Yesterday I preached the last message in our series in Colossians, Paul's magnificent letter about the supremacy and sufficiency of Christ. One of it's primary themes is maturity; growing up into Christ who is Head over all. In Paul's final greetings he commends Epaphras, the man who planted the church. He describes him as a bond slave who wrestles in prayer for the church that they might stand fully mature. (4:12) Not only is Epaphras working and praying for their maturity.
He's a model of maturity.
His maturity is deeper than his prayer and hard work for the church, or that he travelled 1000 miles from Colossae to Rome out of concern for the saints. His maturity springs from his identity as a bond slave. A bond slave was a term taken from Exodus, in which a slave who was allowed to go free after six years of service, willingly covenanted himself to his master forever. "But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever." Exodus 21:6
Paul is playing with the grand redemptive theme of Exodus, and in fact, the whole story of God.
Israel was redeemed, and released from slavery to Egypt by the blood of a lamb smeared on their doorposts. God's intention was for them to respond to His kindness and power by covenanting with Him, and by willingly coming under His government. But Israel resisted God's government for 40 painful years. They were happy to have the blood of redemption smeared on their doorposts. Putting their earlobe on the God's doorpost was another thing altogether. They wanted release not only from bondage, but release from any leadership at all. So they resisted the covenant of the bond slave, and
in their resistance they circled around the desert in immaturity for 40 years, slaves now to their own freedom.
Epaphras understood that he could not earn his own freedom. It was Jesus' blood on the doorpost of his life that set him free from slavery to sin. Responding in gratitude for Jesus' redemption, he willingly presented himself to God as a bond slave. This is the reason he was willing to work hard for the saints in Colossae, wrestling in prayer for them, traveling 1000 miles out of concern for them.
He understood that he had been bought with a price and was therefore not his own.
All of us wrestle with the sovereignty of self to some degree. We relish the idea of the blood of redemption on the doorposts of our lives. But we wrestle with the thought of putting our earlobes on God's doorpost as willing bond slaves. For our master to bore our ear through with an awl, sounds painful. But it is ultimately the pain of freedom. Being God's bond slave does not means bondage.
In fact, it is the very thing that keeps us free from the stunting tyranny of self.
Let's put our earlobes on God's doorpost.