Today’s selected reading begins in and with the New Testament epistle of the apostle Paul to the Romans, and more specifically, is found in the first seven verses of the chapter. The apostle Paul begins and opens this particular epistle with these words—“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (which he had promised afore by His prophets in the holy scriptures,) concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; and declared to be the Son of God which power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: by whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for His name: among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ: To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:1-7).
The epistle of the apostle Paul to the Roman congregation begins with words which are customary to the various other epistles the apostle wrote. If you take the time to read and examine each of the epistles the apostle wrote to the individual churches, you will discover how he begins and opens each epistle with a description of himself—particularly and specifically His role before, and His relationship with the living and exalted Christ. As this epistle begins, it does so with the apostle Paul referring to himself as “a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God” (Romans 1:1). Within this single verse, the apostle not only addresses and classifies himself as a servant of Jesus Christ, but also that absolutely anything and everything he did flowed from that specific role and relationship. I must pause at this moment and declare that we can never, we should never, we must never view ourselves outside of and apart from being a servant of Jesus Christ. If who we are, if what we do does not first and foremost flow from our role and our relationship as a servant of Jesus Christ, we have severely and sorely missed the entire point of our existence. It is absolutely true that when speaking to the apostles in the Upper Room, Jesus declared unto them how He no longer called them servants, but had called them friends; however, the entire thirteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of John is devoted to Jesus’ demonstration of living as a servant unto others. Pause for a moment and consider the text as it unfolds and is recorded in the thirteenth chapter of the New Testament Gospel of John:
“Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour was come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved His own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him; Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He was come from God, and went to God; He rise the from supper, and laid aside His garments: and took a towel, and girded Himself. After that He poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith He was girded. Them cometh He to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto Him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. Peter saith unto him, Thou s halt never wash. My feet. Jesus answered Him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto Him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. For He knew who should betray Him; therefore said He, Ye are not all clean. So after He had washed their feet, and had taken His garments, and was set down again, He said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye called me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his Lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them. I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me. Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am here. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth Him that sent me” (John 13:1-20).
This particular passage found within the New Testament gospel of John is perhaps one of the most noted and powerful chapters in the four gospels which describe for us how Jesus—when He took on flesh and came and dwelt among us—did so as a servant. If you read and study the four gospels which are found in the New Testament—particularly and especially the gospel of John—you will clearly recognize and understand that Jesus while Jesus did indeed view Himself as, and understand Himself to be the Son of the Father, He also saw His role upon the earth as that of a servant. SERVANT SONS! I am absolutely and completely convinced that one of the single greatest things that is needed within this generation is sons who know and understand how to be servants of their Father within and upon the earth. In all reality, I would dare say that it isn’t enough to simply live in the reality that we are sons [and daughters] of our Father in heaven, for until and unless we allow ourselves to live and move as servants from that relationship, we are severely and sorely missing the point. Jesus did indeed recognize and understand Himself to be the Son of the Father in heaven, but it was from that relationship as Son that He was able to spend His days and time dwelling among men as a servant. I am firmly convinced that until and unless we are willing to allow ourselves to first walk in our role and relationship as sons and daughters, we can never truly walk in our role as servants. When Jesus emerged from the waters of the Jordan River, He heard the voice of His Father in heaven speak unto and declare unto Him that He was His beloved Son in whom He was well pleased—words which affirmed His relationship to the Father as the eternal Son. It was from that place—from that place of revelation of Sonship—that Jesus was able to demonstrate what it meant to serve in the kingdom of heaven upon the earth. If you want to truly understand the kingdom of heaven, you must understand that it is made up of servant sons—sons who know and understand who they are before, and who they were in, and who they are with the Father.
WHEN SONS BECOME SERVANTS! WHEN SERVANTS BECOME FRIENDS! I can’t help but be reminded of the words which Jesus spoke unto His disciples in that upper room discourse. What began with a demonstration of what it means to be a servant through the washing of the disciples’ feet would culminate into a powerful lesson and teaching Jesus would speak and reveal unto His disciples. When you come to the eleventh verse of the fifteenth chapter of the gospel of John, you will find and read these words: “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man that this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knowth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, He may give it you. These things I command you, that ye love one another” (John 15:11-17).
I can’t help but also be reminded of the words which Jesus spoke, which are recorded for us in the twelfth chapter of the gospel according to Luke. Beginning with the thirty-fifth verse of the twelfth chapter we find these words recorded by the beloved physician: “Let Your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that He shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not…Whom then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath. But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants a nd maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; the lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more” (Luke 12:35 -48).
One reality I cannot seem to shake and escape is the reality our role as servant in the kingdom flows from our relationship as sons and daughters. Only he who is truly able to walk in the reality of being a son of the Father, and only she who is truly able to walk in the reality of being a daughter of the Father can truly move and operate as a servant of the Father within and upon the earth. I am absolutely and completely convinced that all true servanthood flows from our recognizing and our understanding our role and relationship as sons and daughters of the Father, for those who make the greatest servants in the kingdom of God are those who first move and operate as sons and daughters. I have already stated once—and it bears repeating again—that unless we understand our role and relationship as sons and daughters of the Father, we cannot and will not truly be able to operate as servants within the kingdom of heaven. Up to and until the manifestation of Jesus Christ within the earth, the Lord had always raised up servants upon the earth. If you read the entire Old Testament, you will read of prophets, priests, judges, kings, and the like whom the Lord raised up as His servants upon the earth. It wasn’t until the manifestation of Jesus Christ upon the earth that a transition occurred, for it wasn’t merely a servant whom the Lord was raising up, but a SERVANT-SON! When the Father sought to accomplish His single greatest work within the earth, He did not merely send a servant, but instead chose to send His only begotten Son. It was the Son of the Father in heaven who would move and operate upon the earth as servant before, unto and among all those He interacted with. It was this eternal Son who did in fact learn obedience through the things He suffered, but it was also through His role and relationship as Son that He was truly able to move and operate as servant among men. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we understand this divine relationship between our role as sons and daughters of the Father, and our role as servants of the Master, and finally as friends of the King. One thing you will notice concerning Abraham is that it was spoken of Abraham how he was in fact a friend of God—a reality I am convinced flowed from His willingness to first be a son to this God who called him forth from Ur of the Chaldeans, and then as servant upon the earth—a servant who not only interceded on behalf of the cities of the plain, but a servant who also engaged the enemy and adversary to rescue and save his family who had been captured and taken by forces stronger than they.
The apostle Paul began his epistle to the Romans by speaking of himself as a servant of Jesus Christ, and it is actually quite interesting that he did so, for immediately after that he spoke of how he was called to be an apostle. Even a casual and cursory reading of this particular verse would indicate that his apostleship flowed forth from his willingness to be a servant, and not the other way around. In fact, I would dare say that if the apostle Paul were not first willing to move and operate as servant of Jesus Christ upon the earth, he would not have been qualified to move and operate as an apostle of Jesus upon the earth. It is rightfully so and absolutely fitting that the apostle Paul first spoke of himself as a servant of Jesus Christ, for his role as servant was the catalyst and foundation for him moving and operating as an apostle. I am convinced that it is possible to move as a servant and yet not operate as an apostle, but it is not possible to operate as an apostle and not move as a servant. I would dare say that there are a number of “apostles,” and “bishops,” and “elders,” and even “pastors,” and the like who know absolutely nothing about what it takes and what it means to be be a servant of Jesus Christ. In fact, when you read the passage of Scripture in the apostle Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians concerning the various roles within the body of Christ, you will recognize and understand that they have absolutely nothing to do with those who are called and appointed unto those roles. Consider if you will the full text that surrounds the giving of “apostles,” and “prophets,” and “evangelists,” and “pastors,” and “teachers” if you will: “And He gave some, apostles; and som, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; FOR THE PERFECTING OF THE SAINTS, FOR THE WORK OF THE MINISTRY, FOR THE EDIFYING OF THE BODY OF CHRIST: TILL WE ALL COME IN THE UNITY OF THE FAITH, AND OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE SON OF GOD, UNTO A PERFECT MAN, UNTO THE MEASURE OF THE STATURE OF THE FULNESS OF CHRIST; THAT WE HENCEFORTH BE NO MORE CHILDREN, TOSSED TO AND FRO, AND CARRIED ABOUT WITH EVERY WIND OF DOCTRINE, BY THE SLEIGHT OF MEN, AND CUNNING CRAFTINESS, WHEREBY THEY LIE IN WAIT TO DECEIVE; BUT SPEAKING THE TRUTH IN LOVE, MAY GROW UP INTO HIM IN ALL THINGS, WHICH IS THE HEAD, EVEN CHRIST; FROM WHOM THE WHOLE BODY FIFTLY JOINED TOGETHER AND COMPACTED BY THAT WHICH EVERY JOINT SUPPLIETH, ACCORDING TO THE EFFECTUAL WORKING IN THE MEASURE OF EVERY PART, MAKETH INCREASE OF THE BODY UNTO THE EDIFYING OF ITSELF IN LOVE” (Ephesians 4:11-16).
Did you catch all of that? Dear pastor, IT ISN’T ABOUT YOU! Dear prophet, IT ISN’T ABOUT YOU! Dear apostle, IT ISN’T ABOUT YOU! Dear evangelist, IT ISN’T ABOUT YOU! Dear teacher, IT ISN’T ABOUT YOU! When you read these words written by the apostle Paul, you will clearly come to the understanding that even though He [Jesus the Christ] gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelist; and some, pastors and teachers, none of this was given for the individual benefit of those who are and those who have been entrusted in and with this role. Read this particular set of verses again and you will discover that the entire purpose for the giving of these roles and ministries is for those other than the individuals who fill the roles themselves. FOR THE PERFECTING OF THE SAINTS! FOR THE WORK OF THE MINISTRY! FOR THE EDIFYING OF THE BODY OF CHRIST! TILL WE ALL COME IN THE UNITY OF THE FAITH, AND OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE SON OF GOD! UNTO A PERFECT MEN! UNTO THE MEASURE OF THE STATURE OF THE FULNESS OF CHRIST! THAT WE HENCEFORTH BE NO MORE CHILDREN, TOOSED TO AND RO, AND CARRIED ABOUT WITH EVERY WIND OF DOCTRINE, BY THE SLEIGHT OF MEN, AND CUNNING CRAFTINESS! GROW UP UNTO HIM IN ALL THINGS! I am convinced there are far too many minister—regardless whether they be apostles, or prophets, or evangelists, or pastors, or teachers—who are moving and operating in a “ministry” that is self-centered and self-seeking. There are those who are presently in ministry who are exactly like the shepherds whom the Lord rebuked through the prophet Ezekiel in the Old Testament: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them” (Ezekiel 34:1-6).
The apostle Paul recognized and understood that the ministry—even though the ministry was given unto and entrusted unto him—was not given for himself, or for his own benefit. The apostle Paul could refer to and speak of himself as a servant of Jesus Christ, for everything within his life flowed from that single reality. Everything the apostle knew and understood flowed from his role and his relationship as a servant of Jesus Christ. When the apostle Paul engaged in his three missionary journeys, he did so moving and operating as servant of Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul recognized and understood that apostleship was a byproduct of servanthood, and that one cannot rightfully call themselves an apostle unless they were first ready, willing and able to operate as a servant of Jesus Christ. I am reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians congregation, which are recorded for us in the second chapter of this particular epistle: “IF there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in loneliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:1-1). MADE HIMSELF OF NO REPUTATION! TOOK UPON HIM THE FORM OF A SERVANT! MADE IN THE LIKENESS OF MEN! FOUND IN FASHION AS A MAN! HUMBLED HIMSELF! BECAME OBEDIENT UNTO DEATH!
Please don’t miss the first part of what the apostle Paul was writing, for the apostle Paul emphatically declared that directly connected to the taking upon Himself the form a servant was the making Himself of no reputation. I would dare suggest that only those who are willing to make themselves of no reputation—those who are perhaps willing to minister in the shadows, those who are willing to minister in secret, those who are willing to minister outside the spotlight, those who are willing to minister without the accolades and fanfare—are those who are truly able to stand ad servants of Jesus Christ. SERVANTS WITH NO REPUTATION! There is a part of me that is convinced that there are those among us who are willing to take upon themselves the role of a servant if they are willing to receive the accolades, the praise, the honor, and the recognition that may very well come as a result of it. There are those among us who have absolutely no desire with taking on the form of a servant, and with serving without reputation. I find it absolutely incredible that we read how Jesus made Himself of no reputation, and it was from that place of no reputation He was able to truly operate as servant among men. I am not stating or suggesting that there might not be times when operating as a servant with Jesus Christ may experience some form of recognition, but there is a vast difference between serving from a place of no reputation and not seeking any fan fare or accolades, and serving in order to receive fame, and recognition, and praise, and honor. Jesus made Himself of no reputation, and it was from that place of no reputation that He was able to serve among men. Jesus never sought to honor or glorify Himself, and He always sought to deflect any honor and glory unto His Father who was in heaven. Jesus never sought to be the center of the praise, or the honor, or the glory. Jesus lived and made it His entire purpose, His entire mission, his entire aim to glorify the Father in everything He said and everything He did.
Consider carefully the words which Jesus spoke—words which are recorded in the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel of John: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth Him all things that Himself doeth: and He will shew Him greater works than these, that ye may marvel. For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom He will. For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent Him. Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth my word, and believeth on Him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into comdenmentation; but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in Himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in Himself;f and hath given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true. There is another that heareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which He witnesseth of me is true. Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth. But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved. HE was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light. But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me. And the Father Himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His shape. And ye have not His word abiding in you: for whom He hath sent, Him ye believe not. Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. I receive not honour from men. But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. I am came in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, Him ye will receive. How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believe me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words” (John 5:19-46).
THE SON CAN DO NOTHING OF HIMSELF! I CAN OF MINE OWN SELF DO NOTHING! I SEEK NOT MINE OWN WILL, BUT THE WILL OF THE FATHER WHICH HATH SENT ME! THE WORKS WHICH THE FATHER HATH GIVEN ME TO FINISH, THE SAME WORKS THAT I DO! I RECEIVE NOT HONOUR FROM MEN! Each of these phrase presents us with a powerful description of how the eternal Son not only sought His own will, but He also sought no honour, nor praise, nor glory from men. The Son came to the earth to dwell among men as a servant, and He would spend three and a half years living among us as a servant who came not to be served, but to serve others. The apostle Paul viewed Himself as a servant unto the Lord Jesus Christ first, and it was from that place of being a servant that He could navigate the apostleship that had been entrusted unto him. The question you and I must face and allow ourselves to be confronted with is whether or not we will allow ourselves to operate within the same reality. Will we allow ourselves to be of no reputation in order that we might be able to serve before Jesus who is both Lord and Master? Will we be able to allow ourselves to seek not our own will and to pursue the divine will of the Father who is in heaven? The greatest question we are confronted with right now is whether or not we can, and whether or not we will be willing to be servant-sons and servant-daughters who will only do that which they see the Father doing, and only say that which they hear the Father speaking.