In the early eighteenth century two young men felt called by God to share the gospel with the slaves on the islands of St. Thomas and St. Croix in the Carribean. Johann Dober and David Nitschmann, applied to the Dutch West Indies Company for permission to settle in their islands, but they were refused. That denial didn’t change what they felt God wanted them to do or their resolve to do it. So after much prayer they declared that if the only people on those islands were either company men or slaves, they said they would sell themselves into slavery to be among they people they wanted to reach. Stories say that they did become slaves, but history declares that they only wished to be. The Dutch law apparently decreed that no white man could be a slave among the blacks. After some difficulty, the missionaries found support from the Danish Queen, and, although the West Indies Company refused to grant them passage, a ship was eventually procured. Leaving Copenhagen on October 8, 1732, they arrived in St. Thomas two months later, where they began working as carpenters for the company and as evangelists in their spare time. By 1734 they had both returned to Germany while other missionaries continued the work, eventually baptizing more than13,000 converts.
My message this morning is not about praising those men, nor is it about missions or exhorting you to service. Rather it is about the source for these mens’ resolve. I would like you to consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus, who made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant. But I need your help; I need your prayers. I need to you to think and stay alert, because this is not a simple gospel story or a bundle of light doctrine. This takes us to the very meat of the Word, which I hope will end up in a declaration of gospel truth.
We know that the Paul was the penman of the scripture we read earlier from the Epistle to the Philippians. And I believe that he was probably the writer of the Book of Hebrews as well. Putting together what he said in those books, he taught that Jesus Christ came into this world as “the Servant of Jehovah.” In the wrong hands and twisted by unsanctified minds, that thought could make Jesus look like nothing more than a better version of those German missionaries, or like any one of us.
Let it be clearly understood that Paul believed Jesus of Nazareth was God in the flesh.
He said that his Epistle to the Romans was written “concerning (God’s) Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power… by the resurrection from the dead…” I can’t take time to prove it, but scripturally, to be “the Son of God” in this way meant that Jesus was divine – as much God as God the Father. Nine chapters after that introduction Paul added, Christ Jesus was from the nation of Israel, “whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ, came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.”
In Colossians 2:9 Paul said that in Christ “dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” The fulness of divinity didn’t visit Christ, but permanently resided in Him. And it wasn’t just certain aspects of the Godhead, but He was the fullness of God – bodily. Jesus Christ is fully and absolutely God. Then Paul introduced his Epistle to the Hebrews by saying: “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; 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; Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?”
Finally after this, lest there be no misunderstanding, Paul wrote to Timothy: “Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory” – I Timothy 3:16.
So here we have Paul, who knew that Jesus Christ was God, declaring that He was also the servant of God. This takes us into realms of glory which our finite minds find difficult to navigate. This takes us into the Godhead – the Trinity – which while declared in the Bible, is still difficult to grasp. And that forces me to say: don’t fight against it. Don’t deny this Biblical doctrine awaiting for the day you can explain the Triunity of God. Don’t turn your feeble logic against either Christ’s deity or against His servanthood. You will sufficiently understand, if you will surrender to the Lord’s will and believe each fragment of information He shares with you in His Word. I’m not suggesting “blind faith,” but “surrendered faith.” Don’t reject anything you find in the Bible, rather be patient and let the Holy Spirit be your teacher. It may take time to learn the deep things of God, and we won’t know all we should know until God fully sanctifies our sin-corrupted minds. In the mean time leave the difficult things to the Lord.
The Bible reveals the servitude of Christ as well His deity.
There were things in Jesus’ earthly life which scream out His willingness to serve. For example, punctuating an exhortation to His disciples using Himself, Jesus said in Matthew 20: “Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man (speaking of Himself) came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Notice the last words, “and to give his life a ransom for many.” We will come back to that later. In a similar statement found in Luke 22, Jesus said, “I am among you as he that serveth.” The Lord would like the Christian to serve others, just as He did – but that is not my point this morning. In John 13 we actually see Jesus stripping down like a servant, picking up a towel and a bowl of water and washing the filthy feet of the disciples. As Paul said in Philippians, He “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant.”
While we SEE the servitude of Christ in these things, the more important declarations are found in the prophecies of Old Testament. Please turn to Isaiah 42 and read God’s words – “Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law. Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein: I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house. I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another…” Notice that God said “my glory will I NOT give to another.” But in Matthew 12, there is a quote from this scripture in Isaiah while pointing to the Lord Jesus. God will not give His glory to another, but there we see it in Christ Jesus.
I will come back to more of the Old Testament prophesies, but first let’s return to Hebrew 3. Verse 2 says, “Christ was faithful to him that appointed him (that is – to God the Father), as also Moses was faithful in all his house.” This is one of several scriptures which tie together the Lord Jesus and Moses. Just before Jesus began his ministry with his baptism by John the Baptist, John was asked if he was someone called “that prophet.” John declared that he was not. Later, in John 6 after one of Jesus’ miracles, people again used that word, “This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.” Those people were referring to something God told Moses in Deuteronomy 18 – “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren like unto me; unto him ye shall harken…. I will put my words in his mouth and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.”
Now, please turn to the last verses of the Book of Deuteronomy – 34:10. “And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, In all the signs and the wonders, which the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh, and to all his servants, and to all his land, And in all that mighty hand, and in all the great terror which Moses shewed in the sight of all Israel.” I have read that the Jews use these words as a lens through which to look for the Messiah. This scripture says two things: First, Moses and Jehovah spoke face to face, which is something the Messiah and God the Father will do. And second, Moses was used to work mighty miracles, which again is something the Messiah will do. Unfortunately for those unbelieving Jews, Jesus of Nazareth satisfies their demands for the Messiah. The Lord Jesus is “that prophet,” the successor to Moses, and like Moses, He too was a servant of God.
I hope you are still with me. If not please come back, as I try to apply some of this.
Generally speaking, what are some of the things that a servant does?
We might picture the servants in an English Victorian mansion, listing a hundred of their chores, like polishing the silver, grooming the horses, making the beds, feeding the big fireplaces. But neither Moses or Jesus ever did such things as these. Or we might picture the slaves on St. Thomas or St. Croix, chopping cane and preparing sugar for export. Using our imaginations we might picture a hundred specific things a servant might do. But speaking more generally, servants obey their masters in whatever they want to have done. No one can read the Book of Exodus without seeing that everything Moses did came at the command of God.
Second, servants must put the interests of others first. Again, they must do what their employers, their masters, tell them. And if they are told to assist a visitor to the house, they must then do what those visitors ask. But what if the servant knows or thinks that the guest is making a poor decision? It doesn’t matter. What if that servant has spent twelve hours working, and he’s so tired he can think of nothing but his own bed? Again, it doesn’t matter. In other words, the servant must be willing to sacrifice his personal wishes and preferences.
One of the words which Paul uses in Hebrews 3 is “faithfulness.” “Christ was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house.” Some of the great servants of God in the Bible were also servants to other men. Remember the servant of Abraham who was sent to find a wife for Isaac. He was faithful to his responsibility. Look at the little servant/slave in the house of Naaman, the leper. She was faithful, not only to her master and mistress but to the Lord her God. The New Testament epistles speak highly of Christians who were slaves in other people’s homes.
Now think about the Lord Jesus, the eternal Son of God. The Bible teaches that there was an ordained plan – a covenant – established within the Godhead, agreeing that the Second Person of the Trinity would come into this world to carry out the divine plan. In our initial text, Paul called Christ Jesus “the Apostle and High Priest of our profession.” Christ came into this world as the Father’s “apostle” – as the Father’s sent one. Galatians 4:4 – “When the fulness of time was come, God sent forth (“ex-apos-tello”) his Son… to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” In John 15 Jesus said, “I have kept my Father’s commandments.” And in the previous chapter He said, “As the father gave me commandment, even so I do.” And Paul, in speaking about Christ, said in Romans 5 – “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinner, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” Again, I won’t try to explain the relationship of God the Son to God the Father, because I don’t have the mind or words sufficient to do it. But I will tell you that Servant who is God, obeyed the Master who also is God, and came into this world, willing to give His life for my salvation, and the salvation of an innumerable company of other sinners.
Now, please follow me back to Isaiah 52 where we have another prophesy about the divine servant. God speaks in Isaiah 52:13 saying, “Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. This is saying just what Paul was teaching in Philippians 2. “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him (Christ Jesus), and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow… and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” “There is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved” – Acts 4:12. Going on, Isaiah said, “As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.” Christ Jesus was beaten so badly that His visage, His appearance, was hard to recognize. But He endured it, sprinkling His blood for the people of many nations. About whom was he speaking? God’s servant, the Saviour, the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Moving into Isaiah 53 we read, “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
What does the Holy Spirit tell us in this prophecy? He says that the Servant of Jehovah came into this world, growing up unrecognized and unappreciated for Who He really was. When He began His ministry of service, He was despised and rejected by the sinners around Him. And yet, upon Him were laid our griefs, sorrows and the penalty for our sins. And even doing the Father’s will, He was stricken and smitten at His Master’s command. But there was a divine purpose for it all. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” It pleased God the Father to bruise His only begotten Son and to make Him an offering for sin on our behalf. God saw the travail of His holy Servant and was satisfied with His sacrifice for my sins – our sins. “He bare the sins of many,” making possible the deliverance of any and all those sheep who would surrender their hearts and souls to him.
I hope you have been able to follow this train of thought in all this. You and I are sinners, destined to be eternally judged for our transgressions against God. But the Lord Himself took steps to save some of us for His glory. It involved the willingness of the Son of God to come into this world as a servant to the divine plan. As both God and man, Christ sacrificed Himself on the cross, shedding His blood as a ransom for sinners.
Now, if you will but humble yourself before the Lord, repenting before Him and putting your trust in Christ, the purpose for His servitude will be made complete in your soul. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” Will you honor God’s Divine Servant by putting your soul and life in His hands this morning?