Sermon: The Gospel’s Great Foundation (Luke 6:37-38)

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The Gospel’s Great Foundation

Last week we began to look at the hard sayings of Jesus when it comes to how a disciple is to treat one’s enemy.  We were challenged in different ways as we heard Jesus say that we are to love our enemies.  Jesus not only commanded us, as His disciples, to love our enemy but He spent time explaining how that great and challenging task is to be carried out.  We are to do good deeds for our enemies, we are to speak well of our enemies and we are to pray for our enemies.  Jesus went on to tell us that as God’s representatives in this fallen world, we are to treat others according to how our Heavenly Father has treated us.

We see this when in verse 36 He says that we are to be merciful because our Heavenly Father is merciful.  In other words, we are to treat others the way God has treated us.  When we deserved judgment He has shown mercy.  When we deserved death because of our sin He has shown us life. 

We were also shown proper motivation to love our enemies.  He gives and loves without expecting to get anything from it.  God loves in this way and so we are to also love in the same way.  Others may love in hopes of getting a return either loved back or some other benefit.  We learned last week that we are to love without expecting anything back from others because this is how God loves.  Our second motivation for doing this is that we will be rewarded greatly in heaven.  What I want you to notice in today’s text is found at the end of verse 37 and 38.  Jesus lets us know what our rewards are that God gives His disciples.  We are rewarded with forgiveness and rewarded with great gifts given in abundance.  Jesus is not teaching a works salvation in which we forgive others then God will forgive us.  No, He’s teaching that as we continually forgive others we are practicing what God continually does for us thereby proving that we are His disciples.

Now Jesus continues with His practical ways in which a Kingdom disciple loves and cares for others.  Our Lord gives us four final commands concerning the theme of loving our enemies and shows that it is this type of love that doesn’t try to manipulate for an advantage but that is this type of love that will build the foundation on which the Gospel can then be proclaimed, because it is showing the other person examples of how God loves.  At best we love this way in a somewhat flawed way but God’s ways are perfect.  Yet, it does build a foundation on which an enemy of the cross can experience, even in a fallible way, Kingdom love and care.

To set the context, I’ve decided to read again last week’s text and then adding our two additional verses for today.

Please hear God’s authoritative word.

Luke 6:27-38 (ESV) 

    “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,  [28] bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.  [29] To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either.  [30] Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back.  [31] And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

    [32] “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.  [33] And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.  [34] And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount.  [35] But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.  [36] Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. [37] “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;  [38] give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

The first of the four commands:

1. Do Not Judge Your Enemy

[37] “Judge not, and you will not be judged.

This is probably one of the most misquoted verses by the secular world.  I’ve heard it quoted over and over again by people promoting the idea of extreme tolerance.  They believe this verse teaches that everyone should just be at peace with everyone no matter what and you don’t dare exclude anyone or use any discernment when dealing with people.  To take this view on this verse would eliminate loving church discipline and would curtail loving reconciliation.  These folks would probably be the ones who think that justice should never be carried out.

What does Jesus really mean here?  What does He mean by Judge not?

On an individual basis, we are not to pass judgment.  However, God has set in place our government in order to do just that. What on an individual basis is wrong to do, it’s right for our government to do.  It is right for America to fight in a just war.  When our safety has been threatened it is proper and biblical for our government to engage in war.  It is proper for our troops to obey the commands of their superiors and engage in battles and to kill our enemies.

Its right for our elected officials to act as Judges and sentence those found guilty to a fair sentence.    But it is wrong for an individual to set himself up as judge and pass sentence on someone else.

One theologian notes, This doesn’t forbid law, government, justice, courts. It doesn’t forbid discernment, conviction, rightly assessing someone and confronting their sin. It doesn’t forgive that. What it forbids is some kind of harsh, hard, critical, compassionless hostility to enemies. We’ve already had a pretty good hint at this when back in verse 28 it says, “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” That’s the idea. Don’t become their judge. Don’t pronounce judgment on them. Speak blessing into their lives. Don’t pass sentence on them. Love them mercifully. Love them kindly.–Macarthur

When I’ve been sinned against, I’ve often thought that I don’t need to pass judgment or get even with my enemies because in the end, God will justly judge accordingly.  This is true but it is not the motivation Jesus points out here.  He says that His disciples should not pass judgment on others, not because God will pass judgment on them but so that the judgment we would pass to them would not be passed on to us.  Anything they’ve done to us cannot compare to the sins we’ve committed against a holy God and if He can forgive us then we must forgive others.

We practice discernment and we don’t make quick judgments.  We give everyone the benefit of the doubt when we can.

2. Do Not Condemn Your Enemies

condemn not, and you will not be condemned;

We are not to act as our enemy’s judge and we’re not to act as their executioner.  We are not to place ourselves in God’s role as Judge.  Our role is not to pass judgment and then carry out the sentence.  That’s God’s job.  This is a very good example of standard Hebrew way of teaching.  Jesus first begins with judge not then repeats about the same principle but more intensely with condemn not.  Both are very closely related but this second point takes the attitude of an authoritative judge a step further.  It’s right for God to judge and condemn.  Its right for a Supreme Court judge to pass judgment and condemn.  It’s wrong for us to do that, because as a disciple God has not judged us nor condemned us.  So if we are to love like He loves us we must practice similar ways of loving our enemies.

Some scholars believe that Jesus is saying that we are to not judge and not condemn so that we won’t be judged or condemned by our enemies.  However, Jesus has already taught that our motive is to practice these things, not expecting good treatment in return.  Here, we must not set ourselves up as the judge and executioner of our enemies because if we set ourselves up as the authoritative Judge instead of God, the judgment we use for our enemies may in fact be the same judgment God uses for us.

He commands us to avoid judging and condemning our enemies, then, Jesus moves to the two positive commands, hopefully you can see a progression:

3.  Forgive Your Enemies

forgive, and you will be forgiven

It’s one thing to not set yourself up as judge and executioner over your enemy.  It’s another thing completely to forgive them.  Disciples are never more like their master when they practice godly forgiveness.  You are never more operating in the will of Christ as when you are forgiving your enemies.

How can we as disciples continually practice forgiveness?  We have experienced it first hand ourselves.  I can forgive my enemy all his trespasses because in Christ, God has forgiven me.  To forgive means we don’t keep a record of wrongs.  We wipe the slate clean and allow the one who has sinned against us to begin with a clean slate, realizing it might not take very long to fill it up again.  Practice forgiveness as God has forgiven you.

Matthew 6:12 (ESV) 

        and forgive us our debts,

            as we also have forgiven our debtors.

Can you forgive your enemies?  We can only really do this if we’ve experienced God’s forgiveness.  If we’ve been forgiven we must practice forgiveness to others.

Jesus has shown us a great example when hanging on the cross He asked God to forgive those who were doing the crucifying.

Luke 23:34 (ESV) 

    And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. 

We are never more like Christ than when we are forgiving our enemies.

Luke 17:3-4 (ESV) 

    Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him,  [4] and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

Then Peter after learning this principle of forgiveness thought he had things figured out when He said to Jesus…

Matthew 18:21-22 (ESV) 

    Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”  [22] Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.

Jesus was speaking in symbolism when He said seven times and then when He told Peter, well actually Peter, if someone sins against you 70X7 you need to forgive them every time.  Our forgiveness must be unlimited because God’s is.  Jesus wants us to live and forgive like our heavenly Father.

Now Jesus even goes a step further:

4. Give to Your Enemies

[38] give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

Jesus continues to show us what type of behavior is associated with be a child of God.  Not only do we not pass judgment and condemn our enemies but instead we forgive them any sins they’ve committed against us, but we also give to them and care for them.

Do you see the progression?  Don’t pass judgment on an enemy, Don’t condemn an enemy, forgive your enemy, give to your enemy, give abundantly to an enemy.

Jesus says that we don’t just give a little but we give a good amount to them.  As we are giving in good amounts, we will be given good amounts.

We’re not like the Pharisees looking for loopholes and looking for minimal service.  We give a generous amount of whatever our enemies truly need.

Again, the same motivation appears… For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

Are you in need of a lot of God’s grace or just a little?  I want God’s grace given to me in abundance… Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over.

What Jesus is doing in these verses is showing us that our default setting as God’s children needs to be loving our enemies and not plotting revenge against them.  Responding mercifully to our enemies may be an indicator as to whether we’ve received God’s mercy.  If it is impossible for you to forgive an enemy, it may be an indicator that you’ve never actually experienced forgiveness from God.

I pray that as we consider these very important and very difficult verses together we would become better and better at responding to everyone in love.  If we can respond to our enemies this way then it will be much easier to love everyone with the love God has shown us in Christ.

Our enemies may never treat us kindly in return, they may never respond positively to us, in the end they may even still hate us.  Then again, our response to them may just be what the Holy Spirit uses as the foundation for the Gospel message which penetrates their hard hearts just like it penetrated ours.

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