Friday, April 24, 2015

Pastoral Pings (Plus) ~ A Parable’s Help For Our Treasure and Prize

          As I continue meditating on the apostle Paul’s affection for the church as, “my joy and crown,”[1] and his additional expression of, “For you are our glory and joy,”[2]I have enjoyed the feeling of wonder that comes from considering what mattered to him in relation to Jesus’ return.
          I am quite familiar with the sarky, works-based feeling that we are going to see disappointment on Jesus’ face at his return. I constantly remind myself of the good news of the gospel, that salvation, and our present life, and our standing before Christ at his return, are all about the righteousness of God that is through faith in Jesus Christ.
          Once I put aside any deceptive and accusing thoughts, I move past the fact that Paul was confident about the coming of Christ, and see this strangely beautiful thing that he looked forward to. His joy, and his prize, and his glory, and his crown, were the people who had come to God through faith in Jesus Christ.
          As I consider this from the viewpoint of what I would mean to Paul in this picture, that he would consider someone like me to be his treasure and prize because I am a beloved brother through my shared faith in Jesus Christ, I turn to other Scriptures to help me both comprehend the wonders of this relationship with God and his people, but also to give my heart the opportunity to know this relationship as fully as is possible this side of heaven. This is how God’s Spirit led me in his word today.
          In one of Jesus’ parables, he told of three servants who were each given a sum of money in trust, and told to work that money for the master’s business.[3] The master then went away on a long journey, leaving the servants to take care of things on his behalf.
          Upon the master’s return, he called his servants to give account of how things went for them. It is here that I gained some greater understanding of what Paul felt by considering the church his treasure and prize.
          Two of the servants came to the master smiling. They were happy to see their master, and delighted to show him how they had managed what he had given them. Both were excited to show that they had doubled what had been left in their charge. The master responded to both with the wonderful expression of, “’Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’”[4]
          When I bring together the picture of the servants in this parable, along with Paul’s expressions of what he considered his, “hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming,”[5]I see what Paul will bring before Jesus when the Master returns. His “boasting” before his Savior would not be mere money, as is used as illustration in the parable. Rather, Paul’s treasure and prize at Jesus coming is expressed as, “Is it not you?”[6]
          Once again, I not only marvel at the confidence Paul felt in view of the return of Christ, but I am in wonder at his focus on what he prized and treasured. It is us who are the body of Christ, the one new man, the church, the saints who are set apart unto God as holy by grace through faith. His joy and crown were the church. His boasting before Jesus at his return will be, “Master, look at the people I have brought to you!”
          I know that Paul could not look ahead and see someone like me benefiting so much from his God-breathed writings to the churches. However, I know that I am as much part of Paul’s joy and crown as anyone in the Philippian church. Paul will welcome me into our heavenly home as my older brother rejoicing to see another gem added to the treasured and prized brotherhood of believers gathered before the throne. He finished his race knowing that there was a prize waiting for him. It was not a reward for good behavior; it was not a trophy setting him apart as better than the rest of us.
          Rather, it was his knowledge that he was given responsibility for something in his Master’s kingdom, and he would show Jesus all the people he had brought into the kingdom through the glorious gospel entrusted to him. It is no wonder he would tell Timothy,
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.[7]
          Paul knew he would receive the crown of righteousness awarded to him on that day, just as to “all who have loved his appearing.” But he wanted us to know that he considered us to be his joy and crown now. He wanted us to enjoy feeling that an older brother looked at the body of Christ, all the saints, without any favoritism and partiality, and considered us his hope, and his joy, and his crown of boasting before Jesus Christ at his return.
          The parable of the faithful servants helps us see how Paul rejoiced to multiply the gospel in heart after heart, and city after city, down through the ages, and how he prized and treasured the church as his joy and crown.
          It also shows that Paul’s joyful love relationship with the church in this lifetime led him into the joy of his Master forever. He knew that would be the case. He just wanted to make sure we would be there with him; and that we would enjoy knowing we would be there, and how excited he will be to see us when we join him in our heavenly home.

© 2015 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] Philippians 4:1
[2] I Thessalonians 2:20
[3] Matthew 25:14-30
[4] Matthew 25:21, 23
[5] I Thessalonians 2:19
[6] I Thessalonians 2:19
[7] II Timothy 4:7-8

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