When asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, "The kingdom of God will not come with observable signs.
I. THE MISTAKES WHICH PHARISAISM MADE.
1. As to the character of the coming kingdom. It thought it was to be outward, earthly, political, temporal; it was looking and longing for the time when another David, another Judas Maccabaeus, should come, should liberate the Holy Land from the grasp of the pagan power, and make Jerusalem the metropolis, the centre and glory of the earth.
2. As to the evidences and signs of its coming. It looked for a grand display of power, for overwhelming evidences that would strike every eye and startle and convince every mind that One was at hand who should assume the sovereignty awaiting him. And so it came to pass that when Jesus was born at Bethlehem, a Babe cradled in a manger; when he grew up to be a Carpenter at Nazareth; when he gathered no army, and struck no blow for national deliverance; when there was no ostentation about his method; when he lived to bless and teach individual men and women, and wrought his work quietly and unpretendingly; - Pharisaism decided that he was not the Coming One, and that his reign was not to prove the kingdom of God. Pharisaism entirely mistook God's purpose, and fatally misinterpreted his procedure.
II. THE MISTAKES INTO WHICH WE ARE LIABLE TO FALL. Not, of course, the same but similar, and equally disastrous.
1. When we look for blessedness in out ward circumstances instead of in inward peace. We say, "If I could but win that prize, gain that post, secure that friendship, earn that income, how bright would be my lot, how glad my heart, how radiant my life I" But we are wrong. Gladness of heart and excellency of life are not to be found in sunny circumstances, but in a pure heart, a heart that is at rest, a heart at home with God. "Out of the heart are the issues of life;" the fountain of lasting joy rises from our own breast; the kingdom of God is within us.
2. When we look for blessedness in the time that is beyond. "Man never is, but always to be blessed." There is even an unchristian longing for the heavenly future. When" to abide in the flesh" is more needful for those for whose welfare we are largely responsible, then the "kingdom of God" for us is not in the distance; it is in the present sphere of duty; it is in present peace, present joy, present service, in the blessedness which Christ gives to his servants "Before they reach the heavenly fields, Or walk the golden streets," in those "heavenly places" of holy service and happy fellowship in which he "has made them to sit" (Ephesians 2:6).
3. When we wait for heavenly influences to fall upon us instead of availing ourselves of those we have. Not only is there no need for any soul to wait for some remarkable and overwhelming influences before entering the kingdom, not only is it wholly unnecessary, but it is positively wrong to do so. It is in those quiet influences which are now working within your heart that God comes to you. He will never be nearer to a human soul than when his Spirit fills it with a holy longing, and makes it eager to know what it must do to enter into life. Wait not for anything that is coming: act on the promptings that are within you, and your feet shall then surely stand within the kingdom of God. - C.
The kingdom of God is within you.
1. It is a kingdom of new convictions producing new conversions and outward reforms. It deals with these three forces of the human character — impulse, will, and habit. Once it gets a proper hold of these powers it makes the character an irresistible force. When religious impulse is grasped by the will and transformed into life, the character is such that the gates of hell cannot prevail against it.
2. It is the kingdom of life, or a living kingdom here, rather than an earthly kingdom yonder. It is new life kindling new ideas and forming fresh habits. Sometimes it steals in upon the mind as silently as light. Look at the woman of Samaria, how natural, the new ideas were deposited into her mind, and with what marvellous rapidity they changed the current of her thoughts and the habits of her life.
3. It is a kingdom of new impressions concerning self, God, man, life, time, and eternity. No person ever equalled the founder of Christianity as an impression-maker, impressions of the highest and purest type were set in motion, as reconstructive agencies by Him; and they are still at work leavening society, and they are divinely destined to continue until the whole universe of God is entirely assimilated with the Divine nature, and thus cause righteousness and holiness to shine everlastingly throughout God's dominion.
4. It is the kingdom of love — love revealed in the light of the Fatherhood of God, God being known as a Father, naturally creates a filial reverence in man, which at once becomes the mightiest force in reclaiming the lost. Like creates like is a recognized principle in ancient and modern philosophy, as well as in Christian theology.
(J. P. Williams.)
1. It is "a kingdom"; most truly and really a kingdom. Nay, even in some sort a visible kingdom; and yet at the very same time it is —
2. A kingdom "which cometh not by observation"; unseen in its progress, seen in its conclusion; unheard in its onward march, felt in its results. Let us, then, follow out a little more into detail this strange combination of what might almost seem at first sight direct contradictions.
I. And first see HOW REMARKABLY THIS WAS THE CHARACTER OF ITS OPENING ON THIS EARTH. It was then manifestly a "kingdom." The angels bore witness of it. Their bright squadrons were visible upon this earth hanging on the outskirts of Messiah's dominion. They proclaimed its coming: "Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." "Glory to God in the highest; peace on earth, good-will towards men." Nay, the world felt it: "Herod was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him." The instincts of the unbelieving monarch made him tremble before the King of Saints. It was "a kingdom" which was coming. Yet it "came not with observation." The King of Israel was born obscurely. Angels appeared to herald Him; yet none save shepherds saw them. There was veil enough over each circumstance of His life to make the dull eye of the world miss the true meaning of characters it could not help seeing. And afterwards, in the life of Christ, it was the same. The world was stirred, troubled, uneasy, perplexed. It felt that it was in the presence of a strange power. An undefined, unknown, yet real presence was with it. But it knew Him not. It was as if some cloud was shed round Him through which the world could not pierce. "The kingdom" was even now amongst men, and yet its coming was unseen.
II. And so, AFTER THE DEATH AND ASCENSION OF CHRIST, "THE KINGDOM" WENT ON. Still it came, reaching to every part of the earth, but never "with observation."
III. Once more; SEE HOW THIS IS STILL IN EACH HEART THE LAW OF ITS ESTABLISHMENT. There also none can ever trace its beginnings. Some, indeed, may remember when first they felt its life within them, when first they were duly conscious of its power — though this is far from universally the case where it is most truly planted — but even in these cases, this consciousness was not its true beginning; any more than the first faint upgrowth of the tender blade is the beginning of its life; any more than the first curling of the water is the breath of heaven which it shows: no; life must be, before it is able to look back into itself and perceive that it does live. Being must precede consciousness. And as it is at first given, so does it grow. It is the receiving a life, a being, a breath. It is the passing over us of God's hand, the in-breathing of His Spirit. This is its secret history; and this men cannot reach. And yet it is "a kingdom" which is thus set up. Wheresoever it has its way, there it will be supreme. It makes the will a captive, and the affections its ministers, and the man its glad vassal. Though it "cometh not with observation," yet it is indeed "a kingdom." Now, from this it behoves us to gather two or three strictly practical conclusions —
1. This is a thought full of fear to all ungodly men. Depend upon it this kingdom is set up. It is in vain for you to say that you do not perceive it, that you see it not, nor feel it; this does not affect the truth. It is its law that "it cometh not with observation"; that from some it always is hidden. Your soul had — if you be not altogether reprobate, it still has, however faintly exercised — the organs and capacities for seeing it. But you are deadening them within yourself.
2. This is a quickening thought to all who, in spite of all the weakness of their faith, would yet fain be with our Lord. Is this kingdom round about us? Have we places in it? How like, then, are we to His disciples of old; trembling and crying out for fear as lie draws ninth to us! How like are we to those whose eyes were holden, who deemed Him "a stranger in Jerusalem"! How do we need His words of love; His breaking bread and blessing it; His making known Himself unto us; His opening our eyes! How should we pray as we have never prayed before, "Thy kingdom come!"
3. Here is a thought of comfort. How apt are we to be east down; to doubt our own sincerity, to doubt His working in us, to doubt the end of all these tears, and prayers, and watchings! Here, then, is comfort for our feeble hearts. Small as the work seems, unobserved as is its growth, it is a kingdom. It is His kingdom. It is His kingdom in us. Only believe in Him, and wait upon Him; only endure His time, and follow after Him, and to you too it shall be manifested.
(Bishop Samuel Wilberforce.)1. The manner in which the gospel was first introduced was without external show and ostentation. Worldly kingdoms are usually erected and supported by the power of arms.
2. The external dispensation of Christ's kingdom is without ostentation. His laws are plain and easy to be understood, and delivered in language level to common apprehension. The motives by which obedience is urged are pure and spiritual, taken not from this, but the future world. His institutions are few and simple, adapted to our condition, and suited to warm and engage the heart.
3. The virtues which the gospel principally inculcates are without observation, distant from worldly show, and independent of worldly applause.
4. As the temper of the gospel, so also the operation of the Divine Spirit in producing this temper, is without observation. It is not a tempest, an earthquake, or fire; but a small, still voice. It is a spirit of power, but yet a spirit of love, and of a sound mind. The fruits of it, like its nature, are kind and benevolent. They are love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, and goodness.
5. The blessings of God's kingdom are chiefly invisible, and without observation. The rewards which the gospel promises are not earthly and temporal, but heavenly and spiritual. They are not external power, wealth, and honour; but inward peace, hope, and joy here, and everlasting felicity hereafter.We will now attend to the reflections and instructions which our subject offers to us —
1. If the kingdom of God is now among us, we are all without exception bound to acknowledge it, and submit to it.
2. We learn that it concerns every one, not only to submit to God's kingdom, but to submit to it immediately.
3. We are here taught that we have no occasion to run from place to place in order to find the grace of God, for we may obtain it in any place where His Providence calls us. For the Spirit is not confined to certain places, its influences are not at human disposal, nor do its operations come with public observation. You are to receive the spirit in the hearing of faith. Its influence on the heart is not like an overbearing storm, but as the gentle rain on the tender herb, and the dew on the grass.
4. We learn from our subject that true religion is not ostentatious. It seeks not observation. The true Christian is exemplary, but not vain. He is careful to maintain good works, but affects not an unnecessary show of them.
5. It appears that they only are the true subjects of God's kingdom who have experienced its power on their hearts.
6. As the kingdom of God comes not to the heart with observation, we are incompetent judges of the characters of others.
(J. Lathrop, D. D.)cometh not with observation." And the principle is this — that the greatest and plainest effects are produced by causes which are themselves unnoticeable. God is mounting up to His grand design; but we cannot see the steps of His ascent. If you pass from the history of the Church to any other province in God's empire, you will find them all recognizing the same law. It seems to be the general rule of all that is sublime, that its motions shall be unseen. Who can discern the movements of the planets — whose evolutions we admire, whose courses guide our path? The day breaks and the day sets; but who can fix the boundaries of the night, the boundaries of the darkness? You may watch the departing of summer beauty — as the leaves are swept by the autumn wind — but can the eye trace its movements? Does not everything — in the sky and in the earth — proclaim it — as all nature follows its hidden march — that "the kingdom of God cometh not with observation"? Or, let any man amongst you, read but a very few of the leading passages of his own life, and let him observe what have been the great, deciding events of his history — determining, if I may so speak, the very destinies of his forces. Were they those he anticipated? Did his great joys and sorrows rise in the quarters from whence he expected them to rise? Did not the great circumstances of his life arise from events quite unexpected? And did not those things which he counted little, greatly rise and extend themselves — for evil or for good? And what does all this attest-in providence and in nature — but that " the kingdom of God cometh not with observation"? But we are now led to expect, by what we have read, and what we have seen, and what we have felt, in outward things, that we shall find the truth of the text, also, when we come to the experience of a man's soul; and that the "kingdom of God cometh not with observation." A very pious mother is deeply anxious about the soul of her son. Her fond affections, her holy influences, her secret prayers-have all been bearing to that one point, of her child's conversion to God, for many years. But have that mother's prayers died, because those lips are hushed? "Has God forgotten to be gracious," when man ceases to expect? Nay — in His own way, and in His own hour," the kingdom" comes.
(J. Vaughan, M. A.)
(Dean Goulburn.)Luke 17:27-29; Exodus 15:19; Isaiah 37:36; Acts 12:23; Isaiah 30:13; Luke 17:35-36. And it is impossible that it should be otherwise, in spite of warnings ever so clear, considering how the world goes on in every age. Men, who are plunged in the pursuits of active life, are no judges of its course and tendency on the whole. They confuse great events with little, and measure the importance of objects, as in perspective, by the mere standard of nearness or remoteness. It is only at a distance that one can take in the outlines and features a whole country. It is but holy Daniel, solitary among princes, or Elijah the recluse of Mount Carmel, who can withstand Baal, or forecast the time of God's providences among the nations. To the multitude all things continue to the end, as they were from the beginning of the creation. The business of state affairs, the movements of society, the course of nature, proceed as ever, till the moment of Christ's coming. "The sun was risen upon the earth," bright as usual, on that very day of wrath in which Sodom was destroyed. Men cannot believe their own time is an especially wicked time; for, with Scripture unstudied and hearts untrained in holiness, they have no standard to compare it with. They take warning from no troubles or perplexities, which rather carry them away to search out the earthly causes of them, and the possible remedies. Pride infatuates many, and self-indulgence and luxury work their way unseen, — like some smouldering fire, which for a while leaves the outward form of things unaltered. At length the decayed mass cannot hold together, and breaks by its own weight, or on some slight and accidental external violence.
(J. H. Newman, D. D.)
(W. H. Lewis, D. D.)I. RELIGION IS AN INWARD AND SPIRITUAL PRINCIPLE. It is, says our Saviour, "within you." This is a representation which differs from the ordinary opinion of men. If it be within us, then —
1. It is not determined by geographical boundaries, by latitude or longitude.
2. It does not consist in an observance of ordinances. This is a representation which accords with what we find in the sacred pages. God forms His estimate of the characters of men, not by their actions, or their language, or their opinions, or by anything of a merely outward nature; but by the temper and frame of their hearts.
II. TRUE RELIGION SUBJECTS THE SOUL TO THE AUTHORITY AND REIGN OF GOD.
1. It is spoken of as a kingdom. Now a kingdom is not a scene of anarchy and rebellion; it is distinguished by order and due subordination.
2. But this is not all. Not only is there subordination, but all is under the immediate control of God.(1) God is the author and preserver of that spiritual and Divine principle in which true religion consists.(2) God has appointed all the means by which it is maintained.
3. Mere necessary submission is not enough. It implies a voluntary subjection of the heart to the authority of God.
The Weekly Pulpit.I. The text is a WARNING AGAINST ILLUSORY VIEWS OF RELIGION. There is a form of evil in our own day against which we make a strong protest. There are men in our midst who say, "Lo here; or, lo there." At last the truth has been discovered. Jacob is come to Bethel, and has dreamed a marvellous dream. We speak of men who sow seeds of discord through pretended light and holiness. They disturb the peace of the church, and lead the unwary astray.
II. The great truth which our text suggests is THE SPIRITUAL NATURE OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD, yea, the reign of God in men's hearts and lives. The Jews expected a startling demonstration of the supernatural to their material advantage; Christ effected a moral reformation, and laid the foundation for a spiritual commonwealth. We quote the opening sentences of "Christus Consummator," a recent work of great beauty by Canon Westcott: "Gain through apparent loss; victory through momentary defeat; the energy of a new life through pangs of travail — such has ever been the law of spiritual progress. This law has been fulfilled in every crisis of reformation; and it is illustrated for our learning in every page of the New Testament." Such, in a few words, is the basin of that empire of truth which the Son of God founded, and is now enlarging by His Word and Spirit.
III. In conclusion, observe how emphatic the Saviour is in directing the attention of His hearers to the fact, THAT THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS NOT AN EXPECTATION, BUT A REALITY IN THE SOUL — "the kingdom of God is within you." The seat of the' government is in the heart.
(The Weekly Pulpit.)
(J. Vaughan, M. A.)
(W. M. Hay Aitken, M. A.)
LinksLuke 17:20 NIV
Luke 17:20 NLT
Luke 17:20 ESV
Luke 17:20 NASB
Luke 17:20 KJV
Luke 17:20 Bible Apps
Luke 17:20 Parallel
Luke 17:20 Biblia Paralela
Luke 17:20 Chinese Bible
Luke 17:20 French Bible
Luke 17:20 German Bible
Luke 17:20 Commentaries