Thanks for visiting Bible Mountain. This is the 10th lesson in a series of lessons on the book of Philemon. In this lesson, I’m going to look at verses 23 through 25 and talk about the concept that Christians are servants, not customers.
First, I’m going to explain what I mean by the concept that Christians are servants, not customers. Next, I’m going to look at some verses in the New Testament that teach that concept. Then I’ll show how that concept is reflected in the book of Philemon.
Here’s what I mean when I say that Christians are servants, not customers. Imagine you are a consumer electronics company and you are marketing your latest cellphone. You’re going to go to your potential customers and emphasize the benefits of this phone. You’re going to tell them all the wonderful things this phone will do for them. Meanwhile, you’re going to try to minimize the cost. The cost is what it is, but you’re going to try and persuade them that the cost is less than the benefit that they will receive from owning this new phone.
Now imagine you’re the same company and you are recruiting employees to work for your company. In many ways, you’re going to do the opposite. You’re not going to emphasize the benefits and minimize the costs. You’re going to be very clear about the costs, what you expect from the employee. You will talk about the benefits because they will get paid and they will receive benefits. But it’s much more important to make sure the potential employee understands what they have to do in service to the company.
That’s the difference in how you approach a customer versus a servant. When you approach a customer, you emphasize the benefits and you minimize the cost. When you approach a servant or a potential employee, you are very clear about the costs, what they have to do for you or for the company. Then you merely tell them the benefits they will receive.
In recent decades, it’s been very common within Christianity to have the mindset of thinking that when we do evangelism, we are selling eternal life or we’re giving away eternal life. Obviously, eternal life is something that Christians receive. However, the New Testament makes it clear that when we do evangelism, what we really should be doing is recruiting people to be servants of Jesus.
Let’s take a look at how this is taught in the New Testament, then we’ll see how this is reflected in the book of Philemon.
Rom. 10:9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
These verses tell people how to be saved. Notice the word confess. The word confess has a couple of components to it. When you confess something, it means you agree that something is true. Furthermore, part of confessing is that you submit to that truth.
In this case, it says that in order to be saved, we have to confess that Jesus is Lord. Lord is a word that we often misunderstand in 21st century Christianity. Many people think the word Lord is the same as the word God. They think the word Lord is a synonym for God. That is not correct. The Greek word that is used there means master. So when you confess that Jesus is Lord, you’re not merely confessing that Jesus is God. You are confessing that Jesus is master.
When you confess that Jesus is master, it means you’re placing yourself under the authority of Jesus. It is saying that you will serve Him and you will obey Him. This shows that when we do evangelism, we have to be clear with people that in order to be saved, they have to become a servant of Jesus.
Now let’s see how this is taught in First Corinthians.
1Cor. 1:2 To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours:
We see the word Lord here twice. Again, the Greek word that is used here means master. This doesn’t merely refer to people who call on the name of Jesus Christ as God. It means people who call on the name of Jesus Christ as master, both their master and ours.
As I said earlier, in the 21st century, we have this mentality within evangelicalism that when we do evangelism, we’re merely giving away eternal life. But that is not quite correct. It’s not complete. We see that within this concept of salvation is the idea that in order to be saved, we have to make ourselves servants of Jesus. When we do evangelism, we’re not merely giving something away as if everyone is a customer. Instead, we are recruiting people to be servants of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let’s see how this is reflected in the book of Philemon.
Philemon 1:1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy the brother, to Philemon, the beloved and our fellow-worker, 2 and to Apphia the sister, and to Archippus our fellow-soldier, and to the assembly in your house. 3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
When you strip these verses down to the bare essence, basically it tells us that Paul and Timothy wrote this letter to Philemon, Apphia, Archippus, and the assembly in their house. What’s interesting is to think about the terms Paul used to refer to himself and others.
Paul referred to himself as a prisoner of Christ Jesus. When you are a prisoner of someone, you are under their authority. We see here Paul reflected the idea that he was under the authority of Jesus. As a Christian, Paul had not merely received eternal life. Paul was a servant and a slave of Jesus. He was a prisoner of Jesus.
We also see this with Philemon. Paul called Philemon a fellow-worker. If you think about the concept of a worker, that is someone who works for someone else. When you work for someone else, you are under their authority. We see that Paul called Philemon a worker, a fellow-worker, someone who was working with Paul in service to Jesus Christ. Philemon had not merely received eternal life, he was a servant of Jesus Christ.
We see this in regards to Archippus. Paul called Archippus a fellow-soldier. When you are a soldier, you serve someone else. You are under the authority of your commanding officer. Archippus, as a Christian, had not merely received eternal life. As a Christian Archippus was a soldier serving the Lord Jesus Christ.
I mentioned in previous lessons the main idea expressed in the book of Philemon is that Paul asked Philemon to grant grace and mercy to Onesimus. After Paul communicated that to Philemon, he wrapped up his letter, starting in verse 23.
Philemon 1:23 Epaphras, my fellow-prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you. 24 Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke are my fellow-workers. 25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
That is the end of the book of Philemon. We see in these last couple of verses that Paul again reflected the idea that as Christians, we are servants of Jesus. Paul wrote that Epaphras greeted Philemon. Paul called Epaphras a fellow-prisoner. Apparently, Epaphras was also in prison with Paul. Epaphras was a prisoner of Jesus Christ. Epaphras, as a Christian, was serving Jesus.
Paul mentioned Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke. He called them his fellow-workers. The word worker implies someone who serves someone else. Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke did not merely receive eternal life when they became Christians. They became workers who served Jesus when they became Christians. Paul called them his fellow-workers because they were working with Paul to serve the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
During his ministry on earth, Jesus made it clear that being a Christian is not always easy. There’s a lot of hardship. There’s a lot of persecution that comes along with being a Christian. When we do evangelism, we have to make sure we’re clear with people about that. They have to be able to count the cost. We have to be clear that they don’t merely receive eternal life. When they become a Christian, they become a servant of Jesus. There’s work, effort, persecution, and hardship that go along with that. We need to be honest with people about the cost.
Let me give you a question to think about. What is your role as a servant of Jesus? When a company hires employees, they have a task for each of those employees to do. There is a certain talent or ability each employee needs to use in order to further whatever it is the company is trying to accomplish.
The same is true with Jesus. Each of us has a talent or ability that we need to use to serve Jesus. What is yours? What does Jesus want you to do in serving him? What are the gifts and abilities you have that you can use to serve Jesus and further the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?
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