The Responsibility of Privilege

Bible Book: Selected Passages 
Subject: Responsibility; Jesus, Ministry of; Christian Living; Judgment

The responsibility of privilege is a principle taught throughout Scripture. For example, we find it in Luke 11:29-32 and Romans 2:1-16. Although they did not feel it then, there is coming a day when the people of Capernaum will feel the weight of the responsibility of privilege.

Dr. John Phillips (1927-2010) writes, “Capernaum, where Jesus made His home, was only ten miles from Roman Tiberius with its baths and famous spa. Across the lake the wild Gergesene hills crowded down to the shore.

This was where Jesus lived, where Roman soldiers marched, where Greek merchants flourished, where Phoenicians spread their exotic wares from distant lands across the sea, where caravans halted from the east, where soldiers and camp followers rubbed shoulders with gladiators and entertainers, where Jew and Gentile met in uneasy contact. Jesus chose to live not in the theological center of Jerusalem, not among the ascetic Essenes in the wilderness, not even in prim but dubious Nazareth, but in bustling Capernaum where people from many lands crossed and recrossed in their journeyings.”[1] Dr. Albert Barnes (1798-1870) writes, “In this place, and its neighbourhood, Jesus spent no small part of the three years of his public ministry. It is hence called his own city, Matthew 9:1. Here he healed the nobleman's son, (John 4:47) Peter's wife's mother, (Matthew 8:14) the centurion's servant, (Matthew 8:5) and the ruler's daughter, (Matthew 9:23-25.)”[2]
Dr. T. De Witt Talmage (1832-1902) writes of Jesus, “Our Leader, like most great leaders, was born in an obscure place, and it was a humble home, about five miles from Jerusalem. Those who were out of doors that night said that there was stellar commotion, and music that came out of the clouds, as though the front door of heaven had been set open, and that the camels heard his first infantile cry. Then he came to the fairest boyhood that mother was ever proud of, and from twelve to thirty years of age was off in India (if traditions there are accurate) and then returned to his native land, and for three years had his pathway surrounded by blind eyes that he illumined, and epileptic patients to whom he gave rubicund health, and tongues that he loosed from silence into song, and those whose funerals he stopped that he might give back to bereaved mothers their only boys, and those whose fevered pulses he had restored into rhythmic throb, and whose paralytic limbs he had warmed into healthful circulation—pastor at Capernaum, but flaming evangelist everywhere, hushing crying tempests and turning rolling seas into solid sapphire, and, for the rescue of a race, submitted to court-room filled with howling miscreants, and to a martydom at the sight of which the sun fainted and fell back in the heavens, and then treading the clouds homeward, like snowy mountain-peaks, till heaven took him back again, more a favorite than he had ever been. But, coming again, he is on earth now, and the nations are gathering to his standard.”[3] (Emphasis mine)

Someone said, “God had only one Son, and He made Him a preacher.” Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) called preaching, “the highest, the greatest, and the most glorious calling to which anyone can ever be called.” [4]
Notice three elements of Jesus’ interaction with the people of Capernaum.

I. First note, the Messages of Jesus to Capernaum.

Luke 4:31-32 reads, “Then He went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and was teaching them on the Sabbaths. And they were astonished at His teaching, for His word was with authority.” Mark 1:22b adds, “. . . He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” They were admonished by His preaching and they were astonished at His teaching.

Matthew 4:12-16 reads, “Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee. And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: ‘The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned.’”

Dr. Vance Havner (1901-1986) writes, “Christians are also getting used to the light. Jesus said that His home town, Capernaum, would fare worse at the judgment than Sodom and Gomorrah. He had moved to Capernaum to fulfill the Scripture, ‘The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined’ (Isa. 9:2). That light did not come to Sodom and Gomorrah. Capernaum took that light for granted. There is a comfortable attitude about Jesus Christ in our churches today, and it is our greatest peril. After all, we are not judged so much by how many sins we have committed but by how much light we have rejected. We bemoan the Sodomites today and well we may, but we had better be more concerned for Capernaumites in our churches who would never harm Jesus but are so used to Him that they ignore Him.”[5]

Matthew 4:17 reads, “From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Dr. Lawrence O. Richards comments, “With His victory won and His authority over inner, human frailties demonstrated, Jesus began His public ministry. He returned to Galilee, and made Capernaum the headquarters of His mission.

It’s significant that the personal, inner issues were settled before public ministry began. God wants to do an inner work in our lives too, to qualify us for ministry with others.”[6]

John 6:41-59 reads, “The Jews then complained about Him, because He said, ‘I am the bread which came down from heaven.’ And they said, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He says, 'I have come down from heaven'?’ Jesus therefore answered and said to them, ‘Do not murmur among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.' Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me. Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father. Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.’ The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, ‘How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven--not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.’ These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.”

II. Second, note the Miracles of Jesus in Capernaum.

Dr. T. De Witt Talmage writes, “Wonderful Capernaum. Scene of more miracles than any place in all the earth!”[7]

Matthew 8:5-13 reads, “Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, saying, ‘Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘I will come and heal him.’ The centurion answered and said, ‘Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, 'Go,' and he goes; and to another, 'Come,' and he comes; and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it.’ When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Then Jesus said to the centurion, ‘Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.’ And his servant was healed that same hour.”

Mark 1:23-28 reads, “Now there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, saying, ‘Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are--the Holy One of God!’ But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be quiet, and come out of him!’ And when the unclean spirit had convulsed him and cried out with a loud voice, he came out of him. Then they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, ‘What is this? What new doctrine is this? For with authority He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.’ And immediately His fame spread throughout all the region around Galilee.”

Mark 2:1-17 reads, “And again He entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that He was in the house. Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And He preached the word to them. Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven you.’ And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, ‘Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, ‘Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say, 'Arise, take up your bed and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins’—He said to the paralytic, I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.’ Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, ‘We never saw anything like this!’ Then He went out again by the sea; and all the multitude came to Him, and He taught them. As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, ‘Follow Me.’ So he arose and followed Him. Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi's house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him. And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, ‘How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?’ When Jesus heard it, He said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.’”

III. Third, note the Moans of Jesus over Capernaum.

Dr. Charles R. Swindoll writes, “Twice before, Luke records warnings from Jesus in the form of ‘woes.’ As we discovered earlier, the interjection ‘woe’ (ouai) is a mourning sound—a deep moan uttered in response to personal anguish or prompted by pity for the suffering of another. It can also convey a warning as if to say, ‘I deeply pity you if this is true.’ He warned those who value earthly riches over kingdom wealth (6:24-26), and He mourned the cities surrounding Capernaum for their lack of response to the Messiah, moaning in sorrow over the condemnation that awaits them at the final judgment (10:13-16). Now, Jesus expressed His condemnation openly, not only to expose their sin, but to prompt some to repent.”[8] The word translated “woe” according to Dr. William Barclay (1907-1978) “expresses sorrowful pity at least as much as it does anger. This is not the accent of one who is in a temper because his self-esteem has been touched; it is not the accent of one who is blazingly angry because he has been insulted. It is the accent of sorrow, the accent of one who offered men the most precious thing in the world and saw it disregarded. Jesus’ condemnation of sin is holy anger, but the anger comes, not from outraged pride, but from a broken heart.”[9]
Matthew 11:20-24 reads, “Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent: ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.” Luke records Jesus also saying, “He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me” (Luke 10:16).

Dr. Vance Havner writes, “The gospel often fares better with people who fight it than with people who trifle with it. G. Campbell Morgan said the church patronized is the church in peril and often paralyzed. Our Lord told the people of His hometown, Capernaum, that Sodom and Gomorrah would fare better in the judgment than the city that took Him for granted, that lived in the Light and paid no attention to it, that refused to repent.

No other gospel doctrine is more neglected today than is repentance. In the present self-centered generation old-fashioned conviction of sin is generally unheard of because sin is no longer sin. The new pulpit pitch is not geared to repentance. We bemoan the moral putridity of Sodom and well we may, but we had better weep over polite Capernaumites who wouldn't harm Jesus for anything but will never come to Him in repentance.”[10]


Dr. C. Weldon Gaddy writes, “Today’s visitors to Capernaum see only ruins—impressive ruins, to be sure, but ruins nonetheless. The ancient city that Jesus knew is gone. None of its structures still stand. Nothing of the earlier promise of Capernaum remains.

The people of Capernaum did not heed the words of Jesus and repent. They never really allowed the teachings of Jesus to impact the common pursuits of their lives. So Capernaum was destroyed. More accurately stated, Capernaum destroyed itself.”[11]

Rev. Charles H. Spurgeon (1843-1892) writes, “I fear me there are some that grow Gospel-hardened! They have heard the Gospel till they never mind it now. They have heard the law preached till there is no terror in it now. Good Rowland Hill used to say they are like the blacksmith’s dog that goes to sleep under his master’s anvil, though the sparks fly about him. They have learnt to sleep when the very sparks of damnation fly about them. It matters not how it is put; they cannot be aroused. And you know these persons often become the raw material for making the very worst of people. When the devil wanted to make a Judas, he was obliged to take an apostle for the raw material, for you can always make the worst thing out of that which is akin to the best. Those men that miss virtue, as it were by an inch, are prepared to go out and out in all manner of vice. I do think that some could not sin as they do if they were not well acquainted with their duty, but they are able now, having a tender conscience, to sin greatly against conscience. Having light, they sin greatly against light. Knowing much of God, they are able to brave that knowledge, and to defy God more than others could do.

O dear hearers, are some of you getting worse? Am I preaching some of you into hell? Am I rocking cradles for you that I might rock you into eternal sleep? Is it so after all the care we take to try and adapt our discourse to your mind? Do we only, after all, make you fitter heirs of wrath because you continue to despise the message? I hesitate to come and speak in this pulpit when I think of some of you, for I despair of you. I fear that, after all, you will never be brought to Christ. You will remain as you are, and all that I shall be able to do will be to increase your condemnation. God forbid it by His infinite mercy! But this I am sure of, if there are any people against whom the woes which our Lord pronounced upon Capernaum and Bethsaida will fall with a sevenfold vengeance, it will be those people who have been plainly told their sins in words that never minced the matter, and have been earnestly pointed to Christ, and commanded over again in the name of God to repent and turn unto the Saviour that they might find salvation.”[12]

Remember the righteous judgment of God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 2:1-16) as you think of the responsibility of privilege. Remember, “. . . the goodness of God leads you to repentance” (Romans 2:4).

Jesus said, “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more” (Luke 12:48b). Jesus teaches the privilege of responsibility in the Parable of the Ten Minas recorded in Luke 19:11-27.

Keep looking and living for the day when the responsibility of privilege becomes the privilege of responsibility! May we wholeheartedly embrace all of the implications of the responsibility of privilege.

[1]John Phillips, Bible Explorer's Guide: How to Understand and Interpret the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1987), 20.

[2]Albert Barnes, Barnes' Notes on the New Testament. Database © 2014 WORDsearch Corp.

[3]T. De Witt Talmage, “America For God” Peninsula Enterprise, Vol. 15, Number 36, (Accomac, VA: March 14, 1896).

[4]D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1972), 9.

[5]Vance Havner, Don't Miss Your Miracle (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1985), 53.

[6]Lawrence O. Richards, The 365-Day Devotional Commentary, (Wheaton, IL: Victor / SP Publications, Inc., 1990), 640.

[7]T. De Witt Talmage, Talmage on Palestine (Springfield, OH: Mast, Crowell & Kirkpatrick, 1890), 149.

[8]Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s New Testament Insights: Insights on Luke (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 310.

[9]William Barclay, Barclay's Daily Study Bible (New Testament) Matthew. Database © 2012 WORDsearch Corp.

[10]Vance Havner, Don't Miss Your Miracle (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1985), 32.

[11]C. Weldon Gaddy, Geography of the Soul (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 81.

[12]Charles H. Spurgeon, Able to the Uttermost: Twenty Gospel Sermons (New York, NY: Marshall Brothers, 1922), 184.

Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey, pastor First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort 30775 Jay Drive Spanish Fort, Alabama 36527

Author of Don’t Miss the Revival! Messages for Revival and Spiritual Awakening from Isaiah and

Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice [Both available on in hardcover, paperback and eBook] & / / (251) 626-6210

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