Alfred Place Baptist Church

4:1-3 Relationships in Love and Pain

Philippians 4:1-3 “Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends! I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, loyal yoke-fellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are written in the book of life.”

Here are two very different relationships; the first is Paul and the Philippian congregation and it throbs with Christian love. The second is that of two Christian women named Euodia and Syntyche and their relationship throbs with pain. They are set alongside one another quite deliberately by the apostle, the one highlighting the other. How important it is that Christ’s people be united – important certainly to the Lord Jesus Christ, because that was the theme of his praying in the shadow of Golgotha (Jn. 17:21). He prayed for a visible unity, the sort that the world could see, a oneness which would convey to the world something of the healing and saving power of Christianity. The harmony of mankind has been broken by sin. Everywhere the New Testament church looked it saw barriers: between Jew and Gentile, between Greek and barbarian, between the slave and the free man, between men and women. Today things are no better. The dividing walls of hostility are as high as ever, separating East from West, North from South, rich from poor, black from white, Unionist from Republican. Broken homes, divided communities, gangs and ghettos abound.

“The Lord meant his church to be a visible alternative. It was to be a society within which the dividing walls had been broken down and where men and women would not be judged ‘according to the flesh’ (the colour of their skin, their IQ, the school they went to, the car they owned, their suntan, their weight or where they went on holiday). In the church the Lord wants it to be rich and poor, black and white, Asian and Anglo-Saxon sitting down together. Its members welcome one another on the basis of spiritual realities, not human characteristics. Here the feebleminded find acceptance, the easily tempted find strength, and the homosexual is helped to put his past behind him” (Donald MacLeod, “Shared Life: The Trinity and the Fellowship of God’s People”, Scripture Union, London, 1987, p.54).

Let us look in turn at the oneness of Paul with the Philippian church, and then at the tensions between these two women.

1. PAUL AFFIRMS HIS GREAT AFFECTION FOR THE PHILIPPIAN CHURCH.

John Gwyn-Thomas says, “First, we are conscious that Paul loved this church – he called them ‘my brothers’; this is the first thing he said about them, and then he said very deliberately, ‘you whom I love’. His heart was going out towards them; he longed for them, to see them again. They had come to faith through him; they were not a vague body of people. This church was composed of individuals who cared about him in prison, and he was concerned to know how they were progressing in the faith. He calls them his ‘joy’ – even in prison. We all know how much joy we get from natural things, but here is the apostle talking about spiritual joy, and his joy was this church and the spiritual progress they were making. How many of us find joy in this way? He then calls them his ‘crown’; he may have thought of this as the crown that the Lord would give him at the last day, or that the church at Philippi was the crown as the reward for his labours. This church had come to Christ through his ministry, and he wanted them to continue in Christ. Finally, he calls them ‘dear friends’ his ‘beloved’; indeed I do not think that he loved any church more than he loved the Philippian church. Because he loved them he was concerned about them; he wanted to encourage them, to warn them, to do all he could to see that they continued as the people of God in the situation in which God had put them” (John Gwyn-Thomas, “Rejoice . . . Always!” Banner of Truth, Edinburgh, 1989, p.2).

I have to ask us all whether we know something about that love that Paul had for the people of God? We gather today as a group of people who are not a business, or a social club, or a political movement but the Spirit-indwelt family of God. Do we set store on those particular kinds of Christians in our midst (whom we also find in every gospel congregation world-wide) who are virtually the human glue holding the people of God together? I am talking about those church members who know everyone and are interested in them; they greet all the members young and old, and they have time for everyone. They have that gift of making all they meet in the congregation feel loved and particularly close to them. We esteem, I hope, those other men and women who are mighty in the Scriptures, and those who are the backbone of the Prayer Meeting and are constant in their intercession for the people of the church, but there are these caring people who remind us that normative Christianity also shows itself in great affection for the people of God. We couldn’t hurt a disciple of Jesus, or snub him, or ignore him, or cold-shoulder him. These are our eternal brothers, the ones we love and long for, our joy and crown, our dear friends.

We see new students coming to this congregation each academic year and some of them have such a spiritual maturity, an evangelistic zeal, a prayerfulness, and a thoughtfulness. We hear their voices in prayer. They can approach the beggars, alcoholics and drug addicts, but they can also sit and talk with the older people in the church. We think, “They must be the joy and crown of their families and home churches.” What mature patterns of behaviour they show.

Some of us can make a similar observation to one made by George Mitchell, a former minister in Inverness, who, while talking about these verses, says, “I remember leading a Scripture Union camp (75 boys under canvas at Scoughall, near North Berwick) and observing one of my campers for ten days. He was brought late to camp by older-than-average parents. He was an unusual phenomenon – a godly boy who joined in all the activities of the camp programme. He was quiet, showing a mature awareness of his fellow-campers, was respectful towards the leaders, and had a tremendous grasp of biblical truth in group discussion and the quizzes in the evening meetings. At the end of the camp, he came to give me the remains of the pocket money his parents had given him for camp, for the ‘God and Others’ box. He had been given ten pounds, a fraction of what others had, and had spent only three pounds and fifty pence on himself at the camp tuck-shop. I thought that he was a tremendous credit to his parents, and it must have brought them great joy to have him at home. The Philippian church brought great joy to Paul as he watched them developing. They were his ‘joy and crown’ (verse 1) (George Mitchell, “Chained and Cheerful: Paul’s Letter to the Philippians”, Christian Focus, Fearn, 2001, p. 150).

The apostle loved these people. Think of the pattern God has set for us in his relationship with his Son. He says to him audibly, and for others to hear, “Son I really love you. I am so pleased with everything about you.” He says it when Jesus begins his public ministry after God has been observing his blameless behaviour for 30 quiet years. Then after about three hectic years of teaching, debates and mighty works the Father acknowledges again, “You are my beloved Son.” It is that same word that Paul uses when he tells his fellow-Christians that they are the ones he loves deeply.

I was at the annual dinner of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers recently and spoke to an old soldier afterwards. He told me that he has a grandson who is autistic. He described the difficulty this seven year old has in assimilating the information that comes to him, and how he as his grandfather communicates with him and the time he spends with him. Then he suddenly said to me, “I love him so much,” shaking his head with earnestness: “He is so loveable.” It was very moving. Do preachers love God’s people and do we show that we love them – like Paul does here? Do we tell them? Or do we plead that we cannot, because we are too old, or too English, or too reserved to speak like that? Or is the real reason for the absence of any display of affection that we have left our first love and we have become lukewarm? It is all to easy to deprecate very ordinary sinners whom God has accepted and reconciled. We can offend the very people Jesus Christ has loved from before the foundation of the world, the ones for whom he shed his blood, and died in agony. He has seen them at their worst. The Lord Jesus knows far more terrible things about them than we do, but he loves them passionately, longingly, deeply, achingly. He still continues to pray for them and will save each one of them. He has made his mind up because he loves them so much. It is love like that that keeps a congregation from scandalous divisions, and keeps two different Christian women with one mind in the Lord.

Such love was very evident in the life of a man who died at the beginning of the last century, R.C.Chapman, who ministered in Barnstaple, Devon. Christians there still speak of him today. He said this, “My business is to love others, not to seek that others shall love me.” His love for his neighbour guided everything he did. I mean everything, for example, it guided something as trivial as his handwriting. He was teasing a Christian with an indecipherable scrawl, saying to him, “I’m always careful not to make the postman swear.” His words of greeting were from his heart: “I’m delighted to see you, yes, delighted to see you. Welcome, my dear brother!” When he got older (and that is a dangerous period when men get full of themselves and their own memories and increasingly aren’t interested in others) people saw rather an increase in his love. In one gathering a baby was crying lustily and some people were obviously irritated, looking at the mother who was getting distraught, but Mr Chapman talked away to her with tenderness, and soon her baby slept. He said, “To reform the church of God we should always begin with self-reform. Schisms and divisions will increase so long as we begin with reforming others.”

I found one particular incident almost incredible: their temporary meeting place in Barnstaple became too small and they found a yard was up for sale. Its location was perfect for a new church in the centre of the town, and it was also near the house where Mr Chapman lived. The yard opened onto the main street. The congregation decided to go ahead and purchase it; the legal documents were all completed. Then the leaders of the Church of England in the town made it known that they had intended to buy that land for a new parish church. This verse 5 came very powerfully to Mr Chapman, “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” He advised the congregation to give up their claim on the land, which they did. They actually let the Anglicans go ahead and build the parish church there. They had to wait a couple of years before another suitable plot of land was bought where the Grosvenor Street Chapel was built which still stands today. What love for the body of Christ! There were strong personalities in the church, but they loved one another. For fifty-nine years there was no strife or bitterness between them, and humanly speaking that was through the Christlike example of R.C.Chapman. Spurgeon said he was the saintliest man he had ever known. Someone overseas once wrote a letter to Chapman with the envelope addressed like this, “R.C.Chapman, University of Love, England” and it reached his home. I have spent some time on these words of the first verse because I feel I am deficient in my own life here: “my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown . . . dear friends.”

2. EUODIA AND SYNTYCHE WERE GREATLY DISAFFECTED WITH ONE ANOTHER.

It must have been a very serious state of affairs for these women to be named thus, and their hostility to one another to be written about in this letter. They were not two quiet women who came on Sunday nights and sat in the back row. They were greatly gifted and zealous “women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel” (v.3). In other words, they endured hostility in the spread of the Christian faith. They stood alongside Paul in his ministry, for example, when Paul went to visit some women who were interested in Jesus Christ Euodia or Syntyche would accompany him so that the women’s husbands wouldn’t get suspicious. Then they would suffer with Paul when people abused those who brought so foolish a message. But these two didn’t only follow a great personality like Paul and bask in the afterglow, they contended alongside an utterly unknown preacher like somebody called Clement who is just mentioned here in the entire New Testament. It was the gospel that was crucial for them, and we see that more clearly further on in our text because it was not merely with Clement that these woman took their stand but with any other “fellow-workers”. With them all Euodia and Syntyche would be active. These women, of course had no gifts of preaching and rule, but they had mighty gifts of personal evangelism and pastoring other women and children in the church. Their assistance to Paul, Clement and the other church workers was invaluable. They were probably the most well-known Christian women in the congregation, and these were the two now having so public a disagreement.

You understand how crucial this was, how these things draw in many others in the congregation. There were those who sided with Euodia and others who sided with Syntyche. The elders attempted to deal with it. One elder, perhaps, was put in charge of this issue, and he did his best. He came to certain conclusions and perhaps he saw one in a worse light than the other. So the elders admonished one woman more strongly than the other, but both were exhorted to change in certain ways. Then the debate spread in the church. There were some people who supported this elder, but there were others who thought he was biased. The elders’ decision was disputed and the whole issue escalated. The congregation was being sucked into this dispute and prayer was being affected (people were not praying), and stewardship was affected (people were not giving), and the authority of the leadership was being disputed, and there was less spirit to evangelise when there was disunity. What energy can be used up trying to justify our own positions. Blowing out the other man’s candle doesn’t make your own shine brighter. A horrible situation had developed in the Philippian church. So it is not simply two women refusing to talk to one another. It is more devilish than that.

How does Paul deal with it? Notice that he does not mention Euodia and Syntyche in the first chapter, or even the second or third, but also Paul does not tag this clash on to the letter as a throw away postscript – “E. and S. – put your act together”. It was far too serious to be a dismissive weary exhortation. First, Paul reminds them both, with all the church, of the great truths and the call to godly giving that is in the gospel. That is where Paul starts, with three chapters of profound teaching. That is always where distinctively Christian counselling begins, when we are freshly and weekly reminded of how great is God and his love for us, what provision he has made for us to live godly, and what our hope is. The big truths of the Christian faith is the context in which we live our lives, and in which all our personal private counselling is set. So, the themes of the first three chapters have washed over the minds of Euodia and Syntyche – “let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” – before their infamous personal disagreement is brought up. Then what does Paul do?

i] Paul pleads with them: “I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche” (v.2).

It is the word describing what God does as he stretches forth his arms and pleads with sinners to turn to him in faith and repentance. It is the word that is used for prayer as we plead with God to answer our requests. It is a word used in reference to very important issues of life and eternity. We don’t ‘plead’ with people to take a cookie with a cup of coffee. We don’t ‘plead’ with our friends to change their brand of soap powder. When we say, “I plead with you,” then the matter at hand is crucial. These are divine, and God-honouring issues. Paul in fact repeats the word ‘plead’ for emphasis: “I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche.” He addresses them quite separately and deliberately because both must consider the consequences of their actions. Both were culpable in their intransigence in this issue. But both had realities that united them for ever – death couldn’t break the chains that bound them together – and those ties were far more majestic and eternal realities than these temporary differences. They were both redeemed through Jesus Christ; they both had the same heavenly Father and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit; both of them were going to dwell eternally in the presence of God. So Paul appeals to them both to examine themselves in this unifying perspective, involving their minds as well as their hearts, so that they would see the triviality of natural differences in the light of this great unity in the Spirit. They both had these enormous privileges in grace and so Paul entreats and pleads with each of them.

Paul doesn’t sum up their rival claims. He doesn’t say to Euodia that she was the one who was wrong and must apologise. He doesn’t sit on the fence and equivocate that they were both partly right and partly wrong. He doesn’t tell them to kiss and make up. It isn’t a question of the degree of right and wrong of each. He pleads with both of them to change. No doubt each one was thinking that she was right and the other was wrong, but Paul put each one under the same obligation to make the first move and come into agreement with the other. Euodia was not to wait for Syntyche to take the first step. Syntyche was not to think, “I will accept her apology when she offers it”. Each must commit herself to taking the first move.

I can present this plea of Paul in this way, that he doesn’t begin with heavy-handed authority: it is not “I am speaking to you as someone who has seen the risen Christ on the road to Damascus, who has been called personally by him as an apostle, as someone caught up to the third heaven seeing glorious sights and hearing such wonderful words, as someone who has spoken in tongues more than anyone else, as someone whose ministry has been greatly blessed by God so that I have planted many churches . . . etc.” No. Paul doesn’t spell out all his credentials before them to intimate and silence them. Nor does Paul claim to have a word of wisdom or knowledge or prophecy which is going to tell them exactly what they must do. No. He is not going to pull rank, and he is not going to shame them. What he does is plead with them both. He is personal and impassioned. He speaks as a man who loves them both and remembers when they once worked together in the spread of the gospel – blessed memories – the best years in the lives of both those women.

The note of entreaty carries on when we are told that he also ‘entreats’ a friend whom he calls ‘loyal yoke-fellow’ (v.3). The NIV simply translates the word ‘ask’, but it is more of a serious request, not as strong as the word ‘plead’. “Now let me say a word to this Christian leader, that I want you to get involved. I am asking you to do this for me, but I am pleading with these women.” Dr Lloyd-Jones picks up these various terms to comment, “That is the thing needed in the Christian Church – discrimination in the way in which we deal with people. Why is this spirit so important? It is because if the Church is not right in this respect she grieves the Holy Spirit, and if she grieves the Holy Spirit, she loses her power and she cannot be a missionary Church. Moreover, if the Church fails in her spirit, it is a denial of the messages she preaches and above and beyond it all, it is dishonouring to the Lord himself and, after all, the Church is his” (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “The Life of Peace: Studies in Philippians 3&4”, Hodder and Stoughton, London 1990, p.138). So the first thing is that Paul pleads with them.

ii] Paul, secondly, calls in a friend to help.

How humble he is, not reminding them that he is an apostle, and not giving them a direct word from God. Rather, Paul does what we do when we need extra help, or feel a bit out of our depth, we ask a friend if he will intervene. Who is this friend? We don’t know. He must be the man to whom this letter is addressed, probably the leader of the congregation in Philippi, the pastor, the man who will read the epistle out loud to the congregation. So Paul is publicly bolstering his authority to deal with the problem and help those women. In other words, when the church hears the letter read out and these two women mentioned by name they will also hear that Paul has told this particular man to make it his responsibility to end this estrangement. Various names have been suggested as to the identity of this man, like that of Luke, or that this person is in fact Paul’s wife! That has been suggested – someone who is non-existent in the rest of the New Testament. Other people have suggested that the word rendered ‘yokefellow’ is a proper name, and they transliterate it by ‘Syzgus’ – “good old loyal Syzgus” (though there is no record of anyone in antiquity being called by the name ‘Syzgus’). William Hendriksen thinks of it as a play on a name. This great Christian was as good as his name and he pulled away like an ox in harness with another ox. Paul and this man had been co-labourers and he has always been so loyal to Paul. But doesn’t it appear to us that this man was evading his duty in dealing with the problem of the two most dynamic women in the congregation not getting on with one another? Paul is saying to him, “Now I am asking you, as the one with the key to solving this intractable clash of personalities, to get involved and help them. You have been Yokefellow in name and now I want you to be Yokefellow in action. You showed you could work yoked to me, and that wasn’t easy, but you did it. Now I want you to yoke these two women together again.”

iii] Paul’s longing, thirdly, is that they “agree with each other in the Lord” (v.2).

How simple it is and how important. Ten times in these four little chapters Paul uses this word ‘agree.’ What exactly is Paul asking for? Don Carson is helpful here in explaining Paul’s thinking:

“1. This is not an appeal for unity at the expense of truth. Paul doesn’t say, ‘Regardless of what is coming between you, bury the hatchet. Do not ever let doctrine stand in the way of unanimity. Doctrine doesn’t matter; just love one another, and that will be enough.’ The Paul who thinks doctrinal matters can draw a line between the person who is reconciled to God and the person who is anathema (Gal. 1:8&9) is unlikely to be slipping into relativistic sentimentality here. When fundamental gospel interests are at stake, it is sometimes necessary to divide. But that is not what is going on in Philippi.

“2. In light of the argument of Philippians as a whole, this is not a hopeless demand for perfect agreement on every subject. Paul is not saying to Euodia and Syntyche, ‘Ladies, on every single point of doctrine and life I expect you to thrash out your difference and arrive at perfect agreement.’ For when this verb is used elsewhere, the argument is broader and deeper. Recall, after all, Paul’s argument at the beginning of Philippians 2, where the same verb is occurs (here in italics): “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose” (2:1&2). In other words, Paul is appealing for a mental attitude that adopts the same basic direction as other believers, the same fundamental aim, the same orientation and priorities – that is a gospel orientation” (D.A.Carson, “Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians” Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 1996, pp. 101&102).

I think that Sinclair Ferguson is absolutely right when he says that biblically-based churches find it easier dealing with false teaching, and that they are often at their worst when dealing with differences of opinion. He says, “Personal differences can be . . . deadly, dividing the fellowship, sowing seeds of bitterness, diverting attention from central issues to sometimes petty peripheral concerns, sucking energy that should be employed in building up believers and in reaching out to the community. How effectively we handle these differences may say more about the biblical character of our church than how we handle heresy” (Sinclair Ferguson, “Let’s Study Philippians,” Banner of Truth, Edinburgh, 1997, p.100). He goes on to say that we can never shake hands with a Christian after a disagreement and say to them, “I told you so.” We must alwa ys say, “The Lord told us both so.”

iv] Paul’s entreaty, fourthly, is that they agree with each other “in the Lord”.

Euodia and Syntyche are to agree not because it is much happier for the whole congregation when all the church members get on together, though that is true. Paul makes his appeal on a far more transcendent level. Both these women are “in the Lord.” Now that obviously means that they both have the same relationship with the Lord. They are sisters in Christ like it or not. They didn’t make that choice, God made it and their responsibility is to acknowledge this. They were in Christ on the cross, in his body and in his blood. Wherever they are for the rest of their lives that is going to be true. That fact can never be undone, they share in the broken body and the shed blood, and they experience the blessings of the new covenant

But they must go deeper still. The very meaning of a Christian is that the Lord has taken up residence in their lives. They have the life of Jesus Christ in their souls. He lives in them. This is surely something of enormous weight for us all. The Lord doesn’t just pray for us to become one, he actually makes us one by dwelling in each of us. How can a Christian hate another human being in whom his very own God and Saviour lives. How can he denigrate him? How can he badmouth him?

We cannot love God whom we have not seen, without also loving our sister, whom we have. Before love ever existed in mankind it existed in God, in the love of the Father for the Son, in the love of the Son for the Father and of both for the Spirit. We are to love our fellow Christians with the same sort of love, as Jesus says, “that the love you have for me may be in them” (Jn. 17:26). That surely is awe-inspiring enough. Euodia, do you love Syntyche the way God the Father loves God the Son? But there is something even more awesome. Syntyche is to emulate the depth of love that God the Father showed for the world when he gave his only Son for it (Jn. 3:16). Even when Euodia is odious, even when she is hurtful, you, Syntyche are to love her in such a way that no sacrifice is too great, and no kindness is too extravagant. This is not the counsel of perfection, nor is it an ideal which is utterly unattainable. This is what Paul says in his great chapter on love in I Corinthians 13. No matter how deep our knowledge, how great our gifts, how stupendous our experiences, if Syntyche and Euodia are not showing that sort of love then their Christianity is mere posturing.

In the Philippian church, conceived of as the body of Christ, there is something more than the fact that Euodia and Syntyche are to ‘share’ – that hackneyed word. There is to be such an involvement with one another and such a depth of affection and sympathy, that if Euodia suffers, Syntyche suffers with her; if Syntyche is honoured, Euodia rejoices with her. But if either of these women in Christ are not performing their proper functions all the church in Philippi is affected, because the congregation is Christ’s body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, and it can grow only when each part does its work.

Euodia has no right to be in Syntyche’s way and even less in her hair, yet the fact that they are both in Christ, in his body, reflects a degree of commitment, concern, involvement and intimacy. It is not that each has special bonding with Christ but each has a special bonding with one another. Euodia and Syntyche are one flesh, deeply involved in one another and they must express this in their relationship with one another. In the Lord they can each find strength to eradicate the bitterness, and can understand one another, and express practical concern for one another and pray for each other. They must do this and do it soon. Too much time has elapsed and it is getting harder. It is like the golden rule of one sensible lady, a mother and a grandmother, of never letting the ironing pile up for more than two days. There are things better dealt with sooner than later.

v] Paul reminds them in the fifth and final place, that their “names are in the book of life” (v.3). There was a day in eternity when God determined to save a vast company of people, his own elect. No man could calculate the number. They are like the sands on the seashore incalculable in their number. All were sinners; none was worthy of the glories of heaven, but God determined to save them at enormous cost. He would send his own Son to the virgin’s womb and the death of the cross to make them his own. He gave them to his Son to live and die for; to save and keep. They were not some undifferentiated mass of people. He did not save ‘a crowd,’ but individual men and women in a multitude. Each one had a name, and each one’s name God knew and loved. Their “names are in the book of life” (v.3). God has written them there. God had written Euodia’s name there, and God also wrote Syntyche’s name there, and there is nothing either can do to remove the name of the other. Their names are in the book of life. Every Christian’s name is there. It does not matter how insignificant we are in the eyes of the world or even the church, we are significant to God, and our names are written in the book of life if we are real Christians.

It was Moses who first spoke of this book beseeching God that wicked Israel would not be destroyed, rather let his own name be blotted out of the book of life and not theirs. In the book of Daniel we are told of all the righteous who shall be found written in the book and will be saved from the judgment, and in the book of Revelation we read that whosoever was not found in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15). How crucial to ensure that our name is written there! In the end the only thing that matters is that our names are in that book of life. Whatever position or rank we hold in the world, whether our names are engraved on silver cups, or painted in gold on old oak panels in the finest private schools, or whether they are mentioned with respect and affection in the national press, remember at the moment of death it will all have gone. Only our life with God will remain, because our relationship with him is eternal. Will all our names be found there?

There can be no greater encouragement than that. Towards the end of his life Iain Murray was sympathising with Dr Lloyd-Jones that he could no longer preach, but Dr Lloyd-Jones did not want such sympathy: “I didn’t live to preach,” he told him and he reminded Iain of what our Lord said to his disciples who returned from their preaching. “They were full of pride and elation; they said, ‘Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name’, but our Lord said to them, ‘Rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven’ (Luke 10:17, 20). So Lloyd-Jones says this, “Beloved Christian people, that is the greatest ambition and the highest privilege we can ever have – that our names are written in the book of life. Here is your encouragement. All is known to God. The world may never know, the Church herself may never know what you have been doing. It may have been some quiet work behind the scenes and the devil may tempt you and say, ‘Why go on with it? Why bother with it? Everybody talks about the man in the pulpit and certain obvious officials, but is your work worth going on with? Stay at home and do nothing!’

“But let me remind you of this, your name is written in the book of life. The minister may know nothing of what you are doing and neither may anyone else, but God knows it. Nothing you do goes unrecorded and your Father who sees in secret shall himself reward you openly. Remember also that he is the Judge; the books will be open to him and he is absolutely just. Do not feel that somebody else is having greater credit than you. That may be true on earth, but when you come before him it will not be true. You will have justice, all your humblest actions are recorded and known. He is absolutely fair, you need never fear. Do not worry what man may do unto you, the Lord is our judge and he is our keeper.

“Furthermore, let me remind you that your reward is certain and glorious. If your name is written in that book, you are going to the glory and ultimately it does not matter very much what man may do to you. As Paul puts it once and for ever at the end of that mighty fifteenth chapter of the first epistle to the Corinthians, ‘Forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.’ And so:

“Go labour on, spend and be spent
Thy joy to do the Father’s will.” (Horatius Bonar)

“Your names are written in the book of life. Seeing that privilege, and holding on to it, go on with your work to the glory of God” (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, op cit, p.139).

9 March 2003 GEOFF THOMAS