Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;
1. The word rendered "business" is rightly rendered "diligence" (ver. 8), "haste" (Mark 6:25), "care" (2 Corinthians 7:12), "carefulness" (2 Corinthians 7:11), "earnest care" (2 Corinthians 8:16), "forwardness" (2 Corinthians 8:8). It properly denotes promptness in action, earnestness in effort, and zeal in execution. Its special reference in this place is not to secular, but to Christian work.
2. It is quite true that the two first clauses express the manner in which the third is to be obeyed; but this third does not denote a distinct service, but rather requires that all service shall be rendered as unto the Lord.
I. IN RESPECT TO EVERY KIND OF SERVICE, TO WHICH AS CHRISTIANS YOU ARE CALLED, LET THERE BE NO SLOTHFULNESS, BUT, ON THE CONTRARY, PROMPTNESS AND ZEAL. This exhortation will apply to
1. The conduct of secular business, inasmuch as that implicates Christian character and duty (1 Thessalonians 4:11, 12; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12). The religion of Christ gives no countenance to an idle and thriftless spirit (Proverbs 6:6-8; Proverbs 10:4; Proverbs 24:30-34). Only it will have a man to attend to his secular business in another than a secular spirit.
2. To the work of our own religious life. This will no more survive continued neglect and starvation than will the bodily life. There is for us the work of searching the Scriptures for spiritual food; of prayer and meditation for the assimilation of that food; of securing fresh air and healthful exercise by the "work of faith and labour of love."
3. To the manifestation of the graces of the Christian life. The apostle has just written of love and brotherly kindness, and he presently gives examples of the conditions under which these graces must be exercised with special care. But both involve active service (James 2:15, 16; Proverbs 3:27, 28).
4. To all church work. In whatever department of spiritual ministry you may find your appropriate sphere of activity — whether in teaching, administration, etc. — be punctual, resolute, diligent.
II. IT IS REQUIRED THAT THE INNER DISPOSITION SHALL CORRESPOND WITH THE OUTWARD ACTIVITY. As to the spirit in which the active service shall be rendered, let it be fervent. Christ was "clad with zeal as with a cloak" (Isaiah 59:17; John 2:17; Psalm 69:9). Apollos "being fervent in spirit, he taught diligently the things of the Lord" (Acts 18:25). And wherever there is true fervour of spirit, there will certainly be diligence in service. But there may be diligence without fervour: diligence from servility, pride, ambition, selfishness (Revelation 3:15, 16). It is important that our "zeal of God" should be "according to knowledge" certainly, but still more important that zeal there should really be (Galatians 4:18).
III. BE THUS DILIGENT AND FERVENT AS THOSE WHO ARE SERVING THE LORD. It is our boast and glory that we are the servants of the Lord Christ. We are His by right, by consent, and by open avowal. Even in our secular work, if we live up to the spirit of our profession, we are still serving Him (Ephesians 6:5-8). This it is which imparts to all labour its true dignity.
Parallel VersesKJV: Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;