“This letter is from Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, chosen by God to be an apostle and sent out to preach His Good News.” —Romans 1:1, NLT
In the opening verse of this devotion, the Apostle Paul described himself as “a slave of Christ Jesus,” which appears seven times in the letters that he wrote. Yet, Paul was not the only who wrote this. We find this in Peter’s letters: “Simeon Peter, a slave and an apostle of Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1, HCSB), as well as from John in the book of Revelation: “The revelation of Jesus Christ that God gave Him to show His slaves what must quickly take place. He sent it and signified it through His angel to His slave John...” (Revelation 1:1, HCSB). James also writes, “James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (James 1:1, HCSB). Moreover, Jude begins, “Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ and a brother of James” (Jude 1:1, HCSB). Additionally, people like Epaphras (Colossians 4:12), Phoebe (Romans 16:1), Tychicus (Ephesians 6:21) and even Jesus (Philippians 2:7) were referred to as “a servant” in Scripture. In other translations, we may find the word “slave” replaced with “bond-servant” (NASB), “bond-slave” (WET) or “servant” (NIV).
The Greek word for “servant” is doulos, which is hard to find the exact equivalent of in English. In the early English Bible, it was always translated “slave.” However, the word carries with it a wicked and abusive connotation that is associated with brutality, humiliation, degradation, poverty and abuse. Our culture prefers “servant” which is a more sanitized version. Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament defines doulos as “one who gives himself up to another’s will.” With this definition, if we rephrase Paul’s writing in the opening verse, he is saying, “I want you to know that I have given myself up to the will of Jesus Christ.”
There is a difference between a servant and a slave.
A servant has a master, whereas a slave has an owner. In
1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Paul tells us, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples 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.” When Jesus died on the cross, amongst other things that took place that day, He purchased us. We are not our own; we belong to Him.
Yet, in John 15:15, Jesus says, “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, because all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you” (NASB)—this is the nature of the relationship that we have with Jesus Christ.
What a joy it is to be a slave of Jesus Christ, our Owner and Master, who calls us His friend.
Dear Jesus Christ, thank You for calling me Your friend. What a joy it is to have You as my Owner and Master. Praise You!