That repeated expression is very striking. It is not for nothing that we read these words seven times over.
To one church the Lord Jesus says, 'I know your labor and patience', to another, 'your tribulation and poverty', to a third, 'your charity and service and faith'. But to all He uses the words I now dwell on 'I know your works'. It is not 'I know your profession, your desires, your resolutions, your wishes' — but 'your works'. 'I know your works'.
The works of a professing Christian are of great importance. They cannot save your soul. They cannot justify you. They cannot wipe out your sins. They cannot deliver you from the wrath of God. But it does not follow that because they cannot save you — that they are of no importance. Take heed and beware of such a notion. The man who thinks so, is fearfully deceived.
I often think I could willingly die for the doctrine of justification by faith, without the deeds of the law. But I must earnestly contend, as a general principle, that a man's works are the evidence of a man's religion. If you call yourself a Christian, you must show it in your daily ways and dailybehavior. Call to mind that the faith of Abraham and of Rahab was proved by their works (James 2:21-25). Remember it avails you and I nothing toprofess we know God — if in works we deny Him (Titus 1:16). Remember the words of the Lord Jesus: 'Every tree is known by its own fruit' (Luke 6:44).
But whatever the works of a professing Christian may be, Jesus says, 'I know them!' His eyes are in every place, beholding the evil and the good (Proverbs 15:3).
You never did an action, however private — but Jesus saw it.
You never spoke a word, no, not even in a whisper — but Jesus heard it.
You never wrote a letter, even to your dearest friend — but Jesus read it.
You never thought a thought, however secret — but Jesus was familiar with it.
His eyes are as a flaming fire. The darkness is no darkness with Him. All things are open and manifest before Him. He says to every one, 'I know your works'.
a. The Lord Jesus knows the works of all impenitent and unbelieving souls — and will one day punish them. They are not forgotten in Heaven, though they may be upon earth. When the great white throne is set, and the books are opened, the wicked dead will be judged 'according to their works'.
b. The Lord Jesus knows the works of His own people — and weighs them. 'By Him actions are weighed' (1 Sam. 2:3). He knows the why and the wherefore of the deeds of all believers. He sees their motives in every step they take. He discerns how much is done for His sake, and how much is done for the sake of personal praise. Alas, not a few things are done by believers, which seem very good to you and I — but are rated very low by Christ.
c. The Lord Jesus knows the works of all His own people — and will one day reward them. He never overlooks a kind word, or a kind deed done in His name. He will own the least fruit of faith, and declare it before the world in the day of His appearing. If you love the Lord Jesus, and follow Him — you may be sure that your work and labor shall not be in vain in the Lord. The works of those that die in the Lord 'shall follow them' (Revelation 14:13). They shall not go before them, nor yet by their side — but they shall follow them, and be owned in the day of Christ's appearing. The parable of the pounds shall be made good. 'Every man shall receive his own reward — according to his own labor' (1 Corinthians 3:8). The world knows you not, for it knows not your Master. But Jesus sees and knows all. 'I know your works'.
d. Think what a solemn warning there is here to all worldly and hypocritical professors of religion. Let all such read, mark and digest these words. Jesus says to you, 'I know your works'. You may deceive me or any other minister; it is easy to do so. You may receive the bread and wine from my hands — and yet be cleaving to iniquity in your hearts. You may sit under the pulpit of an evangelical preacher, week after week, and hear his words with a serious face — but believe them not. But, remember this — you cannot deceive Christ. He who discovered the deadness of Sardis and the lukewarmness of Laodicea — sees you through and through, and will expose you at the last day, except you repent.
Oh, believe me, hypocrisy is a losing game. It will never answer to seem one thing — and be another; to have the name of Christian — and not the reality. Be sure, if your conscience smites you and condemns you in this matter — be sure your sin will find you out. The eye that saw Achan steal the golden wedge and hide it — is upon you! The book that recorded the deeds of Gehazi and Ananias and Sapphira — is recording your ways! Jesus mercifully sends you a word of warning today. He says, 'I know your works'.
e. But think also, what encouragement there is here for every honest and true-hearted believer. To you also, Jesus says, 'I know your works'. You see no beauty in any action that you do. All seems imperfect, blemished and defiled. You are often sick at heart of your own shortcomings. You often feel that your whole life is one great arrear, and that every day is either a blank or a blot. But know now, that Jesus can see some beauty in everything that you do from a conscientious desire to please Him. His eye can discern excellence in the least thing which is a fruit of His own Spirit. He can pick out the grains of gold from amid the dross of your performances, and sift the wheat from amid the chaff in all your doings. Your tears are all put into His bottle. Your endeavors to do good to others, however feeble, are written in His book of remembrance. The least cup of cold water given in His name shall not lose its reward. He does not forget your work and labor of love, however little the world may regard it.
It is very wonderful — but so it is. Jesus loves to honor the work of His Spirit in His people, and to pass over their frailties. He dwells on the faith of Rahab — but not on her lie. He commends His apostles for continuing with Him in His temptations — and passes over their ignorance and lack of faith (Luke 22:28). 'Like as a father pities his children — so the Lord pities those who fear Him' (Psalm 103:13). And as a father finds a pleasure in the least acts of his children, of which a stranger knows nothing — so I suppose the Lord finds a pleasure in our poor feeble efforts to serve Him.
I can well understand the righteous in the day of judgment saying, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?" (Matthew 25:37-39). It may well seem incredible and impossible that they can have done anything worth naming in the great day! Yet so it is. Let all believers take the comfort of it. The Lord says, 'I know your works.' It ought to humble you. But it ought not to make you afraid.