“The Servant of Jesus Christ”
“Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called.” (Jude 1:1)
“What do you think I am? Your slave?” How often have you said that to someone? None of us likes to be treated as the slave of another. Do we? We consider it a great dishonor to be a mere servant. But there are circumstances in which we ought to consider it our highest honor to be the servant of another.
Our Lord Jesus Christ tells us that he came into this world, not to be served but to serve, and counted it his soul’s great joy to do so say, “I am among you as he that serveth” (Matt. 20:28; Luke 22:27). The gospel of the grace of God teaches us by love to serve one another (Gal. 5:13). Paul considered it his high honor to write to the Corinthians and minister to them as their servant. Are you willing to be a servant? Am I?
Jude’s Great Honor
The Apostle Jude, the brother of James and half-brother to Christ himself, wrote his Epistle to us and used this high, honorable title both to identify himself and to encourage us to heed his message. — “Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ.” He begins his epistle by describing himself as “the servant of Christ, and brother of James.” It is obvious from the fact that he mentions this first, that Jude considered it a higher honor to be “the servant of Jesus Christ” than the brother of James. He was honored to be James’ brother; but he was infinitely more highly honored to be, “Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ.”
Now, let me show you something that is not quite so obvious, but very important. Remember, Jude was also the half-brother of our Savior himself (Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3). But he does not even mention this fact. Why? The reason is just this — Jude understood that no earthly or family connection with any man or any family, not even an earthly or family connection with the Lord Jesus Christ himself has any bearing upon our salvation by the grace of God (John 1:11-12).
Jude counted it an infinitely, indescribably higher honor to be “the servant of Jesus Christ” than to be the physical brother of Jesus Christ! Being the half-brother of Christ meant nothing spiritually. We are told plainly that some of our Lord’s own brethren did not believe him (John 7:5). But to be the servant of Christ was to be a child of God, one distinguished from others by God’s distinguishing grace, conquered by his love, and subdued in his heart by the knowledge of the only Lord God, our Savior.
When Jude said he was “the servant of Jesus Christ,” he confessed, like Peter, that he believed that his half-brother is “the Christ, the Son of the living God! The “Christ” of the New Testament is the “Messiah” promised in the Old Testament, the “Anointed One” of God (Daniel 9:24-26). Jude was saying, “My half-brother is God my Savior!” He believed that his half-brother is God the Son who came into the world to save his people from their sins, — that his half-brother had save him from sin, death, and judgment, — that his half-brother, the Lord Jesus, had given him acceptance with the Father, — that his half-brother was his Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification, and Redemption! He believed that his half-brother is the King of Glory and the King of Grace, and gladly bowed his heart and life to his half-brother!
Without question, when Jude uses these words, “the servant of Jesus Christ,” he uses a phrase that sets forth the high honor and distinction of grace given to those men who are gifted and called of God to preach the gospel of Christ in any age (1 Cor. 4:1-2; Eph. 3:8; Col. 1:25-27). No calling of greater honor can ever be bestowed upon a man in this world. Every gospel preacher ought to count it his honor, his highest honor to be God’s servant among his people (1 Cor. 1:26-31). And God’s people ought to treat his servants honorably as his servants (1 Thess. 5:12-13; 1 Tim. 5:17; Heb. 13:7, 17).
Still, these words describe an honor even higher than that of being a gospel preacher. When Jude speaks of himself as “the servant of Jesus Christ,” he is telling us that he is one of those sinners chosen of God, redeemed by the blood of Christ, and conquered by his grace, one who has been made willing in the day of the King’s manifest power to bow before his throne (Ps. 110:3). You see, to be a believer, to be a sinner saved by grace, to have faith in Christ is to be the willing, voluntary servant of Jesus Christ (Matt. 16:25; Mark 8:34-35; Luke 14:26-33).
If you will read Exodus 21:1-6, you will see what this word “servant” means.
"Now these are the judgments which thou shalt set before them. If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing. If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out by himself. And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him for ever."
There were different classes of slaves in Biblical times. Jude referred to himself as a slave of the lowest class the class described in Exodus 21. In the Old Testament law, God made provision for debtors to pay off their debts by offering themselves as slaves.
Such slaves were to serve their masters for a period of six years. They would be released in the seventh year. However, the freed slave had the option of remaining a slave for life, if he so desired, as an expressed declaration of gratitude and love to his good master. The word “servant,” as Jude uses it to describe himself is taken from this law given in Exodus 21. It means “a voluntary, life-long bond-slave.”
The servant described here is a voluntary slave. He is a life-long slave. He is a love slave. That is what Christ became to God for us, that he might save us (Isa. 50:5-7). And that is what Christ makes his people when he saves them by his grace. That’s what I want to be. — The bond-slave of Jesus Christ! — The willing, voluntary, lifelong bond-slave of my Savior! Let me show you from the Scriptures what it means to be “the servant of Jesus Christ.”
The word "servant" implies worship (Judges 2:7, 2 Chro. 30:8). All who are the servants of Jesus Christ call upon his name in worship, faith, and gratitude as their God and Savior (Rom. 10:9-13). Believers are men and women who are in a unique slave-master relationship. Being made free by him, freed from his law and freed by his law, we are bound to him in faith, gratitude, and love (Rom 6:18, 22; 2 Cor. 5:14), as willing slaves.
A slave is one who is owned, totally possessed, because he wants to be, by his Master. This is what Jude means. He was purchased and possessed by Christ (1 Cor. 6:19-20). He was conquered by his Master’s grace and love. The servant of Christ lives and exists only for his Master. We have no other reason for existence. The servant has no rights of his own, no property of his own, no family of his own, no will, no ambition of his own. He belongs to his Master.
The one thing that should be obvious is that servants serve. The servant of Christ lives for the purpose of serving Christ. He exists only for the purpose of doing his Master’s will. He is at his Master’s beck and call. He serves not himself, but his Master — His Master’s Cause — His Master’s Family — His Master’s Honor. May God give us grace ever to be completely subservient to our Redeemer. We owe everything to him. We owe him a debt we can never pay, but a debt we can never forget.
The title “servant of Jesus Christ,” as I said before, implies the highest, most honored, most royal distinction in the world. Throughout history, those men who stand out as the greatest, most useful, and most honored men have been the servants of God. This is the highest title of honor imaginable. The believer’s slavery to Jesus Christ is not a cringing, cowardly, shameful subjection. It is the position of highest honor — an honor that bestows upon us the great privileges and responsibilities of serving the King of kings and Lord of lords. Servants are privy to their Master’s secrets. — “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants” (Amos 3:7).
Moses (Deut. 34:5; Mal. 4:4), Joshua (Joshua 24:29; Judges 2:8), David (2 Samuel 3:18; Psalm 78:70), the prophets (Amos 3:7; Jer. 7:25), Paul (Rom 1:1; Tit 1:1), Timothy (Phil 1:1), Peter (2 Peter 1:1), James (James 1:1), and Jude were all the servant of Jesus Christ (Jude 1). What a great honor it is to be ranked among such men!
Servants of Christ are followers of Christ. — “If any man serve me, let him follow me and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour” (John 12:26). Christ’s servants are his attendants, his deacons, people who follow him to minister to and for him (Rom. 12:1; 1 Cor. 15:58; Col. 3:23-24). — “What doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul?” (Deut. 10:12) — “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Heb. 12:28).
Whose servant are you? Whose servant am I? Our Master asks, "Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46). “Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling” (Ps. 2:11). — “Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing” (Ps. 100:2). May God the Holy Spirit graciously make us the servants of Jesus Christ.
“Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.”