Service

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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

SERVICE. —There are 5 words which with their derivatives are used to convey the idea of ‘service’ in the NT: λειτουργεῖν, λατρεύειν, ὑπηρέτης, διάκονος and δοῦλος. Of these λειτουργεῖν (λεῖτος = δημόσιος and ἔργον) is used to denote service rendered to the State. It indicates the unreckoned generosity, the uncalculating devotion of patriotic service of city or country. This idea is fully indicated in such passages as  Romans 15:16,  Philippians 2:17, and in connexion with διακονία in  2 Corinthians 9:12. The word was early used in the Christian Church to indicate the service of God in special offices and ministries. Thus in the one passage in which it appears in the Gospels ( Luke 1:23) it is used of the priest Zacharias, as it is afterwards used of the great High Priest in  Hebrews 8:1 ff. Very much the same may be said of the second word λατρεύειν. In classical Greek it was used of the service of the gods, and in the NT it is used of the service rendered to Jehovah by the whole tribe of Israel ( Acts 26:7 and  Romans 9:4). Thus Augustine says: ‘λατρεία … aut semper aut tam frequenter ut fere semper, ea dicitur servitus quae pertinet ad colendum Deum’ ( e. Faust . 20, 21). This distinct use of the word appears in all those passages in which it is used in the Gospels:  Matthew 4:10,  Luke 1:74;  Luke 2:37. Though these words are full of significance as used in the NT, we need not in this article examine further into their use, inasmuch as they do not appear in the Gospels in connexion with that form of service which Christ either illustrated in Himself or explicitly taught. It is in the remaining words that we must find whatever teaching is suggested by the terminology of the Evangelists.

διάκονος is used in what was doubtless the original meaning of the word, i.e. ‘one who waits at table,’ in  John 2:5;  John 2:9 (see also  Matthew 22:13 and  John 12:2). It represents the servant in his activity rather than in any relation to his Lord. The διάκονος executes the commands of his master. Thus, while in  Matthew 22:2-14 the δοῦλος invites the guests to the feast, it is the διάκονος who expels the unworthy guest. Another word closely allied in use to διάκονος is ὑπηρέτης, ‘the rower,’ then the subordinate official, and then the performer of any hard labour ( Matthew 5:25,  Luke 4:20). The difference between the two words is to be sought in the direction of the official relation of the ὑπηρέτης to his master.

By far the most commonly used word in this connexion is δοῦλος, ‘the bondservant.’ It is used almost as an equivalent to διάκονος to indicate the lowliness of the service rendered. Where the two words are brought into juxtaposition, the difference between them seems to lie in this, that while διάκονος indicates the activity of the servant, δοῦλος indicates rather the completeness of his subordination. Thus, in speaking of Christ, St. Paul calls Him the διάκονος of the circumcision ( Romans 15:8), while he says that He took upon Him the μορφὴν δούλου ( Philippians 2:7). So also in  Luke 12:37 watchfulness is the token of the activity of the servant. The humility of service, therefore, while not lacking entirely from the word διάκονος, belongs more particularly to δοῦλος. It is on the lines of this distinction that the words of Christ as recorded in  Matthew 20:26;  Matthew 20:28 may be explained. There it will be seen that, while διάκονος is the antithesis of μέγας. the antithesis of δοῦλος is found in πρῶτος; as though Christ would teach that true greatness lies in the doing of service, while the highest position in His Kingdom belongs to him who will accept the lowly position of the slave.

In this last passage and again in  Luke 22:26 Christ lays down service as the law of His Kingdom. The position of a minister was that which He accepted for Himself; ‘He came not to be ministered unto, but to minister’ ( Matthew 20:28), and He looked to those who would follow Him to accept a similar rule of life for themselves ( Luke 22:26,  John 13:16; cf.  John 12:16). This idea of service as the law of the Kingdom of God was no new one in Jewish thought. Many years before, the author of Isaiah 40-56 had spoken of both the deliverer and the delivered as ‘the servant of Jehovah.’ Both He who through suffering should redeem the people, and the people themselves, idealized as they were in the vision of the seer, were to serve. The one was to be ‘despised and rejected of men,’ and the other, blind, deaf, plundered, and despised, was to be exalted by the very service in which he proved his submission and obedience. Each was to be Jehovah’s δοῦλος.

Throughout the parabolic teaching of Jesus the use of this word is sufficiently frequent to be significant; but if He had given no other teaching in this connexion, His mind would have been sufficiently expressed in His acted parable on the occasion when He Himself stooped to the most menial of all menial service, and washed the feet of His disciples. When at length His self-imposed task was complete, ‘He said unto them, A servant is not greater than his Lord; … I have given you an example that ye also should do as I have done unto you’ ( John 13:1-17). In this service, which Christ enjoins as well as accepts, there are one or two notes which are peculiarly His own. The first of these is, that it is a service which is not imposed upon the individual from outside, but is a spontaneous act of submission. It was in this way that He Himself had entered upon that service μορφὴν δούλου λαβών ( Philippians 2:7), and it is in this way that He calls upon His disciples to serve ( Matthew 20:26). Indeed, it was only thus that service could be of any moral value to the servant. The compelled service is barren of aught but the spirit of rebellion, and it finds no place in Christ’s scheme. The service that is grudged or unwilling is not to be discovered in His example. As St. Paul afterwards taught, there is a recognition of the freedom of the individual in this, that he is allowed to ‘yield himself a servant unto obedience,’ and the bond which he thus casts upon himself grows closer with every subsequent act of obedience ( Romans 6:16). The second note is that of completeness. This service is complete in its self-dedication and exclusive in its object. Christ acknowledged from the beginning a sense of constraint when He said that He must be in His Father’s house ( Luke 2:49). His surrender to that compelling force was full; He found it His ‘meat to do the will’ of His Father, and to accomplish His work ( John 4:34). Equally full was the devotion which He realized, for He ‘did always the things that pleased him’ ( John 8:29).

These with the other passages already cited sufficiently indicate the character of the service which belongs to the Kingdom of God. It has a definite and undivided purpose. It is not qualified either in its sanction or in its claim to occupy and dominate the whole life of the Christian. Equally marked is its measure or intensity. Both in the terms that are used and in the examples afforded, it is taught that sacrifice, even that ultimate form of sacrifice which for mortals is realized in death, is the one condition of service.

Literature.—Fairbairn, Religion in History and in the Life of To-day  ; Church, The Gifts of Civilization  ; Westcott, Lessons from Work  ; Wendt, The Teaching of Jesus , i. p. 325 ff.; Bruce, The Kingdom of God , p. 220; Peabody, Jesus Christ and the Social Question  ; Ely, Social Aspects of Christianity  ; Lyman Abbott, Christianity and Social Problems  ; S. D. Gordon, Quiet Talks on Service  ; J. H. Thom, Laws of Life , 2nd ser. 347; Phillips Brooks, Addresses , 1; A. Smellie, Service and Inspiration (1904).

W. W. Holdsworth.

Holman Bible Dictionary [2]

 Genesis 29:15-30 Exodus 5:11 Leviticus 25:39 1 Kings 12:4 Isaiah 14:3 Lamentations 1:3 1 Chronicles 27:26 Psalm 104:23 2 Chronicles 12:8 1 Chronicles 26:30 Exodus 30:16 Numbers 4:47 1 Chronicles 23:24 Ezra 8:20 Joshua 22:27 Isaiah 28:21 Isaiah 32:17

Service at its best is worship. This involves the service of Temple vessels ( 1 Chronicles 9:28 ), of worship actions ( 2 Chronicles 35:10; compare  Exodus 12:25-26 ), of bringing offerings ( Joshua 22:27 ), of priestly work ( Numbers 8:11 ). Interestingly, the Old Testament never ascribes service to other gods.

The New Testament similarly speaks of forced service ( Matthew 27:32 ), sacrificial living ( Romans 12:1;  Philippians 2:17 with a play on words also indicating an offering), slave labor done for Christ's sake (  Ephesians 6:7;  Colossians 3:22; compare  Philippians 2:30 ), worship ( Romans 9:4;  Hebrews 12:28 ), offerings ( Romans 15:31;  2 Corinthians 9:12 ), and personal ministry ( Romans 12:7;  1 Timothy 1:12;  2 Timothy 4:11 ).  Hebrews 1:14 talks of the ministry of angels. Being in an army is also service (  2 Timothy 2:4 ), and those who persecute Christ's followers think they do service for God ( John 16:2 ).

Webster's Dictionary [3]

(1): ( n.) Profession of respect; acknowledgment of duty owed.

(2): ( n.) Office of devotion; official religious duty performed; religious rites appropriate to any event or ceremonial; as, a burial service.

(3): Alt. of Service

(4): ( n.) Act of serving or covering. See Serve, v. t., 13.

(5): ( n.) The act of serving the ball.

(6): ( n.) The materials used for serving a rope, etc., as spun yarn, small lines, etc.

(7): ( n.) The act of bringing to notice, either actually or constructively, in such manner as is prescribed by law; as, the service of a subp/na or an attachment.

(8): ( n.) The act and manner of bringing food to the persons who eat it; order of dishes at table; also, a set or number of vessels ordinarily used at table; as, the service was tardy and awkward; a service of plate or glass.

(9): ( n.) Duty performed in, or appropriate to, any office or charge; official function; hence, specifically, military or naval duty; performance of the duties of a soldier.

(10): A name given to several trees and shrubs of the genus Pyrus, as Pyrus domestica and P. torminalis of Europe, the various species of mountain ash or rowan tree, and the American shad bush (see Shad bush, under Shad). They have clusters of small, edible, applelike berries.

(11): ( n.) The act of serving; the occupation of a servant; the performance of labor for the benefit of another, or at another's command; attendance of an inferior, hired helper, slave, etc., on a superior, employer, master, or the like; also, spiritual obedience and love.

(12): ( n.) The deed of one who serves; labor performed for another; duty done or required; office.

(13): ( n.) Useful office; advantage conferred; that which promotes interest or happiness; benefit; avail.

(14): ( n.) Hence, a musical composition for use in churches.

King James Dictionary [4]

SERV'ICE, n. From L. servitium.

1. In a general sense, labor of body or of body and mind, performed at the command of a superior, or the pursuance of duty, or for the benefit of another. Service is voluntary or involuntary. Voluntary service is that of hired servants, or of contract, or of persons who spontaneously perform something for another's benefit. Involuntary service is that of slaves, who work by compulsion. 2. The business of a servant menial office. 3. Attendance of a servant. 4. Place of a servant actual employment of a servant as, to be out of service. 5. Any thing done by way of duty to a superior.

This poem was the last piece of service I did for my master king Charles.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [5]

sûr´vis  : Six Hebrew, two Aramaic and four Greek words are so rendered.

1. In the Old Testament:

In the Old Testament the word most used for "service" is (1) ‛ăbhōdhāh , from ‛ābhadh , which is the general word, meaning "to work" and so "to serve," "to till," also "to enslave." The noun means "bondage," "labor," "ministering," "service," "tillage," "work," "use." The word is used in describing work in the fields (  Exodus 1:14 , et al.), work in the tabernacle ( Exodus 27:19 , et al.), sanctuary service ( Numbers 7:9 ), service of Yahweh ( Numbers 8:11 ), Levitical or priestly service ( Numbers 8:22 ), kingly service ( 1 Chronicles 26:30 ), etc. Reference is made to instruments, wood vessels, cattle, herbs, shekels for the service in the house of Yahweh. (2) ‛Ābhadh itself is translated "service" in  Numbers 8:15;  Numbers 18:23;  Jeremiah 22:13 . (3) Serādh means "stitching," i.e. piercing with a needle; it occurs only 4 times, and in each case in the Revised Version (British and American) instead of "service" is translated "finely wrought garments" ( Exodus 31:10;  Exodus 35:19;  Exodus 39:1 ,  Exodus 39:41 ). (4) Shārath means primarily "to attend" as a servant or worshipper, and to contribute to or render service, wait on, and thence service; occurs only 3 times ( Exodus 35:19;  Exodus 39:1 ,  Exodus 39:41 the King James Version) and in the American Standard Revised Version is rendered "for ministering." (5) Cābhā' is found 7 times, used in the same connection each time, and refers to those numbered for service in the tent of meeting. Its primary root meaning refers to service for war, campaign, hardship ( Numbers 4:30 ,  Numbers 4:35 ,  Numbers 4:39 ,  Numbers 4:43;  Numbers 8:24 ). (6) Yādh means literally, an "open hand, indicating direction, power, and so ministry as in  1 Chronicles 6:31 , where David appoints certain ones to have direction of the music, translated in  1 Chronicles 29:5 , the Revised Version (British and American) not service, but "himself." (7) ‛Ǎbhı̄dhāh means "business," "labor," "affairs";  Ezra 6:18 is the only place where it is found. (8) Polḥān , from root meaning "to worship," "minister to," and so in  Ezra 7:19 vessels given for service.

2. In the New Testament:

The following are the uses in the New Testament: (1) Diakonı́a , from root meaning "to run on errands," and so attendance, aid as a servant, ministry, relief, and hence, service; compare English word "deacon"; Paul: "that I might minister unto you" (  2 Corinthians 11:8 ); also found in  Romans 15:31 ("ministration") and   Revelation 2:19 ("ministry"). (2) Douleúō , literally, "to be a slave," in bondage, service ( Galatians 4:8 , "bondage";  Ephesians 6:7 , "service";  1 Timothy 6:2 , "serve"). (3) Latreı́a , from root meaning "to render religious homage," menial service to God, and so worship ( John 16:2 , "service";  Romans 9:4 , "service";  Romans 12:1 , "spiritual service";  Hebrews 9:1 , "service";  Hebrews 9:6 , "services"). (4) Leitourgı́a , from root "to perform religious or charitable functions," worship, relieve, obey, minister, and hence, a public function, priestly or charitable (liturgy) ( 2 Corinthians 9:12 , "service"; also in  Philippians 2:17 ,  Philippians 2:30 ). See Servant .

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [6]

(properly עֲבודָה , Δουλεία , i.e. Bondage; but the rendering in the A.V. in many places of less severe words, as צָבָא שַׂרָד , Διακονία , Λατρεία , etc.). (See Servitude).

References