by Mike Ratliff
And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. (Luke 1:46-49 ESV)
It was about 18 months ago or so, I posted something in which I focused on the Greek word δοῦλος which is translated as “servant” in most modern versions of the New Testament. However, it is best translated as a form of “bondservant” such as “manservant,” “maidservant,” or even as “slave.” The reason I remember it so well was I received one comment in which a person copied my text from my post into their comment and used the cross-out feature on the word “slave” that I had used and replaced it with the word “servant.” That was deliberate. It was a deliberate refusal by that person to see himself or herself as one whose will was in total submission to God in all cases.
A servant is someone who is hired and paid a sum and may even serve, but whose loyalty may be subversive. However, a bondservant is a person who has willingly become a slave of his or her master. He or she has submitted self completely to the will of their master. Obedience is not a question. On the other hand, with servanthood, you have a hireling and we all know that is why there are managers and supervisors and stewards to make sure these people do what they are paid to do.
For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
“‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. (Acts 2:15-18 ESV)
οὐ γὰρ, ὡς ὑμεῖς ὑπολαμβάνετε, οὗτοι μεθύουσιν· ἔστι γὰρ ὥρα τρίτη τῆς ἡμέρας· ἀλλὰ τοῦτό ἐστι τὸ εἰρημένον διὰ τοῦ προφήτου ᾿Ιωήλ· καὶ ἔσται ἐν ταῖς ἐσχάταις ἡμέραις, λέγει ὁ Θεός, ἐκχεῶ ἀπὸ τοῦ πνεύματός μου ἐπὶ πᾶσαν σάρκα, καὶ προφητεύσουσιν οἱ υἱοὶ ὑμῶν καὶ αἱ θυγατέρες ὑμῶν, καὶ οἱ νεανίσκοι ὑμῶν ὁράσεις ὄψονται, καὶ οἱ πρεσβύτεροι ὑμῶν ἐνύπνια ἐνυπνιασθήσονται· καί γε ἐπὶ τοὺς δούλους μου καὶ ἐπὶ τὰς δούλας μου ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις ἐκχεῶ ἀπὸ τοῦ πνεύματός μου, καὶ προφητεύσουσι. (Acts 2:15-18 GNT)
Who are those who are truly “in Christ?” They are His δούλους and δούλας. Both of these nouns are plural and of accusative form. This means that these bondservants of God are receiving the direct action of the main verb in the sentence, which is that God will pour out His Spirit upon them in the last days. The δούλους are God’s manservants and the δούλας His maidservants (Acts 2:18). In Acts 2:15-21 Peter quotes from Joel 2:28-32 describing to the Jews on the day of Pentecost that the work of the Holy Spirit was now moving in the building of the Church, which is made up of God’s δούλους and δούλας.
In the passage I placed at the top of this post, I quoted part of Mary’s Magnificat. In it, in v48, she says, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.” The word translated here as “servant” is δούλης, which is in genitive, singular form. Mary is calling herself here a maidservant for this is the Greek word for a female bondservant. The genitive form tells us that she belongs solely to God.
Now, of course, we could have looked at hundreds of other examples of this and filled up pages and pages of this and still missed the point. The point is that God’s people are His δούλους and δούλας. He has poured out His Spirit on them, and no one else. This role does not give them a divine spark. It does not make them equal to God. They are God’s bondservants. Their wills are to be in total submission to His will in all things at all times. That means that they live lives of obedience. They obey God. To obey their Lord, they must not only know Him, they must know what they are to do. That means they must become intimately acquainted with His Word for that is the means through which He has chosen to speak to His people to develop the Mind of Christ in them. Christlike lives are those that are marked by obedience to the will of God centered in the Gospel and inseparable from the Word of God. This is why you will find many of us resistant to so many so-called Christian leaders in our time who try to separate Christians from that last part. They want them to obey them instead of God and forget that living in the Word stuff. Forget that Bible Study stuff, just come and work instead. That is out of balance and not of God.
We looked at the Greek noun Obedience, ὑπακοη, in last night’s post, A Word Study. There are three different Greek verbs translated as “obey” or “to obey.” We will focus on the one that is the verb form of ὑπακοη, which is ὑπακούω. It simply means “to obey, do what one is told to do.” Forms of this verb are found all through the New Testament. There are two main usages of this verb that we must differentiate before going further. It is used quite a bit to describe simply obedience such as the obedience of creation to our Saviour in Matthew 8:27; Mark 4:41; and Luke 8:25. Unclean spirits obey our Lord when He commands them to depart in Mark 1:27. There numerous other examples of children obeying parents and disciples obeying their teachers. However, this word is also used to describe Jesus becoming the source of eternal salvation to all those who obey Him (Hebrews 5:9). Also, people are described as becoming obedient to the gospel or to the faith, which means that they have obeyed the call to repent and believe and submit themselves to the lordship of Christ (Acts 6:7).
True salvation comes to those who become obedient to the Gospel. This is being justified by faith. We are not saved by works. This obedience comes from the washing of regeneration. New Creations have a living faith that believes the Gospel and obeys it. From that point on they are the bondservants of God and live out their lives that way by learning to walk in repentance, that is, to walk in obedience to the will of God.
There is no excuse for people to question whether we are misinterpreting these truths. Only those in unbelief, because they have no faith, fall for the lie that the Word of God is not complete and cannot be trusted. The more I study God’s Word, the more I find that I can go deeper. The more Greek I learn, the more God teaches me. I have found that if there is any question at all about our English texts, we can go to the original language texts and there it all is. There really is no excuse with the tools we have available to us today. Let us pray for wisdom, discernment, and for our Lord Jesus to return soon.
Soli Deo Gloria!