“Slaves for the sake of the Gospel” at the International Center 9/22/14
Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! The text is from Titus which was read earlier. I shall like to read verse 1 again. “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior.” (Titus 1:1-4).
Beloved saints in Christ, this title, this description that Paul takes, actually, both titles, δοῦλος θεοῦ, ἀπόστολος δὲ Ἰησοῦ Χριστου – the bondservant or slave, and then the “sent one” the apo and stello means that he is not his own man, not the writer of his own ticket, not in control, not at all. Seeing himself as sent by another and under another’s control, even if it is God in Christ Jesus does not fit with our culture, not with our fallen human heart. Ever since Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, we have wanted to have the control and the say. Even we, who bear high-sounding titles in the Church, we have these positions as slaves, as folks who are sent, under authority of the Savior. Do we not bristle, at times? Do we not enjoy the accolades of man? Do we not want to be in control? This is what makes the start of this letter to Titus so remarkable. Surely this greatest student of the greatest Rabbi of that day, he should have had the right to think of himself highly. But he does the opposite, naming himself as one sent by Christ Jesus, an ambassador, or no, more lowly than that, a slave.
Yet, this is precisely what Pastor Paul calls himself-a doulas of God and Apostle of Jesus. He proclaims to the world that he is indeed a slave for the sake of the Gospel. A man who labored long and hard and endured all sorts of difficulties so that many others might know the One who has come to serve us—Jesus the Christ. His sending and serving was to reflect the One whom the Father sent, from eternity, into our flesh, the One sent not to be served but to serve and to give His life as the full ransom for many. Paul finds his identity in the wounds of Christ, there and nowhere else. For those of us here in this grand place, the highest and best title we can bear is that of “Shepherd Under Christ” or better yet, as Paul so thankfully and humbly saw himself, one who is sent by Jesus, a slave of His Redeemer God! Yes, we love because Jesus first loved us. Yes, we serve because He has first and always serves us through the Cross. PAUSE.
Precious children of the heavenly Father, many of you perhaps have heard of this story during the slave era were slaves were sold and bought for a price, but it bears repeating.
A young 17-18 year old slave girl was brought by her master to be sold at the auction block. When it was her turn to be sold, people came over to inspect her. Some gawked at her, and inspected her by touching her here and there and opened her mouth. Then the bidding started. The prices kept going higher and higher. One man in particular would not stop the bidding. Every time someone bid, he would be bid higher.
Eventually he got the slave girl for a very high price. When he went to pay for the girl, she followed him. He paid the bill and received the sale slip stamped “Paid in full.” He turned around to the young slave girl, handed her the papers and said to her. “You are now free to go! You are no longer a slave!” Upon hearing these words, she got down on her knees and said: “Sir, I will serve you for the rest of my life.” And she did!
Pastor Paul knows all about being shackled. He knows all too well the demands of the Law. He lived by the Law and attempted to force others to obey this Law. But on the road to Damascus, he met Jesus Christ in person, so that the former persecutor and prosecutor of the Cross was freed from the slavery of living under the Law. Though he was freed, yet he became a slave for the sake of the Gospel. He served the cause of the Gospel preaching and teaching everywhere so that others might know of the eternal freedom Jesus offers them through His death and glorious resurrection. PAUSE.
Yet this slave girl in the story, and Paul, and even you and I, find our freedom precisely because Jesus became the greatest slave (maximus famulus) to set us, ALL free. Yet He was never a slave to sin. Philippians 2 tells us that He became the foremost slave to set hearts free—free to love, free to forgive, free to serve.
In one section of the Missouri State Capitol—the hall of fame section where the busts of 42 famous Missouri citizens have been sculptured—Walt Disney, General John Pershing, Harry Truman, Laura Wilder and others. Each bust of these famous citizens cost $10,000 a piece. The inscription in the ceiling that arches over this hall of fame is: We are called to serve not be served.
Jesus paid the highest price for us to win our freedom from sin, death and hell by His innocent blood, suffering on Calvary’s cross and the empty tomb. Like the slave girl, we too, were once slaves on the auction block. Our cruel master was death. We were sold into this slavery by sin. But Jesus, the heaven-sent Savior, would not let this stand—He gave His all—He paid the price that we couldn’t pay—His life for ours and in baptism we have the inscription—paid in full.
Like the slave girl we will serve Him, not because we have to, but because we are freed slaves—slaves for the sake of the Gospel; slaves for the Kingdom’s benefit; slaves to share the greatest story of our freedom and salvation which Jesus won for us. Yes, we are—pastor and people alike are slaves to proclaim the Word of the Living God to all people so that they too, may know the freedom and the blessings they have in Christ Jesus.
With this freedom comes the joy, privilege and honor the Lord of the Church gives us—as His slaves for the sake of the Gospel. We are free slaves on account of the Word made flesh. By the mighty power of the Holy Spirit, the sweet faithfulness to the Word does indeed make us slaves of this Gospel. We are freed slaves to preach faithfully Christ and Him crucified for us sinners. We are freed slaves whose privilege is to teach the Word of God to young and old so that they may know (God’s Hessed) His grace. We are freed slaves to be a light to the world that is still in darkness.
Most precious children of the heavenly Father, Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.” Yes, as servants/slaves for the Sake of the Gospel, preach it in season and out of season, because we have been created to serve; and by the power of the Holy Spirit have been created to love and share the glorious gospel now and forever. This is our freedom and this is our joy, because He who created all by the power of His Word, and that alone, submitted to what should have been our cross. He has given us His life, and it is eternal. He has given us His peace through the brokenness of the Cross. What a high calling, to be the douloi tou Theou, the sent ones of the Savior, all to share the hope of eternal life, the sure promise of God. Amen.
Now the peace of God…
SOLI DEO GLORIA