Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: The Servant Vision of the Christ-life

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Servant Vision of the Christ-life

Undoubtedly, the greatest example of being a servant is the example given us in the incarnate, eternal Son of God. The Creator of heaven and earth was willing to become a man in order to pay the “wages of sin” for our redemption. The Son of God came in the form of the Son of man and took on Himself the “form of a servant.” What is important for us to see in this is that this servant aspect of Christ’s character flows supernaturally from His Divine Nature.

3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. 5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:3-11).

The disciples continued to struggle with being servants to others. This was something contrary to everything they had ever been taught in life beginning with their parents and from everything within their culture. Culturally, a person works hard to become a somebody of importance and to hold positions of prominence in the world. Although faithful Christians will receive great prominence and be exalted to be ruling kings and priests with Christ in the Kingdom Age, they were not to live or work motivated by that future position. An integral aspect of the Divine Nature (II Peter 1:4) that indwells the believer is the character of a servant. Christ addresses this as He answers the question of the disciples in Acts 1:6 regarding when the Kingdom would be restored. They were preoccupied with the prominence of their future positions in the Kingdom rather than being preoccupied with the ministry they had been trained to perform and the servants (bond slaves) Christ had exemplified and prepared them to become. The greatness (the degree of exaltation) of their Kingdom positions would be determined proportionately to the degree they were willing to set aside the pride of life (desire for prominence) to become the servants of both God and their fellowman.

20 Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him. 21 And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom. 22 But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of {referring to the kind of death He would suffer}, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with {referring to the baptism with the Spirit into the death of Christ and the resurrected life of Christ}? They say unto him, We are able. 23 And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father. 24 And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren. 25 But Jesus called them unto him {reproving or correcting their false thinking; Christ is condemning their attitudes of pride, self-glorification, and personal ambitions for power and position}, and said, Ye know that the princes {rulers} of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great {megas; higher in authority} exercise authority upon them {the lower rulers}. 26 But it shall not be so among you {will not be in the Kingdom Age and should not be in your present mindset; you should not be thinking like this because it is a carnal way to think}: but whosoever will be great { megas; foremost in authority} among you, let him be your minister {diakonos; literally one who runs errands, does menial tasks, or waits upon others to serve them} 27 And whosoever will be chief {protos; first} among you, let him be your servant {doulos; literally bondman or bond servant} : 28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered {diakoneo} unto {literally, to be waited upon}, but to minister {diakoneo; literally to wait upon others}, and to give his life {the extreme degree and example of this servant mentality to which all believers are to aspire} a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:20-28).

Critical to our understanding of this text and its practical application for our lives is that this servant mentality must be maintained throughout our lives. The reason why the servant mentality must be maintained is because we are by nature selfish, prideful, self-promoting, power hungry, and carnally ambitious in our desires for personal recognition. Our fallen natures lust for prominence and we are by nature competitive in order to achieve status among our peers. In our carnal thinking, it does not make much difference of we find acceptance and extreme self-worth in a righteous relationship with our Heavenly Father and our position of prominence as His sons. That spiritual position is an invisible position of prominence. We want (lust for) a visible, recognizable, acknowledge position of prominence among our peers. This is carnal and worldly!

Although the faithful, Spirit filled believer will achieve extreme exaltation in the coming Kingdom Age, the condition for that exaltation is humility and selflessness in our present existence in the here and now. We find this admonition in two major Bible texts referring to this condition of humility for exaltation. In other words, those who meet the conditions will be exalted before men, but that exaltation should not be what motivates us to be servants.

5 Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? 6 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. 9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. 10 Humble yourselves {the idea is to reflect an attitude in your living of an accurate opinion of what you really deserve} in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift {hupsoo; elevate or exalt} you up” (James 4:5-10).

How easily we forget from whence we have come. How easily we achieve a false sense of self-importance. As soon as we begin to see some spiritual growth in our lives and begin to have a spiritual walk with God, we must guard against the false notion of self-righteousness and spiritual superiority over others. When self-righteousness and spiritual superiority raise their ugly heads manifested by contempt for sinners (rather than their sin) and casting that person aside as unworthy to be in your presence or incapable of ever achieving your degree of spirituality. Look out friend! God is going to give you a wakeup call to reality. Doing that is part of our fallen natures. It is carnal and worldly!

1 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3 Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. 5 Likewise, ye younger {neos; i.e., new, referring to new believers who are still spiritually immature}, submit {subordinate; put yourself under} yourselves unto the elder {presbuteros; referring to the pastor}. Yea, all of you be subject {subordinate; put yourself under} one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth {opposes} the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. 6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: 7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (I Peter 5:1-7).

In I Peter 5:7, believers are commanded to “humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God.” That which defines this submissive spirit of humility is not left up to our imaginations. Neither is it merely defined linguistically. In fact, Jesus defined it by giving an example in Matthew 18:4 and with this example He gives a serious warning regarding corrupting children in their thinking and living regarding the issues of pride and self-importance. For the lost, these are the kinds of things that keep people from the humility of genuine repentance leading to genuine salvation and an honest evaluation of what they really are apart from God’s workings of grace in their lives. For the “born again” believer, these are the kinds of things that keep people from being filled with the Spirit of God and experiencing the abundance of the Christ-life.

1 At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? 2 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them {as an example of humility and submissiveness; when the child was summoned to come, he obeyed immediately and submissively}, 3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. 6 But whoso shall offend {skandalizo; to trip up or lead astray} one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone {a huge grinding stone for crushing grain} were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth {the deepest part} of the sea” (Matthew 18:1-6).

Obviously Christ considered leading anyone astray, especially a child, in the area of self-promotion/exaltation by a failure to be humble and submissive, to be such a serious offense that it merited a punishment that was used upon those who committed crimes against a whole society, rather than merely another individual. Hanging a huge stone around the neck and casting the person into the depth of the sea was a sentence of death upon those committing either parricide (killing a parent) or infanticide (killing one’s own child). This means of execution was an extreme form of dishonor and shame portraying the just dessert of casting away the soul of such a person that is so degenerate in their thinking that the judgment upon the corruption of the life of an innocent falls now upon their own eternal destiny.

The seriousness to which a person should take this warning regarding the corruption of a child through selfish living is expanded upon in Matthew 18:7-14. This continues in the context of the warning regarding leading a child astray in the area of humility or self-aggrandizing. Do not lose the context of this warning regarding living an exemplary life of humility as servants to others. Notice the instruction that Christ gives defining extreme measures a person should go in order to avoid corrupting a little child in these behavioral attitudes that motivate us.

7 Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! 8 Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. 9 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire. 10 Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. 11 For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. 12 How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? 13 And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. 14 Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish” (Matthew 18:7-14).

Why is it that so many children of professing believers grow up to reject Christ and to live in sin as unbelievers? It is not that they reject the God of the Bible or the love of God manifested in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. They do not begin as unbelievers. Unbelief is developed in their lives progressively as they WATCH the adults around them live like unbelievers.

A genuine life of faith is manifested to them through a genuine life of faithfulness (submissive obedience to God’s commands and instructions for living). Like Lot’s children, who could not take their father’s warning of God’s pending judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah serious because of their father’s hypocrisy and spiritual inconsistencies, our children are tripped up (offended) by our duplicities. We tell them to do one thing while we live in contradiction to the principles we are trying to establish in them. This is the sin of hypocrisy and it is a sin against society as a whole and the individuals within our immediate influence specifically.

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Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist.
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

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