Paul as servant of the Messiah

Reposted from the Kineti blog and authored by Judah Gabriel Himango, one of Tabernacle of David’s teachers.

It’s the 39th day of counting the omer – we’re almost there! Each day I post a little something to help me count. Previously I wrote about the Bob Dylan, John Lennon, and the wicked generation. Today, the weighty cost of being a servant of Messiah.

Paul identifies himself as a “servant of Messiah Yeshua” in the opening to his letter to Rome. Paul makes two powerful theological statements in doing so:

  1. The life of a follower of Messiah is one of service; servants serve.
  2. Messiah is an appearance of God.

Life of service

Paul was powerful, relatively well-off socially and financially, held authority and respect among his peers. Trained under one of the greatest sages of Judaism, he was an expert in Torah who remained a lifelong Pharisee. Engaged with the prevailing Roman culture and Hellenized world, he also was a Roman citizen with a command of Hellenistic philosophy and extra-biblical Judaic writings.

He was a big man, so to speak. Top dog.

But he he doesn’t push himself as a big man. He identifies as a low class slave. “I, Paul, slave of the Messiah Yeshua”, he says.

Slaves in the 1st century were at the bottom. Not respected, no autonomy, somebody else’s property.

Why does a powerful, educated, respected man identify as a slave?

Same reason Moses, Joshua, David, Abraham and others identified themselves as servants of God: God does big things through humble people.

Indeed, 2000 years later, we see what God did: turned a wicked and idolatrous empire – the Roman Empire and its Imperial Cult religion – to instead serve the God of Israel through Israel’s Messiah.

God made that happen primarily through Paul.

And it’s because Paul lived as a servant.

Servants sacrifice their own will for the sake of their master. Even though Paul had education, prestige, recognition among his peers, and a powerful place in society, he gave it all up.

God did big things through Paul, and it’s why we’re still talking about him 2000 years later.

Messiah is an appearance of God

Moses, David, Joshua, and Abraham all identified themselves as “servants of the LORD” – עבד יהוה- a servant of God himself.

Paul, by does the same, but says he is a servant of Messiah. Messiah, being the fullness of God, is an appearance of Hashem on earth. Paul has no qualms about saying he is a servant of Messiah; being a servant of Messiah is being a servant of Hashem. In doing this, Paul affirms the divine identity of Messiah.

This is why Paul threw away all his credentials and social status: to know Messiah is to know God, to serve Messiah is better than status, riches, honor. By lowering himself to servant of Messiah, all the status, honor, praise, respect due to Paul is redirected to the Messiah for God’s glory.