MINISTRY SUCCESS GOVERNED BY SOVEREIGN GRACE BRINGS THE KINGDOM OF GOD NEAR TO THE LOST ALONG WITH THE CONDEMNATION ASSOCIATED WITH REJECTION
In previous contexts we have seen the failures of some of Jesus’ disciples highlighted as He found it necessary to correct their wrong perspectives. Here we have a success story in the training process. We can glean many significant ministry principles from studying the evangelistic campaign and its aftermath as presented here by Luke. We also learn how to deal with expected rejection and the importance of appreciating the privilege of spiritual revelation and illumination which we have been graciously and sovereignly granted.
Scott Harris: Luke 9 concludes with people claiming they wanted to follow Jesus, but who also found reasons to delay their claimed commitment. Luke 10 is set as a contrast to these people. It jumps past all that occurred during the Feast of Tabernacles and opens with Jesus’ instructions to a group of disciples that were committed and were being sent out to do ministry.
I. (:1-9) COMMISSIONING OF THE SEVENTY FOR EVANGELISTIC BLITZ –
Bring the Kingdom of God Near to Those Who are Lost
[cf. sales blitzes I managed as Director of Business Development]
A. (:1) Summary of Commissioning
“Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them two and two
ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come.”
This was different than the mission of the Twelve Apostles described earlier;
Principle of ministering in pairs is important
Donald Miller: The Jews considered 70 to be the number of the Gentile nations. Although Jesus’ own work was largely confined to the Jews (Matt. 15:24), there are clear indications that, quickened by the Old Testament promises (Isa. 42:6; 49:6), he intended his followers to take the gospel to all men (10:33-37; 13:28-30; 14:23; 20:16; Matt. 15:22-28; 20:16; 21:43).
Morris: Others, however, associate the number with that of the elders appointed by Moses (Nu. 11:16f., 24f.; seventy-two with the two who remained in the camp). They see Jesus as the second Moses. Others again think of the seventy members of the Sanhedrin, the religious leaders who should have been preparing for the coming of the Messiah.
Lenski: sent them along the border of southern Galilee and down along the eastern side of the Jordan through Perea. This was new territory “where he himself was about to come”.
B. (:2) Supplication for More Evangelists
“And He was saying to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;
Therefore, beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.’”
– The harvest belongs to the Lord
– Laborers do not work on a volunteer basis, but are sent out by the Lord of the harvest
– The choke point is not the availability of souls to be harvested, but the availability of workers
– Prayer is the primary strategy
MacArthur: You know I just have to kind of say at this point, Jesus was fully reformed in His theology. He understood the sovereignty of God. He understood the doctrine of election and the doctrine of predestination. He understood that the names of those who were chosen by God were written in a book before the foundation of the world and that all of them would be redeemed. He understood that. He understood that God’s plan would come to its fulfillment. He believed and understood perfectly the doctrine of predestination. He understood that the Father was collecting a bride for His Son and that the Father had predetermined who it would be. He understood that. But I want you to get the picture here, folks. As well as He understood that, that had no negative impact on His grief over those that were lost. You always balance out the doctrine of predestination with the doctrine of volition, human volition. Jesus says, “You will not come to Me, you will not come, how often I’ve tried to gather you.” If your doctrine of sovereignty robs your evangelistic zeal, then you have a sinful reaction to that truth. Here is our Lord Jesus literally in gut-wrenching agony over these lost people. He is not indifferent. He is not so fully resigned to the plan of His Father working itself out that He has no compassion. He has compassion and He knows that the means by which the Father will gather them is human, human because they can’t hear without a preacher. And so as He looks and feels compassion. He says the harvest is plentiful, the workers are few and He switches metaphors from the sheep metaphor to the harvest metaphor. . .
So this is where evangelism begins [with compassion for the lost]. You understand the massive issue. How can you be content to do nothing? How can you be content to sit idly by? Evangelism begins with a compassion born of a proper assessment of the massive character of the problem. Unbelievers flayed and stripped and depressed and destitute and made so by false religions all over the face of the earth, lying as it were on the highways and byways of the earth destitute, desolate, bewildered, confused, and headed toward divine wrath, destroyed by false shepherds and on their way to a fiery hell.
C. (:3) Safety Found in God Alone
“Go your ways; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.”
Donald Miller: Witnesses of the Kingdom are always in a hostile environment, but are to win their way by meekness, not by force.
Morris: The simile points both to danger and to helplessness. God’s servants are always in some sense at the mercy of the world, and in their own strength they cannot cope with the situation in which they find themselves. They must look to God.
D. (:4-9) Specifics of Commissioning
1. (:4) Dependence on the Lord Alone
“Carry no purse, no bag, no shoes; and greet no one on the way.”
Morris: not an exhortation to impoliteness; it is a reminder that their business is urgent and that they are not to delay it
MacArthur: Don’t depend on making relationships with people so that they provide for you. Don’t…don’t go the human route. Just go, don’t stop to make relationships, and know this, I will provide even if you have no human relationships to depend on. That’s the great lesson of trust. You’re going to have to be cared for by strangers you don’t even know, people you haven’t even cultivated a relationship with. This is just trust. You go, you trust, wherever God sends you, you go, you preach the gospel, you leave the results to the Lord. If you have nothing, you go, He provides. If you have everything, you go, you use what you have and if you ever come to a point where you have need, you know He’s going to step in and make provision. Don’t worry about the friendship side of it. Keep the message clear. . . But it is interesting that this was not friendship evangelism which may be…some people may overrate. I think friendship evangelism is good, you should evangelize your friends, but I don’t think you should wait to evangelize someone until after you’ve made a friendship. I don’t think that’s necessary. People are saved by the power of the gospel, not by the power of a friendship.
2. (:5-6) Ministry of Peace
“And whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house.’
And if a man of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him;
but if not, it will return to you.”
MacArthur: So in our ministry as we go, first of all, we direct our efforts toward those who are eager to hear. We make it clear, secondly, that we seek nothing for ourselves. Thirdly, we validate our message not by some miracles which we’re able to do, but rather by the miracle of revelation, the Word of God. And we minister with compassion to people as those did who healed the sick and cast out demons. But we preach the gospel of the kingdom which is the gospel of peace, peace with God. And wherever we find prepared hearts, sons of peace will embrace the truth. And so our ministry will be a ministry unto peace. . . Where there is not reception of the King and His kingdom but rejection, the kingdom brings not peace but punishment.
3. (:7-8) Contentment with Deserved Provision
“And stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house. And whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat what is set before you;”
4. (:9) Ministry of Healing and Preaching
“and heal those in it who are sick, and say to them,
‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’”
MacArthur: A kingdom is a domain ruled by a single monarch who has absolute sovereignty, who functions with unilateral authority, whose will is non-contradictable, authoritative, absolute. It is not representative, it is not democratic. The will of the people does not rule. The will of the people virtually has no impact. The duty of the people is to submit. The duty of the people is to obey. The duty of the people is to fall under the standards and commands that are determined by the king and do whatever it is he asks. . . The greatest form of government, the purest form of government, the best form of government is a monarchy with a perfect King who is always just, who’s perfectly benevolent, perfectly just, perfectly wise, perfectly powerful, and perfectly everything else. And that’s the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God has come, folks, and those of us who know Christ are in it. We are in it and the Lord Jesus Christ is our King.
II. (:10-16) CONDEMNATION FOR REJECTING JESUS
A. (:10-12) Accountability Once the Kingdom of God Has Come Near
“But whatever city you enter and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your city which clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you; yet be sure of this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ I say to you, it will be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city.”
Morris: In rejecting the preachers they were rejecting not simply a couple of poor itinerants, but the very kingdom of God, and that has serious consequences.
Scott Harris: Jesus gave them specific actions to take if the city would not receive them. They were to make a public protest against them and warn them of the judgment they had brought upon themselves. This was not done if they would listen to their message, for God is patient even with those that are slow to understand and believe. This was done against those who heard a clear presentation of the gospel and rejected it or those who refused to listen to them at all. Their condemnation would be greater than that of Sodom because they refused the message of salvation.
Jason Wing: There are a couple of truths the disciples needed to catch here. The first is that they would be rejected and the second is that when they were rejected they were not to give up.
Greater privilege in terms of revelation and access to Jesus and the kingdom of God leads to greater responsibility
B. (:13-14) Applied to Chorazin and Bethsaida
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had been performed in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the judgment, than for you.”
C. (:15) Applied to Capernaum
“And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you?
You will be brought down to Hades!”
Lenski: The cities named here were the populous centers in galilee from which the ministry of Jesus radiated. Chorazin is mentioned only here in the Gospels. Bethsaida was the home of some of the Twelve and is mentioned only a few times. Both are close to Capernaum, on the west side of the lake, where Jesus even had his home (John 2:12).
D. (:16) Applied Universally Based on Rejection of Jesus
“The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me;
and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me.”
III. (:17-20) CELEBRATION OF MINISTRY SUCCESS – REASONS FOR REJOICING
A. (:17) Subjugation of Demons – In the Name of Jesus
“And the seventy returned with joy, saying,
‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.’”
Divine power over Satan’s kingdom
B. (:18-19) Subjugation of Satan = Over All the Power of the Enemy
1. (:18) Defeat of Satan
“And He said to them, ‘I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning.’”
Divine power over Satan himself
2. (:19) Power Over Satan
“Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions,
and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall injure you.”
Donald Miller: Serpents and scorpions are symbols of spiritual enemies, and are not to be taken literally.
MacArthur: Evangelism is the task of rescuing people out of the clutches of Satan, ripping them, as it were, from the lap of the evil one. It is breaking in to the domain of darkness, it is a rescue operation. And in order to achieve that, the powers of hell must be overthrown. The power of demons must be conquered. Evangelism is not just convincing people by a good argument of the truth of the gospel and thus they believe. It is not just a human operation. It is not just an argument about who’s right. It is not just a rational debate. It is a rescue operation into the supernatural realm of darkness where all the souls of the unbelievers are under the control of demons and they are in a condition of being spiritually dead and spiritually blind. So you’re dealing with people who don’t have the apparatus to respond and in order to reach them, they have to be awakened from the dead. They have to be given sight. That’s a supernatural operation. And then the very world of Satan has to be overpowered so they can be rescued. This is not a simple operation. It is an assault on the forces of hell and they are powerful, powerful forces.
C. (:20) Salvation Trumps Ministry Success as Cause for Rejoicing
“Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you,
but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.”
Gets back to that theme of the Priority of Salvation that was addressed at the end of chap. 9
J. Ligon Duncan: Jesus rejoices over converting grace and you see this in verse 20 — “Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven”. Rejoice over your conversion. Rejoice over the conversion of others. Don’t get all hung up about your gifts and your elegance. Your ability to call upon demons to obey in My name. Rejoice fundamentally in this, that your hearts have been changed, that you’ve responded in faith to the Word of the Lord, that your names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. You rejoice in converting grace.
Spurgeon: To be elect is better than to be endowed with the greatest gifts. When we are likely to become too elated by what the Lord does by us, it will be well to remember that what he has done for us is a far greater and safer reason for joy.
IV. (:21-24) CONTROL OF SPIRITUAL REVELATION/ILLUMINATION – GOVERNED BY DIVINE CHOICE —
REASONS FOR JESUS TO GREATLY REJOICE
A. (:21) Paradox of Spiritual Revelation/Illumination — Governed by Divine Choice
“At that very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, ‘I praise Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou didst hide these things from the wise and intelligent and didst reveal them to babes. Yes, Father, for thus it was well-pleasing in Thy sight.’”
Spiritual Illumination does not function on the basis of natural selection – does not favor the wise and the intelligent as one might expect
Jesus rejoicing in the sovereign purpose of His Heavenly Father (MacArthur)
Geldenhuys: the Saviour rejoiced in the fact that God in His wisdom, omnipotence and love has so arranged matters that insight is given into the redeeming truths of the kingdom not to those who are self-exalted and wise in their own esteem (as so many Pharisees and scribes were at that time), but to those (like His faithful disciples) who in childlike simplicity and humility feel their utter dependence on the Lord and accept without intellectual arrogance the truths revealed by God through Him.
B. (:22) Process of Spiritual Revelation/Illumination – Governed by Divine Choice
“All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”
Jesus rejoicing in the supreme power and authority invested in Him the Son by His Heavenly Father
C. (:23-24) Privilege of Spiritual Revelation/Illumination – Governed by Divine Choice
“And turning to the disciples, He said privately, ‘Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see, for I say to you, that many prophets and kings wished to see the things which you see, and did not see them, and to hear the things which you hear, and did not hear them.’”
Jesus rejoicing in the work of the Holy Spirit
Geldenhuys: However great the privilege of those disciples was, we who possess in the New Testament the completed revelation of God in Christ have a still greater privilege. They indeed saw Him in the flesh, but we see Him in the New Testament not merely as the Incarnate Son of God but also as the Crucified One, and as the Risen Redeemer and the glorified King of His church. And because our privilege is so great, a great responsibility likewise rests upon us. The people of that time who rejected the revelation of God in Christ did not escape the divine judgment. So much the more will those who reject the competed revelation of God in His Word also bring judgment upon themselves!