Christians Are Not Called to Be Slaves:
"Servants" fits all Contexts
The proper translation of Greek doulos
One of many errors introduced to churches through some seminary/college graduates & modern bible versions is the rendering of Greek doulos as slave or its equivalent, bond servant.* This results in an improper suggestion that scripture teaches us that a Christian is to be a slave in bondage to God or man. It’s not God who condones slavery & bondage, but the devil, through his influence upon men who seek to make others submit to them. God teaches us voluntary servanthood, which is a very different matter, one having great blessing, security and ultimate glory (Rev.3:21, Mt.19:28, Lk.12:42-44) associated with it
*e.g. K.S. Wuest, Greek professor at Moody Bible Institute, The Practical Use of the Greek New Testament. Moody Press, revised 1982, D. L. Wise (out of print now but in some libraries). He was one of the more influential anti-KJV men influencing modern scholars.
One likely problem here is that scholars think doulos reflects the fact of slavery in the Roman empire of early New Testament days, not realizing that scripture teaching is relevant to all eras of time, and servant fits that type of usage.
Wuest (see reference above), a prominent modern scholar who favored the rendering of slave for doulos, correctly viewed a sinner as a slave to sin and satan, in that a slave doesn't exert his will, and receives no good wages for his labor. This is the case with sinners controlled by Satan, the one who hates all people since they are made in the image of God, and Satan hates God.
However the preference of Wuest and some modern translators often incorrectly notes a Christian as a slave to God or men in our scripture text (see examples below). The Christian is a servant loved by God, and is free to make choices, even being forgiven for error in judgment due to his humanity and God’s love for him. Further, the servant of God receives wonderful wages in the form of eternal and earthly rewards, and he can have complete confidence that all that he does in service to God is for his own ultimate good and that of others since God knows all things perfectly, and leads His people in accord with His love for them. A Christian is rightly called a servant of Christ since he has wonderful privileges as part of his position in Christ, but a slave doesn’t have the slightest expectation or hope of any of these privileges.
Like most words, doulos has different meanings in different contexts. But it’s always true that a servant of Christ serves God and people in a noble sense, while the slave serves Satan and sin in a fashion that ultimately makes him an ignominious tool. In both cases the person under consideration is a servant, but a servant-status in the kingdom of Christ is equivalent to freedom and joy, while servant-status in satan's kingdom is the equivalent of the humiliation and bondage of slavery. Thus when the KJV in Romans 6:16 uses the term servant to speak of the saved and the lost, the distinction we have just noted is obvious. The term servant is versatile, while slave is not, and modern scholars seem to miss some elementary points of English-language versatility.
KJV consistent rendering of servant for doulos is clearly correct since it fits any context where doulos appears. But slave fits only certain contexts, and examples of its misfit are noted below.
1. Philippians 2:7 This verse says of Jesus Christ that He, took upon him the form of a servant (doulos), and He was never the slave of men, or not free to exercise His will, but rather a servant who subjected Himself to meeting our need for salvation.
2. 1 Corinthians 9:19 Here Paul says, though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant (doulos) unto all. Paul declares his freedom from all men, and wasn't a slave to any, being free to make choices and travel to where he felt God directed. He certainly was no slave to Barnabus when he rejected the latter’s wish to take John Mark on a missionary trip
3. 2 Timothy 2:24 Paul says, And the servant (doulos) of the Lord must not strive… and freedom to engage in strife is inconsistent with the status of a slave who has no right to strive, and acts only in accord with orders from others.
4. Revelation 15:3 speaks of Moses as, the servant (doulos) of God, and while he took many direct commands from God, even he was not a slave to God, for he made personal decisions, such as heeding the advice of his father-in-law in choosing judges to handle lesser matters among the children of Israel and deferring to his wife’s desire to not circumcise his son (for the latter choice he faced severe chastisement from God - Exo. 4:24,25).
5. Matthew 20:27. Here Christ says to his disciples, And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant (doulos). Can anyone imagine Christ’s disciples as slaves in bondage to each other, each one having no will of his own, each looking to the others in the group for orders? That would be particularly illogical since it would not fit with Christ’s command here as a voluntary act of free will.
6. Matthew 24:45 Christ says, Who then is a faithful and wise servant (doulos), whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season. Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. A slave is never a ruler with the freedom to exercise management. Later in this passage the servant is said to be judged if he fails to do his duty, so he is a servant, not a slave, for a true slave only does what he is commanded.
7. In Luke 19:22 Regarding ministry gifts, Christ says to a disobedient one, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant (doulos). This person was free to obey or disobey, so he wasn’t a slave, and to judge a slave who isn’t free to make decisions would be unjust.
8. Galatians 4:1 says...the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant (doulos) though he be lord of all; Clearly a child destined to be the lord of a household is never rightly classified as a slave, being recognized from the start as an eventual overseer. He simply is viewed as one who, as if he were a servant, must learn how to conduct himself in preparation for his eventual leadership role.