JANUARY 31 2016

Accountability Under Grace Part Two


Last week we saw the wonderful privileges that we have under grace. Grace, remember, is simply the favor of God upon us – a favor that we do not deserve but that God directs towards us. Not just directs, but lavishes upon us! We have received so many benefits from the Lord!


  • It is because of his grace that he predestinated us.
  • It is through his grace that he redeemed us.
  • It is because of his grace that we have the forgiveness of sins.
  • It is through his grace that we have been adopted into the family of God. You are a son or daughter of God because of his grace towards you!
  • And it is through grace that he will keep you until the end. All who trust in Jesus Christ, and only those who trust in Christ, will be with him in the New Jerusalem eventually – after the next age that is coming.


Because we are under grace we experience discipline from the Lord when we need it. God’s favor upon us removes us from the coming condemnation that is coming upon the world. In order to be removed from the condemnation we must be holy, that is, we must be free from sin – we must be morally different from the ways of the world. Well, sometimes we are not. So, the Lord must bring the rod of correction. He must bring divine discipline. His discipline is a demonstration of his love and favor.


Parents who do not discipline their children do not love them very much. Why don’t parents discipline their children? There may be many reasons. The only good reason is that they do not need it at a certain time. I am not asking about that. I am asking why do some parents do not discipline their children at all or rarely. There may be many reasons, but the best reason will probably be that they do not want to see the feelings of their children hurt because it hurts their own feelings. What would you think of a doctor who would not give you a shot that would cure a deadly disease because he did not want to see you wince from the pain of the shot? You would think that he was living for the moment and that he was more interested in his own feelings than the welfare of his patient. That is what parents are like who do not discipline their children. They are more interested in their own feelings and they are living for the moment rather than for the long-term welfare of their children.


God is not so foolish. He gives us the discipline we need even though it may cause him sorrow. He gives us the discipline we need because he is not just the God of the present but he is the God of the future. God’s working in the here and now creates the future that he wills. For the one who trusts in Jesus it is all under grace.


Those of you who are parents or who have been parents: When you disciplined your children, did it always work? No, it did not. We have six children. Our experience has been that discipline does work most of the time, but not all of the time. As we have disciplined our children we have noticed that it does modify their behavior in a good way. But there are still things they do after discipline that are still wrong. I think this is the experience of most parents.


We are the same way as children of God. There are still things that we do that are contrary to his will. I am here to tell you, to warn you, that if we do not cooperate with the Lord in this life then we must receive the recompense for those deeds when the Lord returns. In other words, if we do not submit to the Lord’s discipline now then we will experience his discipline in the next age.


We need balance in the Christian life and we also need balance in the proclaiming of the word. There are some preachers out there (and you probably know who I am talking about) who preach nothing but positive sermons. “God wants you to have everything.” “All is well.” “Your best life right now.” Besides being wrong – God does not want you to have everything you desire. Your best life will not be now, but in the future if you belong to him. And things are not always well for God’s own people. You don’t have to read more than three pages of the Bible to figure that out. Besides being wrong, it is imbalanced to preach only positive messages. The Bible is full of happy promises, but it has even more dire warnings. There are warnings for the wicked. But there are also plenty of warnings for God’s own people. I preach more positive sermons than negative. This morning, though, it is time to hear a warning from God’s word.


Last week we briefly read a passage from Colossians. Today, I wish for us to consider this passage more carefully.


Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.

(Colossians 3:23-25 ESV)


Paul is writing to the church at Colossae. That city was located in Southern Turkey. It was destroyed by an earthquake not too long after Paul wrote his letter. Then the town was rebuilt near the original site and the church reestablished there. The Orthodox church preserves a tradition that reports of miracles occurring in that city. In the fourth century there was a man who lived in the city and neither he nor his family were Christians. He had a daughter who was mute. Michael the archangel appeared to him in a dream and revealed to him that his daughter would receive the gift of speech after drinking from the water of a certain spring nearby. The girl actually did receive healing and began to speak. After this miracle, the father and his daughter and all their family gave their lives to the Lord and were baptized. In fervent gratitude, the father built the church in honor of the angel Michael. Not only did Christians begin to come to the spring for healing, but also pagans. In so doing, many of the pagans turned from their idols and were converted to faith in Christ.


About 90 years later a man by the name of Archippos dedicated his whole life to God, taking care of the church of the Archangel. Meanwhile, an increasing number of pagans came to the spring at Colossae and were converted to the Christian faith by its healing powers. Finally, when Archippos was already an old man, the pagans around Colossae decided to destroy the church and the spring, presumably because it was bringing so many to faith. The pagans set to work diverting the flow of two nearby rivers so that they would flow together in a torrent, “diluting” (as they imagined) the life-giving spring, and certainly destroying the Christian church. For ten days they laboured openly in the sight of Archippos, who during this time fervently besought the protection of God and of the Archangel Michael. After the tenth day, at night, the pagans broke the dam that had been holding the combined waters back. Hearing the roar of the approaching waters, Archippos cried out with greater fervency for protection, and at that moment the Archangel Michael appeared – fully armed – and struck what appeared to be a spear into the ground. With a loud thundering the earth cleaved in two, and the onrushing waters were funneled into the great fissure, saving Archippos, the spring, and the church. This happened on September 6th.

The pagans fled in terror, the Christians came together to give thanks, and the place where the waters plunged into the cleft was renamed “Chonae”, which means “plunging.” The Orthodox church still celebrates September 6th in honor of this amazing miracle.


This story informs us that God was still performing miracles in the fifth century and you must know that God is still performing miracles today.


The city of Chonae, also spelled as Kona, continued on until the 12th century when it was destroyed by Muslims.


Colossae, or Kona, was a faithful city for a long time. When Paul wrote to them in 61 or 62 AD they were very faithful. Hear what Paul writes at the very beginning of the letter: [READ 1:1-6].


·      Their faith was known.

·      They had love for all the saints.

·      They possessed the hope of heaven.

·      They were bearing fruit in the gospel. (They were out proclaiming!)

·      They understood the grace of God!


Let us be frank. The Colossian church was more faithful than New Salem is now.


Returning to our passage in chapter three he tells them that, in whatever they do, to work heartily. All these admonitions are for us, brothers and sisters.


Do not do things half-heartedly. If you are going to do anything, do it with all your heart. Do not hold back! Give it your all! Even if you must engage in activity that you do not particularly like, such as some task at your job that you were hoping that your boss would not give you but he did, do not do it with a half-effort or a three-fourths effort. Do it like your life depended on it. (That may be more true than you suspect.) Put yourself into it! That is what the apostle is saying.


More than this, he even gives you a method by which to accomplish this. We are to think that whatever work we do is as if we were working directly for Jesus Christ. If we were most of us would work more diligently than we are accustomed.


Paul goes on to say that if we work heartily then from the Lord we will receive a reward. We may receive a reward from our boss or from someone else at times. At other times people will fail to recognize the good work that we do. But the Lord will.


The reward is not only for hearty work, as if the only thing a disciple must do is work well. You can imagine a Christian who has a good work ethic who always puts in a good days work, but then he comes home and treats his wife poorly, treats his children poorly, doesn’t forgive his neighbor for some transgression even though his neighbor apologized, and never speaks to anyone about the Lord. That kind of Christian, assuming he is a Christian, is not going to receive a reward. Paul is merely listing one of the things that the Lord is going to consider at the Judgment Seat. Faithfulness is required in all of life. If this were left up to us then none of us would receive a reward, because our natural life is not able to meet up to the claims of a holy life. But every true believer has been given the Holy Spirit to stimulate them, to enliven them, to empower them, and to generate joy in the heart. Thus we can live faithful lives by his life within us!


What is a reward? What is the difference between a reward and a gift? A gift is something that one receives from another person and it is unrelated to what the receiver of the gift has done. We know that eternal life is a gift. This is one of the clearest messages of the NT. When we come to the Lord with empty hands, knowing that nothing we have done can make us acceptable to God, and we cry out to Him, we receive the gift of eternal life.


A reward, on the other hand, is something that one receives for what they have done. First Corinthians 3:14 says, "If anyone's work which he has built upon the foundation remains, he will receive a reward." Here it says that if his work remains, he will be rewarded. It does not say that if his faith remains he will be rewarded. The matter of reward depends on one's work. The Bible distinguishes clearly between salvation and reward. It never mixes up salvation and reward, and it never mixes up faith and work. Without faith, man cannot be saved. Without good works, man cannot be rewarded.


Look carefully at our passage.  What does Paul say that the reward is? Our inheritance is a reward. We have an opportunity to inherit the kingdom of Christ that is coming in the next age. This inheritance is not guaranteed. Rather, it is a reward. Not every child in a family necessarily receives the same benefits upon the death of a parent. Rather, what the parent puts in the will, the testament, will determine who receives what. The wise parent will list the items of the inheritance according to the love, the care, and the responsibility of each child. In other words, according to each child’s worthiness. This is exactly how rewards will be determined by our Lord and he has made this plain in his word.


Thus far, we are still on the positive side of things. After all, rewards are a positive thing. Now let us consider verse 25. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.


What “wrongdoer” is this? It is not the worldling of which he speaks. It is not the unbeliever. It is not the unsaved. The context of this passage, and the whole letter, is the saint, the Christian. The follower of Christ who is a wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done. Paid back by whom? By the Lord Himself!


Brothers and sisters, this is why we must keep a short account with the Lord! This is why we must examine ourselves often and we must mortify any known sin in our lives. Again, I say to you: If left to ourselves we would just get discouraged and give up. But the Lord has given us his Spirit and that supernatural life moves us! It moves us away from iniquity and moves us into the perfect will of God.


If we refuse to acknowledge our sin and repent, of what will this “paying back” consist? It will consist of at least two things.


The unfaithful disciple will be beaten. What? Beaten? “Away with him!” Look, I did not write the Bible. I’m just proclaiming what Jesus said. Let’s look at a passage together and I will give you the reasons why it is not too difficult to ascertain what Jesus is saying.


READ Luke 12:35-48.


In order to understand a passage of Scripture it is very helpful to know who the original audience was. To whom was the speaker speaking? To answer that we only need to look at the larger context. Going back to verse 22 we read, “And he said to his disciples.” In verse 32 he says,


“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”


It is clear, then, that he is speaking to his disciples and not to a general audience. Let us consider further evidence within our immediate text.


[1] Verse 35, “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning.” The oil for our “lamps” is the Holy Spirit. Only believers have the Holy Spirit.


[2] Verse 36, “be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast.” Only believers are waiting for their master. The unbelievers have no master in their reckoning of things.


[3] Verse 37, “Blessed are those servants…” The disciples are called servants over and over in the pages of the NT.


[4] In verse 38, if they are awake He says “blessed are those servants!” Simply being alert makes them blessed. This could never be said about an unbeliever.


In verse 40 Jesus says, “You also must be ready.” So, Peter, not yet having received the Holy Spirit, is not certain that Jesus is referring to them. He thinks, as many still do today in parables similar to this one, that Jesus is referring to a general audience. He asks, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?”


The Lord answers him by asking a question. “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master will set over his household to give them their portion of food at the proper time?” (vs 42) Jesus is speaking of those in the church who minister to others. He is letting Peter know, “Yes, this means you and the other eleven.”


Note in verse 43 he says, “Blessed is that servant.” He will get a reward. But here is a key to the whole parable. Note in verse 44 he says, “But if that servant says to himself…” and then goes on to describe unbecoming behavior. It is the same servant! One cannot say one is a true servant and one is not. It is the same servant acting in different ways.


The result of misusing the privileges given by the Lord will be to put with the unbelievers or the unfaithful. Where that will be must be left to another time. Presently, we are merely establishing that there will be discipline described as a beating for those who misuse their gifts.


We now come to the main point of the parable in verses 47 and 48. And so, we see that there will be a beating, either severe or light, but a beating nevertheless, for the disciple who does not do the will of the Lord.


What does it mean by beating? A parable is a story that reflects a common or, at least, understandable experience in the world that communicates a spiritual truth. We know about earthly matters. We are ignorant about what comes about in the realm of God’s kingdom. This is why Jesus taught in parables, so that unknown things may be known. The beating in the parable is the known thing, something we understand. It represents what will happen at the Judgment Seat for some. It is not actually what happens. The beating stands for something.


What does it represent? It represents the pain that the unfaithful disciple will experience from the Lord because of his unfaithfulness. I do not think it will be physical pain, although it may be. The reason I do not think it will be a physical pain is because physical pain is not the worst kind of pain. The worst sort of pain is emotional and mental anguish. I suspect it will be along those lines. The exact nature of the painful aspect of our discipline is, to some extent, shrouded in mystery.

Returning to our passage in Colossians 3:25 where Paul writes that the wrongdoer, the Christian, will be paid back for the wrong he has done, I asked the question, “What will be the paying back?” I said that there were at least two things. One is the beating, the pain, that the disciple will receive. The second thing we will, by the Lord’s grace, talk about next week.


[Application & Conclusion] What ought we to do? We must look to that great day. We must have in our minds and in our hearts the world that is to come. We must set our minds on things above. That day of Reckoning should be in our thoughts daily.


Finally, we must prepare for that day. We prepare by confessing our sins to the Lord and, if need be, to one another. Each night before going to sleep we should assess our day. If there were any sins that come to mind we should confess those to the Lord. Better yet, as soon as we sin we should confess the sin to the Lord. For those sins that continue to persist in our lives we must take measures to mortify them – that means put them to death – eliminate them from our lives altogether. The Lord has given us the power and the tools to do this.


The day is coming. Let us gird our minds. Let us prepare. Let us repent if necessary. And you are able to do this because His grace is upon you!


The Lord has given into your hands everything you need to prepare for that day.


  • He has given you his word, the Bible, to know that which is true and to be equipped.
  • He has placed you in the church where you are protected, informed, fed, and loved.
  • He has given you a new heart that desires the things of God.
  • Above all, he has given you his life, the Spirit, who dwells within you and empowers you.


Let us not neglect these many benefits as we prepare for that day!