We hear so much about identity today. We are told that everyone is looking for their true identity and trying to find out who they are. We are encouraged to “be yourself,” and we instill in one another a brazenness of like it or lump it. Yet, most people I know are very uncomfortable with their true identity. Due to this, they hide behind many different things and getting to know, truly know someone is borderline impossible.
The apostle Paul did not seem to have this issue. As you read the epistles of the New Testament, Paul often bravely identifies his then current self and his former self in no uncertain times. Possibly my favorite verse of Paul’s self-identification comes in the first line of his letter to his beloved friend Titus. Titus 1:1 reads:
“Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness”
Paul identifies himself as two things:
A SERVANT OF GOD
AN APOSTLE OF JESUS CHRIST
Many times it seems that we just lump those two things together in teaching. We teach people that if we are being a follower of Christ that we are serving God. I do suppose that is a valid point as servitude to God does now under the new covenant mean following Christ. However, the separation made by Paul in his identification of himself is important.
Paul believed himself to be a servant, a slave to the Creator God. Paul viewed himself as a slave, a man of servitude. Paul viewed himself as a man who had given himself up to the will of God. Paul was devoted to God. Just as he had shown great devotion to God as he believed God was prior to his conversion, Paul was now a man in total disregard of his own interest. Paul served God.
This servitude and Paul’s understanding of his slavery had to be key in his ability to persevere through so much pain and agony during his missionary journeys. Paul must have understood that He served a God who is despised by many in the world. Paul had to understand Christ’s teaching in John 15:20 that reads:
“Remember the word that I said unto you, ‘The servant is not greater than his lord.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.”
Paul’s view of humanity and man’s inner being is a bleak one to say the least. This darkness in humanity stems from mankind’s refusal to trust in the Lord, to obey Him, to SERVE Him. Many in the world hate the Lord. As a servant of God, Paul must have understood that this meant that the worldly and unbelieving would hate him as well. Applying the teaching of Christ above, why would Paul expect anything else when Christ laid it out for His disciples in no uncertain terms? In a world in which the church is full of teachers, pastors, preachers, and members who want to be liked by and more like the world, we could all do well to ask ourselves if this desire is one that matches with Paul’s description of himself as “a servant of God.”
Paul then identifies himself as “an apostle of Jesus Christ…” Paul was not only a servant to God, but an apostle of Christ. An apostle, in its most original and pure sense, means a delegate or a messenger. Paul understood that His calling was one that meant he was chosen to carry on the message and teaching of Jesus Christ.
Perhaps we Americans have lost some sense of what the word delegate means. In a time of political corruption (as if there has been a time without) and forced legislation, the people of the United States have lost faith in their delegations. If you live in a state in America, you have delegates who you elect on municipal levels, state levels, and federal levels. It is the job of these elected officials to then hear your voice and your concerns and to take them to the government bodies who can fund and oversee making the changes or improvements that you desire. As we have recently seen in political backlash in our country, when those officials fail to properly delegate, someone new or more willing to carry out your/the majorities desire is elected and replaces the failing delegate.
Paul saw himself as a delegate of Jesus Christ. Paul understood and stated in Titus 1:1 that Christ had elected, chosen, picked him to carry a message to Christ’s constituents, all the people of the world. God had sent His Son to save the world and Christ had chosen Paul and a number of other apostles to take the message of His saving grace to the world and build and sustain the church is to continue to delegate and share today: “Jesus Christ has died for your sins.”
Paul understood that his servitude to God and his apostleship to Christ were separate but common matters. Being a servant to God does not mean “be good,” in the sense that many think it does. Being a servant to God does not mean that we serve others through elaborate and expensive social projects that simply show we are Christian. Being a servant to God does not mean that we show some fake semblance of “love” to people despite the fact that we know, according to the grace and knowledge afforded us, that those people stand to die in their sins and be condemned.
No. Under the new covenant, being a servant of God means that we are an apostle of Christ. It means that we share the message of Jesus Christ with others. If you are a Christian it means you have been elected, chosen. But this election does not mean what we have cheapened it to mean. It does not mean that you are picked to go to Heaven. No, it means that you have been chosen to take the gospel to others and following the examples of the twelve, of Paul, and of countless others throughout time, lay down your life to delegate that message. If you are not doing so, you are not doing what you have been elected to do and you are what the political types like to call a lame-duck, serving no purpose.
For fathers this could mean laying aside your hope for that new boat so that you can be at church teaching or helping others be led in worship instead of at work earning money. For mothers, this could mean laying down your hopes and desires for your life and status for that of guaranteeing your children understand the gospel. For friends, this could mean giving up that round of golf or shopping trip so that you can knock on doors and share the message of Christ crucified to save a lost humanity. It can also mean that we have to turn away from friends who deny Christ or His message. Your servitude means that you have laid down your desires so that you may carry out the will of your master. That will is that all of us go forth and teach others the gospel through which the saving of souls will occur (Mark 16:15-16).