Matthew 11:12


The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. It is difficult to accept restfully any of the explanations offered of this very bold figure. We cannot think who had been showing such "violence" in pushing into Christ's new kingdom. Evidently our Lord is dealing with John's mistake. He was filled with doubts because Christ's ways were so gentle. If Jesus meant to establish the Messianic kingdom, John felt that he would have to put more force into it. So Jesus, thinking of this idea of John's, says, "It is the common mistake men have made ever since that vigorous ministry of John's. Everybody seems to think the Messianic kingdom is to be established by violence. They are all tempting me to use force." Men were disposed violently to hurry the kingdom into premature existence. They will have it now. They will take it by storm. ]PGBR>

I. MEN'S WAY OF GETTING THE KINGDOM. Because the only kingdom they could realize was an outward one, some good they could possess, some liberty, some position, some rights and privileges, some wealth which they could gain and hold, therefore they thought they must grasp, and push, and strive, and fight. These are men's ways of getting all kinds of outside good. Illustrate by the crowding and pushing to get the benefits of our Lord's healings. To get something men can be violent; each striving to be first, and the "violent taking by force."

II. CHRIST'S WAY OF GETTING MEN INTO THE KINGDOM. He evidently trusted to first getting the kingdom into them; for to him the kingdom was inward, a state of mind and heart, a gracious relation with God, character moulded to the Divine image, and then conduct ruled by the Divine will. From our Lord's point of view there was no room for physical force, though plenty of room for moral energy. Violence was altogether unsuitable; indeed, as he taught in the sermon on the mount, the gentle and submissive elements of character, rather than the strong and forceful, made ways into his kingdom. The best comment on our Lord's words here - a comment which brings out clearly enough that he is rebuking the violence of those who use force, and in no way praising it - is found in the familiar but most gentle and gracious words of vers. 28-30. - R.T.







The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence.
1. Earnestness is a distinguishing mark of race-elevation.

2. Earnestness is characteristic of great epochs.

3. Earnestness is a criterion of individual character, men weight according to earnestness; it is more than ability.

4. Of all places for earnestness, religion is the most important and natural. Reasons for earnestness in religion: —

I. IT IS DEMANDED BY THE NATURE OF RELIGION ITSELF. It is an earnest thing, demands our best power

(1)as a scheme of worship;

(2)as a series of works;

(3)as a system of duty;

(4)as a revelation of future rewards and punishments.

II. EARNESTNESS IN RELIGION IS DEMANDED BY EARNESTNESS IN THE GOD WHOM RELIGION REVEALS. NO epicurean deity, careless of men.

1. God's earnestness visible in nature. It is a whirl of terrible forces.

2. It is visible in things permitted and accomplished in Providence.

3. Earnestness visible in God's self-revelation. God comes nearer to man at every step up to incarnation.

4. The language of scripture as revealing earnestness in God. It contains tender pleading, strong remonstrance. The only thing that can answer God is earnestness in us.

III. EARNESTNESS IS DEMANDED BY THE DIFFICULTIES IN BEING RELIGIOUS,

1. These are real — "Many are called; few chosen." The promises are " to him that over-cometh."

2. They are not difficulties in religion itself. Abundant grace is supplied.

3. They are in us.

(1)Our unbelief.

(2)Love of the world.

(3)Spiritual indolence.

4. These are complicated by our surroundings.

5. And there is no accommodation of conditions. Religion no respecter of persons.

IV. EARNESTNESS IN RELIGION IS DEMANDED BY OUR ACTUAL DANGERS AND NEEDS.

1. Religion is a scheme of pardon as well as a system of truth. Our exposure is imminent.

2. Here is the supreme reason for earnestness in seeking the kingdom of heaven. It is your life.

V. NOW CONTRAST THE EARNESTNESS SO EVIDENTLY DEMANDED BY OUR SITUATION AND THE LIGHTNESS WITS WHICH SOME THREAT THE WHOLE MATTER.

1. Contentment with slight grounds for unbelief.

2. Then see the lightness with which some turn away to business.

3. Lack of earnestness shown in deferred prayers and broken promises.

4. The feeble beginnings speedily abandoned.Application: —

1. Remember the religious earnestness to which Christ exhorts is no fanatical excitement.

2. Remember how soon difficulties melt away before earnestness.

3. Examine the reasons why indifference replaces earnestess.

4. Earnestness is demanded by sour conduct in anything else which you believe will be to your advantage.

5. Appeal for immediate decision. These, the best things for earnestness; will please God; come to them as they come to you.

(S. F. Scovel.)

I. FROM THE FACT THAT THE SCRIBES AND PHARISEES LOST THE KINGDOM WITH EVERYTHING IN THEIR FAVOUR, whilst the "violent " won it with everything against them, we gather that every natural advantage may be forfeited a non-improvement, and that its want may be compensated by strenuousness of exertion.

II. HE WHO WOULD BE SAVED MUST DE SAVED BY VIOLENCE, and, nevertheless, he can be saved only by grace. Many charge the doctrine of justification by faith with a tendency to undermine exertion. But there is more effort necessary to be saved by grace than by works. Man's strongest inclinations are on the side of meriting heaven by works; hence the need of violence to resist this. And the violence done to nature by the act of believing, faith, as working by love, will keep men in perpetual activity. A life of faith is a life of self-denial. It is not easy, though God's grace will prevent it being too difficult.

III. With this proof that they who would be saved must use violence there is given A DEMONSTRATION THAT, NEVERTHELESS, THEY CAN BE SAVED ONLY BY GRACE. The faith which prompts and enables the violence is no human principle, but is of celestial gift. Faith, and all its results, must be attributed to grace.

(H. Melvill, B. D.)

If the wrestler must use force when the athletic arm is raised against him, then must we. for we wrestle with principalities and powers. If the warrior must use force when the army cometh against him, then must we use force, for there are squadrons between us and everlasting rest. If the captive must use force when he would wrench off his chains, then must we use force, for the fetters of an evil nature bind us to the earth. If the traveller must use force when there are mountains to be scaled, then must we use force, for a rugged land is before us, and the rocks and the torrents block up our path. Or if the suppliant use force — the force of earnest entreaty, unwearied solicitation, burning tears, and passionate cries, when he would gain a favour from a great one of the earth; then must we use force; we must "pray always and not faint;" we must besiege the mercy-seat, seeing that all we need must come from God; and earnest supplication is the condition on which God bestows.

(H. Melvill, B. D.)

I. THE NATURE OF THE FORCE HERE SPOKEN OF.

1. A resolution of mind to receive the doctrine and precepts of strict holiness and virtue, though contrary to the ordinary bias of men's appetites and inclinations.

2. The quitting favourite notions and prejudices, upon sufficient evidence, and with mature, serious, and diligent consideration.

3. Quitting some present worldly advantages for the sake of the gospel, and making a profession of the truths of religion, against much opposition, and notwithstanding difficulties and discouragements.

II. There is also intended A REFERENCE TO THE WILLING FORWARDNESS and resolute zeal of many in embracing the principles of true religion, who, to outward appearance, were the most unlikely of any to have a share in the blessings and privileges of the gospel: such as men of mean rank and low education, men of unreputable character, and Gentiles.

(Nathanael Lardner.)

I. THE NECESSITY FOR THESE STRONG EXERTIONS arises from the immense difficulties in the way: —

1. The world, as comprehending both objects of attention and objects of attachment.

2. The devil and his angels.

3. The flesh with all its passions and lusts.

4. The difficulty of dissolving long-connected associations, of breaking up long-established habits, and of issuing forth into new courses of action.

II. THE NATURE OF THE VIOLENCE INTENDED.

1. It must be accompanied with supreme desire, and with corresponding earnestness and diligence.

2. It must be accompanied with true repentance.

3. It must be marked with submission.

4. You must offer the prayer of the destitute.Apply:

1. To those who are opposed to any great earnestness or any uncommon movement in religion.

2. To awakened sinners.

3. Where will the prayerless sinner appear?

(E. Griffin, D. D.)

I. THE CHARACTERISTIC EARNESTNESS OF THE GOSPEL DISPENSATION.

1. These are the provisions of the gospel, complete and full.

2. Its early history.

3. Its work and mission.

4. Its finality.

II. ITS EFFECTS AMONG MEN; THEIR TREATMENT OF IT.

1. Many enter the kingdom violently.

(1)Violence exhibited in their repentance.

(2)In their efforts to believe and acquire holiness.

(3)In the difficulties they are called to overcome.

2. Enemies.

(Anon.)

Not one or other among us, but probably every man who hears me, either has already had, or will have, at some time of his life, a strong desire to obey God. One man is checked or is favoured in this respect in one way, another in another. We cannot avoid seeing that some men have, almost by nature, religious feelings which are not given in equal measure to others. But still it is with respect to religion as it is with regard to our own prosperity in life. It is said there is no man who has not once or twice in life a lucky chance, and it depends on the skill with which he uses it whether he turns out a prosperous man or not. So it is with our religious character. However unfavourable his position, however strongly a character may have taken a cold or irreligious tone, still there is scarcely a man who is not now and then awakened by some of what we call the accidents of life, but which are in reality calls from God, and who does not often see Him and His will distinctly — as it was said of Balaam, "having his eyes open." But did Balaam, when his eyes were open, obey? Did he to whom, more than to God's own servants, it was given to know God's will, follow it? No! He was contented to know about God, and made his knowledge of Him a substitute for the obedience he ought to have rendered. So it is with us all, if we forget that the wish to press — nay, the very pressing itself into God's kingdom, is but the first step towards winning it. It may be a great step; it may change the direction of a man's whole life; it may realize the proverb, that " well begun is half done; " while it may also be the mere turning away for a few weeks, or even days, from vice. God's kingdom can be really won by nothing but steady, manly perseverance; it is a matter which demands a lifelong energy of prayer and watching, lest at any time we let it slip.

(Dean Lake.)

Whosoever shall do most violence to Christ shall be accounted most religious by Him. We desire to take His kingdom, His riches, and His life. And He is so rich and so liberal that He does not resist. He does not deny, and after He has given all, He still possesses all. We attack Him, not with swords, nor staves, nor stones; but with meekness, good works, chastity. These are the weapons of our faith, by which we strive in the contest. But, in order that we may be able to make use of these arms in doing violence, let us first use a certain violence to our own bodies, let us carry by storm the vices of our members, that we may obtain the rewards of valour. For, to seize the Saviour's kingdom, we must first reign in ourselves.

( St. Ambrose.)

In the life of and her fellow-martyrs, we read that in a dream she beheld a golden ladder reaching from earth to heaven, which was hedged in and surrounded on all sides by knives and sharp swords. By this ladder they had to climb up to heaven. At its foot lay a horrible dragon, who sought to hinder the climbers. She saw, moreover, one of her companions, Satyrus by name, bravely mounting the ladder, and inviting his companions to follow him. When she had related her vision, they all understood that they were to suffer martyrdom. And so it happened. Thus let each believer consider that with his utmost energy he must struggle up to heaven, by means of a ladder hedged about with knives.

The claim for admission into the covenant had hitherto, from Abraham to John the Baptist, been a national one; it now became a solely moral one.

1. We lay down as our first principle that indomitable earnestness is the soul of our religion and the key to all progress.

2. Let no man suppose that this will clash with the doctrines of Divine grace.

3. It is easy to see that there are two ways of taking the kingdom, a weak way and a violent way. Faith may be merely of an educational kind, or strong and personal; the inner life of man may go on easily from (lay to day, or it may contend with evil influences; prayer may consist in empty cries.

4. The promise of success is to the violent.(1) Not because God is unwilling, but because it is His way to exercise grace that He may increase it.

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)

The Interpreter took the pilgrim again by the hand, and led him into a pleasant place, where was built a stately palace, beautiful to behold; at the sight of which Christian was greatly delighted. He saw also upon the top thereof certain persons walking, who were clothed all in gold. Then said Christian, "May we go in thither?" Then the Interpreter took him, and led him up toward the door of the palace; and behold, at the door stood a great company of men, as desirous to go in, but durst not. There also sat a man at a little distance from the door, at a table-side, with a book and his ink-horn before him, to take the name of him that should enter therein; he saw also that in the doorway stood many men in armour to keep it, being resolved to do to the men that would enter what hurt and mischief they could. Now was Christian somewhat in amaze. At last, when every man started back for fear of the armed men, Christian saw a man of a very stout countenance, come up to the man that sat there to write, saying, "Set down my name, sir; " the which when he had done, he saw the man draw his sword, and put a helmet upon his head, and rush toward the door upon the armed men, who laid upon him with deadly force; but the man, not at all discouraged, fell to cutting and hacking most fiercely. So that, after he had received and given many wounds to those that attempted to keep him out, he cut his way through them all, and pressed forward into the palace; at which there was a pleasant voice heard from those that were within, even of those that walked upon the top of the palace, saying,

"Come in, Come in,

Eternal glory thou shalt win."So he went in, and was clothed with such garments as they.

(John Bunyan.)

When we look at towns on a map we think the way to them easy, as if our foot were as nimble as our thoughts; but we are soon discouraged and tired, when we meet with dangerous and craggy passages, and come to learn the difference between glancing at the way and serious endea-yours to traverse it. So in matters of religion, he that endeavours to bring Christ and his soul together, before he hath done, will be forced to sit down and cry, Lord, help me!

(T. Manton.)

Prayer pulls the rope below and the great bell rings above in the ears of God. Some scarcely stir the bell, for they pray so languidly; others give but an occasional pluck at the rope; but he who wins with heaven is the man who grasps the rope boldly and pulls continuously, with all his might.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

After Sir Colin Campbell's silent retreat from Lucknow in the last Indian war, Captain Waterman was left behind. He had gone to his bed in a retired corner of the brigade mess-house, and having overslept himself was forgotten. At two o'clock in the morning, to his great horror, he found all was deserted and silent, and that he was alone in an open entrenchment with 15,000 furious barbarians just outside. Frightened, he took to his heels and ran himself nearly out of breath, till he overtook the retiring rear-guard, mad with excitement, and breathless with fatigue. But was not his earnestness reasonable, seeing that he realized his danger? And if unconverted sinners realized their danger, would they not be desperately in earnest?

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