Who doesn’t want to hear these words? Everybody, right? (Even the self-righteous want to earn the Lord’s approval—just in the wrong way. They will say, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” (See Matthew 7.)) The conventional thought is that if I work hard enough for the King in his shop, I will then be honored with these words as I am ushered into his presence. And, as the prevailing thought continues, there will be some Christians who will not hear these words. So, you and I better get busy!
However, as we reread Matthew 25, we see that there are only two types of servants and two responses from the Master…no third or fourth type of servants / responses. The one group of servants was faithful to their stewardship and receives words of acceptance and blessing at the return of the King. Their God-given resources and responsibilities differed, but his response was the same. The other servant was disobedient and faithless. He was condemned by his Master and “cast … into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:30 ESV).
According to Matthew 25, all true believers—those who are in Christ—will receive the same welcome as they enter eternity. Those outside of Christ, the lost or unregenerate man, will receive condemnation and eternal judgment.
We should not confuse the accounting the believer will have to give the Lord (and subsequent rewards or loss of rewards) as he stands before the throne with the basis for his actual acceptance and entry into the kingdom. There is a difference.
So on what basis does God the Father welcome us in such a rich way?
The apostle Paul, in writing to the Ephesians, categorizes all saints as accepted / blessed in the Beloved (in Jesus Christ). Because of our position in Christ, we are now clothed in his righteousness, and by his blood we have full access (right now) to the Father as his children. So when God the Father views us, he sees us in Christ—complete, justified, holy. It is staggering to think that the words spoken to Jesus at his baptism—“this is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased”—can now be applied to us as well. Why? Was it something we did? No. It is because God “has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Ephesians 1:3-4 ESV).
Someone might protest at this point and say, “If this is true and the word gets out, Christians everywhere will stop all kingdom work and just coast in for a safe landing on heaven’s shores!” I will not discount the time yet to come when we will all give an accounting to God of all we did in the flesh (especially pastors and teachers). This truth does help keep us focused. ("It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31 ESV). For the true believer, however, there is something greater than slavish fear that humbles, motivates and transforms us into diligent workers. That something greater is the grace of God found in Jesus Christ.
Listen as Paul lays out this truth:
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11-14 ESV)
Notice the power and adequacy of grace … it trains, conforms, and brings about the Lord’s intent, “a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” As we are then richly welcomed home by our Father, all praise will be his for his glorious grace.
Our response, recorded in Luke 17, can only be, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.”