Oct 17, 2010

DUTY - RELIGION by Stanley Phillips

“Let us hear the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God, and keep His commandments: for
this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes

“For if the Gentiles have been made
partakers of their (Jews) spiritual things,
their duty is also to minister unto them in
carnal things.” (Romans :27)

“So likewise ye, when ye shall have done ALL
those things which are commanded you, say,
We are unprofitable servants: we have done
that which was our duty to do.” (Luke 17:10)
In the realm of natural things, we find
many things which apply closely to things in
the spiritual realm. In nature, one might have
a kindly disposition to help a neighbor
perform some needful task. Afterwards, the
neighbor feels deep within, that he ought to
pay for this service performed, and often will
attempt to do so. When this occurs, the one
who helped his neighbor willingly, feels
embarrassed at such an offer, and modestly
declines to accept anything for his services.
Surely we have all experienced that
awkwardness in our social relationships.
Then again, there are some people so
covetous as to expect payment for any and
every thing they do for another. In our
American culture, when such characters are
discovered, they are shunned by all decent
men, and seldom are allowed to give help
under any circumstances.

Strange, then, is it not, that duty-faith
should be found in American religions? They
expect God to give payment for His blessings,
which He graciously grants, out of His own
loving-kindness! And this in spite of the
whole of the sacred Scripture that all of His
blessings are “by grace”, or unmerited, and
undeserved favor!

While the Old Testament records certain
“duties” of family members, only twice in the
whole volume of the Scripture does the Holy
Ghost even use the word duty. In the text cited
at the head of this article, the one in
Ecclesiastes 12:13 does not have the word in
the original Hebrew. The King James
translators have added it in italics, in
connection with the fearing of God and
keeping His commandment. The other two
places are also cited above. In Romans 15:27,
it has reference to the Gentile believers owing
(as the word means) carnal things to the
“poor saints at Jerusalem” (vs. 26) for
having received from the Jews the spiritual
things of the Gospel which went forth from
thence. In the other place, duty-faith, as well
as a conditional duty-religion, is totally
condemned by the Lord in the very context of
Luke 17:6 - 10.

In the context of Luke 17, the apostles
had come to Jesus with a plea, “Lord,
increase our faith.” The Lord’s immediate
reply was that if they had the faith of a grain
of mustard seed, they might say to a sycamore
tree, “be thou plucked up by the root, and be
planted in the sea: and it should obey” them.
The lesson should be obvious: they, in
themselves, had no faith! Yet they desired
their faith increased. What faith they had was
the “faith of the Son of God,” which faith
cannot be increased. It is a free gift of God,
and is “dealt to every man by the measure
God is pleased to grant. (Romans 12:3)
Our blessed Lord then draws an
illustration for them to consider: that is, which
one of them having a servant, who after
laboring all day in the field, would tell the
servant to go sit down to eat; but rather say
“serve me”? And then, after serving him,
would he say to the servant “thank you for
having done as I commanded you”? Then the
Lord drove the lesson home to their poor
hearts: “. . . YE (His servants), when ye shall
have done ALL those things which are
commanded you, say, “We are
UNPROFITABLE servants: WE have done
that which was our duty to do.”
When have we “done our duty”? When
we have done ALL the commandments of
God! When are we “unprofitable servants”?
When we have done our duty!

Now I say, that duty-faith is condemned
by the very context wherein the word duty is
used by the Holy Ghost. This too, should be
obvious to any living child of God. As a
servant of Jesus Christ, after you have done
all (if you should ever be so well blessed!) he
has commanded you, what are you instructed
by your Lord to say? — “I am an unprofitable
servant.” That has ever been, and shall always
be, the acknowledged feelings of a quickened
soul. You have not, nor can you, profit the
Lord in anything whatever. Your
unprofitableness will always be keenly felt,
and you’ll find yourself far short of having
kept all His commandments. Your very
heart’s profession is and shall remain. “Lord,
a sinner still!” You will always be conscious
that sin is the transgression of the law of God
— so how van a violator keep “ALL which
are commanded you” and be yet a sinner still!
To obligate the eternal God is an
impossibility, and it is strange that this even
needs to be pointed out! Shall the thrice-holy
God reward one for keeping a commandment
now and then, and violating most of them,
most of the time? To obligate Him, one must
indeed, go beyond all commandments; and
not only go beyond them leaving nothing out,
but add some meritorious good to Him. The
added good becomes the basis for a reward.
Duty falls too short to merit rewards and
blessings — and, indeed, no sinner has ever
done ALL His commandment, which is their
duty to do. Then, dear reader, and only until
then, shall you merit a single blessing from
the most High God. And shall we dare be so
bold and arrogant as to even think fleetingly
that anything good can be added to the
perfections of our God who fills the infinity of
the universe and eternity? To even imagine it,
is to make bare the foolish ignorance of a
finite little creature; for He is an unsearchable
and inconceivable Being whose majesty fills
the vastness of incomprehensible eternity.

Ah, little worm! Add to him, and thus
merit your blessings! Crawl out of your dunghill,
look around, and see what you shall give
to him beyond your whole duty! Yea, crawl
out, and look and see first, if you are vet a
sinner! —for if you are, you have not yet done
all which is commanded you. No wonder that
lie who fills the vast eternity says of man, and
all the aggregate collections of men: “They
are nothing and less than nothing, and
altogether vanity.” And what is this vanity?
The Hebrew word means a “short breath of
air” — a puff! So then, what is duty-faith’? It
is a puff of bad, breath, to say the least, and
more cannot be said to make it better, for it
must needs be of lesser quality than man who
fails to keep the commandments.

But, dear living child of God, what are
your own inward feelings of duty-faith? Have
you ever prayed thus: “Lord, I’ve kept all
your commandments in full. I’ve never
transgressed any of them. I’ve honored you
wholly. Give, then, what you owe me — a
blessing”? No indeed, you have not; nor can
you. God will surely keep you from such

How is it to fare under duty-preaching?
I’ve been there; yea, even preached it myself
(if such foolishness can be termed
“preaching.”) When a living child of God
daily struggles on, walking worthy of the
vocation wherein he is called — then to hear
“duty, duty, duty” as a broken record, is
extremely frustrating. The soul is not fed, nor
is the performance of better works produced.
A dryness sets in, and the only thing left is a
poor substitute for what the soul yearns to
hear. The sociability of the saints is all that is
left to enjoy. Strange, too, duty-preachers
never get around to being specific as to what
they think you ought to be doing, which you
are not already doing. No, no — they never
can tell you more than to keep God’s
commandments, which commandments they
themselves have not kept, for they too, are
sinners still! Some comfort that!
And what are the commandments of
God? “And this is His commandment, that we
should BELIEVE on the name of His Son
Jesus Christ, and LOVE ONE ANOTHER, as
He gave us commandment.” (I John 3:23)
Both portions of the commandment are
possessed by every living child of God. Faith
in His Son is the gift of God which every
believer possesses; and love is also the fruit of
the Spirit and a vital part of that everlasting
life which each quickened child of grace
receives in regeneration. Both are free gifts of
God. Both are by grace. But neither go
beyond their Giver to be of any utility in
obligating God for any blessings in time or

The children of God are “blessed...with
ALL spiritual blessings in heavenly places in
Christ: ACCORDING as He hath chosen us
in Him before the foundation of the world ....
“(Eph. 1:3-4) These blessings are as sure as
their election. If it were possible for them to
fail in receiving one blessing stored up for
them in Christ Jesus; it then is as reasonable
to believe that some chosen could miss their
eternal inheritance in Christ! In the divine
election before the world was created, all
things needful and useful for each and every
one of those chosen in Him were equally
provided for in Him. It is from thence all
blessings flow to them. These precious
provisions are not ordained of God to produce
complacency and neglect; but rather to assure
the fulfillment of His promise to them as
precious evidences of their calling and
election. They are not only ordained to receive
them; but also to attain them by the mighty
inward work of the Spirit with those good
works which accompany them; thus making
them effectual to His honor and glory. These
are the things that accompany salvation. They
do not have a cause and effect relationship,
but accompany salvation. Where you find the
one, you also find its companion. “But,
beloved, we are persuaded better things of
you, and ‘things that accompany salvation,
though we thus speak. For God is not
unrighteous to forget your WORK and
LABOUR OF LOVE, which ye have shewed
towards His name, in that ye have ministered
to the saints, and do minister.” (Heb. 6:9-10)
So we see, then, that true good works are
evidences of our gracious estate and
companions to God’s blessings given us. They
are the effects of living faith rather than
effects of duty-faith.

Duty-faith, duty-preaching, and dutyrighteousness
are necessary only for those
who have nothing better imputed to them, or
wrought in them, to motivate them to a
faithful walking in his commandments. A
duty-preacher knows best what sort of people
make up his congregation. If he believes them
to be dead, lifeless, nominal religionists, then
duty-preaching will be necessary to motivate
them to act more civilized and social; but it
can never do their benighted souls any good.
Only a call of God by the Holy Spirit will
quicken them to life and a walk of faith and
godliness. If they be, in fact, living children of
God. they will be forced to go elsewhere to
hear the Gospel of free and sovereign grace
(which Gospel is according to righteousness),
or else have their Duty-minister lay his charge
down: for such are not called of God. If they
were, they would know the power of God in
godliness by the inward work of the Holy
Spirit, both in themselves and in their flock.
Such duty is a lack of vital living faith. It is fit
only for the dead, to make them act as
believers should act! The living walk in his
blessed Spirit even as they live in His Spirit.
Their obedience to His commandments is
their constant care, and failure their constant
concern. They feelingly know warfare within
and recognize their trials and tribulations.
They need not the cruel lashing of Egyptian
masters to whip them in line; their Heavenly
Father chastens them much more effectively,
and afterwards comforts them in love and
sweet mercy. They thus learn from the Master
Teacher all that He freely bestows are for their
everlasting good.

Ah, dear lively ones in the hope of
eternal salvation, have you not experienced
the deadness and burden of all that is
associated with duty? I have never found it of
any joy, praise, or usefulness in my spiritual
battles, devotions, or sojourn in faith. Some
years ago, a precious and lovable sister in the
faith asked (relative to my infirm wife):
“Brother Phillips don’t you feel a great sense
of duty to her?” I had never thought about it
one way or the other, but my honest answer
was: “No! I don’t feel any sense of duty to
her. She is my wife, and I love her.” I’ve often
thought much about her question and my
answer, and my answer remains unchanged. I
have often felt a sense of duty in many
regards; sufficiently enough to know that
feeling. And knowing that feeling, it is to me
the most horrible, low, and unbecoming
motive to worship the God of Adoration and
Praise. I’ve often gone to fill an appointment,
feeling so low in my spiritual infirmities, that
I would gladly have stayed at home. But I’ve
gone out of that horrible sense of duty, and by
experience I can testify that it was rottenness
to my bones! There is no joy in such service;
there is no edification for the poor saints; and
for my part, I could have as well stayed at
home for the good it was worth (I speak as a
man). The resulting feelings were of doubts to
my own spiritual state, my own holy calling to
the ministry of Christ, and my questioning
whether I loved God’s people at all. It is ashes
in the soul of a living child of God.

Yet, I do not desire to leave any false
impression in the minds of any who do not
know us relative to the Gospel utility of
admonitions and exhortations. All familiar
with us know that from time to time we are
made to feel such usefulness of this aspect of
the Gospel is called for. But I also hasten to
add, that the minister who has been often
rebuked and scourged by the Spirit, will apply
such admonitions and exhortations predicated
upon the effectual grace of God. He will
feelingly approach the hearts of his hearers,
rather than their heads. His own heart — his
love for the poor sheep of Christ’s pasture —
will lead him into the secret recesses of the
heart’s love and adoration of God as the
motive of a worthy walk before God and the
household of faith. A minister sound in the
doctrine of free grace, exercised deeply and
richly by the internal operation of the Spirit,
cannot predicate these admonitions and
exhortations of the Spirit upon the carnal flesh
of his hearers. He, and they, know full well
that it is “God which worketh in us both to
will and to do according to His good
pleasure;” and who “hath wrought all our
works in us. Yea, neither we nor they, desire
their works to be of the flesh out of a slavish
fear of “missing blessings.” (For indeed, there
is no such thing — anything missed is not a
blessing! Such are mutually exclusive words).
Admonitions and exhortations are useful
in encouraging and edifying the believers in
their daily journey of faith; if such are, of
course, predicated upon the Spirit’s
indwelling work, effectual grace, and loving
care of His people. Sure it is that “We are
HIS workmanship created in Christ Jesus
UNTO good works, which God hath BEFORE
ORDAINED (foreordination?) that we should
walk in them.” Indeed, it is in this area of our
experience that many precious marks of our
holy calling are brought to us by the Spirit as
sweet evidences of a gracious state. Without
such, there would be no evidence of a good
tree planted by the Lord.

Nevertheless, these admonitions and
exhortations are not designed by the Holy
Spirit in order to beat His poor sheep; but
rather to feed them. They are not designed for
a hearer to latch onto, and trust in, either for
salvation or for meritorious blessings. They
are designed for correction and instruction in
the way of righteousness, and when applied
by the Spirit through sanctification, they are
sweet and precious motives to believe in a
righteousness which exceeds the
righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees—
Christ’s own righteousness — which is made
manifest by the faith of His living children.
It is lamentable that today, dutypreaching,
duty-faith, and duty-righteousness
is about the only thing most people ever hear.
For those who are living children of God, it is
totally contrary to all the precious work of the
Holy Spirit wrought in them. It must indeed
be a poor and sad condition to live a life time
of duty, duty, and more duty. I find nothing
but sympathy, yes, even empathy, with those
who become “church-drop-outs”. Who knows
how many have done so, knowing full well
they were better off at home than assembled
under such scourging rods and such bleakness
of duty-preaching; having no comforting
words, no kindred experiences, no
encouraging faith. No pure free grace ministry
would cause our hearts to faint and despair of
living. Take away from me that precious and
mighty work of the Spirit within, and words
thereof; which purifies my conscience, puts
me through trials of faith, and refines me as
fuller’s soap, chastens me when needed, lifts
me up when in despair, and works all my
good works within me for sweet tokens of
Christ’s fruit in me; I say, take all that away
from me, and surely I would desire to leave
this world immediately to be in my
everlasting rest. Place before my eyes and ears
a duty-fear, and I must indeed have to flee, for
it is a garment spotted by the flesh. “He that
hath ears to hear, let him hear.” – S.C.P.

Duty-faith Expositions

Free Grace Expositions