Sunday, July 5, 2015

Servant and Witness

Paul simply could not stop talking about his supernatural appointment as an apostle. If you have a Bible with the words of Christ in red, look at the red print in the book of Acts. In almost every case it is Paul reporting the awesome experience that knocked him off his horse, blinded him and changed him from Saul to Paul, from a persecutor of Christians to a powerful leader of the so-called sect. (As you recall, lots of people got their names changed in scripture,
Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, Jacob to Israel, Simon to Peter, etc.)
Paul’s most complete report of the experience comes in Acts 26 where he tells King Agrippa all about it. There are five main parts to the story. Jesus appears and tells him to get up and stand on his feet; he appoints Paul to be a servant and a witness; this witness includes what he has seen (the vision itself) and what he will show him; Jesus guarantees protection from his own people and from the Gentiles; and he gives the underlying purpose of the appointment, that is, to bring people to forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus.
Jesus himself demonstrates being a servant and a witness. We see in the second chapter of Philippians that he gave up the privileges of absolute royalty and emptied himself to be born as a servant. And, his ultimate service was death on the cross to offer salvation to any who would believe in him. That foot washing episode in John’s Gospel further attests to his servant nature and he performed the act as a witness of how his followers should relate to others, in a meek and lowly fashion. In that way, the service Jesus offered became a witness to all.
Isn’t that true of all our service—that it becomes a witness to others? I heard Garrison Keillor say on the radio that nothing you ever do for a child is ever wasted or forgotten. I think that may be true for adults as well. One thanksgiving when my family and I were camping, the electric system went out on our camper so we could not prepare supper. Total strangers from south Louisiana, who just happened to be electrical engineers, came by and fixed the problem within minutes, and brought us a big mess of delicious gumbo. When we went to thank them and take the container back, they had left the park. We remember the service they offered that evening as a strong witness of generosity and unselfishness.

The way Paul’s story ends in Acts 26 is by asserting the underlying purpose of his appointment: to show people how to get forgiveness and gain a place among those sanctified by faith in Jesus. As Paul writes at the beginning of Romans 8 (NIV), “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”

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