Which is the Better Word for a Christian: Slave or Servant?

Monday Discussion

“For these faithful believers, the name “Christian” was much more than just a general religious designation. It defined everything about them, including how they viewed both themselves and the world around them. The label underscored their love for a crucified Messiah along with their willingness to follow Him no matter the cost. It told of the wholesale transformation God had produced in their hearts, and witnessed to the fact that they had been made completely new in Him. They had died to their old way of life, having been born again into the family of God. Christian was not simply a title, but an entirely new way of thinking—one that had serious implications for how they lived—and ultimately how they died.”

(Slave, John MacArthur, 9)


If Jesus is my Lord, isn’t it best that I view myself as a slave with all that that word implied in the first century?

How would your life change if you saw yourself as a slave to Christ rather than a voluntary follower?

Does your spirit cringe from these thoughts or desire to run to them and in them?

Cf. also: Piercing an Ear as Worship

6 thoughts on “Which is the Better Word for a Christian: Slave or Servant?

  1. Definitely more like servants than slaves. Maybe more like grossly overpaid athletes, since God’s eternal love is greater than all the gold and treasure in the universe. It’s priceless!


  2. I think Jesus preferred for us to view ourselves as “friend” and “son”. John 15:12-17 , Gal 4:5-7, Rom 8:15

    Bondservant works too, but my understanding is that is a good bit different than slave and servant?

    I think Jesus turned that whole metaphor of slave upside down. The prodigal wants to come back and be treated as a servant, the Father wants none of it.

    When I picture the metaphor of a slave, I think of someone who wants freedom but out of fear of punishment remains a slave. Viewing myself as a slave stirs up the idea of someone keeping me against my will for their own benefit. As a slave, when God’s will doesn’t make sense, I am more apt to follow my own if I can “get away with it.” I’m more apt to be the son who says ‘sure Dad, I’ll do that’, and then goes and does his own thing when his Father told him to work in the vineyard.

    When I picture myself as a friend and son, I can walk in the freedom of knowing my Father isn’t holding me captive against my will. Love wills my good. But like the rich man who turned away and the prodigal before returning, Father is willing to let me go try life without him and find out for myself that it is wanting. I’m more apt to be the son who says, ‘no, Dad’, but later goes and works in the vineyard like his Father told him to.

    He wins my love and affection by first giving his. Believing the story of the gospel I find I am captivated (enraptured may be a better word) by the glory of this person who demonstrated his love for me by laying his life down on my behalf, when I was sick, sinful, and without hope.

    The more I live in reality of that, the more I find my will changing to will what Father wills or to trust his will and follow even when it doesn’t make sense.

    As a slave all I could think about was getting free. As a friend and son, who has been won because I have seen and experienced the goodness of my Father, I want to obey.


  3. Michael Card just came to sing/speak at TEDS last week, and his focus was this very topic. He said the “slave” metaphor is the single most clarifying category for our identity in Christ. There’s a wonderful paradox about how Jesus laid down all his rights, i.e., became a slave, to buy us from slavery to sin. He is our Master now; He is the only person we need to please. We are not our own. He bought us.

    Michael Card had just written a book called _A Better Freedom: Slavery to Christ_ (or something like that). I definitely want to check it out.


    1. Tyler,
      Wish I had been there. Without denying some of what Kevin and Orange wrote above, I think Michael Card is right. I am, by the grace of God, a friend of God, and a child of God, and a son of God, but I am most wonderfully by his mercy, a willing bond-servant of the pierced-ear-at-the-door of my master variety (Deut. 15:12-17).

      In Christ, and for Christ and His glory, I am set free from the bondage of sin and death to the liberating and paradoxical bondage to the Son who suffered, bled, died and rose for me.


      1. Then Hwin, though shaking all over, gave a strange little neigh, and trotted across to the Lion.

        “Please,” she said, “you’re so beautiful. You may eat me if you like. I’d sooner be eaten by you then fed by anyone else.”

        – From the Horse and His Boy

        I’d rather be His slave than a free man on my own.


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