Slave: The Christian’s Identity in Christ


I recently presented a lesson to a small group on the slave metaphor used in the New Testament that describes Christians as Slaves of Christ. Below is my PowerPoint outline from that presentation. I did not intend for this to be an exhaustive study. Rather I hope that it will wet ones apatite to study this rich metaphor even further.

Several Metaphors Used to Describe Christians:

− Sheep,
− Soldiers,
− Athletes,
− Brothers, and
− Workers.
However, Slaves is the most common…

Two Primary Greek Words Establish Christians as Slaves:

(1) kyrios: “master and Lord.” To confess Jesus as your “Lord” is to say He is your “master” and “owner” and you are His slave.

(2) doulos: “slave.” The Primary word used in the NT to describe Christians as slaves of Christ (124x). For the most part it is missing from the pages KJV and to a certain extent the NKJV, ESV, NASB and HCSB. Often times doulos, or its congugents is simply translated servant, or serve. In this lesson well jump around between various translations to show slave language.

American Verses Roman Slavery:

(1) Roman Slavery:

− Non Racially Based,
− Encompassed All Professions,
− Everywhere in the Empire,
− Hope of Freedom

(2) American Slavery:

− Race Based,
− Primarily Agrarian in Nature,
− Geographically Limited to the South,
− Little/No Hope of Freedom

(3) Similarities Between the Two

− Exclusive Ownership by the Master,
− Complete Submission to the Master,
− Total Dependence on the Master.
− These are true of physical and/or spiritual slaves

Slaves of God in the Old Testament

(1) Egyptian Slavery as a Type for Christian Slavery (cf. Romans 6:1-14 ESV):

− Foretold (Genesis 15:13 NASB, cf. Acts 7:6)
− Realized (Exodus 1:13-15)
− Broken (Exodus 7-14)
− Freed from Egyptian Slavery to be Slaves of God or “God’s Possession” – (Exodus 19:5-6Leviticus 25:55 HCSB; cf. 1 Peter 2:9 ESV)

(2) To say one was an Israelite was to say one was a “slave of God.”

− Abraham (Genesis 26:24)* H5650 – BDB, “slave”
− Moses (Exodus 14:31)*
− David (Psalm 132:10)*
− Nehemiah (Nehemiah 1:6)*
− Mary (Luke 1:38, 48 NASB)

Slaves in Jesus’ Teaching:

(1) An Element in 13 Parables (Here’s a sampling):

− Unforgiving Slave (Matthew 18:23 NASB)
− Tenants (Matthew 21:35 NASB)
− Talents (Matthew 25:14 NASB)
− Waiting Slaves (Luke 12:37 NASB)
− Unworthy Slave (Luke 17:7, 9 NASB)
− To accept these lessons is to accept we are slaves of Christ.

(2) An Aspect of His Commands:

− A Slave is Not Above His Master (Matthew 10:24 (NASB)
− We Are to Slave for One Another (Matthew 20:25-28 ESV; 1 Corinthians 9:19 NASB)
− Love the “Master” our God With Your All (Mark 12:30)
− One Cannot Slave for Two Masters (Luke 16:13 NASB)

Slaves of Christ in the Epistles:

(1) Self Descriptions:

− The Apostles, Believers (Acts 4:29 HCSB)
− Paul (Romans 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Titus 1:1 HCSB)
− Timothy (Philippians 1:1 HCSB)
− Epaphras (Colossians 1:7; 4:12 HCSB)
− James (James 1:1 HCSB)
− Peter (2 Peter 1:1 HCSB)
− Jude (Jude 1 HCSB)

(2) Teachings Concerning Slavery:

− Instructions to Slaves/Masters (Ephesians 6:5-9; Colossians 3:22-4:1; 1 Timothy 6:1-2; NASB); (1 Peter 2:18-25 HCSB)
− Kidnapping People and Enslaving Them was Contrary to Sound Doctrine (1 Timothy 1:8-11 ESV)

(3) Various Verses:

− From Slave of Sin to Slave of Christ (Romans 6:15-23 ESV)
− We are God’s Possession (Corinthians 6:19-20; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 2:9)
− Don’t Judge One of God’s Slaves (Romans 14:4 HCSB)
− We Live/Die Per the “Master’s” Will (Romans 14:8; James 4:13-15)

Slaves of Christ in Revelation:

− Written for Christ’s slaves (Revelation 1:1, 22:6 HCSB)
− Jezebel was leading away Christ’s slaves (Revelation 2:20 HCSB)
− The Martyrs are Called His Slaves (Revelation 6:11, 19:2 HCSB)
− The 144,000 Were Marked Slaves (Revelation 7:3, 9:4 HCSB; cf. Galatians 6:17 NASB)
− Angels are Fellow-Slaves (Revelation 19:10, 22:9 HCSB

Suggested Reading:

− A top-notch book on this subject is Murry J. Harris’ work: Slave of Christ: A New Testament Metaphor for Total Devotion to Christ

− A notch book is John MacArthur’s book: Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ. I found the first few chapters really good, the last few were terrible.

− I have also benefited from: Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, edited by Leland Ryken.

− Also, appendix 3 in The Parables of Jesus, A Commentary by Arland J. Hultgren is a nice concise discussion on whether or not the Grk. doulos should be translated servant of slave.

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