JohnSWilson3 Blog

Slaves of Christ
April 3, 2011, 2:07 pm
Filed under: G Letter to the Galatians

Slaves of Christ! Are we really? Paul says that he is and he also says we are to be to one another. Perhaps Paul’s point and emphasis he makes to the churches in Galatia is a point and emphasis that all churches should take heed and warning. I am thinking that when the translators chose the word “servant” instead of the actual word “slave” it lost the true meaning of what Paul was trying to tell the churches. In Christ we are indeed slaves of Christ and to one another.

The word “slave” (doulos) is the actual Greek word for many words but the translators chose the word “servant.” “Doulos” according to Vines means “in bondage.” (1) Galatians 1:10 is a good example. The original rendering is “…of Christ a slave I would not have been” (2) but is translated servant in most translations: “…I would not be a servant of Christ” (NIV). Paul further describes this thought in his letter to the church in Rome, how in Christ we are free from sin and are “enslaved to righteousness” and “enslaved to God” the fruit of which is the manifestation of His life in and through us.

I find it fascinating that in Gal 5:13 our translations say “serve one another in love” but the literal translation is “through love serve ye as slaves one another” and is better translated “be enslaved to one another in love.” (3) While we are slaves of Christ we are at the same time to be enslaved to one another in love. Wow! Paul continues this thought by then saying to the churches in Galatia: “The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” This command from the Old Covenant and now the New Covenant has a corporate context. But even more so, in the New Covenant, in Christ, we now have Christ as our life and we are internally motivated by His life to love with His love! And Christ’s love is always sacrificial, always gives away. How we need spiritual sight, a change in how we think of one another, being in Christ and living by His life to be enslaved to one another in love.

I do want to point out that this does not mean being enslaved to the fleshly ideas or motivations of one another, since in Christ we are free from sin since the context is “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature…” Paul also brings this up quite clearly in the analogy of Sarah and Hagar with the New and Old Covenants respectively, the free woman and the slave woman of Abraham and the idea that while we are free from sin and enslaved to Christ and that we are also at the same time sons of God. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” We are free from sin and now a son, given freedom in Christ, but now enslaved and one with the Christ who is our life, and His life always manifests love. Think that this also gives a wonderful sense of the incredible unity that we have together in Christ. We are members of one body, we are one in Christ. In Christ we are called no longer to live our lives for ourselves. I think this gives greater meaning to our understanding of fellowship for sure! Amazing!

There is a main Greek word for “servant” and one for “slave.” In his letter to the Galatians Paul does use the word “diakonos” (in 2:17), often translated minister or deacon, but he uses the word in a negative sense of Christ being a “servant” of sin, which is totally abhorrent! This is in context with the churches misunderstanding of the need to be sin managers, using the law as an outward restraint, which was the object of the Old Covenant, versus sin being crucified, along with ourselves, with Christ who now internally motivates us by His life, which again is the object of the New Covenant. Of course the main emphasis of Paul’s letter with the churches in Galatia was primarily to help these new churches see that moving towards legalism and institutionalism was moving toward a form of slavery and away from Christ.

A point to add. The main problem with how the word servant “diakonos” is translated as “minister” or “deacon” in the other letters in the New Testament is it tends to give an institutional sense to the word versus the natural organic love expressed when one serves another by Christ’s life. Paul was totally against institutionalism and legalism, attempts to make Christ’s life, the life of His body, a thing or a system. No wonder Paul tells the believers in Galatia to “live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature…But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.” So if we camp out on a theology, a doctrine, a way of doing something, make Christ’s life into a thing or system, so that it takes the place of Christ as we gather, we create a law, and have made Christ’s life, who is our life, corrupt. May it not be so!

In Christ, we are free from sin and now slaves of Christ! He is our life. “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. I do not set side the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” Let us so love one another by His life, enslaved to one another in love, that His fruit of love will be manifested to all who see Him in us.

(1) W.E. Vine, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 562.
(2) Alfred Marshall, The Interlinear KJV-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, 1975, The Zondervan Corporation, 549.
(3) Ibid, 559.


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