God is not unjust. He will not forget your work and the love you have shown for His name as you have ministered to the saints and continue to do so.
I. IN ITS EXEMPLARY EXERCISE. "Ye ministered unto the saints, and still do minister."
1. The nature of this ministry.
(1) Probably pecuniary aid to the poor. Saints may be in secular poverty. Lazarus the saint was an afflicted beggar; the man who was not a saint was "rich, clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day." "Did not God choose them that are poor as to the world to be rich in faith?" etc. (James 2:5). The persons addressed in our Epistle probably sent contributions of money to certain of their fellow-Christians who were in poverty (see Acts 11:29, 80; Romans 15:25, 26; 1 Corinthians 16:1; 2 Corinthians 8., 9.).
(2) Sympathy with the afflicted and persecuted. "Becoming partakers with them that were so used" (i.e. reproached and persecuted). "For ye both had compassion on them that were in bonds," etc. (Hebrews 10:32-34). A worthy tribute this to most noble and beautiful conduct. Such ministering to the saints was especially becoming in the disciples of him who "bore our griefs and carried our sorrows," and who "came not to be ministered unto, but to minister," etc.
2. The continuousness of this ministry. "And still do minister." Their kind feeling did not expend itself in one effort or in one contribution. Their conduct in this respect is exemplary. We shall do well if we imitate them (cf. Romans 12:13; Galatians 6:10; Hebrews 13:16; 1 John 3:17).
II. IN ITS EXALTED MOTIVE. "The love which ye showed towards his Name." They ministered to the saints because they loved God. This is the noblest of motives. Let us consider it. It involves:
1. Gratitude to God. They ministered to those who were his, because he had done so much for them. Gratitude eagerly inquires, "What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?" We serve him by serving his saints.
2. Devotion to God. This ministry was expressive of more than gratitude to God. The Christian's love to God is more than gratitude to him. It includes reverent admiration of him, and willing consecration to him of the heart's holiest feeling and the life's best service. And ministry to his saints for the love which we have for him he accepts as ministry to himself. "Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it," etc. (Matthew 25:40, 45).
3. Recognition of the common relationship to God of both the givers and the receivers of this help. They showed their love toward his Name by this ministry, because they felt that they and those to whom they ministered were alike his children. They realized their common brotherhood, hence they voluntarily shared their afflictions. This is the most exalted motive for Christian service - love to God. It is most disinterested, most inspiring, most sustaining.
III. IN ITS CERTAIN REWARD. "God is not unrighteous to forget your work," etc. But did this ministry to the saints give the ministers a claim upon God for reward? Would he have been unjust if he had not remembered and rewarded their works? Two facts compel us to answer, "No;" viz.
(1) that all the good works of Christians are imperfect;
(2) that the inspiration for every good work proceeds from him. The righteousness of God spoken of in our passage, says Ebrard, "is that which leads, guides, and governs every man according to the particular stage of development which he occupies. It is here affirmed of God that he does not give up to perdition a man who can still in any way be saved, in whom the new life is not yet entirely extinct, and who has not yet entirely fallen away; but that he seeks to draw every one as long as they will allow themselves to be drawn." It would not be just in God to withdraw his gracious assistance from one who was producing the fruits of Christian faith; for he has pledged his word that he will save such persons, he will not forget their work and labor of love. "God will not forget you, for that would be ceasing to be God. If God were to forget for one moment, the universe would grow black - vanish - rush out again from the realm of law and order into chaos and night." Most encouraging are the declarations of this truth in the Bible (see Deuteronomy 4:31; Isaiah 49:14-16; Hebrews 13:5). This not forgetting their work and the love which they showed toward his Name implies:
1. Preservation from apostasy. This is the point of connection with the main argument. Their production of the fruits of Christian faith was an evidence that they were not falling away from Christ. And God would keep those who out of love to him ministered to his saints.
2. Generous recognition of their services... Nothing is overlooked, nothing of Christian work is unrecognized or unacknowledged by him.
1. An example of Christian ministry. Imitate it.
2. An example of a sure method of guarding against apostasy. Do not think of apostasy, but of continuous progress. Produce the fruits of good works out of love to God, and you most effectively preclude spiritual defection or decline. - W.J.
God is not unrighteous to forget your work.I. GOD KNOWS OF EACH ITEM OF OUR CHRISTIAN SERVICE. Our deeds of love populate the Divine mind with immortal images.
II. GOD'S RIGHTEOUSNESS IS AN ACTIVE FENCE IX HIS NATURE. It gives quality to all that He is, and thinks, and does. It is the guarantee of right becoming victorious; the pledge of the final supremacy of love; the rock on which faithful service may build its hopes.
III. GOD'S RIGHTEOUSNESS RENDERS CERTAIN THE FINAL USEFULNESS OF ALL CHRISTIAN SERVICE.
1. His righteousness creates interest in our service. He looks on our deeds with pleasure.
2. His righteousness creates sympathy with us in what we do. Because the holy feeling that prompts us to deeds of love is akin to that which dwells in God, He feels towards our work the same as we do, He enters into our longing to bless others, He shares in our yearning to cheer and guide and save men.
3. His righteousness ensures the using up of our deeds of love in the line of His own purpose. There is not a true prayer uttered, not a holy wish cherished, not a kind word spoken, not a deed of mercy performed, not a single Christian act in the service we daily seek to render to our Lord, in public or in private, known of men or out of sight, but that He knows it, holds it before His mind, graciously delights in it, enters into its spirit, and, as a consequence, actually lays hold of it as a precious element of good, to blend it with His own volitions, and make it harmonise with, and give impetus to, all that He once did when, on earth in the person of His dear Son, He laid the foundation that is to be both blessed and everlasting.
(C. Chapman.)I. THE MINISTRY OF THE CHURCH. The work distributed amongst us may be very different in quality, in interest, in popularity, in result; yet God does not overlook any of it. He sees the mother talking of Jesus to her children at home, as well as the preacher who expounds Divine truth in the great congregation. The words which in weakness and fatigue are penned by a writer for the press, on the side of purity or national integrity, or peace among the nations, or fairness between the classes, are as much thought of by God as the society organised for the defence of theological truth. The medical man who heals the poor without reward, the employer who dares to give unto his servants what be knows to be just and equal, the merchant or tradesman who for the sake of the Lord he loves refuses to receive an advantage which his competitor would eagerly seek — all these, in time of disappointment, may remember the assurance, "God is not unrighteous to forget your work." And what of work more directly religious? Is not the Lord mindful of that? Even we think sometimes with sympathy of our brothers in distant lands, exposed to hostility from the heathen, and to perils by land and by sea, perils from malaria, accident, and privation; but the all-seeing God knows them, and cares for them far more than we, and He will not forget their work. And if your service is less public than theirs, it is none the less regarded by Him, whose wisdom not only built the mountains, but clothed the lilies of the field. We know but little of each other, but He knows us altogether, and He is as pleased with the child's prayer as with the martyr death of the bravest soldier in His army.
II. THE FIDELITY OF THE LORD. The idea seems to be this; God will not overlook your work, so as to make no use of it; it will not be forgotten, but will find its place in the fulfilment of the Divine purpose. Man is unfaithful and forgetful in such matters. An editor may ask some one to write a paper, and when with toil and care it is finished, he may have forgotten all about it, and may issue his work without finding any place for the author's labour — men are often forgetful. The other day, in crossing a wild part of Dartmoor, I saw a magnificent block of stone, carefully and skilfully cut into a hexagon, and there it lay unheeded amid the heather, beaten by storms, bleached by sunshine — useless. Perhaps the builder had forgotten to fetch it, or perhaps he thought the block too heavy to carry over the rough roads; but, whatever the reason, some skilful stonemason had worked hard, but uselessly. Now, looking down upon our work in obscure homes, in nut-of-the-way offices, in quiet spheres of service, this inspired man says: " God is not unfaithful to forget your work."
(A. Rowland, LL. B.)I. HOW ACCEPTABLE GOOD WORKS ARE TO GOD, AND WHAT REWARDS HE HATH PROMISED TO THOSE WHO SHALL BE FOUND ABOUNDING IN THEM.
II. A PRINCIPLE OF CHRISTIAN LOVE AND CHARITY IS OF ALL OTHER THE MOST PREVALENT TO INDUCE MEN TO SUCH GOOD WORKS
III. BY THE EXPRESSION "LABOUR OF LOVE" IS PLAINLY SUGGESTED THAT GOOD WORKS ARE OFTEN ACCOMPANIED WITH MUCH TROUBLE AND DIFFICULTY.
IV. MINISTERING TO THE WANTS AND NECESSITIES OF OUR CHRISTIAN BRETHREN IS SHOWING-A REGARD TOWARDS THE NAME OF GOD.
V. WE HAVE PERSEVERANCE IN THOSE: DUTIES RECOMMENDED TO US, BY THE EXAMPLE OF THOSE HEBREWS, WHO ARE NOT ONLY MENTIONED AS FORMERLY MINISTERING TO THE NECESSITIES OF THEIR INDIGENT BRETHREN, BUT AS CONTINUING TO DO THE SAME.
(S. Knight, D. D.)I. God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour Of love; INASMUCH AS HIS DOING SO WOULD RE UNGENEROUS, UNGRACIOUS, UNKIND. Were He not to acknowledge it, He might seem to be damping your zeal. In this view the statement is fitted seasonably to encourage you. Few and faulty your best services may be; unsatisfying to yourselves; much more to your God. Well might He reject them all. But would He be justified in doing so? Would it be in harmony with what He has revealed to you of the riches of His glory, and what lie has made you to taste of the fulness of His grace? No. He does not upbraid you with the value of His undeserved benefits to you. He will not upbraid you with the worthlessness of what you give to Him. All that He bestows, He bestows in good faith. All that you render, He will take in good part.
II. God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love; INASMUCH AS HIS DOING SO WOULD BE INCONSISTENT WITH HIS FAITHFULNESS AND TRUTH. He is to be regarded as hiring you, and assigning to you your service. He does so in the exercise of His own requestionable discretion, according to His own good pleasure, and the freedom of His own will. Be does not leave it to you to devise a way in which you may, at your own discretion, manifest your loyalty. But He enlists you as His soldiers and subjects, under command. You are to offer service voluntarily. But when your offer is accepted, you are to obey orders. This consideration may seem, in one view. to detract from any claim on your part for any recompense of reward. It divests your work and labour of love, which you show to His name, of the character of a spontaneous or strictly self-prompted and self-directed offering. What you do or suffer is not at your own hand, but by His appointment. But, in another view, the certainty of your being amply recompensed is thus placed on the highest possible ground. I feel, indeed, that I have nothing which, as from myself, I can offer to my God. I am myself His property, His purchased possession; not my own. All the store of talents and resources out of which I can offer comes from Him, and is all His own. And I, His servant, must offer it, not as I choose, but as lie desires and directs. But does that thought, I ask again, detract in the least from my confident persuasion that what I offer will be accepted and requited? Does it not, on the contrary, enhance my assurance tenfold? Would it be fair for a master enlisting servants in such a way, on such terms, under such obligations, to forget their work, to let it pass into oblivion unrequite? Be it that it is work or service to which they are indispensably bound, and which they have no discretionary liberty to accept or decline; for which, therefore, they have no title to stipulate for payment beforehand, or to demand payment afterwards. Be it even that they understand that condition of their engagement, and consent to it, that does not acquit the master, in his own judgment at least, whatever they may think. If he is honest, high minded, he will not suffer his servants to entertain a moment's doubt of his intention to acknowledge their faithfulness, and make all ,he world know that he does so. And is God unrighteous? Is He who solemnly binds you in so strict a covenant of service to let it be supposed that He can act unfaithfully or unfairly? And is He unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love — the work and loving labour of His chosen and His redeemed? Surely it is no vain thing, but rather a very blessed thing, for you thus to serve the Lord, having such a simple, single-eyed, meek, and honourable confidence as this in the truth and faithfulness of Him whom you serve!
III. There are other CONSIDERATIONS OF A GENERAL SORT that might be brought forward to strengthen this quiet assurance. For instance, here is one. If, in one view, God commits Himself to you; in another view lie commits you and binds you to Himself. In the service of God, if loyal, you must make up your mind to relinquish not a few of those sources of pleasure which the world presents to you. And for whatever you may thus give up, He whom you serve may be expected, if He is to act worthily of Himself, to provide some kind of equivalent. If you lose the favour of men, you have the favour of God. If you cease to have the peace which the world gives, when, with its refuges of lies, it soothes your conscience, you have the peace of God which passes understanding. If you have to cut off a right hand, to pluck out a right eye, maimed as you are and wounded, you enter into life. If the good things of earth are to be your treasure no more, you have better treasure in heaven, where no moth corrupts and no thief breaks through to steal. Thus far I have spoken of the recompense of the reward, God's not forgetting your work and labour of love, as simply righteous on His part. But, before leaving that topic, I must remind you that the righteousness is still always of grace. It is the righteousness, not of law, but of equity. It gives you no such claim or title as you might enforce in a court of justice by procedure of a legal sort. All your claim must rest upon the good faith or kind favour of the other party. This does not touch the certainty of your being rewarded. But it divests you of all title to reckon upon it as your due. How blessed a thing is it in this view, to disown all right of yours, and lean on the righteousness of God! Further, the righteousness in question is not that of express compact, but rather that of a fair and amiable understanding. It is not a case, as between debtor and creditor, to be adjusted upon a balance of business accounts and books. Your remuneration is rather an honourable acknowledgment of the spirit in which you work than an exact and formal discharge of the work itself. Hence this principle, while it leaves no room for presumption on your part, leaves abundant room for the most liberal discretion on the part of God. Lessons:
1. As God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, be not ye unrighteous to forget your duty to Him. As He is, so to speak, on honour with you, be you scrupulously and sensitively on honour with Him. Many motives should prompt this duty. Think on the way in which He receives you into His favour; on the amazing sacrifice of His Son, whom He gives to the death of the Cross, that He may reconcile you to Himself; receiving you graciously, and loving you freely. He opens His heart to you. Will you not give your hearts to Him?
2. If God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love towards His name, you need not care to remember it. You need not keep a record of your doings. Your record and theirs is on high.
(R. S. Candlish, D. D.)I. IN WHAT SENSE GOD WOULD NOT BE UNRIGHTEOUS, THAT IS, UNJUST, THOUGH HE SHOULD FORGET OUR GOOD WORKS, that is, though He should not reward us with eternal life for them.
1. Whatsoever good action a man can perform, that he upon many accounts owes unto God, his Maker, his Preserver, his Benefactor. But no one, surely, who pays to another what he strictly owes him, can thereby oblige that other to bestow on him a reward, or can make him properly his debtor.
2. Even amongst equals no one is of right, and in strict justice, obliged to recompense the labour and pains of another, but he who hath voluntarily bound himself thereunto by some covenant, or who at least is enforced thereunto by the law of some superior. What consideration, therefore, can oblige God to bestow upon man eternal life but His own free and gracious promise, since He hath no superior; nor can any law be prescribed to Him but what He vouchsafes to prescribe to Himself, and to guide His own actions and dispensations by?
3. To this it may be farther added that all our good thoughts, words, and works proceed entirely from the grace of God, and are His free gifts bestowed upon us, out of His mere bounty and mercy. Should God, therefore, by bestowing on us one grace, be thereby in justice obliged, for that very reason, to bestow on us another?
II. But now, lest to avoid one extreme, we should foolishly" run into another; lest for fear of carrying the value of our good actions too high, we should on the other side sink their price too low; it will be proper to show that, notwithstanding what has been said hitherto by way of abatement of their pretended worth, THEY ARE STILL IN MANY RESPECTS HIGHLY VALUABLE BEFORE GOD; and that though they cannot by way of purchase procure for us, yet upon other considerations they will secure to us eternal happiness. Now the least that can be said concerning the value of good works proceeding from the love of God, and designed to His glory, is this: that though we should not be made partakers of eternal happiness merely because of them, yet neither can we be saved without them; though they are not the meritorious causes, yet they are the necessary conditions, of our salvation; though where they are found, they do not give a legal title to salvation; yet where they are not found, the persons destitute of them have not so much as an equitable title to eternal bliss from the mercy of God. For virtuous and religious actions are the way chalked out by God, by which we must arrive at the glories which shall be revealed; they are the means ordained by Him, by which we may certainly and effectally, though not of right acquire, yet in fact obtain everlasting happiness.
1. This informs us in the wonderful great condescension of God to man; even so low as to bind Himself to man, and that so far as if He failed in what he had promised, He is willing to be accounted unrighteous (Psalm 7:17).
2. This doth much aggravate the sin of infidelity, which is not only against the grace and mercy of God, but also against His truth and righteousness.
3. This teacheth us how to trust to God's mercy, even so as God may be just and righteous in showing mercy.
(A. S. Patterson.)
Baxendale's Anecdotes.One evening a gentleman was strolling along a street to pass the time. His attention was attracted by the remark of a little girl to a companion in front of a fruit store, "I wish I had an orange for ma." The gentleman saw that the children, though poorly dressed, were clean and neat, and calling them into the store, he loaded them with fruit and candies. "What's your name?" asked one of the girls. "Why do you want to know?" queried the gentleman. "I want to pray for you," was the reply. The gentleman turned to leave, scarcely daring to speak, when the little one added, "Well, it don't matter, I suppose; God will know you, anyhow."
(J. A. Bengel.)
Clerical Library.A military gentleman once said to an excellent old minister in the north of Scotland who was becoming infirm, "Why, if I had power over the pension list, I would actually have you put on half-pay for your long and faithful services." He replied, "Ah, my friend, your master may put you off with halfpay, but my Master will not serve me so meanly; He will give me full pay. Through grace I expect a fall reward."
New Encyclopaedia of Illustrations.Dionysius caused musicians to play before him. and promised them a great reward. When they came for their reward, he told them they had already had it in their hopes of it. God does not disappoint His servants.
(New Encyclopaedia of Illustrations.)— A certain king would build a cathedral; and that the credit of it might be all his own, he forbade any from contributing to its erection in the least degree. A tablet was placed in the side of the building, and on it his name was carved as the builder. But that night he saw, in a dream, an angel, who came down and erased his name, and the name of a poor widow appeared in its stead. This was three times repeated, when the enraged king summoned the woman before him, and demanded, "What have you been doing, and why have you broken my commandment? " The trembling widow replied, "I loved the Lord, and longed to do something for His name and for the building up of His church. I was forbidden to touch it in any way; so, in my poverty, I brought a wisp of hay for the horses that drew the stones." And the king saw that he had laboured for his own glory, but the widow for the glory of God; and he commanded that her name should be inscribed upon the tablet.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
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