Inheritance: Rewards and Loss
Galatians Lesson #063
August 29, 1999
“Father, we come to You this morning because of Your grace, Your underserved merit. All that You have done for us in Jesus Christ has allowed You to exercise unimaginable freedom in bestowing upon us an infinite array of blessings.
And Father, we pray that as we study Your Word, and we learn about these blessings and all the spiritual assets You have provided for us to live the spiritual life, and to glorify You, that we might be challenged and motivated to advance to spiritual maturity, that you might receive all the glory. We pray this is Jesus’ name, amen.”
Open your Bibles with me this morning to Galatians 5. We will spend a few brief seconds there before we move on. We have been studying a section in Galatians 5:17–26 which focuses on the believer’s walk by means of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the divine empowerment for the unique spiritual life of the Church Age. The life that we have in this age is a supernatural life. It is different from the life God has given believers in any other dispensation.
It differs from the spiritual life of the Jews in the dispensation of Israel preceding the Cross. It differs from the spiritual life of the Tribulation, for there will be no indwelling Holy Spirit during that time. It differs from the spiritual life during the Millennium. It is a unique spiritual life, and it is based upon the fact that the church, the body of Christ, all believers during this age, the church is a unique group of believers who have a unique role, a unique place, in the angelic conflict, and we have a unique testimony before the angels and before man.
What God is demonstrating in this age is that the spiritual life can be produced only by dependence upon His power and His enablement. That comes through the ministry of God the Holy Spirit, which is termed the filling of the Holy Spirit in Ephesians 5:18, and that just refers to the power base. It comes from the filling of the Holy Spirit. We have seen that that is an instrumental means there, a dative of instrument, which means by means of the Holy Spirit. As the Holy Spirit helps us to learn doctrine, the result is the application of doctrine.
What we see in this passage is an emphasis on the day-to-day mechanics, walking by means of the Spirit. The terminology used here indicates the fact that it is a moment-by-moment dependence. It is not talking about the filling by means of the Holy Spirit, which emphasizes the power base, it emphasizes that moment-by-moment progression that is to characterize the believer’s life.
We walk by means of the Spirit in verse 16, and we are led by the Spirit in Galatians 5:18. We saw that to be led means you must follow. We follow by walking. That is further emphasized by the word used for walking in Galatians 5:25, STOICHEO, which means to follow in the footsteps of another, to follow in the path that is laid out by another. The Holy Spirit is the pathfinder, and we follow Him as we advance in the spiritual life.
As a believer lives the spiritual life, he is going to face an inevitable struggle, according to this passage. Because as a believer he still possesses a sin nature which exercises a desire to influence and control the life of the believer.
Furthermore, we are indwelt by God the Holy Spirit, and we are also filled by God the Holy Spirit. And God the Holy Spirit exercises His desire to influence and control the life of the believer. There is a continual struggle between the sin nature and the Holy Spirit.
The sin nature not only produces personal sins, it also produces human good and morality. Morality is something that is different from the spiritual life, and I think this is something that is so important for us to understand. And that is that morality is for believer and unbeliever alike.
Anything the unbeliever can do, on his own ability and his own power, is not the unique spiritual life of the Church Age. What we have in the Church Age is something that goes far beyond our innate human ability to live ethical and moral lives.
We have seen here in our study, comparing passages like Romans 7, Paul in his early years as a believer trying to live according to God’s standard through his own power. He was not understanding the role of the ministry of God the Holy Spirit, he was trying to live a moral life, and the result was, he continued to sin.
We see that the production of the sin nature involves both personal sin and human good. And the consequences, when you are operating on the sin nature, are always the same. He gives examples in Galatians 5:19–21, sort of a litmus test to determine whether or not the major influence, or control factor in the life is the sin nature or the Holy Spirit.
He lists a variety of sins there which we went over last time. We saw the first three relate to sexual sins, the second two relate to religious sins, the next relate to the consequences in terms of human relationships, and the last two deal with sin related to related to drunkenness, orgies, and excessive partying.
When he concludes this he makes a very profound statement that is not understood by very many people today, and one we need to spend some time addressing. We have looked at this before and I am going to continue to unpack this concept of inheritance and inheriting the Kingdom. We have looked at it, I think, at least twice in our study of Galatians so far, and I want to start looking at it from different perspectives and adding to that.
Part of the technique of a good teacher is repetition. You teach a few things, make sure people understand that, and then add to it. It is the principle of line upon line, precept upon precept. Some of the things we look at here are good review for you; other things are going to be a little different. But, we need to understand this concept of inheriting the Kingdom of God.
Why? Why is this important? First of all, because it is in the Word of God, any subject that is in the Word of God is there for a purpose. God intends for us to understand it. He intends for us to make application from it to one degree or another.
Not everything in the Word of God is going to be immediately applicable to us. But everything in the Word of God is important for us to understand and apply in our lives. But I think the whole inheritance concept, the doctrine of the inheritance of the Kingdom, is one of the major doctrines in Scripture related to the motivation of the believer in the spiritual life.
If you are going to advance spiritually, beyond the concept of a personal sense of your eternal destiny, it will be due to the fact that you have assimilated the doctrine of inheritance into your soul, and that is what is motivating you to move forward in the spiritual life.
As I think about it, when I watch people, both in terms of my experience with other believers, and my own personal experience, I think in the early years of our spiritual lives, when we first become saved, we are motivated by the desire to learn, to know more, to answer questions. How do we understand prophecy? What is God going to do in the future? How, exactly, does salvation work? What is this thing called election, and how does the sovereignty of God relate to the free will of man?
All of these kinds of questions drive us, so we are motivated by an intellectual sort of motivation to learn new information. But, by the time we get into spiritual adolescence, many of those questions are answered. You’ve learned what you wanted to learn. The things that drove you by means of intellectual curiosity have now been satisfied. So you have to replace that initial, infant-oriented motivation, with the motivation of maturity. The motivation in infancy differs from the motivation in maturity.
What happens is, that as we move through spiritual adolescence, we begin to realize that we are living, not for today, not for tomorrow, but for eternity. We are determining right now, by the decisions we make, what we will be for all eternity. And that becomes the major motivator in the spiritual life of the believer.
In our study of James, which I think is one of the most important studies we probably will ever engage in, because it is where we are learning about how God has provided for us to solve the problems in life. Whether it is adversity or prosperity, whenever we come into these situations we have to decide whether we are going to handle life on the basis of divine resources, or human resources. God has provided everything we need in the spiritual life to handle any and every situation in life on the basis of His Word.
We have outlined this under the category of ten problem-solving devices, or ten stress busters. By way of review, it begins with confession, 1 John 1:9, and that is the entry point into that fortress God provides for the soul.
“The Lord is my fortress”, the psalmist says, “my shield, my buckler.” Psalm 18:2
“He is our refuge in time trouble …” Psalm 46:1
The entry point is confession. When we are outside that fortress, we are operating on the sin nature and our own resources. We have to exercise grace recovery to get back into the fortress. That comes through confession.
Then the power base for the spiritual life is the filling of the Holy Spirit. So we handle problems under the ministry of the filling of the Holy Spirit.
We have three basic problem-solving devices: the faith-rest drill, which produces the faith-rest life. Then there is doctrinal orientation, and grace orientation, which work together in tandem. Orienting our life to doctrine, the Word of God, and orienting our life to grace. That is all part of spiritual infancy. Those are the building blocks to the whole spiritual life.
As you master those techniques, those spiritual skills, you will then be enabled to advance beyond to spiritual childhood. These are the basic building blocks. As in mathematics, you have arithmetic and subtraction, basic multiplication and division. Once you master that, you can handle just about anything. But you can’t get to algebra, calculus, and trigonometry until first you master some of those basic skills. So these are the basics of the spiritual life.
The transition stage, I think, is when you come to a personal sense of your eternal destiny. Because it is at that point that you come to realize that every decision you are making right now affects all of eternity. You start thinking about our present life in terms of eternal ramifications of that. That is what the doctrine of the inheritance of the Kingdom of God relates to.
Then you have the advanced problem-solving devices, what I call the love triplex: personal love for God the Father, unconditional love for all mankind, and occupation with Christ.
It is our love for God, our focus on Christ, our emulation of His example of unconditional love for all mankind that is critical in all of our relationships. The ultimate result of that is inner happiness. That perfect tranquility and peace that we have, which we will study under the second and third categories of the fruit of the Spirit in verse 22. But for now we are on the topic of inheritance.
This is an issue that is not understood, an issue that is very confusing to a number of people. Let’s start off and ask a couple of basic questions. We ended with this last time, but I want to go back and review it. Pick up anybody who wasn’t here last time, and for those of you who are wrestling with some of these things, it will be good review.
First of all, we have to ask about the meaning of the phrase. It is “inherit the kingdom of God …” It is not simply talking about inheritance. In Romans 8 there is a reference to being “heirs of God …”, and a second category, “joint heirs with Jesus Christ…”
Each of these various adjectival phrases, or genitive phrases, that go along with concept of heirship or inheritance are important for defining the subject matter. What are we talking about when we are talking about inheriting the Kingdom of God?
Kingdom of God is a technical term related to the Messianic Kingdom that will be brought into existence when Jesus Christ is personally ruling and reigning on the throne of David in Jerusalem. That has not occurred yet. That was the Kingdom Jesus offered when He came during the First Advent, which was postponed and has not come yet.
At the time Jesus came, at the First Advent, His last three and a half years of public ministry culminated in the crucifixion. He came offering the Kingdom of David, the Messianic Kingdom to the Jews, and they rejected it. So it was offered and postponed. It was not inaugurated. That is the wrong terminology to use.
There has been a group of so-called dispensationalists, which I like the term now, revisionist dispensationalists, not the term they came up with initially, which was progressive. I don’t like that, they are revisionists. It is not a modification of traditional dispensationalism, it is a false revision of dispensationalism. They are claiming that Jesus came and He inaugurated the Kingdom, but it is not fully here. It is called “already, but not yet”. That is the terminology they use.
One of the interesting things about this is that two professors at Dallas Theological Seminary invented this. I have known one of them since just before going to seminary, and I had known the other one (we were all students about the same time), and I had met the other one in seminary. I had him for a doctoral course on dispensationalism. At the same time I was studying a lot of issues in the charismatic movement. That was my field of specialty in my Ph.D. program at Dallas Seminary, the history of the Pentecostal movement.
One of the things that was coming from that movement was that they had picked up terminology from a theologian named George Ladd about the Kingdom, that it was already here, but not yet. George Ladd was not a dispensationalist. He had developed this concept, and so a new group of charismatics—they are called, the technical term for them is the Vineyard Movement or the Third Wave—they came along and picked up this term.
They said, “Well, it’s already here, if it has been inaugurated in some sense, then we can use that concept to support the idea that these gifts, like tongues, which are mentioned in Joel 2 and quoted by Peter in Acts 2, that this indicates something about these things are already here and it is a foretaste of the Kingdom, and so this is already initiated.” That was the Vineyard argument.
I went to one of these professors at Dallas [Seminary] and said, if you are going to buy into an “already-not-yet” view of the Kingdom, then what keeps you from going into the Vineyard movement? Oh well, they are just illegitimately applying it. That was the answer.
Recently a book came out called Four Views on the Book of Revelation, which is one of these scholarly books written for theologians and seminary students to try and figure out what is right. Different theologians will take the different positions. In that book you have four different views of Revelation and the other guys interact with it. But the guy who argues, and he is from Moody, of all places, the guy who argues the revisionist dispensational position opens the door to the continuation of the sign gifts on the basis of his “already not yet” view of the Kingdom.
Ten years ago I was warning them that if they take that step, that is where they are going to end up. It is logically inevitable. And it is destructive.
Every piece of doctrine fits together. It is not just random pieces. God is an orderly God according to 1 Corinthians 14. He has an orderly and systematic plan. Every piece fits together. If you start moving one piece, it is going to change everything else. We have to be very careful when we start to think things through. You can’t just focus on one aspect of doctrine, you have to think. This is why theology is hard mental work.
When you take a position, you have to think, “Okay, what implication does this have for theology proper? What implication does this have for soteriology? What implication does this have for pneumatology, the doctrines of the Holy Spirit? What implication does this have for eschatology, the study of prophecy, or the last things?”
Everything you study, every decision you make, is going to have an effect on other areas. You are going to have to be able to think logically and consistently within your system. Very few people can do that. And very few pastors, sad to say, are willing to do that.
A lot of that is because very few congregations are willing to let their pastor spend the time doing that. They want their pastor to be starting this program and that program, and walking up and down the streets knocking on doors, and going down to the hospital. Whatever it might be, in order to glad hand everybody and make sure everybody’s approbation lust is being satisfied. And if they are doing that, they cannot fulfill their primary responsibility, which is to feed the sheep the Word of God.
Scripture says that is how you grow. Just as you grow physically, by eating physical food, you grow spiritually, by taking in spiritual food. If a pastor is not spending a maximum amount of time each week in the Word of God studying, and not just the Word of God, but my goodness, as Paul warned the Ephesian elders, the Ephesian pastors in Acts 20, I believe, about wolves in sheep’s clothing, a pastor has to be aware of all these “icks”, “acks”, and “spasms” that are going around the church in every generation, so he can warn his sheep and protect them from various problems. If he is not studying, he is not going to be able to guard the sheep. That is a major problem. We are getting far afield.
During the First Advent Jesus came, offered the Kingdom, the Jews rejected His claim as Messiah, and the Kingdom is postponed. It doesn’t come back until He comes at the Second Advent, when He returns to the earth bodily. At that time He sets up His Kingdom, which is called the Millennium, from the Latin word MILLE, meaning one thousand. It is the one-thousand-year reign of Christ described in Revelation 20.
In between you have two major events. Beginning on the day of Pentecost, and extending to the Rapture of the church when Jesus Christ comes in the clouds, and those who are dead in Christ will rise first, and we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with Him in the clouds. It happens in the twinkling of an eye, there is no prophecy that needs to be fulfilled before Jesus comes back. The time has been set from eternity past. The church is raptured and we meet Jesus in the air.
During this time there will be seven years, called Tribulation, called Jacob’s Trouble, the great Tribulation. It is when Satan throws his last great temper tantrum in human history in order to try to achieve his plan and purposes.
What takes place in the heavenlies during this time is what is called the Judgment Seat of Christ, also referred to as the Bema seat. That is the Greek word BEMA, which referred to the seat upon which the local judge, or magistrate, would sit when he was executing judgment on those who were brought before him. So this is the evaluation throne of Jesus Christ when all believers are evaluated. You don’t get there unless you are a believer. The issue at the Bema seat is not salvation. The issue is something else, which is what we will look at eventually this morning.
Right now we are in this Age, the Church Age, which sometimes is called the Age of Grace, which is its primary characteristic. So this gives us a basic outline.
What we’re talking about, when we talk about inheriting the Kingdom, is the place, the role, the function of Church Age believers when they return to the earth in their resurrected bodies, with the Lord Jesus Christ at His Second Coming to establish the Millennial Kingdom. What is your role going to be in that Millennial Kingdom? What is your place in the Millennial Kingdom?
The Scripture has a lot to say about that. If you are a successful believer, and advance to spiritual maturity, or you are advancing to spiritual maturity, you will be an inheritor of the Kingdom. But if you do not, you will not inherit the Kingdom. So we have to ask some very specific questions about the meaning of that term.
- What does “inherit” mean? It comes from the Greek word KLERONOMOS. It means to inherit, to possess, to own. In English we all know there is a difference between somebody who just enters into a house, and lives in it, and somebody who owns and possesses the house. There is a very clear distinction. If you can understand that distinction, you will understand the basic distinction Scripture makes between being an heir of the Kingdom and being saved.
Someone who is saved, and not an heir, may live in the Kingdom, but they will not own or possess the Kingdom. They won’t be an heir of the Kingdom. That is where we are going. We are going to understand that concept and how the Scripture explains that.
When we ask the first question or point one, what does it mean, the issue is, is it something that is synonymous with entering into Heaven and gaining eternal life? Or, does it refer to special blessings and rewards in Heaven to believers who advance to spiritual maturity?
The conclusion, we will see, is that it is not salvation. It is not entering into Heaven, or gaining eternal life. Because, if that were true, when we look at passages like the one we have here, then works would be an issue. This passage says if you practice these sins, you won’t inherit the Kingdom of God. If “inherit the Kingdom” means to be saved, then what that passage would be saying is that if you practice these things, you won’t be saved. That contradicts any number of other passages.
- The problem with the first view, that it means entering into Heaven, is that several passages are contradicted. For example, Titus 3:5 says, “It is not by works of righteousness that we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit …”
Ephesians 2:8–9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
So, inheriting the Kingdom must mean something else. It must refer to a category of believer in Heaven. When we get to Heaven there will be two categories of believers. There will be heirs, and non-heirs, but all will be in Heaven.
- A second problem we have to address is the meaning of the word practice, which is from the Greek word PRASSO. It is a present, active, participle here and that means continual action. But, when we talk about continual action that can be any range of meaning. Does that mean to do something a few times? Does it mean to practice this after salvation for maybe ten, fifteen, twenty years, and then the last year or two of your life you don’t practice it? Does it refer to continual activity from the time of salvation all the way until you are taken home to be with the Lord?
There are problems, as you could probably guess, with each of those views. Where does it stop? How much practice is too much practice?
- It is important to realize that the entire phrase “inherit the Kingdom of God” must be taken into account. When we look at other Scripture we must look at it in terms of that entire phrase. There are three historic views for understanding this.
The first is the Arminian view. This is an “I” here, not an “e”. The Armenians are an ethnic group of people living in eastern Turkey. I don’t know and am not really concerned, with their theological positions. But, Arminianism is a school of theology that developed in the late 1500s and early 1600s, named after Dutch theologian James [Jacobus] Arminius.
James Arminius was originally a Calvinist theologian who was trained in France and taught at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. He reacted to hyper Calvinism. Hyper Calvinism is one of those technical terms that I hear abused an awful lot. Sometimes I hear people use that term for anybody who has a little stronger view of the sovereignty of God than they do. That is not what hyper Calvinism is.
Hyper Calvinism is not somebody who believes in a certain strong view of divine election. Louis Sperry Chafer held to a very Calvinistic view of election, but he was not a hyper Calvinist. A hyper Calvinist refers to somebody who is not only a five-point Calvinist, we’ll define that term in a moment, but also a Calvinist who is supralapsarian. That is a very rigorous, almost fatalistic form of Calvinism. If you don’t know what supralapsarianism is, just let it go by, you don’t need to know. We are not going to get into that this morning. That is just an extremely rigid form of Calvinism.
Arminius and his followers taught certain views. They were challenged by the state church of Holland at that time, the Dutch Reform Church. They were accused of heresy and there was a big trial around 1610 called the Synod of Dort. At the Synod of Dort the Arminians set forth five points, called the Remonstrant Position. Those five points were:
A) Man is absolutely free. You are born just as free as Adam was created free. In other words, Adam’s sin has no impact on your volition whatsoever. Now, it does. It doesn’t collapse it, or destroy it, or straight jacket it, but it does have an effect. We would disagree there.
B) They believed in a conditional, and I want to emphasize that word, they believed in a conditional election. That is why the fifth point means you could lose salvation. Because you had to keep up that condition or God would stop choosing you. So there is a conditional election.
C) There is an unlimited atonement, Christ died for all, we would agree with that.
D) And they thought that the ministry of God the Holy Spirit was resistible.
The Calvinist position was a reaction to this, called the “Five Points of Calvinism”, under the acronym TULIP.
1) The first point, they define it as T for total depravity. But if we really want to understand it, it is TI, total inability. Their view of man is that, as the result of Adam’s fall, he is so imprisoned by sin, he is not even able to express positive volition to God. Period. He will not, he cannot. That means that, if he is even going to have positive volition, God has to give that to him. This is going to have tremendous implications.
2) The U is for unconditional election. Man does nothing, totally dependent on God’s choice in eternity past. There is a lot of truth to that, because God does make a choice in eternity past, and the condition is not based on merit in us. So there is a lot of truth to that.
3) L for limited atonement. That is a pernicious doctrine that Christ died only for the elect. We would reject that. I don’t necessarily agree with unconditional election, even as they tend to form it. I think we have a problem in theology historically. We tend to try to isolate these two positions, and very few people in the last twenty to thirty years are saying, look, there are elements in both systems that are right. There needs to be a third paradigm. We see a lot of guys in the grace movement who are working this out right now. I think people like Joseph Dillow, in his book Reign of the Servant Kings, and Zane Hodges and others have done a wonderful job in getting us started.
4) I for irresistible grace. The way they define that, as one person characterized it, as divine rape. You are dragged into the Kingdom totally against your will. It is irresistible. If you don’t want to be saved and you are elect, you are going to be saved, whether you want it or not.
5) P is for perseverance of the saints, which in a mild form means eternal security. That much we would agree with. But in the way it is usually articulated, it means that if you are a true believer and have saving faith, then you persevere in good works, and your genuine faith will be evident by those good works. We call that Lordship salvation today. That is how all of this relates.
The reason I say this and have gone through all of this, is to give you some background. In Arminianism, they will interpret this passage, and they will say, see, you can lose your salvation. If you trust Christ as your Savior, and you continue in these sins, you will lose your salvation. Why? Because of their fifth point, salvation is dependent upon you and you can lose it.
In the Calvinists, especially the hyper-Calvinist position, they interpret this to mean that if you practice these things you weren’t really saved to begin with. Notice, it is almost like a word game they play. The Arminians say you can lose your salvation. The Calvinists would say you can’t lose your salvation, you weren’t saved to begin with. When you prayed, when you told God you accepted Christ as your Savior, it wasn’t genuine. That is their assumption. I think there is a certain amount of arrogance in that, and it violates a lot of good exegesis. But that is their position.
There is a third position that is being developed the last several years, but it has been around a long time, I don’t want you to get the idea that it is new. You can go back throughout history and you will find this position. But because of the current theological climate, where there is a lot argument over these issues, it is being refined and developed in new ways.
This is what is called the free-grace position, which makes a distinction between salvation and inheriting the Kingdom, that these are two distinct concepts. The issue here, then, is not our eternal destiny. The issue is our role in the Messianic Kingdom and reward.
That was all point 4, the historical background.
- The problem. The problem is, that these passages, like Galatians 3:29, Galatians 4:1, 1 Peter 1:4 –5, speak of our inheritance as a permanent possession based on faith alone in Christ alone. Some passages view inheritance as permanent, other passages, such as Ephesians 5:5, “This you know with certainty (he is talking to believers) that no immoral or impure person or covetous man …”
We looked at that context last week. He had just told them, as believers, stop being immoral, impure and covetous, greedy, practicing idolatry. Obviously, as believers you can engage in those activities. So when he says,
“This you know with certainty that no immoral or impure person or covetous man who is an idolater has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God …”
It is different. There is a difference between inheritance and salvation. Same thing in Colossians 3:24, “Knowing from the Lord you will receive the reward of inheritance …”
Inheritance there is seen as some sort of reward. A reward is something given for work, salvation is not given for work. It is a grace gift. There is a distinction made between gift and reward for work. Some passages view inheritance as permanent, some as a temporary thing, or a reward.
How do we correlate these concepts?
- We saw that there are two categories of inheritance. There is inheriting the Kingdom, which is being a joint heir with Christ, because we have endured in the spiritual life following His pattern. And then there is the category of being an heir of God which is inheriting simply eternal life, and an eternal destiny in Heaven. Hebrews 1:14.
Romans 8:17 says, “And if children, heirs also, heirs of God (category one) and joint heirs with Christ if we suffer with Him in order that we may be glorified with Him.”
So we have those two categories.
Now, I want to go back into a passage in the Gospels in order to understand this as our Lord taught it in Luke 19. This is the parable of the minas. First, we have to pick up the context.
In Luke 19:1 Jesus is going through Jericho. He is in the town of Jericho and there is a man there named Zacchaeus, Luke 19:2. He is a chief tax gatherer and he is rich. He is the regional district manager of the IRS at that time.
Now if you think your taxes are unjust, and you should, they are not anything like the unfair taxation practice the Roman Empire imposed on regions like Judea. They would hire someone like Zacchaeus, or Matthew who was also a tax collector, and they would give him his quota.
They would say, okay, here is your region, and the amount of taxes you will be assessed for that region at the end of the year is so much. Anything you collect over that is yours. So that would encourage them to go out and collect all that they could, and when the tax assessment came in they would give whatever percentage of the money they had to Rome, and they kept all the rest. There was no real accountability.
Every region probably had its own tax code and it would change year to year according to the financial needs and lusts of the tax collector. The chief of the whole region was Zacchaeus. He is wealthy and he has acquired his wealth on the backs of the Jews in the area.
That is why the Jews hated the tax collectors, because they were in league with the gentile Roman oppressors. Most Jews hated tax collectors, so they were social outcasts. That is why the Pharisees were appalled that Jesus would associate with tax collectors. Jesus was not associating with the tax collectors because He was a sinner, but because they realized their need for grace.
Zacchaeus understands, he has positive volition, he is trying to see Jesus. Eventually, in this context, I don’t want to read through the whole story, but Zacchaeus becomes saved. His response to his salvation, to his gift of grace, is given in Luke 19:8. Now grace is a free gift, it is not earned. So what Zacchaeus is doing here with his money is not paying for his salvation. This is his response. Grace should have an impact on your pocket book.
Luke 19:8, “Then Zacchaeus stood, and said to the Lord; ‘Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.”
Zacchaeus is fully aware of all that God has done for him in saving him. And because he understands how depraved he was, how lost he was, he understands the depth of God’s grace, and it revolutionizes his thinking about his possessions and his money.
Grace is the motivator here, and it causes a reaction in his use of money. That reminds us of a very important principle, that our use of money for the Lord’s work is related to the principle of grace and not legalism. Legalism seeks to use money as a means of control, and a means of manipulation.
But giving is part of our responsibility as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, part of our priesthood, to support the local church and to support foreign missions. That is our responsibility. It is not something that is mandated or legislated. It is not tithing.
In the Old Testament you have the principle of tithing related to the nation of Israel because of the type of government God established in the nation Israel. It was a theocracy.
We live in a democracy, from the Greek word KRATOS, meaning rule, and DEMOS, meaning people. So the people rule, mob rule. It should be a representative republic, but it has deteriorated into a democracy in this century.
Under a theocracy God is the Ruler, God rules. He is the Chief Executive under the Mosaic Law. God was the Chief Executive in the nation Israel. But God had to administer His rule, His kingdom on earth in terms of the Kingdom of Israel.
So there was a bureaucracy associated with that, called the priests and the Levites. Somehow the bureaucrats had to get their pay, so there was a tithe assessed on the nation Israel. It was like a tax. It is described in Leviticus 27:30–33. It was to support the priests and the Levites.
Then there was a second tithe. It always made me curious when I would go to churches that emphasized tithing. Okay, are you giving thirty percent of your income to the church? Because that is what the Bible describes.
There was one tithe, ten percent of the income went in to pay for the support of the priests and the Levites.
Then a second tithe, a second ten percent that was taken out, that went to the coffers in Jerusalem, went to the Temple, but it was to be used for a party, a national celebration to worship God.
It has always interested me how God used concrete means to teach principles about Himself in the Old Testament. You have all the visual aids, the teaching aids related to the Tabernacle and the furniture in the Tabernacle and the Temple.
The same thing was true about money. God promised at the end of the Law financial, economic prosperity for the nation Israel if they were obedient to Him. He said, “If you are obedient to Me you will prosper, if you are not obedient to Me, you will suffer economically. Every year we are going to take a litmus test, have a barometric reading, to determine whether I am prospering you or blessing you. We are going to take the gross national product, and take ten percent of that and throw a party.”
If everybody in Israel was obeying the Lord, and the nation Israel was following God’s spiritual principles, God would be blessing them and they would have a GNP of one hundred million dollars.
But if God was not prospering them they would have a GNP of maybe twenty million dollars. Ten percent of one hundred million is ten million, and you could have a great party for ten million dollars. But if your GNP is only twenty million, ten percent is two million, and you don’t have such a great party.
So it’s a real visual lesson, how well you can party at the end of the year is an indicator of how God has blessed you, and how you are doing spiritually. God is very concrete with the nation Israel. That was the second tithe.
There was a third tithe taken every third year, and that was the welfare procedure for the nation Israel to take care of widows and orphans, and those who were stranded in the land. So there were three different tithes.
On top of that there were free will offerings that were taken. That was a response to grace. The other was legislated and mandated. In the Church Age we don’t have tithing. Why don’t we have tithing? Because there is no national, theocratic government to support anymore. When people come along and they emphasize tithing it tells you one thing. They don’t understand the difference between Israel and the Church.
Under the Israel economy, in Malachi, he challenged the people with their disobedience, they had not been bringing tithes to the Temple. He challenged them to bring their tithes to the storehouse, which is the Temple treasury.
You will hear, and I have heard, preachers get up and say, “We now need to bring our offerings to the Lord to the storehouse.” That shows that he doesn’t understand the difference between the Old Testament Israel and the Church.
There is no Temple, there is no Temple treasury. This is the Church. Tithing doesn’t have anything to do with the Church. What we do have in the Church is the principle of grace.
What we see with Zacchaeus is the principle of grace. Notice the difference. Tithing, legalism, mandates a ten percent gift. Notice how much grace gives in Luke 19:8, “Behold Lord, I give half of my possessions to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone, I will give four times as much.”
It seems like poor old Zacchaeus just needed to learn something about legalistic tithing and he could have kept most of his money. But Zacchaeus learned about grace, and he was giving fifty percent plus.
We don’t say much about money around here. Maybe we should say something about money, at least remind people that there is an offering box on the wall in the back, so people don’t forget. I know we can easily come to church, and have a check in our pocket and forget to drop it in the box on the way out. But I have always been committed to the principle of grace giving.
Because grace giving means that the people put the check in the box, not because you are manipulating them through guilt, or some kind of overt or legalistic pressure. But what goes into the grace box is the result of what God is doing in their life. It people are really positive they are going to support the ministry, because it is a result of their spiritual growth. If people aren’t positive they won’t give. And if people don’t give, there is no money to support the local church, so let’s close the doors and go home and do something else.
There are so many ministries that are going on, and you’ll hear, well, you are having a little financial trouble, why don’t you start having a bazaar, or why don’t you have an auction, or a garage sale, or rummage sale. Or all these things other churches do? The reason those churches have to resort to those things is because they are filled with people who aren’t positive. They have to come up with some sort of gimmick to get into everyone’s pocketbook.
The same thing is true for the media ministry we have. I firmly believe, that as a congregation, we cannot support a big media (MP3s and videos) ministry. We can’t subsidize a media ministry. We do well for the size we are to support the local church ministry we have here. The media ministry is like a second congregation and it should be a self-supported ministry. If people who are listening to our media on a regular basis are positive then they will support the ministry.
If the financial support is not there, then they are not positive, and we just won’t put out media. It’s as simple as that. God provides the hearers, and God provides the resources to do His will. All we have to do is relax, and let people be impacted by the grace of God and what God is doing in their life, and grow spiritually and the financial issue takes care of itself.
So we see Zacchaeus being impacted by grace, and he is full of unbounded enthusiasm. He is ready to give fifty percent of his possessions to the Lord. Now, do we hear the Lord saying, “Now Zacchaeus, calm down just a little bit. You’ve got retirement to look forward to. You’ve got your pension plan to take care of. You’ve got your kids’ education in the future. Just calm down and relax. Rethink this a little bit.”
No, what we see the Lord do in His response is to encourage Zacchaeus to move to an even higher level of commitment in this arena.
Look at Luke 19:11, “While they were listening to these things, He (Jesus) went on to tell a parable …”
A parable is a fictitious story designed to communicate a doctrinal principle.
“Jesus goes on to tell a parable because He was near Jerusalem and they, those around Him, supposed the Kingdom of God was going to come immediately.”
I have already referred to this. Jesus had offered the Kingdom, they had rejected the Kingdom, and Jesus wants to make it clear to them that the Kingdom is being postponed. Notice, He doesn’t say the Kingdom is inaugurated and when He talks about the nobleman here, he doesn’t stay in town, he goes somewhere else.
Luke 19:12, “He said, therefore, ‘A certain nobleman went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, and then return.”
That gives us a summary of what is going to happen in this parable. It is very interesting. The thought hit me this morning as I read that, this is so typical of Hebrew or Aramaic storytelling. The first thing they do is give you an overview and then they come back and fill in the details. That is what happens in Genesis chapter one. It gives us the overview of God’s creative process in those six days, and on the seventh day He rested.
Then chapter two comes in and gives the expanded details of what took place on the sixth day. The liberal comes along and says it is two different accounts of creation. They don’t understand how Jews tell stories.
First they give the summary, and that is what Jesus does. This whole thing is about this nobleman who is going off to a distant country to receive the kingdom and then return.
Luke 19:13 tells about what he does before he leaves, not when he comes back. If this was chronological you would think verse 13 follows what happens when he comes back. But verse 13 happens before he leaves.
“And he called ten of his slaves, and gave them ten minas …”
A mina was roughly equivalent to three months income. Just factor that into your thinking. Whatever you make in a month, multiply that times three, and that is how much the nobleman is giving them.
“… and said to them, ‘Do business with this (in other words, invest this, put it to work for you) until I come back.’ ”
So far, in verse 13, we have been introduced to two different elements of the parable. First of all, the nobleman, who is representative of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is going to Heaven, and there He will receive the Kingdom. If He is going to receive it in Heaven, He can’t be inaugurating it on earth, can He?
No. Jesus is going to go away to a far country, and this is typical procedure of that day. Someone who wanted to rule a client nation would go to Rome, appeal to Caesar, Caesar would give them the kingdom, and they would go back and rule. This is what Herod had done. When Herod the Great went to Rome he received the Kingdom of Judea from Caesar and he went back and ruled it.
You have the nobleman on the one hand, who represents the Lord Jesus Christ, and then you have ten of his slaves.
In Luke 19:14 there is a third group: citizens. The ten slaves are not the citizens. The slaves are owned by the nobleman, they are his possession. So they are not going to be unbelievers. The ten slaves represent ten believers. The citizens represent the unbelievers who are living in the Kingdom.
But his citizens hated him. That is the natural antagonistic response of unbelievers. Unbelievers hate God. They do not want God involved in their world. And they are shaking their fist at Him. There is always going to be animosity and hostility toward God from unbelievers. We will see that fully developed in the second hour.
Luke 19:14, “But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’ ”
That is the unbeliever. “We don’t want Jesus to come back and reign over us. We want to do things on our own.”
Luke 19:15, “And it came about when he returned, after receiving the kingdom, he ordered that these slaves to whom he had given the money, be called to him in order that he might know what business they had done.”
This is comparable to the Judgment Seat of Christ. After the Cross, Jesus ascends to Heaven where He receives the Kingdom and He comes back at the Rapture. At the Rapture the church is caught up to be with Him in the clouds and there is a seven-year evaluation period in the heavenlies at the Judgment Seat of Christ. It is at that time that Jesus is going to carry out the work described here in this parable, evaluating the ten servants, seeing what they did with the minas.
The minas represent all the spiritual assets and the physical assets, gifts, talents, and abilities, that God has given you as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. There is going to be accountability for how you used it.
Accountability is not related to getting into Heaven. The accountability is related to your position in the Kingdom. We are going to be called to task about how we have utilized what God has given us, how we have utilized our spiritual assets. How we have utilized the time He has given us, Ephesians 5.
Right before we are commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit we are reminded that we need to redeem the time. We have financial assets, which is our treasure, our time, talents and treasure. We have certain abilities, natural abilities which we can use for the Lord, which is distinct from spiritual gifts.
For example, you might have the spiritual gift of service, and the natural talent or ability of playing the piano. It always interests me when people talk about someone singing or playing the piano or some other musical instrument as a spiritual gift. Any unbeliever can do that. Therefore it is not a spiritual gift.
A spiritual gift is uniquely given to you at the point of salvation by God the Holy Spirit. It is distinct from a natural ability that an unbeliever can have. So you have the spiritual gift of service and the natural ability of playing the piano, and you use that natural ability under the category of your spiritual gift of service. That is how you are investing what God has given you during this age.
You have spiritual assets and physical assets and God is going to call you to task. Let’s see what happens in verse 16.
Luke 19:16, “The first appeared, saying, ‘Master, your mina has made ten minas more.’ ”
He takes his mina and he gets a tenfold return.
The Lord’s response is, verse 17, “Well done (notice the phrase), good slave. Because you have been faithful in a very little thing, be in authority over ten cities.”
The result is, because you have developed capacity, you have shown responsibility, and that is developed capacity for leadership, you are going to rule and reign over ten cities in the Kingdom.
Luke 19:18, “The second one came and said, ‘Master, your mina has made five minas.’ ” Notice the Lord’s response, He said to him also, well done good slave. No, that is not there. There is no praise. He did not work quite so hard. There is no praise, but there is reward. You see different gradations here. Your mina made five minas so the reward is you are going to be over five cities. He had a fivefold return so he is put over five cities, but he is not given the lavish praise that the first one was given.
Luke 19:20, “Another came, saying, ‘Master, behold your mina, which I put away in a handkerchief.’ ” I hid it. I didn’t invest it. I didn’t utilize those assets you gave me at all.
Luke 19:21, “ ‘For I was afraid of you, for you are an exacting man and take up what you did not put down and reap what you did not sow.’ ”
Luke 19:22, “He said to him, ‘By your own words I will judge you, you worthless slave.’ ”
The Greek word there is very interesting. It means evil, it doesn’t mean worthless.
I have noticed a little trend lately, and I am going to get on my soapbox. We don’t have that much time, so it’s going to be a small soapbox. I have noticed a trend lately where people will talk about, “so-and-so committed mass murder, or they raped somebody, but they are really a good person.” We have totally lost touch with what it means to be a good or a bad person. It has to do with character. It has to do with what we do, not how nice and friendly, and winsome my personality is.
And yet people will say, “So-and-so is a really a great person.” But look at the horrible things they do. If you do horrible things you are an evil person. This is a person who did not utilize the gifts God gave him and God says, you are an evil slave. You are worthless. You are evil. Because you were given so much and you did not utilize it at all.
Jesus says in Luke 19:23, “Then why did you not put my money in the bank, and having come, I would have collected it with interest?”
Luke 19:24, “And he said to the bystanders, ‘Take the mina from him and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ ”
Luke 19:25, “They said to him, ‘Master, he has ten minas already.’ ”
Luke 19:26, “I tell you that to every who has, more shall be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.” —Loss at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
There will be a loss of rewards for those believers who fail to utilize the assets that God gives us. He has given us all a tremendous number of assets. They are our spiritual possessions at the point of salvation. They are ours throughout our spiritual life.
Our responsibility and path as believers in this Church Age is to grow to maturity so we can utilize those assets to the maximum. So we can be like the servant who had a tenfold return and not be like the servant who just got caught up with the cares and events of life. Who did his own thing, gave up whatever return he could have gotten, and forgot that his primary task was to serve his Lord and Master. That is the issue every one of us must face every day. Are we living the day in light of eternity, and what is going to happen at the Bema seat, or are we living the day in the light of what is going to happen tomorrow?
“Father, we thank You for the opportunity to look at Your Word, to study these things. To be challenged by them. To realize that the decisions we make today determining how we are going to utilize our time, our talents, our treasure, how we are going to utilize these things today for You affects our eternal destiny—affects not where we will be, but how we will be, in the Kingdom, or possessors of the Kingdom.
Father, we pray that if there is anyone here who is not sure of their salvation, the issue for them is not obedience or disobedience. The issue for them is not morality or immorality, sin or purity. The issue is only, what do you think about Jesus Christ? Scripture says Jesus Christ died on the Cross as a substitute for your sins and that salvation is by believing in Him. It is not by anything else. It is not by works, it is not by obedience, it is not by moral reformation. It is faith alone in Christ alone. All you need to say is, Father, I believe that Jesus Christ died on the Cross for my sins. Father, we pray that You would remind us of these things continually. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”