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Acknowledge Christ Before Others

Luke 12:8 (ESV) …. “And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God…”

The Lord’s disciples must have been aghast at this turn of events. They had become used to opposition, but they had never encountered such venomous hatred. The Lord now sought to prepare them for more and worse ahead.

A crowd had come running, doubtless attracted by the strident voices of the Lord’s enemies. The crowd was beginning to degenerate into a mob.

The Lord first warned His disciples against concealment: “Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees,” He said, “which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known” (12:1–2). The Lord had deliberately unmasked the lawyer so that all of the hidden malice in his soul and in the soul’s of his fellows might be seen. And how terrible were the sights emanating from those men now! Behind all of their playacting was doctrinal error and moral corruption. The Lord warned His disciples. Such hypocrisy could not long be concealed. For example, even as He spoke, the Lord was reading the soul of Judas. Well He knew what a consummate hypocrite the man was. Judas was putting on a great front, but the Lord read his heart and his dreadful future.

Now the Lord’s enemies would not rest until He was dead. The Lord had already warned the disciples of this eventuality (9:22) and of their own need to prepare themselves for persecution (9:23), but they failed to take it in. The Lord was not handing out attractive, four-color brochures offering health, wealth, and success. They must prepare themselves for persecution and death. The first foe to face would be fear itself. “I say unto you, my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do” (12:4). The Lord knew perfectly well what horrors awaited Him: mock trials, callous beatings, ribald mockery, a terrible scourging, death by crucifixion, and the ultimate horror of being “made sin” (2 Cor. 5:21). The disciples had best begin preparing themselves to be partakers of His sufferings. Fear? “Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him” (12:5). When it comes down to a question of fearing man or fearing God, we had better fear God. In the end, all but one of the apostles became a martyr.

But there is another side to it—God’s amazing pity. “Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?” (12:6). He sees a sparrow fall from the sky and attends it in its hour of death. Moses tells us that God actually counts how many eggs a bird has in its nest (Deut. 22:6–7). Coming closer to home, God numbers the hairs on our head. The average middle-aged man has about one hundred thousand hairs on his head and another thirty thousand in his beard. He loses seventy-five scalp hairs a day. God does not merely count them; He numbers them. The word is arithmeo (from whence comes our word arithmetic). The word means that God not only counts our hairs (a virtually impossible task) but also labels them. Think of it! God actually knows each separate individual hair on our head as separate and distinct from every other hair. That’s our God! If He is that concerned about us, we must trust Him even when persecution comes. We have a God who loves us with an everlasting love. Jesus trusted God down the Calvary road, through Gethsemane, Gabbatha, Golgotha, and the grave—and on into glory.

But there was more: “Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God: But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God” (12:8–9). In view here are two worlds—this world and that one. The issue at stake is not salvation but discipleship, not eternal security but status and reward. Stephen comes to mind. He witnessed a good confession before the Sanhedrin with such eloquence and power that they gnashed upon him with their teeth. Stephen had long since renounced this world. Even as they threw their stones at Stephen in the place of execution, he caught his first glimpse of that world. He saw Jesus, standing to receive to Himself this first martyr of the church (Acts 7:54–60).

But what about those who deny Him? They will be denied and that before the angels, but not by Christ. The verb form implies that the denial will be self-imposed. What will it be like to see the Lord in all of His splendor and to be suddenly overwhelmed with shame at having denied Him? Well, Peter could tell us all about that. Thus it was that Peter, having denied his Lord three times, caught the Lord’s eye, hurried off to some dark den, and wept his heart out with sorrow and shame. Characteristically, as soon as may be after His resurrection, the Lord went looking for Peter to forgive him and set his feet on a path that eventually led him to a crown of his own.

The Lord continued. There was a very great peril to avoid (12:10): “Whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven.”

The Bible speaks of three unpardonable sins. Two of them are dispensational and cannot be committed today. Blaspheming the Holy Spirit was the sin of seeing Jesus perform His mighty miracles and then saying that He did it in the power of Satan. Because the Lord is no longer here on earth performing His miracles, we cannot commit this sin. To receive the mark of the Beast in the coming days of the Antichrist is likewise unforgivable (Rev. 13:16–17; 14:9–11; 16:2). The one unpardonable sin that is committed by many people to this very day is the sin of unbelief (John 3:16, 18, 36; Rev. 21:8). The sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit was a real and terrible sin. It had been committed in the hearing of the disciples a short while before (11:15).

The disciples had one simple principle to remember when facing the fury of the world. When they were hauled into the synagogues and into the presence of magistrates and others in positions of power, they should “take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say: For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say” (12:11–12). The Lord does not say that the supernatural eloquence that the Holy Spirit will bestow upon them will result in their release; more likely, it will infuriate the authorities.

What happened to Stephen and Paul illustrates that fact (Acts 21:40–22:23; 23:1–10; 24:10–23; 25:23–26:32). This bestowal of inspired oratory is not promised for the classroom but for the courtroom. God anoints His preachers, but He does not endorse ignorance, laziness, or lack of study. The divine principle for the pulpit is quite the reverse: “Study [be diligent] to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). The man who does not know what he is going to say five minutes before he gets up can be sure that most people will not remember what he said five minutes after he sits down.[1]

[1] Phillips, J. (2009). Exploring the Gospel of Luke: An Expository Commentary (Lk 12:1–12). Kregel Publications; WORDsearch Corp.

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