Are the followers of Jesus slaves?
It is hard to get the issue of being a slave in my mind. In the Greek-speaking world of the first century AD, there was a critical difference between free (eleutheros) and slave (doulos). Each represented a very familiar legal status, with all the social and cultural baggage that implied.
That distinction is rather hard to follow in English translations precisely because outright legal slavery does not exist in Western society, and the concept is absent from our language, except in the loosest metaphorical sense.
As detestable as it sounds, I am going to be a slave. I can be a slave to sin and the religious legalistic culture OR I can be a slave to Jesus. I am going to be owned. Jesus is clear on this. I get to choose.
Believers as slaves of God — We are owned by God: What makes this such a thorny problem is that in its various forms, doulos is a common word in the New Testament, most prominently in Matthew, Luke, and Revelation. Strong’s Concordance gives 126 instances through the whole Testament, including every occurrence that English commonly renders as “servant,” as in “Well done, thou good and faithful doulos.” The Book of Revelation was revealed to God’s doulos, John. Jude, author of the Epistle, was a doulos of Jesus the Messiah. In the Magnificat, Mary praised God for his mercy towards her, his doula.
- Romans 6:22 — But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.
- Matthew 6:24 — “No one can be a slave to two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot be a slave to God and wealth.”
- Romans 1:1 — Paul, a slave of the Messiah Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the good news of God.
- Colossians 3:23–24 — Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Master rather than for men, knowing that from the Master you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Master the Messiah whom you are a slave to.
- James 1:1 — James, a slave of God and of the Master Jesus the Messiah, To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings.
- 1 Peter 2:16 — Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as slaves of God.
- 2 Peter 1:1 — Simon Peter, a slave and apostle of Jesus the Messiah, to those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus the Messiah.
When I confess Jesus as Master, I confess myself to be a slave — A slave who is a friend and a son and an heir and a joint-heir and a citizen of that eternal kingdom, and who is loved, having been captured, enslaved. His captor is a despot of love and a master of mercy, and one day He’ll gather us in, Matthew 25:21, and say, “Well done, good and faithful slave.”
In Luke 17, once you understand this, you’ll start to see this unfold as you go through the Scriptures and the good news books and through the rest. You can go through the book of Revelation, there are references to believers in every age up until the last age before the return of the Messiah, and we’re identified as slaves. So it’s a long-lasting identification.
Luke 17:7, “Which of you having a slave” … This is because it’s the actual slave in this little illustration; it’s translated correctly … “Which of you having a slave plowing or tending sheep will say to him when he comes in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat?’” No, no; would he not say to him, “Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself”…Go get cleaned up…“and serve me while I eat and drink and afterward you may eat and drink.”
That’s what slaves did, right? They served their masters. He doesn’t thank the slave because he did the things commanded, does he? He’s not like above and beyond the call of duty to be obedient, is it? To do that which pleases your master?
“So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say this,“We’re unworthy slaves, we only did what we should have done.’” Wow! Kind of deals a death-blow to the self-esteem notion, doesn’t it?
You say, “Well, I thought we were free in the Messiah.” You are — you are free to do what your Master desires.
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What is God’s goal for me? My job is to be a servant of God. That is it. There is nothing else to it. Jesus made that clear in his example of how he lived his life. Jesus was only here to do what God had in mind. Here is the problem. I like to be served and not be a servant. I love a great meal and the wonderful service of an amazing restaurant. So … I’ve got a problem, don’t I.
The last will be first | Leadership the Jesus Way
Jesus is clear about what is important. It is not about being a leader. It is not about who sits in authority at the right hand of Jesus. It is not even about being a servant leader. Jesus never talks about that.
Jesus calls on us to be servants. That is it. There is nothing else. That is our daily job. We live it out at work and at home.
Jesus only came to serve us and sacrifice for us. It is God that put Jesus in charge of God’s country (aka Kingdom). Jesus simply did what his Father wanted him to do.
There is a lot being said, by “leaders”, about being servant leaders. I have a friend that has written a book on it. He runs a truly great company. It seems to work for him. The premise is you can be a leader as long as you are a servant.
What does Jesus think? Can you say “Argle Bargle”? Argle Bargle is meaningless talk. It is hokum. Jesus isn’t enamored with my being a leader who serves. Jesus calls on me to be a servant or a slave. Jesus thinks it is Argle Bargle to be called a leader.
Please take a minute to read what Jesus says about this.
Jesus isn’t enamored with our being a leader who serves. Jesus calls on us to be a servant or a slave. Jesus thinks it is not right for us to be called a leader. Being a servant is enough.
Jesus isn’t running a business and Jesus doesn’t want leaders or servant leaders. Our role is to obey God’s commandments and love. That is enough!
Lord (Master) is a title that signifies Jesus the Messiah’s absolute authority and the basis on which people may know him. It is especially associated with his resurrection and return.
Jesus is the anointed Messiah, the King of God’s country.
We know Jesus wants us to be slaves. That is clear.
“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave (dŏulŏs) above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave (dŏulŏs) like his master.” ~Jesus | Matthew 10:24
Am I a slave or a servant? Yes! I am both. It isn’t an “either/or” issue. I am afraid, however, we ignore the slave part a lot. We love to talk about being a servant. Books, videos, sermons, songs and more. We even created this new thing called a “servant-leader”.
Does it matter? Yes, it matters a great deal. Being a slave is the essence of the life of a disciple of Jesus. It is not to be ignored. It is essential.
I want to talk to you about a word? Really? A word? A word in the Scripture that says something that has not been heard much in “the church” in America, or the English speaking part of the world. I’m in shock, really, that it hasn’t seen much visibility. It seems it is somewhat of a taboo issue. We do need clarity on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and to follow him.