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The Servanthood & Suffering of Paul

The apostle styles himself as having endured “sufferings” (v. 24). He suffered with stoning’s, beatings, shipwreck, being cold and hungry, being rejected by his own countrymen (2 Co. 11:24-27). We must be willing to suffer for the sake of Christ (1 Pe. 4:16). In a world that is self-seeking, a true servant is an oddity. Rather than “What can the church do for me?”, our attitude should be “What can I do for the church?” This requires humility. Christ emptied Himself as a servant and became man’s savior (Phi. 2:6-8). Being a Christian is a life of service.

One word that describes the apostle Paul is “servant” or “bondservant” (Rom. 1:1; Phi. 1:1). If we imitate Paul (1 Cor. 11:1) we will follow his example (Phi. 4:9) and become willing, energetic servants in the church. This will make us like our Lord who came into the world “to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mat. 20:28). There was a dispute among the Lord’s disciples over greatness in the kingdom. There was a clamoring to be the number one man in the kingdom. Jesus put that to rest by stating, “Whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave” (Mat. 20:27). The scribes and Pharisees loved to sit in Moses’ seat and tell men what to do. They relished titles and adoration, not unlike men today. They were told, “But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant” (Mat. 23:11).

Jesus’ servant-hood is highlighted by His girding Himself with a towel and stooping to wash the feet of His disciples (John 13:1-13). He said, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14). Being a minister or servant is not optional for a Christian. It is a way of life. Paul poured out his life like a drink offering (2 Ti. 4:6; Phi. 2:17) for the sake of others. We can do no less. Where would the church be without servants? Where would a hospital be without doctors and nurses? Where would an army be without soldiers? Where would a ball team be without players? Even so, the church cannot function without those with the heart of a servant.

Paul saw himself as a steward of the gospel (v. 25). As such he was to be faithful in proclaiming the gospel (2 Ti. 4:7; 2 Th. 2:4). We, like Paul, have been entrusted with the gospel (Mark 16:15). Never has the world needed the gospel more than in our lifetime. The world is on fire with sin. There is one answer to the world’s predicament – Jesus! PREACH HIM!

Evangelism can never take a backseat in the Lord’s scheme of things (1 Co. 9:16). For the world to hear, we must go (Rom. 10:13-17). We cannot afford to shirk our duty as stewards of the gospel (1 Pe. 4:10-11). Paul’s intent was to encourage others to be complete in Christ (v. 28). To accomplish this in our lives we must rid ourselves of hindrances (Heb. 12:1). We are not to stay in a state of spiritual infancy, but we are to grow in “grace and knowledge” (2 Pe. 3:18). To be complete or perfect in Christ we must develop the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) to make our call and election sure (2 Pe. 1:5-11).

There was a balance in Paul’s message (v.28). It was both positive and negative. He was “warning” and “teaching” (v. 28). When he charged Timothy to “preach the word” (2 Ti.4:2), he encouraged a balance in his preaching. He was to “convince” and “rebuke” and also to “exhort”. “Convince” means, “to convict, confute, refute, usually with the suggestion of putting the convicted person to shame” (WEV 239). “Rebuke” means “to put honor upon, then to adjudge” (WEV 253). To “exhort” means to “urge one to pursue some course of conduct”, hence, to encourage (WEV 60).

For a preacher to be effective he must strive for balance in his preaching. It cannot all be negative nor can it all be positive. This is where prayer for wise sermon preparation becomes valuable. The material covered in this book may not be easy to preach, but it must be a focal point if the church is to survive.

In the Philippian letter Paul wrote that Christians “work out” their salvation while God “works in you” (Phi. 2:12-13). God was working through Paul (v. 29). If God did all the work, human agency would not be needed. God, however has placed the glorious gospel in the hands of Christians (2 Co. 4:7). We are the tools through which He ministers and spreads His word to others (1 Co. 3:5-9) (TFT 177).

God works “mightily” in His servants (Col. 1:29). He gives us the strength to persevere, even in difficult circumstances (2 Co. 12:1-9; Phi. 4:13). When the world seems to be against you, “do not lose heart” (2 Co. 4:16). When you become discouraged, “do not grow weary while doing good” (Gal. 6:9).

There is a world waiting for the gospel message (Acts 16:9).We can be renewed in spirit by our knowledge that God “works in” us “mightily” (v. 29). Please do not let the words of this blog fall on deaf ears. Read. Study. Obey. Teach.

May the Lord bless you and keep you!


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