Having seen something of the nature of, and preparation for, scriptural service, we turn our minds to the consideration of what service involves. We might note the different titles of service, such as 'walk' or 'work', or the different spheres of service suggested in such passages as 'preach the Word', 'fellow-soldier', 'we wrestle', 'sow', 'reap', etc.; or yet again we might note the examples of true acceptable service with which Scripture abounds; and yet once again, we could bring into prominence all who are called 'servants', or who are said to have 'served'. Then it will be necessary to note the spirit that underlies service, and it will not be too far removed from the practical orbit to give attention to the fact that service will be rewarded by the Lord.
The bare summary of possible avenues of approach reveals so much ground to be covered that we shall have to deal with the subject under different heads to avoid confusion. We purpose for the present to bring before the reader's notice a series of symbols of service that we find in the Scriptures. Every reader will not find each symbol of personal help. Service is too wide for generalisation, but we trust that each reader will find his own special calling illuminated as time proceeds. Moreover, there is always room for the reader to remember in prayer those whose service is so different from his own, and this of itself will enable us patiently to consider service in all its aspects, even though our own particular branch be not immediately in view.
The symbols of service that we will consider in this first review are three, viz., ambassador, apostle and angel. While each word has its own distinctive meaning and cannot be used interchangeably with the other two, they have one or two features in common, which may be of help to us in this series.
Firstly, ambassadors, apostles and angels are sent ones. To go at one's own charges, or upon one's own responsibility, would disqualify anyone from the use of these titles. Angels are messengers, and as such must be sent on their errand; 'Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?' (Heb. 1:14).
When we read concerning John the Baptist: 'Behold, I send My messenger before Thy face' (Matt. 11:10), we not only have the word 'send', but in the word 'messenger' we also have the word 'angel', for the Greek word is aggelos.
The very idea of the word 'apostle' is that of a sent one, for apostello is translated 'to send' scores of times. For example:
How shall they preach, except they be sent? (Rom. 10:15).
Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel (1 Cor. 1:17).
The same holds good of the word 'ambassador'. An ambassador who did not represent a person or power who sent him is a contradiction in terms:
Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us (2 Cor. 5:20).
He sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace (Luke 14:32).
Secondly, ambassadors, apostles and angels deliver the message given to them. This most obvious fact is not, alas, so patent when we begin to take stock of our own service or that of others. The apostle said to the Corinthians:
I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received (1 Cor. 15:3).
The close association of being 'sent' and being told what to 'say' is exemplified in the commission of Isaiah:
Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us? Then said I, Here am I: send me. And He said, Go and tell (Isa. 6:8,9).
Lastly (and this note we hope to strike again and again for our encouragement and for an example) these special features of service are found in all their fulness in the Son of God Himself. Neither Peter nor Paul can claim the title, 'The Chief Apostle', for this belongs to the Lord: 'Consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus' (Heb. 3:1). He was pre- eminently the Sent One, and, as such, He delivered the message entrusted to Him:
My doctrine is not Mine, but His that sent Me (John 7:16).
I have not spoken of Myself; but the Father which sent Me, He gave Me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak (John 12:49).
If Paul, in his conception of what a true ambassador should be, could say, 'as though God did beseech you by us', how much more could this be said of Christ!
No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him (John 1:18).
He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father (John 14:9).
Further, the prophet Malachi refers to Christ under the symbol of an angel, saying:
The Lord, Whom ye seek shall suddenly come to His temple, even the messenger (angel) of the covenant (Mal. 3:1).
Let us learn from these symbols of true service what is essential in our own, so that, however lowly our ambassage may be, or however limited the sphere of our ministry, we shall at least have the comfort and the encouragement of knowing that we have been 'sent', and that He has said, 'Go ... tell'. Jeremiah knew this double aspect of service, and with the Lord's words to him on the day when he was commissioned, we will end this article:
Thou shalt go to all that I shall SEND thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt SPEAK (Jer. 1:7).