In 1 Peter 2:16, we are instructed to “live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God” (ESV). This directive is set within a specific context of submission to authorities and the broader context of Christian living on this side of eternity. Although believers in Jesus are no longer subject to the Old Testament law, the purpose of our freedom is not to indulge in sin but to live as servants of God. The Greek term rendered as “servant” by translations such as the ESV is actually doulos, which means “a slave or bondservant.” The translation “servant” is appropriate, however, as the doulos could voluntarily yield to his master, unlike the slave of history’s transatlantic slave trade.
In essence, being servants of God entails acknowledging Him as our Master and dedicating ourselves to His service. This is akin to choosing slavery to righteousness over slavery to sin (Romans 6:16–18). The idea is that we bind ourselves to God and His way, such that we find ourselves unwilling to do otherwise. As slaves of sin, we once indulged in sinful inclinations before trusting in Christ as Savior, but we are now servants of God, called to embrace righteous living. Christ has set us free to live for God.
Being servants of God also implies living to fulfil His will. Rather than pursuing personal projects and dreams, we dedicate ourselves to God’s projects and purposes. Not that we should all become pastors and missionaries, but that we “do everything to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31)—studying, starting businesses, raising children, helping neighbors, creating art, etc.—all is done to honor God and reflect His light in every aspect of our lives. As Colossians 2:6–7 instructs, we should build our lives on Christ.
Furthermore, being servants of God involves rejecting actions that rebel against His perfect rule. We cast off all selfishness and all work of the flesh (Galatians 5:19–21). As the servants of God, Christians should be devoted to doing good and walking in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16; Titus 3:8).
It is worth noting that Christians are not merely servants of God but also adopted as His children (Ephesians 1:4–5). While we serve and follow God as His doulos, we also fellowship with Him as His children, lovingly drawn into His family, and we even relate to Him as friends (John 15:13–15).