The Diakonos Principle
Servanthood in the New Testament
The church Jesus envisioned, both in time and eternity, is a servant church. Speaking with reference to time, He told His disciples “the greatest among you shall be your servant” (Matthew 23.11), and of eternity, He revealed the saved would be welcomed home with these words: “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25.21). He who “came not to be served, but to serve” (Mark 10.45) provides the pattern and sets the example for all would seek to be a part of both His earthly and eternal kingdom – the church.
The Terms Used
The term used in the Greek New Testament that offers the best demonstration of the servant principle is diakonos. Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament gives two possible explanations as to the origin of the word: 1) that it was compounded from dia and konis, meaning, “one that raises dust by hastening”; or 2) that it is a derivative of the verb diako, meaning “one who executes the commands of another, especially of a master; a servant, an attendant, a minister” (138).
The term most frequently translated servant in the Greek New Testament is doulos, derived from deo, “to tie, bind, ensnare, capture” (Thayer 157-58). The doulos “belonged by nature not to himself, but to someone else” (The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol. 3, Tuente 592).
Doulos presents a servant in relationship to his master; diakonos presents a servant in relationship to his work. The distinction between these two terms is clearly demonstrated in Matthew 22.2-14. In that passage those who brought in the king’s guests (vv. 3,4,6,8,10) were douloi; those who executed the king’s judgment (v. 13) were diakonoi (Vine 273).
So while doulos (slave, servant) accurately expresses the relationship between a Christian, his Lord, and his brethren (Romans 1.1; 6.17-18; 1 Corinthians 4.5), the word diakonos and its various New Testament forms, diakonia and diakoneo (servant, minister, deacon) describe the activity, work, and function of Christian servanthood.
Behold, New Things Have Come!
The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5.17: “Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
The great theme of the Christian religion is love. This passage refers to a characteristic of God’s love – forgiveness. When one comes to God in obedience to the Gospel of Christ, then all the “old things,” the past sins, are blotted out.
Hebrews 8.12 quotes God as saying, “And I will remember their sins no more.” When that happens we enter into a new relationship with God. It is like our life begins all over again. There is no sin to taint us, no fear to intimidate us. The new child of God, as he purposes to live daily following the example of Christ, has Divine assurance the blood of Christ is continually purifying his life in the sight of God (1 John 1.7).
Thus with the dawning of each new day, the faithful Christian rises to face the challenges of that day secure in the knowledge that old things have passed away, the new things have come because he is a new creation in Christ Jesus. To God be the glory!
This Week in the Word
A Thanksgiving Prayer – Psalm 67
God’s goodness to us is not solely for our own benefit and pleasure. He wants us to share the good gifts He provides us. Psalm 67 supports this principle by bringing together the dual themes of thanksgiving and evangelism.
The psalm begins with a prayer for blessing (v.1); in fact, the prayer itself is a form of blessing. But the prayer is more than a petition – it explains the purpose of asking for God’s blessing: that the LORD’s ways might become known throughout the world (v.2). This psalm offers strong evidence that God wants salvation for all peoples, for the whole earth (vv.3-7).
His purposes have been fulfilled through Jesus Christ. The Messiah came as a branch out of Israel and offered Himself as a blessing to all the peoples of the world.
What blessings has God brought your way? Whatever they are, He wants you to share them with those around you. He especially wants you to share the gift of the Gospel, the message of salvation in Christ. That’s the greatest gift. That’s the greatest expression of thanksgiving we can offer Him – to share the Good News of the wondrous salvation He provides in Christ Jesus.