A prisoner of Christ

The apostle Paul wrote to Ephesian Christians that he was “a prisoner of Jesus Christ” for their benefit. What an amazing statement!

In essence, he was saying Jesus Christ had captured him to bring the good news of God to others.

That statement jumped out to a friend of mine as our men’s group was studying the book of Ephesians a couple of weeks ago. Immediately, we all were caught by the same image – Paul, a prisoner of Christ.

Of course, Paul was writing this letter while he was a literal prisoner in Rome. Later in the same letter, he says he is a prisoner “for” Christ – he was imprisoned for his preaching on behalf of Jesus.

But here at the outset of chapter 3, he talks about being the prisoner “of” Christ. Isn’t that a negative thing? It makes it sound as if he is being held against his will.

The way we interpreted this statement in our group was that Paul was completely committed to Jesus – he was tied forever to Christ. As one of our group said, “He (Paul) was all-in for Jesus.”

Although we western Christians aren’t accustomed to thinking this way, it was something Paul talked about elsewhere in his letters when he used the word “slave” to describe his relationship to Jesus.

John MacArthur, noted author, pastor, and teacher, says the original Greek text of the New Testament is littered with the word “slave” while talking about our relationship to God. But English translators did not like using the word “slave” because it raises evil pictures in our minds. Usually, they translate it as “servant” and occasionally “bond-servant”.

MacArthur says that in Galatians 1:10 Paul literally says: “If I was trying to please men, I would not be a slave of Christ.”

“This is the singular focus of being a slave,” MacArthur says. “You don’t have to please a lot of people, you just please one. That metaphor is critical to understanding our relationship to the Lord.”

In effect, Jesus is calling us to give ourselves completely over to him – nothing held back.

But we are also slaves for a purpose – a purpose prepared for us by God. That’s the other aspect of Paul’s statement about being “a prisoner of Jesus Christ” for the benefit of the Ephesians.

God dramatically intervened in Paul’s life on the road to Damascus for a purpose – to be a messenger of the good news of Jesus Christ to non-Jews.

So I am a slave of Jesus Christ. I must yield everything to him – something I fight against. And more than just a slave – I am a slave for Jesus to “be Jesus” to those around me.

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