D. M. PANTON, M. A.
Our Lord devotes His fullest parable (Luke 19: 11-27) to cover the entire field of Christian responsibility for two thousand years. For between the going away of the Nobleman to obtain a Kingdom (the Ascension) and His return (the Second Advent) stretches the exact period of the history of Christendom, during which beside Christian believers there are no "servants" of God - a title by which the Apostles loved to describe themselves (Rom.1:1; 2 Pet.1:1; James 1:1; Jude 1:1). As "child" or "son" is the title of privilege, so "servant" is the title of responsibility, in one and the same man, who is both a member of the Family of God and a servant in the Household of Faith.
Now our Lord casts the main emphasis on the third servant - seven verses are devoted to the servant who was a failure, and only three each to the successful servants: therefore, on this servant's identity depends Christ's main teaching in the parable; and unless we understand that he may be ourselves, ours will be a concealed peril, like a man-trap hidden under forest-leaves. For every truth, appropriated, falls on the soul like an electric shock; whereas it is obvious that the believer who denies the application of the passage to himself, while he may be committing every offence of which the third servant can be guilty, so encases himself in a coat of steel that God's sword falls on him blunted and harmless. It is of vital import to know the spiritual standing of the third servant.
Now this servant is proved a child of God by the following facts. (1) Equally with the other servants he is entrusted with our Lord's goods on His ascension; but Christ has never entrusted, or never does entrust, His work on earth to the unsaved: therefore this is a saved soul equally with the rest. Jesus calls them all "His own servants;" literally, "slaves," bought with their Master's money, and owned by Him. The servants differ greatly in capacity - in the extremes, as five to one; but they differ not at all in the possession of a common trust. (2) The three servants are judged together, at one spot and at one time; but the wicked dead are not judged until the Great White Throne (Rev.20: 5, 12): a thousand years after the judgment of the redeemed. So also the wicked servant is judged last of the three, as last risen [resurrected] and last rapt; for he is the "servant who knows his Master's will and does not get ready or does not do what his Master wants," (Luke 12:47). Moreover as this judgment is at [before] the time of rapture [and resurrection]*, all the unsaved are of necessity physically excluded. (3) All three are judged, like the Seven Churches, solely on the ground of their works: their faith in, and love for, the absent King are implied and assumed: their standing is never challenged. If the third servant were an unsaved soul, his works could in no way, and on no ground, be accepted: between the two Advents, it is the redeemed alone who are judged according to their works; for only those who have received from Christ can work for Him. (4) Overwhelming is the final proof. In the twin parable of the Pounds, the unsaved are placed in careful contrast with the saved, as Citizens and Servants, the only two classes in the world, sharply dividing mankind: the Servants our Lord entrusts with His all on earth, the Citizens send the message after the ascended Christ: "We will not have this Man to reign over us." "Whilst the one Servant represents an inactive member of the body of Christ, the Church, who failed to perform his duty, these Citizens are open rebels, and hence their Lord orders them to be killed: it is evident that this penal proceeding is essentially distinguished from the reproof administered to the one Servant" (Olshausen).
[* If rapture embraces those who are alive (at that time); resurrection embraces those who are dead: and judgment of both groups of regenerate believers must take place beforehand to determine who will be rapt and able to escape (Luke 21:36); and who will be considered worthy (Luke 20: 35) to be resurrected. We never read in scripture of the resurrection of those who are alive; it is always the resurrection of the dead.]
So we arrive at the investigation itself. Christ gives to each servant what He sees he can wisely use; as much as he can handle and profit by; no servant can say, Lord, You gave me nothing; no servant is expected by Christ to produce results greater than his abilities or his opportunities; the poorest, the most unlettered, the most obscure have the "very small" which yet can coin enormous future wealth. But the third servant so undervalues his opportunity as to bury his talent in the earth - earthliness; his carnality is his shame because he is a child of God, and as such betrays his trust: "the circumstance rendering him guilty is, that he to whom the money belonged was no stranger to him, but his Master, to Whom he was bound as a servant" (Goebel). For it is not the possession of the talents that determines our reward, but solely our use of them. So Jesus describes the third servant as the exact opposite of the first two: instead of "good" and "faithful," He says he is "wicked" and "lazy": not "good" in the general sense, but a good servant: and not "wicked" in a general sense, but a wicked, bad servant: the goodness of the one consists in his faithfulness, the badness in the other in his sloth. "This distinctive name comprehends all his guilt, 'Thou slothful servant' " (Stier); he did not misemploy, or embezzle, nor squander, but simply hid his money. So what exactly does our Lord charge him with? Unbelief, un-regeneration, rebellion, apostasy, adultery, theft, murder? Certainly Not: it is simply a servant of God who has made nothing of his life; all he has done wrong is merely to withhold his powers from serving God; he hoarded, when he ought to have expended; he had no sacred sense of responsibility. "The parable is not for gross sinners: the warning is for those who, being equipped of God for a sphere of activity in His kingdom, hide their talent" (Trench). He says, As I cannot be so holy as God requires, I give up the attempt to satisfy such strictness: I object profoundly to the doctrine of reward according to works, and deny all responsibility in a servant of Christ beyond his responsibility to maintain the gift of grace with which he was entrusted at his conversion. But his answer (as his Lord says) implies that he knew the truth. The Judge answers - Your very consciousness of the severity of the principle ought to have made you more careful, not less so, to meet its requirements. "Thereby must the evil servant bear testimony with his own mouth to the innermost truth, and the most perfect right, according to which the Lord requires fruit from what He sows or gives - that God demands fruits and works" (Stier). For the believer to have at his judgment only what he had at his conversion (the one talent) will be his condemnation. As his life had been negative, so is his punishment: he is cast into the darkness outside* the brilliantly lit festal hall: "nothing is said here of any further punishment of the servant; enough that he has no part in the [millennial] kingdom of the Lord" (Goebel). Over lost opportunities, wasted graces, slighted privileges, a solid birth-right, there is "weeping and gnashing of teeth." "If the servant is not a believer, but a mere professor [a nominal Christian only], then we have in the parable nothing to represent the Christian who fails in faithfulness", (C. G. Trumbull). "We have waited forty years for the answer to the question - "If the third servant is an unregenerate man, how comes he to be judged with the true servants of Christ when the wicked are not judged till a thousand years later, and how is he rapt into the Parousia?" (D. M. Panton.)
[* The darkness outside cannot
possibly represent the lake of fire; and the kingdom of the Lord cannot possibly be Christs eternal
kingdom in a new heaven and a new earth:
therefore the former must represent a place in Hades, under the earth; and the
latter, must represent the Millennial
the faithful servants come joyfully forward, for they have facts in
their hands - the talents doubled; and both are invited at once into the joy of
their Lord - our Lord's joy in His Kingdom, for which He endured the cross,
despising the shame, "the authority God will
confer on him in His second coming from heaven in kingly power and glory to
establish the Messianic Kingdom" (Goebel). * (* It
must be the Millennial Kingdom, for our Lord's everlasting Kingdom as the Son
of God - as distinct from the kingdom the Nobleman goes away to obtain - [Luke 19:12] - is inherently His, without beginning
or end, never conferred.) "Of the Son He saith,
Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever" [Hebrews 1:8.]) So also would the third
servant had he been found faithful. "He
has no share in the kingdom of his lord, and therefore he who is like him will
have no share in the
Thus we confront our crisis. Officers are required for the administration of a kingdom: so God has deliberately interposed a prolonged period between the two advents, that our Lord might be enabled so to test His servants, in His absence, and trust at His return. The Nobleman, before He departed, laid plans for the selection of officers to aid Him in the administration of the Kingdom; He devised a plan for bringing to light who those officers are on His return; this plan is in operation at the present moment, purposely so contrived as to reveal individual capacity for office, and personal fitness for trust; and - most impressive of all - the Long Journey is now nearly over, and soon the investigation will begin. "Make haste about cultivating a Christ-like character. The harvest is great; the toil is heavy; the sun is drawing to the west; the reckoning is at hand. There is no time to lose; set about it as you have never done before, and say, 'This one thing I do' " (A. Maclaren).