The Jews saw slavery as something that is not normal—something that should not mark the human condition. There was an illegality and irrationality that marked slavery, as they learned in Egypt. It spoke of the force of power and submission that robbed a man of all his God-given dignity. The rabbis viewed the word slave as an insult, and a man could be excommunicated for calling his neighbor a slave (Kittel, II, 272). 

As a concept slave is a thorn that has no rose—and Paul knew it. We cannot water down this word. The slave was not a bond-servant with a contract of come kind that had a release clause in it. It was a permanent state that meant exactly the same thing in the ancient world that it means today.

Slaves were at the bottom of the heap in Paul's day—and many of those who came to Christ were slaves, so they were in the ancient church.

Slaves had no will of their own; slaves had no choice, they did what they were told to do no matter how the felt about it, whether they liked it or not. Slaves had no choices of their own—they could never say no. Slaves had no time of their own. Slaves had no position of their own. Slaves had no possessions of their own Slaves had no future of their own. 

Slaves always wore a white apron that identified them wherever they went, very much like the yellow Star of David that Jews had to wear in Nazi Germany. Even though they could occupy very high and trusted positions such as tutors to the heirs of very wealthy households, they were still slaves, and they had neither voice, vote, nor rights.

Yet the word takes an amazing turn in the Scriptures. The highest position a man can have is to be a slave—the slave of God. Biblical thought is totally distinct from Greek thought and even some dimensions of Jewish thought.

To be God's slave is to enter into an exclusive and absolute relationship in which He totally controls a man for His purposes—and that's the highest honor a man can ever attain. This concept carries over into the New Testament:  the highest position a man can attain is to be a slave!

All of us are slaves to something—Romans 6:16. You have many choices as a slave, but you are a slave, no matter what you think...

You can be a slave to your followers, but you will always be a follower rushing forward so you can follow from the front.

You can be a slave to your peers, but you will always be an inferior held in the shackles of competition and the feelings of fear.

You can be a slave to yourself, but you will neither lead nor follow—you will protect yourself in every way you can.

You can be a slave to your culture and pursue all its values in Jesus' name, but you will be a man of your culture and never a man of Christ.

You can be a slave to your Lord and always be a leader, though at great cost to yourself and great benefit to your followers 

Time out question:

So whose slave are you? 

Think about this:

Go to Exodus 21:2-6 and see what it means to be a slave to God. Before going further in this study, read Exodus 21:2-6 and write down what you understand this passage to be saying about being a slave.

Here's what I think it means.

In the Bible slavery was voluntary. (Ex. 21:5) The man who entered into slavery for six years chose to make it a lifetime commitment. He was not forced to become a slave, even as we are not forced to become God's slave. He had a choice, just as we do.