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Point of Reference

    by Fred Price

"...slaves to God..." Romans 6:22
Date Posted: February 16, 2024

The concept of servanthood, let alone slavery, is largely foreign to people in the developed countries of the world today. Many third-world citizens do, however, still toil under conditions of absolute control by others, while some modern-day laborers wonder if their treatment by corporate CEO’s might qualify them as “servants” as well. Slavery is defined as one who is dominated by others or by an outside habit or influence, while servanthood has the connotation of recompense received in exchange for labor; the conditions of such service at times – particularly in the past – being hard to distinguish from slavery. It can, however, indicate someone who earnestly works for a cause they sincerely believe in, willingly providing a needed service for those unable to provide for themselves.

Throughout history – on most every continent of the world – slaves and servants were acquired through war or indebtedness. The black African slave trade was unique in that people were acquired solely for their usefulness as workers; yet during the early settlement of America a large number of white Europeans were willing to sell themselves into servitude to obtain passage to the New World. Whether as true slaves or “merely” servants, conditions were often harsh, one’s freedom of movement and choice were vastly restricted at the very least, totally lost in many cases.

What may surprise some is that scripture consistently references servanthood and even slavery when dealing with our relationship to the Almighty. The difference being that Christ could force his will on us but chooses not to, standing ready instead to advise and lead us to proper choices concerning the issues of life as we allow. The alternative is slavery to sin – and Satan – and an ultimate loss of control over our destinies altogether; being manipulated, used, abused and lost. And still the choice is ours as to whom we choose to serve.

Jesus was not introducing a new notion of servanthood to his followers when he instructed them to, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.” Matthew 4:10 (Quoting Deuteronomy 6:13). For in creating a people who should have embraced their call to serve rather than being prideful of their association with Him, God expressed his expectation of us by asking, “…what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God…” Deuteronomy 10:12 Which was not some ambiguous expectation of acknowledgement but an anticipation of obedience fostered by love expressed in Deuteronomy 11:1, “Love the Lord your God and keep his requirements, his laws and commands always.” (Echoed by Christ in John 14:15 & 15:10)

Joshua later demanded that the Israelites, “…choose for yourselves… whom you will serve…” Joshua 24:15; again not mere lip service in worship but active obedience. This command and expectation continued through the ages, finding culmination in Paul’s declaration, “It is the Lord Christ you are (now) serving.” Colossians 3:24 It being no coincidence that this statement comes at the conclusion of his address to actual slaves; instructing them how to effectively serve their earthly masters – comparing conscientious obedience to serving Christ. (See also Ephesians 6:6,7) Jesus dealing with this subject in his parables on servanthood ( Matthew 25:14-30 & 31-46), stating that he expected his followers to be faithful and wise, fulfilling their obligations readily. (See also Matthew 24:45-51)

The disciples understood this principle, as suggested by the title they introduced themselves with throughout scripture; “a servant of Christ Jesus” Romans 1:1 and “a servant of God” Titus 1:1 (See also James 1:1,1Peter 2:16, Jude 1, Revelation 1:1) Yet what does that really mean? Jesus said, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” John 13:15 Making himself nothing, taking on the nature of a servant ( Philippians 2:7); reminding us that, “…whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…” Matthew 20:26-28 (See also Matthew 23:11,12) He further instructed that, “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be.” John 12:26

Paul reminds us that, “You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.” 1 Corinthians 7:23; because, “…when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey…” Romans 6:16; whether that be an individual or the “basic principles of the world.” (See 2 Peter 2:17-19) As Jesus reminded us, “…everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” John 8:34 The acts of a sinful nature becoming painfully clear ( Galatians 5:19-21), while the fruit of the Spirit reveal themselves in righteousness. ( Galatians 5:22,23) “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of Christ, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:22,23Indeed, in discussing the different positions available to us for serving God, Paul affirms that the on-going purpose of the church is “…to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” Ephesians 4:12 “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

As a new creature in Christ ( 2 Corinthians 5:19), we must no longer have a divided allegiance but be single-minded in our desire to follow and obey Him. For, “No one can serve two masters… you cannot serve God and money.” Matthew 6:24 (Money or material possessions representing the world’s value system.) And certainly, “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 to be like his master.” Matthew 10:24,25 Consequently, “…when you have done everything you were told to do, (you) should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’” Luke 17:7-10 (See the Centurion of Matthew 8:8,9)

Having done so, we will receive a new title as “friends” of God, our Savior exclaiming over us, “Well done, good and faithful servant!... come and share your Master’s happiness.” Matthew 25:23 (See also John 15:14)

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Biography Information:

Fred Price - married (50 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.

Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker.  He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today.  Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.  

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