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Bible verses about Slavery
(From Forerunner Commentary)

A slave is a person whose liberty to make many choices in life has been either given or taken away. Virtually all people want to be free to make, at the very least, the most critical choices in life. Slaves feel a distinct and sometimes emotionally painful loss of control. Nobody wants circumstances or another person dictating what they should or should not do. But slavery of the worst sort, spiritual slavery, follows in the wake of sin.

Jesus Himself asserts in John 8:34, "Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin." When a person sins, he is not really doing what he likes but what sin likes. Even though a person may enjoy his sin while he is doing it, the person is not in control, but sin is. This is doubly so when one sins with knowledge. I Corinthians 6:12 shows that Paul clearly understood this: "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any." He is proclaiming that he would not be the slave of any practice that might corrupt his mind or his witness and destroy his liberty to do his job well.

Genesis 4:7 gives us God's directive regarding what we should do about sin. "If you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it." Our responsibility is clear. We are not to allow sin to dictate our choices. To do so ensures yielding our liberty to make right choices. This requires not only knowledge but also the will to exercise vision, love, duty, and the fear of God in the form of self-control.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Seven): Fear of Judgment


 

Genesis 46:1-7

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


 

Genesis 47:18-20

Many people conceive of ancient Egypt as having a small ruling aristocracy, a priestly caste, and a military class, and then millions and millions of slaves. Yet, that is not how it was at all—at least not before this tribulation. What we witness in the story of the seven years of famine is instead a picture of a free people who became slaves, selling their livelihoods, their land, and finally themselves to the government. The tribulation of that day was so great that the Egyptians literally "sold the farm" to Pharaoh.

Charles Whitaker
The Other Great Tribulation


 

Genesis 49:22

The people of Joseph are a productive lot. To produce goods and services requires a vast amount of energy—call it zeal, enthusiasm, or drive. They live in a well-watered land that enhances agriculture and industry. The people are so driven that they extend their influence and zeal beyond the boundaries of their countries.

Historically, the people of Joseph have moved into other countries, taken the raw materials to make their products, built manufacturing plants, and influenced the native culture. When the British or Americans colonized, they brought their way of life and imposed it on the natives. Americans continue to introduce movies, television, rock music, household appliances, big cars, etc., to impoverished nations around the globe.

These things just typify the inherent drive of the people of Joseph, a proclivity to expand beyond the frontiers in every endeavor. They are an aggressive and innovative people in science, industry, education, government, and religion. This is generally beneficial and productive, but in one area, religion, it has profound repercussions. Satan has taken advantage of this characteristic, producing a religion that allows Israelites to think that they are Christian and yet still be free to explore the frontiers of religious thought.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Christmas, Syncretism, and Presumption


 

Exodus 12:26-27

What is the Passover? Right from the start, God knew that young people would ask this very same question: "And it shall be, when your children say to you, 'What do you mean by this service?'" (Exodus 12:26). So He prepared an answer for them: "It is the Passover sacrifice of the LORD, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians and delivered our households" (verse 27).

Passover is a memorial day—a very important anniversary day. However, it commemorates three events, not just one. As God said, it commemorates the tenth and last plague upon ancient Egypt in which, after giving them ample warning, God passed over the nation of Egypt and killed all the firstborn in the land. Through this decimating plague, God freed the children of Israel from their captivity and servitude in Egypt.

Secondly, and most importantly, it commemorates the death of Jesus Christ, who was and is the firstborn Son of God the Father. Through Jesus' awful death—which, by God's design, took place on Passover day in AD 31—God freed us, regenerated Christians, from our captivity and slavery to the world, to Satan, and to sin.

Finally, it commemorates the baptism of each Christian, when we formally accepted the death of Jesus Christ, when we asked Him to apply His priceless sacrifice to our sins, when we asked that He would cover and blot out our sins with His blood (Psalm 41:1, 9; Acts 3:19; Romans 4:7).

Staff
What Is the Passover Anyway?


 

Exodus 19:1-2

These and the following verses reveal that the Israelites progressed by various stages to the Promised Land. Slavery in Egypt was a type of being part of the world. Coming out of Egypt was a type of redemption or justification. The journey through the wilderness was a type of sanctification, and entering into the Promised Land was a type of salvation.

We see several clear steps in this process. Which took the longest time? Their sanctification! They came out with a high hand: "Yeah! We're free. Everything is fine. This is going to be a lark!" But where did they do all their crying? Where did they go hungry? Where did they experience pain? Where did they quake with fear? Where did they have their greatest tests? Where did they fail? In the wilderness, in the type of sanctification.

Why did they fail? Hebrews 4:1-2 makes it clear: They failed because their faith broke down during the portion of God's plan called sanctification. We might say today, they couldn't hack it. They could not endure to the end. Thus, as these verses say, their bodies were strewn from one end of the wilderness to the other.

As mentioned, being freed from Egypt pictures redemption or justification, but there was a great deal more to come. They had to walk for a lifetime - roughly 40 years - before they approached the Promised Land. Walking out of Egypt was only the beginning.

So it is with us and the receiving of our inheritance.

One of the first things that God did after He freed Israel was to enter into a covenant with them and to reveal His laws to them. There is a parallel, a pattern, here. Many want to do away with the laws of God, but if we do that - from the clear pattern shown in the Old Covenant - then we are destroying the rules of the game. It is nullifying part of the very elements necessary for our purification, which prepares us to inherit the Kingdom of God.

The revelation of the law was necessary to prepare Israel and to set down the rules for their relationships between themselves and with God. The law was designed to prepare them to be fit to live in their inheritance. It did not save or redeem them - God did that. The law's purpose was to prepare them.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 8)


 

Numbers 11:18

How quickly they forgot! They were slaves in Egypt. They may have had a variety of food, but they were slaves. Was that a good trade-off? Would we rather be free or have good food? If we take the food, we fall into the same category as Esau. What do we want—the sensual stimulation that the world can provide or eternal life? It comes down to questions like that. What do we want? Are we going to crave it, or are we going to follow God?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Passover and I Corinthians 10


 

Deuteronomy 5:12-15

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 5:15

In preparation for Israel to enter the Promised Land, Moses repeats the commandments in Deuteronomy 5. The Sabbath command here has a significant change from its wording in Exodus 20. The emphasis here is to remember our slavery and, by implication, being free. "Remember that you were once a slave. Observe this day to remain free." The Sabbath draws us to remember the past and consider where we are headed. We do this by remembering that the Sabbath is a memorial of creation and a type of the Millennium.

The ministry enhances this through the messages they preach about the world today and the world tomorrow. In some way, most sermons involve sin, which can bring us into slavery. James, though, calls the Ten Commandments "the law of liberty" (James 2:12). By keeping them, we remain free of enslavement to Satan and this world. On the Sabbath, God instructs His people through His Word about how to keep His commandments and thus remain free.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part One) (1997)


 

Deuteronomy 5:15

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)


 

Proverbs 12:24

On a national scale, we might say this contrasts those who diligently guard their freedoms and rule themselves to those who through laziness have been conquered and forced into slavery. Whatever scale we apply to this, Solomon reveals an ethical principal at work. Unless and until he changes his ways, a lazy person will descend to being a servant to others, while a diligent person will grow, prosper, and control his own life.

Spiritually, the stakes are far higher. Those who strive to master themselves—to exercise self-control to live God's way—will rule in the Kingdom of God (Revelation 3:21; 5:10), while those who slothfully neglect this task could possibly lose everything. Notice Paul's warning in Hebrews 2:1-3:

Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him . . . ?

John O. Reid (1930-2016)
Remaining Unleavened


 

Jeremiah 51:6-7

Literally, the original Hebrew of the first half of verse 7 means, "A golden cup is Babel in the hand of Yahweh, intoxicating the whole earth." Jeremiah sees the material splendor of Babylon, but the "wine" that she makes the nations of the earth drink will result in God's wrath coming down upon them. As God's hammer, Babylon was strong, and as His cup of gold, she was rich and beautiful—but neither saves her from ruin. Jeremiah therefore admonishes everyone to flee this perverse, world-ruling system.

The global scourge of slavery is the essence of the Babylonian slavery system that the prophet Jeremiah warned about. It exists in its zenith in the last days. Babylon's perversion, audacity, and pride represent the height of direct defiance against almighty God. This humanly devised governmental, religious, educational, and economic system controlling the world today originates from Satan's initial rebellion against God. Satan, the Adversary, has done a tremendous job of enslaving the whole world under his system of slavery.

Martin G. Collins
Slavery and Babylon


 

Ezekiel 18:24

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)


 

Ezekiel 20:3-8

Perhaps no other chapter in the Bible shows as clearly as Ezekiel 20 the critical importance for the people of God to keep the Sabbath. Ezekiel does not record the question or questions the elders asked of God, but we can ascertain them from God's reply. They seem to have been something like, "Why are we having all this trouble? Why are we in captivity? When can we expect to return to Jerusalem?" God specifically names part of the problem when He says that He commanded them to get rid of "the abominations which were before their eyes." These things, obviously abominations to God, were a delight to the Israelites because they did not cast them away.

God clearly shows that part of the answer is that they were committing idolatry. In Ezekiel 20:12-13, He involves the Sabbath in their problems. Six times in this one chapter, God links idolatry and breaking the Sabbath as causes of their captivity. It is accurate to understand Sabbath breaking as just another form of idolatry. God gave the Sabbath to Israel and to us that we might know the true God, be sanctified, fulfill our purpose in witnessing of Him before the world, and be changed and inherit His Kingdom. Israel failed utterly. God cut them off, and they went back into slavery and captivity.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part One) (1997)


 

Amos 1:6-8

The accusation against the cities of Philistia shifts from the battleground to the marketplace. Other parts of the Bible indicate that they took a large number of Israelites captive; they sold a whole nation into slavery for profit (II Chronicles 21:16-17; Joel 3:1-6). Amos reminds them that human welfare is more important than commercial profit.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part One)


 

Habakkuk 1:14-17

Verses 14-17 use an extended metaphor in which the Chaldeans are seen as fishermen and the peoples of Judah and the nations around them are the fish. Habakkuk visualizes the people, especially his own, as fish in a barrel! They cannot escape—easy pickings for the cruel Chaldeans. Whether by hook or by net, these evil Gentiles will have their way with the Judeans—because God is letting them!

This, of course, makes the Chaldeans pretty happy (verse 15). It is like shooting fish in a barrel! To the prophet, it makes no sense; it seems as if God is acting against His own people. The enemy is happy, wealthy, and powerful because God is not punishing their wickedness, and the Judeans are being killed, enslaved, robbed, and beaten to a pulp! In effect, Habakkuk is accusing God of letting them get away with murder!

In verse 16, Habakkuk speaks of the Chaldeans "sacrific[ing] to their net." Their net is a symbol of their weapons of warfare, their means of conquering the nations around them and gaining wealth. This is similar to Daniel 11:37-39, where Gabriel prophesies that the King of the North will honor "a god of fortresses."

Finally, the prophet asks, "Are You going to continue to allow them to get away with all this?" (verse 17). With this, his frustrations seem to abate, and he concludes in Habakkuk 2:1 with a remark that is very smart and wise.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Habakkuk


 

Luke 4:16-19

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


 

John 8:34

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 8:34-35

A slave is one who is at the disposal of his master. He has no right to choose his path in life or, in fact, even his daily routine. The master makes those choices since he owns the slave. Verse 35 reveals how spiritually serious this is in relation to God, sin, and everlasting life since the slave does not abide in the house forever. "The house" implies God's house. From a statement like this, John later infers that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him (I John 3:15). This is very serious business.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Seven): Fear of Judgment


 

John 15:13-15

John 15:13-15 presents us with an interesting and exciting expansion of our place within our relationship with Christ. Redemption, at first glance, elevates us from being a slave of unrighteousness and Satan to being a slave of righteousness and Jesus Christ. Yet, here Christ elevates our calling to an almost unimaginable height—intimate friendship with Him and the Father.

In many cases, our understanding and therefore our appreciation of this falls short of what it should be. Few or none of us have known either the depths of actual, physical slavery to another individual or the heights of walking the halls of power. In ancient Rome, the friends of the Caesar had greater access to him than his governmental counselors and military advisors. History says they had access to him at all times, even into his bedchambers.

A slave would never know such a relationship. A slave never receives a reason for the work assigned him; he simply must do it because he has no other choice. However, a friend of Christ is a confidant of the One in power, who shares the knowledge of His purpose with him. Then the friend voluntarily adopts it as his own, perhaps for no other reason than the basis of their friendship.

We do not follow Christ simply because of some chance impulse. We have been specifically chosen, summoned by Him to be His friend! Here is our obligation set boldly and clearly before us: "You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give it you" (John 15:16). We have been specifically appointed, ordained, placed in this unique relationship that we may produce the right things in life.

At first, our obligation rests upon the fact of Jesus giving Himself as the price of our spiritual redemption from slavery and death. If we have any sense at all—any discernment of what He has rescued us from and what He has given us the opportunity to possess—our sense of gratitude should explode in zeal and motivate us to loyalty because we owe Him so much!

Our sense of obligation is further built and strengthened by the knowledge that we have been specifically summoned and appointed to share in an intimate, loving, family relationship and friendship that He sustains through His office as High Priest. If we have any sense of gratitude for His work in intervening, leading, guiding, correcting, and perfecting our character so that we produce much fruit and love one another, our sense of obligation will be further stirred to ensure that we do not let Him down in any area of life. We will always strive to glorify Him.

This motivational factor is largely dependent upon feeling—but not the sickeningly sweet sentimentality of some of this world's Christianity. This feeling is derived from a clear understanding of what has been done and continues to be done in our behalf. This deep, heartfelt, and comprehending feeling arises in the minds of people who have had firsthand experience with the suffering that sin and death bring. They know in their heart of hearts that they are guilty of rebellion against this wonderful Personality who created us, died for us, and continues to be our friend through thick and thin. They know He greatly desires that friendship to continue for all eternity because He is changing us to be like Him and be one with Him.

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


 

Romans 6:4

The apostle Paul informs us in Romans 6:6 that, when we were submerged in the waters of baptism, "our old man was crucified with [Christ], that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin." Once this has occurred, "just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life" (verse 4).

Every Christian, then, is a new man, no longer living the old life of sin and slavish obedience to human nature. Paul says later in the chapter that, "having been set free from sin, [we] became slaves of righteousness" (verse 18). Because the new man is a new creation (II Corinthians 5:17), he is to be renewed in mind (Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:23; Colossians 3:10) and conduct (Titus 3:5, 8; Ephesians 4:22; Colossians 3:10, 12). Ring out the old, ring in the new, and the new man begins his walk toward perfection (Hebrews 6:1).

Charles Whitaker
Choosing the New Man (Part Two)


 

Romans 6:15-16

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

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 6:16-19

We are seen here as the servant of the one we obey; we are under its authority. If man is the source of the morality we submit to, then man is our sovereign. As long as this sovereign agrees with God's standards, then idolatry is no problem. If we broaden this to include the state, whether democratic or socialistic, then the state is the sovereign. But in broadening the scope, the chance that idolatry will enter the equation also increases.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The First Commandment (1997)


 

Romans 9:19-24

The question Paul poses is natural for those who do not have the faith and thus have not really submitted to God. The far more important question for the converted is, "Does He not have the right to do as He pleases with us, since He is not only our Creator, but He has also purchased us from our spiritual bondage to sin through the payment of His sinless Son's lifeblood?" We therefore belong to Him, and He sees us now as both sons and slaves. God fully expects us to be slaves of righteousness even as we were once slaves to sin (Romans 6:15-23). A slave is one whose master makes his choices.

The majority of us have been born into cultures where literal, physical slavery is no longer practiced. We have no direct experience with it, though most of us have at least an intellectual understanding of some aspects of it. Consider, then, the relationship between master and slave. The apostles had a good reason to use the word that means "slave" (doulos). They wanted us to understand that in our relationship with God we not only experience the joys of freedom as His children but also the serious requirement to obey as His slaves.

Suppose the Master summons a slave to meet with him every seventh day for instruction and fellowship with Him and His other slaves, and the slave refuses, saying he has something more important to do. This "something more important" does not necessarily have to be working for pay. Perhaps his justification for staying away is, "I learn more studying by myself at home," or "So many 'unspiritual' people are there that I no longer feel comfortable." Suppose the Master says the slave is to pay back ten percent of his increase to Him, but the slave says, "I have other, more important things to do with my money."

Once we understand this, it becomes apparent where our parent church headed in regard to sovereignty. The leaders quickly changed many doctrines—and thus the theology of the entire institution—subtly turning the tables in the relationship. They made the slave the master by giving him the right to decide what is law and what is not, as well as permission to change established priorities. This is virtually the same ploy Satan used on Adam and Eve when he said, "You will be as God."

Who is the sovereign and who is the slave is one of the points Paul makes in Romans 9. Understanding that God is sovereign and we are the slaves and translating this into loving submission are essential to our relationship with Him. This absolutely requires trusting Him. Those without the faith cannot do this because they do not believe as God does. To have the faith of Christ, we must believe what Christ believes. Will anyone be in God's Kingdom who does not believe as God does?

As we have experienced this life, most of us at one time or another have considered whether God is fair. Our Creator has designed experiences to bring this question to mind so we might consider as many ramifications of it as possible. We usually glean most of our information from the disasters and tragedies of human life. What we often lack are His perspective and truth. As He gives these through the revelation of Himself, we begin to perceive His loving grace, abundant generosity, infinite patience, ready forgiveness, stable oversight, and unswerving commitment to concluding His wonderful purpose successfully.

Those who see Him as unfair are usually ignorant of what is really going on because they have not yet been given eyes to see that they are included in His plan. Mankind's disasters and tragedies have their roots in sin, but God did not will man to sin. Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 7:29, "Truly, this only I have found: that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes." Mankind has chosen to bring disaster and tragedy upon himself. God is gradually removing the ignorance that holds mankind in thrall to choices that kill him. He has removed this ignorance from us already, and we are therefore free to choose life, as God commands in Deuteronomy 30:19.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Six


 

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

The picture here is of a slave being purchased from the horrible system of slavery. Redemption implies the buying back of something or the paying of a ransom. Paul's illustration is that we have been bought from slavery to sin. Up to the point of redemption, our lives have been the lives of slaves.

What we have received is the most expensive gift that has ever been given to purchase mere slaves. We have been bought with a price—the very life of the Creator. Paul is undoubtedly using this illustration to emphasize to us that, because we have been purchased, we are under obligation to the One who purchased us. As he writes, "Therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's." In other words, he is imploring us to become holy. This is our moral responsibility as purchased slaves.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Awesome Cost of Salvation


 

Galatians 1:4

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" (Phillips). 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
Childrearing (Part 3)


 

Galatians 4:1-5

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 4:3

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 4:6

Because we have been adopted, because God has redeemed us from our former father/owner, He gave us a measure of the same Spirit—that vital, animating essence that He and the Son share (John 15:26). The Holy Spirit links our mind to God's (Romans 8:16; I Corinthians 2:10-16) and allows us to begin to see things as He sees them—to discern spiritually.

David C. Grabbe


 

Galatians 4:9-10

The common, traditional explanation of Galatians 4:9-10 is that Paul is reprimanding the Galatians for returning to Old Testament observances that were a form of "bondage." Insisting that Paul taught that the Old Testament law was "done away" (Colossians 2:14), they conclude that Christians should not keep the days that God had commanded Israel to keep. In verse 10, Paul mentions observances of "days and months and seasons and years." Some contend that these observances refer to God's Sabbath and holy days commanded in the Old Testament. But this interpretation overlooks many foundational points.

Galatia was not a city but a province in Asia Minor. The church membership was undoubtedly composed mainly of Gentiles, and the males were physically uncircumcised (Galatians 5:2; 6:12-13). In looking at Paul's initial dealings with these people, we find that they had a history of worshipping pagan deities. In Lystra, a city in Galatia, God healed a crippled man through Paul (Acts 14:8-18). The people of the area were so astonished at this miracle that they supposed Barnabas and Paul, whom they called Zeus and Hermes (verse 12), to be pagan gods! They wanted to sacrifice to them, and would have, if the apostles had not stopped them (verses 13-18). This shows that the people in Galatia were generally superstitious and worshipped pagan deities.

The major theme of the Galatian epistle is to put them "back on the track" because someone had been teaching "a different gospel," a perversion of the gospel of Christ (Galatians 1:6-7). The Galatians had derailed on their understanding of how sinners are justified. False teachers in Galatia taught that one was justified by doing physical works of some kind. The majority of evidence indicates that the false teachers were teaching a blend of Judaism and Gnosticism. The philosophy of Gnosticism taught that everything physical was evil, and that people could attain a higher spiritual understanding through effort. It was the type of philosophy that its adherents thought could be used to enhance or improve anyone's religion. In Paul's letter to the Colossians, we read of this same philosophy having an influence on the church there. It was characterized by strict legalism, a "taste not, touch not" attitude, neglect of the body, worship of angels, and a false humility (Colossians 2:18-23).

What, then, were the "days, months, seasons and years" that Paul criticizes the Galatians for observing? First, Paul nowhere in the entire letter mentions God's holy days. Second, the apostle would never refer to holy days that God instituted as "weak and beggarly elements." He honored and revered God's law (Romans 7:12, 14, 16). Besides, he taught the Corinthians to observe Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread (I Corinthians 5:7-8), and he kept the Sabbath and holy days himself (Acts 16:13; 18:21; 20:6; I Corinthians 16:8).

When the scriptures in question are put into context, the explanation of what these days were becomes clear. In Galatians 4:1-5, 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.

In Galatians 4:8, Paul brings up the subject of the idolatry and paganism that they had participated in before their conversion. "But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods." This obviously refers to the worship of pagan deities (Acts 14:8-18). He is making it clear that God had called them out of that way of life. Paul continues this thought in verse 9, where his obvious concern was that the Galatians were returning to the way of life from which God had called them. The "weak and beggarly elements" were demon-inspired, idolatrous practices, NOT something God had commanded. "Elements" here is the same word, stoicheion, translated "elements" in verse 3. An extension of stoicheion can refer to the heavenly bodies that regulate the calendar and are associated with pagan festivals. The apostle condemns the practices and way of life that had been inspired by Satan and his demons, the principal cause of all the world's evil. Paul recognized that the Galatians had begun to return to their former slavish, sinful practices.

It is evident that the "days, months, seasons and years" Paul refers to in verse 10 were the pagan, idolatrous festivals and observances that the Galatian Gentiles had observed before their conversion. They could not possibly be God's holy days because these Gentiles had never observed them before being called, nor would Paul ever call them "weak and beggerly." Rather, they were turning back to their old, heathen way of life that included keeping various superstitious holidays connected to the worship of pagan deities.

Far from doing away with God's holy days, these scriptures show that we should not be observing "days, months, seasons and years" that have their roots in paganism, such as Christmas, Easter, Valentine's Day, Halloween, and any other days that originated from the worship of pagan gods.

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


 

Galatians 5:13-15

If we are self-serving and destructive, we will end up tearing each other apart, but if we serve one another in love, we will build the church. After He redeemed us, God gave us great freedom of mind, action, and choice. He has freed us from the curse of the law—the death penalty. He has freed us from the fear of death, from enslavement to sin, and so on.

Then He says, once we are freed, we need to use this freedom to serve. This is where the idea of being a slave of righteousness enters the picture. He severed our relationship from our former master (sin, Satan, the world), freed us, and then took us into slavery to Himself and to serving our brethren in righteousness.

Of course, as Paul said here, this fulfills the intent of God's law: love, outgoing concern, the way of give.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
It Takes a Church


 

Colossians 3:22

We need to understand that what Paul is writing - "servants obey in all things" - excludes breaking the commands of God. He means obey all things pertaining to one's occupation.

Slavery was an accepted practice in Roman culture. Everybody who was anybody had slaves. Rome's population (just the city of Rome) has been estimated at well over one million people during the time that this book was written. One-half of the people in the city were slaves! And they were not, in most cases, just menial workers; slavery extended into the professions. In those days, doctors were often slaves, as were schoolteachers. Slavery extended into every area of society.

Were the apostles social crusaders? No, they were not. They did not try to change society. Their job was to work on changing individuals, especially those within the church. God permitted slavery to exist, and through Paul, He told Christians to operate within it. Not to overthrow it, but to work within it. Nobody is saying that the Bible says slavery is good. The Bible does not say such a thing. God wants everyone to be free. In this case, though, slavery was a part of the culture, and God nowhere instructs His people to overthrow it.

Today, very few people have ever been a slave like those whom Paul was addressing here. However, most of us work for a living, and the principle holds true for that area.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 2)


 

1 Timothy 6:1

Slavery is not prevalent today, but the principle is obvious: Respect the boss. Ephesians 6:5-8 says we should sincerely obey, respect, and serve a boss as if he were Christ Himself. Nowhere does Paul say our boss must first act like Christ before being given that respect.

Staff
A Matter of Honor


 

Find more Bible verses about Slavery:
Slavery {Nave's}
 




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