Mention the word submission and you’ll make some people’s hair stand on end.
For instance, in a recent conversation I was groping for a word to describe someone who is compliant and respectful.
The word I chose to use was “submissive.”
The gentleman interrupted and said, “No. No. No. No. No. No.” Wagging his finger as he spoke. The woman with us laughed and said, “Oh my, no. Not at all.”
Clearly submission is not a virtue to be embraced. Not one you want to see in people you respect.
Submission implies weakness. Surrender. It implies powerlessness and defeat. It implies a lack of freedom and dignity.
The vanquished submits to the conqueror. The slave to the master.
Friendship with God a Greek Idea
The Greeks embraced this truth.
When talking about their relationship to their gods, they used philos, friends. They were friends of God–not slaves of their gods.
To be submissive was a repugnant thought. Repulsive.
They loved freedom.
The New Testament tells a different story for Christian believers.
Slave vs. Servant Debate
In the original New Testament text, the word slave (doulos in Greek) appears one hundred and thirty times.
However, it is often obscured when referring to the relationship with Jesus Christ, so most English translations will render the word “bond-servant” (Goodspeed being the only exception).
About this obfuscation of doulos John MacArthur says:
This word doulos in the Greek should never be translated anything but slave…never. Do you remember these words, Matthew 25:21? “Well done, good and faithful……,” that’s what you’ve read all your life. That is not the word for servant. That is not any of the six words for servant, that is doulos, well done, good and faithful slave. And the NAS is true to that translation. “Well done, good and faithful slave.” Why? Because it’s drawn out of a parable taught by our Lord about a man who had slaves.
The difference between a servant and slave is huge.
The New Testament teaches that our relationship with Christ is one of slave to master. Of absolute submission. No rights. No freedoms. Except for what He–and He alone–grants.
The New Testament does not teach that this our relationship with Christ is one of servant to boss. A servant has rights. He has freedoms. He can negotiate. He can quit.
Not the slave. The slave is the property of his master.
The 4 Absolutes of Being a Slave to Christ
New Testament readers would know what slave meant. Slaves belonged to their master. Thus, being a slave of Jesus Christ meant four things:
1. Absolute ownership. A slave is like a piece of property. He is bought for a price. In the same way, true converts are bought for a price: the blood of Christ.
2. Absolute obedience. A servant can negotiate his terms of work. A slave can not. Whatever the master asked, the slave is required to fulfill. Fortunately, beneath the slavehood of Christ we are never required to do something that compromises are being.
3. Absolute loyalty. A slave has one all-consuming reason to live–please that master. Jesus exemplified this loyalty in his unrelenting desire and discipline to please God. His loyalty extended all the way to the cross. And our loyalties can never be divided.
4. Absolute dependence. A slave is owned and owns nothing. The master must provide food, clothing and shelter. He must provide protection. And we know that being a slave to faithful, kind, generous and gracious God is a beautiful thing.
Jesus said, “And He was saying to them all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me'” (Luke 9:23).
Salvation is the end of you. Your life.
Who Is to Be Called Slave to Christ?
Every single person who is in the body of Christian believers is called to be a slave. Their is no exception for rank or class. No exception for past or future titles.
The Apostle Paul. “Paul, a bond-servant (doulos) of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.” Romans 1:1
Timothy. “Paul and Timothy, bond-servants (doulos) of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons.” Philippians 1:1
The Lord’s brother. “James, a bond-servant (doulos) of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” James 1:1
The spiritually elite. “Just as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant (doulos), who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf.” Colossians 1:7
Future saints. “Saying, ‘Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond-servants (doulos) of our God on their foreheads.’” Revelation 7:3
Speaking of James, he writes, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.’” (James 4:13).
That is slave talk.
New Testament doesn’t condemn slavery. Doesn’t condone slavery. Merely acknowledges that it exists–and seeks to regulate it.
The Joy of Being a Slave to Christ
As slaves of Christ God lavishes us with all of His possessions. He does it for our joy, and He does it for His glory.
Think about it: we are adopted into His family. We are made sons of God. We are called joint-heirs with Christ.
In heaven we will sit with Him and rule with Him. There is no greater joy than to be a slave of Christ. No greater reward. Paul knew this when he said “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.”
Far beyond all comparison. In other words, joy that will blow our minds.
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