Bondservants, Saints, Elders, and Deacons oh my!

As I am teaching through Philippians during my Monday night Bible study, I am amazed to see how clear and practical the Word of God is. It really is for daily living. God really has given us all that we need for life and godliness. This week, we are taking a look at 4 words mentioned in Philippians 1:1. The 4 words are 1) bondservant 2)saint 3)elder 4)deacon

In order to understand these words and what was meant by saying this, I would like to divide these 4 into 2 groups of 2.

I. Christian character

The first two of the 4 words are bondservant and saint. The apostle Paul makes not distinction among the believers and himself when he uses them. All followers of Christ are bondservants and saints. The other two words separate the members of the church from the leaders. In order to understand what a bondservant is, we must go to the Old Testament to understand Paul’s intentions in calling the believers bondservants. Take a moment to read Deuteronomy 15:12-18. Here are some things that we need to understand about bondservants.

  • they became bondservants because they owed a debt that they could not pay
  • their masters cared for them as they worked off their debt
  • they fare well with the master
  • they end up loving the master
  • the master sets them free
  • they choose to stay and serve the master of their own free will
  • the master still cares for them as they serve him
  • he stays with the master the rest of his life
  • he has a physical mark in his body to show how good his master is

How does this compare to believers?

  • We had a debt that we could not pay (sin)
  • God chose to pay that debt for us
  • He sets us free
  • We fare well with Him
  • We love Him
  • We choose to stay and serve Him all of our lives

How do we see this played out in the New Testament?

  • Galatians 6:17 – Paul bore the marks of his service in his body. He preached the Gospel and was beaten and persecuted for serving his Master. He bore those marks proudly.
  • I Corinthians 7:21-23 – When we follow Christ, we become His slaves.
  • II Timothy 2:3-4 – We do not get tangled up in the affairs of everyday life. We seek to please the One who enlisted us. We are always on active duty.
  • I Corinthians 6:19-20 – You are not your own. You have been bought with a price to glorify God in your body.
  • Galatians 1:10 – Seek to please God. Strive to please God.

The second of the two words is “saint”. In the Old Testament we find out interesting truths about what Paul has in mind when he calls the believers “saints”. Let’s check out the following passages from the Old Testament; Exodus 19:3-6 and Leviticus 20:22-26. In these passages, we learn some important truths about God’s people.

  • Being a saint simply means being set apart from the rest of the world.
  • Being a saint means obeying God’s voice. The world is running away from God’s voice and if we are set apart, we are running to His voice.
  • Being a saint means being in covenant with God.
  • Being a saint means being owned by God.
  • The entire nation is to be a kingdom of priests and holy.
  • Being a saint means taking God’s Word to the people.
  • Being a saint means not doing what the pagans do:
    • sacrificing children to false gods (how many in the church are sacrificing their children for stuff?)
    • idolatry (anything that takes God’s #1 place in your life, even your life itself)
    • mediums (horoscopes)
    • despising their parents (how many kids hate their parents)
    • adultery (how many married men in the church are looking at porn? )
    • incest
    • homosexuality (how many churches have accepted the sin of homosexuality as being okay)
    • bestiality
  • God is the One who sets us apart from the rest of the world. I cannot set myself apart. I cannot try to be better and obey God. He is set apart and He is the One who sets us apart.

What about in the New Testament, are the requirements the same?

  • I Peter 1:13-16 – Prepare your minds for action. The change and the difference is in the mind. Fix your hope on the grace of God in Christ Jesus. I am no longer conformed to my former lusts when I was a pagan. Those who live in lust as pagans are ignorant. The Holy One called us and makes us holy as He is Holy.
  • I Peter 2:9 – Each one of us is to be holy. Each one of us is to be a priest. We make up a holy group of people. We are owned by God. We proclaim the excellencies of the One who called us from darkness into His marvelous light.
  • II Corinthians 6:14-7:1 – We are notto be yoked tononbelievers. We are different in the way that we think. Therecan be no partnership.
    • righteousness/lawlessness
    • light/darkness
    • Christ/belial
    • believer/nonbeliever
    • temple/idols
  • We are the temple of God
    • God is in us
    • He is with us
    • He is our God
    • We are His people
  • Come out and be separate

As you can see, the calling of every believer/follower of Jesus Christ is to be a bondservant and a saint. Do you see yourself as a bondservant of Jesus Christ? Are you living like a bondservant? Are you a saint? Do you live like a saint daily? Has your life been changed? Are you proclaiming the excellencies of God to those around you?

What about the other two words that are mentioned in verse 1? How do they play into the equation?

II. Church position

The next 2 words in verse 1 deal with positions of leadership in the church. All are to be bondservants and saints but not all are called to be elders and deacons. On that same note, all the elders and deacons have to be bondservants and saints. Let’s take a look at these two words in order.

  1. Elders – The elder is the person who has the position of manager or overseer. He is one who inspects, observes, and examines. I Timothy 3:1-7 teaches us much on what an elder is to do. He must first have a desire to do this. It is a fine task. He must be above reproach (no hypocrisy, no fault). He must be the husband of one wife (body and mind). He must be temperate (self-controlled, restraining his desires). He must be prudent (careful, practical, moderation). He is respectable (does not have to demand it). He must be hospitable. He must be able to teach. He is not addicted to anything. He is not pugnacious (striker, quick to fight). He is gentle. He is peaceable (peacemaker, reconcile). He must be free from the love of money (illicit gain). He must be able to manage his household well. He must not be a new believer. He must have a good reputation outside of the church. In Acts 20:17-38, we see Paul living out what it means to be an elder. He serves humbly. He preaches and teaches the Word of God publicly and privately. He raises up leaders, training them to oversee the church.
  2. Deacons – A deacon is one who executes the commands of another. He is a servant. Let’s take a look at Acts 6:1-6 to see what a deacon is supposed to be like. The deacons free up the elders to preach and teach God’s Word. They are people of good reputation. They are full of the Holy Spirit. They are full of faith. Their character is recognized and acknowledged. I Timothy 3:8-13 continues the list that we saw under the elders. This section is geared toward the deacons. Deacons must be men of dignity. They must not be double-tongued. They must not be addicted to anything. They are not fond of sordid gain (illicit). They hold to the mystery of the faith. They have a clear conscience. They must be first tested. They must be beyond reproach. They can be women. They must be dignified. They must not be malicious gossips. They must be temperate and faithful in all things. They must be husbands of one wife. They must be good managers of their own households.

Would others look at you and call you a bondservant of Christ? What about you says that you are a bondservant of Christ? How are you serving your master daily? Do you live a saintly lifestyle? Are you carrying out God’s purpose in your daily life? Would you meet the qualifications of an elder or a deacon? If not, why not? If you have been blessed with a position in the church, how are you accomplishing this role? Are you devoting time to God’s Word so that you can know It, apply It, and teach It to others? May the Lord help us as we live out His teachings daily.

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