What does it mean to know Jesus the Christ or to be a “follower” of Christ? In this day and age, one gets an abundance of answers to this question, yet, not many of these seem to truly satisfy the soul. When we look at scripture (the word of God, the Bible), we get a very clear picture of what it means to be a Christ follower. In order to get a quick answer to this question, I want to look at how the disciples who were later designated Apostles viewed themselves before Christ as is witnessed in the New Testament scriptures.
In Romans 1:1, Paul refers to himself as “Paulos, doulos Christo Iasous” (transliterated Koini Greek). Most of our “versions” have this passage translated as “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus.” However, in the New Testament Greek language, there are at least eight words that mean “servant:” diakonos, leitourgos, paidiske, pais, huperetes, therapon, nianiskos, and oikiakos. All of these Koini Greek words refer to a type of servant or attendant, be it by gender or age, etc. Consequently, they appear only sporadically in the New Testament and usually only in reference to individuals or specific incidences. What is striking to note is that the word Paul uses of himself in Romans 1:1 is not in the aforementioned list. Paul calls himself “doulos” or “slave.” In fact, Paul, James, Peter, and Jude all refer to themelves as “doulos Christo Iasous.” The word doulos occurs 124 times in the original language of the New Testament (Koini Greek).
Here are just a few examples:
Romans 1:1 – described above; Ephesians 6:5 – slaves (douloi) obey your earthly masters; Philippians 1:1 – Paul and Timothy slaves (douloi) of Christ Jesus; Titus 1:1 – Paul a servant (“slave”)(doulos) of God; James 1:1 – James a servant (“slave”)(doulos) of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ; 2 Peter 1:1 – Simon Peter, a servant (“slave”)(doulos) and apostle of Jesus Christ; Jude 1:1 – Jude, a servant (“slave”)(doulos) of Jesus Christ.
BUT, what does all this have to do with what it means to be a Christian? It all makes sense when we begin to look at what “doulos” means. The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament defines doulos in the following manner:
“…the meaning is so unequivocal and self-contained that it is superfluous to give examples of the individual terms or to trace the history of the group…[The] emphasis here is always on “serving as a slave.” Hence we have a a service which is not a matter of choice for the one who renders it, which he has to perform whether he likes it or not, because he is subject as a slave to an alien will, to the will of his owner. [The term stresses] the slaves dependence on his lord.” (as quoted in “Slave,” by John MacArthur, Thomas Nelson, 2010)
Thus, the true Christian is not his own. He or she has been bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:20). The very act of receiving Christ, if it is true and sufficient, is the act of denying one’s own will and submitting one’s will to that of the Lord Jesus (Matt. 16:24-26, Mark 8:34-36, Luke 9:23-25) . Being “saved” is far more than just verbally inviting Christ to save you and forgive you and then making a public profession. No, true salvation only occurs when the person bends the knee of their heart (their mind, their will, their emotions) and says, here I am Jesus, take me, I give “me” to “you.” You purchased me (Rev. 5:9) and saved me; take control of my life. When that man or woman gets off the throne of their life and gives Lordship to God Almighty – the Lord Jesus, the Christ; then salvation occurs. Thus, this new believer — who has truly become a new creation has but one true opinion of themselves… one who has been purchased by Jesus’ blood and who consequently belongs to the Christ. This then is the person who desires to follow the Lord in obedience; to rearrange priorities around their Master’s will, and show the world Him to whom it is that they belong.
So, in the year 2011, what does it mean to “know” Jesus Christ, or to be a follower of Jesus Christ? It means no more or no less than it has ever meant or that it meant to the first followers of Christ. God does not change (Heb. 13:8). God’s word (His Truth) does not change, Jesus said that He was the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no man comes to the Father except by (or through) Him (Jesus). To truly live the Christian life today is to truly submit your will (your wants, desires, plans, etc.) to Jesus the Christ. In doing so, you WILL become a doulos – a slave of Jesus Christ.
As I finish these thoughts for this entry, I am burdened with a question that I must ask of the Christian brothers and sisters around me and in my sphere of influence: “If you and I are “slaves” of the Master, subject to His will, then why do we busy ourselves with everything else and let the things of Christ take last place in our lives? I mean, I am a sports fan, and I love my wife and children, but, why do so many put football, baseball, cruises, softball, and just about everything else higher on our life priority list of values than we do our God and King Jesus Christ? If we are truly “in Christ,” why do we give Him our leftovers? I would like to leave the following two passages of scripture for us all to look at and see if the “still small voice” of the Lord isn’t speaking to us about our everyday life and priorities.
“3 Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—he wants to please his commanding officer.” (2 Timothy 2:3-4)
“1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5)
The plea of my heart is that we who claim Christ will live daily as doulos – those who belong to Christ; and that our lives and our daily priorities and choices will show the world to whom we belong.