The Best Form of Slavery


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. (1 Corinthians 7:22, my translation)

I would have expected Paul to switch the places of “Lord,” which means Master, and “Christ,” which means Messiah.

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”). It seems strange because the Messiah came to liberate his people from their captors; and masters take control of their slaves’ lives.

Why does he say it this way? Why correlate slavery (rather than liberation) with Messiah, and liberation (rather than slavery) with Master?

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

On the one hand, in calling us “the liberated of the Lord,” he secures and limits our new liberty:

  1. His lordship is over all other lords; so our liberation is uncontested — absolutely secure.

  2. But, free from all other lords, we are not free from him. Our freedom is mercifully limited. Jesus is our Master.

On the other hand, in calling us the “slaves of Christ,” he loosens and sweetens our slavery:

  1. The Messiah lays claim on his own in order 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).

  2. And he makes them his own to give them the sweetest joy. “With honey from the rock I would satisfy you” (Psalm 81:16). And that Rock is Christ, the Messiah.

So, Christian, be glad in this: “He who was called in the Lord as a slave is a freedman of the Lord” — the Master. “Likewise he who was free when called is a slave of Christ” — the loosening, sweetening Messiah.”