Day 1: Slaves of Christ
A LoveSingapore 40.Day prayer and fast devotional, following 2022's theme of To Live Is Christ: A Journey Through the Book of Philippians.
LoveSingapore // July 1, 2022, 12:01 am
Bible reading for 40.DAY 2022 | Philippians 1:1–2
Letters in the ancient world usually begin with a roll-out of the author’s credentials. In other letters, for example, Paul introduces himself as “an apostle of Christ Jesus”. But here, he humbly presents himself and Timothy as “slaves of Christ Jesus”. Why?
On the one hand, Paul is not confronting serious abuses and heresies in this letter as he does in Corinthians, Galatians, and Colossians. In those letters he asserts his apostolic authority because he has to bring urgent correction.
But Philippians is a letter of encouragement to his least troublesome church. Paul doesn’t wield the rod where gentle reminders will do.
On the other hand, Paul’s identity really is that of a slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. He takes after his Master, who lived as a servant and discouraged His disciples from collecting titles and dressing to impress (Matthew 23:5-12; Mark 12:38).
The Greek word for slave is “doulos”. It refers to one who is bound to another and has no rights or will of his own. A slave puts himself entirely at the service of his master.
While many were born into slavery or forced into it by misfortune, Paul became a slave of Jesus by choice. This is a personal relationship of loving servanthood to Christ, to whom every knee will bow and every tongue confess (Philippians 2:10-11).
Most importantly, the Philippians are slaves and saints of Christ.
As a slave of Christ, therefore, Paul puts himself at the service of the Church in Philippi. Philippians is a friendly letter, but not without urgent reminders of things that matter most. For example, unity and firmness in the face of opposition, advancing the Gospel in Philippi, rejoicing always in the Lord, and having the mind of Christ.
Philippi was a Roman colony. Paul’s readers, therefore, are Roman citizens with a long list of special entitlements and privileges. The right to vote. The right to own property. The right to make contracts. The right to hold office. The right to a formal trial. The right of appeal to Caesar. Exemption from scourging. Exemption from certain taxes. And so on.
But most importantly, the Philippians are slaves and saints of Christ.
This, above all else, must determine their identity and posture in Philippi. They are to live as “holy ones”, set apart to God. And they are to imitate the One who emptied Himself and took on the form of a slave (Philippians 2:7).
Perhaps in calling himself a slave, Paul means to remind these proud and privileged Romans that they owe their highest allegiance, not to Caesar, the lord of the empire, but to Jesus, the Lord of lords.
1 Are you obsessed with credentials? In this day of competitive self-branding, the gurus say, if you want to get ahead, toot your horn, project yourself, enlarge your platform, raise your profile. Some even resort to faking their credentials. Are you swayed by such fallen ideas? If so, open your heart to the Holy Spirit. He does not condemn. He convicts. With precision and power, He will renew your mind and change you from the inside out. Let Him.
“Slave” is a metaphor for total devotion to Christ. It is the Christian’s true identity.
2 Are you a slave of Christ? We don’t like the word “slave”. It seems out of touch. It violates our sense of social justice and human rights. But in the New Testament, “slave” is a metaphor for total devotion to Christ. It is the Christian’s true identity. So there’s no reason to shy away from the word slave. Time for the Church to bring back such a positive image, redemptive lingo, and endearing theme: I am no longer a slave to sin. I am a slave of Christ. Pray.
3 Are you really a slave of Christ? In this day of aggressive self-assertion, how is your relationship with Jesus? Is He Lord of all? If not, then He is not Lord at all. Pray the Word: “He died for everyone so that those who receive His new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:15 NLT).
4 Have we confused commitment with surrender? “The committed life is that of a hard worker, but the surrendered life is that of a slave. Surrender to Christ means we have yielded our will to His will. We have no rights. We have signed our life over to Him. We will go where He wants us to go and do what He wants us to do. We will speak what He wants us to speak and be what He wants us to be. The surrendered life allows Him to accomplish His work in and through us” (Sammy Tippit).
5 Will you surrender your life to Christ? Pray: Lord, I am your slave. I am bought with a price, the price of Your very own life. You are my rightful Owner. You are worthy of my absolute obedience. You are my only Master. You deserve my highest allegiance, my unquestioned allegiance, my undivided love. Your will is my mandate. Your way is my conduct. Your Word is my final authority. I will no longer live for myself. I choose to live for You.
6 Will you declare? To be a slave of Christ is the highest honour and the “greatest benediction imaginable” (John MacArthur). For He is Master of the universe. His power is matchless. His wisdom is unsearchable. He is the Perfect Father, the good and gracious King, the selfless and forgiving Messiah. His mercies are new every morning. His love endures forever.
7 Will you mean what you sing? “Take my will and make it Thine. It shall be no longer mine. Take my heart, it is Thine own. It shall be Thy royal throne. Take my love, my Lord I pour at Your feet its treasure store. Take myself and I will be ever, only, all for Thee” (Frances Havergal).
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