This letter is from Paul, a slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. (Titus 1:1 NLT)
Many of us pay little attention to the first two or three verses of most New Testament letters, but perhaps we are making a great mistake. As we see from today’s verse of scripture, Paul often began his letters by calling himself a servant or a slave. Why then did he and other NT writers address themselves in such a way?
Paul was not a slave in the sense that we might use the word. He had been born a Roman citizen and therefore he was free of all men. Paul was not a slave of men, but a slave of God.
The word that Paul used here for slavery was a very interesting word. It was the Greek word ‘doulos.’ We learn much about this type of slavery from the book of Leviticus.
“If a fellow Hebrew sells himself or herself to be your servant and serves you for six years, in the seventh year you must set that servant free. “When you release a male servant, do not send him away empty-handed. Give him a generous farewell gift from your flock, your threshing floor, and your winepress. Share with him some of the bounty with which the Lord your God has blessed you. Remember that you were once slaves in the land of Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you! That is why I am giving you this command.
“But suppose your servant says, ‘I will not leave you,’ because he loves you and your family, and he has done well with you. In that case, take an awl and push it through his earlobe into the door. After that, he will be your servant for life. And do the same for your female servants. (Deut 15:12-17 NLT)
For financial reasons Jewish men often sold themselves into slavery. According to the law of Moses, a man who did so could be a slave for no more than six years and on the 7th year, he was to be set free and given a generous farewell gift. However, if a man chose to remain a slave, he could do so. Whenever this happened, the man choosing to be a slave was to have his ear lobe pierced with an awl. This piercing was a sign that he slavery was of his own free will. Such slaves were called in the Greek culture a ‘doulos.’
That is the word Paul uses to describe his slavery to God. ‘Paul, a doulos of God.’ Much like the man who might, for love of his master, choose to remain a slave, Paul had chosen to make himself a slave to God. There was a time in his life when he had been a slave to sin, but because Jesus had freed him from such bondage, Paul was willingly to give his life to be God’s servant.
I suppose that some would consider it foolish to give your life to be God’s slave; yet when you consider all that Christ has done for us, what better way to spend your life.