“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God” – Romans 1:1
Each word of our Bible has been carefully selected by the Holy Spirit with a specific intention. This focus upon individual words is why we find such determination in our circles to defend the idea of not just inspiration, but also preservation. One without the other is meaningless. In this single verse we have key descriptions of what it means to be a faithful Christian.
A Faithful Christ is a Servant
First of all a faithful Christian is a servant, a bond-slave. A bond-slave is one who has willingly submitted himself to the lifetime’s service of another. While we can in no way underestimate the suffering inflicted on many slaves, especially in the last few hundred years, we should not fall into the trap of believing all slaves suffer in the same way. Some commentators indicate that the position of a king’s slave could sometimes be a privileged and powerful one. Whatever the condition of a slave throughout history, I believe my next point is more vital.
We should not think in terms of slavery or freedom. It is not an option of serving God or doing as I please. Satan is described as the father of lies, he performed the first act of rebellion against God, he is the current prince of this world (Adam having ceded his God-given authority to the enemy). So when we do not do the things of God, when we do not think or behave in a righteous way, then we think and behave in a way which is anti-God, a way which is mimicking Satan.
So the choice is not between freedom and slavery. The choice is between willingly submitting ourselves as a slave of Christ, the Good Shepherd, or being a slave to sin and Satan.
One more aspect of a bond-slave, this particular type of servant, is that his service is an expression of love and devotion, not an attitude of grudgingly performed labour.
Do you willingly submit yourself as a slave of God each day?
A Faithful Servant is Sent
In the New Testament we find several instances where a word can be used in a formal sense of an office but also in a more casual sense in terms of an action. The word for deacon can mean the office of deacon, one of the two found in the local church, or it can describe the action someone takes. My understanding is that the word for apostle can be the same. It can be used in the formal sense of the office of an apostle, or it can mean, at it’s most basic, a sent one (we have it used in that context in John 13:16). In Romans 1:1 I believe Paul uses it in the formal sense. He is the apostle to the Gentiles, I believe he was the replacement after Judas Iscariot betrayed Christ. My belief is that the office of Apostle was dependent upon having met Christ in the flesh, among other criteria, and so we do not have the office of apostle any longer.
But there is the sense in which every Christian is a sent one. The full definition of the word apostle is “a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders”.
Do you know what has been delegated to you? What is the message you carry? What are your orders?
A faithful Christian understands that the ministry of reconciliation has been delegated to him (2 Corinthians 5:18); he knows the message of salvation and delivers it to a lost and dying world; he knows his orders to fulfil the Great Commission and, by God’s grace, to be found by Christ one day in peace, without spot and blameless (2 Peter 3:14).
A Faithful Servant is Separated
One of Peter’s final instructions that we have received is that we are to be holy, simply because God is holy. We must be careful that we do not exhort people to live righteous lives because it can result in good physical health, or healthy relationships, or world peace, or kindness to kittens, or anything else. We live righteous lives first and foremost because God is righteous. We are to be what we are simply because God is Who God is. He is holy. We must be holy. Everything else is a side effect. Everything else is a by-product.
A faithful servant is separated from sin and is living in Christ. There are no vacuums in human behaviour. If we stop doing one thing it must be replaced by another or we will revert to the original behaviour. If I stop eating one food type because of its effect on my body I have to eat something else instead. If I stop sleeping at night to perhaps work a night shift then I need to sleep during the day. If I stop listening to one music type because it is morally wrong, then I need to replace it by listening to something Godly.
Biblical separation is not so much about what we stop as it is about what we start. If our lives are focused upon what we cannot do and should not do then we are ultimately destined to be cynical, harsh, hypocritical and judgmental. If we focus on what we should do, on what we can do, on what we ought to be, with the right attention to what we should not do, then we will model far better the Scriptural principle of separation.
God help us to be willing Slaves of Christ, living consciously of the fact that we are Sent and Separating ourselves from sin unto righteousness.