The Christian life as slavery: Paul's subversive metaphor

Heythrop Journal 54 (1):1-12 (2013)
Recent scholarship has shown chattel slavery in the Roman Empire to have been a deeply oppressive experience. Paul knew that reality well and used the language of slavery metaphorically in Galatians and Romans to describe humanity's subjection to sin. However, he also made a remarkable shift in his use of the metaphor to indicate a new form of slavery to God which brings freedom, thereby subverting conventional ways of understanding slavery.In Paul's sense, slavery is an ineluctable part of human existence in which we have a choice of being a slave to sin or a slave to God. Becoming a slave means giving up all claims to status and relates to Christ's humble-mindedness in Philippians. The slave is also a model of faithfulness, comparable with God's faithfulness to Israel and Christ's faithfulness to the mission given him by his Father. Being a slave (in Paul's sense) is at the heart of the Christian life, exemplifying the ‘obedience of faith’, for it is through this faithfulness that we become righteous
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