Paul says that he is Jesus’ servant. But if you dig down deep enough he says that he is Jesus’ slave. Wait, slave? Yes, Paul is claiming that he is Jesus’ slave (Philippians 1:1). That seems a bit much, maybe a bit radical, right? Well, the word is much more negative in our culture for one thing, but still! But, maybe there is more to this. Let’s see what Paul says elsewhere:
“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:5-8 ESV).
Hum…. Does that help? Here Paul is saying that a person is either in one of two places in life. In the Spirit or in the Flesh. He says that you are either serving Jesus or something else. Its either we are committed to following Jesus or something else. So, Paul even though he often fails, strives to live for Jesus. This means he is not living for himself, his fame, not money, not work, or anything else. But he is living to follow Jesus, to give him glory. He is trying to use himself, his money, and everything else to make Jesus look great.
Ok, but if it’s all about God does that make Him prideful? Thomas Schreiner explains:
“Some have complained that such a God is narcissistic, but that objection misses the point. For God as king glorifies himself by giving himself to his human beings in love. God is honored as King when human beings receive and depend upon his love and experience his salvation. God’s glory and God’s love must not be placed into two separate compartments. Rather, God is glorified as Lord in his love for human beings”. (xiii, 2013).
In this life we have all lived for things other than Jesus. These things become our life. We are bound. But through faith Christ sets us free. We now live for him, and it is where the most contentment, joy, and peace is found. Yes, even in hardship. Living for God is the best thing for us. That is pure joy.
That is how Paul was joyful in prison, how he prayed and thanked God for his friends, how he thanked God that salvation is from God and that God will be with him until the end; this is how Paul prayed that the church would abound in love with knowledge and discernment and become more like Jesus for God’s glory. This is what we talked about in Youth Group this week (Philippians 1:1-11)