Sometimes, the preposition the New Testament uses is the preposition into. We believe into Christ. And this is the fundamental thing that happens to us when we're born again, when we're converted to Christ. Our faith unites us to Him. The Spirit unites us to Him. And in that way, we are bound together. And underneath all that is the fact that in everything Jesus did, He was representing us.
And because He was representing us, everything He has done is really ours. None of these things are what we work up in ourselves. All of these things we draw down from our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
He is everything and He fills our nothingness. Now there's nobody in this room this morning who at some time in his or her life has not suffered from spiritual leprosy. We are by nature lepers, and the God of all mercy and grace through His beloved Son has made us clean if it be that we are in Christ Jesus. There's a prevailing idea out there, and perhaps you've heard this yourself, that a non-Christian thinks, yeah, perhaps I've sinned a little bit, but at the end of the day, at the end of my life, I'll go to heaven.
Hi, I'm Nathan W. Bingham, and thanks for joining us today for this Sunday edition of Renewing Your Mind. Jesus' story of the unprofitable servants really stops us in our tracks as we're reminded that when we obey God, we're simply doing our duty. So it leads us to ask the question, if our good works don't contribute to us getting to heaven, how will anyone get there?
Well today R.C. Sproul will turn to the Gospel of Luke and answer that very question. Well we're in the seventeenth chapter now of Saint Luke as we're rushing through this gospel, and I'll be reading this morning verses 1 through 10, and I'm going to ask the congregation please to stand for the reading of the Word of God. And then He said to His disciples, it is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to Him through whom they do come!
It would be better for Him if a millstone were hung around His neck and He were thrown into the sea, than that He should offend one of these little ones. Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you saying, I repent, you shall forgive him. And the apostles said to the Lord, increase our faith.
And so the Lord said, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea, and it would obey you. And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, come at once and sit down to eat? But will he not rather say to him, prepare something for my supper, and guard yourself and serve me until I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him?
I think not. So likewise you, when you have done all the things which you are commanded, say, we are unprofitable servants. We have done what our duty was to do. Again, on this day, we've had the unspeakable privilege of hearing a word from God Himself, from the lips of His only begotten Son, whose people we are and whose bride we are. Please receive this word this morning as from your Savior.
Be seated. Let us pray. Again, our Father and our God, we ask you to send help that we might come to a deeper understanding of these things that have been revealed to us from the lips of your Son and transferred to us through the supervision and inspiration of your Holy Spirit, whose presence we ask today. And through this word, we ask that you would repair our hearts for coming to your table for the most intimate fellowship we enjoy with you in this lifetime, for we ask it in Jesus' name.
Amen. Chapter 17 of Luke begins with this word from Christ given to His disciples saying it's impossible that no offenses should come. Some of you may have a different translation here which reads it's impossible that no temptations should come, but woe to Him through whom they do come. What our Lord is acknowledging at this point is in this world until the kingdom of God is fully consummated, we still struggle with sin. We still struggle with offenses that we commit against God.
We still have temptations with which we must wrestle. Jesus acknowledges to His disciples that that's the way things are. But having acknowledged that, He then pronounces to them an oracle of doom where He says, but woe unto Him through whom that offense comes.
It would be better for Him that He have a millstone hung around His neck and be cast into the sea than to offend one of these little ones. This is a tremendously important point that Jesus makes here when He pronounces this ghastly oracle of judgment. It's one thing, He says, for you to sin, but the judgment of God will come even greater on those who tempt others to sin. In His letter to the Romans when Paul gives a list of the most egregious offenses given against God, at the end of the first chapter of that book, he says, knowing that God hates these things and will condemn those who do it, people not only do them, but they encourage others to do them as well.
I don't know how many there are for sure, but my guess would be in metropolitan Orlando, they're probably a hundred churches or pastors that tell their people that premarital sex is part of normal puberty and growth, extramarital sex is acceptable to God, same-sex marriage has His approval, and God is not offended by abortion on demand. Whole mainline churches have adopted these positions as part of their official sanctions. Woe to those people who encourage others to commit these egregious sins against God. And Jesus said it would be better for that person if they had a millstone hung around their neck.
Well, watch that. Jesus is referring to the agrarian society in which the people lived on the threshing floor when grain was to be ground. They had two large circular stones on the ground, one on top of the other with the space between them, and the top stone had a hole in the center where they poured the grain in so that then the ox would move around in the circle and the larger stone would grind the grain against the bottom stone. A human person was not able to do this task unless it was Samson, as he was forced to do in the Old Testament to replace the work of an ox. The weight of that stone was so great that if you were put it around your neck as a collar and thrown into the depths of the sea, you could only have one possible destiny.
You would surely perish. So as he gives this great warning, he goes on to say at the same time, take heed if your brother sins against you. Not if he just simply encourages you to sin with him, but if he sins against you, rebuke him. And if he repents, then you must forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you saying, I repent, you shall forgive him.
Now there's a point here I don't want us to miss. There's a widespread misconception among Christians that the idea is that if somebody sins against us, we're duty bound to give them unilateral forgiveness, whether they repent or not. After all, Jesus gave us that example when he prayed for the forgiveness of his executioners while he hung on the cross. But the Bible doesn't teach that we are required before God to give automatic unilateral forgiveness to anyone who sins against us.
That's why there's a whole complicated structure for church discipline set forth in the New Testament. You see, if we are sinned against, we're to rebuke that person. And if they repent, then forgiveness is not an option. If a person offends us and says they're sorry and acknowledges their sin against us, it's not only that we may forgive them, we must forgive them, no matter how difficult it may be. And Jesus goes on to say, and if that same person commits the same sin 15 minutes later against you, and comes and says, I'm sorry, you have to forgive them again. And if he does it the third time, the fourth time, the fifth time, the sixth time, the seventh time, and he comes and repents, you can't say to him, no, no, no, no, that's number seven, too late, you're done.
No. It doesn't matter how many times you've been offended. If the party who offends you repents, then we forgive. And we have to stand ready to forgive people at any time, at a moment's notice.
And following this admonition, Jesus gives something of a strange and unexpected story in response to what the disciples said after they told them they had to forgive seven times seven. They said, oh, if we're going to do that, Lord, we need more faith than we have, so please increase our faith. Jesus said, you don't need a lot of faith to do that. If you had the faith of a grain of a mustard seed, he said, you could talk to a mulberry tree, pluck it up out of the ground and plant it in the ocean.
I don't know too many of us that could actually do that. But Jesus is saying it doesn't take a world of faith to forgive somebody who sins against you. But then comes the story, which is unexpected, when he says, In which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he comes in from the field, Come at once and sit down to eat. But will he not rather say to him, Prepare something for my supper, gird yourself and serve me until I have eaten and drunk, and afterwards you will eat and drink? Sounds funny coming from the lips of Jesus who tells us that we are to be servants, who washed his disciples' feet on the night in which he was betrayed, who said, I didn't come to be served but to serve and to give my life as a ransom for many. You would expect in this story, when he tells of a man who has a small farm that's tended by a single servant and that servant labors all day in the hot sun, hoeing the crops, feeding the livestock and comes in exhausted at the end of the day, you would expect Jesus to say, If that's your servant, tell him to sit down and take a break and say, I'll go and prepare your meal for you after all you've done in the heat of the sun this day. That's not what he does. Now there are other occasions and other situations where Jesus would tell a story like that to inculcate within us this idea of servanthood, but that's not his point in this particular parable. Here he's addressing something else. He's addressing a situation where a man does what he's commanded to do, not a single thing more than that. He does all that he's responsible to do, and when he comes in at the end of the day, he still has further duties to perform in addition to those that he's done during the day. It's now time for him to prepare his master's dinner. The master is not going to say to the servant, Hey, sit down, put your legs up.
I'm going to cook you some food, pop a cork of our best wine, and treat you to a lavish dinner. He's not going to say to him, Thank you so very much for doing what you've been commanded to do. So Jesus said, Does he thank that servant?
I think not. Now here's the point of the parable. So likewise you. Now he's speaking to us. So likewise me.
So likewise you. When you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, We are unprofitable servants. We have done what is our duty to do.
We have added nothing to the asset side of the ledger. If you have lived a life of perfect righteousness, if you have obeyed every commandment that God has ever given, which you haven't, but if you have, Jesus is saying, Big deal. So what? All you've done is what you were supposed to do. Didn't your Creator make you in His own image? Didn't He call you to mirror and reflect His own character? Didn't He say to you, Be ye holy because I am holy?
Do you get it? If I live a life of perfect holiness, I've done nothing of merit. I've added nothing to the weights and measures of the kingdom of God because I've simply done what was my duty to do. But we have millions of people in the church who still hold on to the idea that what they've accomplished in this life is what will get them into the kingdom of God. The Muslims have a view that if your good deeds outweigh your bad deeds, you'll go to heaven. But if your bad deeds outweigh your good deeds, you'll go to hell. Where Christianity says, If your whole life is nothing but good deeds and you have no bad deeds, without the righteousness of Christ, you'll go to hell forever.
Because there's nothing that you can possibly do to earn your way into the kingdom of God. You can't go to the judgment seat of Christ and say, I went to church every Sunday for thirty years. I was an elder. I was a minister. I was a deacon. I tithed my money. I fed the poor. I ministered to the sick. God will say, Well, that's what you're supposed to do.
Why should I give you a reward for doing your duty? One of my favorite hymns ever written was written by Augustus Toplady. You know the hymn, Rock of Ages, a cleft for me. Let me hide myself in thee. And in that hymn there's a line that just gets me every time I hear it.
I want to do what some of you did this morning and go like that when I hear it. When the line goes like this, nothing in my hand I bring. Simply to the cross I cling. Nothing in my hand. The hand is empty.
It's a vacuum. I can put nothing on the table. The only thing I bring to the table is my shame and my guilt and my need. And so when you come to the table this morning, you bring nothing in your hand.
Fowl I to the fountain fly. Savior, wash me or I die. All that has been done to get me into the kingdom of God is done by Christ. He and He alone is the profitable servant, and we reap the benefits of His profit. And He takes the profit that He has achieved and He pours it into my hands. And now when I stand before God, I've got everything.
I've got the whole world. I've got perfect righteousness in my hand. But it's His.
It's not mine. I don't add assent to the profit that is won for me by Christ. What do we have to boast of before God? Let Him who boasts boast of the Lord, we are told, who fills us hand and foot with the righteousness of Jesus. So we bring nothing to this table of our own except our need. Everything in my hands I bring. Simply to Thy cross I cling.
That was R.C. Sproul from a sermon he preached at St. Andrew's Chapel here in Sanford, Florida. And as a minister of the Gospel, Dr. Sproul had the opportunity to preach through entire books of the Bible.
And those sermons became the basis for his expositional commentary series. And today we're making available to you his commentary on the Gospel of Luke. If you'd like to study a little bit further on this parable we heard today, or all of the Gospel of Luke, you can give your gift at renewingyourmind.org, and we'll give you digital access to this commentary on Luke's Gospel.
When you give your gift at renewingyourmind.org, this ebook edition will be available for you in the free Ligonier Ministries app, which means you can take it with you wherever you go. As I was listening to today's sermon, it reminded me of this quote from Dr. Sproul. He says, The things I say and do, though they seem infinitely insignificant to me, may have eternal significance as God uses me in the building of his kingdom.
Of his own good pleasure, he works through what we do and say, not to exalt us, but to glorify himself. That came from an article that Dr. Sproul wrote for Table Talk magazine. If you have not read Table Talk magazine, it is our monthly Bible study and devotional magazine, and you can try it for free by visiting tritabletalk.com, and you'll receive three months of the magazine for free.
If you live outside of the US or Canada, we also have an affordable international rate, and you can subscribe by visiting gettabletalk.com slash international. Next week, Dr. Sproul will continue his journey through the Gospel of Luke, and we'll discover what we can learn from Jesus' encounter with a group of lepers, how it helps us understand the Gospel, and shows us that we are to live lives of gratitude. So join us next Sunday here on Renewing Your Mind. .
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