The word “bondservant”—also translated as “slave”—comes from the Greek word doulos (Strong’s Greek Concordance #1401) and is used in the Bible in its literal sense to refer to a person in a position of servitude (1 Cor. 7:21). The duty of a bondservant is to be obedient and pleasing in all things to his master, and to be sincere and honest in his work (Eph. 6:5; Col. 4:22; 1 Tim. 6:1; Titus 2:9). The term is also used in the Scriptures metaphorically. For example, in 1 Corinthians 7:22, we read that the one who is called being a freedman becomes Christ’s slave; that is, he is a spiritual servant. Paul opens up his epistle to the Romans with this concept of spiritual enslavement that, as Christians, we must seek to emulate in our lives if we want to be obedient and pleasing to our master.
In his greeting to the Christians in Rome, Paul refers to himself as a bondservant of Jesus Christ (Rom. 1:1; See also Gal. 1:10, Phil. 1:1 and Titus 1:1). He had given up everything for Christ’s sake. He had studied under a highly honored teacher of the law (Acts 5:34; Acts 22:3). He considered himself a Hebrew of the Hebrews and a Pharisee of the Pharisees, being zealous and righteous according to his religion and heritage. However, he counted all as loss in order to serve Christ (Phil. 3:5–7). We see in Luke’s record that Christ had a plan for Paul (Acts 9:15–16):
“But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.’”
The Lord set Paul apart to carry out a special task, and Paul obeyed him as a servant would obey his master. The task involved being an apostle of Christ and preaching obedience to the gospel among the Gentiles (vv. 1 & 5). The Scriptures teach us that Paul fulfilled the requirements for his work as an apostle by being an eyewitness to the resurrection of Christ (1 Cor. 9:1, 15:3–10) and being chosen (Acts 9:15). We also learn that, after his conversion, Paul was zealous for proclaiming the word. He says in verses 14–16,
“I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”
This description of Paul as a bondservant also extends to all Christians. We too have to consider ourselves slaves to Christ.
Notice that Paul says in verse 6 that the Romans were the called of Christ. God calls all people by his gospel. In Romans 10, Paul explains that it is the word that produces faith, and that faith is what enables us to respond to the gospel in order to be saved (Rom. 10:8–17). He writes in chapter 1 that the gospel of Christ is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes (Rom. 1:16). The Romans were not called only to obey the truth, but also to be saints, set apart by God (Rom. 1:7).
We as Christians have become God’s special people, and we have a special task that we must carry out as Christ’s bondservants, having been bought with a price (1 Cor. 7:23). Our duty is to proclaim the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). If we truly want to live as bondservants of Christ, we must be dedicated to the work of glorifying God and spreading the word about the forgiveness of sins through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We cannot be ashamed of the gospel, because without it, men cannot receive the free gift of salvation. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to give up our will to carry out the will of God in the best way we can.