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Bible verses about Bondage, Spiritual
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 15:17-21   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

For the events of Genesis 15:17-21, the sun has gone down, and it is dark. In the crucifixion sequence, by dark the Son was in His grave. This is now the 15th of Nisan, the day that became the first day of Unleavened Bread, the part known as the Night To Be Much Observed, "the selfsame day" of Exodus 12:41. Numbers 33:3 confirms Israel left Egypt on the 15th of Nisan, but Exodus 12:42 specifically states Israel began its departure at night, and God names that night the "Night To Be Much Observed." Its significance is that, because the firstborn of the Egyptians have been slain, the descendents of Abraham are released from their bondage and free to leave Egypt. The firstborn of Egypt thus become a type of the True Firstborn, Jesus Christ, the sacrifice for our sins that enslave us to spiritual Egypt.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Countdown to Pentecost 2001


 

Genesis 46:1-7   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

By their own choice, the family of Israel went into a self-imposed exile, from Canaan to Egypt. We see in verse 3 that God Himself wanted this to occur. He had plans for Israel, and the Israelites had to go through this period of Egypt as part of that plan. They did not realize at the time that this voluntary sojourn in Egypt would lead to their forced slavery. Several generations would pass until the time they would be put under bitter bondage, when the Pharaoh would go so far as to call for all the sons of Israel to be killed after their birth.

It was only by God's mighty power in the Exodus that they were ever able to leave Egypt; they could not have done it on their own. In their minds, they were half-Egyptian by that time, perhaps even more. They really did not want to leave. Sure, they loved the idea of freedom, but as soon as they left Egypt, they wanted to go back.

It is ironic how hard it was for them to return to Canaan because they had forgotten that their real homeland was in the land of Canaan, not in Egypt. They had taken the place of their exile as home. They had become so enmeshed in the culture of Egypt that they considered it their own. We see this when, only a month out, they forced Aaron to bring some of that culture back into their lives in the form of a Golden Calf.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
How to Survive Exile


 

Exodus 6:5-8   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God promises to bring them out of their bondage, and we understand this also applies to us in that He is bringing us out of spiritual bondage. In us, He is getting to the root of the problem.

The Old Covenant was weak through the flesh. We are no different from the Israelites; human nature has not changed, nor has Satan or the world. God certainly has not changed, nor His Spirit or His truth. All of these things being constant, the problem is still in us.

The solution has to be a change of mind by the pure Word of God. We learn from John 8:32 that truth shall make us free. We also find, in John 8:44-45, that Satan was a murderer and a liar from the beginning. He was the one who instigated the sins of Adam and Eve, and we can understand, then, that our bondage is directly tied into lies and deceit.

This is what we have to be broken free from. God never lies; His word is always true. We can rely on it, and if we use it, it keeps us free and protects us from falling back into the world once again.

Usually, God does not remove us from one geographical location to another when we are called. We have to come out of our own personal, spiritual bondage, regardless of our location, because that is the real problem. We physically remain where we are, but something else has to be added.

Life takes its values from its goals and purposes. Most people's purpose in life is merely physical, so the things that they pursue in life and the means that they use to accomplish their goals are what are bringing everyone into bondage. The goals are carnal, and the ways of reaching them are also carnal. They involve lying, murder, adultery, fornication, stealing, coveting, breaking the Sabbath, taking God's name in vain, or building statues to God. Breaking the Ten Commandments are involved, but it is much bigger than that.

In Christianity, its great goal causes a person to set the very highest of standards. The goal is the Kingdom of God. No goal has higher standards. It takes a pure word to keep one strengthened to accomplish this goal.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Freedom and Unleavened Bread


 

Exodus 13:8-9   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Days of Unleavened Bread are a memorial to God's law and to His powerful deliverance from Egypt and bondage. Paul explains this significance to the Corinthians and the urgency attached to cease sinning. He says we should not even keep company with a brother involved in flagrant sin! Also, by ridding our homes of sin, we realize that overcoming sin is hard work!

Staff
Holy Days: Unleavened Bread


 

Exodus 20:2   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We have been taken out of the spiritual "house of bondage." We can see here that the Sabbath is enjoined on God's people for two basic reasons. The one reminds us that He is Creator. The other reminds us that, at one time, we were slaves.

Ezekiel 20 clearly demonstrates that when God's people do not keep the Sabbath, they lose their liberty. They go into captivity—for us, that means back to the captivity of Satan, the world, and sin. The Sabbath is given by God to keep His people free! It is the day to keep His people from going back into bondage.

God has specifically used the Sabbath throughout Israel's history as the day in which He emphasizes the Sabbath's tie to deliverance, liberty, to keeping His people free. On this day, He has pointedly performed acts of liberation for His people. For example, on what day did the children of Israel leave Egypt, the house of bondage? They left on an annual Sabbath, the first day of Unleavened Bread. On which day did they completely break free of their captors? It was on the following Sabbath, the seventh day of Unleavened Bread that they went through the Red Sea, were baptized, and went out into the wilderness. At that point, they were politically free.

On which day did God give His law? On the day of Pentecost, another Sabbath, which "if a man will keep, he will live in it." On which day did Israel go into the Promised Land? On a Sabbath day. On which day did the walls of Jericho come down? They came down on a Sabbath, and Israel made their first important conquest in the land.

This Sabbath redemption is all through the Old Testament. God did that to focus our minds on what the Sabbath is for. It is the day He has blessed for the purpose of liberation. It is the day He has blessed to continue the liberty of His people. Jesus also emphasized this in His ministry, driving this point home by how He used the Sabbath, giving us an example so that we could see how He wants us to use the Sabbath to the greatest benefit.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 2)


 

Exodus 20:8-11   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Verse 10 plainly states the seventh day is God's Sabbath. This passage also shows that, although it is God's time, we still have a responsibility to ensure that we observe it properly. Verse 11 reiterates Genesis 2:1-3, that God Himself set the seventh day apart.

The context of the fourth commandment explains why He commands us to observe it. Notice Exodus 20:1-2: "And God spoke all these words, saying, 'I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.'" Why do we keep the Sabbath holy? Why do we keep any of the commandments? Because God first acted to free us from spiritual Egypt, that is, slavery to sin. Before God began working with us, we had no power over sin; we were slaves to it, just as the Israelites were literal slaves to the Egyptians. When we choose to follow God and His way of life, we no longer serve sin but God, and God gives us everlasting life. Paul explains this in Romans 6:22-23:

But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Since Jesus Christ paid the ransom for our lives, freeing us from the bondage of sin, we are now subject to the laws of the Kingdom of God, one of which is the seventh-day Sabbath.

David C. Grabbe
It's Not Our Time


 

Deuteronomy 5:12-15   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This occurrence of the fourth commandment reveals another way that the Sabbath sanctifies. The emphasis here is that it be kept so that we will remain free: "Remember on this day that you were a slave." The implication is obvious. The Sabbath draws one to a remembrance of the past, of our spiritual slavery in Egypt, and where we are headed: toward the Promised Land.

The Sabbath looks back and forward, but with a somewhat different perspective than in Exodus 20. Before it was tied merely to the Creation, yet God still has a creative process going on. Now we find that His creative process is designed to produce freedom and to continue providing liberty from sin, Satan, and this world that God accomplished through the redemptive death of Jesus Christ.

This is done through the messages, the sermons, given in Sabbath services. Almost all messages involve sin and our enslavement to it to some degree. On the other hand, the Ten Commandments are the law of liberty (James 2:12), and by keeping them, we remain free of enslavement by Satan and this world. It is on the Sabbath that God instructs His people, through His Word, about how to keep the commandments and remain free.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 1)


 

Deuteronomy 5:12-15   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Sabbath is clearly stated, in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5, to have two major purposes. The Sabbath is to remind us that God is Creator; we look back on Him creating. But it is also designed to show us that the Sabbath is the day that He has given to keep us free; it reminds us that we were once slaves.

Remembering God as Creator is good, but because it happened in the dim past, it does not always help us in our immediate concerns. But every Sabbath we are also reminded that God is our redeeming Liberator, and that we keep the Sabbath because we are free—and because we want to remain free. Those who are redeemed who do not keep the Sabbath do not retain their liberty.

Nations establish memorials for specific reasons. Here in the United States we have a Presidents' Day, Martin Luther King Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, Armistice Day, and so on. Why do we have these days? Our nation's leaders want us to be periodically reminded of our heritage. They want us to remember why we have what we have, why we should hold on to these things, and why we should strengthen what we have.

God's Sabbath—His memorial—is so important to His purpose that He has it recur every week! Not once a year, but every week! It is a constant reminder of our spiritual heritage from Him and of our release from sin, and it reorients us in any area in which we may have turned aside.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 2)


 

Deuteronomy 5:15   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This rendering of the commandment adds that we are to remember our bondage in Egypt, shifting the spiritual emphasis from recalling creation to recalling redemption. The Sabbath commandment does not entirely lose its connection with creation but is added to. Now it looks back, not only on the fact that our God is the Creator, but also that the Sabbath deals with God as our Redeemer. God is Creator and Savior.

Thus, the commandment suggests liberty—our release from slavery, as well as preserving freedom and its relationship with the Redeemer. This helps us to understand specifically why no other day will do. It is not only the sign that God is the Creator, but it is also the sign that He is our Savior. The Sabbath is the day He appointed as the day to memorialize that He set us free and continuously maintains our liberty. As long as we are keeping it, the relationship with Him will be preserved.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sabbathkeeping (Part 4)


 

Ezekiel 18:24   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God's experience with Israel (recorded from Exodus through Deuteronomy) is helpful in understanding this. Slavery in Egypt, where they faced certain, ignominious death, represents the world, and Pharaoh represents Satan. Leaving Egypt symbolizes what justification accomplishes in God's spiritual plan: It frees from bondage.

But God did not stop working with them at that point. He revealed His law to them, and then commanded them to choose to live by it. They had to endure a forty-year pilgrimage, enduring many trials along the way, before they finally were delivered into their inheritance, the Promised Land, which represented salvation. However, many perished along the way because they did not live by faith, as shown by their disobedience to His revealed law.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 29)


 

Luke 4:16-19   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Sabbath is so significant that Jesus' ministry formally began on a Sabbath and ended on a preparation day just before another Sabbath (John 19:31)! We see Him open His ministry in Luke 4:16-19, where He gives His mission statement. By quoting Isaiah 61:1-2 in His inaugural sermon, Jesus identifies His mission as setting people free from bondage. He specifically mentions freeing the poor (weak, without power), brokenhearted, captive, blind, and oppressed.

"The acceptable year of the LORD" is not when God is acceptable to us, but when God, in His sovereign mercy, moves to make us acceptable to Him. It is a time when He chooses to deliver people. More specifically, it refers to two Old Testament institutions, either the seventh year land Sabbath or the Jubilee year. Israelites considered these years liberators of the oppressed. During them, the land lay fallow and what food it produced on its own went to the poor, dispossessed, and animals. Slaves were freed and debts remitted. During Jubilee years, debtors received back their land lost due to mismanagement.

Jesus says in verse 21, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." It was a Sabbath, and through the typology, Christ is clearly showing that His redemptive mission included the liberating intent of the Sabbaths, weekly and annual. In Mark 2:27, Jesus says, "The Sabbath was made for man." God made it to equip us to come out of spiritual slavery—and even more so, to help us in staying out.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part Two): Christ's Attitude Toward the Sabbath


 

Luke 13:10-17   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

On this occasion, Jesus did not wait for somebody to ask a question, as He did in Luke 4. He just went out and did what needed to be done. This episode shows God's purpose for the Sabbath very clearly. Jesus says, "You are loosed." When one is loosed, one is made free. The lesson is clear. This woman was in bondage to an infirmity, something Satan had afflicted her with.

On the other hand, there were the Pharisees. To them, the Sabbath was rules to obey—their rules, their traditions. To the ruler of the synagogue, then, the Sabbath was unfit for loosing somebody from his pain or from his infirmity.

Jesus calls him a hypocrite in verse 15. "Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose [untie, free] his ox or donkey from the stall? So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound—think of it—for eighteen years, be loosed [freed, delivered, redeemed] from this bond on the Sabbath?"

How plain! Once we begin to see what Jesus did and talked about on the Sabbath, it becomes clear that He was magnifying its use. The Sabbath is the day of liberation; it is the day God blessed so that we can remain free and no longer be brought into bondage. (Incidentally, the verbs translated "loose" are the Greek word that means "to free.")

Does Jesus say, "Oh, it doesn't matter. We're going to do away with the Sabbath anyway"? No! Instead, He argues for a right, merciful evaluation of a person under a heavy burden and then using the Sabbath to relieve him of it. He is arguing for true values in the use of God's Sabbath.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 2)


 

John 8:32   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Freedom is what Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread are ultimately about. God's freeing Israel from bondage in Egypt is the object lesson that we are to apply spiritually. Truth and freedom go hand and hand. This is why the Christian world is in the condition it is in. The vast majority of Christians do not really mark the death of Jesus Christ in the way that God commands us to observe it. They may be very much aware of it, and it is a large part of their teaching: They understand that Christ died for our sins. But they miss its full importance—its full impact—because they do not observe the Passover. Thus the lesson is missed.

Truth and freedom go hand in hand, but truth will produce freedom only as it is used. That ought to be self-evident. We can know something is true, but if we fail to use it, what good is it? Its value is worthless unless it is used.

Freedom and truth come to those who press on. Freedom, the kind of freedom that God is involved in bringing us into, comes progressively, not all at once. These are lessons from the Days of Unleavened Bread. It took the Israelites seven days to get to and across the Red Sea. It took them another forty years to get into their own land, into their inheritance, the Promised Land.

Their freedom was progressive. There was a time when it began, but if they had never continued on the way, they would never have had their own land, never have had their inheritance, never have been free. This is a large part of the object lesson: We have to continue. If we continue, then we will truly be a disciple. We will understand the truth, and we will become free. The truth of God shows us the real values of life because it shows us what we are to give our life to.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Awesome Cost of Salvation


 

John 8:32   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

An implication of this passage is that freedom is always relative. Nobody is ever really free from responsibility in his relationships with others, especially in his relationship with God. Political freedom leapt to the Jews' mind in this instance, and they replied, "We have never been in bondage to any man." But even at this time, they were in a kind of bondage to the Romans, though they did not consider themselves to be so. But political freedom is not the only kind of freedom that one can have, and in reality, it is far from the most important. Nobody is ever free to do everything that he might think to do. He will always be constrained by law, principles, tradition, and even safety factors to choose to direct himself in a certain way.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 1)


 

John 8:34   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The basic concept of sin is failure—failure to live up to a standard, failure to hit the bull's eye, failure to stay on the path. The slavery Jesus speaks of is bondage to a pattern of thinking that produces failure. This is what God wants to deliver and convert us from. All who come out of the world have been addicted, held in bondage, to ways of thinking that produce failure, mental illness, physical disease, and death. God desires to give us freedom through applying truth in faith and love for the Father, His Son, and the brethren.

He has revealed Himself, His way, and His truth. Do we believe it? Will we discipline ourselves to use the truth? This is the responsibility that faces us. It has been done, and we can do it. Will you?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Five)


 

John 8:44   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Just as surely as a person on drugs eventually wants to take the drug because he is enslaved by it, sin has an addictive quality. Satan knows very well that if he can get us to sin once, there is a strong possibility he can get us to sin again and again and again until we are eventually enslaved by it and cannot help ourselves.

Satan's lies produce death through sin, and they are deliberate attempts to wipe us out. Satan is a cold-blooded life destroyer. We can look at "life" in two ways: in terms of physical life ending in death and quality of life. What is so sad is that he seems to have such an easy time in getting people to swallow the lie that it will somehow be better to disobey God than to obey Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 2)


 

Romans 6:15-16   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Obedience is submission. In the context of this verse, if one serves sin, then he is sin's slave. Sin is the master. This does not mean making an occasional mistake, falling short of the mark, or wandering from the way. Paul is referring to sin that is dominating the life, that is lived in as a way of life. If a person is in that position, the master—sin—has jurisdiction over his skill, energy, and time.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Passover and I Corinthians 10


 

Romans 6:15   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The apostle clearly shows that a Christian is to live a certain kind of life—a godly one, of course—in the teeth of the attacks of human nature, sin, the world, and Satan. The very reason we are to obey is because of God's grace. Why? Because of the grace of God, a person can, for the first time in his life, make the right choices. That is what obligates us. Before that, he was the servant of sin, in bondage to Satan, but now he is free.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Grace Upon Grace


 

Romans 8:19-22   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The apostle says here that God pronounced the curse on the creation "in hope" of "the revealing of the sons of God," which would release it "from the bondage of corruption." God designed the curse on Adam to enhance man's chance to enter His Family! God would rather have done it another way—through His guidance in the Garden of Eden—but since Adam and Eve chose rebellion, He designed Adam's curse to reach the same end by a different means: hard toil, struggle, and eventual death!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The First Prophecy (Part Three)


 

Romans 8:19-22   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God's whole creation is enslaved in grievous bondage! This slavery, called by Paul "the bondage of corruption," is subjection to decay, devastation, disease, destruction, and degradation because of sin—mankind's sin. The earth and all its creatures are expectantly waiting for the time when God's sinless children will take over the rule of this world and deliver creation from the curse of sin! And like a human birth, the worst pains—in this case, the worst ecological devastation—will occur just before and at the delivery of the new life. This explains the earth's groaning and laboring as the end nears.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Bible and the Environment


 

Galatians 1:4   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We easily recognize that Christ died for our sins. But why? ". . . that He might deliver us from this present evil age."

The word translated "deliver" does not just mean being delivered from bondage, the way the Israelites were delivered out of Egypt. It means instead, "rescued from the power of." The meaning "delivery away from" may be implied, but that is not the primary meaning here. The power of this present evil world lies in its ability and power to make an impression upon us or make us conform to its ways.

Paul writes in I Corinthians 5:10, "I didn't mean that you should go out of the world, but rather that you should not fellowship with one who is a brother and who has this sin." He is not talking about leaving a place but about being rescued from the power of this world to impress its ideas, manners, ways, customs, and traditions upon us. Paul reiterates this in Romans 12:2: "Don't let the world squeeze you into its mold" (Phillip's). That is what we have been delivered from—not God's law, but the power of the world to squeeze us into its mold.

John W. Ritenbaugh


 

Galatians 3:22   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Old Testament has "included" or "enclosed" or "shut up" all of humanity under the umbrella of sin. Not a single person can appear before God on the basis of his own merit or righteousness. The totality of mankind is enslaved by sin and does not have the means to break free from its grasp. By "concluding" that everyone is under the bondage of sin, or under the curse of sin, the scripture shows that something external to mankind has to act to provide a solution that can save man from himself and his sinful nature. This "conclusion" also demonstrates that none of the paths that man has embarked on—primarily justification on the basis of one's own works—are of any lasting worth.

Because all other paths are shown to be futile, the only option for salvation and glorification is the way that Jesus Christ has set forth. There are no other alternatives. Faith in what Christ has done, is doing, and will do is mankind's only hope.

The story of the Israelites is a record of a people whom God chose, set apart, and blessed with incredible blessings and opportunities. But it is also a record of mankind's sinful nature, and how illogical it is that a man could stand before God on account of his own innate righteousness. God revealed just a portion of His will and character—the letter of the law—to Israel, and its history powerfully demonstrates that, by himself, man is unable to live up to God's standards.

This should be a glaring testimony that some other means is required for man to have a relationship with his Creator. The solution is justification—being brought into alignment with God and His law—on the basis of belief in the Savior and His perfect sacrifice. This marks the beginning of the relationship. But because faith without works is dead, the way a man lives his life demonstrates who and what he believes in. If he has been justified before God and is being saved, his life will reflect God's mercy, providence, and sovereignty. We are not justified or saved by our works, but if we are justified our works will demonstrate that we are being saved. "Belief" in Christ will be an everyday, continual reality, and true belief will shape every thought, word, and deed.

David C. Grabbe


 

Galatians 3:23   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The verse continues the imagery of verse 22: The law was/is a jailor or a guard. There is but one way of escape—faith, and by extension the entire system that Christ brought—and all other avenues are cut off. By defining what is right and wrong, moral and immoral, the codified law shows man that there is but one solution: Not to do away with the law but to follow the path that Christ revealed and made possible.

It is sin that keeps us confined in a state of misery; sin represents the shackles of bondage and captivity. The law is merely the warden that shows why we are in bondage—the law itself is not bondage. It reveals to us why we are separated from God, and how we fail to live up to His standard. If this system were confined to just the elements of sin, man's sinful nature, and the codified law, mankind would be forever imprisoned because he would continually sin, and the law would continually condemn him—and keep him from his full potential.

With the introduction of faith in Jesus Christ, a way of escape from this perpetual cycle opens up: Through a relationship with God, our sins are forgiven, and we receive a portion of the same Spirit as the Lawmaker. The law is not done away with, but we are given the tools and the means to begin living as God does through the justification and sanctification processes. The law is also not the end or the goal. As we get closer to the goal (glorification—eternal life with God), we will exhibit more and more of the fruits that demonstrate the way God lives, behaves, interacts, etc., which are the intent behind the codified law.

David C. Grabbe


 

Galatians 4:1-5   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In verses 1-5, Paul draws an analogy in which he likens the Jew to a child who is waiting to come into an inheritance and the Gentile to a slave in the same household. He explains how, before the coming of Christ, the spiritual state of the Jew was no different from the Gentile because neither had had their sins forgiven nor had they received God's Spirit. Prior to the coming of Christ, both Jews and Gentiles were "in bondage under the elements of the world" (verse 3).

The word "elements" is the Greek stoicheion, which means any first thing or principal. "In bondage under the elements of the world" refers to the fact that the unconverted mind is subject to the influence of Satan and his demons, the rulers of this world and the authors of all idolatrous worship. Satan and his demons are the origin, the underlying cause, of the evil ways of this world, and all unconverted humans are under their sway. "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be" (Romans 8:7). Paul is saying that both Jews and Gentiles had been in bondage to sin and Satan.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Does Paul Condemn Observing God's Holy Days?


 

Galatians 4:1-3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul uses an analogy that is similar to Galatians 3:23-25, where he likens the Old Covenant to a tutor meant to teach, but his application is very different. He says, "Now I say," indicating a different approach to his instruction.

As long as an heir is a child, as long as he is immature and unable to inherit, he is not much different from a servant. The child's potential is much greater, and his future is much brighter, but in day-to-day actvities, he is restricted, limited, and controlled just as much as a servant of no lineage. The net effect of the immaturity is the loss of control. The child, like the servant, can only respond to what happens to him rather than having any power over his well-being or destiny.

Galatians 4:2 shows that the immature child is ruled over by others until the father, the one who gives the inheritance, decides that the heir can be freed from the grasp of the tutors and governors. This does not mean that at the "appointed time" the heir actually inherits from the father, but rather that at the appointed time he is no longer under the control of somebody else.

In this analogy, Paul does not say that the "tutors" and "governors" are positive elements, or that they are good for the child. He only says that they restrict the child and make him little better than a servant. Verse 3 likens the "tutelage" and "governance" to bondage, not like the schoolmaster of Galatians 3:24-25, which was meant to train and prepare.

In this series of verses, Paul is showing that until God the Father decides to drag someone out of this world (John 6:44), even though it has been preordained that they have a chance to "be a lord" and to inherit eternal life and other promises from the Father, they are powerless against the "elements of the world"—the rudiments of the cosmos, the world apart from God. These elements are demonic in nature. Before God called the Gentile Galatians, they were in bondage to sin and to Satan. Even though they had a higher potential—to inherit the Kingdom of God at the resurrection—until the appointed time when God saw fit to remove the shackles, they were just as controlled and powerless as the average servant of Satan.

Similar imagery is found in Colossians 2:20-22, where Paul was arguing against Gnosticism and asceticism:

Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles [rudiments, KJV] of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations—"Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle," which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men?

Paul is clearly not referring to a commandment of God, as verse Colossians 2:22 shows. He is referring to false, pagan teachings that are considered to be the "basic principles" or "rudiments" of the cosmos.

This is also shown in Ephesians 2:1-3:

And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

Before God redeems a man and "quickens" him—makes him alive—he walks according to the course of the cosmos. This passage shows clearly that the cosmos is ruled by the "prince of the power of the air," Satan the Devil. His spirit works in the children of disobedience, and they serve him. They are powerless in his grasp until God pays for them with the blood of His Son.

The "elements of the world" in Galatians 4:3 cannot be a reference to the Mosaic law, because the Gentile Galatians were never exposed to it until after their conversion—after God had ordained that they be taken out of the control of the "governors of this world" (Ephesians 6:12). The "elements of the world" are those basic things that make this cosmos what it is—a world apart from God. These elements are sinful, rebellious, and pagan.

It is blasphemous to say that anything that God ordained as a way to live (e.g., the Old Covenant) would put a man in bondage, when God's every intent is to free mankind from the bondage of Satan, sin, and human nature (Exodus 6:6; 20:2; Deuteronomy 5:6; 13:5,10; John 8:33-36; Romans 8:15). Would God liberate the Israelites from the bondage of Egypt (Exodus 1:14; 2:23; 6:5; Deuteronomy 6:12; 8:14; 26:6; Acts 7:6-7) only to shackle them again? On the contrary, He had their best interests in mind, providing for them a "schoolmaster"—the Old Covenant—which would be in effect until the Messiah came. Those who declare that the law of God brings one into bondage are pronouncing that they are anti-Christ: "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Romans 8:7).

God's law is not a burden. It is a definition of right and wrong and an extension of God's own character. It is the way that He lives, and there is no Being in the universe that has more freedom than God! James refers to the law of God as the "perfect law of liberty" (James 1:25), not the "law of bondage." He also calls it the "royal law" (James 2:8), not the "weak and beggarly law." Further, the apostle John was inspired to write in I John 5:3 that "this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous [burdensome]." It is the height of carnality and blasphemy to consider God's perfect, royal law of liberty to be a weak and beggarly element that keeps mankind in bondage.

Some have tried to use Galatians 4:3-5, 9-11 to argue that God's law in general, and the Sabbath in particular, has been "done away with." They twist these scriptures to try to say that God's law kept us in bondage, but now Jesus Christ has redeemed us from the law so we no longer need to keep the Sabbath(s) holy. This is ironic, because one of the fundamental meanings and symbols of the Sabbath is redemption and liberation—not from any moral law, but from slavery and bondage to Egypt (sin):

Keep the Sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee. Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work ... And remember that thou [were] a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out [redeemed, rescued, freed] thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the Sabbath day (Deuteronomy 5:12-13,15).

God had to instruct the Israelites about the Sabbath again because they had been in Egypt for centuries and had forgotten the instructions to their fathers. The Sabbath was reintroduced right after they were brought out of Egypt (Exodus 16), long before God made a covenant with Israel (Exodus 20). So, while the Sabbath command was a requirement included in the Old Covenant, its validity, importance, and necessity by no means ended when the Old Covenant became obsolete.

David C. Grabbe


 

Galatians 4:3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Who is "we"? When Paul uses "we" in this kind of context, it means church members, Christians—those of us who are brothers and sisters in the household of God. All of us—Israelite, Gentile, it does not matter who—have been in bondage to Satan and his demons to some extent, some more than others. All of us have been his slaves to varying degrees.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 23)


 

Galatians 4:3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The "days and months and seasons and years" of verse 10 do not refer to God's holy days, but rather to pagan, Gentile holidays that the Galatians observed before conversion in service to "those which by nature are not gods," as verse 8 says.

This, in turn, reinforces our understanding of "the elements of the world" in verse 3. It clearly does not say "the elements of God." Just like in Colossians 2, the "elements of the world" are clearly identified as being demons—personal powers that are capable of being worshipped. We are not dealing with something from God. However, they are elements, foundations, of the world.

A second important facet is that verse 3 mentions being "in bondage," that is, we were enslaved to the elements of the world. Bondage suggests something difficult to be borne, of oppression, of captivity, of withholding liberty. Notice James 2:11-12:

For He [God] who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty.

Consider this in relation to the bondage of Galatians 4:3. It puts these two concepts into direct opposition. There is a great difference between bondage and liberty; they are, in this sense, mutually exclusive. Galatians 4 is not talking about the law of God being a means of bondage.

Similarly, I John 5:3 says, "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome." Bondage is grievous, but keeping of God's law is not. Bondage gives a person difficulty, but keeping the commandments do not, for they are a law of liberty. Keeping God's commandments is freeing, liberating. It is not a burden. Love is never a burden but always supports, frees, and liberates.

It becomes very clear that the "elements of the world" and "bondage" of Galatians 4:3 do not refer to the law of God, nor does verse 10.

Judaism, though it was a very poor interpretation of God's Word, did at least have some basis in the Old Testament. When people read the book of Galatians and see all these references to "law" and "bondage," they immediately assume that Paul is speaking about Judaism. Indeed, Judaism is part of the picture, but not all of it. We can prove this from verse 9: "How is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements. . . ?" It would be about as close to blasphemy as one could get if a person—in this case, God's apostle—were to call something that God gave, intended to be good and liberating, "weak and beggarly" and tending to "bondage"!

Thus, the "days and months and seasons and years" is not something Paul wrote in reference to the law of God or even to Judaism. Instead, they are something apart from both of them.

Though Judaism is clearly within the context of Galatians, so also is pagan Gnosticism—which wormed its way into the church primarily through people in the area becoming members of the church, and through church members' contacts with friends outside of the church. We can tell from books like I, II, and III John that Gnosticism eventually grew to dominate the church of God in Asia Minor.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 24)


 

Galatians 4:5   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

It is an obscene fallacy to consider that mankind needs to be "redeemed" from God's law. The law does not keep one in bondage—sin does. The law just points out why that man is in bondage. As the notes at Galatians 4:3 show, God's intent and desire is to free us from the bondage of sin, just as He redeemed the Israelites from Egypt. Right before God gave Israel the Ten Commandments, in a preamble of sorts, He stated very clearly, "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage" (Exodus 20:2). God's law points out to people why they are reaping the negative consequences of the choices they make—why they are in bondage to sin and condemned to pay the physical and spiritual price.

Jesus Christ was supernaturally conceived ("made of a woman") and took on the consequence of all of our sins ("made under law"), so He could redeem—pay the price for—everyone who was also under the condemnation of the law. We are redeemed from the bondage of sin and its consequences, not from the perfect law of God! It should be noted that He did this for all men, not just for the Jews. Hence, the "redemption" could not be referring to redemption from the moral instructions of what is right and wrong, simply because the Gentile Galatians were not familiar with God's law before He called them.

Prior to God's call from this satanic system, we were Satan's children. We bore his image, and resembled him in word, deed, and attitude (Ephesians 2:1-3; John 8:38-44). When God calls us into a relationship with Him, He justifies us—brings us into alignment with His perfect law—and gives us a measure of His Spirit so we may begin to understand His ways. To those that He chooses and who properly respond, He gives the authority to become His sons (John 1:12). This sonship is by adoption, because our first father was Satan the Devil!

Genesis 1:26 shows that God's intent is to recreate Himself and to have a Family of spirit beings. Because He loves us, He gives us the opportunity to be called the "sons of God," which alienates us from the world because the world still bears the image of Satan (I John 3:1). Through the sanctification process we are changed, and become more and more in His likeness, and upon our resurrection we will be raised with incorruptible spirit bodies, fully part of the Kingdom—the Family—of God.

David C. Grabbe


 

Galatians 4:7   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul here gives a conclusion to verses 1-6. Before God's calling, we were servants—slaves—to sin and Satan (Romans 3:9; 5:12; 6:1-23; Ephesians 2:1-3). This present system of things, under Satan, was our "tutor" and "governor," not for instruction or safe-keeping but for keeping us controlled and limited. When we were spiritually immature—"children"— we were in bondage to the foundational principles and elements of this world.

At the time when God chooses, He calls us out from this cosmos, this world apart from Him. This is possible because Jesus Christ's atoning sacrifice bridges the gap, caused by sin, between God and the man that He chooses and causes to approach Him (Psalm 65:4). Christ became the "curse of the law," the penalty of death, for us and redeemed us from Satan and from sin's grasp so that we could begin to have a relationship with our Creator. Through the legal action of justification, God brings us into alignment with His holy law and takes away our sins and the eternal consequence of them—but He does not take away the law anymore than a civil governor does away with the law against murder when he gives a last-minute reprieve to a murderer.

To those individuals who hear and properly respond to God's summons, He gives the opportunity— the right!— to become His sons: "But as many as received Him, to them gave he power [authority] to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name" (John 1:12). This is symbolized by adoption, because Paul is emphasizing that prior to this time, we had another father—a supernatural being whose image we bore, whose deeds we followed, and whose words we spoke. It was this father that enslaved us, and it was his system that we all willingly participated in before God's intervention.

It was this system that the Galatians were returning to and which Paul was speaking against (Galatians 4:3, 8-11). Because of the price that Christ paid, God purchased those individuals that He has a plan for, and thus they became His "adopted" sons and heirs—but not yet inheritors—to the promises made to Abraham and to the Kingdom.

David C. Grabbe


 

Galatians 5:1   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The yoke of bondage is an approach to justification and salvation, or righteousness, that relies on a syncretism of Jewish ritualistic legalism and pagan practices (usually rites of purification), while at the same time avoiding the sacrifice of Christ. This means that what we believe and who we believe in will determine whether we will be justified. Why is this approach a yoke of bondage? It cannot free a person from the penalty of sin or from Satan. It does not provide forgiveness. It will not put one into a position to receive God's Holy Spirit.

Paul is not writing to do away with the law! He is writing to clarify lawkeeping's relationship to justification and what a person believes through justification. If Paul were writing to do away with law, much of what he wrote later on in chapter 5 would not be there.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 28)


 

Ephesians 1:6-7   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"Redemption" implies the payment of a ransom. We have been redeemed or bought back.

"Through His blood" reminds us that making the New Covenant cost Him His life (I Corinthians 11:25).

Forgiveness here suggests "to be loosened from bondage." The Greek word-picture is of somebody who is tied up by cords or ropes. Have we, as Christians, been loosened from a political entity, as the Israelites were redeemed from Egypt? No. Were we in bondage to another human being? No. Have we been freed from sin? Yes, that is what held us in bondage. The word translated "sins" is paráptoma, which indicates deviations from the right path. We have been held in bondage by our deviations from the right path, but now we have been loosed or freed from that bondage according to His grace.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Awesome Cost of Salvation


 

1 Peter 1:17-19   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Redeem means "to buy back." The essential purpose of biblical redemption is to deliver a person or thing from captivity or loss, and as such, it becomes an almost-perfect image for God's saving actions in behalf of sinning mankind. How much would we be willing to pay for the life of someone we love dearly? Kidnappers take perfidious advantage of this desire for the safety of a loved one. They steal a person precious to another—usually a child but sometimes a mate—and hold them for ransom to extort a grand sum of money they think will put them on easy street.

God the Father was willing to pay the ransom price for us by giving up the life of the One He loved most, His own Son, the only other being in all of creation that lived life on the same level as He did. He freely made this sacrifice in exchange for our liberty from our bondage to Satan and our debt to death at the same time. Likewise, the Son willingly volunteered to be the payment in full.

Now, let us turn this reality around and examine it from the perspective of the one released. As one released, how great a sense of loyalty and obligation born out of gratitude do we feel toward the One who came to our rescue by paying such a huge price for our freedom? Plainly and simply stated, this is the issue in regard to our spiritual obligation. This aspect of our salvation is one of the major themes of the book of Ruth. At one point in the narrative, Ruth prostrates herself at her redeemer's feet (Ruth 3:7-14), illustrating her recognition of her obligation.

The book of Philemon relates an interesting event in Paul's life in which he calls upon Philemon's sense of gratitude and obligation to him. In verse 8, Paul says he could use his authority to order Philemon to accept the slave Onesimus back, charging any debt he owed Philemon to Paul. However, he appeals to him through other means. In verse 19, he delivers a double-barreled proposition. First, Paul himself writes in his own hand that he will repay any of Onesimus' indebtedness, putting Philemon in greater-than-normal obligation. Then, Paul reminds him that he owes Paul his very life spiritually. He implies that Philemon's spiritual indebtedness to him should more than cover any material debt Onesimus owed to Philemon.

Therefore, Paul suggests that Philemon charge it to his account. What Paul did for Onesimus reflects in a small way what Christ did for us. As Paul laid himself out for Onesimus, Christ did for us in a much greater way to pay our spiritual indebtedness and set us free. As Paul claims Philemon's indebtedness to him, so Christ claims our indebtedness to Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Four): Obligation


 

Find more Bible verses about Bondage, Spiritual:
Bondage, Spiritual {Torrey's}
 




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