Note: A few weeks ago, John MacArthur preached a powerful message on what it means to be a slave of Christ. The transcript of the message is available to read at Bible Bulletin Board. For those who may not have time to read the whole thing, we’ve included a short excerpt below.
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Kurios and doulos are the two sides of the relationship [between a master and a slave in Roman times]. A slave is someone whose life belongs totally to someone else, absolute ownership, absolute control, absolute subjection, absolute obedience, absolute loyalty, absolute dependence. Slavery then was a social relationship between two persons where one had nothing, willed nothing and received nothing but what the master authorized, desired and provided.
Now if [we] don’t grasp that idea of slavery . . . [then] it’s hard for us to really understand the essence of what it is to be a Christian. You are a slave of Jesus Christ. You are owned. You have been purchased by His blood, Acts 20. You have been bought, not with silver and gold, but with, what?, 1 Peter 1:18 and 19, the precious blood of Jesus Christ. You have been purchased, Revelation 5:9. You have no independent rights. Slaves had no rights. Slaves owned nothing. They could not own their own property. In the eyes of the law they were not citizens, they could hold no public office. They were completely under the discretion and the provision and the protection and the care and the abuse (in an earthly sense) of their owner.
. . . The Spirit of God took the slave metaphor because it was the best metaphor to describe our personal relationship to Christ. He bought us, He owns us. We are devoted to Him and to Him alone. To be obedient to Him at all times, we have no will but His will. He is our Lord, we confess Him as Lord. That’s exactly what He demanded. You remember the words of Luke 9:23? We’ve repeated them so many times. “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself.” That’s slave talk. That’s slave talk. “Take up his cross and follow Me.” It’s the end of you, the end of your life. You’re finished, it’s over, you’re done. You are now the slave of Jesus Christ. And it’s not burdensome. Jesus said, “Take My yoke because My yoke is easy and My burden is light and you’ll find rest.”
A slave could have some status, but the status the slave had was related to who his master was. That’s why it was an honor to be part of Caesar’s household even though you were a slave. You were a slave at the highest level. And we have no honor for ourselves other than that honor that comes to us because of who our master is, right? And that’s why the apostles could say, “I’m a slave of God, I’m a slave of Jesus Christ.” That’s where the honor came from.
And I submit to Him for all my needs, I’m dependent on Him as my protector and my provider and I submit to all His discipline of my failures and my disobedience that He might conform me more to His will. And I submit to Him someday for that reward which He determines is suitable to give to me when I come before Him and hear, “Well done, good and faithful slave.” Let Him give me what He will.
And by the way, you’re going to be a slave to someone. Being a slave to Jesus Christ is beyond any kind of slavery that anybody ever knew because this master, listen to this one, makes us sons and gives us all the rights of His own sons. He adopts us into His family, calls us joint-heirs with Christ, takes us to heaven where we rule and reign from His own throne and pours out all the lavish riches in His possession forever and ever and ever for our own unmitigated joy and His own glory. Who wouldn’t want to be a slave under that master? What a joy to be a slave of Jesus Christ.