Slavery to Christ
By Steve Jeffery, 16 Nov 2012
Some notes from, and ideas provoked by, Murray J. Harris’s book Slave of Christ (Apollos, 1999):
- Quoting exiled Romanian Pastor Dr Josef Tson, who was imprisoned for his faith in his native country, “In twentieth-century Christianity we have replaced the expression ‘total surrender’ with the word ‘commitment,’ and ‘slave’ with ‘servant’. But there is an important different. A servant gives service to someone, but a slave belongs to someone” (p. 18).
- Slaves “served in a wide variety of roles. In fact, one scholar has drawn up a list of over 120 different duties and occupations ... employees of a city or of the state, salaried executives with heavy responsibilities ... managers of shops or of ships ... farm labourers, often in chain gangs ... cooks or cleaners ... tutors or doctors” (p. 35).
- The alleged cultural offensiveness of “slavery” to modern western ears is not sufficient reason to abandon the term in Bible translation, preaching or Christian conversation. For if the language of slavery is offensive to us, it would have been much more so in the first century (cf. p. 45).
- “There is a sense in which all people are Christ’s possession because he created them and now sustains them ... But in every sense believers are his special possession ... because he purchased them as his slaves.” Consequently, we “belong to him totally, and only to him, a comprehensive ownership that his slaves voluntarily embrace” (p. 125)
- “His rights over what he has purchased are unlimited and he tolerates no rivals to his lordship, for no slave can adequately serve two masters. ‘Proof of purchase,’ or the mark of this ownership, is the presence and activity of the Spirit in the believer’s life” (p. 125).
- The title “slave” “gained its positive connotations in the ears of all Christians because the divine Master they were serving was kind and generous and himself had blazed an exemplary trail of lowly service” (p. 138).
- What Christ’s slaves gain is “not so much authority and power as unparalleled honour and the assurance that their service, whatever its nature, [is] of supreme importance, simply because it [is] done for him” (p. 138).
- “Congratulations, good and faithful slave!” (p. 156).