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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, September 17, 2017

“As they went, they were cleansed” (Luke 17:14).

As Jesus travelled through Samaria and Galilee He came to a small town. On the outskirts of the village were ten lepers. They “stood afar off” from Him (17:12). Lepers were required by Old Testament law to stay far away from people who were not infected by the disease.

“The leper…shall cry, Unclean, unclean…he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be”
        (Leviticus 13:45-46).

These ten lepers had heard that Jesus performed miracles. So, from a distance, they cried out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us” (Luke 17:13). Jesus did not heal their leprosy on the spot, but rather told them to go and show themselves to the priests in the Temple at Jerusalem. Jesus did that for two reasons: to fulfill the Old Testament law, which said, in Leviticus 14:1-20, that the priests alone could determine whether or not someone with leprosy had been healed. The second reason was as “a witness, a testimony, to the priests and other Jews of the healing power that He possessed” (Thomas Hale, The Applied New Testament, Chariot Victor Publishing, 1996, p. 236).

The ten lepers obeyed Christ and started toward the Temple in Jerusalem. This shows that they had a certain amount of faith, or they would not have obeyed Him. But, as we shall see, it was not saving faith. They obeyed Christ outwardly,

“And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed” (Luke 17:14).

The leprosy was gone from their bodies as they journeyed south from the region of Galilee, down to the Temple at Jerusalem.

But one of the men turned around when he was cleansed and travelled back to where Jesus was.

“And with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at his [Jesus’] feet, giving him thanks…”
        (Luke 17:15-16).

“And he [Jesus] said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole” (Luke 17:19).

Now, it seems to me that there are several lessons in this passage. I am not giving them all, but here are three of them that I see.

I. First, partial cleansing comes from outward obedience to Christ.

All ten of these men were healed from the outward disease of leprosy. Yet they were not all healed by the immediate touch of Jesus. They were partially healed on the road to the Temple in Jerusalem. But their souls were not yet healed. Jesus said,

“Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed”
        (Luke 17:14).

People who are outwardly obedient to Christ are cleansed from many of the plagues that trouble those who are not fully obedient. Those who come to church, and outwardly conform to the basic rules of Christianity, discover that their lives become more regulated, their study habits at school produce better results. Their emotions become more controlled. In general, they become more successful and productive in their lives than those who are “tossed to and fro” by the confusion of modern society (Ephesians 4:14).

People in the “world” often think that coming to church will harm them in life, by taking away too much of their time from work or school. Non-Christian parents often think that way. They feel that coming to church will take too much time away from their children, so they won’t do well at school or work. But we have repeatedly found that the exact opposite is true. When young people attend the stated services of the church, we have found, without exception, that they actually become far better students and far better employees. They learn to regulate their studies, “redeeming the time” (Ephesians 5:16; Colossians 4:5). By the exhortations of church leaders, and the example of church members, they learn the importance of diligence at work and school. Instead of “fooling around” so much, as the children of the world do, they work and study hard during the time available to them.

I believe we have one of the highest percentages of college students and college graduates in America in our church. And I think this is one of the proofs that obedience to Jesus “cleanses” those who obey Him from so many of the outward problems faced by people who do not come into a local church fellowship, and attend its stated meetings. Years of observance have proved this true time and again.

II. Second, full salvation is experienced when you come to Christ.

Nine of these men were satisfied when they were healed outwardly, when they were physically cleansed from leprosy. But one of them was not satisfied with mere outward obedience. His heart leaped up within him in thanksgiving to God. He turned around and travelled back to the place where Jesus was. He fell down at Jesus’ feet, “giving him thanks” (Luke 17:16). In other words, this man came to Christ! He came to Christ and found, not just physical healing, but full salvation in the Saviour, falling down at His feet.

If you have been attending our church, coming to the meetings regularly, that is well and good. It will help you in your life and work. But there is more to real Christianity than simply helping you to live a better life! To a man who was living a very successful life, Jesus said,

“Marvel not [Don’t be surprised] that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again” (John 3:7).

That’s what happened to the leper who came to Christ. After he was physically cleansed by obeying Jesus, he came to Jesus, fell at His feet, and was inwardly converted. And Christ said to him,

“Thy faith hath made thee whole” (Luke 17:19).

I agree with The Applied New Testament. Although I wish that it quoted the reliable King James Bible, yet it explains well what happened to the cleansed leper who came to Jesus. When Jesus said to him, “Thy faith hath made thee whole,” that commentary declares that “Jesus not only meant that his body had been made well, but that his spirit had been made well also. He had received salvation” (ibid., p. 341).

Some of you have been coming to church. It has blessed you and helped you to do so. We thank God for that. But now we are asking you to go one step farther and receive full salvation, full conversion, by coming to Jesus in faith, and falling down before Him, trusting Him fully.

After all, Christ did not suffer and die on the Cross simply to give you a better life in this world. Far from it! He died on the Cross so your sins could be forgiven, and cleansed by His precious Blood. He rose from the dead, and now sits at the right hand of God the Father, to give you eternal life. If you come to Jesus by simple faith, as this man did, you too will be converted, born again, for all time and eternity. May the reality of conversion be granted to you soon! But I believe there is a third lesson in this passage of Scripture, a lesson on every person evangelizing.

III. Third, evangelism should begin immediately,
even before you are converted.

Notice that Jesus told these ten as yet uncleansed (and unconverted) men to

“Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed”
        (Luke 17:14).

They were sent by Jesus, “as a witness, a testimony, to the priests and other Jews,” to tell them about Jesus (The Applied New Testament, ibid., p. 236). They were sent as witnesses before they were cleansed and before any of them were converted!

Now, isn’t that remarkable? Today, most evangelicals think that you have to be a very strong Christian, well grounded in the faith, with a lot of Bible knowledge, before you can be expected to go out and evangelize. I say that is utter nonsense! It’s as silly as telling someone he has to be a strong Christian before he can be expected to come to the stated meetings of the church! Yet I realize there are some foolish people who think that, too! But it isn’t what the Bible teaches. The twelve Disciples were sent out by Jesus right away to evangelize. According to Ussher’s chronology, the Disciples were sent out to evangelize the same year that Jesus called them to follow Him. They had been His followers only a short time that year when He

“began to send them forth by two and two…and they went out, and preached that men should repent”
        (Mark 6:7, 12).

At least one of the Disciples (Judas) was not even converted. Yet they were sent out to evangelize immediately, converted or not, strong in the faith or not! Out they went to evangelism – at the command of Christ!

I think we can learn a great deal from Christ’s method. Going out to evangelism is a commandment of Christ, one of His most famous commands:

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations” (Matthew 28:19).

Must we wait to be trained before we can obey Him? The ten lepers were not trained before they went to evangelize the priests and other Jews. Why, man, they weren’t even saved! Yet Christ told them to go and obey Him by evangelizing those priests right away, instantly. The Disciples were also pretty raw, just ignorant fishermen, but Jesus sent them immediately, two by two, out to evangelize.

I think we need to do the same thing today. We need to follow the pattern Jesus set down. We need to give people Bible training. Yes! But they need to begin going to evangelism before they are fully trained. They need to go to evangelism before they hear all the doctrines of Scripture!

You can train people endlessly and yet never see them bring a soul to church to hear the gospel. You can give people great expositions of the Scriptures, explaining the Bible verse by verse to them, without ever seeing them bring a lost soul to hear the preaching of the gospel in your services.

Any thinking person knows that is true, and yet they don’t seem to know what to do about it. But Jesus told us what to do about it – send them to evangelism as soon as possible, trained or not trained, converted or not converted! I believe that everyone in the church should go to evangelism. It should be a normal part of obedience to Christ, and I believe it is for every person who enters our church doors more than a time or two.

They don’t need to know much. All they need to say is “Something wonderful is happening at church, and you need to be there,” something simple like that. And then get their phone number and let the leaders of the church follow up on them. We have many visitors every Sunday by using this plan. I preach the gospel in every Sunday service. Evangelistic preaching is made necessary by having many unsaved people in every service.

I recommend that we go back to the simple way Jesus sent people out to evangelize the world. After all, the other ways aren’t really working very well, are they? But I know that Jesus’ method will fill any church that uses it, with dozens of people from the world in every service. Dr. John R. Rice often said, “Only all-out effort can match New Testament soul winning” (John R. Rice, D.D., Why Our Churches Do Not Win Souls, Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1966, p. 149). I fully agree with him on that!

And one more thing, people grow in Christ when they are sent out evangelizing. People can be stagnant for years if they don't evangelize. But I know by experience that they quickly become strong Christians if they go to evangelism every week. The key to Christian growth lies in obeying the Great Commission!

“And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed” (Luke 17:14).

Your life will change as you evangelize people everywhere! And then, of course, you must be born again! May God grant the new birth to each of you, as you come to Christ by faith. Then you will be even more successful in evangelizing the lost. May God inspire you to throw yourself into evangelism, and do it as soon as possible. Amen.

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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Luke 17:11-19.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“So Little Time” (by Dr. John R. Rice, 1895-1980).



by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“As they went, they were cleansed” (Luke 17:14).

(Luke 17:12; Leviticus 13:45-46; Luke 17:13, 14, 15-16, 19)

I.    First, partial cleansing comes from outward obedience to Christ,
Luke 17:14; Ephesians 4:14; 5:16; Colossians 4:5.

II.   Second, full salvation is experienced when you come to Christ,
Luke 17:16; John 3:7; Luke 17:19.

III.  Third, evangelism should begin immediately, even before you
are converted, Luke 17:14; Mark 6:7, 12; Matthew 28:19.