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Senior Servants

No pecking order.

Galatians 2:11–14 (ESV)

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

This is amazing. Even though Paul isn’t a new convert (having had at least fourteen years of training), he’s still very junior to Peter. His calling out Peter on a matter of doctrine is bold bordering on improper. Even today, many cultures have hard and fast rules against junior people confronting their superiors like this. Back then it was even more extreme.

So, once again, Christianity is redefining culture. Proper reasoning of scripture, not seniority, is what matters.

And, if that wasn’t enough, Paul confronts Peter before them all. Wow. Some would see this as an attempt to challenge Peter’s alpha status.

But Peter isn’t alpha; Jesus is alpha.

One of the great beauties of Christianity is that we don’t have a pecking order. Everyone is a servant of everyone else. This is by design.

And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”  Mark 9:33–35 (ESV)

The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. — Matthew 23:11–12 (ESV)

If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. — John 13:14–16 (ESV)

The servant motif is all over the New Testament and all over Christianity, even today. This is one thing we haven’t forgotten; it’s just too ingrained.

But that doesn’t mean we practice true servanthood. We know not to self-promote, but our sinful nature drives us to care about things our Lord said not to.

We just can’t help ourselves.

These Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. The Weekend DEEPs are written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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