The Loyal Servant

John Plunkett

October 28, 2017

Some time ago, Trish and I watched a very good movie, which I would recommend to everybody in all age groups, at least from the teen years and older.  It was called, “Mrs. Brown.” 

Starring Judy Dench and Billy Connolly, it is a true story that depicts the fierce loyalty and the loving devotion of a Scotsman by the name of John Brown (1826-1883) who was the personal servant of Queen Victoria.

Although John Brown was regarded, from the British royal family perspective, as a “low-born commoner,” his loyalty to Queen Victoria was so remarkable that she commissioned a portrait of him which is still to this day displayed in Balmoral Castle – the summer home of the British royal family in north-east Scotland. 

Queen Victoria also had two special medals struck especially for John Brown.  One was the “Faithful Servant” medal, and the other was the “Devoted Service” medal. 

John Brown’s died, prematurely, at age fifty-six; and even his death came because of his untiring service to his queen.  After he died, she broke with a long tradition by giving a eulogy at his funeral.  Even more than today, back at that time, this was the Queen, the Empress of the vast empire upon which, at that date, the sun never set, giving a heart-felt tribute at the funeral of a “commoner.” 

Victoria had some of the words of her eulogy carved into the base of a statue of John Brown that she had commissioned and had erected in a special place of honour on the grounds of Balmoral Castle.  It reads:


I was inspired by the loyal service of John Brown to his queen, so much so that it induced me to briefly cover the subject of our loyal service – to God and to His people.

Firstly, I would like to give you some definitions.  Just what is loyalty?  What does the word “loyal” mean?  Webster’s Dictionary tells us that the origin of the word loyal is from an old French word “leial” or “leel.”  

This may be unconnected, but Numbers 3:24 mentions a Levite by the name of Lael, meaning “Belonging to God.”

Other sources tell us that the modern word “loyal” comes from the Latin word meaning “legal.”  This is interesting, because this means that loyalty is something like a legal contract.  It is like a covenant between God and His people – a two-sided agreement in which each side promises “I will do this, if you will do that.”  Loyalty is just that, when it comes to our covenant with God.

The modern word “loyal” means unswerving and faithful in allegiance to a lawful sovereign or government, or to a private person to whom fidelity is due, or to an ideal, a custom, an institution, or even a product.

The primary synonym of “loyalty” is the word “fidelity.”  The origin of this word, “fidelity,” is interesting and significant, too.  It comes from either of two Latin words, “fides” and “fidere,” both of which mean “faith” and “trust.”  “Fidelity” is defined as the quality or state of being faithful; accuracy, even in the details, and exactness.  More synonyms of the word “fidelity” are allegiance; fealty; devotion and piety.  All four of these words mean faithfulness to something to which one is bound by a pledge or by duty.

You might be surprised – as I was – that neither of the words “loyal” nor “loyalty” actually appear in the King James Version of the Bible.  There are lots of mentions of the words ‘faithful,’ ‘faithfulness,’ and other related words; but in the sermon today, I would like to home in on this idea of “fidelity” and “loyalty.” 

The King James Version contains only one instance of the word fidelity:

Titus 2:
9:  Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again;
10:  Not purloining, but showing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.

The Greek word that Paul used here for ‘fidelity’ (pistis) is most often translated as the word "faith"; but it can also mean assurance; faithfulness; conviction respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things; belief, with the predominant idea of trust or confidence; and it can also mean the character of a person who can be relied on.

It is true that these verses that we just read from the apostle Paul to Timothy are directed at domestic servants.  John Brown, you will remember, was just that – a domestic servant. 

This is what I would like to put the accent on in this sermon – the concept that all of God’s children must be loyal servants. 

We must be loyal, first of all – not to the British Monarch – but to our Supreme Sovereign – God the Father. 

And to His Holy Son, too?  Yes.  Secondly, to Jesus.  Here is what He said in this regard:

John 12:26:
If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.

So, we can see that we certainly are to be loyal servants to Jesus too.

Should we be loyal to anyone else?  Yes.  The third set of people that we need to be loyal to are our fellow "soldiers in Christ" (II Timothy 2:3-4).   Jesus Christ is our Captain (Hebrews 2:10) and we, as brothers and sisters, are soldiers in Christ, and we are commanded by Him to be servants to our brethren:

Mark 9:35:
And He sat down, and called the twelve, and said unto them, “If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.”

Mark 10:44:
And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.

Through the apostle Paul, God commanded the same thing to God’s people:

Galatians 5:13:
For, brethren, you have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.

Now, Jesus and the apostle Paul did not just tell us what to do.  They were not hypocrites like the Pharisees of their day (Matthew 23:1-29; Luke 12:1).  No.  They practiced what they preached.  They were loyal servants to the Father and His children.  Here is the example of our Elder Brother, Jesus Christ:

Luke 22:27:
For who is greater, he that sits at meat, or he that serves?  Is not he that sits at meat?  But I am among you as he that serves.

Think how huge this was!  That the LORD/YHWH of the Old Testament, the Lord and Master of the disciples, and of us all, came to earth as a servant!  

Paul again:

Philippians 2:
5:  Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
6:  Who, being in the form of God
{as the LORD/YHVH}, thought it not robbery to be equal with God {the Father}:
7:  But
{at the instant of His begettal as a human being} made Himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

Look what God tells us here through the pen of Paul!  Let this mind – this loyal serving attitude – be in you.  And in me!  Jesus took upon Himself the form of a servant. 

Also, we can see the examples of Paul and the other apostles, being living examples, not just telling us to do this:

I Corinthians 9:19:
For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.

This would mean that, if we do what God commands us in this respect, there will be a reward – some kind of "gain" – for us.

II Corinthians 4:5:
For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.

So, Jesus voluntarily became a servant, and so did Paul and his fellow apostles.  Again, this is not just a command to the apostles.  And it is not just for the ministers.  Every one of us must follow these commands and examples of Jesus and His apostles.  We all must be devoted servants to God the Father, to Jesus and to our brethren.

I will repeat myself here, and ask again the question: To whom should we be loyal servants? 

Our first, primary and ultimate loyalty must be to God the Father and to Jesus.

What about secondary levels of loyalty?  

Secondary levels of loyalty are proper only if they are firmly founded on the primary one – loyalty to God the Father and Jesus. 

For example, should we be loyal to our spouses and to our physical families?  

Of course, we should!  We know that we should!  As long as they don't divert us from our primary loyalty, of course!

How about to our nations?  Should we be loyal to our nations?  

For this one, I would offer a guarded “Yes.”  Guarded because I believe that, only to a limited extent should we be loyal to our nations. 

As God’s Word mentions in a couple of places (e.g. the loyalties of various people to King Saul, David, Israel, etc.), it is right for us to be proud of our countries in a proper way – as long as there is no conflict between this loyalty and our loyalty to God and His law.

An example of this would be, if one of our young people loved his country so much that it led to him signing up for the military, so being in danger of breaking the sixth commandment, “Thou Shalt not kill.”   In writing this, I do not wish to offend anyone who happens to have service men or women in their families.  

However, if there is any danger whatsoever that any of these secondary loyalties might conflict with the primary, number-one loyalty, then the secondary loyalty must be put aside:

Acts 5:29:
Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, “We ought to obey God rather than men.”

We must be very careful of any misuse of the concept that we should only be loyal to God.  Yes, our loyalty to God certainly must be number one; but we must be careful.  

A misguided application of this belief can give birth to invalid excuses; for example, for a church member to leave his spouse and his family in order to pursue another “more converted” spouse.  

Or it might lead to somebody saying (and I’m sure you have heard people say this), “I will never follow another man.”  This could lead to a member going so far as to totally segregate himself from other church members to become what is called a “totally independent Christian.”  I do not want to give offence to anyone who might consider himself to be an independent (or non-aligned) Christian.  But can a totally independent Christian be a truly active, loyal servant to God and His children?  We must keep this scripture firmly in mind:

Hebrews 10:
24:  And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 
25:  Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

If you are totally on your own as a totally independent Christian, how can you truly and effectively “consider one another”?  How can you truly and practically “provoke unto love”?  How can you truly participate in the “good works” of God?  How can you “assemble together” if you are on your own?  How can you “exhort one another” if you are on your own?

We have seen that it is definitely right for us all – first and foremost – to be loyal to God – to the Father and to Jesus.

What about their church – the Church of God?  Is it right – is it correct – to be loyal to God's true church?  

Yes, I believe that it is.  I believe that loyalty to God and loyalty to God’s true church – let's call it “the greater Church of God” – go hand-in-hand. 

I believe that the greater Church of God is like spiritual Israel.  Paul even calls it "the Israel of God" in Galatians 6:16.  The various church groups of  are like the tribes – or sub-tribes – of physical Israel.  

What about “one’s own” particular “branch” of the greater Church of God?  Is it right for a member to be loyal to it? 

Again, I would like to offer another guarded "yes."  But only if that branch or group is on the right track scripturally; and only if that branch or group is obedient to God – as best as they – and we – can determine.  

Are there any Bible examples of loyal service to individual “branches” of the church of God? 

Yes, there are; and we will come to them shortly.  But the early Church of God in the First Century, as far as we know, was not separated into various corporate entities as it is today.  Nevertheless, the early church was scattered into geographical “branches.”

Another point to consider, is that we should not think of other Church of God groups as competition.  Without judging them in an unrighteous or inappropriate way, I believe that we should think of other Church of God groups as “other temporary homes” for our fellow Christians;  but again, only if those temporary homes – those other Church of God groups – are on the right track spiritually.  Sometimes we do have to make "righteous judgments" along those lines – as alluded to by Jesus, Luke and Paul – per John 7:24; Acts 17:11. 

I Thessalonians 1:1:
Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

II Thessalonians 1:1:
Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

There does not seem to be a lot said in these two verses.  They just seem to be formal opening greetings.  But, Paul wrote many letters to the various congregations of God’s church in the Mediterranean and Asia Minor area, and some of those congregations, as we know, appeared to have been closer – and more obedient – to God than others.  This congregation in Thessalonica was just one of the many congregations in the greater Church of God at that time.  But twice, Paul particularly specifies that the congregation in Thessalonica was “in God the Father and (in) Jesus Christ.”  Paul does not say this about any other congregation in any of his letters to them. 

If we are going to fellowship with any branch of God’s church, this is the kind of branch that we must give our loyalty and service to.  We need to belong to a church group that is “in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ.”

God’s Word reveals other brief commendations to church members who loyally served their local congregations.  Here is just one example:

Romans 16:
1:  I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea… 
Verse 27:  To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever.  Amen. (Written to the Romans from Corinthus, and sent by Phebe servant of the church at Cenchrea.)

Please notice that Phebe was commended because she served the Church of God.  But Paul is even more specific than that.  He tells us that Phebe specifically served the Cenchrea congregation – just one geographical branch of the greater Church of God. 

God apparently called this lady, Phebe, into the Cenchrea congregation, and she was specifically loyal in service to that branch of His church.

We’re not told; but perhaps she would have liked to have extended her service to other congregations; but for one reason or another, she was limited to service to just one congregation.

Maybe most members of God’s church feel that they are where they are – that they are in the church group that they are in – because God put them there.  I believe that, in most cases, this is so – at least, generally so.  But we must take care not to take this too far – remembering that some of our former brethren used that same reasoning to remain with the apostate Worldwide Church of God.  They used those exact words: "This is where God put me, so this is where I'll stay."

I also believe that, because we all have been given “free moral agency,” we remain in the Church of God group that we are in because we preferour branch” over the others – at least the ones we are familiar with. 

Maybe we prefer the preaching style of the speakers.  Maybe we prefer the explanations of the doctrines we receive in “our” group.  Maybe we prefer the leadership style.  Maybe we prefer “our” method of keeping God’s Sabbaths and Holy Days.  But, above all, hopefully, believing that our preferences are in line with God’s scriptural commands.

But, beyond our own personal preferences, to what extent do we owe allegiance to our own Church of God group? 

I am not just talking to the brethren who are here today, but other people in various places who might hear or read this later.  I believe that we certainly do owe a certain amount of loyalty to our fellow brethren – to be serving them, and to be serving what we might think of as "our group" – the branch that has perhaps given us the most, and continues to do so. 

Thinking about the hundreds of groups out there, though, one might argue that any other Church of God branch might be happy to count us among their numbers and that they might possibly be willing to serve us just as well as the one we're now in.  These are all things that you must weigh up.

Are you happy where God has put you?  If you are – and only if you are! – then please remain a loyal servant to God and Jesus Christ first; and secondly to the people that He has set you amongst.  If that happens to include a corporate group, then that is fine... again, as long as you are confident that they are living and teaching according to God's Word.

I would like to ask a couple of questions about disloyalty

These are things that have crossed my mind over the past couple of years; and you might have thought about some of these things too.

First, is it disloyal – and therefore wrong – for a Church of God member to attend a Feast site of another Church of God branch?  This could happen when a person who might be somewhat lonely in the church can spend time with some good friends from whom he has been separated due to the scattering of the church.  Or, perhaps in the case of a younger person, to spread his/her net wider in search for some Christian friends, for more Christian friends, or even, in the right way, looking for a potential spouse.  Is that wrong?  Is that disloyal?

Is it disloyal and wrong for church parents to send their children to another Church of God group’s summer youth camp or other church activity?  Is it disloyal to send our children to these kinds of events – especially if our own group is so small that we don’t have the resources to hold its own?  

Is it disloyal and wrong for a lonely, geographically-isolated church member to occasionally attend Sabbath or Holy Day services with another church group in order to satisfy the proper desire for true Christian fellowship?

Is it wrong or disloyal for a member to attend with another Church of God group when visiting another country or another area where there are no congregations of his own branch?

What about the case where a husband in the church prefers one Church of God group and his wife prefers another?  Is it wrong and disloyal if they alternate attendance between the two?

Finally, what about other church of God groups’ television programs, booklets, magazines, and web-sites?  Is it disloyal for us to take proper advantage of them?

To these six questions, I would answer a guarded “not necessarily.”  However, with these things we must take care.  If we take these things too far, there are some very real dangers that we must be aware of.

Danger number one is becoming a “floater” who drifts from one Church of God group to another, perhaps merely looking for "variety."  As I've said, I believe that it is fine for us to have preferences regarding speakers.  We might find some speakers very inspiring and others dull as ditchwater!  But we have to be careful not to treat church services as just another form of entertainment.

Far worse than looking for preaching variety, a “floater” might be looking for doctrinal argument.  Some people love "a good argument"; but God condemns it:

Titus 3:9:
But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.

Another indication that I have seen, over the years, is that a “floater” might, for any number of reasons, be trying to avoid being identified and "collared" by some ministerial authority.  He might be involved in something that is obviously wrong and doesn’t want to frequent one congregation because the risk that sooner or later the minister will put the finger on him. 

I'm not pulling these things out of my imagination.  These things do happen!

As far as I can remember, Trish and I have never been accused of being “floaters,” although we were once accused of being "grasshoppers" because of our efforts to build and cross bridges between Church of God group boundaries.

Yes, we have attended different Church of God groups; but not aimlessly.  Somebody who drifts from group to group aimlessly, getting what he can from each, but giving nothing – giving no service of any kind to the members of any of the church groups that he hovers into – does not stay with any group long enough to do anything practical or worthwhile – except perhaps to boost the attendance figures for the occasional Sabbath.

With this “doing” in mind, let’s concentrate on the concept of God’s servants doing something worthwhile and serving the members in a Church of God group – or groups – that we attend:

James 1:22:
But be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

Again, I do not want to give offence to anybody out there who might be considered a “floater.”  But, the attendance of a “floater” cannot be relied upon.  He can never be trusted with any responsibility; and so, therefore, he cannot ever become a truly loyal servant.  Being a loyal servant, as we have seen, is commanded for every able-bodied member of God’s true Church.

I am not trying to censor anybody, or tell you what you can read and what you can’t read.  That is not my job.  But just a word to the wise, that it can be spiritually dangerous to continuously spend lots of our time investigating the differences between the teachings of the various Church of God groups.  I hesitate to mention this, because I know that some members are very defensive of the practice. 

Now, having said that, it is true that some Church of God groups have excellent web sites and research facilities, and I believe that it is fine for us to make use of them.  But still, keeping this in mind, I would ask you to consider the following verses of wise admonition from God’s word:

Daniel 12:4:
But you, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.

This verse aptly describes our frantic, internet-paced world, and internet-paced Church of God, as well!  There is definitely a negative implication in this verse with regards to the connection between running to and fro and the increase in knowledge.

We might question the running to and fro between churches of God for the wrong reasons; but it also reminds us of Satan’s negative example in the early chapters of the book of Job, when God asked him, “Where have you been, Satan?” and Satan impertinently replied, “I’ve been going to and fro on the face of the earth” (Job 1:7; 2:2).

In addition to the huge, increasingly vast bank of knowledge that we call "the internet," we also have many booklets, magazines and articles that the various Church of God groups put out.  But we need to be very careful of it, according to God through Daniel.  Also, through Solomon, God warns of this type of danger:

Ecclesiastes 1:18:
For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increases knowledge increases sorrow.

We know that God commands us to "grow in grace and knowledge" (II Peter 1:2; 3:18), and that one day we will have "all knowledge."  The more that we study God's Word every day, the more knowledge that we have.

Nevertheless, I have personally witnessed increased sorrow that has come from knowledge that has increased in a wrong and uncontrolled manner.  I am not trying to sensor anybody.  We are all free to read, watch and listen to what we want to.  But if it is knowledge is increased in a wrong and uncontrolled manner (and each Christian is their own "controller" in accordance with God’s Word), it can wreak a very negative, confusing, destructive work. 

There is a lot of good information that can be found on the internet; but again, please beware, because there is also a lot of "very bad stuff" on the internet – a lot of false doctrine, unscriptural doctrine, lots that might be bogus and mere hearsay, and lots that is even out-and-out lies!  If it is not according to the law and the testimony, then it is not of God (Psalm 19:7; Isaiah 8:16, 20).  It can be the kiss of death.

Please.  Take care what you spend your time reading, especially on the Internet, and please think clearly and talk to God about it.  I have known more than one church member who has been taken over by comparison between the various Church of God groups, to such a dangerous extent that they have become completely baffled and confused.

If you are searching for the truth in a wrong way by participating excessively in such major comparisons, I can virtually guarantee that you will uncover more and more "bad" points about God’s true church and more and more "good" points about any one of the many alternatives that there are out there.  Satan has many counterfeits!

I am not talking about true, bona-fide Church of God groups as being the counterfeits; but we have all seen church members sliding over into Protestantism and that kind of thing.  It is dangerous stuff.  We need to know where to draw the line.  An easy way of doing that is to go through the LORD's Ten Commandments and ask,  "Does that group teach and keep them all?"

What can happen if you keep on doing something like that, is that, before you know it, in your own mind, the negatives of staying in God’s Church will come to outweigh its positives.  Then, away you'll go, right out of God’s true church!

Please beware and never think that it cannot happen to any of us!  

It is something that we can be meditating and praying about and to be seriously examining our own preferences. Really thinking about them.

We decide as to who, in addition to God the Father and Jesus, should have our loyal service.
Then, when we have decided that point, I believe that we need to solidly cement it, and only break the bond if and when the recipient of our loyalty breaks from the truth of God.  Hopefully that day will never dawn.

I ask you to follow the fine examples of loyal service of the apostle Paul, Phebe and John Brown.  Please be a faithful and devoted servant.  Loyally serve God the Father, Jesus – yes, and the greater Church of God – your brothers and sisters – including, but not necessarily exclusively – those in the branch of His church where He has placed you.

Finally, let us look forward to the day when God will, once again, bring back together all His scattered children under one single organization – one to which we can all, without any fear or doubt, merge our loyalty and our service – to the one, true Church of God.