Active Christian Compassion

MEMORY SELECTION: “He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.” —Luke 3:11

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: Luke 14:12-14; 16:19-31

THIS week’s lesson is based on two passages from Luke. The first (14:12-14) concerns Jesus’ admonition in connection with those who should or should not be invited to a feast. The host inviting the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind—who are in no position to return the favor—surely receives a blessing if the invitation is extended with the right heart attitude. Likewise the lesson of compassion and the freewill gift to others is shown in our memory selection.

The second passage (16:19-31) is the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. Of all our Lord’s parables this one has been misunderstood most. It has led to the misinterpretation that is so prominent among those who believe in eternal torture for those who have died out of favor with God.

The inspired record of God’s Word says that all of Jesus’ lessons to the people were taught in the form of parables. “All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them.” (Matt. 13:34) We should understand the lesson from this standpoint and not consider it in literal terms.

The parable states (16:19) that “there was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day.” This “rich man” represented the Jewish nation who, at the time of our Lord’s first advent, had been especially blessed by God. Pictorially speaking, they were “clothed in purple” as God’s typical royal people—the “fine linen” representing their covenant relationship with God. They “fared sumptuously every day” even as the Apostle Paul indicates (Rom. 3:1,2): “What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.” They “fared sumptuously” on the many rich promises given to them through the Law and the Prophets.

But the “rich man” died. As a result of Israel’s rejection of Messiah, they went into oblivion as a nation, and in that condition they were alienated from the favor of God throughout the Gospel Age. The scriptural account states that the rich man while in hell (oblivion) and in torments (persecutions) “seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.” (Luke 16:23) Symbolically, this represents Israel’s view of Christ and his footstep followers, who receive God’s favor while they themselves experience disfavor. This point is further emphasized in verse 24: “And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.” For centuries Israelites have been distressed because of their predicament while looking to the spiritual seed of Abraham for sympathy—even the cool water of mercy and understanding. Yet in fulfillment of the lesson of the parable (vs. 26), “there is a great gulf fixed.” Throughout the Gospel Age and even unto the present time there has been a “great gulf” between the Gospel church and the Jews. And this wide difference between the two will continue to exist until the church is completed and God turns to Israel and the rest of the world with the new arrangement of the kingdom of Christ.

Lazarus represented the Gentiles, who had not received the special blessings that Jews enjoyed. They hungered and thirsted and sought crumbs at the foot of the rich man’s table, and were called dogs by Jews who considered them heathen and outcast. “And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom.” (vs. 22) The condition of the Gentiles changed drastically after Israel’s rejection of Messiah, for then they were given the opportunity to enter into covenant relationship with God and to be “dead with Christ,” thus becoming the true seed of Abraham.

Much injustice has been done to the name of God in connection with the misinterpretation of this parable. God is not the author of the often accepted idea concerning eternal torture. He is a God of compassion and will, in due time, extend his favor to the whole world of mankind.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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