I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man comes, shall he find faith on the earth?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith?—The question implies, it is obvious, an answer in the negative. When St. Luke wrote his Gospel, men were witnessing a primary, though partial, fulfilment of the prophecy. Iniquity was abounding, and the love of many was waxing cold. And yet in one sense He was near, even at the doors (James 5:8-9), when men thought that the wheels of His chariot drove slowly. So has it been, and so will it be, in the great “days of the Lord” in the Church’s history, which are preludes of the final Advent; so shall it be in that Advent itself. - Luke
THREE KINDS OF PRAYING
THE CREDULITY OF UNBELIEF
Mark 13:6. - Luke 18:8.
It was the same generation that is represented in these two texts as void of faith in the Son of Man, and as credulously giving heed to impostors. Unbelief and superstition are closely allied. Religion is so vital a necessity, that if the true form of it be cast aside, some false form will be eagerly seized in order to fill the aching void. Men cannot permanently live without some sort of a faith in the Unseen, but they can determine whether it shall be a worthy recognition of a worthy conception of that Unseen, or a debasing superstition. An epoch of materialism in philosophic thought has always been followed by violent reaction, in which quacks and fanatics have reaped rich harvests. If the dark is not peopled with one loved Face, our busy imagination will fill it with a crowd of horrible ones.
Just as a sailor, looking out into the night over a solitary, islandless sea, sees shapes; intolerant of the islandless expanse, makes land out of fogbanks; and, sick of silence, hears ‘airy tongues’ in the moanings of the wind and the slow roll of the waves, so men shudderingly look into the dark unknown, and if they see not their Father there, will either shut their eyes or strain them in gazing it into shape. The sight of Him is religion, the closed eye is infidelity, the strained gaze is superstition. The second and the third are each so unsatisfying that they perpetually pass over into one another and destroy one another, as when I shut my eyes, I see slowly shaping itself a coloured image of my eye, which soon flickers and fluctuates into black nothingness again, and then rises once more, once more to fade. Men, if they believe not in God, then do service to ‘them which by nature are no gods.’
But let us come to more immediately Christian thoughts. Christ does what men so urgently require to be done, that if they do not believe in Him they will be forced to shape out for themselves some fancied ways of doing it. The emotions which men cherish towards Him so irrepressibly need an object to rest on, that if not He, then some far less worthy one, will be chosen to receive them.
It is just to the illustration of these thoughts that I seek to turn now, and in such alternatives as these-
I. Reception of Christ as the Revealer is the only escape from unmanly submission to unworthy pretenders.
That function is one which the instincts of men teach them that they need.
Christ comes to satisfy the need as the visible true embodiment of the Father’s love, of the Father’s wisdom.
If He be rejected-what then? Why, not that the men who reject will contentedly continue in darkness-that is never possible; but that some manner or other of satisfying the clamant need will be had recourse to, and then that to it will be transferred the submission and credence that should have been His. If we have Him for our Teacher and Guide, then all other teachers and guides will take their right places. We shall not angrily repel their power, nor talk loudly about ‘the right of private judgment,’ and our independence of all men’s thoughts. We are not so independent. We shall thankfully accept all help from all men wiser, better, more manly than ourselves, whether they give us uttered words of wisdom and beauty, having ‘grace poured into their lips,’ or whether they give us lives ennobled by strenuous effort, or whether they give us greater treasure than all these-the sight once more of a loving heart. All is good, all is helpful, all we shall receive; but in proportion to the felt obligations we are laid under to them will be the felt authority of that saying, ‘Call no man your master on earth, for One is your Master, even Christ.’ That command forbids our slavishly accepting any human domination over our faith, but it no less emphatically forbids our contemptuously rejecting any human helper of our joy, for it closes with ‘and all ye are brethren’-bound then to mutual observance, mutual helpfulness, mutual respect for each other’s individuality, mutual avoidance of needless division. To have Him for his Guide makes the human guide gentle and tender among his disciples ‘as a nurse among her children,’ for he remembers ‘the gentleness of Christ,’ and he dare not be other than an imitator of Him. A Christian teacher’s spirit will always be, ‘not for that we have dominion over your faith, but we are helpers of your joy’; his most earnest word, ‘I beseech you, therefore, brethren’; his constant desire, ‘He must increase. I must decrease.’ And to have Christ for our Guide makes the taught lovingly submissive to all who by largeness of gifts and graces are set by Him above them, and yet lovingly recalcitrant at any attempt to compel adhesion or force dogmas. The one freedom from undue dependence on men and men’s opinions lies in this submission to Jesus. Then we can say, when need is, ‘I have a Master. To Him I submit; if you seek to be master, I demur: of them who seemed to be somewhat, whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me.’
But the greatest danger is not that our guides shall insist on our submission, but that we shall insist on giving it. It is for all of us such a burden to have the management of our own fate, the forming of our own opinions, the fearful responsibility of our own destiny, that we are all only too ready to say to some man or other, from love or from laziness, ‘Where thou goest, I will go; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.’
Few things are more strange and tragic than the eagerness with which people who are a great deal too enlightened to render allegiance to Jesus Christ will install some teacher of their own choosing as their authoritative master, will swallow his dicta, swear by him, and glory in being called by his name. What they think it derogatory to their mental independence to give to the Teacher of Nazareth, they freely give to their chosen oracle. It is not in ‘the last times’ only that men who will not endure sound teaching ‘heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts,’ and have ‘the ears’ which are fast closed to ‘the Truth’ wide open ‘to fables.’
On the small scale we see this melancholy perversity of conduct exemplified in every little coterie and school of unbelievers.
On the great scale Mohammedanism and Buddhism, with their millions of adherents, write the same tragic truth large in the history of the world.
II. Faith in the reconciling Christ is the only sure deliverance from debasing reliance on false means of reconciliation.
In a very profound sense ignorance and sin are the same fact regarded under two different aspects. And in the depths of their natures men have the longing for some Power who shall put away sin, as they have the longing for one that will dispel ignorance. The consciousness of alienation from God lies in the human heart, dormant indeed for the most part, but like a coiled, hibernating snake, ready to wake and strike its poison into the veins. Christ by His great work, and specially by His sacrificial death, meets that universal need.
But closely as His work fits men’s needs, it sharply opposes some of their wishes, and of their interpretations of their needs. The Jew ‘demands a sign,’ the Greek craves a reasoned system of ‘wisdom,’ and both concur in finding the Cross an ‘offence.’
But the rejection of Jesus as the Reconciler does not quiet the cravings, which make themselves heard at some time or other in most consciences, for deliverance from the dominion and from the guilt of sin. And men are driven to adopt other expedients to fill up the void which their turning away from Jesus has left. Sometimes they fall back on a vague reliance on a vague assertion that ‘God is merciful’; sometimes they reason themselves into a belief-or, at any rate, an assertion-that the conception of sin is an error, and that men are not guilty. Sometimes they manage to silence the inward voice that accuses and condemns, by dint of not listening to it or drowning it by other noises.
But these expedients fail them some time or other, and then, if they have not cast the burden of their sin and their sins on the great Reconciler, they either have to weary themselves with painful and vain efforts to be their own redeemers, or they fall under the domination of a priest.
Hence the hideous penances of heathenism; and hence, too, the power of sacramentarian and sacerdotal perversions of evangelical truth.
III. Faith in Christ as the Regenerator is the only deliverance from baseless hopes for the world.
The world is today full of moaning voices crying, ‘Art thou He that should come, or do we look for another?’ and it is full of confident voices proclaiming other means of its regeneration than letting Christ ‘make all things new.’
The conviction that society needs to be reconstituted on other principles is spread everywhere, and is often associated with intense disbelief in Christ the Regenerator.
Has not the past proved that all schemes for the regeneration of society which do not grapple with the fact of sin, and which do not provide a means of infusing into human nature a new impulse and direction, will end in failure, and are only too likely to end in blood? These two requirements are met by Jesus, and by Him only, and whoever rejects Him and His gift of pardon and cleansing, and His inbreathing of a new life into the individual, will fail in his effort, however earnest and noble in many aspects, to redeem society and bring about a fair new world.
It is pitiable to see the waste of high aspiration and eager effort in so many quarters today. But that waste is sure to attend every scheme which does not start from the recognition of Christ’s work as the basis of the world’s transformation, and does not crown Him as the King, because He is the Saviour, of mankind.
Nevertheless - But. Notwithstanding this. Though this is true that God will avenge his elect, yet will he find his elect "faithful?" The danger is not that "God" will be unfaithful - he will surely be true to his promises; but the danger is that his elect - his afflicted people - will be discouraged; will not persevere in prayer; will not continue to have confidence in him; and will, under heavy trials, sink into despondency. The sole meaning of this phrase, therefore, is, that "there is more danger that his people would grow weary, than that God would be found unfaithful and fail to avenge his elect." For this cause Christ spoke the parable, and by the "design" of the parable this passage is to be interpreted.
Son of man cometh - This probably refers to the approaching destruction of Jerusalem - the coming of the Messiah, by his mighty power, to abolish the ancient dispensation and to set up the new.
Faith - The word "faith" is sometimes taken to denote the "whole" of religion, and it has been understood in this sense here; but there is a close connection in what Christ says, and it should be understood as referring to what he said before. The truth that he had been teaching was, that God would deliver his people from their calamities and save them, though he suffered them to be long tried. He asks them here whether, when he came, he should find "this faith," or a belief of "this truth," among his followers? Would they be found persevering in prayer, and "believing" that God would yet avenge them; or would they cease to pray "always, and faint?" This is not to be understood, therefore, as affirming that when Christ comes to judgment there will be few Christians on the earth, and that the world will be overrun with wickedness. That "may be" true, but it is not the truth taught here.
The earth - The land referring particularly to the land of Judea. The discussion had particular reference to their trials and persecutions in that land. This question implies that "in" those trials many professed disciples might faint and turn back, and many of his "real" followers almost lose sight of this great truth, and begin to inquire whether God would interpose to save them. The same question may be asked respecting any other remarkable visitation of the Son of God in affliction. When tried and persecuted, do "we" believe that God will avenge us? Do "we" pray always and not faint? Have "we" faith to believe that, though clouds and darkness are round about him, yet righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne? And when storms of persecution assail us, can "we" go to God and confidently commit our cause to him, and believe that he will bring forth our righteousness as the light, and our judgment as the noon-day?
Nevertheless, &c.—that is, Yet ere the Son of man comes to redress the wrongs of His Church, so low will the hope of relief sink, through the length of the delay, that one will be fain to ask, Will He find any faith of a coming avenger left on the earth? From this we learn: (1) That the primary and historical reference of this parable is to the Church in its widowed, desolate, oppressed, defenseless condition during the present absence of her Lord in the heavens; (2) That in these circumstances importunate, persevering prayer for deliverance is the Church's fitting exercise; (3) That notwithstanding every encouragement to this, so long will the answer be delayed, while the need of relief continues the same, and all hope of deliverance will have nearly died out, and "faith" of Christ's coming scarcely to be found. But the application of the parable to prayer in general is so obvious as to have nearly hidden its more direct reference, and so precious that one cannot allow it to disappear in any public and historical interpretation.See Poole on "Luke 18:2"
Nevertheless, when the son of man cometh; either to destroy Jerusalem, or to judge the world:
shall he find faith on the earth? either in the land of Judea, the believers being removed from thence, and scattered among the Gentiles, and not a man, at least in Jerusalem, that had any faith in Jesus, as the Messiah; or in the world at the last day: there will then be little of the doctrine of faith, and less of the grace of faith, and still less of the exercise of faith, particularly in prayer, and especially about the coming of Christ; it will be little thought of, and expected, or faith little exercised about it. With this agree some expressions in the Jewish writings (s):
"Says R. Jose, the holy, blessed God, will not be revealed to Israel, but in the time, , "that faith is not found among them."''
And elsewhere (t), speaking of the times of the Messiah, and of a star that shall then appear, it is said
"when that star shall be seen in the world at that time mighty wars shall be stirred up in the world, on all the four sides, , "and faith will not be found" among them.''
They seem to regard the first coming of the Messiah: and which was true with respect to the majority of their nation; and the same holds good with regard to his second coming; in the apocrypha it says:
"Nevertheless as coming the tokens, behold, the days shall come, that they which dwell upon earth shall be taken in a great number, and the way of truth shall be hidden, and the land shall be barren of faith.'' (2 Esdras 5:1)I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Luke 18:8. An answer to the two parts of the preceding question: (1) ποιήσει … αὐτῶν, and (2) ἐν τάχει.
This ἐν τάχει is the opposite of delay (μακροθυμεῖ, Luke 18:7): quickly, without delay (Acts 12:7; Acts 22:18; Acts 25:4; Romans 16:20; 1 Timothy 3:14; Revelation 1:1; Revelation 2:5; Revelation 22:6; Wis 18:14; Pind. Nem. v. 35; Xen. Cyr. vi. 1. 12), declaring the speedy advent of the Parousia (Luke 9:27), at which shall follow the ἐκδίκησις.
ΠΛῊΝ Ὁ ΥἹῸς Κ.Τ.Λ.] It is to be accentuated ἎΡΑ (so also Lachmann and Tischendorf); comp. on Galatians 2:17. In connection with the glad promise, to wit, which Jesus has just given in reference to the elect, there comes painfully into His consciousness the thought what a want of faith in Him He would nevertheless meet with at His Parousia. This He expresses in the sorrowful question: Nevertheless will the Son of man when He is come find faith on the earth? Theophylact well says: ἐν σχήματι ἐρωτήσεως τὸ σπάνιον τῶν τότε εὑρεθησομένων πιστῶν ὑποσημαίνων. The subject: Ὁ ΥἹῸς Τ. ἈΝΘΡ. and ἘΛΘΏΝ is, with a sorrowful emphasis, placed before the interrogative ἆρα, on account of the contrast with what follows. See Klotz, ad Devar. p. 183. The πίστις is the faith in Jesus the Messiah, which many of His confessors not persevering unto the end will have given up, so that they do not belong to the elect (Matthew 24:5; Matthew 24:10 ff., Matthew 24:24), and He will meet them as unbelievers. Hence there is no reason for concluding from the passage before us (de Wette), that the putting of the parable into its present shape probably belongs to a time when the hope of the Parousia had begun somewhat to waver (2 Peter 3:3 f.).
ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς] is correlative with the coming down from heaven, which is meant by ἐλθών.
 It is in vain to weary oneself and twist about in the attempt to explain away this simple meaning of the words, as, for example, Ebrard does on Revelation 1:1, p. 104. There is only this to be said, that the final deliverance, how long soever it may appear to be delayed as to its beginning, shall still be so internally and potentially hastened that it shall be made an unexpectedly hasty ending to the condition of tribulation that precedes it. See, on the other hand, Düsterdieck.
 So many, as the Lord sees, shall be seduced into unbelief (as to the ἐνεστὼς αἰὼν πονηρός, comp. on Galatians 1:4), that in grief thereat He puts the question generally, whether He shall find faith. Herein lies a sorrowful hyperbole of expression.Luke 18:8. ἐν τάχει, quickly, quite compatible with delay; quickly when the hour comes = suddenly.—πλὴν, yet; in spite of the alleged speed, the time will seem so long that, etc.—ἆρα, so to be taken (not ἄρα), as bearing a major force of reasoning, and interrogative. The two words are one in essence, but ἆρα has more emphasis in utterance, and therefore the first syllable is lengthened, and it stands at the beginning of a sentence, here before εὑρήσει; cf. Galatians 2:17. On the two particles vide Klotz in Dev., p. 180.—πίστιν: not absolutely, but in reference to the second coming, hope deferred making the heart sick.8. he will avenge them] Isaiah 63:4; Psalm 9:12, “When He maketh inquisition for blood, He remembereth them, He forgetteth not the cry of the humble.” “Yet a little while,” Hebrews 10:37; 2 Peter 3:8-9. The best comment on the Parable and our Lord’s explanation of it may be found in His own Discourses, John 14, 15.
speedily] in reality (2 Peter 3:8) though not in semblance.
shall he find faith on the earth?] Rather, shall He find this faith on the earth? So St Peter tells of scoffers in the last days who shall say “Where is the promise of His coming?” 2 Peter 3:3-4; and before that day “the love of many shall wax cold,” Matthew 24:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:3. Even the faith of God’s elect will in the last days be sorely tried (Matthew 24:22).Luke 18:8. Ἐν τάχει) He will both “effect the avenging of His elect,” and effect it speedily.—πλὴν ὁ Υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐλθὼν ἆρα εὑρήσει τὴν πίστιν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς; nevertheless when the Son of man shall come, whether shall He find faith on the earth?) πλὴν, nevertheless, it is not so much the prayers of the pious (inasmuch as their faith, which evinces itself in their ‘crying,’ shall be reduced to a marvellous paucity and smallness) as the goodness and justice of God, which will accelerate the consummation. The πλὴν nevertheless, and the ἆρα, num [an interrogative which expects an answer in the negative], have great ἦθος (characteristic feeling and graphic power); the negative assertion being modified and tempered by the interrogative form of the sentence. For He shall come, before that the faith of the godly utterly fails. He does not declare that faith shall be universal; nor does He say that faith shall have been utterly at an end on the earth, replete as it shall be with iniquities and calamities, inasmuch as faith had not utterly ceased upon it even at the time of the flood, Hebrews 11:7. It was deemed [by God] right that there should be persons who should receive the Messiah, at His first coming, with faith: Luke 1:17 [It was John the Baptist’s office accordingly “to make ready a people prepared for the Lord”]; much more therefore will it be deemed right that there should be believers, to whom He is hereafter to come, having been long expected by them [Psalm 72:5-7; Psalm 72:17]; Matthew 24:31; Matthew 23:39; Matthew 25:1, et seqq. [“Five wise” were found when He came]; 2 Thessalonians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:17; 1 Corinthians 15:51; Hebrews 9:28; Revelation 22:20.—ὁ Υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, the Son of man) to Whom the judgment has been assigned, John 5:22; John 5:27.—ἐλθὼν, when the Son of man shall come) from heaven. For the antithesis, on the earth, follows. From the verb εὑρήσει, shall He find, the participle ἐλθὼν has the force of a future: and He is speaking of His coming to avenge His saints: 2 Thessalonians 1:8 : that is to say, He is speaking of His coming visibly for the last judgment; as the appellation, “Son of man,” leads us to infer. Comp. ch. Luke 17:24; Luke 17:20.—εὑρήσει, shall He find) Comp. ch. Luke 7:9 [Jesus as to the centurion, “I have not found so great faith,” viz. though looking for it].—τὴν πίστιν) the faith, whereby the godly trust in the Lord, and cry to Him. The hope of better times is neither confirmed nor discouraged (weakened) by this declaration. The worst of all times, and that most full of careless security, shall succeed to the better times,—a time most widely removed from (most alien to) faith, a time running on to the very coming of the Son of man.Verse 8. - I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. "Non bientot, mais bien rite" (Godet). It means that God will act in accordance with his servant's prayer, not soon, but suddenly; sure and sudden at the crisis the action of Divine providence comes at the last "as a thief in the night." Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? These difficult words seem to point at least to a fear lest, the second coming being long delayed, true faith would have died out of the hearts even of the godly. Such a fear might be Jesus'; for we know, from his own lips, that to him, while on earth and wearing the body of humiliation, the day and hour of the second advent was not known. Was not our Lord speaking with the same sad onlook in his parable of the virgins, when he said, "they all slumbered and slept," wise virgins as well as foolish (Matthew 25:5)? "It is often the case that God's action as a Deliverer is delayed until his people have ceased to hope for deliverance. So it was with Israel in Egypt; so was it with her again in Babylon. ' Grief was calm and hope was dead' among the exiles when the word came that they were to return to their own land; and then the news seemed too good to be true. They were 'like them that dream' when they heard the good tidings. This method of Divine action - long delay followed by a sudden crisis - so frankly recognized by Christ, is one to which we find it hard to reconcile ourselves. These parables help us so far, but they do not settle everything. They contain no philosophy of Divine delay, but simply a proclamation of the fact, and an assurance that, in spite of delay, all will go well at the last with those who trust in God" (Professor Bruce).
Notwithstanding God is certain to vindicate, will the Son of man find on earth a persistence in faith answering to the widow's
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