The DEEP

Slavery

with benefits.

Romans 1:1-7 (NKJV)

Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;

To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Try to put yourself is Paul’s shoes here. He had persecuted the church right up until Jesus zapped him on the road to Damascus. After that, he was devoted to spreading the gospel. He was consumed with zeal for that task, but beneath that zeal was a deep sense of guilt about what he had done before his conversion.

Many of us feel the same way, and so we’re kindred spirits. This makes Paul’s letters, especially Romans, widely loved. Romans is preeminent among all the epistles.

Paul’s writings are dominated by grace. He knows that his own forgiveness can come only on those terms; yet he knows he’s forgiven. Thus, he got it. His guilt is not an obsession; it’s simply a fact.

Paul’s writings are also dominated by the sense of being owned. He begins this letter by calling himself a bondservant of Jesus Christ. The word in Greek is δοῦλος (dou-los) and it literally means slave—one who is owned by another. Many translations shrink from translating this literally because biblical slavery wasn’t like American slavery. Yes, slavery wasn’t as inhumane back then, but it was still ownership.

And Paul was happy to be owned.


Do you think of yourself as a slave?

When we confess Jesus as Lord, we are swearing fealty to Him. It’s silly to think you can join a kingdom without swearing fealty to its king. You can’t even join a fraternity without swearing fealty.

And note two key points. First, confessing Jesus as “my personal savior” isn’t even a pledge of fealty. The confession references (Matthew 7:21, Romans 10:9, 1 Corinthians 12:3, Philippians 2:11) are all about confessing Him as Lord (my Lord.)

Even the demons believe—and tremble. — James 2:19b (NKJV)

The second point is even more important. None of the references are in the past tense. Confessing Jesus as Lord isn’t something you do once and then, “set it and forget it,” as Ron Popeil used to say. It’s not the pledge of fealty that matters; it’s the fealty. That’s lifelong. (And don’t forget, your fealty could never earn your salvation; it’s not that impressive. Salvation is by grace alone.)

Be happy to be owned. The fringe benefits are awesome.


All the weekly study guides, which include all five devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/itemlist/category/91-deep-studies

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.