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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
December 16, 2018
The Importance of Being Faithful
Turn to Matthew 25:14. This morning we will be examining the last of a series of parables that Jesus has given to His disciples in this discourse which began in chapter 24. Jesus has left the Temple for the last time, and He and His disciples are now on the Mount of Olives overlooking the Temple and Jerusalem. Jesus has been answering the disciples’ question concerning the signs that would indicate His appearing to establish His kingdom which would bring an end to the current age. The details of these signs are given in Matthew 24:5-31 and the parallel passages in Mark and Luke. (See: The Beginnings of the Future Tribulation & The Great Tribulation & The Sign of His Coming). After describing those signs, Jesus began a series of illustrations and parables emphasizing the need to be prepared for Him to return. These are particularly pointed at that generation that will be alive when the various signs of His coming take place, but they also have application to every generation, for just as no one knows the day and hour when Jesus will return and judgment will begin, so no one knows when his life will end and he will be ushered into eternity.
The first two illustrations in Matthew 24:37-44 are particularly directed to those who are not expecting His return. Like in the days of Noah, many will remain oblivious to the obvious signs and messages proclaimed to warn them. They will simply continue to focus on normal activities of life such as eating and drinking and special events such as getting married.
In the second illustration, there is a little more awareness because the head of a house does recognize the potential for a thief to break in and steal. However, because he does not know the day or the hour, he does little to nothing to prepare for it. He will suffer loss because of his complacency.
In the third illustration of the blessed slave and the evil slave there is a mixture. There will those that will be faithful while the master is away, and there will be those that will do evil because they think it will be a long time before their master returns to hold them accountable. The same will be true at the end of the age. There will be those who are found faithful and they will be rewarded. Others, despite all the signs that they are in the season of the Lord’s return and that it will be soon, still think the Lord will not return for a long time and so they do evil. They will be severely punished. In all three of these illustrations the Lord returns sooner than expected. (See: Are Your Ready for His Return?)
Last week we looked at the first parable which compares the kingdom of heaven to ten virgins who went out to meet the bridegroom. Five were prudent and well prepared, and five were foolish and not as prepared as they thought they were or needed to be. The five prudent are ready and included in the wedding procession and wedding feast. The five foolish end up missing the procession and are shut out of the feast. Jesus states the application of the parable in verse 13. “Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.” You need to be prepared and ready at all times because you do not know when the Lord will return, and it could take longer than expected. (See: The Necessity of Being Prepared)
While we are saved on the basis of the righteousness of Christ which is imputed / applied to those that believe in Him, your walk in righteousness is a reflection of what you believe about Jesus and what He has done for you. He saves us from sin to righteousness. Rescue from hell is just the benefit of becoming a child of God. 1 John 3:3 states that those who hope in Christ’s return will purify themselves, just as He is pure. The five prudent bridesmaids represent those who have such a hope. The five foolish represent those who have fooled themselves with a false profession of faith who either believe in a different Jesus or whose trust is in something other than Jesus, usually something they themselves have done in self-righteousness.
The second parable begins in Matthew 25:14 and is often called the “Parable of the Talents,” though the “talents” are not the focus of the parable. It might be better titled the “parable of the slaves” or the “parable of faithfulness,” for those are the elements emphasized.
The parable can be outlined as follows:
Slaves Entrusted (vs 14,15)
Slaves Perform (vs 16-18)
Good Slaves Praised (vs 19-23)
Wicked Slaves Judged (vs 24-28)
The Lesson Taught (vs 29,30)
Slaves Entrusted – Matthew 25:14-15
“14 For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves, and entrusted his possessions to them. 15 And to one he gave five talents, to another, two, to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey.”
The context of this parable is given in verse 1. This is also a parable concerning the kingdom of God, for that is what is being likened to in this story of the man and his three slaves. It was not unusual for a wealthy man to leave on a business trip and be gone a long time. We don’t think the same way about business trips now because can travel quickly by plane, train, car or motorized boat. They had to travel by horse or foot on land, and if on water, the boat was powered by sail or oars. While the master would be away, he would entrust his possessions to some of his responsible slaves. Such a wealthy man would have several well educated slaves who were very capable of handling his affairs. In fact, it was common for such slaves to have a fairly free hand in the areas entrusted to them even when the master was at home.
Let me quickly point out that some English versions translate this as “servants” instead of “slaves.” The word used here is dou:loV / doulos, which is the word for slave. Greek has other words for servant. Early English translations used servant because the idea of being a slave was repulsive to them, and any text that might insinuate Christians to be slaves was translated as servants to be less offensive. But the reality for every true Christian is that we are slaves. We have been bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20), purchased with blood of Jesus to be part of the church, the called out ones, of God (Acts 20:28). Don’t let either pride or political correctness remove what is a precious truth. Jesus is our master for we belong to Him.
Part of this man’s preparation for his journey was to evaluate his slaves and entrust to each one an amount of money according to each slaves’ ability. The first slave received 5 talents, the second 2 talents, and the third 1 talent. Now a talent is not a measure of value but a measure of weight. The value of the talent would depend on what it was whether gold, silver or bronze. Notice that we are not told anything by which we could calculate its value because the emphasis in the parable is not on the value but on the common accountability for differing levels of responsibility based on individual ability. Each slave is entrusted an amount according to their ability.
The man who is going on a journey is analogous to Jesus in the kingdom of heaven. Only a couple of days after He told this parable He would be crucified, then raised from the dead, and forty days after that, He would ascend into heaven where He is now preparing a place for us. He is coming back to reward the faithful and judge the wicked.
While Jesus is away, He has entrusted His kingdom to those who profess to be a part of His kingdom. The visible church has always been a mixture of true believers and false deceivers. In the parables of the kingdom in Matthew 13, Jesus warned that there would be tares among the wheat and bad fish among the good. In the early part of His teaching ministry recorded in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned in Matthew 7 that there would be false prophets, disguised wolves among the sheep, and there would be those who would say of Him, “Lord, Lord,” and do things in His name, but they were self-deceived. Jesus did not know them and would send them away because they were workers of lawlessness. Paul, Peter and John all warn about false prophets and people with false professions of faith within the visible church. John warned that there would be false prophets that would come out from the church (1 John 2:18-19), and he had already had quite a few dealings with them (2 John 7-11 & 3 John 9-10). Peter warned in 2 Peter 2 that there would be false teachers and deceivers arise from among those that proclaimed to be followers of Christ. Paul warned the same thing in several different passages (Romans 16:18; 2 Corinthians 11:13f; Colossians 2:18; 2 Thessalonians. 2:3; 1 Timothy 4:1f; Titus 1:11; etc.). Paul also warned believers to “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5).
The good and wicked slaves in this parable are analogous to the good and bad slaves within the visible church. The bad slaves will in the end prove themselves not to be a slave of Christ at all.
Slaves Perform – Matthew 25:16-18
Verses 16-18 summarize what each slave did with the talents entrusted to them. “16 Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. 17 In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. 18 But he who received the one talent went away and dug in the ground, and hid his master’s money.”
The first two slaves invested what they received and gained a return on their investments. We are not told what kind of investments for that is unimportant to the point of the parable. All we need to know is that the first two servants made full use of what their master had given them in order to bring a profit to him. They maximized the opportunity given to them.
The third slave simply hid the money in the ground. That was a simple and common method in the ancient world of protecting valuable things from being stolen such as money and jewelry. I suppose that may still be a way some people protect their treasures, but doing so will prevent there being any gain from it. That is an action of fear of loss. The master had already evaluated this slave and gave him only one talent, which was still a lot of money whatever it was made of, because that was all he determined this slave had the ability to handle. Even so, the master would still have had a proper expectation for this slave to do something with the talent and make a profit from it. Instead, the slave simply buried it to protect it.
Good Slaves Praised – Matthew 25:19-23
In verse 19 the master returns and calls to account his slaves. “19 Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20 And the one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me; see, I have gained five more talents.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 The one also who had received the two talents came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted two talents to me; see, I have gained two more talents.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master.’
I think it is obvious that the first two slaves were excited to finally see their master return for they had very good news that they wanted to tell him. Each of them had doubled the talents that had been given to them. There is great emphasis on this excitement in the Greek because the amounts are placed in the emphatic position. What the first one said would be literally translated as, “Master, Five talents you placed in my hands; look, an additional five talents I have gained!” The second slave says the same thing in the same way regarding his two talents. They both are very excited about reporting this to their master. It should be noted that their excitement is not because they expected a big bonus or anything. These men were slaves and all they did belong to their master. Doing what they had been told to do was simply what was properly expected (Luke 17:10). It did not earn a reward except at the discretion of the master. As good slaves, they would have been excited just to know that they had pleased their master by fulfilling his expectations of them.
Each of them received the praise of their master as well as a promotion. Each had been faithful with what they had been given and so they had proven that they could be trusted with even more responsibility. That same principle is repeated in other places in scripture as well. Jesus said in Luke 16:10 that “he who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much.” Jesus repeated basically the same thing in a similar parable in Matthew 19:17. It is also seen in what Jesus says to the church at Thyatira in Revelation 2:26 that “he who overcomes, and he who keeps my deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations . . .” It is also seen in the lives of people like Abraham, Moses and David. Faithfulness in small things will result in the reward of being given responsibility for more important things.
The first two slaves were faithful with what their master had given them. The last one was not.
Wicked Slave Judged – Matthew 25: 24-28
The third slave gives his account in verses 24-25. “24 And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground; see, you have what is yours.’
Unlike the first two slaves that were excited to see the master return, this one is not for he has not done anything that would please his master and he knows it. When he is called into account, he begins with an accusation against his master to justify his very lame and untrue excuse. His excuse does not even show any forethought. The master had been away for a long time, but the excuse shows that he did not make any preparation for the day of accountability with either the talent given to him or even thinking up a legitimate reason for what he had done with it.
First, he slander’s his master’s character calling him a “hard” man. From this Greek word we get our word “sclerosis” as in arteriosclerosis – hardening of the arteries. When used of someone’s character, it means to be unrelenting, harsh, merciless, stern, one who exacts more than he has a right to exact. This slave then tries to back up his accusation by saying that the master “reaped what he did not sow and gathered what he did not scatter.” The insinuation is that the master gained unjust profits. In effect the slave is saying something like this, “You are a hard man, and if I lost any of the talent while doing business you would have demanded it of me anyway, so you made me afraid. The only thing I could do was hide the talent so that I would not lose any of it. Look, here is your talent. You should be glad that I returned what is yours.”
The truth was that the master had carefully assessed the ability of each slave and then provided what was needed for them to carry out the assigned responsibilities. The master was not “hard” and neither did he expect an unjust gain. He only expected a return on what was invested by each slave. The master had not done anything to produce this kind of fear. The master now confronts him for this accusation and lame excuse in verses 26-27.
“26 But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I scattered no seed. 27 Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. 28 Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’ 29 For to everyone who has shall more be given, and he shall have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. 30 And cast out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
The master takes up the slave’s foolish excuse and uses it against him. It was not fear that caused this slave to bury the talent. He did that because he was wicked and lazy. True, the slave had not embezzled the money or used it for selfish pursuits like the prodigal son had done, but he did neglect the stewardship entrusted to him, and that was both wicked and lazy. Again, the master was not hard and only expected a proper return on what he had entrusted to the slave. The master had sown and scattered to the slave, but the slave had not produced even according to his low ability.
The master uses the slave’s very accusation against him. If the master truly was a hard man and gained unjust profits, then out of that fear the slave should have at least turned the talent over to the bankers so that there would have been some interest gained from it. The money-changers also acted as the bankers of Israel. They would pay interest on what was deposited with them and then take that money and loan it to others at a higher interest rate – which is how they and modern bankers make their living. Again, this slave was not afraid, but he was wicked and lazy. In the Greek this condemnation is more memorable because the words rhyme – ponhre; and ojknhre; (pon re and okn re) – pernicious and unambitious we might say.
The master then brought judgment against the wicked and lazy slave. What had been given to him would be taken away and given to those who had proved themselves to be faithful. The worthless slave would then be thrown out into the outer darkness where there was weeping and gnashing of teeth. The good slaves received praise and blessings while the wicked slave received condemnation and punishment.
The Lesson Taught – Matthew 25:29-30
Jesus gave the parable to teach a truth about His kingdom, and that lesson applies to the church. What Jesus says in the verses 29-30 following this parable tell directly the point of this parable. Jesus will make this even more pointed in the sheep and goat judgment described in Matthew 25:31-46 which we will look at in two weeks. The point can be summarized simply as this. Those that prove themselves to be true followers of Jesus will receive praise and blessing. Those that profess to be something they are not will in the end prove their profession to be false by their very actions or lack of them. They will be properly and justly condemned and cursed.
God gives every true Christian gifts, abilities and possessions by which we are to serve Him. We are called to be faithful in using those gifts. God is not unreasonable to expect a return on what He entrusts to us for He gives to each according to their ability. God supplies all that is needed, and it is even God that gives the increase according to 1 Corinthians 3:6-7. All we have to do is be faithful to use what He has given. We possess, but God owns, and so it is not our own ability we trust, but His ability to do His work through us. You must apply this in every area of your life. That is what it means to live a life of faith. I trust God to do His will through me as I am faithful to do what He wants me to do, and the same is to be true of you. That is why this becomes a separation between true and false professions of faith.
The true Christian really believes what God has said. They know who He is and what He is like. The result is that they are faithful to Him and spiritual fruit is produced. Those with false professions do not really believe what God has said nor do they really know the God of the Bible. Their God is one fashioned by their own minds and imaginations. Their understanding of who God is and what He is like is produced by their ever changing thoughts and emotions.
For the true Christian, there is reward in both the present and the future. God gives to us according to our abilities, and as we prove faithful in smaller things, we are entrusted more important things, but always in keeping with our abilities. We will not be appraised or valued in comparison with each other, but according to our faithfulness to Him. Remember that the one who earned five talents and the one that earned two talents were praised and rewarded in the same way. As you prove faithful in one area of ministry, the Lord expands the opportunities to more areas of ministry with greater impact for His kingdom. When we do finally stand before Him to enter into His millennial kingdom, we will be given responsibilities according to our faithfulness here.
Not all true Christians will live up to the abilities God has given them, and though they will suffer loss, they will still be saved. That is described in 1 Corinthians 3:15 in which wasted ability, ignored spiritual gifts and passed up opportunity result in the work being “burned up,” but “he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire.”
But for others, and tragically it will be many others, their faith is false. They are self deceived into thinking they are even working hard for the kingdom of God, but they are in reality serving themselves in self-righteousness. In order to serve Jesus you must know Him. They will be like those in Matthew 7 who were doing all sorts of things in Jesus name thinking they were gaining great rewards, but Jesus will say to them, “I never knew you, depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”
We do not serve God by doing what we want and what we think is best. We serve God by doing what God commands and obeying Him for it is best even when we can’t see it at the time. It is His will be done, not your will be done.
The wicked servant was cast out from the presence of his master, and so shall those who have false professions of faith. The place of outer darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth is Hell. It is a place of eternal darkness, where the agony of being shut out from the presence of God is signified by the sorrow of weeping and anger of gnashing of teeth.
What about you? Is your profession true or false? Are you anxiously awaiting the savior’s return, or does the thought of His return make your mind scramble thinking up reasons why you have not lived the way you should in doing the things God has commanded? If Jesus returned today, would there be the joy of a true Christian who lives for Him, the sadness of a true Christian who knows He has failed, or the terror of a person with a false profession?
If it is either of the latter two, then get your life right with Him today. He has already provided all that is needed through the Lord Jesus Christ so that you can rejoice at His return or at your death if that should preceded His return. You can have that same joy countless saints have had which Paul expressed as “to live is Christ, to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21) and “we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). Are you ready? Have you been faithful?
Sermon Notes – 12/16/2018
The Importance of Being Faithful – Matthew 25:14-30
Jesus has revealed to His disciples _________ that will precede His coming to establish His kingdom
Like in the days of Noah, most will _________the signs of coming judgment and continue normal life
Others recognize the potential of His return but are ___________lacking knowledge of the hour of his return
Some will be diligent while Jesus is away while others will be evil thinking His return is a __________away
Like the 10 virgins awaiting the bridegroom, some will be well _______for Jesus’ return and others will not
Salvation is by God’s grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone – but belief is _________________by action
Slaves Entrusted – Matthew 25:14-15
This parable of a master entrusting his slaves while he is away is about the kingdom of ____________
Each slave is entrusted with an amount according to the master’s evaluation of their ____________
The man’s going on a journey is analogous to Jesus currently being in ________while we wait for His return
The visible church has always been a ____________: believers & deceivers; wheat & tares; wolves & sheep
The good & wicked slaves in the parable are analogous to true and false Christians in the __________church
Slaves Perform – Matthew 25:16-18
The first two slaves invested what they received and ______________a return on their investments
The third slave simply _________the money in the ground to protect it
Good Slaves Praised – Matthew 25:19-23
The first two slaves would have been ______to see their master return and report to him what they had done
Their excitement is in _____________their master, not in expectation of a reward (Luke 17:10)
Both slaves received their master’s praise and a ______________of greater responsibility
Wicked Slave Judged – Matthew 25: 24-28
The wicked slave is called to account and he begins with ______________against his master
He calls him “hard” – unrelenting, harsh, merciless, ___________, exacts more than he should
He insinuates his maters gained ____________ profits
The master had properly assessed the slaves ability and gave him little, so he expected ___________
Matthew 25:26-30 – the master confronts and justly ___________ the slave
The master uses the slave’s excuses and accusations as ____________that the slave was wicked and lazy
The master’s judgment: The slave would lose what he had and would be cast into the outer _____________
The Lesson Taught
Matthew 25:31-46 is the application of the parable to people – there will be a ____________judgment
God gives every Christian gifts, abilities and possessions He expects us to be ___________use to serve Him
God supplies, equips and gives the increase (1 Cor. 3:6-7), we are to _______His ability to work through us
The true Christian really believes what God has said which will result in spiritual __________
God ____________the true Christian in the present and the future according to our faithfulness
True Christians who do not live up to their abilities will suffer loss, but will still be _________(1 Cor. 3:15)
The self-deceived will be ____________because Jesus does not know them & they practice lawlessness
We __________God by believing Him and obeying His commands to do His will, not our own will
The ___________ of outer darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth is Hell
_____________ If you are not serving the Lord as you should, do not know Christ or your profession is false
The true Christian will ______at Jesus’ return – and even death will bring joy of being with Him (Phil. 1:21)
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times “slave” is mentioned. 2) Discuss with your parents what it means to be a slave of Jesus Christ.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. What is the context of Matthew 25? What is the point of each of the three illustrations at the end of Matthew 24 and the parable of the Ten Virgins in Matthew 25? Why must we be on the alert now if Jesus is not returning until the end of the Tribulation? What is the basis of salvation? From what is the sinner saved? Why is it correct to translate the parable as a master and his three slaves? Why do some versions translate this as servants? Why is it proper and important for Christians to identify themselves as slaves of Christ? Explain. On what basis does the master distribute talents to each slave? What has Jesus entrusted to His disciples while He is away in heaven preparing a place for them? In what ways have you personally seen that the church is a mixture of good and bad, true and false? What was your reaction the first time you recognized this? What is your reaction to this truth now? What is the evidence of the faithfulness of the first two slaves? Of the unfaithfulness of the last slave? How did the first two slaves respond when their master returned? What would they have expected from their master? How did their master respond to them? What principle of the kingdom of heaven does this illustrate? How do you think the third slave would have responded to the news his master had returned? How did the third slave slander the character of his master? What does he insinuate by his accusation that his master reaped where he did not sow? How do we know the master had correctly evaluated this slave’s ability? How did the master use the slave’s slander and accusation against the slave? What was reasonable for the master to expect? What was the master’s condemnation of the third slave and the basis for it? How does this principles of this parable apply to the church today? What are some of the “talents” God entrusts to His children? What does He expect them to do with what He given them? What reward does He give to those who are faithful? What does He do in regard to true Christians that are not as faithful as they should be? What does He do in regard to those who have false professions of faith? How can someone know if their profession of faith is true or false? What should you do if you are either not sure of your standing before God or know that it is not right and you will be condemned by Him? What should you do if you know you are right with God and faithful in serving Him?
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