Christ became a servant – but why?
Paul has just finished explaining how Christians are to behave towards one another when they find themselves in disagreement over non-
Paul's overriding concern was for the united worship of Almighty God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. However division in a local church inevitably shifts the focus away from God and we overlook what Christ has done for his people. The healthy church will:
v.6 "with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."
This concern continues to hold Paul's attention as he moves on to discuss another potential source of conflict in the local church – the difference between Jew and Gentile. Paul has already written at length about how both Jew and Gentile stand in need of being saved by Jesus Christ because both have fallen short of God's standards and have thus exposed themselves to his just judgment. In relation then to their needs the Jew does not differ from the Gentile.
But the fact that present needs are the same does not mean that all past experiences and differences are rendered irrelevant and insignificant. While Paul writes specifically about Jew and Gentile here some of what he has to say can also be applied to those coming from different racial and cultural backgrounds. While our current needs are all the same – we all need the salvation that Jesus secured for sinners and which is offered to us freely by God's grace – the way in which we come to an understanding and appreciation of this will most likely be influenced by our different backgrounds.
How then will it be possible for folk from such different backgrounds to come together? Well it won't come about by pretending that differences don't exist, that wasn't the way Paul proceeded instead he proceeded by focusing again upon Jesus and what he had done. And as Paul does this he in no way loses sight of the goal of the united worship of Almighty God.
Jesus Became a Servant
As Paul continues his instructions to the Christians in Rome he explains briefly two different reasons for which Christ became a servant. The first of these reasons relates principally to the Jews and the second principally to the Gentiles.
As a servant of the Jews
v.8 "Jesus Christ has become a servant to the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers,"
What Paul is saying is that in his coming as a servant Jesus was ensuring that all the promises (note the plural) made to the patriarchs would be kept. His coming served to demonstrate the faithfulness of God, God keeps his promises.
God keeps his promises! Do you believe that? What an important matter this is!
The fact that God both makes and keeps his promises tells us that:
God has his plans
God has the power to carry them through
God doesn't forget what he has said
If we are convinced that God does indeed keep his promises then this should have a profound and very practical impact upon the way we live our lives as Christians. If we believe that God keeps his promises then surely it follows that:
We will want to know just what those promises are – we need to be careful here because we can easily imagine that God has promised what we want! Elisabeth Elliot warns "God has never promised to solve our problems, he has not promised to answer our questions… He has promised to go with us."
We will want to know what the terms and conditions are attached to those promises
We will want to learn how the promises relate to us. Adoniram Judson, a missionary who served in Burma for nearly 40 years, was in no doubt about this:
"My future is as bright as the promises of God." Don't you want to know how bright your future is?
We will want to trust him
Every example of a kept promise should be a cause for rejoicing because it underlines the faithfulness of God.
Every example of such a kept promise should also give us a greater confidence -
And such confidence should grow all the more as we observe him keeping great and important promises.
The promises that Paul is thinking about are those many and varied promises given to the patriarchs concerning the coming of the Messiah. Those promises had been given over a lengthy period of time and a very long time ago and yet none of that stopped God from keeping his promises.
We are not to think therefore that promises that God made long ago are irrelevant to us today.
We are not to imagine in the slightest that God will have forgotten what promises he has actually made.
There was a faithful Jewish remnant that was still looking for the accomplishment of the promises concerning the Messiah. This group was probably pretty small in number and yet we read of how some of them rejoiced greatly when they realised that God was keeping his promises as the baby Jesus came into the world. Just think about Simeon:
Later in the same chapter we read of Anna who seeing the baby Jesus in the Temple reacted in the following manner:
Lk.2:38 "she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem."
Both Simeon and Anna recognised that in Jesus the promises concerning the long-
2Cor.1:20 "for all the promises of God find their yes in him."
As a servant of the Gentiles
Although both groups, Jews and Gentiles, benefit from the grace of God as they are brought to salvation the way in which Jesus Christ accomplished their salvation focused attention upon two different attributes of God. In saving the Jews the emphasis fell upon God's faithfulness now as we consider his work on behalf of the Gentiles we find that the emphasis falls upon God's mercy which is both generous and free.
In the OT God had established his covenant with Israel. A covenant in the Bible is an arrangement whereby God freely pledged himself to do certain things for his people – it was not an agreement negotiated between equals but a gift from the greater to the lesser partner. God pledged himself to send the Messiah for his people to deal with the problem of their sin.
Now in the coming of Jesus God acquitted himself of his formal covenant obligations in securing the salvation of his Jewish people but he went further and extended the blessings of salvation well beyond the borders of Israel to include the Gentiles too.
The blessing of the Gentiles in this way was not something unanticipated – God had made it clear as Paul is about to show in a series of quotations drawn from every major division of the Old Testament – yet the manner in which it came about was such that it served to highlight and to magnify the mercy of God.
Summarising this section we can say that Christ came as a servant with a view to promoting the glory of God by showing God's truthfulness and by demonstrating his mercy.
Jew and Gentile together can and should glorify and praise God.
A Closing Benediction
Having explained this wonderful plan and purpose of God in Jesus Christ Paul is ready to bring this section to a conclusion and what better way was there to do that than to pronounce a benediction? Now a benediction is somewhat different in form to a prayer and yet the reality is fundamentally the same. By means of a benediction Paul expresses his desire for others to know and enjoy an increased measure of spiritual reality in their relationship with God and if that is to happen then God must be at work. If a benediction does not exactly take the form of a prayer it nevertheless leaves a good model if we want to know how to pray for others.
Paul often included benedictions in his writings in the New Testament and the common theme of all these benedictions is the extent of the generosity of God and of his gifts to his people.
Romans 15:33 "May the God of peace be with you all. Amen."
1 Thessalonians 3:12-
2 Thessalonians 2:16-
2 Thessalonians 3:5, 16 "May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God into the steadfastness of Christ... May the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all."
And so Paul brings this section of his letter to a close by expressing his fervent desire that the Christians in Rome would go on to enjoy a great deal of spiritual reality in their relationship with God.
Romans 15:13 "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope."
The Christian life, as Paul has been describing it, is always to be understood as a response to the grace of God in Jesus Christ. It is because God has been so good to him in freely giving what was not deserved, that the Christian is called upon to live his life in such a way as to demonstrate his thankfulness to God for all that he has done for him.
Such is the generosity however of God that he adds further blessings (or deepens and enriches the experience of existing blessings) when Christians take their responsibilities and duties seriously.
It follows then that if you as a Christian want to know more joy and more peace in your life then you should concentrate upon carrying out your duties well. The blessings you want to enjoy come as a by-
Paul, inspired by the Spirit of God, expresses his desires for the Christians in Rome. Paul wants the Christians to be filled with hope and he knows God to be the source of hope. If the desired state is to be attained then He must be at work. And yet when God is at work the results can be very surprising indeed!
God is the source of hope and so is well able not only to give hope to his people but to make such a hope abound in them. It would surely be a cause for rejoicing that God gives us hope but he does more – he makes us abound in it! The Christian faith is really remarkable for it speaks to us of the God who is amazingly and overwhelmingly kind to his children, delighting to bring good things into their lives. Again and again abundance in spiritual matters is often held out to us as Christian believers (Paul writes about Christian abounding in grace, love, good works, and joy!) – we have no reason to be satisfied with mediocrity when we have to do with such a great God. Our hymn writers have often caught glimpses of what this means. Take, for example, these lines from one of John Newton's hymns on prayer:
Thou art coming to a King,
large petitions with thee bring;
for His grace and power are such,
none can ever ask too much.
Paul explains how it can be like this.
God is powerfully at work in us by his Spirit.
If hope is the goal we must not imagine that the road to the goal is devoid of blessing. Paul looks to our heavenly Father to give us joy and peace as we go on believing and not just a little bit of joy or a little bit of peace either – he looks expectantly to our heavenly Father to fill us with all joy and peace as we go on believing
Now these blessings of joy and peace are not chosen at random but rather they are characteristic of the kingdom of God (Romans 14:17). In other words Paul is looking to God to grant to his children a complete enjoyment of all the privileges that pertain to the Christian life. What an encouragement this is for us to "go on believing"!
Christian have you seen anything of God's wonderful grace and kindness towards you in Jesus Christ? If you have then rejoice and be glad and press on with a heart full of thankfulness – you can be assured that there is yet much more for you to enjoy of all his blessings.
These blessings are real – the peace spoken of is peace with God and you can enjoy that peace even when everything else in the circumstances of your life may seem to be in utter turmoil! Elsewhere Paul describes this peace as that "which surpasses all understanding" but it is real nevertheless and will keep you firmly united to Jesus Christ!
The joy spoken of is not to be confused with the happiness generated by pleasing circumstances – that happiness can leave you in an instant when an unforeseen cloud emerges over the horizon. No this is the joy of knowing God, knowing sins forgiven, knowing acceptance and adoption into God's family! Peter speaks of this as inexpressible and filled with glory!
And what if you are not a Christian this morning? What if you have never yet put your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ?
Don't delay any longer! Don't you see how faithful God is, how generous he is, how good he is to all his children? What stops you from going to him and asking him to forgive you and to welcome you? Don't let anything stop you!
The Christian life is a great life – it's not free from hardship and difficulty but it is full of God and it is God that we all need most of all.
To him alone be all the glory.