SEVENTH "VERILY, VERILY."
THE SERVICE OF THE NEW MAN.
The fifth "Verily, Verily," bore witness to the Liberty of the New Man. The sixth opened the mystery of his Divine Nature. The seventh shows his Service, which flows from his freedom as a Son of God, and from participation in the very life of God. For it is not by service that we come to freedom, or to be sons of God, but by sonship and freedom to partake in God's service. He serves, for He is love; and those who share His life serve as His sons with Him, to seek and save His feeble sheep. Thus the service before us is Christ's own service, in which we cannot but take part, just in proportion as He lives in us, and we are anointed with His Spirit.
Our Lord's words upon this subject follow an example of Pharisaic service. A man blind from his birth had just had his eyes opened by the Son of God. This healing was done upon the sabbath, and the Pharisees said, "This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day." They cannot see how the need of man is a call on God to work, and a proof that the true day of rest has not yet come. They say therefore to the man that had been blind, "What sayest thou of him who opened thine eyes?" He answered, "He is a prophet." Then they said, "Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner." He that had been blind answered and said, "Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not. One thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see." Then they reviled him, and said, "Thou art his disciple, but we are Moses' disciples. We know that God spake to Moses: as for this fellow, we know not whence he is." The man answered and said unto them, "Why, herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes. If this man were not of God, he could do nothing." They answered and said unto him, "Thou wast altogether born in sin, and dost thou teach us?" And they cast him out (John 9:16-34). Thus do Pharisees serve souls. Full of zeal for the written word; saying again and again, "We know" (John 9:24, 29); boasting to be disciples of one, through whom God's word in past days came to men; yet deaf to that word when it comes to them, and blind to see God working in their midst; all that they can do for one whom they think wrong, because he has received from the living and present Word some light they could not give, and because through this light he is delivered from their power, is to "cast him out." This is the last resource of Pharisaic service: it can only cast the erring out; without a thought of winning them back, or restoring the lost, or of bearing their burdens, like a true shepherd. For the one idea of a Pharisee is to be right himself, whoever else is wrong. The lame and blind are on every hand. The Pharisee can yet thank God that he is not as other men (Luke 18:11). So he "rests in the law, and makes his boast in God, and knows His will, and is confident that he himself is a guide to the blind, and a light to them which are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, with the form of knowledge and of the truth according to the law" (Rom. 2:17-20); but the erring are yet erring, and the lame and blind still lame and blind, so far at least as Pharisaic service is concerned. Pharisees cannot conceive of a service which sacrifices itself, to save and win the erring and the lost.
In strongest contrast to all this we have the Service of the New Man. Four distinct points in it are brought before us here: first, its marks; secondly, its aim; thirdly, its cost; lastly, its results. In all these it differs from Pharisaic service as much as heaven from earth.
1. Its marks are these:—"Verily, Verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not in by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice" (John 10:1-4).
The first great mark is, that a true servant, like a shepherd, goes with the sheep, sheepish and animal and prone to wander as they are; goes through the same door as the sheep, and by the way which they can go; even through the door, which is provided for them, because, being such as they are, they need a sheepfold for defence, and cannot enter by any other way. If any one "climbs up," showing by so doing that he is superior to the sheep,—if he goes by another nearer or higher way, in which the sheep, being only sheep, cannot follow him,—he may prove that he can do what they cannot, but he proves also that he has not a shepherd's heart. Such an act shows that he is a thief. For in meddling with sheep a man will either be a shepherd or a thief. Men do not meddle with them without intending either to serve themselves or serve the sheep. The true shepherd serves the sheep. Therefore he goes by the way that they can go. If they are in the field, he with them is in the field, consumed by day with drought, by night with cold (Gen. 31:40). If they need a door, he stoops to enter by the door; a ceaseless toiler for lower natures, who know not what he gives up and bears in such service. In a word, this is Christ's service; such service as the Incarnation shows; that wondrous coming down by which the Son of God stooped to the place of brutal erring men; not helping us far off, but coming to us where we were; sharing our sleeping and waking, our weakness and our wants; that by His humiliation He might meet our folly and our need, and in due time bring us safely home.
Now one would perhaps have thought that such service would have been approved by all, and that religious men especially would instinctively have recognised its beauty and adaptation to our need. But it is not so. In religion perhaps more than anywhere we see the power of the adversary of man. Pharisaic service therefore is approved, while service after Christ's pattern is yet, like Him, condemned as unspiritual and countenancing sin. For is it not counted a mark of spirituality with some, who think themselves religious, that instead of the stronger and wiser sacrificing themselves, or that peculiarity which is their special boast,—generally some form or truth which they suppose they hold more fully and correctly than their brethren,—each Christian and each so-called Church should take the highest possible ground, giving up nothing of what they call the truth for the sake of those, who through spiritual infancy or ignorance cannot yet receive it, and to whom therefore such truth or such a standing is, not only at present unattainable, but may even be most unsuitable; therefore never coming down in their Church forms for weaker souls, or, like Paul, becoming a Jew to gain the Jews; but on the contrary all getting up as near to heaven as they can, for their own spiritual profit, and, as they say, for God's glory; with little thought for those who still are carnal, and who therefore cannot accept or use the so-called spiritual thing, which is presented as the only way which is acceptable to God?
But is this Christ's service? Is this stooping to "enter by the door;" or is it not rather simply Pharisaism still, living and working among those who in word are loudest in their condemnation of the Pharisees of old, while they are themselves repeating the same mistake? For what is Pharisaism? It is surprising to find what mistakes are current upon this point. Pharisaism is supposed by most to be mainly a zealous adherence to legalism and Jewish forms. It is not thought that a converted Evangelical, who rails at forms, can be a Pharisee. Yet the real Pharisee of this dispensation must needs be Evangelical. The word Pharisee simply means Separatist (from the Hebrew פרש, to separate); one who, when the Church of his age is full of evil, separates himself, with the idea of living more correctly according to the truth, which he believes was given by God at the commencement of the dispensation. Of course in the Jewish dispensation the Pharisee or Separatist, who tried to live more closely according to the truth of his dispensation, was necessarily legal, because the dispensation then was one of law. But the Pharisee of this dispensation is the man who in the Church's fall thinks to be right by his own and others' separation, according to the exact rule or letter of the dispensation, which is not law but gospel; and his aim, often most true according to his light, is to live as far as he can according to the pattern set up at the beginning of the dispensation. This he can only do by separation; and therefore he is a Separatist, in other words a Pharisee. And in all this he may honestly believe that he is serving God, just as Paul did when he lived a Pharisee (Acts 23:1; 26:4, 5). I know how plausible the error is; for I too have thought that it was really according to God's mind to take what is called the "right ground," even though the mass of the Church is left behind in bondage and ignorance. I now see that, however good the intention, this is not Christ's path. It has two mistakes: it is untrue, and unloving. Untrue, because unconsciously it stands on a pretence, and assumes that, though the Church as a whole is wrong, some of its members can by outward separation, and by taking the original ground of the dispensation, as they say, stand clear of the common shame and failure, thus practically denying the Church's real unity; and it is unloving, because it forsakes sick and erring brethren, teaching men under the guise of zeal for God to consider first their own interests,—in the next world, I allow, still their own interest,—thinking only or mainly to be right themselves, and, if others are wrong, thank God they are not like other men. Not such is the service which our Lord approves. Its first mark is, that, instead of climbing up to go by a way sheep cannot go, or in which only a few of the stronger, the goats perhaps, alone can follow, it comes down to share the weakness of the weakest of the flock, and enters with them into the sheepfold, by the lowly door appointed for their need.
There are other minor marks of this service, but they are all only details of the one great mark, of going like a shepherd with the sheep. Thus our Lord adds, as to the true shepherd, that "the sheep hear his voice" (John 10:3), that is, they understand him, for he is not too far above them. Then "he calleth them by name" (John 10:3). Here is personal acquaintance with the character of each. He "teaches," as the Apostle says, not only "publicly," but "from house to house" (Acts 20:20). Then again "he leads them out," that is, beyond the external constitution of the Church, which is appointed for protection, to the freer pastures of promise, lying beyond, far sweeter and fresher than the useful but often dry provision of the fold. Further, when he so puts them forth, "he goeth before them"; for he says not, "Go," but "Come": not, like Lot, saying to his children, "Get you out" (Gen. 19:14), but "Follow me" (1 Cor. 11:1). And "the sheep follow him, for they know his voice" (John 10:4). They know when they are fed. All true ministry sooner or later is recognised by those who profit by it. To such service "the porter openeth" (John 10:3), even the Holy Ghost, the guardian of the Church, (Note: So Theophylact, and Augustine, quoted in Catena Aurea, in loco.) and the unfailing fellow-worker with the sons of God, who still is with us, in our midst, to open doors and hearts for all who feed the flock of God.
And yet when this was spoken to the disciples, "they understood not what these things were" (John 10:6). The cross and humiliation of the Son of God are still beyond their understanding. Like the Jews of old, they look for a Messiah who is only to be exalted, rather than for One who takes His people's place. In vain are the prophet's words, that God would feed His flock, and carry the lambs in His bosom, and seek and find the lost (Isa. 40:11; Ezek. 34:12-16). It is all beyond them, until God's life is stirring in their hearts. We too are slow to see in humiliation for others the tokens of a present God. Even when such service is before us, we understand it not, until the Spirit comes, to make us sharers of the heart and mind of God.
2. From the marks of true service our Lord next passes to its aim, which is to be a "door for sheep:"—"Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, Verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep" (John 10:7), that is, I am the medium or means to bring them into rest. There is a change of figure here. For the marks of service, the "shepherd's" conduct is our guide, who enters by the path in which the sheep can follow. But to teach the aim or object of true service, our Lord here points us to the "door," as showing that service is a means only, not the end, though without such means the end could not be reached. For a door is not only a witness of an inner fold or chamber, but it is still more the appointed means, by which those who are without may enter in. True ministry, whether in Christ or His servants, is all this. They both are "doors," to enable others to enter where without such means they could not come. The eternal Word by taking our nature has become the "door" to "bring us to God" (1 Pet. 3:18). (Note: So Ignatius, in his Epistle to the Philadelphians, (cap. 9,) calls our Lord ἡ θύρα τοῦ πατρός. See too the Shepherd of Hermas, Simil. iii. 9, and ix. 12.) God is the end; but we come "through Christ," who is the medium or mediator (1 Tim. 2:5), and the "new and living way" (Heb. 10:20; 13:20). (Note: The words "through" and "door" are both simply later forms or corruptions of the word θύρα, which is here used. See Richardson's Dictionary, on the word "through," and Tooke's Diversions of Purley, on the same word, p. 180.) When the end is reached, He gives up His office, "that God may be all in all" (1 Cor. 15:24). And His servants too are "doors" or "gates." For "on the gates of the city of God are written the names" of the fathers of the elect (Rev. 21:12; Ezek. 48:31-35); on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, on the west three gates; facing east and west and north and south, with differences of administration, yet in one life, to bring in from every quarter the nations who still are far from God. For there is no entrance into the city, even as there is no entrance into this world, save through fathers who have gone before us, who are as gates by which we enter in. And yet these firstborn are but means, not ends. Like John the Baptist, they are but "voices," which witness to the "Word," and then are no more heard (John 1:23; 3:30). Their object is, not to bring or keep souls to themselves, but to lead them in to God, in His presence to be re-made by Him, according to His will. This is indeed the test of service. Does it lead to God, or take His place? All false ministry practically takes God's place, and therefore has a disposition to enslave, leaving souls imperfect to the end, because afar from God. True ministry, on the contrary, is but a "door," leading souls and consciences to God; feeling that nothing is done unless they are really brought to Him.
Further, true ministry is a "door for sheep," that is for those poor animal souls, who because of their weakness need a keeper and a guide. For the Church, like Noah's ark, contains, not men only, but beasts (Gen. 6:19-21); and in it, according to the law of love, the higher and purer must serve the baser natures. The spiritual are elect, not for themselves, but to be "doors" or mediums of blessing to those outside, who without them could not return to God. This indeed is their joy; for they also all have once been lost; and having been sought and found and brought to enter in, and been made partakers of the life and love of Him who sought and found them, and who became a "door" to bring them in to God, they too rejoice to become the means by which others yet wandering may be brought in; though to be such they must, like "doors," be formed, and placed, and used, altogether according to another's will. The Lord has stooped to this: they gladly stoop with Him, "if by any means they may save some" (1 Cor. 9:22).
In contrast with all this the Lord then speaks of service of another kind. If, instead of being "doors," men "come before the door," they will rather enslave and hurt, than serve, the flock. For "all that came before me are thieves" (John 10:8). In what sense is this true? Some have said that our Lord's words here declare that the whole Jewish dispensation proceeded from an evil spirit. (Note: This was the Gnostic view of the text. See Hippolytus, Refutation of Heresies, book vi. chap. 30. To obviate this error the words "before me" were omitted in the Vulgate and the Douay Version—a notable instance of tampering with the true reading for doctrinal reasons.) This cannot be our Lord's meaning, for He elsewhere teaches, that both the Old Covenant and the New, the ministry of death and condemnation even as of righteousness and life, proceed from the same one God, because both are equally required for the work of our salvation. Others therefore have attempted to explain the words by distinguishing between "coming" and "being sent." (Note: As Jerome, Dial. adv. Pelag. lib. ii.; and Augustine, in Johan., Hom. xlv. § 8.) All who "come," that is, they say, who come of their own will, instead of being sent of God. But neither can this, I think, be the true sense. "All who came before me," if I err not, means, all who obstruct the way; who, instead of coming as "doors," that is as means, practically make themselves the end, and thus lead souls no further than to themselves. Many, even since Christ's day, have thus come "before Him," that is in His place, blocking the way; "neither entering themselves, nor allowing others to enter in" (Luke 11:52). All who thus come, claiming to be something in themselves, standing on their supposed power and gift, and occupying others with themselves rather than the Lord, will only bring souls into bondage. Such are and must be "thieves and robbers." Those who come, as nothing in themselves, save as they lead to God, are fulfilling the work, which our Lord Himself is still working through His members.
But how is it true that "the sheep did not hear" these deceivers (John 10:8)? Have not false teachers mightily prevailed? Have true sheep never been led astray? Have we not all listened to deceivers? Surely we have. But even when we did, was there not always something in us, which hated the lie? Even when most erring, was there no longing for the true Shepherd? Let those who have been deceived bear witness, whether there has not been in them a voice condemning what is not of the truth, as soon as it is brought to light. The "sheep" does not love to be deceived. If souls are caught, it is because some lie pretends to be the truth. False apostles, deceitful workers, only prevail by transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ, and putting on something of His likeness (2 Cor. 11:13). Errors therefore are continually changing their form; for the sheep, foolish as they are, would not for a moment listen to them, unless the lie bore the appearance at least of truth and love.
3. What then is the cost of such service, and from what motive does it proceed? Our Lord's words here cannot be misunderstood.
First, such service costs a life. "The good shepherd giveth his life, because he careth for the sheep" (John 10:11); while hireling service ever cares for self more than for the sheep:—"the hireling fleeth, because he is a hireling" (John 10:12). Service after Christ's pattern springs from God's own life, and therefore gives a life. Only a "good shepherd," who has the life of Him who is good, can offer such a sacrifice. He that is a hireling may do much, but he will never give his life. Mere contract work is always contracted work. He that only works for wages, works for self-interest, not because he loves the work; and with such a motive, wages here or wages hereafter, to enrich himself, how can he for others give his life? Will he not in the time of trial always ask, Is the return worth all this cost? and still more, Am I after all quite sure of getting the reward? Of such hirelings God has said, "Woe to the shepherds of Israel that feed themselves. Should not the shepherds feed the flock?" (Ezek. 34:2). Such service always fails. Not with such a motive does the "good shepherd" serve. Nor is his service to be fulfilled, as a thing by the way, in addition to the pursuit of other aims. Even an earthly trade will not so succeed (2 Tim. 2:4). We may indeed play at servants without cost. We cannot serve after Christ's example without giving up a life. Service like His will claim our all. Who can love God with all his heart, and his neighbour as himself, without being indeed a burnt offering? Who can help a fallen soul, or bring him back to God, without bearing his burden, and confessing his sin or folly with him? Who can keep even a company of true brethren together in peace, without being a constant sacrifice for them? Christ's service demands all this. He therefore who truly feeds the flock is often, as the Apostle says, "in labours, in watchings, in fastings," for them (2 Cor. 6:5), and will find, especially in times of lukewarmness, or persecution, or disease, that his work cannot be done unless his life is given for the sheep. And the spirit of Christ accepts all this, for the spirit of Christ is love, and love must give itself for the beloved. (Note: A late archbishop of Paris died with these heavy words upon his lips: "Bonus pastor animam suam dat pro ovibus suis;" shot down in his endeavour to stay the strife before one of the barricades, in 1848.)
But this service costs yet more. Our Lord adds, "I know my sheep, and am known of mine" (John 10:14). Some perhaps have yet to learn the cost of "knowing the sheep, and being known of them." Let them only "know the sheep," and they will soon understand what is involved in such knowledge. In this world we suffer exactly in proportion to our love. For can I love others, and know their pain, and not be pained for them, especially if those who suffer in any sense are mine? Can I even know of the pain of strangers without a pang? Can a beggar in want stand at my door, and his want not touch me, if I love my neighbour as myself? If there were no goodness in me, I might suffer nothing; but he that dwells in love cannot know another's want, and not feel it as more or less his own. To make known one's wants therefore to loving souls is to cast the burden on them. So Martha and Mary in trouble only say, "Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick" (John 11:3); for they had learnt that He could not know their need, and stand unmoved. And indeed even the world now acknowledges that if one who is in need can say, "You know me,"—if even he bring a letter of introduction from one who knows the case,—still more, if he has been an old acquaintance,—such knowledge constitutes a claim for help which cannot be denied. The most selfish now feel bound to succour trouble which they know. What then must "knowing the sheep" cost those who have the Master's heart? Must they not often cry, "Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I burn not?" (2 Cor. 11:29).
And if "knowing the sheep" cost something, what is the cost of being "known of them"? Can any loving soul be "known," without attracting to himself every case of pain and need around? Will not sufferers of every class turn to such a man? He is "known of them," and as a result they pour out every trouble into his sympathizing ear. They know that he cannot refuse his help, for he is "a debtor to the Jew and Greek," because "the love of Christ constrains him." Surely the loving know what is involved in being "known." They seek not their own. Therefore, as with the Master, "all men seek them"—"All the city is gathered at the door" (Mark 1:33, 37).
Thus the good shepherd "knows and is known." And the measure or pattern of this knowledge is the mutual knowledge of the Father and the Son. So He says, "I know my sheep, and am known of mine, as the Father knoweth me, and I know the Father" (John 10:14, 15), that is in virtue of a common nature, the partakers of which cannot but feel with and understand each other. Christ knows the Father, for "He is in the Father, and the Father is in Him" (John 14:10); and for the same reason the Father knows the Son. Just so the sheep know Christ, because they are "in Him" (1 John 5:20), and therefore have His mind (1 Cor. 2:16); and He knows them, because He is "in them" (John 17:23), and therefore shares their thoughts; both being the result of a participation in the same nature. It is only the fallen life of selfhood which makes us slow to understand each other. The key to all knowledge is the life of God, who is in all and feels for all. In it the shepherd knows his sheep, and they know him, even as the Father knows the Son, and He the Father. These words show too that in His sympathy with us the Son is not doing something different from His Father; for His Father's union with Him is the very ground and pledge of His eternal union and sympathy with us. Nor does He call us to anything but what He Himself has done; for, like Him, we are to know and to be known, only as the Father knows Him, and He knows the Father. In a word, Christ's knowledge and sympathy with us rest on the Father's knowledge and sympathy with Him, and our knowledge of Him rests on His knowledge of the Father; all being but outflowings of the same eternal life, which God has given and revealed to men, that in it we may overcome that selfish life which is the root and fruit of ignorance of God, and may henceforth dwell in Him and He in us.
4. It remains to notice the results of such service: first, the results on others; then, on the servant himself.
As respects others, the results of service are that by it some are now saved, but that, besides this, it will ultimately bring home many others who as yet are lost sheep. So our Lord says first, as to present results, "By me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture" (John 10:9). But this is not all. There are wider issues:—"Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and there shall be one flock, and one shepherd" (John 10:16). True service first saves those who here accept it, who by it now enter into rest, and are delivered from the countless snares and wants, which the sheep are subject to in the field, that is this present state of labour and temptation. The prophet's word tells us the greatness of this salvation; that it "will bring again that which is lost, and bind up that which is broken, and strengthen that which is sick;" so that "they shall no more be for a prey, neither shall the beasts of the field devour them; but they shall dwell safely, and none shall make them afraid. And the Lord Himself shall give them a plant of renown, and they shall no more be consumed with hunger in the land; for the tree of the field shall yield her fruit, and the earth shall yield her increase" (Ezek. 34:16, 27-29). All this for some is present blessing, who now enter by the door, and know what it is, while even here, to be led in and out and find pasture. But the Good Shepherd looks beyond the present, for He has "other sheep, which are not of this fold," who are yet His own, though wandering still, and precious to Him. "Them also He must bring, so that there may be one flock only, and one shepherd." In the primary sense the Gentile world is here referred to, and most blessed is it to see that Christ regards the nations or heathen as His sheep, though as yet lost, and wandering from Him. For indeed the Christ is Son of Man, full of the heart and mind of Him who gave His Son "to save the world" (John 3:17; 12:47; 1 John 4:14); Son of that Father who says, "Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession" (Psalm 2:8); who has said, "It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel; I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth" (Isa. 49:6); according to the oath and promise to the elect, "In thee and in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed" (Gen. 12:2; 22:18; 28:14). By nature our selfish hearts may think little of these lost ones. But the Son of Man, who is the Good Shepherd, does not forget them. Even now they are His own, for God has given them to Him, and He has given His life for them.
This is true of Christ's members also, in whom He does His works, who with Him are "ministers by whom others believe," and who "receive their own reward according to their labour" (1 Cor. 3:5, 8). These are "labourers together with God," and, "giving heed to themselves and to the doctrine," they here "both save themselves and those who hear them" (1 Tim. 4:16). By them a present work is wrought. But their service does not end here. They too are "heirs of the world" (Rom. 4:13; Gal. 3:8, 9); and therefore even of those who are yet lost, they may say with Christ, "Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold." A saint may say, I am part of Christ's body, and the world is mine (1 Cor. 3:22). People I shall never see in the flesh are mine, for they are given to me in Christ, according to the covenant which cannot be disannulled. He did not fully enter upon His priestly work till He had passed through death and judgment; and so my death shall only introduce me to fuller service to those, who, though not of the present fold, are His, and mine in Him. The "other sheep" shall be brought home. "Them also I must bring." It is laid on me, and I shall do it. For in the coming age those who are Christ's, and win the prize of the high calling, shall be priests and kings (Rev. 1:6), to bring in those who will never enter the present fold, but who, as made partakers, though not among the first-born, of the common life of God, shall be parts of the "one flock," and under "one shepherd." For not for ever shall there be two flocks, of saved and lost. The lost shall be sought by the Good Shepherd "until He find it" (Luke 15:4). Division shall not be for ever; for "God is one" (Rom. 3:30; Gal. 3:20; 1 Tim. 2:5). All shall hear His voice at last, and there shall be "one flock, and one shepherd."
This service has blessed results also on the servant. The Father loves him for it. "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again" (John 10:17). Surely the Son was ever beloved. The Lord possessed Him in the beginning of His way. He was God's delight from everlasting (Prov. 8:30). But He took upon Him the form of a servant; and for His service also He is beloved (Phil. 2:7-9): as God's servant, He is His delight (Isa. 42:1). We too are loved as sons, even when blind, erring, and lame. But we also may please God, and be loved for our obedience; as our Lord declares, "If a man love me, he will keep my words, and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him" (John 14:21). Oh, could we only think more of the joy our service gives to Him; how precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints (Psalm 116:15), and how the service of His elect is to Him "as grapes in the wilderness, and as the first ripe fruit in the fig-tree at her first time" (Hosea 9:10),—could we but remember, that, if wise, we make our Father's heart glad (Prov. 27:11), even as by our unbelief we grieve Him every day,—we should oftener be constrained to present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to Him, which is our reasonable service.
And what makes this service acceptable is, that it is both voluntary, and yet the fulfilling of a command. It is voluntary and free:—"I lay down my life: no man taketh it from me; but I lay it down of myself" (John 10:18). It springs from a heart in communion with Him, who, being love, freely gave His Only-begotten Son. But it is also according to commandment, and satisfies the Father's will:—"This commandment have I received of my Father" (John 10:18). Thus is the same service both a free-will offering, yet obedience also, according to a law, even the law of love, which seeketh not its own. The Son wills what the Father wills. And in Him the Father is well pleased, because the Son freely gives Himself for men. Therefore He concludes,—"I and my Father are one" (John 10:30). But they are not more one than Christ and His members. He is the Head and they the body; and they are loved by Him even as He is by the Father (John 15:9). Therefore in the same life they give themselves, while yet they are fulfilling a commandment. No man forces them to stoop for others. They give their lives because they love; though in this laying down of life they are living out the law of God. Their will desires what He commands. The Law of the Offerings illustrates all this. But the next "Verily, Verily," still more reveals it, in what it tells us of the Sacrifice of the New Man, that others may live through Him.
This is the service God approves; and for something of the spirit of this service He ever looks, not only from His under-shepherds (Ezek. 34:2-10), but even from His sheep; for His contention with His flock, when He "judges between the lambs, and kids, and he-goats," is that the strong have "thrust with side and shoulder, and pushed the diseased and feeble with their horns," "eating up the good pasture, and drinking the deep waters," and only leaving for the weak "that which they have trodden and polluted with their feet" (Ezek. 34:17-22). And so when Christ comes to judgment, and all are gathered before Him, and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth the sheep from the goats, what is the charge against those who are condemned but this:—"I was an hungred and ye gave me no meat; I was thirsty and ye gave me no drink" (Matt. 25:41-45)? Their crime is simply lack of love, that is, lack of likeness to their Lord; lack of His life, which He has come to give to all, if we will but receive Him; a life which must live for others, not for self, because it is God's very life, which seeketh not its own, for God is love. All true service is but the outflowing of this one eternal life, which has patience, and labours, and faints not to the end, and whose last works shall be more even than the first. Christ is the pattern of this service. Henceforth may it not be we who live, but Christ only who lives and serves in us.
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