The Happy Paradoxes of Christian Freedom and Slavery

For he who was called in the Lord as a slave is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a slave of Christ. (1Corinthians 7:22-24).

I would have expected Paul to switch the places of “Lord” and “Christ.” He correlates our liberation with Jesus being our Master (“a freedman of the Lord”). And he correlates our new slavery with Jesus being our Messiah (“a slave of Christ”).

But in fact the Messiah came to liberate his people from their captors; and masters take control of people’s lives. Why does he say it this way?

Suggestion. The switch has two effects on our new liberty and two effects on our new slavery.

In calling us “the liberated of the Lord” he secures and limits our new liberty. His lordship is over all other lords; so our liberation is uncontested—secure. But, free from all other lords, we are not free from him. Our freedom is mercifully limited.

In calling us the “slaves of Christ” he looses and sweetens our slavery. The Messiah lays claim on his own to bring them from the confines of captivity into the open spaces of peace. “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end” (Isaiah 9:7). And he makes them his own to give them the sweetest joy. “With honey from the rock I would satisfy you” (Psalms 81.16).

That Rock is Christ.

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books.