Human slavery is normally an abhorrent practice. Slaves are deprived of human rights. A slave is owned by someone else, a.k.a., a master. Thus, a slave has no say over the way he or she is treated. Masters may choose to abuse their slaves or treat them with respect. Members of slave families may be separated and sold upon the will of their master. A person can become “enslaved from the time of birth, capture, or purchase.” Slavery is forced labor. While the master may provide for the basic necessities of a slave, a slave does not receive remuneration, per se. The master can buy or sell a slave to anyone. A slave is considered “property” of the master. As such, the most common form of slavery in some places of the world today is human trafficking defined as, “the trade of humans for the purpose of forced labour, sexual slavery, or commercial sexual exploitation for the trafficker or others.” (Wikipedia)
While slavery paints an ugly picture of a system that prohibits human freedom, it may appear strange to say that those who’ve chosen Christ have chosen to be his slaves (Ephesians 6:6; Colossians 3:24; 1 Pet. 2:16). And it may sound even more strange to say that when one becomes a slave of Christ, one is actually free (Romans 6:15-23). This irony leads to some questions: How is this possible? Why would one choose to be a slave of Christ? What are the benefits of being his slave? Let’s consider each one of these questions for they are crucial to our understanding of what it truly means to be a slave of Christ.
It is possible to be a slave of Christ and to have genuine freedom or liberty because both conditions are one in the same. In other words, if one is not a slave of Christ, one is not really free. And it’s all due to sin.
It all started at the beginning of the human race. Ever since Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying God’s command to not eat of “the tree of knowledge of good and evil” in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:16-17; 3:1-21), we are all born with a sinful nature (Rom. 3:23). Our sinful condition chains us as slaves to sin depriving us of the freedom that only God can provide through Jesus Christ (John 8:36).
Either we are lost in sin or found through Christ. Lost in sin means we’re separated from God who gives us freedom through his grace or favor (Romans 6:23). And, since sin is separation from the God, we are chained in darkness, depravity, and doom. We are in a sense entangled in our own lusts and desires. In reality, we are never really “free.” (Galatians 5:1)
The chains of sin or “works of the flesh” lead to misery in this life and eternal death when the Day of Judgment comes (1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21; 2 Pet. 2:9-10; Rev. 21:7-8). But because of his marvelous grace, God has provided the way out of sin and into freedom (Eph. 2:8).
It is only through becoming a slave of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, that we can experience freedom. Though we do not deserve to enjoy this freedom on account of sin, God extends it to us because he loves us and wants us to have it (John 3:16). We can choose to either be slaves of sin or slaves of Christ. To be a slave of Christ, we need to be redeemed (Eph. 1:7).
Dr. Alva G. Huffer put it this way,
The agora or market place is the scene of redemption. Sinners are slaves to sin. Redemption is the liberation of a slave from bondage by the payment of a price. God as Redeemer purchases the slave of sin from the market place with the redemptive blood of His Son and sets the slave free. The redeemed slave voluntarily becomes the Redeemer’s servant in appreciation of His love. (Systematic Theology, p. 363)
We are set free if we so choose to accept Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior. When we become Christ’s through faith (Rom. 10:17), repentance (Acts 3:19), and baptism (Acts 2:38), we are now owned by Christ. He now becomes our Master for life. When he suffered, bled, and died on the cross for our sins, our freedom was purchased and we are owned by him (1 Corinthians 3:23).
This brings us to the why question. Why would one want to be owned by any Master, even by Jesus Christ, if it means that you are giving up your independence? Answer: Because it’s only through him that we become free—not to live any way we want, but to the live the way he wants us to live (Rom. 8:1-4).
When we live the way Christ wants us to live, we are making the right choices that bring harmony in our lives. Serving as his slaves is good because we are doing the will of God (Eph. 6:6). The Apostle Paul exhorted the church, “Don’t live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants,” (Eph. 6:17, The Message, MSG).
Since Jesus sets us free so that we may willingly serve him, we must make sure that we use our freedom for doing what is good. We are under his control and, therefore, we do not abuse freedom by doing what is wrong but for doing what is right as God requires. As the Apostle Peter urged,
Make the Master proud of you by being good citizens. Respect the authorities, whatever their level; they are God’s emissaries for keeping order. It is God’s will that by doing good, you might cure the ignorance of the fools who think you’re a danger to society. Exercise your freedom by serving God, not by breaking the rules. Treat everyone you meet with dignity. Love your spiritual family. Revere God. Respect the government. (1 Pet. 2:16-17, MSG).
We choose to live according to what our Master wants rather than our own selfish pleasure for we know this is the only way we can deal with the problems we often find ourselves in. Serving sin brings us down; serving Christ our Master brings us up. Jude’s closing prayer was that God through their Master, Jesus Christ, would keep them from falling into sin so they may find lasting peace:
And now to him who can keep you on your feet, standing tall in his bright presence, fresh and celebrating—to our one God, our only Savior, through Jesus Christ, our Master, be glory, majesty, strength, and rule before all time, and now, and to the end of all time. Yes. (Jude 24-25, MSG).
Now we arrive at the benefits of being a slave of Christ. I have already shown that being a slave of Christ is what makes us free to live as good citizens (1 Pet. 2:16-17). Civil order and respect for others is better accomplished when we subject ourselves to the One who brings peace in our lives. Those who humbly serve Christ the Master are able to avoid conflicts (James 4:1-10).
Our relationships will improve if we freely follow our Master’s instructions. Who doesn’t want happier families? Better relationships among fellow workers? Safer communities? When we are slaves of Christ we are free to live the law of Christ and do good to all people (Gal. 5:13-15). The law of Christ our Master is built upon love. First, love God; second, love one another, (Matt. 22:34-40). It is through such love that we strive to do good to others, especially to fellow believers in Christ. The Apostle Paul said,
So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith. (Galatians 6:9-10, MSG)
We will benefit from God’s Power or Spirit as we heed our Master. The Spirit-led life in Christ is the way of freedom. When live in the Spirit we will serve him rather than the sinful desires of the flesh. This is Paul’s point:
My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. (Gal. 5:16-18, MSG).
Living the life of a true slave in Christ yields the benefits of the Spirit-led life including, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). Believers are fully aware that it’s the Spirit-led life that produces the hope of inheriting eternal life in God’s Kingdom when the Master returns to claim his own (Rom. 6:22). Colossians 3:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance,” (NASB).
Here is All Sons and Daughters singing, “I Am Set Free” http://youtu.be/NIlL32QANhA
Good News to YOU!