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Acts 20:28 Updated American standard Version (UASV)
28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the congregation of God, which he obtained with the blood of his own Son.
The Greek verb (περιποιέω peripoieō) means to acquire, buy, or purchase. (Ac 20:28; 1Ti 3:13)
The church is often represented as having thus been bought with a price, 1 Co. 6:20; 7:23; 2 Pet. 2:1.
Slavery was prevalent and widely accepted in the ancient world. The economy of Egypt, Greece, and Rome was based on slave labor. Paul referred to himself as a slave or servant of Jesus Christ (Rom. 1:1; Gal. 1:10; Phil. 1:1), as did James (1:1), Peter (2 Pet. 1:1), and Jude (1).” – Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 1511.
Christians became willing slaves of God. Christians have been redeemed, purchased, obtained, acquired, or recovered by God through the blood of Jesus Christ. What does the blood of Christ do? It means forgiveness of sins. We are bought from the condemnation that is deserved. We had the death penalty, and Jesus paid our price, bought, or obtained us from the fallen condition, from the fallen world. He “freed us from our sins by his blood.” (Rev 1:5) The blood of Christ not only offers forgiveness of sin, but also sanctification. Hebrews 13:12 tells us that “Jesus also suffered…in order to sanctify the people through His own blood.” Yes, through Jesus’ blood, we are freed from our sinful condition, our being slaves to sin and willing to become slaves of God. The apostle Paul wrote: “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.”—Romans 5:9; Hebrews 9:14.
1 Corinthians 6:20 Updated American standard Version (UASV)
20 For you were bought at a price; therefore, glorify God with your body.
David E. Garland writes,
They must also recognize that they are not their own (3:23; 7:22–23). The Lord has full property rights over them. The imagery derives from the slave auction, familiar to Corinthians because Corinth was a major center for slave trafficking (Harrill 1995: 74). Paying ransom for the liberation of slaves was also a familiar practice to the ancients. According to the law, those who were ransomed from enemies who had captured them in war became the property of the one who freed them (Demosthenes, Contra Nicostratum [Against Nicostratus] 53.11; see Spicq, TLNT 2:427). Paul does not identify to whom the price was paid, either Sin or Satan (Rom. 6:12), or the price paid, Christ’s precious blood (1 Pet. 1:19). He wishes only to emphasize that they now belong entirely to Christ. … Formerly, they were slaves of sin; now they are slaves of God (Rom. 6:16–23; 7:6).
Simon J. Kistemaker and William Hendriksen write,
20. You were bought with a price; glorify God then in your body.
a. “You were bought with a price.” These words allude to Jesus’ death on Calvary’s cross where he paid the price of our redemption. Jesus paid for our freedom from sin, so that as redeemed children of our heavenly Father we may share his blessings. The term bought calls to mind the marketplace where slaves were bought and sold. If this is what Paul means, he alludes to Christians whom Christ has bought as slaves to serve him. Christ now owns them and is their master. In a parallel passage, Paul says the same thing: “For he who was called by the Lord while a slave is a freedman of the Lord, likewise the freedman when he was called is a slave of the Lord. You were bought with a price. Do not become slaves of men” (7:22–23; see also Gal. 4:6–7).—Simon J. Kistemaker and William Hendriksen, Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, vol. 18, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 202–203.
Clinton E. Arnold writes,
You were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body (6:20). Christ’s death on the cross has “bought” the lives of Christians as it removed them from the ownership of “sin.” The Greek verb “honor” can also be translated “glorify”; earlier Paul talked about Jesus as the “Lord of glory” (2:8).—Clinton E. Arnold, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Romans to Philemon., vol. 3 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 134.
John Peter Lange writes,
for ye were bought.—viz: for God, to be His peculiar possession (comp. Acts 5:9, and περιποιεῖσθαι Acts 20:28). The figure involved is that of a slave or body servant, over whom his master holds exclusive control. The purchase was from the servitude of sin, and from the curse of the law, and from the power of Satan (comp. Rom. 6:17 ff.; Gal. 3:13; Col. 1:13; Acts 26:18). And this purchase was—with a price—and this price was nothing less than Christ Himself, His “soul,” His “blood” (see Matt. 20:28; 1 Pet. 1:18). Passing beyond the mere significance of the word, yet observing its import, we come to the important thought that it was a high price, and the purchase, dear. [To this Winer objects, LXIV. 5]. This expression occurs in 8:23, but where, as in Acts 20:28; Titus 2:14, Christ is represented as the possessor. The practical inference from all this is. — John Peter Lange et al., A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: 1 Corinthians (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 134.
C. K. Barrett writes,
No, for you were bought at a price. When man sought to be free from God and his own master (see the treatment of Adam in Rom. 1:20–23; 5:12–21) he became the slave of sin, who reigned with death (Rom. 5:17; 6:23). From this bondage (essentially, as verse 19 shows, bondage to self) he could be freed only by becoming again what he had been created to be—the son and servant of God; hence the limitations imposed on Christian freedom in verse 12. His freedom in service to God was restored to him through the work of Christ, which Paul is therefore able, here and elsewhere (Rom. 3:24; Gal. 3:13; 4:5), to describe as ransoming, or purchasing. The process of sacral manumission, by which a slave was bought ‘for freedom’ (cf. Gal. 5:1) in the name of a god may well have served as an analogy and have supplied him with useful terminology, but the fundamental idea of ransoming Paul derived from the Old Testament, where the words are used in a wide variety of senses (e.g. Exod. 6:6; 13:13; Ruth 4:4 ff.; Ps. 103:4; Isa. 43:1). At a price is probably intended to emphasize not the magnitude of the price paid (though the Vulgate, with pretio magno, took it so) but the fact that the transaction has been duly carried out and completed.
In accordance with the context Paul lays stress here not on the freedom which results from the payment of the ransom price but on the fact that those who have been redeemed are free for the service of God. You were bought with a price; very well, then (δή), glorify God in your body. This carries the negative implication, Do not use your body for fornication, but in itself it is positive. Whatever they do, Christians must act for the glory of God (10:31). It is characteristic of Paul (cf. e.g. Rom. 12:1) to add in your body. ‘It is inconceivable that such a statement should come from Seneca. For him the soul, the spirit, could glorify the gods, but this is impossible for the contemptible body which always threatens the purity of the spirit’ (Sevenster, Seneca, p. 76). For Paul, however, it is in the concrete circumstances in which the physical members operate that God is to be served. The failure of later generations of Christians to grasp this truth is reflected in the variant readings (see note 1 on p. 144). — C. K. Barrett, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, Black’s New Testament Commentary (London: Continuum, 1968), 152–153.
Leon Morris writes,
20. The reason is you were bought at a price (Goodspeed, ‘you have been bought and paid for’). There is possibly an antithesis to the price paid to a prostitute (Ruef thinks that this ‘is not a very delicate way of putting it, but the Corinthians were probably not very delicate people’). The verb is in the aorist tense, which points to a single decisive action in time past. Paul mentions neither the occasion nor the price, but there is no need. Clearly he is referring to Calvary, where Christ gave his life to purchase sinners. The imagery is that of redemption, perhaps what scholars call ‘sacral manumission’. By this process a slave would save the price of his freedom, pay it into the temple treasury of a god, and then be purchased by the deity. Technically he was the slave of the god, but as far as men were concerned he was free. Deissmann says that the words used here are ‘the very formula of the records’ (LAE, p. 324). Of course Paul is not saying that Christ’s redemption corresponded exactly to sacral manumission; it is the terminology, not the precise process that is significant. And the price paid for sinners was no pious fiction, but the very real price of the death of the Saviour. The result is to bring us into a sphere where we are free (cf. ‘Everything is permissible for me’, v. 12). But we are God’s slaves. He has bought us to be his own. We belong to him. Héring comments on this appeal to act in accordance with the truth that the body is God’s temple: ‘we are probably witnessing here the first attempt in the history of moral thought to refute libertinism in some other way than by the arguments of an ascetic, legalistic or utilitarian type’. We should miss neither the originality nor the force of Paul’s argument.
The obligation now rests on us to honour God (cf. Rom. 12:1). This is the positive where ‘flee fornication’ is the negative. The prime motive in the service of the Christian is not the aim of accomplishing purposes attractive to him personally, but the glory of God. Therefore translates dē, a shortened form of ēdē, ‘already’. It is sometimes added to an imperative to give it a note of greater urgency. ‘Do it so speedily that it is already done!’ The use of the aorist rather than the present imperative agrees with this. There is an urgency about it. Let there be no delay.
Anthony C. Thiselton writes,
The concept of purchasing a slave from another owner flows logically from you do not belong to yourselves as substantiating the ground for the principle. Hence γάρ introduces the explanation for the previous sentence (or previous rhetorical question). The imagery of the purchased slave underpins the point that Christian believers belong to a new master, or owner, to whom they must give account for everything. That the main emphasis falls on this point is correct, as Conzelmann claims; but his reluctance to infer more from the imagery is misplaced, especially in view of the intensive and detailed work of Dale Martin (1990) and more recently also of Combes (1998).
Deissmann was among the first to show how the metaphor of slavery had become so overlaid with theological and dogmatic nuances as to result in “the total effacement of its ancient significance”; it is “only vaguely understood among us.” He attempted to shed light on the ancient practice of slavery and manumission by examining up to a thousand inscriptions at Delphi and elsewhere.275 At Delphi numerous inscriptions invoked Apollo as party to the transaction, often following such a formula as “Apollo bought a slave named X from Y at a price of Z” (e.g., τιμᾶς ἀργυρίου μνᾶν τριῶν) with a witnessed receipt (e.g., τιμὰν ἀπέχει). At first sight Deissmann’s pattern appears to offer an important clue to the understanding of 1 Cor. 1:20. He cites, e.g., “sale and purchase” of slaves to Athene at Physcus, to Asclepius at Amphissa, and to Adrastia at Cos. The payment of a price (τιμή; genitive of price τιμῆς, older regional dialect τιμᾶς) to a god or goddess buys freedom (ἐπʼ ἐλευθερίαι in Delphic inscriptions) for the slave. But while Deissmann’s work does indeed shed light on the connection between slavery and purchase price, specialists on this subject have increasingly dissented from Deissmann’s view that it places 1 Cor 6:20 and related verses in 1 Corinthians 7 in the context of manumission for freedom.
Important studies by S. Scott Bartchy and especially by Dale B. Martin, as well as a very large quantity of related research literature, shed a different light on this passage. First, the transaction which involved a price here enacts not freedom but a change of ownership. Martin declares, “Most scholars have agreed that Deissmann’s explanation of buy (ἀγοράζειν) to mean redemption from slavery by way of sacral manumission must be rejected. Priasthai, not agorazein, is the word most commonly used in those contracts [as Deissmann’s own examples show]. Agorazein refers … to the ordinary sale of a slave by one owner to another owner.… When Christ buys a person, the salvific element of the metaphor is … to a higher level of slavery (as the slave of Christ).” This point remains open to misunderstanding, however, until we have established a second point.
A second fundamental principle now emerges from research on slavery among many writers. Bartchy argues that Deissmann’s work on inscriptions concerning sacral manumission tell us nothing at all about Paul’s theology of redemption, including 1 Cor 6:20 and 7:22–23, for which we should rather turn to the Hebrew and Jewish traditions of what it is to be “slaves of Yahweh.” The reason for this (our second principle) is that the relative status of free person, freed person, and slave depended less on these categories in themselves “than the question of whose slave or freedman he was or had been …” (Ste Croix’s italics). Dale Martin argues the same point in detail. The status of a slave, he argues, was exceedingly complex, depending partly on the role of the slave within a given household (in which his or her role could vary from laborer or menial domestic to estate manager, even owning slaves of his own), and still more decisively on the character, status, and influence of the one to whom one belonged as slave.281 He stresses the significance of the choice of slaves to state this status in inscriptions as “slave of X.” He comments: “Slaves and freed persons may have willingly given up this status in order to emphasize their connection with someone higher up in the patronage structure of society.” Similarly M. Flory believes that the slave’s status was placed in an epitaph “for its prestige value.”
It is in this light that we should read slaves of the Lord (1 Cor 7:22) and bought with a price (6:20; cf. “slaves of God,” 1 Pet. 2:16). The genitive of price, τιμῆς, may well be translated bought for a price (Moffatt, Martin), or bought at a price (REB, NIV, NJB), as well as with a price (NRSV, AV/KJV). Cost in some form remains implicit in the use of price, although the imagery does not require that speculations are encouraged about to whom a price might be paid. The imagery stresses primarily the new ownership, and secondly a costly act on the part of the new owner which makes the believer legitimately and contractually the one to whom the believer now belongs. Collins points out that price is important, since this finalizes the transaction in the world of Paul’s day. On one side, the slave (i.e., the Christian believer) no longer belongs either to himself/herself or to powers into whose bondage he/she may have entered. The believer belongs to One to whom it is an honor to belong, and who, like the “good” first-century slave owner, accepts responsibility for clothing, housing, feeding, and generally caring for the slave who is the master’s concern. For a slave to have someone else to take responsibility for these things is a freedom. On the other side, the owner who has bought the slave with a price expects, and has a right (cf. 6:12) to expect, allegiance, faithfulness, loyalty, obedience, and, on the basis of character and provision hitherto, also wholehearted trust.
Hence Weiss observes that what it means to invoke Christ as Lord, what “the Kyrios-faith” amounts to, “in a practical … sense will best be made clear through the correlative concept of ‘servant’ or ‘slave’ of Christ (Rom. 1:1; 1 Cor. 7:22–23; Gal. 1:10; Phil. 1:1; Col. 4:12).” Ahead of his times, Weiss urges caution about over-stating a Greek love of autonomous freedom as over against an Oriental and Hebrew acceptance of a servile relationship of honor if this is to a great “lord”: “Paul had his moments when Greek and Oriental feelings met and mingled.”287 To be engaged in “the Lord’s service,” he notes, is an honorable status among the hellenistic Christian congregations. Bartchy and Martin endorse this point. An understanding of 1 Cor 7:22–23, Martin insists, “depends on the status-improvement meaning of slavery to Christ … depicted as upward mobility within slavery.” Those Greek writers who considered the philosophical implications of slave status insisted that “belonging” could leave room for “inner” freedom. Sophocles, Bion, Seneca, Horace, Epictetus, and especially Philo all stress this.290 Thus on 7:22–23 Martin concludes, “The slave, according to Paul, should not be concerned about his or her current state of slavery. In reality he or she is not the slave of just anyone, but the freedperson of Christ.”
We should not allow the wealth of research on first-century slavery to obscure its function as a metaphor within a theology of redemption inherited from the OT. Schrage draws attention to the Hebrew terms פדה (padah) and גאל (gaʾal) behind ἀγοράζειν. Redemption is from a state of jeopardy by a costly act to a new state. This should qualify issues about whether a slave was mere property, not a personal agent with the “rights” of a person. A slave “was a thing (res). Owners had the right to bind, torture or kill their slaves.” Thus Rabbi Hillel warned that, even within Judaism, to own too many female slaves was to multiply temptations to exploit their bodies, since their bodies were not their own. Paul rejects the notion that a slave has the “right” to do anything (πάντα μοι ἔξεστιν, 6:12). A slave must be useful (συμφέρει, 6:12; Philemon 11). But on the other side, as well as protecting and guarding his own “property,” a caring lord would treat his slave as a fully trusted personal agent in appropriate circumstances. Indeed, where he or she found the right potential master, many voluntarily sold themselves into his service for greater security, freedom, and status than as poor, deprived, or oppressed free persons. As Combes reminds, we are dealing with the language (again) of metaphor, indeed with “the complex use” of this metaphor in the ancient world and in Paul. Hence it is a valuable resource, but its counterparts in social life should be pressed in every detail.
 Leon Morris, 1 Corinthians: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 7, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 102–103.
 Anthony C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000), 475–479.