Monday, October 15, 2007


Yesterday was a very exciting day for me. God granted me the privilege to preach my first sermon in my new series on Philippians at the same time as he has allowed me to have my first opportunity to preach during the Sunday morning worship service. The reason why I have chosen the book of Philippians, similar to the other books that I have taught through in Sunday school, is that I am not very familiar with the book of Philippians and the Truths that are held in its pages. So, teaching and preaching through this book will both be a great catalyst for my own learning and it will provide an opportunity for me to share what I am learning.

Also, I believe that it is best to not pick-and-choose topics or individual texts on somewhat of a random basis when preaching, but instead to work through the whole counsel of God. That way, it is much more likely that the preacher or teacher will have to deal with texts and truths that might be difficult, unpopular, and uncomfortable, but are nevertheless vital for our learning. Not that I am able to deal with all of the Scriptures and everything there, my skills and time in relation to exegesis and general Bible study as well as the available platform for teaching are somewhat limited. This causes me to not be able to go as slowly or as deeply as I would like to.

“Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 1:1)
The term “bond-servants” is used very often in the New Testament as a self descriptive statement of some of the Biblical authors. The Greek word translated as “bond-servants” is douloV (doulos), and it is a word that refers to common servants. One of the notable things about this designation of people in the first century is that a bond-servant is someone who is owned by another. A bond-servant can rightly be understood as a slave.

This reality creates a problem for modern understanding, especially in the United States, because whenever the term “slave” is used, our cultural history draws us back to the enslavement of black Africans in the United States, and the horror and heinous sin that this institution was. But in order to understand what it means to be “bond-servants of Christ Jesus” and the beautiful truth that this description helps to illustrate, we must be willing and able to look past our own pre-conceived ideas of slavery in our own time and look back to what it meant to Paul and the other writers of the New Testament when they attributed it to themselves. Paul, Peter, James, and Jude all use this word as a description of their relationship to Christ in the opening of their various epistles.

The hideous evil of treating someone as an animal and controlling their body, actions, and very life against that same person’s own will and desire (the very picture of slavery in America) was the American expression of the institution of slavery. However, the slavery of the Christian to the Lord Jesus Christ is a capturing of the believer’s will, affections, and desire so that his body, actions, and very life are single-mindedly focused on serving and loving his Master. In other words, man enslaves and commands the body but cannot capture the will; God’s grace enslaves the man’s will and, consequently, also commands his actions.

Christ’s work in salvation is so glorious, lovely, so profound and precious to the believer that his changed heart, will, and mind then freely bend the knee to Christ’s commands. Paul elaborates on this truth later in his discussion of his own precarious position in prison when he wrote, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) Furthermore, in the third chapter of this book, he gives more detailed reasons for why his mind and heart have been so drastically changed.
7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:7-11)

To be a Christian is to be a slave to righteousness. Paul describes this slave relationship in his letter to the Romans where he says,
16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.” (Romans 6:16-19)

Show me a member of our fellowship, or any fellowship, who claims the New-Birthright of a child of God (cf. 1 John 3:1-2,10) but is not and has not been growing in holiness and obedience to Jesus Christ, and I will show you someone whom I have deep concerns for. This is not concern that this person might be a “backslidden” believer nor that they are a “carnal” Christian, but it is a concern as to the reality and genuineness of their faith and whether or not this person is saved or whether they are unsaved, in their sins, and going to hell!

So, as I understand it, all Christians are truly bond-servants to Christ Jesus. Don’t mistake me – not all Christians are obedient to the same degree, some are more mature and others are less mature, but all are growing in maturity which is evident through their increased obedience and conformity to Christ. I am convinced, based on the testimony of Scripture, of the fact that all believers are in an ongoing process of sanctification (cf. 1 Thess 4:3, Rom 8:29-30). Sanctification is the process of growing in holiness, and I believe that the proof of this reality is growing obedience to God through conformity to the commands of His Word.
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