Have we sufficiently noticed the unity of Matthew 25? To have a measure of dispensational truth is good, for without this it is difficult to understand the Scriptures; but if our smattering of dispensational knowledge causes us to lose the force of any passage, our loss is great indeed.
"Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope." (Rom. 15:4.) If this was true of the Old Testament, how much more is it true of the New.
Very seldom indeed is Scripture quoted by the inspired writers for dispensational teaching, but almost invariably for moral application to those addressed. We must endeavour, therefore, to seek the present benefit of every Scripture, remembering there is a voice to us in all.
In Matthew 25, there are three parts or parables, just as in Luke 15. In both chapters a strong family likeness exists between the parts, so that the three in each case make one whole.
The theme of each part in Matthew 25 is plainly "Omission." The foolish virgins omitted to take oil with their lamps; the wicked servant omitted to use the talent entrusted to him; those condemned as "goats" omitted to minister to the Lord by omitting to minister to His brethren in their necessities. If the interpretation of this last part belongs to the time when the heathen will all have heard the Gospel of the kingdom, does that make similar omission on our part any less displeasing to God? If the heathen with their little light will be treated so severely for neglect, what can we with our much light expect, if we do the same? Dispensational knowledge should drive the application home to us with tenfold power, instead of leading us to say, "It does not apply to us."
In these three parables there is a beautiful order. In the first, the lack was the oil, i.e. the grace of the Holy Spirit. Nothing can possibly compensate for this. What is the worth of profession and outward form if that be lacking? Therefore in the forefront of this great parable of the Kingdom we see how fatal it is (though professedly we await the Bridegroom) not to have the inward reality, which the Holy Ghost alone can give.
In the first part, the Lord says, "I know you not," and the door is shut; in the second, the unprofitable servant is cast out into outer darkness; while the third part is the most terrible of all, for there many are cast into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
The punishment in the first case is awful; in the second case the mere omission to use the talent entrusted brings a still severer punishment; while the failure to show mercy to, and to minister unto the Lord's brethren is the climax of all. Such is the lesson of this great Kingdom parable, showing how it is not enough to keep from evil, but that the lack of positive good, or the failure to carry out our appointed functions, brings about this awful and irremediable loss.
But to apply this last more closely to ourselves. Every gospel takes up this question. The Lord says, "He that receiveth you receiveth Me, and he that receiveth Me receiveth Him that sent Me" (Matt. 10:40; see also verses 41 and 42). Again, "Whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in My name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward." (Mark 9:41; see verses 37 and 42.) See also Luke 9:48, and John 13:20. Now, if this be true, have we not all been guilty? The reception is not confined to the Lord's servants, but includes all His people. Let us consider first the servants. Have we not often, not only neglected such, but even repulsed them? Have we not often insisted that they must follow a certain line, if we are to listen, forgetting that God is Sovereign, and that He will use whom He will? Strange are God's ways, for He, who used the mouth of an ass, can, and does, take whom He will to deliver a message. Does this mean that we make light of evil? Surely not. Yet it means we are always to be ready to recognise God's instrument whoever it be. If we can solve the difficulty by working on sectarian lines, and warning off those, who join us not, we can dispense with the greater part of our exercises of soul. Again, have we not sometimes ministered to the necessities of some of the Lord's servants, and afterwards, when they have viewed some difficult question differently from ourselves and been ostracised in consequence, suddenly cut off further supplies, indifferent as to whether these servants lived or died? Will not the Lord take note of these things?
If we think not merely of the Lord's servants but of the Lord's brethren in general, the case is stronger still. Sectarianism blights the affections, selfishness limits our outlook, pride despises others. How little it often is to us that this one belongs to Christ. Yet how much it means to our Lord. "Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these My brethren ye did not to ME." What will He, who will speak thus to the heathen, say to us with all our blaze of light and truth?
Let us take heed, for these are not matters to be lightly set aside with the parrot-cry of "looseness." These are words of sobriety and truth spoken by the Lord, and they will abide when heaven and earth pass away.
After speaking thus of the negative side, let us deal for a moment with the positive. Great is the joy of the faithful, who have had understanding of the Lord and His ways, and have recognised Him in His people, and have ministered to Him in spite of obloquy and reproach. The wise who had the grace of God in their hearts, and really longed for the Bridegroom will share in His rejoicing; the good and faithful servants will enter into the joy of their Lord, and how great that joy will be; while those, who have ministered to the Lord will have all the joys of the Kingdom, yea, and more also.
Beloved children of God, let us be exercised about these things. If we are not faithful in the truth of the Kingdom, what use to talk of the Church? If we do not show practical love to the children of God as such, what proof is there that we have any love of God in our hearts at all?
Blessed Lord, make us really true to Thee. It is a great honour that Thou allowest us to serve Thee; teach us how to save our lives by making us to love to lose our lives for Thy sake, and gladly to offer ourselves a willing sacrifice to Thee, to be at Thy beck and call, as glad, happy bondslaves of love.