COMMENDATIONS OF JESUS
T. Pierce Brown
To be commended by Jesus surely is the ultimate desire of every Christian. Thus, it behooves us to examine those whom He commended in the New Testament and strive to develop those qualities in our own lives.
Nathanael is the first one that comes to mind. In John1:47we read, “Jesus saw Nathanael coming unto him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” Guile is deceitfulness or hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is the pretense to be one thing when we are another. The word often is misused. Many persons in private Bible studies have said, “I would obey, but I do not want to be a hypocrite.” If you probe carefully to discover their meaning, you will find they do not know what they mean. When I ask, “Do you mean that you would pretend to be ashamed of your sin when you really are not?” The answer is, “No.” When I ask, “Do you mean you are just pretending to believe Jesus is the Son of God?” The answer is “No, I believe him to be the Son of God.”
A person who pretends that he loves the Lord, but is unwilling to obey him is probably a hypocrite. A person who pretends that he comes Sunday morning because he loves the Lord but that love disappears until the next Sunday morning is probably a hypocrite. The person who pretends that the Great Commission is important, and obedience to the Lord is important, but never lifts a finger or walks a step to win a soul to Christ is probably a hypocrite. A person who pretends he is too poor to increase his contribution to help in some program of evangelism, but can buy a new car, take a vacation, or spend more on dog food and cigarettes than he does on Christianity is probably a hypocrite. A person who pretends that he would like to obey the Lord, if there were not so many hypocrites in the church, but still goes fishing, attends ball games or works with hypocrites is probably a hypocrite.
Nathanael was not a hypocrite. He could be trusted to mean what he said; say what he meant and act the way he really was. Jesus commended him. How would He speak of you?
In Matthew 8:5-10 there is a story of a centurion who came to Jesus to get his servant healed. He asked Jesus to speak the word and heal his servant. Verse 10 says, “And when Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.” Jesus always commends the faith of a person who is satisfied with the word and authority of God. There are apparently an increasing number of persons connected with the Lord’s church who think they are authorized to do whatever God does not forbid. They ridicule the notion that when God specifies a particular thing, His silence on other things in that category makes them unauthorized and therefore unacceptable.
They reason like this: God is silent about electric lights, songbooks, and church buildings. God is also silent about instrumental music. If you argue that God’s silence on a matter, such as instrumental music, is to be respected, then you must do without all things about which God is silent to be consistent. When they are asked, “Why do you not use peanut butter and jelly at the Lord’s table? Why do you not sprinkle babies? If you may introduce that on which the Lord is silent, why not do those things?” They reply, “The Lord is not silent about the Lord’s Supper or baptism.” Notice carefully the sophistry and evasion of the issue. Certainly the Lord is not silent about the Lord’s Supper or baptism. Neither is He silent about music. He specified the KIND of music. The proper argument is: He specified the kind. His silence about any other kind leaves the use of any other kind unauthorized. So it is with baptism. He specified the KIND of action. Any other kind is unauthorized.
Notice something very important. He did NOT specify the KIND of water (hot or cold, running or still, river, creek or baptistery). A person may say, “God is silent regarding the use of a baptistery. Therefore it is unauthorized.” That would be improper reasoning. The proper reasoning is: God specified the kind of action (burial). He is silent about any other kind. Therefore it is unauthorized. God did not specify the kind of water. Any effort to bind upon us the necessity to use running water or cold water is going beyond God’s authority.
It seems amazing that a person who claims to be a Bible scholar cannot see the difference in the fact that we DO have authority for using electric lights (or any other kind) to do what God said do, but would NOT have authority for them if God has specified that we worship him by candle light. We DO have authority to baptize in a baptistery with warm water, though God is silent about that, but we would NOT have authority to do it if God had specified the riverJordan. Naaman is a perfect illustration of that which no serious Bible student should overlook. For the same reason, we DO have authority to sing in worship using an amplifier, about which God is silent, but we do NOT have authority to PLAY in worship, about which God is silent. The amplifier is merely a means to do what God commanded. The organ is a means to do what God did not command. The reason is that singing is a kind of music that God specified. Playing is a kind of music that God did not authorize.
The centurion was commended for his great faith because he was willing to depend on the word of Jesus instead of merely guessing what he should do and then assuming that it was satisfactory. Are you willing to do that?
In Matthew 16:18, when Peter had confessed that Jesus was the Christ, Jesus said, “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jonah.” We have probably done a disservice to this great truth by not emphasizing what is involved in it. Probably many connected with the church think of “Jesus Christ” as the name of a great person who is our Savior. If we understood what the term “Messiah” meant to the Jew, it might help us to appreciate more deeply what confessing Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God involves. The Messiah was to be one like Moses, Aaron, David and Melchizedec, but greater. He is Lord of all and God in the flesh.
No one can have that insight without having it revealed unto him by the Father. He revealed it to Peter (Matthew16:17) and reveals it to us through Peter. If all persons who confess it with their lips really grasped its meaning in their hearts and showed that they mean it by their lives, the church of the Lord would multiply greatly.
There is a story of a poor widow in Mark 12:41-44 whom Jesus commended. Probably more preachers tell this story and fondly hold it up as an example for us and then fail to follow that example than any other in the Bible. I know a preacher who started out giving 40% of his income to the work of the Lord and has not given less than 50% for many years. Yet he did not do what this poor widow did. Although he might receive commendations from you if you knew him, he need not expect the kind of commendation she got. She gave all she had.
Would you like the commendations of Jesus? If so, then study these and other characters He commended and try to pattern your life after them. Merely to pattern the outward acts after them might look good to us, but that would not get the commendation of Jesus. Confessing with the mouth is not good enough. That confession with the mouth must lead to profession with the life. Liberal giving measured by human standards is not good enough. “Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profits me nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3). Christianity is not merely an outward show but every act must come from a heart of love that results in outward acts that glorify God.