Flower

Call to Worship August 12 2018

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke

J.C. Ryle Luke 16:19-31

“We learn, firstly, from this parable — that a man’s worldly condition is no test of his state in the sight of God. The Lord Jesus describes to us two men — of whom one was very rich, and the other very poor. The one ‘fared sumptuously every day.’ The other was a mere ‘beggar,’ who had nothing that he could call his own. And yet of these two, the poor man had grace — and the rich man had none. The poor man lived by faith, and walked in the steps of Abraham. The rich man was a thoughtless, selfish worldling — dead in trespasses and sins.

Let us never give way to the common idea that men are to be valued according to their income, and that the man who has most money is the one who ought to be the most highly esteemed. There is no authority for this notion in the Bible. The general teaching of Scripture is flatly opposed to it. ‘Not many wise, not many mighty, not many noble — are called.’ (1 Corinthians 1:26.) ‘Let not the rich man glory in his riches. But let him who glories glory in this — that he knows and understands me.’ (Jeremiah 9:24.)

Wealth is no mark of God’s favor. Poverty is no mark of God’s displeasure. Those whom God justifies and glorifies — are seldom the rich of this world. If we would measure men as God measures them — then we must value them according to their grace.

We learn, secondly, from this parable — that death is the common end to which all classes of mankind must come. The trials of the ‘beggar,’ and the sumptuous faring of the ‘rich man’ — alike ceased at last. There came a time when both of them died. ‘All go to one place.’ (Ecclesiastes 3:20.)

Death is a great fact that all acknowledge — but very few seem to ponder. Most men eat, and drink, and talk, and plan — as if they were going to live upon earth forever. The true Christian must be on his guard against this spirit. ‘He who would live well,’ said a great divine, ‘should often think of his last day, and make it his company-keeper.’ Against murmuring, and discontent, and envy — in the state of poverty; and against pride, and self-sufficiency, and arrogance — in the possession of wealth — -there are few better antidotes, than the remembrance of death. ‘The beggar died’ — and his bodily needs were at an end. ‘The rich man died’ — and his feasting was stopped for evermore.

We learn, thirdly, from this parable — that the souls of believers are especially cared for by God in the hour of death. The Lord Jesus tells us that when the beggar died he ‘was carried by angels to Abraham’s bosom.’

There is something very comforting in this expression. We know little or nothing of the state and feelings of the dead. When our own last hour comes, and we lie down to die — we shall be like those who journey into an unknown country. But it may satisfy us to know that all who fall asleep in Jesus, are in good keeping. They are not houseless, homeless wanderers between the hour of death and the day of resurrection. They are at rest in the midst of friends — with all who have had like faith with Abraham. They have no lack of anything. And, best of all, Paul tells us that they are ‘with Christ.’ (Philippians 1:23.)

We learn, fourthly, from this parable — the reality and eternity of Hell. The Lord Jesus tells us plainly, that after death the rich man was ‘in Hell — tormented with fire.’ He gives us a fearful picture of his longing for a drop of ‘water to cool his tongue,’ and of ‘the gulf’ between him and Abraham, which could not be passed.

There are few more dreadful passages perhaps in the whole Bible, than this one. And let it be remembered, that He from whose lips it came, was one who delighted in mercy!

The certainty and endlessness of the future punishment of the wicked, are truths which we must hold fast and never let go. From the day when Satan said to Eve, ‘You shall not surely die!’ there never have been lacking men who have denied them. Let us not be deceived. There is a Hell for the impenitent — as well as a Heaven for believers. There is a wrath to come for all who ‘do not obey the Gospel of Christ.’ (2 Thessalonians 1:8.) From that wrath — let us flee to the great hiding-place, Jesus Christ the Lord. If men find themselves ‘in torment’ at last — it will not be because there was no way to escape.

We learn, fifthly, from this parable — that unconverted men find out the value of a soul, after death — when it is too late. We read that the rich man wanted Lazarus to be sent to his five brethren who were yet alive, ‘lest they also should come to the place of torment.’ While he lived, he had never done anything for their spiritual good. They had probably been his companions in worldliness — and, like him, had neglected their souls entirely. When he is dead he finds out too late — the folly of which they had all been guilty, and desires that, if possible, they might be called to repentance.

The change that will come over the minds of unconverted men after death, is one of the most fearful points in their future condition. They will see, and know, and understand a hundred things to which they were obstinately blind while they were alive. They will discover that, like Esau, they have bartered away eternal happiness — for a mere bowl of stew. There is no infidelity, or skepticism, or unbelief — after death! It is a wise saying of an old divine, that ’Hell is nothing more than truth known too late!’

We learn, lastly, from this parable — that the greatest miracles would have no effect on men’s hearts, if they will not believe God’s Word. The rich man thought that ‘if one went to his brethren from the dead — they would repent.’ He argued that the sight of one who came from another world must surely make them feel their need of forgiveness — though the old familiar words of Moses and the prophets had been heard in vain. The reply of Abraham is solemn and instructive, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets — then neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.’

The principle laid down in these words, is of deep importance. The Scriptures contain all that we need to know in order to be saved — and a messenger from the world beyond the grave could add nothing to them. It is not ‘more evidence’ which is needed in order to make men repent — but more heart and will to make use of what they already know.

If the ‘dead’ rose from their graves to instruct us — they could tell us nothing more than the Bible already contains. After the first novelty of their testimony was worn away — we would care no more for their words, than the words of any other.

This wretched waiting for something which we have not, and neglect of what we already have — is the ruin of thousands of souls. Faith, simple faith in the Scriptures which we already possess — is the first thing needful to salvation. The man who has the Bible, and can read it, and yet waits for more evidence before he becomes a decided Christian — is only deceiving himself. Unless he awakens from his delusion, he will die in his sins, and be forever in the torments of Hell.”

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