“You call me Master and Lord:
and you say well; for so I am.”
When Paul in Romans 1:1 writes:
Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle; separated unto the gospel of God… he actually said something totally different than what you and I will understand today.
Paul never wrote he is a servant of Jesus Christ. He actually wrote:
Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God…
In the Greek language the New Testament is written in Paul used the word doulos and this word had just one meaning at his time: slave or bondservant!
from 1210; a slave (literal or figurative, involuntary or voluntary; frequently, therefore in a qualified sense of subjection or subserviency):
The King James Translation and others we have today
deliberately changed this word into the word servant… and by this influenced the
understanding of innumerable believers in a drastic way to see themselves in a
position towards God the Fathers of Faith never had.
It wasn’t Paul alone seeing himself as a slave – Peter (2.Pet.1:1), James (Ja. 1:1), Jude (Ju.1) and John (Rev. 1:1) said the same.
And it wasn’t them alone using this word. Jesus used the word doulos quite often. In the four Gospels we find it 48 times used in singular and 26 times in plural!
When we read:
A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.
It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. – Matt. 10:24+25
… we can replace the word “servant” by the word “slave”… and
we have every right to do so!
If we count the epistles and the book of Revelation together we will find the word doulos was consequently mistranslated as servant for another 49 times (singular 18 and plural 31). Alone in the book of Revelation the word slave was replaced by servant 11 times (2 singular and 9 plural).
So when we read:
Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the “servants” of our God in their foreheads. (Rev. 7:3)
… right, there are no “servants” who will get this seal - but
“doulos” or slaves!
Counting the whole New Testament now we will come to a total of 123 times of deliberately and willfully replacing the original meaning by interpreting the word doulos as servants.
The consequences are quite devastating… as I will show to you! This little, six-letter word changes the foundations of our relationship - the way we see us in our relationship towards God - fundamentally.
It’s not just another word describing our status meaning the same. No, a servant is a free person serving his master out of his free will… a slave got bought, has no rights anymore and just lives for the one “owning” him. A servant possesses himself… a slave is the possession of somebody else.
At the time the New Testament was written everybody knew very well about the difference between a slave and a servant. At this time slaves were everywhere… something we lost the emotional connection with in the times we got born into today.
So if the writers of the New Testament chose the word doulos they knew exactly what it meant… and they used it with intent having its full meaning and consequences standing before their eyes.
Though we can’t connect to the emotional and physical weight
of the word “slave” anymore… they were very well able to do so.
It’s no mistake we find the word “slave” 123 times in the New Testament… and it is a grave mistake to replace it by a meaning more suiting our understanding we have today.
We have to make a little time travel now to get a better understanding about what it meant being a slave those times.
A slave had no possessions of his own. He had no money, no house and he couldn’t decide where to live, when to sleep, what to wear and to eat and if he wanted to marry he couldn’t decide this by his own. His master had to allow it and the wife and children to come would become the possession of this master, too.
In the letter to Philemon we see Paul had no problems with
sending a believing slave back to his master carrying this letter to Philemon
who was a believer, too.
You see, even the believers at this time had slaves… and Paul had no problem with this at all!
I can well imagine you sitting with your head smoking now! Yes, my dear
brother and sister, so it was and though we have so much difficulty in making
this fact fitting in our preconceived concept of religious and humanistic
ideals, with all those individual rights we take granted as fundamental freedom
- these are the facts we have to face.
In the whole bible we never find a word for slaves to rebel against their masters… rather we find the opposite encouraging them to serve their masters with diligence as serving the Lord!
(Eph. 6:5 / 1.Tim. 6:1+2 / Tit. 2:9 / 1.Pet. 2:18-20… no, no, it’s not “servants” as you’ll read! It’s “doulos” or slaves!)
Don’t fear I’m not writing this to beat a drum for slavery… I just need this to show the facts so we have a better understanding about us – and the position we have before our Lord and God.
Just forget about the idea doulos accidentally happened to appear in the New Testament… and forget we better should replace it with a word we love much better… giving us more dignity and a “rightful” position to refuse service.
In case a servant didn’t want to serve his master any longer
he just was free to hand him his notice of termination and was free to go his
way… but not so a slave!
If a slave ran away from his master this meant his death the very moment he got caught! Please, keep this in mind we will need it later!
When the first believers called themselves slaves of the Lord they did so with full intent, joyfully agreeing with it… but not all had this attitude of heart even at Paul’s time. And so we read:
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;
you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. – 1.Cor. 6:19+20
Here we see it again… and now knowing about the
“doulos-conspiration” we have no problems to understand what Paul meant when he
said ‘you are not your own’.
He knew something most believers have no idea about when they make a decision to follow Christ. They gave their lives to a Jesus healing their wounds, snatching them out of their misery and quagmires they brought onto themselves… and most of all, securing them the pleasant outlook of an eternity in heaven.
They don’t know that Jesus said “doulos” when He said:
No “servant” can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. – Lu. 16:13
And nobody, of course, is telling them about the consequences we all have to face being disciples of Jesus:
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. – Mar. 8:34+35
They never got informed that giving your life to Jesus means handing your control over your life over to God like Jesus said to Peter:
I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.– John 21:18
Peter understood later what Jesus meant with those words and he laid down his life for His Master with joy… though a rich man (Mark. 10:17-22) - and with him so many more – turned back when they realized that following Jesus means giving up every control over your life by becoming “His possession”… a people He bought unto himself by His blood.
Paul says it this way:
However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me- the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace. – Acts 20:24
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Gal. 2:20
Though the word “slave” got erased from God’s word by human
intervention this doesn’t mean God will treat us after “our version” now.
We know He doesn’t change and so He acts on us after His original plan… paying no thought on our self-induced pain, confusion, irritation, hurting and tears we have to suffer because we do not know about being His “doulos”.
As a slave had to die when running away from his master so neglecting the spiritual relationship we have with our Master has “death” as consequence, too - if we live “our” lives our way after “the way of this world”.
(Please, read: Matt. 7:21-23 / Matt. 25:29+30 / Ro. 8:5-9 / 1.Cor. 11:29+30 / Jam. 4:2-8)
This “death” can be a physical death indeed but most times it is
a life separated from the blessings of God like it was with Adam and Eve. It
means “thorns and thistles” everywhere in our lives and relationships, means
physical and spiritual weaknesses, sickness and malfunction. It’s like Paul says
in 1.Cor. 3, 12-17: we will suffer dearly here on earth but will be saved like
through fire. This is the misery we see so often displayed in the lives of
believers today. God won’t let us succeed in our way… and again all this
self-inflicted pain is nothing but Him showing us His love again - wooing us
back to a blessed life completely lost in Him.
Recently I was confronted with another wrong thought originating from the neglect of this spiritual reality.
Many believers following Jesus believe giving up your old life, control over your life and submitting under the rule of the Lord - with all those “unloved” consequences this brings - is something like “the price I have to pay” for true discipleship.
Dear brothers and sisters, we’re gravely mistaken again! We
never have to pay a price at all… all we are (this includes everything!) just
got bought by a price He paid for us!
The facts are: We’re His very possession now! We’re His property… and like a slave we have no possession anymore we can call our own.
Yes, though nobody cares about this – everybody is ignorant about the facts – this is the reality with God!
This is the way He looks at you… the way He sees you! No, my dear, you have no “own rights” anymore! You can’t choose after your own liking - for instance, marrying the partner you think fitting you best! And beware of the thought of thinking about: “my” house, “my” kids, “my” money, “my” career, “my” health, “my” friends etc…. yes, even it’s not “your” ministry for the Lord anymore!
Visualize the true position you have before Him now: You got
bought at a price… are owned by the King of kings and Lord of lords… and this
includes all natural man regards as “his” own.
As a master at Jesus’ time had the right to do with his slave after his liking alone… so your God will act in and on your life now.
It’s not you giving anything to Him at all… it’s just Him taking what is rightfully His since He bought you by His blood!
No, it’s not you giving to Him… just you have nothing anymore you can give! It’s all His already!
Jesus puts it this way:
So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, we are unprofitable “servants”: we have done that which was our duty to do. – Lu. 17:10
Guess what word Jesus used when speaking of “servants” here?
Right, the plural of “duolos”… we’re just “unprofitable slaves” having
done what we had to do.
It’s Him having chosen us… Him ordaining even all we will accomplish (Jo. 15:16) by His power enabling us!
For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. – Eph. 2:10
You see? Absolutely no reason to make big fuss about us at all!
He is even the one “doing” the good work we, mistaken in our blindness, look at
as our own product!
Nope, there’s no boasting with our God… not a snippet we can give to Him… so let’s be happy with just being dearly loved “nothings” He destined to inherit His glory!
Yes, even forget about “giving yourself onto Him”… and forget about the pain you have to feel when He is after “your possessions” you illegally claim as your own in your deceived state of mind.
And please, stop feeling especially “holy” when you finally – after all those years of desperately resisting Him – agreed to bow to His legitimate rule now and give Him what was actually His own since your salvation.
We are His slaves… and there’s no reason to speak about our
efforts serving Him at all.
He is our ALL in ALL… our EVERYTHING… the very substance of our existence!
However, there is a wonderful mystery hidden behind being His possession and A.W. Tozer gives us a short introduction what a “slave” of the Most High has to expect and I want to close with His words:
The Refiner's Fire
Ten thousand enemies cannot stop a Christian, cannot even slow him down, if he meets them in an attitude of complete trust in God. They will become to him like the atmosphere that resists the airplane, but which because the plane's designer knew how to take advantage of that resistance, actually lifts the plane aloft and holds it there for a journey of 2,000 miles. What would have been an enemy to the plane becomes a helpful servant to aid it on its way.
The main thing is this: we should never blame anyone or anything for our defeats. No matter how evil their intentions may be, they are altogether unable to harm us until we begin to blame them and use them as excuses for our own unbelief. Then they become potent to do us injury; nevertheless, we are to blame and not they.
If this should seem like a bit of theorizing, remember that always the greatest Christians have come out of hard times and tough situations. Tribulations actually worked for their spiritual perfection in that they taught them to trust not in themselves but in the Lord who raised the dead. They learned that the enemy could not block their progress unless they surrendered to the urgings of the flesh and began to complain. And slowly, they learned to stop complaining and start praising. It is that simple--and it works!
Right, there are no “enemies”, “adversaries”, “hostilities” anymore for a chosen of the Lord! And “suffering” is regarded as joy (1.Pet. 4:13) by the ones being in Him – being His very possession. Their life is hid with Christ in God. They ceased to live by and for themselves and He is all they live for. They’re one entity with Almighty God… the ones He bought by His own blood as His very own possession.
And this is such a REST! Such a glorious dimension! The LIFE
- you and I are called to live in.
In His Service