When you see a child pulling a tantrum in a store, is your first thought, “Oh his parents did such a great job” or do you think, “Somebody ought to teach that kid a lesson”? When children break the rules, they bring dishonor to their parents. In fact, when any of us break the rules, whether they are the rules of the road, the rules of society or the rules of decorum, we bring dishonor to those associated with us. The reputation of those who trained us is tainted when we break the rules.
I recently heard a teaching on the Ten Commandments by D. Thomas Lancaster. As he was speaking, a word jumped out at me and wouldn’t let me go. (Not the type of wrestling you should do while driving a car!) The culprit word was ‘bondservant’. Now, I’ve read this word and heard this word before, but there was something different this time…something that needed my attention. So I had to do more digging.
A bondservant is a slave or indentured servant. In God’s economy, an indentured servant could be set free. However, they could also choose to stay with their master for the rest of their life. And that’s the part that intrigued me and helped me understand more fully what Paul was saying when he called himself a bondservant.
Yes, he chose to stay a slave to Jesus his entire life, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. When we learn about God’s rules for life, His Torah, we see that the rules applied to the Israelites and their servants. So by choosing to stay with his master, a bondservant is also choosing to abide by the rules of his master’s house. Doing this brought honor to his master’s reputation.
Jesus, the Son of the Father, the Son of the Master of the house, was fully Torah observant and taught his disciples to live the same way. Jesus brought honor to His Father.
Paul called himself a bondservant of Jesus. The question then arises, “If Paul was Jesus’ bondservant, why would he instruct Gentiles not to follow the rules of his Master’s house?”
When we look at the evidence – without prejudice – we realize that Paul was either schizophrenic, a bad leader (do as I say, not as I do) or he never intended for people to believe that Jesus did away with the Torah.
First, by calling himself a bondservant, Paul was saying that he was a voluntary slave of the Messiah, willing to abide in His house forever and live by His rules.
Second, Paul gives his own testimony, in Acts and in his letters, that he lived a Torah observant life, and was falsely accused of telling others not to follow Torah.
Third, Paul instructs Timothy that all scripture is to be followed. We must remember that the only scripture at that time was the Torah, the Prophets and the Writings – the Tanakh, the Old Testament. If Paul did not want followers of Jesus to follow the rules of the Torah, why would he say that these very rules are good for teaching, correcting and instruction in right living? That makes no sense.
No, Paul did not break the rules, nor did he encourage followers of the Way to break the rules. He understood that Jesus is the Word made flesh. As such, Jesus is the living example of how to follow the rules, and He is also the way God forgives us when we break the rules and repent.
As Paul himself points out, since we have this great forgiveness, should we go on breaking the rules? No, we should go on trying to live by the rules, not legalistically thinking it will enable us to live in God’s house, but as an act of love, a way to bring honor to the One who is already our Father.