshipped" would express the meaning of the original better than a stricter translation. It must be conceded, however, that even when thus rendered the words must be taken as referring to the Eleven, unless we assume that there is an ellipsis in the sentence of which they form a part. But such an ellipsis is precisely what we should expect if the fact that five hundred brethren were present was matter of common knowledge, and the writer had the fact vividly before his mind when he wrote.
This suggestion is in a striking way confirmed by the statement that some doubted. That after the Lords rebuking Thomas for doubting before even he had seen Him, any of the Eleven still doubted even while they looked upon Him - this cannot he tolerated for a moment. It is certain, therefore, that others were present. But what others? Are we to suppose, I again ask, that such an event as our Lords appearing to above five hundred brethren at once is unnoticed in the Gospels? Are we to suppose that the appearing recorded in Matthcw was unnoticed by Paul in summing up the evidences for the resurrection ? When it was a question of marshalling the proofs of the resurrection, the fact that above five hundred hretllren were present became of principal importance. But here it was wholly immaterial. That to His gathered disciples, the Eleven being of the number, He gave the great Commission - this was all that was essential. To accept the blunder theory, or the fragmentary and imperfect materials theory. is to stultify ourselves. In whatever way we approach the matter, we are drawn toward the same conclusion, namely, that the First Gospel, ignoring all that is beyond the Divine purpose for which it is written, closes the narrative of the Galilee ministry by recording the Lords appearing to His assembled disciples in the scene of that ministry. and His Commission to them to evangelise the world.
Another difficulty claims brief notice in conclusion, namely, the fact that this Commission was never acted on. Its terms are definite. But no less definite arc the facts. "Make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them." And yet, even when the Church was scattered by the Stephen persecution, the Apostles remained in Jerusalem ; and the scattered disciples preached "to none But unto the Jews only" (Acts viii. 1, xi. 19). Not even did the Apostle to the Gentiles act on it ; as witness his emphatic statement, "He sent me not to baptize" (1 Corinthians i. 17).
A special vision was needed to lead Peter to visit the house of Cornelius. And at the Jerusalem Council of Acts xv. no one of the inspired Apostles was led to refer to this Commission. Indeed the Book of Acts contains no reference to it whatever. The difficulty is insoluble if we ignore the scope and character of the First Gospel. But in common with so much of the teaching of that Gospel, "the great Commission" pertains dispensationally to the future age of the kingdom of heaven, when the Lord shall be King over all the earth; and all people, nations, and languages shall serve Him. And when that day comes, the question will not be of individual faith in an absent and rejected Saviour and Lord, but rather of national submission to Divine sovereignty openly declared and enforced on earth. And baptism will become the outward and visible sign of that submission. And now we can understand why it is to the Gentiles that the messengers are sent, blessing to Israel being assumed. For the redeemed of this dispensation will have passed to heaven, and the true remnant of Israel, typified by the little company that gathered round the Lord upon the mountain, will be the missionaries to the world. Iii contemplation of it the Apostle exclaimed, " If the casting away of them he the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?" (Romans xi. 15).
"And they brought young children to Him, that He should touch them: and the disciples rebuked those that brought them "(Mark x. 13) (Matthew xix. 13 ; Luke xviii. 15).
This is one of the most popular passages in the Gospels; for sacred art has portrayed the scene as described in sacred literature - the mothers crowding round the Lord, with their little ones at their skirts, and the disciples trying to keep them back. But the picture is false to fact. No devout Jew would have barred a childs approach to a Rabbi; and that the disciples should have acted in this way is quite incredible, so recent was that wonderful incident at Capernaum - presumably in the Apostle Peters home - when the Lord called a little child to Him, and taking him up in His arms, gave utterance to these never-to-be-forgotten words, "It is not the will of your Father who is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish" (Matthew xviii. 2, 14; cf. Mark ix. 33, 36).
The evangelist Lukes narrative explains the disciples action; for it tells us that the women were bringing even their babies to Him, and this seemed an unwarrantable intrusion. The word brephos means primarily an unborn child, and then, as here, a child newly born. It has no other meaning in Greek. It was their newborn infants that these godly mothers brought to the Lord Jesus. And their faith and devotion won for them far more than they ventured to ask of Him. Their appeal was that He would touch them; and not only did He put His hands upon them, but "He took them up in His arms and blessed them." What a Scripture to stir the heart of a Christian mother as she holds her newborn infant in her arms! And the Capernauni words are well-fitted to strengthen and guide her faith as her little ones gather round her in the nursery.
No truth of Scripture has suffered more from the teaching of the Latin Fathers than this about "the little ones." But though heaven and earth shall pass away, the words the Lord Jesus spake on earth shall never pass away. Let us then accept these words unperverted and unobscured by Augustinian doctrine: "It is not the will of your Father who is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish." And under the microscope they stand out all the clearer; for "the form of the proposition has all the force that belongs to the rhetorical negative . . . namely, that the will of the Father is the very opposite of that "He said, Weep not; she is not dead, but sleepeth" (Luke viii. 49 - 56) (Matthew ix. 23 - 25 ; Mark V. 38).
The commonly received exegesis of this passage about Jairus daughter presents a strange problem. The Lord declared with emphatic definiteness that Jairus child was not dead ; but the crowd of mourners "laughed Him to scorn," for they knew better! And Christian expositors reject the Lords explicit testimony and accept that of the mocking Jews Jairus had fallen at the Lords feet, beseeching Him to come to his house; but, their progress being much delayed (vv. 42 - 48), they were met by tidings that the child was dead. Thereupon the Lord intervened with the assurance, "She will recover." Thus it is the R.V. renders the word in John xi. 12, when the disciples said of Lazarus, "If he is fallen asleep, he will recover." It is the word the Lord had used in verse 48 to "the woman with the issue of blood." and the same word that is translated "healed " in verse 36. In its 106 occurrences in the New Testament the word is very often used of saving from death, but never once in the sense of raising the dead.
Has fallen asleep " is a familiar euphensism for "has died " ; but to use that phrase to deny the reality of death would be to utter a flagrant untruth; and yet this is what is here attributed to the Lord Jesus! A reference to John xi. 11 - 14 will exemplify this. "Lazarus has fallen asleep," the Lord said to the disciples; but when they mistook His meaning, "He said unto them plainly, Lazarus has died." But in marked contrast with this, the Lord had said that Jairus daughter "would recover" (v. 50). And when He entered the house, and before He saw the child, He announced in the confidence of Divine knowledge, "She has not died, but she is sleeping."
And then, standing by her bedside, He took her by the hand, saying, "Maid, arise" (or "wake up"). And, the narrative adds, "her spirit came again " - the identical words used in the Greek Bible to describe Samsons recovery as recorded in Judges xv. 19.
But, it will be said, the universally accepted reading of this passage must surely have some different and surer basis. Not so; it rests entirely upon two grounds. First, the presumption that the facts of the case must have been better known to the Jew mourners than to the Lord of glory! And secondly, that as the Lord meant that Lazarus was dead when He said that he was sleeping, His word about Jairus child must be understood in the same sense. This is worthy of the Sunday school! For the word He used in John xi. 11 is altogether different from the word He here employed. In all but four of its eighteen occurrences His Lazarus word (koimao) signifies death; whereas the word He here used (hatheud) never bears that meaning in any of its twenty-one occurrences in the New Testament.
And yet if the Lord had really said. " She is not dead, but sleepeth," some might still plead for putting a mystical meaning on the phrase. But the words He actually used, "She did not die" (ou gar apethanen), were a definite and unequivocal statement of a fact. And His hearers were clearly intended to understand them thus. There was no element of dramatic effect in any of the Lords miracles. And knowing that the child, though past recovery, was still alive, He who was "the truth" would not have it supposed that He was raising her from the dead. But by a word He restored her to full health and vigour (v. 55). The reality of the miracle is not in question, nor yet its testimony to His Divine power. But among honourable men the test of truth is the meaning which words are intended to convey to others; are we then to attribute a lower standard of truthfulness to the language of our Divine Lord? For this is involved in so reading His words, "She did not die," that an elaborate and subtle argument is needed to vindicate their truth. This is the question here at issue.
"Strive to enter in at the strait gate " (Luke xlii. 24). This text is very generally misunderstood; partly through misreadillg its principal word, and partly through ignorance of Oriental customs. The imagery is not the same as that of Matthew vii. 13. In one of the two leaves of an Eastern city gate there was a small narrow door which was open to foot-passengers for a while after the main gate was closed at sundown. And the gloss of our commentaries is that to an audience of Orientals, they would have turned away with feelings either of amusement or of pity for his ignorance. For a belated traveller who tried to enter in that fashion would have been taken for an enemy or a lunatic, and either cut down or thrown out! And such an exposition of the words is egregiously opposed to the doctrine and the spirit of the Gospel. This, no doubt, is the primary meaning of the word agonizomai, and it is so used in some other passages. But it is not its only meaning. In Cohossians iv. 12, for example, the Apostle uses it to describe the fervent earnestness of Epaphras prayers for his Colossian brethren. And so here. It is one of the Lords many warnings against trifling with God or with eternal interests. No Oriental would have missed its meaning. The wayfarer knows that, though the sun has set, the "narrow gate" is still open; so there is no need to hurry. Then why not linger here, or turn aside there? But although God looks for no merit of any kind in us, He must not be treated as we would not dare to treat a fellow-man. "Behold, now is the day of salvation" is His word: not now, but tomorrow " is the response of the human heart.
As we study the sequel, we must distinguish between the dispensational bearing of the Lords words and their general application. No Oriental would miss His meaning when the allegory of "the narrow gate " merges in that of the feast to which invitations have been issued with Eastern prodigality. And the guests have no need to knock, for the door stands open. But once the master of the house "is risen up and has shut to the door," neither knocking nor pleading will avail. And for Israel that crisis was at hand - their day of visitation was far spent. And now, in the sequel, the Lord gives an explicit answer to the question which called forth these solemn words of warning. The saved will not be few. Outcast sinners will come from every point of the compass, and sit down in the kingdom with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, while the favoured people who boast of their descent from these patriarchs will be themselves "thrust out."
Such, then, is the primary interpretation of the passage. But it has a very special application to ourselves in this Christian age. And here the error of the received exegesis is still more apparent. The little entrance door in an Eastern city gate was not only narrow, it was so low that a man had to stoop when passing in. But there was no difficulty of any kind in entering, if only he bowed his head, and had no pack to carry. What imagery could possibly describe more aptly how a sinner must come to Christ ! And our present verse is not so much a command as a gracious appeal and invitation, given in the spirit of the Saviours words in the last two verses of the chapter.
No chapter in the Gospels is more misread than the sixteenth of Luke. The commonly accepted version of it may be summarised as follows : "A certain rich man had an agent who was accused of robbing him; so he gave him notice of dismissal. The steward then set himself to rob him more flagrantly than ever and his master commended him for his cleverness."
Did a rustic preacher ever propound anything sillier or more harmful to a company of yokels ! And suppose, to make Inatters worse, he followed it up by a sermon with the moral, " Woe to the rich : blessed are the poor ! " Yet this deplorable folly and error is attributed to our Divine Lord
In this group of parables we have a series of exquisite pictures, drawn by the hand of the Master, to illustrate the great life-choice. In the prodigal son we have the case of one who "wasted" his own "portion of goods" in selfish and sinful pleasure, but afterwards repented, and was restored. In the steward we have the case of one who wasted his employers "goods" by unthrift and neglect ; but who repented, and was forgiven. And in the rich man in the last parable of the series we have one who persistently lived for this world, and died impenitent. The steward was "unrighteous" in the sense that he was a careless, easy-going man, who " let things slide," leaving debts uncollected, and allowing accounts to run on. Thus it was that he was wasting" his masters property. It was a case, not of occasional acts of dishonesty, but of habitual carelessness. His dishonesty was of a passive kind. And what earned for him his masters praise was his action when brought to book, and dishonesty of any kind was no longer possible.
Instead of alienating the debtors by enforcing immediate payment in full, he set himself to win their friendship by giving them a most liberal discount, and at his own expense, of course ; for now he was working under strict observation. And lIe did this in order that, when he lost his office, they might receive him into their houses.
This is the whole point of the parable. Its lesson is not that roguery succeeds, or is commendable in any way, but as the Lord Himself explams it by the words. "Make to yourselves friends by means of the mammon of unrighteousness. that when it shall fail ye may be received into the eternal tabernacles." The moral of the parable is the wisdom of using the present in view of the future; of living in a world that is "passing away," under the influence of that other world which is abiding and eternal. It is the application in the highest sphere of a principle which is recognised by "the children of this world." For the successful man is one who has learned to make "today" subordinate to tomorrow," and to forego a present advantage in order to secure a prospective gain.
To enforce this still more plainly, the Lord went on to say, "If ye have not been faithful in that which is anothers, who will give you that which is your own" As the parable is usually read, these words seem inexplicable. But their meaning is clear : spiritual gifts are our own, but the mammon is entrusted to us as stewards, How false, then, is the prevailing belief that, in the Christian life, the "religious" and the "secular" are in separate compartments. The Christian is as really Gods servant in the one sphere as in the other.
And then verse 13 gives the final lesson. The Christian is to use the world : but if he uses it excessively it becomes his master .And though mammon he a good servant, it is an evil master. Moreover. "No servant can serve two masters. . . . Ye cannot serve God and mammon" We must choose between them. And the concluding parable about Dives and Lazarus is given to guide our choice. "
"Behold the Lamb of God. which taketh away the sin of the world " (John i. 29). This rendering of the text in both our versions savours of exegesis. The Baptists words are definitely clear, "Behold the Lamb of God, who is bearing the sin of the world." And they are usually supposed to be a revelation to the Jews that Christ was to die; the only question in doubt being whether the type to which they refer be the Paschal lamb or the sin-offering.
But this involves a glaring anachronism. For it was not until the Sanhedrin decreed His destruction (Matthew xii. 32) that the Lord revealed even to the Twelve that He was to be put to death. And so utterly opposed was it to all Jewish beliefs and hopes that they gave no heed to it. Upon other grounds also such an exegesis is unintelligent. For the Passover did not typify "bearing sin," and a lamb was never the sin-offering victim. Nor was it " the sin of the world" that the scapegoat bore away, but the sins of the children of Israel (Leviticus xvi. 21).
"Who is bearing the sin of the world." This was not a prophecy of Calvary, but a revelation of what the Lord was during His life. Therefore the word here used is not a sacrificial term, as in 1 Peter ii. 24 and other kindred passages, but an ordinary word in common use for taking up and carrying burdens. Its five occurrences in John v. 8 - 12 are fairly representative of its use in the ninety-six other passages where it is found. Accordingly we read in 1 John iii. 5 - the only other passage where the word is used in this connection - "He was manifested to take away (or to bear) sins" (R.V.), the Apostles purpose being, as the context plainly indicates, not to assert the doctrine of expiation, but to impress on the saints that sin is utterly opposed to Christ, and hinders fellowship with Him. Mark the word "manifested" ; it was not the mystery of Calvary, but the openly declared purpose of His life. For in this sense He was a sin-bearer during all His earthly sojourn ; as witness, for example, His groans and tears at the grave of Lazarus. He took up and bore the burden of human sin; not as to its guilt - that was not till Gethsemane and Calvary - but as to the sufferings and sorrows it brought upon humanity.
"He was oppressed, yet lie humbled Himself and opened not His mouth; as a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and as a sheep that before her shearers is dumb, yea He opened not His mouth" (Isaiah liii. 7, R.V.). There is a general consensus of opinion that to this passage it is that the Baptists words refer. And it is noteworthy that it contains no sacrificial language ; for, in the Hebrew, " slaughter" is a common word that points to the shambles. It foretold the Messiahs earthly life of humiliation and suffering. And this it was that the Jews could not understand, and would not accept. Hence the force and meaning of the Baptists inspired words uttered at the very threshold of the ministry.
Let no one suppose then that the foregoing exposition of them disparages the truth of the expiation accomplished upon Calvary. That great truth rests upon a foundation too firm and sure to need support from a misreading of the Baptists testimony. Indeed, it is the accepted exegesis of the passage that imperils that truth. For it affords a colourable justification for the profane heresy that during the Lords earthly ministry He rested under the cloud of separation from His Father (see note on 1 Peter ii. 24). To form too high an estimate of the death of Christ would be impossible, but it is a deplorable fact that the prolonged martyrdom of His earthly life has far too little place in our thoughts.
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