The Bible can get confusing at times, and depending on the subject, a lot of times. Unless you are a theologian, the truth is you might have a few questions sometimes. The Bible uses many analogies or illustrations in describing the people of God. In Christ, are we sons, slaves, the body, or the bride? What does all of that mean? Which one are we? Today we will discuss whether we are sons and daughters, or slaves.
Sons and Daughters
Throughout the Bible, and especially the New Testament you see the continual usage of the people of God being referred to as the children of God. As you progress into the New Testament, especially with the advent of Christ, you see the title and illustration of sons go from a generalization to a more personal address.
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, – John 1:12
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. – Galatians 3:26
Jesus himself even calls the paralytic, “son” when he heals him in Mark 2:5.
John typically used the Greek word teknon, when referring to the offspring or children of God, denoting a sonship by means of birth. This of course alludes to Christ’s conversation with Nicodemus concerning being born again, in John 3. Paul on the other hand described believers as the children of God through the adoptive sense by use of the Greek term huios, as seen for example in Romans 8 and again in Galatians 3.
You must be born again of the Spirit to become the Spiritual child of God. Mankind is not considered a spiritual child of God, except through the regenerative (rebirth) and adoptive sense that is brought about by belief in Christ. You can know this because you are regularly described throughout the Bible as a child of wrath and disobedience (see Epheshians 2:2-4 for a couple of examples).
So as a child of God you see both a right to be called a son (or daughter) by means of spiritual rebirth, as well as through the redemptive adoption through faith in Christ. Whether it be by means of the use of the Greek term teknon or huios you as a believer can refer to yourself as a the child of God, as it is clearly lined out by the New Testament writers.
But if we are sons and daughters can we also be slaves?
If you look back through history slavery was a very real and prominent social norm, especially during the New Testament times. Paul even addressed it on a couple of occasions. Just because it was the norm, it does not make it right, but it was part of the social culture of the time in which we can address.
While Paul utilizes the illustration of sons and children throughout his writings, he also utilizes the imagery of slavery. Not only does Paul, but so also does Jesus at various times.
The term used for slave in these instances is doulos. In the Greek culture, this meant the involuntary and permanent service of a slave. One example you can find lies in Matthew 25, as Christ is explaining what is commonly referred to as the parable of the talents. Many translations translate the word as servant, but the meaning of doulos is more than merely a servant.
For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey.
Upon his return you can see his response to the first two slaves,
Well done, good and faithful slave
This can of course be looked upon as a foreshadowing in the eternal aspect of your relationship with Christ, He will survey our lives and see how we have handled what he has entrusted to us.
Moving forward you can see Paul’s usage of doulos in his introductory exhortation in Romans in referring to himself as
Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,
In the way that he addresses himself in this instance, Paul is promoting the Hebrew sense of this word, which describes a servant who willingly submits and commits themselves to serve a master he loves and respects. Paul has submitted himself to Christ in the full sense of the meaning of a bond-servant. You too must submit to Christ in this sense.
So what does this mean?
In the context of your position in Christ, are you a son or a slave? Well, the truth is you are both, or at least should be. You become a son or daughter through the adoptive process of faith in Christ and spiritual rebirth. But, there is an underground slavery that exists in the Christian realm. There are those who desire to go even further, the bond servants, the slaves of Christ.
Are you a slave, a bond-servant, one who willingly submits and commits himself to the master? You must fully understand the importance of each position or stance in Christ, just as you may be a son or daughter, as well as an aunt or uncle, or a mother or father, as well as a teacher or CEO. You hold multiple titles in life as well as in Christ. Should we end Christian slavery? No, We should all be slaves to Christ!