Servants of Christ Jesus
Servants of Christ Jesus
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
“Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons.” Philippians 1:1
1. When Paul introduces himself and Timothy as “servants of Christ Jesus,” he uses a word that literally means a “slave.” Paul wanted to say that he was Christ’s slave and that he wished to serve him as any obedient servant serves his master. No doubt Paul was implying that what was true for himself should also be true for any Christian. He taught that we are “not our own”; we are “bought at a price” (1 Cor. 6:20). Therefore, we are to glorify God in our body and in our spirit which belong to God.
2. It is a spiritual law that no one can become a servant of Jesus Christ until he realizes that by nature he is a slave to sin. In antiquity there were three ways a person could become a slave. First, he could become a slave by conquest, by being vanquished in a war between opposing armies. Second, a person could become a slave by birth. Any child born of slaves automatically became a slave as well. Third, a person could become a slave because of debt. Many poor people sold their children into slavery in order to pay a debt.
3. It is striking against this background that the Bible teaches that all men have become slaves to sin in ways similar to those by which a person could become a physical slave in antiquity. The Bible teaches that human beings are born in sin. David writes, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Ps. 51:5). There was never a moment of his life when David was not a sinner, and there was never a part of him that was free from its contamination. The Bible also teaches that we are slaves by conquest. Sin rules over us, so that we cannot do the things we would. Hence David prays for deliverance from willful sins, asking that they not “rule” over him (Ps. 19:13). Solomon speaks of the sinner being bound by “the cords of his sin” (Prov. 5:22). Then, too, we are sinners by debt. For this reason Paul speaks of the wages of sin, telling us that the account can only be paid by death (Rom. 6:23).
4. Paul knew that he had been a slave to sin in each of these ways, and every person must realize the same thing in some form before he can taste God’s deliverance. A person must know that he is sick before he will go to see the doctor. In the same way a person must know that he is enslaved spiritually before he will turn to the One who alone can set him free.
5. Just as there were several ways of becoming a slave in ancient times, so were there several ways of becoming free from slavery. A person could earn freedom. He could buy it. Or it could be given to him by someone able to pay the price of his redemption. Three ways! But although there were several ways of becoming free from slavery in ancient times, in spiritual terms there is only one way of deliverance—to be bought by the One who alone can pay sin’s price.
6. Someone who has not experienced this redemption from sin will want to argue that this is merely an exchange of slavery to one master for slavery to another. But this is far from an accurate picture. No Christian would ever compare the two except in terms of a total allegiance. It is true that we have been slaves to sin, as all men are, and that we are now servants of Christ. But the second service is not at all like the first. It is a bondage of love and gratitude, a relationship that we could compare quite closely to marriage.
7. If you are married, you know that a person is not autonomous in marriage. You are not free to do anything you want—to marry another, to leave the home, abandon the spouse. But you are free—free to serve, free to give, free to love your family. It is thus that Christ rules us; it is thus that he rules you. He is your Lord; you are his bride. He is the master; you are his to do his bidding. This will never be slavery. It is the way of joy and peace and genuine spiritual satisfaction.
8. Next we read of the “saints in Christ Jesus,” those to whom the apostle Paul is writing. These were the Christians at Philippi. They were not special Christians; they were people like you and me. Hence, the title applies to us, as it does to every Christian. A great deal of trouble had been caused for many seeking to understand what the Bible says about being a saint by the erroneous assumption that the word refers to personal holiness. It does not. The one who is a saint in the biblical sense will strive to be holy, but his holiness, however little or however great it may be, does not make him a saint. He is a saint because he has been set apart by God.
9. The biblical word for saint refers to consecration. The Bible teaches that those who are Christians have been set apart by God. These constitute “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God” who should show forth the praises of him who has called them out of darkness “into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9). If you are a Christian, God has set you apart in this way.
10. Are you a Christian? If so, you are a saint, and so am I—regardless of our station in life. We are so, not because of what we have done, but because we have been set apart or separated unto God in Jesus.
11. Finally, Paul also mentions the church officers: the overseers, who were the pastors of the local congregations, and the deacons, who were the officers elected to care for the needy and the sick. These labored with local believers in the spread of the gospel and the strengthening of Christians. The most important word in this phrase is the small word “with.” Many who hold office want to dominate those who are in their charge. They want to be “over” them, or at least to go “before” them in terms of prestige or honor. It should not be so with Christians. Paul says that the officers of the congregation worked with the believers, and he subordinates his own role and that of Timothy by picturing both of them as the servants of all.
12. That is the secret of forward progress for the life of a Christian congregation. The saints must be servants, and there must be a division of labor coupled with a working together in Christ for the furtherance of the gospel and the strengthening of other believers. This was God’s way of blessing the little church at Philippi. It is God’s way of blessing our church today.
GracePointe Baptist Church
2209 N Post Road
Oklahoma City, OK 73141
Phone: (405) 769-5050