NOVEMBER 23, 2003




The Work of Love, the Way of Life




Mark 10:33ff., I Cor. 13, Philippians 2,

When at Seminary in Philadelphia, one can recall one zealous student, afterwards a Professor, who seemed to urge that you should seek to excel, to serve, IN ORDER to be great in the kingdom of heaven. This, as far as could be seen, was a fine thing to seek.


Appalled, one has an answer, now as then, and for today, let us consider the above three scriptures. NEVER is the humble person an aspirant for pride, for greatness. HOW could you be humble if what you are AFTER, your dream, your objective, is partly or wholly that you should be important!


1.  Marking the WORDS IN MARK 10


In Mark 10, you find that James and John wanted to be on either side of Christ in glory. There are not too many sides … Christ indicated that this was not His to give, and taught them a lesson. In this, He made it clear that greatness lies in service, and if you want to be first, the way to do it is to be a slave, busily occupied in dealing blessedly with needs.


It is when you contrast this with the “Gentile” desire to have DOMINION over you, to lord it over you, to use power for self-importance, for self-fulfilment and the like, that you see the meaning. THEY desire to give orders, the first to the lesser. Christians seeking to please God, they are in CONTRAST to that. Theirs is no desire to give orders, but to get work done, to serve. It is however not a meaningless ‘service’, as for example a dispenser of alcoholic beverages, merely meeting demand. Spiritual service is under the law and values God gives, and is in HIS kingdom, so that first it serves Him, and then others in terms of the Creator’s specifications. It no more invents or is indifferent to standards than is a mechanic or surgeon!

This part of our answer, then,  is found in the INSTRUCTION given by Christ to His disciples.



2. PONDERING PHILIPPIANS 2 and considering Philip


You find by EXAMPLE in Philippians 2:1-12, that the way Christ did it was this. FIRST, He HAD greatness, as being the form of God, eternal, increate, holy. SECONDLY, He left that form to take a most humble and serviceable one, that of a man, yet without sin (I Peter 1:22ff., Hebrews 7:26), so that He could display the ways of God, work the miracles of God’s pity and die for sin as man’s saviour, offered to all, effective to those who believe. He is, we read, Holy, Harmless, Undefiled!


THIS is the exact opposite of seeking to be great, aspiring for it, dreaming of it. Rather you lay it aside to be serviceable in HIS KINGDOM, meeting need with joy, according to His plan. For this, you need to know Him and to be directed by Him, as was Paul, as was Philip in Acts 8, first seeking to win Samaritans to Christ, and then in the very midst of this, yielding to direction to what looked much LESS important. What was that ? Going into a desert in order to find … in fact an Ethiopian in his chariot, known to God better than any radar.


Arriving at the very moment this Treasurer of the Queen was studying Isaiah 53, Philip was moved by the Spirit of God to go up to his chariot and soon was explaining not only the meaning, but the message of salvation. The Treasurer was  converted, and Philip again was caught swiftly away.


Seeking to be great is a disease, just as is laziness, self-will, rebellion. It is simply not to the point, distorting vision, a discreditable motive. Some kingdoms live for it; this one lives without it. What does great works is blessed, what serves humbly is functional, and love drives it. Galatians 5:6 tells us that it is a matter of faith working by love! FAITH sees, LOVE works.




How then does love look to work ? You find this especially in I Corinthians 13.


Love does not parade itself (13:4). Importance is irrelevant.


Love is not puffed up. Inflation is not its purpose, but spirituality, likeness to the Creator who put life into action, gave spirit its sanction, gave grace its place, pardon its purchase price by eyeballing death, and overcoming it.


Love rejoices in truth, not in mere appearance, and does not seek its own (13:5-6) …
What then does not stir it ? its own importance, its own survival, its own magnificence, its own place for its own sake, this holds no attraction. Christ left His place to give us place. It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts
20:35), for that is what God is like. Again remember what Paul was doing when he stated this principle from Christ, serving God EVEN IF it meant prison bonds, as was predicted; yet he was not moved (Acts 21:13).


How then will love survive ? Mercifully God is love, so that His almighty power will always be there, His love in light that cannot even be met by intruders (I Timothy 6:16), His wisdom needing no help from brigands or brigandage, His mercy no solace from invaders. Satan tried it in the ultimate, in heaven (Revelation 12), but his rough-necks were scattered, and on earth they seek like viruses to overcome the unwary. The ONLY answer is in the love of God, not self-seeking, not survivalism, but revival of the sense of duty, of responsibility, of fearless faith.


How long will hatred, selfishness survive ? Not long, for hell is ready for its victims. Refusing vicarious sacrifice FROM love, they find themselves sacrificed as they sacrifice truth and mercy: their own enemies, their own doom comes for them from their own plotting. It is as foretold in Ps. 2, where the selfish ambitions of pretentious greatness measure their rebuke.


Seek FIRST Christ’s kingdom, love the Lord with all your heart and soul and mind and strength, and  like a shoulder blade, let your place be as He appoints it, and rejoicing, serve Him within HIS body for HIS OWN sake. If after all, you are crucified with Christ (Gal.  2:20, 5:24), what is in it for pretence or pretension! Let us then gladly take up our crosses and follow Him (Luke 14:27ff.). ONLY HE has paid the infinite price, and recouped our place by His riches.