(For last month's devotional - part 1, click HERE)
For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. (Romans 6:20-22, NASB)
At first glance, this doesn’t seem to have much in common with Galatians 5. One speaks of the fruit of the Spirit, the other of choosing slavery to God or the world. However, noting the Greek, we find that what is translated as "benefit" in Romans 6 is the same word Paul uses for "fruit" in Galatians 5: καρπὸς (karpos). There appears to be a connection between our slavery to God and our ability to bear the fruit of the Spirit.
We in the American Church tend to have a strong aversion to using slavery terms to describe the Christian life. Even the Greek term for slave is almost never translated as "slave" in most English Bibles, but rather as "servant" or "bond-servant." This is certainly understandable. Western society has a long, sordid history with race-based slavery. Its enduring assault on both individual and corporate identity, dignity, and livelihood has been especially appalling.
For the Apostle Paul, however, slavery was not only a regular part of life (scholars estimate slaves made up 10% - 30% of the population in the Roman empire in the first century A.D.), but he used slavery terminology liberally to describe both himself and the rightly-lived Christian life. Paul regularly labels himself a slave of Christ Jesus and often calls believers to live in “slavery” to God. And, it is this slavery which aids our understanding of allowing the Spirit to produce His fruit.
First, slaves had virtually no rights. Whether they were captured in battle, born into slavery, or voluntarily sold themselves into it, slaves were generally regarded as property. Their will was permanently superseded by the will of their Masters. In like manner, we who live in a society predicated upon the rights of the individual must always remember that as a Christian, any “rights” to freedom, comfort, dignity, security, or even life must always be subordinate to our Master’s call.
Second, the purpose of the slave was to do the bidding of the master. To know the master’s intent and execute it to the best of one’s ability was the slave’s highest calling. The same is true for us. While knowledge, physical prowess, business savvy, or artistic creativity can be tremendous tools for God’s use, they are largely powerless unless we are constantly in tune with the mind of Christ. If I am called to wash the feet of my enemy or give a kind word to a stranger, no amount of teaching, leading, fund raising, or singing will ever replace that.
When I have subsumed my identity in God - when I have vacated any claim to rights or reputation - when I have allowed my will to be bent to the will of my Master, I am in the perfect position to bear the fruit of His Spirit. As I daily submit to the posture of slavery, the Spirit roots out my propensity for the "works of the flesh," replacing them with with the nourishment from the True Vine which produces in me His fruit - the fruit of life. And, that fruit will be attractive, delicious, and nourishing to everyone who comes in contact. It will be the true fruit of the Spirit.
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The adjacent video is our third and final in the "Summer Shorts" series documenting what God is doing on the Southern California District. This month we take a look at how God is working at the San Jacinto Shepherd's House Church of the Nazarene. For an HD download, click HERE.