Calvary Road Baptist Church

ďGODíS GRACE MINISTERED TO THOSE OBEYING CHRISTíS COMMAND THAT SINNERS STRIVE TO ENTER IN AT THE STRAIT GATEĒ

Luke 13.24

PART SEVENTEEN

Fourth, WE EXPLORE THE PARTNERSHIP THAT ACCOMPANIES STRIVING

A review of what we have learned is in order at this point:

Matthew 12.1-8:

1      At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat.

2      But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day.

3      But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him;

4      How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests?

5      Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless?

6      But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple.

7      But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.

8      For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.

From time to time, the Lord Jesus Christ became involved in controversies with the Pharisees concerning the proper observance of the Sabbath. Such conflicts were unavoidable as He went about doing His heavenly Fatherís will. On this occasion exception was taken to our Lord and His disciples walking through a field and stripping ripened grain off the stalks and eating it as they went along. That was thought by the Pharisees to be working on the Sabbath.

Matthew 12.9-14:

9      And when he was departed thence, he went into their synagogue:

10     And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him.

11     And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out?

12     How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.

13     Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other.

14     Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him.

The second episode occurring on the same Sabbath day took place when Jesus entered the synagogue. Notice that there was a man with a withered hand in attendance, and the Pharisees intentionally asked a question designed to elicit an answer they might use to accuse Him. Thus, we see their attitude was bad. Our Lord answered them, restored the manís withered hand in front of them, and they left to hold a council against Him to plan His destruction.

Matthew 12.15-21:

15     But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from thence: and great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all;

16     And charged them that they should not make him known:

17     That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying,

18     Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles.

19     He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets.

20     A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory.

21     And in his name shall the Gentiles trust.

Here we find something of great significance. Jesus turned away from the religious crowd to the multitudes. Two things to notice of importance here: First, He healed many of the multitudes but charged them that they should not make Him known, yet another example showing that Jesus was not ostentatious. Next, and this is extremely important for you to come to grips with, Matthew explains what Jesus did in terms of a prophecy from Isaiah. In other words, Matthew provides an inspired explanation of Jesusí actions.

Isaiah 42.1-4:

1      Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.

2      He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street.

3      A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.

4      He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law.

Three things to notice in this very important passage about our Lord Jesus Christís earthly ministry: First, the role of the Holy Spirit is pointed out in verse 1: ďI have put my spirit upon him.Ē More to say on this later. Second, Christís manner was predicted to not be boastful, aggressive, or in any way pushy, verse 2: ďHe shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street.Ē While He did lift His voice to preach, He did not raise His voice to argue or debate with the proud and haughty. This explains Him simply walking away from the Pharisees and ministering instead to those who did not resist Him and argue against Him. Our Lordís actions should alarm you who have lost loved ones who have heard the gospel repeatedly without response. While your loved one may not have spoken out audibly against Christ, his continued refusal to respond to the gospel directive is sufficient evidence that he rebels against Christ and is contentious toward Him in his heart and mind. Thus, you must consider that the Savior may consider doing to your lost loved one what He did with the Pharisees when He walked away from them. Finally, note how He dealt with the sinners He actually did deal with, verse 3: ďA bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench.Ē Note the condition of those He ministered to, likened to a bruised reed He would not break and a smoking flax He would not quench. Thus, He dealt gently with the humble and did not deal with the resistant and the proud at all. That is a most important truth for us to grip and not let go. Our lost loved ones have no idea how precarious their situation is at present.

What is to be done with those who are resistant and those who are proud? Please note that Jesus did not deal with different types of sinners in the same fashion. As I have pointed out repeatedly, the whole point of Christís directive to strive is related to His different ways of dealing with sinners who have different responses to the gospel. From Isaiah 42.1, we are confident of the Holy Spiritís involvement in the Saviorís earthly ministry, extending even to His role in making an impact in sinnerís lives as they contemplate the Saviorís words and deeds. However, we are now two thousand years removed from the Saviorís earthly ministry. He has accomplished His passion, His resurrection, and His ascension on high. He is now reigning in glory. How is striving to enter in at the strait gate to be accomplished in our era, in light of the fact that all men are without strength, Romans 5.6? For that, my friends, there must be a conscious compliance on the part of the striving sinner with the Holy Spirit of God.

Two observations to make in this regard will help to explain the concept I am advocating:

First, observe that the Holy Spirit is the prompting Partner in striving. There is no question at all about the Holy Spiritís role in the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. John 3.34 reveals that the Holy Spirit was given without measure to the Savior. As well, there is no question at all about the Holy Spiritís role in regeneration, the miracle of the new birth. Godís children are those born of the Spirit, John 3.8, and John 6.63 informs us that it is the Spirit that quickeneth, or that gives life. The question before us at present is the Holy Spiritís involvement with a lost person, particularly a lost person who has a pattern of resisting the gospel and refusing Christ. Such ongoing resistance is grieving and quenching to the Holy Spirit and is serious business. What we saw in Matthew 12.15-21 suggests that our Lordís pattern was to walk away from such people. How, then, are we to understand the Holy Spiritís involvement with such lost people who behave this way? Will the Holy Spirit also turn away from a recalcitrant sinner? Genesis 6.3, where we read the LORDís words, ďMy spirit shall not always strive with man,Ē suggest that eventually He will turn away and have no more to do with the sinner who refuses His overtures. However, before this point of no return is reached in the life of your lost loved one, there are two things that need to be understood:

First, we must understand that the Spirit of God is the Executor of Godís will for all sinners. Speaking to His disciples in John 16.13, Jesus said, ďHowbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth.Ē This promise to His disciples holds great promise for believers. However, we must also consider that the lost cannot receive the Spirit, John 14.17: ďEven the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him.Ē Thus, the lost have a dilemma. Only the Spirit of God can magnify the Savior and guide into all truth, yet by their resistance to the truth of the gospel the lost are antagonistic to the mission and ministry of the Holy Spirit, grieving and quenching Him almost constantly. Therefore, while the Spirit is the Executor of Godís will, the sinnerís lost condition and rebellion is a great obstacle to the wooing of the Spirit of God. At the same time, it must be granted that the Spirit of God is Another Comforter for Christ for sinners. Most people erroneously conceive of comforting in the Bible as always making someone feel good, soothing their nerves, and calming them down. Nothing could be further from the truth with respect to the Spiritís ministry to the lost. Remember that both the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are identified by the Savior as comforters, the Greek word being paraklhtoV. In the Greek New Testament, the word is always used in the sense of a helper or an intercessor.[1] Those two functions, however, do not imply making the one helped or the one for whom intercession is made feel better. Thus, while the Holy Spirit is the prompting Partner in striving, what He accomplishes is generally misunderstood by the lost and also by many Christians.

Second, there is the result of the sinnerís cooperative striving with the Holy Spiritís ministry. How should the sinner collaborate with the Holy Spirit, especially the sinner whose past sins and obstinacy toward the gospel requires that he strive to enter in? John 16.8-14 shows us a great deal:

8      And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:

9      Of sin, because they believe not on me;

10     Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more;

11     Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.

12     I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.

13     Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.

14     He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.

Notice that, except for His ministry of glorifying Christ and not speaking of Himself, and Christís sacrifice on behalf of sinners at the end of His earthly ministry, the ministry of the Holy Spirit as explained by the Savior is very similar to His own. Thus, it becomes clear what Jesus meant when He described the Holy Spirit as Another Comforter, He also being Comforter. Do the accomplishments listed in this passage make people feel good? Not in the short term, certainly. Consider one verse at a time with me to see the Spiritís involvement in preparing the sinner for an encounter with Christ:

         Verse 8 shows that the Spirit engages in reproof. This is the activity of bringing someone to the point of recognizing wrongdoing.[2] This is quite a feat to accomplish in the life of one whose pattern has been to shift blame and deny guilt and culpability. However, it is integral to the entire process of striving. Be mindful that reproof is the accomplishment of one Person in His dealings with another person, the Spirit of God dealing with the sinner. It is crucial that this personal involvement of the Holy Spirit not be overlooked.

         Verse 9 shows the Spiritís role in magnifying the exceeding sinfulness of sin, as well as the crime of failing to believe in Jesus. This, too, is an accomplishment that results from striving that can be extremely uncomfortable to experience.

         Verse 10 shows that the Spirit deals with the lost about both righteousness and Christís exaltation. I would suggest that in striving the Spirit works to persuade the sinner that righteousness is unattainable and can only be imputed to the sinner by faith. That is, righteousness is not imparted but imputed. I would also suggest striving works to bring the sinner low, while correspondingly showing Jesus exalted and enthroned on high to a degree such as the sinner never before conceived. This can be a terrifying experience. When Isaiah saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, the sight did not make him happy. Quite the contrary, for he said, ďWoe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.Ē I am not suggesting the Spirit gives striving sinners such a vision as Isaiah had, but that realizing as a result of striving that Jesus is exalted is not comforting to the sinner in a feel good kind of way, however beneficial it is.

         Verse 11 shows the Spiritís role in persuading the sinner to see himself guilty in the sight of God, so much so that he actually sides with God against himself as culpable and worthy of Godís judgment. Such conviction would also extend to seeing the awfulness of both Satan and this world that is so influenced and dominated by Satan, the god of this world. When this happens oneís heart can feel like it is being torn.

         Dropping down to verse 14, the Spiritís role in glorifying Christ is pointed out. We sing the Doxology at our church. Glory translates the Greek word from which we get the word doxology, though that Greek word has for its meaning a concept found only in the Bible and nowhere in Greek usage outside the Bible. Such words as ďdivine honor,Ē ďdivine splendor,Ē and ďvisible divine radianceĒ are very poor attempts at conveying what this marvelous word actually means, and its application by Jesus to Himself is a powerful claim of Deity.[3] The implications of the Spirit of God glorifying Christ are far reaching to the striving sinner.

Thus, though striving is not specifically referred to in this passage, we see here the role of the Holy Spirit in accomplishing in the sinner precisely what we elsewhere see striving accomplish in the sinner. So far, we have looked at striving from the sinnerís perspective, but this passage shows us the accomplishments of striving from the Holy Spiritís perspective. Sinners need to come to grips with the wrongness of their attitudes about sinning against God, concerning their own unrighteousness, the prospect of the judgment they face, and their refusal to believe in and believe on Jesus. They must cooperate with the Holy Spiritís assignment to bring them to that place, which Jesus termed in Luke 13.24 to be striving. They need to be willing to take the steps to both humble themselves and to exalt Jesus in their heart and mind, to recognize His proper station as the glorified Lord over all and their own place as kneeling with bowed head before Him? Then they must cooperate with the Spirit of God in this activity called striving. Failure to do that, neglecting to do that, refusing to do that, and they will not be saved, for just as the Holy Spirit is the miracle worker Who performs the regeneration Jesus spoke of when He indicated sinners must be born again, so must the Holy Spirit be the one who prepares the sinner for that conversion experience. The sinner who strives to enter in is yielding to the Spiritís convicting ministry, while the sinner who will not strive is doubly guilty. On one hand, he continues to grieve and quench the Holy Spirit, stifling His efforts to persuade you to bow before your Sovereign Lord. On the other hand, he continues to deny the Lord of glory His due, homage, adoration, worship, and praise from all His creatures.



[1] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 766.

[2] Ibid., page 315.

[3] Gerhard Kittel, Editor, Theological Dictionary Of The New Testament, Vol II, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1964) page 247.



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