Today’s selected passage is found in the first eleven verses of the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Philippian congregation. More specifically, today’s reading is found in the first eleven verses of the first chapter. When you begin reading the epistle which was written unto the Philippian congregation, the first thing you notice is that when it opens it does so with the apostle Paul writing the letter, but Timothy being present with him. As the first chapter of the epistle of the Philippians opens it does so with the apostle Paul writing concerning himself and Timothy, and how they are the servants of Jesus Christ, and we’re writing to all the saints in Christ Jesus which were at Philippi. SAINTS & SERVANTS! It’s actually quite interesting that within the very first verse of this particular chapter you will discover—not only the mention of the servants of Jesus Christ, but you will also discover the saints of Jesus Christ. As I sit here this morning I can’t help but be reminded of the words which Jesus spoke unto His disciples which are recorded in the fifteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of John. Beginning with the eleventh verse of the fifteenth chapter we find the following words of Jesus which were recorded by the apostle John when writing the gospel concerning Jesus Christ: “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 than 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 knoweth. 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 to you. These things I command you, that ye love one another” (John 15:11-17). Within this particular passage of Scripture we find Jesus providing final, parting instruction unto His disciples before the hour of His passion would come upon Him, and He would be betrayed into the hands of sinful men. The words which we find in this particular passage are essentially Jesus’ final words of teaching and admonition unto His disciples before He would be betrayed by Judas, handed over to sinful men, crucified upon a Roman tree, buried in a borrowed tomb, raised from death to live, and then forty days after the fact would ascend and return unto the right hand of His Father which is in heaven.
As I read the first verse of the first chapter of the New Testament epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Philippian congregation I can’t help but be completely and utterly captivated by the fact that it opens with two servants of Christ Jesus writing unto a congregation of believers and followers, and these two servants of Christ wrote unto and addressed these saints of Christ Jesus which were at Philippi. It’s actually quite interesting to read and consider the reality of what is found within this particular verse, for not only do we encounter the reality of being a servant of Christ, but we also discover the reality of being a saint of Jesus Christ. In all reality, I am convinced that what makes the body of Christ truly the body of Christ here upon the earth is when the saints and servants of Jesus Christ work in perfect union and harmony with each other. With that being said, I feel compelled to emphatically write and declare that one cannot be a servant of Christ Jesus without also being a saint of Christ Jesus. Conversely, one cannot be a saint of Jesus Christ without also being a servant of Jesus Christ. In fact, I am convinced that while there appears to be an apparent distinction between the servants of Christ Jesus and the saints of Christ Jesus within this first verse, the two realities are absolutely and incredibly interconnected to and with each other. I firmly believe that one of the single greatest marks of being a saint of Christ Jesus is being a servant—and not simply a servant unto some, but a servant unto all. There is a tendency within our hearts and souls to engage ourselves in living as servants within the body of Christ, and to be a servant unto some, and to be a servant unto those whom we qualify as worthy of being served, while completely neglecting and ignoring the fact that we have been called to serve the many and not simply the few. One of the most dangerous games that is and can be played within the house of God is when men and women serve the few while neglecting and ignoring the many. What’s more, is that this simply isn’t the case within the body of Christ, but it is also true among us within society. Consider how many times you have neglected, abandoned and even ignored service to various individuals simply because you “didn’t see the need” to serve them. How many times have you been selective and picky with whom you offer and afford your service, and as a result have neglected the needs of those before and around you.
SERVICE TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER! I’m sitting here writing these words right now and I can’t help but be be completely and totally consumed with the thought that there are some among us within the body of Christ who essentially auction off our service to the highest bidder. What I mean by that, is that instead of offering to be a servant unto each and every individual we encounter on a daily basis, we are selective with who we choose to give ourselves to. Tell me dear brother, tell me dear sister—how many times have you been selective with who you have served, and how often and frequently you have served others? How many times have you been selective with those you have chosen to serve? I can’t help but be reminded of the words which Jesus spoke unto His disciples in the Upper Room after He had finished washing their feet. IF you begin reading with the twelfth verse of the thirteenth chapter of John’s gospel you will find the following words: “So after He had washed their feet, and had taken His garments, and was set down again, He said unto them, Know the what I have done to you? Ye call 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 He. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receive him that sent me” (John 13:12-20). I am also reminded of the words which Jesus spoke when He declared that He did not come to be serve, but rather to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. Please stop and consider both expressions and declarations of Jesus, for not only did Jesus clearly state that He did not come to be served, but He was also willing to assume the role of a servant—not only among His disciples when He put aside His garments, took a towel, and girded Himself in order that He might wash their feet, but also when He laid aside divinity and took on the form of human flesh in order that He might serve humanity and mankind in the single greatest act and demonstration of servanthood in history.
What I absolutely love about this thirteenth chapter of John’s gospel is that it is essentially a powerful picture of that which Jesus did when He left His place in eternity before His Father in heaven and agreed to come to this spinning planet called earth among mankind. There are three distinct passages which I would like to draw your attention to concerning this very reality—the first of which is found in the first chapter of John’s gospel, the second is found in the second chapter of the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Philippians, and the third passage is found in the epistle which was written unto the Hebrews. Journey with me if you will to the first chapter of John’s gospel where we find the apostle John writing concerning the Word of Life which came down from heaven among men: “IN the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not” (John 1:1-5). With these words the apostle John begins to set the stage for the divine reality surrounding the Word which was not only in the beginning, but was also with God, and was also in fact God Himself. The apostle John clearly sets the stage that the Word was with God in and from the beginning, and therefore bore the divine and eternal nature of the triune Godhead. IF you continue reading the words which the apostle John wrote in the first chapter of his gospel concerning Jesus Christ you will find the following words: “He [John the Baptist] was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:8-14).
Please pay close attention to the words which the apostle John wrote in this first chapter of his gospel concerning the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, for not only did He declare that He came into and was in the world, but John also records how He came unto His own. Furthermore, the apostle John goes on to write concerning this Word that “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father).” With these words the apostle John declares that the same Word which was in the beginning, the same Word which was with God, and the same Word which was God was made flesh in order that He might come into the world and come unto His own. One of the greatest realities concerning Jesus who is both Christ and Lord is that although He was the divine and eternal Word that was with the Father from the beginning, He was made flesh in order that He might dwell among us. This promise and reality of God dwelling among men was not something that was introduced within the New Testament, for if you journey back to the Old Testament prophetic books you will find and discover that the Lord sought to dwell in the midst of His people. This reality was demonstrated and manifested in the first five books of the Bible when Moses records the wilderness wandering of the children of Israel in the wilderness. While Moses was atop the mountain of God in the wilderness he received the pattern of the tabernacle which would be the house of God that would be present in the midst of and among His people in the wilderness. That tabernacle was to be the house of God which was to be present in the midst of and among the people of God, and was to be set up in the center of the entire host and camp of Israel with three tribes to the north, three tribes to the south, three tribes to the east, and three tribes to the west of the Tabernacle. Wherever the children of Israel journeyed in the wilderness, and wherever they were to stop and set up the Tabernacle, the Lord was to be enthroned in the midst of His people. This reality would be further demonstrated and manifested when they entered in the land of Canaan, which would later become the nation and kingdom of Israel. Within the city of Jerusalem would be mount Moriah which would also be known as the Temple Mount, and upon that mountain the house of the Lord would stand as a symbol that the Lord was in fact dwelling in the midst of His people, and that they could come and worship Him freely. IN the Old Testament it was the Tabernacle and the Temple, in the New Testament [at least for thirty three and a half years] the Lord dwelt among us in bodily form of flesh.
It is quite clear from the words which the apostle John wrote in the first chapter of the gospel concerning Jesus Christ which he wrote that the Word which was in the beginning, which was with God, and which was God was made flesh and dwelt among us. What’s more, this divine and eternal Word which was made flesh came unto His own and came into the world as a Light which shineth in the darkness. We dare not miss or lose sight of the significance of these words, for they present us with a powerful description of the divine and eternal Word which was with God in the beginning, and which was in fact God. As you continue reading the Scripture, however, you will encounter further confirmation of the divine and eternal Word of life being made flesh and dwelling among us. If you turn your attention to the second chapter of the New Testament epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Philippian congregation you will find the following words concerning Jesus who is both Christ and Lord: “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 the things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5-11). Notice the various descriptions which the apostle Paul used to describe Jesus and His entrance into the realm of time and space. Notice how the apostle Paul first declared that although Jesus was in the form of God, He did not think it robbery to be equal with God, but instead made Himself of no reputation. What’s more, the apostle Paul would go on to write and declare that this same Jesus took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. Furthermore, the apostle Paul goes on to write how this same Jesus was found in fashion as a man, and humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. TOOK UPON HIM THE FORM OF A SERVANT! WAS MADE IN THE LIKENESS OF MEN! BEING FOUND IN FASHION AS A MAN! HUMBLED HIMSELF! The words we find in this particular passage further confirm the reality of what we find in the gospel which the apostle John wrote, for while John wrote of the Word being made flesh and dwelling among us, the apostle Paul wrote that the Word [Jesus Christ] took upon Himself the form of a servant, was made in the likeness of men, and was found in fashion as a man. The apostle Paul would also go on to write how this same Jesus Christ humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Ultimately the taking upon Himself the form of a servant, the being made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a man was all in order that He might ultimately humble Himself and experience death upon the cross in order that He might redeem mankind and reconcile them back to God.
I mentioned earlier that this reality is expressed in a third place within the New Testament, which is found in the second chapter of the New Testament epistle which was written unto the Hebrews. If you begin reading with and from the fifth verse of the second chapter of this particular epistle you will find the following words written—not only concerning the creation of man, but also the action of the Son of God when He left divinity and eternity and entered into time and space. Consider if you will the words which the author of the epistle to the Hebrews wrote beginning with the fifth verse of the second chapter: “For unto the angels hath He not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak. But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? Or the son of man, that you visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels: thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and dust set him over the works of thy hands: thou hast put all things in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under Him. But now we see not yet all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee. And again, I will put my trust in Him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me. Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy Him that had the power of death, that is the devil; and deliver them unto who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily He took not on Him the nature of angels; but He took on Him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that He himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted” (Hebrews 2:5-18). Within this particular passage we begin reading of how man was made a little lower than the angels, but we go on to read how even Jesus Himself was made a little lower than the angels in order that He might accomplish that which the Father desired and had in His heart and mind. What’s more is that we we read how Jesus took part of flesh and blood, in order that through death He might destroy Him that had the power of death, which is the devil. Even more than this, we read how Jesus did not take on Himself the nature of angels, but took on Himself the seed of Abraham in order that He might become like His brethren.
The more I read these three passages—the words of the apostle John, the words of the apostle Paul, and the words of the author of the epistle to the Hebrews—the more I can’t help but see tremendous power and significance in Jesus’ actions in the Upper Room that night with His disciples. I am convinced that it was incredibly easy for Jesus to put aside His garments and take up the towel in order to assume the role of a servant, for He had already laid aside His divinity and had taken up the towel of human flesh and blood. I absolutely love what I read in the thirteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel concerning the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, for what we witness in this passage is an expression in the natural and physical realm of that which was and had already been committed in the spiritual and supernatural realm. There is not a doubt in my mind that for Jesus to lay aside His garments and take up the towel was incredibly easy, and that He didn’t even think twice about doing so, for He already laid aside His garments of divinity in order that He might take up the towel of humanity. LAYING ASIDE THE GARMENTS OF DIVINITY AND TAKING UP THE TOWEL OF HUMANITY! What’s more, is that when Jesus laid aside His garments of divinity and eternity in order that He might take up the towel of humanity, He did so in order that He might accomplish more than simply washing the feet of the disciples. The author of the epistle unto the Hebrews wrote how Jesus took part of flesh and blood in order that in the form of flesh and blood He might destroy Him that had the power of death, that is the devil. In the first epistle which the apostle John wrote unto the Ephesian congregation he went on to write that “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). The author of the epistle unto the Hebrews wrote that Jesus took on the form of flesh and blood in order that He might destroy him who hath the power of death, that is the devil; and the apostle John wrote and declared that the Son of God was manifested that He might destroy the works of the devil. We must be absolutely and incredibly mindful of this, for when Jesus laid aside the garments of divinity and humanity and took upon Himself the towel of humanity—while it is true that He did in fact come to serve and to give His life as a ransom, He also came to wage war against an unseen and invisible foe that had been roaming to and fro within and throughout the earth for centuries.
While in the Upper Room with His disciples Jesus laid aside the garments He was wearing and took up a towel in order that He might serve the disciples by washing their feet, however this was but a demonstration and manifestation of that which He had done thirty three and a half years earlier when He laid aside His eternal and divine garments in order that He might take upon Himself the form of flesh and blood and be born of a virgin. What’s more, is that Jesus allowed Himself to be implanted within the womb of a mortal woman and to grow inside that womb for a full nine months until the appointed time came when He would be born into this world as an infant and would grow up in the house of a carpenter and a lowly young woman named Mary. For thirty years Jesus subjected and submitted Himself to Mary and Joseph as a faithful and obedient son until that moment would come when He would be revealed as more than just the son of the two of them, and as the eternal Son of God. In fact, this is what many had issue and quarrel with when it came to Jesus, for they saw Him only as the son of Mary and Joseph, and that His father was a carpenter living in Nazareth. That night when Jesus laid aside His garments and took up the towel and girded Himself with it He was demonstrating and revealing to the disciples that which He had done in heaven thirty-three and a half years earlier when He laid aside His garments of divinity and eternity in order to take upon Himself the towel of humanity. It was no small thing for Jesus who was both Lord and Master to do this single act that evening in the Upper Room, for it was an example He was providing unto His disciples on how they were to conduct themselves among those around them. Jesus laying aside His garments and taking up the towel with which He used to gird Himself was incredibly symbolic—not only of what He had done when He left eternity to enter into the realm of time and space, but also what He invites us as His disciples to engage in while upon and within the earth. Perhaps the single greatest question is whether or not we are willing to lay aside our garments and take up the towel in order that we might gird ourselves to serve those before and those around us. I would dare say that one of the single greatest problems and dangerous within many churches is that we seek to retain and hold on to our garments rather than laying them aside in order that we might take up the towel and gird ourselves with it. The towel of humanity was in all reality a towel of humility and a towel of servanthood, for in order to truly, fully and completely accomplish that which the Father desired to do within and upon the earth, Jesus could not come to the earth retaining His divinity. Jesus needed to be made a little lower than the angels in order that He might dwell among us as a suffering servant, but also in order that He might destroy the works of the devil and he who had the power of death, that is the devil. We dare not lose sight of or miss this incredibly important reality, for to do so would be to sorely and severely miss that which we have been called to do within our lives.
What we must understand is that not only did Jesus lay aside His garments of divinity and eternity in order to take up the towel of flesh and blood, but He allowed Himself to be made a little lower than the angels which for eternity up until that moment worshiped before the throne where He sat with His Father. Consider the tremendous fact that Jesus allowed Himself to be made a little lower than those beings which surrounded the throne and worshipped the triune Godhead for all eternity prior to that moment. The underlying principle behind this is absolutely and unmistakably clear, for just as Jesus allowed Himself to be made a little lower than the angels in order that He might take upon Himself the likeness of human flesh, so also must we allow ourselves to be made lower than those who are around and before us. One of the great dilemmas and problems we face is that not only do we not desire to lay aside our garments, but we also have no desire to be made lower than those around us. It is not at all easy to humble ourselves in the sight of the living God, and it is even harder to humble ourselves in the company and presence of those we have been called to interact with. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the congregation which was at Rome—words which are recorded in the twelfth chapter of the epistle. If you have read any of my writings this year you will note that I have referenced this passage a number of times, and perhaps you are even sick and tired of reading it. Let me first off say that I completely understand where you’re coming from if you feel this way, however, if we ever grow tired of the truth that is found and contained within this passage of Scripture we can never and will never lay aside our garments of pride, our garments of selfishness, our garments of arrogance, our garments of self-centeredness, our garments of self-seeking, our garments of exalting ourselves in order that we might take upon ourselves the towel of humility. With that being said, I would like to present you with the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the congregation which was at Rome beginning with the ninth verse of the chapter:
“Let love be without dissimulation. Ashore that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instand in prayer; distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you; bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou s halt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:9-21).
What I love about the first eleven verses of the first chapter of the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Philippian congregation is that not only did he speak of their fellowship in the gospel from the first day they heard it until the moment of the writing of this epistle, but he also wrote of his confidence that He [the Father] which had begun a good work in them will perform it until the days of Jesus Christ. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and pay close attention to this, for not only do we encounter the tremendous reality that there was in fact a work which was begun in us, but the work which was begun in us was indeed and in fact a good work. What’s more, is that the apostle Paul was convinced that He who began that work in us would be faithful to perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. These words are absolutely remarkable and astounding, for these words not only suggest the beginning of the work, but they also speak of the continuing of the world which was begun in our lives. The words we find and read in this particular passage of Scripture clearly point to the reality and indicate that we are and will continue to be a work in progress so long as we are in this mortal tent. I find tremendous hope and encouragement in this reality, for given everything that has been written in this particular writing, our Father who is in heaven will be faithful to perform and complete the work which He begun in us. What that means is that while it might be difficult within our lives to actually live out and perform that which we read in Scriptures, we have a God who is faithful to perform and complete the work within us which is necessary to become the saints and servants He has called and created us to be. The apostle spoke both of saints and servants of Christ Jesus in the first verse of this particular chapter and we must recognize that we have One who is willing to work within us, and work on us in order that we might become saints who are servants in Christ Jesus and servants who are saints in Christ Jesus. The question we must ask ourselves is whether or not we are willing to submit and surrender ourselves to the work which was begun in us, or whether we will continue to resist and oppose that work. It is true that He who began a good work in us will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ, but we must not hinder or resist that work within our lives. There is only one person in our lives who can hinder and resist the work which was begun in us, and that person is ourselves and no one else. Flesh and blood cannot hinder or resist the work which was begun in us, nor can any principality, or spiritual wickedness, or evil spirit hinder the work of God within our lives. The only person who can resist the work which was begun in us is ourselves, and we would be mindful to recognize and understand this and to live our lives in full and complete surrender to this glorious work.