As Unknown and yet Well Known
John Heading, Aberystwyth
The blessed request of the lord to 'feed my sheep' continues to be heard by all those called by Him to 'feed the church of God'. As the risen Lord, He calls and equips many to serve in this field; in various ways they work out their calling from the Lord by seeking the edification of the saints. Some ministers of the Word, by the very nature of their work, become well known amongst the Lord's people; others who are called to teach in the quietness of their own homes as Aquila and Priscilla in Acts 18. 26, are known by few, yet their service is just as valuable to the Lord since it is directed by Himself. The Lord's servants should always recognize the distinction between the eternal and the temporal, 2 Cor. 4.18, and that the 'earthly house of this tabernacle' is subject to the pressing demands of the onward progress of time. Hence, whereas true service is treasure laid up in heaven and thus has eternal value, yet the individual labourers arc subject to variation here below as they wait for the Lord's return. Thus the new co-editor, in recognizing the call from God through his fellow-brethren in these labours, feels himself largely unknown to his readers, but this can imply no restriction to the edifying work and power of the Holy Spirit. John 10. 14. But our best knowledge of Him must be placed side-by-side with the verse
The higher mysteries of Thy fame
The creature's grasp transcend; The Father only Thy blest name Of Son can comprehend.
It is therefore proper that servants of God today should meditate upon this principle of true service. Reward and greatness come from God and not from man; they are not even sought after by the labourer who rather seeks the Lord's glory. As such, he can afford to serve unnoticed and to work unseen. As far as the world is concerned, the servant serves without the camp, bearing His reproach. Within the assembly, Paul took the position of being the 'least of the apostles', 1 Cor. 15. 9. After Paul's conversion and preparation by the Lord in Arabia, his service started in Syria, Cilicia and Antioch, although he 'was unknown by face unto the churches of Judea which were in Christ', Gal. 1. 22. These churches only heard reports of Paul's labours, and as such glorified God, v. 24, because of the service of the one unknown. Afterwards he became known by face to the brethren in Jerusalem, Gal. 2. 1, on account of his moving amongst them.
But the blessedness of true service comes from the quiet realization that all - both servant and service - is known to the Lord. He knows His own sheep, John 10.14, and calls them by name as He leads them out; the seal that the foundation of God is sure is 'the Lord knowethi them that are his', 2 Tim. 2. 19. In Hebrews 2. 11-13, He owns those who are His own children and who are the sons and daughters of the Father, 2 Cor. 6. 18. Indeed it is true that the servant is 'well known' in his service, and here we can rest. We may, of course, also be known by our brethren, by the few or by the many, but this is really a matter of fellowship in service and can be approved only provided the principle just outlined is before the heart.
The new co-editor would desire to move along this path as far as many readers are concerned. Moreover, the many readers blessed over the years are mainly unknown to him, but they may be assured that the policy of providing edifying food for the people of God to meet the present need will continue and even be developed under the good hand of God.