Romans 1:1, Paul a slave of Christ Jesus

Rom 1:1 A slave has no identity of his own, no right to assert himself, no rights to his own body, no rights to any possessions that he may call his own.  He may not protest if his master abuses him – since he has no rights in any case.  He can be marked or branded as the property of another and is so understood by anyone who passes by and sees him.  A slave may have a will, but he has no choices – he must do the will of his master.  In the early slave censuses of the United States, slaves were not listed by name, but only by the name of their master, and then listed as twenty year old male, fifteen year old female, etc.  Any identity part from their master was ignored or obliterated, and even the names they were called were given by their owner.  A slave was most assuredly not a self with an independent identity.

But Paul is not the slave of an abusive master: He is a slave of Christ Jesus. Yes, it is still true that Paul has no rights to his body, to possessions, to his own separate identity, but he is not subject to abuse by his master, though he may and will have to suffer it from others.  Paul is enslaved to the One who is Love (1John 4:8), the One who poured out His Life unto death to save and deliver Him (Isa 53:12).  Paul is enslaved to the One who is True Peace (Eph 2:14), and the One who is the Heart of all Joy in the shared Life of the Trinity.

Such bondage is not really not slavery at all, but Freedom itself, even though the cost of it is the surrender of the will’s deluded attempt to assert itself independently from God. For our free will exists for only one purpose: to make a choice and so be enslaved to what, or better, whom we choose.  For it is not things that we choose, or possessions or houses or careers, nor even friends or spouses.  No, what we choose is which god we will serve: “How long will you hesitate between two opinions. If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him” (1Kings 18:21). The place of free will is an unstable place – we must choose, and we find true freedom in slavery to a master.

The god whom we choose is the one who masters us.  But if the Lord is your master, then you are truly free – free from the bondage of self-will and the addictions that come from it – free from slavery to the god of this age, namely Satan (2Cor 4:4).  Unless your master is Jesus Christ, you will find yourself enslaved to things which are not really gods (Gal 4:8), and your life will descend into fiery wrath and destruction, not just in the life to come, but even now we are children of wrath (Eph 2:3) and filled with the devil’s self-destructive wrath: “Therefore I (the Lord) have brought fire from midst of you (Satan); it has consumed you, and I have turned you to ashes on the earth In the eyes of all who see you” (Ezek 28:18, see Rev 12:12).  So is it also true for all who remain the devil’s children.  But if Christ is your Lord and master, then you will dwell forever in the Heart of all Joy.

About Brett Burrowes

I am an evangelical Christian biblical scholar and theologian. I attended Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where I obtained a M.A. in Biblical Studies and a Master of Theology in Biblical Theology. In my master's thesis I constructed a biblical theology around the concept of the mountain of God, culminating in the contrast of Mount Sinai and the heavenly Mount Zion in Hebrews 12:18-24. From there I spent a year at Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, and went on to complete a doctorate in New Testament Theology at Durham University in England. My dissertation focused on the letter-Spirit contrast in Romans 7 and 8, specifically on how Paul transformed Old Testament Law from an external written Torah into the indwelling Spirit of Christ as living law within believers. See my about me page.
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4 Responses to Romans 1:1, Paul a slave of Christ Jesus

  1. Wow, great to see you blogging again!

    B

    On Tue, Jan 30, 2018 at 3:01 PM, Transformed Into His Image wrote:

    > Brett Burrowes posted: “Rom 1:1 A slave has no identity of his own, no > right to assert himself, no rights to his own body, no rights to any > possessions that he may call his own. He may not protest if his master > abuses him – since he has no rights in any case. He can be marked ” >

  2. Thanks. I’ve had thoughts of blogging through Romans, and decided to jot down a few notes, and somehow ended up with a whole post!

  3. Fred Jeavons says:

    There is a lifting of a real burden when we are able to let go of our “rights”. Thanks for the timely article Brett!

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