Sunday, June 4th, 2023
Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible Poole's Annotations
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Matthew 16". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ mpc/ matthew-16.html. 1685.
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Matthew 16". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
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MATTHEW CHAPTER SUMMARY
Matthew 16:1-4 The Pharisees require a sign.
Matthew 16:5-12 Jesus warns his disciples against the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees, and explains his meaning.
Matthew 16:13-20 The people’s opinion, and Peter’s confession, of Christ.
Matthew 16:21-23 Jesus foreshows his own death, and rebuketh Peter for dissuading him from it.
Matthew 16:24-28 He showeth that his followers must deny themselves in prospect of a future reward.
What these Pharisees and Sadducees were we have had an occasion to show before in our annotations on Matthew 3:7, See Poole on "Matthew 3:7". There was a great opposition between them, as we may learn from Acts 23:7,Acts 23:8. The Pharisees and scribes were great zealots for their traditions; the Sadducees valued them not. The Pharisees held the resurrection, angels, and spirits; the Sadducees denied all. But they were both enemies to Christ, and combine in their designs against him. They came to him
tempting, that is, desirous to make a trial of him; they desire
that he would show them a sign from heaven; such a one as Moses showed them, John 6:30,John 6:31 bringing down bread from heaven. They had seen our Saviour showing many signs, but they had taught the people that these things might be done by the power of the devil, or by the art of man; therefore they challenge our Saviour to show them another kind of sign, a sign from heaven, that they might know he was sent of God. See Mark 8:11.
You can, saith our Saviour, make observations upon the works of God in nature and common providence, and from such observations you can make conclusions; if you see the sky red in the evening, you can conclude from thence that the morrow will be fair, because you think that the redness of the sky at night speaks the clouds thin and the air pure; and on the other side, the redness of it in the morning speaks the clouds thick, so as the sun cannot disperse them; or because you observe that generally it so proveth, though nothing be more mutable than the air. But you cannot
discern the signs of the times: you are only dull at making observations upon the Scriptures, and the will of God revealed in them concerning me. You might observe that all the signs of the Messias are fulfilled in me: I was born of a virgin, as was prophesied by Isaiah, Isaiah 7:14; in Bethlehem Judah, as was prophesied by Micah, Micah 5:2; at a time when the sceptre was departed from Judah, and the lawgiver from his feet, as was prophesied by Jacob, Genesis 49:10; that John the Baptist is come in the power and spirit of Elias, to prepare my way before me, as was prophesied by Malachi, Malachi 4:5; that there is one come, who openeth the eyes of the blind, and unstops the ears of the deaf, and maketh the lame to leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb to sing, according to the prophecy, Isaiah 35:5,Isaiah 35:6. All these are the signs of the time when the Messiah was to come; but these things you cannot discern, but, like a company of hypocrites, who pretend one thing and do another, you come and ask a sign, that you might believe in me, when you have so many, and yet will not believe.
We meet with the same answer given to the Pharisees, Matthew 12:39. You pretend yourselves to be the children of Abraham, but you are bastards rather than his children; he saw my day afar off and rejoiced, you will not believe though you see me amongst you, and at your doors; he believed without any sign, you will not believe though I have showed you many signs. You shall have no such sign as you would have; the sign of the prophet Jonah is enough. But in our Lord’s former reference of them to the prophet Jonah, he instanced in one particular, viz. his being three days and three nights in the belly of the whale; here he seemeth more generally to refer to Jonah as a type of him in more respects, which indeed he was. Chemnitius reckons them up thus:
1. Jonah was thrown into the sea by the mariners, to whom he had entrusted himself: Christ was delivered to death by the Jews, to whom he was specially promised.
2. Jonah was willingly thrown into the sea: Christ laid down his life, and man took it not from him.
3. Jonah by being cast into the sea saved those in the ship: Christ by his death saved the children of men.
4. Jonah after he had been in the whale’s belly three days was cast up on dry land: Christ after three days rose again from the dead.
5. The Ninevites, though upon the preaching of Jonah they made a show of repentance, yet returning to their former sins were soon after destroyed; so were the Jews within forty years after Christ’s ascension.
So as Jonah was many ways an eminent sign and type of Christ. Our Lord having referred them to study this sign, would entertain no more discourse with them, but leaves, and departeth from them. Mark saith, Mark 8:13, that he entering into the ship again, departed to the other side, (the ship which brought him to Dalmanutha, or Magdala), and went into the coasts of Galilee again.
Mark saith, Mark 8:14-16, Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, neither had they in the ship with them more than one loaf. And he charged them, saying, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod. And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have no bread. The disciples went into the ship without taking a due care for provision for their bodies, which they were sensible of when they came on shore on the other side. Christ happened in the mean time to give them a caution against the doctrine of the Pharisees, and Sadducees, and Herodians, which he properly expressed (though metaphorically) under the notion of leaven: this they understood not, but fancied that he had spoken this to them with reference to their want of bread, as if he had only given them warning, that for the making of bread to supply their necessity, they should not go to the Pharisees, or Sadducees, or Herodians, for leaven; or that they should not go to buy any bread of the Pharisees or of the Sadducees. So dull are we to understand spiritual things, and so soon had they forgot the doctrine which our Saviour had so lately taught them, Matthew 15:17,Matthew 15:18, that those things which are foreign to a man, and come not out of his heart, do not defile a man, but those things only which proceed out of his heart.
Mark, giving us an account of this passage, Mark 8:17-19, useth some harsher expressions: And when Jesus knew it, he saith unto them, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? Perceive ye not yet, neither understand? Have ye your eyes yet hardened? Having eyes, see ye not? And having ears, hear ye not? And do ye not remember? When I brake the five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? They say unto him, Twelve. And when the seven among four thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? And they said, Seven. And he said unto them, How is it that ye do not understand? Our Saviour here charges them with three things, ignorance, unbelief, forgetfulness.
1. Ignorance, in that they did not understand that his usual way was to discourse spiritual things to them under earthly similitudes, and so by leaven he must understand something else than leaven with which men use to leaven their bread.
2. Unbelief, that they having seen the power and goodness of the Lord and Master, to feed four thousand with seven loaves, and five thousand with five loaves, leaving a great remainder, and that he did this for a mixed multitude, out of a mere compassion to the wants and cravings of human nature, should not judge that he was able to provide for them, although they had brought no bread; or doubt whether he would do it or no for them, who were much dearer to him.
3. Forgetfulness, which is often in Scripture made the mother of unbelief and disobedience. Deuteronomy 4:9,Deuteronomy 4:23; Deuteronomy 25:19; Psalms 78:11.
There is nothing of difficulty in the terms, only from this history we may learn these things:
1. That God expects that we should not only hear and see, but understand.
2. That he looks we should not only hear for the present time, but for the time to come. Christ expected that his disciples should have learned from his doctrine about washing of hands, that he could not mean the leaven of bread, but something else, which might defile them.
3. That he is much displeased with his own people, when he discerns blindness and ignorance in them, after their more than ordinary means of knowledge.
4. That former experiences of God’s power and goodness manifested for us, or to us, ought to strengthen our faith in him when we come under the like circumstances; and a disputing or doubting after such experiences argues but a little and very weak faith, and a hardness of heart, that the mercies of God have not made a just impression on our souls.
Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. Mark, instead of and of the Sadducees, hath, and of the leaven of Herod, which hath made some think that Herod was a Sadducee. The doctrine of the Pharisees is reducible to two heads:
1. Justification by the works of the law, and those works too according to that imperfect sense of the law they gave.
2. The obligation of the tradition of the elders; whose traditions were also (as we have heard) some of them of that nature, that they made the law of God of no effect.
The doctrine of the Sadducees we are in part told, Acts 23:8. They said there was no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit: these were principles excellently suited to men of atheistical hearts and lives, and it is more than probable that Herod and his courtiers, and some of his lords and great captains, had sucked in some of these principles, and these were the Herodians mentioned, Matthew 22:16; Mark 3:6.
These doctrines are by our Saviour compared to leaven, not only because of the sour nature of it, but also because heretics’ words (as the apostle saith) eat as doth a canker, and are of a contagious nature; as leaven doth diffuse its quality into the whole mass of meat. Our Saviour had upon this account compared the gospel to leaven, Matthew 13:33, because by his blessing upon it it should influence the world, as we heard, in Matthew 13:1-58.
This, and the following part of this discourse, is related both by Mark and Luke. Mark hath it, Mark 8:27, And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am? And they answered, John the Baptist: but some say, Elias; and others, One of the prophets. Luke saith, Luke 9:18,Luke 9:19, And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him: and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am? They answering said, John the Baptist; but some say, Elias; and others say, that one of the old prophets is risen again. Matthew and Mark name the place whither our Saviour was going, viz. Caesarea Philippi: it is so called partly to distinguish it from another Caesarea, and partly because it was built to the honour of Tiberius Caesar, by Philip the tetrarch. It was a city at the bottom of Lebanon, and upon the river of Jordan. Mark saith this discourse was in the way. Luke saith, as he was alone praying; but as must there signify after, for we cannot think that our Saviour would interrupt himself in prayer by this discourse, nor could he be alone praying if his disciples were with him, both which Luke saith; so that εν τω ειναι αυταν προσευχομενον καταμονας were certainly translated better, after he had been praying alone, his disciples were with him: so that this discourse might be (as Mark saith) in the way, before they came to Caesarea Philippi, whither he was going.
He asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men (or the people, as Luke hath it)
say that I am? Not that our Saviour, who knew the hearts of all, did not know, but to draw out Peter’s following confession.
And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: we heard before that Herod said so.
Some, Elias: this respected the prophecy, Malachi 4:5. The Jews had a tradition, that before the coming of the Messias Elias should come, John 1:21.
Others, Jeremias, ( this is only in Matthew),
or one of the prophets. The Jews seeing Christ do such wonderful works, could not resolve themselves who he was. Herod and his court party said that he was John the Baptist risen from the dead. They had, it seems, an opinion of some extraordinary virtues, or powers, in such as were risen from the dead. Many interpreters agree that the Jews had an opinion, that good men’s souls, when they died, went into other bodies; this made them guess that our Saviour was one of the old prophets.
Mark saith, Mark 8:29, Thou art the Christ. Luke saith, Luke 9:20, Peter answering said, The Christ of God, that is, the Messiah. You that are my disciples and apostles, what is your opinion of me? Our Lord expects not only faith in our hearts, but the confession of our lips, Romans 10:10.
And Simon Peter answered, not because he had any priority amongst the apostles, but he was of a more quick and fervid temper than the rest, and so speaketh first; they silently agreed to what he said. What he saith is but little, but of that nature that it is the very foundation of the gospel.
Thou art Christ, the Anointed, the person of old promised to the world under the name of the Messiah, Daniel 9:25,Daniel 9:26.
The Son, not by adoption, but by nature for they believed John the Baptist, Elias, and the old prophets the sons of God by grace. It is plain Peter means more than that.
Of the living God. Our Lord had asked, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And in the same sense he speaks to the disciples, Whom do ye say that I the Son of man am? Lord, saith Peter, we believe that thou the Son of man
art the Christ, the Son of the living God. God is often in Scripture called the living God, in opposition to idols, which had eyes and saw not, ears and heard not, nor had any life in them, Genesis 16:13; Hebrews 3:12; Hebrews 9:14 &c. So as here we have a full and plain confession of that doctrine, which is the foundation of the gospel.
Our Lord appeareth here to be mightily pleased with this confession of Peter and the rest of his disciples, (for we shall observe in the Gospel, that Peter was usually the first in speaking, John 6:68), he pronounces him
blessed, and giveth the reason of it afterward.
Simon bar-jona, that is, Simon son of Jona, or, as some would have it, son of John (they think Jona is a contraction of Johanna). Our Lord gives him the same name, John 21:15.
For flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. By flesh and blood our Saviour meaneth man, and the reason and wisdom of man. Thus it is often used in Scripture, Isaiah 40:5; Galatians 1:16; Ephesians 6:12. Some note it always signifieth so when it is in Scripture opposed to God. Thou hast not learned this by tradition, or any dictates from man, nor yet by any human ratiocination, but from my Father which is in heaven. This confirmeth what we have Ephesians 2:8, that faith is the gift of God. No man cometh to the Son, but he whom the Father draweth, John 6:44. Men may assent to things from the reports of men, or from the evidence of reason, but neither of these is faith. Faith must be an assent to a proposition upon the authority of God revealing it. Nor doth any man truly and savingly believe that Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God, and the Saviour of the world, but he in whom God hath wrought such a persuasion; yet is not the ministry of the word needless in the case, because, as the apostle saith, faith comes by hearing, and ministers are God’s instruments by whom men believe. No faith makes a soul blessed but that which is of the operation of God.
And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter: Christ gave him this name, John 1:42, when his brother Andrew first brought him to Christ. I did not give thee the name of Cephas, or Peter, for nothing, (for what Cephas signifieth in the Syriac Peter signifieth in the Greek), I called thee Cephas and thou art Peter, a rock. Thou shalt be a rock. This our Lord made good afterward, when he told him, that Satan had desired to winnow him like wheat, but he had prayed that his faith might not fail, Luke 22:32. Thou hast made a confession of faith which is a rock, even such a rock as was mentioned Matthew 7:25. And thou thyself art a rock, a steady, firm believer.
And upon this rock I will build my church. Here is a question amongst interpreters, what, or whom, our Saviour here meaneth by this rock.
1. Some think that he meaneth himself, as he saith, John 2:19, Destroy this temple (meaning his own body). God is often called a Rock, Deuteronomy 32:18; Psalms 18:2; Psalms 31:3, and it is certain Christ is the foundation of the church, Isaiah 28:16; 1 Corinthians 3:11; 1 Peter 2:6. But this sense seemeth a little hard, that our Saviour, speaking to Peter, and telling him he was a stone, or a rock, should with the same breath pass to himself, and not say, Upon myself, but upon this rock I will build my church.
2. The generality of protestant writers, not without the suffrage of divers of the ancients, say Peter’s confession, which he had made, is the rock here spoken of. And indeed the doctrine contained in his confession is the foundation of the gospel; the whole Christian church is built upon it.
3. Others think, in regard that our Saviour directeth his speech not to all the apostles, but to Peter, and doth not say, Blessed are you, but, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona, that here is something promised to Peter in special; but they do not think this is any priority, much less any jurisdiction, more than the rest had, but that Christ would make a more eminent and special use of him, in the building of his church, than of the rest; and they observe, that God did make a more eminent use of Peter in raising his gospel church, both amongst the Jews, Acts 2:1-47, and the Gentiles, Acts 10:1-48. But yet this soundeth a little harshly, to interpret upon this rock, by this rock. I do therefore rather incline to interpret it in the second sense:
Upon this rock, upon this solid and unmovable foundation of truth, which thou hast publicly made, I will build my church. It is true, Christ is the foundation of the church, and other foundation can no man lay. But though Christ be the foundation in one sense, the apostles are so called in another sense, Ephesians 2:20; Revelation 21:14 not the apostles’ persons, but the doctrine which they preached. They, by their doctrine which they preached, (the sum or great point of which was what Peter here professed), laid the foundation of the Christian church, as they were the first preachers of it to the Gentiles. In which sense soever it be taken, it makes nothing for the papists’ superiority or jurisdiction of St. Peter, or his successors. It follows, I will build my church. By church is here plainly meant the whole body of believers, who all agree in this one faith. It is observable, that Christ calls it his church, not Peter’s, and saith, I will build, not, thou shalt build. The working of faith in souls is God’s work. Men are but ministers, by whom others believe. They have but a ministry towards, not a lordship over the church of God.
And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it; that is, the power of the devil and all his instruments shall never prevail against it utterly to extinguish it, neither to extinguish true faith in the heart of any particular believer, nor to root the gospel out of the world.
The gates is here put for the persons that sit in the gates. It was their custom to have the rulers to sit in the gates, Ruth 4:1,Ruth 4:11; 2 Samuel 19:8. Neither doth hell signify here the place of the damned; αδης no where (except in one place, and as to that it is questionable, Luke 16:23) signifies so, but either death, or the graves, or the state of the dead: yet the devil is also understood here, as he that hath the power of death, Hebrews 2:14. The plain sense is, that our Lord would build the Christian church upon this proposition of truth, that he was the Christ, the Son of God; that Peter should be an eminent instrument in converting men to this faith; and where this faith obtained in the world, he would so far protect it, that though the devil and his instruments should by all means imaginable attempt the extinguishing of it by the total extirpation of it, the professors of it, and might as to particular places prevail; yet they should never so prevail, but to the end of the world he would have a church, a number of people called out by his apostles, and those who should succeed in their ministry, who should uphold this great truth. So as this is a plain promise for the continuance of the gospel church to the end of the world.
And I will give unto thee; not unto thee exclusively, that is, to thee and no others; for as we no where read of any such power used by Peter, so our Saviour’s first question, Whom think you that I am? Letteth us know that his speech, though directed to Peter only, (who in the name of the rest first answered), concerned the rest of the apostles as well as Peter. Besides, as we know that the other apostles had as well as he the key of knowledge and doctrine, and by their preaching opened the kingdom of heaven to men; so the key of discipline also was committed to the rest as well as unto him: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained, John 20:22,John 20:23. The keys of the kingdom of heaven; the whole administration of the gospel, both with reference to the publication of the doctrine of it, and the dispensing out the ordinances of it. We read of the key of knowledge, which the scribes and Pharisees took away, Luke 11:52, and the key of government: The key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder, Isaiah 22:21, I will commit thy government into his hand; which is applied to Christ, Revelation 3:7. The sense is, Peter, I will betrust thee, and the rest of my apostles, with the whole administration of my gospel; you shall lay the foundation of the Christian church, and administer all the affairs of it, opening the truths of my gospel to the world, and governing those who shall receive the faith of the gospel.
And whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Some very learned interpreters think that our Saviour here speaketh according to the language then in use amongst the Jews; who by binding understood the determining and declaring a thing unlawful; and by loosing, declaring by doctrine, or determining by judgment, a thing unlawful, that is, such as no men’s consciences were bound to do or to avoid. So as by this text an authority was given to these first planters of the gospel, to determine (by virtue of their infallible Spirit, breathed upon them, John 20:21) concerning things to be done and to be avoided. Thus Acts 15:28,Acts 15:29, they loosed the Gentiles from the observation of the ceremonial law. Some think that by this phrase our Saviour gave to his apostles, and not to them only, but to the succeeding church, to the end of the world, a power of excommunication and absolution, to admit in and to cast out of the church, and promises to ratify what they do of this nature in heaven; and that this text is expounded by John 20:23, Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained; and that the power of the church, and of ministers in the church, as to this, is more than declarative. That the church hath a power in a due order and for just causes, to cast persons out of its communion, is plain enough from other texts; but that the church hath a power to remit sins committed against God more than declaratively, that is, declaring that upon men’s repentance and faith God hath remitted, I cannot see founded in this text. Certain it is, that Christ doth not here bind himself to confirm the erroneous actions of men, either in excommunications or absolutions; nor to authorize all such actions of this nature that they do. I do therefore rather incline to think that our Saviour by this promise declared his will, that his apostles should settle the affairs of the gospel church, determining what should be lawful and unlawful, and setting rules, according to which all succeeding ministers and officers in his church should act, which our Lord would confirm in heaven. And that the ordinary power of churches in censures is rather to be derived from other texts of Scripture than this, though I will not deny but that in the general it may be here included; but I cannot think that the sense of binding and loosing here is excommunicating and absolving, but a doctrinal or judicial determination of things lawful and unlawful granted to the apostles; the not obeying or living up to whose determinations and decisions may be indeed a just cause of casting persons out of the communion of the church, as the contrary obedience and conformity to them a good ground of receiving them in again. But whether in this text be not granted to the apostles a further power than agrees to any ministers since their age I much doubt, and am very prone to believe that there is.
We met with some charges of this nature before, given to those whom he had miraculously cured, that they should tell no man of it, Matthew 8:4; Matthew 9:30; but this seemeth to differ from them. There he only forbade the publication of his miracles; here he forbids them preaching that Jesus was the Christ, a doctrine necessary to be believed in order to people’s salvation. We are not able to give an account of all our Saviour’s particular actions.
1. We are sure this was a precept but of a temporary force and obligation, for we know that afterward they did sufficiently publish this abroad, only for a time he would not have it published by his disciples. We cannot certainly determine whether he forbade them;
a) Because they were not as yet fit to publish so great a truth. Or;
b) Because the time was not yet come for the publication of it. Or;
c) He would not have it published till he rose again from the dead, having triumphed over death, lest people, hearing of it before, should have had their faith shaken by his death; which seemeth very probable, because in the next words he begins to speak of his death.
d) That he might hereby (as much as might be) avoid the odium and envy of the Pharisees. Or;
e) That himself might publish first this great truth of the gospel, and confirm it by his miracles.
Our Lord taught his hearers by degrees, as they were able to hear and to bear his instruction. He therefore first instructs them in the truth of his Divine nature, and bringeth them to a firm and steady assent to this proposition, That he was the Christ, the Son of God. Lest they should have this faith of theirs shaken by his sufferings and death, he begins to instruct them as to those things, that when they saw it come to pass, they might not be offended, but wait for his resurrection from the dead.
Peter took our Lord aside, as we do our friend to whom we would speak something which we would not have all to hear,
and began to rebuke him; epitiman, to reprove him, as men often do their familiar friends, when they judge they have spoken something beneath them, or that might turn to their prejudice; saying,
Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. The words in the Greek want the verb, so leave us in doubt whether we should translate them, Be merciful to thyself, spare thyself, or, Let God, or God shall, be merciful unto thee. The last words expound them; this shall not be unto thee. God shall be merciful unto thee, and help thee, this shall not betide thee. These words were undoubtedly spoken by Peter out of a good intention, and with a singular affection to his Master; but,
1. They spake him as yet ignorant of the redemption of mankind by the death of Christ, of the doctrine of the cross, and of the will of the Father concerning Christ.
2. They spake great weakness in him, to contradict him whom he had but now acknowledged to be the Christ, the Son of God. Good intentions, and good affections, will not justify evil actions. Christ takes him up smartly.
Peter, thou thinkest that by this discourse thou showest some kindness unto me, like a friend, but thou art in this an adversary to me; for so the word Satan doth signify, and is therefore ordinarily applied to the devil, who is the grand adversary of mankind.
Get thee behind me, I abominate such advice. I told thee I must suffer. It was the determinate counsel of God; it is my Father’s will. He is mine enemy that dissuades me from a free and cheerful obedience to it. I will hear no more such discourse.
For thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. The word is φρονεις, and, it may be, were better translated, Thou thinkest not of, or thou understandest not, the things that be of God, that is, the counsels of God in this matter, as to the redemption of mankind: thou considerest me only as thy Master and thy Friend, and wouldst have no harm come to me; thou dost not mind or think of me as the Saviour of the world, or the Redeemer of mankind, which cannot be redeemed otherwise than by my death. Though by thy intemperate affection to me thou wouldst hinder the redemption of mankind, this is not in this thing to mind, think on, or savour the things of God, but to suffer thyself to be seduced by thy carnal affection. It is a mistaken kindness to our friends, to persuade them, for our personal advantage, to do what they cannot do in consistency with their obedience to the will of God.
Mark hath the same, Mark 8:34, and Luke, Luke 9:23; only Mark saith, when he had called the people unto him with his disciples; Luke saith, he said to them all. He spake it to his disciples, but not privately, but before all the rest of the people, who at that time were present.
If any man will come after me; that is, if any man will be my disciple: so it is expounded by Luke 14:26,Luke 14:27, which is a text much of the same import with this, only what Matthew here calleth a denying of himself, Luke calleth hating. The disciples of others are called the followers of them.
Let him deny himself. To deny ourselves, is to put off our natural affections towards the good things of this life, let them be pleasures, profit, honours, relations, life, or any thing which would keep us from our obedience to the will of God. Thus Christ did: the apostle saith he pleased not himself. I seek not my own will, but the will of the Father which sent me, John 5:30; John 4:34,
and take up his cross; willingly and cheerfully bear those trials and afflictions which the providence of God brings him under for owning and standing to his profession, all which come under the name of the cross, with respect to Christ’s cross, on which he suffered.
And follow me: in his taking up the cross he shall but do as I shall do, following my example. Or else this may be looked upon as a third term of Christ’s discipleship, viz. yielding a universal obedience to the commandments of Christ, or living up as near as we can to the example of Christ, 1 Peter 1:15. This doctrine our Saviour preacheth to them upon occasion of Peter’s moving him to spare himself, by which he did but indulge his own carnal affection, without respect to the will of God as to what Christ was to suffer for the redemption of mankind.
We met with these words in Matthew 10:39. See Poole on "Matthew 10:39".
Our interpreters, by translating the same word soul in this verse which they had translated life Matthew 16:25, let us know that they understood it here of that essential part of man which we call the soul, in which sense it could not be understood in that verse, for it is impossible in that sense to lose our soul for Christ’s sake. Some think that it hath the same sense here as in that verse, and that our Saviour argues here from the less to the greater, thus: Men will lose any thing rather than their lives; skin for skin, and all that a man hath, for his life; and this is but reasonable, for if a man lose his life to get the world, what will the world gotten do him good? What can be a proportionable exchange or compensation to him for that? Now if you value your temporary life at that rate, how much more ought you to value your eternal being and existence! It cometh much to the same, only the sense is plainer if we take it as our translators have taken it, for otherwise part of the argument is not expressed, but left to be understood, or supplied from the next verse. So as the sense is this: Besides bodies which may be killed by persecutors, you carry about with you immortal souls of infinitely more value; and besides a temporal life, of which you are in possession, there is an eternal state, which awaits you. You are creatures ordained to an eternal existence, either in misery or in happiness. Admit you could, by pleasing yourselves, denying me, shifting the cross, declining a life according to my precepts and example, prolong your temporal life, yet what will you get by it, considering that by it you must suffer loss as to your eternal happy existence, for I shall then deny you before my Father and his angels? Can any thing you can get or save in this world be a proportionable exchange for eternal happiness?
This verse makes it plain, that our Saviour by ψυχη in the former verse understood the soul of man, or eternal life, that blessed state which is prepared for the saints of God; for he here minds them that there shall be a last judgment, and gives them a little description of it.
1. As to the Judge, the Son of man, him whom you now see in the shape of a man, and whom men vilify and contemn under that notion. He is to be the Judge of quick and dead, Acts 10:42; 2 Timothy 4:1.
2. As to the splendour of it. He shall come in the glory of his Father. It is also his glory, John 17:5; he calls it the glory of his Father, because by his eternal generation he received it together with the Divine nature from his Father, and it was common to him with his Father; or because his commission for judgment was from his Father:
For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son, John 5:22.
With his angels; his holy angels, 1 Thessalonians 1:7.
And then he shall reward every man according to his works: not for his works. Our Saviour is not here speaking of the cause of the reward, but the rule and measure of it: According to his deeds, Romans 2:6.
According to his labour, 1 Corinthians 3:8. According to that he hath done, 2 Corinthians 5:10. Not according to his faith, but works, for faith without works is dead; but these works must spring out of a root of faith, without which it is impossible to please God. He shall reward him, by a reward of grace, not of debt, Romans 4:4. Works shall be rewarded, but not as with a penny for a pennyworth, but of grace.
Mark saith, Mark 9:1, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power; Luke 9:27, saith no more than till they see the kingdom of God. There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, that is, that shall not die. Hebrews 2:9. It is the same with not seeing death, John 8:51,John 8:52; Hebrews 11:5. The great question is, what is here meant by the
Son of man coming in his kingdom. It cannot be meant of his second coming to judgment, spoken of immediately before, for all who stood there have long since tasted of death, yet is not that day come. Some understand it of that sight of Christ’s glory which Peter, and James, and John had at Christ’s transfiguration, of which we shall read in the next chapter; and I should be very inclinable to this sense, (for there was a glimpse of the glory of the Father mentioned Matthew 16:27) were it not for those words added by Mark,
till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power. This inclineth others to think, that it is to be understood of Christ’s showing forth his power in the destruction of Jerusalem. But the most generally received opinion, and which seemeth to be best, is, that the coming of the Son of man here meant is, his resurrection from the dead. His ascension into heaven, and sending the Holy Spirit, after which the kingdom of grace came with a mighty power, subduing all nations to the Lord Jesus Christ. He was declared, (or determined), to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead, Romans 1:4. And when, after his resurrection from the dead, they asked him, Acts 1:6, whether he would at that time restore the kingdom to Israel, he puts them off, and tells them for an answer, Acts 1:8, But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth. And then, Acts 1:9, he in their sight ascended up into heaven. Then did the kingdom of the Son of man come with power, Acts 2:33-36, they knowing assuredly that the Son of man, whom the Jews had crucified, was made both Lord and Christ, as Acts 2:36, and, as Acts 2:34,Acts 2:35, set at God’s right hand, (according to the prophecy of David, Psalms 90:1), until his enemies should be made his footstool.