About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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Friend Or Servant


In John 15:15 we read that Jesus told His disciples that they were no longer His servants, but His friends.     


"I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you."


A few moments later, in John 15:20, we read that Jesus implied that His friends were His servants.  He said this:


"Remember what I told you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.'  If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.'"


What was Jesus saying?  Were His disciples friends or servants?


Peter would have been present when Jesus called him and the other disciples friends, but he still called himself a servant, as seen in 2 Peter 1:1.


"Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ ..."


Like Peter, the apostle Paul called himself a servant.  Romans 1:1 says this: 


"Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle ..."


So what's going on here?  Were Peter and Paul confused?  Were they Jesus' friends or His servants? 


The two Greek words translated as "servant" in the New Testament are "doulos" and "diakonos."  Doulos is translated as "servant" and "servants" in the above verses.  In the first-century, Greco-Roman, world, a doulos was the lowest of all servants.  A diakonos was just an ordinary servant.  Over time, doulos came to mean "a servant by choice," or, "a bond-servant."  This fact is important in understanding the issue at hand.       


The word "friends" in John 15:15 and 20 is translated from the Greek word "philos."  Philos suggests reciprocal friendship based on mutual love that freely flows from one person to another.  Philos is often understood to be brotherly love.  John could have used the Greek word "agapetos" instead of "philos" that he used throughout his first letter.  Agapetos expresses friendship based on sacrificing one's self for a friend, whether that friend reciprocates the sacrificial love or not.  I'm sure that John chose his words carefully.  Philos, in this instance, would have properly conveyed what Jesus was saying, and that was, serving Him is based on a mutual, loving, friendship between Jesus and His disciples.  I call it friendship based service.      


I conclude, then, that I am both a friend of Jesus and a servant of Jesus.  My service to Him is a product of my choosing to participate in a free-flowing, reciprocal, loving relationship between Jesus and me

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