Jesus, The Model of Servant Leadership – Selected Scriptures

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Pastor Scott L. Harris

Grace Bible Church, NY

November 17, 2013

Jesus, The Model of Servant Leadership

Selected Scriptures

This morning I want to expand on my last sermon from Matthew 12:15-21 of Jesus fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 42:1-4 as the chosen servant of God. We saw in that sermon that Jesus was a servant who was merciful, meek, chosen, quite, sympathetic and unlimited. Since a Christian by definition is a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, each of us who profess faith in Him should also be servants of similar nature. (See: Jesus, The Servant of God) However, the reality is much more extreme than just this idea of Jesus being a servant. Though Jesus is the second person of the eternal Godhead, Jesus took on the form of a slave to God the Father. It is this combination of being both deity and a slave that enables Jesus to be the supreme model of both leadership and service. He is a servant leader. This is the specific topic I want to expand upon so that we have a clear understanding of Jesus and what we are to be as His followers.

The Importance of Servant Leadership

I believe that understanding servant leadership is crucial to understanding the purpose and manner in which Jesus lived. It is also critical to the health of the church and to living the Christian life. The importance of servant leadership has been impressed upon me from an early age. I have been greatly blessed by many humble men of great integrity and sound character who were wonderful, godly examples of living for Christ. They were servant leaders that had a very good and solid influence in my life. I have also suffered due to proud and arrogant men who gained positions of authority in the church in the quest to fulfill their own desires. They were a shame to the name of Christ, a detriment to His church, and the cause of much misery to many. They were worldly leaders who wanted to dictate to others and be served.

If you are going to be a Christian who brings glory to God and is a blessing to others, then you must make it a priority to be like Christ and that includes being a servant leader. This should be a normal part of life for every Christian is a slave of God and is to be a leader in the particular areas in which God has gifted him or her to serve. Until this is the reality of your life, your usefulness to God as a vessel of glory will be greatly hindered. You will be unable to be like Christ as the servant leader that God has desired and designed you to be.

Today we will examine the life of Jesus as the model of servant leadership, then next week, Servant Leadership in the Church, and the following week, Servant Leadership in the Home

Jesus’ Identity

To understand the servant leadership of Jesus, you must start with a proper understanding of His identity. It is easy to understand that a slave is a servant, and it is easy to understand that a king is a leader. But these two concepts are mixed together in Christ. Leadership and servanthood are blended together in perfect harmony.

Eternal God. The starting point of Jesus’ identity is that He is the second person of the eternal Godhead. Jesus is specifically referred to as God in passages such as John 20:28; Hebrews 1:8, 2 Peter 1:1 and 1 John 5:20. Contrary to the heresy taught by the Jehovah Witnesses, Jesus is not “a god,” He is “the God” and even called the “Mighty God” and the “Eternal Father” in Isaiah 9:6. Colossians 2:9 proclaims that all the fullness of deity dwells in Jesus. Other passages point out specific attributes that belong only to God that also belong to Jesus such as being eternal (John 1:1-2), omnipresent (Matthew 28:20), omniscient (John 16:30), omnipotent (Hebrews 1:3) and immutable (Hebrews 13:8). Jesus holds the offices of deity as the creator and preserver of all things (Colossians 1:16-17). Jesus has the prerogatives that belong only to God with the authority to forgive sin (Luke 5:20-24) and to judge the righteous and unrighteous to grant life and resurrection to eternal life or eternal condemnation of those who do evil (John 5:21-29). Finally, Jesus receives honor and worship that only belongs to God (Matt. 28:9) and one day every knee will bow to Him and confess that Jesus is Lord (Phil. 2:10-11).

Because Jesus is God, we can easily understand the leadership aspect of His identity. Since He is God, He is also Lord and has all authority to lead. As the omniscient Creator, He has perfect knowledge and ability to lead His creatures in the way they should go.

Son of God & Son of Man. But Jesus also took on human flesh to become a man (John 1:1-14) so that He became “Immanuel,” God with us (Isaiah 7:14 cf. Matthew 1:23). In doing so, Jesus became not only Son of God, but also Son of Man. His identity as both God and man are critical to understanding the concept of servant leadership.

Philippians 2:1-11 is a passage that brings out this point and its importance in Jesus being both Lord and a servant. 1 Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Notice first Paul’s purpose in this passage. He wants them to be unified and the means for that to be accomplished is by being humble and unselfish in considering others as more important and so looking out for their interests and not just their own. Paul points to Jesus as the example of this attitude that they were follow. He then gives us a window into the incredible person of Jesus Christ.

Notice in verse 6 that Jesus existed in the form of God and did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped. The word “grasped” (aJrpagmoV / harpagmos) is translated in the KJV as “robbery.” The idea here is to grasp or snatch something and hold onto it as in a robbery. There are two reasons why Christ did not regard equality with God as something to be snatched at, something to grasp. First, He already had equality with God, so striving for that was not necessary. You do not need to “snatch at” something that already belongs to you. Second, the Father would exalt Christ and restore Him to His full glory in the future as explained later in the passage. You do not need to grasp for something you know will be returned to you at the proper time.

Next, notice in verse 7 that Jesus emptied Himself and took on the form of a bond-servant in being made in the likeness of men. Jesus temporarily set aside some of His prerogatives as God such as His glory in order to become a man, but notice the form of man is a bond-servant. This word is dou:loV / doulos. It is often translated as servant or bond-servant, but that is not the correct English word. It actually means slave as in someone who is completely controlled by someone else. A slave is subservient to or controlled by another. English translators tend to shy away from using the word slave when used in reference with Jesus or Christians because of its negative connotations. It is in relationship to Jesus taking the form of a slave that we gain our understanding of His role as a servant and purpose in becoming a man.

Jesus’ Purpose

To Glorify the Father. Notice in Philippians 2:9-12 that God’s exaltation of Jesus with every knee bowing and every tongue confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord is to the glory of the God the Father. The Scriptures are clear that the purpose in Jesus becoming a man was ultimately to bring about the glorification of the Father.

Jesus also made this point clear Himself. Jesus’ prayer in John 12:28 soon after He had entered Jerusalem to the acclaim of the people was, “Father, glorify Thy Name.” A voice from heaven then answered, “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” In John 14:13 when Jesus instructed His disciples to pray in His name it was so that “the Father may be glorified in the Son.” In John 15:8, Jesus instructed His disciples to abide in Him for “by this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples.”

To Serve God. The means by which Jesus would glorify the Father was by submitting Himself completely to the Father’s will and serve Him. He said in John 14:10 that He did not even come on His own initiative, but God sent Him. This matches His claim in John 5:19 & 30 that He did nothing on His own initiative but only did what He saw the Father doing. In John 8:28 He added that even what He spoke was by the Father’s initiative to speak only what the Father had taught Him. In John 6:38 Jesus said, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” He also said in John 4:34 that His food was to do God’s will and accomplish His work.

This is why the term “slave” is proper to use of Jesus in Philippians 2:7, though, because He is also the Son of God, there is another term that is more precise in describing His relationship with the Father. Matthew 12:18 quotes from Isaiah 41:1 with God stating, “My Servant whom I have chosen; My Beloved in whom My soul is well-pleased; I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He shall proclaim justice to the Gentiles. The word for servant here, pai:V / pais, is a more restricted term denoting an especially intimate servant who was trusted and loved as a son. In fact, it is often translated as “son.” Jesus is the Son, but He willingly placed Himself under the complete control of the Father.

The most emotional expression of this complete submission was His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane before His arrest and crucifixion saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will” (Matt. 26:9). It was Father’s will that He drink that cup, but that still fit Jesus’ greater desire as expressed in John 17:4 to glorify the Father by accomplishing the work for which He had been sent. This brings up the other reason Jesus had become a man and how He had glorified the Father.

To Serve Man. Jesus said in Mark 10:45 that “even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” The word for serve here is diaknew / diakoneo. We get our word deacon from its root. Among the many Greek words that can be translated as serve, diaknew / diakoneo has an emphasis on personal service being rendered to another. That concept can be seen in the noun form being translated as table waiter. This personal service can even be strong enough to approximate the concept of service of love. Jesus did serve man in many ways as seen in the many miracles He performed ranging from turning the water into wine at the wedding at Cana for the benefit of the host and guests, to calming His disciples fears by commanding the wind and waves to stop, to meeting the physical needs of the multitudes by feeding them, to the very personal miracles of casting out demons, physical healing and raising the dead. All of these were done in service of man to the glory of the Father, but the ultimate way in which Jesus would glorify the Father by service to man was in giving His life as the ransom payment.

Because all humans are naturally disobedient to God, all humans deserve to die for those sins. Because God is just, it would be contrary to His own nature to absolve man of sin without justice being fulfilled. Jesus became a man so that He could be the needed, proper and sufficient sacrifice that would pay the price of sin and redeem man. Jesus willingly yielded His life as that sacrifice according to the perfect plan of God the Father. His resurrection from the dead on the third day proved the payment was accepted and His promises of granting forgiveness and eternal life to all that will believe in Him are true. That was Jesus greatest service to man and what Paul refers to in Philippians 2:8 about Jesus not only being found in the appearance of a man, but of also humbling Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus’ Example

The way in which Jesus lived, including His servant leadership, was determined by His identity as both Son of God and Son of Man. As Son of God, all authority in heaven and earth has been given to Jesus (Matthew 28:18). He has the right to command all men to serve Him without question or hesitation. As Creator He would be just to be an autocratic leader who made decrees and issued orders with little or no consideration for mankind that has rebelled against Him. Yet, this is not how Jesus leads, for He is also Son of man who is in complete submission to God the Father. Having taken on human flesh, He knows man’s weakness and so is instead longsuffering, patient and compassionate with men. Jesus was the perfect teacher who taught the needed lessons in all the various circumstances of life by word and example instead of autocratic decree. He was also the perfect leader because He knew the best way to teach His disciples what they needed to learn and the best way to lead them where they would need to go. This was all done with compassion which also moved Him to alleviate human suffering wherever He went. His willing sacrifice of Himself on the cross became the ultimate expression of God’s love by providing man a means to escape sin’s curse and punishment and be reconciled with God.

The idea of servant leadership is founded on the example of Jesus Christ. Though Jesus is God, He chose to lead by becoming a servant. The Creator humbled Himself to serve Hi
s creatures. He developed a plan by which sacrificing Himself for the best interest of His creatures would in turn bring glory to the Father. Jesus’ life is the example of how His followers are to live in humility and meekness with compassion toward one another so that the best interest of others will be pursued instead of selfish desires. That is the example of servant leadership that is to be followed by all Christians.

How is this idea of servant leadership to work out in the lives of Christians? What is its foundation and how is it to be carried out?

Christian Identity

A clear understanding of your true identity is the starting point. What is your true identity as a human?

Depraved: First and foremost, though you were created in God’s image, that image is distorted because you are a sinner who fails to meet God’s standards. You are not good. Romans 3:10-12 quoting from Psalm 14:1-3 is direct, “There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does Good, There is not even one.” Isaiah 64:6 adds that “all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment.”

Why is this so important? Because it destroys all basis for human pride and makes you humble. Only in humility can you receive the grace of God and follow Him. James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5 both state that “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” If you remain proud, then God is opposed to you and you will not be able to follow Him. The proud think they are good enough already or can somehow become good enough to earn God’s favor. They are blind to the truth and remain condemned in their sins with corrupted minds and perverted hearts.

Pride is a foundational problem for man. Pride is what led Eve astray. She decided she could judge for herself what was best for herself driven by the desire to become like God. Pride blocks man from God and also perverts his relationship with other people. When a proud person is in a position of leadership, they will invariably do what they think is best instead of what actually is best. They are wise in their own eyes but in reality they are being stupid. The greater the pride, the greater this problem. It is clearly seen in current state of national politics because most politicians are proud and that pride blinds them to the harsh reality that their actions, though boastfully proclaimed to be for the good of the people, are bringing about the exact opposite consequences of what they claim they are trying to make happen. Their effort at good is resulting in what is bad and they refuse to recognize it, so they stubbornly continue their course and cause more damage. Human pride will do that at all levels even down to the family and the individual who remains stubborn in his stupidity. As Proverbs 26:12 warns, “Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”

Sinners Saved by Grace. Jesus stated in Matthew 5:3 that it is the poor in spirit that are blessed with entering the kingdom of God. Only the humble will admit they are not good and repent to cast themselves on God’s mercy found in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ so that they can be redeemed, forgiven, and transformed by the Holy Spirit. If you have done this, then you have a second identity as a sinner saved by God’s grace (Eph. 2:8). If you have not, then you remain a proud fool under God’s just condemnation. You must repent.

2 Corinthians 5:17 describes the believer as a new creation in Christ, but according to Romans 12:1-2, you are in the process of being transformed by the renewing of your mind. In other words, while you are not what you once were, neither are you what you one day will be when you are fully conformed into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). Christians are still in danger of following the sinful practices of the world unless they are diligent to learn the Scriptures and follow them in the power of the Holy Spirit. Pride in a Christian can be just as foolish and just as damaging as pride in a non-Christian. The Christian needs to make sure they are pursing the correct model for life, which brings up the third aspect of Christian identity.

Christian – Little Christs. A Christian is by definition a disciple or follower of Christ as their teacher. Acts 11:26 states that “the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” This was meant to be a derogatory term used by the pagans, but the disciples of Jesus took it to be a compliment. They were “little Christs.” Like Paul, it should be the desire of every Christian to see themselves as being crucified with Christ so that they are no longer alive but it is Christ living in them (Gal. 2:20). The goal of a Christian is to be like Christ for when a disciple is fully trained, he will be like his teacher (Luke 6:40). Thankfully, it is a goal that one day will be achieved because God is faithful and will complete the good work He started in us (Phil. 1:6) when He conforms us to the image of His son (Rom. 8:29) at His coming when we shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:2).

Slaves of Righteousness – Romans 6. An additional identity that belongs to the Christian according to Romans 6 is that you are to be a slave of righteousness. 1 John 1:8-10 makes it clear that Christians will still sin which is why we have to be diligent to confess our sins as we become aware of them. We will struggle against sin, but Romans 6 makes it clear that sin is not to have mastery over us. We are to consider ourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. We used to be slaves to sin, but we have a new master and no longer are to obey the commands of the old one. We have been freed from slavery to sin so that we might be slaves of righteousness.

This identity as a slave means you are to be completely controlled by God and subservient to righteousness. If you are a Christian, then you are not your own. God has purchased you for Himself by the precious blood of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 6:19-20; 1 Peter 1:18-19).

Out of this Christian identity as a sinner saved by grace, of being a disciple of Jesus and being a slave of righteousness, comes the purpose of your existence.

Christian Purpose

Glorify God. This the first and primary purpose of everything and so even more so for the Christian. As already seen, our salvation in Christ brings glory to God, but so should every other aspect of our lives. Jesus said to let your line shine before men in such as way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:16). Paul said in Colossians 3:17 that whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, and in 1 Corinthians 10:31 he said that whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. That includes the use of your liberty in Christ. You are not here to fulfill your own desires and pleasures, but to bring glory to God.

Serve God. Since the primary purpose of your life is to bring glory to God, and since as a Christian you are a disciple of Christ who is being conformed into His image, then a primary purpose in your life is to follow His example in serving God. That begins by desiring God’s will. It is to pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven” and mean it. Your will is subservient to God’s will. It is to recognize yourself as a slave of God and rejoice in that position and the privilege of serving Him with gladness (Psalm 100:2). That service will be expressed in worship of Him both privately and corporately. It will be expressed in faithfully using your talents, time and energy to bring Him glory. It will be expressed in humbly using whatever spiritual gifts He gives you in whatever ministry He entrusts to you to whatever degree the Holy Spirit empowers you without comparing yourself with eith
er pride of jealousy to any other Christian or what they are doing. I will speak more about that next week.

Serve Man. Related to serving God is serving man in order to bring glory to God. That qualifier must be stressed because there are a lot of professing Christians that are busy serving man without glorifying God. Many purposely avoid mentioning Christ while others just neglect it, but if the good works are not done in a way to bring glory to God, then what difference is there between that and secular humanism? If you think about it, all spiritual gifts are related to also serving man so that people can grow in their own understanding of Him, deeper in their relationship with Him, and more like Him in character and behavior. I will also speak more about that next week.

Christian Life

The bottom line is this. The Christian life is one that is to reflect the Lord Jesus Christ in all areas. Like Him, we are to be humble, meek, compassionate and sacrificial in our service to God and man. Your service arises from the fact that every Christian is a slave of God. You can be either an obedient slave or a disobedient slave, but you are His slave. Your purpose of existence is to serve Him however He directs.

Every Christian will also have a position of leadership over someone. Some will have greater positions with greater responsibilities over more people, but every Christian must lead at some point. Every husband must lead his wife. All parents must lead their children. Every Christian is to be involved in making disciples of Jesus and so must lead the less mature. That leadership must be exercised in accordance with God’s commands and Jesus’ example which was one of humble servant leadership.

Today was the skeleton. We will flesh this out over the next couple of weeks by looking at its practical application in Servant Leadership in the Church and Servant Leadership in the Home.


Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up. 2) Count how many times “servant” is said. Talk with your parents about how you can serve God


Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. Why is servant leadership important in understanding the purpose and manner in which Jesus lived? Why is it important to the health of a church and to living the Christian life? How do we know that Jesus is God? How do we know that Jesus is also man? What does the word dou:loV / doulos mean? What was the purpose of Jesus’ life? How did Jesus serve God? How did Jesus serve man? Why did Jesus die? What is the example of servant leadership Jesus has given to man? Why must you recognize your depravity before you can be saved from sin? Why is pride such a problem for man? What is the means by which man is saved from sin? What does it mean to be a “Christian”? What does it mean to be a “slave of righteousness.” Why is this identity crucial to living the Christian life? What is the main purpose of the life of a Christian? How does a Christian serve God? Serve Man? Why must every Christian be a servant? Why is every a Christian a leader to one degree or another?

Sermon Notes – 11/17/2013

Jesus, The Model of Servant Leadership – Selected Scriptures

The Importance of Servant Leadership

Servant leadership is __________to understanding Jesus, the health of the church & living the Christian life

Until you live your life as the _________of God, you will hinder your usefulness to God as a vessel of glory

Jesus’ Identity

A proper understanding of Jesus’ _____________is necessary to understand His role as a servant leader

  Eternal God – Jesus is the second person of the eternal Godhead

Jesus is referred to as ____________- John 20:28; Hebrews 1:8, 2 Peter 1:1 and 1 John 5:20

Jesus is the “mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6) in who the fullness of deity dwells (Colossians 2:9)

Jesus has the ___________of God: eternal; omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, immutable

Jesus holds the offices of deity: Creator, Preserver of all things (Colossians 1:16-17)

Jesus has the prerogatives of deity: Authority to forgive sin; judge to condemn forever or grant eternal life

Jesus receives honor and ____________that only belong to God – Matthew 28:9; Philippians 2:10-11

As God, Jesus is also Lord and has all authority and ability to lead His creatures perfectly

  Son of God & Son of Man – Jesus also took on human ____to become Immanuel – John 1:1-14; Matt. 1:23

Philippians 2:1-11

Paul’s purpose is to bring unity to the church through _________________and selflessness

Jesus did not have to __________(aJrpagmoV / harpagmos) at equality with God because He is God

Jesus set aside certain prerogatives to become a man in the form of a ___________( dou:loV / doulos)

Jesus’ Purpose

  To Glorify the Father – Philippians 2:9-12; John 12:28; 14:12; 15:8

  To Serve God – John 4:34; 5:19, 30; 6:38 8:28; 14:10

Matthew 12:18 – servant: pai:V / pais – an intimate _____________ trusted and loved as a son

In complete __________________ to the Father’s will and work – Matthew 26:9; John 17:4

  To Serve Man – Mark 10:45

    diakonew / diakoneo: an emphasis on ______________ service – can approach concept of service of love

Jesus ________man in multiple ways – His many different miracles – but ultimately by paying man’s ransom

Jesus became a man to be the needed, proper & sufficient sacrifice that ________________man from sin

Jesus’ Example

Jesus could justly have been an ___________leader issuing decrees without consideration for rebellious man

Jesus instead humbled Himself to become a man & _________Himself for His creatures to bring God glory

We are to follow His ___________of servant leadership in humbly, selflessly and sacrificially serving others

Christian Identity

    Depraved: You are _______ __________- Romans 3:10-12 cf. Psalm 14:1-3; Also Isaiah 64:6

Recognizing your depravity destroys human pride to make you ________so that you can receive God’s grace

_______is a foundational problem that blocks man from God and perverts his relationship with other people

Pride ____________________ all levels of relationships down to families and individuals – Proverbs 26:12

    Sinners Saved by Grace: Matthew
5:3 – only the _____________are blessed with entering God’s kingdom

You are a new creature in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17) who is in the ________of being transformed (Romans 12:1-2)

Christians are in danger of following ways of the world unless they diligently _______________Christ

    Definition: Little Christs – Acts 11:26 – A Christian is a _______________/ follower of Jesus Christ

The goal is to be like ____________so that people see Jesus living through us – Galatians 2:20 / Luke 6:40

    Slaves of Righteousness – Romans 6

1 John 1:8-10 – Christians will still sin and need to confess daily – but sin is no longer to be your _________

You have been purchased by Christ, and so a _________controlled by God and subservient to righteousness

Christian Purpose

    Glorify God – by good works (Matt. 5:16), in every word and deed (Colossians 3:17; 1 Corinthians 10:31)

    Serve God – Actually desiring God’s kingdom to come and His ___________ to be done

Service is expressed in personal and corporate _____________ and using your spiritual gifts as God desires

    Serve Man – to the glory of ________, other wise the good works are the same as those of secular humanist

Christian Life – to reflect the Lord Jesus in all areas

Your service arises from the fact that you are a ___________ of God

Your leadership arises from the fact that your position and or spiritual gifts require you to _______someone

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