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47That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating.

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Luke 12:47. But that servant. There is great weight in this circumstance, which is mentioned by Luke alone, that, in proportion as any man knowingly and willingly takes pleasure in despising the Lord, he deserves severer punishment. A comparison is made between the greater and the less to this effect: If punishment does not fail to be inflicted on a servant who errs through mistake, what shall become of the wicked and rebellious servant, who purposely, as it were, tramples under foot the authority of his master? It ought to be remembered, however, that those who are appointed to govern the Church do not err through ignorance, but basely and wickedly defraud their Master of his right.

Yet we ought to gather from this passage a general doctrine, that it is in vain for men to betake themselves to the plea of ignorance, in order to be freed from condemnation. For if a mortal man claims the right of demanding from his servants that they shall inquire into his will, so that nothing may be done in his house in a heedless or confused manner; how much greater authority belongs to the Son of God, that they who serve him should be earnestly desirous to be informed about his injunctions, and not rush forward, at their own pleasure, to act in a state of uncertainty, but depend wholly on the intimations of his will; particularly when he has prescribed what we ought to do, and always gives us a gracious answer, when we ask his direction? It is certain, that our ignorance is always accompanied by gross and shameful negligence. We see, indeed, that it is in vain to resort to this subterfuge, that he who has gone wrong through ignorance is not in fault; for, on the contrary, the Heavenly Judge declares, that though such offenders are visited by lighter chastisement, yet they will not be altogether unpunished. And if even ignorance does not excuse men, how dreadful is the vengeance that awaits deliberate transgressors, who with outrageous violence provoke God, in opposition to the dictates of their conscience? The more abundant the instruction, therefore, which any man has received, so much the greater is the ground for punishment, if he be not obedient and submissive. Hence it appears how trifling and worthless is the excuse of those who, now rejecting the plain doctrine of the Gospel, endeavor to screen such obstinacy by the ignorance of their fathers; as if ignorance were an adequate shield to ward off the judgment of God. But granting that faults committed through mistake were pardoned, it would be highly unreasonable that the same favor should be extended to those who sin willfully, since with deliberate malice they rage against God.




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