Agonizomai: Malachi 3:16-18 - Clues to Sheep and Goats

Monday, September 07, 2009

Malachi 3:16-18 - Clues to Sheep and Goats

Malachi 3:16-18 - Clues to Sheep and Goats

Malachi 3:16-18 Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name. 17 "They shall be mine," says the LORD of hosts, "in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. 18 Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him."

By contrast with the impious, the apostate, the blaspheming, the indifferent - the lost majority of Israel - there were, even at this time those that feared the Lord. By "feared" is encompassed a reverential awe and worship through faith, in spirit and in truth. God has saved Himself a remnant in Israel and in all of humankind. The remnant knows Who it is that has saved them. There is no quibble - no argument and no hedging of terms. God alone saved them when they were dead in trespasses and sins, and the obedience of their faith (though they are responsible for walking in it) is entirely due to the grace of God in the Redeemer.

The children of God come together and speak of the Lord. They don’t meet to rave over the latest chariot, or their horses, or the newest drama at the local Greek theater. They don’t come together to talk about hockey or the economy or to complain about the government or the weather. Their hearts burn to be talking of Jesus. They stand out. They are regarded as fanatical, over zealous, so heavenly they’re no earthly use, on another planet, “a bit tetched”, having a one-track mind, impractical, unbalanced, too religious, out of touch with reality and in need of "other interests".

There is no denying the plain language here. Some feared God. God took notice of their regard for Him. God entered their names in a book of remembrance. It would be tempting to think that God is speaking here of saving those who take the pains to seek Him. But that would fly in the face of so many scriptures related to election and grace that the Bible would have to contradict itself if this was actually what was in view. But we know that the Word of God cannot contradict itself. When it appears to do so then the problem is with our understanding, and not with the unity and truth of the Word of God.

So it is wise not to conclude that the book of remembrance spoken of here is the same thing as the Book of Life, in whose pages the names of all the elect were written before the foundation of the world. That is the Lamb’s Book of Life. It pertains to those who, in the secret and eternal counsels of God, were chosen by Him to be found in Christ, and to be saved from their corruption, and the corruption of this present world, to live with Him forever in love.

Instead the passage might be regarded as referring to rewards. God rewards those who diligently seek Him {Heb 11:6} and we do well to remember this - so long as we never forget that no natural man ever seeks God {Ps 14:1-2} In other words, those that seek God seek because they are drawn, {John 6:44} because they have been given a new heart, {Eze 36:26} because the inclination of their will has been changed, {Eze 36:27} because they have been granted repentance {Ac 11:18 2Ti 2:25-26} and faith {Eph 2:8} by walking in which they are pleasing to God - who then rewards them.

All those that God has truly saved have received the power (right) to become the children of God. It is because they are in Jesus Christ, as they were ordained to be from eternity. And since all things belong to Him, then in Him we are co-heirs of all things. All the blessings of God our ours in Him. We are regarded as obedient sons, even though we were His enemies until He gave us new life, and even though we are oftentimes disobedient still. It is not so much a matter of what we are like, but a matter of to Whom we belong. Christ purchased us with His blood. We are His and in Him we are regarded as if we were as perfect as He is. And the true saints do not abuse this momentous fact. Rather, since they have been given a new heart by God Himself, they continue to repent of their sins for the rest of their lives and walk the narrow way by the grace of God.

God Himself has indicated that the true servants of God will be known by their fruit (though the term is not used here). This is not a passage that says they will be known by their great humanitarian undertakings, nor even by their good works per se. God says that they will be known because they are beloved of Him. God’s blessings and grace and mercy and love rest upon His people and it will be clear that this is so. But not in a Kenneth Copeland prosperity kind of way. It will be that God is in them both to will and to do of His good pleasure, and the fruit of that will be plain in their character - for God has undertaken to form Christ in His people.

But the unregenerate will have none of this. Salvation will be hidden from them due to their own sinfulness and their hearts bent upon rebellion and disobedience. It will be equally obvious (to the spiritually discerning) as to those in whom the Lord is not at work. I say "not at work", though we always have hope and we pray for those in whom God has not revealed His Son, in the hope that they too will be granted to find grace and mercy and repentance and faith.

So it will not be about justice delayed or about the blandishments of this world, but about the Lord Jesus Christ calling, saving and sanctifying His church by indwelling them. He is their salvation, their treasure and their exceeding great reward. And He is the judge of all the earth who will by no means clear the guilty. The saints know this. They look forward to it. They hate what He hates because they love what He loves.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ahhh.. we are 'tetched by the Lord, and what an awesome miracle!!! Now all we need is a church body that doesn't talk about hockey after parking of the cup amidst cell phone texting. I've grown more at home than I ever had in the so called church. May our Lord raise up men of God who have a fear of the Lord and not of man. This generation desperately needs this. Thank you for the encouragement to press on and to look forward. :-)

9:35 am  
Blogger agonizomai said...


Thanks for the comment.

I just don't want anybody to get the idea that I think it is good to stay away from the fellowship of other believers and have a private Christianity. This is unavoidable for some, though never desirable for anyone.

For example, the tendency of some in congregations to gather for worship and to have half a mind on worldly things can be an excuse for some to feel superior or to avoid church altogether. But it may actually be a call to them to persevere, to suffer, to witness or to be instruments of change in God's hands.

In almost any congregation there are the lost, the pretenders, the ignorant and the spirit-filled saints in a melting pot of interaction. It is the spirit-filled saints who are most expected to be the light in the darkness.

There are things I have learned that I never found in church, but they are also things I never found apart from the church catholic either. Other believers have been the proximate source of most of my own learning in one way or another. It's God's design.

All that said, there are a lot of places that bear the title "Ichabod", and these deserve to be avoided.



10:11 am  

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