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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

Matthew 19

 

 

Verses 1-12

THIRD SECTION

THE PRIESTLY FAMILY IN THE CHURCH

Matthew 19:1-26

Contents:—This section sets before us, in their remarkable connection, the three principal features of the Christian household as it should exist in the Church of Christ: viz, the marriage-relationship in the Church, Matthew 19:1-12; children In the Church, Matthew 19:13-15; and property in the Church, Matthew 19:16-26.

Historical Connection.—After the transaction at Capernaum, recorded in Matthew 18, the Lord commenced His festive journey to Jerusalem, in company with His disciples, Luke 13:22-30. On this occasion the Pharisees attempted—probably at the instigation of Herod—to frighten the Lord into a speedy removal from Galilee, Luke 19:31-35. They next invited Him to a feast, in the hope of thus ensnaring Him, Luke 14:1-24. The Lord now set before those of His followers who were not yet decided for Him, the dangers connected with discipleship, Luke 14:25-35. On the other hand, He declared His readiness to receive penitent publicans and sinners, Luke 15:1-17. The festive company now entered the territory of Samaria, but were not allowed to pass through it ( Luke 9:51-62). This refusal to receive Him led to the sending forth of the seventy disciples ( Luke 10:1-16). The Lord next took a sorrowing retrospect of Galilee ( Matthew 11:20-30); and then passed into Peræa through the boundary land of Samaria and Galilee ( Luke 17:11-19). The return of the seventy disciples ( Luke 10:17-37). Jesus arrived in Peræa previous to the transactions recorded in Matthew 19 ( Matthew 19:1-2). The Evangelists have not preserved many of the details connected with Christ’s twofold visit to Peræa, before and after the feast of the Dedication of the Temple, during the winter of the year782. Thus much, however, clearly appears, that He was gladly received in that district We are told that, during His first stay there ( Matthew 19:2), “great multitudes followed Him there, and He healed them (their sick).” Of His second visit to Peræa we read, that “many resorted unto Him,” and “believed on Him there” ( John 10:40-42). The events recorded in the section under consideration, most probably occurred while the Saviour visited Peræa the second time. According to the account in the Gospel of Mark, the rich young man came to the Lord when He was gone forth into the way; according to Matthew, He departed from Galilee after having laid His hands on children,—an act which the Evangelist seems to connect with His teaching on the subject of divorce (see the Leben Jesu, Matthew 2:2, p1079).

During his journey to Peræa, where Jesus on the first occasion made only a very brief stay, He replied to the intrusive and curious question, whether few or many were to be saved ( Luke 13:23). It was probably in Peræa that He uttered the parable concerning the Pharisee and the publican, and several others which are recorded in the Gospel by Luke. He next appeared at Jerusalem at the feast of the Dedication of the Temple ( John 10:22-40), which, according to Wieseler, commenced that year on the 25 th December. Once more the Jews now tempted Him with the question, whether He was the Messiah (in their sense of the designation—the inquiry being urged partly from motives of hostility, and partly in the hope of having their carnal expectations realized). In their peculiar state of mind, the reply of Jesus implied both more and less than they had anticipated or wished. Hence they wished to stone Him. But He passed majestically through the midst of them, and—protected by His followers—soon appeared a second time in Peræa, in the same locality, where afterward, at Pella, His Church found a refuge. But in Peræa also He was met by Pharisees, who had been stirred up and instructed by their colleagues at Jerusalem. Accordingly, questions similar to those set before Him in the capital of Judæa were now urged. With these the section under consideration opens.

It is quite in accordance with the plan adopted by Matthew in his Gospel, that only those portions are recorded in which the Christian family in the new Church is described in its various aspects and bearings.

A. Marriage in the Church. Matthew 19:1-12

( Mark 10:1-12.)

1And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, he departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts [borders, τὰ ὅρια] of Judea beyond [the] Jordan; 2, And great multitudes followed him; and he healed them there 3 The Pharisees also came unto him [And there came to him Pharisees],[FN1] tempting him, and saying unto him,[FN2] Is it lawful for a man[FN3] to put away his wife for every cause? 4And he answered and said unto them,[FN4] Have ye not read, that he which [who] made them at the beginning [from the beginning, ἀπ̓ ἁρχῆς, i.e., in paradise] made them male and female, 5And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain [the two, οἱδν́ο] shall be one flesh? 6Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder 7 They say unto him, Why [then] did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? 8He saith unto them, Moses because of the harshness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning9[ἀπ ̓ αρχῆς] it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication,[FN5] and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which [who] is put away doth commit [committeth] adultery 10 His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife [i.e., if this is the legal relation between husband and wife], it is not good to marry 11 But he said unto them, All men cannot [Not all, ον̓ πἁντες, can] receive this saying, save they to whom it is given 12 For there are some[FN6] eunuchs, which [who] were so born from their [the] mother’s wombs: and there are some eunuchs, which [who] were made eunuchs of [by, ν̔πό men: and there be [are] eunuchs, which [who] have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Matthew 19:1. And it came to pass.—The passage from Galilee to Peræa formed part of the journey of the Lord to Jerusalem. The circumstance, that Matthew (as well as Mark and Luke) only records the last journey of Jesus to Jerusalem, is readily explained from the general plan on which his narrative is constructed.

Into the borders; or, boundary land.—It deserves notice, that Jesus entered not merely the territory of Peræa, but penetrated to its utmost boundaries. According to Josephus (Bell. Judges 3:3; Judges 3:3), Peræa proper (or “the other side,” i.e., of Jordan—ἡ περία, sc. χώρα) extended from Moabitis, or from the Arnon, to Pella on the north—“certainly to the Sheriat Mandhur, since Josephus designates Gadars (Omkeis), which lay on the Mandhur, as the capital of Peræa. Toward the east, it adjoined, according to that writer, the territory of Gerasa, Rabbath Ammon, and Arabia.” L. von Raumer. From the same authority we learn that Peræa, in the wider sense, embraced that part of Palestine which lay east of the Jordan, embracing the whole territory of Peræa from the sources of the Jordan to the Arnon, Lastly, a still wider meaning attached to that name which was also given to the whole eastern part of the Jordan-valley, or the Ghor (Arabah), stretching from the sources of Jordan to the southern extremity of the Dead Sea, and running beyond it to the Elanitic Gulf, between the mountains of Edom in the east and the high coast on the west When on former occasions traversing the lake (Cæsarea, Gadara), Jesus had visited Peræa in the second and last-mentioned acceptation of that term. Hence we conclude that He went at this time into Peræa proper, which formed part of the tetrarchy of Herod Antipas, who ruled over that province as well as over Galilee. From this circumstance we account for the fact that the Lord now betook Himself to the boundary districts, or coasts, of Peræa,—the latter term being scarcely applicable to the boundary district of Judæa itself.

A special interest and importance attaches to the province of Peræa, where Jesus retired on two occasions previous to His decease and found a refuge, and whither afterward His infant Church retired before the destruction of Jerusalem, seeking shelter among its mountains, and making Pella their capital. On the difficulties connected with the topography of Pella, comp. the author’s Apostol. Zeitalter, ii461. Great probability, however, attaches to the suggestion of Robinson, who, according to his latest researches, places it on the site of the modern Fahil, between the Jabbok and the Hieromax; in which case, the statement of Josephus would refer to Pella as being a boundary town of Peræa, in the narrowest or political sense of the term. On the blessed work of Jesus in that province, comp. the author’s Leben Jesu, ii2, p1094. The general conformation of the district is calcareous and cretaceous in the south, till beyond the Arnon, and basalt in the eastern portion. It is mountainous, with high plateaus, and traversed by many rivers. The northern part is woody, and suited for grazing (the oaks and bulls of Bashan); the southern, exceedingly fertile.

An attentive consideration of the narrative in the Gospels will easily enable us to answer the objection of Meyer and others, who deem the account of Matthew incompatible with that of Luke ( Luke 9:51; Luke 17:11), according to which, Jesus had passed through Samaria. The Lord had evidently intended to journey by Samaria. But when the inhabitants of that country refused to receive Him, He passed into Peræa through the boundary land of Galilee and Samaria (see Leben Jesu, ii2, 1053). Similarly, in answer to the alleged contradiction between our Gospel and John 10:22; John 10:40—which records that Jesus went from Jerusalem to Peræa—we remind the reader, that the Lord visited that province on two different occasions.

Matthew 19:3. Pharisees.—Peræa was removed from the great centres of Jewish hierarchism. Hence the Saviour found there a sphere of labor even after He had been banished from Galilee and Judæa. But even there the sect of the Pharisees was by and by roused to acts of hostility, partly at the instigation of their colleagues at Jerusalem, and partly from personal rancor. On this and other grounds, we conclude that the transactions here recorded had taken place during the second visit of Jesus to Peræa. The question has been raised, wherein the “temptation” of this inquiry lay. Meyer suggests that it consisted in the attempt of involving Him in the discussion between the schools of Hillel and Shammai (see the Exeget. Notes on Matthew 5:31). “It was hoped that, by His reply, Jesus would virtually support the view of one of these antagonistic schools—more particularly that of Shammai, and that thus the opposite party might be more fully enlisted against Him.” But in that case He would also manifestly have gained the favor of the followers of Shammai Ewald thinks that it was intended to entangle Jesus, while in the dominions of Herod Antipas—whose conduct in his married relationship John had reproved—in a declaration and fate similar to that of the Baptist. To this it has been objected—as we think, without sufficient reason—that there is no indication of such a scheme in the text. Meyer bolds that the decision of Jesus was stricter than that of either of the schools. The statement is incorrect, as our Lord did not go beyond the principles laid down by Shammai; while, unlike that teacher, He did not convert the absolute principle of marriage in the Church into an outward and civil statute.

For every cause.—The question is manifestly put from the point of view taken by Hillel.

Matthew 19:4. Made them, or created them.—The ideas of ἄνθρωπος (which accordingly we retain as the reading) and γυνή are presupposed. The Lord explains that they were not created arbitrarily, or independently of, but for each other, and as suitable and adapted to each other; which is expressed by ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλν, referring to the male and female nature. The two first individuals of the male and female sex were not merely a man and a woman, but male and female, in the sense of being destined and intended exclusively for each other. Hence they constituted the type of marriage in its full meaning and principle, as an indissoluble union.

Matthew 19:5. And said.—In Genesis 2:24, these words are recorded as having been spoken by Adam, while in this place they are uttered as quoted by God,—not simply because every statement of Scripture is the word of the Lord, but, as Augustine [De nupt. ii4] expresses it, “Deus utique per hominem dixit quod homo prophetando prœdixit.” Or rather, perhaps, because, before his fall, man uttered absolute spiritual truth, or what in point of fact was the word of God.

For this cause shall a man leave father and mother.—Added not merely by way of quotation, but to show that the relationship between a man and his wife was higher, stronger, and closer than even that toward his father and mother.

The two.—The expression does not occur in the original Hebrew, but is found in the Septuagint, as implied in the text, and bringing out more fully its idea and meaning. The two apparently different individualities are to become one flesh by marriage, i.e., to form the generic unity of human nature. This unity, while implying the mental and moral elements, is based on that of the, as indicating and completing the union.

Matthew 19:6. No more, or, never more, ον̓κέτι.

Matthew 19:9 forms no exception to this rule, as the relationship there referred to is incompatible with, and in direct antagonism to, the idea of marriage.[FN7]

Matthew 19:7-8. Why did Moses then command? Deuteronomy 24:1.—A misapplication of the passage, which the Lord exposes and censures. The object of Hoses in laying down the rules about giving a writing of divorcement, was not to countenance or promote divorces, but to diminish their number by subjecting them to certain rules and limitations, with the view of again elevating the married relationship, and realizing its idea. Moses commanded, not that divorces should take place; he only enjoined that in much cases certain forms should be observed, and that the ground of the separation should be embodied in the “writing of divorcement.” But the Jewish Rabbins completely perverted the meaning and object of all this ( Matthew 5:31). Hence we note the twofold antithesis: “Moses did command,” “Moses suffered;” and again: “Moses did command” in general, and, “Moses suffered you” in particular. So far from having commanded it in general, he only suffered you individually, because of the hardness of your hearts.

Matthew 19:8. From the beginning it was not so.—In the original state of things in Paradise. The first instance of polygamy is recorded in Genesis 4:19. It deserves special notice, that it appears in conjunction with murder, avenging of blood, and sinful poetry; and that it occurs in the line of Cain, not in that of Seth.

Matthew 19:9. Except for fornication.—An explanation of the עֶיְוַת דָּבָר. Comp. the Exeg. Notes on Matthew 5:31-32, p115. Roman Catholic writers are naturally anxious to have this clause omitted from the text (Hug, von Berlepsch), but there is no critical warrant for this.

Matthew 19:10. It is not good to marry.—The meaning of the disciples is: if the ideal principle laid down by our Lord about marriage was to be immediately and unconditionally applied to existing relations, then, etc. In His reply, Christ admits the difficulty of such application.

Matthew 19:11. Not all can receive this saying.—It requires divine illumination.

Matthew 19:12. The explanation of His further statement—For there are eunuchs, etc.—is exceedingly difficult. Neander thinks that Matthew inserted in this place something which the Lord had taught on the same subject on another occasion, and in quite a different connection. Certainly, the common interpretation, that Jesus here referred to the various exceptional cases in which marriage should be avoided, is very unsatisfactory. The three classes of eunuchs here enumerated (the expression being used figuratively for those who are not to enter the married relationship), are evidently intended to embrace all the grounds on which marriage was inadmissible. First of all, then, there is a class of eunuchs who were so born from the mother’s womb, i.e. who are physically disqualified for marriage, such as those laboring under disease, or whose mental or bodily organization is defective. Next, there was another class “who were made eunuchs by men.” As, in the first and third class enumerated, the term eunuch is evidently used in a figurative manner, we take it in the same sense here—the more Song of Solomon, as in the literal sense it would apply to a comparatively small number of persons. Hence we regard it as referring in general to those who are prevented from entering into marriage, in the highest and only true import of the idea, by social and moral considerations, and who are hence in duty bound to renounce the married state. The last class to which the Saviour alludes, consists of those who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, i.e., those who, being married, yet for the kingdom of heaven’s sake are as if they were not married, i.e., are ever ready to sacrifice their conjugal enjoyments for the sake of their spiritual calling; or—as the Apostle expresses it, 1 Corinthians 7:29—have wives as though they had none.—Thus this threefold renunciation, which, in accordance with the divine will and purpose, runs through the actual marriage-relationship,—viz, the renunciation of natural union, or of ideal union, or of the full enjoyment of the married estate,—was to form the basis on which this relationship was henceforth to rest. Such a union was to combine the elements of deep personal attachment and interchange of soul with subordination to the divine arrangements and requirements in the theocracy, where this as well as every other good gift should be regarded as secondary, and subservient to the grand purposes of the kingdom of God (Leben Jesu, ii2, p1103). The expression εν̓νουχιζειν is also used by the Cabbalists in a figurative sense. It is strange that Roman Catholic divines (as, for example, Sepp, Leben Jesu, iii117) should have quoted in support of celibacy a passage which, in reality, so far from representing marriage as something beneath the disciples, elevated that relationship far above the views and circumstances of the times, and placed it on a high and spiritual platform. Similarly absurd is the notion of Strauss, that this passage savors of Essenism, which degraded woman, while the Saviour here restored her right position. Comp. Ebrard, p453. It is well known that a misunderstanding of the import of this passage induced Origen literally to carry it into execution,—a historical fact, which has latterly been again established by Engelhart and Redepenning against Schnitzer and others.

[Note.—I beg leave to differ from Dr. Lange’s figurative exposition of the second and third class of eunuchs; which last would, in this case, embrace all Christians, since temperance and chastity is a fundamental virtue and duty for the married as well as the single state, and since all are required to subordinate their earthly relations to their spiritual calling. As I understand the mysterious passage, the Saviour distinguishes three kinds of eunuchism: (1) congenital, which implies neither merit nor guilt; (2) forced, which implies misfortune on the one hand and guilt on the other; (3) voluntary, which has moral value and merit if it proceeds from faith and love to Christ, but no merit superior to chastity in the married state. The first and third are only improperly called eunuchism. To speak more fully, the first class of eunuchs embraces the comparatively small number of those who are constitutionally either incapable of, or averse to, marriage; the second class, the eunuchs proper, or mutilated persons, who at that time were quite numerous, especially at courts, and are still found in Eastern countries, among heathens and Mohammedans (yea, even in the choir of the papal Sixtine chapel in Rome; the famous Miserere being sung by the clear silver voices of these unfortunate victims of sacred art); the third class, those who deliberately abstain from marriage either altogether, or from second marriage after the death of their first husband or wife, not, however, for the purpose of thereby gaining the kingdom of heaven (ad regnum cœlorum promerenndum, as Origen, Hilarius, Euthymius, Maldonatus, and the Roman Commentators generally misinterpret the words διὰ τὴν βασιλείαν τ.ον̓ρ.), but for the purpose of working for the kingdom of heaven from pure and disinterested love to Christ, believing that they can serve Him more unreservedly and effectually in the single state, or remain more steadfast in times of peculiar trial and persecution (διὰ τὴν ἐνεοτῶσνἀνάγκην, 1 Corinthians 7:26). To this class belong St. Paul ( 1 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Corinthians 7:26), Barnabas ( 1 Corinthians 9:5-6), probably also St. John (who in the Greek Church bears the standing title, παρθένος, with reference to his virgin purity), and thousands of missionaries, divines, ministers and pious laymen, sisters of charity, virgins and widows in all ages and among Protestants as well as Catholics. The great and serious error of the Roman Church consists in making a law for the whole clergy of what the Saviour left to free choice on the basis of a special calling and gift of God ( Matthew 19:11), and in attaching a superior merit to celibacy at the expense of the holy and normal state of marriage. From a grossly literal misunderstanding of Matthew 19:12, Origen, in the youthful ardor of enthusiasm for Christ, and misguided by the ascetic notions of his age, committed the unnatural deed which forever disqualified him for marriage. But this was justly condemned in the ancient church, and was made subsequently a reason for his excommunication from the church of Alexandria.—On the whole subject of marriage and celibacy in the N. T, comp. Schaff’s History of the Apostolic Church, § 112, pp448–454.—P. S.]

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. Compare our remarks on Matthew 5, p116 sq, and the foregoing Exegetical Notes.

2. The scribes seem always to have been entangled in the antagonistic views of Shammai and Hillel. But Christ here calls their attention to a very different kind of antagonism,—viz, that between the fundamental, eternal, and absolute principle of marriage, and the theocratic or political law on the subject. So far as the principle of marriage was concerned, every such union was necessarily indissoluble, being based on the fact, that man and woman were destined for each other. But in point of fact this principle had been lost sight of, equally because unions were improperly formed, and because they were improperly dissolved. Hence, the object of Moses was to keep this heathen degeneracy within bounds. By means of the “writing of divorcement,” he wished gradually again to train the Jews by the law, so as to elevate their views, and to introduce among them marriage in the true and spiritual sense. But this measure was frustrated and perverted for the opposite purpose, by the loose and lascivious interpretations put upon it by the Rabbins. In out opinion, it is the duty of legislators and magistrate! not to degenerate into literalism, or to go beyond the above principle, as Romanism has done, but to see to it that, so far as possible, practice should correspond with this ideal. Accordingly our Lord here lays down the following leading principles, viz:. (1) The law concerning adultery applies to man as well as to woman—indeed, more especially to the former. (2) Marriage is dissolved only by actual fornication; in which case the non-offending party is again free. (3) What constitutes a legal divorcement is not the separation of the two parties,—which, as in morally faulty marriages, may not only be excusable, but perhaps even duty,—but Revelation -marriage after separation, and that whether it be a marriage by which the divorced woman is finally abandoned, or else a woman that had been divorced is espoused. Thus far the legal settlement of the question. In practical legislation, it is necessary to keep two points in view, viz.: what constitutes fornication; and the difference between mere separation and the right of entering into another union. With regard to fornication, we must—according to 1 Corinthians 7:15—here include religious, spiritual apostasy. But in reference to the Revelation -marrying of those who have been divorced—except under the above circumstances—we believe that no human tribunal has, as a matter of right, the power of granting such a permission, although (in the opinion of the author) it may be conceded as an act of grace on the part of the reigning sovereign, especially in cases where mitigating circumstances justify such an act of dispensation. (See the author’s Leben Jesu, 2:2, 1101; 3:179; Fosit. Dogmatik, p1215.)

The matrimonial law of the Roman Catholic Church, and the common statute law of Prussia and other Protestant countries of Germany, are instances of the two opposite extremes and aberrations to which a misinterpretation of this passage has given rise. The former starts from the supposition, that actual union, or the solemnizing of matrimony, constitutes of itself and alone an indissoluble marriage. The history of the Middle Ages, the state of society in Italy and in other Roman Catholic countries, especially in South America, furnish a sad illustration of this principle. While the bed in which the stream was to flow has been converted into a hard, stone-built channel, the river has broken through all bounds, and cutting out a channel for itself, winds its way irregularly and wildly through forests and swamps. The false assumption in this case seems to be, that the law of Moses had occupied the lowest stage—that it was the minimum of right; not that it embodied a principle, and was intended to prepare the way for realizing the full idea of marriage. In many Protestant countries, on the other hand, the opposite error has been committed; the legality of marriage has been thoroughly undermined, and free love substituted in its place as the controlling principle of true marriage. In that case, the writing of divorcement is not, like that of Moses, intended to render separation more difficult, but, like that of Hillel, to make it more easy.

It deserves special notice, that the great reformation here inaugurated by the Lord is introduced by an explanation of the circumstances under which marriage should be avoided. All such cases may be arranged under three classes: those who by their physical constitution are disqualified for such a union; those in which moral and social relations prevent the carrying out of marriage in its full import; and, lastly, those who, being married, were to subordinate their married relationship to their calling as Christians, and in this respect to renounce it. Thus marriage was to be regenerated on the basis of ideal renunciation.[FN8]

3. David Brown on Matthew 19:12 : “When our Lord holds forth the single life as designed for and suited to certain specific classes, let Christians understand that, while their own plan and condition of life should be regulated by higher considerations than mere inclination or personal advantage, they are not to lay down rules for others, but let each decide for himself, as to his own Master he standeth or falleth. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God and approved of men.” Alford (after Neander) on Matthew 19:12 : “It is to be observed that our Lord does not here utter a word from which any superiority can be attributed to the state of celibacy: the imperative in the last clause being not a command but a permission, as in Revelation 22:17. His estimate for us of the expediency of celibacy, as a general question, is to be gathered from the parable of the talents, where He visits with severe blame the burying of the talent for its safer custody. The remark is Neander’s (Leben Jesu, p584, 4th ed.), and the more valuable, as he himself [and his sister who took care of him] lived and died unmarried.”—Christ certainly nowhere commands, or even recommends, voluntary celibacy to any one; the most which can be gathered from the last clause of Matthew 19:12 : δυνὰμενος χωρεῖν χωρεὶτω, in connection with Matthew 19:21, is that He expected such a sacrifice from some of His disciples. Comp. de Wette in loc.—P. S.]

4. The great object of the Lord in this section is to reinstate woman in her original rights. In the ancient world, as still in heathen countries, woman was treated as a slave. Even among the Jews the right of divorcement was refused to woman, although it was accorded to her by the Roman law. This, however, does not imply that the legislation of Rome occupied higher ground than that of Israel. In the former case, the rights of the free citizen were chiefly guarded; while in Jewish law the idea of the family prevailed. Still, the law of Rome may be said to have prepared the way for Christian legislation on the subject of matrimony.

5 . “The creation of one couple may be regarded, (1) As proof that monogamy alone is agreeable to the will of God; which also appears from the fact of the continuance of the same proportion between the male and female sex, even with a numerical advantage on the part of the male sex, which would have been reversed if polygamy had been intended by the Creator. (2) As evidence that this union was to continue unseparated; otherwise, God would have created more than one couple or more wives. In this respect also the order of nature is the order of God.” Heubner.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

Wherever Christ goes, friends and foes follow Him: 1. As His friends, those who need help; 2. as His enemies, the representatives of slavish legalism and licentious antinomianism.—The doctrine of Christ concerning marriage: 1. Its binding character as instituted by God; 2. its decay in the progress of history; 3. its prepared restoration under the law; 4. its transformation by the gospel.—Marriage an institution of God.—Marriage as completing and consecrating creation—as the basis of the family—as the complete communion of life—a figure of the communion between the Lord and His Church, Ephesians 5.—How sin has obscured this best and most blessed relationship of life, and frequently perverted it into the most fruitful source of misery.—The writing of divorcement in its different aspects.—How Christianity has elevated woman, and restored her rights.—Genuine and Christian love the great preservative against disturbing influences.—Unchastity always a renunciation of self-respect and of personal dignity,—a dissolution of the holiest of bonds.—Solemnity and earnestness of the marriage relationship.—The threefold renunciation of marriage under the gospel, preparing the way for Christian marriage.—Christ the founder of the Christian family: 1. Of the law regulating marriage; 2. of the law regulating children; 3. of the law regulating property.

Starke:—Quesnel: The union of man and wife more close even than that of parents and children, Genesis 2:24.—Hedinger: Husband and wife should be not only one flesh, but also one heart and mind, Ephesians 5:31.—The order of marriage is instituted by God Himself; but, alas! many persons enter this state not only without God, but against His mind and will.—Osiander: Satan attempts to interpret Scripture through his servants; but he perverts it, and misrepresents its meaning.—Zeisius: Under the new dispensation, everything is not sanctioned that was tolerated under the law.—Piscator: Celibacy is not a more holy state than marriage.

Gerlach:—In this relationship, man is to show that he has conquered the flesh and nature by the power of the Spirit.

Heubner:—Christ is not determined by the opinions of the scribes; but points back to the original institution as founded by God, which is the source and ground of all further enactments.

Footnotes:

FN#1 - Matthew 19:3.—[Καἰ προσῆλθον αὐτῷ Φαρισαῖοι; the article οἱ of the text. rec.. is wanting in the best MSS. and thrown out by the modern critical editors (except Tischendorf), also by Dr. Lange in his version.—P. S.]

FN#2 - Matthew 19:3.—[Αὺτῷ, to him, is likewise missing in the oldest authorities, also Cod. Sinait, and omitted by Lachmann, Tischendorf, Alford.—P. S ]

FN#3 - Matthew 19:3.—Ἀνθρώπῳ, for a man, is omitted by B, L, [Cod. Sinait], and thrown out by Lachmann and Tischendorf; but seems to be required by ἐποιησεν αὐτούς.

FN#4 - Matthew 19:4.—[AΑὐτοῖς, to them, is omitted in the critical editions, but retained by Lange.—P. S.]

FN#5 - The text. rec, reads: εἰ μὴ ἐπὶ πορνείᾳ; Tischendorf and Alford: μὴ ἐπὶπ., which reading is sustained also by Cod. Sinaiticus. Εἰ may easily be an explanatory addition. The sense is not affected in the least by this difference of reading. P. S.]

FN#6 - Matthew 19:12.—[Some before eunuchs is an interpolation of the E. V, and should be underscored or omitted.—P. S.]

FN#7 - Matthew 19:3-6.—The Pharisees wished to entangle our Saviour in their scholastic party disputes on the marriage and divorce-question and in the adultery-case of Herod Antipas, which caused the Imprisonment and death of John the Baptist, and may have excited as much feeling and debate in its day as the divorce-case of Henry viii. in the 16 th century during the Reformation period. The Saviour answered the treacherous question of His enemies by referring them first (in ver: 4) to what God did, who in the original creation of man instituted the sexual relation and marriage as an indissoluble union between one man and one woman; secondly, to what God said through Adam as the representative of the race (in Matthew 19:5), viz, that husband and wife are inseparably united, i.e., within the limits of their life in the flesh, or their earthly life; and then He states His own irresistible conclusion (in Matthew 19:6) in a sentence which is since repeated in every marriage ceremony in Christian lands, and will be repeated to the end of time to inaugurate and protect with its divine authority and power this holy and fundamental relation.—We add the remarks of Dr. Alford on Matthew 19:4-6 : (1) Our Lord refers to the Mosaic account of the Creation as a historical fact, and grounds His argument on the literal expressions of that narrative. (2) He cites both from the first and second chapters of Genesis, showing them to be consecutive parts of a continuous narrative. (3) He quotes words of Adam ( Genesis 2:21) as spoken by the Creator; they must, therefore, be understood as said In prophecy, divino afflatus, the more so since the relations alluded to by those terms did not yet exist. (4) The force of the argument consists in the previous unity of male and female, not indeed organically, but by implication, in Adam. He made them, i.e., man as a race, male (not a male), and female (not a female).—P. S.]

FN#8 - The next section of about half a column is omitted in the translation, since it relates exclusively to the intricate marriage difficulties in the Prussian state-church-establishment, taking a middle ground between the rigorous reform party and the conformist majority of pastors. The Prussian laws on marriage, dating from the intidel reign of Frederic II, are scandalously lax and demoralizing, by increasing the causes, and facilitating the accomplishment of divorce. With the revival of true Christianity in Prussia a reform movement commenced, which aims at a return to the law of Christ. The subject has been extensively agitated for the last twenty years by the religious press, on Synods, Pastoral Conferences, and also on the German Church Diet. Comp. a number of articles in Hengstenberg’s Evang. kirchenscitung, for1840–60; Liebetrut: Ueber geordnete Entwicklung der Ehe, Berlin, 1856; and Goeschen, article Ehe in Herzog’s Real-Encyclopædie, vol. iii, pp666–707.—P. S.]


Verses 13-15

B. Children in the Church. Matthew 19:13-15.

( Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-17)

13Then were there[FN9] brought unto him little children, that he should [might] put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them 14 But Jesus said, Suffer [the, τά] little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me; for of such Isaiah 10 the kingdom of heaven 15 And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence.[FN11]

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Matthew 19:13. Then were brought to Him little children.—Forming a glorious contrast to the questions previously propounded. The blessing of children in opposition to marriage offences. [Little children, παιδία, not only little boys and girls, but also infants, or babes, as is evident from the term βρὲφη of Luke 18:15.—P. S.]

To Him.—From this history we gather, that in Peræa Christ was not merely regarded as a sacred personage, but that His dignity and character were also in some measure acknowledged.

That He should put His hands on them.—Not merely as a symbol, but also as an act of benediction,—i.e, as effectually conferring some moral blessing. Similarly, it was also expressive of consecration and of healing, Genesis 48:14; Exodus 29:10; 2 Kings 4:34. Comp. the article Handauflegung in Herzog’s Real-Encyclopædie. Hebrew mothers would be accustomed to seek in this manner a blessing for their children. The presidents of synagogues were also in the habit of putting their hands on children.

The disciples rebuked them.—According to Mark, those who brought them; and Meyer suggests that the term προσηνέχθη indicates that the word αν̓τοῖς in the text refers to these persons. But in our view the Evangelist intends to indicate, that while the rebuke was addressed to those who brought the children, it was in reality directed toward the children themselves. Accordingly, our Lord replies, Suffer little children, etc.

Matthew 19:14. Of such is the kingdom of heaven.—Various views are entertained of this passage: 1. Bengel and de Wette apply it to children in the literal sense2. Meyer interprets it of persons of a childlike disposition, Matthew 18:3. Calvin remarks: tam parvuli, quam eorum similes. 4. The Church commonly applies it to the institution of infant baptism, explaining it as meaning, children which are offered to the Lord, and come to Him. Hence, such as are dedicated unto God in baptism,—the children of the theocracy as the generation which embodied the hope of the kingdom of heaven. But according to the parallel passages in Mark and Luke, it must also be regarded as a symbol of a childlike spirit, just as baptism itself is the type of personal regeneration.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. This section may be regarded as shedding a precious light on that which preceded. The blessing of having children, and presenting them to the Lord, seems to banish the sorrows and miseries which the disciples had anticipated.

2. The believers in Peræa appear to hare been sufficiently advanced in spiritual knowledge to understand that Christ was able to bless even little children (βρθὲφη, according to Luke), and that they were capable of receiving a blessing. But in this instance the disciples seem to have displayed a less liberal spirit—we should almost say, that they were inclined to Baptistic rigorism. They regarded the request of these parents as an unseasonable interruption of a most important discussion, and as a premature step on their part But while rebuking the ignorant zeal of His disciples, the Saviour returned a gracious answer to the humble aspirations of these mothers in Israel, and at the same time fully met the unconscious wants of their children.

3. Of such is the kingdom of heaven.—The ancient Church has rightly regarded this passage as a proof in favor of the doctrine of infant baptism. Our Lord here distinctly states—1. that little children are capable of receiving a blessing from His hands; 2. that this blessing refers to the kingdom of heaven, and their entrance into it; 3. He shows that it is accompanied by, and may be conveyed along with, a symbolical action. Baptists are apt to ignore the possibility of faith as a seed in the heart of infants, just as they fail to perceive the full idea of the Christian family, and of the blessing which may descend from Christian parentage. On the other hand, our Lord evidently includes children among those that are called into His kingdom, and who are intended to share the blessing of the Christian family. See also our notes on Matthew 10:12-14 (p187).

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

Children God’s blessing on the married relationship.—How the happiness of children counterbalances the misery of marriage.[FN12]—How marriage should be sanctified even by a regard to the children.—Children are to be brought to the Lord.—Children are capable of receiving a blessing.—The attempt to debar children from Christ rebuked and resisted by the Lord.—The children of believers are admitted into the kingdom of heaven.—“Suffer little children.”—Children and the kingdom of heaven in their mutual relationship: 1. Every new generation of children becoming fairer in the kingdom of heaven; 2. the kingdom of heaven shines forth more beautifully in every new generation of believers.—Or, 1. The kingdom of heaven belongs to children; 2. children belong to the kingdom of heaven.

Starke:—Quesnel: Let us entreat the blessing of the Lord upon our children.—[Heaven is for the humble and simple.—] Osiander: Let parents see to it that they do everything which may contribute to the salvation of their children.—Bibl. Würt.: If the kingdom of heaven belongs to children, then also faith and baptism.

Gossner:—What is great before the world, is little before Christ, and what the world despises, is elected by Christ.

Lisco:—Children are specially susceptible of spiritual influences. In their case there is still—1. confidence, instead of scepticism; 2. self-surrender, instead of distrust; 3. truth, instead of hypocrisy; 4. modesty and humility, instead of pride.

Heubner:—Faith in the power and in the efficacy of the prayers of holy men: 1. On what it is based; 2. its conditions.—Let us impress it on the minds of children, that Christ claims them as His own.—The rebuke of the disciples an admonition to those who object to the early religious instruction of children.—Jesus the model of pure and holy love of children.—Natural and Christian affection for children.

Footnotes:

FN#9 - Matthew 19:13.—[There is an unnecessary interpolation of the E. V.—P. S.]

FN#10 - Matthew 19:14.—[Or: to such belongeth, Tyndale, Conant, etc. The Saviour does not say: αὐτῶν ἐστιν βασιἰ εία τῶν οὐρανῶν, of them, as in Matthew 5:3; Matthew 5:10 (although the children are certainly included), but, extending the blessing: τῶν τοιού των ἐστίν, of such, i.e, of all those that have a childlike spirit and are like those little ones that believe in Christ, comp. Matthew 18:2-6. Calvin is right in explaining: tam parvuli, quam eorum similes.—P. S.]

FN#11 - Matthew 19:15.—[The different readings in this section have no effect on the sense, and are omitted by Dr. Lange. I will merely mention them: Matthew 19:13 : προςηνέχθη—προςηνέχθησαν; ἐπετίμησαν—ἐπετίμων; Matthew 19:14 : εἶπεν—εἶπεν αὐτοῖς; πρός με—πρός ἐμε; Matthew 19:15 : αὐτοῖς—ἐπ̓ αὐτούς.—P. S.]

FN#12 - Much better in German: Wie der Kinderjubel den Ehejammcr übertönt, lit.: “How the jubilation of children outsounds (silences) the lamentation of marriage.” The Edinb. trsl. omits this and similar sentences altogether].


Verses 16-26

C. Property in the Church. Matthew 19:16-26

( Mark 10:17-27; Luke 18:18-27.)

16And, behold, one came and said unto him,[FN13] Good[FN14] Master, what good thing [τί ἀγαθόν] shall I do, that I may have eternal life? 17And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that Isaiah, God [Why dost thou ask me about the good? One is the Good, ἀγαθὸς] Matthew 15 : but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments 18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder [shalt not kill], Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, 19Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself 20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from myyouth up[FN16]: what lack I yet [do I yet lack]? 21Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that [what] thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me 22 But when the young man heard that saying he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.

23Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven 24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through[FN17] the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God 25 When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? 26But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Matthew 19:16. And, behold, one came, εἶς.—From the circumstance that the former two sections are connected together, we infer that Christ was still surrounded by the Pharisees who had come tempting Him. Hence the expression of astonishment: “Behold!” Besides, the special designation of this “one” as an ἄρχων in the Gospel by Luke, is in favor of the supposition that, having partly been gained over by Jesus, he now came forward with the inquiry of the text.

Matthew 19:16-17. (Good) Master.—We presuppose that the accounts of Mark and Luke must be regarded as supplementing that of Matthew. In that case, the rejoinder of the Saviour: “Why callest thou Me good?” must be taken as an objection, not to this salutation itself, but to the superficial and merely outward meaning which attached to it in the mind of this scribe. None is good but God: One only is good. Everything good being in and from Him, can only be one, and can only be regarded as good in so far as it is connected with God.

Thus we also account for the reading: “Why askest thou Me about the good? One is the Good.” God alone being good, is the sole source of all goodness. Hence the duty of doing good is not one of many others which has to be ascertained by means of inquiry, or by theological investigation. The one good thing is to live in God and to love God. Of this the commencement is to keep the commandments, which are the legal form in which that which is good has manifested itself. In other words, seek to fulfil the law, or to be righteous before God. When attempting to do this, you will gradually be led onward to repentance and faith; or, in order to arrive at the one good, or to come unto God, you must first be in earnest about His commandments, or the manifold forms under which the good becomes outwardly manifest. Neander is mistaken in interpreting the passage: “Why askest thou Me about that which is good? One is good; address thyself to Him. He has revealed it in His word.” Still more erroneous is the view of de Wette, who explains it as meaning: Why propoundest thou to Me the unanswerable inquiry about the real and highest good? etc. It is certainly strange, that while this critic characterizes such an inquiry as unanswerable, Meyer should style it superfluous. The latter interpreter, however, aptly remarks: “There is one who is good, and one that is good, alterum non datur. But if you really wish (the δέ here in the same sense as the metabatic autem) to apply to your life what I say, so as to become thoroughly conscious of its spiritual import, etc.” The emphasis rests on the words: τίμεἐρωτᾷς. That which is good is not to be treated as the subject of pharisaical ἐρωτᾷν. It is not to be found in the form of any particular commandment contained among Jewish traditions. Hence Fritzsche correctly explains τί ἀγαθὸν ποιήσω by quid quod bonum sit, what good thing. The young man imagined that he had kept all these things; yet he felt that he still sacked something, although he knew not what. Thus the transaction here recorded is closely connected with the interview between Jesus and the scribe recorded in Mark 12:28. In that case the fundamental idea was: One God; and hence, only one commandment. In the present instance: Only one good Being; and hence, also, only one good thing. On both occasions, the Lord alludes to the contrast with Jewish traditionalism and its manifold ordinances, which so frequently impeded and obscured what was good.

Matthew 19:18. Which?—ΙΙοίας, “quales, which is not equivalent to τίνας, but implies that he would like to know its characteristic marks.” Meyer. Hence the statement shows that, like the Pharisees generally, he made a distinction between what were supposed to be primary and secondary commandments.

Thou shalt not.—This enumeration of the commandments by the Lord is of some importance, with reference to the distinction between what are commonly termed the first and second tables of the law. In Matthew 19:18 four commandments of the second table are mentioned; and it has been asked how this verse stands related to Matthew 19:19. But, according to Leviticus 19:18, the injunction, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” is evidently intended as a summary of the second table. Hence we infer that “Honor thy father and thy mother” is to be taken in a deeper sense, as summing up the commandments of the first table. In other words, 1. Keep sacred the root of life; or, the first table2. Keep sacred the tree of which you are a branch; or, the second table.

Matthew 19:20. All these things have I kept, etc.: what do I yet lack? τιἔτιν̔οτερω,—The latter query must not be regarded as an expression of satisfied self-righteousness, as if it implied, In that case I lack nothing. It Isaiah, indeed, true that the young man was still self-righteous. He had no conception of the spirituality, the depth, or the height of the commandments of God. Taking only the letter of the law, he considered himself blameless, and perhaps even righteous, before God. Yet his heart misgave him, and he felt that he still lacked something. Under this sense of want, he put the question to the Saviour, as if he would have said: What is it then that I yet lack? All these things have not given me peace of mind. That such is the correct view of the passage, appears both from the statement in Mark,Then Jesus, beholding him, loved him,” and from the great struggle through which he afterward passed.

Matthew 19:21. If thou wilt be perfect.—In its connection with the preceding context, the expression can only mean: If thou wilt have the one good thing, and thus do the one good thing, so that spiritual fear and want may give place to peace and love, etc. The Lord admits the supposition of the young Prayer of Manasseh, that he was now beyond the many commandments, or the way of the law. Well, then, granting this to be the case, proceed to the one thing. The young man was now to give proof that he was in earnest about the matter. For this purpose Jesus tries him, with the view of setting before him the deeper import of the law, and of awakening within him a sense of sinfulness and of spiritual bondage. The injunction of the Lord is manifestly intended to bring out the fact, that the young man had made an idol of his riches, and hence that he utterly contravened the spirit even of the first commandment. Substantially, this demand of Christ imports the same thing as the call addressed to all His disciples—to deny themselves, to take up the cross, and to follow Him. In this sense, then, the injunction applies to every Christian. All that belongs to a believer is in reality not his, but the Lord’s property; above all, it belongs Christo in pauperibus. The Lord, however, expresses this general call of His gospel, as it were, in a legal form, for the purpose of taking away the self-righteousness of the young Prayer of Manasseh, and of leading him to feel his sinfulness and need of salvation. Obviously He could not have meant, that by literally and outwardly obeying this injunction, the young man would obtain a claim upon the kingdom of heaven. Hence those interpreters have missed the import of the passage, who imagine that everything would have been right if the young man had only followed the direction of the Saviour; but that, as he went away sorrowful, he was finally lost. It Isaiah, indeed, true that his going away indicated a state of great danger, and was calculated to awaken serious concern about his future. Still the fact of his being sorrowful afforded evidence of an inward conflict, through which by grace he might pass to a proper view of his state before God. This was still lacking in his case, and not any additional attempt at external righteousness.

Treasure in heaven.—Comp. Matthew 5:12; Matthew 6:20.

Matthew 19:23. Hardly, δυσκόλως.—The expression implies that the state of the young man was one of extreme danger. Still it does not follow that it was hopeless. A rich man may enter into the kingdom of heaven, although not as a rich man. The difficulty of the case lies in the natural unwillingness to surrender our trust in and love of earthly possessions. Comp. the tract of Clement of Alexandria: Τις σωζὴμενος πλούσιος; Quis dives salvetur?

Matthew 19:24. It is easier for a camel.—The hyperbolical figure here used has given rise to various false interpretations. Thus, 1. it has been rendered an anchor-rope, (a) after the somewhat arbitrary interpretation of the word κάμηλος (τινές in Theophylact); or, (b) after the reading κάμιλον[FN18] (Castellio, Huetius, etc.). 2. It has been asserted that the expression, eye of a needle, was in the East used to designate the side-gate for foot-passengers, close by the principal gate, through which camels were wont to enter cities3. Most interpreters, however, have taken the terms, “camel” and “the eye of a needle,” in their literal sense. Thus Grotius remarks: totum hoc proverbium mutata cameli voce in elephantem est apud Rabbi Jacobum in Caphtor. Similarly de Wette reminds us that the same saying occurs in the Talmud about an elephant; comp. Lightfoot, Schöttgen, Buxtorf’s Lexic. Talmud.[FN19] Grotius quotes a similar Latin proverb, and refers to Jeremiah 13:23 as a somewhat analogous passage. It seems to us that the Saviour here intended to convey the fact, that the difficulty of entering into the kingdom of heaven, to which Matthew 19:23 referred, had now become changed into an impossibility. Of course, no expression could be too strong to characterize an impossibility. Hence the import of the passage seems to be, that while Matthew 19:23 refers to those who actually possessed riches, with which they might at any moment part, Matthew 19:24 applies to rich men in the symbolical sense of the term, or to those who give their heart and life to these things. Accordingly, we regard the expression not merely as a proverbial saying, but as intended to express that a thing was absolutely impossible. The camel as a beast of burden might serve as a fit emblem of a rich person while the eye of a needle, which is the smallest passage through which anything visible could enter, might be regarded as a figure of the spiritual entrance into the kingdom, of a soul which had renounced the world. In one respect, however, even this figure is inadequate, if taken literally, as it might imply that a soul could enter that kingdom while hanging to the world, though it were only by a thread. But figures must not be too closely pressed, and the eye of a needle is certainly the most fitting emblem that could be found.

Matthew 19:25. Who then can be saved?—De Wette (after Grotius): “Since every one has more or less of the same love of the world.” This explanation is certainly more satisfactory than that of Meyer, who regards the clause as a conclusio a majoribus ad minores; as if it meant, If rich persons, who have the means of doing so much good, have such difficulty, who then, etc.? In our view, the disciples reasoned as follows: If riches render a man unfit for the kingdom of heaven, there is surely some thread of possessions by which even the poorest individual may be kept from entering the kingdom, more especially as by nature every one loves riches. Or, perhaps, we might take it even in a more general sense: If riches are so great a hindrance, how much more actual sin! The disciples had evidently not yet fully perceived that every sin springs from worldliness of mind and heart; and their Jewish prejudices rose in rebellion against this teaching.

Matthew 19:26. But Jesus looking on them.—With kindly sympathy. He felt what a hard struggle they had yet before them, before they could attain the full liberty of the children of God.

With men.—The use of the plural number deserves notice: 1. According to the judgment of men. So Fritzsche and Ewald2. According to the power and ability of men. De Wette and Meyer. Both these views may be combined. The common judgment of men accords, in this instance, with their felt inability; and in that sense it is impossible. But God, in His power and grace, not only renders this possible, but actually declares it such, in and through Christ. The expression men refers to the ancient and corrupt world, lost in its worldliness; while the Lord is here presented to the view of the disciples as the Creator of a new era, in which the world would be crucified to believers, and they to the world. Comp. Luke 1:37.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. We have already stated that this section sets before us the third aspect of the Christian family, or of the family in the kingdom of heaven. Having first shown what is the import of Christian marriage, and then assigned to children their proper place in the Christian household, the Lord now refers to the possessions of believers. It is of great importance to notice the threefold offence of the disciples in regard to the three fundamental elements in the Christian family, and the manner in which the Lord removes these offences. As the young man was still entirely legalistic in his views, Christ sets before him in a legalistic form the great principle according to which a Christian man was to administer his property. But this mode of teaching was intended to awaken the “ruler” to a knowledge of his real state before God. Hence it is a complete perversion of the import of the passage, when Roman Catholic divines regard it as a commandment applying to special individuals, or as what they designate a consilium evangelicum, in reference to voluntary poverty. The supposed consilium only becomes evangelicum, and in that case a principium evangelicum, when we look beyond the form in which this principle is expressed, and learn to regard it as teaching that a Christian is to consider all his possessions as a trust committed to him by the Lord, which he is to employ for behoof of the poor, or for the removal of the wants of humanity.

2. In this passage, the doctrine concerning the highest good is expressed in most clear and definite language. God is not merely the highest good, but also the source of all moral and physical good, and hence the only good. Even Christ Himself only claims the designation of Good because He is one with the Father, not because He was the “leading Rabbi.” And just as any creature can only be called good from its connection with God, so all the special commandments are only an expression of moral good in so far as they are viewed in their connection with the fundamental commandment of love to God. Finally, physical good is such only, if enjoyed or administered in the spirit of Christian devotion; otherwise it becomes a snare to the soul, and an evil instead of a blessing.

3. The Lord at once perceived that, both in respect of virtue and of the things of this life, the young man had lost sight of God as the highest and only good; and that when be addressed Him as “Good Master,” it had not been from the depth of a believing heart, but only as a worldly and superficial acknowledgment of His character. This view is corroborated by the peculiar manner in which the Lord dealt with him, the object of which, evidently, was to bring him to proper knowledge—to a knowledge of Christ, to an understanding of the commandments, to a proper view of the import of earthly blessings, but above all to a sight and sense of his own state and condition. Many commentators labor under a twofold misapprehension in interpreting this narrative. First, they confound the mental self-righteousness or intellectual legalism of the young man with self-righteousness of the heart, entirely overlooking the fact, that he expresses a deep feeling of spiritual want. It is in this sense that we understand the statement of Mark, that Jesus, beholding him, loved him. True, his heart was not yet broken under a sense of spiritual poverty; he still deceived himself, in his self-righteousness; but he felt that there remained some deep want unsatisfied. Again, the young man is generally condemned and supposed to have been ultimately lost, because he did not immediately obey the injunction of Christ; as if the Lord had intended to convert him into a legalist, instead of arousing him to a sense of his guilt and sinfulness. [Similarly Alford: “This young Prayer of Manasseh, though self-righteous, was no hypocrite, no Pharisee: he spoke earnestly, and really strove to keep, as he really believed he had kept, all God’s commandments. Accordingly Mark adds, that Jesus looking upon him loved him: in spite of his error there was a nobleness and openness about him, contrasted with the hypocritical bearing of the Pharisees and scribes.”—P. S.]

4. “Such an animal as a camel, laden with its burdens, could not possibly enter the gate of a city of dwarfs, so small as to be compared to the eye of a needle. The case of a rich man is exactly similar. Naturally overgrown and laden with burdens, the rich man whose heart cleaves to his wealth appears before the strait gate of the kingdom of heaven. No wonder that in these circumstances he cannot even see, far less enter it. He still belongs to the sensual world; the only things which he can perceive are outward and carnal objects. The kingdom of heaven, with its spiritual realities, is far too small and inconsiderable to attract his sensuous gaze, nor can he in that state enter into it.” (From the author’s Leben Jesu, ii2, 2110.)

5. Our Lord here presents one great truth under a twofold aspect: (1) It is difficult for any rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven, because it is difficult for him to become poor. (2) It is even impossible for him, inasmuch as he is rich, and will remain such, unless by a miracle of grace he becomes poor in spirit. Hence the disciples asked in deep concern, Who then can be saved? They felt that the saying of the Lord applied to the poor as well as to the rich, since all aimed after wealth; nay, that it applied to themselves, as they also still placed too much value on earthly things. Hence Jesus now “beheld” them with the same look of pity and sympathy as formerly the young man. True, it is impossible with men; but all things are possible with God, who can and will empty His own people, and make them poor. Thus are we, by a miracle of grace and through the cross, to be so directed and influenced, that we possess as if we possessed not, and that, as heirs of God, or of the highest good, we shall be willing to lay on the altar of love all which we possess.

6. “The application of this passage made by the begging monastic orders—Francis of Assisi—is not the right one.” Heubner. [This application is much older than the mendicant orders of the middle ages. St. Antony of Egypt, the patriarch of Christian monks, when he heard this Scripture lesson in the church, understood the Saviour’s injunction, Matthew 19:21, in a literal sense, and sold his rich possessions, retaining only a sufficiency for the support of his sister. When shortly afterward he heard the Gospel: Take no thought of the following morning, he sold the remainder and gave it to the poor. The Roman Catholic commentators and moralists base their doctrine of voluntary poverty as an essential element of the higher Christian perfection mainly on this passage. Comp. Maldonatus, Cornelius à Lapide, and Schegg in loc. But Christ commands all His disciples to be perfect, τελειοι, Matthew 5:48, and so St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 2:6; Philippians 3:15; Colossians 1:20; Ephesians 4:13; and St. James 1:4; James 3:2. The counsel, therefore, must be understood in a sense in which it is applicable to all true believers.—P. S.]

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

The good as viewed in the light of the gospel.—Property in the Christian family.—God the highest and sole good, and the source of every other good.—The character of Christians: 1. They give themselves to that which is good; 2. they do that which is good; 3. they hold their possessions for that which is good. Or, the principle—1. of all virtue; 2. of all duty; 3. of all true riches.—The inquiry of the rich young man: “What good thing must I do?” as expressing a threefold error: 1. He seems to think that he can be saved by his works; 2. by deeds of special beneficence; 3. by some particular deed, which was to crown and complete all his previous righteousness.—A ruler of the synagogue, and yet he has no conception of the law in its spirituality; or, the fearful ignorance resulting from mere legalism.—Self-deception and self-righteousness producing each other.—The question of the young man should have been: How may I have eternal life in order to do good things?—The various forms of self-righteousness: 1. Self-righteousness of the head and of the heart (of doctrine and of sentiment); or, Pharisees in the strictest sense; 2. self-righteousness of the heart with orthodoxy of the head, as in the case of some in the Church who seem to be zealous for soundness of doctrine; 3. self-righteousness of the head, combined with a deep sense of spiritual need, although its grounds may not be fully understood, as in the case of this young man and of many Christian legalists.—Antagonism between the self-delusion of a man and the felt need of his heart.—“If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments;” or, we can only be free from the law by the law: 1. By understanding its spiritual import (its application to the heart); 2. by comprehending all the commandments into one commandment (forming, as it were, the point of the arrow of the law); 3. by sincere and earnest self-examination, in view of the one great commandment of love to God (the law working death).—How the Lord applies the law in order to train us for the gospel.—The rich young man in the school of the Lord.—On the close connection between spiritual and temporal riches (or rather, the attempt to be rich): 1. Spiritual riches leading to pride and pretensions; 2. temporal riches often serving to conceal spiritual poverty.—The dangers of riches (avarice, love of pleasure, pride, confidence in temporal wealth, false spirituality, self-deception as to our spiritual state).—The object of riches.—Twofold interpretation of this declaration of the Lord: 1. The interpretation put upon it by the disciples; 2. the interpretation of the Master.—“Who then can be saved?” or, an admission that all men share the same guilt and love of the world.—How a rich man may enter into the kingdom of heaven: 1. It is always difficult in his peculiar circumstances; 2. it is impossible, if in mind and heart he cleaves to his wealth (the Pharisees); 3. it becomes possible by a miracle of divine grace (Joseph of Arimathea).—The entrance into the kingdom of heaven: 1. Very inaccessible to the natural man: (a) it is always, and in every case, a strait gate; (b) it becomes the eye of a needle to those who are rich2. But it is widely open to believers: (c) leading the genuine disciple of Christ into the banqueting-hall, Matthew 25:10; (b) it is a gate of honor to faithful followers of Christ; (c) a heavenly gate on our return to the Father’s house, John 14:2.—The various stages of evil, as represented by the symbols of a “camel,” “wolves,” and a “generation of vipers.”—The camel with its heavy burden before the eye of a needle, an emblem of avarice or of worldly-mindedness standing at the gate of heaven. Comp. Matthew 23:24.—Regeneration and poverty in spirit a miracle of grace; resembling in that respect the birth of Christ, Luke 1:37.

Starke:—Quesnel: If we want to know how we may be saved, let us apply to Christ, the greatest and truest Teacher.—Zeisius: It is a common but most dangerous error, to seek eternal life by our own works.—Every good gift cometh from above, James 1:17. To arrogate it to ourselves, is not only to defile the gift by touching it with polluted hands, but to be guilty of sacrilege, Matthew 7:22.—Osiander: All who are ignorant of their state before God, should be directed to the law in order to learn their guilt and need.—Love to our neighbor the clearest evidence of love to God.—How many imagine that they have done everything required at their hand, while in truth they cannot answer one upon a thousand! Job 9:3.—Zeisius: The law is spiritual; hence, they who trust in their works grievously deceive themselves, Romans 7:8; Romans 7:14.—The most dangerous state, is to imagine that we are righteous in the sight of God.—Tossani Bibl.: We are not to take this history as if it implied that by the outward work of almsgiving, the young man would have become perfect. The opposite of this appears from 1 Corinthians 13:3. But Christ here sets one special commandment before the young Prayer of Manasseh, whose state of mind He well perceived, in order to convince him that he was infinitely far from perfection, and unable to keep the law.—He who soweth bountifully shal also reap bountifully, 2 Corinthians 9:6-7.—The whole work of salvation is far beyond the knowledge or power of man.—Quesnel: A sense of spiritual inability should not lead us to despair, but result in the triumph of the grace of Jesus Christ.

Lisco:—Marginal note of Luther: Our Lord here puts the question, Why callest thou Me good? in the same sense as He says, John 7:15, My doctrine is not Mine,—referring more particularly to His humanity, by which He would always lead us to the Father.—To be perfect, is to keep the commandments of God.—Hence it is evident, that this young man had not in reality observed the commandments, as he fondly imagined.

Gerlach.—Jesus tries the young man by setting before him the spiritual bearing of the law.—By such examples, the Master gradually trained His disciples to understand the utter inability of man for anything that is good.

Heubner:—The “ruler” came forward in haste, as if he could not wait or delay; still it led to no lasting results. Afterward, however, he went away slowly and sorrowfully.—“There is none good.” These words are not spoken lightly, but have a deep and most solemn meaning.—Comp. the excellent work of J. Casp. Schade: “The most important inquiries: What lack I yet? and, What shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” 14th ed, Leipz, 1734.—The calculation is correct, except in one little particular; but this renders the whole account false.—Every one of us has something which he must give up in order to enter the kingdom of Christ.—Chrysostom: On the question of the disciples, “Who then can be saved?”—because they felt concern for the salvation of their fellow-men, because they bore deep affection to them, and because they already felt the tenderness characteristic of all true ministers. This saying of Christ made them tremble for the whole world.

Footnotes:

FN#13 - Matthew 19:16.—[Or better: one came to him and said, εἷς προσελθὼν αὐτψ͂ εἶπεν, which is the correct reading for εἶπεν αὐτψ͂.—P. S.]

FN#14 - Matthew 19:16.—Codd. B, D, L, al, [also Cod. Sinait.], omit ἀγαθέ (good), and read only διδάσκαλε (master, teacher). With this is connected the following reading: τί με ἐρωτᾷς περὶ τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ; εἷς ἐστὶν ἀγαθός (instead of the Recepta: τί με λέγεις, κ.τ.λ.). These readings are decidedly better attested by B, D, and ancient versions, and adopted by Griesbach, Lachmann, Tischendorf. The Recepta is inserted from Mark and Luke.

FN#15 - Matthew 19:17.—[The true reading, as already stated by Dr. Lange in the preceding note, is: τίμε ἐρω τᾷς περὶτοῦἀ γαθοῦ; εἷς ἐστὶν ἀγαθός, i.e, Why dost thou ask me about the good? One is the [absolutely] Good; Lange: Was fragst du mich über das Gute? Einer ist der Gute. This reading is sustained by Cod. Sinait, Cod. Vatican, D, L, and other MSS, by Origen, Euseb, Jerome, Augustine, the Latin Vulgate (“Quid me interrogas de bono? unus est bonus, Deus”), and other ancient versions, and adopted by Tregelles and Alford, as well as Lachmann and Tischendorf. See the summaries in the editions of these critics in loc. The lect. rec.: τίμε λέγεις άγαθόν; οὐδεὶς ἀγαθὸς, εἰ μὴ εἷς, ὁθεός, is from Mark and Luke, and is an answer to the address: “Good Master,” while Matthew gives the answer to the question of the young man: “What good thing shall I do?” Our Lord referred him first from the multiplicity of good things ( ἀγαθά) to the unity of the absolute personal Good ( ἀγαθός) or God (this is the sense of the question in Matthew), and then He directed him (in the question of Mark and Luke) from a merely humanitarian view of Christ to the true theanthropic view, as if to say: If God alone is good, why do you call Me good, whom you regard a mere Rabbi? He answered to the thoughts of the young man and declined his relative and humanitarian homage, but pointed him at the same time to the higher and absolute conception of good, in which He was good according to His divine nature and as one in essence with the Father. He does not say: “I am not good,” but “none is good;” no man is good in the proper sense of the term, but God alone.—P. S.]

FN#16 - Matthew 19:20.—[The words: ἐκ νεότητός μου, from my youth up, are omitted in the best ancient authorities, including Cod. Sinait, and in the modern critical editions. (See the apparatus in Lachmann, Tischendorf, Alford.) They are inserted from the parallel passages of Mark and Luke. Dr. Lange retains them in his German Version.—P. S.]

FN#17 - Matthew 19:24.—Besides the reading: διελθεῖν, we have the more difficult εἰσελθεῖν, to go into. [Cod. Sinait reads.; εισελθιν.—P. S.]

FN#18 - The word κάμ ι λος, supposed to mean a rope or cable, occurs in a few minuscule MSS, but in no Greek author, and was probably invented to escape the imaginary difficulty of this proverbial expression. Comp. the Greek Lexica and the apparatus in Tischendorf’s large edition ad Matthew 19:24 —P. S]

FN#19 - The Koran, Sur7:38, probably in imitation of this passage, uses the same figure: “Non ingredientur paradisum, donec transeat camelas foramen acus.” Comp. also Matthew 23:24, to swallow a camel. The camel was more familiar to the hearers of the Saviour than the elephant, and on account of the hump on its back, it was especially adapted to symbolize earthly wealth as a heavy load and serious impediment to entrance through the narrow gate of the kingdom of heaven.—P. S.]


Verses 27-30

FOURTH SECTION

THE FUTURE KINGLY MANIFESTATION OF THE CHURCH

Matthew 19:27 to Matthew 20:16

Contents:—(a) The glorious reward awaiting the Apostles, and all who renounce the things that are seen, for the sake of Christ, Matthew 19:27-30. (b) The reward of free grace; or, the parable of the laborers in the vineyard, Matthew 20:1-16.

Historical Succession.—Immediately after the transaction with the rich young Prayer of Manasseh, Peter put the question as to the reward which awaited the disciples, who had renounced all things and followed Jesus. The reply of the Lord is followed, and further illustrated, by the parable of the laborers in the vineyard.

A. The glorious reward awaiting the Apostles, and, in general, all who renounce the things that are seen and temporal. Matthew 19:27-30

( Mark 10:28-52; Luke 18:28-30)

27Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followedthee; what shall we have therefore? 28And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which [who] have followed me, in the regeneration [renovation, παλιγ·γενεσίᾳ] when the Son of man shall sit in [on] the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel 29 And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren [brothers], or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife,[FN20] or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold [manifold],[FN21] and shall 30 inherit everlasting life. But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.[FN22]

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Matthew 19:27. Then answered Peter.—De Wette remarks: The question of Peter was evidently occasioned by the demand which the Lord had addressed to the young man. Meyer expresses the same idea, and adds, that the word ἡμεῖς is put forward by way of emphasis, and in contrast to the conduct of the rich young man. De Wette suggests, “that Peter must have expected some material equivalent; otherwise he would not have put this question, but have been satisfied with the inward and spiritual comfort enjoyed by all disciples” (but comp. 1 Corinthians 15:19). We admit that there was a slight trace of a mercenary spirit in this inquiry. This appears both from Matthew 19:30, and from the parable which immediately follows. Still, the admixture of selfishness was not such as wholly to obscure the higher import and truth of the question itself. In fact, although the inquiry of Peter was in reference to a reward, it was couched in the most diffident and humble language: τί ἄρα ἔστα. ἡμῖν; What then shall we have? as the Vulgate: Quid ergo erit nobis? But Paulus is mistaken in interpreting the meaning of the clause: What then shall we have, viz, to do? Similarly, we cannot agree with Olshausen in paraphrasing it: What shall be our portion? Wilt Thou pronounce the same sentence upon us as upon this young man? The expression ἡμεῖς is evidently intended by way on antithesis to the rich man who could not enter the kingdom of heaven; while the statement, “Behold, we have forsaken all,” is meant as a renewed formal renunciation of the world, combined in this case with the timid question (which is not even recorded in the Gospels of Mark and Luke): What then? What shall we have?

We have forsaken all—De Wette and Meyer regard these words as implying that they no longer occasionally returned to their homes and trades. But even if this idea were not inconsistent with John 21:3, it would evidently form only a very secondary consideration. The main point lies in the fact, that when leaving Galilee, they had, in mind and heart, and to the best of their understanding, made a complete renunciation of the world, and were now ready to follow their Lord, on His path of suffering, to Jerusalem. Jesus had already predicted His own future glory, but as yet He had preserved silence about the future of the disciples. On this point they now asked for further information.

Matthew 19:28. And Jesus said to them.

Matthew 19:28 embodies the special promise to the Apostles; Matthew 19:29, the general statement in reference to all the followers of Christ; while Matthew 19:30, and the parable which follows, express the condition of both these promises.

Ye who have followed Me.—The circumstance that twelve thrones are promised, proves that this address was directed to the Apostles.—In the renovation, παλιγγενεσία,—the complete Christian regeneration, being the restoration of this world of ours, or the appearance of the new æon, the great ἐπιφἁνεια, in contradistinction to the commencement of the regeneration—its root and principle (the ἄνωθεν γεννηθῆναι, John 3:3, or the ἀναγεννηθῆναι, 1 Peter 1:3)—which formed the basis of the complete restoration. In point of fact, it coincides with the ὰποκατάστασις, Acts 3:21, although the two ideas are different.[FN23] The expression, λουτρὸν παλιγγενεσία, in Titus 3:5, seems to comprehend the two ideas of regeneration in principle and complete renovation, and also to point forward from the one to the other. Hilary applies the expression to the first regeneration, and, connecting with it the words, ἀκολονθὴσαντὲς μοι, renders it: “Ye who have followed Me in the regeneration, or as regenerated persons.” Similarly, Hammond, Fischer, etc, understand it as referring to the first regeneration, and appeal in proof to Titus 3:5. Augustine, Theophylact, and Euthymius Zigab. refer it to the resurrection of the body, Fritzsche more particularly to the final judgment. De Wette and Meyer (after Buxtorf’s Lexicon Talmud. חדוש הצולם, Berthold’s Christologie) apply it “to the renovation of the world, which had been ruined and destroyed by the fall,” or to “the restoration of the whole universe to its original state of perfection before the fall.” Hence it would nearly correspond with the ἀποκατὰστασις (de Wette, comp. Joseph. Antiq. xi3, 8, ἀποκατάστασις; § 9, παλιγγενεσία τῆς πατρίδος). But while the latter term refers more particularly to the restoration of the original state of things, according to the promise of God, or to the full renewal and recovery of our diseased, disordered, and decaying world, the expression παλιγγενεσία goes beyond this, and points to the further development and advance of the life of man from its original state of terrestrial perfectness to a higher state of spiritual existence (see 1 Corinthians 15). At the same time, it is also important to bear in mind that the first “regeneration,” in principle, contains the second, and that it is continuously carried on and developed until the final stage shall be attained. Hence, although the Lord here primarily referred to the final completion of the kingdom of heaven, His statement also applies to the glory awaiting the Apostles after death in the kingdom of Christ, and to their spiritual supremacy in Him even while on earth, as well as to the gradual increase in spiritual fellowship with their glorified Master. (Comp. Exeg. Notes on Matthew 16:28.)

When the Son of Man shall sit.—This clause explains more fully the import of the palingenesia.—On the throne of His glory.—The δόξα is the glory of His appearing when His spiritual power shall become fully manifest. Hence the expression does not simply mean, “the throne on which the Master shall reveal Himself in His glory,” but also, “the throne which is the result as well as the manifestation of His glory.” This throne, which He occupies as conqueror, ruler, Judges, and master, constitutes, so to speak, the centre and the main attribute of His spiritual glory, when fully unfolded. (Comp. Matthew 25:31.)

Ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones.—The number of the Apostles is here summed up as twelve, corresponding to that of the tribes of Israel. Accordingly, the promise did not apply to them individually, nor does it contain any reference to the later apostasy of Judas. On the contrary, this promise would only serve to render his apostasy all the more inexcusable. (Comp. Revelation 21:14.)

Judging the twelve tribes of Israel.—As the Apostles appear here in their ideal rather than in their individual capacity, so the “twelve tribes of Israel” must be taken in a symbolical sense, as applying to the whole body of believers (see Revelation 21:12), the term “judging” must not be limited to strictly judicial acts; it rather applies to the theocratic administration of the judges under the Old Testament, all the more, that the twelve tribes are here represented as ideally restored in the final regeneration. Hence we agree with Grotius and Kuinoel in taking the expression in a more general sense, as equivalent to ruling. Meyer, however, advocates its literal interpretation. “Believers generally are to share in the future glory and reign of Christ ( Romans 8:17; 2 Timothy 2:12), and to have part in the judgment ( 1 Corinthians 6:2). To the disciples the special prerogative is here accorded, of having part in judging the Jewish people.” Still, this critic contradicts himself by immediately adding, that “the outward and apocalyptic form of this promise is unessential.” At the same time, he also thinks that “the disciples could not at the time have understood it in any other than a literal sense;” or, in other words, that they must necessarily have misunderstood it. But at this period they must have been fully aware of the fact, that the Old Testament theocracy was to be spiritually restored in and by the Church. Hence, in our view, the expression applies to the spiritual administration and rule of the Apostles, in subordination to the will of the Master; which implied, on the one hand, a real judging of the Jewish people, and on the other, the idea of de Wette, that in proportion to the sacrifices which we make for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, shall be the spiritual power which we exercise, our influence for good, and our usefulness and activity. But as the spiritual supremacy of Christ Himself combined the two elements of historical and spiritual efficacy, so the Apostles were to represent the twelve fundamental forms of His reign in the kingdom. (Comp. Matthew 10) According to Luke 22:30, the Lord repeated the same promise at the institution of the Eucharist.

Matthew 19:29. And every one that hath forsaken.—The promise is now extended so as to apply to Christians at all times. This forsaking of all things is for the twofold purpose of confessing and of following Christ. Both elements are combined in the expression, “for My name’s sake,” or for the manifestation of My person. The mention of the family-relationship occurs between that of “houses” and of “lands.” Accordingly, the former refer not to possessions, but to houses, in the sense of genealogical descent, of nationality, country, or ancestral faith. Thus we have in the text three classes of sacrifices: the first being the most difficult, viz, that of the house in the widest sense of the term; then that of kindred; and, lastly, that of possessions.

Many-fold.—The reading of Codd. B. and L, πολλαπλασίονα, manifold, is better attested than that of Cod. D, ἑκατονταπλασίονα. Meyer maintains that from the context this promise must refer to the future kingdom of the Messiah. “The statement seems incompatible with Mark 10:30 and Luke 18:30, in which abundant compensation is promised even in this world, or previous to the second appearing of Christ.” But the supposed mistake lies in reality with the interpreter, who seems to separate entirely between the αἰὼν οὗτος and the αἰὼν ἐρχόμενος. An attentive consideration of the expression καιρὸς οὗτος in the passages to which Meyer refers, might have sufficed to convince him of this. With the resurrection of Christ the αἰὼν ἐρχόμενος, which had been prepared by the life of the Saviour, began even in the outward αἰών οὗτος, or in the καιρὸς οὗτος. This regeneration was to continue, to increase, and to develop into the full manifestation of the future æon at the glorious appearing of Christ, when it would be completed and made to extend over the whole world. (See John 5:25; John 5:28; 1 Corinthians 15:20; 1 Corinthians 15:23-24; Revelation 20, 21) Hence we cannot adopt any of the common interpretations of this promise,—such as that it applies to happy Christian connections (Jerome and others), or to Christ Himself (Maldonatus, comp. Matthew 12:49), or to the restoration of all things ( 1 Corinthians 3:21, Olshausen). In our view, the three classes of blessings promised correspond to the threefold sacrifices demanded in the text. Believers are to find a new and eternal home and country, new and eternal relationships, and new and eternal possessions, of which the blessings enjoyed by them on earth are to be the earnest and foretaste. All these promises are summed up in that of being made heirs of eternal life ( Romans 8).

Matthew 19:30. But many shall be.—Meyer and Fritzsche suggest that, after the analogy of Matthew 20:16, the expression should be construed as follows: “Many shall be first as the last” (ἔσχατοι ὔντες), “and last as being first” (πρῶτοι ὔντες). But this appears incompatible with the emphasis attaching to the words πρῶτοι and ἔσχατοι, when viewed as special designations; while, on the other hand, the “last” which are to be “first” have not been previously mentioned or described. Manifestly our Lord intended, in the first place, to refer to His disciples and followers, which were the πρῶτοι. To them He gave the richest and fullest promises. But at the same time, also, He sets before them the spiritual conditions of their calling; or, in other words, the limitations and conditions of His promise. Thus the “last” are now prominently brought forward. This subject is more fully explained in the succeeding parable. Hence in Matthew 20:16 the order is reversed, and the last are first, and the first last. Theophylact and Grotius apply the antithesis between the first and the last to the Jews and the Gentiles. De Wette refers it to the different views in reference to the reward: in the one case, in the sight of man; in the other, in that of God. But this interpretation proceeds on the erroneous idea, that the Apostle put the question from a desire for reward, and that the answer of the Lord was virtually a rebuke. Meyer refers the expression to the contrast between the latter and the present æon. But this is evidently a mistake. The parable of the vineyard and the laborers shows that the Lord here alludes to the difference in the time of calling. Hence it refers to the fact, that earlier or later calling does not imply, as might seem, a higher or a lower standing and reward in the kingdom of heaven. It is not the extensiveness, but the intensiveness, of our service which is to constitute the difference,—all the more that the reward is of free grace alone.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. The section under consideration is closely connected with that which preceded it. The warning of Christ as to the danger of riches was intended for the disciples as well as for the young man. They fell this all the more, that He had just “beheld them” with the same look of pity and sympathy which He had cast on the rich young man. Hence, when Peter addressed the Saviour, he “began to say,” be “answered,” or made confession (Matt. τότε ἀποκριθείς;, Mark, ἤρξατο λέγειν). The statement, “We have forsaken all, and followed Thee,” seemed intended to meet the objection on the score of being rich. Still he ventured to imply that they were not wholly without some claim; nor does he appear to have perceived any incongruity in this. Luke and Mark omit the question: “What shall we have?” although their narratives imply that he had proffered some claim. This diffidence, and the indefinite wording of the inquiry, deserve notice. The expectation of a retribution constituted the difference between the Christian and the Sadducee, who, from the premise, that we ought to love virtue for its own sake, drew the erroneous conclusion, that we should expect no further retribution than the inward reward which virtue afforded to him that practised it. The answer of Christ shows that He acknowledges the validity of our hope of a future reward. At the same time, it also indicates that the disciples had not yet learned fully to understand the spirituality and the bearing of these relations.

2. The promise of the Lord implies the full establishment of His spiritual kingdom, which consists not merely in the restoration of the original state of things in Paradise, but also in the full development of the first into the second life ( 1 Corinthians 15). In other words, the complete redemption of the world will at the same time be its transformation, when regenerated humanity shall dwell in a completely regenerated world. The centre of this completion of all things shall be the manifestation of Christ in His glory, when He shall appear in all His heavenly brightness. Then all relationships shall partake of, and reflect, the splendor of His manifestation. This will also apply to the administration of His Apostles, as the representatives of His rule over the twelve tribes—a symbolical term, intended to indicate the whole variety of spiritual stages and experiences in the kingdom of heaven. This administration, which at the final manifestation of Christ is to appear in its completeness, commenced with His resurrection. The gradual increase of their power and influence here would correspond with the progress of Christ’s work, and the spread of holiness and salvation; while at the same time it would be a token of their future glory in heaven, and of their final acknowledgment on earth.

3. Our Lord adds to the assurance originally given to the disciples, a more general promise addressed to all believers. In the higher sense, and in its real spiritual bearing, every Christian is to receive a hundred-fold for the outward sacrifices which he may have made on behalf of Christ. Similarly, the Apostle Paul reminds us that all things are ours ( 1 Corinthians 3:21; comp. Romans 8:28). In the Gospel of Mark the special retributions are enumerated.[FN24]

4. Having met the hope of His disciples in reference to a future reward, the Lord Jesus, in Matthew 19:30, removes any misunderstanding by striking at the root of anything like a mercenary spirit. He teaches them that the reward is of free grace. Not that it is arbitrary, but that it is not determined by outward priority, either in reference to rank, talent, or time; and that it corresponds to the state of mind and heart, the fundamental characteristic and test being complete self-surrender and absence of any claim or pretension on our part. Peter required this instruction all the more, that he was certainly not entitled to say: “We have forsaken all.” If this had been the case, they would not soon afterward have forsaken the Master and fled. But the kingdom of heaven is within,—it is not a system of merit and reward, but the sway and rule of free love.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

The free reward in the kingdom of love.—The inquiry of the disciples as to their reward: 1. What it implies: to forsake all things, etc2. How difficult it is rightly to express this inquiry3. How the Lord admits the rightness of this hope4. How He reproves and instructs the disciples in this matter.—Certainty of the great reward: 1. Corresponding to our renunciation; 2. confirmed to us by a solemn Amen of the Lord ( Matthew 19:28); 3. illustrated by the relations existing in the natural world; 4. presented in its unity and depth (as inheriting eternal life); 5. necessarily determined by the free love of God.—The kingdom of heaven, as that of reward by grace, a blessed realm: 1. It is infinitely elevated above the pride of self-sufficient virtue; 2. above the mercenary spirit of selfishness and servility.—Virtue which disclaims all reward is not genuine. It wants, 1. the light of truth; 2. the warmth of life; 3. the faithfulness of love; 4. the crown of hope.—A mercenary spirit loosing its reward even here: 1. Its service is merely external (a kind of spiritual idleness); 2. its worldly merit meets with a worldly, but only apparent, reward.—The fact, that faith is accompanied by peace, is itself an earnest of future blessedness.—The great renovation of all things forming the certain prospect of Christian1. Its certainty—(a) from the fact of Christ’s advent from heaven (the First born of all creatures, the First-born from the dead); (b) from the regeneration of believers; (c) from the birth-throes of the ancient world2. The prospects it opens: (a) These are infinitely new, and yet familiar to us, being the transformation of things seen; (b) they are infinitely rich and varied, yet comprehended in this one thing—eternal life; (c) they are definite, yet mysterious, on account of the change of relations: The last shall be first, etc.—Solemnity of the saying, Many that are first, etc.— Revelation 21:5 : “Behold, I make all things new.”

Starke:—If the Saviour had bestowed on Peter the supreme rule of the Church on the occasion mentioned in Matthew 16, this question would have had no meaning.—Canstein: The man who, although having little, gives it up for the sake of God, and asks for nothing more than His presence, has in reality forsaken much, Psalm 73:25-26.—The complete reward of believers will certainly take place, but only at the final regeneration of all things.—The whole world shall, as it were, be born anew.—The faithful disciples and followers, of Jesus shall sit with Him on His throne, Revelation 3:21.—Zeisius: Proud self-righteousness and a mercenary spirit ensure their own ruin; while humility and working out our salvation with fear and trembling are the means of preserving us from falling, Philippians 2:12.—In eternity many of our earthly positions shall be reversed.

Gerlach:—Although the apostles belonged to the lower ranks of society, they were not strictly speaking poor. Thus we read in Mark 1:20, that the father of James and John had employed hired servants.[FN25]—When this promise was given, Judas was still one of the twelve, yet it profited him not. A sad evidence this, how little good may be derived from merely outward fellowship with the disciples, if in mind and heart we are strangers to Jesus.

Heubner:—Gregory the Great (Moralia): We forsake all, if we retain nothing.—Peter referred not to the reward, but to its desert.—To judge means to rule, John 17:13; John 17:22.—Many a proud critic, who has looked with contempt upon the Apostles, shall one day behold them with terror.—If you surrender to Christ all you have, He will bestow upon you all He has.—The Christian is daily called upon to deny himself for the sake of Christ.—Montaigne, Essais, i. Matthew 27 : Christianity alone renders perfect friendship possible.

Footnotes:

FN#20 - Matthew 19:29.—The words γυναῖκα, or wife, are omitted in B, D, and many other authorities [and in the critical editions of Lachmann, Tischendorf. Alford.—P. S.]

FN#21 - Matthew 19:29.—B, L, [and the critical editions] read, as in Luke 18:30 : πολλα πλασίονα, many times more, for ἑκατον τα πλασίονα, a hundred times more, as Mark has it.

FN#22 - Matthew 19:30.—[Literally: But many first shall be last, and last first, πολλοὶ δὲ ἔσονται πρῶτοι ἔσχατοι, καὶ ἔσχατοι πρωτοι. Comp. the Exeg. Notes.—P. S.]

FN#23 - Comp. also Revelation 21:5 : “Behold, I make all things new.”—P. S.]

FN#24 - Compare the beautiful verse of Novalis (von Hardenberg):

“Wo tch Ihn nur habe,

Ist mein vaterland;

Und es fillt mir jede Gabe

Wie ein Erbtheil in die Hand.

Lingst vermisste Brüder

Find’ ich nun in seinen Jüngern wieder.”

FN#25 - It is often inferred from εἰς τὰ ἴδια in John 19:27 that St. John had a house of his own in Jerusalem although the term probably applies in a general sense to his home, wherever it was.—P. S.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Matthew 19:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/matthew-19.html. 1857-84.

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