By Ron Halbrook
During his personal ministry, Jesus had many debates in an ongoing battle between truth and error. A religious lawyer once tried to trap him by asking, “Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25-37). Jesus answered the question by asking, “What is written in the law? How readest thou?” The lawyer correctly cited two pillars of the law requiring love of God first and then love of neighbor (Deut. 6:5; Lev. 19:18). Jesus said, “Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.”
This answer exposed the lawyer’s lack of love for his neighbor, so he asked a question designed to justify and excuse himself: “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus told the story of a man who was robbed, beaten, and left for dead on the Jerusalem-Jericho road, a route known for its bandits. A priest hurried by without stopping, as did a Levite. These religious leaders thought of themselves and perhaps their duties at the temple. They saw no reason to put themselves in harm’s way.
“But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him.” The Samaritan bound up the man’s wounds and paid the costs for his recovery. Jesus asked, “Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that fell among thieves?” The lawyer avoided saying the word “Samaritan” but simply said, “He that showed mercy on him.” Jesus answered, “Go, and do thou likewise.” To be a neighbor is to show love, mercy, and compassion wherever it is needed to recognize our neighbor’s need and do what we can to help. That is how we fulfill the command to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Good lessons are found in this account. 1. Jesus is the Master Teacher. He taught we will know who our neighbor is if we resolve to be a neighbor, a person of love and mercy (Gal. 6:10; Rom. 13:8-10). Using a man of the despised race of Samaria to teach the lesson was a master stroke. “Never man spake like this man” (John 7:46).
2. Jesus appealed to the Bible as God’s Word. “What is written in the law? How readest thou?” “Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.” The Bible can be understood and has the right answer to every question (Matt. 4:1-11; 19:4; 22:29-31).
3. Religious debates are effective. This account teaches us to answer a question with a question at times. Jesus did not subscribe to Satan’s proverb, “I never discuss religion; I do not believe in debates.” We are not to engage in malicious quarrels, or to endlessly rehash the truth with people whose hearts are hardened (Rom. 1:29; Matt. 7:6; 10:14). Good de-bates can be traced from Elijah to Jesus to Paul to our time.
4. People who do not know the truth may do better at times on a given point than some who know the truth. Jeroboam led ten tribes of Israel to separate from Judah and to worship golden calves. When Israel went into Assyrian captivity, Assyria moved Gentiles into the land of Israel. The few Israelites left intermarried with Gentiles and their religions intermingled (2 Kings 17). Thus, the Samaritans arose with their false religion. Yet, in the story Jesus told, the Samaritan outshone two of God’s people. When the church at Corinth tolerated extreme immorality, God said the Gentiles do better than that (1 Cor. 5). Our proverb, “There is honor among thieves,” makes a similar point today.
5. Human sophistry cannot excuse sin. We cannot fool God by asking one question after another designed to get around his law and to justify ourselves. The lawyer knew the truth but his heart was not in it, just like the priest and the Levite.
The Good Samaritan Misused
Every gift and revelation from God has been twisted, perverted, and misused by Satan (2 Cor. 2:11; 2 Pet. 3:16). He twisted and tortured God’s law in the Garden of Eden to make evil appear harmless and good evil (Gen. 3:4-6). In tempting Christ, Satan perverted Psalm 91:11-12 to say God promises security to his children even when they disobey him; the passage promises God’s care when his children trust in him (Matt. 4:5-7). Jesus said men would destroy the temple of his body and, “In three days I will raise it up,” but at his trial false witnesses said he proposed to destroy the literal temple and rebuild it in three days (John 2:18-22; Matt. 26:59-61).
Satan’s ministers have perverted and misused the story of the good Samaritan to teach the following errors. 1. God does not care what our religion is, just so we are good neighbors and help people. This misses the lesson. Jesus shows that people who do not know the truth may do better on a given point at times than those who know the truth. He rebuked the spirit of the priest and the Levite another time, asking, “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). The Bible speaks of some “having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof’ (2 Tim. 3:5).
This is far different from teaching that people can be saved in ignorance and false religion. The Samaritan religion was a mixture of truth and error, an attempt to mix the worship of God with false gods. “They feared the Lord, and served their graven images, both their children, and their children’s children” (2 Kings 17:24-41). Jesus told the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well that her religion was false and devoid of salvation (John 4:22). She had to give up that religion to follow Christ.
Christ’s use of the good Samaritan to rebuke the Jews did not mean we can be saved by philanthropy without the gospel. Christ died on the cross because we cannot save ourselves by such deeds (Eph. 2:8-9). Salvation is only in Christ and is received by faith, repentance, confessing him, and immersion in water (Acts 2:36-38; 8:37).agencies, colleges, vocational training, entertainment activities, and legal and financial services.
2. The church is to be a good Samaritan by functioning as a social welfare institution. This very popular and widespread idea is utterly false. Jesus used the good Samaritan to teach that it is not enough to profess the truth we must put it into practice in daily life. Each of us is personally responsible to help others as we have the ability and opportunity (Gal. 6:10; James 1:27). The church is a soul-saving institution, not a social welfare institution designed to provide hospitals, retirement centers, child care.
3. The church is to provide financial aid to anyone and everyone who asks without exception. No, the story of the good Samaritan is not discussing the use of a local church’s treasury, but emphasizes our personal, individual duty to our fellowman. The benevolent responsibility of a local church is limited to meeting the needs of faithful Christians on an emergency basis, except that qualified widows may be enrolled for constant care (Acts 6:1; 2 Cor. 9:1; 1 Tim. 5:4-16). A man who will not work should not be given aid at all (2 Thess. 3:10).
Guardian of Truth XL: No. 21, p. 8-9
November 7, 1996