Paul – A True Servant

1 I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cencrea: 2 That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succorer of many, and of myself also. 3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: 4 Who for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. 5 Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Salute my well-beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ. 6 Greet Mary, who bestowed much labour on us. 7 Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow-prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. 8 Greet Amplias my beloved in the Lord. 9 Salute Urbane, our helper in Christ, and Stachys my beloved. 10 Salute Apelles approved in Christ. Salute them which are of Aristobulus’ household. 11 Salute Herodion my kinsman. Greet them that be of the household of Narcissus, which are in the Lord. 12 Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa, who labour in the Lord. 13 Salute the beloved Persis, which laboured much in the Lord. Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine. 14 Salute Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren which are with them. 15 Salute Philologus, and Julia, and Nereus, and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints which are with them. Salute one another with an holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you…. 21 Timotheus, my workfellow, and Lucius, and Jason, and Sosipater, my kinsmen, salute you. 22 I Tertius, who wrote this epistle, salute you in  the Lord. 23 Gaius mine host, and of the whole church, saluteth you. Erastus the chamberlain of the city saluteth you, and Quartus a brother. Rom. 16:1-23

Ah, the Apostle Paul! Paul’s life is a study in the working of the grace of God in every way.

Notice how close and personal Paul was to the people he ministered to. This was another grace that he had, apart from the grace to preach the gospel. Paul had the grace to live, interact with and know God’s people. He knew each one of them intimately. Of course, Paul did not Google their profiles. On the contrary, he paid the price to get to know them in as fine details as he did.

Notice also Paul’s salutation in his epistle to Philemon.

“1 Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearlly beloved, and fellowlabourer, 2 And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house…” (Phlm. 1:1-2)

How did Paul come to relate to God’s people in such an intimate way?

Paul lived with the people of God. One of the things that I love about the Apostle Paul was that he did not end up in 5-star hotels when he visited the churches. Rather, he lodged in brethren’s houses. Here he tells us who his host was. It was Gaius, a brother in the local church.

In that way, Paul got to know each one of God’s people individually.

You cannot get to know people intimately if you are a hotel-based preacher. Preachers always tell people how much they need to have that all-important privacy in order to be with the Lord, etc. My reckoning is that you should spend all the time you need to be with the Lord before you go to the conference or meeting. Once you join up with God’s people, you are their property and you should avail yourself to them fully. You are not, for example, to come to the service just in time to be welcomed to the pulpit with the reasoning that you could not have come earlier because you did not want your anointing to be tainted, etc. You couldn’t possibly be more anointed than the Apostle Paul was!

Some preachers, especially here in Africa, stay in their hotel rooms long after the services have began. Meanwhile, God’s people are forced to sing for hours just waiting for the man (or woman) of God to show up!

Again, if you, a preacher has any intention of relating to God’s people, you are not to be whisked away in air-conditioned cars – sometimes a whole procession of them – and treated with gloved hands as if you are the most important person in that meeting. The most important person in that meeting are the people God has sent you to minister to. As a matter of fact, you should make every effort to sacrifice as much of your time, energy, money, comfort and freedom as possible for the sake of God’s people.

If possible, walk with the people of God to their homes.

A true servant of God is he who will serve God’s people. He will spend time with God’s people, serving them in whatever way they need to be served. Above all, he will not desire, nor encourage red-carpet treatment for himself. He will desire to walk the narrow road in every sense of the word to the end that he may be an example of what the given Christian life ought to be. To this end he will be like our Lord Jesus Christ who had

“not where to lay his head.” (Lk. 9:58)

If anyone deserved to be lodged in a 5-star hotel, it was the Lord Jesus Christ. But He even did not have a place to lay his head.

And pray, what will your reward be for living such a sacrificial life? There is the heavenly reward, of course. But apart from that God will reward you with the joy of knowing your brothers and sisters in greater intimacy, as we see Paul here. Here we see Paul’s joy as he connects with each brother and sister whom he has known in Rome. In verse 15 he even says,

“Salute… Nereus, and his sister…”

I am sure that if Paul knew of Nereus’ sister’s name, he would have addressed her by name. It could well be (conjecture on my part) that Nereus’ sister was not even a member of the church; but Paul got to know this family real close and he therefore includes her in his greetings.

The point is, Paul was a man who knew his people well. God’s people were not just numbers to him. He does not say, “I am glad to hear you have 200 members in the church in Rome”; as desirable as having a large number of church members is.

In sacrificing his life for the sake of God’s people in this way, Paul perfected his service to Christ.

[Paul lived with the people of God and he took the trouble to know every one of them individually]

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