Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 2 Study # 7
Thesis: The "Kingdom" is focused upon the legitimate pursuit of one's appointed tasks.
Introduction: In our look at Luke's record of the questions that the penitents asked of John and the answers he gave, we saw that there is a fundamental characteristic of God's Kingdom that exists beneath all of the talk about "love" and "faith". God does love us, and justification is by faith apart from works, but justification by faith is a doctrine of methodology, not objectives, and God's love does not exclude eternal condemnation for those He loves. This means that we simply must understand at least some of the most fundamental issues that are involved. One of those is the fact that justification by faith, which allows the love of God to spare us from eternal death, is not a "bottom line" doctrine -- it is simply the only way the true "bottom line" can be achieved. John's instruction to those who embraced his doctrine of regeneration as a divine response to genuine repentance cannot, therefore, be used to attempt to unseat "justification by grace through faith". The only way his instruction can be taken is as instruction to the justified as the explanation of how the new life of regeneration can be lived.
In this light, we saw in our study last week that the instruction to give food and clothing to fellow-members of the Kingdom who have none is simply the tip of the iceberg of the true character of the Kingdom of God. That instruction is not about creating a this-worldly, socio-economic system of communism or socialism in which all are provided for regardless of whether they live responsibly within the system or not. Rather, it is about creating both a sense of, and a practice of, the "system" of the Servant Kingdom in which every person makes a diligent effort to be a contributing part and is "taken care of" when their efforts have been stymied by things other than their own foolishness, laziness, or "fanginess". This, obviously, limits the practice of sharing with the needy who are so by their own wickedness. Enabling the wicked to practice their wickedness is not a "godly" activity. This is a complicated reality, and, certainly, one sermon on it is not going to address the complications very well, but one sermon can, at least, give us something to chew on.
Now, this morning we are going to take a thoughtful look at John's instruction to the tax-collectors.
March 19, 2006
- I. Luke's Selection of the Tax-collectors.
- A. It was intentional.
- 1. It was intentional because this group of individuals was "notorious".
- a. Their notoriety was absolutely inescapable: no one could escape having to deal with a tax-collector.
- b. Their notoriety provided Luke with a platform to make sure that he could make his points.
- 1) The tax-collectors were notoriously exercising life by the fang.
- a) There was no "lower rung" type of person in the culture than the tax-collector [in every place in the New Testament where this identity shows up, it is cast in the lowest light possible -- there was no one morally more perverse in the eyes of the people than a tax-collector: see Luke 18:10 and following].
- b) Their identity in the eyes of the people made them the best possible "platform" for making a point.
- 2) The tax-collectors were notoriously "beyond hope" in the eyes of the general populace.
- a) The theology of the culture condemned the tax-collectors as beyond redemption as both apostates and wicked people.
- b) The application of the promise of John's message of regeneration by repentance to tax-collectors opened the doors of hope to all as Paul declared in 1 Timothy 1:15-16.
- 2. It was intentional because this group was an ideal "fit" for Luke's thesis that the "doors of grace" were so narrow that one could only go through them by means of one characteristic.
- a. Luke's thesis -- that salvation is only open to those who are willing to accept the truth about their snakiness and bring it to God for a solution -- finds an ideal "illustration" in the tax-collectors.
- 1) The tax-collectors functioned at the "poison" level of the "you are a viper" allegation as the "viper" allegation is expressed in the culture.
- a) Fangs are crucial to life by the fang, but they only "puncture"...without "poison" the puncture is only a slight wound (Illustration: The man bitten by a King Cobra on the battle field who survived without any treatment).
- b) It is the poison that is the crucial element in life by the fang.
- c) Because the tax-collectors operated at the level of people's delusional fixation on the power of money, they functioned at the "poison" level.
- i. The attitude people have about the power of money is what gives it its "poison" power...the ability to keep people from the life-giving God.
- ii. All who think that money is preferable to a good relationship with God have already drowned in the poison of the fang. [Just suppose you could become a billionaire by simply "fudging" in a very minor way -- say, driving 60 in a 55 zone on your way to a meeting that would determine your financial fortune: would you do it? Do you think it is an accident that Mark recorded Jesus as demanding that the rich young man sell all that he had as a condition to reward in the Kingdom, or that Jesus, in Luke 19:17, made faithfulness in the smallest things the criterion for inheritance in the largest things?]
- 2) Some of the tax-collectors were finding redemption as they embraced the message of John.
- a) This revealed the power of forgiveness from God to neutralize the poison.
- b) It is no accident that God chose Matthew to write the longest, and most detailed, "Gospel" of Jesus as the picture of Jesus as the Savior of the Soul: he was the classic illustration of the power of redemption to undercut the power of the poison.
- B. It was instructive.
- 1. Luke does not record John demanding of the tax-collectors that they find other employment.
- 2. Luke does record John demanding of the tax-collectors that they cease considering their jobs as a means to wealth and begin to view their jobs as a way to inject the antidote of the Kingdom of God into the culture of poison.