A Godly Man is a Servant of God, Not a Servant of Men

By Thomas Watson; excerpted with minor editing from The Godly Man’s Picture,—

Drawn with a Scripture Pencil, or Some Characteristic Marks of a Man who is Going to Heaven
(BOT, 1992 [666]), 37-44 [Sect. 6 of chap 4, "Showing the Characteristics of a Godly Man"]

This characteristic has two distinct branches. I shall speak of both in order.

I. A Godly Man Is A Servant of God

"We are the servants of the God of heaven" (Ezr 5:11); "Epaphras, a servant of Christ" (Col 4:12).


In what sense is a godly man a servant of God?


In seven respects:

1. A servant leaves all others, and confines himself to one master. So a godly man leaves the service of sin, and betakes himself to the service of God (Rom 6:22). Sin is a tyrannizing thing; a sinner is a slave when he sins with most freedom. The wages which sin gives may deter us from its service: "the wages of sin is death" (Rom 6:23). Here is damnable pay! A godly man enlists himself in God’s family, and is one of his menial servants: "O Lord, truly I am thy servant; I am thy servant" (Ps 116:16). David repeats himself, as if he had said, "Lord, I have given my pledge; no-one else can lay claim to me; my ear is bored to thy service".

2. A servant is not independent, at his own disposal, but at the disposal of his master. A servant must not do what he pleases, but be at the will of his master. Thus a godly man is God’s servant. He is wholly at God’s disposal. He has no will of his own: "Thy will be done on earth." Some will say to the godly, "Why cannot you behave like others? Why will you not drink and swear and profane the Sabbath as others do?" The godly are God’s servants; they must not do what they want, but be under the rules of the family; they must do nothing but what they can show their master’s authority for.

3. A servant is bound. There are covenants and indentures sealed between him and his master. Thus there are indentures drawn in baptism, and in conversion the indentures are renewed and sealed. There we bind ourselves to God to be His sworn servants: "I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgements" (Ps 119:106). A godly man has tied himself to the Lord by vow, and he makes conscience of his vow. He would rather die by persecution than live by perjury (Ps 56:12).

4. A servant not only wears his master’s livery, but does His work. Thus a godly man works for God. St Paul "spent and was spent for Christ" (2 Cor 12:15). He worked harder than all the other apostles (1 Cor 15:10). A godly man is active for God to his last breath, "even unto the end" (Ps 119:112). Only "the dead rest from their labours" (Rev 14:13).

5. A servant follows his master; thus a godly man is a servant of God. While others wonder after the beast, he follows after the Lamb (Rev 13:3; 14:4). He wants to tread in the steps of Christ. If a master leaps over hedge and ditch, the servant will follow him. A godly man will follow Christ through afflictions: "If any man will come after me, let him take up his cross daily, and follow me" (Lk 9:23). Peter wanted to follow Christ on the water. A godly man will follow Christ though it is death every step. He will keep his goodness when others are bad. As all the water in the salt sea cannot make the fish salt, but they still retain their freshness, so all the wickedness in the world cannot make a godly man wicked, but he still retains his piety. He will follow Christ in the worst times.

6. A servant is satisfied with his master’s allowance. He does not say, "I will have such provisions made ready." If he has short commons, he does not find fault. He knows he is a servant, and accepts his master’s carving. In this sense, a godly man is God’s servant; he is willing to live on God’s allowance; if he has only some leftovers, he does not grumble. Paul knew he was a servant, therefore whether more or less fell to his share, he was indifferent (Phil 4:11). When Christians complain at their condition, they forget that they are servants, and must live on the allowance of their heavenly Master. You who have the least bit from God will die in His debt.

7. A servant will stand up for the honour of his master. He cannothear his master reproached, but will vindicate His credit. Thus, every godly man will stand up for the honour of his Master, Christ. "My zeal hath consumed me" (Ps 119:139). A servant of God stands up for His truths. Some can hear God’s name reproached, and His ways spoken against, yet remain silent. God will be ashamed of such servants, and reject them before men and angels.


Let us declare ourselves godly by being servants of the most high God. Consider:

1. God is the best Master. He is punctilious in all His promises: "There is no God like thee, in heaven above, or on earth beneath, who keepest covenant and mercy with thy servants… there hath not failed one word of all his good promise" (1 Kgs 8:23,56). God is of a most sweet, gracious disposition. He has this quality that He is "slow to anger" and "ready to forgive" (Ps 103:8; 86:5). In our wants, He relieves us; in our weakness, He pities us. He reveals His secrets to His servants (Ps 25:14; Prov 3:32). He waits on His servants. Was there ever such a Master? "Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them" (Lk 12:37). When we are sick, He makes our bed: "thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness" (Ps 41:3). He holds our head when we are fainting. Other masters may forget their servants, and cast them off when they are old, but God will not: "thou art my servant: O Israel, thou shalt not be forgotten of me" (Is 44:21). It is a slander to say, "God is a hard Master."

2. God’s service is the best service. There are six privileges in God’s service:

a. Freedom. Though the saints are bound to God’s service, yet they serve Him freely. God’s Spirit, who is called a "free Spirit" (Ps 51:12), makes them free and cheerful in obedience. The Spirit carries them on the wings of delight; He makes duty a privilege; He does not force, but draw. He enlarges the heart in love and fills it with joy. God’s service is perfect freedom.

b. Honour. David the king professed himself one of God’s pensioners: "I am thy servant" (Ps 143:12). St Paul, when he wants to blaze his coat of arms, and set forth his best heraldry, does not call himself "Paul, a Hebrew of the Hebrews," or "Paul, of the tribe of Benjamin," but "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ" (Rom 1:1). Theodosius thought it a greater dignity to be God’s servant, than to be an emperor. Christ Himself, who is equal with His Father, is nevertheless not ashamed of the title "servant" (Is 53:11). Every servant of God is a son, every subject a prince. It is more honour to serve God than to have kings serve us. The angels in heaven are servants of the saints on earth.

c. Safety. God takes care of His servants. He gives them protection: "Thou art my servant; fear not; for I am with thee" (Isa 41:9,10). God hides His servants: "in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me" (Ps 27:5). That is, He shall keep me safe, as in the most holy place of the sanctuary, where none but the priests might enter. Christ’s wings are both for healing and for hiding, for curing and securing us (Mal 4:2). The devil and his instruments would soon devour the servants of God, if He did not set an invisible guard about them, and cover them with the golden feathers of His protection (Ps 91:4). "I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee" (Acts 18:10). God’s watchful eye is always on His people, and the enemies shall not do the mischief they intend; they shall not be destroyers, but physicians.

d. Gain. Atheists say, "It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinances?" (Mal 3:14). Besides the advantages which God gives in this life (sweet peace of conscience), He reserves His best wine till last; He gives a glorious kingdom to His servants (Heb 12:28). The servants of God may for a while be kept under and abused, but they shall have promotion at last: "where I am, there shall also my servant be" (Jn 12:26).

e. Assistance. Other masters cut out work for their servants, but do not help them in their work. But our Master in heaven gives us not only work, but strength: "thou strengthenedst me with strength in my soul" (Ps 138:3). God bids us serve Him, and He will enable us to serve Him: "I will cause you to walk in my statutes" (Ez 36:27). The Lord not only fits work for us, but fits us for our work; with His command He gives power.

f. Supplies. A master will not let his servants be in want. God’s servants shall be provided for: "verily thou shalt be fed" (Ps 37:3). Does God give us a Christ, and will He deny us a crust? "The God which fed me all my life long" (Gen 48:15). If God does not give us what we crave, He will give us what we need. The wicked, who are dogs, are fed (Phil 3:2). If a man feeds his dog, surely he will feed his servant! Oh, then, who would not be in love with God’s service?

3. We are engaged to serve God. We are "bought with a price" (1 Cor 6:20). This is a metaphor taken from such as ransom captives from prison by paying a sum of money for them. They are to be at the service of those who ransomed them. So when the devil had taken us prisoners, Christ ransomed us with a price, not of money, but of blood. Therefore we are to be only at His service. If any can lay a better claim to us than Christ, we may serve them; but Christ having the best right to us, we are to cleave to Him and enrol ourselves for ever in His service.

II A Godly Man Is Not the Servant of Men

"Be not ye the servants of men" (1 Cor 7:23)


But is there no service we owe to men?


There is a threefold serving of men:

1. There is a civil service we owe to men, as the inferior to the superior. The servant is a living tool, as Aristotle says. "Servants, obey your masters" (Eph 6:5).

2. There is a religious service we owe to men, when we are serviceable to their souls: "your servants for Jesus’ sake" (2 Cor 4:5).

3. There is a sinful serving of men. This consists of three things:

a. When we prefer men’s injunctions before God’s institutions. God commands one thing; man commands another. God says, "Sanctify the Sabbath"; man says, "Profane it." When men’s edicts have more force with us than God’s precepts, this is to be the servants of men.

b. When we voluntarily prostitute ourselves to the impure lusts of men, we let them lord it over our consciences. When we are pliable and conformable to anything, either Arminian or atheist, for either the gospel or the Koran. When we will be what others will have us be, then we are just like Issachar, who is "a strong ass couching down between two burdens" (Gen 49:14). This is not humility, but sordidness, and it is men-serving.

c. When we are advocates in a bad cause, pleading for any impious, unjustifiable act; when we baptize sin with the name of religion, and with our oratory wash the devil’s face, this is to be the servants of men. In these cases, a godly person will not so unman himself as to serve men. He says, like Paul, "If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ" (Gal 1:10); and like Peter, "We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29).


How many leagues distant from godliness are those who serve men, who either for fear of punishment, or from hope of promotion, comply with the sinful commands of men, who will put their conscience under any yoke, and sail with any wind that blows profit. These are the "servants of men;" they have abjured their baptismal vow, and renounced the Lord who bought them.

To the one who is such a Proteus as to change into any form, and bow as low as hell to please men, I would say two things:

1. You who have learned all your postures, who can cringe and tack about, how will you look Christ in the face another day? When you say on your death bed, "Lord, look on your servant", Christ shall disclaim you and say, "My servant? No, you renounced my service, you were "a servant of men;" depart from me; I do not know you." What a cold shoulder this will be at that day!

2. What does a man get by sinfully enslaving himself? He gets a blot on his name, a curse on his estate, a hell in his conscience; no, even those that he basely stoops to will scorn and despise him. How the high priests kicked off Judas! "See thou to that" (Mt 27:4).


That we may not be the servants of men, let us abandon fear and advance faith (Est 8:17). Faith is a world-conquering grace (1 Jn 5:4). It overcomes the world’s music and crucible; it steels a Christian with divine courage, and makes him stand immovable, like a rock in the midst of the sea. W