Service to Christ, and its Reward
William Nicholson, 1862
"If any man serves me — him will my Father honor." John 12:26
The followers of the Redeemer are ever to be distinguished by love to his name, and sincere and active exertions to promote his glory. A mere profession of his cause will avail nothing. "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?" Luke 6:46
A person may have an extensive knowledge of the Gospel, its doctrine, and its precepts — and yet have no true Christian love to god. He may possess a benevolent heart, and weep over the distresses of his fellows, and contribute to their necessities — yet if he possess not the love of the Gospel, it profits him nothing. Natural benevolence, implanted in the heart by the Creator, is very different from that mighty principle of love created in the soul by the Spirit of the Creator.
Hence the Apostle beautifully observes, "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing!" 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
The text and the preceding verses describe the service of Christ and its reward. That service yields honor even in this world, but the principal manifestation and realization of it are reserved for eternity.
I. The Nature of Christ's Service.
It is an act of infinite condescension on the part of God, to allow sinful dust and ashes to serve him! But multitudes have been admitted into his service, whom he has honored with the appellation of "servants." "My servants;" "the servants of God."
1. That man as a sinner is estranged from the service of God. By nature, he serves sin; Romans 6:16, 17, 20. See also Titus 3:3. The sinner is naturally disinclined to the service of God. Their character is accurately described, "Yet they say to God, 'Leave us alone! We have no desire to know your ways. Who is the Almighty, that we should serve him? What would we gain by praying to him?'" Job 21:14-15
2. All who engage in the service of Christ, have become previously the subjects of Divine renovation. A renovation which . . .
induces correct views of Christ as his Lord and Savior,
causes the sinner to see the infinite superiority of Christ's service to that of sin,
causes detestation of sinful service,
begets love to the service of the Redeemer.
Hence Paul speaks of "serving in the newness of the Spirit." Romans 7:6. Without such a change, there can be no acceptable service rendered to God.
3. Renunciation of the service of sin, and a sincere profession of Christ. "They tell how you turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God!" 1 Thessalonians 1:9. Hebrews 9:14; "Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty." 2 Corinthians 6:17-18
Hence there is sincere repentance — and there is sincere faith in the sacrifice of Christ for acceptance with God — and union with his people to co-operate with them in serving the Lord Christ.
4. This service must be regulated by the Master's will. Hence Christ says, "If any man serves me, let him follow me" verse 26. Let him believe my Gospel — cherish its holy doctrines, and obey its important precepts. Let him not follow his own understanding, or mere worldly wisdom — but my directions, my methods, my prescriptions, my example. Let him go where I lead him, and in the manner I lead him.
Christ has prescribed the service devolving upon us. Nothing is left to our own fancy or discretion. He knew what would be acceptable in his sight, 2 Corinthians 3:5. He has therefore prescribed our duty in his word, and it is our wisdom and privilege to observe all things whatever he has commanded us. When he says, "Follow me," let us say, "Lo I come to do your will, O my God!"
Beware of following your own will in preference. "Add not to his words lest he reprove you." Be not wise above that which is written." "Make all things after the pattern showed you in the mount." Regard not synods, or councils, or creeds, or men etc., instead of Christ.
5. We must serve Christ with the talents we possess, and in the sphere which his providence may have assigned to us. Ephesians 4:11-13.
Some have superior natural abilities, a clear understanding, a sound judgment, quick discernment, acute penetration, and a retentive and ready memory. These too may have been improved by education. These sanctified by the grace of God, may qualify for the ministerial office, etc.
Others possess property, 1 Timothy 6:17-19.
Others have time.
Some have influence, arising from talent, learning, wealth, rank, and office.
Some have service in the Church — in the Sunday-school, etc. etc., Romans 12:6-8.
These talents should be consecrated for the good of the Church to which we respectively belong, providing our union with that Church has been the result of a careful, conscientious, and satisfactory investigation of its accordance with the New Testament churches and the will of Christ. These talents are to be employed for the salvation of our families, friends, neighbors, and the whole world.
6. This service comprehends love to our Divine Master, and rejoicing in his triumphs. "We love him — because he first loved us." "The love of Christ constrains us," etc. There can be no cheerful, effective, and acceptable service — without this love. And the proof of our love, is that we consecrate all that we have and are to his service, that we rejoice when our instrumentality and that of others are crowned with success, and that the Savior is thereby glorified.
7. Lastly. This service implies diligence. "Fervent in spirit, serving the Lord." "Whatever your hand finds to do — do it with all your might." Romans 1:9; Colossians 3:23.
This service implies cheerfulness, and a willing mind, "Because you did not serve the LORD your God joyfully and gladly in the time of prosperity," Deuteronomy 28:47. "The Lord loves a cheerful giver!"
This service should be done with fidelity, "Be faithful," etc. "Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful." 1 Corinthians 4:2
"If any man serves me — him will my Father honor."
II. The Reward to Be Conferred upon the Servants of Christ.
The service of Christ will not procure the honors of the world, "If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you!" John 15:19.
Riches, fame, power, prestige, pleasure, etc., are honored by the men of the world — while Christians, the servants of God, the salt of the earth, and the light of the world, are forgotten.
But God forgets them not — they shall be honored. "God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them!" Hebrews 6:10. A cup of cold water — the widow's mite, shall not be forgotten. All is treasured up in the book of God's remembrance!
1. God sometimes honors his people in this world. He qualifies and appoints them as instruments to spread his cause and advance his glory. That is a great honor — to be employed by and for the King of kings, etc.
He frequently crowns their efforts with success. They . . .
instruct the ignorant,
warn the careless,
direct the inquirer,
save souls from death, etc.
"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up!" Galatians 6:9. "Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain!" 1 Corinthians 15:58. "Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him!" Psalm 126:5-6
2. He honors them with communion with himself, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him!" John 14:23. Even as favorite servants are honored by their master's intimate fellowship with them — so the High and Lofty One dwells with his contrite and sincere servants, and honors them by his gracious presence. He is with them to do them good, to protect them, and to save them in every season.
3. They shall be honored at the hour of death, when all the honors of the world shall come to nothing. Through the blessing of God, they have not lived in vain. Then godliness is seen in them to be profitable for all things. Their death is influential with others. God is with them to finish his work. "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." Angels will convey their souls to Abraham's bosom. This was an honor conferred upon Lazarus the beggar, while the rich man went to Hell in his wickedness.
"Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on." "Yes," says the Spirit, "they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them." Revelation 14:13.
4. They shall be honored at the day of judgment. This will be the great day when God will bestow infinite honor upon his faithful servants. The day when the Son of man shall come in his glory. "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right,: Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world!" Matthew 25:31-34. What a blessing to be honored then! At this solemn and momentous period!
(1.) God will make an honorable distinction between his servants and his enemies, "And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not." Malachi 3:18. He will place his faithful sheep at his right hand, etc. etc. See Matthew 25:32, 33.
(2.) He will confess them, and approve their services before assembled worlds. "Whoever shall confess me before men, him will I confess before my Father and his holy angels." He will then say to them, "Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter into the joy of your master!"
Your services are approved — they have had an influence on eternity. Some are at my right hand through your instrumentality. Some will occupy a throne and wear a crown through you. Hear it, you sons of perdition; hear it, you righteous; hear it, you angels and archangels: this is the man who served me through evil and through good report, etc. etc. "Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter into the joy of your master!"
Here on earth we may be the subjects of obloquy and scorn; our motives may be misrepresented; men may deem us unworthy of their company. But we refer to the grand tribunal, and anticipate the fulfillment of this promise then, "Him will my Father honor."
(3.) He will honor them by an admission into his kingdom, where they shall live and reign forever and ever. "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world!" "They shall be mine, in the day when I make up my jewels!" "You will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand!" Psalm 16:11
They shall dwell in the mansions, in the kingdom prepared for them. They shall enter their "priceless inheritance — an inheritance that is kept in Heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay!" 1 Peter 1:4. They shall enjoy . . .
rest after toil;
honor after their shame;
peace after their conflicts;
pleasure after their sorrows;
safety after all their fears and dangers;
a crown and a scepter after their conquests.
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day — and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing!" 2 Timothy 4:7-8
They shall be honored with the presence of Christ there. "Where I am, there also shall my servant be!" "Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world!" John 17:24
1. What is your character? Servants of God — or servants of sin?
2. If as servants you are useful — then let all the glory be given to God.
3. Anticipate the gracious unfathomable reward!