Liberty by Slavery

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ (Rom. 1:1).

It is the Christian life which is the abundantly free life. Yet, in the face of this fact, Paul speaks of himself as the “slave of Christ” In the hills of Delphi, in Greece, are the ruins of the ancient temple to Apollo. All around it has been constructed a vast retaining wall. On this wall are engraved hundreds of Greek names. At the top of the list is the statement that those whose names are beneath are slaves to Apollo. Whenever a man desired to free his slave, he carved the name on this wall. Now, since the freed man was the slave to Apollo, no one else could possibly claim him. Hence slavery to Apollo meant absolute freedom. Thus when Paul boasted of the fact that he was a slave to Jesus Christ, he actually meant that his was the most complete liberty.

Paul was continually glorying in the fact that he was the slave of Christ. In each of the following passages where he speaks of himself as the servant, the word he uses is that which describes a slave or bondman.

  1. The Joy of Servitude—“He that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman” (1 Cor. 7:22).
  2. The Universality of Servitude—“For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all (1 Cor. 9:19).
  3. The Example of Servitude—“[He] took upon Him the form of a servant” (Phil. 2:7).
  4. The Fellowship of Servitude—“A servant of Christ ... for you” (Col. 4:12).
  5. The Spirit of Servitude—“The servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient” (2 Tim. 2:24).
  6. The Blessedness of Servitude—“Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing” (Matt. 24:46).
  7. The Reward of Servitude—“Well done, thou good and faithful servant ... enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matt. 25:21; see Luke 19:17).

To take the lowest place in being the Lord’s bondman is to find ourselves following in the steps of our Lord (Matt 20:27). The Lord’s awards and rewards come to those who faithfully serve Him (Rev. 22:3).

F. E. Marsh