How to Abide in Christ

This is the first of the two multiplying commands, which comes from John 15:1-17 (Thomas and Gundry, Harmony: NASB Sec.219)

Purpose: The purpose of this lesson is to stress the importance of a life of dependency on Christ instead of self-sufficiency. Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Abiding in Christ, depending on Him, is the only way that we can experience spiritual fruit. Abiding in Christ involves believing in Him and maintaining unbroken fellowship with Christ.

Historical Background: John 13-17 contains Jesus’ final instructions to his disciples on the night before his crucifixion. Here Jesus sought to strengthen and confirm the belief of his disciples, teaching them about service, love, heaven, prayer, persecution, the Holy Spirit, joy, victory, and unity. (J. Carl Laney)

Christ and the eleven disciples have just left the upper room (Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26; John 14:31) and the teaching on the vine comes as Christ is walking to the garden of gethsemane where he will be betrayed. As Jesus begins to use the metaphor of a vine, perhaps his disciples had a series of flashbacks.

1) Earlier the same week Jesus leveled a series of woes against Israel’s false religious leaders and said that their house (temple) was left to them desolate (Matthew 23:38). Jesus has also spoken of the temple’s destruction (Matthew 24:1-2). A massive vine had been worked into the architecture of the temple.

The vine is a familiar symbol of Israel in the Psalms and the prophets (Psalm 80:8-16; Isaiah 5:1-7; Jeremiah 2:21; 5:10; 12:10; Ezekiel 15:1-8; 17:1-24; Hosea 10:1).1n fact, the Maccabeans (about 150 B.C.) inscribed it on their coins to represent their nation. And Herod the Great, restoring the Jerusalem temple in 19 B.C., had a large vine of gold hung around the entrance to the Holy Place.

2) Jesus has just instituted the Lord’s Supper, complete with the “fruit of the vine” (Matthew 26:29; Mark 14:15; Luke 22:18). All this adds to the powerful picture that Jesus is about to paint for his disciples. This Eucharistic Celebration will be one of the most meaningful ways that believers can commemorate and consecrate their connection with the Vine. (Mark E. Moore pgs.238-239)

3) After exiting the upper room (John 14:31) Jesus and his disciples were walking through vine groves that lead to the perfect metaphor for his teaching.

Commanded in the Gospels: John 15:4 – abide; John 15:9 – abide also John 5:38; 6:27, 56; 8:31; 12:46.

Illustrated in the Book of Acts: The practices of a believer that is abiding in Christ are found in the Book of Acts but the technical phrase is not found.

Amplified in the Epistles: 1 John 2:6, 10, 14, 17, 19, 24, 27, 28; 3:6, 9, 14, 15, 17, 24; 4;12, 13, 15, 16; 2 John 2:2, 9.

1. If Jesus was “the true vine,” then who was “the false vine”? (John 15:1) In the Old Testament God calls Israel the “vine” but the nation had become apostate. God wanted them to be a light and source of blessing to the world, but because of unbelief Jesus announces that He and He alone is [ego eimi] the true vine.

2. What is the job of the vine? (John 15:4, 5, 8) The job of the vine is to provide the necessary sap to the branches so that they can bear fruit.

3. What was the vinedresser’s (gardener’s) responsibility? (John 15:1-2, 6) The job of the vinedresser is to cut off fruitless branches and prune fruitful branches. It’s the vinedresser’s responsibility to prune and to punish.

4. What are the five different degrees of fruit bearing?

  1. “no fruit” John 15:2
  2. “fruit” John 15:2
  3. “more fruit” John 15:2
  4. “much fruit” John 15:8
  5. “fruit that will remain” John 15:16

5. Who are the fruitless branches in the analogy of the vine? (John 15:2; Isaiah 5:1-7) The analogy in the Old Testament went like this. God has a root of blessing, and blessing comes through that root and extends to the extremities so that anybody who would be blessed would need to be grafted into the root of blessing. Israel saw themselves as that blessing root. And they had a right to see themselves that way because God had called them his vine. In Isaiah, the Lord said that he planted the vine on a very fertile hill. He looked at his vine, and instead of his vine bringing forth good grapes, it brought forth worthless grapes, and God condemned it.

God says, “Israel is an empty vine.” You see, God had made Israel the stock of blessing, and anybody who would be blessed would be blessed in the tents of Shem. They would be blessed in identification with Israel, the repository of God’s truth and God’s law. But Israel forfeited the place of blessing by unbelief, and so the Messiah comes along and says, “Now, I am the vine, the true one. No longer is a man blessed by being in Israel; he is blessed when he truly is in Me.”

So the fruitless branches are Jews by birth who didn’t share the faith of Abraham in Jehovah God. They are the Israelites of Jesus’ day who rejected their Messiah. The Prophet Isaiah spoke of the nation of Israel in these terms. (Isaiah 5:1-7)
Jesus alluded to this passage in Matthew 21 when telling the parable of the Landowner. (Matthew 21:33-39)

In this parable God is the “landowner,” the prophets are “his slaves” and Jesus is his “son.” So what will the landowner do since Israel is not producing fruit?

Matthew 21:43, 45 – Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it. 45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them.

6. What is the purpose of a branch? (John 15:2) The vinedresser says the purpose of the branch is to bear fruit.

7. What kind of fruit can we bear as Christians?

  1. Character (Galatians 5:22-23)
  2. Conduct (Philippians 1:11; Colossians 1:10)
  3. Contributions (Romans 15:28)
  4. Converts (John 4:36; Romans 1:13; 1 Corinthians 16:15; Colossians 1:6)

8. What kind of fruit is Jesus referring to in this passage? (John 15:2, 4, 5, 16, 4:36) The kinds of fruit that Jesus is referring to in this context are converts. They are the product of “going” (John 5:16; Mark 16:15). The only kind of fruit that Jesus has taught about in this Gospel is a harvest of souls for salvation (John 4:36). Jesus says, “Already he who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal; so that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.” The other references to “fruit” in Scripture were written years later after this encounter with Christ.

9. What does it mean that the vinedresser “takes away” the branches that don’t bear fruit? (John 15:2, 6) Coming on the heels of Judas’ desertion this word picture has powerful implications for the Eleven. Branches that He “takes away” were never believers, that is, they were not actually “in Christ” (John 15:2). Anyone who professes faith in Christ but either does not produce fruit or does not persevere in Christ was never a real believer in the first place. John 15:6 adds, “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.” These fruitless branches are taken away and cast in the fire like the tares in Matthew 13:39-40.

John MacArthur writes, “The Father ‘takes away’ the branches that fail to bear fruit. John 15:2 doesn’t say He fixes them up; it says He cuts them off. John 15:6 says that those branches are gathered, thrown into a pile, and burned. The Father deals with them with finality. Now if that refers to Christians, we’ve got some problems. I believe that the fruitless branches refer to people who profess to have a relationship to Jesus Christ, who apparently are in the vine as a follower of Christ, but are like Judas and have never been saved. That is obvious because they never bear spiritual fruit. At a certain point in the Father’s timing, the fruitless branches are cut off from the life and health of the vine and the other branches. Professing Christians who aren’t really saved and therefore don’t bear fruit will be cast away and burned in an act of divine punishment.”

10. How does the Father prune the branches? (John 15:2) “The word translated “pruned” [kathairei] literally means “to cleanse,” “to purge,” “to purify.” The verb is commonly used in inscriptions of ceremonial cleansing. It is not the normal word for pruning, but was chosen here because Christ was talking about people rather than vines” – J. Carl Laney. Pruning involves removing things that hinder the branch from full productivity.

God brings trials into our lives that expose the areas that hinder our productivity. These trials open up the areas in our life that the Word of God can address. Unfortunately we often repeat the same trial because we don’t learn to apply his Word the first go-around. Trials that are repeated are often lessons unlearned.

Understanding Why a Farmer Prunes The Vines:

To understand the spiritual lesson regarding God’s dealings with people, it is necessary to understand why a farmer prunes vines. According to one expert regular pruning is necessary during the vine’s growing season.1

“Pinching” with the thumb and finger removes the growing tip of a vigorous shoot so that it will not grow too rapidly and be broken or damaged by the wind. “Topping” involves the removal of one or two feet from the end of a growing shoot to prevent a later loss of the entire shoot which might be snapped off by the wind. “Thinning,” the removal of flower or grape clusters, enables the rest of a branch to bear more and better quality fruit. “Pruning” involves the cutting away of suckers that arise from below the ground or from the trunk and main branches. In addition to this pruning during the growing season, during the fall or winter, the farmer prunes the vines back to the main stalk, except for perhaps two mature shoots. 2

Another way that God prunes the believing branches is through loving discipline (Hebrews 12:4-13). J. Carl Laney “As the vinedresser cuts away what would hinder the productivity of the vine, so God the Father, through loving discipline (cleansing, purging, purifying), removes things from the lives of believers that do not contribute to their spiritual fruitfulness. The writer of Hebrews may have had this ‘pruning’ in mind when he pointed out that God disciplines his children. “For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and he scourges every son whom he receives” (Hebrews 12:6). He added that while divine discipline is sorrowful, not joyful, ‘afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness’ (John 12:11).

The ‘pruning’ of fruit-bearing disciples may not always be the result of sin. Pruning may be (designed to prevent it. Paul was privileged to be caught up to paradise and experience unspeakable things (2 Corinthians 12:1-4). This unique opportunity gave Paul a tendency to boast, but God corrected this tendency by giving him a ‘thorn in the flesh’ – a physical affliction – to keep him from exalting himself (2 Corinthians 12:7).”- J. Carl Laney

11. Is it possible to be genuinely saved and yet not manifest any fruit or good works in one’s life as a result of regeneration? (James 2:14-26; Luke 8:15, 21; Matthew 7:21-23) According to some evangelicals today, the answer is “yes” (Zane Hodge). In an attempt to avoid a works religion, some Christians today have imposed on the orthodox doctrine of salvation an unscriptural dichotomy between faith and fruit. Jesus teaching on the sower and the seed makes it clear that only fruit bearers are in the family of God. It’s not just those that hear the Word of God but those who hear it and bring forth fruit as they patiently apply it and do it (Luke 8:15,21). The fruit of obedience in their lives gives evidence that they are no longer sons of disobedience but genuine children of God (Ephesians 2:2; 5:6; Colossians 3:6).

It’s not the perfection of their life but the overall direction. Salvation is not verified by a past act but by present obedience.

12. Who are the branches that bear fruit? (John 15:3 John 13:10) Jesus said, “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” Jesus here assures the Eleven that they are among the fruit-bearing branches. With use of the word “clean” [katharoi] Jesus alludes back to a statement that he made earlier that evening to Peter. Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you” (John 13:10). When Jesus said, “not all of you” he was referring to the “Judas branch” who was not a true believer but had superficially connected himself to the Vine. The Eleven disciples were clean because of the Word and gave evidence that they were abiding in Christ by being fruit-bearing branches.

13. What did Jesus command His disciples to do? (John 15:4) Jesus commanded His disciples, “Abide [Aorist Imperative] in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.” Abiding in Christ involves believing in him and maintaining unbroken fellowship with Christ. The word “abide” [meinate] is one of John’s favorite words. The Greek word is meno.

W. E. Wuest provides insight into this Greek word:

Its classical usage will throw light upon the way it is used in the N.T. It meant “to stay, stand fast, abide, to stay at home, stay where one is, not stir, to remain as one was, to remain as before.” In the N.T., it means “to sojourn, to tarry, to dwell at one’s own house, to tarry as a guest, to lodge, to maintain unbroken fellowship with one, to adhere to his party, to be constantly present to help one, to put forth constant influence upon one.” “In the mystic phraseology of John, God is said to meno in Christ, i.e., to dwell as it were in him, to be continually operative in Him by His divine influence and energy (John 14:10); Christians are said to meno in God, to be rooted as it were in him, knit to him by the Spirit they have received from Him (1 John 2:6, 24, 27; 3:6); hence one is said to meno in Christ or in God, and conversely, Christ or God is said to meno in one (John 6:56; 15:4),” Thayer quotes Ruckert in the use of meno in the words “Something has established itself permanently within my soul, and always exerts its power in me,”

The word therefore has the ideas of “permanence of position, occupying a place as one’s dwelling place, holding and maintaining unbroken communion and fellowship with another.” John uses meno in the following places in his gospel, John 1:32, 33, 38, 39; 2:12; 3:36; 4:40; 5:38; 6:27, 56; 7:9; 8:31, 35; 9:41; 10:40; 11:6; 12:24, 34; 12:46; 14:10, 16, 17, 25; 15:4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 16; 19:31; 21:22, 23; in 1 John 2:6, 10, 14, 17, 19, 24, 27, 28; 3:6, 9, 14, 15, 17, 24; 4:12, 13, 15, 16; in 2 John 1:2, 9. The words “abide, dwell, tarry, continue, be present,” are the various translations in the Authorized Version (KJV). Study these places where the word occurs, and obtain a comprehensive view of its usage.

In John 15, the abiding of the Christian in Christ refers to believing in Christ and maintaining unbroken fellowship with Him. He makes his spiritual home in Christ. There is nothing between himself and his Savior, no sin unjudged and not put away. He depends upon him for spiritual life and vigor as the branch is dependent upon the vine. The abiding of Christ in the Christian is his permanent residence in him and his supply­ing, that Christian with the necessary spiritual energy to produce fruit in his life through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. (Wuest Word Studies in the Greek New Testament Vo/.3, pgs.64,65)

14. What is the only way a Christian can bear fruit? (John 15:4) You must be abiding in Christ.

The Importance of Abiding for Small Group Leaders:

Abide in Me and I in you as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me” (John 15:4). No amount of skill training can replace the necessity of an intimate relationship with Christ through the Word and prayer. Abiding in Christ is not negotiable if you want to produce more fruit and fruit that remains. John 4:36 says, “And he who reaps receives wages and gathers fruit for eternal life.”

Joel Comiskey (Home Cell Church Explosion, Touch Publications, 2002) did a case study on eight of the fastest growing cell churches in the world. More than 700 cell leaders completed a survey that was designed to determine why some cell leaders succeed (fruit) and others fail at evangelizing and giving birth to new cells. His survey findings revealed that there wasn’t anything sensational or mystical about their fruitfulness. The first 2 factors that affect cell multiplication are:

  • The cell leader’s devotional time. Those who spend 90 minutes or more in devotions per day multiply their groups twice as much as those who spend less than 30 minutes.
  • The cell leader’s intercession for the cell members. Those who pray for cell members are most likely to multiply groups.

15. What are the conditions for Abiding in Christ? (John 15:7; 1 John 2:6, 24; 3:6, 24; 4:13, 15, 16) The one who abides:

  1. Spends time in God’s Word and prayer – John 15:7 “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” The basis for abiding in Christ is communication with God through Bible Study and prayer. We talk to God in prayer and He talks to us through his Word.
  2. Walks as Jesus walked – 1 John 2:6 “the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.”
  3. Holds to the truth learned at salvation – 1 John 2:24 “As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.”
  4. Doesn’t habitually sin – 1 John 3:6 “No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.”
  5. Keeps the commands of Christ – 1 John 3:24 “The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.”
  6. Conscious of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence – 1 John 4:13 “By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.”
  7. Confesses that Jesus is the Son of God – 1 John 4:15 “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.”
  8. Lives in love – 1 John 4:16 “We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

16. What are the rewards for meeting the conditions for abiding in Christ? (John 15:5, 7, 8, 11, 16; 1 John 2:28) The rewards for abiding in Christ are:

  1. Bears much fruit – John 15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”
  2. Answered prayer – John 15:7 “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
  3. God is glorified – John 15:8 “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.”
  4. Joy made full – John 15:11 “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”
  5. Bear fruit that remains – John 15:16 “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.”
  6. Confidence when Christ returns – 1 John 2:28 “Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.”

17. What phrase in John 15:5 stresses our dependency on Christ to bear fruit? Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” The phrase, “for apart from Me you can do nothing” makes it emphatically clear that we can do “NOTHING”, not something but nothing if we are not Abiding in Christ.

18. What will happen to the branches that bear no fruit? (John 15:2, 6) Jesus said, “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.”

19. What is the reward for abiding in Christ in John 15:7? Jesus said, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask [Aorist Imperative] whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” The reward for abiding in Christ is answered prayer. It’s conditional on our abiding in Christ and time spent in his Word. Jesus can confidently assert that you can pray for “whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” because that promise is only for those that are abiding in Christ. Those that are believing and maintaining fellowship with Christ ask for things that are consistent with his will (1 John 5:14). The verb “ask” [aitesasthe] is an Aorist imperative that denotes urgency.

20. How can we prove that we are Christ’s disciples? (John 15:8) Jesus says, “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.” We prove that we are Christ’s disciples by bearing much fruit (converts). If you were in a court of law and had to prove that you are a disciple of Christ by the people that you’ve led to Christ would you have sufficient evidence? God is the One who saves, but are you actively partnering with God by cultivating, planting, watering and reaping when the opportunity presents itself?

21. What does Christ command his disciples in John 15:9? Jesus said, “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide [Aorist Imperative] in My love.” The word “abide” [meinate] in the phrase “abide in my love” is an aorist imperative. The imperative mood is the mood of command.

22. What is the promised reward for keeping the Commands of Christ? (John 15:10) The promised reward is abiding in Christ’s love. John 15:10 says, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” The word “if” [eon] makes the promised reward conditional. The promised reward for obedience is that the disciple of Christ “will abide in My love” [meneite en mou te agape]. The verb “abide” is a future active indicative which pictures us in the sphere of his love as we keep his commandments.

Jude wrote, “Keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life” (Jude 1:21). John MacArthur writes, “This ‘keeping’ in the Greek construction, relates to place or location ‘in the love of God,’ where we can receive his blessings.” Jude has already said that every true believer is eternally secure in God’s love. In Jude 1:1, he tells his readers that they are the “beloved in God the Father.” This verb “beloved” is a perfect participle in the Greek, and means that God loved us at a point of time in the past with continuing and abiding results. We are the continual object of his love.

We do not control God’s love for us, but as Moffatt notes concerning Jude 1:21, his love “has its own terms of communion.” Hiebert says, “Jude is asking his readers to keep themselves consciously in God’s love, just as a doctor tells his patient to keep himself in the sunshine. The reader must be alert to keep anything from clouding their consciousness of his love” (Hiebert, pg. 285).

The way to keep ourselves in the love of God is to keep his commandments. You may ask, “Can I be separated from the love of Christ?” God’s elect who have been justified by his blood (Romans 5:8-9; 8:31-39) cannot be separated from the love of God.


Love Not Returned (1 Corinthians 16:22)
Recipient of God’s Wrath (Romans 5:8-9)

23. What things did Jesus speak that produce joy in the disciples of Christ? (John 15:11) Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” The word “that” [hino] provides the purpose for the things that Jesus has taught them in John 15:1-10. When we abide in Christ, bear much fruit, abide in his Word, abide in Christ’s love it arouses nothing but pure joy!

24. How does Jesus define the kind of love that we should express to one another? (John 15:12-13) Jesus said, “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” We are to love [agapao] each other with a self-sacrificial love. The word “love” [agapao] used in these verses is the verb of intelligent, purposeful, and committed love that is an act of the will. This love is in contrast to the emotion and tender affection of phileo and the physical, sensual love of eros (which is not used in the New Testament). Agapao love doesn’t love because the object is loveable, it has nothing to do with feelings other than the fact that after you have repeatedly chosen to love someone, you start to treasure the person that you’ve invested in and feelings (affection) often follow.

25. What is the prerequisite for a spiritual friendship with Christ? (John 15:14) Jesus told His disciples, “You are My friends if you do what I command you.” Habitual [poiete] not just sporadic obedience is the prerequisite to spiritual friendship with Christ. You can be in a natural family and feel closer to some family members. This is also true in our spiritual family. Jesus defines friendship in terms of obedience. The obedient Christian life results in becoming a confidant of Jesus (John 15:15). Discipleship results in friendship! This is counterintuitive to our contemporary thinking, that we must establish a meaningful friendship before we can disciple someone. If someone longs to become more like Christ and is willing to submit to an accountable relationship, the result of this discipleship relationship will be friendship. The phrase “if you do” [eon poiete] is a present active subjunctive. The subjective mood affirms objective possibility. It assumes that a verbal idea is not now a fact but may become one. The action is possible, but it depends on certain objective factors. The objective factor in this context is obeying the commands of Christ.

26. How did Jesus elevate the disciple’s standing in the gospel ministry? (John 15:15) Jesus said, “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.” Because of their obedience “Jesus elevated the disciples above mere tools and made them partners in his work. A slave is never given a reason for the work assigned to him; he must perform it because he has no other choice. The friend is the confidant who shares the knowledge of his superior’s purpose and voluntarily adopts it as his own. Jesus declared that He had revealed to the disciples all that the Father had given to him. The disclosure of the mind of God concerning his career and theirs would give them assurance that they were engaged in the right task and that God would ultimately bring it to a successful conclusion.” (Expositors pg.153) Discipleship ultimately leads to friendship.

27. What were we chosen and appointed for? (John 15:16 cp. Acts 4:13) Jesus said, “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.” Jesus chose us to “go” and “bear much fruit.” He chose us to “go” NOT to “sit.” Christ has a bias for action. Every believer is sent as a missionary! God doesn’t choose the equipped, he equips the chosen. The disciples weren’t chosen because they were competent, they were competent because they had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13). You learn ministry by doing ministry. Some people want to grow and then “go.” Christ wants you to grow as you “go.”

28. How does John 15:17 fit into the context? Jesus concludes by saying, “This I command you, that you love one another.” Every believer is on mission for God, but it’s a co-mission that we are to do together. The love that we have for one another as we fulfill the Great Commission is the great apologetic in our day (Acts 5:42).

Sources: The questions and answers for this study were gleaned from the following resources.

  1. Serendipity Bible for Groups by: Serendipity House, Zondervan Publishing House, 1998
  2. Abiding is Remaining in Fellowship: Another Look at John 7 5:7-6 by: Joseph C. Dillow, Bibleotheca Sacra, Volume 147, January-March 1990, Number 585, Pages 44-53. Dallas Seminary Press, 1990.
  3. The Expositor’ s Bible Commentary, Volume 9 by: Frank E. Gaebelein, Zondervan Publishing House, 1 981 .
  4. Jesus Christ Disciple Maker by: Bill Hull, Fleming H. Revell Company, 1990.
  5. A Re-evaluation of the Johannine Concept of Abiding by: John Paul King, Thesis from Dallas Theological Seminary on microfiche, 1974
  6. Abiding is Believing: The Analogy of the Vine in John 15:1-6 by: J. Carl Laney, Bibliotheca Sacra, Volume 146, January-March 1989, Number 581, Pages 55-66. Dallas Seminary Press, 1989.
  7. Abiding in Christ by: John MacArthur Jr., Moody Press, 1986.
  8. Abiding in Christ by: John R. Mott, The Herald of Gospel Liberty, The Christian Publishing / Association, Dayton Ohio, 1918
  9. The Gospel under Siege by: Zane C. Hodge (Dallas: Redencion Viva, 1981 ), pp. 9-18.
  10. The Chronological Life of Christ Vol.2 by: Mark E. Moore, College Press Publishing Company, 1997
  11. Second Peter and Jude: An Expositional Commentary by: D. Edmond Hiebert, Unusual Publications, 1989

1 H. E. Jacob,. Grape Growing in California,” Circular #116 (California Agricultural Extension Service, The College of Agriculture, University of California at Berkeley, April 1940).

2 James E. Rosscup, Abiding in Christ: Studies in John 15 (Chicago: Moody Press, 1973), p.50

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber Jr.]
© Copyright 1994 Richard D. Leineweber Jr.

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How to Love One Another

Today we are talking about Loving One Another, based on John 13:1-17; 34-35.

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to develop the character quality of agape love for fellow Christians. Jesus stooped to love His disciples by meeting a very practical need that they had – dirty feet.

Historical Background: John’s Gospel reports more of the content of Jesus’ instructions to His disciples than does the other three Gospels. Chapters 13-17 concentrate on His teachings on that fateful night in which He was arrested. Before the instruction,Jesus washed His disciples’ feet and predicted His betrayal.

The first 12 chapters of the Gospel of John cover approximately 3 years in the public ministry of Christ. In these chapters John records His earliest contacts with the disciples and how he moved among the people throughout these three years working miracles and preaching His message (John 20:30-31).

Chapters 13-17 are restricted to one evening in Christ’s life. The audience also is limited to the 12 men that He has experienced authentic biblical community with over the past three years. This one evening was the last night before the crucifixion. There are many things that happen on this final evening but John alone records the washing of the disciple’s feet.

There is a change in John’s vocabulary from this point on. In chapters 1-12 this gospel is marked by words like “life” (50 times) and “light” (32 times). In chapters 13-17 the word “life” only occurs 6 times and “light” not at all. In contrast, the word “love” is found only 6 times in chapters 1-12 and 31 times in chapters 13-1 7. Clearly love takes on a new prominence in this farewell discourse.

Historical Chronology: Triumphal Entry & the fig tree [from Bethany to Jerusalem to Bethany] (Thomas and Gundry Sections 128-131). Here we see growing popularity among the masses (John 12:12-16) culminating in his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. At the same time there is a growing hatred from the religious leaders (John 12:19). They were desperately threatened by his words that judged their hypocrisy, but also by the number of people who were attracted to Him and His teaching.

  1. Official challenge to Christ’s Authority [Jerusalem in the temple] Sec.132-135
  2. Christ’s response to His enemies’ challenges [Jerusalem in the temple] Sec.136-138
  3. The Olivet Discourse: Jesus speaks prophetically about the temple and his second coming [from the temple to the Mount of Olives] Sec.139
  4. Arrangements for betrayal and plot by the Sanhedrin to arrest and kill Jesus [Mount of Olives & the palace of the high priest] Sec.140-142
  5. The Last Supper [Jerusalem]
    1. Preparation for the Passover meal in Jerusalem (Sec. 143 – Matthew 26:17-19; Mark 14:12-16; Luke 22:7-13). The Passover Feast was an important event in Israel’s) history that commemorated their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. The preparations were incomplete because there was no servant at the door to wash dirty feet.
    2. Beginning the Passover meal & dissension among the disciples in the upper room in Jerusalem (Sec. 144 – Matthew 26:20; Mark 14:17; Luke 22:14-16, 24-30).
    3. Washing the Disciples feet in the upper room in Jerusalem (Sec. 145 – John 13:1-20).
    4. After returning to the table Jesus commands them to follow His example and love one another (Sec. 145-147 John 13:15,17,34,35). “By means of his words to his disciples, we are permitted here to enter into the thinking and emotions of Jesus just before his own crucifixion. Within hours of this event the Lord was hanging upon a cross. In less than twenty-four hours he was dead and buried. These therefore, constitute the last words of Jesus before his own death.” – Ray Stedman

Commanded in the Gospels: John 13:34; 15:12; 15:17

Illustrated in the Book of Acts: Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” The early church in The Book of Acts was characterized by love in action. Their love for one another was expressed in practical ways within their Christian community and outsiders were well aware that they were disciples of Christ because of their love.

Amplified in the Epistles:

  • Love [agapao): Romans 13:8; 2 Corinthians 11:11; 12:15; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; 1 Peter 1:22; 2:17; 1 John 2:10; 3:10, 11, 14, 18, 23; 4:7, 11, 12, 20, 21; 5:1-2; 2 John 1:5; 3 John 1:1.
  • Love [agape]: Romans 14:15; 1 Corinthians 4:21; 8:1; 13:1-4, 8, 13; 14:1; 16:14; 2 Corinthians 2:4,8; 6:6; 8:7, 8, 24; Galatians 5:13, 22; Ephesians 4:2, 15, 16; 5:2; Philippians 1:9; 2:2; Colossians 1:4, 8; 2:2; 3:14; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 3:12; 5:13; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Timothy 4:12; 6:11; 2 Timothy 1:7; 2:22; 3:10; Philemon 1:5, 7, 9; Hebrews 6:10; 10:24; 1 Peter 4:8; 5:14; 2 Peter 1:7; 3 John 1:6; Jude 1:12.
  • Love [phileo): Titus 3:15.
  • Brotherly love [philadelphia]: Romans 12:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; Hebrews 13:1; 1 Peter 1:22; 2 Peter 1:7.

Discussion Questions:

1 . What evening of the Passover week did Jesus give His disciples this command to love one another? (John 13:1-2; Matthew 26:20) The Passover feast began on the 15th Nisan at sunset, the Passover lamb being slain the afternoon of 14th Nisan. There seems no real doubt that this meal in John 13:1-30 is the real Passover meal described by the Synoptic Gospels (Mark l4:18-21; Matthew 26:21-25; Luke 22:21-23), followed by the institution of the Lord’s Supper.

Whether this meal was the actual Passover or not has been warmly debated, yet it seems that it occurred on the same night as the arrest and betrayal. If so, it was presumably Thursday night; and the Crucifixion occurred on Friday, the day before the Passover, which would have begun on Friday evening.

Luke states that when the day came on which the Passover lamb was to be sacrificed, Peter and John were sent to arrange the meal that the Lord and his disciples ate that evening (Luke 22:7-14). Matthew 26:17-20 and Mark 14:12-17 agree that the meal was on the day on which the Passover lamb was killed, which preceded the Passover itself. John stated later (John 18:28) that the Jewish delegates could not enter Pilate’s hall on Friday morning because they would be defiled and unable to eat the Passover. In that case, the last Supper must have preceded the Passover by twenty-four hours. If the Passover began on Friday night, the meal could have taken place on Thursday night, but would not have been the standard Passover Feast.

Jesus did celebrate the meal with his disciples on Thursday night, the hearing before Pilate and the Crucifixion took place on Friday, and his body was placed in the tomb before sunset late that afternoon.

John noted that it happened “before the feast of the Passover.” These words might suggest that this incident occurred while the evening meal was being served but before they actually came to the place where the Passover lamb would be eaten.

John alludes to the nearness of the Passover as if to remind his reader that Jesus had been introduced by John the Baptist as the “lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). As the first Passover had been the turning point in the redemption of the people of God, so the Cross would be the opening of a new era for believers.

2. What does John 13:1 tell us about Jesus? The word “know” is in the perfect tense. Vines says that this verb, “signifies, primarily, to have seen or perceived; hence, to know, to have knowledge of.” This word “know” emphasizes the full consciousness of Christ, he was not stumbling into the dark as he faced “his hour.” Jesus had a thorough knowledge of the time schedule he was on to redeem the world.

3. How does John 13:1 describe Jesus’ love for his disciples? The apostles, having joined Christ at this feast, were overcome with selfish ambition (Luke 22:24). They also had given way to greed (Matthew 26:8). In contrast, Christ was filled with love for his disciples. A love [agapesas] that he was prepared to choose through an act of his will to give his life as a sacrifice for their sins and the sins of the entire world.

The opening verse of chapter 13 sets the scene for the whole of chapters 13-17. Love is one of the key terms in chapters 13-17, it occurs 31 times in these five chapters as compared to only six times in chapters 1-12.

Christ had already demonstrated his love for them; choosing them, teaching them, protecting them, and meeting their needs were all reflections of His love. The disciples at this point didn’t fully understand the extent of Christ’s love, but later the writer of this gospel expressed his fuller comprehension of his Savior’s love in the first epistle he wrote.

1 John 3:16 “We know love by this,that He laid down His life for us;and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” The verb “loved” [agapao] describes the act of the will that gives to others’ basic needs without having as my motive personal reward. Agape love involves sacrificing myself and my comfort to meet another’s need.

Vines Expository Dictionary says: “Christian (Agape) love, whether exercised toward the brethren, or toward men generally, is not an impulse from the feelings, it does not always run with the natural inclinations, nor does it spend itself only upon those for whom some affinity is discovered. Love seeks the welfare of all, (Romans 15:2), and works no ill to any, (Romans 13:8-10); love seeks opportunity to do good to ‘all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of the faith,”‘ (Galatians 6:10).

Jesus loved his disciples “to the end” [eis telos] may be rendered “to the uttermost, completely, to perfection, utterly, to the fullest extent. Jesus’ love for His disciples was a perfect, saving, eternal love. With a full knowledge of his coming suffering and death, he was still totally preoccupied with an all-consuming, perfect, and full love for own His disciples.

One commentator writes, “Love is the laying down of one’s life, and therefore to love completely means to love to the end of one’s life (1 John 3:16). The love that has been evident throughout continues right up to the end. At the end, in the crucifixion, we will see the ultimate revelation of that love,that is,its full extent.

These disciples that are being loved are called, “his own” [tous idious]. These disciples were given to him by the Father (John 10:29). Jesus had accepted the responsibility for them and was obliged to instruct and protect them (John 17:6-12). He loved them.

4. What new commandment does Jesus give his disciples in this passage? John 13:34-35 says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love [Present Imperative] one another,even as I have loved you,that you also love [Present Imperative] one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Love itself is NOT a new commandment (Leviticus 19:18). The new thing appears to be the mutual affection that Christians have for one another on account of Christ’s great love for them. Plummer says “the commandment to love was not new, for “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18) was part of the Mosaic Law, but the motive is new; to love one another because Christ has loved us” (1 John 4:19; John 15:12).

The word “new” [kainen] implies “freshness” or the opposite of “worn-out” rather than simply “recent or different.” Another source says, The word “new” signifies what is fresh, in contrast to that which is familiar and well known (1 John 2:7; 3:23; 2 John 1:5; John 15:12, 17).

The “badge of discipleship is love.” Love is to be the distinguishing mark of a Christ follower. In contrast, Jesus said to an unbelieving Jewish audience… in John 5:40-42, Jesus said, “and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. 42 but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves.”

Tertullian tells us that the heathen commented on the Christians: “See they say, how they love one-another!”

In verses 1-17 Jesus models the kind of love that He wants His disciples to practice.

5. What role does the devil play in this Passover meal? (John 13:2) The present participle “during” [ginomenou] tells us that the circumstances that follow happened while the supper was in progress. But before the dinner a Satanic suggestion had already been made to Judas.

One author writes, “The circumstances are listed in detail. Judas had already determined to betray Jesus (John 13:2). His specific motive is not stated, and the impulse is attributed to satanic suggestion. The casual allusion to the devil at this point implies a deeper significance to the conflict than a mere political or theological squabble. The conflict was basically actuated by a rebellion against God, the absolute opposite of the attitude of Jesus. It is possible that Judas, realizing that Jesus’ enemies were implacably hostile and that they were politically powerful, concluded that Jesus was foredoomed to lose in the struggle and so decided that he might as well gain immunity from sharing Jesus’ fate. Judas could compensate himself by claiming the reward for betrayal. His act, however, was more serious than an incidental piece of treachery; he sold himself to the power of evil. As John 13:27 states, “Satan entered into him,” and he came under the devil’s control.”

The text says,”the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot…” The perfect tense verb “having already (now) put” [ede beblekotos] denotes a thought that was literally, thrown or cast into Judas’ heart in the past which remains in his heart and is being exposed at this meal. Luke 22:3 says that Satan entered Judas when he offered to betray Jesus. Hence John’s “already” [ede] is pertinent. John repeats his statement in verse 27. In John 6:70 Jesus a year before had said that He had chosen one that was a devil.

We are told in John 13:27, “After the morsel, Satan then entered into him. Therefore Jesus said to him (Judas), ‘What you do, do quickly.”‘ This wasn’t demon possession but devil possession.

John MacArthur writes – “The fact that the devil entered the heart of Judas” does not exonerate Judas, because his wicked heart desired exactly what the devil desired, the death of Jesus. The devil and Judas were in accord.”

John notes that the devil had already prompted Judas lscoriot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus (John 13:2). It is extremely important to realize that Jesus is going to wash the feet of one who is considering betraying him. Judas has not yet given in to the temptation (John 13:27), but the devil has prompted him, or more literally, “put it into his heart.”

  • John 13:18 “I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘HE WHO EATS MY BREAD HAS LIFTED UP HIS HEEL AGAINST ME.”‘
  • Psalm 41 :9 “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.” David’s close companion betrayed him; he kicked him while he was “down.” The ultimate fulfillment of this verse is found in Judas (John 13:18, Matthew 26:21).

6. What does John 13:3 tell us about Jesus? The text says, “Jesus, knowing [eidos, repeated from verse 1] that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come forth from God and was going back to God.” John emphasizes the fact that Jesus was not the innocent victim of a plot, unaware of what was transpiring around him. Jesus was fully aware of his authority, his divine origin, and his destiny. John says much more about the inner consciousness of Jesus than the Synoptic Gospels do, either because he was more observant or because Jesus confided in him.

Jesus plainly restates this concept in John 16:28 when He said, “I came forth from the Father and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again and going to the Father.”

John MacArthur writes, “He faced the betrayal, agony, and death because he knew he would be exalted to the Father afterward, where he would receive the glory and fellowship he had eternally enjoyed within the Trinity (see John 17:4-5, which says, “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. 5 Now, Father,glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.”

Jesus is fully conscious of his deity and messianic dignity when he performs the humble act of John 13:4-11.

7. What humble act of service did Jesus perform on the night before his crucifixion? (John 13:4) The immediate situation was that they had come to the banquet room directly from the street. Ordinarily on such an occasion the host would have delegated a servant to the menial task of removing the sandals of the guests and washing their feet. Since the meeting was obviously intended to be secret, no servants were present. None of the disciples were ready to volunteer for such a task, for each would have considered it an admission of inferiority to all the others. John the Baptist had used the act of such a servant as his standard of the lowest and meanest kind of service that could be required of any man (John 1:27).

On the night before His crucifixion, Jesus’ patience must have been taxed, because they still had not learned His oft-repeated lesson on humility. Jesus nevertheless corrected them by wrapping himself in a towel. Jesus “stooped to love them” and modeled a servant’s heart. Washing dirty feet should not have surprised His disciples since He clearly stated that one of His purposes for coming was to serve.

  • Matthew 20:28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give
    His life a ransom for many.”
  • Mark 10:45 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
  • Philippians 2:5-8 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

8. Who customarily would be at the door when the guest arrived? It was a custom in those times to have a servant honor the guest by washing their feet when they arrived. Feet needed to be washed because when you reclined at dinner, you really didn’t care to recline your head 18 inches from someone’s dirty feet. The roads were either muddy
or dusty. Streets weren’t paved and sidewalks were unheard of. In those days more than human beings traveled the streets so the situation was pretty unsanitary with animal droppings from horses, oxen, and camels. So it was a courtesy to wash a person’s feet when they arrived at your home for a meal.

But when the disciples came to the upper room there was no one there to wash dirty feet. Why didn’t the disciples do it? Because they were having an argument. They were arguing about whom would be the greatest in the kingdom and no one wanted to disqualify himself by becoming a servant. They were seeking rank. I believe Jesus purposefully allowed the meal to start and waited to see whether one of his disciples would volunteer to be the servant. He waited purposefully to the middle of the meal to give one of them the chance to get up and go over and pick up the towel and basin and begin to wash dirty feet. They knew what the custom was.

The dusty and dirty conditions of the region necessitated the need for footwashing. People wore sandals without socks or stockings. It was a mark of honor for a host to provide a servant to wash a guest’s feet;it was a breach of hospitality not to provide for it (1 Samuel 25:41; Luke 7:40-50; 1 Timothy 5:10). Wives often washed their husbands’ feet, and children washed their parents’ feet. Most people, of course, had to wash their own feet.

Although the disciples most likely would have been happy to wash Jesus’ feet, they could not conceive of washing each other’s feet. This was because in the society of the time footwashing was reserved for the lowliest of menial servants. Peers did not wash one another’s feet, except very rarely and as a mark of great love.

9. How did Peter respond to Jesus washing his feet? (John 13:6-7) Peter’s response may have been representative of the common feeling among the disciples that Jesus ought not to demean himself by washing their feet. The two pronouns “you” and “my” stand together at the beginning of the sentence in emphatic contrast. The emphatic use of pronouns in Peter’s surprised question, “Lord, You [su] are washing my [mou] feet?” Kenneth Wuest translates it – “He said to Him, You – my feet you are washing?”

Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter” (John 13:7). The word “realize” [oidas] speaks of absolute and complete knowledge in contrast to the word “understanding [ginosei, future middle] which denotes knowledge gained by experience.

Peter said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me” (John 13:8).

Peter’s reply – “NEVER shall You wash my feet!” reveal both the impetuousness of his disposition and the high regard he had for Jesus. Peter, we may suppose, drew his feet up, as he spoke, in his impulsive humility” (Bernard). Peter felt that Jesus should not degrade himself by assuming such a position.

Slaves were looked down upon in the ancient world (d. Rengstorf 1964b), and Peter cannot stand the thought of his teacher doing the work of a slave (John 13:6). It would have been appropriate for one of the disciples to have washed Jesus’ feet, but the reverse is intolerable.

Peter’s response “Never shall You wash my feet!” [ou me eis ton aiona] is a very strong expression. The beginning of John 13:8 has been translated ”You shall by no means wash my feet as long as the world stands” or “NEVER to all eternity shall you wash my feet!” In the original language, this is a strong double negative [ou me]. Kenneth Wuest literally translates this double negative as “You shall by no means wash my feet, no, never.”

10. What did Jesus mean when he told Peter, “If I do not wash you,you have no part with Me”? (John 13:8) This expresses the necessity, not only for the cleansing of Peter’s feet to make him socially acceptable for the dinner, but also for the cleansing of his person to make him fit for the kingdom of God. The external washing was intended to be a picture of spiritual cleansing from evil. This cleansing was not merely about Peter’s hygiene but about his holiness. Peter couldn’t imagine being separated from Jesus. Peter continued to miss the spiritual lesson, but he was certain of his desire to be intimately joined to Jesus.

It does not say, “you have no part in me,” it’s not referring tq salvation. Peter had already received a spiritual bath when he placed his faith in Jesus as His Savior (Forgiver) and Lord (Leader). So the issue of Peter’s footwashing was connected with his spiritual cleansing that is essential for fellowship and ministry. This is why Christ says “you have no part with me” instead of “you have no part in Me.” Spiritual filth (sin) in our lives always hinders our fellowship with God, one another and ministry effectiveness (1 John 1:3, 6-9.

The result of “confessing our sins” (1 John 1:9) for parental forgiveness is predictable because of the trustworthy nature of our God. God promises to forgive [aphe, “cancellation of debts” or the “dismissal of charges”] and to cleanse [katharizo, purification from the pollution of sin] so that fellowship can be restored.

Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head” (John 13:9). Peter impulsively says, “Not my feet only,but also my hands and my head – Give me a bath!” Peter really doesn’t understand the symbolism behind washing his feet. A.T. Robertson quotes Dods as saying, “A moment ago he told his Master he was doing too much: now he tells him He is doing too little” (Word Pictures in the NewTestament pg. 238)

11. What was Jesus symbolizing by washing the disciples feet? (John 13:9-11) The interpretation of the symbolism is clear: After salvation all one needs is confession of sins, the continual application of Jesus’ death to cleanse one’s daily sins (1 John 1:7; 2:1-2). When Jesus added that not every one of you is clean, he was referring to Judas (John 13:11, 18). This suggests that Judas was not converted.

Jesus said, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet…” John MacArthur writes, “The cleansing that Christ does at salvation never needs to be repeated, it is complete and thorough at the point of conversion. But all who have been cleansed by God’s gracious justification need constant washing in the experiential sense as they battle sin in the flesh. Believers are justified and granted imputed righteousness (Philippians 3:8, 9),but still need sanctification and personal righteousness (Philippians 3:12-14).”

The guest was supposed to bathe before coming to a feast and so only the feet had to be washed on removing the sandals. This cleansing is effected once for all, and is never repeated.

So the bathing (John 13:10) is the cleansing from sin on the cross and that the footwashing would refer to the forgiveness of one’s daily sins. This passage illustrates the doctrinal truth that there is a difference between judicial forgiveness and parental forgiveness.

Judicial forgiveness establishes a permanent relationship with God at the moment of salvation. When a person receives Jesus Christ as his personal Savior, the gavel is dropped in heaven and a person is forgiven for all of his sins (past, present, and future), declared righteous and made a child of God (Colossians 2:13; 1 John 2:12).

The Bible teaches that Satan is answerable to God (Job 1:6-7). It appears that Satan uses these “report-in” sessions as an opportunity to accuse [kategoron] God’s people of disobedience. This is the devil’s constant occupation,”day and night” [komeras kai nuktos]. The godly of all ages have been the target of his slander.

When Satan enters God’s heavenly courtroom and begins to accuse the brethren, Jesus Christ comes to our defense. 1 John 2:1-2 says, “if anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins.” When Satan is accusing us, Jesus Christ is our advocate, [paraklotos] which means our defense attorney. Jesus steps up to the bench and pleads our case. He points out that our sins have been forgiven because we are trusting in his substitutionary death on the cross which satisfied [hilasmos, propitious, 1 John 2:2] the demands of a Holy God. Then the Father says, “This man’s sins have been paid in full, case dismissed!”

Parental forgiveness on the other hand maintains our fellowship with God. Even if a child runs away from home, changes his name, nothing can alter his relationship with his biological parents, but his actions will hinder their fellowship. In the same way nothing can alter our relationship with God, but sin in the life of a believer can hinder his fellowship with Him. This is why believers are encouraged to obtain parental forgiveness (1 John 1:9; Matthew 6:9, 12). We need a daily cleansing so we can experience sweet fellowship with our Savior.

Foot Washing – Parental Forgiveness (Matthew 6:9, 12, 1 John 1:3, 6-10)
Daily cleansing to maintain fellowship with God – John 13:10, Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet,…”

Bath – Judicial Forgiveness (Colossians 2:13, 1 John 2:12)
Total cleansing to establish a relationship with God – John 13:11, For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, “Not all of you are clean.”

12. Why does Jesus say “you are clean, but not all of you?” (John 13:10-11) This was a plain hint of the treachery of Judas who is reclining at the table after having made the bargain with the Sanhedrin (Mark 14:11). A year ago Jesus knew that Judas was a devil and said to the apostles: “One of you is a devil”  (John 6:64, 70). The disciples did not suspect that Judas was a counterfeit in the past nor did they suspect him of being the unclean one now.

“Not all of you are clean” is a reference to Judas who was soon to lead the mob to capture Jesus (John 18:3). Jesus had known [eidei, imperfect tense] that Judas would betray him and yet he treated Judas with his usual courtesy. In fact Judas was already engaged in the process. Judas did have his feet literally washed, but he did not enter into the meaning of the event.

13. What second lesson from this footwashing did Jesus want to teach His disciples? (John 13:12) Jesus said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you?” A second lesson Jesus wished to impart to the disciples by this act was one of love and humble service. His question, “Do you know what I have done to you?” is in contrast with his words to Peter earlier: “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter” (John 13:7). The discernment of the disciples developed slowly. It took them a long time to begin to comprehend the intensity of Jesus’ love for them and the nature of his humility in dealing with them. After giving this object lesson in humility, the Lord questioned the disciples in order to draw out the significance of the lesson: “Do you understand” [ginoskete, perfect active indicative] “what I have done for you?” He asked them. (John 13:7). It was a searching question, particularly to Simon Peter and Judas.

14. What titles did the disciples call Jesus that He accepted without reluctance? (John 13:13) He was literally, “The Teacher” [ho didaskalos] and “The Lord” [ho kurios], both titles of respect that placed Jesus on a level above the disciples. Jesus emphasized the fact that as their leader He had stooped to serve their needs so they should do the same for one another.

15. What word in John 13:14 suggests moral obligation to follow Christ’s example? Jesus says, “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher,washed your feet, you also ought to wash one anothers feet.” The verb “ought” [Gr. opheilete] means “to owe a debt” and suggests moral obligation. It occurs several times in John’s Epistles (1 John 2:6; 3:16; 4:11; 3 John 8), but in the Gospel only here and John 19:7. In John 13:14, Jesus teaches that the obligation to ministry is a debt that must be paid. The word ought is the past tense of owe. The phrase “one another” denotes the mutual obligation and reciprocal nature of this love that serves each other.

If the Son of God, the second person of the trinity, the pure and holy, spotless One can get on the floor and wash the filthy feet of 12 self-centered selfish undeserving disciples, then we should be able to love as He loved. If He was willing to stoop to love, shouldn’t we follow his example?

16. Was Jesus instituting foot washing as an ordinance? (John 13:12-17) The “example” does not imply the perpetuation of foot washing as an ordinance in the church. The only other allusion to foot washing in the New Testament is found in 1 Timothy 5:10, where it does not refer to a regular custom, but seems to allude to humble slave like service to the poor. John calls this act an example [hupodeigma] which implies that the emphasis is on the inner attitude of humble and voluntary service for others. This passage emphasizes inner humility, not a physical rite.

The word used here suggests both “example” and “pattern” (Hebrews 4:11; 8:5; 9:25; James 5:10; 2 Peter 2:6). Jesus’ purpose in this action was to establish the model of acts of love done with humility. Not to follow the example of Jesus is to exalt oneself above Him and to live in pride.

Notice the purpose clause, “that [hina] you also should do as I did to you.” The verb “do” [poiete] is a present active subjunctive that is literally translated, “keep on doing.” Doing what? Doing acts of love in humility!

“Jesus, however, does not say to do “what” he did but “as” he did” (IVP). Notice the wording “do as I did to you”, Jesus didn’t say, “what I have done.” Jesus wants his disciples to imitate the spirit of his action, not necessarily the action itself. It is the spirit of humility that Christ modeled. This inner attitude manifests itself by voluntarily doing selfless acts of love, whether foot washing is needed or some other menial task.

Calvin’s comments should be heeded by all who take the practice as one to be perpetuated: “Every year they hold a theatrical foot washing, and when they have discharged this empty and bare ceremony they think they have done their duty finely and are then free to despise their brethren. But more, when they have washed twelve men’s feet they cruelly torture all Christ’s members and thus spit in the face of Christ himself. This ceremonial comedy is nothing but a shameful mockery of Christ. At any rate, Christ does not enjoin an annual ceremony here, but tells us to be ready all through our life to wash the feet of our brethren.”

Calvin here warns against the danger of externalism, he wanted his readers to grasp the spirit and attitude of humble service that Christ modeled.

17. Why does Jesus compare himself with his disciples and the Father? (John 13:16) The text says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him.”

Jesus is saying as my disciples (slaves) you are not greater than your Lord (master Gr. kyriou), so if I can stoop to serve so can you.

Jesus again doesn’t miss the opportunity to remind his disciples that he was sent”  [pempsantos] and therefore always conscious of being commissioned by the Father. Jesus included his disciples in the commission (John 20:21) and also included them in the action of servanthood. Jesus portrayed for them the true nature of Christian living: serving one another. And for those who would be willing to take this role on themselves, Jesus said there would be blessings.

18. What “things” do you “know” now from this passage that you need to “do” in order to be blessed? (John 13:17) The word “blessed” means “happy.” The second “if” [eon] in this verse is a third-doss condition. This means that “Happiness is conditional.” The text says there are two conditions for happiness: Just knowing does not bring happiness, nor does just doing these things occasionally. What things is Jesus referring to?

Jesus says if you want to be blessed you must be a Room Maker, Group Lover, Bath Taker, Foot Washer, and Apron Wearer. Jesus says we need to make room for community in our busy lives, love one another to the fullest extent, experience judicial and parental forgiveness and be willing to do any menial task to demonstrate our love on one another.


1. Who is the person in your life who has demonstrated what it means to “wash feet”? What has the person done for you?

2. Are you willing to stoop to love? Is there any task too menial for you?

3. What “things” do you “know” now and need to “do” in order to be blessed? John 13:17

4. How will you put Jesus’ teaching into practice in at least one relationship this week at home, work, or church?

Sources: The questions and answers for this study were gleaned from the following resources.

1 . Serendipity Bible for Groups by: Serendipity House, Zondervan Publishing House, 1998
2. The Gospel of John, Introduction, Exposition and Notes by: F.F. Bruce, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1983
3. The Expositors Bible Commentary, Volume 9 by: Fronk E. Goebelein (General Editor), Zondervon Publishing House, 1981
4. Light in the Darkness, Studies in the Gospel of John by Homer A. Kent Jr., Boker Bookhouse, 1974.
5. The Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel by: R.C.H. Lenski, Augsburg Publishing House, 1943.
6. The Gospel of John, A Series of Verse- By-Verse Outline Studies by: John MacArthur Jr., Word of Grace Communications.
7. Making Room for Community by: Rick Leineweber,MP3/CD, Grace Fellowship Church,2004
8. The Gospel According to John by: Leon Morris, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1971.
9. The Words and Works of Jesus Christ by: J. Dwight Pentecost, Zondervan Publishing House, 1981
10. John: The Gospel of Belief by: Merrill C. Tenney, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1948.
11.The Gospel According to St. John by: B.F. Westcott, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1975.
12. The New Testament – An Expanded Translation by: Kenneth S. Wuest, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1961
13.The MacArthur Study Bible by: John F. MacArthur, Jr., Word Publishing, 1997
14. The Chronological Life of Christ Vol.2 by: Mark E. Moore, College Press Publishing Company, 1997
15.Word Pictures in the New Testament Vol.5 by: Archibald Thomas Robertson, Broadman Press, 1932

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber Jr.]
© Copyright 1994 Richard D. Leineweber Jr.

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How to Love God and Others

This command is all about how to love God and love other people, from Mark 12:28-34 and Matthew 22:34-40

Purpose: To develop the character quality of agape love for God and our neighbors. Jesus said in Mark 12:30-31, “AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’ 31 The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” This kind of love is intelligent, feeling, willing, and serving. It involves thought, sensitivity, intent, and even action where that is possible and appropriate.

Historical Background: Chronologically this narrative (Mark 12:28-34) occurs the Wednesday before the crucifixion. Jesus had just been worshipped as the “The King of the Jews” two days before as He entered Jerusalem (Mark 11:1-11). Upon arrival in Jerusalem Jesus entered the temple, looked around and then he departed (Mark 11:11). The Jewish multitudes had hoped that He would enter Jerusalem and free them from Roman bondage. He made His way that evening to Bethany, outside of the city and spent the night there with Mary and Martha and Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. The next day as He returned to Jerusalem, He cursed a barren fig tree on His journey to the temple (Matthew 21:18-19a; Mark 11:12-14). Jesus entered the temple, overturned the tables of the money changers a second time (John 2:13-22) and attacked Israel’s religious system (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-18; Luke 19:45-48).

Jesus leaves and returns the next day (Mark 11:27-28), which says, “They came again to Jerusalem. And as He was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to Him, and began saying to Him, “By what authority are You doing these things, or who gave You this authority to do these things?”

They must have thought “What nerve He has! First of all, He comes in yesterday and disturbs the entire place and then He thinks he can walk back in and teach! Where does He think He gets His authority to do this?” Jesus responds to their question with one of His own. Jesus asked, “The baptism of John was from what source, from heaven or from men?” (Matthew 21:25). The Pharisees found themselves in a dilemma. They desired Christ’s answer but knew it was contingent on their own. They sought to trap Jesus and found themselves trapped. When they realized the implications of answering they answered, “We do not know” (Matthew 21:27). Then Jesus didn’t reveal the source of His authority to them.

Jesus proceeded to teach three parables which taught that the Pharisees would be excluded from the Kingdom:

  1. The two sons (Matthew 21:28-32)
  2. The vineyard (Matthew 21:33-44)
  3. The wedding feast (Matthew 22:1-14)

Jesus in affect said to these leaders, first of all, you are like a son who says he will obey but doesn’t. Secondly, you are like a tenant farmer who leases out a farm and then you kill the servants and the son of the one who leased it to you before you’ll pay any debt. And third, you are like the guests who were invited to a wedding, to marry Christ, and you refused to come, so you are thereby shut out. The religious leaders understood the parables were spoken against them and their intensity of resentment toward Jesus grew (Matthew 21:45-46, Mark 12:12, Luke 20:19).

The religious leaders resented Him and wanted Him dead, but the Roman government had restricted their right to take lives, to execute their own criminals. So they attempted to publicly discredit him (Mark 12:13-34). As they confronted Him with the first question they hoped to force Him to answer in such a way that He will put Himself in a difficult position with Rome, so they can put Him to death as an insurrectionist. This first question (Mark 12:13-17) is a political question. The next two questions (Mark 12:18-27; 28-34) are of a theological nature and would discredit Him among the people.

Matthew 22:34 says, “But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together.” When the political question from the Herodians and Pharisees had failed, the Sadducees asked Him a question with respect to the resurrection. But once again He doesn’t discredit Himself among the people through His answer. In fact, His answer silenced the Sadducees. This verb “to put to silence” literally means, “to gag.” He gagged them. It’s not that they wanted to be silenced; it’s just that they had no choice. This verb is used in Mark 1:25 in silencing a demon and in Mark 4:39 in silencing a storm. It is used in 1 Corinthians 9:9 of muzzling an ox. So he muzzled them. In other words, it is an unwilling gagging that they received, and he brought their argument to an end where they were unable to say another thing. They were without another thought, another idea, another retort.

It’s when the Pharisees “gathered themselves together” that an expert scribe joined them and formulated the last question to put Jesus to the test (Matthew 22:35). It’s this third question that created the occasion for Jesus to reinforce the greatest commandment that is found in the Old Testament.

Commanded in the Gospels: This command, “you shall” is from Leviticus 19:18. This command is often repeated in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 5:43; 19:19; 22:39, Mark 12:31,33; Luke 10:27).

Illustrated in the Book of Acts: This command is indirectly illustrated in Acts. The early church found “favor with all the people” because they were so caring and loving (Acts 2:47). They did the Great Commission in a Great Commandment way!

Amplified in the Epistles: Romans 13:8,9,10; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8

Discussion Questions:

1. Who approached Jesus with the question? (Mark 12:28; Matthew 22:34-35) Mark 12:28 says, “one of the scribes came.” A scribe is one who was responsible to copy and interpret the law. Matthew identifies this same man as a “lawyer.” A lawyer was a scribe that was a law expert. In fact, the word “lawyer” that Matthew uses only occurs one time, and that’s in Matthew 22:35. On every other occasion, twenty-two times, he calls them scribes instead of lawyers. I believe that Matthew is suggesting that this man is a cut above that average scribe. He probably stood out among the scribes as a real expert. So he’s the one who structures and formulates the question and then proposes the question to the Lord.

2. What did this scribe think of Jesus’ answer? (Mark l2:28b) The text says that he recognized “that He had answered them well.” The word “well” literally means that Christ answered, “beautifully, finely, and admirably.” Mark seems to suggest that the question asked by the teacher of the law, in contrast to many that had been asked by his colleagues, was a sincere one. He had been impressed by Jesus’ answer to the previous question. The law expert said in essence, “I know the Old Testament and that was a good answer.” So this Pharisees, this scribe, this lawyer, wasn’t filled with the same venom or hatred that all the Pharisees possessed. This scribe doesn’t seem as committed to killing Jesus. It appears that this scribe is attracted to the wisdom of Jesus.

3. What makes the scribe’s question so significant? (Mark l2:28c) The Scribe asked, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” There are two things that make this question so significant.

1) The first thing that makes this question so significant is that the Jews believed that the teachings of Jesus attacked the teachings of Moses. So if they could get Jesus to supersede Moses in some statement, go beyond what Moses said and set himself up as the authority, then they would discredit Him among the people, because Moses was the number one hero of the Jews for several reasons:

  • Historically in Judaism there is no one like Moses. Moses is the one who talked to God, face to face, as a man speaks to his friend, and that sets him apart from every other Jew.
  • Moses was the one God chose when God searched for a man to whom he could give His law.
  • Moses was the priority writer who penned the first five books of the Old Testament (Pentateuch). The Sadducees only held to the writings of Moses, and they were part of his audience as well as many in the crowd who followed their teachings.
  • A Rabbi in the second century said this of Moses: “God called Moses faithful in His entire house and thereby ranks him higher than the ministering angels themselves.” So many Jews believed that Moses was in a category even above the angelic hosts.
  • He was the greatest one to them and that’s why Matthew 23:2 says that “the scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses.” That’s the ultimate place of authority, it’s absolute power. To identify with Moses is to give direction and be in control of Israel. So if they could only get Jesus to affirm that His teaching supersedes Moses then they could accuse him of being an apostate and discredit Him among the people.

2) The second thing that makes this question so significant is that the rabbis counted 613 individual statutes in the law, 365 which were negative and 248 positive. Attempts were made to differentiate between the “heavy,” or “great,” and the “light,” or “little,” commandments. The rabbis also made attempts to formulate great principles from which the rest of the law could be deduced. The most famous example comes from Hillel, who when challenged by a Gentile, “Make me a proselyte on condition that you teach me the whole law while I stand on one foot,” replied, “What you hate for yourself, do not do to your neighbor: this is the whole law, the rest is commentary; go and learn.”

Some thought that the law about the fringes on the garments was the greatest; some that the omission of washings was as bad as homicide; some that the third commandment was the greatest. It was in view of this kind of distinction that the scribe asked the question; not as desiring a declaration as to which commandment was greatest, but as wanting to know the principle upon which a commandment was to be regarded as a great commandment. (Vincent Word Studies Vol.1)

The question posed to Christ by this scribe arose out of a works salvation understanding of the law and the keeping of its commandments.

Notice Jesus cites a familiar command from the Old Testament that is quoted throughout the New
Testament (Matthew 5:44; 19:19 22:37,39; 23:39; Mark 12:31,33; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:8,10; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8).

4. What commandment did Jesus say is the foremost? (Mark l2:29) Jesus quoted two passages from the OT (Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Leviticus 19:18).

  • Deuteronomy 6:4-9 “Hear, 0 Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! 5″You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
  • Leviticus 19:18 You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.

5. What phrase does Mark include that Matthew omits? (Mark 12:29; Matthew 22:37; Deuteronomy 6:4) Only Mark’s narrative reports that Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:4, which is central to the Shema, named after the first word of the verse, which means “Hear.” In Hebrew liturgy Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:13-21, and Numbers 13:37-41 comprise the Shema. Deuteronomy 6:4-5 is a confession of faith that is recited by pious Jews every morning and evening. Jesus merely identifies the thing that was most familiar to them and says this is the foremost commandment. It basically affirms two things: (1) the unity of God (“the Lord is one”) and (2) the covenant relationship of God to the Jewish people (“the Lord our God”).

It’s important to understand the connection that Deuteronomy 6:4 has with the words that follow. Israel has a covenant relation with God the Father. Deuteronomy 6:4 declares “The LORD is our God.” God is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5; 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24; 5:9; 6:15; 32:16,21). He expected no other lovers in Israel’s life. This covenant and love relationship wasn’t to be one sided. He expected it to be reciprocal. Israel is the wife of God the Father and the church is betrothed through the New Covenant to God the Son. Loving God is not an option for His people; it’s a mandate.

Bill Gothard writes concerning the basis of God’s jealousy:

“God is jealous because He has established a covenant with every Christian through the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Allowing people or things to compete for first place in our affections causes grief and damage to our relationship with the Holy Spirit. The motivation behind God’s jealousy is His overwhelming love and desire to bless us! He longs to demonstrate to the entire world the incredible things that He will do for believers who fully love Him.

God established a parallel covenant with the nation of Israel. He promised that if they would honor this covenant with Him by loving Him with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, He would make them healthier, wealthier, and wiser than any other nation in the world. However, if they delighted in any other god, He would curse them above all nations on the earth.

I was aware of these Old Testament promises and warnings and of the jealous nature of God. However, I assumed they related only to His relationship with Israel, and that somehow in the New Testament He had become a benevolent God Who overlooks all of our straying affections. As I thought about this, the words of Scripture spoke with powerful authority, “I am the LORD, I change not” (Malachi 3:6). God is just as loving in the Old Testament as He is in the New Testament. And He is just as jealous in the New Testament as He was in the Old Testament.

This explains the words of James 4:1-4: ‘What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?… You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.’

During those powerful moments of interaction with God and His truth, I realized that I am in covenant with the Lord and that in this relationship there can be no toleration of a competing affection. Either I focus my total love upon Him and experience His marvelous blessings, or I entertain various competing affections and experience painful discipline from Him.

I realized that in my own strength I could not love Him as I ought, so I asked Him for the grace that I needed to love Him with all of my “heart, soul, mind, and strength.”


Notice Jesus’ response. His answer comes by way of a command that is repeated throughout the New Testament (Matthew 5:44; 19:19 22:37,39; 23:39; Mark 12:31,33; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:8,10; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8). We are to love God and our neighbor.

God is to be loved completely and totally because he, and he alone, is God and because he has made a covenant of love with his people. In the covenant God gives himself totally in love to his people; therefore he expects his people to give themselves totally (“soul,” “mind,” and “strength”) in love to him.

John MacArthur points out that the Hebrew word for “love” used in Deuteronomy 6:5, refers primarily to an act of mind and will, the determined care for the welfare of something or someone. It might well include strong emotion, but its distinguishing characteristics were the dedication and commitment of choice. It is the love that recognizes and chooses to follow that which is righteous, noble, and true, regardless of what one’s feelings in a matter might be. It is the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek agapao in the New Testament, the verb of intelligent, purposeful, and committed love that is an act of the will. This love is in contrast to the emotion and tender affection of phileo and the physical, sensual love of eros (which is not used in the New Testament).

We are also instructed to “love the Lord your God with ALL of our heart, with ALL our soul, with ALL the mind, with ALL your strength.” The word “with” should be translated literally “out of.” The Greek word ek stresses the source of our love. It must rise out of every part of our being. It must rise out of our soul. It must rise out of our heart, our mind, and our strength. The word “all” emphasizes the fact that God doesn’t just want part of the heart but all of the heart. A part won’t do. God wants you to love Him with your whole being. What a rebuke to half-hearted Christians today.

Theologians and psychologists love to dissect the human personality. Is man a two part person (dichotomy) or a three part person (trichotomy). It doesn’t appear that Jesus is sorting out the different parts of man. As you go through the Scriptures the different parts have different usages and sometimes overlap one another. Jesus is simply emphasizing that the accumulation of terms underlines the comprehensiveness of the love that we should have for God. We are to love Him with our total person.

Where do your thoughts go when you have a moment to just let them stray? When you are exhausted and only have a small reserve of energy left at the end of the day, how will you use it?

7. In the second commandment, how are we to love our neighbor? (Mark 12:31) Jesus says, “The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Jesus brought Leviticus 19:18 together with Deuteronomy 6:5 to show that love of neighbor is a natural and logical outgrowth of love of God. These two commandments belong together; they cannot be separated. The Apostle John in the New Testament stresses this point, “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also” (1 John 4:20-21).

8. How should we define the word “neighbor?” (Leviticus l9:34; Luke 10:25-37) In Leviticus 19:18, the neighbor is identified as “sons of your people,” or fellow Israelites. The Old Testament was clear in Leviticus 19:34 (a few verses later) that the word “neighbor” included resident aliens. Leviticus 19:34 says, “The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God.”

The Jews of Jesus’ day held to a more narrow interpretation of the word “neighbor” to only include Jews and full proselytes. Jesus redefined the term to mean “anyone with whom we have dealings at all” (Luke 10:25-37).

9. What does Jesus declare about these two commandments? After stating the two greatest commandments Jesus said in Matthew 22:40, “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” The New King James translates this verse as “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” NKJV. This is illustrated with the natural division of the Law below.

10. How many commandments did Jesus give? It’s important to note that Christ gives two commandments and not three. We are living in a day when we are told there are three commands. For example, one writer said that if you don’t properly love yourself, you will be unable to love others. In fact he insists that you must be able to love yourself first before you can love God and your neighbor. The reason Christ did not give a third command was because the type of self-love that He was referring to we already possess. We already love ourselves. It is something that we do automatically and instinctively.

Ephesians 5:28-29 says, “So husbands are also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife, loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh but nourishes it and cherishes it.” Some would appeal to this text to prove that if you don’t love yourself then you can’t love your wife. But the text assumes that self-love or self-preservation is already clearly present in our lives. It’s not something that has to be developed or worked at. Notice first of all the word, “no one ever hated.” Hatred is the opposite of love. In other words, everyone always loves his own flesh. The word “no one” speaks of the universality of self-love which is taken for granted by this passage. It’s universal, “no one.” Notice the word “ever.” The word “ever” sets this forth as a timeless principle. In other words, this statement is true in all ages. There is not one person who ever hated himself. All men love themselves and that’s why they cherish and nourish their bodies.

11. What about those that cut their bodies or even attempt suicide? Many teenagers are willing to cut themselves in order to get attention. Self-love and often the occult (paganism) motivate these actions. Others are willing to attempt suicide to end the pain in their lives regardless of how much it will hurt others and be an offense to a Holy God in whose image they were made. Suicide is the ultimate act of self-love.

12. How has modern psychology influenced the church into making these two commandments into three? (2 Timothy 3:2) Nowhere in Scripture is it found that love of self is a prerequisite for the love of others. There are only two commands that Jesus gave. Numerous terms are used in modern psychology today to suggest that we must work at loving ourselves: self-esteem, self-acceptance, self-regard, self-worth, and descriptive phrases such as you need to feel good about yourself, you need to like yourself. Pastors who use these terms are confused, and they are adopting terminology and concepts and presuppositions from the world and trying to put them into Christianity, trying to sanctify those terms.

Paul warns Timothy that the Apostate church in the end times will be characterized by an emphasis on “loving self” (2 Timothy 3:1-5). The idea of self-love has not been held or taught historically by the church, but things are changing.

  • John Piper, in an article from Christianity Today (Aug. 12, 1977, pg.6) writes, “Today the first and Great Commandment is, ‘Thou Shalt Love Thyself.’ The explanation for almost every interpersonal problem is thought to lie in someone’s low self-esteem.”
  • In the book What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew about Women, the author writes, “If I could write a prescription for every woman in the world, I would provide each of them with a healthy dose of self-esteem and self-worth… I have no doubt that this is their greatest need.” pg.35
  • In Dare to Discipline Dobson writes: “Self-esteem is their most fragile attribute in human nature; it can be damaged by a very minor incident and its reconstruction is often difficult to engineer.” James Dobson pg.19
  • James Dobson writes in What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew About Women: “In fact, low self-esteem is a threat to the entire human family.” pg.28
  • In the book Hide and Seek he further says, “The manner of personal wealth is not only a concern of those who lack it. In a real sense, the health of an entire society depends on the ease with which the individual member gain personal acceptance. Thus, whenever the keys to self-esteem are seemingly out of reach for a large percentage of people, as in the twentieth century America, then wide spread mental illness, neuroticism, hatred, alcoholism, drug abuse, violence, and social disorder will certainly occur.” pgs.12-13
  • John R. Stott writes in an article, entitled: Must I Really Love Myself? “A chorus of many voices is chanting in unison today that at all costs I must love myself first.” Christianity Today, May 5,1978, pg.34

In others words, it doesn’t matter whom I tread on, whom I hurt, the first commandment really is to love yourself. That is not what Jesus said.

Robert Schuller writes about self-esteem when addressing the issue of hell. This is what he says about hell: “Hell is not having a good self-image.” He doesn’t believe in a literal hell, he believes in hell on earth and that is if you don’t have a good self-image, that’s hell.

Jesus emphasized self-denial not self-love. There are three reasons we should have reservations about the self-love theology.

  • Because from the beginning to the end the focus of scripture is the exultation of God and not man. It appears to me that Psalms 139:14 is virtually being rewritten today to be read as, “I will please me because for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” No, the text said, “I will praise Thee for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
  • Because I believe that Scripture has a high view of God and a low view of man. Throughout Scripture this is true: try James 4:1-10, you adulteresses, you adulterers. You can go anywhere in Scripture and see a proper evaluation of what we are like.
  • Because Paul designates self-love as a prime characteristic of evil of the last days: 2 Timothy 3:1.
  • Because too often “Christian writers” have proof texted their books with Scripture after having accepted certain pre-suppositions from psychology. The result has been eisegesis, “reading into the text” rather than exegesis, “reading out of the text.”

One of the consequences of self-love theology is a favorable opinion of oneself before salvation. If you have a favorable opinion of yourself before salvation, then you have a heart that cannot receive God’s mercy. It must become utterly empty of all opinion of your worth.

Luke 18:9-14 says, And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: 10″Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11″The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12’I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 13″But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ 14″I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The Pharisee was full of self-esteem and it would cost him his eternal destiny. The tax collector saw himself as unworthy and cried out for mercy. The text says, “…this man went to his house justified rather than the other…”

C. S. Lewis said, “In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that, and, therefore, know yourselves as nothing in comparison, you do not know God at all. The real test of being in the presence of God is that you either forgot about yourself all together or you see yourself as a small dirty object.”

The consequences of a favorable opinion of yourself after salvation is to rob God of His glory. The Scriptures teach that God’s glory is somewhat diminished if man glories in himself. Jeremiah wrote, “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, or the rich man in his riches, or the mighty man in his might or let him who glories glory in the Lord” (Jeremiah 9:23).

13. How did the scribe affirm Jesus’ answer? (Mark l2:32-33) The scribe said to Him, “Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that HE IS ONE, AND THERE IS NO ONE ELSE BESIDES HIM. 33 AND TO LOVE HIM WITH ALL THE HEART AND WITH ALL THE UNDERSTANDING AND WITH ALL THE STRENGTH, AND TO LOVE ONE’S NEIGHBOR AS HIMSELF, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

The teacher of the law not only reiterated what Jesus said but added two phrases to affirm Jesus’ words. The teacher of the law first added the phrase “AND THERE IS NO ONE ELSE BESIDES HIM” which is an interpretive addition from Deuteronomy 4:35. This affirmed and underscored the uniqueness of Israel’s God. Secondly, the teacher of the law affirmed that the love of God and neighbor are “more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices” (v.33) which is in keeping with the teachings of the OT prophets.

  • 1 Samuel 15:22, Samuel said, “Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.
  • Hosea 6:6, For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

In Judaism the law and sacrifices are set side by side with love whereas the scribe was declaring the superiority of love going against the accepted teaching of his day.

John MacArthur writes, “Genuine love of the Lord is intelligent, feeling, willing, and serving. It involves thought, sensitivity, intent, and even action where that is possible and appropriate. God has never sought either empty words or empty ritual. His desire is for the person himself, not simply what the person possesses. If He truly has the person, He inevitably has all that the person possesses as well. And just as God loves us with His whole being, we are to return His love with our whole being.”

John MacArthur adds, “The person who truly loves the Lord with all his heart and soul and mind is the person who trusts Him and obeys Him. That person demonstrates his love by meditating on God’s glory (Psalm 18:1-3), trusting in God’s divine power (Psalm 31:23), seeking fellowship with God (Psalm 63:1-8), loving God’s law (Psalm 119:165), being sensitive to how God feels (Psalm 69:9), loving what God loves (Psalm 119:72,97,103), loving whom God loves (1 John 5:1), hating what God hates (Psalm 97:10), grieving over sin (Matthew 26:75), rejecting the world (1 John 2:15), longing to be with Christ (2 Timothy 4:8), and obeying God wholeheartedly (John 14:21).”

It’s important to note that when the scribe repeated the commandment in Deuteronomy 6:5 he omitted the divine name “the Lord” and replaced it with the pronoun “HIM” in keeping with the practice of pious Jews of avoiding the pronunciation of God’s name.

14.What did Jesus recognize about the scribes reply? (Mark 12:34a) This says, “When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently,…” Jesus pictures him as replying in the manner of one who possessed a mind of his own and really understood what he said. The man had comprehended the significance of Jesus’ reply (Portrait of Mark by: Heibert). But it’s the heart not just the intellect that must fully comprehend and embrace the way of Jesus.

15. How did Jesus appeal to the scribe to continue on his pursuit of the truth? (Mark l2:34b) Jesus told him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” This was “a compliment as well as an appeal to the scribe. His realization of the primary importance of love had placed him spiritually near the kingdom of God. He had come a long way for a scribe, but “not far from” insisted that he must go further and accept that love in the Person of Him who was “the kingdom incarnate.” “Whether or not he ever actually entered it, is written on the yet unread page of its history” (Portrait of Mark by: Hiebert).

16. What does a person have to do to secure entrance into the kingdom? (John 3:3-7) Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” 5Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6″That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7″Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again’ (John 3:3-7). Jesus taught that a person had two options to enter into the kingdom. The first was to perfectly observe the Law of Moses that He summarized in two commandments in this passage. Entrance into the kingdom through the law requires no love lost for God or one’s neighbor EVER (Galatians 5:1-5).

The other approach is to be born into God’s family through faith in Christ’s substitutionary death and resurrection. This approach requires a recognition that we could never muster up enough effort in “the will of the flesh” to somehow satisfy a Holy God and be declared righteous on our own merits (Romans 3:20; 4:5; Philippians 3:9). John 1:12-13 says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” This scribe (teacher of the law) was only one step away from entering into the kingdom. He was “near.” It appears that Jesus surmised that he was fully aware of heaven’s expectations and now he needed to recognize his own inadequacy to earn his entrance into the kingdom.

17. Were the religious leaders ready to question more after over hearing this exchange? (Mark 12:34c) The text says, “After that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions.” A.T. Robertson points out that the phrase, “After that, no one” is a double negative. The sense is the debate was closed and no one would venture (no one dared) to ask another question. Jesus was the complete victor on every side.” (Word Pictures in the New Testament Vol. 7)

Kenneth Wuest translates this verse, “And no one any longer was daring to ask Him a question” (pg.112). The double negative could be translated “no one, no not one”

1. In what way do you want to grow in your love right now: Toward God? Toward those in your neighborhood? Toward strangers? Toward the under resourced?

2. How specifically will you grow in your love? Whom have you selected?

3. What quadrant describes your love quotient?


The questions and answers for this study were gleaned from the following resources.
1 . Serendipity Bible for Groups by: Serendipity House, Zondervan Publishing House, 1998
2. The Biblical View of Self-Esteem, Self-Love, Self-Image by: Jay E. Adams, Harvest House Publishers, 1986.
3. The Danger of Self- Love by: Paul Brownback Moody Press, 1982.
4. The Expositots Bible Commentary, Volume 8 by: Frank E. Gaebelein (General Editor), Zondervan Publishing House, 1984
5. Mark- A Portrait of the Servant by: Edmond Hiebert, Moody Press, 1974
6. He Came to Suffer by: Thomas R. Lovejoy, Grace Community Church, 1984.
7. Compassion: Showing Care in a Careless World by: Charles Swindoll, Word Books Publishers, 1984
8. Word Pictures in the New Testament Vol. I by: Archibald Thomas Robertson, Broadman, Press, 1931
9. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Matthew 16-23 by: John MacArthur Jr., Moody Press, 1988.
10.Word Studies in the Greek New Testament: Volume 1 by: Kenneth S. Wuest, William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1950.
11 . The Chronological Life of Christ Vol.2 by: Mark E. Moore, College Publishing Company, 1997
12. The Words and Works of Jesus Christ by: J. Dwight Pentecost, Zondervan Publishing House, 1981
13. Our Jealous God: Love That Won’t Let Me Go by: Bill Gothard, Life Change Book Series, Multnomah Publishers Inc., 2003
14. Diagram from The Connecting Church by Randy Frazee, p. 71, Zondervan Publishing House, 2001

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber Jr. © Copyright 1994]

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How to Become a Servant Leader

This lesson is all about servanthood, Matthew 20:20-28; Mark 10:35-45

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to develop the character quality of humility. Servanthood and suffering bring greatness in the kingdom. Jesus taught His disciples “And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be (present imperative) your slave” (Matthew 20:27). The way up is down. God’s ways are counter intuitive. Man’s pride and ego keeps him from greatness. Ken Blanchard asks “What’s your leadership ego?” EGO is either “Edging God Out” or “Exalting God Only.” Servant leadership involves humbly serving those under us so they are successful. Jesus in this passage teaches us how to become a servant leader.

Historical Background: This narrative follows Jesus’ third prediction of the resurrection on the road to Jerusalem (Matthew 20:17-19; Mark 10:32-34; Luke 18:31-34). This passage warns against ambitious pride. This request for places of honor showed a continuing feeling among the disciples that Jesus was going to Jerusalem to restore the glory of the fallen throne and kingdom of David. This request is irreconcilable with the fact that Jesus had just told his disciples that He would die, not reign in Jerusalem. Perhaps they were so consumed with selfish ambition that they didn’t hear what Jesus said. It’s obvious that they weren’t satisfied with Jesus’ recent words promising the Twelve that they would occupy the twelve thrones over the twelve tribes of Israel in the kingdom (Matthew 19:28).

Commanded in the Gospels: Matthew 20:27 – let him be; Luke 22:26 – let him become. The Gospels contain other instruction on this subject (Matthew 10:24, 25a; 23:11; Mark 9:35; 10:43, 44; John 12:26) and cite numerous women who regularly helped Christ by ministering to His needs, (Matthew 8:15; 27:55; Mark 1 :31; 15:41; Luke 8:3; 10:40; John 12:2).

Illustrated in the Book of Acts: Acts 6:1-2; 13:5; 19:22; 20:19, 34; 21:19; 24:23

Amplified in the Epistles: Some Christians have the spiritual gift of serving (Romans 12:7). Others are put in charge of physical tasks that must be cared for by the church. These hold the office of deacon (diokonos) (Philippians 1:1, 1 Timothy 3:8, 10, 12-13) and deaconess, (Romans 16:1; 1 Timothy 3:11) but every Christian must be involved in some form of service (Galatians 5:13; Ephesians 4:12; Hebrews 6:10; 1 Peter 4:10-11). The following men are positive examples of servanthood:

  1. Apollos (1 Corinthians 3:5)
  2. Christ (Philippians 2:7)
  3. James (James 1:1)
  4. John (Revelation 1:1)
  5. Jude (Jude 1:1)
  6. Mark (2 Timothy 4:11)
  7. Onesimus (Philemon 1:13)
  8. Onesiphorus (2 Timothy 1:18)
  9. Paul (Romans 1:1, 1 Corinthians 4:1; 2 Corinthians 4:5, 6:4; 11:8, 23, Galatians 1:10, Philippians 1:1, Titus 1:1)
  10. Peter (2 Peter 1:1)
  11. Timothy (Philippians 2:22)
  12. Tychicus (Ephesians 6:21, Colossians 4:7)

1 . What relationship did mother Zebedee and her two sons have to Jesus? She was Salome, probably a sister of Jesus’ mother (Matthew 20:20; 27:55a, 56; Mark 15:40; John 19:25). If so, then James and John were Jesus’ first cousins. Perhaps they hoped their family ties would help their cause. In addition to relying on their relationship as Jesus’ cousins, the brothers perhaps also thought to play on Jesus’ affection for his mother by having her sister approach Him for the favor. These two disciples were asking for preferential treatment.

2. What did the mother of James and John request? (Matthew 20:20-21; Mark 10:37) One of them wished to sit at His right, the highest assigned position, and the other at His left, the next highest place in a royal court (Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews). The “right hand” and “left hand” suggest proximity to the King’s person and so a share in his prestige and power. Such positions increase as the King is esteemed and has absolute power (Psalm 16:11; 45:9; 110:1; Matthew 27:64; Acts 7:55-56). Mark has, “in your glory,” Matthew “in your kingdom.” Mark’s phrase clearly points to the Parousia, “when Jesus is enthroned as eschatological judge.”

3. Was Mrs. Zebedee’s request a political power play? (Matthew 20:20) John MacArthur writes, “The first worldly principle for greatness might be called political power play and is reflected in the attempt of the mother of the sons of Zebedee to persuade Jesus to give those two sons, James and John, the highest places of honor in His kingdom. The Bible Knowledge Commentary says, “…with typical motherly pride, felt her sons deserved the two best locations.” Throughout history one of the most common tactics for getting ahead has been using the influence of family and friends to one’s own advantage. These people are manipulated to gain political office, a promotion in business, a lucrative contract, or whatever else is craved. As the saying goes, “It’s who you know that counts.”

It seems incredible that James, John, and their mother could ask Jesus such a crass, self-serving favor immediately after His prediction of the persecution and death He would soon face in Jerusalem. There is no indication, either in this text or in Mark’s parallel account (Mark 10:35), that any of the disciples made a response to what Jesus had just said about His own imminent death. They may simply have discounted His prediction as being merely figurative and symbolic, or they may have been so preoccupied with their own interests and plans that His words went by them.

4. How do we know that Mrs. Zebedee’s request was a joint effort with her sons? (Matthew 20:22; Mark 10:35) From the Matthew passage it is clear that “the mother” was speaking at the request of her “two sons.” In fact, Mark makes no mention of her at all. The three obviously came with a common purpose and plan they had discussed among themselves beforehand. The mother probably spoke first, and then James and John spoke for themselves.

It is implied in Matthew but explicit in Mark that the first request was intentionally general and indefinite: “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of You” (Mark 10:35). Their approach was like a child trying to get a parent to promise something before saying what it is for fear that a specific request for it might be denied.

5. How was Mrs. Zebedee’s worship manipulative? (Matthew 20:20) “Bowing down” was a common act of homage, respect or honor given to ancient monarchs, and the mother may have been trying to flatter Jesus by appealing to His sense of power and royalty. By treating Him like a king, she hoped to manipulate Him into making a gesture of generosity. Near Eastern kings liked to pride themselves in having the resources to grant any favor or request. It was such pride that induced Herod Antipas to swear to the daughter of Herodias, “Whatever you ask of me, I will give it to you; up to half of my kingdom” (Mark 6:23).

The fact that James, John, and their mother made a request of Christ for a blank check strongly suggests that they knew the request was not legitimate. The request was purely self-seeking, for her as well as for them. As their mother, she could bask vicariously in their exalted positions, and her own prestige would be greatly enhanced. In marked contrast to what they would become after Pentecost, James and John were not noted for their shyness or being reserved, and Jesus had nicknamed them “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:1-7). Their request of Jesus not only was bold but brash. In effect, they were claiming that, of all the great people of God who had ever lived, they deserved to have the two highest places of honor beside the King of heaven.

Like the scribes and Pharisees who loved “the place of honor at banquets, and the chief seats in the synagogues” (Matthew 23:6), James and John longed for prestige and preeminence and to be exalted over the other apostles. Like the self-seeking Diotrephes (3 John 1:9), they loved to be first. But that is not the way to greatness in the kingdom of God.

6. What was Mrs. Zebedee really asking for unknowingly? (Matthew 20:22) “You do not know what you are asking.” Matthew Henry writes, “We know not what we ask, when we ask for the glory of wearing the crown, and ask not for grace to bear the cross in our way to it.” The response, “we are able” is amazing proof of their ignorance and self-confidence. Ambition had blinded their eyes.

John MacArthur writes, “James and John either completely misunderstood what Jesus meant or because, like Peter promising never to forsake Christ, they self-confidently thought they could endure anything required of them, James and John foolishly declared, “We are able.” And just as Peter denied the Lord three times before the cock crowed, those two brothers, along with all the other disciples, fled for their lives when Jesus was arrested (Matthew 26:56).

No doubt with great tenderness and compassion, the Lord then assured the brothers, “My cup you shall drink.” But it would not be in their own power but in the power of the Holy Spirit that they would suffer greatly for their Master’s sake. They did indeed share in the “fellowship of His sufferings” (Philippians 3:1 0).

7. What cup or baptism was Jesus talking about? (Matthew 20:22; 26:39, 42; Mark 10:38-39) “The cup” was a common Jewish metaphor either for joy (Psalm 23:5; 116:13) or for divine judgment against human sin, as here (Psalm 75:7-8; Isaiah 12:2). Jesus applied this figure to Himself for He was to bear the wrath of God’s judgment against sin in place of sinners (Matthew 26:39; Mark 10:45; 14:36; 15:34; Luke 22:42; John 18:11). He would drink the “cup” voluntarily.

If the disciples grasped anything of Jesus’ passion predictions, they probably thought the language of this metaphor referred to the eschatological conflict during which Messiah’s side would suffer losses; but these could scarcely be too severe for one who could still storms and raise the dead.

8. What has Jesus and other New Testament writers said about the role of suffering in Kingdom assignments? On the Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught His disciples that one of the ways to greatnessm it is through suffering for Christ on earth. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:1 0-12).

The Apostle Paul learned that the way to great glory is through great affliction for Christ’s sake. Although he suffered extreme hardship, persecution, and suffering, he considered those things to be insignificant compared to what awaited him in heaven. He told the self-serving, pleasure-loving Corinthians, “For momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Paul also pointed out to the Thessalonians that their suffering wasn’t pointless. It was pain with a purpose. They would be considered worthy when positions in the kingdom were being assigned (2 Thessalonians 1:4-10).

Edmond Hiebert writes, “In the day of judgment their present sufferings will be seen to have been beneficial… the statement is a direct encouragement to the suffering readers. They are assured that their sufferings are significant.

The Apostle Paul challenging young Timothy to be a good soldier who suffers for Jesus Christ wrote, “If we endure, we will also reign with Him…” (2 Timothy 2:12a).

The one who has the greatest glory beside Christ in heaven will be the one who has faithfully endured the greatest suffering for Him on earth.

9. Did James and John ever taste this cup? (Matthew 20:23; Mark 10:39; Acts 12:2; Revelation 1:9) These two brothers are the bookends of apostolic suffering in the early church. James was beheaded and John was tortured and exiled to Patmos for the sake of Christ. The Foxe’s Book of Martyrs of the World describes their suffering:

The Apostle James: St. James was the first of the apostles to meet a martyr’s death. Herod Agrippa, when he was made governor of Judea by the Roman emperor Caligula, raised a persecution against the Christians, and especially singled out St. James as an object of his vengeance. When the apostle was led out to die, a man who had brought false accusations against him walked with him to the place of execution. He had doubtless expected to see St. James looking pale and frightened, but he saw him, instead, bright and joyous, like a conqueror who had won a great battle. The false witness greatly wondered at this, and became convinced that the Savior in whom the prisoner by his side believed must be the true God, or he could not impart such cheerfulness and courage to a man about to die. The man himself, therefore, became a convert to Christianity, and was condemned to die with St. James the apostle. Both were consequently beheaded on the same day and with the same sword. This took place in the year of our Lord 44. [pg.27]

The Apostle John: He was distinguished for being a prophet, apostle, and evangelist. He was brother to James, and not only one of the twelve apostles, but one whom Jesus chiefly loved. St. John founded many churches in Greece. Being at Ephesus, he was ordered by the emperor Domitian to be sent bound to Rome, where he was condemned to be cast into a cauldron of boiling oil. Either this sentence was not carried out, or a miracle saved him from injury, for he was afterward banished by the emperor to the island of Patmos, and there wrote that beautiful book which is called The Revelation of St. John the Divine, and which tells of the joys of the celestial city.

At last Domitian died, and the next emperor, Nerva, was kind to the Christians, and sent St. John back to Ephesus, when he wrote his gospel. He lived to be a very old man, and died a natural death at Ephesus, some writers say in the one-hundredth year of his age. [pg.35]

10. Whose prerogative is it to give these privileged positions away? (Matthew 20:23) Jesus made it clear that granting positions of honor to His right and left in the kingdom is not His prerogative. Such places were not within His jurisdiction to give.

It would not be on the basis of favoritism or ambition that those honors would be bestowed, but on the basis of the Father’s sovereign choice. Personal ambition is not a factor in the eternal, sovereign plan of God. [MacArthur]. Mark 10:38-39 adds a little more text.

11. What other metaphor did Jesus use to describe the suffering that awaited Him? (Mark 10:38-39) The figure of “baptism” expresses a parallel thought. Being under water was an Old Testament picture of being overwhelmed by calamity (Job 22:11; Psalm 69:2, 15; Isaiah 43:2). Here the “calamity” Jesus faced was bearing the burden of God’s judgment on sin which involved overwhelming sufferings culminating in His death (Luke 12:50). He was to “be baptized” by God who placed these sufferings on Him (Isaiah 53:4b, 11). James and John may have thought Jesus was describing a messianic battle and their confident reply, “We can”, showed their willingness to fight in it. But their reply also showed that they had not understood Jesus’ words. So Jesus applied the same “cup” and “baptism” figures to them but in a different sense. In following Him they would share His sufferings (1 Peter 4:13) even to death, but not in a redemptive sense.

12. Why did the other ten disciples become indignant with James and John? (Matthew 20:24; Mark 10:41) The verb “became indignant” speaks of jealous displeasure and is a strong word for angry resentment. The ten felt that James and John had taken advantage of their relation to Jesus.

This jealous reaction indicates that they also harbored the same selfish ambitions. They all would have petitioned Jesus for the exalted, favored positions, given the opportunity. To avert disharmony among the Twelve and to reemphasize the meaning of true greatness (Mark 9:33-37) Jesus contrasted greatness in this world’s kingdoms with that in God’s kingdom.

On the way from Caesarea Philippi to Capernaum they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest” but were ashamed to admit it to Jesus (Mark 9:33-34). Even at the Last Supper “there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest” (Luke 22:24). They were all guilty of the same self-serving ambition that had just been demonstrated by the two brothers. [MacArthur]

Jesus sees the cross waiting for Him, James and John see thrones waiting for them, but the other ten disciples could only see James and John. They are upset with these two men not because of the power play or the selfish ambition but because they got to Jesus first.

13. What is the leadership style of the corporate world? (Matthew 20:25; Mark 10:42) Jesus sets aside all the politicking, maneuvering, asking for favors and special privileges and tells His team how different the world’s ways are from kingdom principles.

Now the Lord called them to Himself and reminded them of another wrong way of achieving spiritual greatness. It could be called the way of the dominant dictator. “Lord it over” is a strong term carrying the idea of ruling down on people, the prepositional prefix kata intensifying the verb.

The rulers of the Gentiles lord it over their subjects,” Jesus said. Virtually every government of that day was a form of dictatorship, often of a tyrannical sort. The world seeks greatness through power, epitomized by despotic “rulers of the Gentiles” such as the pharaohs, Antiochus Epiphanes, the Caesars, the Herods, and Pilate, under all of whom the Jews had suffered greatly.

The same philosophy of dominance is found in modern businesses and even in some Christian organizations. Many people in high positions cannot resist the temptation to use their power to “lord it over” those under them. Some are radical egomaniacs, whereas others are respectable and orthodox. But they share a common worldly desire to control others. Peter therefore warned Christian leaders against “lording it over those allotted to [their] charge” (1 Peter 5:3).

Another wrong way to achieve spiritual greatness is that of the charismatic personality. The expression “great men” carries the idea of distinguished, eminent, illustrious, or noble. It represents those who have high personal appeal and have achieved high stature in the eyes of the world and who seek to control others by personal influence. They can be seen as different in style from those in Matthew 20:25a. Whereas the dominant dictator uses the sheer power of his position and is often hated, the charismatic leader uses the powers of popularity and personality. By flattery, charm, and attractiveness, he manipulates others to serve his own ends.

“Exercise authority over” also translates a strong and intensified Greek verb, and could be rendered “to play the tyrant.”

The church has never been without self-seeking leader who capture the fascination of the people who willingly follow them while they make merchandise of the gospel in order to feather their nests and build up their reputations. By telling people what they like to hear (2 Timothy 4:3), they skillfully take advantage of selfish, gullible believers.

14. How does Jesus measure greatness? (Matthew 20:26; Mark 10:43) Jesus turned the world’s greatness upside down. The self-serving, self-promoting, self-glorying ways of the world are the antithesis of spiritual greatness. They have no place in God’s kingdom and are not to be so among you, Jesus told the Twelve.

Greatness in the Lord’s kingdom does not come through rulership or authority but through service (Matthew 20:26-27). Their goal should be serving, not ruling. Those most highly esteemed will be those who serve, those who are humble.

The world’s way of greatness is like a pyramid. The prestige and power of the great person is built on the many subordinate persons beneath him. But in the kingdom, the pyramid is inverted. As the great commentator R. C. H. Lenski has observed, God’s “great men are not sitting on top of lesser men, but bearing lesser men on their backs.”

Unfortunately, however, there are still many people in the church who, like James and John, continually seek recognition, prestige, and power by manipulating and controlling others to their own selfish advantage.

Jesus said, “Whoever wishes to become great among you, that is, great by God’s standards rather than men’s, shall be your servant.” He was not, as some have suggested, contradicting what He had just taught. He was speaking of an entirely different kind of greatness than the sort James and John were seeking and that the world promotes. This kind of greatness is pleasing to God, because it is humble and self-giving rather than proud and self-serving. The way to the world’s greatness is through pleasing and being served by men, the way to God’s greatness is through pleasing Him and serving others in His name. In God’s eyes, the one who is great is the one who is a willing servant.

15. What did Jesus command His disciples in Matthew 20:27 and Luke 22:26? Jesus said, “and whoever wishes to be first among you let him be your slave” (Matthew 20:17). The verb “let him be” is a present imperative. The Majority Greek Text has the better reading. The way to be “first” is to be a “slave.”

The position and work of a “slave” was much lower and demeaning even than those of a servant. A servant was to some degree his own person. He often owned little more than the clothes on his back, but he was free to go where he wanted and to work or not work as he pleased. But a slave did not belong to himself but to his master and could go only where the master wanted him to go and do only what the master wanted him to do. He did not belong to himself but was the personal property of someone else.

William Barclay has commented, “The world may assess a man’s greatness by the number of people whom he controls and who are at his beck and call; or by his intellectual standing and his academic eminence; or by the number of committees of which he is a member; or by the size of his bank balance and the material possessions which he has amassed; but in the assessment of Jesus Christ these things are irrelevant.” The Christian who desires to be great and first in the kingdom is the one who is willing to serve in the hard place, the uncomfortable place, the lonely place, the demanding place, the place where he is not appreciated and may even be persecuted.

16. Why did the Son of Man come? (Matthew 20:28) To be a ransom for many, (see also question 19, and 1 Timothy 2:5-6).

17. What in this verse suggests that we follow Jesus’ example? (Matthew 20:28) The emphasis of the phrase “just as the Son of Man” sets Jesus forth as our role model. What Jesus says about Himself should also characterize His followers. To discover what it means to become a godly servant and slave, the disciples had only to look at “the Son of Man” Himself.

18. What in the text suggests Jesus’ preexistence? (Matthew 20:28) The phrase “did not come” hints of Jesus’ preexistence.

19. What is the significance of Christ giving His life as a ransom? (Matthew 20:28) In His incarnate role as the Son of Man, Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve.

Read Philippians 2:5-9. Jesus is the supreme example of humility and servanthood, because, as the sovereign of the universe and of all eternity, He subjected Himself to humiliation and even to death. He is the most exalted because He faithfully endured the most humiliation. Although He was the King of kings and had the right to be served by others, He ministered as a Servant of servants and gave His life to serve others.

Jesus’ ultimate act of servanthood, however, was to give His life. “Greater love has no one than this,” He said, “that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

In His next statement, Jesus presents the first explicit New Testament teaching about the redemptive work of the Messiah. He would vicariously suffer for the sins of mankind as a ransom for those who trust in Him. He did not simply give His life an example for others. He was no mere martyr for a godly cause, as some claim. Nor was He merely an example of life-giving selflessness, although He was indeed the supreme example of that. Jesus not only lived and died for others but died as a ransom for others.

The word “ransom” (Lutron) was the term commonly used for the redemption price of a slave, the amount required to buy his freedom. It is used only twice in the New Testament (see also Mark 10:45), both times in reference to Christ’s giving of Himself to redeem others. Here it is followed by the preposition anti (“instead of”), expressing an exchange. In 1 Timothy 2:6, the word used for “ransom” is antilutron, which simply combines the two words used here. In both cases the idea is that of a price paid for a life.

The unbeliever is a slave to sin, the flesh, Satan, and death, and it was to redeem men from those slaveries that Jesus gave His life a ransom in exchange for sinners. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” Paul explained to believers in Rome. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:1-3). “Having been freed from sin,” the apostle had told them earlier, “you became slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:18). Christ’s sacrifice bought us back from the slavery of sin.

Although the noun lutron is used only twice in the New Testament, other forms of the root word are used frequently as are numerous synonyms (1 Corinthians 6:20; Galatians 3:13; 4:5; Ephesians 1:7; 14; 4:30; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 1:18-19; Revelation 5:9).

Jesus’ ransom was paid to God to satisfy His holy justice, and it was more than sufficient to cover the sins of everyone who has ever lived and ever will live. His death was sufficient for “the whole world” says John (1 John 2:2). It is not the Lord’s will “for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Although His ransom is sufficient for every person, it is valid only for those who believe in Him. It is in that sense that His redemption is for many, rather than for all. The Lord was not teaching limited atonement, the idea that He died only for the sins of a select few. Paul makes it clear that Christ died for the whole world: “The man Christ Jesus… gave Himself as a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:5-6).

The basic idea behind “for” (anti) is that of being set over against something else, and the word was often used to denote an exchange or substitution. In becoming a ransom for many, Jesus exchanged His life for the lives of the many who would believe in Him. It became His death for the deaths of those many, His undeserved punishment for the punishment they deserved.

20. Did the disciples learn this lesson on servanthood? (Matthew 20:17-18; Luke 19:28, 41; 22:10, 24-26) During the Last Supper, after the disciples had again been arguing about which of them was the greatest, Jesus asked, “Who is greater, the one who reclines at the table, or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves” (Luke 22:27).

It was probably at this time that Jesus gave them the beautiful object lesson of servanthood recorded by John (John 13:4-5, 12-17).


  1. Who has been an example to you of Christ-like servanthood?
  2. How has this command impacted your soul?
    1. Mind- thoughts
    2. Will – decisions
    3. Emotions – feelings
  3. Pray for “five lost friends” and for one another.


The questions and answers for this study were gleaned from the following resources.

  1. Serendipity Bible for Groups by: Serendipity House, Zondervan Publishing House, 1998
  2. The Expositors Bible Commentary, Volume 8 by: Frank E. Gaebelein (General Editor), Zondervan Publishing House, 1984
  3. Mark: A Portrait of the Servant by: Edmond Hiebert, Moody Press, 1974
  4. New Testament Commentary- Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew by: William Hendriksen, Baker Bookhouse, 1973
  5. Descending to Greatness by: Bill Hybels, Zondervan Publishing House, 1993
  6. The Last will be First by: John MacArthur Jr., Word of Grace Communication, 1987
  7. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Matthew 16-23 by: John MacArthur Jr., Moody Press, 1988
  8. An Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Matthew by: Alfred Plummer, James Family – Christian Publishing Company
  9. Management: A Biblical Approach by: Myron Rush Victor Books, 1986.
  10. Improving Your Serve: The Art of Unselfish Living by: Charles Swindoll, Word Books, 1981
  11. The Servant Leader by: Ken Blanchard & Phil Hodges, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2003
  12. The Maxwell Leadership Bible by: John C. Maxwell, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2002
  13. The Thessalonian Epistles by: D. Edmond Hiebert, Moody Press, 1971
  14. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs of the World by: John Foxe, Moody Press
  15. Word Pictures in the New Testament Vol. IV by: Archibald Thomas Robertson, Broadman, Press, 1931
  16. The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text Edited by: Zane C. Hodges & Arthur L. Farstad, Thomas Nelson Publisher, 1982

Matthew Commentary:

The Greek word for ransom is lytron and is not found apart from this setting in the New Testament. Its basic meaning is money paid to buy back prisoners of war. Barclay calls attention to what “the crude hands of theology” have done with this “lovely saying” and quotes Peter Lombard (as the extreme example), who writes that “the cross was a mousetrap to catch the devil, baited with the blood of Christ” (vol. 2, pp. 234–35). After all the caveats have been registered, Jesus still declares that he came to give his life as a means of redeeming humankind. The Greek text says that he gave his life lytron anti pollōn (“a ransom in the place of many”). It would be difficult to express the substitutionary nature of Jesus’ death in clearer language. This understanding of the death of Jesus as substitutionary is foundational to Christian theology. 1

Additional Comments: The metaphorical language used in Mark 10:45, a ransom (or redemption) for many, is drawn from ancient economic life in which a slave, a prisoner, or a forfeited parcel of land or other possession might be freed by a purchase price paid. The metaphor presents Jesus’ death as the price of the liberation of the many. The statement is paralleled in Matthew 20:28, and similar language is used elsewhere in the NT, for example, 1 Peter 1:18; Hebrews 9:12; Titus 2:14. In still other places the language varies, but the thought remains that Jesus’ death was a redemptive event, indeed, the redemptive event that is the basis for the salvation offered in the Gospel (Romans 3:21–26; 4:25; 5:6; Hebrews 1:3). All this is to say that in the description of Jesus’ death given in 10:45, Mark reflects the basic teaching of early Christianity.

Believer’s Bible Commentary:  It is a sad commentary on human nature that, immediately after the third prediction of His passion, His followers were thinking more of their own glory than of His sufferings.

Christ’s first prediction of suffering gave rise to Peter’s demur (16:22); the second was soon followed by the disciples’ questions, “Who is the greatest …?” So here, we find the third capped with the ambitious request of James and John. They persistently closed their eyes to warnings of trouble, and opened them only to the promise of glory—so getting a wrong, materialistic view of the Kingdom.

Matthew 20:20-21 / The mother of James and John came to the Lord asking that her boys might sit on either side of Him in His kingdom. It is to her credit that she wanted her sons near Jesus, and that she had not despaired of His coming reign. But she did not understand the principles upon which honors would be bestowed in the kingdom.

Mark says that the sons made the request themselves (Mark 10:35); perhaps they did it at her direction, or perhaps the three of them approached the Lord together. No contradiction is involved.

Matthew 20:22 / Jesus answered frankly that they did not understand what they were asking. They wanted a crown without a cross, a throne without the altar of sacrifice, the glory without the suffering that leads to it. So He asked them pointedly, “Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” We are not left to wonder what He meant by the cup; He had just described it in verses 18 and 19. He must suffer and die.

James and John expressed ability to share in His sufferings, though perhaps their confidence was based more on zeal than knowledge.

Matthew 20:23 / Jesus assured them that they would indeed drink of His cup. James would be martyred and John persecuted and exiled to the Isle of Patmos. Robert Little said, “James died a martyr’s death; John lived a martyr’s life.”

Then Jesus explained that He could not arbitrarily grant places of honor in the kingdom; the Father had determined a special basis on which these positions would be assigned. They thought it was a matter of political patronage, that because they were so close to Christ, they had a special claim to places of preferment. But it was not a question of personal favoritism. In the counsels of God, the places on His right hand and left hand would be given on the basis of suffering for Him. This means that the chief honors in the kingdom are not limited to first century Christians; some living today might win them—by suffering.

Matthew 20:24 / The other ten disciples were greatly displeased that the sons of Zebedee had made such a request. They were probably indignant because they themselves wanted to be greatest and resented any prior claims being made by James and John!

Matthew 20:25–27 / This gave our Lord the opportunity to make a revolutionary statement concerning greatness in His kingdom. The Gentiles think of greatness in terms of mastery and rule. In Christ’s kingdom, greatness is manifested by service. Whoever aspires to greatness must become a servant, and whoever desires to be first must become a slave.

Matthew 20:28 / The Son of Man is the perfect example of lowly service. He came into the world not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. The whole purpose of the Incarnation can be summed up in two words—serve and give. It is amazing to think that the exalted Lord humbled Himself to the manger and to the cross. His greatness was manifested in the depth of His humiliation. And so it must be for us.

He gave His life a ransom for many. His death satisfied all God’s righteous demands against sin. It was sufficient to put away all the sins of all the world. But it is effective only for those who accept Him as Lord and Savior. Have you ever done this? 3

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]
1 Mounce, R. H. (2011). Matthew (p. 191). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
2 Hurtado, L. W. (2011). Mark (p. 172). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
3 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1279–1280). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

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How to Experience Forgiveness

While the title indicate our desire to experience forgiveness, the point is how to release those who have offended us. Our passage is from Luke 17:1-10, and the key verses are Luke 17:3, 10.

Purpose of This Study: The purpose of this study is to determine our willingness to grant forgiveness to an offending brother who repents. God wants us to forgive as He has so graciously forgiven us. The commands of Christ in this passage are found in Luke 17:3 – “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.” Obedience to this command requires a forgiving heart that is willing to restore relationships that have been broken by sin.

Historical Background: Jesus spoke these scathing words in His denunciation of the attitudes of the Pharisees, but a word of caution to the disciples was necessary so that they would not despise the Pharisees themselves. They could hate Pharisaism without hating the Pharisees. In order to teach the disciples this lesson, Jesus warned them that it would be easy for them to give offense by their attitude toward people. He said that it would be better for them to die physically than to repel some from coming to Him because they had shown the wrong attitude toward those who are coming. The “little ones” to whom the Lord referred would be those who were forsaking Pharisaism and coming to Christ. If the disciples looked down on such ones because they were so slow in coming to a decision concerning the person of Christ, they might be turned away from Him. Therefore, Christ commanded the disciples to be careful about their attitudes so that those who desired to come to Him may not be tripped up. (Pentecost)

The disciples might not only cause a hindrance for those coming to Christ but also toward other believers in Christ. When a believer is sinned against, and the sinning brother requests forgiveness, it is the duty of the disciple of Christ to forgive him.

Other passages to consider: Mark 11:25 (Forgive), Luke 17:3 (be on your guard, forgive), Luke 17:4 (forgive), Acts 7:60, 2 Corinthians 2:7, 10, Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:13.

Discussion Questions:

1. What is a stumbling block? (Luke 17:1-2) A “stumbling block” (scandalon) literally referred to a “trap or snare” used to catch animals but symbolically whatever causes people to be tripped up and fall into sin. The text says, “It is inevitable” that these stumbling blocks will come. The word inevitable means unavoidable. It is impossible that these offenses won’t come but Jesus says make sure they don’t come through you.

2. What are the consequences for placing a stumbling block in front of one of these little ones? (Luke 17:1-2) The consequences are not stated but contrasted to a better way to end one’s life. Jesus warns that it would be better to take your own life than be judged for this offense. He is not suggesting suicide but sternly warns everyone with the word WOE to stay clear of tripping up one of these “little ones,” who seem to be either young or new believers coming to Christ or people of whom the world takes little notice. In the story it probably refers to those who were forsaking Pharisaism and coming to Christ. A “millstone” was a heavy stone that rotated in a mill for grinding grain.

3. Does every sin against us have to be rebuked and forgiven? (Proverbs 10:12; 17:9; 19:11; 1 Corinthians 13:7; Colossians 3:13; 1 Peter 4:8) The Bible teaches “it is his glory to overlook a transgression” (Proverbs 19:11). If we had to confront every sin against us we would have little time for anything else.

  • Proverbs 10:12 says,”Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions.”
  • Proverbs 17:9 says,”He who conceals a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates intimate friends.”
  • 1 Corinthians 13:7 says love “bears all things.”
  • Colossians 3:13 teaches “forbearance.”
  • 1 Peter 4:8 tells us that “love covers a multitude of sins.”

If you are sinned against and cannot let it go (forbear, cover, overlook) then you are commanded to rebuke (confront) the sinning brother. If the sin is small enough to remember, it is big enough to confront.

4. What are the three commands of Christ in Luke 17:3? We are commanded to 1) “Be on your guard” (present imperative); 2) “rebuke’ (aorist imperative); and 3) “forgive” (aorist imperative).

5. Why does Jesus say “Be on your guard?” (Luke 17:3) Jesus warns: “Be careful of yourselves.” This warning is necessary because there are many ways to err about forgiveness. The warning is pertinent to many Christians who are caught up in the easy rationalizations by which they try to excuse themselves from the obligation to forgive their brothers.

6. What does it mean to rebuke our brother? The word “rebuke” means to “adjudge, to find fault with, rebuke; hence to charge, or rather, to charge strictly.” An offended brother must approach the offender and seek to bring him to repentance and attempt to bring about reconciliation. It’s much easier to keep still when someone sins against us, and to try to hide the pain. We sometimes even think we’re being “spiritual” by trying to ignore the wrong, but failure to be honest, trying to give the “outward show” of nothing wrong when there is something wrong, isn’t God’s way. The loving thing to do is to rebuke the person who sins against you, for he needs the cleansing that forgiveness can bring as much as you need the barrier of hurt removed. So Jesus said, “Rebuke him.”

7. What does Jesus command His disciples to do when a sinning brother repents? (Luke 17:3) Luke 17:3 says, “forgive (aorist imperative) him.” The aorist tense denotes urgency. We must not withhold forgiveness or delay in granting it. This is often easier said than done. Our old self dwells on slights and hurts and takes a perverse pleasure in self­-pity and in “righteous indignation.”

8. What is forgiveness? (Jeremiah 31:34) Bill Gothard defines forgiveness as “healing others by using their offenses as a means of expressing to them Christ’s love.” When Christ granted forgiveness in the Gospels He realized He was going to have to pay for these sins on the cross. When we forgive others we have to pay for their sins not in a redemptive sense but in a practical sense. When we forgive a gossiper who has marred our reputation, his slanderous words can never be retrieved so we chose to pay for his sinful talk in a practical sense.

Jeremiah 31:34 says, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Based on this verse “Forgiveness” could be defined as “a promise not to bring the sin up to the offender, tell others about it, and not dwell on it ourselves.”

There are two Greek words in the New Testament for forgiveness.

  • The word charizomai means, “to bestow a favor unconditionally” and is used of the act of “forgiveness,” whether divine, (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 2:13; 3:13) or human, (Luke 7:42, 43 [debt]; 2 Corinthians 2:7, 10; 12:13; Ephesians 4:32).
  • The second word used in the original language is aphiemi, which means, “to send forth, send away,” “to send,” and denotes “to remit or forgive” debts (Matthew 6:12; 18:27, 32, these being completely cancelled) and sins (Matthew 9:2, 5-6; 12:31, 32; Acts 8:22; Romans 4:7; James 5:15; 1 John-1:9; 2:12). This word “to send from or away” is wonderfully pictured in the scapegoat of the Old Testament. Once a year the priest would transfer the sin of the people symbolically onto a scapegoat and send him away into the wilderness to never be seen again (Leviticus 16:20-22). In the same way when Christ forgave us or we forgive others – the sins are sent away to be remembered no more.

9. Does the word “if” in Luke 17:3 make granting forgiveness conditional? The word “if” makes granting forgiveness conditional on repentance. Jesus taught that you forgive when a brother repents. In the same way before we came to faith in Christ, Jesus doesn’t forgive us until we repented of our sins and accepted the free gift of eternal life (Luke 24:47).

10. Does withholding forgiveness from an unrepentant brother give us the right to be full of bitterness and malice? (Ephesians 4:31) This verse says, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”

11. Are we to withhold forgiveness from unbelievers who are not repentant? (Luke 23:34; Acts 7:60) Luke 23:34 says, “But Jesus was saying, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.” Acts 7:60 says, “Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them!’ Having said this, he fell asleep.”

12. How often are we responsible to forgive a brother who sins against us? (Luke 17:4; Matthew 18:21, 22) Jesus teaches us to forgive “seven times in a day.” The number “7” was not to set a limit on the number of times to forgive but precisely the opposite. Christ meant that forgiveness should be granted unendingly. Seven here signifies’ ‘times without number.” A believer is to put no limit on the forgiveness he extends to another believer who has injured him and then seeks forgiveness.

On an earlier occasion Peter’s question concerning the number of times we must forgive an offending brother brought Christ’s answer “seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:21-22 says, “Then Peter came and said to Him, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ 22 Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.'”

Peter suggested a limit of “seven times,” which was more than twice that allowed by Jewish tradition. Using references in the book of Amos (Amos 1:3, 6,9, 11, 13; and Job 33:29), the rabbis had taken a repeated statement by God against neighboring enemies of Israel and made it into a universal rule for limiting God’s forgiveness and, by extension, also man’s. If God forgives men only three times, they spuriously reasoned, it is unnecessary and even presumptuous for men to forgive each other more times than that.

Rabbi Jose ben Hanina said, “He who begs forgiveness from his neighbor must not do so more than three times.” Rabbi Jose ben Jehuda said, “If a man commits an offense once, they forgive him; if he commits an offense a second time, they forgive him; if he commits an offense a third time, they forgive him; the fourth time they do not forgive him.”

Peter probably thought Jesus would be impressed with the seemingly generous suggestion of “up to seven times.” Compared to Jewish tradition, it was generous and no doubt was based on Peter’s growing understanding of Jesus’ teaching and personal example of compassion and mercy. Realizing that the Lord’s graciousness was in marked contrast to the self-centered legalism of the scribes and Pharisees, Peter doubled their narrow limit for forgiveness and added one more time for good measure.

Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” The Lord was not extending the legal limit of forgiveness. He was not speaking of law or limits at all. By seventy times seven He did not mean 490. He simply picked up on Peter’s number and multiplied it by itself and then by ten, indicating a number that, for all practical purposes, was beyond counting (MacArthur). If you took it to refer literally to 490 times a day, that would mean in a 16-hour day (waking hours) it would require forgiving every 1.9 minutes. The point is innumerable times.

13. Should there be the “fruit of repentance” before we forgive someone? (Luke 17:3-4) It is clear from the text that we must grant forgiveness merely on the basis of one’s statement that he repents. There could be no clear evidence of change within the hypothetical time period that Christ suggests: “seven times in the same day!” Indeed, if a brother does the same thing seven times in the same day, the only evidence that you could have would be entirely negative. Fruit takes time to grow. It also takes care and nourishment. A person unfamiliar with a citrus tree may be unable to identify it but if he waits long enough, he will know when the fruit appears whether it is an orange or … a lemon! By their fruit shall you know them, has nothing to do with the truth that is taught in Luke 17.

Jesus does not condition the granting of forgiveness upon the behavior of the offender after forgiveness, but rather hangs the granting of forgiveness upon the brother’s verbal testimony alone: “and seven times in a day should return to you saying, ‘I repent.”‘ It is the saying, not subsequent doing on his part that should activate the offended one to grant forgiveness. Jesus said he should grant that forgiveness even if it should be requested seven times in one day.

14. Why are sins sometimes so quickly repeated? There are several reasons sins are often so quickly repeated. First, it takes time to change. Second, forgiveness merely clears away the rubble so the relationship can be rebuilt. Jay Adams points out that “If a new relationship based upon biblical change and help is not established, then it is likely that one or more of the parties will revert to his old ways again. If so, again an unreconciled condition will develop. This failure frequently results in a kiss-and-make-up pattern. The same old problem is never really settled but becomes the reason for continued and repeated confrontation, confession, and forgiveness.”

15. How can the forgiven person help the forgiving person forget the sin? If forgetting in time does not follow forgiving it’s important to look for a reason. You may find that the offended party has been brooding over the offense in self-pity. Such brooding is decidedly unscriptural and does not fit into the biblical concept of forgiveness. Forgiveness means no longer continuing to dwell on the sin that was forgiven. Forgiveness is the promise not to raise the issue again to the offender, to others, or to himself. Brooding is a violation of the promise made in granting forgiveness.

The biblical concept of forgiving and forgetting often has been misrepresented. The Bible speaks of “fruit appropriate to repentance.” One forgives, but he does not immediately forget; rather, he remembers and looks for the fruit or the results that eventually accompany true repentance. It takes time for fruit to grow. When fruit is discerned, forgetting then becomes possible.

16. Does Scripture instruct a repentant brother to forgive himself? The Bible never teaches that we need to forgive ourselves. At times people complain over an inability to forgive themselves after having received forgiveness from God or others. The problem of continued guilt is not a question of inability to forgive oneself. To view it as such is to cloud the real issue and to miss the path that leads to a solution. The real difficulty usually stems from the fact that the person feels guilty because he knows that, although the sin has been forgiven, he is still the kind of person who did it. The guilt will not fully disappear until he knows that his old patterns of life have been destroyed and new habit patterns have been established.

17. Why should we be willing to forgive our brother? (Matthew 18:22-33) We should forgive our brother because of the great sin debt that we have been forgiven by Christ.

18. What happens when we refuse to forgive a brother from our hearts? (Matthew 18:34-35; 6:14-15; 2 Corinthians 2:7, 10-11) Three things occur when we are unwilling to grant forgiveness and hold a grudge.

  1. We are turned over to the torturers of bitterness and resentment (Matthew 18:34-35).
  2. God will not grant us parental forgiveness to maintain fellowship with Him if we withhold forgiveness from others (Matthew 6:14-15; Mark 11:25).
  3. If we withhold forgiveness from one who has repented of his sins and requested forgiveness we may cause him to be “overwhelmed by excessive sorrow” and Satan would then be given an advantage in his life (2 Corinthians 7:10-11).

19. What excuse do the disciples give for not being able to forgive? (Luke 17:5-6) Jesus addresses three excuses for not forgiving your brother.

  1. “Why should I forgive I don’t see the fruit of repentance” (Luke 17:3-4)
  2. “We don’t have enough faith” (Luke 17:5-6)
  3. “I don’t feel like I can forgive him” (Luke 17:7-10).

At first the disciples’ request for greater faith sounds quite reasonable and even pious. The Lord took a dim view of their request and treated it as an excuse rather than as a sincere plea. The problem is not lack of faith as they alleged. It does not take much faith to do great things. Even a small amount (as small as a tiny mustard seed) could do wonders. What they needed was not more faith; they simply needed to exercise the faith that they had and stop making excuses.

In the Jewish idiom the phrase “as small as a mustard seed” represented the smallest conceivable amount of something.

20. What is the point of the story Jesus tells in Luke 17:7-10? The point of this parable is twofold:

  1. Granting forgiveness doesn’t require feeling like it. It could not have been easy for the tired, hungry servant to prepare a meal for his master when he, himself, was so hungry. His feelings, as he savored the aroma of the food that he was preparing, told him to forget the hard task of feeding his master and urged him to eat the food himself. But he had been ordered by his master to prepare and serve the meal, so hard as it was, thankless as the task might be (Luke 17:9), and against his feelings, he did what was commanded. It is now clear that forgiveness is a “duty.” It is “commanded.” It is no more hypocritical to obey the Lord in granting forgiveness against one’s feelings than for the slave to prepare and serve the meal against his feelings.
  2. A servant should expect no special reward for doing what was his duty in the first place. The demanding standards Christ set (Luke 17:1-4) may have seemed too high to the disciples, but they represented only the minimal duties for a servant of Christ. Those who obey are not to think their obedience is meritorious or worthy of any special honor. We can never draw back from doing God’s revealed will because we feel we lack the faith or sufficient feelings to obey Christ. As servants of Jesus Christ, we are to obey when He speaks. Obedience is nothing out of the ordinary for a slave.

The fourth command of Christ in this passage is the word “Say” in Luke 17:10. “So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say (present imperative), ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.'” Forgiving someone is not something heroic, it is simply fulfilling our Christian duty. In the same way a slave discharges his duties whether he feels like it or not. The word “unworthy” is common in Greek literature, but in the N.T. only here and Matthew 25:30 where it means “useless” or “unprofitable.” The slave who only does what he is commanded by his master to do has gained no merit or credit. “The profit does not begin until the servant goes beyond his obligation” (Meyer).

21. Isn’t it hypocritical to forgive someone when you don’t feel like it? “But suppose I do not feel like forgiving my brother, am I supposed to do so anyhow? Won’t doing so without feeling forgiving make me a hypocrite?” This objection is frequently raised by sincere Christians who become perplexed over hypocrisy by wrongly equating hypocrisy with acting against one’s feelings. This objection also is used hypocritically by others who wish to excuse themselves from the hard (but Christian) duty of granting forgiveness.


  1. Is there anyone from whom you are withholding forgiveness? If yes, what is your next step?
  2. Have you or are you struggling to forgive someone?


  1. Serendipity Bible for Groups by: Serendipity House, Zondervan Publishing House, 1998
  2. The Christian Counselor’s Manual by: Jay E. Adams, pages 63-70, Baker Book House, 1973.
  3. The Christian Counselor’s New Testament by: Jay E. Adams, pages 726-727. Baker Book House, 1977.
  4. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 8 by: Frank E. Gaebelein (General Editor), Zondervan Publishing House, 1984.
  5. New Testament Commentary by: William Hendriksen, Baker Book House, 1978.
  6. Word Pictures in the New Testament Vol. 2 by: A. T. Robertson, Broadman Press, 1930
  7. The MacArthur Study Bible by: John F. MacArthur,Jr., Word Publishing, 1997.
  8. Teachers Commentary by: Lawrence O. Richards, Victor Books, 1987
  9. Improving Your Serve by: Charles R. Swindall, Word Books, 1981
  10. The Words and Works of Jesus Christ by: J. Dwight Pentecost, Zondervan Publishing House, 1981
  11. Character Clues: Character Bookshelf Series 1 by: Bill Gothard, IBYC
  12. Vines complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament Words by: W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Thomas Nelson, 1985.

© Copyright 1994, Richard D. Leineweber Jr.

Additional Commentary: 1

This section consists of five units tied loosely together by the theme of faith:

  1. A warning against causing someone to stumble (Luke 17:1–3a)
  2. A saying on forgiveness (Luke 17:3b–4)
  3. A saying on faith (Luke 17:5–6)
  4. A saying on duty (Luke 17:7–10)
  5. The cleansing of ten lepers (Luke 17:11–19).

When the concept is broadened in terms of faithfulness it becomes more apparent that the idea of faith runs throughout the section. Only the first six verses are paralleled in the other gospels (Matthew 18:6–7, 15, 21–22; 21:21; Mark 9:42; 11:22–23).

Luke 17:1–3a / Jesus turns his attention away from the Pharisees and speaks to his disciples. The first saying is a warning against causing one of these little ones (disciples) to sin (lit. “to stumble”). The idea is not simply to cause someone to sin, but rather to become less faithful disciples, or to stop following Jesus altogether. Jesus recognizes that such things will happen, but woe to that person through whom they come. In what sense is it terrible for the disciple who causes another to stumble? In Luke 17:2, Jesus states that it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one to stumble. Elsewhere Jesus states that it would be better to lose an eye or a limb in order to gain heaven than to go to hell (see Mark 9:43, 47). Although this language may be hyperbolic, Jesus warns of the danger of judgment upon anyone who would destroy the faith of the one who believes in him. The final warning of Luke 17:3a, so watch yourselves, probably concludes the stumbling-block saying and is not the introduction for the saying on forgiveness that follows (though it may have been intended as a transition linking the sayings.

Luke 17:3b–4 / This saying, coming as it does immediately after the frightening warning above, may point to the way out of some of the problems associated with causing someone to stumble. The person who is sinned against (offended, or possibly caused to stumble) is to forgive his errant brother. Even if he sins against you seven times in a day, he is to be forgiven. (See Matthew 18:22 where Jesus tells Peter to forgive the sinner seventy times seven. Although this saying is addressed apparently to the stronger disciple who does not falter in his faith on account of some offense, the idea of forgiveness is, nevertheless, relevant to the above warning against causing someone to stumble. But the saying also applies to the weaker disciple as well. God expects everyone to be forgiving toward another who repents.

Luke 17:5–6 / The faith that the disciples (or here, apostles) wish Jesus to increase is the kind of faith that will not waver in the face of opposition but is a faith that will expect great things from God (such examples can be seen in the Book of Acts). It may be that in light of the saying’s context, Luke understands this faith as the kind of faith that will not cause other disciples to falter (Luke 17:1–2), but it is a faith that will readily forgive those who sin and then repent (Luke 17:3b–4). What is curious is that Jesus does not actually grant the request of the apostles. They have asked for an increase in faith, but in response Jesus merely describes what great faith is. Even a little genuine faith can do mighty things (see Matthew 17:20). Jesus does not miraculously strengthen the faith of his disciples on the spot (which is clear by their fear, betrayal, and denial of Jesus when their master is arrested).

Luke 17:17:7–10 / This saying suggests that in serving God, God’s people have only done what is expected; just as a servant does not deserve thanks for doing his duty, so the disciples of Jesus should not expect special reward for being obedient. Jesus does not mean to rule out heavenly reward for faithful service, but he means only to instruct his disciples as to how they should think. The point of the saying is concerned with attitude. An arrogant attitude views God as fortunate for having people like us in his service (perhaps this was a Pharisaic attitude). The proper attitude, however, is thankfulness for having the privilege and opportunity to serve God. What reward we have for serving God is not earned, but is given because God is gracious. No Christian can boast before God (see Romans 3:27). Faithful servants understand this and go about their work for God, motivated by love for God and not by a sense of self-importance or by a sense of greed for reward.

Luke 17:17:11–19 / Another aspect of faith, or faithfulness, is thankfulness. This idea is seen clearly in the episode of the cleansing of the ten lepers. In Luke 17:11, Luke notes that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, traveling along the border between Samaria and Galilee. This introduction not only reminds the reader of the journey to Jerusalem, originally announced in Luke 9:51, but sets the stage for the appearance of the Samaritan leper. Jesus is met by ten men who had leprosy. According to custom and law they stood at a distance and cried out to Jesus for help. Jesus makes no pronouncement of healing, but commands them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” (Jesus had given the same command to the leper in Luke 5:14.) This command alludes to the wording of Leviticus 13:49 (see also Leviticus 14:2–4), where one whose leprosy or skin disease has cleared up must be inspected by a priest in order to be readmitted into society.

In obedience the ten lepers depart, but while going they discover that they had been cleansed (or had been healed. One of them returns praising God, and thanked Jesus.

Jesus’ first question (Were not all ten cleansed?) implies that there should be ten, not one, praising God and giving thanks.

His second question (Where are the other nine?) sets up the contrast between the one who returned, who was a Samaritan, and the nine (who presumably were Jews) who did not return to give praise and thanks.

Jesus’ third question (Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?) implies that the least religious or, to put it differently, those presumably most deserving of judgment, are often the ones most thankful to God for his mercy (Luke 7:36–50). The Samaritan is a foreigner (lit. “a stranger”), one who is not a pure descendant of “Father Abraham” (as the rich man of Luke 16:19–31 had been). Jesus’ question summarizes one of the major themes of Luke–Acts. It is the Gentile, the Samaritan, the outcasts and sinners, who respond enthusiastically to the offer of the Good News. Unlike the religious and proud, who assume that their piety guarantees their salvation, the outcasts and sinners assume no such thing (see Luke 18:9–14) and eagerly accept God’s gracious invitation (see Luke 14:15–24).

The foreigner is the only one who came back to give thanks to God, because only he recognized his sin and his need to repent. Unlike others whose hearts are hardened (another theme in Luke–Acts; see Acts 28:25–28), the Samaritan is receptive. Jesus then pronounces that it is his faith that has made him well (lit. “has saved you”). Although the “salvation” here may refer to no more than the leper’s physical healing (which would then be true of the other nine lepers who had been healed), it is more likely that Jesus (or, if not Jesus, then very likely Luke) has understood his expression of gratitude as indicative of conversion. The leper has not only been healed from his dreaded leprosy, but he has gained entry into the kingdom of God.

1 Evans, C. A. (1990). Luke (pp. 253–256). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[Questions and responses by Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]


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How to Develop Compassion

Today we are on the topic of developing a compassionate heart, one that is concerned about others, primarily the salvation of lost people around us. The command is found in Luke 16:9, to Make Friends (aorist imperative). But, in order to understand Luke 16:1-13, we must go back to Luke 15:1-2.

Passage for Today: Luke 16:1-13 – which is all about stewardship. You will notice this is the parable of the unjust steward. The main question has to do with why the rich man would commend his dishonest manager. A second question has to do with why Jesus cites the actions of the dishonest manager with approval, using him as an example for his disciples. Let’s deal with these in the lesson

Group Question: When have you been let go from a job, or passed over for a job you wanted?

Purpose of the Study: The purpose of this study is to determine our willingness to invest our resources in light of eternity. God wants us to faithfully invest our time and financial resources to reach lost people. The command of Christ in this passage is that we “make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness.” Obedience to this command requires the faithful stewardship of our money.

Historical Background: To understand the context of chapter 16, we must go back to 15:1-2. Jesus has surrounded himself with tax collectors and sinners. The Pharisees stand on the perimeter, criticizing that Jesus would spend time with lost people. Chapter 15 is a series of three parables directed toward the Pharisees. They teach that lost people matter to God, they deserve an all-out search and when they are found we ought to celebrate.

Luke 16 starts with a parable about “The Unrighteous Steward.” The parable and command is directed toward His disciples but the Pharisees are within hearing range of His teaching. The Pharisees’ reaction to His teaching is found in 16:14 — “Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him.” Jesus then addresses the Pharisees directly in 16:15 — “And He said to them, ‘You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.'” Jesus accuses them of valuing (esteeming) the wrong things. Lost people matter to God and we ought to invest both time and money to reach them.

The Pharisees could not understand so Jesus then tells a true story of a real after death experience (unlike today these two men didn’t return to report what happened). The Story of the Rich Man and Lazarus is a true story because parables never use proper names. The Pharisees must have gasped as Jesus told the story of a fellow Pharisee that was unnamed but apparently easily identified by Jesus’ detailed description.

The main point of this story is that rich men who don’t come to God on his terms (Luke 16:29-31) and misuse the stewardship of their resources (a reflection of their unbelief) end up in Hell (Luke 16:19,22b,23-28).

Epistles address this theme as well: 1 Corinthians 4:12; Titus 1:7; 1 Peter 4:10

Discussion Questions:

1. What three parables did Jesus tell the Pharisees in Luke 15? The parable of the “Lost Sheep” (Luke 15:1-7); the “Lost Coin” (Luke 15:8-10); and the “Lost Son” (Luke 15:11-32).

2. Why did He tell them these three parables? (Luke 15:12) Jesus taught these three parables to set the religious leaders straight once and for all. It really aggravated these spiritual leaders of the day that this man who claimed to be the “Son of God” would feel so comfortable socializing with riff-raft. The Pharisees (Luke 15:1-2) couldn’t understand how Jesus could eat with, socialize with, hang out with those whose lives were not submitted to God. What bothered Jesus was that these leaders had a list in their minds of who mattered to God and who didn’t. They had it all figured out that they mattered to God but these irreligious, Gentile, pagan, market place outsiders didn’t matter to God.

This is one of the only times in the teaching ministry of Jesus where He tells three parables back, to back, to back. It was normally Jesus teaching style to confront a problem by the telling of a parable, the explaining of a parable, and then moving along. But this time, it’s as though Jesus is saying “I want to straighten out the confusion in your minds, once and for all. I’m going to tell you not one, not two, but three stories. I’m going to rapid-fire truth into your minds so that you will never again be confused on the issue of who matters to God and who doesn’t.

3. Collectively, what are these three parables teaching? (Luke 15:6,9,24) All three parables teach that lost people matter to God, they deserve an all-out search and when they are found it demands a celebration.

4. In the third parable, whom does the older brother represent? (Luke 15:25-32) The older son represents the Pharisees who were “angry’ (Luke 15:28) because Jesus was spending time with lost people instead of them. They were the religious establishment; if Jesus was going to check in with anybody it should have been them. On an earlier occasion Jesus informed the Pharisees that His mission was targeted to reach the unrighteous and the spiritually sick people of this world. In Luke 5:30 the Pharisees asked Jesus the question: “Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?” Luke 5:31-32 says, “And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.'” Jesus’ suggestion was that he didn’t need to spend time with them because they were the healthy and the righteous was sarcasm. They were self-righteous and spiritually dead but couldn’t recognize it.

5. To whom does Jesus direct this parable? (Luke 16:1) It is clearly stated in Luke 16:1 that Jesus was directing this parable to his disciples. The word “also” seems to mean that at this same time, after speaking to the Pharisees (in Luke 15), Jesus proceeds to speak a parable to the disciples (Luke 16:1-13). it’s obvious from Luke 16:14 that the Pharisees hung around to see what He would say to his disciples.

6. When the Pharisees heard this command on stewardship, what did they do and why? (Luke 16:14) Luke 16:15 says, “Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these and were scoffing at Him.” The verb “scoffing” means “to turn out or up the nose at one, to sneer, to scoff.” The Pharisees being “lovers of money” rather than lovers of God precipitated this emotional response when Jesus commanded His disciples to invest their money to reach lost people.

7. What happened to one of the Pharisees’ friends who used his resources for himself alone? (Luke 16:19-31) This question suggests that the rich man who was “joyously living in splendor every day” (Luke 16:19) was a fellow Pharisee. The text seems to imply this when it describes the rich man in the story as dressing like a Pharisee and acting like one. The Pharisees (like this rich man) measured their spirituality by their wealth instead of their compassion for the poor.

They believed that financial prosperity was a sign of God’s blessing on their lives because they were righteous. In reality they were spiritually bankrupt. On more than one occasion Jesus reminded these Pharisees that they didn’t have the love of God in their hearts (John 5:42) or they would have reacted differently when Jesus helped the poor and the afflicted. The rich man in this text (all too familiar a story with a poor beggar named Lazarus laying outside of their friend’s home, dogs licking his sores, to be just a coincidence) died and immediately went to a place of torment (Luke 16:23) and agony (Luke 16:24,25) called Hades. This rich man should have sought God’s mercy (Luke 16:24) while he was alive. It was too late to seek God’s mercy after he died.

8. What is a manager? (Luke 16:1) A “manager” was an individual who had been entrusted with the stewardship of another person’s property: from oikos, (house), and nemo, (to distribute or dispense). So, one who assigns to the members of the household their several duties, and pays to each his wages. The paymaster. He kept the household stores under lock and seal, giving out what was required, and for this purpose received a signet ring from his master.

Vincent writes, “A manager was a trusted servant, usually someone born in the household, who was chief of the management and distribution of household provisions. He provided food for all the other servants, thus managing his master’s resources for the well-being of others. He acted as an agent for his master, with full authority to transact business in the master’s name.”

9. Are managers or stewards held accountable? (Luke 16:2) The verse says, “And he (rich man — owner) called him and said to him (manager),”What is this I hear about you? Give an accounting of your management, for you can no longer be manager.” The owner wanted a complete audit of the books. “Balance the books and show me how you have been running my business or household.” The “rich man” in this story is a picture of God who will hold every believer accountable at the Bema Seat of Christ as a servant & a steward (Romans 14:12; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10). The rich man in verse 8 is called the “master” (Greek kyrios).

10. Why was the manager losing his job? (Luke 16:1) He had mismanaged the Masters resources. Luke 16:1 says, “…this manager was reported to him as squandering his possessions.” The word “squandering” means “wasted.” Since this man wasn’t arrested or punished for swindling or theft, it appears that the owner didn’t suspect the manager of dishonesty but thought that he had been irresponsible and extravagant.

11. What did this man do before he was removed from his stewardship? (Luke 16:3-7) The text says the manager asked himself, “What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig; I am ashamed to beg” (Luke 16:3). Then the manager realized it wouldn’t be long before his employment would be terminated and he would be homeless. Then he got an idea how to be welcomed to stay with others. The verb “I know” in Luke 16:4 is better translated “I am resolved.” It is a burst of daylight to the puzzled, darkened man: We got it, I see into it now, a sudden solution. Cleverly, he arranged to give large discounts to his master’s debtors, which they would eagerly agree to pay. By reducing their debts to his master, he gained their indebtedness to him. The amounts owed were large; the wheat is said to be equal to the yield of about one hundred acres (Jeremias, Parables of Jesus, pg. 181). They would therefore be obligated to take him into their homes when he was put out of his master’s home.

12. Was the Master praising the manager for his unrighteousness? (Luke 16:4,8a) The master (rich man or owner) commended the unrighteous manager. He wasn’t applauding the man for unjust handling of the funds once he was notified that he was going to be dismissed but he was impressed with how shrewd he was about planning for his future.

13. Where does the parable end? (Luke 16:8) This parable ends in the middle of the verse. Jesus begins to draw a principle from the parable with these words — “for the sons of this age are more…”

14. How does Christ use this parable to contrast believers with unbelievers? (Luke 16:8b) Jesus said, “for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light.” It is more literally translated, “The sons of this age are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.” This means that ungodly, unregenerate men show more shrewdness or wisdom in providing for their future in this world than true believers show in laying up treasures in heaven. Unbelievers know how to manage their resources to prepare for the future and retirement. lf Christians were just as conscientious about preparing for heaven we would see many more people coming to Christ as we invest our resources in them.

15. What does Jesus command His disciples to do in Luke 16:9? “And I say to you, make friends (aorist imperative) for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings.” The aorist imperative “make friends” denotes urgency. In the phrase, “Wealth of unrighteousness,” Christ commands His disciples to use not only their time but also their money to build redemptive friendships.

We should use money and other material things in such a way as to form friendships that potentially could endure throughout eternity. Money can be used to buy Bibles, Christian books, tracts, message tapes, dinners out, tickets to a concert or sporting event, sacrificial gifts that could help our lost friends with pressing needs all this with the goal of reaching a lost friend for Christ.

The unrighteous manager used his master’s money to buy earthly friends; believers are to use their Master’s money in a way that will accrue friends for eternity. The unrighteous manager anticipated being welcomed into the homes (Luke 16:4) of those for whom he had reduced the debt. In a similar manner, those who make an investment to help their lost friends come to Christ will be welcomed into their “dwellings” in heaven. What a reception in heaven that will be for those who make the maximum investment of their lives and possessions down here on earth.

The word “welcome” and “receive” (same Greek word) in Luke 16:4,9 echoes back to a previous occurrence of the word in Luke 15:2. If we receive (“to receive by deliberate and ready reception” Vines) lost people like Jesus did and invest our resources to see them come to Christ, they will receive us into their eternal dwellings in heaven. Note that eventually our money will “fail” us because it cannot be taken to heaven, but our lost friends who trust Christ can be taken and even precede us if they die first.

16. What is unrighteous mammon? (Luke 16:9) Christ did not commend the man’s dishonesty; He specifically called him “unrighteous” or “unjust” (Luke 16:8). He only used him as an illustration to show that even the most wicked sons of this world are shrewd enough to provide for themselves against coming evil. Believers ought to be more shrewd, because they are concerned with eternal matters, not just earthly ones.

17. If we use our resources to reach our unbelieving friends, what can we anticipate when we get to heaven? (Luke 16:9) The following verses show that the steward was not at all commended for his crookedness, but rather for his foresight. He had acted prudently. He looked to the future, and made provision for it. He sacrificed present gain for future reward. In applying this to our own lives, we must be very clear; the future of the child of God is not on this earth but in heaven. Just as the steward took steps to insure that he would have friends during his retirement here below, so the Christian should use his Master’s goods in such a way as to insure a welcoming party when he gets to heaven.

18. How do you know what a person values? (Matthew 6:21) A person invests his time, treasure, and talent into whatever he values. Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

19. According to Jesus, how important is it to be faithful as a steward? (Luke 16:10-13) If we are “faithful in” our stewardship of “a very little thing,” then we will be “faithful” in handling “much” (spiritual treasures). On the other hand, if a man has “not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth,” why would God trust him when bigger considerations of eternal value are at stake? The relative unimportance of money is emphasized by the expression “a very little thing.”

20. What are the “true riches” in Luke 16:11? These refer to the souls of men. If God cannot trust us with unrighteous money, which is of a temporal nature, why would he entrust into our care new converts that are of an etemal nature?

21. Can a disciple of Christ love money and God at the same time? (Luke 16:13) No! “You cannot serve God and mammon.” It is utterly impossible to live for things and for God at the same time. If we are mastered by money, we cannot really be serving the Lord. It is a matter of divided loyalty. Motives are mixed. Decisions are not impartial.


  1. Serendipity Bible for Groups by: Serendipity House, Zondervan Publishing House, 1998
  2. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 8 by: Frank E. Gaebelein (General Editor), Zondewan Publishing House, 1984
  3. Commentary on Luke by: Frederic Louis Godet, Kregel Publications, 1981.
  4. Investment Portfolio Exercise Heart for the Harvest Seminar Notebook and Study Guide. By Search Ministries, Inc., 1989
  5. The Gospel of Luke by: Vlfilliam Hedriksen Baker Book House, 1978.
  6. The Chronological Life of Christ Vol.2 by: Mark E. Moore, College Press Publishing Company, 1997
  7. The MacArthur Study Bible by: John F. MacArthur, Jr., Word Publishing, 1997.
  8. Believers Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments by: William MacDonald, Thomas Nelson, 1997
  9. Word Studies in the New Testament Vol.1 by: Marvi R. Vincent, WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1975
  10. Word Picture in the New Testament Vol.2 by: A. T. Robertson, Broadman Press, 1930



Copyright 2001, Richard D. Leineweber, Jr.

Additional Commentary: 1

Back to our original questions, why the rich man would commend his dishonest manager? and why did Jesus cite the actions of the dishonest manager with approval, using him as an example for his disciples.

The first question may be answered only when the actual action of the dishonest manager is fully understood. An old interpretation of this parable held that the rich man was impressed with the shrewdness of the manager because the latter, after being served notice of dismissal, dishonestly reduced the bills owed the rich man so as to ingratiate himself with these various clients and business associations. Although the rich man has been cheated yet again by the scoundrel, he is, nevertheless, impressed with his manager’s cleverness. Related to this interpretation is the suggestion that the manager has eliminated the interest part of the bill in conformity to the Old Testament’s law against usury (Deuteronomy 15:7–8; 23:20–21). So, the idea is that the dishonest manager has finally done a proper, biblical thing. This approach to the parable, however, is not satisfying. Why should the master praise the dishonest manager? Would he have anything good to say about someone who had not only wasted his money (Luke 16:1), but then after being fired (Luke 16:2) further cheated him? This seems highly unlikely.

More plausible is the suggestion of Derrett and Fitzmyer, that what the dishonest manager has done is to cancel out the profit that was due him (sort of a commission). By canceling the commissions, the debts were reduced, an action that would no doubt result in future kindness being shown the dishonest manager. So, the rich man has not at all been cheated by this final action of the fired manager. The master is still owed what is due him, while his former employee, by foregoing a few commissions, now has a brighter future. Having understood the parable this way, it is now much easier to understand why Jesus sees in the action of the dishonest manager a worthy example for his disciples. They, like the dishonest manager, should be able to recognize the advantage in giving up a little now so that some day in the future they may receive much more.

The main point in the lesson above is that Jesus (or Luke) is not urging his disciples to acquire wealth dishonestly but to make good use of the resources (particularly financial resources) of this world. Jesus is not recommending compromise and he is certainly not recommending dishonesty, but he is urging his followers not to overlook opportunities and resources that will sustain his people and advance the Christian mission. By using the resources of this world wisely, Christians can be assured that when it is gone they will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. While Jesus’ followers are on earth they should make use of the world’s available resources in order to maintain themselves and the work of the church. When, however, these resources are exhausted and life’s work is finished, the followers of Christ can look forward to entering a home that is eternal, not temporary, a home whose resources will never give out.

A second lesson is drawn from Luke 16:10-12. The principle of Luke 16:10 is that by the way a person handles himself with very little it is evident how such a person handles himself with much. We come to what for Luke is probably the heart of the matter in Luke 16:11. If the followers of Jesus cannot properly handle worldly wealth, then they cannot expect to be trusted with true riches. For us, if Christians cannot manage their money, property, and other possessions properly (such as supporting the poor and the ministry), they cannot expect to be entrusted with the rewards and wealth that last forever (Matthew 6:25–34). Implicitly, one’s stewardship in this life will form the basis for future reward and responsibility in heaven (Matthew 25:14–30). Luke 16:12 adds a new thought to this second lesson: if Jesus’ disciples have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property (like God’s “property”), who (God) will give them property (rewards) of their own?

Luke 16:13 provides a third lesson drawn from this parable. In Matthew this verse occurs in a much fuller context (Matthew 6:24) concerning the need to be loyal to God over against the things of the world. Here in Luke the saying brings out one more truth with respect to wealth that every follower of Jesus should know, a truth that has been presupposed in Luke 16:9–12. Christians owe their total allegiance to God and not to money. This saying prevents us from misunderstanding Luke 16:8–9. Whereas Christians are to put wealth to good purposes, they are not to become enslaved to it. Herein lies a grave danger for many Christians. What often passes for “good stewardship” or “God’s blessing” is really nothing short of greed and materialism.

1 Evans, C. A. (1990). Luke (p. 240). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[Questions and responses by Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]

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How to Engage in Prayer

Today we are looking into Luke 11:1-13 and Matthew 6:1-14. Between chapters 10 and 11, there is a time interval which is covered in John 9:1–10:21. 1

Luke 11 can be summarized by generosity: If Jesus, John the Baptist, and the Twelve all needed to pray, how much more do we need to pray! We must put God’s concerns first (Luke 11:2-4) because prayer is based on sonship, not friendship. God is a loving Father, not a grouchy neighbor; He gives us what we need. He neither slumbers nor sleeps; and He doesn’t become irritated when we ask for help (James 1:5). 2


  1. Pattern for Prayer (Luke 11:1-4) a guide, rather than something to recite.
    1. True prayer has responsibilities (Luke 11:2) honoring God’s kingdom and doing God’s will. It is important to read God’s Word and to know God’s Word, we cannot separate prayer from God’s Word (John 15:7).
    2. True prayer asks requests, in proper order (Luke 11:3-4) once we are secure in our relationship with God and his will. He provides our needs, not our greeds.
  2. Persistence in Prayer (Luke 11:5-8)
    1. Prayer is based on sonship, rather than friendship.
    2. Prayer is based on shamelessness, the man was not ashamed to wake up his neighbor.
      1. When people pray, God’s reputation is at stake.
      2. When we are persistent, we do not changed God’s mind, but we get ourselves to the place  where we can trust God for the answer.
  3. Promises for Prayer (Luke 11:9-13)
    1. Verb tenses: keep on asking, knowing, seeking: not just during a midnight emergency.
    2. Various examples:
      1. Jesus called this abiding (John 15:1-11).
      2. Paul called this “prayer without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
    3. Vexing illustrations: we never need be afraid of the answers God gives.


This prayer passage fits in with Luke’s purpose in presenting Christ as the Son of Man, ever dependent upon God His Father. The disciples sensed that prayer was a real and vital force in the life of Jesus. As they heard Him pray, it made them want to pray too. And so one of His disciples asked that He would teach them to pray. He did not say, “Teach us how to pray,” but “Teach us to pray.” However, the request certainly includes both the fact and the method.

This study is designed to develop the character quality of persistence in prayer. Jesus warned that without prayer believers we will become faint-hearted (Luke 18:1). When you don’t persist in prayer you become ignorant of God’s will and stubborn to do your own will. God wants us to be persistent and passionate in seeking His face. Jesus in this passage gives three commands on how to be persistent in our prayers. We are to habitually and continuously keep on asking, seeking, and knocking.

Historical Background:

Throughout Jesus’ ministry starting with His baptism (Luke 3:21) Jesus practiced the presence of God by communing with the Father through prayer.

  • The disciples found Jesus praying early in the morning (Mark 1:35)
  • They watched him slip away often for prayer (Luke 5:16)
  • He taught them of the importance of prayer especially when He (the Bridegroom) would return to the Father (Matthew 9:14-15; Mark 2:18-20; Luke 5:33-35)
  • He spent a night in prayer in preparation for choosing “The Twelve” (Luke 6:12-13)
  • He taught them at their “Ordination Service” (Sermon on the Mount) to pray for their enemies (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:28)
  • He taught them to in secret, guarding their motives while practicing this discipline (Matthew 6:5-18)
  • He challenged them with these words in Matthew 7:7, 8 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

These are the same words that Jesus uses when teaching His disciples in Luke 11 one year later. They are now personally interested in learning how to pray.


1. What motivated the disciples to ask Jesus to teach them how to pray? (Luke 11: 1) The disciples were motivated to pray because Jesus had taught them by example. Prayer is better caught than taught. They were not ready to learn how to pray until now. Their readiness to enter the school of prayer was precipitated by the realization that if God the Son was desperate to receive direction from the Father, how much more did they need to seek His face through prayer. Jesus’ prayer life communicated that He believed there is no direction without connection.

  • Matthew 14:23 – After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone.
  • Mark 1:35 – In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.
  • Mark 6:46 – After bidding them farewell, He left for the mountain to pray.
  • Luke 5:16 – But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.
  • Luke 9:18 – And it happened that while He was praying alone. The disciples were with Him, and He questioned them, saying, “Who do the people say that I am?”

2. If prayer was so important, why is it that Jesus was so relaxed about His disciple’s prayer lives? (Luke 5:33-35) When Jesus’ disciples were talking with him they were talking with the second person of the Godhead. Prayer is really nothing more than a conversation with God. So the disciples were in essence praying every day as they walked and talked with Jesus. But there was coming a day when Jesus would return to the Father and it would be essential that his disciples used the discipline of fasting and prayer to maintain contact with God.

3. How have churched unbelievers misused this prayer? (Matthew 6:7, 8) Prayers are not to be merely recited, nor are our words to be repeated thoughtlessly, or as if they were automatic formulas. But this is not a prohibition against persistence in pray. This practice was common in many pagan religions of that day, as it is in many religions today, including some branches of Christianity. The word translated “meaningless repetition” refers to idle, thoughtless chatter, mimicking the sounds of meaningless babble.

John MacArthur writes ”The Jews had picked up the practice from the Gentiles, who believed that the value of prayer was largely a matter of quantity. The longer the better. ‘They suppose they will be heard for their many words’ (Matthew 6:7), Jesus explained. Those who prayed to pagan gods thought their deities first had to be aroused, then cajoled, intimidated, and badgered into listening and answering – just as the prophets of Baal did on Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18:26-29). In the New Testament we see a similar practice. Aroused against Paul and his companions by Demetrius and other silversmiths of Ephesus, a great crowd began chanting, ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!’ and continued incessantly for two hours (Acts 19:24-34).

Many Buddhists spin wheels containing written prayers, believing that each turn of the wheel sends that prayer to their god. Roman Catholics light prayer candles in the belief that their requests will continue to ascend to God as long as the candle is lit. Rosaries are used to count off repeated prayers of Hail Mary and Our Father, the rosary itself coming to Catholicism from Buddhism by way of the Spanish Muslims during the Middle Ages. Certain charismatic groups in our own day repeat the same words or phrases over and over until the speaking degenerates to unintelligible confusion” (Matthew by: John A. Broadus, Judson, 1886, pg.130).

4. If God knows what we need before we ever pray, why pray? (Matthew 6:8) God does not have to be badgered into submission, our Father knows what we need, before we ask Him. Martin Luther said, “By our praying… we are instructing ourselves more than we are him.” The purpose of prayer is not to inform or persuade God, but to come before God sincerely, purposely, consciously, and devotedly (Christian Counter-Culture: The Message of the Sermon on the Mount by: John Stott, lnterVarsity, 1978, pg.145).

Prayer is sharing the needs, burdens, and hunger of our hearts before our heavenly Father, who already knows what we need but also wants us to ask him. He wants to hear us, he wants to commune with us, more than we could ever want to commune with him because his love for us is so much greater than our love for him. Prayer is our giving God the opportunity to manifest His power, majesty, love, and providence (John 14:13).

5. Did Jesus intend for this prayer to be prayed repetitiously by rote memory? (Matthew 6:9) Jesus taught them to pray “in this way” or “in this manner” or “along these lines.” The prayer is a model, not a liturgy. It is notable for its brevity, simplicity, and comprehensiveness. Of the six petitions, three are directed to God (Matthew 6:9-10) and three toward human needs (Matthew 6:11-13).

6. How are we to address God? (Luke 11:2; Matthew 6:9) God is addressed as Father only for those who have been spiritually born into God’s family through faith in Christ’s substitutionary death and resurrection (John 1:12-13; John 3:3, 5-7).

  • Malachi wrote, “Do we not all have one father? Has not one God created us?” (Malachi 2:10).
  • Paul said to the Greek philosophers on Mars Hill “As even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His offspring”‘ (Acts 17:28).

But Scripture makes it unmistakably clear that God’s fatherhood of unbelievers is only in the sense of being their Creator. Spiritually, unbelievers have another father. In his severest condemnation of the Jewish leaders who opposed and rejected Him, Jesus said, ”You are of your father the devil” (John 8:44). It is only to those who receive Him that Jesus gives “the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12; cf. Romans 8:14; Galatians 3:26; Hebrews 2:11-14; 2 Peter 1:4). Because believers belong to God the Son, they can come to God the Father as his beloved children. “Our Father,” indicates God’s eagerness to lend his ear, his power, and his eternal blessing to the petitions of his children if it serves them best and further reveals his purpose and glory.

7. What does “hallowed be Thy Name” tell us about God’s person? (Luke 11:2; Matthew 6:9) Hallowed is an archaic English word used to translate a form of the Greek word that means to make holy. Words from the same root are translated “holy, saint, sanctify, sanctification,” etc. God’s people are commanded to be holy (1 Peter 1:16), but God is acknowledged as “being” holy. That is the meaning of praying hallowed “be” Thy name: to attribute to God the holiness that already is his, (it always has been, supremely and uniquely His). To hallow God’s name is to revere, honor, glorify, and obey him as singularly perfect. As John Calvin observed, that God’s name should be hallowed was nothing other than to say that God should have his own honor, of which he was so worthy, that men should never think or speak of Him without the greatest veneration (A Harmony of the Gospels Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Baker, 1979, pg. 318).

8. What is involved in praying for God’s program? (Luke 11:2; Matthew 6:10) All prayer, first of all, willingly submits to God’s purposes, plans, and glory. Our greatest desire should be to see the Lord reigning as King in his kingdom, to have the honor and authority that have always been his but that he has not yet come to claim.

The word kingdom does not refer primarily to a geographical territory but to sovereignty and dominion. Therefore when we pray “Thy kingdom come,” we are praying for God’s rule through Christ’s enthronement to come, his glorious reign on earth to begin. The verb “come” is an aorist active imperative, which denotes a sudden, instantaneous coming (Matthew 24:27). It is the coming kingdom of God, not an effort to create a more godly society on earth through the progressive, human-oriented work of Christians.

To pray ”Thy kingdom come” is to pray for God’s kingdom, the kingdom over which he, and he alone, is Lord and King. It will be a kingdom on earth (Matthew 6:10a), but it will not be a kingdom of this world, like the present world system. Jesus told Pilate that his kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). We do not advance God’s kingdom to improve human society, no matter how worth y the cause. Supporting those causes neither build the earthly kingdom of Jesus Christ nor bring it closer.

Practically as we pray for God’s kingdom to come we need to ask ourselves if we have surrendered to the reign of Christ in our lives. Our ministries’ focus ought to bring everything within our sphere of influence under Christ’s reign.

9. How often should we pray for God’s provision? (Luke 11:3; Matthew 6:11) God wants us to have a daily dependence upon Him (see Rev.3:17). The word translated “daily” was difficult to translate for centuries, since this is the only place the word occurs inside or outside the Bible. Then a few years ago, an archeologist dug up a papyrus fragment that contained a housewife’s shopping list. Next to several items the woman had scribbled this word for daily: It probably meant, “Enough for the coming day” The phrase should be translated, “give us today bread enough for tomorrow” When prayed in the morning, it is a prayer for the needs in the hours ahead. Prayed in the evening, it is a request for the needs of the next day. The implication is that God will supply what we need to honor Him and do His will.

In our culture, with freezers and refrigerators, we seldom purchase food for a single day. We store up food in such abundance that we mutter only thoughtless words of thanks as we eat. We hardly acknowledge that the meal we eat and clothes we wear have come from the Father’s hand. We must re-establish a daily dependence upon the Lord.

10. What happens when we pray for God’s pardon but have been unwilling to forgive others? (Luke 11:4: Matthew 6:12, 14-15) God doesn’t forgive us. In Luke’s account, Jesus says to tell God you’re forgiving everybody, so please do the same for us, but in Matthew 6:12, Jesus made it more conditional, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Jesus instructed them to ask the Father to forgive them only to the degree that they forgive other people. Jesus provides a brief commentary on this aspect of the prayer in Matthew 6:14-15 “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you… but if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.

The kind of forgiveness that the disciples are seeking in the Lord’s Prayer is “parental forgiveness.” They are already members in the family of God; this is why they are instructed to address God as their “Father.” These verses are not suggesting that God will withdraw justification (Judicial Forgiveness) from those who have already received the free pardon he extends to all believers. Judicial forgiveness is a permanent and complete acquittal from the guilt and ultimate penalty of sin, and belongs to all who are in Christ (John 5:24; Romans 8:1; Ephesians 1:7). Yet, Scripture also teaches that God chastens His children who disobey (Heb. 12:5-7). Believers are to confess their sins in order to obtain a day-to-day cleansing (1 John 1:9). This sort of forgiveness (parental forgiveness) is a simple washing from the worldly defilements of sin; not a repeat of the wholesale cleansing from sin’s corruption that comes with justification. It is like a washing of the feet rather than a bath (see John 13:10). Forgiveness in this sense is what God threatens to withhold from Christians who refuse to forgive others (Matthew 18:23-35).

11. Why do we need to pray for God’s protection? (Luke 11:4; Matthew 6:13) God does not tempt men toward sin (James 1:13), but he will subject them to trials that may expose them to spiritual assaults from the enemy, as in the case of Job and Peter (Luke 22:31, 32). This petition reflects the believing one’s desire to avoid the dangers of sin altogether. God knows what we need before we ask (Matthew 6:8), and he promises that no one will be subjected to testing beyond what can be endured. He also promises a way of escape, often through endurance (1 Corinthians 10:13).

12. What two aspects of prayer are being stressed in the story found in Luke 11:5-8? Jesus tells the story of a one-room house with a common sleeping area shared by the whole family, which was common in Palestine at that time. If one person arose and lit a lamp to get bread, all would be awakened. The man in the story finally responds to the request because of his neighbor’s persistence. The word “persistence” can be translated ”without shame, without embarrassment, without modesty.” Vines suggest “shamelessness.”

Jesus’ point is if shameless persistence can obtain bread from a neighbor who doesn’t want to be bothered, then certainly earnest prayer will receive our Father’s answer.

The second aspect of prayer that is being stressed here is interceding on behalf of others. The reason this man was so immodest about his asking was he wasn’t asking for himself. This is the pattern of the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus didn’t say to pray “My Father, give me this day my daily bread, do not lead me into temptation, but deliver me from the Evil One.” Jesus taught them to pray “our” and “us.” The strength of our prayer life is not determined by how much time you spend on your knees pleading for your own needs, but for the needs of others.

13. What are we commanded to do in Luke 11:9? Jesus commanded His disciples to keep on “asking, and it will be given to you; seeking, and you will find; knocking, and it will be opened to you” (all present imperatives).

14. What bizarre examples does Jesus give to point out that God will respond to our petitions only in kindness? (Luke 11:11-12; Matthew 7:9-11) Asking for a fish (get a snake), ask for an egg (get a scorpion).

15. Why does God only respond to us in kindness? (Luke 11:13) God’s gifts reflect His character or his nature. God is good all the time, in contrast with man who is “evil” (James 1:17).

16. What have we already been given at salvation that the disciples had to ask for? (Luke 11:13) We were given the Holy Spirit at Salvation. Romans 8:9 says, “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” Jesus taught that the Holy Spirit was ”with” them but when He came at Pentecost the Spirit would be “in” them (John 14:16). Since Pentecost the Holy Spirit takes up residence in the life of every believer at the moment of salvation (Romans 5:5; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20) and baptizes them into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). At Pentecost, the apostles prayed (Acts 1:12-14) and the Holy Spirit came in great power.

Commentary: 1

Luke 11:2 – The model prayer which the Lord Jesus gave to them at this time is somewhat different from the so-called Lord’s Prayer in Matthew’s gospel. These differences all have a purpose and meaning. None of them is without significance.

First of all, the Lord taught the disciples to address God as Our Father. This intimate family relationship was unknown to believers in the OT. It simply means that believers are now to speak to God as to a loving heavenly Father. Next, we are taught to pray that God’s name should be hallowed. This expresses the longing of the believer’s heart that He should be reverenced, magnified, and adored. In the petition, “Your kingdom come,” we have a prayer that the day will soon arrive when God will put down the forces of evil and, in the Person of Christ, reign supreme over the earth, where His will shall be done as it is in heaven.

Luke 11:3 – Having thus sought first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, the petitioner is taught to make known his personal needs and desires. The ever-recurring need for food, both physical and spiritual, is introduced. We are to live in daily dependence upon Him, acknowledging Him as the source of every good.

Luke 11:4 Next there is the prayer for the forgiveness of sins, based on the fact that we have shown a forgiving spirit to others. Obviously this does not refer to forgiveness from the penalty of sin. That forgiveness is based upon the finished work of Christ on Calvary, and is received through faith alone. But here we are dealing with parental or governmental forgiveness. After we are saved, God deals with us as with children. If he finds a hard and unforgiving spirit in our hearts, he will chastise us until we are broken and brought back into fellowship with himself. This forgiveness has to do with fellowship with God, rather than with relationship.

The plea “And do not lead us into temptation” presents difficulties to some. We know that God never tempts anyone to sin. But He does allow us to experience trials and testings in life, and these are designed for our good. Here the thought seems to be that we should constantly be aware of our own proneness to wander and fall into sin. We should ask the Lord to keep us from falling into sin, even if we ourselves might want to do it. We should pray that the opportunity to sin and the desire to do so should never coincide. The prayer expresses a healthy distrust of our own ability to resist temptation. The prayer ends with a plea for deliverance from the evil one.

Luke 11:5–8 – Continuing with the subject of prayer, the Lord gave an illustration designed to show God’s willingness to hear and answer the petitions of his children. In applying this illustration we must be careful to avoid certain conclusions. It doesn’t mean that God is annoyed by our persistent requests. And it doesn’t suggest that the only way to get our prayers answered is to be persistent.

It does teach that if a man is willing to help a friend because of his persistence, God is much more willing to hear the cries of His children.

Luke 11:9 teaches that we should not grow weary or discouraged in our prayer life. “Keep on asking … keep on seeking … keep on knocking …” Sometimes God answers our prayers the first time we ask. But in other cases he answers only after prolonged asking.

Luke 11:10 teaches that everyone who asks receives, everyone who seeks finds, and everyone who knocks has it opened to him. This is a promise that when we pray, God always gives us what we ask or he gives us something better.

Luke 11:11-12 teaches that God will never deceive us.

Luke 11:13 – A human father would not give bad gifts; even though he has a sinful nature, he knows how to give good gifts to his children. How much more is our heavenly Father willing to give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him. J. G. Bellet says, “It is significant that the gift he selects as the one we most need, and the one He most desires to give, is the Holy Spirit.” When Jesus spoke these words, the Holy Spirit had not yet been given (John 7:39). We should not pray today for the Holy Spirit to be given to us because he comes to indwell us at the time of our conversion (Romans 8:9; Ephesians 1:13-14).

But it is certainly proper and necessary for us to pray for the Holy Spirit in other ways. We should pray that we will be teachable by the Holy Spirit, that we will be guided by the Spirit, and that his power will be poured out on us in all our service for Christ.

It is quite possible that when Jesus taught the disciples to ask for the Holy Spirit, He was referring to the power of the Spirit enabling them to live the other-worldly type of discipleship which He had been teaching in the preceding chapters. By this time, they were probably feeling how utterly impossible it was for them to meet the tests of discipleship in their own strength. This is, of course, true. The Holy Spirit is the power that enables one to live the Christian life. So Jesus pictured God as anxious to give this power to those who ask.

In the original Greek, Luke 11:13 does not say that God will give the Holy Spirit, but rather He will “give Holy Spirit” (without the article). Professor H. B. Swete pointed out that when the article is present, it refers to the Person himself, but when the article is absent, it refers to his gifts or operations on our behalf. So in this passage, it is not so much a prayer for the Person of the Holy Spirit, but rather for his ministries in our lives. This is further borne out by the parallel passage in Matthew 7:11 which reads, “… how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”

1 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1411). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
2 Wiersbe, W. W. (1991). With the Word Bible Commentary (Luke 11:1). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[Questions and responses by Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]

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How to Develop Hospitality

This lesson focuses on the heart of the leader toward strangers (Luke 9:37-50). Jesus wants us to be inclusive rather than exclusive without compromising the truth. Jesus is personally challenging his followers to deliberately go out of our way to welcome and include strangers. To be effective, this will require developing the character quality of hospitality.

Following the transfiguration, the disciples who had been given the power and authority to cast out demons failed to exercise a demon out of a young boy (section 124). Two events later the disciples are arguing about who is the greatest (section 127) and then one of them forbids an unnamed exorcist to cast out demons (section 128). It appears that the disciples’ spirit of exclusivism and obsession with greatness motivated them to forbid someone from doing it, this man succeeded at what they had miserably failed.

This is commanded in the Gospels, Mark 9:39 (do not hinder) Luke 9:50 (do not hinder). These commands warn against exclusivism but do not teach ecumenicalism. Jesus without hesitation confronted and cursed the religious leaders of his day (Matthew 23:13–16, 23, 25, 27, 29).

1. How would you define exclusivism? It is the attitude that says, “us four and no more.” Webster says, “exclusivism is the act of excluding, shutting out others, snobbish, permitting or catering to a select clientele, power and control usually play apart.”

2. How could we be guilty of exclusivism?

3. Are you aware of a real life situation?

4. Why did the crowd gather in Luke 9:37-40? To watch the disciples free a boy from demonic enslavement.

5. What was the crowd discussing? Mark 9:14–18. The fact that the disciples could not cast out the demon.

  • Which word is best to describe what’s happening? Possessed or oppressed? (Acts 10:38)
  • Christians cannot be possessed. (1 Corinthians 6:17) the Sprit will not share his temple.
  • Demons do not just take up residence, they must be invited in at some point, occult practices.
  • Who are the demons? (Ezekiel 28:12-17)
    1. The pride of the anointed cherubim.
    2. A third of the angels followed (Revelation 12:4, 7-9)

6. What was the father’s request of Jesus? Mark 9:21–24. I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only boy.

7. What kind of effect did the demon have on his son? Matthew 17:14–21, Mark 9:14–29, Luke 9:37–43.

  • It makes in mute, Mark 9:17.
  • It seizes him, Mark 9:18, Luke 9:39.
  • It dashes him to the ground, Mark 9:18, Luke 9:42.
  • He foams at the mouth, Mark 9:18, Luke 9:39.
  • He grinds his teeth, Mark 9:18.
  • He stiffens out, Mark 9:18, Luke 9:39.
  • He suddenly screams, Luke 9:39.
  • It throws him into a convulsion, Luke 9:39, 42, Mark 9:26.
  • It mauls him, Luke 9:39.
  • It’s scarcely leaves him, Luke 9:39.
  • Rolling about, Mark 9:20.
  • Throws them into the fire and into the water to destroy him, Mark 9:22.

8. How long have the boy been this way? Mark 9:21. From childhood.

9. How does Jesus describe the spirit? Luke 9:42. The demon was described as unclean.

10. What was the response of the crowd when Jesus expelled the demon? Luke 9:43. They were all amazed at the greatness of God.

11. What did the disciples question Jesus about privately? Mark 9:28. Why they have been unable to cast the demon out.

12. What was Jesus’ answer to their question? Matthew 17:19–21, Mark 9:23, 24, 29, 34, Luke 9:41, 46–48. It was not because they did not have the power (dunamis the ability to perform) or the authority (exousia the right to exercise power) over demons, Luke 9:1, but it was because…

  • They lacked faith, Luke 9:41, Matthew 17:19–20, Mark 9:23-24.
  • They lacked personal purity, Luke 9:41.
  • They lacked discipline, (prayer and fasting), Matthew 17:21, Mark 9:29.
  • They lacked humility, Luke 9:46–48, Mark 9:34.

13. Why was the discipline of prayer needed to cast out this demon? Matthew 17:21.

  • This kind does not go out except by prayer, Matthew 17:21. For this particular type of demon to be expelled, it requires special preparation.
  • This type of demon could possibly be characterized with those who are more wicked and therefore could only be dealt with by those who practiced the spiritual disciplines, Matthew 12:45.

14. What was the disciples reaction when they saw someone else succeeding at casting out demons? Luke 9:49–50. They tried to hinder him. The verb “to hinder” means “prevent or forbid.” The imperfect tense suggest they repeatedly insisted that he must stop. It could literally be translated, “we kept trying to forbid him.”

15. What was John’s explanation for taking such an action? Luke 9:49-50. He does not follow along with us. He used the word “us” instead of “you” indicates that John was concerned that this unnamed exorcist was not following along with them. It did not matter to the disciples that he was a follower of Christ. Mark 16:17 suggests that there were those who had believed outside of the Twelve, who were able to cast out demons, unfortunately the disciples did not even take the time to get to know the man’s name. John says, “master we saw someone casting out demons.” They were not concerned with his spiritual status but only whether he had been physically in their group. The preposition translated “with” means “in the midst of.” The word “follow” in Mark 9:38 is in the imperfect tense (continued action in the past), while Luke 9:49 is in the present tense (continued action into the future).

  • Luke 9:50 – He who is not against you is for you. (Mark 9:40 – For he who is not against us is for us). From openness and tolerance for the weak and humble (Luke 9:46–48) Luke moves to an example of openness and tolerance for the outsider who does work in Jesus’ name. This saying implies that Christian leaders (such as Gentiles) are not to be prohibited or prevented from ministry just because they were not part of the original Jewish group of believers.
  • Luke 11:23 – He who is not with me is against me. (Matthew 12:30 – He who is not with me is against me). This saying teaches there is no middle ground; we are either with Jesus (receiving him) or against Jesus (rejecting him). Either we help Jesus gather the things of the kingdom, or we scatter (or hinder) the kingdom.
  • Explanation: The reverse of Luke 9:50 occurs in Luke 11:23 (Matthew 12:30). Some teach that these two sayings contradict one another, which is hardly the case. The saying in Luke 9:50 provides the proper attitude toward outsiders, while the saying in Luke 11:23 challenges the follower of Jesus to total obedience, are you IN or are you OUT?

16. What two reasons did Christ give as to why this type of individual should not be forbidden involvement in the work of God? Luke 9:50, Mark 9:39–40.

  • Because the absence of a hostile attitude indicates they are on our side, Luke 9:50, “He who is not against you (plural) is for you.”
  • Because there are those who had not been personally and intimately linked to Jesus’ group of disciples who are capable of performing a mighty work, Mark 9:39.

17. Instead of hindering this man, what should the disciples have done? Luke 9:47–48. They should have received, welcomed him, and his work for Christ.

18. What is the command the Christ to gives in Luke 9:50? (Also Mark 9:39). Do not hinder him. The negative imperative is in the present tense and literally means, “stop forbidding or prohibiting him.” Jesus had no sympathy with the exclusive spirit they had displayed. Jesus wanted his disciples to get rid of any idea that they had a monopoly on miracles and the work of God.

19. Why does John have to write the chosen lady? 2 John. The emphasis of 2 John is, “bolt the door.” The hospitable woman that was the recipient of the epistle was so inclusive that she supported anyone regardless of what they taught about Christ. The balance between these two epistles is found in Philip Melanchthon’s statement, “In essentials unity, in nonessentials liberty, and all things charity.”

20. Why does John write to Gaius? 3 John. The apostle John writes his third epistle to confront a spirit of exclusivism that can lead to an extreme view of separation, 3 John 1:9–10. Diotrephes was so exclusive that he would not even receive itinerant preachers sent out by the apostle John himself. This little postcard epistle offers a stark contrast between two groups who responded in opposite ways to the itinerant teachers who had been sent out by the apostle John. Gaius supported them by receiving them hospitably when they had arrived, but Diotrephes attempted to hinder them by excommunicated any members of his assembly who receive them. The emphasis of 3 John is, “open the door.”

Practical Questions:

1. What can you do two warmly welcome newcomers to our group? What is your protocol for inviting and keeping newcomers?

2. How can our group avoid the “us four and no more” mentality?

3. How can our group become more discerning in curriculum selection, or preachers we hear on the radio/TV?


The epistles teach a lot about graciously receiving and being hospitable to believers who are strangers to us, Romans 12:13, Hebrews 13:2, first Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:8, first Peter 4:9. The first century was a “welcoming church.”

It takes intentionality on our part if people are going to “be bonded” into a small group. It was no different in the days of the apostle Paul. Saul had unsuccessfully tried to join the disciples in Jerusalem, Acts 9:26. The verb “join” primarily means, “to glue or cement together.” If a believer is to stick around in our church, they must be bonded to other disciples in a small group, Acts 9:26, 17:34. A strengthened form of the verb describes the superglue of marriage, Matthew 19:5, Mark 10:7, 2 Corinthians 6:14, Ephesians 5:31.

The reason they didn’t receive him well was fear. If we let him in, how will he affect the dynamics of the group? Can we trust him? The disciples in Jerusalem were familiar with Saul who had breathed threats and murder against them, Acts 9:1. Barnabas took the initiative and brought him to see the apostles and introduced him by telling about what God has been doing in his life, Acts 9:27. We can be involved in the ministry of Barnabas if we take the initiative to work the “open chair.”

Refer to the letters of 2 John and 3 John. The issue that is being addressed in our command passage is one of association. He is not advocating that we don’t test, confront if necessary, and even exclude those who are not orthodox.

We are commanded to separate from false ecclesiastical leaders, Romans 16:17, 2 Corinthians 6:14–18, 11:4, Galatians 1:8–9, 2 Timothy 3:5, 2 John 1:9–11, Revelation 2:2, 6, 14, 16. We also must separate from brothers who hold erroneous and heretical opinions about Scripture, 1 Corinthians 11:19, Galatians 5:20, Titus 3:10–11.

What can we do? First John 4:1–3 says that we are not to believe every spirit, but test the spirit to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

In the message to the church at Ephesus, in Revelation 2:2, they are commanded to put to the test “those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false.”

We are told not to have a judgmental spirit:

  • Matthew 7:1 – so that you will not be judged.
  • Matthew 7:2 – the same way you will be judged by the very standard.
  • Luke 6:37 – do not judge.

Yet we are instructed to make judgments:

  • Proverbs 31:9 says to open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.
  • John 7:24 says, do not judge according to appearance, but judge with the righteous judgment.

A Call to Discernment: discernment involves making judgments in a non-condemning way. These judgments are made for the health and purity of the body of Christ morally and doctrinally. The Greek word krino means, “to separate, select, choose, hence to determine, to conclude, to decide, and to pass judgment on.”

  • First Corinthians 5:3
  • First Corinthians 11:13
  • Acts 15:19, 16:4, 21:25
  • Hebrews 4:12
  • First Corinthians 4:5
  • Romans 14:3, 4, 10, 13, 22
  • First Corinthians 10:29
  • Colossians 2:16

The Greek word anakrino means “to examine, to elevate, to scrutinize, to investigate, to search out.”

  • Acts 17:11
  • First Corinthians 2:15, 1 Thessalonians 5:21, 1 John 4:1.
  • First Thessalonians 5:19–22
  • First Corinthians 10:25, 27

The Greek word diakrino means “to make a distinction between persons, to discriminate, to wait the early each part, to separate throughout.” The prefix word dia means “through” (First Corinthians 14:29).

The Greek word dokimazo means “to test, to examine, to interpret, to discover, to approve, to prove, to demonstrate.”

  • Romans 2:18
  • Philippians 1:10
  • First John 4:1–3, 4:1

Here are several videos you can find on YouTube that point out various false teachers.

I have other lessons regarding false teachers, part of two other teaching series:

  1. Second Peter: “The Godless Without Faith” [ GO ]
  2. Jude: “Lessons From Primitive Figures” [ GO ]
  3. Jude: “Lessons From Present Failures” [ GO ]
  4. Early Christian Heresies [ GO ]

Additional Commentary: 1

Luke 9:45 / hidden from them: Luke has added this phrase (see Mark 9:32) to explain why the disciples did not understand the meaning of Jesus’ statement. It was God’s purpose that they not fully understand until the resurrection. Luke may be reacting to Mark’s negative portrayal of the disciples. they were afraid to ask him about it: This probably means that the disciples feared that further questioning and explanation would only confirm the grim pronouncement.

Luke 9:49, see Luke 5:5 / In this verse Jesus is called Master for the first time in the Gospel of Luke. Whereas the other Synoptic Gospels refer to Jesus as “Teacher” or “Rabbi,” only in Luke is he called “Master,” and only by his followers (see Luke 8:24, 45; 9:33, 49; 17:13).

driving out demons in your name: Rabbis often attempted exorcisms in the name(s) of various OT worthies (such as Solomon). See the episode in Acts 19:13–16. There is underlying power in the use of his name (Psalm 54:1; 124:8).

Luke 9:50 / Jesus said to him, “Do not forbid him, for he who is not against us is on our side.” As far as the Person and work of Christ are concerned, there can be no neutrality. If men are not for Christ, they are against Him. But when it comes to Christian service, A. L. Williams says: 2

Earnest Christians need to remember that when outsiders do anything in Christ’s Name, it must, on the whole, forward His cause … The Master’s reply contained a broad and far-reaching truth. No earthly society, however holy, would be able exclusively to claim the Divine powers inseparably connected with a true and faithful use of His Name.

1 Evans, C. A. (1990). Luke (pp. 158–159). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
2 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1406). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]

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Don’t Be Afraid of Fishing

This lesson deals with the disciples going back to fishing after they spent about nine months investigating the words and works of Jesus. Fear causes many today to drop out before they are fully trained and convinced of the claims of Jesus.

Background: These men spent nine months off and on with Jesus so this passage is not their first exposure to Jesus. After those initial nine months, Jesus stopped by their places of business and called to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Perhaps Jesus had hoped these men had developed a heart for the harvest and reaching lost souls for Christ. They dropped everything and followed him. We don’t know what caused them to return to their nets; perhaps it was fear. Luke 5:1-11 is really a confirmation of their call to become fishers of men.

Bill Hull writes:

When Jesus called the handful of Galilean fishermen away from their nets to follow him, they responded directly to that invitation (Mark 1:16-20). After a short sojourn with the master in Capernaum and the surrounding villages (Mark 1:21-39, Luke 4:31-44), they returned to Galilee to take up their nets again (Luke 5:1-11). Apparently they went home under the guise of straightening up their personal affairs, but Jesus knew better. He knew they needed a little more time to solidify their commitment, one more time-out from ministry to fish for a few days, experiencing the futility of empty nets.

He goes on to say that it is a leadership art form to be able to salvage the dropout. They were discouraged, fearful, and slipping into the old life patterns. Many good disciples fall through the cracks but Jesus teaches us that the dropout syndrome may be reduced by bringing would-be disciples to total commitment in stages.

John Mark is a great example of this in Acts 15:36-38. John left the ministry (Acts 13:13) and Paul wrote him off early (Acts 15:39-41), but over time, John Mark became a valuable asset to Paul in the ministry (2 Timothy 4:11).

Is Matthew 4:18-22 the same event as Luke 5:1-11? Likely not because notice the differences:

  1. The location of Simon and Andrew: they were not fishing in Matthew and Mark, but they were in Luke.
  2. The location of Jesus: he did not enter a boat in Matthew and Mark, but he did in Luke.
  3. The catch of fish: Matthew and Mark don’t mention a catch of fish, but Luke does.

So, it appears that these two pairs of brothers went back to fishing after their call to come and follow Jesus. After responding to this second call, they stayed with Jesus until the end, and returned to fishing only after the crucifixion.

What do we know about the popularity of Jesus at this point in the narrative (Luke 5:1)?

Where did all of this take place (Luke 5:1)? Gennesaret or Galilee?

Why did they go back to fishing? Perhaps they were overwhelmed and longed for the safe and familiar.

  1. Dealing with demons (Mark 1:21-28, Luke 4:31b-37).
  2. Dealing with needy people (Mark 1:29-34, Luke 4:38-41) and the reality of compassion fatigue.
  3. Dealing with the demands of the crowds (Matthew 8:14-17, Mark 1:29-34, Luke 4:38-41).

Why did Jesus want to be in Peter’s boat (Luke 5:1)?

  1. A better position for acoustics: podium and how sound carries over the water.
  2. A better position for the miracle: to teach Peter a lesson of faith.

It may have been an awkward moment for Peter facing Jesus, whom he left to go back to fishing. Jesus was unwilling to let these guys fall through the cracks.

Why does Luke choose to call the disciple Simon son of John when Jesus had given him a new name, Cephas (which means Peter – John 1:41-43)? Maybe the old Simon was resurfacing during this time, and he was not “the rock” that Jesus said he was. People often take a step forward and three steps back. “Simon” reflected Peter at this time in his life.

What happened when Peter let the nets down into the water (Luke 5:6)? What symbolize might we see here?

When the nets began to break, what happened (Luke 5:6-7)? What lesson might we see in partnerships, working as teams, or doing ministry on our own?

How did this miracle affect Peter (Luke 5:8-9)? Shame and amazement. Peter knew that God alone was omniscient, and since Jesus knew where these fish were hiding, Jesus therefore is God. The one who called them to catch men was none other than the second person of the trinity! Peter falls on his knees. While fishing was Peter’s thing, and he knew about fishing, what he witnessed was not fishing. Jesus knew where the fish were and was controlling them (that is not fishing). This was supernatural.

What experience is more overwhelming than the challenges of fishing for men (Luke 5:10)? Jesus says to not be afraid, even though he knows our sinfulness, finiteness, fear.

At the end of it all, Jesus does not offer another invitation, but rather an affirmation (Luke 5:10b) of the previous call.

How did they respond to this affirmation (Luke 5:11)? They realize that fishing for men is not a temporary activity but an eternal pursuit. Now they are getting ready to build their faith and get equipped for a life of fruitful service.

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Six Problem Passages

Six Problem Passages for Water Baptism:

1. Mark 7:4 – “and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse [literally sprinkle] themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing [literally baptizing] of cups and pitchers and copper pots.)”

Western and Syrian manuscripts add “couches” at the end of the sentence (A.T. Robertson). For those who don’t immerse, they ask, “How would the Pharisees go about submerging “couches or beds” in their ceremonial washing? (Leviticus 15:20)” You would need a large body of water like a pool or river. So, this passage seems to permit a mode of baptism to be sprinkling or pouring. The Mishnah (the first part of the Talmud) devotes 30 chapters to the purification of vessels.

There is allowance to dismantle the beds in order to immerse and purify them. So, in Jesus’ day, these beds were constructed in a way to dismantle them when needed. Strong’s Systematic Theology is accurate when he says that every use of the word baptism in the Bible requires or allows the meaning “to immerse.”

2. Mark 16:16 – “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.

At first glance it appears that baptism is necessary for salvation, but notice it does not say, “he would does not believe and is not baptized will be condemned.” The issue is FAITH, not baptism. The thing that condemns a person is not the lack of baptism but the lack of faith.

Why does Mark tie baptism to salvation? He is stressing the importance of baptism, which is a part of the Great Commission. A church history professor once told me, “Baptism doesn’t save anyone, but how can you be saved without it?” When we are truly saved, we will WANT to follow Jesus is believer’s baptism. If we refuse, we should question that person’s conversion.

In the rest of the NT, baptism is clearly not a part of the gospel. Paul makes this very clear in 1 Corinthians 1:17. If baptism was necessary for salvation, Paul would have been more earnest in communicating that teaching. If it were necessary, 1 Corinthians 1:14 makes no sense.

Charles Ryrie states: “The original ending of Mark’s Gospel is the subject of much debate. It is doubtful that what we designate as Mark 16:16 was part of the genuine close of the Gospel. At best, it would be unwise to base any doctrine on the content of Mark 16:9–20. However, it is also possible that if Mark 16:16 is a part of the inspired text that the reference is to baptism of the Spirit. After all, the Lord would have spoken Mark 16:16 at almost the same time as He spoke Acts 1:5 concerning the imminent baptizing ministry of the Spirit.”

Norman Geisler states: “A basic principle of Bible interpretation is that difficult passages should be interpreted in light of the easy, clear verses. One should never build a theology on difficult passages. The clear verses indicate that one is saved by faith in Christ (e.g., John 3:16–17; Acts 16:31). In Mark 16:16 it is clear that it is unbelief that brings damnation, not a lack of being baptized: “he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” When a person rejects the gospel, refusing to believe it, that person is damned.”

3. John 3:5Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

John 3:5 does not teach baptismal regeneration. In fact, it is not even referring to Baptism. The point is that you must be born again (John 3:3). Nicodemus asks how can a man enter his mother’s womb and be born again (John 3:4). Then comes the born of water and of the Spirit (John 3:5). Jesus is simply stating that a man must be born of water (born physically), and goes on to say that this second birth is spiritual in nature. The teaching here is not that water baptism is necessary, but that physical birth is necessary! People must be born before they can be born again. John 3:6 confirms this interpretation.

4. Acts 2:38Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Many claim that one must be baptized to receive remission of or forgiveness of sins, but this is easily refuted when we look at the original words of the New Testament. There is a little preposition “eis” that is translated “for” has the casual force and should be translated, “on the basis of” or “because of.” That makes a big difference.

Casual force in English is like, “He was arrested for stealing,” is better understood as, “He was arrested on the basis of stealing.” He was arrested “in order that” he might steal, makes no sense. If someone is commended for bravery, it is on the basis of his bravery, not in order to make him brave.

Eis” does not promote purpose or result, that forgiveness of sin is the purpose or goal of baptism, but based upon the previously received remission of sins, we would engage in this outward testimony of this inward experience. Other NT examples of “eis” are: Matthew 12:41 and Luke 11:32.

Charles Ryrie states: “Baptismal regenerationists understand this verse to teach that repentance and baptism lead to the forgiveness of sins. Unquestionably baptism was a clear proof in New Testament times of conversion, whether it be conversion to Judaism, to John the Baptist’s message, or to Christianity. To refuse to be baptized raised a legitimate doubt as to the sincerity of the profession. Therefore, when the Jewish crowd asked Peter what they must do, he quite naturally said to repent (change their minds about Jesus of Nazareth) and be baptized (give clear proof of that change).

Though it is true that exegetically the text may be understood to say that baptism is unto (eis) the forgiveness of sins, it is equally true that it may say that baptism is not for the purpose of the forgiveness of sins but because of forgiveness (that had already taken place at repentance). Eis is clearly used with this meaning in Matthew 12:41—they repented at (on the basis of, or because of) the preaching of Jonah. It certainly cannot mean in that verse that they repented with a view to [or for the purpose of] the preaching of Jonah. So Acts 2:38 may be understood that the people should repent and then be baptized because their sins were forgiven.

5. Acts 22:16Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.’

Paul is recounting his conversion experience, and some declare that a person is saved through the waters of baptism (sins being washed away).

Charles Ryrie states: “The verse contains four segments: (a) arise (which is a participle, arising); (b) be baptized (an imperative); (c) wash away your sins (another imperative); and (d) calling on the name of the Lord (another participle). To make the verse teach baptism as necessary for salvation necessitates connecting parts b and c, be baptized and wash away. But rather than being connected to each other, each of those two commands is actually connected with a participle. Arising is necessary before baptism, and calling before sins can be washed away. Thus the verse should be read this way: arising, be baptized; wash away your sins, calling on the Lord. The verse correctly understood does not teach baptismal regeneration.”

“Be baptized” is in the aorist middle imperative, which denotes urgency, while the middle voice places the responsibility to obey this command squarely on Paul. He immediately obeyed three days after his conversion, but when were his sins washed away, at his baptism or his conversion?

6. 1 Peter 3:21Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

John MacArthur states: “First Peter 3:18–22 stands as one of the most difficult NT texts to translate and then interpret. For example, does “Spirit” in 3:18 refer to the Holy Spirit, or to Christ’s Spirit? Did Christ preach through Noah before the Flood, or did He preach Himself after the crucifixion (3:19)? Was the audience to this preaching composed of the humans in Noah’s day, or demons in the abyss (3:19)? Does 3:20, 21 teach baptismal regeneration (salvation), or salvation by faith alone in Christ?

First, every time we see the word “save” in the NT, don’t jump to the conclusion that it is referring to our deliverance from the wrath of God and the punishment of a Christless eternity in hell (Romans 5:9-10). This passage actually says that baptism is an opportunity to be rescued from a dirty conscience. Peter is clear that he is not speaking of a dirty body (its purpose is not a bath that removes filth from the body) but it is an appeal to God for a good [clean] conscience.

A person with a clear conscience knows that no one can point a finger at him and say, “You’ve offended me, and you have never asked for forgiveness.” Baptism is an opportunity to publically set things straight. We need a conscience without offense toward God and men (Acts 24:16). Without a clear conscience, our witness is diminished (1 Peter 3:15-16) and some suffer shipwreck with regards to their faith (1 Timothy 1:19).

The point is, use your baptism as an opportunity to invite lost friends and family. Invite those you have offended in the past. Explain that God has forgiven you of your past sins and you desire their forgiveness as well.

In his commentary on 1 Perter 3:21, MacArthur writes:

an antitype which now saves us. In the NT, an antitype is an earthly expression of a spiritual reality. It indicates a symbol, picture, or pattern of some spiritual truth. Peter is teaching that the fact that 8 people were in an ark and went through the whole judgment, and yet were unharmed, is analogous to the Christian’s experience in salvation by being in Christ, the ark of one’s salvation.

baptism … through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Peter is not at all referring to water baptism here, but rather a figurative immersion into union with Christ as an ark of safety from the judgment of God. The resurrection of Christ demonstrates God’s acceptance of Christ’s substitutionary death for the sins of those who believe (Acts 2:30-31; Romans 1:4). Judgment fell on Christ just as the judgment of the flood waters fell on the ark. The believer who is in Christ is thus in the ark of safety that will sail over the waters of judgment into eternal glory (cf. Romans 6:1–4).

not the removal of the filth of the flesh. To be sure he is not misunderstood, Peter clearly says he is not speaking of water baptism. In Noah’s flood, they were kept out of the water while those who went into the water were destroyed. Being in the ark and thus saved from God’s judgment on the world prefigures being in Christ and thus saved from eternal damnation.

the answer of a good conscience toward God. The word for “answer” has the idea of a pledge, agreeing to certain conditions of a covenant (the New Covenant) with God. What saves a person plagued by sin and a guilty conscience is not some external rite, but the agreement with God to get in the ark of safety, the Lord Jesus, by faith in His death and resurrection (cf. Romans 10:9-10; Hebrews 9:14; 10:22).

The Believer’s Bible Comentary explains: First let us see what it may mean, and then what it cannot mean.

Actually, there is a baptism which saves us—not our baptism in water, but a baptism which took place at Calvary almost 2000 years ago. Christ’s death was a baptism. He was baptized in the waters of judgment. This is what He meant when He said, “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished!” (Luke 12:50). The psalmist described this baptism in the words, “Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls; all Your waves and billows have gone over me” (Psalm 42:7). In His death, Christ was baptized in the waves and billows of God’s wrath, and it is this baptism that is the basis for our salvation.

But we must accept His death for ourselves. Just as Noah and his family had to enter the ark to be saved, so we must commit ourselves to the Lord as our only Savior. When we do this, we become identified with Him in His death, burial, and resurrection. In a very real sense, we then have been crucified with Him (Galatians 2:20), we have been buried with Him (Romans 6:4), and we have been brought from death to life with Him (Romans 6:4).

All this is pictured in the believer’s baptism. The ceremony is an outward sign of what has taken place spiritually; we have been baptized into Christ’s death. As we go under the water, we acknowledge that we have been buried with Him. As we come up out of the water, we show that we have risen with Him and want to walk in newness of life.

An antitype which now saves us—baptism refers to Christ’s baptism unto death on the cross and our identification with Him in it, which water baptism represents.

The verse cannot mean that we are saved by ritual baptism in water for the following reasons:

  1. That would make water the savior, instead of the Lord Jesus. But He said, “I am the way” (John 14:6).
  2. It would imply that Christ died in vain. If people can be saved by water, then why did the Lord Jesus have to die?
  3. It simply doesn’t work. Many who have been baptized have proved by their subsequent lives that they were never truly born again.

Neither can this verse mean that we are saved by faith plus baptism.

  1. This would mean that the Savior’s work on the cross was not sufficient. When He cried, “It is finished,” it wasn’t really so, according to this view, because baptism must be added to that work for salvation.
  2. If baptism is necessary for salvation, it is strange that the Lord did not personally baptize anyone. John 4:1-2 states that Jesus did not do the actual baptizing of His followers; this was done by His disciples.
  3. The Apostle Paul thanked God that he baptized very few of the Corinthians (1 Cor. 1:14–16). This would be strange thanksgiving for an evangelist if baptism were essential for salvation! Paul did baptize some shows that he taught believer’s baptism, but the fact that he baptized only a few shows that he did not consider it a requirement for salvation.
  4. The penitent thief on the cross was not baptized, yet he was assured of being in Paradise with Christ (Luke 23:43).
  5. The Gentiles who were saved in Caesarea received the Holy Spirit when they believed (Acts 10:44), showing that they then belonged to Christ (Romans 8:9b). After receiving the Holy Spirit, that is, after being saved, they were baptized (Acts 10:47-48). Therefore, baptism was not necessary for their salvation. They were saved first, then they were baptized in water.
  6. In the NT, baptism is always connected with death and not with spiritual birth.
  7. There are about 150 passages in the NT which teach that salvation is by faith alone. These cannot be contradicted by two or three verses that seem to teach that baptism is necessary for salvation.

Therefore, when we read in 1 Peter 3:21, Baptism … which now saves us, it does not mean our baptism in literal water, but Christ’s baptism unto death and our identification with Him in it.

Not the removal of the filth of the flesh. The ceremonial worship of the OT, with which Peter’s Jewish-Christian readers were familiar, provided a sort of external cleansing. But it was not able to give the priests or the people a clear conscience with regard to sin. The baptism of which Peter is speaking is not a question of physical or even of ritual cleansing from defilement. Water does have the effect of removing dirt from the body, but it cannot provide a good conscience toward God. Only personal association with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection can do that.

But the answer of a good conscience toward God. The question inevitably arises, “How can I have a righteous standing before God? How can I have a clear conscience before Him?” The answer is found in the baptism of which Peter has been speaking—Christ’s baptism unto death at Calvary and one’s personal acceptance of that work. By Christ’s death the sin question was settled once for all.

Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. How do I know that God is satisfied? I know because He raised Christ from the dead. A clear conscience is inseparably linked with the resurrection of Jesus Christ; they stand or fall together. The resurrection tells me that God is fully satisfied with the redemptive work of His Son. If Christ had not risen, we could never be sure that our sins had been put away. He would have died like any other man. But the risen Christ is our absolute assurance that the claims of God against our sins have been fully met.

My only claim for a good conscience is based on the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. The order is as follows:

  1. Christ was baptized unto death for me at Calvary.
  2. When I trust Him as Lord and Savior, I am spiritually united with Him in His death, burial, and resurrection.
  3. Through the knowledge that He has risen, my request for a clear conscience is answered.
  4. In water baptism, I give visible expression to the spiritual deliverance I have experienced.

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]

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