This article was first published in the September 2014 issue of the "Covenant Reformed News", published by the Covenant PRC of Ballymena, N.Ireland.
Let me give you three biblical examples of men who hated their own lives (Luke 14:26). First, there is Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10). He gave half his goods to the poor and promised restitution to anyone whom he had defrauded as a tax collector, even saying, “I restore him fourfold” (8). Zacchaeus is a fine example of one who hated his own life with regard to his money, for, as Christ taught, “Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:24).
Second, consider the man blind from birth in John 9. Jesus healed and saved him. On his refusal to deny Christ, he was excommunicated from the synagogue (34, 35). He also was a man who hated his own life in the biblical sense.
A third example is Jason of Thessalonica in Acts 17. He gave hospitality to Paul and Silas in his home (7), for which he was seized and arraigned before the city rulers (6-8), and forced to pay bail and keep the peace (9).
What would people think, if you followed Christ and His Word in your life? In your family? In your church? How would they react if you obeyed the Saviour more faithfully? Many would not like it. They would swear at you as an extremist and a bigot. The fear of man, including being scared of losing popularity, brings a snare (Prov. 29:25).
What will happen as the end draws near, when, Jesus says, “ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake” (Matt. 24:9)? How would you or I cope if we were imprisoned for Christ’s sake? The apostle John writes, “And they overcame him [i.e., the devil] by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death” (Rev. 12:11). Some of God’s people are physically martyred; principally, martyrdom is for all Christians.
We know something of this, for example, in the fields of education and work. We may get marked down for our biblical views at school or university. We are excluded from various jobs because our society and employers trample underfoot the fourth commandment. Our Christian stance may result in our not getting promotion.
Hating one’s own life is not merely a suggestion or a recommendation, but a necessity. “If any man come to me, and hate not ... his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). Such a one can be a disciple of some man or a false Christ or a departing church, but Christ says he cannot be His disciple.
Hating one’s own life is necessary not merely for office-bearers or older Christians or more diligent church members. It is a necessity for all believers. It is also important that those who are not converted also understand this, for they must count the cost (28).
Christ’s instruction on the necessity of hating one’s own life must be honoured not just in one’s own church, but in all churches. Any church which does not teach and maintain the truth that its members must hate their own lives, is on its way to being a false church, nay, it is becoming a false church already.
After all, this is not merely the word of a minister. It is the Word of Jesus Christ Himself: “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). Moreover, He did not whisper this saying to a few, select believers; He proclaimed it to the “great multitudes,” to whom He “turned” and spoke these words, eye-to-eye, so to speak (25).
This requirement for discipleship is not arbitrary. There is a compelling rationale why a person must hate his own life to be Christ’s disciple. Here are three simple arguments. First, our salvation is salvation from sin: original sin and actual sins. Hating one’s sin is surely part of hating one’s life. Second, salvation is being under the lordship of Christ, the One who said that He has no disciples except those who hate their own lives. Third, citizenship in the kingdom of God involves radical self-denial, for Jesus commanded, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God” (Matt. 6:33).
We must also remember that Christ hated His own life in that His was a lowly birth and He submitted to being despised and rejected, spat upon and scourged, and condemned and crucified, both by His own people, the Jews, and by the world, the Romans representing the Gentiles. The Lord did it because He loved us, even “unto the end” (John 13:1). He died in our place, bearing the punishment due to us for our sins, “the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God” (I Pet. 3:18). And what is a “disciple” (Luke 14:26)? A learner. Here, a learner of Christ, one who follows and imitates Him, the “man of sorrows” (Isa. 53:3)!
You can understand this, beloved, from your own practical experiences, both in becoming a Christian and in remaining a Christian. How many opportunities have you not had to go back to the world or pagan religions or apostatizing churches (which would have made life so much easier for you)? But by God’s grace you said, “No”—no to family and friends and enemies, no to yourself and your own life.
Luke 14:26 provides a defining characteristic of a true Christian: someone who hates his own life. A believer is someone who hates his own life because he loves Jesus Christ, who has saved him from destruction and given him the knowledge of God.
This is good news for you, O troubled saint! Despite your sins and weaknesses, and the difficulties of the way, you are Christ’s disciple. Jesus Christ Himself says so in Luke 14:26; be encouraged and press on! Rev. A.Stewart
- Volume: 15
- Issue: 5
Rev. Angust Stewart (Wife: Mary)
Ordained - 2001
Pastorates: Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Ballymena, Northern Ireland - 2001Website: www.cprf.co.uk/
Address7 Lislunnan Road
State or ProvinceCo.Antrim
Zip CodeBT42 3NR
Telephone(01144) 28 25 891851