Be prepared for Christ’s return: the parable of the Two Slaves, and the parable of the Talents (Matthew 24:42–51; 25:14–30)

In this post: Introduction; The parable of the Two Slaves; The parable of the Talents; Crushed by the Law; Comforted with the Gospel

This is the audio and approximate transcript of a sermon I preached on 26 January 2014. It was originally my intention to focus on the Sheep and the Goats passage from the end of Matthew 25, briefly covering the preceding parables to establish context. It eventually dawned on me that I could not even begin to do justice to all the material in a single sermon. What follows, then, is a treatment of just two of the three parables.

Matthew 24:42–51; 25:14–30; 26:1–2

Our focus tonight is on two parables from the Olivet Discourse, Jesus’ private teaching to His disciples on the Mount of Olives, shortly before His crucifixion. Our theme is ‘Being Prepared for Christ’s Return’. We’ll begin reading at Matthew 24:42.

42 Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. 44 Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

45 “Who then is a faithful and wise servant …

Stop. ‘Servant’ is a rather sanitized translation of the Greek word here. It diminishes the force of Jesus’ teaching and obscures its sense. A more accurate translation is ‘slave’.[1] Let’s continue reading with that substitution. Verse 45.

45 “Who then is a faithful and wise slave, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? 46 Blessed is that slave whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. 47 Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods. 48 But if that evil slave says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow slaves, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, 50 the master of that slave will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, 51 and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Jesus next tells the parable of the 10 virgins. We’ll skip over this to his third parable, beginning at ch. 25 v. 14.

14 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own slaves and delivered his goods to them. 15 And to one he gave five talents …

Note here that the word talent in this parable does not mean a skill or ability, but is a measure of money. The value of a talent varied considerably depending upon time and place, but it always had a reasonably high value.

Verse 15.

15 And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. 16 Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. 17 And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. 18 But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. 19 After a long time the lord of those slaves came and settled accounts with them.

20 “So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look! I have gained five more talents besides them.’ 21 His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ 22 He also who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look! I have gained two more talents besides them.’ 23 His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’

24 “Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’

26 “But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. 27 So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.

29 ‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the unprofitable slave into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Jump over the Sheep and the Goats passage to ch. 26 v. 1:

Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, that He said to His disciples, “You know that after two days is the Passover, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.”

May the Lord grant that we receive His holy Word. Amen.

Introduction

Jesus is going away. He speaks to His disciples privately, telling them, ‘You know that after two days is the Passover, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.’

King Jesus, the glorious and majestic Son of God, has made Himself of no reputation and inseparably taken to Himself a human nature. This Son of Man from heaven now humbles Himself to complete on our behalf, and in our place, His perfect, sinless obedience to His Father’s will.

‘After two days is the Passover, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.’

This Priest and Good Shepherd shall soon be obedient to the point of death – yes, even the death of the cross. And in the offering of His own life as a propitiatory sacrifice for His precious, chosen sheep, He shall for a brief time leave bereft these sheep, to whom He now speaks.

‘After two days is the Passover, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.’

Yet Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and having thus far preserved His disciples in the name and authority of the Father, He shall now lose none of them – not even in His absence – except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.

And so God the living Word speaks the life-giving Word of God. And as the disciples of this Prophet keep and guard His Word, the Word shall surely guard and keep them, though they be assailed by the gates of Hades itself.

The disciples’ abject desolation at the death of their Lord is to be brief; they shall soon know the joy of His resurrection morn. Yet the Master is mindful of a much longer, soon-coming absence: forty short days after His rising from the dead, Jesus will be taken bodily into heaven. There, He shall sit down at the right hand of God. There, He shall send His disciples a Helper from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father. This Spirit of truth shall guide them into all truth.

Thus, though in our text Jesus now speaks privately only to His disciples, He utters words that shall guard and sustain all His sheep until His eventual glorious return to judge the living and the dead – true words that the Holy Spirit of truth shall cause Matthew the Evangelist to write down in his gospel, even for our own benefit.

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And that is how we have our text tonight. In chapters 24 and 25, Matthew has recorded for us some of the very last teachings of Jesus’ earthly ministry. As is fitting for His last teachings, Jesus speaks of last things – things that will occur before He returns again at the end of the age.

The soon departing King leaves His disciples with words of caution, words of warning, words that will comfort some and terrify others.

You may wish to open your bibles again and follow along as we take our tour through the text. Matthew 24:42.

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In v. 42, Jesus exhorts His disciples to watch, because ‘you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.’ In v. 43, he restates the point using the metaphor of the master of a house watching for a thief in the night. In v. 44, He states the matter plainly: ‘you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.’

Thus Jesus speaks urgently of His coming return. He commands His disciples to be watching, to be ever ready, for He will come at an unexpected hour.

Jesus anticipates the obvious question, ‘What does it mean to watch and to be ready?’ He narrates a sequence of three closely related parables to explain.

The parable of the Two Slaves

In the first parable, ch. 24 vv. 45–51, a faithful and wise slave is contrasted with one who is evil. In each case, the slave is made a ruler over the household in his master’s absence. Verse 45 states the reason for the appointment: ‘to give them food in due season’. The master loves his household, and wishes them to be cared-for and fed while he is away.

Each slave behaves according to his own character, according to what he is.

The faithful and wise slave carries out his master’s wishes; this obedience illustrates the outward evidence of his readiness for his master’s return. The master shall bless this slave.

The evil slave takes advantage of his master’s delay, neglecting his duty and beginning to abuse his position of authority. He beats his fellow slaves and wastes his master’s goods, eating and drinking with drunkards. This evil slave is in no way ready for the return of his master. Jesus warns that the master will come unexpectedly, and will punish that evil slave severely: ‘In that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

The sense of the parable is straightforward enough, though it warrants closer scrutiny.

Notice that the wise slave is described as faithful. In the underlying Greek, as in English, this word can indicate either that the person is reliable and trustworthy, or that he is full of faith – that is, that he has a confident trust in another. The intended sense must be determined from the context of the passage, and here we clearly see that Jesus wishes us to understand that the wise slave is trustworthy, and can be depended upon to carry out his master’s orders.

Nevertheless, the latent ambiguity of the word ‘faithful’ causes us to wonder why the slave can be trusted to do his master’s will. Could it be that the slave loves his master, knowing him to be good and kind?

We have more than a hint of this, because we see in v. 46 that the faithful slave is rewarded upon his master’s return: ‘Blessed is that slave’, Jesus says. Remember, though, the master owes nothing to his slave in return for his service – a slave is a slave, after all, owned by his master and obligated to do his will.

In ch. 17 v. 7 of his gospel, Luke documents Jesus making exactly this point to His apostles:

And which of you, having a slave ploughing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’? But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank that slave because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. 10 So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable slaves. We have done what was our duty to do.’ ”

Jesus asserts here that it is proper even for the apostles, when they have done all that was commanded of them, to regard themselves no more highly than as ‘unprofitable slaves’. The apostles are not to think that God owes them anything for their service, for they are owned by Him, as is all His creation. And, as those whom Jesus shall soon purchase with His own precious blood, the apostles shall especially be His slaves – as are all those for whom Christ died.

The master’s blessing upon the faithful and wise slave is thus not at all a matter of paying the slave his due wages, for none are owed, but of the master’s bestowing unmerited favour. Obedience is merely the slave’s duty; the reward is purely from grace.

We thus see the master to be gracious and kind in his blessing of the slave. We infer that the faithful and wise slave is trustworthy because he knows and trusts in his master’s good grace. The slave’s actions flow from his faith, and his faith is rewarded. The evil slave, however, despises his master and cares nothing for His wishes. In his disdain, he acts according to his lack of faith, and thereby earns his due reward.

Since Jesus is talking privately to His disciples, the most immediate application of this parable is to them. Jesus is the Master who is going away and, a little later in his gospel, Matthew records the Great Commission whereby Jesus grants the disciples stewardship over His household, entrusting to them the riches of His spiritual kingdom so that they may feed and care-for His church.

This is how Jesus commissions His disciples, Matthew ch. 28 vv. 18–20:

All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

Though Jesus is leaving, He will not leave His disciples alone. He promises to be with them always. Jesus the Word of God shall abide in them, even as they abide in His Word. Jesus is present through the very kingdom riches that He entrusts to them for the care and feeding of His household. He is present in the proclamation of His holy Word. He is present in Baptism. He is present in His holy Supper.

Observe too that this wonderful promise of Christ’s presence is ‘to the end of the age’. What is applicable to the disciples is therefore applicable to their successors – to all those commissioned by Christ to shepherd His Church by preaching His Word, administering Baptism, and presiding over the Lord’s Supper.

If the grace shown to the faithful slave is a strong encouragement to Christ’s faithful ministers, the fate of the evil slave, cut in two and appointed his portion with the hypocrites, is a stern warning to the many false teachers who prey upon their flocks. They dare to scratch itching ears and extract tithes under duress, devouring widows’ houses. Driven by their unbridled lust for power and their love of money, they take the Word of God intended for the feeding of the flock,  and peddle it for selfish gain. Upon His unexpected return, the Master shall punish them severely according to their works.

Those called to the office of the Ministry of the Word carry a special responsibility to administer the riches of the kingdom: ‘Let not many of you become teachers’, says James the apostle, ‘knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment’. Yet the reception of these gifts of Word, Baptism and Supper is withheld from none who names the name of Christ. Every believer, then, has been entrusted with these great life-sustaining riches of the Master’s kingdom.

The parable of the two slaves thus warns of the terror of the Lord’s severity, and it comforts with His abounding grace. He punishes those who hate Him, yet richly rewards those who trust in His lovingkindness, even though they be ever so undeserving. Through this parable, then, Jesus exhorts us to know Him through His Word, Baptism, and Supper, and thereby also to trust Him – and, as a consequence of this trust, to treat our fellow slaves well, according to the calling with which we have be called by our gracious Lord and Master.

The parable of the 10 Virgins

We have insufficient time tonight to examine the next parable, that of the 10 virgins. Let us simply note the primary lesson that Jesus’ wishes it to teach. Chapter 25, v. 13: ‘Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.’

The parable of the Talents

Our final parable enlarges upon what it means to be watching and ready for the Lord’s return. It also adds definition to the picture already painted of the coming judgment. The repetition across the three parables underscores the urgency and importance of Jesus’ message. Taken together, they prepare our understanding for His subsequent teaching on the sheep and the goats.

Matthew ch. 25 v. 14. A man is travelling to a far country. Again, we have a representation of Jesus. The distance to be travelled suggests that this man may be away for a long time, another illustration of Jesus’ delayed return.

The man calls his slaves to himself and delivers his goods into their care. As with the first parable, in view of the fact that Jesus is speaking privately to His disciples, and that Matthew shortly after records the Great Commission, it is reasonable for us to understand that this man’s goods represent the riches of the heavenly Kingdom.

What are these riches, specifically signified by the talents? We cast our minds back to Matthew ch. 13, vv. 44–46. Jesus says:

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

We understand that Jesus speaks here of Himself leaving His home in glory, and laying down everything He has – even His own life – to purchase for Himself a special treasure, which is His chosen bride, the Church. Jesus washes away every stain of her sin with His precious blood, and clothes her nakedness with the royal robes of His own perfect righteousness.

The riches of the heavenly kingdom that the Lord entrusts to His stewards, then, are the saints of His Church. Fallen sinners declared righteous, washed and redeemed by the finished work of Christ Himself. We see that the riches of this parable are identical to the household entrusted to the care of the slaves in the first parable. The two parables treat the same subject.

Back to Matthew 25:15.

To one slave, the man gives five talents, to another two, and to another one. We should not despise the smaller amount – even one talent is a large sum of money. We thus learn that the riches of the kingdom of heaven are entrusted in varying degrees to Christ’s own slaves.

The distribution is to each, ‘according to his own ability’. All our abilities, whether natural or spiritual, are themselves gifts from God. And so, as each one of us has been gifted by Him with our varying aptitudes, Christ in His perfect wisdom also entrusts to our care an appropriate measure of the riches of His kingdom.

The immediate application is to the disciples and their successors. The apostles were exceedingly gifted by God, and accordingly entrusted directly by Christ to lay the very foundations of the church, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone. Elders likewise are called by Christ and given the lesser, though still very heavy, responsibility of overseeing their congregations.

In like manner, Christian husbands are charged with the love and tender care of their wives, fathers with bringing up their children ‘in the training and admonition of the Lord’, mothers with the care and nurturing of children, older women with the admonishing of the younger, children with honouring their parents.

To each and every one, according to his or her ability, Jesus gives a vocation to love and serve our neighbour as ourselves.

What a privilege and honour it is to be entrusted by Christ to carry out His work, to be His ministers to our neighbour in need! We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for these good works – those everyday commonplace things commanded in His Word, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

We do not do these good works to earn or keep God’s favour, but as a fruit of faith – a fruit of our confident joy that Jesus our Lord has already won for us His Father’s favour, at unfathomable cost to Himself, freely bestowing it upon you who believe. Through Christ’s finished work for you, having been declared righteous in God’s sight by grace through faith, you have been set free from the impossible demands of the Law as a way to earn or maintain right-standing before God. This is what Paul means when he writes in Romans 10:4, ‘Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.’

Back to our parable, v. 15.

Having distributed his money, the man goes on his journey. The slave who had been given five measures of money immediately sets to work and trades with it. He makes another five. The one who had been given two, likewise gains two more. With their diligence, these slaves evidence their faithful love and high regard for their master.

Since this parable and the first both deal with the same subject matter, and given that in both cases the slaves represent those entrusted with overseeing the church, we readily understand the act of trading here to be analogous to the care and feeding of the household in the first parable. Thus, in this parable, to trade primarily means to care for the saints through the Ministry of the Word: preaching, baptism, communion. As trading with money leads to financial profit, so the faithful proclamation of God’s holy Word leads to spiritual increase.

Verse 18. Two slaves faithfully trade. But the slave who has received only one talent digs a hole in the ground and hides his lord’s money. This is how he spurns the gift entrusted to him by his lord. He did not desire it; he does not want it. Why trouble himself with his master’s business, when he can please himself in idleness? Best to put the money safely out of sight and out of mind.

The slave’s faithlessness could have been worse. He might have wasted his lord’s money, even as the evil slave of the first parable had wasted his master’s provisions. And yet, as we shall see, his disrespect for his lord will nevertheless be judged severely.

This slave’s behaviour represents especially those entrusted with the care of Christ’s flock who do not care to apply themselves to their calling. They do not study to show themselves approved before God. Rather, they are workers who ought to be ashamed, since they are unable rightly to divide the Word of truth. Far too many such wicked slaves plague our churches, thinking highly of themselves and teaching doctrines, dreams and visions of their own imagining, rather than proclaiming the perfect Law of God and the glorious Gospel of Christ crucified for sinners and raised from the dead. They will give you four steps to a debt free life, five tips for healthier relationships, and six ways to raise obedient children; but they rob you of the life-giving Word of Christ. They shall be rewarded according to their work.

Verse 19. After a long time – and notice how plainly Jesus now speaks of his delayed return! – the lord comes to settle accounts with his slaves. He wishes to receive the increase that is His rightful due.

As with the first parable of the two slaves, the master owes the slaves nothing; they owe him everything. They are his possession; they have been trading with his goods. They merit no reward; they have merely done their duty. All the increase rightfully belongs to their lord.

He who had received five talents now presents ten. ‘Lord’, he says, ‘you delivered to me five talents; look! I have gained five more talents besides them!’ The slave is not boasting, for he was merely doing his duty with his master’s goods. Rather, he speaks as if surprised by the increase.[2] Neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.

The lord commends the slave and, though he owes the slave nothing, blesses him, saying: ‘Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’

The parable does not detail the nature of the heavenly rewards awaiting the faithful. It is sufficient to note that the reward is greatly increased responsibility and lavish joy in Christ our Lord.

The one who received two talents similarly brings his increase to his lord. Though entrusted with a lesser amount, it too has doubled. And, though the merit is also not his, he is identically blessed from the extravagant grace of his lord.

Finally, the one who had received one talent is summoned. He presents his contemptible excuse, v. 24:

‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, you have what is yours.’

The slave is disingenuous. If he finds his lord to be a hard man, it is because he has no regard for his master’s beneficent grace, but instead contemptuously scorns the gift his master has entrusted to him. Has this slave not just seen his lord shower underserved rewards upon his fellows?  Yet he shows that he has no trust in his lord’s goodness and grace. What he lacks is faith.

Even now, this wicked, faithless slave does not seek his lord’s mercy, but openly displays his hatred for him by speaking provocative words. He has no respect for his master, no understanding that he is owned by this lord and owes him a duty of faithful service. He has no fear of this supposedly hard lord’s wrath, but disparages him to his face.

Has this lord not sown, has this lord not scattered seed? Has this lord not purchased this worthless slave? Has he not fitted him for service and given him money with which to trade?

And had the slave really been afraid? Surely then he would have been diligent to conduct his lord’s business! The entire parable shows the absurdity of the slave’s protestations.

Nevertheless, the lord answers the slave according to his own words, for the slave has condemned himself. Verse 26:

‘You wicked and lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest.

If the circumstances had really been as the slave describes, the very least he ought to have done is to have deposited the money to earn interest. This would have entailed minimal effort or risk. And yet his contempt for his master was such that he was unwilling to do even this small thing. And so the slave’s actions show the falsity of his words. The lord’s judgement is just: this slave is both wicked and lazy.

The lord begins to pronounce sentence, v. 28:

‘So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.

As with this wicked slave who despised his lord and spurned his gift, so too with those who hold the coming Lord Jesus in contempt and spurn the precious gift of His Gospel. The gift they reject shall be taken from them, and instead grace shall abound to those who – through their confidence in the grace and mercy of Christ – fear, love and trust in Him above all things.

The lord finishes declaring sentence:

‘Cast the unprofitable slave into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

The final, damning verdict on this man is that he is an ‘unprofitable slave’. The lord’s words, ‘In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’, are exactly those with which Jesus finishes the first parable; they demonstrate the severity of the sentence.

This wicked, lazy, unprofitable slave, though he neither tormented his fellow slaves nor consumed his lord’s money, suffers the same fate as the evil slave of the first parable, who did.

Crushed by the Law

Even as that fearful, fatal phrase, ‘unprofitable slave’, rings in our ears, our minds go back to the only other occurrence of that phrase in the New Testament: the words of Jesus to His apostles, recorded by Luke:

“So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable slaves. We have done what was our duty to do.’”

As we hear these words of Christ, our consciences are pierced by the realization that we are less than unprofitable slaves. For Jesus the King of all creation is our Lord and owner. We are His slaves. And we have not done all those things that He has commanded us. We have not done what was our duty to do.

We have turned away from opportunity after opportunity to love our neighbour as ourselves. We have often shunned the vocations entrusted to us, excusing ourselves because we are tired, because we deserve a rest, because we have other things we wish to do, because we believe we have loved enough. Besides, our efforts aren’t even appreciated, are they? – How little we would do if we did not have at least the gratitude of men, if not their praise! Does this not betray the selfish motivation of our wicked, sinful hearts?

And even those times when we have performed our duty, so often our hearts have not been in it. We did it begrudgingly, not as to the Lord, and we resented the imposition of our neighbour’s need.

Have we not also so often failed when the Lord has given us occasion to share the joyful news of sins forgiven through Jesus Christ? Have we too not buried in a dirty hole the precious life-giving, life-sustaining gift of the Gospel?

We husbands have failed always to love our wives as Christ has loved the church, laying down His life for her; you fathers have not always been faithful to bring up your children ‘in the training and admonition of the Lord’; you wives have not always been godly in your conduct towards your husbands; we children have not always honoured our parents.

These, our sins of omission, are enough thoroughly to damn us to an eternal hell. Our faults are far more numerous – and far more grave – than those of the wicked, lazy slave entrusted with one silver talent. If he is not spared, how shall our coming Judge spare us for the deliberate neglect of our duties?

Still worse, as we contemplate our faults, we realise the mountain of our sins of commission. Like the evil slave of the first parable, have you too not abused your fellow slaves? Have you not hurt them with your gossip, with your spiteful words, with your failing to believe the best of them? As with that slave, have you not despised and failed to esteem in thought, word and deed those in authority over you – your parents, your employers, your pastors? And as that slave ate and drank the provisions intended for his master’s household, have you not coveted what was not yours, acting craftily to your neighbour’s disadvantage?

Comforted with the Gospel

These are the sins for which Christ died, you who trust in Him.

‘After two days is the Passover, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.’, says Jesus to His disciples.

As we are crushed by the accusations of God’s holy Law, as we despair of our own wickedness, let us not then be like the faithless slaves of our parables, eternally consigned to the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. They believed their master to be harsh, not withstanding His lavish grace. Yet you, you know your Lord and Master to be gracious and merciful, for you have been given the riches of His kingdom, even the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

And this is that Good News to you who believe: Christ’s life of perfect obedience put to your account; His death in your place, bearing your punishment and washing away the guilt of all your sins; His resurrection for your justification.

As we daily repent of our sin and believe this Good News, the old nature is put to death and the new rises to life in Christ. We unexpectedly find the love of God to have been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, and we are surprised as this love overflows in good works for our neighbour. Jesus takes you, His unprofitable slaves, and fits you for His profitable service.

Yet the exceeding grace of God abounds still further in His kindness toward you in Christ Jesus. For even as the master in our parables rewarded his faithful slaves – not for their merit, but from his abundant grace – God is pleased to accept and reward your good works, blessing them, and causing you to bear fruit to the increase of His glory. Though all your good works be stained through with sin, though they be accompanied with ever so many weaknesses and imperfections, the Father nevertheless looks upon them in His Son, and is pleased to accept and reward for Christ’s sake that which you do from faith.[3]

May the Lord grant through the Gospel – through Christ for you and in you – that you be found faithful in His service. May He cause you to hear on that final day the commendation of your Lord, and to enter into His heavenly joy! And even in this, rest secure in the sure and certain promise of God: for it is He who works in you, both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

Go now in the peace of God through our Lord Jesus Christ, all you who are trusting in Him.

Amen.

Footnotes

1. See entry for δοῦλος in BDAG. [↩]

2. R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1961), 978. [↩]

3. Cf. 1677/89 Baptist Confession of Faith, ch. 16 ¶ 6. [↩]

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