Saved to serve

Saved in order to serve”

I have recently been aware of a rather faulty teaching within many parts of that which is called Christian Churches. This awareness is by no means new, but came to the fore through a sermon on serving God. It asked the question of people who by and large have been Church members for well nigh 40 years at least: ”Are we willing to serve?” In my mind I saw a people saved but not serving. As if salvation could be had without serving being the logical outcome from the saved to the Saviour!

My mind was speedily racing to the entire Word of God. And without much pain or difficult searching I rediscovered what I already vaguely knew:
“Salvation from servitude under sin segues directly into serving in Righteousness.” There is no option for being saved and NOT serving. There is no middle ground on which to stand and discuss whether you should or should not serve. A salvation experience that leaves you hanging in mid-air between the sins of the flesh, which you needed saving from, and living every next breath in service to the God of your salvation, is no salvation at all.

The starting point

We begin the quest for the truth at the very starting point of God’s saving work for the people of Israel. Reminding ourselves that “everything that was written before time was written for our instruction” (1 Cor 10:11) we look at the events in Exodus chapters 1-3. What is the situation? The Israeli nation in bondage, slavery and forbidden to be what God meant them to be. Harsh taskmasters who are afraid of this people because their hardships had made them ‘vigorous’ and proliferate in reproduction. The more afraid of them the Egyptians were, the harsher they were treated. Sin will not let man go without a struggle. A policy of repression does however always lead to a cry for freedom. Although the gradual habit of being a slave enslaves them to accept what they cannot change on their own. That acceptance is a prison of the mind. That prison stays with them for at least forty years after their deliverance as witnessed often in the Torah, and expressed by the commonly known catch phrase: “
You can take the people out of Egypt, but fail to take Egypt out of the people.”

They had no choice as to their servitude in Egypt. Do what you are told or die! Should you thrive under those conditions, which they evidently did, then kill their future by this means or that. Keep them as slaves but kill all ambition to freedom. When the tipping point of agony comes we are told that the cooperative cognition of their general misery caused a stir in heaven. Exodus 2:23-25 Now it came about in the course of those many days that the king of Egypt died. And the sons of Israel sighed because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry for help because of their bondage rose up to God. So God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God saw the sons of Israel, and God took notice of them.

And what is God’s answer to their collective cry? A man, chosen, educated, equipped and certified by God over time to bring the people out of slavery under sin to serve under salvation. The middle ground referred to above, however, did exist as seen in the forty years walk in the wilderness during which all those who preferred the wilderness to the full promise of God of the land of milk and honey lost their lives. They would neither serve under Pharaoh nor under God. Man alone.. But that option is not open to any but those who while freed from sin are unwilling to walk where salvation was meant to bring them. As little as you can serve two masters can you serve no master at all, because not to serve is to make the world around subservient to your disobedience. Very costly, then and now. I remind you of the singer songwriter Bob Dylan who very wisely formulated this understanding in the song “You’ve got to serve somebody, it may be the devil, it may be the Lord, but you’ve got to serve somebody!” Man is never His own master, how ever deeply entrenched that illusion may be.

We are saved to serve because we were slaves to someone:

Exodus 5:2-3
But Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and besides, I will not let Israel go.”Then they said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please, let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God, otherwise He will fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword.”

As slaves they sacrificed their lives every day on the brickworks of Pharaoh. And freedom was offered to them as another kind of sacrifice, not to the whims of Egypt’s gods but to the Lord whom neither they nor their Fathers had known by the Name revealed to Moses. Exodus 6:1-3
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for under compulsion he will let them go, and under compulsion he will drive them out of his land.”

God spoke further to Moses and said to him, “I am the Lord; and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as  God Almighty, but by My name,  Lord, (Yahweh) I did not make Myself known to them.

Serving God the LORD begins with sacrifice. In the former covenant as in the new. What else is there we do not know? When Paul addresses the Church of Christ in Rome the portal to service as described in chapter 12 is heralded by the very same cry as in Exodus. Let my people go and sacrifice!
Romans 12:1-2
“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

How does any body of believers dare to call to divine worship without this starting point? To call a normal run of the mill church meeting ‘divine worship’ without this element of worship and self sacrifice is not merely a slight deviation, it is a Wilderness of Sin. Of which we are told: “ Then they set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the sons of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departure from the land of Egypt. The whole congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The sons of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

I know very well that the coincidence of the name of this desert and the matter of human sin is only possible in the English language. But the point is easy to understand. The badlands of spiritual starvation always occur in the wasteland of sin tolerated. To claim to be saved and yet regret the stark absence of flesh pots of Egypt, surely pinpoints a people still living in the flesh and not walking by faith in the Spirit .

Paul is the total son of Abraham. He is the Bar Mitzvah of a man knowing and loving the entire law of God and knows all the rules and regulations of sacrifice of the former Covenant. One of those laws was the insistence on the daily morning and evening sacrifice of a spotless lamb. Exodus 29:38-40 “
Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two one year old lambs each day, continuously. The one lamb you shall offer in the morning and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight; “. The consistence of sacrifice under the former covenant is consistent with making our own daily sacrifice to God of ourselves, because this is the only logical response to the mercy of God in saving us from our previous captivity under sin. No other response to the saving grace can be put in place of the sacrifice of the self to God on a daily basis. “His mercy is new every morning,” and so should our response be: sacrifice yourselves. Nothing less can be a suitable response, nothing less can be given in return for what the “unspeakable gift of God is”. The “logikon latreian”, which is the Greek for ‘your true and proper worship” (NIB), your “spiritual service of worship”, (NASB), “your reasonable service” (NET, KJV) is one of the two things that the Holy Spirit has chosen to call “sacrifice” in the New Testament. The other is found in Hebrews 13:15 “ By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” In other words: true worship is self sacrifice and the sacrifice of lips that have previously praised other gods to now praise One, and Him only. To separate salvation from service is to reduce the gospel to something other than what the Word reveals.

One frequently heard myth is clothed in most deceptive language.
We are told that “we are saved in order to go to heaven”. Does the scripture say that? Does the Holy Spirit, the author and inspirator of the written word ever once say that we are saved to go to heaven? Show me!!

The only time anybody in the entire NT speaks of going to heaven, it is done so inferentially. 2 Tim 4:18 “And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. “

The dominant theme concerning heaven is that we have part in and access to the heavenly while we live here and now. In other words all of Heaven is made available to the Church of Christ while it is on earth. It is for the service of the Church on Earth that heaven is opened. He has ascended to whence he descended in order that His heavenly kingdom should be made manifest on earth. It needs all of the heavenly resources to do so. I will give you a mere sampling of the pervasive understanding about heaven that runs through the entire NT.

There are 277 references to heaven and heavenly in the NT. Most frequent in Matthew with 75 mentions. Then 55 times in Revelation, 37 in Luke,25 in Acts, 17 in Mark and John, 15 in Hebrews and a spattering in most of the letters of Paul and James. And not one of them all says that we are saved in order to go to heaven! 

Here are the 7 crucial passages from Paul's letter to the Ephesians.

Ephesians 1:3  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: just as He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him, in love.”

When were we blessed? When does that blessing operate? We have been blessed, that is a fact completed and that blessing does not depend on our being in heaven to live in it, but is what the Church is all about now. To bring that which is heavenly to the Earth. Blameless before Him now. Not then.

Ephesians 1:9-12 whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: that in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: that we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.

Redemption, forgiveness, obtaining our inheritance, are all part of the salvation that we have been predestined to be living in. And it has brought about a “fusion” of Heaven and Earth along the lines of what we were taught in the prayer:
“Thy will be done in earth as it is in Heaven.” Being saved we are now involved in the working out of His glory here on earth.

Ephesians 1:17-23“... that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.”
That we may know… now, not “at some time in the distant future” but here and now. According to the working of His power of Salvation that is now working in us as we are the earthly body of our Heavenly Lord. “For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” (Rom 5:10) That life is not THEN but now. Not when we have gone to be with him, but here while He is as present with us by the Holy Spirit as he was then when he foretold his continued Headship of the Church.

A salvation that postpones all God’s blessing to the future heavenly kingdom has no support in the general teaching
of the Scriptures.

Ephesians 2:5-7 “.. even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

There are things accomplished and things waiting. Some are realities in the heavens even now, but they are to be experienced and worked out in this world, now and in ages to come. But unless we understand our present position we will not have the relevant disposition. If our faith is based on escaping this world in a false view of why we are saved in the first place, then no wonder that the church is like a fellowship boarding a bus hoping to get away from the world as fast as possible.

It was not then nor ever the purpose of the Living God.

Ephesians 3:9-11 “..and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:
The Church has a mission while on earth which reaches into the very centre of the spiritual realm in the “heavenly places”. This mission is in the here and now, not in the distant then when she has left the world. Not only is the gospel for “all men”, but for all principalities in the unseen world where the “prince of the Power of the air“ reigns.

Ephesians 4:10-13 “He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:

Two major missives are given.
A plural leadership for a many-headed church under the One Head and a ministry by all saints to the body of the Lord. It is inconceivable that anyone should have created a “theology” for a “one pastor” leadership, with a largely passive audience and an employed and salaried staff in an organisation, on the basis of the Word of God. How much longer is this charade going to go on? When will the believers be consciously and consistently trained to fulfil their ministry? Serving the Lord is not optional, it is intrinsic in the concept of salvation.

Old testament ghosts

The way that Christianity has structured itself, and I insist that it has done this out of a self-willed obstructive refusal to read the whole word of God, shows that it has largely failed to acknowledge the New Covenant. In particular as to the ideas concerning how and who should and shall serve. Familiar to all is the division between Clerics and Laity. Some talk almost all the talk in the hope that some others do almost all the walk. Significant value coding adheres to the various modes of ‘serving’. The class society of the Former Covenant was specific. Priests should all be of one tribe and one training programme only. The Levites were selected as a tribal unit to head up the entire ministry of atonement. Prophets and Kings could and would come from any other tribe. But the “ministry of reconciliation” was the task of the Levites only. That singled them out and gave them special rights and privileges. As well as obligations.

But this is entirely different under the New Covenant. Lip-service is given to the conditions under the new order, but very rarely any real substance.

2 Corinthians 5:18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (Nobody acts out his ambassadorial role in the homeland, I e Heaven, but in the foreign land, I e while still in the alienated world.)

All those who have been reconciled to God through the Lord Jesus Christ are by definition also summarily summoned to become ministers of reconciliation. Blessed are the peacemakers said Christ . To be reconciled with God and have the burden of Sin removed has only one logical response left: to be reconcilers, to be go between for peace where there is strife, to bring reconciliation where enmity reigns.

Further into the New Covenant we discover the simplicity of the Church and her leadership in the ministry of priests and prophets.

1 Peter 2:4 ”And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For this is contained in Scripture:

Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone,
And he who believes in 
Him will not be disappointed.”

1 Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvellous light; 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

Much of the Church has battled on this front between the professional clergy and the “theocratic” communality of all believers. It has and continues to be a black and irremovable blotch on the Escutcheon of the Church. The deliberate division between the categories within the field of service has been a permanently bleeding wound and a recurrent reason for further divisions with the Church of Christ. And once the Church defined and limited what sort of ministers it tolerated it automatically superseded the Person and work of the Holy Spirit in the distribution of gifts to the whole body.

The flow of Love effectively staunched

The evidence of Spiritual Birth and Spiritual infilling is pre-eminently the outpouring of the Love of God in the hearths of men and women. A cantankerous spirituality is an oxymoron, a life- and workless faith is unheard of among those who have died with Christ and have risen to newness of life. And yet that is precisely the score in many super spiritual and even “hyper grace” assemblies. The majestic overemphasis on “Me My and Mine”, especially regarding Salvation, reduces the work of Christ to a divine favour for the elect and the rest of the world must fend for itself as it were. And stranger still, Love of God is reduced to My God’s Love for me only or at least primarily.

Nothing could of course be further from the New Covenant understanding. The primary quality of the “Agape” of God is that which
“.. seeks not it’s own” 1 Cor 13:5. Those who have been born from above :”..are not disappointed because the Love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit which He gave us.” (Rom 5:5 ) A self-centred and self seeking Christian is a contradiction in terms.

We serve not because we are unwilling slaves coerced and commanded to serve, having simply exchanged task masters from the Spirit of the World to the Spirit of God. We serve because we have been served the greatest, the best and the most needed thing of all. Whereas through our sinful self deification we had forfeited our right to life, the death of the Lord Jesus Christ came to our rescue. We could not save ourselves, so he gave His life in stead of the one we had forfeited. The very life that was His was made available, but only to those who accounted themselves dead with Him.
“ Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? “ Without that burial of the sinful self there is no rising to newness of life!

Hence Paul can safely write up and describe our deepest motivation for service in 2 Corinthians 5.

11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences. 12 We are not again commending ourselves to you but are giving you an occasion to be proud of us, so that you will have an answer for those who take pride in appearance and not in heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are of sound mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; 15 and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.

Our reverence for God has much do do with the awesomeness of a God who will put us all under scrutiny for how we have lived the life He gave us. Each shall receive the rewards according to how he has lived while in this body. His verdicts will never ever meet with any need to appeal or ask for a second opinion. We shall know the total correctness of the way our lives will be evaluated and praise Him for His just judgment even though our works be found hay and straw and stubble. How we build on the foundations which He has laid down will be what is evaluated.

But His love is the driving force behind our service. Not the fear of retribution or fear of losing salvation. Those who teach service out of fear do most ill. Firstly because perfect love casts out fear and secondly because we have not been given a spirit of fear and timidity, but one of self control and power. Service done out of fear is the benchmark of slavery.

As the wind billows in the hoisted sails, so the Love of God in Christ constrains us to sail and serve. But the servant chooses to serve or to say “I know you are a hard taskmaster who wants to harvest where you have not sown.” Either you let your gifts be used by him or you choose to take His gifts and bury them. But to claim to be saved and have no inkling of the need for serving Him, while you live entirely by His grace, is the epitome of a wasted life.

Transforming the ordinary into the heavenly

Faith does not release us from doing “what our hands find to do”, it does not nullify the ordinary things of existence, it allows the ordinary to be transformed into worship by a change of inner attitude.

Colossians 3:17 spells it out: “Whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, Giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” The ordinary becomes holy by How and for Whom you work, not What or Where the work is done. If any work is worth doing it can and should be done so as to please the God and creator who gave the ability to do it. There cannot be any who simply go through things “because they need doing” in a haphazard and irresolute manner, not giving the best they can. The work may be done even so, but it is not service to God but servitude under far lesser auspices.

The false imagination concerning our spiritual service is that it must have a purely spiritual constitution. This illusion is done away with in the word over and over again. There for instance so difference in the quality of service done in “the ministry of the Word and prayer” on the one hand and on “Serving at tables” on the other. Both workings presuppose and require “men filled with Spirit and wisdom.” Practical skills of a natural order still need sanctifying in the Lord to be useful.
Whatsoever we do, in word or deed, one basic requirement is for all:
“Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord.

Do not claim to be saved unless you are willing to serve.

Do not claim to be spiritual if the only interests you have concern your own bliss and salvation.

Do not claim to Love God while turning a blind eye to the rest of the body of believers.

God so loved the world that He is giving His sons to serve in it.

Are we willing to serve?”

To raise this question is to allow the heinous idea that you can have salvation as a one way ticket to heaven but have no servant’s heart while still here. The Word of God does not allow it. It is a gross misrepresentation of the truth. A non serving membership is not discipleship.

Teddy Donobauer 5th of July 2020


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