(Reprint from Feb. 1977 Word  & Work)

The Apostle Paul opens the book of Romans by identifying himself as “a servant of Jesus Christ.” He here uses of himself the Greek word chubs, which originally was the most abject servile term for a slave, and especially for one who was a slave from birth to death. But the term softened somewhat over the years and Vine says it was even used “frequently indicating subjection without the idea of bondage/’ Paul, of course, is using it in the sense of voluntary bondage; to Jesus as Lord and Master, a subjection that started from his new birth and continued until the Lord called him home.

Paul was not alone in speaking of himself as a slave of Jesus Christ. He included Timothy with himself in Philippians 1:1 and spoke of Epaphras as such in Colossians 4:12. James (1:1), Peter (2 Peter 1:1), and Jude (v. 1) spoke of themselves in this way also. This is especially interesting in James’ case since he was a half-brother of Jesus. He never mentioned the physical relationship and called himself a slave instead.

The New Testament furnishes many examples of the uses of doulos to show us the character of such a slave. Matthew 8:9 emphasizes his obedience, Matthew 10:24, 25 emphasizes his inferior position to his master and indicates he would be treated in suffering like his master, and Matthew 20:27 shows that the Chris tian who would be first in leadership among his brethren must be the slave of all. That our Lord will reward faithful servants we know from Matthew 24:21, 23. In John 8:34 Jesus said that the one whose life is lived in sin is not a “free-thinker” but a slave of sin. In Galatians 1:10 Paul says that in order to serve Christ he had to quit pleasing men; the Sanhedrin and others who hated Christ were pleased with Paul when he persecuted Christians and hated him afterwards. In Philippians 2:7 we find that when Jesus became man, He thus was taking on the form of a servant, a matter that is cleared up by Romans 6:16-22, where we find that a man is always a slave—either of righteousness or of sin. Jesus, of course, served righteousness perfectly.

To every man, then, comes the choice of who shall be his master—Satan or Christ. Even if he does not know there is such a choice, he makes such a choice either by choosing Christ or by rejecting Him. But if you are a Christian, one who has committed himself to Christ, the choice is simply of being a “good and faithful servant” or one who brings reproach on the Name of Christ. You cannot serve Christ and Satan at the same time. You need to “present yourselves unto God, as alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God” (Rom. 6:13), and to “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service” (Rom. 12:1). Thus you will be the kind of servant the Lord wants and you may prove to yourself “what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:2). Be a good and faithful slave of Jesus Christ forever.


          Ernest Lyon (1915-2005) was the longtime minister of Highland Church of Christ in Louisville, KY.