Stop Serving God
Any time there appears to be a contradiction in the Scripture, God desires to grab our attention. We come across this issue regarding the topic of serving God. The apostle Paul emphatically tells the Church of Rome that he serves God, yet in the book of Acts he tells the crowd at Mars Hill that God cannot be served.
Romans 1:8-9 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son.
Acts 17:24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.
Rather than setting these two Scriptures against each other in a battle of tug of war we, need to look a little closer.
While the same English word “serve” is used in both of these verses there are two different Greek words. To the Church in Rome Paul uses the Greek word latreuo, which means to offer oneself in worship. In the second passage, from the book of Acts, the apostle Paul uses the word therapeuo, which means to cure or to heal. These two words represent two very different ways people approach God.
People who serve God from a place of therapeuo (religion) serve God in hopes of appeasing him by their spiritual exertion. They believe that human effort and striving will gain God’s approval and divine favor.
On the other hand, people who serve God from a place of latreuo (Gospel) serve him because of what Christ has done for them. They are not serving him to gain something, they are responding to his self-sufficiency in humble worship.
Here is a helpful insight from Pastor Tim Keller from his Gospel in Life Study Guide (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), p. 16.
- Religion: “I obey; therefore, I’m accepted.”
- Gospel: “I’m accepted; therefore, I obey.”
- Religion: Motivation is based on fear and insecurity.
- Gospel: Motivation is based on grateful joy.
- Religion: I obey God in order to get things from God.
- Gospel: I obey God to get God – to delight in an resemble him.
- Religion: My prayer life consists largely of petition, and it only heats up when I am in a time of need. My main purpose in prayer is control of the environment.
- Gospel: My prayer life consists of generous stretches of praise and adoration. My main purpose is fellowship with God.
- Religion: My identity and self-worth are based mainly on how hard I work, or how moral I am – and so I must look down on those I perceive as lazy or immoral.
- Gospel: My identity and self worth are centered on the one who died for me. I am saved by sheer grace and I can’t look down on those who believe or practices something different from me. Only by grace am I what I am.