God’s Word for You
Colossians 3:23-25 Serve the Lord Christ
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, September 7, 2019
23 Whatever you do, do it from the heart, working for the Lord, not for men, 24 knowing that the Lord will give you an inheritance as a reward. Serve the Lord Christ.
There is nothing that anyone can do that is good apart from obedience to the will of God. What I mean is that there is no good that is in any way independent of God’s good: “There is only One who is good” (Matthew 19:17). “To say that anything is good independently of God is a form of dualism, of atheism” (Pieper, Christian Dogmatics III p. 39). If the world despises something God commands, then there is a special glory for the Christian who carries out that work. Why? Because he does it only because God commands it, and despite the ridicule and teasing he may well receive on account of doing it. What else can we say that Noah received from his neighbors as he took 120 years to build a ship designed for a voyage that would go nowhere, but merely to stay afloat? Noah persevered in his task, and Moses reports that “Noah did everything just as God commanded him” (Genesis 6:22).
Do not misunderstand the verse. “Working for the Lord” does not only mean doing work that the world would call “the Lord’s work,” that is, the work of a pastor or Christian teacher. Whatever work the Christian does because it is his or hers to do is working for the Lord. The housepainter does the work of the Lord when he sets up his scaffold, gently covers the flowers that the lady of the house has planted and tended, and then scrapes and sands the window that needs painting, working his way through the old layers of paint and roughing up the surface enough to make it ready to receive the new coat. Then he dusts it and might even wash it. When it is ready, he primes it, coming back in the afternoon to apply the finish coat. It’s a labor that pains the arm’s muscles and the ankles and knees, and is often despised by customers who complain that they could have done as good a job without taking so much time. Yet the painter has done his work, not just to be paid a wage, but because he loves the wood and the look of the finished job. He takes satisfaction in preserving the beauty and the life of the home, which is also a gift of God. And the same story can be told of every farmer, builder, accountant, lawyer, physician, teacher, janitor, baker, grocer, policeman, fireman, and every other occupation that does its work under God’s firmament, and few that work above it. Luther said:
Good works are not those which we choose ourselves, but those which God has commanded, those which our vocation calls for. A servant does good works when he fears God, believes in Christ, and obeys his master. (Sermon on Titus 2:13).
This is just one of two places where the title of Jesus is given as the Lord Christ; the other is Romans 16:18 (also, “set apart Christ as Lord,” 1 Peter 3:15). The best understanding of this use of the titles of Jesus without the name of Jesus is that he is “both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). By “Lord,” we must understand something far greater than the master of servants or slaves or even of disciples. Christ is the LORD, Jehovah; he is God. By “Christ” we can understand nothing else than Messiah, the Anointed One promised in the Old Testament (Psalm 2:2; Daniel 9:25-26), who ended the sacrifices by becoming the one sacrifice that atoned for all.
25 For anyone who does wrong will be repaid for it, and there is no favoritism.
This is a strong verse. Notice that it follows immediately after the call to persevere in our good works and obedience to God. It begins with “for” (Greek gar, γὰρ), which often expresses cause or explains what has just been said. In this case, Paul explains what he was saying about serving “the Lord Christ.” Those who do not serve him, or begrudge their service, will be guilty of unbelief. This is the wrong Paul means. No matter who it is who falls into unbelief, there is no favoritism. Unbelief damns and is the only thing that damns (Mark 16:16). But whoever believes in the Lord Christ will be saved.
No Christian should let himself think, “Anyone who wrongs me will be punished by God.” Rather, our attention must be focused on our own tasks and our relationship with our Lord Christ. I must allow God to take care of wrongdoers, and it’s often said that with God there is no favoritism or partiality (Deuteronomy 10:17; 2 Chronicles 19:7; Job 34:18-19; Acts 10:34; Ephesians 6:9). He will punish those who are to be punished. Meanwhile, I want to avoid the same punishment; which is possible only through faith in the Lord Christ. So I put my faith in Jesus my Savior, I serve him faithfully, and I ask the Holy Spirit to help me in my service. Steer me away from danger and temptation (Matthew 6:13). Guide me in paths of righteousness (Psalm 23:3). Set my heart free from sinful thoughts so that I walk the path of your commands, O God (Ps. 119:30,32). Forgive my sins, and bring me safely home to heaven in the end.
Pastor Timothy Smith