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Slaves for Christ B

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
January 22, 2024 3:00 am

Slaves for Christ B

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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January 22, 2024 3:00 am

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If a slave tried to get away, one of the punishments that they did to a slave was to put fugitivus, marking him as a fugitive.

Well, as slaves we're going to have something on our foreheads. It won't be fugitive, it will be His own name whom we serve. Welcome to Grace to You with John MacArthur. I'm your host, Phil Johnson. If someone asked you to describe yourself, what would you say?

Maybe you'd talk about your profession, your personality, your hobbies, your religious views. There are many ways you could explain who you are, but if you're a Christian, how does God's word describe you? Surprisingly, the term it most often uses has disappeared from many Bible translations, probably even the one you use. John MacArthur takes a look at that hidden word today, showing you how it's been neglected and the devastating consequences that has caused. Today's lesson is part of John's series called Foundations Volume 2. But before we get to the lesson, John, you have a couple of brief letters that remind us that every day people are connecting with verse-by-verse Bible teaching through Grace to You, and they're growing in profound ways as a result. So take a minute and share those letters. I'm glad to do that, Phil.

This letter comes from Chris. I just want to thank you all for what you've done for my family and me. I am a pastor of a charismatic church in Australia, and through your teaching I have questioned so much that has been true of our church. Through books like Strange Fire, The Truth War, Charismatic Chaos, and others, my wife and family have been driven to God's Word, which we thought we already knew. Thank you, John, for how you have been truly faithful in all you do. God has blessed and changed our family and friends through your ministry.

Sign his name, Chris. That's a remarkable testimony that someone would go through a dramatic change in their theology while pastoring a church and see the hand of God blessing that. But he does bless truth, and nothing competes with the truth, so that's just… Yeah, it's worth mentioning that we hear on a regular basis from people who were former Charismatics who have come to a better understanding of God's Word because of the Strange Fire Conference.

Yeah, and very often I hear from people, I knew there was something wrong, I didn't know what it was, and when I saw the truth it all became clear. And here's another letter. This letter's from Rick. And I'm so thankful for all of you that helped make this incredible ministry possible. Keep fighting the good fight and proclaiming the good news. I'm praying for you all. Sign his name, Rick. Wonderful time to begin to challenge your children with the Word of God is when they are very young.

Wonderful. Biblical truth is the anchor that holds us. It's the compass that guides our thinking. It's the lamp that illuminates the darkness.

It's a lens that allows us to see clearly the nature of God, his power, and his purpose. So we're here working in unison with our radio partners and friends like you to keep verse-by-verse teaching coming to you day after day. And thanks for supporting us.

That's critical. And if grace to you is making a difference in your life, let us know. A quick email is fine, and that will encourage us more than you realize.

Yes, friend, it will. Whether you've benefited from one of our radio studies or another resource, we'd love to hear from you. Thanks for touching base as you're able. And now here again is John MacArthur with the lesson. We're going to turn to a subject in the New Testament that as I think about it is largely ignored and overlooked. And I've been made aware of that in recent months.

It was not too many months ago that I was flying on one of those jumbo jets from Los Angeles to London. In the process, reading a book that dealt with the issue of slavery in the New Testament time and in the New Testament text. It set me thinking in all kinds of directions. I actually finished the book on the flight.

I was so wrapped in my attention to this particular theme. Being a slave of Christ may be the best way to define a Christian. We are, as believers, slaves of Christ. You would never suspect that, however, from the language of Christianity.

In contemporary Christianity, the language is anything but slave language. It is about freedom. It is about liberation. It is about health, wealth, prosperity, finding your own fulfillment, fulfilling your own dream, finding your own purpose. We often hear that God loves you unconditionally and wants you to be all you want to be. He wants to fulfill every ambition, every desire, every hope, every dream.

In fact, there are books being written about dreams as if they are gifts from God which God then having given them is bound to fulfill. Personal fulfillment, personal liberation, personal satisfaction, all bound up in an old term in evangelical Christianity, a personal relationship. How many times have we heard that the gospel offers people a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?

What exactly does that mean? Satan has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and it's not a very good one. Every living being has a personal relationship with the living God of one kind or another, leading to one end or another. But what exactly is our relationship to God? What is our relationship to Christ?

How are we best to understand it? Well if you read the New Testament in its original text, you would come away stunned really by how different the original text is from any English version that you've ever read. Whether King James, New King James, New American Standard, ESV, NIV and you can name all the rest.

All of them virtually have found a way to mask something that is an absolutely critical element of truth. In fact, the word slave appears in the New Testament 130 times in the original text. You will find it once in the King James, once the Greek word slave is translated slave. You will find it translated slave a few other times in other texts like the New King James text and even the New American Standard text. And it will be translated slave when, one, it refers to actual slavery, or two, it refers to some kind of bondage to an inanimate reality. But whenever it is personalized, the translators seem unwilling to translate it slave. For example, in Matthew 6 24, Jesus said this, No man can be a slave to two masters.

What does your Bible say? No man can serve two masters. The favorite word for slave is servant, favorite English word.

Very often bondservant is used which tends to move in the right direction but is not exactly slave. There are plenty of words for servant. There's only one word for slave, doulos and sundulos.

Yet in the history of the evangelical translation of the Greek into the English, all the translators consistently have avoided the use of the word. Now let's go into the Greek and Roman world of the New Testament. When we say slave, we have a rather distant, somewhat detached historical revulsion to the word slave. If you think that's a hard word for us to swallow, imagine how hard it was for those living in the midst of slavery to swallow that idea. When a pastor says to me, How can I talk to my people about being slaves to Christ when they have in their past history the abuses of slavery? Well if you think that's hard, how can Jesus and the Apostles of the New Testament talk to people living in the midst of a slave-dominated society, ten to twelve million slaves at that very time, about the fact that being a Christian was being a slave to Jesus Christ?

There wouldn't be any distant foggy idea of what that meant, they would know exactly what that meant, precisely what it meant. Now remember, for Greeks, elevated people, the citizenry, freedom was the pinnacle of life. Personal dignity was attached to freedom.

Being a doulos was the worst, it was the opposite. Let me tell you about slaves in the Greek Roman world. They had no freedom. They had no rights. They had no ownership of anything. They had no legal recourse in the courts. They could not give testimony as a witness in a law case. They had no citizenship. They had no possibility of doing what they wanted to do. They weren't asked, say there, Mr. Slave, what would you like to do to be fulfilled? They weren't asked, what do you think your purpose is?

Can you dream your dream so I, your master, can fulfill it? Bizarre. They had no choice about anything. They owned nothing, they couldn't be citizens and they couldn't be a part of the army, the military. They were totally dependent on whoever owned them. It doesn't mean that it didn't have some benefits. They were provided for, cared for, protected, in many cases treated kindly, compassionately, loved within families. But to the Greek and the Roman philosophically and socially, freedom was the pinnacle of life.

So free men had only scorn for slaves and slaves longed to be free. By the way, we cannot find in Greek literature, and there's a lot of religious Greek literature, cause they were very religious, they had many gods, as we know. Remember Mars Hill, Athens? They had statues to gods that they didn't even know, as well as the ones they thought they knew. Very, very religious, never in the religious language of that world can there be found the use of the word doulos to describe the relationship between a worshiper and his god. They used philos, friends. They were friends of God. They were not slaves of their deities. That was repugnant to them.

That was repulsive to them. They loved freedom. So the idea of coming along in that world and announcing to people that you must become a slave of Jesus Christ was just another way to present the message to make it impossible to believe. Nobody is going to line up to become anybody's slave. Slaves already had enough of slavery. Free men had nothing but disdain for slavery.

And yet the New Testament holds back absolutely nothing. We're called to be slaves. Now the difference between a slave and a servant is obvious...obvious. Servants were hired to work for wages...servants were hired to work for wages and they could quit. They were paid a wage for a job. Slaves were owned and they could not quit. If they ran away, they were found, arrested, flogged and there's all kinds of ancient writings about the flogging of slaves and worse, and sometimes...sometimes...many times crucified publicly as a demonstration to the rest of the slaves what could happen to them if they ran away. One of the great stories of a runaway slave is the book of Philemon in the New Testament, in fact, the Apostle Paul encouraged Philemon when...encouraged Onesimus, the runaway slave, when he met him to go back home cause that was the right thing to do and he encouraged Philemon to treat him with love, compassion, forgiveness and embrace him. In spite of this reality of slavery and because it is so distasteful and has been for so long, the translators of the New Testament have done everything they can to edit it out, I could only wish that if you get the opportunity, find a copy of Goodspeed's translation.

You might find one in the library. It's not a very popular translation and obviously a translation done by one man lacks some of the richness of one that's done by a collection of men who can kind of bounce off each other. But you'll find it very interesting. The Apostle Paul, for example, did not see himself, as one writer puts it, as the great founder of Christianity. He did not see himself that way. He saw himself as the slave of God and the slave of Christ. Let me just help you to see this the best I can, and we're limited because of the translation of the NAS, but look at Romans 1, 1.

It's almost as if the translators choke on the word slave and they just do anything to replace it. So in Romans 1, 1, it's Paul, a bondservant of Christ Jesus. It's actually the word doulos, a slave of Christ Jesus. That was his formal introduction, a slave of Christ Jesus.

Happily so, Philippians chapter 1, verse 1, he includes Timothy, Paul and Timothy. And again, the NAS is bondservants, the Greek is slaves of Christ Jesus. Back in Galatians chapter 1 and verse 10, Paul says it again, the end of the verse, he says, if I was trying to please men, I would not be a slave of Christ. Now he understood what slavery meant, I only do what pleases my master. This is the singular focus of being a slave.

You don't have to please a lot of people, you just please one. That metaphor is critical to understanding our relationship to the Lord. If we're going to talk about a personal relationship to Christ and to God, then our personal relationship is we're slaves. That's the best way to define that relationship. And Paul here tells us it means that we only please Him. He says to the Corinthians, I have as my ambition to be pleasing to Him. It came down to this, do what he says and do what pleases Him.

It's that simple. That's what a slave did, really only two possibilities. Where there was a direct command, you obeyed it. Where there was not a direct command, you found a way to do what you knew would please the master. You obeyed Him and you pleased Him in His letter to Titus, again introducing himself in Titus chapter 1, he says, Paul, a slave of God. He is a slave of God. He is a slave of Christ.

He's not alone. Look at James...James, a slave of God and I love this, and of the Lord Jesus Christ. And this is James, the half brother of Jesus. He's not trying to elevate himself, he doesn't say, I'm James, the half brother of Jesus. He says, I'm James, a slave of God and a slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. That of course is why over in chapter 4 and verse 13 he says these familiar words, come now you who say today or tomorrow we'll go in to such and such a city and spend a year there, engage in business, make a profit, yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow, you're just a vapor that appears for a little while and vanishes away, instead you ought to say, if the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that. That's slave talk.

That's what it means to be subject to an alien will. Jude, the same thing, Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ. Now when you're coming to James and Jude and the Apostle Paul, and we could include our beloved Peter, 2 Peter 1, Simon Peter, a slave and an Apostle of Jesus Christ, you're talking about the elite, you're talking about those at the top of the spiritual list and they happily and gladly and joyfully identified themselves as slaves of Christ and slaves of God.

Just a couple of other illustrations. Colossians 1, 7 mentions Epaphras and then the NAS says, our beloved fellow bondservant, it is in the Greek, our sundulas, our fellow slave, Epaphras. Further in chapter 4 verse 12, Epaphras who is one of your number, a slave of Jesus Christ. They not only were willing to take to themselves the title of being a slave, but they conferred it upon the most noble of other believers. In 2 Timothy chapter 2 and verse 24, Paul is writing to Timothy and he's writing about how pastors ought to conduct themselves and how they ought to minister in the church and serve in the church. And he says in 2 Timothy 2, 24, the Lord's slave must not be quarrelsome but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth. Here are those who teach and lead the church are identified as slaves.

This is not some reference to the low level of believers. What I'm trying to tell you is the Apostles took this identification to themselves. The most noble authors of the New Testament took this signification to themselves.

They conferred it upon the noblest of their brotherhood and they so labeled those who following them would be the leaders of the church. We are slaves of God and slaves of Jesus Christ. Several times in the book of Acts, believers are referred to as slaves. This is consistent all through the New Testament.

Maybe there's a remarkable usage of it, however, in the book of Revelation. Let me look with you at the book of Revelation. You might not think this triumphal book is a place to talk about slavery, but this here is another way and another location in the New Testament that the Spirit of God has deemed to let us in to this broad sweeping identification of slavery. The Revelation chapter 1 of Jesus Christ which God gave Him to show to His slaves.

This extends it beyond the New Testament era, beyond the Apostles, beyond those upon whom the Apostles conferred high honor, beyond those who followed the Apostles. Now we are extending this to the great body of people who will come and will read this great glorious revelation of the glory of Christ contained in this book. It is to His bondservants that this truth is to be communicated, as the NAS says, but the word is slaves. If you go to chapter 7 for a moment, and we won't keep doing this too long, but you see in chapter 7 how God pronounces protection upon His people during the time of the Tribulation, verse 3, do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the slaves of our God on their foreheads. This is the 144 thousand in the future during the time of the Tribulation who are still called slaves. Chapter 10 of this book of Revelation, verse 7, in the days of the voice of the seventh angel when he is about to sound, then the mystery of God is finished as he preached to his slaves, the prophets. The prophets were his slaves in the past, people of the future are also his slaves. And it just continues to go on like that through the book of Revelation. The people of God are identified as slaves.

In fact, look at chapter 19 for a moment. This is the chapter in which the Lord returns, this is the great culmination. Great voice, verse 1, says, Hallelujah, salvation and glory and power belong to our God because His judgments are true and righteous, He has judged the great harlot, the false religious system of the Tribulation who is corrupting the earth with their immorality and He has avenged the blood of His slaves...slaves. They will still be slaves of Christ in the future and He, that is our Lord Himself, will avenge the blood of His slaves. In Revelation 22 we get a glimpse of heaven and in verse 3, part of it is there will no longer be any curse there and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it and's the word again...slaves shall serve Him and they shall see His face and His name shall be on their foreheads. If a slave tried to get away, one of the punishments that they did to a slave was to put F-U-G, fugitivus, marking him as a fugitive.

Well as slaves, we're going to have something on our foreheads, it won't be fugitive, it'll be His own name whom we serve. That's Grace to You with John MacArthur, Chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary. Today's lesson is part of his study, Foundations Volume 2. And friend, going back to something John said before the lesson, if today's broadcast has helped you better understand your identity in Christ, if you've been challenged by one of Grace to You's online resources, or if someone you know has come to faith in Christ through our Bible teaching, we would love to hear your story. So contact us today. You can email your story to letters at, again that's letters at, or you can send your letter to Grace to You, Post Office Box 4000, Panorama City, CA 91412.

And thanks for remembering to include this station's call letters anytime you get in touch. And remember also, at you can access thousands of free resources. You can read daily devotionals, you can watch video from John's conference appearances, or you can download all of John's sermons free of charge, including messages from his current series, Foundations Volume 2. And when you get the chance, be sure to check out our blog. As a supplement to the study you heard today, look for the series of articles titled, The Lordship of Christ. The Grace to You blog and a lot more is available for free at Now for John MacArthur and the entire Grace to You staff, I'm Phil Johnson. Thanks for starting your week with us and be back tomorrow to learn more about what it means to be a slave for Christ, and just how much there is to gain by embracing that identity. It's another 30 minutes of unleashing God's truth, one verse at a time, on Grace to You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-22 05:46:57 / 2024-01-22 05:56:06 / 9

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