A Slave-Pen at New Orleans Before the Auction

In reading “A Puritan Theology” by Joel Beeke, I came across this compelling story:

A wealthy Englishman went to California in the 1850s to enrich himself during the gold rush.  After much success, he left to go back to England.  He stopped at New Orleans on the way home, and, as all tourists did at that time, visited the infamous slave trading block. 

As he approached the place where people were sold for cash, he saw a beautiful, young, African woman standing on the block.  He overheard two men who were trying to outbid each other for the woman, talking about what they would do to her if they could buy her.  To their surprise, the Englishman joined in the bidding by offering twice the price.

The auctioneer was astonished. “No one has ever offered this much for a slave,” he said.

After purchasing her, the Englishman stepped forward to get her.  When he helped her down to his level, she spat I his face.  He wiped away the spit and led her to a building in another part of town.  There she watched uncomprehendingly as he filled out forms.  To her astonishment, he handed her some manumission papers and said, “There, now you are a free woman.”  She spat in his face again.

“Don’t you understand?” he asked, as he wiped her spit away again.  “You are free!  You are free!” 

She stared at him in disbelief a long while.  Then she fell at his feet and wept – and wept some more.  Finally, she looked up and asked, “Sir, is it really true that you paid more than anyone has ever paid to purchase me as a slave, only to set me free?”

“Yes,” he said, calmly.

She wept some more.  Finally, she spoke: “Sir, I have only one request.  Can I be your slave forever?”

This encounter is meant to illustrate what Christ has done for us, and –don’t miss it– what our response should be to his generous grace!

Christian, you know your own story of unexpected liberation from slavery and condemnation. Are you as willing to make yourself a slave of Christ?

There are believers who occasionally say they are thankful, and there are believers who daily demonstrate they are thankful. Which best defines you?


        ‘We are Servants of Christ’       Jude 1       

The Apostles introduced themselves as “servants of Christ”

Jude presents his identity in his servant role over his blood role

This Jude was one of Jesus’ brothers by birth (Mark 6:3)

What did being a servant mean in that cultural context?

The Apostles actually didn’t use the word “servant”; they used the word “slave”

Servants had some choice and freedom, but slaves were owned

So why did Bible translators use the word servant instead of slave?

The answer is found in the change in what slavery looked like when English translations began

In the New Testament world, a large percentage of the population were slaves

Most of these were conquered nations and their descendants

Slaves could hold virtually any position in society (teachers, doctors, artisans etc)

When you saw a slave, they typically dressed and looked like everyone else

The New Testament context of slave, was someone owned, but also usually valued and respected

By the time English translations began, slavery looked quite different

It was the slavery we think of in the British world and United States

This slavery was based on race, prejudice, brutality and chains

Translators felt these changes in slavery would distort the readers perceptions of what the New Testament intended

When we read that we are “servants” of Christ, it is a mix of what we now think of concerning a slave and a servant

Being a servant (slave) is our identity, but it’s not the whole story

We are also adopted as children of God and we are the bride of Christ

We should hold to the worth of those images, and at the same time, recognize in this world we labor as servant of our Master

What are the characteristics of being a servant/slave of Christ?

1.  As servants, we live in submission to Christ our Lord

Servants hold a subservient role; that is the most fundamental reality about them

We live to serve God; He doesn’t exist to please us (Luke 17:7-10)

2.  As servants, we practice obedience to Christ’s will

Servants don’t stop to consider which commands to obey, or how fully they will obey

If you are knowingly withholding obedience to God, you are being unfaithful!

3.  As servants, we have an exclusive devotion to Christ our Lord

The life of a servant is focused on service to their Master

Christ is not to be one of many features in life – He is to be the center of all our life

4.  As servants, we are accountable to Christ our Lord (Matt 24:45-51)

We cannot be serious about discipleship, church life or about Christ without it

5.  As servants, we are fully dependent upon Christ our Master

A difference between servants and slaves, is that slaves must totally depend on their Master

Are you trying to be self-sufficient about making life work?

Servant is a subservient title, but it is also an honorable one

1.  Servant is the title God used for his mighty leaders

Abraham, Moses and David are all called “My servant” by God

God uses this title in the context of being pleased with them

2.  Being a servant is the mindset of great understanding (Matt 8:8-10)

This centurion applied his understanding of the roles of master and servant to how he approached Jesus

Jesus’ response was that this demonstrated great faith!

The Marines should not expect more of their recruits than God does of his people

3.  Being a servant is the path to accomplishing great things (Matt 20:25-28)

Having a servant attitude is not a minor teaching of Christianity

This is what it means to live as Christian; it is what God looks for and uses

4.  Being a servant was Jesus identity (Matt 12:18) 

Like us, this is far from the whole picture of Jesus identity

Yet, Jesus joyfully embraced being a servant

We cannot follow Jesus unless we embrace our role as his servant

Do you embrace your role as a slave of Christ – or do you resent it? 

How we respond to this aspect of our identity reveals much about our heart and love for Christ