Blog Entry

Sermon of the Week: No. 1639, "Acceptable Service"

By Phillip Ort Oct 11, 2019

“Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: for our God is a consuming fire.” – Hebrews 12:28-29


For Spurgeon, the preaching of this sermon was occasioned with celebration. In his opening remarks he commended his congregation for being “diligently engaged in the service of God by endeavouring to provide a home for fatherless children.” The Stockwell Orphanage had been founded through and sustained by the congregation of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, but as Spurgeon reflected on the work he said “careful thoughts arise in my mind.”


Spurgeon remarked that “it is but a small thing” if we should approve of one another’s work, but the “great matter is that we should be accepted by the Lord.” Indeed, he reminded his congregation that “we do but see the fair externals” while God “searches the hearts” and “judges after a higher standard.”


In Spurgeon’s view, “the heart itself must be given to God” as a sacrifice which came from a “heartless worshipper” was a “mere pretence.” He believed that “if we would serve God we must forget self.” He also said, “there must be a distinct desire to obey and honour the Lord, and we must not act as men-pleasers.” Rather, Spurgeon declared that all things should be “done with faith in Christ Jesus.”


In the first section of his sermon, Spurgeon asserted that “if we are to serve God acceptably it must be under a sense of our immeasurable obligation to him.” Here he asserted that “whatever service we may render to God, we must begin by being receivers.”


Thinking forward to the book of Revelation, Spurgeon exclaimed “when we are privileged to cast our crowns before Emanuel’s throne, they will be crowns which he himself has bestowed upon us of his own sovereign grace.” Indeed, even “every hymn that comes up from saints made perfect” would be “an echo of almighty love.”


In the second section of his sermon, Spurgeon noted that “acceptable service must be rendered to God in the power of divine grace.” Here he cautioned that “acceptable service to God is not offered in the power of nature, indeed, not even “nature at its best.” Rather believers were to serve the Lord in “the energy of the new life which God has given you, and in the power of the grace which is continually bestowed upon you moment by moment as you seek it of the Lord.”


In the third section of his sermon, Spurgeon emphasized that “to ‘serve God acceptably’ we must do it with reverence.” He characterized this reverence as a “holy shamefacedness,” a holy modesty. Here he noted that just as “the angels veil their faces” so too “we must veil ours with humility.” However, Spurgeon was also quick to clarify that such “reverence” arose not from “servile dread” but rather from an “overwhelming sense of his unutterable love.” A love so magnificent that it made Spurgeon “blush to be so highly favoured.”


In the fourth section of his sermon, Spurgeon expounded upon the phrase “with godly fear,” saying “this suggests that we should serve God in the spirit of holy cheerfulness.” This fear was a cheerful carefulness, a kind of holy particularity. It was not a fear of “wrath,” but a fear that “we should offend the Lord even while we are serving him.” A fear that our sacrifice of service “should be a blemished one.” Spurgeon longed to serve the Lord without even “one stray thought” or “one stray desire,” even though he admitted “I have by no means reached this attainment.” Nonetheless, he desired to “press towards the mark” in order to offer his best service possible to King Jesus.


In the fifth, and final, section of his sermon, Spurgeon concluded by saying “We must cultivate a profound sense of the divine holiness and of the wrath of God against sin.” Here he reminded his hearers that “our God is a consuming fire.” Spurgeon was concerned with the “large proportion of nominal Christians [who] do not believe in this God.” Such people may “reverence a merciful God” and yet “the moment you preach his justice they are indignant.” So, even as Spurgeon assured genuine believers that they are safe from the wrath of God, he warned his hearers that “under the New Testament God is not an atom less severe than under the old.”



Why you should take up and read:


For Charles Spurgeon, it was a “small thing” if others would approve of our service while the “great matter” was that our service “should be accepted by the Lord.” In this sermon, Spurgeon asserted that acceptable service required “the heart itself must be given to God,” a “distinct desire to obey and honour the Lord,” and that it be done “with faith in Christ Jesus.” For those wanting to offer acceptable service unto the Lord please take up and read.


Here is the link to the Sermon of the Week:

Phillip Ort serves as the Director of The Spurgeon Library at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City while studying in The Residency Ph.D. program.