Jesus describes both a true disciple and a nominal believer in His story or narrative about the “faithful and wise servants” in Matthew 24:42–51.
What is a true disciple of Christ? How does he differ from a nominal or lukewarm Christian? Last month, we contrasted the characteristics of these two.
A true disciple, we said, is one who not only has been “born again,” but he’s also one who is living Christ’s life; i.e., living His Love. He has not only listened to sermons on Sunday and daily read the Word, he is actually obeying and doing what he hears and reads. He’s a “living example” of Christ.
A “lukewarm” Christian, on the other hand, is one in whom the “flesh” (his own thoughts, emotions and desires) are in control, not the Spirit of God. He sometimes listens to sermons and sometimes read the Bible, but he doesn’t do what he hears or reads. He’s not a genuine example of Christ—his life does not reflect Christ. He often “says” one thing, but “does” another.
Jesus describes both a true disciple and a nominal believer in His story or narrative about the “faithful and wise servants” in Matthew 24:42–51. And, He tells them why it’s so important to daily be a “true disciple of Christ,” to daily be prepared.
Parable of the Faithful and Wise Servants
After finishing with the parable of the fig tree, Jesus warns His disciples and His followers about the need to “be ready” at any moment for His return. Here’s what He says:
Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the good man of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods. But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
There are many interpretations of this particular story, so be like the Bereans and study to see what the Holy Spirit personally reveals to you.
Who Was Jesus Talking To?
First of all, who was Jesus addressing here?
Again, He was addressing His own disciples, those who had just asked Him, “What are the signs of Your coming again?” (Matthew 24:3) He begins by telling them some of the many signs and events that will occur. One of those signs (in verse 12) says that because “iniquity shall abound, the Love (Agape) of many will wax [grow] cold.” This is a very interesting verse because it validates that Christ is talking about His future body of believers; i.e., the church. Only believers (the church) have God’s Agape in their hearts and only they will experience it growing cold in the end times. Even the disciples listening did not have the indwelling Spirit of God at this time. What Jesus is talking about here all occurs in the future, after the Resurrection.
Jesus, therefore, is not only addressing His disciples (those listening at the time), but also His future church. “Watch therefore, for you know not when your Lord will return” (Matthew 24:42). The usage of the term “your Lord” validates that He is talking to believers (His own “servants”). Why would an unbeliever even care about being faithful or waiting for his Lord’s return? They wouldn’t.
At the time, the Jewish people and their Pharisaical leaders had hardened their hearts against Christ and His message (Matthew 23:1–39). Thus, Christ had turned His attention to His own present and future followers and was speaking directly to them in these parables so they could understand, but those with hardened hearts would not (Matthew 13:11). The disciples listened with eager minds, the unbelievers with opposition.
Romans 9 and 11 talk about a time coming when God will have no more mercy on His own people, but will turn His attention to “another nation,” meaning the church. (In the coming Millennium, however, His attention will, once again, be turned back towards His beloved people.)
Comments About the Faithful and Wise Servants
The faithful and wise servant in this story is equivalent to a true disciple of Christ. He places the desires of his lord above his own and, thus, is an obedient steward who provides for his “family.” He does what he is required to do at the time, but he also steadfastly awaits his lord’s return. Verse 47 says because of this, the lord (when he returns) will “make him ruler over all his goods.”
In the same way, God entrusts us—His own servants—to not only feed His spiritual family and do His will, but also to await His return. Our reward for doing so will be the privilege of greater service in His future kingdom. The special pleasures, honors, and splendors, which are to accompany the return of the Lord from heaven and the setting up of His kingdom, are to be a reward for fidelity and faithful service in His absence.
The unfaithful and disobedient servant, however, is the equivalent of a carnal and nominal Christian. The word evil in verse 48 is the Greek word kakos (Strong’s #2556), which simply means “someone who has been disqualified.” It means “a worthless or injurious person.” It means he lacks the qualities that he should possess. Simply put, he is “not worthy.” This servant thought his lord would delay his coming. And this, of course, affected how he lived his life. He was lazy, untrustworthy, and cruel. He abused his position by being ill tempered and self-indulgent to those who worked with him. He thought he would never be called into account for these things because he secretly believed his lord would be slow to return.
The term “cut asunder” (Strong’s #1371) metaphorically means “to be cut open so all can see.” It means “to expose and scrutinize the thoughts and motives of a person’s heart.” It is simply an analogy of what will happen at the Judgment Seat of Christ, which involves only believers. Hebrews 4:12 talks about a sharp two-edged sword that will bring to light not only the motives of our hearts, but also to all the things of darkness that we have been involved in.
The term “a portion with the hypocrites” refers to a place with Christ, but just outside His Light and His company. It’s a place where all the other hypocrites dwell. Hypocrite here refers to believers who have lived a double life. The word hypocrite can be used of nonbelievers (Matthew 15:7–8; 23:13), but it also can be used of Christians who judge others while ignoring their own sin.
In this Scripture, hypocrisy simply means “unfaithful” (apistion). It is referring to one who assumes the role of a servant, but doesn’t live like one. It is someone who says one thing, but lives something totally different.
The Pharisees were a perfect example of hypocrites. They pretended that they were spiritual and holy, and yet in action they were insincere, pretentious, and self-righteous. Jesus called them on it many times.
Woe unto you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but are within full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.
In this “portion with the hypocrites” there is going to be much “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” This occurs when carnal believers reflect remorsefully on their lives and all the missed opportunities. Scripture says they will remember their past because God will just have reminded them of every detail at the Bema Seat Judgment.
In his book Your Eternal Reward, Erwin Lutzer said that “our tears will be those of regret and shame, tears of remorse for lives lived for ourselves rather than for Christ and others. Perhaps we would never cease crying in heaven if God Himself did not eventually come and “wipe the tears from our eyes” (Revelation 21:4).
This should make all of us wake up and begin to take our walk with the Lord very seriously. Because what we do in this lifetime does matter. It does count! Someone is watching and He is taking detailed notes. This lifetime is the testing ground and the proving ground for the future responsibilities we will have in the coming kingdom.
The Importance of Being Ready
Jesus’ exhortation in the Matthew 24 example, “Be ye ready; for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man will come” is critical for all of us to hear and to heed (Matthew 24:44). This means that we all must be watchful, ready, and prepared for Christ’s return at any moment. This means that we all must make ourselves equipped, fit, and suitable to co-reign—to have levels of responsibility—with Christ. This is the preparation and the readiness that Revelation refers to, when it says:
Let us be glad and rejoice and give honor to Him. For the marriage of the Lamb is come and His wife hath made herself ready.
Making ourselves “ready” means we must make ourselves equipped and qualified: 1) by staying cleansed and sanctified; 2) by being partakers of Christ’s Life; 3) by being faithful overcomers; and 4) by producing good works [“fruit” produced by the Holy Spirit through us].
We must be so prepared and so ready that when He taps us on the shoulders and says, “Let’s go!” we won’t be surprised. Constancy and perseverance are key words in this process.
“Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your lord doeth come.” (Matthew 24:42) Luke validates the same thing:
Watch ye, therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
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To be continued next month: “Faith—the Means of God’s Power.” This article has been excerpted, in part, from Chuck and Nan’s book The Kingdom, Power and Glory. See this and other King’s High Way products on the Koinonia House Online Store.