Why did the Apostle John say he wanted believers to abide in Christ and have boldness on the day of His appearing, and not shrink back in shame? What’s the meaning?
All believers are stewards…stewards of their time, talent, and treasure, and Jesus will hold us all accountable for what we have done (Matt 25:40) and haven’t done for Him (Matt 25:41), so when Jesus was speaking about stewardship, He gave the Parable of the Talents. To each, “he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away” (Matt 25:15), but He will come again to see what each had done with what they’d be given. We know He gave to each of them “according to his ability.” They had the ability to do good and the ability to invest these talents, sowing them into the Kingdom, so they had no excuse. They had the means and the ability, but not all of them acted wisely. Two did, as the Master says of their doubling their talents, “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” (Matt 25:23). They had been faithful. That’s what the Master was looking for. It wasn’t that it was doubled that mattered, but they had been faithful with what they’d been given. Then the third servant came and had nothing to show for what the Master had given him. He may have had little, but He was not faithful with it, so the Master said, “take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away” (Matt 25:28-29). What will the Master say to us? Will it be, “Well done thou good and faithful servant, for you attended 5,380 Bible studies and attended 9,873 church services….enter into the joy of the Lord?” By all means, no! It will be whether he or she was faithful with what was given them. Talents can be buried or multiplied, but if they don’t use them, they will lose them.
I can remember getting caught at doing something and then, being ashamed of it. I clearly knew what I was doing was wrong, but I did it any, but when I was caught, I had to admit it. I remember thinking, “If the Lord returned that very moment, would I shrink back from Jesus in shame?” I would say, yes at that moment, but the Apostle John actually wanted to encourage the church, however, he also wanted to make sure they understood that they are responsible for their actions or inactions. John implored them to “abide in [Jesus] so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming” (1 John 2:28). If you are not abiding in Christ, then you are likely not abiding in His Body, and probably not abiding in His Word, and maybe even not walking in obedience (Matt 25:35-36, 28:18-20). By not abiding in Christ, you won’t be acting as much like Christ, and if one is not acting like Christ and He appears at that moment, there is certainly the possibility that you or I would shrink back in shame.
The Bible teaches that many, not a few, will be stunned when Christ returns and they discover that He doesn’t even know them (Matt 7:21-23). Every unbeliever and false convert will see Jesus Christ coming in the clouds of glory. The only exception would be unless their death precedes His appearance, but that still means a judgment is coming (Heb 9:27), but for all who have rejected Christ, they “will wail (or mourn) on account of him” (Rev 1:7) because they refused to bow the knee to Him and repent and be saved. They will wail over their own rejection of Christ, knowing in their hearts that God does exist, so they’ll be without excuse (Psalm 19:1-2; Rom 1:18-21). Not only will they shrink back at His appearing, there may be a good many believers who do the same thing because they have not been living Christ-like, having one foot in the world, and the other in the Kingdom. By the way, that doesn’t work!
I say this not only to others in preaching and teaching, but I say it to myself: “Examine yourself!” It doesn’t hurt to take a self-diagnostic and the Word of God does an outstanding job of that. The Book of 1st John is an excellent example. So is the Book of Philippians, but John reminds the church of this tenet of the faith: “If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him” (1 John 1:29). If someone’s not practicing righteous living (Not perfect of course!), then it may well be time to “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test” (1 Cor 13:5). Peter tells us that we should “be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall” (2 Pet 1:10), and this spiritual self-examination will give you peace of mind, or as Peter writes, “For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 1:11).
Using our Talents
Some of the things that Jesus Christ has commanded the church to do is clearly spelled out in Scripture, so we have no excuse for not following His commands. For example, the command to go “and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt 28:19), but He also gives us specific things to do with our talents and Jesus sees these things as being done to Him. The Master says, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me” (Matt 25:35-36).
I pray you (and I) regularly examine ourselves to see if we’re soundly in the faith and to make sure we are being faithful servants with what we’ve been given. In this way, we won’t shrink back at His appearing. That’s because we understand that as far as Jesus sees it, “as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matt 25:40). There’s no reason to shrink back in shame if you’re found faithfully doing what He’s commanded…but there’s every reason to shrink back in shame if the Master says, “as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me” (Matt 25:45). We know that ends very badly (Matt 25:41).
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is a writer at Christian Quotes and also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.