I Corinthians 11:21-33
“Simeon Peter, a bondservant…” 2 Peter 1:1
“James, a bondservant…” James 1:1
“Paul and Timothy bondservants…” Philippians 1:1
When Peter, James, Paul, and Timothy all are referred to as “bondservants,” it creates curiosity within you. What is a bondservant? And why would these prominent followers of Jesus call themselves a bondservant? Researching God’s Word, you will find that bondservant is a Greek word that refers to the “lower rowers” or galley slaves who were kept chained below the decks of large Roman ships, to row the giant ships to their destinations. But why did Peter, James, Paul, and Timothy see themselves as bondservants? To uncover the answer to this question, you need to look at the life of a “lower rower.”
1) A bondservant could not see where they were going. As a bondservant of Jesus Christ, I do not know God’s plan or the storms ahead, but I am grateful that God is at the helm. I can trust Him not just for eternity, but every day of my life here on earth. He plans every detail for His glory, as he lovingly molds me into His image.
2) A bondservant did not see the results of their effort. The galley-slave never saw or enjoyed the beautiful destinations he labored to achieve. As a bondservant of Jesus, I am to faithfully share the “good news” of the life-transforming grace of God. Sometimes that means shedding tears in prayer and planting seeds that you may never personally see bloom. It is God who waters, grows, and harvests the precious seeds planted in the heart of people.
3) The bondservant was not seen by others. Peter, James, Paul, and Timothy choose to be bondslaves. They did not care if anyone knew their names. Their whole goal in life was that everyone came to know Jesus as their Savior.
As Christians, we need to look honestly at our desires and ask, “Who do I want people to remember Jesus or me?”
4) The life of a bondservant had a great cost. The low rowers suffered unfair and cruel treatment. When you follow Jesus, you, too, may suffer unfair and cruel treatment from others. No one knew this better than Paul. In 2 Corinthians 11:21-33, Paul honestly shares the cost he has endured for following Christ. “…in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews, five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.” BUT how could Paul, or any of us do any less for the One who saved our souls?
So, join the ranks of the bondservants and “keep rowing, keep rowing”;
to the glory of the One at the helm.