An Interesting Choice Of Words
The Apostle Paul introduces himself, in his letter to the Church of Rome, with these words, “Paul, a SLAVE of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle and singled out for God’s good news” (Romans 1:1) I respect the editors of the Holman translation of Scripture for their decision to use the word “SLAVE”. Many translations have chosen to use “servant” or “bond servant” instead of “slave” out of respect for our human brothers and sisters that have been, and continue to be, subjected to the inhumane cruelty and bondage of human slavery.
The Spirit’s Use Of The Word “Slave”
But, here’s the facts – that word in the original Greek language is “doulos” and it means “slave”! So, if we believe the Scriptures are the inerrant, inspired Word of God (and I do!) than we’re left with the cold, hard truth that the Holy Spirit of God inspired Paul to use the word “slave”. It was NOT Paul’s choice! He was moved by the Spirit of God to use that exact word – for a purpose!
A “slave” – in the Roman world – was “owned”! A slave was purchased, “bought with a price”! They received no wages for their efforts; and, didn’t have any rights of their own. They were the personal property of the slave owner. A “servant”, on the other hand, had rights – they were free to quit; and, they were compensated for their work. They belonged to no one!
We Were Bought At A Price
So, I was meditating on Paul’s words to the Church of Corinth, “Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) While he doesn’t use the word “slave” (“doulos”) he does use descriptive phrases that define slavery – “you are not your own” “you were bought at a price.”
Now, it’s not like I’ve never thought about this before! It’s not like I haven’t preached this passage before – probably numerous times! But, I grasped it’s meaning in a whole new way – I had an “epiphanous” moment!
I am God’s “slave”! I was “purchased” by the blood of Jesus Christ – “bought at a price”! I am not my own! Everything that I tend to see as “mine” is not mine! It all belongs to Jesus – because He bought me!
If I live my life as an “owner” of my life then I’m NOT HIS! I can’t have it both ways – I’m either “free” (Not really! Sin is the ultimate cruel taskmaster!) to live as “owner” of my life; and, live with the consequences of that decision! Or, I’m a “slave” to God; and, I reap the benefits of His well-intended benevolence toward me! “Slavery” to God is the better choice!
How Does That Flesh Out?
Nothing I have is mine! We tend to gloss over that thought! But, it makes all the difference if we look at all our “stuff” in the light of Divine Slavery – our homes, our savings accounts, our IRAs – none of that is “mine”! It all belongs to Jesus – He BOUGHT it! But, let’s go deeper – what about our thought life, our attitudes, our sexuality, our grudges & feelings toward someone else! If we have been “bought”; if we are “not our own” – we can’t take “ownership” of those things!
We don’t “own” our attitudes – they belong to Jesus! We don’t “own” our thought life or our sexuality – that all belongs to Christ! As a “slave” He doesn’t give me permission to use any of those things for my own benefit and pleasure! In fact, Paul says “…therefore glorify God in your body.” That helps me think correctly about my attitudes, my feelings toward someone else, my movie & TV choices, my hobbies & reading materials – all of it in light of my Divine Slavery to God!
I can’t look – with lustful intent – at the woman walking down the street or the image in a magazine or on the internet! My eyes aren’t “mine”! The “thought life” that develops, from that look, is not “mine”! My “sexuality” is not “mine” – remember? All of those things were purchased by Jesus and to be used for HIS GLORY ONLY! Joseph figured this out, in Genesis 39:9-10, when faced with the offer of an intimate encounter with a woman he wasn’t married to – “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” His “sexuality” was not his to use however he wanted; but, rather for God’s “glory”!
So, if you’re struggling with some “addictive behaviors” ask the Spirit of God to help you meditate on these truths – you don’t have any “rights” to those addictive behaviors! Your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost! Your body belongs to Jesus! Ask His Spirit to keep reminding you about these truths!
So, Does God Approve Of Human Slavery?
Let’s be real! God opposes every kind of sin against humanity. “Kidnapping” and “slavery” are condemned – “He who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his passion, shall surely be put to death” (Exodus 21:16) “If a man is caught kidnapping any of his countrymen of the sons of Israel, and he deals with him violently or sells him, then that thief shall die; so you shall purge the evil from among you.” (Deuteronomy 24:7) ‘Nough said? I thought so!
Don’t mistake Paul’s words to “slaves” in Ephesians as approval! He simply wrote those words to teach believers how to respond – like Christ – in even the worst of human conditions!
So, why does God inspire Paul to use the word “slave” to describe our relationship to Him? I don’t pretend to know all the reasons! But, clearly God sets Himself apart from a mankind that would enslave other humans! He is love! He is benevolent & well-intended toward us! To be a “slave” to Him is to enjoy the BEST LIFE we could ever have – He is not a “kill-joy” in the sky trying to spoil our fun! All His commandments are perfect & for our good!
Happy is the man who submits himself a “slave” to the God of faithful love!