Luke 12:4
And I say to you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.
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(4-9) I say unto you my friends.—See Notes on Matthew 10:28-32. The opening words, however, in their tender sympathy, anticipating the language of John 15:14-15, may be noted as peculiar to St. Luke.

12:1-12 A firm belief of the doctrine of God's universal providence, and the extent of it, would satisfy us when in peril, and encourage us to trust God in the way of duty. Providence takes notice of the meanest creatures, even of the sparrows, and therefore of the smallest interests of the disciples of Christ. Those who confess Christ now, shall be owned by him in the great day, before the angels of God. To deter us from denying Christ, and deserting his truths and ways, we are here assured that those who deny Christ, though they may thus save life itself, and though they may gain a kingdom by it, will be great losers at last; for Christ will not know them, will not own them, nor show them favour. But let no trembling, penitent backslider doubt of obtaining forgiveness. This is far different from the determined enmity that is blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, which shall never be forgiven, because it will never be repented of.Shall be proclaimed upon the housetops - See the notes at Matthew 10:27. The custom of making proclamation from the tops or roofs of houses still prevails in the East. Dr. Thomson ("The Land and the Book," vol. i. p. 51, 52) says: "At the present day, local governors in country districts cause their commands thus to be published. Their proclamations are generally made in the evening, after the people have returned from their labors in the field. The public crier ascends the highest roof at hand, and lifts up his voice in a long-drawn call upon all faithful subjects to give ear and obey. He then proceeds to announce, in a set form, the will of their master, and demand obedience thereto." 4, 5. I say, &c.—You will say, That may cost us our life. Be it so; but, "My friends, there their power ends." He calls them "my friends" here, not in any loose sense, but, as we think, from the feeling He then had that in this "killing of the body" He and they were going to be affectingly one with each other.Ver. 4,5. See Poole on "Matthew 10:28", where we met with the same. In Luke 12:5-13 our Saviour arms his disciples to encounter those storms of persecution which he knew they would meet with after he should be taken up into heaven. Here are two arguments in this verse:

1. The one drawn from the impotency, or limited power, of the most malicious enemies; they can kill the body, but can do no more.

2. From the mighty power of God, who can cast us into hell. Matthew saith, who can cast body and soul into hell fire:

whence is evident:

1. That there are punishments beyond this life; all men’s punishments will not end with the killing of their bodies.

2. That men have souls as well as bodies, and both souls and bodies of sinners will in the resurrection be made capable of eternal punishment.

3. That the ready way to bring us under that misery, is to be more afraid of the wrath of men than of the wrath of God. And I say unto you, my friends,.... Whom he dearly loved, and had taken into the greatest intimacy and familiarity; making known to them whatever he had heard from his Father; giving them the best instructions, the most faithful and friendly advice, and proper precautions; all which, and more, showed them to be his friends, and for whom he after laid down his life:

be not afraid of them that kill the body; though he would have them beware of the Pharisees, he would not have them be afraid of them; he would have them know them, and avoid their hypocrisy, and guard against it; but not fear them, or the worst they could do unto them, which was to kill the body; and that they had no need to be afraid of, since at death, their souls would be immediately happy, in the enjoyment and vision of God; and their bodies would sleep in Jesus, and be raised in the resurrection morn, and be united to their souls, and be both for ever blessed:

and after that have no more that they can do; they have nothing more to kill, or which they can put to pain or misery; the soul is out of their reach, is an immortal spirit, and cannot be hurt or destroyed by them.

{2} And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.

(2) Although hypocrites have princes to execute their cruelty, yet there is no reason why we should be afraid of them, even by the smallest amount that may be, seeing that they can do nothing except that which pleases God, and God does not will anything that may be against the salvation of his elect.

Luke 12:4. λέγω δὲ, introducing a very important statement, not a mere phrase of Lk.’s to help out the connection of thought (Ws[114], Mt.- Evang., 279).—τοῖς φίλοις μου, not a mere conventional designation for an audience, but spoken with emphasis to distinguish disciples from hostile Pharisees = my comrades, companions in tribulation.—μὴ φοβηθῆτε, etc., down to end of Luke 12:5 = Matthew 10:28, with variations. For Mt.’s distinction between body and soul Lk. has one between now and hereafter (μετὰ ταῦτα). The positive side of the counsel is introduced not with a simple “fear,” but with the more emphatic “I will show ye whom ye shall fear”. Then at the end, to give still more emphasis, comes: “Yea, I say unto you, fear him”. Who is the unnamed object of fear? Surely he who tempts to unfaithfulness, the god of this world!

[114]s. Weiss (Dr. Bernhard).4. my friends] John 15:14-15, “Henceforth I call you not servants but friends.” The term comes the more naturally and pathetically because Jesus had just been in the thick of enemies.

Be not afraid of] μὴ φοβηθῆτε ἀπό, i.e. afraid of anything which can come from them. This construction is only found in the LXX. and N.T., and is a Hebraism (v. Schleusner s.v). For similar thoughts see Jeremiah 1:8; Isaiah 51:12-13.

after that have no more that they can do] The same truth was an encouragement to the partially illuminated fortitude of Stoicism. Hence it constantly occurs in the Manual of Epictetus.Luke 12:4. Φίλοις, my friends) A faithful counsel, and a spur to strength of resolution, and a conciliatory appellation, which is intended to temper the severity (sternness) of His language respecting a difficult and hard matter. In war, a General addresses his soldiers whilst doing battle by the kindly title, Brothers [in arms, fellow-soldiers], etc.—[μὴ φοβηθῆτε, Be not afraid of) in your confession of the truth.—V. g.]—τὸ σῶμα, κ.τ.λ.) Μείωσις.—μετὰ, after) The after [He hath killed], in Luke 12:5, corresponds to this after.Verse 4. - And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. All this the Master knew was true and would shortly happen, His words were verified before fifty years had passed. The triumphant success of the great Christian preachers and the discredited condition of the old rabbinic schools is testified to by snell words as we find in St. Paul's letters. "Where is the wise? where is the scribe?" (1 Corinthians 1:20). But this success the Master well knew would be accompanied with many a suffering on the part of the heralds of his message. Persecution in its many dreary forms would dog their footsteps; a death of agony and shame not unfrequently would be their guerdon. It was, for instance, we know, the earthly recognition of that devoted servant of the Lord (Paul) who, we believe, guided the pen of Luke here. This painful way, which his disciples must surely tread, had already been indicated in no obscure language by the Master ("some of them" - my apostles - "they shall slay and persecute," Luke 11:49). A triumph, greater than any which had ever been given to the sons of men, would surely be theirs, but the Master would not conceal the earthly price which his chosen servants must pay for this splendid success. There was a point, however, beyond which human malice and enmity were utterly powerless; he would have his servants turn their thoughts on that serene region where men as men would have no power. Unto you, my friends (ὑμῖν τοῖς φίλοις μου)

See on Pharisees and lawyers, Luke 11:43, Luke 11:46. Not an address, "O my friends," but, "unto you, the friends of me."

Be not afraid of (μὴ φοβηθῆτε ἀπὸ)

Lit., "fear not from;" i.e., from the hands of.

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