YOU ARE A SLAVE
Article by James W. Johnson
You are an illegal immigrant. You work all the hours of daylight, to pay for your board and lodging. Your whole life is just work. Work in a field in some remote part of the country in all weathers. You can’t speak English, so you rely totally on your gang master to tell you what you need to know. You can’t even tell your family and friends where you are. You live in constant fear that you will be returned to your home country.
No-one has told you that you are a SLAVE.
You are a worshipper of the Ancient Egyptian god of the underworld, Osiris. You believe that if you offer sacrifices to your god on specific days, you will prosper, be protected from your enemies and be free from disease. You live in constant fear of death and the whims of your god, because the only ones granted immortality are those who can afford to be mummified when they die.
No-one has told you that you are a SLAVE.
You work in a cotton plantation in Georgia, USA, in 1866. Your grandfather was a slave. Your father was a slave. You only know life as a slave, even though on the 18th December 1865, the l3th amendment of the US Constitution had officially set free all black slaves across America. Almost all newspapers had on that day’s front page the same headline, “SLAVERY LEGALLY ABOLISHED.” Yet you continue to live in fear and squalor - nothing has changed. Although the law had emancipated you, it couldn’t free you from a slave’s mentality.
No-one has told you that you are still a SLAVE.
You are an ordinary person in modern Britain. You are not rich or famous. You give to Red Nose Day or to the Tsunami appeal. You don’t see the relevance of going to church but you try to be a good citizen. You wouldn’t knowingly hurt anyone. You don’t have a criminal record. You know you are not perfect, but then no one is. All you want out of life is to be happy, healthy and have enough money to live on. You try to ignore the bad things happening in the world, but you live in fear of being made bankrupt and getting some dreadful disease.
No-one has told you that you are a SLAVE.
But how can anyone be a slave in modern Britain? Surely slavery was abolished here hundreds of years ago? We are proud to sing: “Rule Britannia! Britannia rules the waves, Britons, never, never, never shall be slaves.” Nice tune, pity about the words. They are not true. I am not being unpatriotic, because everyone in the world is a slave.
It is easy to see that unbelievers in a pagan society are slaves. 2 Peter 2:19, “For a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.” The master could be an addiction like drugs, alcohol, sex, or gambling. It could be consumerism; anything in place of God.
John 8:33-34, “Some Jews said to Jesus, ‘The seed of Abraham are we, and we have never been slaves of anyone.’ Jesus replied, ‘Are you not aware that to whom you are presenting yourselves as slaves for obedience, his slaves you are, whom you are obeying. Everyone who is doing sin, is a slave to sin.’”
This is one dictionary definition of a slave: “A slave is the property of his/her owner and works without pay. The owner provides the slave with food, shelter and clothing.” Romans 6:23 in the NIV reads: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” But a slave, by definition, does not receive wages. Romans 4:4, “Now to the worker, the wage is not reckoned as a favour, but as a debt.” Romans 6:23 in the Concordant Version reads: “For the ration of sin is death, yet the gracious gift of God is life eonian, in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” The slave master SIN does not pay wages. It provides food - rations. Neither Sin nor Law pays wages.
No one can slave for two masters, “You cannot be slaving for God and Mammon” (Matthew 6:24). So it is possible to be a slave of God, or a slave of Mammon, but not both.
Yes, it is easy to see that an unbeliever in a pagan society could be a slave, but YOU are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. You have peace of mind. You have no fear of death. You know that all things (whether good or bad) work together for good for all those who love God, and are called according to His purpose. No-one has ever told you that you are a SLAVE. A slave?!!
Yes, that includes believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. The fact that we call someone ‘Lord’ shows we are in subjection to that person. The apostle Paul called himself a slave of Christ Jesus because he called Him Lord and was obedient to Him. But if we are all slaves, believer and unbeliever alike, then that is good news! All of us start on an ‘even playing field’. Paul explains in Romans 3:10-12: “Not one is just - not even one. Not one is understanding. Not one is seeking after God. All avoid Him: at the same time they were useless. Not one is doing kindness: there is not even ONE!” Verses 17-18: “ ... And the way of peace they do not know. There is no fear of God in front of their eyes.”
Everyone starts from the same point. There is no distinction. All have sinned and death is the only result. What God has done is to choose some to be the objects of His grace. The individuals had no choice in the matter. No-one chooses to be born or anything else about their birth - when, where, how, what sort black, white, yellow, brown, male or female. Or whether God is going to draw them to Himself as His elect.
Can we complain because we were not chosen? No, God is the Master Potter. He can do what He wills. We must trust that God knows what He is doing and that it will be the best way. God is responsible for the way He does things. If this is the case, then no one can boast of what they have done to justify God's favour.
Salvation begins with God’s love reaching down to lost humanity and is carried out by Christ’s death and resurrection. But how can we be slaves to God? Haven’t we been set free? Yes, set free from sin, but not from the sovereignty of GRACE.
Romans 6:17-18: “Now thanks be to God, that you were SLAVES of Sin ... Now being freed from Sin you are enslaved to Righteousness.” Verse 22: “Yet now being freed from Sin, yet enslaved to God, you have your fruit for holiness. Now the consummation is life eonian.”
How have we been set free from Sin? Are we getting better and better through victory over sin? Do we sin less now than when we first believed? When I honestly look over my life, I cannot say ‘yes’ to that. No. Deliverance from sin comes through death to it. It is useless to struggle against sin. We must acknowledge how powerful it is, and then reckon ourselves as dead with Christ, yet alive in His resurrection.
Is this a defeatist attitude? No, it is the truth, the glorious truth. Romans 7:23: “I am observing a different law in my members, warring with the law of my mind and leading me into captivity to the law of SIN, which is in my members. A wretched man am I! What will rescue me out of this body of death? GRACE!” The sovereignty of GRACE is good news and can transform our lives.
Where the sovereignty of grace is not taught, this is the sort of thing you will hear, “If you want to be a Christian, and if you want to go to heaven, you must stop committing sins, you must take up good works, and if you do so regularly and constantly, and do not fail to keep doing it, you will make yourselves Christians, you will reconcile yourselves to God and you will go to heaven.” For such teachers, the question, “Shall we continue to sin, that grace may abound?” never arises.
A critic may say, “With law, you know where you stand. Do this or don’t do that and you will be rewarded. Do this or don’t do that and you will be punished.” Simple, isn’t it? Trouble is it doesn’t work. Romans 3:20: “By the works of the Law, no flesh will be justified in His sight, for through the Law comes the RECOGNITION of sin.”
Paul tells us that all of us were born in bondage to sin. But there came a day when Christ released us from the SLAVERY of sin. Christ set us free. It had nothing to do with the law. If mankind could be saved or justified by keeping the law, Paul says that Christ’s death was useless, a waste of time.
Humanly speaking, we want to believe that we have a part, however small it may be, in our own salvation. The heresy of humanism emphasizes what we do for God instead of what GOD does for US. We don’t want to think we are getting something so valuable for nothing. We want to believe ‘I am the captain of my soul’. But that isn’t good news.
A salvation that begins with God’s love reaching down to lost humanity and is carried out by Christ’s death and resurrection results in ALL the praise going to God. But a salvation that includes human achievement, hard work, and personal effort, would bring glory to man, not God. It appeals to the flesh, though, so is popular.
But let us not forget - LEGALISM is SLAVERY. What did Paul think of a teaching where only those who kept the law were saved? Galatians 1:6: “I am marvelling that thus, swiftly, you are transferred from that which calls you in the Grace of Christ, to a different evangel, which is not another.”
If Paul had preached a gospel of legalism, he would have pleased people. In his earlier days as a Pharisee he had done just that. Galatians 1:10: “If I were still trying to please men, then I would not be a slave of Jesus Christ.” This implies that at one time, as a Pharisee under the name Saul, he had tried to please men.
Paul knew that the reason he was being persecuted was because he was preaching GRACE, not law. Paul’s false brethren came to spy out the freedom people have in Christ Jesus and to try to enslave them with the law (Galatians 2:4). Paul told Peter at Antioch that he was a hypocrite. “A man is not being justified by works of law, except through the faith OF [not in] Christ Jesus.” He repeats the message, “By works of Law, shall no flesh at all be justified.”
So all we have to do is decide whose slave we are. Slaves of Sin or slaves of righteousness (Romans 6:17-18).
Incidentally, what is the difference between God’s mercy and God’s grace? God’s mercy is when He doesn’t do what we deserve and God’s grace is when He does do what we don’t deserve.
How we live depends on the master we choose. What difference in our ordinary, everyday life will it make if we are slaves of righteousness rather than slaves of SIN? What we believe affects what we will do, how we will live. Grace is absolutely free - we will never be asked to pay it back. To try to pay it back would be an insult to God. We couldn’t even if we tried. Grace has no strings attached.
For a start, we will stop comparing ourselves with others because we know that we are not saved by our works but by God’s GRACE. We are all in the same boat, as far as being weak and worthless clay is concerned. But we are different in the gifts we have been given (Romans 12:3-8). We won’t want everyone to be just like us. We will tolerate others having different tastes in music, clothes, lifestyle. We will tolerate diverse opinions. Their incomes and social status and other externals will not be important to us. We won’t want to even try to control other people. We will seek to promote grace for God’s glory. We will accept people for what they are. We will let them be themselves.
Paul explained that he was the least of the apostles, because he persecuted the ecclesia of God. “Yet in the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10). We will accept the weak, and not treat anyone with contempt.
Paul instructed us to accept believers who are weak in faith, and not to argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. For example, one person believes it is alright to eat anything. But another believer who has a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. One group should not look down on the other group and the other group should not condemn their fellow believers (Romans 14:1-3).
Even if, in itself, something is neither right nor wrong, if we do anything we believe is not right, we are sinning (Romans 14:23). But what if the other person is a member of a church that has some really weird teachings? The test is in 2 Timothy 2:22: “ ... pursue righteousness, faith, love peace with all who are invoking the Lord out of a clean heart.” Paul further warns, “Now stupid and crude questionings refuse, being aware that they are generating fightings. A slave must not be fighting.”
Knowing that it is God’s job to direct the lives of others, we are relieved of the responsibility of being someone else’s conscience. After all, who are we to judge someone else’s servant? “To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand” (Romans 14:4). Verse 12 tells us that each of us will have to give a personal account to God.
The result of all this, is that we will grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We will grow in maturity.
Finally, I shall quote from Ephesians chapter 6 verses 5-8: “Slaves, be obeying your masters according to the flesh with fear and trembling, in the singleness of your heart, as to Christ, doing the will of God from the soul, with good humour slaving as to the Lord and not to men, being aware that, whatsoever good each one should be doing, for this he will be requited by the Lord, whether SLAVE OR FREE.”
Verses 23-24, “Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who are loving our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible!”
So with good humour, let us be SLAVES of the Lord Jesus Christ.