You can turn back to Luke 18 in your Bibles, and we will finish what we started last week and see what our Lord wants us to learn from the parable of the widow who prevailed against an unjust judge. We know what this parable is about because Luke told us in Luke 18:1 that Jesus told the parable “that we ought to always pray and not lose heart,” mindful of our Lord’s imminent return, whether it’s for us as the church as he comes to rapture the church, or as he’s speaking of here in this context, speaking of the Parousia, the second coming of Christ, that’s in view here.
The disciples of the Lord, at any time, in any age, in whatever situation, they should always keep on praying, in all circumstances, at all times, in all situations, in every season of life, when facing any trial and in response to any joy or any sorrow.
Why must this point be made? Why must we hear this instruction from our Lord? Well, because there are certain circumstances, and there are certain situations, and various kinds of trials, and particular forms of opposition that can tempt Christians to give up hope, to become discouraged, to shrink back from doing our duty. In a word, we’re tempted, and in many and various ways, tempted to lose heart, as is the verb there, to lose heart, to become discouraged.
When we lose heart, when we relax our efforts, when we fail to be watchful, fail to be prayerful, more sin is sure to follow. David chose not to go to war with his troops, and while relaxing at the palace, he was not prayerful, but he became lustful, committed adultery with the wife of a war hero, Uriah, whom he later had murdered.
Elijah, having won a great, amazing victory on Mount Carmel with the prophets of Baal, and praying fervently at that time, but hearing the threats of the wicked Queen Jezebel, he was not prayerful, but fearful, and he fled for his life.
Peter, he failed to watch and pray, even though the Lord told him on the night of his betrayal, “Watch and pray that you do not enter into temptation.” Peter failed to do that, and sure enough, within a few hours he denied even knowing his Lord and Savior.
If you see a lot of sin in your life, look back to your heart and whether or not it’s become discouraged, whether or not you have lost heart in fighting for the faith. Think about whether you have become enamored with the world, which is another form of a Christian losing heart. This world that God saved you from, the sin that God saved you from, why would that ever have any attraction to you?
Remember back when you were saved from it? Remember how much you rejoiced to be delivered from sin, delivered from the penalty of sin and the power of sin, and to have a hope at one day being delivered from the very presence of sin? Remember that time? Why is it that your heart has been adrift? Could it not be because you’ve become discouraged, because you’ve grown tired of waiting?
Some today, they’re having to live through the consequences of a culture that is shedding its Judeo-Christian heritage as fast as possible, and many today are willing to treat Christians unjustly. Some of our own church members have experienced that very thing, whether in family situations or in the workplace or both. And in that moment when the conflict that they face because of their Christian beliefs, when that conflict is acute, when it’s focused, prayer is natural. Prayer comes easily to cry out to God in that moment.
But when that trial continues, year after year after year, when the ostracizing, when the rejection, when the injustice have become normalized, that’s the test of prayerfulness. That’s the test of discouragement and losing heart. Will you remain steadfast and always prayerful even when the heat’s not on?
And that’s why Jesus gives this parable, because he knows our frame. He remembers that we are dust. He knows that his extended physical absence means a trial for his people, for us, as we long to see just one of the days of the Son of Man and we don’t see it.
And so he tells us a parable to the effect that we ought always to pray and not to lose heart. Look at the verses again, starting in verse 2. “Jesus said, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, “Give me justice against my adversary.” And for a while he refused. But afterward he said to himself, “Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.”’”
That’s the story; we looked at that last time. We said that Jesus has really told the ultimate David-and-Goliath story. This is the widow who beat the judge against all odds. The tables were turned. This is a man who epitomizes self-sufficiency. Perched above everyone else in this unteachable seat of authority, with power at his disposal, there’s no sense of duty in his heart. There are no qualms of conscience about his perverting justice.
This man, inflexible and immovable as he is, he is overcome by the persistent pleas of the weakest member of that society, a helpless widow. And he admits defeat, there, in verse 5. “She’s really getting to me. She is getting to me, this, this widow, and I fear that in the near future she’s going to beat me down by her continual persistence. I’m going to change my mind.” She won.
As we come to verse 6, Luke steps in as narrator, and he creates a very brief break in the story to remind us who it is who’s speaking. “And the Lord said.” Kurios. This is not just like a reminder in the sense that we the readers, he assumes that we’ve forgotten that fact. This is a reminder in the sense that he wants to call it to our attention, to raise it to our consciousness in this moment, to remind us of the stature of Jesus, the stature of this person to whom we are listening, that he is the Lord. And this, what follows, this is our Master’s summons to us.
So Luke prepares us for the solemnity of the command that’s about to come out of our Lord’s mouth. He calls us here to stop, reflect, pay attention. And then the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge is saying.” That’s a command, not a suggestion. “Hear what the unrighteous judge says,” aorist imperative, which is a tense and mood of a verb that indicates solemnity. There’s a heightened sense of urgency. Jesus wants us to stop what we’re doing, listen carefully, hear what this unrighteous judge is saying. It’s Luke that wants us to be mindful about who it is who’s speaking, and that it’s the Lord who has said this.
Three points in today’s outline. The first and third points are rather short because the weight really is on the Lord’s instruction. But the first point, it has to be that, for us to do exactly what the Lord has commanded us to do, here, right? To go back and listen, to pay close attention to what the unrighteous judge said.
So first point, an acknowledgement of our Lord’s lordship over us, the first point is, number one, the judge’s confession. Number one: the judge’s confession. And we’re familiar with this because we studied this last week, and we looked at verses 4-5 and considered that in detail, but now we’ll consider it just a little bit more carefully with some reflection about the point here, that this is to encourage us to be persistent in prayer.
Here’s what he said: “Though I neither fear God nor respect man.” In other words, “Though I’m shameless in my own community, I have no sense of shame. I don’t care what people think about me. I have no regard whatsoever for what people think about me. So I’ve got no regard for God or man. I don’t have a sense of any accountability before him. I don’t really care what his laws are, what his will is. It’s my sense of what I want that charts the course of my life, without regard for God and his accountability, without regard for man and their stupid opinions. I don’t care.” Guys, you don’t want to face him in court.
Look what follows, though: “And yet, because this widow keeps bothering me, I’ll give her justice.” That just, whimsically flips on his position. “I’ll give her justice so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.” What’s he saying? What is he saying, here? Several things, and none of them good, by the way. Not one commendable thought in this guy’s head.
But the point that Jesus is making as we consider the judge’s words, and he’s basically gave the judge his words, right? So he’s the one telling the story. He could say it however he wants to. But as we consider these words, Jesus’ point is just, is that we would see how utterly opposite this judge is to our God. Is that not obvious? That’s what he wants us to see. And Jesus could not have portrayed a starker contrast here.
So first, this judge, by admitting, no, it, stronger than that, isn’t it? He’s boasting here about this, that “I neither fear God nor respect man.” When he says that, when he makes that boast, what he’s really saying is, “I love no one. I don’t care what you think about it. I love no one. I have no love at all in my heart for anybody but me,” which is why he has such a corrupt view of his role as a judge.
He has failed to see this great privilege that God has conferred upon him, this role that God has given him to dispense justice, to be an advocate for God’s righteousness. He fails to see the honorable stewardship he’s been given to protect an environment that would show mercy in society, that would exercise compassion in society. In order to have compassion in society, you must have justice.
I’m thankful that there are still a few judges in our nation that think this way, but many of them do not. That’s why no social justice effort can ever, ever succeed in showing mercy or compassion in society, because the advocates of justice and compassion understand neither justice nor compassion in our time. Abandoning God’s righteous law, they are ignorant of all true justice, which creates an environment not for compassion and mercy in society, but for rapacious wolves to take advantage of people. That’s exactly what we see happening.
But this judge that Jesus has portrayed for us, this man’s heart, we can see, and he’s boasting about it, his heart is cold, it’s dead, it’s loveless. No goodness comes out of him, no beneficence. There’s no charity, there’s no generosity, there’s no benevolence. Why? Because when love, when goodness are absent, justice is perverted to injustice, and all mercy fails. But when we pray, when we pray, we go to a higher court. When we pray, when we plea for justice, when we cry out to God, we come to the Author of justice itself.
Second thing the judge reveals here in verse 5, he reveals what motivated his change of posture toward the widow. It’s because “this widow keeps bothering me.” What happened here? What happened to this guy? I mean, he was hard as granite, and now he melts away. What happened to him? Why was he so firm, so inflexible and so proud about it, and now he just flips?
What compelled him? It wasn’t his merc, it wasn’t mercy for an unjustly treated, suffering widow. It wasn’t even about principle: the merits of her case or the just nature of her cause. Quite simply, the judge himself, he himself was affected in a negative way, and he didn’t like it. His firmest, most deeply held, even boasted-about convictions, albeit unrighteous convictions, but they were fixed nonetheless, that he doesn’t fear, that he doesn’t feel shame in the face of other people.
He’s willing to abandon his principles in a moment. He’s willing to compromise what he himself has said defines him. This man is willing to act inconsistently with his own core values, you might say. He’s willing to reshape his identity, in a moment, just to make an irritation go away. That’s everybody. That’s every single human being, save one: our Lord and Savior.
Listen, when we pray, when we, God’s people, pray, when we cry out for justice, we come to the immutable, never-changing God. That’s good news. We come to the true and living God, the one who is impassable, the one who is not affected. He’s not swayed or moved upon by human emotion, by changing feelings. He is always and perfectly fixed in his posture toward justice because he is righteous.
Third thing we can see here: that when the judge confesses what he hopes to avoid, “I will give her justice so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming,” what he has just admitted, there, is a confession of ultimate human weakness. And he’s not wrong on that count. He’s not wrong. In fact, this is where he’s finally being somewhat honest with himself.
He wanted to think of himself as untouchable, beyond accountability, above all authority. He’s all powerful, almighty, immovable. He’s acted like a god among men, living high above them all, perched on an elevated plane. But in the end he is really only a man. He has to admit and confess that he is finite. He’s come to realize that his strength has a limit. He’s got to acknowledge that he is temporal, time-bound. He’s looking ahead to the future and only a few years left for him and realizing, “Do I want to spend it, really, being harangued by this woman?”
“When we, God’s people, pray, when we cry out for justice, we come to the immutable, never-changing God.”Travis Allen
He’s temporal. He’s subject to time. He’s unable to outlast this woman. Why? Because she’s armed with a righteous cause. She’s not going away. The strength that he thought he possessed to withstand her appeals, limited by human weakness, the strength of the woman’s will has overcome his own strength for his own personal interest.
But God is not a human being. He is not at all a human being. He’s not subject to any limitation. And when we pray, we come to the God whose justice is as immutable as his essence. We come to the God who is without body parts or passions. He doesn’t have a body that changes like ours. He doesn’t have parts. He’s not cons, composed of parts and stitched together by anything. Doesn’t have passions that can be changed or move or wax strong or weak. He can never be moved from his righteousness and his compassion.
We come to the God who is all powerful. He’s never compromised by any weakness whatsoever, by any limitation. He’s never susceptible to being overcome, but always able to execute justice and truth. Always. He can make a decision for justice and truth, and he can execute on that decision without hindrance.
So we’ve heard what the unrighteous judge has to say. As we come to our second point in our outline, having heard what that judge has said, let’s now see how our Lord’s instruction promotes and encourages a godly practice of persistence in prayer. Number two, if you’re writing down this for notes, number two, the Lord’s instruction. The Lord’s instruction. This is where we want to spend the bulk of our time. So if you think the point’s going along, and you’re worried about the time, fear not, little flock. Your Lord’s compassion doesn’t change toward you. He will slay this preacher when the time comes.
The Lord’s instruction, number two, the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says,” verse 7, “and will not God give justice to his elect who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily.”
Strong, strong assurance in just a few sentences. It’s amazing, the conciseness of Jesus. I mean, for a preacher who’s long-winded, the concision with which our Lord encourages and strengthens us is just, it’s beyond understanding. It gives us strong assurance here to keep on praying, never to lose heart, never to give way to discouragement, and he grounds his instruction, here, in God. He grounds the instruction in theology proper, teaching us about the nature of God. What other, how, how firmer of assurance could you ever find than one that’s grounded in the unchanging God?
His argument takes the kind of the classic form, arguing from the lesser to the greater. “If this, then how much more this?” If an intractable, obstinate, unjust human judge is finally persuaded to change, to grant the persistent appeals of a woman he doesn’t know, whom he does not care about, how much more will the unchanging God grant justice to his people, whom he does know, whom, indeed, he has foreknown, those whom he does love?
Let me put it this way: those for whom he could not care about more. Why couldn’t he care more? Because he never changes. His care for us is top-shelf perfect, not able to move in any direction upward because it’s already there. He cares. He loves. It’s already perfect. He couldn’t care more for us than he does.
Pretty simple point that Jesus is making here, impossible to miss. But I want to highlight several ways that Jesus, he’s made this point for us more emphatic here, that we might be greatly, deeply encouraged to keep on praying, never, ever to lose heart, to forsake all sinning and give ourselves wholly and completely to the Lord in prayer and to the Lord’s work.
First assurance, if you’re writing this down, just, just go 1, 2, 3, I don’t know, sub-point, whatever you want to write down. But first assurance, unlike the judge in the parable, we said that justice is a matter of God’s character because justice is an attribute of his being. Justice is an attribute of God’s being. That’s the first assurance.
Jesus gives his instruction here in the form of a rhetorical question at the beginning of verse 7, a rhetorical question, meaning he asks, it’s like parents ask these questions all the time. “Didn’t I tell you to clean this room?” You know, that’s not demanding an answer. It’s demanding action, right? So, rhetorical question, and he uses the grammar here to make this point very strong, emphatic. He’s almost shouting his affirmation: “God will grant justice!”
God’s not at all like the unjust judge. He’s not a human being for whom justice is flexible. It’s not a, a Gumby figure that can be turned around and stretched and perverted and bent out of shape for the sake of personal gain. God is the very standard of righteousness itself. His law is the perfect rule. His good and loving character is perfect, so he always does what conforms to righteousness, and he does so without any partiality.
So in light of the infinite distance that exists in comparing an unjust judge, the lowest of low human beings, to this infinitely incomparably just Judge of the earth, Jesus puts this in a rhetorical question, and the form of the question expects a negative answer. Will not God vindicate his elect? Will he not give justice to his elect? In other words, God won’t fail to give justice to his elect, will he? By no means! The grammar, here, is emphatic, emphatic negation, in fact. It’s the strong, it’s, here in this sentence, is the absolute strongest way to negate something in the Greek language.
Jesus doesn’t just deny the reality that God might fail to vindicate his elect. It’s the subjunctive mood, so he’s denying the very potentiality of such a thing, that God would fail to vindicate his elect. He rules out even the idea that God would not give justice. It’s an impossibility, so take it out of the realm of im, of possibility. It’s up there with unicorns and things like that. Can’t happen.
Why is he so emphatic about this? Why is he so emphatic? Because justice is an act of the divine character. Because righteousness is an attribute of God’s essence, of God’s being. God’s character does not change because his being never changes. If it changes one iota, not only God but everything in existence disappears. His essence cannot change.
And why is he emphatic about this? Because you and I, beloved, forget this all the time. We forget. We are mutable. God is immutable. We change all the time, forget things all the time, need to be reminded of things all the time. That’s why we come to worship every single week, that we might be reminded of the things that we know and have learned to be true. God never changes. He’s immutable. We change all the time, and we forget that, the fact that God is like this, and this is where we need to ground our praying, ground all of our believing, that we might be persistent and keep on, and be faithful in prayer.
So starting out with the strongest of emphatic denials based upon the immutable character of God, it may seem that Jesus couldn’t add anything further, here, to assure us that God will vindicate his people. I mean, if, if this were enough, if he stopped here, that would be enough for us. The essence of God guarantees justice, but Jesus goes on to give further assurance to us, as if he cares for us.
Second, Jesus tells us not only is God’s character immutable and his justice, therefore, is immutable; he tells us that God takes action. God takes action. The way that Jesus has phrased this, he goes further than telling us that God will decide the case in the favor of his elect, which would be the verb krino, krino, meaning “to judge, to decide.” Jesus uses the verb poieo, which means “to do, to make, to happen, to make happen.” So the verb assumes, yes, that there’s been a decision of justice. But it goes further to include the execution of justice, the doing of justice. Yeah, God is going to make a just judgment. You can be guaranteed of that based on his immutability.
You also have to know that his justice doesn’t just mean a decision in the mind; it means the execution in reality. They are combined. As immutable as his decision of justice is, is just as immutable as his behavior of justice. He will carry out the justice that his righteous decision calls for, whether it’s remunerative justice, which is rewarding the righteous, or re, retributive justice, which means punishing the unrighteous. Whatever justice calls for that, he will do. God is sure to do what justice demands. He must act in perfect accord with his unchanging nature, with the essence of who he is.
Again, this is in contrast to the unjust judge. After every, every single one of this woman’s appeals, and we know that this widow came time and time again, month after month, he was dragging his feet. He’s refusing to hear her case. Even when he’s finally overcome by her persistence, though, all we get from him in his description is the intent to give justice. We don’t actually see it executed, do we? We see the confession that he will give justice, but that’s not the way of God. Jesus assures us that the judge of all the earth, he will see it through. He will give justice; he will do justice. He will execute justice for his elect.
First, justice is a matter of God’s essence. It’s his very being, which means, second, God will take action. He will do what justice demands because he’s perfectly unchangeable in his righteousness, which brings us to a third assurance from our Lord, here, a third assurance: that God has already taken action and in our favor. He’s taken action already in our favor. He has done justice in our favor.
We see this in the way that Jesus identifies his true disciples, here, as God’s elect. “Will not God give justice to his elect?” This word eklectos, it shows up in Luke’s writing only two times, and both of them in this gospel. But here in Luke 18:7, the word eklectos designates God’s people as chosen.
This is a select group of particular people whom he has decided to call his own from before the foundation of the world. The elect are, according to Ephesians 4:1, “those whom God has chosen in Christ from before the foundation of the world, to be wholly and blameless before him.” The elect are the special possession of the Father, and they are chosen specifically to bring praise to his glorious grace, Ephesians 1:6. The Father chose to give this elect people to his Son as a gift, and Jesus referred to that reality several times in John’s gospel.
In fact, I think this is something that thrilled the soul of our Lord and Savior almost more than any other thing, is to see the Father’s love for him in giving him this people, whom he would then go and redeem and then give back to the Father. That entire reality of the whole scope of redemptive history is in his heart and in his mind and fueling him as he is rejected by the world, rejected by his own people, the Jews, as he’s rejected and beaten and tortured and suffers and is crucified on the cross. It’s for that joy that was set before him that he endured the cross, despised the shame, and has now sat down at the right hand of God and is interceding for these very people, the elect.
So the Father chose to give this elect people to his Son. He gave his Son the apostles, and then extending out from them, he gave all who would ever believe through the gospel that the apostles preached. Jesus revealed this. You can turn, here, if you want to, John chapter 17. He revealed these things in his high priestly prayer, oftentimes in his gospel, but certainly in his high priestly prayer. John reveals this. In John 17:6 Jesus says, “I have revealed your name to the men whom you have given me from the world, whom you gave me from the world. They were yours and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.”
John 17:9: “I pray for them. I’m not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, because they are yours.” John 17:20: “I pray not only for these, but also for all those who believe in me through their message.” All those who believe in the gospel, they’re in this group, too. Then John 17:24: “Father, I desire those you have given me,” that is, the elect, “to be with me where I am, and then they will see my glory, which you have given to me because you loved me before the world’s foundation.”
“Jesus said,” John’s gospel, you can back up to chapter 6 if you’re there, John 6:37, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me, I will never cast out.” Again, unchanging realities from an unchanging God. Immutably certain. You couldn’t guarantee it more strongly than this. John 6:44: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
The Father chose an elect people from before the foundation of the world. He chose to give them to his Son as a precious possession, that the Son would redeem this people for himself, and then give them back to the Father, to the Father’s glory, to the praise of his glorious grace.
So the elect will come to Christ, not on their own ability, not by their own initiative, not because of their own merit, not because they’re so smart, but because the Father acts on his own initiative, and he draws them to Christ that they would believe and be saved.
So God has already acted, big time, for his elect people, whom the Father has chosen for himself, whom he has given to his Son. These elect have been justified freely by his grace, Romans 3:24, “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” They are justified. Justified. Forgiven of their sins, yes, but more than that, declared righteous in Christ by the Judge himself. “So there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” Romans 8:1.
Later in that great chapter, Romans chapter 8, you should turn there and just take a look at this for yourself in Romans chapter 8, but in Romans 8:29, Paul writes this; he says, “For those whom God foreknew.” These people that he calls his elect, his chosen possession, he foreknew them. It’s a verb that actually talks about strong, intimate familiarity. He doesn’t look down the corridors of time and see who makes a decision for Jesus, who prays a prayer, who walks an aisle, who gets baptized, who goes to church a lot, and say, “You know what, those are good, religious people. I’m going to get them on my team.”
That is not the way this works. Foreknowledge is to know beforehand and know in an intimate, familiar way. “Those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son,” marked out beforehand, their, their whole path circumscribed and set by the Father. “Predestined them to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he,” that is, the Son, “might be the first-born among many brothers. And those whom he predestined, these ones he also called.”
There’s a calling that comes in time and space for each and every one of us. It’s not the same for all of us. It’s the same gospel. It’s the same ordo salutis, the same order of salvation that happens to each and every one of us. The theology is the same. The truths are the same. The gospel is the same. All of us having different experiences.
It’s one of the things I love about the baptism services we have here, to hear these people say all the same gospel, all the same truths, everything through different backgrounds, different cultures, different people, different, different ages, different perspectives. God is so good in how he does this. He calls them. “Those whom he called,” it says there, “he also justified.” He also declared them righteous.
Remember, I said that God’s justice is inflexible. He must be just, and so in the inflexibility of his justice, he will do remunerative justice, that is, to reward those who are righteous. And if we look at all humanity, who’s righteous and meriting any favor from God? Just one: Jesus Christ. The rest of us, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” right? So if he’s to be just to us, if he’s to give us what our deeds deserve, what’s to become of us? “The wages of sin are death,” right? This is retributive justice, and God must be just. He is just, and so he does act in justice, dealing out retributive justice.
So how in the world, if God is unchanging, can he change his posture toward us sinners? Is it because of our persistent goodness and likeableness? Is because of our annoyance to him, like the persistent widow? Is it because we do good deeds? Is because we give enough money? Is it because we pray a lot and come banging on the doors of heaven, saying, “Let me in, let me in”?
No, that’s not the picture here. Jesus is specific in using this term “elect” so we will understand that we are declared righteous by God, not by our own merits, but by Christ’s. When God put his own Son on the cross, Isaiah 53, he placed upon him the sins of all of us. He placed upon him the sins that Jesus did not commit because he’s perfectly righteous. He placed upon him our sins, sins of thought, word, and deed. Sins of omission: things that we ought to have done, but didn’t. Sins of commission: things that we should not have done, but we did anyway.
He places all those things, a mountain of, of sin and darkness and blackness, and he places it on his Son, the weight of the sins of all of the elect on his Son, on the cross, and then the Father poured out his wrath for every single one of those sins. Justice was done in the case of our sins. Retributive justice was done that we might be forgiven.
“He’s [God] not subject to any limitation. And when we pray, we come to the God whose justice is as immutable as his essence.Travis Allen
Not only that, though, remunerative justice was also done. Because Christ should not have died, but he did. He was buried in a tomb, and he shouldn’t have been, but God raised him from the dead, not only showing his approval of the Son’s redemptive work, not only receiving him to himself, but then granting him what his soul longed for: the pleasure of God, the praise of God, the vindication of God, and giving to him this elect people, whom he died for, whom he died to save.
God forgives his people on the basis of Christ’s perfect substitutionary atonement on the cross; and God blesses with perfect righteousness all those whom he has chosen because of Christ’s perfect righteousness. He hides us in his Son, and we are accepted, Ephesians 1:6, on behalf of the Beloved. “Those whom he predestined he also called, those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified,” he speaks of this future event in past-tense language, “those whom he justified, he also glorified.” Done deal.
This is the elect. Foreknown, predestined, called, justified, glorified, all of it done in the Father’s mind from before the foundation of the world, from start to finish. All of this foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, glorification, the Father has exercised his own sovereign will, and he shepherds his elect people by a wise and perfect providence to accomplish everything that he set out to do. He will not fail in his objective to save his people. He ensures that the ones whom he has chosen, he will certainly receive them to himself, and they will receive their full redemption, their full reward of eternal life in Christ Jesus.
Understand, all of this is justifiably freighted in with that one term that Jesus uses there, eklectos, the chosen, the elect ones. He uses that in verse 7, there, of Luke chapter 18. But here in Romans 8, looking at verse 31, here’s the material point for understanding the term. Here’s why we need to understand that background and that theology. Paul says, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
And then this, verse 33, again back to the material point, 8, Romans 8:33: “Who shall bring any charge against,” there’s the term, “God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn?” Rhetorical question. Answer: “No one.” “Christ Jesus is the one who died, more than that, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Again, no one. This is Jesus’ point. This is Jesus’ point.
Go back to Luke 18:7. We see that God has already taken action and in our favor, and I need to draw your attention to this at this point, that if the unjust judge corresponds to God, the righteous judge, to whom does the widow correspond, here? To whom does the widow correspond? Well, in the parable, the widow represents God’s elect, doesn’t she, those who plead for God’s justice against their adversaries.
So as Noah endured the scoffing of the people in his world while he awaited the justice of God, and as Lot endured the wickedness of the sodomites who surrounded his house and threatened his safety, God’s elect are in every age. We know that they are opposed by the world. They’re persecuted by the unbelieving, they’re persecuted and chased by the ungodly of the world. It’s just all part of the testing, comes with the package.
Jesus, says, John 15, “If they hated me, they’re going to hate you, too.” If the world loves you, be warned. If you’re not enduring any scorn, any persecution, any marginalization, any ostracizing, if everything’s easy for you, be warned. That could be a judgment on your life if everything’s easy. Beloved, we need to be clear. We need to lift up the clarity of the gospel so that people know whose side we’re on, and when they know whose side we’re on, believe me, if you’re clear and you’re right about the gospel, you’re going to endure suffering.
Keep in mind, though, God has already acted on your behalf. He’s chosen his own people out of the unbelieving, ungodly world, and he didn’t choose them based on any merit of their own, but solely by his grace, according to his good pleasure, and for the praise of his glorious grace.
The widow in the story, we can see that she merited justice in her favor, as anybody who has, does, who has been unjustly treated. You can be sure that God sees all of that, that the judge of the earth will do what’s right. We’ve been saying his essence, which is immutable, is righteous. And so his justice is certain, and the execution of his justice is sure.
But what about us? Do we merit God’s judgment in our favor? Are we somehow worthy of being named among God’s elect? Not at all. Remember Romans 5:6? “While we were still weak, at the right time, Christ died,” for whom, “for the ungodly,” right? And, verse 8, Romans chapter 5: “God shows his love for us in that while we were,” what, lovable? “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. And therefore,” Romans 5:10, “if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more,” now that we’re reconciled, now that we’re friends, “shall we be saved by his life.”
This brings us to a fourth assurance. Jesus told this parable to illustrate how unlike the unrighteous judge is to our God, so that we can grow strong in assurance, so that we can be encouraged to pray. And so, fourth assurance, here: God’s heart is tender toward his elect. God’s heart is tender toward his elect. He’s not hard like this judge was to the widow. He doesn’t harden his compassion against us. His heart is soft, tender toward us. “Will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night?” Of course, of course, he will. He will vindicate them.
As we’ve seen, God is not like the unjust judge. Unlike the capricious and unrighteous judge, justice is an attribute of his being. He must do justice. Unlike a lazy, self-indulgent judge, God takes action. In fact, unlike the stubborn, immovable judge, God has already taken action in favor of the elect. God isn’t compelled to take action because of any merit in his elect, but because of his own gracious choice. While they were yet sinners, while they were ungodly, while they were enemies of his, Christ died for them.
But this, at this point, this raises a question for us, doesn’t it? If God’s heart is so favorable toward us, if he is so tender toward his elect, then why does it seem to us like his answers to the cry out for justice among his people are so long in coming? I mean, why pray? That’s the basic question. Why pray? Why must they cry out to him day and night?
Notice the last sentence, there, in verse 7. In the ESV and other translations, it’s, tra, translated, there, as a question. It says, “Will he delay long over them?” The verb, there, is makrothymeo, literally, “long wrath” is the verb, but it’s the verb for patience. And so this sentence is best translated not as a question, but as a statement of explanation. And here’s, it’s just simply a statement: “He is patient toward them.” He’s patient toward them. He is forbearing with them. This is intended to give us further assurance, here.
So in other words, this is not a rhe, another rhetorical question as it’s kind of given in our text, in our English Bibles. Jesus is not trying to assure us, here, in the statement that God does not delay or doesn’t seem to delay. The simple fact is that according to our perception, from a limited human perspective, the answers to our prayers truly do seem to be delayed. In fact, it’s because of apparent delays to our prayers that God’s elect cry out to him day and night for a justice that they have yet to receive.
This is why Jesus told the parable. It’s in light of our vulnerability. “Being tempted in this regard, he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” That’s the whole purpose of this. So why would Jesus acknowledge the temptation to stop praying and to potentially lose heart in light of a delay, only to tell us at the end of verse 7 that God really doesn’t delay? Is the delay an indication, simply a matter of our imagination? No, it’s not. We’ve waited 2,000 years for our Lord to come, and we’re waiting right now, this moment. I would love for him to interrupt the sermon, take us all to heaven.
What we fail to notice, though, because we lack the right perspective, what we fail to perceive because we’re not thinking rightly about this, is that the divine, there’s a divine reason behind any apparent delay in the execution of justice. There’s an intentionality behind this. We need to understand that when Jesus says God is makrothymeo over them, he is patient with them. He is forbearing with them. He’s telling us why there seems to be a delay in justice. When it seems that the answer to our prayer is delayed, when it seems like justice is not happening, Jesus assures us here, “Oh, yes it is. It actually is very much.”
If we’ll broaden out our perspective, we’ll realize that along with God’s justice, God’s patience is also at work. Peter echoes this same theme from our Lord, that in spite of apparent delays, in spite of a seeming slowness, we need to understand that that’s, that sense of slowness that we have is actually an indication of God’s patience, and that’s a good thing. Aren’t you thankful that the moment before you became a Christian, God didn’t call “time” on the whole project, say, “Okay, enough, enough. I’ve, I’ve saved enough people.” And you’re like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait, wait a minute. Couldn’t you be patient one more hour?”
God is patient. Peter echoes the same theme. He assures his persecuted readers in the same way, 2 Peter chapter 3:8-9. “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as 1,000 years and 1,000 years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
Some people get tripped up over that last verse, so let me expand Peter’s thought, here, and make it very plain. “The Lord is patient toward you.” “You.” Who’s that? Who’s he talking about? Well, he’s talking about the elect. 2 Peter 1:1: “Those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” So when he says, “The Lord is patient toward you,” he is not wishing that any of you should perish, but that all of you should reach repentance. Who’s the “you”? It’s the elect as a group Peter’s speaking of.
God’s interest is not only for the concern of single individuals among the elect and all of our individual causes, though he is concerned about every single one of them. He’s concerned to bring the elect as a whole, all of them, to come to repentance, as he has chosen.
So in his patience, God forbears. God waits, makrothymeo, for them, for all of them to reach repentance, and they most certainly will, as Jesus said, John 6:39-40: “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. But this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” Done deal. Think nothing more of it except to see how it benefits you. Then think about it a lot.
But while God’s elect wait, at every time, in every place, whether we’re waiting as individuals or as a remnant of persecuted saints, waiting is what gives rise to this cry for justice. Waiting is why we cry out day and night. The waiting, especially in the face of great injustices toward us, it’s what drives us to persistent prayer. Keep in mind, while God exercises patience for his elect as a group, as a whole, not willing that any of that elect people should perish, but all will come to repentance, saving faith, at the very same time, at the very same instance, he’s noticed every single injustice. He’s marked every single sorrow of yours. He’s traced every single tear.
And it’s in knowing that, that all of God’s elect are encouraged to come to him in prayer, to cry out to him in prayer. It’s the same cry, isn’t it, for all the elect throughout all ages, in every age and every time. And that’s why we have the Psalms, isn’t it? It’s why we have the Psalms. It’s, David has given voice to this time and time again, asking the question that we’re all asking, “How long, O Lord, how long?”
In fact, just to illustrate this, turn back in your Bibles to some of David’s psalms, going back to Psalm, starting with Psalm 6. Just a couple of these, and they’re short ones, but Psalm 6. And you hear this coming out of David as David says, “O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath.” You know what David didn’t understand fully that we do fully? You understand how that could be true, that God takes, he has removed his anger and his wrath from us because he’s punished his one and only Son as a covering for us, as an atoning sacrifice.
“Be gracious to me, O Lord,” verse 2, “for I am languishing. Heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled. My soul is greatly troubled. But you, O Lord, how long? Turn, O Lord, deliver my life. Save me for the sake of your steadfast love. For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise? I’m weary with my moaning.
“Every night I flood my bed with tears. I drench my couch with my weeping. My eye wastes away because of grief. It grows weak because of all my foes. Depart from me, all you workers of evil. For the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping. The Lord has heard my plea. The Lord accepts my prayer. All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled.” That’s retributive justice, there. “They shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment.”
I realize that there are some among you who are young. I’ve been young, and now I’m a little bit older, and I remember when I was young, reading through psalms like this and saying, “Man, I don’t have these kind of griefs. I mean, weary with moaning every night, flooding my bed with tears, drenching my couch with weeping? Wow, what a bummer of a guy to be around,” you know, and be like, “What’s, what’s up with that?”
It’s taken some years to understand what David says, and as time goes by, and you see people become faithless, when you see close people that you love dearly depart from the truth, as you see the effect of sin in people’s lives. I mean, in your 20s, I realize sin looks like a lot of fun, but as you get into your 30’s and 40’s and you see the effect on people’s lives, it ain’t so fun anymore. There’s nothing but a whole host of bad consequences, and every choice is a choice between what’s really bad and what’s really, really bad. Sin mangles the soul. It hurts people that we love.
And so I understand that: praying with moaning, weary because of it, weeping, drenching my pillow with tears. And the older you are in the faith, and if you’re mature in the faith, you understand exactly what I’m talking about, what David has prayed here sounds very similar to the widow’s plea, but it comes, comes right out of a heart of faith, doesn’t it? He trusts the Lord’s character. He trusts in his steadfast love.
Turn just a few pages to your right to Psalm 13. Psalm 13. David says, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” “I’ve got the sense that you’re not listening.” “How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider, answer me, O Lord my God. Light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, unless my enemies say ‘I’ve prevailed over him,’ lest my foes rejoice because I’m shaken.
“But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” He steadies himself once again, doesn’t he, in the steadfast love of the Lord: immovable, unshakable, never-changing. Again, similar to the widow’s plea for vindication, the exercise of justice, David once again rests, though, in faith, doesn’t he? He trusts in the Lord’s steadfast love.
Now turn ahead several chapters away to Psalm 63. Psalm 63, and I’m just going to remind you as you turn there of a couple of verses that we read earlier in the service, a few verses from Psalm 35, Psalm 35:17, same thing: “How long, O Lord, will you look on? Rescue me from their destruction, my precious life from the lions,” and then down in verse 23 of that chapter, “Awake, rouse yourself for my vindication, for my cause, my God and my Lord. Vindicate me, O Lord my God, according to your righteousness. Let them not rejoice over me.”
Again, cries out, David cries out for vindication. It’s based on God’s perfect righteousness. He appeals to God’s character and the immutability of his nature on the basis, that is the basis of his claim. We see the same kind of thing in Psalm 63, only we see a maturing David. This is the most resolved, confident of all these psalms. David prays, Psalm 63, “O God, you are my God. Earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you. My flesh faints for you as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
“So I’ve looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you, and so I will bless you as long as I live. In your name, I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips when I remember you upon my bed, meditate upon you in the watches of the night, for you’ve been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I’ll sing for joy.
“My soul clings to you. Your right hand upholds me. But those who seek to destroy my life shall go down into the depths of the earth. They shall be given over to the power of the sword. They shall be apportioned for the jackals. But the king shall rejoice in God. All who swear by him shall exult, for the mouths of liars will be stopped.”
That’s a mature David, there, and that is what God wants to produce in each and every one of us, that confident heart of believing, persistent prayer that says, “I thirst for my God, I faint for my God, I cling to my God, and I call out to him day and night. But I know his steadfast love will hold me up. His character never changes, and that means good for me and also means justice for all my enemies.” Be worth your time to read, study, meditate on these psalms in greater depth, see the progression in David’s thinking, settled confidence from trusting in God’s justice, relying on God’s unchanging nature.
I’m not sure if you noticed it, but David used the term hesed in each of those psalms, to settle his heart in faith, settle his heart in faith. I want to make sure and say that clearly. But the word hesed, often translated “steadfast love,” is for David and for other saints, it’s a summary expression of God’s fixed gracious, faithful character. The term hesed comes from God’s revelation of himself to Moses, and this is what every Old Testament saint banked on. This is what they looked back to.
In Exodus chapter 34:6-7, when Moses, remember, Moses cried out in prayer, “Show me your glory.” He’s about to be assassinated by his own people so they can all go back to Egypt, and God’s about to give up on them and destroy them. And, and Moses in, and, Mo, God’s going send him forward as the mediator of his own people. And Moses says, “No, I’m not going to go unless you’re going to go with me. Show me your glory.”
So next is 34:6-7. “The Lord passed before Moses and said, ‘The Lord, the Lord,’” the term is Yahweh, Yahweh, the divine name, “‘a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping,’” and here’s the term, “‘steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty.’”
That’s a declaration of God’s character. It’s a declaration of his action, which is based on his character. And now David’s greater son, Jesus Christ, you can turn back to Luke chapter 18, verse 7, but David’s greater son, the Lord Jesus Christ, he commends the same confidence to God’s elect. “Will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day or night? He is patient toward them, but I tell you,” verse 8, “he will give justice to them speedily.”
Different ways to take that final word translated here as “speedily,” which I think is a very good translation. It’s a prepositional phrase, entache, the word tachos. It’s where we get the word “tachometer.” Tachometer is an instrument that measures the rotation and speed in an engine. So it’s, it’s measuring speed. Entache is talking about speed here, haste.
Once again, in contrast to the unjust judge, who delayed in making a decision in the interest of justice, he was intentionally slow dragging his feet because he refused justice, even the concept. But that cannot be said about God. No matter what God’s answers to prayer may seem like for us in our limited, time-bound perspective, for any injustice committed against God’s elect, the judgment of God is truly, listen, whether we perceive it or not, the judgment of God, we must realize his judgment for us, is immediate. Immediate.
God speedily makes a decision in the favor of the elect, deciding always for justice. You say, “But I’m not always right in my prayers. I’m not, I’m sometimes sinful in the way I act and speak and, and pray even.” Oh yes, but remember that cross upon which Jesus died to forgive all of your sin, past, present, and future, remember that? God has already taken action and justified you for anything negative.
What about your prayers and the positive, where there really is an injustice done to you? Does he act speedily in that way? God does speedily make a decision in the favor of the elect because his will is always deciding for justice. That decision happens immediately as soon as any injustice is done to you. God has already decided on that.
Now it’s just a matter of when is he going to vindicate that? When is the action going to come, even if it seems like a long time passes while we are waiting on the execution of God’s justice? If we could escape our time-bound, limited perspective, if we could see time from the standpoint of eternity, we would see as God sees, that divine justice is always speedy, indeed. I mean, what are these few thousand years of human history in comparison to all of eternity? It’s like one drop of water in an ocean of time, all of human history in a droplet of water.
That’s why with the Lord, one day is as 1,000 years, 1,000 years is as one day. We just need to trust him in this, don’t we? We need to wait patiently on him, keep on praying so we don’t ever become discouraged, so we don’t ever lose heart, lest sin take root and abound in us.
Well, having delivered this instruction, the Lord leaves his disciples with a question to ponder. We’ve heard the judge’s confession, we’ve listened to the Lord’s instruction, and he explains why it may seem to us like justice is delayed, but it’s not. Justice has already been decided in your favor, and it just remains for the execution of it, which is going to happen. In your hindsight, as you look back in retrospect, you’re going to say, “Man, that happened quickly.” May not feel like it now, but it’s true.
So he’s delivered this instruction. Now he gives us a question to ponder. We need to reflect soberly on this, end of verse 8, and this is #3 in your notes, your outline: the Lord’s question. The Lord’s question, end of verse 8: “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” “Nevertheless.” Why does he say that? He’s saying, “In, in contradiction to all that I’ve just assured you about God’s immutable character, the fact that he does and will do justice, the fact that he’s already done justice, and the fact that any delay that you perceive is because he wants to bring in all the elect of your people, all the brothers and sisters of Christ Jesus himself, he’s doing it for their sake, and there’s a waiting going on, it’s all a part of the divine timetable, it’s all part of the plan; and nevertheless, even though I’ve given you such strong assurance in those verses, nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
What a sad question. He’s pensive here. The Lord Jesus Christ in his humanity is looking ahead to when the Son of Man returns. He himself, doe, knows not the day or the hour. He looks ahead to that time and says, “Will the Son of Man find it?” Literally, it’s “the” faith. The definite article is there in the context. He’s talking about, not faith like it is in all believing. It’s not an objective faith as in the objective faith once for all delivered to the saints, the Bible. He’s not saying the Bible is going to be gone, truth is going to be gone. He’s not saying that. He’s not talking about believing unto salvation at all.
He’s talking about the faith, the kind of faith that’s symbolized by the persistent pleading of the widow, that’s realized in the persistent prayers of the elect. Will that kind of faith be there? And we have to admit, don’t we, we’ve got to ask our question, or that question now, for us, don’t we?
God has chosen to test his people with time. And so far it’s a 2,000-year test and counting. That means it’s been a test of many, many Christian lifetimes. It’s a test of the saints throughout the ages. That’s why there’s such a precious Hall of Faith given in Hebrews chapter 11. See the, the test of time and how these saints overcame.
Now it’s our turn. It’s our turn. Will we pass the test? Will Christ upon his return find his people praying? Will he find you, when the Lord comes to take you to himself, will he finds you prayerful, not losing heart? The English Baptist pastor Charles Spurgeon exhorted his flock, saying, “Brethren, guard well your faith. Guard well your faith.” He goes on to say, “You, you’ve been looking for a great many things in yourself. My brother, let me entreat you to look to your faith. What if love grow cold? Oh, I’m sorry for it. But after all, the frost must have begun in your faith. You are not so active as you used to be. That is to be greatly regretted.
“But the streams run low because the well-head is not so full as it was wont to be. Your faith is failing. Oh, that your soul were fed upon divine realities. Oh, that you had vivid consciousness of the certainty of God’s presence and power. When faith is strong, all the other graces are vigorous. The branches flourish when the root sucks up abundant nutrient, and when faith is in a healthy state, all the rest of the spiritual man will be vigorous also. Brethren, guard well your faith.”
Listen, the telltale quality of God’s elect is perseverance. We say this all the time: Time and truth go hand in hand. You want to see who’s really on your side? See who’s there at the end, not the beginning. The true people of God, they remain. In John 15 terms, they abide in Christ. They walk in the truth. They continue in obedience. They keep on praying. They keep on believing. They keep on loving, hoping, doing good works of faith. They keep on attending to the means of grace in the local church, week after week after week, attending to the ordinances: baptism, the Lord’s Supper. They’re obedient to the Lord, like David of old. We wait by praying, by trusting in God and like Jesus, God’s chosen one. He, too, cried out to the Father day and night, sets the pattern for us as God’s elect.
Again, Mr. Spurgeon says this: “Warm-hearted saints keep each other warm. Cold also is contagious. When sin abounds, saints may be able to stand against it. Yet it has a sad tendency to chill their faith. If the Master comes and finds us lukewarm, it will be a calamity, indeed. The Lord’s question,” he’s talking about the question here in our text, “the Lord’s question stirs a bitter anguish in my soul. I trust it moves you also. It is a question. I cannot answer it, but I open wide the doors of my heart to let it enter and try me. It acts like a fan in the Lord’s hand to purge the floor. It sweeps away my self-confidence and leads me to watch and pray that I enter not into the temptation of giving up my faith. I pray that we may stand fast when others slide, so that when the Lord cometh, we may be found accepted of him.”
So says Mr. Spurgeon to his church in his time. And today, beloved, I make the same appeal to all of you. Brothers and sisters, guard well your faith. Tend to it. Look after it. Want to know the measure of your faith? Examine your prayer life. It’s a good place to start. Beyond that, examine your giving. Because where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Are you living and praying in the light of the Lord’s return, or have you become weary in well-doing? If you’ve become weary, listen, my friends, repentance is always on offer. Our God is gracious. He’s already acted in your favor. He’s justified you by his grace. So run to him. Run now. May we all, individually and collectively, as the elect, return to the Lord in fervent and persistent prayer. Amen?
Our Father, we thank you so much for the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ. You sent him that we might know the truth and that we might be encouraged in the faith that we have received from you as a gift. And we ask, dear Father, that you would be pleased to make us faithful, persistent in prayer, always watching, always waiting, always hoping, always expecting. Let us be found working for your purposes when you come, when you send Jesus Christ to rapture the church, when you send Jesus Christ to rapture all the saints at his second coming. We pray, Father, that you would keep us faithful until that time, for your sake, for your glory. In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.