by Mike Ratliff
Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity. For he who was called in the Lord as a slave is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a slave of Christ. You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God. (1 Corinthians 7:20-24 ESV)
During the ministries of our Lord Jesus Christ and His Apostles there was a full understanding of the nature of slavery. It dominated their culture. Therefore, we must take that into account when we read from God’s Word the true nature of our “personal relationship” with our Lord. The Greek word for Lord or Master is “κυριε” or “Kurios.” This title describes Jesus Christ as Lord in the sense of being the owner, possessor, or master. Some may teach that Christians can be genuine without them submitting to Christ as Lord, but that concept is alien to the Bible. We do not make Christ Lord of our lives my brethren. No, He is Lord of all those whom He bought with the price of His precious blood.
For Christ to be “Kurios” then He must own slaves. The Greek word for a slave is “δουλος” or “Doulos.” A “doulos” is one who is in a permanent relation of servitude to another, his or her will altogether consumed in the will of their “Kurios.” In nearly every English translation of the New Testament this word, “doulos,” is mostly rendered as either “servant” or “bond-servant.” In the few instances when a passage is referring to actual slaves then it is rendered as “slave” or “slaves.” I believe this is tragic for it gives the reader the wrong concept of our actual “personal relationship” with Christ. If “doulos” was rendered as “slave” in every passage in the New Testament where it appears then a very different understanding of the true nature of our relationship with our “Kurios” would become apparent.
Here is Ephesians 5:5-6 from the King James, the English Standard, and the NET BIble.
Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; (Ephesians 6:5-6 KJV)
Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, (Ephesians 6:5-6 ESV)
Slaves, obey your human masters with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart as to Christ, not like those who do their work only when someone is watching — as people-pleasers — but as slaves of Christ doing the will of God from the heart. (Ephesians 6:5-6 NET)
I pray you noticed that the NET Bible translators rendered “doulos” as “slaves” while the other translations used it only when referring to actual slaves. The English Standard rendered it both ways. Nevertheless, what I wanted you to do is read all three then reread them. Doesn’t the NET version ring more true? All who were bought with the price of Christ’s blood are His “doulos.” Also, think of the definition of “doulos” from above and compare it to Paul’s admonition here. The will of the “doulos” is altogether consumed in the will of his or her “Kurios.” This is the role of those whom Christ purchased or bought with the price of His precious blood.
Let’s look at another passage.
For the kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art a hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strewed: And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strewed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 25:14-30 KJV)
“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Matthew 25:14-30 ESV)
“For it is like a man going on a journey, who summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The one who had received five talents went off right away and put his money to work and gained five more. In the same way, the one who had two gained two more. But the one who had received one talent went out and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money in it. After a long time, the master of those slaves came and settled his accounts with them. The one who had received the five talents came and brought five more, saying, ‘Sir, you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ His master answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You have been faithful in a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’ The one with the two talents also came and said, ‘Sir, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more.’ His master answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You have been faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’ Then the one who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Sir, I knew that you were a hard man, harvesting where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’ But his master answered, ‘Evil and lazy slave! So you knew that I harvest where I didn’t sow and gather where I didn’t scatter? Then you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received my money back with interest! Therefore take the talent from him and give it to the one who has ten. For the one who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough. But the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless slave into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Matthew 25:14-30 NET)
The Greek word “doulos” should be translated only as “slave.” Did you notice that the NET version got it right again? Remember there is a huge difference between a slave and a servant. A servant is hired and paid for his or her work. He or she can also quit or be fired. However, the “Kurios” owns his “doulos” who are required to have their will consumed by his will. They are to obey Him when they have a direct command and when they don’t then they must do what they know will please Him. The worthless “doulos” in the passage above knew this, but did neither thereby proving that he was not a true “doulos” of his “Kurios.”
My brethren, are you a “doulos” of our “Kurios,” a slave of our Lord, or are you merely a servant, a hireling?
Soli Deo Gloria!