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40 Days of Purpose

A Kingdom of Servants

(This study was done as a part of the 40 days of purpose campaign)

The servant and God

The church is a kingdom of servants

The world often imposes its own view on the church. Because the world is more arranged in a structure like a hierarchy, the assumption is that the church must also be arranged in a hierarchy. This however is not the case. Indeed, it could be said that the church is a “lower-archy” -- but that would be misusing the word. In fact, the church is a kingdom of servants - that at least is how God sees it.[1] Over and over in the Scripture, God shows us that his view of ancient Israel and the church is that of a kingdom of servants. Why do we have so much trouble with this today?

Perhaps it begins with a misunderstanding of the authority of God. Properly understood, God's authority permeates the church. If we are servants, it is at his command. Interestingly enough, Christ considers this understanding of authority as faith[2]. We remember the Centurion whose servant was ill. How he came to Jesus and asked for healing. When Jesus prepared to go with him, he said that this was not necessary for he was a man under authority and he understood quite well the nature of authority. Jesus reply was simply the state how great demands faith wants.

Faith. If there is any one characteristic of a servant in a kingdom of God it is faithfulness. A servant must be faithful, or his service will be in vain[3].

God honors and loves his servants

To some, it might not seem to title of honor, but in the Old Testament only one man was accorded to title "the servant of God”. That man was Moses[4]. Indeed when the faithful to examines the Scripture's, you'll find that this man was considered supreme above all others for he represents the law. So it is we know that God honors and loves his servants.

Honors the good servants that is. Christ makes it clear that at the second coming, he will bring reward for those who have been faithful and good. Indeed, in several parables he separates those who have been faithful from those who have not. You'll remember the parable of the wise and foolish virgins[5]. One group of five was prepared, the other was not. Our Lord told this parable so that we might know that we are to be faithful and to watch for his return.

But there is one thing about this selection. Christ will come and separate the sheep from the goats. By what criterion does he separates the sheep from the goats? The answer is plain, simple and sad. He separates those servants from those frauds by what good works they have performed in their lives. Visiting the sick or those in prison, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, these by the works of the faithful servant.[6]

Christ our example

The supreme example of a servant in the kingdom of God is, of course, Jesus himself. The argument that we therefore should also be servants is simply made:

  • first the servant is not greater than the master. If you are a Christian, you acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord. He is in every sense your superior. Therefore, if he was subject to being a servant in his time on earth, so are you.
  • That service must have an object. In the church that object is our fellow Christians. We are to be servants one to another. In so doing we fulfill the law of Christ.
  • Indeed, are Lord sets us to supreme example. He tells us plainly that he did not come to be served, but to servant. If this man issue are Lord and leader, then surely you will follow this example and obey his command.
A servant's heart
Saved to serve

From the earliest days of the beat ancient nation of Israel, God has made it clear that the redemption was to come. Indeed, in Isaiah[7] he tells us that Israel was sold for nothing, and would be redeemed without money. It is a fact: we are purchased with the price of Christ's blood. We are, therefore, his servants. In a very real sense we have been purchased and are his bond slaves.

In the New Testament this is confirmed. Paul tells us, for example, that we are to present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God.[8] This is a level of service that most of us never contemplate. We have the feeling that God wants our attention on Sunday mornings, unless there's a golf game. However, our Lord will have nothing but your total surrender. If you are not willing to give him this service then I suggest that you need to think again about calling yourself a Christian. It is very much the fact if you are a Christian you are servant.

One way to look at this is to make the assumption that you are to be a servant to something. Mankind, naturally, finds itself in servitude. You have a choice of whom you will serve. You can serve yourself and, in the form of your pride, your wealth, your sexual pleasure, or you can serve God.[9] No one can serve two masters. You must choose which one you will serve.

Knowing you or gifts

It is necessary in discussing the gifts of the Holy Spirit that we make the distinction between those gifts which are given to all Christians, and those that are given specifically to individual Christians. The gifts that are given to all Christians may be broken down into two categories:

  • Some of those gifts are yours for the asking such things as grace, wisdom, repentance, and faith by the natural gifts of God. You must ask for them; they will not be provided until you do. But if you do, you'll receive them from the hands of your gracious Lord.
  • Other gifts are those which are given to all Christians as they grow in Christ. We are familiar with the gifts of the Holy Spirit: love, peace and joy.

What we are concerned most with, in this lesson, is the specific gifts given to Christians. These are gifts that are in many ways unique to the individual. How do we know which gifts we really have? Guidance may be found from the Scripture on this; there is much we know about it.

  • First, remember that in all of these gifts they are given by the Spirit[10]. That means if you have the gifts of anger, you really didn't get it from the Holy Spirit. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are for the purposes of God. Therefore we are considering only those gifts which build up the church.
  • There is an interesting passage in the Scripture which tells us to "work out our own salvation in fear and trembling"[11]. At first this passage seems to be contradictory to the doctrine of Grace. What it is really telling us however, is that we are to work through the gifts given us, and by our practical experience finding those which are suited for us. In rare instances God will make a specific call to a specific individual. But for most of us, the way to discovering your gifts is by looking at your self. Find those things at which you are good, find those things which build you up, find those things which build up the church and you will have found your spiritual gifts.

What may surprise you is this: you might see the gifts of the Spirit, the fact that we each have differing functions to perform in the body, as a source of division. God sees it as a source of unity.[12] It is in building up the body and making a whole, which is the making of the church's unity, which he desires.

The servants heart

There are us three simple principles of the servants heart:

  • First, we are stewards of what God has given us[13]. These are indeed the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Therefore we must be faithful stewards with them. They were not given to us so that we might admire them, but so that we might use them.
  • And how surely will use these gifts? Simply this: we must bear each other's burdens.[14] Whatever you see your Christian brother or sister in need, it is a call to action for the servant Christian.
  • Of course some will feel that this is a burden to them. But God did not give this service to us as curse, but rather as a blessing[15]. It is difficult to describe in words, but it is true: the service of God, which is our service to each other, is in fact a blessing, a joy, and a test of the faith for those who do it.

The servant and others

What others should see

What does a servant of God looked like from the outside? I submit that there are three tests:

  • In the first, everyone outside the church should see that the Christians love one another[16]. It is natural to expect you would love the members of your family personally. But the world will not expect you to love those who are your fellow Christians who are not related to you. When the world sees this happening, they know that something is different. They also know that this is something very desirable. All of us want to be taken care of in one way or another. So it is that we are commanded by our Lord to love one another. This is the way the world knows who his disciples are.
  • In the second way might surprise you: we are to live the quiet life[17]. The typical Christian is not call to stand up on the street corner on a soapbox and preach. Indeed, we are to go through life attracting little attention to ourselves, but great attention to God. This is bringing glory to God.
  • In the one particular way in which we can show that we love each other is in sharing our worldly goods.[18] We are taught that if you see your brother hungry or thirsty or naked or cold, and you have the means to do something about it, and don't, that you have failed to fulfill a command of Christ. The world cannot see our hearts, but it's certain they can see what we do with our wealth and our possessions.

Sometimes this seems unfair. But as Paul points out there are times in our lives where we too need some assistance.[19] It may not be with material goods, it may be with the spiritual intangibles of life. There are moments in everyone's life where an arm around the shoulder, or other gesture of sweet fellowship, is most appreciated. These things are to be done for our Christian brothers, and they will do them for us in return. God's plan is not that you should always be the one giving, but that in the church giving and receiving should be so normal, so accepted, that anyone coming in would be amazed at how quickly we share.

You are only human

Some of us will complain very quickly for a simple reason.. The point is, that we are indeed weak and we are indeed sinners. We have the idea that Christian charity, Christian fellowship, Christian service are the province of those who are in the ministry. This is true. What you may not realize is this: we are all in the ministry. For the word ministry is just another word for service. So, if you're only human remember: that's the servant he was looking for.

Indeed it is God's delight to use those who are weak for his purposes.[20] You may consider yourself old and feeble, or you may consider yourself such a sinner that God could never use you. But think about those two. Is it really true that God cannot use the feeble? Indeed, it is blasphemy to think of such a thing. You are saying to God, "I am so old and so feeble you can do nothing through me.” God’s reply is simply this: it is not your strength, but his strength that matters. Your weakness is his strength.

Some of us however, are perfectly willing to be servants if we can be seen being servants. We wonder how anyone could possibly labor for years in a quiet little backwater of the church without fame and recognition. We forget that little is much when God is in it[21]. If you are doing the work he has called you to, that is important. It may be that the world never recognizes you, but God will.

One particular aspect of your service which is required is this: you are to gently correct your Christian brothers and sisters[22]. The matter is one of church discipline, but see how it is to be done. First you are to examine your self to make sure you don't have the same flaw. Next you are to go and gently you are to do so, speaking with the truth in love. By the method just outlined, you are to keep the unity of the church. This is a servant's heart towards those who have fallen into sin.

To the glory of God

It sometimes surprises new Christians that anything can be done to God's glory. Paul tells us this[23], but we have the idea that there are some things just too low to be of any use to God. Not a bit of it. God values your service because it brings you closer to him. What can you do to the glory of God?

First we must learn to accept each other[24]. There are many opinions in the church, many points of view. In all those matters which are not essential to the faith, we should learn to accept one another. Of course we know that around the world we have many different cultures in which there are Christians. Some of their practices we might find completely unacceptable to us. But God has accepted them, therefore we should also. Works for service build up the unity of the church, and the first work of service is to accept each other.

Next we find that the good deeds that we do -- things like feeding the hungry visiting the sick helping the poor -- are indeed bringing honor and glory to God.[25] If the world knows that you do these things not because you are a wonderful person, but because you are a servant of God, with them the gospel is much more easily received.

Finally, all of this will come to its ultimate fruit on the day when Christ returns. The church gives glory to God in her good deeds. When our Lord returns, he will bring the glory of God and we shall see him face-to-face. One day we will see him and his glory, in that the New Jerusalem. The Scripture tells us that the new Jerusalem will descend bringing the glory of God in it.[26] And who is the New Jerusalem? The bride, the wife of the lamb. In other words at the very end, the church will be the repository of the glory of God.

[Please note: this document was dictated into speech recognition software. That software sometimes hears what I did not say; therefore, consider anything strange to be a failure of the editor.]


I cannot resist one other thing: in her closing prayer to this lesson, Ethel Johnson connected the dots for me. The connection? What pleases Him, strengthens us.

[1] Matthew 24:35-51

[2] Matthew 8:5-10

[3] 1 Corinthians 4:2

[4] See. for example, Daniel 9:11

[5] Matthew 25:14-23

[6] Matthew 25:21-46

[7] Isaiah 52:3

[8] 1 Corinthians 6:19. Paul is speaking of sexual morality here, but the principle is clear.

[9] Romans 6:16-22

[10] 1 Corinthians 12:4-11

[11] Philippians 2:12-13

[12] Ephesians 4:1-6

[13] 1 Corinthians 4:1-2

[14] Galatians 6:1-5

[15] 2 Corinthians 3:7-11

[16] John 13:34-35

[17] 1 Thessalonians 4:8-12

[18] 1 John 3:16-18

[19] 2 Corinthians 8:13-15

[20] 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

[21] Philippians 2:12-13

[22] Galatians 6:1

[23] 1 Corinthians 10:31

[24] Romans 15:5-7

[25] 2 Corinthians 9:12-13

[26] Revelation 21:9-11

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