Chapter # 6 Paragraph # 5 Study # 19
February 17, 2008
32 For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.
33 And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.
34 And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.
1901 ASV Translation:
32 And if ye love them that love you, what thank have ye? for even sinners love those that love them.
33 And if ye do good to them that do good to you, what thank have ye? for even sinners do the same.
34 And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? even sinners lend to sinners, to receive again as much.
- I. The Contrast Between Jesus' Disciples and "Sinners".
- A. Clearly Jesus wanted His audience to make a distinction between themselves and "sinners".
- 1. According to Luke's usage, the term translated "sinner" was characteristically used in the culture to refer to people who were obviously "not religious". It was not that the "non sinners" saw themselves as people who never "sinned", it was just that there was a difference in the cultural perspective between those who "sinned" publically and without any apparent remorse and those who "sinned" but were conscience smitten when they did and made serious effort to not "sin". It boiled down to one main issue: the manifestation of a serious interest in pleasing God. In all cultures where "religion" is a major player, this distinction exists without getting below the surface to deal with the universal sinfulness of all. This implies that the word "sinner" actually means "a person whose general attitude is to not take God seriously."
- 2. That Jesus used this "cultural terminology" means that He was telling everyone that He was on the scene to attempt to get people to take God seriously. It means that His teaching regarding the eventual Kingdom of God was to be understood as a claim that the future was absolutely determined in respect to the final dominance of "God". And it means that He wanted those whom He taught to think in terms of a contrast between themselves and "sinners", but without the hubris that usually accompanies such thinking.
- B. Just as clearly, Jesus wanted His disciples to manifest a distinction between themselves and sinners.
- 1. There is little point in challenging people to live "differently" if, in fact, they cannot do so.
- 2. The issue in Jesus' challenge is, as the translators render it, "what thank have ye?". The terminology is odd and somewhat difficult of straightforward translation. There is no "have ye" verb; it is simply a third person, singular of the verb "to be" and is normally translated "he/she/it is". The word translated "thank" is used 156 times in the New Testament and more than 130 of those uses refer to "grace". It is, in other words, the typical word for "grace". The "ye" in the phrase is in the dative form and the possibilities of translation are enormous because of the wide range that form includes. Literally, Jesus asked, "What (kind of) to you grace is?" The implication is that He was asking how a lack of difference between the behavior of "godly" people and "sinners" can cause anyone to think that there is any "grace" in the mix. And, if there is no grace in the mix, what is the point of the religion? If "Christians" do not do any better at the process of "living" than the "non" Christians, of what value is Christianity?
- 3. There is a significant danger here: Jesus, by insisting that His disciples live in a more other-centered way, might be taken to imply that He believed them to be able to live "sinlessly". Nothing is further from the Truth. Jesus had no illusions about the true nature of fallen humanity; He had no illusions about the "relative" impact that regeneration has upon human beings in the context of the fall. That the greatest act of Jesus beyond Calvary was the sending of His Spirit to indwell His disciples is a potent declaration of how He viewed His disciples in their true pre-glorification state.
- 4. The tension exists. How much difference can there be between those who are the disciples of Jesus and those who are not? Disciples are not capable of "perfection", so what degree of "imperfection" is "acceptable"? How much "difference" does the presence of the Spirit of Jesus really make, and what is that difference? Peter, who preached the sermon on Pentecost and rose to the top of the apostles in terms of how much impact he made (Paul called him 'the apostle of the circumcision' in Galatians 2:8), dropped the ball so badly that Paul felt compelled to rebuke him publicly over a crucial doctrinal issue years after he had surfaced as a key player in the Church in Jerusalem. If Peter could fail like this, what real difference is there between a Spirit-indwelt "believer" and a "sinner"? And, a parallel question is this: To what degree of accountability do we hold one another? Do we expect a genuine "cease and desist" after one rebuke? How long is longsuffering supposed to last?
- 5. The answers also exist. God deals with men in terms of their attitude toward Him. He does not require of them a greater self-knowledge than they have; He simply insists that they "walk in the light" with Him. This means that He deals with men in terms of how they consciously treat Him. Paul made it as clear as he could that there is "no temptation" to which a man must succumb (1 Corinthians 10:13), and John made it as clear as he could that if a believer does succumb, he must "confess" it as soon as he becomes aware of his failure (1 John 1:9). As long as a man is willing to seek God's "manner of escape", he will walk in the light and it will be obvious to all around him that he is "living in grace". As long as a man is willing to confess his sin, he can be restored to the light and it will be obvious to all that he is "different" from "sinners".