In choosing a model of
a servant of Christ, we instinctively turn to St. Paul.
He seems to us to be the most outstanding in every way,
and from the greatness of his achievements, the success
of his methods, the amazement of his endurance, and his
dominating objective, we must get back to his own
conception of himself as a worker.
He has given us that
conception in many significant and suggestive phrases,
some of which we select at once. Not once only, but
frequently, he refers to himself as "the servant of
Now I venture to say
that a right understanding and apprehension of that word
"servant" - as Paul used it - is calculated,
without other designations, to revolutionize all of our
work for the Master.
word used by Paul was "bondslave," and by it we
are thrown back into the social conditions of the world
in those days. Slavery was a part of the social life of
that time, and the readers of Paul's letters were all
quite well acquainted with the ideas and customs
connected with that system; indeed, some of those readers
were slaves themselves. Paul looked upon himself as
having been bought by Christ. He gloried in that
ownership, and whenever opportunity presented itself he
boasted that he was Christ's. To him that ownership was
permanent. The slave was bound for life, and there could
be no termination of the relationship or obligations.
transaction was permanently marked by branding ("I
bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus").
Professor Mahaffy says:
numerous records of manumissions found at Delphi and at
other shrines in Greece, we have learned the legal
process by which a slave gained his liberty. He did not
bring his master his earnings and obtain his freedom with
his receipt for the money, but went to the temple of the
god and there paid in his money to the priests; who then
with the money bought the slave from his master on the
part of the god, and he became for the rest of his life a
slave of the god. If at any future time his master or his
master's heirs reclaimed him, he had the record of the
transaction in the temple.... If he travelled from home
and were seized as a runaway slave, what security could
he have? Paul gives us the answer. When liberated at the
temple, the priest branded him with the 'stigmata' of his
new master, Apollo. Now Paul's words acquire a new and
striking application. He had been the slave of sin; but
he had been purchased by Christ, and his new liberty
consisted in his being the slave of Christ. Henceforth,
he says, let no man attempt to reclaim me; I have been
marked with the brand of my new master, Jesus
On the one
hand, this Pauline conception of the absolute and
indelible proprietorship of Christ throws much of our
modern "service" into striking contrast. Rather
than being in willing, full, and free servitude,
vassalage, and slavery to Christ, we often regard our
service as a kind of religious holiday affair. We may be
interested, we may be philanthropic, we may be
condescending, or we may be dutiful, but we are certainly
not under any compulsion. We can do pretty much as we
like about it, and if things do not suit us, we can
either "throw up" our work altogether or go
where we shall be more appreciated or where things are
the "worker" too often makes the cause serve
him or her instead of being the servant of the cause.
Paul took his directions as to sphere, time, and kind of
work from his Master, Christ, and relegated every concern
to Him. He was not his own, and he could not use either
his powers or his time as directed by the flesh.
But on the
other hand, he was fully aware and convinced that this
"slavery" to Christ was for him the greatest
thing in the world. He had caught the true significance
of the Master's invitation to "Take my yoke... and
you shall find rest unto your souls." That, to Paul,
meant control and direction for the most serviceable
rushes aimlessly, frivolously, and noisily on until it is
yoked by a water-wheel, and then - by its arrest - it
grinds the grain to feed mankind. The wind blows wildly
to no purpose on the sea until the mariner yokes it with
his sail, and thus it is harnessed to bear the enriching
cargoes from shore to shore. To capture the electricity
which would otherwise be lost, we suspend our telegraph
wires and direct it intelligently along them, bringing
the whole world into an intimate association. And so, as
in these and many other ways, the yoke is the symbol of
useful control and serviceable direction. Paul knew that
the yoke of Christ's service and association would make
his life more fruitful than his own independence. There
is a liberty which leads to havoc, ruin, uselessness, and
supreme element in Paul's abandonment to Christ was a
strong, clear sense of what Christ had done for him...
and a perpetual consciousness of what Christ was to him.
There is nothing which makes slaves of us more than love,
and it is an ecstatic and sublime slavery which never
wants release, and only dreads that a breach might at
some time come. In the captivity of Christ's love, Paul
would ever be found doing everything which would preserve
it from suffering hunger in his life, and he would ever
be found praying that the "marks" might be
burnt more and more deeply into his soul.
that one moment has the least descried Him,
Dimly and faintly, hidden and afar,
Doth not despise all excellence beside Him,
Pleasures and powers that are not and that are.
am persuaded that nothing shall sunder
Us from the love that saveth us from sin,
Lift it or lose hereover or hereunder,
Pluck it hereout or strangle it herein."
effectual Christian service and the more powerful
corporate testimony of the Church, it must be realized
that the Divine calling and equipment for the prophetic,
or pastoral, or teaching, or evangelistic, or apostolic
work is not centered in one man in any given community,
but that these personal gifts are distributed over the
whole Church. Every true disciple of Christ is called to
be a "servant of the Lord," and he should
prayerfully seek to know in what specific capacity He
calls him to serve - not taking up work at random, but
having sought His guidance he should give himself
earnestly, devotedly, and vigorously to his special
ministry... and regard his calling as from God.
"marks" of Christ must be seen upon His
servants whether in the place where the Lord's people
assemble, the business, the home, or the social circle;
and he must ever be proud to say of Him: "Whose
I am, and Whom I serve."
relationship with Christ born of a deep personal
appreciation of what He has done for... and daily is
to... our souls, and a clear understanding with a
profound conviction of what He wishes to do through our
instrumentality - these, covered by a complete and utter
abandonment to Him, are the only legitimate grounds for
His service. Of such servants the world and the Church
stand in tragic and pathetic need, and by such all
problems of ineffectiveness and failure are solved. Such
never take up the work lightly, and therefore never give
it up easily - if at all.
Christian must conceive of himself or herself as being
definitely called by God into the "fellowship of His
Son," and as "workers together with Him."
He must know that this calling is a solemn and
irrevocable ordination to "the work of the
Christ's own purchased possession... and to be Christ's
own controlled, directed, and equipped servant... is to
have the strength of a great assurance that nothing can
separate you from Him; that you work under supreme
authority; that all the resources of Christ are at your
disposal; and that while doing His work there can be no
ultimate failure - unless He is ultimately to
fail, an eventuality which is impossible.
This is a
service which is eternal and supreme; yet it is only the
probation for "higher service" where and when
"His servants shall serve Him... and they shall see
I am Christ's! And let the name suffice you;
Ay, for me, too, He greatly hath sufficed.
Lo, with no winning words I would entice you,
Paul has no honor and no friend but Christ.
through life, death, through sorrow and through sinning,
He shall suffice me, for He hath sufficed:
Christ is the end, for Christ is the beginning,
Christ the beginning, for the end is Christ."
It is so
important, beloved, that we should be clear on this
matter of service, and it will save us so much sorrow and
heartbreak if we have this right as early as possible. We
do not want to spend time in pointing out the tremendous
mistakenness which prevails far and wide in this respect.
"Christian service" has come to be a realm in
which all the acquisitive, ambitious, obtrusive,
assertive, self-seeking, and numerous other elements of
the natural man have been vented and taken hold. It has
created a system in which human distinctions are
the order of the day. Yes, and much more which it is too
painful to mention.
We need an
adjustment of our minds by a true spiritual perception of
the real nature of service, and it will be well for us
ever to remember that all work for Christ is not service to
Christ. A child may be very well-meaning and industrious
in its "helping mother" (?), but poor mother
may find rather more work created than done.
Now let us
say right away... with emphasis... that the indispensable
and basic thing to real service is THE SERVANT-SPIRIT AND
THE SERVANT-MIND. The matter of service is infinitely
more than busy-ness in religious causes, earthly
activities in Christian interests; it is the
accomplishment of a heavenly will and Divine purpose
which registers its impact in the breaking of another,
foreign will and destroying the works of the devil. This
is the force of "obedience" and the "not
my will" ...and this is the servant-mind and
slave in Israel had fulfilled his time and could claim
his liberty but preferred to remain with his master, he
was taken on to the threshold and his ear was bored with
an awl. The blood fell on the threshold, and he and his
master stepped across that blood; by so doing, a covenant
of service - now the service of love - was entered upon.
To have stepped UPON the blood and "trodden it under
foot" would have been to have "counted it an
unholy thing," but passing over
("passover") it hand in hand was a covenant too
sacred ever to be broken. So we are reminded that
"we are not our own; we are bought with a price,
even the precious blood."
vision of all true service is that of "the Lord high
and lifted up," His train filling "the
Temple," resulting in ourselves being smitten to
the ground with a realization of our own worthlessness.
Such a vision makes us forever not masters but slaves...
and necessitates an abiding application of blood-soaked,
fire-impregnated coal from the altar if we are to be
sent-ones - His servants.
not be laid to our charge that our vision of service held
ourselves high and lifted up and filling the frame
as the goal... until we saw the Lord, and then - in that
light - saw ourselves as worthless?
need is to have bond-servants - such as... even
though the extreme pressure at some time might make them
say that they would "no more speak in this
Name" ...find that they cannot forbear for long; but
cost what it may, they must be in it and at it - the fire
is in their bones and zeal of His House eats them up. May
we be such, and may the true ground and motive of this
fellowship in service be:
love, I love my Master,
I will not go out free!
For He is my Redeemer,
He paid the price for me.
I would not leave His service,
It is so sweet and blest;
And in the weariest moments
He gives the truest rest.
"My Master shed His life-blood
My vassal life to win,
And save me from the bondage
Of tyrant self and sin.
He chose me for His service,
And gave me power to choose
That blessed, perfect freedom
Which I shall never lose.
"I would not halve my service,
His only it must be!
His only, Who so loved me
And gave Himself for me.
Rejoicing and adoring,
Henceforth my song shall be
'I love, I love my Master,
I will not go out free!'"
work of God a wisdom and a skill different from... and
far transcending... that of man at his best is essential.
A wisdom which is the gift of God. A wisdom, however,
which is very often foolishness to men, and yet which -
when the work is done - makes the wisdom of men look like
things are being constructed to which the Name of the
Lord is being affixed - things which appear fine and
great and like "the Church," but which
are destined to collapse when God's hurricane and fire
test every man's work. Good works - philanthropy,
hospitality, reform, education, religion, relief, etc. -
may be the products, or byproducts, of what is called
"Christian civilization" ...and things for
which to be profoundly grateful... but let us not confuse
these with "a new creation," regeneration, a
being "born from above."
is nothing which man can build by any resource in himself
personally or collectively. The Church is an organism,
not an organization: "Behold, I show you a mystery -
we are members of His flesh and of His bones." Build
that, if you can! Launch that; organize that;
"run" that! It cannot be done. It is the
spontaneous outworking of spiritual forces released... in
the acceptance by faith of tremendous facts concerning
Christ - facts which are proclaimed out of experience in
the power of the Holy Ghost. Not the theological Christ;
not the doctrinal Christ; not the Christ of the letter;
much less the Jesus of history; but the Christ of
Eternity in all the meaning of His death, burial,
resurrection, and ascension into the Throne of God revealed
in the heart by the Holy Spirit - this alone is
authority to preach, to serve, to occupy position, to
"build" in relation to the House of God. It is
folly to spend time and strength otherwise. It is wisdom
to labor on this foundation.
inquiries have been set up as to the unsatisfactory
situation which exists for so great an area in relation
to the gospel and Christian life - questions concerning
widespread indifference, gospel-hardening, wholesale
backsliding, disappointing "converts,"
ineffective Christians, low level of spiritual life,
worldliness in the "Church," the misleading of
believers by false doctrine and deceiving spirits,
spiritual immaturity, etc., etc.
extent such conditions existed from the beginning, even
in the great apostolic days, but it was then much more
the exception than now. It was then something in the
midst of the greater and better conditions which made the
apostolic Church so mighty in the world. Now it would
seem to be the other way round. The genuine thing is the
smaller company in the midst of the more general failure.
Far be it
from us to join in the tirade against that which bears
"His" name, but we are so constantly confronted
with the heartbreaking story of the difficulties of
service, the disappointment of workers, the despair of
Christians, that we must enter the inquiry and seek to
without pressing it as our conviction - which it
certainly is - we would present it as a question:
this state be largely due to an inadequate gospel?
Is the means used such as is calculated to achieve the
tremendous end in view?
Have we an adequate conception of what that end is?
May it not be that such an inadequate conception has
resulted in the eliminating or neglecting of essentials
on the one hand, and the laboring of certain unworthy
factors on the other?
regard to the latter: Is fear of hell and gain of heaven
really worthy of the "so great salvation"? Is
the horror of being doomed to eternal punishment - giving
rise to all the sensational means and methods by which
fear is meant to be produced - really a sufficient
motive? Is the personal going to heaven, with all the
personal gains and pleasures associated therewith -
producing all the sentimental appeals intended to capture
by pathos, emotion, excitement, pleasure, etc. - really
mighty enough to bring through the eternal purpose? The
gospel of "escape from hell and going to
heaven," with all the cheap elements of its
proclamation which has nauseated so many and turned them
away in disgust - may it not be this gospel which
prejudices the true and has become played out in the
emotions of many who can no longer be appealed to along
these lines, setting up a gospel deadlock?
absolutely essential that if all the great purpose of God
with its vast inclusions is to be entered into, and if
there is to be an adequate impact upon men, there must be
the sufficient background of the New Testament evangel.
It would be very salutary if every "Christian
worker" were to sit down... or kneel down... and
prayerfully consider the background of New Testament
preaching, exhortation, admonition, entreaty, appeal,
It will be
discovered that that background begins in eternity past,
before times eternal, in the eternal counsels of God. It
will reveal a conception and design with which every
movement and gesture of God throughout the ages is
related. It will explain the existence of the universe
and the purpose of the whole creation. It will set the
sovereignty of the Son at the center and make it also the
circumference. It will reveal that each soul saved is a
vindication of the wisdom of God in plan and creation...
and the justification of the existence of the world.
- conversion - is never something in itself. An
ultra-individualism in being saved or in seeking the
salvation of others is contrary to the Scriptures... and
is baneful. The "therefores" and the
"wherefores" of the New Testament are pegs upon
which hang vast ranges and mighty weights of spiritual
significance and reason.
men be saved? Why should I be utterly abandoned to
Christ? Why should I accept the Cross of Christ in its
total application to all the elements of my natural life?
Why should I leave all for the Gospel's sake? These and
many other such questions must be answered in the light
of that infinite background of "the eternal
purpose" in the first place.
True it is
that conversions take place from the preaching of the
immediate issues of sin and hell... and salvation from
these. But so often such remains for a long time with but
the personal salvation and the immediate issue and a
single note. Why should maturity be so long delayed - the
nursery so long occupied? Why not the full compass of
Divine Meaning from the beginning? Again we ask, may not
the widespread failure of a certain evangelism be due to
an inadequate motive?
the next place there must be an ADEQUATE DYNAMIC. There
is no subject which concerns the servants of the Lord
more than that of spiritual power and effectiveness. We
have prayed about this until we despaired. We have read
books upon it until we were sick. Yes, we have spoken
about it ourselves until shame has silenced us.
We see the
apostolic example and demonstration.
We know the Master's promise.
We know the doctrine and teaching basic to power.
But what of the power itself?
Far be it
from us to think that we can improve upon, or profitably
add to, all that has been written. But if the Lord has
taken us through an experience which has made possible an
unfolding of His secrets, it will not be conceit on our
part if we humbly place such at the service of His
It is not
sufficient that we recognize the need for power and pray
for it. Indeed, it might be very unsafe for the gospel
and for the Name of the Lord if it were given. It is of
primary importance that we should know the nature and the
basis of power. It is equally important that we should
recognize that it is that power which has as its object
the building of the "House" - the
"Temple" of God.
Genesis to Revelation, resurrection is invariably
the basis upon which the direct purpose of God is carried
forward. Every instrument which is used in that direct
purpose has to be wrought on to a basis of resurrection.
The experimental spiritual ground upon which the
Church stood at Pentecost was the Resurrection. Paul's
whole life and work rested upon his own experience of the
Resurrection. The basis of power is Resurrection union
with Christ. The principle of "the eternal
purpose" is Resurrection Life in Christ. The Holy
Spirit comes only upon Resurrection ground. Power is to
"know Him and the power of His
Resurrection...." By that Life the Holy Spirit
constitutes the believer a personal demonstration of the
Resurrection, and the word of testimony thereto is only a
consequence... but it is a consequence.
meantime, "the eternal purpose" proceeds, but
it proceeds only in those and through those who have
firstly recognized the death of Jesus as their death...
and then accepted it in one all-inclusive reckoning of
faith, trusting God to make it actual. They have claimed
and apprehended by faith their inheritance in the Risen
Lord, even Resurrection Life. It becomes the exclusive
basis of all the activities of God within and through His
children relative to the eternal purpose. But it is Resurrection
Life - mighty, unconquerable, indestructible,
deathless. The Holy Spirit is the seal of the
Resurrection, and the Holy Spirit's law of operation is