Saturday, September 14, 2013

Serve One Another

Today I want to look at two similar “one anothers”. The first is written by Paul, “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” (Galatians 5:13). The second is written by Peter, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (I Peter 4:10).

In our first verse, Galatians 5:13, the Greek word for “serve” is speaking of the kind of service performed by one who is enslaved. According to Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary, such a slave “conducts himself in total service to another…in complete devotion to his or her master.”

This same Greek word is used by Jesus when He says, “No one can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24). Since total and complete devotion is required, it is truly an impossibility to serve two masters. Zodhiates’ Complete Word Study Dictionary further explains that such a person is not merely “in the position of a servant”, but also acts accordingly! Zodhiates’ lists two antonyms (opposites) for this verb – “to be idle” and “to be at leisure”. It would seem that such service is a full-time job in the extreme sense.

A couple more thoughts before moving on to Peter’s statement, the freedom Paul speaks of here is our freedom from sin and the Law that we now have in Christ (Galatians 5:1). The “flesh” he warns us about is enslavement to our selfish desires and the results are spelled out as “the deeds of the flesh” in Galatians 5:19-21. Both of these ideas speak to our motives when serving one another. We are not to be legalistic, adding rules, making a long list of “shoulds” that are burdensome and rob us of our freedom in Christ. Neither are we to selfishly serve others with the hopes of personal gain.

Lastly, let’s take a quick look at Paul’s phrase “through love”. The love spoken of here is agape love, the most devoted kind of love possible. This is the love referred to in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son…” Agape love gives what is best and what is most needful. As for the Greek word use for “through”, it can also be translated as “on account of…” and “because of…” Therefore, our service to one another is to be on account of and because of the agape love we have found in Christ and it is that same sort of love we pass on to others. I John 4:19 says simply, “We love, because He first loved us.”

In I Peter 4:10, the Greek word for “serving” is the verb diakoneo, it literally means to be a waiter of tables. According to Zodhiates, the word generally means, “to care for someone’s needs, bringing advantage to others”. The antonyms he lists are “to harm, to cause loss, to destroy, to corrupt”. Clearly, the word means a lot more than serving food if the withholding of such service would bring destruction or corruption!

Historically, seven diakoneo table waiters were chosen in Acts 6:1-6 to help ensure the fair treatment of widows. The men selected for this job were to be of “good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom” (Acts 6:3). Later we find Paul instructing Timothy on similar requirements for choosing Deacons (diakonos) to help with church administration (I Timothy 3:8-13).

The thing I find most interesting about Peter’s statement “serving [diakoneo] one another” is that he is not speaking to just a few Deacons put in charge of this or that. His letter is addressed to all the believers living throughout Asia. Furthermore, I Peter 4:10 says “each one” has received a gift to be used in serving (diakoneo) others. In other words, every believer has been given the responsibility of serving as a deacon, whether they hold that title or not.

Notice also that Peter says we each have “received a special gift” (I Peter 4:10). Therefore, the way I serve will not be the exact way you serve; we are uniquely gifted and are intended to also uniquely serve.

Peter goes on to say our serving is to be done “as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (I Peter 4:10b). Stewards are managers put in charge of distributing and apportioning the goods on behalf of the owner. In Genesis 39:4, we find Joseph serving Pharaoh in this manner and later he is put in charge of distributing the grain during Egypt’s famine (Genesis 41:38-57). Likewise, Peter teaches that as we serve, we are stewards put in charge of distributing God’s many forms of grace to others.

To summarize, let’s pull all these various terms together and paint a biblical portrait of what it means to “serve one another” –

Galatians 5:13, “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”
•    Service is a by-product of our freedom in Christ
•    Biblical serving is not motivated by selfish desires of the flesh
•    We serve because of God’s agape love and we share that same love with others
•    Our serving shows an all-consuming devotion to our Master, Christ Jesus

I Peter 4:10, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”
•    Each believer is uniquely gifted to uniquely serve the Body of Christ
•    Such service is required of all believers, not a select few
•    Biblical serving demands we actually help someone, “bringing advantage to others”
•    We are stewards in charge of distributing God’s grace to those we serve

Ephesians 5:15-16Therefore, be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.”


  1. Hi Barbara! I learn so much from your posts, thank you for your great work, always.

    To serve one another is what we are here for, and we do need to serve everyone, not just the ones closest to us. I like the point you made about us all being 'deacons' to each other. What a powerful position!

    I know that I have to be faithful to that calling. It takes a lot of remembering on my part. And a need for grace too :)

    Happy Monday, Barbara!

    1. Thank you Ceil, as the “teacher” I am learning so much from writing these blog posts. This is a great blessing in my life and I am thankful to be able to do this.

      I’m also glad that you’re benefiting from this – thanks for letting me know!

      Blessing to you today, Barbara