Whom I Serve – Romans 1:9

 
Generally speaking, I do not call people derogatory names, and I don’t think that any Christian should. Name-calling is related to swearing – in that it shows a lack of vocabulary as well as a lack of decency. On the other hand, when the Bible makes a declaration or makes a designation, that is not casting an insult or verbally abusing someone. I don’t mind calling someone foolish in a religious context, because my Bible authorizes me to do so. For example, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.”

There are some foolish people who say that Jesus of Nazareth was a mere man who started a religion. Some say that He was deceived or insane, and some echo the Jews, saying that He was a deceiver. Some say that Jesus never claimed deity, and that it was his disciples who taught that He was divine. And then on the other hand, some say that His disciples never claimed that Jesus Christ was God. Some of the most foolish among those fools say that the Bible never suggests that Jesus Christ is God.

Even if we ignore what Jesus did – some of which only God could do – we still must conclude that He is divine. At least half a dozen times, Christ’s spiritual enemies, the demons in their defeat, testified of Jesus’ deity. If we assume – as did the Jews – that to be the Son of God, is to be as much God as God the Father, then there are dozens and dozens of scriptures which declare Jesus’ deity. And, if that is the case, then Jesus Himself made that declaration – “I and my Father are one.” In John 14 Jesus said to Thomas, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake.” God the Father spoke from heaven and declared that Jesus was His divine Son. And certainly His disciples repeated that information. John declared, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God.” Simon Peter said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Paul said of Jesus, “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” And, “without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh.” And, “Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.”

These are just a minutiae of the many scriptures which declare that Jesus Christ is divine because He is the eternal Son of God. The deity of Christ is interwoven into the fabric of the scriptures so tightly that we might not even see it. I know that I’ve pointed a finger at Jesus’ deity here in Romans 1, but I skipped over some hidden points. Not only do we have a reference to the fact that Jesus Christ is the Son of God – verse 3…. (He was “declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead.”) Not only do we have the Father and the Son acting as co-regents – co-equals – in the dispensing of grace and peace in verse 7…. And not only do we have access to God only through Christ, because Jesus is the divine Mediator…. But we have two parallel thoughts in these nine verses which suggest Jesus’ deity twice again. Notice that in verse 1, Paul calls himself a “servant of Jesus Christ,” and in verse 9 he claims to be a “servant of God.” Now some people might say that is a slip of the pen, or perhaps just two unimportant expressions. But since I believe that every word in the Bible has been given to us by the inspiration of God, then this is no slip of the pen. And, the same Holy Spirit who inspired these words also inspired the words of Matthew 6:24 – “No man can serve TWO masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.” I believe that when Paul said that he served Christ and that he served God, he was tying those two Masters into one divine Person.

And while we are at it, there is another suggestion very much like that one, which clinches the nail for me. In verse 1 Paul refers to the gospel of God, while in verse 9 he says that he serves God by preaching the gospel of God’s Son. Now, which is it? The gospel of God or the gospel of Jesus Christ? There is no problem there – it is one gospel, the same gospel, and in fact it is the same Divine Person. Don’t try to tell me that Jesus of Nazareth was something less than the eternal God. The Biblical proof is pervasive and overwhelming – if anyone is interested in what the Bible has to say.

But this is not my primary message this morning. This is as much incidental – or perhaps – co-incidental as is our actual text. Paul was in the midst of saying that he was in constant praise and prayer to God for the saints in Rome. “I thank my God for you all, and I never stop praying for you. For example, I pray that I’ll be enabled by the Lord come and visit you. I want to leave with you blessings and spiritual gifts to strengthen you and establish you.” In the midst of describing his prayers for these people, it just slipped out that Paul was a servant of God. “For God is my witness, WHOM I SERVE WITH MY SPIRIT in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers.” This is where I would like to camp for the next few minutes – Paul was a servant of God. Why should that concern us? Because WE ought to be servants of God as well.

Is there a difference between serving God and being a servant of God? Absolutely.

Paul actually used two different words to describe his servanthood. In verse 1 he called himself a “doulos” (doo-los) – a slave, a bondsman. This might be someone who became a slave because of personal debts, or enslaved through war. This word could be used of those slaves of American history. I think that “doulos” is a perfectly good word to use of the Christian – the servant of God. We have I Corinthians 6:19-20“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” And then there is I Corinthians 7:21-23 – “Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather. For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant. Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.” The implication is – be ye the servants of God.

Romans 6 – “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.” All these references use the word “doulos” – a slave-type servant.

A slave doesn’t generally enjoy being a slave or servant; it is not usually a choice that he makes for himself. Israel didn’t enjoy being a nation of slaves to the Egyptians. And Joseph didn’t enjoy being a servant/slave to the keeper of the Egyptian prisons. I’m not saying that the slave couldn’t learn to love his master, becoming a better servant over time. But love and devotion is not required or necessarily expected in a “doulos.” In fact, isn’t there a sense in which objects – mere things – can become our slaves? That automobile of yours is your slave, obeying your every command.

But when we come to Romans 1:9 – Paul uses a different word in describing himself as God’s servant. This is the Greek word “latreuo” (lat-ryoo’-o), and it speaks about “an hired servant.” In other words, by definition, this is someone who has chosen to become someone’s servant. The word “slave” doesn’t really apply to this person. But the meaning of the word is even deeper than that. It is used twenty-one times in the New Testament, but only three out of four times is it translated “serve.” When Jesus was being tempted by the Devil he rebuked him by saying, “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” Anna was “a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.” How was it that Anna served God with prayer? That sounds more as if she was serving needy people by praying for them. Paul told the sailors on their sinking ship, “For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve.” Hebrews 9 – “But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” Revelation 7:13-15 – “What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.”

Can you see that there is a special kind of serving in each of these cases? Sure, it is the service of God, which undoubtedly is different and higher than any other kind of service. And yes, it is willing service rather than forced by legal means or by strength. But not only is this Greek word translated “service,” it is also frequently translated “worship.” Sometimes this word is used to describe the false worship of the heathen. “Then God turned, and gave them up to WORSHIP (to serve) the host of heaven.” Here in Romans, verse 25 we read, “Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and WORSHIPPED and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.” And when Paul was permitted to give his testimony before the Roman governor Felix he said, “But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so WORSHIP I (so serve I) the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets.”

Is there a difference between serving God and being a servant of God? Yes there is. There is a service which is performed because it has to be, or because it should be. And there is service which carries the nature of worship, given to God out of love and gratitude. Even though the first variety is not necessarily evil, the second is by far the preferred of the Lord. For example, I could be mean and ask for a show of hands from those who tithed this morning. Tithing is a good thing – since the Lord fills our bellies day after day, returning 10% to Him is right. But how many of us dropped our check, or our change, or our envelop into the offering plate with joy and reverence, as an act of worship and thanksgiving? There is service and there is service. I cannot count the number of times I have gone out knocking on doors inviting people to church and trying to speak to them about my Saviour. Neither can I count the number of times that I have had to force myself to go out knocking on doors. It has never been something that I have really enjoyed doing, at least until after those first few visits. There is the service of a slave and there is the service of worship. Probably, we have all been guilty of the first; I hope that we all from time to time willingly give the second.

Here in verse 9, when Paul said that he “served God,” he could have said that he was devoted to God.” Slaves are not devoted to their masters – when opportunity comes, they sometimes turn on their masters. Paul could have said here that he had surrendered himself to the Lord’s service.” Do you remember when little Samuel was ministering in the Temple under Eli? The Lord came to visit Samuel, because He had some special revelation to give to the elderly priest through the young child. “Eli said unto Samuel, Go, lie down: and it shall be, if he call thee, that thou shalt say, Speak, LORD; for thy SERVANT heareth. So Samuel went and lay down in his place. And the LORD came, and stood, and called as at other times, Samuel, Samuel. Then Samuel answered, Speak; for thy servant heareth.” Here in verse 9, Paul could have said that, as a servant, he had an ear for the voice of the Lord.

Have you ever told the Lord that you were listening for his voice? Have you ever been willing to do whatever little or major thing that He had for you to do? Do you serve the Lord as worship, or do you serve Him just because you are supposed to serve Him? In your life, is there any service for the Lord at all?

Our service ought to be spiritual in nature, despite sometimes being temporal in expression.

“For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son.”

I think that I have told you about a man who didn’t like our church because there wasn’t a big cross somewhere in the auditorium. He was convinced that if a church didn’t display a cross then it wasn’t a Christian church. I’m sure that it was nothing more than an excuse to stay away, but that was the excuse that he chose. Similarly, I got a magazine in the mail this week called “Your Church.” It was filled with articles and advertisements relating to the buildings in which Christians meet. But there wasn’t a church building in that magazine that looked at all like our church. The pictures in that magazine were all of buildings infinitely more expensive and fabulously more beautiful than ours. It seems that just like that man with his cross, there are a lot of people who worship with their “psuche” (psoo-khay’) rather than with their “pneuma” (pnyoo’-mah). By that I mean that they worship with their souls rather than with their spirits. They serve God with their minds and emotions rather than with their hearts and their spirits.

For example, millions of well-meaning people think that God is served through beauty – beautiful music, beautiful buildings, stained-glass, chandeliers, mahogany and ebony. But that is not what we learn in the New Testament. Although there is nothing necessarily wrong with these things, and we see them in the some of the beautiful buildings and apparel of the Old Testament, what we see in the New Testament is the worship and service of God in the Spirit. Our Lord Jesus told us, “God is a spirit and He must be worshipped in spirit and in truth.” Paul served the Lord spiritually through preaching the gospel and praying for his friends. Another man might preach the same gospel, but only externally and insincerely. Paul’s service came from his heart, not his mind and certainly not because it was his habit. As he counseled others, he didn’t pray, or preach, or do anything else with “eye service” – to be seen. His service came out of his heart.

And this was a part of the proof that he was a true child of God. The children of God are servants of the Lord who bought and saved them, but they are not slaves. There was overt evidence that this man was a Christian; there was clear proof. It’s not that everyone must use the same forms; but with whatever form of service we render to the Lord, we should all serve our Saviour and our God from the heart.

So what evidence is there that you have spiritual life flowing through your veins? “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” This lesson was not Paul’s intention as he wrote to his friends there in Rome, but that is a conclusion that we can make from what he said. Is there genuine evidence in your life that you are child of God? Can it be said that you love and serve God with all your heart, all your soul, and your spirit as well?

If not, then you need to humbly kneel down before the cross of Christ, and begin your Christian life in true faith and repentance.