Have you ever picked up a book because the title intrigued, or even offended you? Recently, I was at the library and came across a book by Pastor John MacArthur. Its bold title leapt out at me – “SLAVE”.
Intrigued and somewhat offended at the same time, I picked it up. Why choose such a title? After all, to be called a slave is somewhat derogatory. Yet as I started reading the book, I discovered that when we look at the Bible, that is how God’s people referred to themselves. In the New Testament, Christians would describe themselves as a doulos, literally, ‘slave’. Paul, Peter, James, Jude and John all referred to themselves as “slaves of Christ” in their letters. Not a hired worker, not even a servant, but a slave. Even in the Old Testament, God’s people acknowledged themselves as His slaves. But over time, in many translations of the Bible the word was often translated as ‘servant’ instead, because of the negative connotations of the word ‘slave’.
Perhaps the idea is offensive to us because we picture a slave as one treated inhumanely or harshly by a cruel master. But what if we know the Master is good? What if we know that even if we do not fully understand Him, we can trust that He is good?
What if we know that if we are not slaves of God, we are actually slaves of sin and the devil? But Christ paid the price to set us free. “You are not your own, for you were bought at a price.” (1 Cor 6:19-20). And God redeems us from slavery to sin, to serve righteousness instead. “…you who were once slaves of sin… having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” (Rom 6:17-18)
What if we consider that Jesus said to know God means to obey His commands (1 John 1:3)? To call Jesus ‘Lord’ means to do what He says. Recall how He challenged those who claimed to follow Him – “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46)
What if we consider that as a good Master, God provides for us, and equips us and entrusts us to serve Him? And in serving Him, we will share His joy! “Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master’s joy!” (Matt 25:23, HCSB)
And what if we consider that we are not just slaves, but God has adopted us as His children? As John MacArthur explains, “The marvelous doctrine of adoption assures us that, as believers in Jesus Christ, we are now and forever full-fledged members of God’s family. Think of it! The only begotten Son of God took on the form of a slave (Phil 2:7), so that the slaves of sin might become both slaves of righteousness and sons of God!”
Considering all this, to be called a slave of Christ is a privilege, not an insult. It is what being a Christian is meant to be. As MacArthur explains, “True Christianity is not about adding Jesus to my life. Instead, it is about devoting myself completely to Him – submitting wholly to His will and seeking to please Him above all else. It demands dying to self and following the Master, no matter the cost. In other words, to be a Christian is to be Christ’s slave.”
As we heard in last week’s sermon, the year of Jubilee reveals that God is our Owner, Provider and Redeemer. And as a child of God and a slave of Christ, I need to constantly remind myself this – My life is not my own. I live for Christ alone.
By Jan Choo, Assistant Pastor (YCKC Bulletin 10&11 January 2015)