By Larry DeVore
To most of us in the United States, the concept of “service” is “serve me now!” We enter a restaurant, and we expect to be seated now. Bring me coffee now! Bring our menus now! Take our order now! Bring our meal promptly! If our meal doesn’t arrive as soon as we think it should, we want to see the manager. Our idea of “service” is a me-first concept, based on self-centred desires. This is quite different from what we find taught in the Scriptures about service.
In the New Testament, we find the word “service” 15 times, and the word “serve” 33 times. There are three Greek words translated as service. The word latreia is found only five times in the New Testament (John 16:1; Rom. 9:4, 12:1, Heb. 9:1, 6). In every case it refers to Divine service or serving God, and not to serving self. The other two words are diakonia, as used in Romans 15:31 referring to Paul’s ministry and service, and the word leitourgia which, for instance, is used in 2 Corinthians 9:12 and refers to benevolence for the poor saints (Vines, 1021).
In addition, the concept of service is taught in many places in the New Testament. Jesus taught in Matthew 22:37-39: “. . . You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (NKJV). A dedicated Christian will be committed to these great commandments, and that will involve service — first to God, and second to your neighbor (fellow man).
Jesus showed us the example of service in his own life by his sacrificial death on the cross. He taught in Matthew 20:28: “. . . just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” The word “serve” is from the Greek word diakoneo (verb form), which means “to serve, wait upon, minister” (Vine, 744). Jesus was willing to serve us in the complete sense of laying down his life for us. What will we do to serve him in return?
What Is Involved in Serving God?
A life of service is a result of the right attitude. If a Christian will have an attitude of sacrifice, then service is the action that will result. Many things are involved in serving God, such as:
A Pure Heart
“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double minded” (Jas. 4:8). Acceptable service cannot be offered to God from a defiled heart.
“He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to talk humbly with thy God” (Mic. 6:8). Clearly, this is an Old Testament passage that conveys eternal principles of serving God.
“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-4). A Christian must not have a “me-first” selfish attitude.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1). If we are firmly committed and dedicated to serving God, we will have an attitude that no sacrifice is too great for the God of all creation.
How Will the Christian Serve God?
1. By glorifying God in worship. Isaiah wrote that God said, “Even every one that is called by my name; for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him” (Isa. 43:7). The apostle Paul wrote, “to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world with end. Amen” (Eph. 3:21).
2. By serving others. The best way to serve your fellow man is to teach him or her the gospel. “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). This was a characteristic of the early church. “Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). Paul wrote in Galatians 6:10, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” What better way to “do good” to your fellow man than to share the gospel of Christ with him?
What Did the Early Church Do?
- They engaged in worship (Acts 2:42; 20:7).
- They served one another (Acts 4:34-35; Gal. 5:13).
- They evangelized (Acts 4:12-13; 5:42).
- They had fellowship (Acts 2:42; 46-47).
- They edified one another (Acts 9:31; Rom. 14:19).
A faithful Christian’s life will involve service to God, his fellow Christians, and to his neighbor. We have the example of the Thessalonians who “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thess. 1:9). They engaged in a “work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope” in their service to God (1 Thess. 1:3). The Hebrew writer wrote: “. . . let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Heb. 12:28). Acceptable service to God requires us to surrender our thinking from a “me-first” concept to God first, because we love him. We will serve our fellow man (neighbor) on the same basis. Our service must be focused on God and Christ. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters” (Matt. 6:24). So we must “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matt. 6:33). True greatness in God’s sight requires a life of service. Learn to serve well.