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3: The Lordship of Jesus and the Correlate of Kurios

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series The John the Baptist Experience: Book 3

The John the Baptist Experience
Book 3: The Fellowship of the Forerunner
Chapter 3: The Lordship of Jesus
and the Correlate of Kúrios

Copyright © 20231

by
Jim Kerwin

The Meaning of the Title Kúrios

Title tile for 'The Lordship of Jesus and the Correlate of Kurios“You can’t have one without the other…”2

Before we can truly proclaim the Lordship of Jesus, before we can enter into all that His Lordship means, we must understand lordship and embrace it fully and personally. Sometimes we can better comprehend a concept by looking at its opposite, but in the case of the title LordKúrios (κύριος) in Greek  in the New Testament — we might see more clearly if we investigate the correlate of Kúrios.

The phrase “the correlate of Kúrios” in our chapter title sounds like the name of a spacey science-fiction thriller or the title of some silly sword-and-sorcery saga. Although many Christians might not have heard the phrase, once they find out what “the correlate” is, our phrase may sound even stranger to them than science fiction or fantasy. We can grapple with the concept by first defining the words Kúrios, correlate, and… well, I won’t give away what the correlate is just yet. Let’s start with Kúrios.

Kúrios is the Greek word that we most frequently encounter as “Lord” in our English translations. It occurs over 700 times in the New Testament alone. In a brief overview of the word we find five general uses in the New Testament:

  1. Kúrios can mean Sir: About 2% of the time, kúrios carries no more weight than our “Sir,” a title of polite respect. For example, we find the word used by the Greek-speaking Jews who approached Philip with their request in John 12:21 — Sir [Kúrie], we wish to see Jesus.” The same title might be used by a son to a father: “I will, sir [kúrie] (Matthew 21:30). The Philippian jailer uses the word in the plural towards Paul and Silas after the earthquake: Sirs [Kúrioi], what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30) The woman at the well is recorded as using the word in dialogue with her strange Jewish visitor (John 4:11,15,19), and Mary Magdalene uses the word to address the unknown “gardener” at the tomb in John 20:15.
  2. Kúrios can mean Owner: Kúrios can also have the meaning of landowner, as in the Matthew 20:1-16 parable. This man who hires laborers for his vineyard is called both an oikodespótes (οἰκοδεσπότες), that is “householder” or “house master” (vv. 1, 11) and a kúrios (v. 8). The same parallel holds true in the vineyard parable of Matthew 21:33-46, in which the words oikodespótes (v. 33) and kúrios (v. 40) are used interchangeably.

    And ownership is not relegated just to real estate, but was commonly used of slave owners as well. Kúrios is the word used for the “masters” of the Pythoness (that is, the woman with the “spirit of divination”) in Acts 16. In both Ephesians 6:10 and Colossians 4:1, Paul exhorts Christian slave owners (kúrioi, the plural of kúrios) to remember that they, along with their slaves, answer to the same heavenly Master (Kúrios).

  3. Kúrios can be the translation of the Divine name in the Greek Old Testament: It should be remembered that God’s revealed name in the Old Testament — YHWH, variously translated “Jehovah” or “Yahweh” — is most often represented in English translations with an initial capital letter followed by “small caps,” like this: Lord. That is in order to distinguish it from Adonai, which is translated with a single initial capital letter: Lord.3 This typographical phenomenon stems from the Jewish custom of not pronouncing God’s revealed name even when it appears in the Bible text (their accommodation of the Third Commandment, Exodus 20:7).

    That said, back around 200 b.c., the Jewish scholars who translated the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek (producing that work which we now call the Septuagint, but abbreviate as “LXX”) employed the word Kúrios to translate Jehovah / Yahweh / Lord over 6,150 times, not to mention using it for El (God) 60 times and Elohim (God) over 190 times.4 Thus, where the Hebrew text of Psalm 110:1 says,

    The Lord [Yahweh] says to my Lord [Adonai]:
    “Sit at My right hand
    Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet,”

    this prophetic word comes to us, through the LXX translators’ version in the Greek Old Testament, as Brenton5 translated it into English:

    A Psalm of David.6
    The Lord [ho kúrios / ὁ κύριος] said
    to my Lord [tō kuríō mou / τῷ κυρίῳ μου],
    Sit thou on my right hand,
    until I make thine enemies thy footstool.7

    Here is the reading that Mark follows in his Gospel:

    “David himself said in the Holy Spirit,

    ‘The Lord [Kúrios] said to my Lord [Kúrios],
    ‘Sit at My right hand,
    Until I put your enemies beneath Your feet.’ ”
    – Mark 12:36 –8

    So it was the seventy renowned Jewish scholars, fluent in Hebrew and in Greek, who made the determination to translate God’s covenant name, Yahweh / Jehovah, as well as God (El and Elohim), and Lord (Adonai), using the same Greek word — Kúrios.

  4. Ruler: The fourth use of Kúrios is as the title used of rulers. For instance:
    1. The Jewish leadership is forced to address Pilate, the Roman procurator, as “Kúrios” when they request a guard for Jesus’ tomb (Matthew 27:63).
    2. We also hear it in the words the Procurator Porcius Festus speaks to King Agrippa and Bernice in Acts 25:25-27. Paul has appealed to Emperor Caesar Nero (25:10-12), and Festus is befuddled about how to formulate the charges to pass along to Rome: “I have nothing definite about him [Paul] to write to my lord [kuríō / κυρίῳ],” that is, the emperor.
  5. The title applied to God’s Anointed One, Christ Jesus, as we see throughout the New Testament.

Kúrios, then, covers a spectrum of meanings. It is a title of respect, the word used for a ruler, the word Jewish translators employed to translate the Divine Name of Yahweh / Jehovah, and it is the word for owner. That title — Kúrios, carrying its full spectrum of meaning — is the word that the New Testament uses for the Son of God on earth and in heaven. It is not a term we should use lightly.

What’s a Correlate?

Remember, now, that we’re grappling with the phrase “the correlate of Kúrios.” Having established the usages and weight of KúriosLord — it behooves us to pin down the meaning of the noun correlate.

When each of two things is so related that the one implies the other, we speak of each member of the pair as a correlate. For example, the words husband and wife are correlates; if one has no wife, one cannot be a husband. If I tell you that I am a husband, you know by correlation that I have a wife, because the words husband and wife stand in a mutual or reciprocal relationship relative to each other.

Besides husband and wife, we might consider fiancé and fiancée as correlates, or bride and groom, or father and son, or mother and daughter. Such word pairs “go together like a horse and carriage,” and, like the old song lyrics tell us, “You can’t have one without the other.”9 That’s the nature of correlates.

And “the Correlate of Kúrios” Is…

One of the most thorough studies of the Greek word kúrios is the article found in the respected, comprehensive Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, a multi-volume academic tour de force worthy of any serious Bible student’s library. In the early sections of this lengthy treatise on the word, scholar Werner Foerster lays out the history of the usage of kúrios in Greek literature, and he twice points out that kúrios has a correlate:

κύριος [kúrios]… is particularly used in expression of a personal relationship of man to the deity, whether in prayer, thanksgiving or vow, and as a correlate of δοῦλος [doũlos, i.e., slave], inasmuch as the man concerned describes as κύριος [kúrios] the god under whose orders he stands [emphasis and transliterations mine].

And again:

…the correlate of this term for lord [i.e., kúrios] is slave, in Greek δοῦλος [doũlos]10 [emphases mine].

In case you got lost somewhere among the Greek words, let me spell it out in English: the correlate of Lord is slave. Remember what we said about correlates? “When each of two things is so related that the one implies the other, we speak of each member of the pair as a correlate.” Lord and slave stand in a mutual or reciprocal relationship relative to each other.11

As we explore this correlation between kúrios and doûloslord and slave — we will come into a deeper understanding of the Kingdom of God as well as “Biblical Lordship.”

Doũlos

Doũlos, as we have pointed out, is the New Testament Greek word for slave. Translators sometimes soften the word by rendering it servant, or bond-servant, or bond-slave, but I fear that this dilution hinders the modern reader’s understanding.

Slavery? Here in the United States it took a sea of Civil War battle-shed blood to begin to cleanse away slavery’s taint;12 and more than 150 years later, we are still dealing with slavery’s aftermath and repercussions. Nowadays we encounter the crime of human trafficking, slavery’s modern stealth mode, and find it repugnant. But emotionally and experientially, most of us are safely isolated from thinking about slavery, both by our place in middle-class society and by the comfortable sesquicentennial buffer between us and Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

To those of us who have come to maturity in a society that prizes individual liberty, personal freedom, and “personal rights,” the idea of being a slave, much less becoming a slave, is incomprehensible. More shocking to us is the notion that we ourselves are (or might choose to become) slaves to anything or anybody.

Prepare to be shocked by the “incomprehensible.”

Spiritual slavery is as ordinary as the air we breathe. There is the “small matter” of mankind’s slavery to sin. Jesus’ teaching makes that slavery quite clear, but we have managed to make the meaning of His words on the subject “famous” — yet completely obscure! — because of misinterpretation. What are the famous words? “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

Consider the context of those words in John 8 by noting Jesus’ words leading up to that declaration — words about sin, judgment, the Father, and Jesus’ own departure:

    • 21“I go away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin; where I am going, you cannot come.… 23You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. 24Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.… 28…I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me. 29And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.” 30As He spoke these things, many came to believe in Him.
    • John 8:21, 23-24, 28-30

So Jesus’ teaching, leading up to His famous statement, is about the danger of dying in one’s sins (that is, dying in a state of alienation from God) and about eternal, final judgment (which will ensue from such sin-rooted alienation). According to the Lord, this is what the Father is trying to teach us through the Son.

Now we come to the promise that is so famous that even the “world” quotes it regularly, with little idea either of the One Who spoke these words or of their context and meaning. Christian, do you know more about this promise than the world does? Let’s see.

    • 31So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
    • John 8:31-32

Now, wait. Before we examine this promise that so many enthusiastic Christians “claim,” note that it comes with a condition; in fact, one might almost call it a multiple-link condition. So many scripture promises are keyed by a condition! Let’s look at those multiple conditions leading up to you will know the truth:

  1. These words are spoken to those who had believed on Him. All other things being equal, perhaps there’s an implicit condition that these words only apply to “those who believe on Him.”
  2. The main condition (i.e., “IF you do such and such, THEN this will happen”) starts off this way: “IF you continue in My word….” That word continue in the Greek is the verb ménō (μένω). Of the normal translational options open to us — abide, remain, continue, stand fast in battle, wait for, keep on — perhaps James Swanson’s lexical entry illuminates Jesus’ words the best: keep on, continue in an activity or state, as an aspect of an action.13 In other words, by saying “If you continue in My word,” Jesus lays out the condition, the “if,” as follows: “If you walk in constant, faithful obedience to My teaching,” then something will happen.14
  3. What is that “something”? In what does that constant obedience result? “THEN you are truly My disciples.”15 That makes sense. Every aspect of being a rabbi’s talmid, his disciple, consists in learning from, obeying, serving, and emulating the teacher and what he teaches.
  4. Given the flow of logic here, I trust I may be allowed the insertion of another THEN: IF you have become obedient disciples, THEN you will know the truth.
  5. I beg your indulgence for the use of a final THEN: IF you know the truth, THEN the truth will make you free.

So, the final result of Jesus’ promise is predicated on multiple conditions, a chain of IFs and THENs:16

  • If we really believe on Him, then we’re at the starting point.
  • If we believe He is who He says He is, then we “abide” in Jesus’ word; that is, we walk in constant, faithful obedience to His teaching.
  • If we walk in faithful obedience, then we are His disciples indeed.
  • If we are obedient disciples, then we will know the truth.
  • And if we know the truth, then the truth will make us free.

Ah, now, at last, we’ve gotten to the promise — the truth will make you free! But do we really understand what that means? Apparently not, if we’re glibly happy about it! The believers around Jesus who heard these words clearly understood Him, and they were NOT happy with what He had just said!

    • 33They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You will become free’?”
    • John 8:33

If you have read this passage carefully, you must have asked yourself, “Why?” Why, after such a sweeping, glorious statement — the truth will make you free — why would Jesus’ listeners (at this point, “those Jews who had believed on Him” — vv. 30-31) have reacted so negatively? Why did they bring up the matter of enslavement?

If you’re confused, it’s because most English translations don’t convey the import, the connotation of the Greek word translated as shall make you free. It’s a verb used both by the Apostle John (twice in the words of Jesus here in John 8) and by the apostle Paul: eleutheróō (ἐλευθερόω). It’s a slavery-related word, and it evokes two English verbs you might not have heard since you studied the American Civil War — emancipate and manumit.

To me, either word is clearer than the phrase “make free” in this John 8 passage because both emancipate and manumit presuppose the context of a state of slavery. In fact, both English words share a common Latin root word — manus or hand. With emancipate, the idea is being freed from the control of the hand of another;17 and when we consider the parallel word manumit, the idea is that of being sent away from the hand of another.

So it is significant that eleutheróō is the verb John uses to record Jesus’ words — “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall manumit you from slavery. Carrying this insight into the verses that follow helps to clarify the ensuing exchange:

33They [i.e., those Jews who believed Jesus] answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved [douleúō18] to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You will become free [eleútheros19]’?”

34Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave [doũlos] of sin. 35The slave [doũlos] does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. 36So if the Son makes you free [eleu­theróō – manumits you], you will be free indeed [eleu­ther­óō – emancipated].”

Do you see why Jesus’ followers reacted this way? What is the emancipating truth that so offended them?

It’s this: “Everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin” (v. 34). Everyone includes all of us, you and me. That sweeping, infallible, divine statement declares you to be a slave to sin; me, too. If that message had a… well, let’s say a “less-than-enthusiastic reception” in Jesus’ day, imagine the reaction to that same liberating truth today!

“But wait,” you say. “I thought the liberating truth was that Jesus would ‘make me free.’ ” To that I reply, “Free from what? From a few ‘mistakes’? A couple of ‘bad habits’? Maybe some ‘weaknesses’? Perhaps some ‘slip ups’ or ‘moral lapses’?” Oh, the blindness that we have regarding our sinful condition! Oh, the spiritual coma, the insensate state in which we exist when it comes to the nature of a perfect, holy, all-powerful, all-knowing, unapproachably pure God!

But your iniquities have made a separation
between you and your God,
And your sins have hidden His face from you
so that He does not hear.
– Isaiah 59:2 –

The Spiritual Slavery Theme in Romans

With divinely opened eyes, the apostle Paul wrote incisively about our state of slavery to sin, especially in Romans 6:16-23:

16Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves20 for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? 17But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, 18and having been freed [manumitted]21 from sin, you became slaves22 of righteousness.

We are freed to serve a righteousness and a new Master!

19I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. 20For when you were slaves of sin, you were free23 in regard to righteousness. 21Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death.

22But now having been freed24 from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. 23For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Paul puts forward some interesting revelations here.

  1. Paul augments Jesus’ words in our John 8 passage; yes, we start out as “slaves to sin” (v. 17, 21), which, put another way, means that we start out as “slaves to impurity and to lawlessness” (v. 19).25
  2. One can only serve a single master.26 That is why when one is a slave of sin, he is “ ‘free’ in regard to righteousness” (v. 20). Sin, as master, won’t allow service to another, i.e., to God and righteousness. (It follows, then, that God, as Master, won’t allow to sin and unrighteousness.)
  3. But the choice of a new master is offered. Paul indicates that we can choose to change masters, from sin to God. Think about the flow of his logic. We can “present our members as slaves to righteousness” (v. 19), becoming “enslaved to God” (v. 22). We can choose to become “slaves of righteousness” (v. 18).
  4. Obedience is the key. With God’s help, we can change masters by means of obedience: “You are the slaves of the one you obey” (v. 16). Being liberated from the master called Sin is a matter of becoming obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed” (v. 17). That obedience is what allowed you to be “freed” — to be manumitted / emancipated (there’s our verb eleutheróō again!) — “from sin.”

    Obedience! Do you hear the theme of Jesus’ words echoed here in what we’re now considering? “If you abide / continue / remain in My word” [that is, if you hear My word and do it, walking in obedience to Me], then you are truly disciples of Mine; and [then] you will know the truth, and [then] the truth will manumit / emancipate you” (John 8:31-32).27

  5. Evangelicals are fond of quoting Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death.” That statement is meant to tie up what Paul has been saying about sin throughout this passage: Your willful slavery to sin is “resulting in death” (v. 16). The outcome of your service to sin “is death” (v. 21). Your master, Sin, may delay your pay, but eventually he “makes good” on your wages — death.

    The trouble with quoting Romans 6:23 out of context is that we might miss Paul’s point. Who receives “the free gift of God” which “is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord [Kúrios]”? The “free gift” is for everyone who has changed masters! Everything leading up to this promise, as we have seen in this chapter of Romans, requires a change of masters. Having chosen obedience, we have willingly chosen to be “slaves to righteousness” and to be lovingly (“obedient from the heart) “enslaved to God” (v. 22). It is only those walking in this way who qualify for their new Master’s free gift of eternal life.

    By the way, did you notice where “the free gift” of God’s “eternal life” is? It’s “in Christ Jesus our Lord [kúrios — Lord, master, slave-owner, king, God].”28 The correlate of kúrios is doũlos. Are you in this Lord, this Kúrios, this Master? Has Jesus manumitted you from sin, or are you still obeying sin? Have you made a conscious choice to change owners, knowing that your new Owner requires “obedience from the heart”? Only such a one in Christ Jesus our Lord, rightly aligned in a Kingdom-correlative doũlos-to-kúrios relationship, can be assured of receiving this most precious gift of eternal life.

Owned: Created, Then Purchased

“Hold on,” you say. “Isn’t there a third option of independence?” Relative to Lordship, you mean? We’re uncomfortable with the idea of slavery, of being owned. Applied to ourselves, it’s a foreign, even repulsive, concept when we grapple with it for the first time. Isn’t there a nice, comfortable, lukewarm, uninvolved, obey-when-it-suits-me, it’s-all-about-me, but religiously acceptable stance we can take?

Frankly, we’ve taken that stance for too long. Along the way, we’ve forgotten that we are owned and how we are owned; indeed, we’ve forgotten that we are twice owned!

  • We are owned because He created us. We belong to Him. He created us in His image and likeness to serve Him and to know Him. In choosing sin, we chose a different master, but that didn’t change the bedrock reality of God’s ownership or the mark of His ownership — His image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-27; 9:6).

    Jesus spoke to this matter of God’s mark of creational ownership in a passage you might not have seen in this light. Matthew (22:15-22) and Luke (20:20-26) record the public “trap” the Pharisees set for Jesus in the Temple: Should we pay the poll-tax to Rome or not? If Jesus says, “Yes,” they can paint him as an unpatriotic, Roman-Empire-loving quisling. If Jesus says, “No,” then his enemies can report him to the authorities as a dangerous revolutionary.29 It’s the “perfect” question, an “inescapable” trap. There is no “right answer!” How pleased they must have been with themselves and their cleverness!

    Most of us recall Jesus’ famous response. Having called for a Roman coin, He asked His inquisitors, “Whose likeness and inscription do you see on this coin?” They responded with the only answer they could give: “Caesar’s.” To this, Jesus replied, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Matthew 22:21). Why should these coins be given back to Caesar as tax? Because these coins, the everyday exchange medium for transacting business all around the Roman world, bore Caesar’s image, his likeness; and the Latin “inscription” on the coinage declared it to have been of Roman mintage. That meant it belonged to the emperor and his empire.

    But have you thought about the parallel Jesus drew in the second part of His masterful response? “Give to God the things that are God’s.” What are we to give to God? That which has His image and likeness on it. What, or rather who, has that image and likeness on it? You do. I do. Because in His act of creation, God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Genesis 1:26) So in the creation of man and woman together, God stamped His image (Genesis 1:27).30 It is God’s stamp of ownership. “Give to God the things that are God’s.”

  • We are also owned by God because He purchased us. Yes, He purchased what He already owned. When is the last time you gave some serious thought to the words redeem, Redeemer, and redemption?

    To redeem means to buy back or recover something by means of payment or other satisfaction. The idea behind buying back or recovering something is that one previously owned it or had the rights to it. A redeemer is the one who redeems, that is, who makes such a purchase or satisfaction to obtain something that was (or is) his by right. Redemption is the description of that act of redeeming, or its result.

    Paul uses plain language about this:

    19Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20For you have been bought31 with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

    1 Corinthians 6:19-20

    Usually when we read this passage, we’re concentrating on the “temple of the Holy Spirit” idea. But we miss this: Any temple is the property of the god to whom the temple is dedicated. This gives the phrase you are the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you a whole new spin. Christian, you are not your own; that is to say, you are owned by Someone else! Creationally? Yes, but even more so — you have been bought with a price. You have been redeemed.

    In a discussion of slaves and freemen, Paul again re-uses this phrase just several verses later: You were bought with a price (1 Corinthians 7:23).

    Peter writes of false teachers in the Christian church, “who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master32 who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves” (2 Peter 2:1). One might reasonably conclude that one of their “destructive heresies” is teaching, by doctrine, attitude, or personal example, that we “own ourselves” as independent agents, and that we are not owned by the One who bought us.

The “going rate” in Bible times for the purchase or redemption of a slave was thirty pieces of silver. What was the price paid for you, my dear brother or sister, and what was the “coin” used for the transaction?

  • 18…you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.
  • 1 Peter 1:18-19
  • 9And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. 10You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.”
  • Revelation 5:9-10

Never before and never since Calvary did a slave fetch such a price as to become the theme of songs! And did you notice the identities of the singers in the verse above? “They” are “the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders” who prostrate themselves before the Lamb in Revelation 5:7.

A new song is sung before God and these other exalted singers in Revelation 14:3—

And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth.33

Who are the new singers? They are the fabled 144,000 who “follow the Lamb wherever He goes” (v. 4). They are the only other ones who can learn “the new song.” That’s because they are special. That’s because they are God’s slaves. They have been purchased. They are owned.

God’s slaves? Why do I say that? There’s something in this passage that would have been obvious to first-century readers who were inhabitants of the Roman Empire, so obvious that it would have been as unremarkable as saying, “Water is wet.” In the Roman Empire, slaves were branded, usually on the forehead, sometimes on the hand.

So much energy and ink have been expended on expounding “the mark of the beast” in Revelation 13:16-17,34 that we’ve rather lost sight of several things. Firstly, when John reports those who have “a mark on their right hand or on their forehead” (Revelation 13:16),35 John’s readers understood the spiritual condition described — slavery. Secondly, John’s readers perceived that the branding of the “beast-marked” people is immediately contrasted with the branding of that elite group36 mentioned immediately following in Revelation 14:1 — the people having the Lamb’s “name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads.” These, too, were marked slaves, albeit of a different sort.

This isn’t the only passage in which such marking occurs in Scripture. Do you remember what happened during the interesting interlude between the breaking of the sixth and seventh seals in Revelation?

  • 2And I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God; and he cried out with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, 3saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond-servants [doúlous – slaves] of our God on their foreheads.” 4And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel…37
  • Revelation 7:2-4

Whether it’s called sealing or branding, it’s a process reserved to mark God’s slaves, the ones whom God owns, as we see from the context. For a dedicated Bible reader, these “sealing” passages in Revelation evoke the “original” sealing passage in Ezekiel 9:1-6. In a vision, the prophet sees that the glorious presence of God is about to depart from the temple in Jerusalem and that judgment is about to fall on the city. Six angelic executioners are summoned for the task of carrying out God’s judgment on Jerusalem.

But among those destroying angels seen by Ezekiel is one attired as a scribe, “a certain man clothed in linen with a writing case at his loins” (v. 2). As God in His glory begins His departure from the temple, He calls to this scribe, “to the man clothed in linen at whose loins was the writing case,” saying to him, “Go through the midst of the city, even through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations which are being committed in its midst (vv. 3-4).

The man with the inkhorn leaves on his errand, whereupon God gives the destroying angels their solemn orders, but with this warning: “Do not touch any man on whom is the mark” (v. 5).

So the destruction, mayhem, and carnage begin in Ezekiel’s vision while the Lord communicates with Ezekiel about the judgment upon the unrepentant city and its holy place. Only His marked ones, His slaves, are spared. The chapter concludes with these words:

  • Then behold, the man clothed in linen at whose loins was the writing case reported, saying, “I have done just as You have commanded me.”
  • Ezekiel 9:11

This vision of Ezekiel, in which only those marked in their foreheads are saved, serves as the interpretive underpinning of the two “marked forehead” passages in Revelation.

Slave: The Self-Designation of God’s Servants

  • Having a “marked forehead” is merely one way God depicts those who lovingly and obediently serve Him.38 As we look back to the New Testament, willing, loving slaves is precisely how godly men and women saw themselves.39 These followers of Jesus openly and gladly confessed themselves to be God’s slaves. Consider:
  • Mary, the mother of Jesus, a woman who “found favor with God,” saw herself in precisely this way. Twice, both in Luke 1:38 and Luke 1:48, she calls herself a doúlē (δούλη, the feminine form of doũlos / δοῦλος).
  • Saintly Simeon saw himself in this same humble role: “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant [doũlos] to depart in peace, According to Your word…” (Luke 2:29).
  • After the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles of Jesus, who used to argue about who would be the greatest among them, willingly embraced the designation of slave. Consider their joint and earnest prayer in Acts 4:29: “And now, Lord [kúrie40], take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants[doúlois] may speak Your word with all confidence…”
  • The apostle Paul often begins his epistles with this designation of slave of Jesus Christ,” and when he uses that phrase, it precedes even his apostolic credentials: “Paul, a bond-servant [doũlos] of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle” (Romans 1:1). Compare this with Philippians 1:1 and Titus 1:1. And even in two epistles where this is not part of his opening greeting, he makes his slave-status clear:
    • 2 Corinthians 4:5 — For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord [kúrios], and ourselves as your bond-servants [doúlous] for Jesus’ sake.
    • Galatians 1:10 — For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant [doũlos] of Christ.
  • Peter joins the love-slave chorus at the beginning of his second epistle: “Simon Peter, a bond-servant [doũlos] and apostle of Jesus Christ” (1:1). Note, as with Paul, the state of heart that Peter expresses — first slave, then apostle.
  • And consider the special case of our Lord’s half-brothers, James and Jude. Prior to Jesus’ resurrection, neither believed Him to be Israel’s Messiah (John 7:5). But in their believing, regenerated, post-Resurrection state, they reverently declare Jesus to be their heavenly master, and themselves to be His slaves:
    • James 1:1 — James, a bond-servant [doũlos] of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ…
    • Jude 1 — Jude, a bond-servant [doũlos] of Jesus Christ41

In a day when it seems that many Christian leaders seek to be called by exalted titles (the appropriation of the terms “apostle” and “prophet” or even “successful pastor of a mega-church” in some circles comes immediately to mind), we don’t find many competing for use of the title slave, do we?

Slaves of the Slave

All these words about slavery — slavery to sin or slavery to God — may be distressing or puzzling to you, dear Christian. These correlates of kúrios and doũlos certainly put our relationship to God, our commitment to loving obedience, in a new light. Is your “spiritual forehead” marked, so to speak, with the names of the Father and the Son (Revelation 14:1)? True Christians, the “marked” ones, are those who have chosen to follow the Lord Jesus, to walk in obedience to Him, to “follow the Lamb wherever He goes” (Revelation 14:4).

“Follow the Lamb Wherever He Goes”

The aforementioned Biblical leaders and examples followed the Lamb, and it led them to willing, loving, voluntary slavery. That is because their Lord — your Lord, the Lamb of God — voluntarily descended as low as He could go, into willing, loving, voluntary slavery. You are familiar, no doubt, with the famous passage in Philippians 2, but please read it again with an eye to Jesus’ role as God’s Slave:

  • 5Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant [doũlos], and being made in the likeness of men. 8Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
  • Philippians 2:5-11

Is there a state lower than being a slave without rights? Yes, it’s the ignominious death of crucifixion. That was the fate in Roman society of a convicted non-citizen, the person without legal protection. This is the “Suffering Servant” of the Isaiah 53 prophecy. This is the Jesus whom you are following, the One who girded Himself with a towel and performed the task normally assigned to the lowest-ranking slave in the household, the job of washing the street-filth off the feet of the diners at the last supper (John 13:3-12). Hear what He says to you about that incident:

  • 12So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13You call Me Teacher and Lord [Kúrios]; and you are right, for so I am. 14If I then, the Lord [Kúrios] and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. 16Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave [doúlos] is not greater than his master [kúrios], nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. 17If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”
  • John 13:12-17

Or, if you follow the older translations like the King James: “If you know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.” For all the modern Christian focus on happiness, “getting blessed,” enjoying the “privileges of being ‘King’s kids,’” and “reigning with Christ,” I don’t hear many who point this way to happiness and spiritual fulfillment — the way of voluntary slavery, following God’s Suffering Slave. Somehow we think we can “fast forward” through the “hard parts” so that we can get to “exciting highlights” before the “powerful conclusion.” That said, let’s return to the Philippians 2 passage to the “powerful conclusion” for Jesus:

  • 9For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow,42 of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord [Kúrios], to the glory of God the Father.
  • Philippians 2:9-11

Wonderful! Praise the Lord! But wait! There’s a “powerful conclusion” in the passage for us, too. Do you recall that Paul started out this passage by saying, “Let this mind, this attitude, be in you,43 the same one that was in Christ Jesus”? Well, here is how Jesus’ example, His “mind,” His attitude is to work out among us:

  • 12So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
  • Philippians 2:12-13

Do you confess that Jesus Christ is your Lord [Kúrios]? How do you “work out” the salvation, gloriously won by the Suffering Slave, that you gratefully received when you confessed “with your mouth the Lord [Kúrios] Jesus” (Romans 10:9)? Well, “working out” is the lifelong and daily manifestation of “letting this mind be in you,” of being “minded like Christ,” of giving up “rights” and “position” to serve as a doũlos to your Kúrios, Master, Jesus. It’s a “no-brainer” to want to follow the Lamb of God “up” to glory; but it requires a willing, loving “all-hearter” (if I may coin a new word) to follow the Lamb’s path downward.

Note that we work out the proffered salvation “with fear and trembling” [metá phóbou kaí trómou / μετὰ φόβου καὶ τρόμου]44 in verse 12 above. It’s a slave-related phrase, found one other place in the New Testament. You will recall that Paul writes a special message to slaves in Ephesians chapter 6. Let’s take note of a few more things applicable to slaves along the way in this passage:

  • 5Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling [there’s our phrase — metá phóbou kaí trómou / μετὰ φόβου καὶ τρόμου], in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; 6not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ [doũloi Christoũ / δοῦλοι Χριστοῦ], doing the will of God from the heart. 7With good will render service [douleúō, to serve as a slave], as to the Lord, and not to men, 8knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.45
  • Ephesians 6:5-8

Can we say in our service to God, like the Suffering Slave, “I always do the things which are pleasing to Him” (John 8:29)? Are we continually “trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:10;  2 Corinthians 5:9)? Is our service “from the heart, with good will” (Ephesians 6:6-7)? Is that attitude, that “mind,” no, that very Suffering Slave Himself living within us? Is it that Lord “who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13)? That salvation which we “work out with fear and trembling” is nothing less than following our Master in His self-denying service.

“If the Slave Plainly Says…”

Does all this talk of slavery seem peculiar, off balance, unmotivating? It certainly runs counter to all the preaching and teaching of “liberty,” “freedom,” “sonship,” and “ruling.” Well, we have all of that in abundance, and no doubt to excess and imbalance. Let this message be a “voice of one crying in the wilderness” on the other side of the scale, a balancing call to loving, lowly service. Yes, it’s a message that stands at odds with the popular pulpit proclamations of the day. How few it seems there are who agree in practice with Jesus that the way to Christlikeness and spiritual greatness lies on the downward path of service that He walked:

  • 43“…whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; 44and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave [doũlos] of all. 45For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
  • Mark 10:43-45

Exodus 20 is one of the most revered and famous chapters of the Old Testament, and justly so, because there God gives the Ten Commandments to mankind. Through them the Lord expresses something of His very nature, and lays the moral bedrock of our interaction with Him. But wait! Immediately after chapter 20’s call to obedience comes a passage about slavery — voluntary, loving slavery! That juxtaposition is not a coincidence. Exodus 21:1-6 speaks to the situation of an indentured servant, who, after serving the requisite six years to meet his debt-related obligations, is allowed to go free at the beginning of the seventh year. How strange, then, that the Scriptures envision the situation presented in 21:5— “If the slave plainly says, ‘I love46 my master47… I will not go out as a free man.”48 Imagine someone voluntarily choosing to serve a Master forever!

What happens after that is enlightening:

  • …then his master shall bring him to God,49 then he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve50 him permanently.51
  • Exodus 21:6

What this verse enlightens especially, besides the goal of every dedicated Christian, is an obscure phrase found in verses 6-8 in the Messianic Psalm 40—

6Sacrifice and meal offering You have not desired;
My ears You have opened [or dug or pierced];
Burnt offering and sin offering You have not required.
7Then I said, “Behold, I come;
In the scroll of the book it is written of me.
8I delight to do Your will, O my God;
Your Law is within my heart.”

Your Bible’s marginal reading may give you this for My ears You have opened: “My ear(s) You have dugor “pierced.” If we think about the passage, since Messiah is speaking prophetically through David in the psalm, it doesn’t make a lot of sense that God the Father should need to “open the ears” of His Son. After all, they were never closed because of sin or rebellion against the Most High.

But when we relate this digging to the ear-piercing of Exodus 21:6, then the light comes on! Messiah has presented Himself to God, delighting to do His will. Straight through to the Garden of Gethsemane (“Nevertheless, not My will but Yours be done”) to the Cross (where God’s will was “Finished!”), there is only one loving desire in the Son of God — to serve His heavenly Father. Jesus’ ears were not “opened”; rather, in type, they were dug, pierced. That is, in a figure, Jesus had His ear “pierced with an awl,” like the loving servant of Exodus 21:6, who became his master’s slave “forever.” Do you see how that connection illuminates the rest of this psalm?

Are you following Jesus? Do you call him “Lord, Lord,” but not do what He says? Is your service partial, occasional, when-you-feel-like-it “eyeservice”? Or does it come from a heart overwhelmed with love for God?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were an off’ring far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.52

Are you submitted to the Lordship of Jesus? Just in word — or in reality? When Jesus says, “Follow Me,” do you realize the awl will have to go through your ear like it did His? There is a reason why the apostle Paul says that this submission to Jesus’ Lordship is a matter of divine revelation: “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3). May that same Spirit be pleased to use the words of this chapter to nudge someone towards this most glorious and solemn revelation.

Is Jesus Christ your Lord, your Kúrios? Where is the fruit of His Lordship in your life? Search your heart, because given the way that the Scriptures depict our relationship with the Lord Jesus, the correlate of Kúrios is doũlos!

Make me a captive, Lord,
And then I shall be free;
Force me to render up my sword,
And I shall conqu’ror be.
I sink in life’s alarms
When by myself I stand;
Imprison me within Thine arms,
And strong shall be my hand.

My heart is weak and poor
Until it master find;
It has no spring of action sure,
It varies with the wind.
It cannot freely move
Till Thou has wrought its chain;
Enslave it with Thy matchless love,
And deathless it shall reign.

My pow’r is faint and low
Till I have learned to serve;
It lacks the needed fire to glow,
It lacks the breeze to nerve.
It cannot drive the world
Until itself be driv’n;
Its flag can only be unfurled
When Thou shalt breathe from heav’n.

My will is not my own
Till Thou hast made it Thine;
If it would reach a monarch’s throne,
It must its crown resign.
It only stands unbent
Amid the clashing strife,
When on Thy bosom it has leant,
And found in Thee its life.53


Endnotes:


  1. This is an excerpt from the forthcoming book The John the Baptist Experience: Book 3: The Fellowship of the Forerunner; copyright © 2023 by Jim Kerwin. All rights reserved.

    Unless otherwise stated, all Scripture quotations are taken from New American Standard Bible (nasb) Copyright ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, CA. All rights reserved. Used by Permission. www.lockman.org

  2. The title tile image is a copyrighted photo by Rex Wholster and used under license from iStockphotos.com.
  3. The few times when the two names appear together (i.e., Adonai Yahweh), English translations generally present it this way — Lord God — with “God” in small caps.
  4. Gottfried Quell, s.v., κύριος (section C.1.) in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. 1964-c1976. Vols. 5-9 edited by Gerhard Friedrich. Vol. 10 compiled by Ronald Pitkin. (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.) (3:1058). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
  5. Sir Lancelot Charles Lee Brenton (1807-1862) is best known for his translation of the Greek Septuagint into English, a work still used by Bible students.
  6. What we call the superscription of Psalm 110 — A Psalm of David — is in the LXX considered the first line of verse 1. Note that Western Bibles still consider these superscriptions as part of the inspired text; we just think of them more like “verse zero.” (These superscriptions aren’t to be confused with the perhaps helpful, but non-inspired, one-line summaries often preceding psalms in modern translations.)
  7. The Greek Old Testament reads this way:

    Τῷ Δαυιδ ψαλμός.
    Εἶπεν ὁ κύριος τῷ κυρίῳ μου
    Κάθου ἐκ δεξιῶν μου,
    ἕως ἂν θῶ τοὺς ἐχθρούς σου
    ὑποπόδιον τῶν ποδῶν σου.

    I include this here so that it may be compared “jot and tittle” with the Greek in Mark’s verse (next endnote).

  8. Except for the first line, the Greek of Mark’s Gospel is word for word the same as the Septuagint / LXX:

    αὐτὸς γὰρ Δαβὶδ εἶπεν ἐν τῷ Πνεύματι τῷ Ἁγίῳ,

    Εἶπεν ὁ Κύριος τῷ Κυρίῳ μου,
    Κάθου ἐκ δεξιῶν μου,
    ἕως ἂν θῶ τοὺς ἐχθρούς σου
    ὑποπόδιον τῶν ποδῶν σου.

    The only difference is the first line. Mark indicates that he knows of the psalm’s superscription (mentioned above) which ascribes the song to David. Mark, however, reminds his readers through Jesus’ words that David’s words are inspired by the Holy Spirit.

    I happen to have used the Greek of the Textus Receptus for the Markan quotation in this footnote. But the Greek Majority Text differs from this only in two small points. The GMT:

    • omits the postpositive particle γάρ (gár), a conjunction which can mean because or then, but which is often left untranslated; and,
    • changes the spelling of King David’s name from Δαβίδ to Δαυίδ (changing the sound slightly from “dah-BEED” to “dah-WEED.”

    Possibly one other explanation is needed. Most English translations give out the final phrase of the verse as

    …until I make your enemies your footstool

    but a few render this same phrase héōs àn thō toùs echthroús sou hupopódion tōn podōn sou (ἕως ἂν θῶ τοὺς ἐχθρούς σου ὑποπόδιον τῶν ποδῶν σου) as

    …until I put your enemies beneath Your feet.

    The keyword in the phrase is hupopódion (ὑποπόδιον) or footstool. At the root of hupopódion is podós / ποδός (or poús / πούς), the Greek word for foot (from which we derive such English words as pedal, podiatrist, and pedestrian, all of them “foot” words). A hupopódion is, literally, a thing under the foot; thus a footstool. So our phrase, depicting the utter defeat of Messiah’s enemies (through a Hebrew idiom expressed in Greek!), says, if I may render it in clunky, awkward literality,

    …until I make (or put) the enemies of you
    a footstool (or a thing under the foot) of the feet of you.

    No honest-to-goodness translator wants “clunky literality,” but seeks clarity and accuracy instead. Thus, either I will make your enemies your footstool or I will put your enemies beneath your feet gets the point across.

    Lest we lose sight of the main point from which we have digressed, we should say this: In the same way that the Greek text of the LXX translates both Jehovah and Adonai as Kúrios, the Spirit-inspired New Testament writers had no qualms about using this Greek equivalent for both Hebrew names of God.

  9. From the lyrics of the song Love and Marriage by Sammy Cahn. Alas that the main correlates of the song, namely love and marriage, are no longer considered “correlates” in our increasingly fornicatory society.
  10. Both of these “correlate” quotes are from Werner Foerster, s.v., κύριος (section B.3.) in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. 1964-c1976. Vols. 5-9 (mentioned in a previous footnote).
  11. One could substitute the correlates of King and subject, just so long as by “King” we mean absolute monarch — one who makes the laws, carries them out, and sits as the supreme Judge of his people. As we pointed out in chapter Book 2, Chapter 2 (Coming to Grips with Kingship and Collective Amnesia), the Kúrios is one who must be obeyed; he is not some romantically irrelevant Prince-Charming figurehead.
  12. Conservative estimates of Civil War battlefield casualties stand around 620,000, a total equal to the combined casualties of every other American war from the Revolution through Vietnam.
  13. James Swanson, s.v. μένω, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament) (1997; electronic ed.) (DBLG 3531, #4). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
  14. I hope this makes clear that Jesus isn’t saying, “Keep reading the Bible” (although one should, of course); nor is He saying, “Quote and believe Bible verses.” Rather, He is setting the condition of obedience to His commands“continue, abide, remain in obedience to what I command.”
  15. “Truly My disciples” is a good translation, and I have no quibble with it. But the way the King James renders this offers food for thought: “then are you My disciples indeed.” Have you ever thought about that word indeed? Separate it into its individual components — in + deed — and there’s a message in it.

    Are you truly Jesus’ disciple? One way you will prove that is in deed, that is, by what you do. The counterbalance of “Why do you call Me Lord, Lord, and not do what I say?” is this — 15If you love Me, {then} you will keep My commandments.… 21He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me… 23If anyone loves Me, {then} he will keep My word… 24He who does not love Me does not keep My words…” (John 14:15,21,23-24).

    The English verb do and the noun deed share the same philological root. A deed is something one must do or that one has done. Jesus’ disciples are “disciples in deed.”

  16. It is through this series of conditional if’s and then’s that we come into possession of this promise. It’s as though every promise, every “then,” in the Scriptures, has a wall built around it. The God-given access to the promise is through the wall by means of a door — the if, the condition. Trying to bypass the condition, the qualification, the if, of a promise is spiritually akin to climbing over the wall, a rebellious attempt at entry which Jesus addresses in John 10:1.
  17. A century ago, in addition to the idea of being freed from slavery, emancipation also served as the word used to describe the status of a teenager who had finally reached the official age of adulthood on the 18th birthday.
  18. δουλεύω / douleúō is the Greek verb meaning to be a slave, to serve as a slave, to be controlled by. In this verb we see the root δοῦλος / doũlosslave. Note that as we insert these Greek words into the text, we shall be using the lexical (i.e., “dictionary”) form, not the conjugation (for verbs) or the declension (for nouns and adjectives).
  19. ἐλεύθερος / eleútheros is the adjectival form of the verb ἐλευθερόω / eleutheróō. As such, the adjective can stand for a free man (i.e., one who has never been enslaved) or one who has become free.
  20. Every instance of slave or slaves in this passage is, of course, a declension of doũlos (δοῦλος) in the Greek.
  21. Here in verse 18 we re-encounter our verb from John 8 — to manumit or to emancipate (eleutheróō / ἐλευθερόω). Paul employs the verb again in verse 22 of this passage.
  22. Paul uses a form of the verb doulóō (δουλόω), that is to enslave or to be enslaved. As he does in verse 18, he will pair this verb again with eleutheróō in verse 22, where he says that we have been manumitted from sin and “enslaved to God.”
  23. Free here is the adjectival form of eleútheros (ἐλεύθερος).
  24. Again, eleutheróō.
  25. Peter’s witness is exactly the same on this point. Consider his words about false prophets and teachers in 2 Peter 2:19— “…promising {their hearers} freedom {eleuthería} while they themselves {the false prophets} are slaves {doũloi} of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved {doulóō}.”
  26. “No slave {doũlos} can serve {e.g., as a slave: douleúein / δουλεύειν from douleúō / δουλεύω, to serve as a slave} two masters {kuríois, the plural dative of our word kúrios, master}” is a general principle Jesus establishes in Luke 16:13 (and Matthew 6:24). In context, Jesus was speaking about the impossibility of serving both God and wealth (“mammon”), since two separate masters, with two diametrically opposed purposes, will engender a state of inner conflict in a slave found in this condition. But the principle still holds true in this matter of serving either sin or God: The slave “will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other.”
  27. Carrying this through further, the Apostle Peter speaks to us about how we are to act once we’ve been manumitted: “Act as free men {eleútheroi}, and do not use your freedom {eleuthería} as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves {doũloi} of God” (1 Peter 2:16).
  28. In Christ Jesus our Lord? If you’re like me and you memorized Romans 6:23 from the King James translation, you remember this phrase as through Jesus Christ our Lord, because through was the reading of both the Geneva and Bishops Bible, the predecessors to the King James. However, the Greek manuscripts, even the Stephen’s Textus Receptus (1550) and Scrivener’s Textus Receptus update (1881) read the same as the Majority Text: ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ τῷ κυρίῳ ἡμῶν (en Christō Iēsoũ tō kuríō hēmōn). That Greek preposition en, while it can be rendered a variety of ways, is the basis of our English preposition in. Modern English and Spanish translations are almost universal in translating this phrase as IN Jesus Christ our Lord.
  29. Indeed, despite Jesus’ trap-busting public answer to this question, the religious leadership still made this lying accusation about Him to Pilate: “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, and saying that He Himself is Christ, a King” (Luke 23:2).
  30. So sacred is this matter of the image of God in us that any violation of that image requires the death penalty. We encounter a landmark verse early in Genesis, as God is establishing His covenant with Noah:

    “Whoever sheds man’s blood,
    By man his blood shall be shed,
    For in the image of God
    He made man.”
    – Genesis 9:6 –

    Taking a human life is a death-penalty matter precisely because it despises the image of God in the victim. If we pull on the “thread” of these words from the brief psalm God taught Noah and his sons (Genesis 9:6-7), we can unravel the bedrock reason for every death-penalty requirement in the Law.

  31. Here, and for the next few verses in our text, the verb agorázō (ἀγοράζω) is used. The verb has a simple meaning, to buy or purchase or acquire possessions, most often from the agorá (ἀγορά), that is, the marketplace, the place where one could buy nearly anything a town had to offer — including slaves.
  32. Here in 2 Peter 2:1, Master is despótēs (δεσπότης), a word which means owner, as we saw earlier in this chapter.
  33. “Who had been purchased” is the translation of hoi ēgorasménoi (οἱ ἠγορασμένοι, from the aforementioned verb agorázō) — literally, the purchased ones.
  34. And “the number of the ‘the beast’” in Revelation 13:18.
  35. I am unaware of any evidence that slave-branding was a custom among God’s people in Old Testament times, so please don’t misinterpret anything I’m about to say in that way. But knowing of this forehead / hand branding in New Testament time, I find it greatly intriguing that Jewish phylacteries (“frontlets” in the King James) were to be worn on the hand and on the forehead:

    • “You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.
    • Deuteronomy 11:18

    These same locations — hand and forehead — are also prescribed in Exodus 13:16 and Deuteronomy 6:8. The context of the Exodus 13:16 reference is the beginning of the Passover trek out of Egypt. The Lord tells Moses that the unleavened bread they are eating, along with what it memorializes, “shall serve as a sign to you on your hand, and as a reminder on your forehead, that the law of the Lord may be in your mouth; for with a powerful hand the Lord brought you out of Egypt” (Exodus 13:9). Both the bread (v. 9) and the phylacteries (v. 16) are to be powerful reminders that God has redeemed them — bought them as His own. In a sense, then, the phylacteries could be taken as a token of ownership, far more humane than a “brand.”

  36. In this book, I won’t expend time or energy in saying anything else about the 144,000, other than that I believe, like so much else in Revelation, the number is typical and symbolic and not meant to be an “exact count.”
  37. This is as good a place as any to remind ourselves that the “target audience” for whom the book of Revelation was written is God’s slaves, for in the concluding chapter we are told: “the Lord {κύριος / kúrios}, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants {δούλοις / doúloisslaves} the things which must soon take place” (Revelation 22:6).
  38. One could also adduce other such symbols, like that of the circumcised heart.
  39. We have neither time nor space to consider the interesting phenomenon of how often the word doũlos appears in the parables of Jesus, but the subject is worthy of a note here for those who wish to further pursue the matter. (I will use the symbol “∥” — parallel lines — to indicate the parallel passages in the Synoptic Gospels.) Doũlos is woven through Matthew 13:27-28; 18:23-32; Matthew 21:34-36 (∥ Mark 12:2-4 ∥ Luke 20:10-11); Matthew 22:4-8 (∥ Luke 14:17-23); Matthew 22:14-30 (∥ Luke 19:13-22); Matthew 24:42-51 (∥ Mark 13:34 ∥ Luke 12:37-48); Luke 17:7-10. There’s even a touch of this in the “Parable of the Prodigal Son,” in that the “elder brother” speaks with a household doũlos (Luke 15:26-27) and soon protests to his father that he has been devotedly serving (douleúō / δουλευω, the verb which means to serve as a slave) his father faithfully for many years.
  40. Kúrie (Κύριε in Greek) is how kúrios appears when it’s used as a form of address (the “vocative” form, for those of you having some familiarity with Greek).
  41. Note in each half-brother’s case, neither indulges in subtle, prideful “name dropping,” making attention-grabbing statements like “I’m Jesus’ half-brother.” How refreshingly unlike our modern ways! James and Jude are unique examples of Paul’s declaration that “even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer” (2 Corinthians 5:16).
  42. Paul’s quotation is from Isaiah 45:23. When we read those words in the context of Isaiah 45, and think about how Paul is using them, we come to a profound conclusion: Jesus Christ is not only Lord, but He is also Lord, that is Jehovah.
  43. Although it would be awkward, ungainly English, this could be rendered, “Be minded like Christ Jesus.”
  44. In this phrase, we find the genitive forms of two Greek words which have made their way into English. Φόβος / phóbosfear — has come down to us as phobia; and τρόμος / trómos still lurks in our language as tremble, tremor, etc.
  45. These words “fear and trembling” open a side-note question about Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 2:3-4—

    3I was with you in weakness and in fear {ἐν φόβῳ / en phóbō} and in much trembling {ἐν τρόμῳ πολλῷ / en trómō pollō}, 4and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power….

    Here we find the two “slave words” again, phóbos and trómosfear and trembling. Is Paul saying something about the spiritual state in which he came ready to serve in Corinth?

  46. In the Greek Old Testament, the verb is agapáō, the verbal form of agápē.
  47. In the Greek Old Testament, the word is Kúrios.
  48. Every time I read Exodus 21:5, I find my heart singing the words of a joyous love-song that Fanny Crosby based on this verse — I Love, I Love My Master.
  49. Instead of the phrase “to God,” the King James reads, “to the judges,” since the translators decided to render the Hebrew word elohim as judges, a possible translation. However, the Jewish translators of the Septuagint, back around 200 b.c., were clearly leaning toward rendering elohim as God. In fact, they went so far as to translate this passage pròs tò kritērio toũ Theoũto the judgment seat of God. Modern translations, therefore, are split between following the lead of the LXX (to God) and the alternative (to the judges).
  50. Serve, here in the LXX, is douleúsei, from douleúō / δουλεύω — to serve as a slave.
  51. The “pierced ear,” then, might be the Old Testament equivalent of Revelation’s Roman-Empire-era mark or brand on the forehead. In fact, we may see this custom represented by the “gold rings in the ears” of the newly liberated children of Israel in Exodus 32:2-3.

    I feel burdened to share a word with those who would hear it. It’s liable to be unpopular in certain Christian circles and labeled as “legalism”; nevertheless, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:25, “I give an opinion as one who by mercy of the Lord is trustworthy.” The forehead brands — tattoos — of the New Testament, because they represent slavery, should be a strong dissuasion to Christians tempted into being swept along in the worldly trends today. Such “body art” (hey, give the devil his due for coming up with a clever market “branding” — pardon the pun — to deceive the unwary!) falls squarely under the proscription of Leviticus 19:28—

    • “‘You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the Lord.’”
    • Leviticus 19:28

    The result of genuine repentance is receiving a change of perception about everything; in essence, being able to see from God’s viewpoint for the first time. One important change of perception is this: If Jesus is your Lord, then your body belongs to Him, not you. Like your newly redeemed heart and soul, your “earthly vessel” is now consecrated to Christ. The apostle Paul challenges us with two questions, originally asked of the Corinthians, a church which wrestled with carnality and worldly compromise. Christian…

    • …do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
    • 1 Corinthians 3:16

    You might say, “That doesn’t mention the body.” True. And in every instance in that verse, you is plural. But Paul’s next question is more specific. Christian,

    • 19…do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
    • 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

    In this challenge, you and your are still in the plural; but both instances of body are singular. He is speaking to all of us about our individual bodies being a sacred residence, a temple, of God’s Holy Spirit.

    Tattoos from our b.c. (Before Christ) period are reminders of what we were before we were redeemed. Now that we are owned (and not our own), and our bodies are the Holy Spirit’s temple, a new tattoo seems the equivalent of permanent graffiti defiling that temple.

    If Jesus is your Kúrios and if you are truly His doũlos, then He will “pierce your ear” and “mark your forehead.” Live in such a way that others can see that mark on your life!

  52. From Isaac Watts’ glorious hymn, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
  53. These words are the hymn by George Matheson, Make Me a Captive, Lord.
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