Another translation has “bond-servant of God,” or one who is bound to service without a promise of recompense or compensation. Too often, people serve their gods with an expectation of a result, an ROI (return on investment). Doesn’t work that way.
Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness—
There are promises from God for the elect (those who follow and serve), but those promises are on God’s terms, not ours. All things come through grace, therefore, whatever is given is a gift and not deserved in some way, no matter how “good” we are, how righteously we behave, how pious.
In Paul’s case, he defines himself as one of these bond-servants but also as an apostle, a messenger, expected to share the knowledge of the Christ imparted to him or her. Not everyone is an apostle. And yet, if we believe, as I do, that Christ is the long-awaited Messiah, then I am to tell my story (to testify). This is not about insisting that my story is better than your story. I tell because my life changed and the course I was on in my late twenties developed an unexpected fork in the road and I was able to choose a different way.
Some people, particularly Christians, forget that they have dual responsibilities. They might jump in with both feet into the messenger business, in the name of Christ, but often they forget their agreement to bonded service to God. There are some who serve God but have not recognized the Messiah part of their journey.
We have both identities and both roles, like in a family, I am a mother and a wife; in my job, I am both a librarian and a manager; in the Church, I am both a penitent and a teacher. Each role is served by the other, each task made richer by the other.
Let me be mindful of all of my dual roles today and in particular, by service to God and my message on behalf of the Christ.