There are few places in the world where the word “servant” is so exemplified as the giant land of Africa. With some it may be slavish, unwilling or small; with others, freely in dignity and devotion. A motto of one of the princes of royalty was “Ich Dien”: “I serve”. It exemplifies the Lord Jesus Christ. He came to serve the interests of God on earth. He is the most faithful Servant known to heaven and earth, Acts. 3. 13 R.V.; Phil. 2. 5, 6, 7. In the New Testament there are several descriptive words used in relation to the nobility of service.
It is used in relation to Christ, angels and the priests, Heb. 8. 2; 1. 7, 14; 10. 11. Our English word liturgy, or the established ritual of the church, is taken from the Greek word leitourgos. It is exemplified in the lives of Paul and Epaphroditus, Phil. 2. 17, 25. From the very moment Paul was saved he lived in readiness to pay the supreme price. Such service is first and foremost unto the Lord and not unto men. It is quality rather than quantity.
This type of service has its underlying meaning in the verb deo (to bind) and signifies the lowest scale in service or servitude. It conveys the idea of surrendering the will to another. So deeply was this truth burned into the souls of the apostles that they prefaced their books by the words, “bondservant of Jesus Christ”, (Paul, Peter, James, Jude, John: Rom. 1. 1; 2 Pet. 1. 1; James 1. 1; Jude 1 and Rev. 1. 1). Their service, like the slave with the bored ear, attested to obedience unto death, Exod. 21. 6; Phil. 2. 7.
This word is taken from the Greek games, and brings to mind water-sports of a distant day. It is rendered under-rower in aquatic sport and is suggestive of training, testing and team-work. In the days of the galley slave or in Grecian Olympics there must be obedience, vitality, vigilance, pulling and persevering together with the end in view. The word is also used for an attendant, Luke 4. 20; Acts 13. 5; John 18. 36, and suggests readiness, ability and devotedness, 1 Cor. 4. 1. In the service of Christ, whether in the more privileged lands of the earth or remote corners of heathendom, our watchword should be “steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord”, 1 Cor. 15. 58.
The word here is oikonomos which comes from two words, oiko a house, and nemo, a manager. That is, one who is in charge of the welfare, dispensing of needs, or arrangements in the home. In a well-to-do Greek home, there were usually several servants among them: the child-trainer, the steward, and the custodian of money. In the first, the lesson taught was responsibility and accountability. In the latter, the thought stressed was God-given wisdom to make full use of what we have now. Ours is the privilege of making friends, influencing people, being shrewd, or astute in the sphere of our calling by integrity, honesty and sincerity. We ought to be faithful, not fitful, as exemplified by Paul and Peter, 1 Cor. 4. 2; 1 Pet 4. 10.
The illuminating word diakonis (meaning dia through the konis dust) is well known and common in the original language of the New Testament. Here the thought is not as doulos relative to the Master, but rather to the Ministry; not the person but the practice. In the model missionary it is vividly displayed in the servant of the Lord, Isa. 42, and so concisely by Mark, “the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many”, Mark 10. 45.
Oh! that God by His Spirit may search our hearts regarding service rendered in His Name. What a high and holy privilege to serve the Lord by life, lip, labour and leaflet in work approved by God and acceptable by man for the extension of the kingdom of God on earth.
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