Free to Be Slaves
Slavery to God and one another results in true freedom and maximum blessing.
Our freedom in Christ is particularly concerned with human relationships, which flow from a right relationship with God through faith in Jesus and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. A train is effective only when it runs on the tracks for which it was designed. Tracks don’t inhibit a train; they enable it to run freely so long as it is running under the power of the steam or fuel of its engines. The same is true of Christians as we choose to serve one another.
Five times in the fifth chapter of Galatians the apostle uses “one another” in relation to our freedom—once in verse 13, twice in verse 15, and twice in verse 26. Central to each reference is the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
And here lies a great Christian paradox. Paul, having warned the Galatian Christians against becoming slaves again to the Law and the flesh, then urges them to become servants and slaves! But this time they are slaves to one another (Gal. 5:13), which includes being bond slaves to God (1 Cor. 6:19; Rom. 12:1). This paradox is instructive:
- Slavery to one another and to God is nothing like slavery to the flesh or to the Law.
- Slavery to flesh and the Law result in death, misery, and frustration. It causes people to be consumed, torn apart by one another.
- Slavery to God and one another results in true freedom and maximum blessing.
- Slavery to God and to one another is voluntary. But it is a product of love and the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus it becomes a source of glory to God, and joy, peace, and blessing to self and to others.
In Mark 8:33–35 we read Jesus’ words about how true freedom flows out of total commitment to Jesus Christ: “But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. ‘Out of my sight, Satan!’ he said. ‘You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.’ Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.’”
In losing our lives in devotion to Him and His purposes, and in turning control of our lives over to Him, we find true freedom—the freedom to be what God designed us to be and to thus experience true joy. Using our freedom to indulge ourselves never satisfies the heart’s core longings. Instead it destroys the soul’s capacity to relate to others, and leads either to the neglect of others or their exploitation.
Being a servant of Christ involves us in service to others because being in Christ we are part of His body and members of one another.
Hampton Keathley III (ThM, 1966) served as a pastor for twenty-eight years before lung cancer took his earthly life in 2002. His ministry continues through the many articles he wrote for the Biblical Studies Foundation, accessible at bible.org.