Sermon delivered in Spanish at El Shadai, Manassas, Virginia, March 22, 2018.
Good evening. For those who do not know me, my name is Stephen W. Hiemstra. I am a volunteer pastor and Christian author. My wife, Maryam, and I live in Centreville, VA and we have three grown children.
Today we continue our study of collaborators of the Gospel. I will be discussing the question: In what sense are we slaves of Christ. (2X)
We give praise that you created us in your image and love us as your children. We especially present in this time and this place. In the power of your Holy Spirit, bless our praise and work here in Georgetown South. In the precious name of Jesus, Amen.
Today’s scripture less comes from the Book of Genesis 1:26-27. Here the word of the Lord:
Then God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Gen 1:26-27 ESV)
The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Allow me to begin with a bit of history from my own walk with the Lord.
My son, Reza, was born in August 1992 while I worked as a bank examiner with the Farm Credit Administration in McLean, Virginia. I normally traveled with the examination team four nights a week. For this reason and to facilitate breast feeding, my wife moved Reza’s crib into our bedroom
One Saturday night in October at 2 in the morning, Reza went into convulsions. As a ten-week old baby, it was not very obvious or very loud, but Maryam knew immediately that somethings was not right and we called 9-11 for emergency assistance. Reza was taken to Fair Oaks Hospital and then transferred to Fairfax Hospital. For the entire day, we did not know what had happened, but by Sunday evening they discovered that he had been born with only one kidney and that kidney’s duct had folded over on itself. He needed emergency surgery to correct the problem and was moved again to Georgetown University Hospital.
Alone with my son before terrifying surgery, I was stressed out and emotional. For the first time in my life, I began to negotiate with God for the life of my son. I prayed to God: do not take my son; take me. (2X)
Ten years later, my son was healthy and God reminded me of the promise in my prayer. At that point, I began to seek a seminary. When I say that I am a slave of Christ, I have both personal and biblical reasons. As someone bought and paid for with acts of grace and mercy, I am a slave of Christ. (2X)
In the ancient world there were two types of kings. A local king, who ruled a small kingdom, and a king of kings who possessed a much larger kingdom. In effect, a king of kings had many kingdoms each established through conquest and delegated to his subordinates, who had local kingdoms.
In today’s text we see this same model of kings. Returning to the Garden of Eden, we see God creating us in his image and giving us dominion—
over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Gen 1:26-27 ESV)
In this passage, God was described as a King of kings, who established a new kingdom in creation for his subordinates, Adam and Eve.
So why do we care? (2X)
We care because since the beginning we were created as servants of God and as slaves totally dependent on our creator and king of kings, God. Since the beginning, we were slaves of God. (2X)
Servants and Slaves
From the beginning, we were not content to be servants or slaves of God. Immediately after creation, Adam and Eve want a promotion and following the suggestion of Satan eat “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen 2:17 ESV). This act was directly against the will of God, constituted an alliance with Satan, and was an act of rebellion against the kingdom of God.
The title, slave of God, appears the first time in the Book of Joshua 1:1-2:
After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. (Jos. 1:1-2 ESV)
In these two verses, it reads in the Hebrew “slave of the Lord”, but most of the time it is translated in English and Spanish as servant of the Lord.
This same interpretative tension exists in the translation of Paul when he uses this same title in Romans 1:1:
“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God” (Rom 1:1 ESV)
In this case as well, the original Greek reads slave of Christ, but in English and Spanish the translation reads servant of Christ. This translation is politically correct. But because we are bought and paid for with the blood of Christ, the better translation is slave of Christ, as the Greek says. We are slaves of Christ. (2X)
Servant or Slave?
The older folks here probably remember a hymn: Nothing but the Blood of Jesus, which makes the point found in Hebrews 9:13-14:
“For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” (Heb 9:13-14 ESV)
We were bought and paid for with the death of Christ on the cross. Thus, we are slaves of Christ. (2X)
In summary, we are slaves of Christ. But why is this important?
When our identities are in Christ before other things we have new priorities. First, life is much easier. We are not slaves of our spouses, families, work, or any other things that a hard life can take from us. Neither are we slaves of fear, emotional pain, addictions, unmentionable sins, or any other chain of Satan. We have liberty in Christ to live within God’s will and are not slaves of any other person.
For example, our marriages are still important, just not ultimately important. In fact, it is much easier to respect our spouses when they are our love and not our masters. The same is true of our kids, parents, and other people. We are equal under Christ and are responsible to love one another as we love ourselves, as the Apostle Paul taught (Eph 6:1-9). Love is more precious because it can never be obligatory.
There are at least three other reasons why we want to accept this title of slave of Christ.
First, the first commandment says: “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exod 20:3 ESV) Note that it does not say no other gods, except for your love, your work, your favorite sports team, and other things.
Second, if we have something other than God as our first priority, bad things can happen. A workaholic without work, for example, is a good candidate for suicide, as we witness every day in this rich society.
Third, God loves us more than anyone else. It would be foolish to disrespect this love. We are slaves of Christ by the grace of God.
Thank you for the forgiveness that Easter brought with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thank you that in Christ we are slaves of your love and kings in your creation. In the power of your Holy Spirit, give us the strength to live in your truth this day and every day. In the precious name of Jesus. Amen.
Robert A. J. Gagnon. 2001. The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics. Nashville: Abingdon Press. (Goto part 1; goto part 2)
By Stephen W. Hiemstra
If homosexual conduct reduces life expectancy today when modern medicine is readily available, then it must have been even worse in the ancient world. In a context where the poor routinely starved to death, child mortality was extreme, and any access to medical care rare, except among the very wealthy, living a godly lifestyle was a survival strategy. When the Apostle Paul writes:
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures…” (1 Cor. 15:3 ESV)
life and death hang in the balance. So Paul describes faith as of “first importance”.
Gagnon divides his discussion of the New Testament into a short chapter (44 pages) on the witness of Jesus and a long chapter (108 pages) on the witness of Paul. He writes in 6 working chapters, including:
The Context of Ancient Judaism and Jesus’ View of Torah.
Jesus on Genesis and Male-Female Complementarity.
Deconstructing the Myth of a Sexually Tolerant Jesus.
Love and Righteousness in the Ministry of Jesus.
The Vice Lists in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10.
Let me focus on the longer discussions, items 4 and 5 above.
Love and Righteousness in the Ministry of Jesus. One of the enduring pictures of Jesus come from the parable of the loss sheep (210). Luke the physician writes:
“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost. Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:4-7 ESV)
Notice that the parable targets those who are lost in sin and, when lost, are brought back to repentance. Jesus’ healing ministry was not restricted to physical healing, but focused on repentance of wayward lifestyles and transformation into godly lifestyles (211).
Faith in God is like that—life requires acknowledging that we participate in both a physical and spiritual reality. Ignoring our spiritual reality leaves us like zombies—physical beings without life; ignoring our physical reality leaves us like ghosts—spiritual beings without a body. Jesus rose from the dead both physically and spiritually .
Gagnon makes the point that Luke 15 has a theme of lostness—lost sheep, lost coins, lost (prodigal) sons. He writes: “The lost son is even identified with a dead person or corpse.” (211) In some sense, the modern church has, relative to those lost in gender confusion, often played the part of the older brother in the parable of prodigal son (also lost) who could not love his father and refused to accept the return of his wayward brother (211-212).
How do you properly love an unrepentant sinner? Luke points to the father in the parable of the prodigal son who offers forgiveness and reinstatement in the family. Gagnon (213) points out: “Jesus did not confuse love with toleration of all behaviors…” Citing the story of the woman caught in adultery, Gagnon focuses on Jesus’ parting words to her:
“Jesus stood up and said to her, Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you? She said, No one, Lord. And Jesus said, Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:10-11 ESV)
Healing comes not only from being loved on but also from being transformed. Truth and grace together make the Gospel—truth alone cannot be heard; grace alone denies the law . This idea is captured also by the author of Hebrews: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb. 4:15 ESV) We need to hear the bad news before the good news makes any sense. Grace is a gift that we have to live into if it is to transform us.
Romans 1:24-27. One question that intrigued me in seminary was the nature of the new covenant that we have in Christ. What exactly does the new covenant look like and what are its provisions?
The Mosaic covenant is fairly easy to articulate because the law, starting with the Ten Commandments, is laid out in concrete detail in Exodus 20 (and Deuteronomy 6) and the blessings and curses are laid out in even more detail in Deuteronomy 28. In Paul’s writing, the new covenant in Christ is loosely described as the Gospel and in the dichotomy between law and grace. The most specific statement of the Gospel appears in Romans 1:
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, The righteous shall live by faith [in Jesus Christ]. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” (Rom. 1:16-18)
Salvation from sin is freely given to all that believe in Jesus Christ—those that reject this salvation become objects of wrath. What is this wrath? Rejecting salvation garners a curse: “God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity…” (Rom. 1:24) Because of the deprivation of original sin, being given up to your own desires is a curse—it is a curse to get what you want . Rejecting the Gospel also means that one remains subject to the law. Living a Christian lifestyle is not denying our true selves as victims of dark desires; it is expressing our true selves as victors in Christ’s righteousness.
Gagnon observes that Romans 1:24-27 is a central New Testament text dealing with homosexual conduct, both among men and women (229). The overall context for Paul is original sin which affects both Jews and Gentiles (240; Rom. 3:9). This passage is edgy because:
“God does not judge them for their ignorance but for acting contrary to the knowledge that they do have. This suppression of knowledge shows itself especially in two ways: idolatry and same-sex intercourse.” (247).
Idolatry is about priorities. Idolatry is anything that we substitute for God’s priority in our lives—is our identity in Christ or is it in other things like our work, sexuality, or entertainments? Idolatry is not just substituting stone statues for the reality of God; it is replacing God’s priority in our lives for other priorities. The prohibition on idolatry is the first of the Ten Commandments because our survival depends on it:
“You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me…” (Exod. 20:3-5)
God is jealous, not because He depends on our love or somehow needs sycophants; God is jealous because He loves us and knows how easily we are tempted into self-destruction.
Notice the inter-generational curse implied in Exodus 20:5 focused on those that hate God (247-249). Paul is not making up stuff in Romans 1—he is just adjusting the law to suit the new covenant in Christ. Ignoring God means worshiping something else and earns the curse of being given over to your own desires. Because the Romans were famous for their immorality and homosexuality, Paul’s emphasis on immorality and homosexuality is tailored to his audience—but it is also obviously tailored to our unrighteous situation today.
In spite of the passage of time, Robert Gagnon’s The Bible and Homosexual Practice remains an important resource for biblical scholars and interested Christians. A key difference between Gagnon’s exegetical work on homosexuality and other treatments is his insistence on using scripture to interpret scripture. Authors who claim homosexuality is consistent with scripture usually focus on a narrow number of verses (e.g. Matthew 22:36-40) and discount other passages (e.g. Leviticus 20:13) that disagree with their position. Consequently, progressives desiring credibility on this subject and evangelicals wanting to be informed need to engage this text.
 A parallel is found in Deuteronomy for disobeying the Mosaic covenant: “The LORD will strike you with wasting disease and with fever, inflammation and fiery heat, and with drought and with blight and with mildew. They shall pursue you until you perish.” (Deut. 28:22 ESV)
 Resurrection of the Body (http://wp.me/p3Xeut-Ii).
 The story of the woman caught in adultery is widely recognized as a later addition to the text of the Gospel of John and is bracketed in the Greek text. However, the tension between grace and truth is deep part of the biblical tradition. See, for example, the attributes of God listed in Exodus 34:6 which are divinely reveal immediately after God gives Moses the Ten Commandments. The translation reads: “The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,” (Exod. 34:6 ESV). Grace is specifically translated. The word translated as faithfulness ( אֱמֶֽת ), is translated as truth in the King James and the New American Standard versions. This implies that both grace and truth have always been God’s character traits.
 Child mortality is still a problem in many countries. My mother-in-law (born 1914) grew up in a well-to-do family in Iran. Still, her mother had only 4 children survive out of 16 live births.