For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.
Paul’s attitude and philosophy of his mission work are clearly stated in this verse; he served and worked as “a servant of Christ.” A servant, doulos in Greek, was a term Paul used to indicate his self-identity as he served the Lord.
A voluntary life of devotion and sacrifice for God’s Kingdom was a basis of every work he did. He confessed, “Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.” (1 Corinthians 9:19)
Paul’s portrait of his own identity is a mandate to everyone who follows the life of a believer. Once you are saved, you have absolute freedom to choose a way of life. With the new life born through Christ’s blood, Paul “made himself a slave to everyone” to preach the gospel and advance God’s Kingdom.
When this identity collapses, a crisis comes to the believers’ life, diverting them to demand God’s reward and blaming others for their own choice. Although dedication of one’s life to God’s Kingdom begins with one’s free will and voluntary devotion, loss of this mindset as “doulos” can quickly blind our heart and mislead us into a meaningless conflict with secular values such as money, fame, or vain ambitions.
Paul said, “We do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord.” “I make myself a slave to everyone.”
The fact that his life was driven by this belief was exposed in many parts of the New Testament. Rather than receiving, he considered giving as a greater blessing (Acts 20:35). Even in times of deficiency, he led his team to fundraise from churches in order to help and support the church in Jerusalem that was suffering from a severe famine.
Paul was strictly dogmatic, however, strategically practical and forward-looking. Not only teaching and preaching, Paul provided substantive money and funds for the poor, practicing the love of Christ voluntarily.
In Christ, there is nothing impossible for believers who desire to practice this love for others. We are in an era that even Christians are sold by money, being tested or discouraged in material temptations. Through the lips of the prophet Isaiah, God said, “To which of my creditors did I sell you?” (Isaiah 50:1) However, countless believers surrender to the force of money and discredit their conviction in Christ.
Paul’s courageous and daring model of self-support and self-reliance should speak strongly to modern churches to release many who are bound by a trap of fear in money or secular values. This Early Church method will revive when we inherit Paul’s spirit: “Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.”