Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Our Verse of the Day continues on the theme of “servant leadership” that was introduced during our last lesson. As you recall, after their Passover Meal in the upper room, Jesus was teaching and instructing His disciples to practice an attitude of humility and servanthood like His own. If you desire to be first … in a position of leadership … then you need to put yourself last and be a servant to all. (Cf. Mark 9:35) Then we looked at some practical ways to exercise humility and a servant’s heart that Paul offered in Philippians 2 and 1 Corinthians 9. Here is this verse, we find some additional instruction from Paul. I will reprint it along with the surrounding context of the passage for your reference:
Ephesians 4:1-7 (NIV)
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.
So what we find in this passage are several key points related to servant leadership:
- Servant Leadership may come with a high price … for Paul is was imprisonment for his devotion and loyalty to Christ Jesus.
- Servant Leadership is inherent to living a life worthy of the election to salvation and eternal life that we have received as a gift from God.
- Servant Leadership requires our conduct to be completely humble; gentle; patient; longsuffering; loving; etc. Sounds like the fruit of the Spirit to me…. (cf. Galatians 5:22-23)
- Servant Leadership is concerned about unity … making every effort to encourage unity and the bond of peace among believers.
Paul will continue to explain how servant leaders are equipped according to His grace as He determines to apportion it to us:
Ephesians 4:11-13 (NIV)
11 So Christ Himself gave (the offices or roles of ) the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip His people for works of service, so that the Body of Christ (the Church) may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
What Paul is saying here is that Christ Jesus determines (selects and ordains) who HE places as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers over HIS people. These are roles or offices … leadership positions … that Christ GAVE for the benefit and edification of HIS people (the Church). Their purpose is to equip believers for ministry in order for the Church to grow, AND to bring unity in the faith and in the knowledge of Jesus in order for believers to mature and to attain the fullness of Christ. And the leaders that He has placed in these positions are not to seek being “first” or being “the preeminent” in His Body; rather, they are to be humble and to consider themselves “last” by being “servants to all”. So beware of those who appoint themselves to positions of leadership in the Church.
There is only one FIRST … our Lord Jesus! He is the First and the Last! The Alpha and the Omega. The Beginning and the End. He is the head of the Body, the Church. (cf. Colossians 1:18) According to the grace of God, all of us who have been saved through faith, have been created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared in advance for us to do. (cf. Ephesians 2:10) But those Christ Jesus has GIVEN to leadership over His Church are to be “ servants to all”. And those who are given specific roles as leaders to the Church should seek to fulfill their responsibilities with all humility and excellence – keeping in mind that leaders are to build up His people and equip them for works of service….
If you have been given by Christ Jesus to a leadership role within the Church, then let Ephesians 4:2 be the quick guide on how to conduct yourself in the “position” you are to fulfill. Remember, Christ Jesus GAVE YOU to His Church for a reason. If that thought does not humble you, I am not sure what will. Being given to minister to the Church does not make you the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. It is exercising the humility that comes with your appointment that will exalt you:
Matthew 18:1-5 (NKJV)
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, 3 and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.
Mark 9:33-37 (NKJV)
Then He came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, “What was it you discussed among yourselves on the road?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest. 35 And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” 36 Then He took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.”
Luke 9:46-48 (NIV)
46 An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. 47 Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside Him. 48 Then He said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.”
Being a leader at the appointment of Christ Jesus will require you to be the least and a servant to all … but in doing so, you will produce much fruit to the glory of God the Father and our Lord Jesus. I pray we will always remember the words Jesus spoke: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:5-8) Amen.