on our second message in Romans

As I study the book of Romans, I am confronted with a dilemma: too much information, too little time. My usual response to this dilemma is to move very slowly through verse by verse exposition. I am a little worried about this in Romans since, of all the books in the New Testament, this may be the one written up the most.

This Sunday we came to the first phrase (after last Sunday in the first word). The phrase is ‘a slave of Jesus Christ’. The concept is so vital to understanding Paul’s ministry that it begs us to pause and truly consider the implications of its meaing. Our message was entitled Mastered by Christ. I explored a bit of the background of slavery, both in Jewish thinking and in Greek/Roman society of the day. To apply the term to one’s self is quite striking when you consider that the Rabbi’s would excommunicate a man from the synagogue for calling another man a slave. But the important part of the phrase is not the condition of the one who uttered it, but the name of the master to whom he is attached. Our proposition developed this thought: The gospel begins in a life when the self-serving rebel submits his soul to the mastery of Jesus Christ. The bottom line for us is this – who masters you?

In our afternoon service I continued with my series on church philosophy, It’s a Flock. The subtitle went this way: it needs shepherding (not merely leadership). My point was not to denigrate leadership. Of course the church needs leadership, but a particular kind of leadership, the shepherding kind. As I prepared for this message, I did a little internet search on ‘sheep behaviour’. You will find many interesting sites with this search, I didn’t realize how much was known of sheep psychology. One thing that surprised me was this: You must lead sheep, you can’t drive them. The ministry of the shepherd to the sheep is one primarily of care: feeding, leading, medicating, guarding, and guiding. There are some aspects of shepherding that cause sheep discomfort (see wikipedia on ‘mulesing’) but primarily the leadership of the shepherd is tender watchcare over the needs of the sheep. Sometimes the sheep need prodding, but mostly they need feeding. We find the same parallel in the scriptural metaphors provided by our Lord in Jn 10 and by David in Ps 23, as well as throughout the Scriptures. While pastors have authority to some extent over their flocks, they must realize that the biblical pattern for the exercise of their authority is the tender watchcare of the shepherd, not the autocratic demanding stance of the CEO or a military general.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3