Calvary Road Baptist Church


Malachi 3.17 

“C. H. Spurgeon had a well-stocked library of around 12,000 volumes. However, one rare book was not to be found amongst that valuable collection: Thomas Watson on Malachi 3:16-18. With a note of sadness in his voice he said to his College students: ‘This [volume] would be a great find if we could come at it, for Watson is one of the clearest and liveliest of Puritan authors. We fear we shall never see this commentary, for we have tried to obtain it, and tried in vain.”[1] 

First published in London in 1682 under the title, Religion Our True Interest, the book Spurgeon spoke of was discovered and reprinted in 2006 under the title The Great Gain Of Godliness. David Guerrero gave me a copy of the book more than ten years ago, shortly after its publication by The Banner of Truth Trust, and I profited immensely from reading it. I commend it to you without reservation.

Of wonderful benefit to me, and I hope to you, is a portion of the book that deals with the last phrase of Malachi 3.17. Please turn there, and stand as we read the entire verse: 

“And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.” 

The last phrase reads, “as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.” Of course, many of you are familiar with Galatians 4.1: 

“Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all.” 

Thus, it is well established in God’s Word, Old Testament, and New, that every father’s son is reckoned to be very much the servant.

As well, we see very clearly from God’s Word that a father and son relationship exists from the moment a sinner comes to Christ and is adopted into God’s family and is born again into God’s family, with the First Person of the Trinity after that being the new Christian’s heavenly Father. It is this relationship that provoked the Apostle Paul to remind his readers in both Romans and Galatians of the believer’s heart cry of “Abba, Father,” Romans 8.15 and Galatians 4.6.

Knowing that salvation from sins and a new life in Christ is not an end in itself, but is the means to a greater end, we learn from Ephesians 2.10 that every child of God is brought into the family of God, at least partly, to serve God: 

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” 

However, the service rendered to God is not that of a galley slave rowing to the beat of the drum so that you can move a ship through the water. It is rather the service given by the son to his beloved father.

Back to our text, then, Malachi 3.17, and the words 

“his own son that serveth him.” 

Christian, in this day of terrible parenting and confused children, because you might not have been raised yourself properly, you may not know how you should be expected to serve God. Do you even know? Lost friend, as you consider the claims of Jesus Christ, and as you ponder your eternity under the condemnation of your undying soul for sins, be sure you understand what will be expected of you and from you should you ever turn to Jesus Christ for pardon full and free.

Three aspects of the Christian’s service to his or her heavenly Father: 


In Acts 13.22 we read of the Apostle Paul rehearsing to his Jewish audience that God described King David as 

“a man after my own heart, which shall fulfill all my will.” 

How important it is, then, that we learn from David’s mouth the instructions he gave to his son, Solomon, concerning the way in which someone should serve God.

First Chronicles 28.9 tells us what King David said to his son, Solomon, his heir, and he said it in front of all the princes of Israel concerning Solomon’s service to God. May we take his words to heart: 

“And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever.” 

Notice the key directive to “serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind.” Thus, you, too, and I as well, should serve your heavenly Father willingly.

In First Kings 8.18, we learn from Solomon that it had been in his father’s heart to build the Temple that God allowed only Solomon to erect. Though God did not allow David to build the Temple, God did compliment him in that the desire to serve God in this way was in his heart.

In the Old Testament and the New, the Bible way for God’s children is 

“the just shall live by faith.” 

However, Hebrews 11.6 shows very clearly what faith’s goal is concerning God: 

“But without faith it is impossible to please him.” 

The goal, of course, is to please God, not to please ourselves. That reality is, I fear, lost on many professing Christians these days.

There is, then, an inseparable link that ties faith together with willingness. And since God’s children are saved by faith and then live by faith, which presumes an inclination to please God, it is an unarguable certainty that the child of God should serve our heavenly Father willingly. That is, you want to serve God, you are willing to serve God, you do not need to be drafted for service because you are a volunteer. But some of us are flawed. I well remember early on in my Christian life. I did not want to serve God. But I wanted to want to. So, I served God anyway and discovered to my amazement that God reordered my want to. Proverbs 16.3: 

“Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established.” 

Are some believers reluctant to volunteer? Oh my, yes. But that is because they have been hoodwinked by evangelical Christianity, or have dragged luggage into their Christian life from the old life, or their pride has been wounded in some way, and they misunderstand the criteria for success in the Christian life. Set these relatively unimportant matters aside and serve God. If you will trust God and do right, He will dispel the reluctance over time to give you success. What is the sole criteria for success as a Christian? Faithfulness. Only faithfulness. First Corinthians 4.1-2: 

1 Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.

2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. 

If you are faithful in your Church ministry, you are a successful Christian. Most Christians become willing servants once they recognize the impossibility of failing in ministry so long as they are faithful in ministry. If you are faithful in ministry, you are, by definition, successful in the Christian life. 


What is meant by serving your heavenly Father universally? Consider that there are things you like to do, as well as things you do not like to do. There are things you are willing to do, and things you are not willing to do. There are commands, duties, and obligations you are willing to discharge, just as there are always those you are not so willing to discharge. Certain things you just do not like doing. Serving the Father universally means you do not pick and choose your areas of obedience, your compliance to the divine will, but instead seek to obey God in all things.

Consider Zacharias and Elizabeth, the priest and his wife who were chosen by God to be the parents of the greatest of all the prophets, John the Baptist. Note how they are described in Luke 1.6: 

“And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.” 

They were not sinless, but they were blameless. That phrase, “walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless” is an incredible endorsement. That couple sought to obey God in every way.

Notice, on the other hand, the comment by the Syrian general, Naaman, after his leprosy was cleansed by the prophet of the one true God, Elisha, in Second Kings 5.18. Naaman said to Elisha, 

“In this thing the LORD pardon thy servant, that when my master goeth into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leaneth on my hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon: when I bow down myself in the house of Rimmon, the LORD pardon thy servant in this thing.” 

Notice what the not very grateful Naaman has just said to God’s man. Because he is such an important man to his king, though he now knows that God is the one true and living God, and has been graciously cleansed of his leprosy by God, he nevertheless feels it will be appropriate for him to participate in the worship of a false god with his master. So he plans to go to the house of the false god, Rimmon, and he will bow himself down there. He just hopes the LORD will pardon his plan to sin in that way. Elisha’s response in the next verse, “Go in peace,” can be paraphrased as, “Fine. Go.” Elisha is not happy. The outrage of idolatry is so contrary to God’s will that under no circumstances can Naaman’s planned conduct while his king is worshiping idols be seen as at all acceptable. If Naaman had been Jewish, he would have suffered death for bowing to an idol. It would have been better for him to suffer death rather than to facilitate the worship of an idol.

Contrary to the example set by Naaman, the Apostle Paul exhorts us in First Corinthians 15.58 to always and in every instance do right: 

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” 

Excuse me, but intentionally incomplete obedience is wrong. When you decide not to do God’s will, it is evil, wicked, mean, and nasty. To be sure, we do not know everything, and our obedience as Christians will always be incomplete for that reason. However, when we knowingly and intentionally choose to disregard duties, obligations, responsibilities, and privileges to serve God, we are doing precisely what Psalm 66.18 warns against: 

“If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” 

Are you ever in a place where you can afford for God not to hear you? Can you so predict the future that you know you will not need to cry out to God for deliverance to spare you from a heart attack or an automobile crash by crying out “God help me”? But God will not hear that cry for help in such situations if you regard iniquity in your heart.

Roman Catholicism is very much a smorgasbord religion, where there will always be those winks and nods to picking and choosing what parts of the Catholic faith you will and will not comply with. Former Roman Catholic priest and my very good friend until his death, Bart Brewer, once described Catholicism to me as a loophole religion, meaning Catholicism always provided an out for someone who did not want to do right. However, that is not God’s way for His children, and that is not the way of Christians whose service to their heavenly Father is intended to be meaningful and worshipful. That is why you should not only serve your heavenly Father willingly but also universally, in every area of life. 


Do you know those who seem never to be willing? They never volunteer. Such a person might be nicknamed Dodge because of their tendency to dodge responsibilities. You will typically see them standing around while everyone else is stacking chairs and cleaning up. Methinks some parents so raise their children as to cultivate this tendency, though most kids if given half a chance love to be helpful when their helpfulness is appreciated. As well, some people are frequently picky about what they will and will not do, closing in on the clean tasks and scrupulously avoiding the dirty jobs. Those same people also seem to move so very slowly when they do anything, instead of moving swiftly. I will not name them, but you know very well who it is around here who is always willing to roll up their sleeves to do the necessary things, and also those who will stand around and talk, or not show up at all when it is time to serve God. They think that duties, obligations, and responsibilities are for other people. Such people are profoundly discouraging, especially to new believers whose desire is to serve God effectively. They just wonder how some people can be Christians who always avoid doing anything. People who learn teamwork in sports, or in the military, or in health care occupations, know the importance of teamwork. Teamwork is so important for a Church.

When I was a kid, I was a willing servant to my parents. I also served them universally. I was not a perfect kid, by any means. I was spanked more times than I remember. However, I was conscientious. And I did what I was told swiftly. Do you remember Abraham’s reaction when God directed him to take Isaac to a place where He would show Him and there to sacrifice his son, his only son? Genesis 22.3 shows Abraham’s response to God’s command: 

“And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him.” 

Turn now to Zechariah 5.9: 

“Then lifted I up mine eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came out two women, and the wind was in their wings; for they had wings like the wings of a stork: and they lifted up the ephah between the earth and the heaven.” 

Though this is a prophecy, it does illustrate a swift response: 

“The wind was in their wings.” 

This type of responsiveness is strongly encouraged in the New Testament in James 1.19: 

“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” 

To be sure, hearing does mean listening, with some commentators pointing out that this particularly applies to being eager to hear the preaching of God’s Word.[2] However, I am also of the opinion that there is a cultural reality in which the hearing of instructions also involves complying with those same instructions. Thus, to be swift to hear is not restricted to hearing instructions eagerly, but also suggests a swift response to those instructions, a rapid obedience to the Father’s wishes. 

Think about this for just a moment, especially those of you who have undergone specialized training in the military, in law enforcement, in licensed health care occupations, and in any team sports environment. Willing service. Universal service. Swift service. These are not only characteristics of anyone’s involvement in serving God, but are characteristics of any activity human beings engage in where teamwork is crucial to success. This is also the way effective parents raise their children. They raise their children to be a team.

I remember when Archie was still practicing dentistry. He and Shirley ran an extremely professional corps of dedicated professionals in his office. I observed the goings on in his office on many occasions. I can assure you that if someone was not willing and if someone was not universal, and if someone was not swift in complying with Archie’s wishes, that person did not last very long. I would suspect that the same is true when working for Mike or Rick. I hope the same will be true with Daniel and when Mara opens her practice someday. I can’t imagine guys not holding up to this standard on the crews C. R. used to run.

How, then, does it come to be that God the Father is given short shrift by people who claim to be Christians? Instead of God getting the leftovers when it comes to willing, getting the leftovers when it comes to universal, and getting the leftovers when it comes to swift service, you would think God should get the best from His children.

I was once operated on by a vascular surgeon. He was a first class, but very demanding, physician who Archie introduced me to back in the day. He had very little patience in his operating room for anyone who dawdled, for anyone who goofed off, for anyone who was not sharp, professional, and competent. Most of the time, that was exactly the level of service he received from the professionals surrounding him.

Why does God not get that from His children? Children are supposed to serve their heavenly Father. We see that in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. So, why is it such service as we have discussed this evening is becoming increasingly rare in Christendom? Why is there so much foot-dragging, so many who are unwilling, so many who are not universal but who pick and choose what they will and will not do, and so many whose service to God is not swift but oh so slow?

I suppose that it could be ignorance. However, that excuse is now gone, effective with this sermon. From this point forward the only excuse will be one’s spiritual condition. Remember, God spares His son who serves Him (that is what our text says) and does not spare His son who does not serve Him because the son who does not serve God is not a son of His at all.


[1] Back cover of Thomas Watson, The Great Gain Of Godliness, (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2006)

[2] D. Edmond Hiebert, The Epistle Of James: Tests of a Living Faith, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1979), page 125.

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