Bought with a price

1 Corinthians-6 20The Verse of the Day for August 12, 2015 comes from 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NLT):

Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.

The Amplified Bible renders the two verses this way:

19 Do you not know that your body is the temple (the very sanctuary) of the Holy Spirit Who lives within you, Whom you have received [as a Gift] from God? You are not your own,

20 You were bought with a price [purchased with a preciousness and paid for, made His own]. So then, honor God and bring glory to Him in your body.

This passage, in making reference to one who has been “bought with a price,” “a purchased possession,” brings to mind the idea of the servant or slave. In the early 70s or thereabout, I was introduced to the Greek term “doulos”, translated servant or more literally “bondslave.,” one of the most misunderstood concepts found in the Scriptures. The portrayal of the servant or slave, as revealed in the Bible has particular significance at this time, in light of the sesquicentennial of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1865, a document that changed the legal status of millions from “slave” to “free.”

In 1975 I produced an article “Doulos: A Different View of the Slave.” In 1978 while completing my Master’s thesis, I explored the subject in light of Paul’s literary style in the Church Epistles. I went on to complete my Ph.D. in 1986 with a dissertation entitled Portrait of the Bondslave in the Bible: Slavery and Freedom in the Works of Four Afro-American Poets. Four years ago, I posted a blog at “Dr. J’s Apothecary Shoppe” that is revised and re-posted in light of the Verse of the Day.

doulosFor more than forty years I have been studying the term doulos, which has been translated “servant, bond-servant, bondslave, slave.” Accompanying my study has been a desire to see its personal application in my life. The concept has thus become deeply embedded into my soul, revealing the essence of who I am, expressed in this poem:

More Than Metaphor

Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle,

separated to the gospel of God

Romans 1:1

To capture my essence I strive to find a word,

Phrase, image or mind picture to bring clarity,

To express my deep yearning for intimacy.

Like Paul, my calling card reads: “servant of the Lord.”

Each fiber of my being and each emotion

Pulsates with lifeblood flowing from a servant’s heart.

As I endeavor to learn and live to impart

The joy of serving with pure-hearted devotion,

I pledge to work in voluntary servitude,

As I fix my eyes, looking unto my Lord’s hands,

To heed His Word and to do more than He commands,

To serve with love from a heart filled with gratitude.

Beyond a single concept, more than metaphor

Is this branded bondslave, who embodies “the more.

basin and towelThe basin and towel are symbolic of the essence of servanthood as demonstrated by the Lord Jesus Christ in John 13.

In discussing this topic of the servant or bondslave, an image almost immediately comes to mind: a basin and a towel, representative of one of my favorite passages regarding the ministry of Jesus Christ, who revealed so clearly the heart of a bond servant when he washed the disciples’ feet in the account from John 13. This very moving excerpt inspired another related poem:

Let Me Wash Your Feet

            John 13:4-5, 19

As Jesus put off his garments and wrapped a towel

around himself,

So I lay aside my pride with nothing to hide and

expose myself.

As a humble servant I long to wash your feet.

You could yourself

Perform this deed of loving service, but let me

Serve you myself.

To allow me to wash your feet is to bless me,

as Christ himself

Blessed the Twelve before he departed from this earth.

You have yourself

The key to the door of blessing for you and me:

As Jesus took

Upon himself

The servant’s form

That I myself

Might freely give

To you yourself,

So I ask you

As Christ himself

Still asks of me,

So I ask you to

Let me to wash your feet.

One of the ancient practices associated with bondservants in the Bible is the year of the Jubilee, the Old Testament practice whereby the 50th year was a special sabbatical period when Hebrew slaves were released from their obligation of servitude, and they were free to leave their masters and go out on their own. These servants could by their freedom of will choose to serve their masters for the rest of their lives in light of the close relationship they had established. On my 50th birthday, I wrote “This Year of My Jubilee” which alludes to this Old Testament practice:

This Year of My Jubilee

Exodus 21:1-6

Leviticus 25:1-17 

 

I stand alone, clothed only with the wind

At the end of my seventh sabbath year.

Gathering of blessings now flow through my mind

As the shofar’s call resounds in my ear

To proclaim this year of my jubilee.

I reflect upon the wonders of this grace

Wherein I stand, a bondslave now made free.

In this golden moment as I embrace

The truth and pledge to love as you command,

Pierce my ear–place your brand upon my soul.

Enlighten me so I may understand

That to run to serve is life’s highest goal.

Unfold before me pleasures of your ways

And seal my vows to serve you all my days.

Once more Michael Card has the perfect song entitled “Jubilee” to accompany this poem.

I will conclude this entry by posting a PDF of the original article “Doulos: A Different View of a Slave” which was first published in 1975. Accompanying the article is a letter to  Apostle Thamo Naidoo to whom I sent the original article along with two of the poems posted above: “More Than Metaphor” and “This Year of My Jubilee.” I am grateful to my beloved Brother Lester Wiley Carver, who encouraged me to post the article. I trust that it will minister to all who read it. I welcome any comments or thoughts that this post might have inspired.

Before reading the article, listen to a powerful song written and performed by Dean Ellenwood, who captures the depth of commitment embodied in the individual called of God to be a bondslave, a true Doulos. 

Doulos

Doulos: A Different View of a Slave

When a believer accepts Jesus Christ as Lord, that individual assumes the position of a

When a believer accepts Jesus Christ as Lord, that individual assumes the position of a “servant” or “bondslave”–a doulos

 

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