2022 website 1200x800 26

“From Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus” – Philippians‬ ‭1:1‬ ‭CEV‬‬

Paul sees himself (and his coworker Timothy) as a slave/servant of Jesus Christ. I find Paul’s use of the ‘slave-imagery’ very significant. Here’s why!

Firstly, Apostle Paul chooses to describe himself in a simple term if not a lowly one.

The city of Phillipi was a Roman colony and a military post. The Roman society was a three-tier society comprising aristocrats, artisans and slaves. And yet , Paul doesn’t feel the pressure to make himself important.

He does not use grandiose self-descriptions for himself to be accepted. Paul is happy to just call himself a ‘slave/servant’ of Christ’

Secondly, the slave-imagery is intentionally used to invoke the calling to serve.

In the Roman Society, the aristocrat served himself, the artisan served the aristocrat, and the slaves served their Masters. Anyone who had the means could buy a slave. A slave did not have an existence of his own. He is to be at the beck and call of the Master. He can be asked to do anything for the the Master’s will and pleasure.

The slave-imagery, then, serves as a powerful reminder for the calling to serve the cause of Christ.

Thirdly, the slave-imagery signifies ownership and belonging. Slave owners branded their slaves with a mark. This unique marking signified ownership and belonging. Paul uses ‘slaves of Christ’ as a mark to signify the lordship of Christ over his life and ministry.

The term ‘slave of Christ’ is a loaded term. It signifies ‘unconditional service’, ‘ownership’ and ‘belonging’. Paul use of the term ‘ slaves of Christ’ for personal branding (pun intended) is therefore significant.

Questions for further reflection

  1. What self-descriptions are we likely to use for ourselves? What is the best self-description you have used for yourself?
  2. What could be an equivalent term for ‘slaves of Christ’ in our context/s?
  3. Do we recognise the full import of these terms for our christian life and practice? How does this change the way we perceive and do Christian service?
From Wikimedia Commons