The substance of an address given April 1, 2009 at the burial of my mother, aged 90.
1 Cor 4:5, and Philippians 2:5-11
In this first paragraph of 1 Cor. 4 the apostle Paul was answering those at Corinth who were questioning his motives. They were judging his motives, which is something that we cannot do now. As a Christian, you have a duty to judge my actions and words, as it says in 1 Corinthians 5:11-12; but what is in the heart is God’s matter. That will be revealed in a future time. Do not be afraid of being ‘unremarkable’ now. When Christ comes “then each shall have his praise from God”.
The “counsels of hearts” – the word ‘counsel’ here involves the purpose, or will or mind. The ‘mind’ indicates the direction of thinking, not just the brain. This expression then seems to mean a person’s deep purposes. Although it is “when the Lord shall come that He shall make manifest the counsels of hearts”, sometimes these are made known now.
I would like to share with you one of the counsels of my mother’s heart. When I was a little boy, she told me that she did not care what I became in life, as long as I learnt to do what I was told. That is worth repeating. It seems simple enough, but it is profound. Obedience is of the utmost importance before God. In Romans 5:19 we are told, “For as indeed by the disobedience of the one man [Adam] the many have been constituted sinners, so also by the obedience of the one [Christ] the many will be constituted righteous”. God puts great store on obedience. The place of obedience is the true place - the only right place - for the creature. Christ came into manhood and delighted “to do, O God, Thy will”.
Obedience is a greater distinction - a greater glory - than miracles. If a man has a gift from God, he can exercise that with ease. This can be seen from the apostles’ experiences. Solomon was given wisdom and exercised that gift famously, but he was not obedient. In Deuteronomy 17:16-18, the king was told not to multiply to himself horses, or wives, or silver and gold. He did all three. The king was to write out for himself a copy of the law – not just the Ten Commandments. There is no record that he ever did this. He fell into corruption.
Recently, one of the physiotherapists said of her, “She is an angel; she does everything we tell her”. I got to thinking about that. I doubt that the speaker realised the importance of those expressions, and that they were so closely connected. Obedience is truly angels’ work. In Psalm 103:20-21 we are told, “Bless the Lord, ye his angels, mighty in strength, that execute his word. Bless the Lord, all ye his hosts; ye ministers of his that do his will”.
When we consider the subject of obedience, we must go to the One who displayed it perfectly - the Lord Jesus Christ. His obedience was of a far, far greater order than that of angels. Why? He suffered. That is why I read the verse in Philippians 2:5-11. His obedience took His took Him into death, and that the death of the cross. He did that for the will of God, and for you and me.
If any are unsure of their eternal destiny, remember that Christ died for you. It is for us to believe it, to accept that His sufferings and death were essential for my salvation; and to believe that it was necessary for me personally, not just to accept it as some general historical fact. Blessing comes by way of “repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ”.
Holy angels do not suffer. They are powerful, but they do not suffer. Nor do they reign – ever. They will always serve. We will reign with Him. The qualification for reigning with Him is not attending a management course, or entering parliament, but suffering with Him.
He learned obedience in the things that He suffered (Hebrews 5:8); He had never experienced it as God. We learn obedience by judging our reluctance. It follows, that in any measure that we are obedient to God, i.e. to His word, we will suffer in this world.
Faithfulness is what He looks for from us. Not success as the world thinks of success. The word to each bondman who had served in his measure during their lord’s absence was, “Well [done], good and faithful bondman”.
May that be able to be said of each one of us, for His name’s sake.
MM April 2009