27 “And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many (Matthew 20:27–28, NKJV).”
The ambitious quest for superiority over others is conquered by the truth Jesus uttered and lived. Dominance over fellow disciples in the body of Christ is defeated by complete servitude. Only when we yield ourselves as slaves to serve others are we like our Master. The Lord humbled Himself to become human, and further still, to die on the cross for the sins of the world (Phil. 2:5-8). Jesus is not great because people served Him. He is great because He served others, including us. He gave His life as the ransom (redemption price) for our sins (1 Tim. 2:6). His disciples forego the prideful pursuit of glory from others. God honors those who give themselves in service to Christ and others. Christ has shown us the way. (1) Like Jesus, we must desire to do God’s will instead of our own. “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God” (Heb. 10:9; Matt. 26:39, 42). (2) Like Jesus, we must humble ourselves (Phil. 2:5). A slave (bondservant) is lowly in spirit. Pride never elevates us in the Master’s sight, while humility delivers grace from His hand (James 4:6, 10; 1 Pet. 5:5-6). (3) Like Jesus, it takes personal sacrifice to serve God and others. Jesus gave His life. We are to deny ourselves and bear our cross, giving our lives in His service (Luke 9:23; Gal. 2:20). Do you want to be great in the kingdom? Enslave yourself to the service of others, and your reward will be great in the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 25:34-40).
15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! 16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? (Romans 6:15–16, NKJV)
Whatever our profession, we are “slaves” of the one we obey (v. 16). Being under grace does not sanction sin (v. 15). Liberty in Christ is not freedom to determine what is or is not sin. God’s word does that (1 Jno. 3:4). Freedom in Christ is not a cloak for wickedness (1 Pet. 2:16). Sons of light do not walk in the darkness of sin (Eph. 5:6-8). Our liberty in Christ is freedom from sin’s bondage and death (Rom. 6:6-7, 11, 18). Having been “set free from sin,” we have “become slaves of God” (Rom. 6:22). We volunteer to be slaves of sin or obedience. We chose to become slaves or righteousness when we obeyed the gospel from the heart (Rom. 6:17, 3-4). Now, our course of life is to present ourselves as slaves of obedience leading to righteousness (v. 16). Making conscious decisions to obey Christ protects us from sin’s death as it produces holiness (Rom. 6:19-22).
15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men—16 as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. 17 Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king. (1 Peter 2:15–17, NKJV)
God’s word teaches Christians to identify and turn away from those who promote and practice sin at every season, including the “perilous times” in which we live (2 Tim. 3:1-5; Eph. 5:8-11). Today’s passage teaches us to do good when the “ignorance of foolish men” would otherwise incite us to be unruly, unrighteous, and ungodly. In context, that includes submitting to human ordinances (that do not force us to sin, 1 Pet. 2:13-14; Acts 5:29). Being free in Christ (free from sin and death) means we are now bondservants of God and not men (Rom. 6:4-11, 16-18; 1 Cor. 7:23). Our freedom in Christ is not our license to be wicked; it is our calling to be God’s slaves (v. 16). Therefore, when evil authorities do evil things, we are to bear the image of Christ and patiently accept suffering for what is good (1 Pet. 2:18-24). For our part, we must be respectful of everyone (including rulers over us), love all our brethren, and fear God (v. 17). By doing so we silence (muzzle, give no credence to) worldly ignorance by exposing its inept, mindless, and egotistical foolishness (v. 15; 1 Cor. 3:18-23). By doing so, with God’s help, you “overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21).
9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, 10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, 11 where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all. (Colossians 3:9–11, NKJV)
The Christian is described as a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). Conversion to Christ includes a deliberate decision of faith to put away the sins that defined the old person of sin with its deeds and to put on the new person who is in the image of Christ (Col. 3:9-10). Notably, being a new person in Christ is defined by a new way of life, one that ceases the practice of sin and practices righteousness (Col. 3:1-9, 12-17). Being a new person in Christ is not defined by culture (neither Greek nor Jew), previous religious traditions (circumcised nor uncircumcised), ethnicity and race (barbarian, Scythian), or social strata (slave nor free). All of these are in Christ, and yet Christ is not limited by any such things. The gospel is for all the world because all have sinned (Mk. 16:15; Rom. 1:16; 3:23). It is very wrong to look through the lens of race, ethnicity, social strata, human traditions, or any other humanly devised label to identify those who belong to Christ. Scripture says, “for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). Christians ought to act like it and never be driven by prejudices of the heart.
34 Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. 35 And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. 36 Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed. (John 8:34–36, NKJV)
The Fourth of July. Across the land, parades, picnics and fireworks celebrate America’s Independence Day. How many will pause and ponder this paradox: While living in a free country, most are not free at all. By committing sin, millions and millions of Americans (and billions around the globe) are enslaved to sin (Jno. 8:34). Liberty from a tyrannical king’s domination is cherished and celebrated in America. Yet, sin’s tyranny over the soul is more brutal and more enduring than any oppression by an earthly dictator. Are you genuinely free today? The Son of God can free you from the bondage of your sin. How? Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (Jno. 8:31-32). The apostle added, “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Rom. 6:17-18). Believe, obey, and abide in the word of Christ to be truly free (Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 2:37-42). Freedom from sin is a victory we celebrate every day (Rom. 6:14, 17, 22-23; 1 Cor. 15:57). (Revision of Sword Tips #802)
21 Were you called while a slave? Do not be concerned about it; but if you can be made free, rather use it. 22 For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise he who is called while free is Christ’s slave. 23 You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. 24 Brethren, let each one remain with God in that state in which he was called.” (1 Corinthians 7:21–24, NKJV)
One’s salvation in Christ does not depend on whether the person is a slave or free at the time of conversion. If the converted slave can become free, then do so. If not, then be a faithful Christian as a slave. The slave who is a Christian is free from sin in the Lord (John 8:34-36). When the person who is not a slave becomes a bondservant of God upon his conversion to Christ (1 Peter 2:16). Whether slave or free, we are all one in Christ (Galatians 3:28). What we must not do is enslave our faith to another person. Christ has redeemed us with His blood, therefore, we belong to Him. We serve Him before anyone else. This is the principle undergirding the instruction in 1 Corinthians 7:15 to let the unbeliever “depart” if that person is unwilling to be married to a believer who serves Christ first. We must “remain with God” and not compromise our faith for the sake of others (verse 23). This means we must abide in the word of Christ instead of following the dictates of others – including an unbelieving spouse (John 8:31-32).
42 But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. 44 And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42–45, NKJV)
As it was in the days of Christ, so it is to this present hour. Worldly ambition drives many to exercise dominance and control over others, measuring their greatness by positions of power. Such is neither the measure nor the ambition of Christ’s disciples. When a dispute arose among His apostles over positions of prominence in the kingdom, Christ taught that importance and favor are measured by service and sacrifice, not subjugation (Mark 10:35-41). Jesus set the high bar of lowly greatness, serving and dying to save the lost. To be great and first in God’s sight is what matters. So, let us use His measurements of greatness, and serve others as He served us.
12 But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her… 15 But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace. (1 Corinthians 7:12, 15, NKJV)
Some Christians question whether they must end their marriage to an unbeliever, in order to be faithful to Jesus. The apostle applies Jesus’ teaching from Matthew 19:6 – “what God has joined together, let not man put asunder” – and answers, “No.” Is the unbeliever is willing to allow the Christian to live his or her faith, do so and bring a godly influence into the home (1 Cor. 7:12-14; 1 Pet. 3:1-6). If that willingness is not present, and the unbeliever sunders the marriage (being unwilling to have his or her spouse to live for Christ, v. 16), the Christian is “not under bondage in such cases.” That is, the Christian is not now, and never has been a slave to the unbeliever (see 1 Cor. 7:23). This verse does not teach another cause for divorce and remarriage, that is, desertion. (Marriage is for life, with one cause for one party to be free to remarry, the cause of fornication, Matt. 19:3-6, 9.) Instead, it teaches the believer that his or her faith is not negotiable – even in a marriage. Do not surrender your faith for the sake of pleasing any person; “you were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men” (1 Cor. 7:23). God has called you to be at peace with Him (v. 15). So, do the will of God, not the will of men.