Service to Christ
What do you consider your greatest privilege in life?
I have been on a quest the past couple of days. I woke up the other day and the thought that was on mind was that I was commissioned by God to be His servant. I was curious about that because I couldn’t really pin-point a passage of Scripture that told me that. So, I started searching for verses that might have given me the thought. I found several—one rather negative and two positive.
The first passage I observed was ““While thus occupied, as I journeyed to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests” (Acts 26:12, NKJV). This verse is from Paul’s testimony before King Agrippa. Paul was explaining how he was compelled to “do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth” (Acts 26:9, NKJV). So, he seemed well pleased to travel on behalf of the chief priests to extend the persecution of the Church. In a fact, he set out with “authority and commission.” This commissioning gave him permission and full power to act on behalf of the chief priests. Though this is a negative commission, it does give us help us understand what it means to be commissioned.
My attention was then drawn to 2 Cor 2:17. It says, “For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ” (ESV). This passage is interesting, but the problem is that the word translated “commissioned” is not actually in the Greek text; it has been added for clarity by the translators. Other translations use the phrase “as from God” (NKJV, NASB) or “sent from God” (NIV84). The intent in this passage is that Paul properly handles the Word of God—he doesn’t peddle it, i.e. sell it to the listeners for profit—because he received the Word from God, i.e. it is God’s Word and must therefore be honored. So, Paul is commissioned by God in the sense that God presented the Scriptures to Paul so Paul could present them to those who would believe.
I ended my quest for this idea of being commissioned by God in the Book of Colossians. Specifically, my eyes fell on “I have become its (the Church) servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness—” (Colossians 1:25, NIV84). This term has the sense of tending to or managing the affairs of a group of people. The commissioning in this case is that God made Paul a steward of the Church specifically to make the word of God fully known.
This was indeed a great privilege for Paul. He was given a very specific task to accomplish regarding the establishment of the Church. The context of this verse provides us with information about what this commission cost Paul and his attitude in completing his calling.
“I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.” (Colossians 1:24–29, NKJV)
Paul’s Commission Resulted in Suffering through Service
Paul was tasked by God to bring the full understanding and knowledge of the Scriptures to the Church. This labor was not without a great cost. Paul opens this passage by mentioning his suffering and his flesh. This certainly means that Paul suffered greatly so that he could faithfully carry out his commission. Paul is referring to his imprisonment (Col 4:3). He certainly doesn’t see this as a cause for shame; rather, it is a part of his calling. The remarkable thing is that Paul is able to rejoice in the midst of his circumstances. Why? He can rejoice because the gospel message has reached the household of Caesar (Phil 1:13, 4:22) and beyond. Paul was able to apply the wisdom of James, i.e. “count it all joy when you fall into various trials” (James 1:2). James didn’t say “if you fall into various trials;” he said “when.”
Paul rejoiced because he was able to suffer for the Gentiles “what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ.” Paul did not mean that Christ’s suffering on the cross was insufficient (see Rom 3:21-26). He was not speaking of salvation but of service. Christ’s suffering is the only vehicle for securing salvation (1 Pet 1:11, 5:1). But believers have been given the privilege to suffer for Christ (2 Tim 3:11, 1 Pet 3:13-14; 5:9). Paul was thus afflicted because of his ministry for Christ. Affliction (a term never used in connection with Christ’s death) means “distress,” “pressure,” or trouble.” Paul had plenty of affliction from his ministry (1 Cor 11:23-29). So, for the sake of Christ’s body Paul willingly suffered.
Principle #1: Serving God can cause great pain but we should have a spirit of rejoicing.
Paul’s Commission Resulted in Upholding the Word of God
Paul was privileged to be God’s servant of the precious truth of Word of God in its fullness (see Col 1:9; 2:9). Paul’s commission came from God—it was given to him by God for the sake of the Church. Paul became a minister according to God’s plan to make the word of God fully known. Paul was the conduit through which God presented his revelation to the Church. Paul’s task was not simple. He would need to go against human wisdom and thinking to present the truth about Christ and the Church. Paul consciously accepted this commission and the rest is history as he presented and discussed the doctrines of the Church. Paul was faithful to God and His word.
Principle #2: Serving God means knowing and making known the full word of God.
Paul’s Commission Meant Standing against the Cultural Norm
The Gentile people of Colossae apparently boasted of the “fullness” of knowledge possible only through their mystical experience. On the other hand, the Jewish culture believed the Gentiles could only be saved by the law but would never exist at the same level as Jews.
But Paul knew that the true mystery was the mystery of Christ. To Paul, “mystery” meant something that was once concealed but then revealed. Notice how Paul says this—“the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed.” The great mystery is that Jews and Gentiles would be brought together into one body—the Church. The mystery of the Church is not that the Gentiles could be saved but rather the “the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel” (Eph 3:6). Paul needed to stand up to both cultures and preach the truth that both sides were wrong. He presented this truth to the Church. Paul was the “odd-man-out” in this situation.
Principle #3: Serving God means taking a stand against the direction of the culture.
Paul’s Commission Resulted in the Perfecting of the Church in Christ
Paul needed to present to believers, both Jew and Gentile the two important truths of the Gospel. First, “Christ is in you” and second, Christ is “the hope of glory” (I might add that Christ is the ONLY hope of glory). Therefore, Paul preached Christ. His teaching involved “warning every man” and “teaching every man” in the wisdom of God’s mystery as revealed through His word. The purpose of Paul’s teaching was to “present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” This is the capstone of the Paul’s privilege to be a servant of God. Paul’s heart and desire was that those in the Church would come to the fullness God wanted for them. For this reason, he labored in spite of afflictions and suffering. Yet, Paul did not do this for his sake or in his power. He recognized that all was “according to His working which works” in him…and this mightily. Paul realized that his commission, his privilege to be a servant of God, was possible only because God’s power was working through him. Paul’s reliance was on the power of God.
Principle #4: Serving God requires our complete dependence on God’s power for completing the Church.
What about our commission?
So, I woke up thinking about being commissioned into the service of God. I didn’t realize I would be considering the privilege of serving God. I see there are at least for privileges in such service:
- The privilege of rejoicing in suffering.
- The privilege of knowing and making known the word of God.
- The privilege of standing against the norms of the culture.
- The privilege of depending on God’s power for the edification of the Church.
What do you consider your greatest privilege as a member of the household of God?