Here is a link to my most recent audio message entitled Rescued Slaves
The basic transcript is what follows in this post.
This morning we are looking at Galatians 1:3-5. But before we turn there, I wanted to start by asking three short questions:
First…”If someone was observing your life, what ONE word besides your name would they use to identify you? What word would you use to identify yourself? And most importantly- what word do you think God would use to identify you? I should warn you up front that much of what you will hear this morning will be to some of you…offensive. I say that because what we discover in the Bible about our relationship to God goes against the grain of our contemporary American sensibilities.
But before I open that can up, lets read the text starting in verse 3-5
The Apostle Paul writes 3(G)Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4who (H)gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from (I)this present evil age, according to the will of (J)our God and Father, 5(K)to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen.
Paul writes Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,
What we see here are a few words which Paul commonly uses as a greeting. And this would the expected “hello” from a man who as you know was both a Roman citizen and a Jew. At first glance the terms grace and peace seem to be simply a greeting that which is a mix both the common Greek… “Charis or grace” with the customary Jewish greeting “Shalom” which means peace
But for Paul, the terms grace and peace have major theological significance as the addition of the phrase form God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ makes clear. Grace and peace are Paul’s fast way of summarizing the essence of his message- the message that both Grace and peace have their origin in the Living God through Jesus Christ. “Grace” the cause of salvation and “peace” the resulting effect of our salvation are both sourced in God. And so even Paul’s typical salutation is communicating the gospel of Grace.
He continues…”Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins”
Jesus gave himself for our sins. Who here has not heard that before? Don’t raise your hands. Sounds basic, right? But consider the depth. We read in John’s gospel a familiar phrase that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten or unique Son. But here in Galatians we read that Jesus Christ gave Himself. Did God give Jesus? Or did Jesus give Himself? The issues raised by these questions bring up a fascinating study but in brief the answer is that the person of Jesus Christ is a perfect blend of God and humanity. He is the God-man, the eternal Logos or Logic of God, the second person of the Triune Godhead, God the Son who came to earth and took on human flesh, bones, and blood. So to say that God the Father gave Jesus and Jesus gave himself is further evidence that Jesus is indeed the Living God and is worthy to be worshiped- not like any of the other so-called God’s that are in reality, false gods
The phrase “who gave himself for our sins” is an obvious parallel with Jesus Christ’s own statement in the gospel of Mark about the purpose of His mission- to give His life as a ransom for many.
Which is what Paul is saying here…that Christ came… so that He might rescue us from this present evil age.
And this is where the offense begins to surface.
I don’t know how you answered my original questions
But I submit to you that although there are a myriad of terms that correspond to our relationship with Christ such, as His being His bride or His adopted sons and daughters, one of the most appropriate words to describe you, to identify you, is the word “slave” Whether you are a Christian or not, by simply being a human being, you are a slave.
Is the word “slave” one of the terms you though of to identify yourself? Would it be the the first word you or others would use to identify your self.
My guess is probably not. Most of you would say, “No Way” so let me develop this a bit further.
In Hebrews 2:15 we read that Christ died “that he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who…were subject to lifelong slavery.
Slavery to what?
Paul calls it here…”this present evil age.” It is what Christ came to deliver us and rescue us from.
This present evil age is synonymous with the world system- the philosophies, ideologies, religions, economic structures, and the entire realm of reality which is opposed to God. i.e. it is as the bible describes it- the kingdom of darkness, ruled by an incredibly malevolent being name Satan who is apparently extremely beautiful in his appearance but utterly evil in his actions. His kingdom is full of people who are enslaved only to do the will of their Master, the devil. And most of humanity does not even realize that they are his slaves, in bondage to follow his diabolical bidding.
People…This is difficult stuff- the idea that there is an invisible world of demonic activity: Frankly I can’t (and I wish I could) metaphysically explain how this all works out in reality. Just like I can’t explain metaphysically exactly how God created matter. Or exactly how or what it means that Christians become a new creation. Or what happens to us when we the Spirit of God comes into us. Where does he come into? Where does He reside? What “part” of the human being does He reside in and what exactly is changed when we are regenerated or born again?
These metaphysical questions about what is really real can be very difficult. But because they are hard for us to understand or explain does not mean that nobody can or that there difficulty necessitates their falsehood. I’m pretty sure that most people also have a hard time understanding how things like logic and mathematics can be universal, abstract, invariant, and eternal concepts that exist in the world.
And so we see that God has communicated to us in His word through fairly simple affirmations and propositions about an extremely complex reality. The Bible is a book of truth claims and because they come from the One who is the source of all that is true and good and beautiful, these claims by necessity are true.
In fact, I can know that what the Bible teaches about God, His created beings, and all of reality is true with probably more certainty than I can know that my mom is actually my biological mom. Chew on that for a while.
Folks, This means that I can say with along with Bible that If you are outside of Christ, you are, in some mysterious way…a resident of the Kingdom of Drakness. a slave of Satan- held captive by him to further his kingdom and purposes and not the kingdom of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Even your religion, whether its, Mormonism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Jehovah’s Witness, Satanism, Voodoo, Scientology, Humanism, Atheism, Unitarianism, Oneness Pentacostalism, and any other belief that does not recognize that Jesus Christ is God come in the flesh is a Satanic deception that leads souls away from the worship of the one true God and into the worships the devil and his demons. Let me say it again- Every religion that does not worship Jesus Chrsit as the Lord God incarnate, ultimately worships demons.
Romans chapter 6 makes it unquestionably clear that before coming to Christ…we were slaves to sin- which is the defining characteristic of this present evil age.
Are you a slave this morning to this present evil age?
Are you enslaved to…pornography, to lust of the flesh and the eyes, to anger and bitterness, to money and comfort, to consumerism? Do you long for the respect and affirmation of men?
Consider, for a moment, whether or not your fear to witness, is not so much because you will be physically hurt, in someway, but because you don’t want to be thought of as weird. Do you fear the scorn men or do you fear God?
I know that some of you are sitting there and telling yourself that you are not a slave of Satan and yet your life your life reflects that your mind is consumed by the world and is rarely consumed by the things of God. You are more concerned with activities and athletics and so many other extra-curricular activities, than you are with godliness.What consumes your heart soul, mind, and strength? Is it the knowledge of the Holy One which is as AW Tozer considered to be “the greatest treasure anyone could posses”. If anything other than the living God takes precedence in your life…whatever your priority is…money, reputation, comfort, your wife, your kids, the Phillies (well maybe not the Phillies)…if it takes the place of devotion to Christ Jesus- then behold! It is your god.
Folks, real God is urging you this morning put aside false gods and to be very concerned for your soul. Sure money gives us things and it will even give us a reputation- and maybe we’ll will get that pat on the back that we so enjoy just like the Pharisees who lived to be esteemed by others. But God will despise you and your reputation. Jesus said “what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?”
Are you that man or woman?
A while back I was significantly confronted by a mentor of mine to take a look at my own life and ministry and to ask whether or not I genuinely desired to glorify God or myself. In the process, I found that I was significantly enslaved to pleasing men and living for me.
My marriage was a shambles because I used the God talk but lived to be served and respected rather than to serve and to rejoice when I was disrespected by men or submit to my authorities- even when they were unreasonable for this finds favor with God.
I was proud and had what seemed to be an inquenchable drive to have a life that was successful- according to the standards of the world. I lived for my own glory without realizing it. I thought I was a pretty good guy.
In short, I was enslaved to self.
One day, my mentor looked me square in the eyes and said to me three times a few words which have become for me words of pure freedom. “You are a failure…You are failure…You are a failure. I absolutely sobbed because my whole life’s goal was to be a somebody, to be worthy of respect by men, to be successful in other people eyes, and I was going to accomplish my goals. I was going to do my will and call it God’s. But at that moment God broke me of what was an utterly performance oriented – works based life and I experienced the truth of the words of Scripture that “He who considers himself to be something when he is nothing deceives himself.”
Folks, I am nothing apart from Christ. You and I are nothing and we can do nothing of significance apart from Christ.
Imagine being stranded in the middle of the ocean as huge turbulent waves continually bombard you. The waves are like the present evil age which you cannot escape on your own. You may try with all your might to stay above water but eventually its going to consume you and you you will die.
Without help… all of your work, all of your endeavors all your efforts (your religious attempts) to escape your slavery to this evil age are futility. You and everyone around you is perishing without the help of Jesus Christ. Peter writes, “you know that you were ransomed from the futile ways…with the precious blood of Christ” 1 Pet 1:18-19
And yet many of us continue to swim with futility and indifference as though the waves are not even real- toward the things around us that moths eat and which rust destroys. How foolish! We grasp for things like food, which begins to rot as soon as we eat it, only to realize that the food and everything else in the present evil age is merely part of the futile ocean which will soon take your breath. Your slavery to the world will kill you.
But Jesus Christ gave Himself in order to rescue us. He saw us drowning and pulled us out.
In the bible this rescue is a redemption. Its imagery is a redemption from actual slavery to the present evil age- a condition out of which man cannot escape on his own.
And so Jesus rescued us from our captivity, our enslavement to the things of the world.
And Paul writes that this redemption is “according to the will of God our Father.
Remember, the cause of our salvation is God’s grace alone. Our rescue is according to His will. Do you realize that our redemption is nothing but a change of ownership. That’s why I said that whether you are a Christian or not you are a slave. Christians go from slavery to slavery. God bought us to be His slave. The believer is now the property of God by right of purchase according to His will and for His will
You may have noticed that we are faced with somewhat of a bind here. On the one hand, we are redeemed to freedom set free from the oppressive chains of the evil one; but this freedom means slavery to God. It is a transfer of ownership from an evil master to a good Master.
Indeed, the whole point of our redemption is that sin is no longer our master but Christ is. The redeemed are those saved to do the will of their new Master. Yes, slavery is despicable among men but to be a slave of God is the highest title that you could have.
Some of you might be thinking that this is tooextreme- that at most we are to be termed servants of God, but not slaves. And you’re thinking that because our understanding of Scripture has been in this case significantly shielded by our American culture.
The term “slave” in Scripture is the greek term “doulos” You will find that the word is often translated as “servant” in order to protect God against our modern sensibilities. But a more precise and theologically accurate translation of that term doulos in vitually every case is “slave” as it is understood in its first century context.
Jesus and His disciples talked to people living in the midst of a slave-dominated society about the fact that being a Christian was being a slave to Jesus Christ? For those with whom the gospel was presented, there would not be any vague idea of what following Christ and being His slave meant, they would know exactly what that meant.
One contemporary Pastor and author writes that “Being a slave of Christ may be the best way to define a Christian. We are, as believers, slaves of Christ. You would never suspect that, however, from the language of Christianity. In contemporary Christianity the language is anything but slave language. It is about freedom. It is about liberation. It is about health, wealth, prosperity, finding your own fulfillment, fulfilling your own dream, finding your own purpose. We often hear that God loves you unconditionally and wants you to be all you want to be. He wants to fulfill every ambition, every desire, every hope, every dream… Personal fulfillment, personal liberation, personal satisfaction, all bound up in an old term in evangelical Christianity, a personal relationship. How many times have we heard that the gospel offers people a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? You do have a personal relationship to Jesus Christ, you are His slave.
Folks, when we invite people to respond to the gospel, it is not only for the opportunity to be set free from sin, but it is also for the privilege to become a slave of Christ- the Most High God.
The question this morning is not are you a slave, but whose slave are you?
Jesus said that you can not be the slave of two masters
You are either the slave of God or the slave of this present evil age.
Jesus disciples were not ashamed to be identified as slaves.
Paul in his letter to the Romans calls himself a doulos…a slave of Jesus Christ
In Titus Paul calls himself a slave of God
James also in his epistle, calls himself a slave of God and of Christ and does not, as might be expected, proudly introduce himself as the half-brother of Jesus. He considered himself to be the slave of his very own brother, who also happened to be God incarnate.
In 2 Peter we see Peter labeling himself a slave of Jesus Christ
Jude calls himself a slave of Jesus Christ
Timothy is called a slave of Jesus Christ
In Ephesians 6 Paul encourages us all to please God and not men as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.
I could go on and on making that biblical case that we are slaves of God
And finally as we come to a close… we read in the text that Christ gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from (I)this present evil age, according to the will of (J)our God and Father, 5(K)to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen.
Our God…Our Master is worthy to be praised and served. Our whole life should be a reflection of the fact that God is our Master and that we seek only to please him and to do His will.
The Westminster confession of faith says that our human purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever
Revelation 19:5-16 And a voice came from the throne, saying, “Give praise to our God, all you His slaves, you who fear Him…And he said to me, “These are true words of God.” 10 Then I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Do not do that; I am a fellow slave…worship God…And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. 13 He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 15 From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. 16 And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”
Folks that is our King and our Master- whose kingdom we desire to expand among the nations.
Did you notice that it says “on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”
Since learning that I am Christ’s slave, and given that Christ has His Kingship and Lordship written on his leg (though admittedly figurative). I’ve toyed with the idea of getting a tattoo myself as an identifying mark of my slavery to Jesus.
How about a tattoo right hear on my arm that says “SLAVE of the KING” that would constantly remind me and those around me who my new Master is.
Now don’t get me wrong, just like Martin Luther said “you don’t make a Christian shoe by putting a fish symbol on it. You make it excellent with the highest quality.
So too, a tattoo will not suffice to rep Christ until you D.I.E as the rapper Lecrae would say. Rather, your mark is the Holy Spirit and the release of His fruit in your life. So Christians, by the grace of God, walk in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control.
If you do then the grace and peace of Christ which surpasses all understanding will pour out from you, and you will undoubtedly be distinct. And people will surely say “there goes a slave of God.”
Will you go from this place today and obey your King and Master. Will you live in such a way moment by moment that marks you as a slave of Christ?
So that at the end of the day, when God observes your life he will reward you with the words of Matt 25:21…” Well done good and faithful slave”