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Righteousness Language In Paul’s Writings

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I’m a radical believer in God’s radical grace. So I’ve got to deal with righteousness because a lot of confusion and guesswork and mere impressions have dominated discussions about the righteousness of God.

Is it imputed? (Yes). Is it imparted? (Yes). Can it mean vindication? (Yes). Justice? (Yes). Holiness? (Yes). Declared not guilty in a forensic or courtroom setting? (Yes). Putting things right in a covenant context? (Yes).

The same word righteousness and its cognates mean all those things, depending on the context.

Together let’s discover what they mean in this study.

English has to deal with “righteousness” and “justice” as if they come from two different stems in Greek, but they do not. Both righteousness and justice come from the dik- stem in Greek.

In fact, here are the other related words that also share the dik- stem. “Righteousness” or “justice” is dikaiosynê; “justification” is dikaiôsis; “to justify” or “pronounce righteous” is dikaioô; righteous deed or regulation is dikaiôma; also, dikaiokrisis is “righteous judgment”; endikos is “just”; and “punishment” or “penalty” is dikê. Antonyms: adikia “unrighteousness”; adikos “unrighteous.”

In this article, however, we look at the verb dikaioô (to justify, declare righteous in Paul) and the noun dikaiosunê (righteousness) and dikaiôsis (justification). We don’t have the time to include the adjective dikaios (righteous).

If you would like to see the verses in various translations, you may go to and type in the references.

See the companion article Righteousness Language in the OT.

Justified Or Declared Righteous (dikaioô)

This section uses the ESV.

1. To be justified is to be vindicated in the face of accusations from enemies.

4 By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written,

“That you may be justified in your words,
and prevail when you are judged.” (Rom. 3:4; Ps. 51:4)

33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. (Rom. 8:33)

3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. (1 Cor. 4:3-5)

16 Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:

He was manifested in the flesh,
vindicated by the Spirit,
seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory. (1 Tim. 3:16)

2. Paul speaks about the standards of God and implies from the rest of Romans that humans can’t meet them.

12 For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. … 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. (Rom. 2:12-13, Rom. 2:16)

3. God justifies us apart from the law (our law keeping).

19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. (Rom. 3:19-20)

28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. (Rom. 3:28)

11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Gal. 3:11)

2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. (Gal. 5:2-4)

4. God justifies us apart from our works and works of the law.

26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. (Rom. 3:26-28)

1 What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness (Rom. 4:1-5)

15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! (Gal. 2:15-17)

5. God justifies us freely by grace and faith.

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift. (Rom. 3:23-24)

26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. … 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one – who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. (Rom. 3:26, Rom. 3:29-31)

1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom. 5:1)

24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. (Gal. 3:24)

7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Ti. 3:7)

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it – 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. (Rom. 3:21-24)

6. The Spirit Himself justifies us.

11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor. 6:11)

7. God justifies us by Christ’s sacrificial blood.

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. (Rom. 3:23-25)

9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. (Rom. 5:9)

8. We are freed and acquitted from sin (sin accusing us).

7 For one who has died has been set free [ESV notes: has been justified] from sin. (Rom. 6:7)

9. God calls us to be justified and then he has glorified us.

30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Rom. 8:30)

Righteousness (dikaiosunê) And Justification (dikaiôsis)

Paul surely has these all of the main OT ideas in his mind when he writes about the righteousness of God. But now all their OT meanings are fulfilled in Christ. Therefore his theology is much more personal and Spirit-based. He is writing to Spirit-filled, small communities. It should be noted that the Reformers distinguished between God’s own righteousness, and his free gift of righteousness that he provides to all who believe in Christ. It is this latter meaning that is intended by “God’s righteousness” (see the list that follows).

1. God’s righteousness implies that no one is righteous by his absolute standards.

5 But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? … 10 There is no one righteous, not even one (Rom. 3:5, 10, citing Pss. 14:1-3; 53:13)

2. God’s righteousness is apart from the law and comes through faith in Christ and saves us.

21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. (Rom. 3:21-22)

25 God presented him [Christ] as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. (Rom. 3:25-26)

23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (Rom. 4:23-25)

30 What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. 32 Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the “stumbling stone.” (Rom. 9:30-32)

3 Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. … 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: 9 That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. 11 As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Rom. 10:3-4, Rom. 10:8-13)

In that long passage in Rom. 10:3-4, Rom. 10:8-13 God saves or rescues us through our faith energized by the gospel.

9 If the ministry that condemns men is glorious [law of Moses], how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness [ the gospel of Christ]! (2 Cor. 3:9)

21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Gal. 2:21)

21 Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. 22 But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. (Gal. 3:21-22)

4 You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5 But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. (Gal. 5:4-5)

9 … not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. (Php. 3:9)

3. God’s righteousness is built into the gospel, from faith to faith.

16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” (Rom. 1:16-17)

4. Abraham shows God’s righteousness can be credited or imputed to our account.

1 We say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. 3 What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 4 Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. 5 However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. 6 David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works … 10 We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. (Rom. 4:1-6, 10, emphasis added)

That long passage clarifies that when we work, we earn money. The employer owes it to us. When we don’t work, but get money anyway, that’s a gift. It has been freely credited to our account.

23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. (Rom. 4:23-24)

6 Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 7 Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. 8 The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” 9 So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. (Gal. 3:6-9)

5. God’s righteousness is therefore a gift by grace.

17 … How much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. (Rom. 5:17)

5 He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. (Ti. 3:5)

6. God’s righteousness means grace reigns and brings eternal life through Christ.

18 Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. (Rom. 5:18)

21 … Grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom. 5:21)

7. God’s righteousness means that Christ is our righteousness.

30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. (1 Cor. 1:30)

21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor. 5:21)

Imparted Righteousness

The context of these verses helps us distinguish between the two meanings of justification and imparted righteousness or sanctification.

Now that we have received the gift of righteousness, the Spirit can work it out in our lives. This process is known as sanctification or growing up in Christ. Righteousness is imputed. That’s our legal standing. And righteousness is imparted. That’s what we apply in our living. Righteousness affects our conduct. Both imputation and impartation can happen at the same time. In fact they should happen at the same time.

1. Righteousness means we can offer our body, our whole person, as instruments or even slaves of righteousness.

13 and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. (Rom. 6:13-14)

16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Rom. 6:16)

18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. 19 I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. (Rom. 6:18-19)

10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. (Rom. 8:10)

24 And to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph. 4:24)

8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. (Eph. 5:8-10)

2. Pursue righteousness.

11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. (1 Tim. 6:11)

22 Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. (2 Tim. 2:22)

3. Righteousness can become our weapons and armor.

4 Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: … 7 with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left … (2 Cor. 6:4, 7)

14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place (Eph. 6:14)

4. Righteousness is not compatible with wickedness.

14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? (2 Cor. 6:14)

13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15 It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve. (2 Cor. 11:13-15)

8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. (Eph. 5:8-11)

5. Righteousness can lead to a harvest of righteousness or good deeds.

10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. (2 Cor. 9:10)

9 And this is my prayer: that [you may be] 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. (Php. 1:9, 11)

6. The kingdom of God is righteousness, as we serve others.

17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. (Rom. 14:17-18)

7. A crown of righteousness awaits us.

5 But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. (Gal. 5:5)

6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Tim. 4:6-8)


Putting things right in a covenant context and declared righteous or acquitted in a forensic (law court) setting do not need to conflict. When God declares you not-guilty or acquits you and yes, puts a robe of righteousness on you, you are put right in the New Covenant.

After (or at the same time) you are acquitted in the divine court of law, God expects you to walk like a free person, declared not guilty. He expects you to behave yourself, to walk in righteousness. That’s called sanctification. Since all analogies are weak, the human judge cannot send his spirit into you to sanctify you. But God is the heavenly judge. He can and does send his Spirit into you. He is called the Holy Spirit. He leads you towards holiness.

After that big-picture overview, now let’s turn to a summary of the biblical data.

People are declared righteous or just, not because of their good behavior, but because of their faith in Jesus Christ. So God sees the bad behavior of the sinner. But God notes that he has turned in repentance and faith in Christ who forgives the sinner. Christ pays his debt. Then God declares the sinner righteous and not guilty. The sinner is no longer a debtor because his debt of sin has been paid in full, by Christ.

Now we can study Paul’s doctrine of righteousness and justification. His epistles are much, much shorter than the OT. But he packs a lot of theology into them. He takes over some themes from the OT, but clearly goes in new directions. After all, the Messiah had come and the Spirit was given. They account for some huge differences between the two covenants.

Justified, Righteousness, and Justification

All three words have the same Greek stem dik-.

In the big picture, The Messiah came. Paul met him in revelations. How does the Messiah match up with the OT standard of righteousness? Would he reestablish the law of Moses in its entirety? Partially? Paul works out sanctification after we are justified e.g. in Rom. 6-8; Rom. 12-16; Gal. 5-6; Eph. 4-6.

One more piece of the big picture: The Spirit came. Paul experienced him. So how does he work with righteousness? How does the Spirit relate to the law of Moses? Now Israel was not the only chosen people; Gentiles were chosen too.

Paul is ambiguous about the law of Moses. The law brings wrath and exposes or intensifies sin. Both Jews and Gentiles need to be rescued or saved from God’s judgment and wrath.

Righteousness and justification has to go in a different direction from law keeping.

Paul zeroes in on Abraham’s faith, who was the father of faith 400+ years before the law of Moses. Abraham was credited with righteousness before he was circumcised, even though circumcision was the sign of being in a covenant, now an old covenant. Keying off Abraham, both Jews and Gentiles can be credited with righteousness by faith. Paul teaches that faith apart from works of the law puts the legal declaration (to justify) in motion.

The Spirit and grace work in a person (even if he does not realize it). To be justified by grace is to be declared righteous apart from doing the law. This declaration has to come through the Messiah and the Spirit, not the law of Moses.

Vindication has to go in a different direction from a narrow restoration of one nation. In fact, vindication as such – and certainly not in the OT sense – is a minor theme in Paul. If anyone is vindicated, it is God, who had foretold he would establish a new covenant; and, having established it, he is not proven untrue. The Spirit vindicates Christ, which refers to Christ’s miracles and resurrection. Only after the legal declaration of righteousness (justification) can a believer be considered “vindicated.” But this is different from ancient Israel’s vindication. Israel had been attacked, defeated and exiled, and the nations of the known world had heard about it. When a remnant of Israel was restored, national vindication was accomplished.

Paul goes way beyond national vindication and is concerned with righteousness before God and his judgment. Christ’s sacrificial blood is the foundation of justification, because the demands of the law have been met. The punishment for our law breaking has been paid in full. To justify is to declare the person just or righteous, so that the ground of punishment no longer exists. Justification is the opposite of condemnation. To condemn does not make the character bad, and to justify does not make the character good. Justification is as much a legal and declarative act as condemnation is.

Law keeping does not bring righteousness. Only faith in Christ brings God’s freely given righteousness. To be declared righteous in God’s sight and to be justified are the same.

To justify is to impute righteousness. Righteousness is a free gift by grace and faith.

To impute is to reckon, calculate, consider, or regard it. The Greek logizomai – which is the verb that translates as “impute” – has the basic meaning of “thinking” or “considering.” God thinks of us as righteous because of Christ; therefore, his righteousness belongs to us. It is not a “legal fiction.” Therefore, after being justified, man can survive the judgment before an infinitely holy and righteous God.

To be justified or legally declared righteous is not an inner act, any more than a judge can make the acquitted be just or righteous on the inside. To be justified does not change the person’s character. Justification is not the same as sanctification (see next).

Justification and Imparted Righteousness or Sanctification

Justification and sanctification are inseparable, but distinct. Sanctification literally means “the process or act of making holy.” Only the Holy Spirit leads the believer to live a righteous life. From the status of declared righteousness (justification), he can live out a righteous life. Righteousness has been imputed (justification), so now it can be imparted (sanctification).

From the declared legal status of righteousness flows the activity of righteousness. We are no longer slaves of unrighteousness, but slaves of righteousness. Righteousness and wickedness are incompatible. Righteousness can produce a harvest of good or righteous deeds. The legally declared status of righteousness can lead us to put on the breastplate of righteousness. The legally declared status of righteousness can now lead us to take up weapons of lived-out righteousness.

We can pursue righteousness. This pursuit is the perfect illustration of the difference between justification and sanctification. Paul believes righteousness is a free gift by grace alone and faith alone – from faith to faith, apart from works of the law or our works, period. Yet we can pursue righteousness. If we’re not careful, our pursuit turns into our works. We might believe we have to earn righteousness. But why pursue something we already have as a gift in the first place? This is the confusion that comes from not understanding the difference between justification and sanctification.

Paul would tell us that we receive righteousness as a gift by a legal declaration. That’s imputed righteousness. That’s justification. Then our ethical conduct is affected. That’s imparted righteousness from the Spirit. We then pursue righteous living by following the Spirit. That’s sanctification. Then, one day, we will wear a crown of righteousness, after we die.

Though they’re unified, we need to understand the distinctions. (1) God justifies or legally declares us righteous (justification). We have a righteous standing or status before God’s tribunal. We are put right in the New Covenant. (2) That legal righteousness and being put right is worked out in our walk or growth in him by the power of the Spirit (sanctification). (3) Our day-to-day growth in righteousness comes together and is completed in heaven.

The free gift of righteousness impacts our living and behavior. We can now live righteously. We do this by walking in the Spirit.

Thus, justification and sanctification are inseparable, but distinct.

If we wrongly believe that God first has to sanctify us before he can declare us not guilty, we will never know for sure if our sanctification has progressed far enough. Are we holy enough before God can declare us righteous? Have we purged out enough sin so that God can then justify us (legally declare us righteous)? Though I’m cooperating with the Spirit in the sanctification process, is my personal cooperation and righteousness good enough?

This wrong way makes God’s legal declaration or justification too dependent on us. This backwards belief puts too much pressure on us. How is this pressure and self-dependency good news? It isn’t.

The answer: imputation and justification (legal declaration of righteousness) being put right in the New Covenant (new position in Christ) and impartation and sanctification (personal growth in righteousness in the Spirit).

See the companion article Righteousness Language in the OT.

Please cite this article, especially in print media, as follows:

James M. Arlandson. “Righteousness Language in Paul.” 2014.

Free Slaves For Christ

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When people think of freedom, they most commonly associate it with civil liberty. This is probably especially true for citizens of the USA. At an early age Americans become familiar with the words of the song most commonly known as “America”:

My country, tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing:
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims pride,
From every mountain side,
Let freedom ring.1 (v.1)

Our fathers God, to Thee,
Author of liberty,
To Thee we sing;
Long may our land be bright
With freedoms holy light;
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God, our King. (v. 4)

Freedom can also convey many other ideas. Thus Jefferson is on record as pointing out that freedom involves, “Freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and freedom of person under the protection of habeas corpus, and trial by juries impartially selected. These principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us, and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation. The wisdom of our sages and the blood of our heroes have been devoted to their attainment.”2 More specifically, in an address to congress President Roosevelt declared those by now well-known four freedoms:

We look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.… The first is freedom of speech and expression…. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way…. The third is freedom from want…. The fourth is freedom from fear.3

Not to be forgotten as well along social and cultural lines are the famous words of Martin Luther King who looked forward to that day when freedom would so ring that, “All of God’s children … will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we are free at last!’”4 King’s praise of God and the cause of freedom is a reminder and acknowledgement that true freedom of every dimension ultimately is found only in relation to the Lord. As Bowles once remarked, “The cause of Freedom is the cause of God!”5

In the following study we shall examine briefly the seemingly contrary notions of slavery and freedom, which nevertheless occur at times in parallel. Our study will close with several practical applications that support the theme, “Free slaves for Christ.”

Slavery in Biblical Times

Slavery was simply a normal fact of life for the people in ancient biblical times. As Rupprecht demonstrates in his extensive study of the subject, slavery consisted of, “The ownership of one man by another man so that the former was viewed in most respects as property rather than a person. It was a deeply rooted part of the economy and social structure of the ancient Near E. and of the Greco-Rom. World.”6 Wight points out that it existed even among the early Hebrews: “When the laws were given at Mt. Sinai, slavery was universal among the nations of the world. It was not practical to do away with it all at once. Rather, laws were given to prevent the worst abuses and evils of it from being present among the Jews.”7 It is not our purpose, however, in this study to portray the many aspects of slavery among God’s people in OT or NT times. Such would form a study in itself. Moreover, such detailed information is readily available in many biblical encyclopedias and dictionaries as well as in several individual articles and books.8

One interesting special aspect of slavery is seen in situations concerning Hebrew citizens serving as slaves to their fellow Hebrews. That Hebrews could become slaves to other Hebrews was indeed possible. As Merrill points out, “Extreme cases of poverty sometimes resulted in voluntary servitude in which a man or woman would come under the care of a benefactor who would provide for all of the needs of the destitute individual until either he had paid off his obligations or served for a six year period.”9 Nevertheless, the slave holder was to be concerned for the welfare of his fellow Hebrew—slave though he might be. Moreover, in the seventh year the slave would automatically be set free:

If a fellow Hebrew, a man or a woman, sells himself to you and serves you six years, In the seventh year you must let him go free. And when you release him, do not send him away empty handed. Supply him liberally from your flock, your threshing floor, and your winepress. Give to him as the Lord your God has blessed you. (Deut 15:12-14; NIV)10

This law is in accordance with Exodus 21:1-4 (cf. Jer. 34:14), which nonetheless also stipulated that, “If he came in with a wife when he came in, then his wife will go out with him. If his master gave him a wife, and she bore sons or daughters, the wife and the children will belong to her master, and he will go out by himself” (Exod. 12:3-4). In both laws the freeing of the slave in the seventh year demonstrates that the underlying principle of respect and concern for a fellow Hebrew is the same, even though the earlier law did allow the master to keep the wife and children, which the slave had acquired during those six years of servitude. Moses’ exposition of the law, then, draws out a deeper principle inherent in the law— “the principle of love, for God and for fellow man, which was so vital to the covenant community.”11 By his responsible actions the master was to reflect the same type of love that God had for the Hebrews when he delivered them from slavery in Egypt and provided for their needs (Deut 15:15).

Unlike non-Israelites, native Hebrews “could not be sold into permanent slavery.”12 Nevertheless, if the Hebrew slave wished to remain in servitude to his (or her) fellow Hebrew master, whether out of love, or loyalty and respect for him, or because he (or she) enjoyed life the way it was (cf. Deut 15:16), the law provided for the present situation to be maintained permanently. In such a case, the master was to “take an awl and pierce a hole through his ear to the door. Then he will become a servant permanently (this applies to your female servant as well)” (Deut 15:17). The servant now has freely accepted slave status. Having been set free, the slave willingly desires to remain in lasting slavery and be loyal and obedient to his (or her) master.

Slave (vs.) Free

Thus we see that in the Scriptures the themes of slavery and freedom can indeed be interrelated. It should not be surprising, therefore, that these common civil and social relationships could be readily applied metaphorically to a spiritual setting. This is precisely what Jesus did on one occasion when certain Jews appeared to respond favorably to his teaching (John 8:30). Accordingly, Jesus went on to tell them that their belief in him must most definitely continue and grow even more surely: “Then Jesus said to those Judeans who had believed him, ‘If you continue to follow my teaching, you are really my disciples and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31). Here Jesus points out the relationship between knowledge, truth, and real freedom. Tenney points out that the Greek word knowledge:

usually implies knowledge gained from experience. Truth is formulated revealed reality, which is centered in the person of Christ Himself. Free means absence of constraint and restriction, opportunity to exercise the right of acting apart from external interference. These concepts imply a progress from ignorance to knowledge, from error or misinformation or uncertainty to truth, from slavery to liberty. 13

The mention of freedom was strange to Jesus’ hearers, for they were accustomed to thinking of slavery in accordance with civil and social practices. As descendants of Abraham they considered themselves totally free (John 8:32-33; cf. v. 41). As Kӧstenberger remarks, “Freedom was considered to be the birthright of every Jew. The law laid down that no Jew, however poor, should descend to the level of slave (Lev. 25:39-42).”14 As we noted above, however, provision was made for a Jew to be enslaved, but not permanently unless he chose to do so. The point of the Levitical legislation is that the master was not to treat a fellow Jew inhumanely. Rather, the master was told that he “must not rule over him harshly, but you must fear your God” (v. 42). Because of his hearers’ reaction, Jesus goes on to clarify matters for them concerning the basic concept of real freedom: “I tell you the solemn truth, everyone who practices sin is a slave of sin” (v. 34). Jesus’ hearers must realize that he was not talking about commonly practiced forms of slavery, but slavery to sin, a spiritual slavery that produces sinful habits, which control a person. As Jesus plainly implies, without his help they would continue to do sinful deeds and be controlled by sinful habits.

Indeed, without Christ the natural man is unable to think clearly so as to know that spiritual truth that brings true freedom to respond properly to God’s standards. As Morris observes, “The man who sins is a slave to his sin and this whether he realizes it or not. This means also that he cannot break away from his sin. For that he needs a power greater than himself.”15 Such is obtained only through accepting God’s Son, Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord of one’s life. Indeed, it is really true, not just for the Jew but for all people, “If the son sets you free, you will be really free” (John 8:36).

The bringing together of slavery and freedom, then, has a meaningful purpose in Scripture. It involves not only theological truth but has a most practical end. It contrasts a sinful lifestyle and its results with an ability to live a life of true freedom. True freedom does indeed involve the ability to know the Lord through Christ so as to think God’s thoughts after him and thus to discern properly the difference between truth and error. This will result in the ability to live in accordance with God’s designed purpose for man. The believer can therefore enjoy life to its fullest for God’s glory and his own good. Genuine knowledge leads to real truth and to the God-intended freedom to conduct one’s self in godly wisdom.

Those who have received Christ have had the dominating shackles of inborn sin removed. The natural man is indeed a slave to sin. In an interesting play on words and terms, Moo remarks, “As ‘slaves to sin,’ people are ‘free’ from the power and influence of the conduct that pleases God; they are deaf to God’s righteous demands and incapable of responding to them even were they to hear and respect them….and therefore incapable of doing God’s will.”16 The Christian believer, however, has had that dominating influence through the work of Christ’s death and resurrection (cf. Rom. 5:20-21; 6:4-7, 11). Accordingly, the believer, now freed from slavery to sin may freely live for Christ. All of this is possible because by accepting Christ, the believer is taken into a living union with him, the One who alone has the power to enable him to experience that life of true freedom (Gal. 2:20; Eph. 2:8-10; Col. 1:21-22). Such is reflected in a familiar Christian song by Koch and Craig. Having mentioned the reality of Christ’s crucifixion and victorious resurrection, the song writers declare:

And as He stands in victory,
Sins curse has lost its grip on me;
For I am His and He is mine,
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Could ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I stand.17

Twin Figurative uses of “Slave” and “Free”

It is of further interest to note that the metaphors “slave” and “free” frequently appear together. A metaphor may be defined simply as an “imaginative identification of two distinct objects or ideas.18 Slave is used together with its antonym, free to depict the vast difference between being mastered by sin or righteousness.18 Thus Paul declares:

Do you not know that if you present yourselves as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey, either in sin resulting in death, or obedience resulting in righteousness. But thanks be to God that though you were slaves to sin, you obeyed from the heart that pattern of teaching you were entrusted to, and having been freed from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness. (Rom. 6:16-18; cf. vv.19-21)

The big difference, of course, is that although born as a slave to sin, as united to Christ the believer freely now chooses to be obedient to the Lord and be mastered by God.19 He thus is so committed and dedicated to the Lord that he desires to live according to Gods standards. The result is the assurance of eternal life with God: Now, freed from sin and enslaved to God, you have your benefit leading to sanctification, and the end is eternal life (Rom 6:22). 20 Commenting on this, Hodge remarks,

It is of God, that those who were once the servants of sin, become the servants of righteousness. …When a man is the slave of sin, he commonly thinks himself free; and when most degraded, is often the most proud. When truly free, he feels himself most strongly bound to God; and when most elevated, is most humble.21

What a blessing, then, believers now enjoy. For now they may freely commit themselves as slaves to do God’s will and so with confidence look forward to the assured hope to an everlasting life with the eternal Lord of glory: “For the payoff of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:23; see NLT note). As an interesting aside, because the word “gift” is used in parallel to “payoff” (or “wages”), some suggest that Paul was “thinking of the Latin word donativum or largess given to each soldier by the emperor or imperial heir on his accession, introduction to public life or other extraordinary occasion.” 22 Despite attempts to make this relation, however, the Greek word rendered “gift” commonly refers to a gift “freely and graciously given.”23 Thus Paul closes this chapter of his work “by reminding us that, though our sin merits the sentence of death, eternal life must always be understood as a sheer gift of God’s grace….So we must never rely on the quality of our moral life itself to save us—that will always be insufficient; but genuine, saving faith in Christ will change the quality of our moral life.”24

James, the brother of Jesus and a leading member in the early church, who also reckoned himself a “slave of God” (James 1:1), declares that true faith is one that is evidenced in an active life for God. Citing Abraham’s full commitment to God even to the point of sacrificing his son as proof of genuine faith, he says:

You see that his faith was working together with his works and his faith was perfected by his works. And the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Now Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness, and he was called Gods friend. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. (James 2:22-24)

James is not suggesting that the justification that the believer receives at conversion, which is a judicial act whereby God pardons the believer of all his sins and accepts him as righteous (cf. Rom. 3:23-24) is by works, not faith. Rather James is declaring that a person’s salvation is demonstrated by his Christian works and walk. As Osborne remarks,

Paul [in Romans] is concerned with the issue of regeneration, James with the issue of sanctification; Paul with how a person is saved, James with how a person lives out that salvation. For Paul justification refers to that moment when God declares a person right with him, while for James it refers to God vindicating a person’s faith and showing it to be right with him, leading to the final vindication at the Last Judgment…. Putting Paul and James together, works cannot bring about justification, but works must result from justification.” 25

That Paul and James were not in disagreement as to true faith and its outworking can be seen in his challenging message to the Ephesians that true faith is one that is active, a faith that serves God and does good things for others:

For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so that we may do them. (Eph. 2:8-10)

Still further, as “slaves of righteousness” believers have the privilege of sharing the gospel message with others. Thus Paul declares that as free he willingly made himself “a slave to all in order to gain even more people” (1 Cor: 9:19). This included both Jew and gentile (vv. 20-22). He goes on to say, “I do all these things because of the gospel, so that I can be a participant in it” (v. 23). What a privilege indeed it is to so live as to be a willing, dedicated messenger of the good news of God’s free gift of salvation in Christ Jesus! For Paul, this meant the full commitment of his whole self, soul and body, not only in dedicated, faithful service, but as living in such a way as to represent Christ in a righteous manner: “I subdue my body and make it my slave, so that after preaching to others I myself will not be disqualified” (v. 27). As I have written elsewhere, in this context Paul goes on to compare himself to a dedicated athlete who is so completely dedicated not only to participation in an athletic competition and to winning, but doing so in accordance with the rules:

If athletes can strive to fulfill their fixed goals, how much more should he in his spiritual ministry…. Paul thus declares his willing self denial in order to achieve his high calling in Christ Jesus. No selfish desires, plans or ambitions would be allowed to distract him. He was totally dedicated and committed to the task for which he had been called by the Lord. He expresses another pressing concern: having shown others the way of true Christian faith and conduct, Paul is anxious that he himself would not do anything that would compromise his continuing in the ministry. 26

An interesting contrast may be seen in a comparison of Paul and Onesimus. On the one hand, Paul formerly lived as a free, yet committed Jewish Pharisee. So committed to his religious beliefs was he, that he persecuted harshly the early Christians (Acts 22:2-4; 26:4-11). Now, however, he was truly free--spiritually free-- through genuine faith in Christ Jesus and had become an ambassador for Christ (2 Cor. 5:17-21). He now considered himself a slave to all in order that he might help in spreading the gospel message. On the other hand, Omnesimus had formerly lived as a slave. He then had escaped from his master and had fled to Rome, where he met Paul and was led to faith in Christ. Now as spiritually free, Paul was sending him back to his master, Philemon. As he did so, Paul urged Philemon to regard Onesimus not just as his slave, “but more than a slave, as a dear brother. He is especially so to me, and even more so to you now, both humanly speaking and in the Lord. Therefore, if you regard me as a partner, accept him as you would me.” (Philemon, vv. 16-17).

Paul’s sending Onesimus back to his master may seem strange to modern ears, but was in keeping with his own earlier teaching on the basis of current social standards.27 Thus Paul told the Corinthians:

Let each on remain in the situation in which he was called. Were you called as a slave? Don’t worry about it. But if indeed you are able to be free, make the most of the opportunity. For the one who was called in the Lord as a slave is the Lord’s freedman. In the same way, the one who was called as a free person is Christ’s slave…. In whatever situation someone was called, let him remain in it with God. (1 Cor. 7:20-22, 24).

As Baker observes,

In 7:22 Paul reminds the Corinthians of an important theological truth. Even if they are slaves currently (and had been when they became Christians) and their prospects for release were distant or questionable, they should take heart because they were already free in the most important sense of the word. That is, they are free from slavery to sin and the world because God paid the ransom price with the life of his Son, Jesus Christ. They have become slaves of Christ now, as are all believers, a status that supersedes their economic slavery. 28

Paul goes on to say, “You were bought with a price! Do not become slaves of men.” Although social practices and theological truth are in view in verse 23, there also is moral and spiritual application. One such application is that believers should not allow themselves to become so enslaved to their fellow man that they live as men pleasers and pursue their sinful practices and habits.

Similarly, Paul tells the people in his letter to the Ephesians (6: 6-9) that both slaves and their masters should treat each other with respect and kindness. Slaves were to remember that they were to serve and obey their masters as “slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart …because you know that each person, whether slave or free, if he does something good, this will be rewarded by the Lord” (vv.6-8). Indeed,

Believing slaves should be motivated to serve their human masters well because ultimately their indenturing is to Christ alone, that is, they are ‘slaves of Christ.’ … They belong to someone who has far greater authority and far more honor than any human slave owner or even the emperor himself.29

Masters were instructed and encouraged to “treat your slaves the same way, giving up the use of threats, because you know that both you and they have the same master in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him” (v.9). Truly, “The principle of v.8 obtains for masters too; those who do well will receive the Lord’s reward—whether they are slave or free.” 30 Not only in ancient times but today as well, whatever their social status may be, believers should find their primary sense of duty in living so as to be pleasing to God, serving as the Lord’s representative so well that others see Christ in them. As Pollard expresses it,

Have Thine own way, Lord!
Have Thine own way!
Hold o’er my being absolute sway!
Fill with Thy Spirit till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me!31

These same principles are well illustrated in Paul’s words to the Roman Christians (Rom. 8: 12-15). He reminds the believers there that they no longer need to be enslaved by human passions and standards (vv. 12-13). In a forensic sense, “All who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery leading again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, ‘Abba, Father’” (vv. 14-15). The NLT is certainly correct in gendering the word “spirit” in two ways. The spirit of slavery to sin contrasts the natural man with the Spirit (Holy Spirit) as, “The agent through whom the believer’s sonship is both bestowed and confirmed.”32 Therefore, not only does the believer have access to the Father, but God the Father is so honored and treasured by the believer that he can cry out through the leading of the Holy Spirit with a term of endearment and respect: “Abba.”

Jesus’ use of “Abba, Father” in his prayer in Gethsemane, just before his arrest and crucifixion, gives credence to his legitimate family relationship and to his intimacy with God the Father (Mark 14:36). Thus France point out that Jesus’ use of the term, “Abba,” “Conveys the respectful intimacy of a son in a patriarchal family. And in that sense Jesus’ use of this form of address to God is striking and unparalleled , until it was taken over by his followers.”33 Mohrlang adds, “The Spirit does more than simply give us new power for living. Deep within, moving us to address God as ‘Abba, Father…, the Spirit of God assures us that we are indeed children of God, part of God’s own dearly loved family—and that we can therefore boldly lay claim to children’s privileges.”34 Having been taken into union with Christ, today’s believers may also have such a sense of a family relationship and deep intimacy with God that they honor him, stay in communion with him, and do their best to reflect his will and standards in their lives.

Paul goes on to point out that adoption carries with it the further promise that we believers, “who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we eagerly await our adoption, the redemption of our bodies” (v. 23). Truly, as believers in Christ led by the Holy Spirit, not only was this true for the Roman Christians but even now believers do not belong to Satan, they are not his slaves, but are free citizens. Even more, they have been adopted— formally become members of God’s family. As spiritually the “new birth” pictures believers’ being born into the family of God (John 3:5-7), adoption portrays them as being granted the privileged and responsible position of children of God (Gal. 3:23-29) as well as the living and assured hope of the eventual redemption of our bodies.


At the outset of our study we suggested that the word freedom is thought of by most people as civil liberty. This is particularly the case in the United States. As we have noted, such freedom is embedded in many of our patriotic songs and hymns. It is true even in our national anthem, especially in the last verse, which unfortunately is largely overlooked by many Americans and seldom sung. This verse intertwines the grounds of America’s liberty with a firm belief in God:

O thus be it ever, when free men shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven rescued land
Praise the power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just;
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust!”
And the star spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Our national anthem was written by Francis Scott Key during America’s conflict with Britain on the night of September 13, 1814. Few Americans probably realize that Key was a dedicated Christian, who was very involved in the early activity of establishing Sunday schools. 35 Freedom is related to more than civil or social matters as also is slavery. Freedom, however, can also be illusionary:

It isn’t always others who enslave us. Sometimes we let circumstances enslave us; sometimes we let routines enslave us; sometimes we let things enslave us; sometimes, with weak wills, we enslave ourselves. … No man is free if he is running away from reality. And no man is free if he is running away from himself.36

Even more basically, true freedom has a spiritual foundation. As Scherer describes it, “We find freedom when we find God; we lose it when we lose Him.”37

Longenecker appropriately points to three areas of liberty found in the Apostle Paul’s writings: (1) the believer’s relationship to God or (“forensic”) freedom; the believer’s ordering of his own personal life; and the believer’s relationship to others (i.e., social freedom). 38 Even more broadly, we have noted that the words freedom and slavery are used in the Scriptures in dealing with civil or social affairs, but are most meaningfully utilized as contrasting metaphors dealing with one’s moral and spiritual life: intellectually, emotionally, or volitionally. Thus although Peter warned his readers: “Whatever a person succumbs to, to that he is enslaved” (2 Pet. 2:19), as we noted above, Jesus proclaimed that he is the true source of freedom, “If you continue to follow my teaching, you are really my disciples and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). Under the direction of the indwelling Holy Spirit, the wise believer will use his freedom wisely. As Paul told the Galatian believers, “You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters, only do not use your freedom as an opportunity to indulge your flesh, but through love serve one another. …But I say, live by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh” (Gal 5:13, 16).

Thus as believers we are not to be self-centered, but committed to the Lord and his standards. Too often personal desires overtake us, such as the love of money, and even greed (cf. Heb. 1:5). As Paul told the Philippian Christians, “Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in true humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself” (Phil. 2:3). Paul reminds Timothy that this is to be exemplary in a Christian leader, for he should be “temperate, self controlled, hospitable, an able teacher, not a drunkard, not violent, but gentle, not contentious, free from the love of money” (1Tim 3:2-3). If our leaders are to set such an example, should it not be followed by all Christians? We all can be leaders in the sense of taking proper control of our lives. We can do this by freely submitting to the Lord as Christ’s “slaves.” That is, we should be totally dedicated to the Lord and be concerned for the needs of others, not ourselves. Jesus once told his disciples, “Freely you have received, freely give” (Matt. 10:8). Such should be true for today’s followers of Christ. As the song writer reminds us,

He said, “Freely, freely, you have received—
Freely, freely, give;
Go in my name, and because you believe,
Others will know that I live.”39

On another occasion Jesus taught in one of his many parables that the wise and faithful servant is mindful of his master -- even while he is away—for when his master returns, he will reward the servant in accordance to what he deserves (Luke 12: 41-48). May we be faithful servants eagerly awaiting the coming of our master the Lord Jesus Christ! As Lila Morris, writes,

Faithful and true would He find us here
If He should come today?
Watching in gladness and not in fear,
If He should come today?
Signs of His coming multiply,
Morning light breaks in eastern sky;
Watch, for time is drawing nigh—
What if it were today?40

Free slaves for Christ—yes, but even more than that, we are members of God’s earthly family through faith in Christ. Far greater than the opportunity of the freed slave in OT times to remain a slave to his master, we have the blessed privilege and joy of living in daily communion with The Lord. Still further, having been taken into union with Christ, we can be conscious of his presence and have the confident hope of living in God’s presence eternally.

Are we free?—Yes!-- free from sin’s enslavement through faith in Christ’s provision of salvation for all. Are we slaves? Yes!—those who willingly commit ourselves to the Lord’s service. As we await the joy of an everlasting life in the presence of our master, let us conduct ourselves as good and faithful free slaves for Christ.

Some day life’s journey will be o’er,
And I shall reach that distant shore:
I’ll sing while ent’ring heaven’s door,
“Jesus led me all the way.”41

1 Samuel F. Smith, “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.”

2 Thomas Jefferson, “First Inaugural Address,” March 4, 1801.

3 Franklin D. Roosevelt, “Message to Congress,” January 6, 1941.

4 Martin Luther King, Jr., “Speech in Detroit,” June 23, 1963.

5 William Lisle Bowles, “The Right Honorable Edmund Burke,” 1791.

6 A. Rupprecht, “Slave, Slavery,” in The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, ed. Merrill C. Tenney and Steven Barabas, 5 vols. (Grand rapids: Zondervan, 1975) 5: 453.

7 Fred H. Wight, Manners and Customs of Bible Lands (Chicago: Moody, 1953), 291. See further, Rupprecht, ibid. 454-58.

8 In addition to Rupprecht’s already cited article, see, for example, see S. S. Bartchy, “Slavery,” in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, eds. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, et al., 4 vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, rev. ed. 1988) 4:539-46; I. Mendelsohn, “Slavery in the OT,” in The Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible, eds. George Arthur Buttrick, et al., 4 vols. (New York: Abingdon, 1962) 4:383-91. See also the data for the OT and NT in the supplementary volume by W. Zimmerli “Slavery in the OT,” and W. G. Rollins, “Slavery in the NT,” eds. Keith Crum et al. (1976, 829-32). Especially helpful are the observations in “Slave, Slavery,” Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, eds. Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit, amd Tremper Longman III (Downers Grove: 1998), 797-99.

9 Eugene H. Merrill, Deuteronomy, The New American Commentary, ed. E. Ray Clendenen (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1994), 245.

10 Unless, as here, otherwise noted, all scriptural citations will be taken from the NET.

11 Peter C. Craigie, The Book of Deuteronomy, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976.

12 John H. Walton, Victor H. Mathews, and Mark W. Chavalas, The IVP Bible Background Commentary (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 186.

13 Merrill C. Tenney, John: The Gospel of Belief (Grand rapids: Eerdmans, reprint edition, 1989), 147.

14 Andreas J. Kӧstenberger, John, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), 262. Kӧstenbeger goes on to point out proper Jewish attitude standards with regard to the status of their fellow Jewish citizens as recorded in the Mishnah and Talmud.

15 Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids; Eerdmans, 1971), 458.

16 Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 406.

17 Donald A. Koch and Andrew Shawn Craig, “In Christ Alone,” (vv. 6, 8; punctuation, mine).

18 Andreas J. Kӧstenberger and Richard d. Patterson, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2011), 677.

19 Even were we to think of “slaves to righteousness” as being dominated by God, this would be a vast difference between serving an overbearing, even wicked, master like Satan and being controlled by a gracious master like God who desires our best!

20 For the extensive use of metaphors by the apostle Paul, see David J. Williams, Pauls Metaphors (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1999.)

21 Charles Hodge, Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953), 213. Moo, Romans, 405, strongly, points out that the imperative in verse 19b means that, “We can, and must, serve righteousness because God has freed us from sin and made us slaves of righteousness.”

22 C. E. B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary, eds. J. A. Emerton and C.E. B. Cranfield (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 2 vols., 1975) 1:330.

23 William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Cambridge, University Press, 1957), 887. See also Paul’s use of this term already in Romans 5:16.

24 Roger Mohrlang, “Romans,” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, ed. Philip W. Comfort, 18 vols. (Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2007) 14:110.

25 Grant R. Osborne, “James,” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, ed. Philip W. Comfort, 18 vols. (Carol Stream: Tyndale House. 2011) 18: 65.

26 Richard D. Patterson, “Christians as Athletes,” Biblical Studies Press. 2013, 4.

27 For details as to those social conditions, see David W. J. Gill, “1 Corinthians,” in Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, [New testament] ed. Clinton E. Arnold, 4 vols. (Grand Rapids; Zondervan, 2002- 3:139.

28 William Baker, “1 Corinthians,” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, ed. Philip W. Comfort, 18 vols. (Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2009), 15: 109.

29 Clinton E. Arnold, Ephesians, Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 423.

30 William W. Klein, “Ephesians,” The Expositors Biblical Commentary , eds. Tremper Longman II and David E. Garland, 13 vols. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006) 12:160.

31 Adelaide A. Pollard, “Have Thine Own Way, Lord!”

32 Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 502.

33 R. T. France, The Gospel of Mark, The new International Greek Testament Commentary, eds. I. Howard Marshall and Donald A. Hagner (Grand Rapids; Eerdmans, 2002), 584.

34 Mohrlang, “Romans,” 130.

35 For details, see E. Michael and Sharon Rusten, The One Year Book of Christian History (Wheaton, Tyndale House, 2003), 428.

36 “Good Reading,” as cited in Lloyd Cory, Quotable Quotations (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1985), 145.

37 Paul Scherer, as cited in Lloyd Cory, Quotable Quotations, 356.

38 Richard N. Longenecker, Paul, Apostle of Liberty (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1964), 170-80.

39 Carl Owens, “Freely, Freely.”

40 Lila Morris, “What If It Were Today?”

41 John W. Peterson, “Jesus Led Me All The Way.”

Related Topics: Christian Life


Related Media

Clowney, E. P. (1988). The message of 1 Peter: The way of the cross. The Bible Speaks Today. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Grudem, W. A. (1988). Vol. 17: 1 Peter: An introduction and commentary. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology: An introduction to biblical doctrine. Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter–Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.

Hanko, Herman (2012). A Pilgrims Manual: Commentary on I Peter. Reformed Free Publishing Association. Kindle Edition.

Helm, D. R. (2008). 1 & 2 Peter and Jude: Sharing Christs sufferings. Preaching the Word. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

Ironside, H. A. (1947). Expository notes on the Epistles of Peter. Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers.

Leadership Ministries Worldwide (2009). I Peter. Teacher’s Outline and Study Bible. Leadership Ministries Worldwide.

MacArthur, John (2003). The MacArthur Bible Handbook. Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter. MacArthur New Testament Commentary. Chicago: Moody Publishers.

MacDonald, W. (1995). Believers Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments (A. Farstad, Ed.). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

McKnight, Scot (2011). 1 Peter: The NIV Application Commentary. Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Spencer, Glen (2005). I Peter, A Holy Walk in a Hostile Word. Expository Pulpit Series. Wordsearch Corp.

Suetonius. The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Nero, 38; Cassius Dio, Roman History LXII.16

Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

So Great A Savior (Colossians 1-2)

The church in Colossae was not founded by Paul, but rather by his colleague in ministry, Epaphras. Nevertheless, Paul retained a pastoral interest in the church. When he heard that false teachers were pressuring the congregation, he wrote his letter to refute their errors. What the false teaching may have been is not clear, but apparently it detracted from the supremacy of Christ. Paul devoted his letter to reminding them what a great Savior they served. Though the 21st century church faces different pressures, Paul's reminder is still true. We serve a great Savior, one who deserves to be preeminent in our lives.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Christology

Colossians 1

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Part 1

The church in Colossae was not founded by Paul, but rather by his colleague in ministry, Epaphras. Nevertheless, Paul retained a pastoral interest in the church. When he heard that false teachers were pressuring the congregation, he wrote his letter to refute their errors. What the false teaching may have been is not clear, but apparently it detracted from the supremacy of Christ. Paul devoted his letter to reminding them what a great Savior they served. Though the 21st century church faces different pressures, Paul's reminder is still true. We serve a great Savior, one who deserves to be preeminent in our lives.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Christology

Colossians 2

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Part 2

The church in Colossae was not founded by Paul, but rather by his colleague in ministry, Epaphras. Nevertheless, Paul retained a pastoral interest in the church. When he heard that false teachers were pressuring the congregation, he wrote his letter to refute their errors. What the false teaching may have been is not clear, but apparently it detracted from the supremacy of Christ. Paul devoted his letter to reminding them what a great Savior they served. Though the 21st century church faces different pressures, Paul's reminder is still true. We serve a great Savior, one who deserves to be preeminent in our lives.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Christology

Lesson 63: Believing is Seeing, but Seeing is not Believing (John 11:38-57)

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August 10, 2014

There is a familiar saying, “Seeing is believing,” but in spiritual matters that is not necessarily true. Sometimes skeptics will say, “Show me a miracle and I’ll believe.” But even if they saw a genuine miracle, they’d still doubt it or look for a naturalistic explanation and find other reasons to continue in their unbelief.

As we’ve seen repeatedly, John wrote his Gospel, and especially the seven miraculous signs that Jesus performed before His death, “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (20:31). But not all who saw Jesus’ miracles in person believed in Him, just as not all today who read the eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ miracles in the Gospels believe in Him. The barrier to faith is that we love our sin. As Paul points out in Romans 1:18-20, all people have adequate evidence of God’s eternal power and divine nature through creation, but they suppress the truth in unrighteousness. If God exists and created all things, then sinners know that they’re in big trouble. So they invent myths, like evolution, to dodge the reality of God so that they can continue in their sin.

If any miracle should have resulted in every person present falling on his face and worshiping Jesus as God, it would have been the raising of Lazarus from the dead. He had been dead four days, so that his body was beginning to decompose. But when Jesus cried out (11:43), “Lazarus, come forth,” life returned to his dead body, he was completely restored, and he walked out of the tomb, still bound with the grave wrappings. As a result, many did believe in Jesus, but in an amazing display of the hardness of unbelieving hearts, others went to report to the Jewish leaders what had happened. And, rather than acknowledging their mistaken views of Jesus, they intensified their efforts to kill Him.

In the narrative, Jesus tells Martha (11:40), “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” Believing would result in seeing. But (in 11:45-46) others who saw this stupendous miracle did not believe, and their foolish hearts were darkened (Rom. 1:21). The lesson is:

If we believe in Christ, we will see the glory of God; but if we see miracles without believing we will be hardened in our sin.

1. If we believe in Christ, we will see the glory of God.

Jesus’ comment to Martha (11:40) that if she believed, she would see the glory of God, probably refers to His earlier comment (11:4), which would have been reported to Martha and Mary, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” Jesus’ aim in all that He did was to glorify the Father (17:1-5). Jesus is the revelation of God’s glory to us. As John said (1:14), “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” In heaven, we will see Jesus’ glory in all its fullness (17:24).

God’s glory is His essential and intrinsic splendor. The Hebrew word has the notion of weight or heaviness, and thus refers to God’s worthiness, reputation, and honor (M. R. Gordon, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible [Zondervan], ed. by Merrill C. Tenney, 2:730). The emphasis in the Bible is on glory as the manifestation of His attributes. Thus Calvin wrote (ibid. 2:732), “The glory of God is when we know what He is.” He also observed (ibid. 2:733), “We never truly glory in Him until we have utterly discarded our own glory … whoso glories in himself glories against God.”

In this case, Martha’s faith would result in her seeing God’s glory as seen in Jesus’ intimacy with the Father and in His power to call Lazarus from the tomb. This miracle validates Jesus’ astounding claims in John 5:21, “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes.” He added (5:28-29), “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; …” Because Jesus raised Lazarus, we can know that He will make good on His promise to raise all the dead someday, either for eternal life or for judgment. So this miracle should result in our seeing the fact that Jesus is the author and giver of both physical and eternal life and that He has all power over death.

We should apply Jesus’ words to Martha (11:40), “if you believe, you will see the glory of God.” First, we should always join Moses in his prayer (Exod. 33:18), “I pray You, show me Your glory!” That was a bold prayer! Moses had already seen the Lord at the burning bush. He had seen God’s power in the ten plagues on Egypt. He had seen the Lord deliver His people through the Red Sea, provide water from the rock, and manna from heaven every morning. I’d be satisfied to see any one of those displays of God’s glory! But, Moses wanted more, and so should we! As we see more of God’s glory, it transforms us into His image (2 Cor. 3:18). So, always pray that God will grant you more faith so that you will see more of His glory.

Also, C. H. Spurgeon (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit [Pilgrim Publications], 59:87) applied this verse by challenging his congregation to believe God for the conversion of sinners who were as corrupt in their morals as Lazarus was in his body. We sometimes see people who are debauched sinners and think, “There’s no way that that person could ever get saved.” If salvation comes from human will power, that’s true. But if salvation is of the Lord, then He is mighty to save the chief of sinners.

John calls Jesus’ miracles “signs” (11:48). Signs point to something beyond themselves. The physical miracles point to deeper spiritual truth. As a dead man whose body was undergoing corruption, Lazarus is a picture of sinners who are dead in their trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1), cut off from the life of God, and morally corrupt in His holy presence. As a dead man, Lazarus had no power to raise himself from the dead. He needed the new life that comes only from God (John 6:63). It required the life-giving word of Jesus to call him from death to life. That’s true every time a sinner is born again.

You may ask, “Doesn’t the sinner have to choose to believe?” The Bible is clear, yes, the sinner must choose to believe. But no one who is dead in their sins is able to choose to believe until the Spirit of God quickens them from the dead. We saw this in John 1:12-13, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” Those who believe didn’t do so because of their will (which is not “free,” but bound in sin), but rather because God caused them to be born again (1 Pet. 1:3).

So go to the Father in believing prayer and ask Him to save those who are so dead in sin that they stink! And, Jesus’ words apply to any who have not yet trusted in Him for salvation: If you will believe in Him, you will see the glory of His love, grace, and justice at the cross. If we believe in Christ, we will see the glory of God.

2. Jesus’ miracles should result in faith in Him as Savior and Lord.

First, we need to affirm that…

A. Jesus did raise Lazarus from the dead.

John reported this miracle so that you would believe in Jesus and have eternal life in His name. But Satan always attacks essential truths. So, it’s no accident that liberal critics dispute that this miracle really happened. They argue that John presents the raising of Lazarus as a crucial event that precipitated Jesus’ death at the hands of the Jewish leaders. If this is so, they say, why do the other three Gospels omit this important event? They conclude that John fabricated this story to illustrate some spiritual truths about Jesus. For example, William Barclay concludes (The Gospel of John [Westminster Press], 2:103), “It does not really matter whether or not Jesus literally raised a corpse to life in A.D. 30, but it matters intensely that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life for every man who is dead in sin and dead to God today.” Strange reasoning!

That’s like saying that it doesn’t really matter whether Jesus was raised bodily from the dead, as long as we learn the spiritual lessons from the story. Paul refutes that nonsense by arguing that if Christ is not literally raised from the dead, our faith is worthless (1 Cor. 15:1-19). If Jesus did not literally raise Lazarus from the dead, then John’s credibility as an eyewitness of Jesus’ glory is worthless. His entire Gospel becomes just a clever fable, alongside Aesop’s fables, but not worth staking your life and eternal destiny on.

It’s clear that John is narrating an event that he saw take place in actual history. The story does not read as a concocted fable or myth. It is straightforward and realistic, with many factual details. Even Jesus’ enemies acknowledged that He was doing many miracles (11:47). They couldn’t question that Lazarus had been dead and now was alive. So Jesus’ critics who lived at that time didn’t doubt the fact that Lazarus was raised from the dead, but modern critics, living 20 centuries later do doubt it!

Thus what we have here is not a parable or a fable making some moral point. Rather, it is a historical account of Jesus raising a decomposing corpse to life. But John wants us to apply this actual miracle to our lives:

B. This miracle should cause you to believe in Jesus as your Savior and Lord; and if you already believe, to increase your faith in Him.

John views faith in Christ as both initial and ongoing. The disciples believed in Jesus in chapter 1, but in chapter 2, after Jesus turned the water into wine, we read (2:11), “This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.” In 6:69, Peter affirms, “We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” But here in chapter 11, Jesus tells the disciples (11:15), “I am glad for your sakes that I was not there [before Lazarus died] so that you may believe.” Martha clearly confesses her faith in Christ (11:27): “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.” But (in 11:40) Jesus still challenges her to believe.

Apply this to yourself: If you have never repented of your sins and put your trust in Christ as Savior and Lord, that’s where you begin a relationship with Him. That’s when you move from spiritual death to eternal life. If you do not believe in Jesus as your Savior and Lord, you are still under God’s wrath (3:36). The Bible commands you to believe in Jesus and be saved (Acts 16:31).

But, you don’t stop with that initial belief. Your faith in Christ needs to grow and it will grow as you see more and more of who He is. This miracle shows that Jesus is the Messiah promised in the Old Testament. He is, as He told Martha (11:25), the resurrection and the life. He is the eternal Son of God who took on human flesh and laid down His life willingly on the cross so that whoever believes in Him has eternal life (3:13-17).

This miracle shows that Jesus can do what mere men cannot do. Religion could not raise the dead. All that the Jews could do was offer consolation to Mary and Martha. The scribes and Pharisees could not raise the dead. Even modern medicine, with all of its advanced knowledge, cannot raise to life a body that has begun to decompose. But Jesus could do what no mere man could do. He spoke the word and Lazarus instantly came to life.

This miracle illustrates our insufficiency and Christ’s all-sufficiency. One reason that we don’t trust the Lord in our daily lives is that we feel sufficient or adequate in ourselves. We may ask Him for a little help now and then, but we don’t acknowledge what He told the disciples (15:5), “apart from Me you can do nothing.”

In commenting on Jesus’ prayer life, Paul Miller observes (A Praying Life [NavPress], p. 44), “If you know that you, like Jesus, can’t do life on your own, then prayer makes complete sense.” He goes on to devote a chapter to “learning to be helpless.” When we recognize our own insufficiency and helplessness, then we cast ourselves on the Lord and our faith grows as He answers. As Hudson Taylor, the great pioneer missionary to China, said, “All God’s giants have been weak men who did great things for God because they reckoned on God being with them.”

But this story is not just about believing in Christ so that we will see God’s glory, or about how seeing miracles should result in our growth in faith. It’s also a warning against seeing God’s mighty works without believing:

3. Seeing a miracle without believing results in further hardening of heart.

This account of Jesus’ raising of Lazarus is a case study in the frightening nature of unbelief. We can learn three lessons:

A. Unbelief is not based on insufficient evidence.

What further proof of God’s power could you want than to smell the stench of the rotting body as they rolled the stone from the tomb, hearing Jesus’ loud command, and then seeing the formerly dead man stumble from the tomb, still bound in his graveclothes? Yet, some who witnessed this spectacle went away to inform Jesus’ enemies so that they could intensify their plans to have Him arrested and executed!

Of course, this wasn’t the first miracle that these enemies of Jesus had witnessed. They acknowledge that He is performing many signs (11:47). They had seen the man who had been paralyzed for 38 years, who used to beg at the Pool of Bethesda, now walking because Jesus healed him (5:1-14). They knew that the man born blind, who used to beg by the temple gate, now saw because Jesus healed him (9:1-34). But they rejected both of these miracles because Jesus had done them on the Sabbath. And now, Jesus does the ultimate miracle by commanding Lazarus to come out of the tomb. What further evidence could they ask for? But their unbelief was not based on insufficient evidence.

The same is true today. We have the evidence of fulfilled prophecy, including over 300 prophecies that Jesus fulfilled. We have the eyewitness accounts of His teaching and miracles. There is the evidence of Jesus’ empty tomb, backed up by the changed lives of the witnesses, who all at first doubted His resurrection, but later were willing to suffer and die because they knew that He was alive. There is the evidence of intricate design in all of creation, from the molecular level up to the global level. But unbelief due to the hardness of human hearts suppresses the evidence.

B. Unbelief is based on selfish interests.

The real heart of unbelief is seeking your own way while you leave God out. There are two groups here, representing two levels of unbelief.

First, we see the unbelief of Caiaphas and the chief priests and Pharisees (11:47-53). The basis for their unbelief is clear (11:48): “If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” They had a vested interest in the system as it was and they were afraid of losing it. If the people believed in Jesus as Messiah, they feared that the Romans would intervene and they would lose their power and their comfortable living through controlling the temple. Ironically, by killing their Messiah, the very thing that they feared came on the nation as God’s judgment when Titus destroyed Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70.

Caiaphas, who was the high priest, was a shrewd, calculating politician. First, he discredits what everyone else had said by flatly stating (11:49), “You know nothing at all.” Then, he postures himself as being concerned for the people (11:50), “… it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.” He meant, “If we really care for our nation, we’ll eliminate this rabble-rouser, Jesus.” But he wasn’t really concerned for the nation, but for his own self-interest and power.

But John shows the irony in Caiaphas’ words: as high priest he was unwittingly prophesying that Jesus would die for the nation, and (11:52), “not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.” John is referring to all of God’s elect around the world. They were not yet children of God, but as God told Paul in Corinth (Acts 18:10), “I have many people in this city.” They were not yet saved, but they would be saved through Paul’s preaching, because they were God’s chosen ones. As Jesus said (John 6:39): “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.”

The lesson that we should learn is that you cannot frustrate God and His sovereign purpose. You can oppose Him and for a time it may seem that you are succeeding. They killed Jesus. But, in the end, God always wins. That’s the message of the last book of the Bible: God is going to win and all who oppose Him will lose.

The second group that did not believe was the common people (11:55-57), who went up to Jerusalem for the Passover. They were not openly hostile toward Jesus, but neither were they committed to follow Him. They were just curious onlookers on the conflict between Jesus and the Jewish leaders. They were content to go on with their religious festival while they discussed whether or not Jesus would show up and what would happen if He did. But they didn’t dare take a stand for Jesus, because that would put them on the bad side of the religious authorities. So their interest in protecting themselves caused them to be passive while the religious leaders murdered an innocent and good man.

The lesson here is that to be neutral towards Jesus is to be unbelieving. Self-centeredness is the heart of unbelief. The result of their self-interest was counter-productive, in that Jesus went away, because His time had not yet come (11:54). To have Jesus withdraw from you is the ultimate tragedy! The third lesson is:

C. Even devoutly religious people can be unbelieving.

Again, there is an ironic warning in 11:55: “Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up to Jerusalem out of the country before the Passover to purify themselves.” This refers to the second group of unbelievers that we saw. They weren’t openly hostile toward Jesus, but neither were they committed. They were “good church-goers,” who went through the outward rituals, but they weren’t willing to stand openly for Christ.

I hope that that doesn’t describe you! It is possible to be devoutly religious, to attend church regularly, to partake of the Lord’s Supper, and yet not to be fully committed to Jesus Christ, especially when that commitment might cost you something.


So I conclude with the warning of Hebrews 3:12: “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.” The Jewish leaders asked (11:47), “What are we doing (about this miracle-worker)?” It’s a good question to ask yourself: “What am I doing with Jesus?” The options are: (1) Oppose Him; (2) be neutral toward Him as you practice your religion; (3) believe in Him as Savior and Lord, no matter what it may cost you. If you believe, you will see the glory of God in Christ. But if you see the miracles reported in God’s Word and do not believe, you’ll be hardened in your sin and the Savior will withdraw from you. You don’t want to go there!

Application Questions

  1. A skeptic says, “I don’t believe in miracles because I’ve never seen one.” How would you reply?
  2. A fellow Christian says, “If those who are dead in sin can’t believe of their own free will, how can God command them to believe?” How would you reply?
  3. If unbelief is not based on insufficient evidence, what is the role of apologetics?
  4. What are some practical ways to be on guard against “an evil, unbelieving heart” (Heb. 3:12)?

Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2014, All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition © The Lockman Foundation

Related Topics: Faith, Glory, Hamartiology (Sin)

Lesson 64: Wasting Your Life on Jesus (John 12:1-11)

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August 17, 2014

This story of Mary anointing our Lord shortly before His death has had a profound influence on my walk with the Lord for over 45 years now because of a sermon I read and have re-read many times by the late Chinese preacher, Watchman Nee. It’s the last chapter of his book, The Normal Christian Life [Christian Literature Crusade], titled, “The Goal of the Gospel.” It’s also in a pamphlet titled, “Why This Waste” (you can find it online).

Nee points out that in the parallel accounts in Matthew (26:6-13) and Mark (14:3-9; Luke 7:37-39 is a different incident), all the disciples joined Judas in scolding Mary for wasting this expensive perfume on Jesus when it could have been sold and the money given to the poor. But Jesus defends Mary by replying (Matt. 26:13), “Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.” Nee says (p. 186) that Jesus “intends that the preaching of the Gospel should issue in something along the very lines of the action of Mary here, namely, that people should come to Him and waste themselves on Him.” Or, to state it another way (p. 187), the gospel is “to bring each one of us to a true estimate of His worth.” If Jesus is the pearl of great price and the treasure hidden in the field, then it’s not a waste to sell everything you have to buy that pearl or buy that field. Jesus is worthy for you to devote all you are and all you have to Him.

So this is a story about how not to waste your life. It’s also a story about motivation: why do you do what you do for the Lord? Do you serve Him for the satisfaction you get when you see results? It is satisfying to see Him use you, but that’s the wrong motivation. Do you serve Him because it helps others? Again, it’s gratifying to see others helped, but that’s the wrong motivation for serving Him. The true motive for serving Christ is because He is worthy of everything you can do for Him and because you love Him and want to please Him because He gave Himself for you on the cross. We learn this from Mary’s act of devotion.

But John contrasts Mary’s act of devotion with Judas’ self-centered focus and with the evil plans of the chief priests, who now not only want to kill Jesus, but also Lazarus, whose resurrection was resulting in many believing in Jesus. So the story’s lesson is:

A life spent in selfless devotion to Jesus is not wasted, but a life spent on self is totally wasted.

This story illustrates Jesus’ words in Mark 8:35-36:

“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?”

Jesus repeats this idea (John 12:25), “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.” Mary denied herself and “hated her life” for Jesus’ sake by her extravagant act of devotion to Him, and she gained that which would not be taken from her (Luke 10:42). Judas greedily wished that he could have pocketed some of Mary’s gift. In a few days, he would sell Jesus for a paltry sum. But he forfeited his soul.

1. You will not waste your life if you spend it in selfless devotion to Jesus.

To put it another way, to “waste” your life on Jesus is to save your life. Mary’s act reflects four components of selfless devotion:

A. Selfless devotion is costly.

Mary’s anointing Jesus with this perfume was costly in at least three ways:

1) Selfless devotion costs you financially: “Do I treasure Jesus more than my stuff?”

Pure nard was a spice that came from the Himalaya Mountains in the far north of India. It had to be imported to Israel at great cost. We don’t know where Mary got this 12-ounce jar of perfume. Perhaps it was a family heirloom. Judas estimates that it could have been sold for 300 denarii, which was equivalent to about 300 days’ pay for a working man (Matt. 20:2). Figuring $10 an hour, 300 eight-hour days adds up to $24,000! Any way you figure it, Mary’s action was extravagantly costly! Judas and the disciples, who according to the other Gospels joined him in scolding Mary, were only being sensible: She could have sold this jar of perfume, given 90 percent of the money to help a lot of poor people, and still had a sizeable amount to give to the Lord. But were they really sensible?

The Lord rebukes them (John 12:8), “For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.” He was not saying that we should not help the poor, but He was saying, “I am more worthy of your unselfish devotion than all the world’s poor put together!” He was accepting the worship that Mary gave Him because she rightly saw that He is worthy of all that we can give Him and even more. As Isaac Watts put it (“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”):

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small:
Love so amazing, so divine
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

The point is, devotion to Christ will cost you financially. If He bought you with His blood, you don’t own anything. It’s all His and He can direct you to give some or all of it for His kingdom purposes. Probably, most of us would have sold the perfume, given ten percent to the Lord, and pocketed the rest to spend on getting a later model mule! But Mary gave it all because she knew that Jesus is worth it.

Many years ago, a pastor went down from the pulpit one Sunday and watched what each person put in or didn’t put in the offering plate as it was passed. Some of his people were angry, others were embarrassed, but all were surprised. Then he went back to the pulpit and preached on the Lord standing near the treasury in the temple and watching what each person put in, including the widow and her two mites. He reminded them that the Lord watches the collection every Sunday to see what His people give.

So let me ask: Is your devotion to the Lord costing you financially? If others looked at how you spend your money, would they conclude that you must love Jesus a lot?

2) Selfless devotion costs you socially: “Do I treasure Jesus more than my pride?”

Matthew and Mark say that Mary anointed Jesus’ head, but John says that she anointed His feet. There is no contradiction if she anointed both. Matthew and Mark mention Jesus’ head because anointing the head signified kingship. John mentioned her anointing Jesus’ feet because it was the lowly task of a servant to wash a guest’s feet. In the next chapter John tells how Jesus washed the disciples’ feet as an act of great humility that we should follow.

But Mary didn’t use a towel. Rather, she wiped the Lord’s feet with her hair. Respectable Jewish women never let down their hair in public. In fact, it was considered a mark of a woman of loose morals (Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John [Eerdmans], p. 577). But Mary was so caught up with her devotion to Christ that she didn’t stop to consider what others might think about her. Like David dancing before the Lord wearing only an ephod (2 Sam. 6:14-23), Mary cast public opinion to the wind, let her hair down, and wiped Jesus’ feet. David’s fervent devotion embarrassed his wife, but the Lord stood with David. Mary’s action made the apostles uncomfortable, but Jesus sided with Mary.

So ask yourself, “Do I treasure Jesus more than my pride?” Or, am I more concerned about what others think about me? People may think you’re a zealot or a religious fanatic. But what matters is what Jesus thinks about your selfless devotion to Him.

3) Selfless devotion costs you some criticism: “Do I treasure Jesus more than my reputation?”

Judas led the attack, but the other disciples echoed his criticism. Matthew 26:8 reports, “But the disciples were indignant when they saw this, and said, ‘Why this waste?’” They were only being pragmatic and sensible. The money could have benefitted many poor families. But instead, it was all wasted on Jesus. Or, was it wasted?

Count on it: If you give yourself without reserve to Jesus, you will be criticized and the loudest criticism will come from some church members who will say that they’re only using common sense in how the Lord’s resources are spent. When Jim Elliot set his sights on going to the unreached tribes of Ecuador, his Christian parents asked him to consider whether his gifts could be better used among young people in the United States. He replied with a scathing denunciation of the lukewarm American church (Shadow of the Almighty [Zondervan], p. 132). He went to South America, where he and four others were murdered trying to tell a lost, savage tribe about the love of Jesus. They “wasted” their lives for Jesus!

When John Paton let it be known that he planned to move with his new bride to take the gospel to the cannibals in the South Sea Islands, an old man in his church would say, “You’ll be eaten by cannibals!” Finally, Paton grew exasperated and replied (modified from John G. Paton Autobiography [Banner of Truth], ed. by his brother James Paton, p. 56), “My dear sir, you’re getting up in years and soon will be laid in the grave and eaten by worms. If I can but live and die honoring the Lord Jesus, it doesn’t matter to me whether I’m eaten by cannibals or by worms, and on resurrection day, my body will arise as fair as yours!” Selfless devotion to Christ involves personal cost.

B. Selfless devotion stems from personal love and gratitude.

Although the text doesn’t state it directly, Mary’s action obviously stemmed from her love for Jesus and her gratitude for His raising her brother from the dead. Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus (John 11:5) and they loved Jesus.

Love for Christ should be the motive in all that we do for Him. Judas postured himself as being concerned for the poor, but even if he had given some of the money to the poor, he would not have been motivated by love for Christ. People can give great sums of money to the Lord’s work, but their real motive may be that they want others to know how generous they are. Some Christian organizations cater to this by naming a building after a generous donor, or telling potential donors that they will have a plaque put on the wall letting everyone know that they donated this room.

But the Lord looks on the hidden motives of our hearts, not on our outward actions. As Watchman Nee points out (ibid., pp. 189, 190), the first question we must ask in all we do is, “Has the Lord been satisfied?” Did I do what I did because I love Him and I wanted to please Him?

We’ve seen that selfless devotion is costly; it stems from love and gratitude toward Jesus.

C. Selfless devotion flows from knowing Jesus personally.

John 12:7 is difficult to interpret: “Therefore Jesus said, ‘Let her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial.’” Mary had just poured out the precious perfume, so she couldn’t keep it to anoint Jesus after He died. And, how much did she understand about Jesus’ impending death when none of the disciples saw it coming? The meaning may be that Mary had not sold this perfume, as Judas and the disciples had proposed, so that she could keep it for this anointing of Jesus’ body in anticipation of His death. Perhaps from her time of sitting at Jesus’ feet, Mary had some sense that Jesus was about to die. Or, in the providence of God, she may have anointed Him unwittingly.

But in either case, Mary knew more about the infinite worth of Jesus than even the apostles did at this point. Her personal knowledge of Jesus, gained by sitting at His feet, led her to this act of selfless devotion.

If you want to follow Mary’s example of devotion to Jesus, you have to follow her example of sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to His word (Luke 10:39). Every time we encounter Mary in the Gospels, she is at Jesus’ feet—first, learning from Him; then, pouring out her sorrow to Him; and now, expressing her love and devotion to Him. You won’t love the Lord as you should unless you’ve spent much time at His feet. You do that by spending consistent time in the Word and in prayer.

D. Selfless devotion results in action.

Mary didn’t just think about this radical display of love, but then allow reason to prevail and not do it. Rather, she did it! Good intentions are nice, but it takes good actions to produce results. This story highlights three results that flow from selfless devotion: one from Mary, one from Martha, and one from Lazarus:

1) Action results in the fragrance of Christ surrounding your life.

John 12:3 says, “And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” If you had walked in the door or stood outside near an open window, you would have smelled the wonderful fragrance of that expensive perfume. It was in Mary’s hair, so that everywhere she went, the fragrance went with her.

Can people smell the fragrance of Christ on you? You ask, “What does it smell like?” It smells like the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22, 23): Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Does your home smell like that? Do others sense from the fragrance of your life that you spend much time at Jesus’ feet, worshiping Him in selfless devotion? Do your relationships at church smell like the fragrance of Christ? I am often saddened when I hear about strained or broken relationships between believers. People who come into this church should smell the sweet fragrance of our Savior on us.

2) Action results in service for Christ.

Here we’re looking at the simple statement in John 12:2, “and Martha was serving.” In Luke 10:38-42, Martha was serving, but she was hassled by trying to do it all herself and she complained to Jesus because her sister wouldn’t help. Also, as G. Campbell Morgan observes (The Gospel According to John [Revell], p. 207), in Luke she was fixing dinner for four people and was hassled by her work, but here she is fixing dinner for at least 17 people and there is no word about her being hassled. Martha had learned from the previous incident to serve out of selfless devotion to Christ. If you love Him, you serve others for His sake without complaining.

3) Action results in witness for Christ.

Here, we’re looking at Lazarus. The text tells us three things about him: First, Jesus had raised him from the dead (John 12:1). Second, he was reclining at the table in fellowship with the Lord who had raised him from the dead (John 12:2). Third, his resurrected life resulted in many coming to see him and believing in Jesus as a result (John 12:9-11). Some scholars say that these were just curiosity seekers and not genuine converts. But John doesn’t say that. He just says (John 12:11), “on account of him many of the Jews were going away and were believing in Jesus.”

In this, Lazarus is an example for our witness: First, Christ has to give you new life before you can be a witness for Him. Granted, our transformation is probably not as dramatic as a physical resurrection from the dead! But people should see a definite change in your life after you’re born again. Second, you must spend time in fellowship with Jesus, learning from Him. Then, because our Savior came to seek and to save the lost, as you grow to be like Him, pray that God will use you to seek and save the lost. Wouldn’t it be great if we all could put our names in verse 11 and say, “On account of [Steve] many were going away and believing in Jesus”?

But this story isn’t only about how to “waste” your life by giving it in selfless devotion to Christ. The other side is here, too:

2. You will totally waste your life if you spend it on yourself.

Judas and the Jewish leaders who sought to kill both Jesus and Lazarus were acting out of selfish interests. Judas thought that more money would bring him more happiness. The Jewish leaders wanted to hang onto their power. But both parties wasted their lives because they spent them on themselves.

John tells us about Judas’ greed in verse 6: He really wasn’t concerned about the poor, but he was a thief. He had the money box and used to help himself to the funds. If Mary had given her perfume to sell and give to the poor, some of that money would have ended up in Judas’ pocket! Perhaps Judas had joined the apostolic band because he thought that if Jesus became the King of Israel, he would enjoy a nice position in Jesus’ kingdom.

But now the future looked dim. Jesus kept talking about His death, not His reign. This incident pushed Judas over the top. When Jesus came to Mary’s defense with more talk about His death, Judas decided to go to the authorities and betray Jesus. (Both Matthew and Mark place this event out of chronological sequence to connect it with Judas’ betrayal.) So for a measly thirty pieces of silver, Judas sold his soul. And, the chief priests irrationally wanted to kill both the author of life and the man who was raised from the dead because they both threatened their hold on power. Judas and the Jewish leaders wasted their lives because they spent them on themselves. As Jesus states (John 12:25), “He who loves his life loses it ….”


Mary’s action reveals the proper basis for evaluating your actions: Did you do what you did because you love and treasure Jesus? She didn’t do this out of duty or pragmatism, but out of sheer devotion for Christ. Mary did what she did because she had a perception of Christ that even the apostles at this point lacked. She knew that He was worthy of extravagant love. She gained this knowledge of Christ by sitting at His feet. When Jesus is your treasure, you will spend your life in selfless devotion to Him.

At a pastors’ conference, Bill Mills told about a time when he was speaking to a group of Wycliffe missionaries in South America. On the last evening as he ate dinner with the director and his wife, she told him how years before they had been assigned to translate the Bible into one of the Indian tribal languages. This is a lengthy and tedious process. Before computers, it often took as long as twenty years.

During the process, the translators were teaching the Scriptures and seeing a new church emerging among the tribe. But as they came toward the end of the translation project, the tribal people were becoming more and more involved in selling their crops for the drug trade and less and less interested in the Scriptures. When they finally finished the translation of the New Testament and scheduled a dedication service, not even one person came!

This missionary wife was angry and bitter. She had given twenty years of her life so that these people could have the Scriptures, but they didn’t even want it! Then with regard to Bill’s ministry of the Word that week, she said (in, Finishing Well in Life and Ministry [Leadership Resources International], p. 190.):

It is as though God has been washing His Word over my soul and healing me, and He has opened my eyes to see this all from His perspective. I am just beginning to realize now that we did it for Him! That is the only thing that makes any sense in all of this. We did it for God!

Mills concludes, “That is the only thing that makes any sense in ministry. We do it for Him.” The world may scorn us and reject our message. Other believers may criticize us and not appreciate what we’re doing. But we aren’t wasting our lives if we spend them in selfless devotion for Jesus.

Application Questions

  1. Where does common sense (or wisdom) fit in with extravagant devotion to Christ? Shouldn’t good stewards be sensible?
  2. What does treasuring Jesus more than our stuff look like in practical terms? Is it wrong to have a savings account? To save for retirement? To take good care of possessions?
  3. Why is your motive for serving Christ primary? How can you keep the right motive in focus?
  4. How practically can you keep alive and deepen your love and devotion for Jesus?

Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2014, All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition © The Lockman Foundation

Related Topics: Basics for Christians, Christian Life, Discipleship, Discipline, Failure, Sacrifice, Spiritual Life

第 26 课: 属灵争战 (以弗所书6:10-20)

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6:10 最后,你们要在主里坚强,并在他的大能大力里得力。 11 要穿戴 神的全副军装,就能抵挡魔鬼的诡计。 12 因我们并不是与属血肉的争战,乃是与那些空中执政的、掌权的、管辖这幽暗世界的,以及天空属灵气的恶势力5争战。 13 所以要拿起 神的全副军装,好在凶恶的日子抵挡仇敌,并且完成了一切,还能站立。

6:14所以要站稳了,用真理当作带子束6腰,用公义当作护胸甲遮胸; 15 用平安的福音当作鞋子穿在脚上; 16 此外又拿着信心的盾牌,用以灭尽那恶者一切的火箭; 17 并戴上救恩的头盔7;拿着圣灵的宝剑8,就是 神的道。 18 在圣灵里,随时多方祷告祈求,并要为此儆醒恒守,为众圣徒祈求。 19 也为我祈求,当我开口,赐我有信息,能以自信,讲明福音的奥秘; 20 我为这福音的奥秘,作了带锁炼的使者。并祈求我照着所当说的放胆讲论。








让我们先看看 3 撒旦是怎样发动那触目的第一场属灵争战。这场争战其实在亚当和夏娃被造以先,便早已存在。两卷旧约先知书中有撒旦敌挡神的记载:

14:12明亮之星,早晨之子12啊!你已从天坠落!你这攻败13列国的,你已被砍倒在地上1413 你曾对自己说15:「我要升到天上!我要设立我的宝座在 艾(El)众星16以上;我要坐在聚会的山上,在撒分的远坡1714 我要升到高云之上18;我要与至上者19同等。」(以赛亚书14:12-14

28:12 「人子啊,你为推罗王作哀歌,对他们说:『主耶和华如此说:「『你是完美的典范,智慧充足,全然美丽。13 你曾在伊甸 神的园中9,佩戴各样宝石,就是红宝石、红璧玺、金钢石、水苍玉、红玛瑙、碧玉、蓝宝石、绿宝石和红玉10,宝石座都是金子造的,都是在你受造之日预备齐全的。14 你是那受膏11护卫12的基路伯13,我将你安置在 神的圣山上,你在发光如火的宝石中间往来。15 你从受造之日所行的14都完全,直到在你里面发现了罪。(以西结书28:12-15


当撒旦叛逆神的时候,其他受造物也加入他的行列敌挡神和祂的旨意。因此,在创世纪第三章中,撒旦 第一次出现时,他化身为在神和亚当夏娃管治下的另一受造物,以另一身份接触亚当和夏娃。他的诱惑被听从了,而神的话却被违背,所引致的后果不单是亚当和夏娃的堕落,而且他们的后裔也落在同样的境况

6 告诉我们「神的儿子」娶了「人的女儿」。按旧约的表达,「神的儿子」是指天使而非人类,看起来似是撒旦雇用了其他堕落的天使去败坏「女人的后裔」,因为他是神应许要打败撒旦,并将人类从罪恶中拯救出来(创世记3:15)1


列王紀下第6,亚兰王要攻打以色列,神将亚兰王的计划预先告知先知伊莱沙;伊莱沙则转告以色列王,因此亚兰的攻击都无功而回。. 当亚兰王得悉是伊莱沙破坏他的计划时,他派军队去捉拿伊莱沙。一个早上,亚兰的军队围困伊莱沙所住的城镇多坍。当伊莱沙的仆人早上起来打水时,看到了围困城池的亚兰军队,这惊惧的仆人冲往他的主人,并告诉他所看见的。


6:15 先知的仆人清早起来, 他出去。看见车马军兵围困了城。仆人就对先知说:「不好了!我主啊,我们怎么辨?」6:16 先知说:「不要怕!我们这边的比他们那边的多。」6:17伊莱沙祷告说:「耶和华啊,开这少年人的眼睛,让他看见。」耶和华开仆人的眼目,他就看见满山有火车火马围绕伊莱沙。 6:18 敌人接近伊莱沙,伊莱沙祷告耶和华说:「请以眼瞎打击这些。」耶和华就照伊莱沙的请求,使他们的眼瞎。 6:19 伊莱沙就对他们说:「这不是正确的道路和城市,你们跟我走,我必领你们到要找的人那里。」于是领他们到了撒马利亚。(列王纪下6:15-19)




3:24然后,尼布甲尼撒王吃了一惊,急忙起身,对谋士说:「我们捆起来扔在火里的不是三个人吗?」他们回答王说:「王啊,是。」3:25 王说:「但我见有四个人,并没有捆绑,在火中行走!没有受伤!那第四个的相貌好像神明。」(但以理书3:24-25)

10:10忽然,有一手触碰我,使我能用膝和手掌支持微起。 10:11 他对我说:「大蒙眷爱的但以理啊,要明白我将与你所说的话。站起来吧,因为我现在奉差遣来到你这里。」他对我说这话的时候,我便战战兢兢地站起来。 10:12 他就说:「但以理啊,不要惧怕!因为从你第一日专心求明白,又在你 神面前谦卑自己,你的言语已蒙垂听。我是来回应你的言语。 10:13 但波斯国的君拦阻了我二十一日。忽然有大君中的一位米迦勒来帮助我,因我停留在波斯诸王那里。…… 10:20 他就说:「你知道我为何来见你吗?现在我快要回去与波斯的君争战。我去后,希腊的君必来。 10:21 但我先要将那录在一本真确书上的事告诉你。(除了你们的大君米迦勒之外,没有帮助我抵挡这两君的。」(但以理书10:10-13, 20-21)




属灵争战在新约福音书中亦十分普遍,在马太福音( 4:1-11 )和路加福音( 4:1-13 )记载了主耶稣受撒旦的试探。撒旦企图要引诱主背弃对天父的忠心,为自己的利益而独立行事。撒旦当然失败了,我们为此感恩。撒旦的计谋加诸亚当和夏娃,或许其他人身上时会得逞,但对这君王却是徒劳无功。


8:28耶稣到了对岸,来到加大拉人的地方,有两个被鬼附的人从坟茔里出来迎着他。他们极其凶恶,所以没有人能从那条路经过。 8:29 他们喊着说:「 神的儿子,我们与你没有相干!时候还没有到,你就来叫我们受苦吗?」(马太福音8:28-29)

5:6当他远远的看见耶稣,就跑到他面前拜他, 5:7 又大声呼叫说:「至高 神的儿子耶稣,我与你没有相干!我指着 神恳求你,不要叫我受苦!」5:8(因耶稣曾对他说过:「污灵,从这人身上出来!」)5:9 耶稣问他说:「你名叫甚么?」他回答说:「我名叫兵团,因为我们多的缘故。」5:10 他再三的求耶稣不要叫他们离开那地方。(马可福音5:6-10)

8:30耶稣问他说:「你名叫甚么?」他说:「兵团。」因为附着他的鬼很多。 8:31 鬼就央求耶稣,不要吩咐他们到无底坑里去。(路加福音8:30-31)



从马太福音我们知道那将成立的教会,会受到撒旦的攻击( 太福音16:23 )。而路加告诉我们撒旦厚颜地要求主「把彼得如筛麦子般筛掉」(路加福音22:31)。撒旦进入了犹大,透过他出卖主,把主交给那些捉拿祂的人(约翰福音13:27)。撒旦这「世界的王」(约翰福音12:31; 14:30; 16:11),尽管他费尽力气,他将会得到相反的效果,他将被各各他的十字架打败。



使徒行传13:10 ,保罗斥责行法术的以吕马,因他敌挡福音,保罗称他为「魔鬼的儿子」。在哥林多后书第2章,保罗责备教会对饶恕一名愿意悔改的弟兄这事上保持缄默,是给撒旦留地步,他并说我们并不是不晓得他的诡计(哥林多后2:10-11 )。稍后,保罗在这封书信以「世界之神」来称呼撒旦,并称他使不信的人瞎了心眼,看不见基督荣耀福音的光(4:4)。在这书的较后部份,保罗警告撒旦和他的差役伪装作基督使徒的模样,以权威的领导使部份信徒走入歧途:

11:13那等人是假使徒,行事诡诈,装作基督使徒的模样。 11:14 这也不足为怪,因为连撒但也装作光的天使。 11:15 所以他的差役,若装作仁义的差役,也不算希奇。他们的结局,必然照着他们的行为。(哥林多后书11:13-15)

帖撒尼迦后2:1-12 当保罗谈及后来那邪恶的世代,当「不法的人」被显露,他们照着撒但的作为,行各样的异能、神迹和虚假的奇事(2:9)。在提摩太前3:6,保罗警告初入教的不可作监督,免得他自高自大,就落在魔鬼要受的刑罚里。在第4章,他警告将来有人会跌倒,离弃真道,因此需要留心「引诱人的邪灵,和鬼魔的教导」(4:1)。在提摩太前书第5章,保罗则劝勉年青的寡妇再婚,免得她们懒惰,又说长道短,好管闲事。这听起来很人性化,但保罗却把这些事和撒旦的活动连起来:「所以我宁愿年轻的寡妇嫁人,生养儿女,治理家务,不给敌人毁谤的把柄;因为已经有转去随从撒但的。」(提摩太前书5:14-15)试想,保罗指说三道四的背后是追随撒旦。现在让我们回答谁曾以说长道短,搬弄是非是邪恶的?保罗。

雅各在他的书信谴责信徒中的冲突和争闹,是属血气的互斗和这些事是从私欲而来的( 4:1-3 ),他继而指出这罪是叛逆神和使圣灵忧伤(4:3-4)。接着雅各把冲突和争闹指向撒旦:

4:6 但他赐更大的恩典,所以经上说:「 神阻挡骄傲的人,赐恩给谦卑的人。」4:7 故此,你们要顺服 神,抵挡魔鬼,魔鬼就必离开你们逃跑了。(雅各书4:6-7)

彼得在认识撒旦上学了艰苦的一课(参 马太福音16:21-23路加福音22:31 )。因此,他以领导和顺服作为背景,向其他人发出警告:撒旦是我们的仇敌,他威胁我们。 (彼得前书5:1-9 ):

5:8 务要谨守、儆醒。你们的仇敌魔鬼,如同吼叫的狮子,遍地游行,寻找可吞吃的人。 5:9 你们要抵挡他,信心坚定,因为知道你们在世上的弟兄姐妹,也在忍受同样的苦难。(彼得前书5:8-9)

记载在启示录第2-3章给教会的七封信,主耶稣经常提及撒旦是教会里诱惑和试探的来源(参启示录 2:9, 13, 24; 3:9)。启示录的其余部份描述与撒旦的最后争战和他终极被击败(特别参看第12章和第20章)。


11:10 因此,为天使的缘故,女人应当在头上有服权柄的记号。(哥林多前书11:10)

3:8 我本来比众圣徒中最小的还小,然而他还赐我这恩典,叫我把基督那测不透的丰富传给外邦人;3:9 又使众人都明白,这历代以来隐藏在创造万物之 神里,奥秘的计划, 3:10 就是要藉着教会使天上执政的、掌权的,现在得知 神百般的智慧。(以弗所书3:8-10)

我明白当撒旦叛逆神时,一个可观数目的天使参与撒旦的行列,也有一些如 赛亚书14以西结书28 所述,是较后期才加入的。我也偏向相信启示录12:4所说那将会发生的(即以弗所书6:13所说的「凶恶的日子」),那时,其他的天使或许会和撒旦一起叛逆神。若是这样,天使在观察教会时所学的「课」的显著性,就更加明确了。当天使看到妇女们顺服丈夫(哥林多前11:10),也被提醒他们顺服神的重要性。也许约伯记第1章,撒旦不单尝试说服神,也希望说服天使,受造物敬拜上帝是出于私心。那么,撒旦努力去破坏教会就不足为奇了,因那是他给天使的信息。





在第二章,保罗提醒你们从前死在过犯之中,与神隔绝,过着随从肉欲的生活,按实际情况是撒旦的走卒,并在不知不觉中执行了撒旦的计划和目的,就如其他悖逆之子( 2:1-3 )。因着神丰富的怜悯,把你们从罪中拯救出来,在基督里与神和好(2:4-10)。你们原本是外邦人,与神的子民间隔断,并且敌挡神的子民;而现时在基督里,你不单与神和好,也与神的子民和好。




3:8 我本来比众圣徒中最小的还小,然而他还赐我这恩典,叫我把基督那测不透的丰富传给外邦人; 3:9 又使众人都明白,这历代以来隐藏在创造万物之 神里,奥秘的计划,3:10 就是要藉着教会使天上执政的、掌权的,现在得知 神百般的智慧。 3:11 这是照 神从万世以前,在我们主基督耶稣里所成就的永恒旨意。 3:12我们因着耶稣的信实,就在他里面放胆无惧,笃信不疑的来到 神面前。(以弗所书3:8-12)






智者行事为人的特质是被圣灵充满和受圣灵的约束( 5:18 ),以互相顺服作为明证(5:21–6:9)。故此,保罗在给信徒互相顺服的指示后立即把主题转往属灵争战便不会使人感到突屹了。在这里,撒旦自己的叛逆最为明显,同时亦可预期他发动攻击。



至于保罗教导顺服( 5:21–6:9 )和属灵争战( 6:10-20 )的关系,还有一点要加以说明:顺服是放弃我们的权利和放弃追求个人利益;而属灵争战并不是放弃,而是坚定不移、不后退。我们岂不是经常把这两种情况倒过来吗?我们岂不是倾向在需要坚定不移时,我们却放弃;而在应该撤退时却坚持。我们要学习那些地方当我们收到指示要坚持时,我们坚持;当指示我们要顺服时,我们顺服。


6:10 最后,你们要在主里坚强,并在他的大能大力里得力。 6:11 要穿戴 神的全副军装,就能抵挡魔鬼的诡计。 6:12 因我们并不是与属血肉的争战,乃是与那些空中执政的、掌权的、管辖这幽暗世界的,以及天空属灵气的恶势力争战。 6:13 所以要拿起 神的全副军装,好在凶恶的日子抵挡仇敌,并且完成了一切,还能站立。

(1) 信基督救主可以被理解基督入属天的祝福(以弗所1:3),同时亦开始了与撒旦和他的党羽的大搏斗。让那些凭着信在祝福里的人,注意到我们是因信基督而进入这场战争,我们必须倚靠基督的力量作战。

(2) 教会也在这场属灵争中,人是撒旦和一群看不的天使与及属天的人,他的能力远远 我们只能看到极小部份的敌人,我们虽然看不到我们的敌人,但他们是真确地存在的,他们敌对我们的行动也是真确的。那些属天的敌人以不同的形态出现,保罗使用了不同的名词来描述:「空中执政的」、「空中掌权的」、「管辖这幽暗世界的」和「天空属灵气的恶势力」(第12节)。我疑惑我们是否有能力全面掌握那众多不同形式敌对我们的力量。我只能单单的给你提醒,天使看来有不同的等级,而启示录有关天堂的描述,当中的生物,恐怕在我们来到神面前以先,是无法明白的。(启示录5:6, 8, 11

天使有很大的权力,而撒旦看来拥有最大的权势,我们最好还是不要小嘘这力量。 过去我曾听过有一位牧者称撒旦为「懦弱的人」,我感到十分惊讶!从我们所引用的经文或是其他经文,怎可能得出如此结论呢?我们若轻视撒旦的力量,我们就低估了属灵争战的严重性,也低估了若要抵抗撒旦的攻击时,我们对神加添给我们力量的需要。我只想提醒你,那些轻看属天恶势力的,透过以下几节经文应该能纠正过来:

2:9 既是这样,主知道如何搭救敬虔的人脱离审判,把不义的人留至审判之日的刑罚, 2:10 特别是那些放纵肉欲、轻慢权柄的。他们胆大任性,毫不畏惧毁谤那尊贵的;2:11 即使是天使,虽然力量权能更大,也不用毁谤的话在主面前告他们。 2:12 但这些人好像没有理性的畜类、凭本能的动物,生来就是为被捉拿宰杀的;他们不知道自己所毁谤的,后果是败坏人的时候,自己必遭遇败坏;(彼得后书2:9-12)

1:8 同样,这些作梦的人,污秽身体,拒绝权柄,毁谤那尊贵的。 1:9 连天使长米迦勒为摩西的尸首与魔鬼争辩的时候,尚且不敢用毁谤的话罪责他,只说:「主责备你吧!」1:10 但这些人不知道他们所毁谤的,他们像无理性的畜类一样,在按本能知道的事上灭亡。(犹大书1: 8-10


(3) 文的重点,并非撒旦敌挡神和人的每一个环节,而是撒旦与圣徒的争。 撒旦的战略是多方面的,他阻拦未信的人认识真理,他使鬼附上人身。但在以弗所书第6章,保罗的关注点是撒旦与教会的战争与及神赐予基督徒的防御装备。

(4) 在属灵争中,撒旦使用各不同的策略攻和打基督徒。 保罗所谈论的,并非魔鬼的某一个策略,而是多个策略。按记载在马太福音第4章和路加福音第4章撒旦试探耶稣的经文,撒旦暂时放弃他的诱惑,但路加清楚表明撒旦只是暂时放弃,当他重整棋鼓时,他又卷土重来:「魔鬼用尽了各样的试探,就离开耶稣,等待好时机。」(路加福音4:13)撒旦不单止使用了很多不同的方法来试探主,他并且定意只要有机会,就不停地试探祂。撒旦是一个机会主义者,他并且有无穷的「方案」。

(5) 在撒旦教会并非行正面的攻,而是透谋诡计、欺和弄虚作假的覆性攻 在加大拉,当鬼遇到耶稣时感到错愕,他们预期耶稣在最后审判时才来(太福音8:28-29)。撒旦现时的策略(直至最后争战)是使用颠覆性的方法。他使用欺诈的手段和阴谋诡计来绊倒基督徒。这是一场使用狙击手和陷阱的游击战,并非正面的攻击。

(6) 「邪的世代」将会来,那属灵争会白化,信徒面的危也随之而增加。 世代邪恶是真确的:「你们要谨慎生活,不要像愚昧人,当像智慧人;要珍惜时机,因为现今的世代邪恶。」(以弗所5:15-16)但保罗并非泛指整个邪恶世代,而是指一个邪恶的日子,据我理解是撒旦进行激烈的攻击导致主再来,同时是撒旦和他的党羽的终极被毁灭(参帖撒尼迦后2:1-12启示录12和20章)。基督徒武士的特征是警惕,故此他并没有因为没有防卫而被撒旦的诡计所俘虏,并且在终极的审判站立得稳。

(7) 基督徒所使用的武器是神籍基督所予。那是祂为属祂的在邪恶的日子带来救恩;穿上神所赐的全副军装,也就是披戴基督。

11:1 从耶西的墩必发一条,嫩芽必从他的根而出。 11:2 耶和华的灵必住在他身上──是使他有超凡智慧的灵、能执行计划的灵、绝对效忠耶和华的灵。 11:3 他必以顺从耶和华为乐,行审判不凭眼见,断是非也不凭耳闻。 11:4 他必以公平对待贫穷人,为世上的卑下人作正确的决定。他必以口中的杖击打全地,下令处决邪恶的人。 11:5 公平有如他的腰带,信德如同胁下的带子。(以赛亚书11:1-5)

59:16 他见无人代言,无人干预,甚为惊动。就亲自动手,他对公平的愿望催迫着他。 59:17 他以公义的意愿为铠甲(注:或作「护心镜」),以拯救的心愿为头盔。他以报仇为衣服,以热心为外袍。 59:18 他必按人的行为施报,分发恼怒的审判给他的对头,惩罚他的仇敌,向众海岸施行报应。 59:19 西方的人必敬重耶和华的名;东方的人也必认出他的荣美。因为他来好像急流的河水,被耶和华差派之风驱动。 59:20「必有一位保护者来到锡安,到雅各布族中从悖逆行为悔攺的人那里。」这是耶和华说的。(以赛亚书59:16-20)


13:11 我们这样行,因为晓得现今就是早该睡醒的时候,因为我们的得救比初信的时候更近了。 13:12 黑夜已深,白昼将近。我们就当放下暗昧的行为,带上光的兵器;13:13 行事为人要端正,好像行在白昼。不可荒宴醉酒,不可好色邪荡,不可争竞嫉妒。 13:14 反要披戴主耶稣基督,不要为肉体安排去惹动私欲。 (罗马书13:11-14)


(8) 指示穿上神所的全副装是一个命令。 在第二次世界大战时,我的父亲和其他人收到一封信。这封信的的开端是这样的:「美国总统向你们问安。」,相信你已经猜到这是一封征召入伍的信,总统发出的并不是一个邀请,而是一个命令。没有人胆敢把这封信置诸不理,因为这样做会带来严重的后果。


(9) 只有当我穿上神所的全副,才能肯定得到抵撒旦攻的足够保护。 撒旦的攻击层出不穷,只要他认为有机可乘便会发动攻击。故此,我们必须穿上全套军装,而不是按我们的意思随意挑选,否则我们便暴露于被攻击的危险。


(10) 我们的责任并不是攻击撒旦,或把他打败;而是被他攻击时能站立得稳。 我们的工作是防御而非攻击。那些向撒旦发动攻击的,并不了解撒旦的能力,也不明白神的计划。打败撒旦的是基督,并不是我们。我们的责任是抵挡撒旦而不是铲除他。我曾听见有基督徒说要「捆绑撒旦」,也有基督徒唱诗歌的内容要把「撒旦赶出城外」;然而圣经并没有提及这样的争战,圣经只说当我们面对撒旦的攻击时,要站立得稳。


12:10 之后,我听见天上有大声音说:「我 神的救恩、能力、国度,并他基督治理的权柄,现在都来到了,因为那在我们 神面前昼夜控告我们弟兄的已经被摔下去了。 12:11 但是弟兄胜过他,是靠羔羊的血和自己的见证;他们虽至于死,也不爱惜性命。(启示录12:10-11)

20:9 他们上来遍满了地面的平原,围住圣徒的营与蒙爱的城,但有火从天降下消灭了他们。 20:10 那迷惑他们的魔鬼就被扔在硫磺的火湖里,就是兽和假先知所在的地方。他们必昼夜受刑,直到永永远远。(启示录20:9-10)


14:10 法老臨近的时候,以色列人举目看見埃及人在后面赶來,就极其惧怕,向耶和华呼求。 14:11 他们又对摩西說:「难道在埃及没有坟地,你把我们带來死在旷野吗?你将我们从埃及領出來是怎么一回事呢? 14:12 我们在埃及豈不是对你这样說:『不要搅扰我们,容我们服事埃及人,因为服事埃及人比死在旷野还好。』」14:13 摩西对百姓說:「不要惧怕!只管站住,看耶和华今天向你们所要施行的救恩;因为你们今天所看見的埃及人,必永远不再看見了。 14:14 耶和华必为你们争战,你们只管静观。」(出埃及记14:10-14)

虽然基督徒积极参与战斗,但得胜的是神(参 5:13–6:27 )。另外,大卫歌利亚战斗时,他并没有剑,只有机弦甩石;大卫能得胜,是神赐他胜利。就是从歌利亚所说的话中,亦清楚表明大卫这年青人无法靠自己的能力战胜,而大卫的话就更清楚表达得胜的是神:

17:41 非利士人也渐渐地迎着大卫来,拿盾牌的走在前头。 17:42 非利士人观看,见了大卫,就藐视他,因为他年轻,面色光红,容貌俊美。 17:43 非利士人对大卫说:「你拿杖到我这里来,我岂是狗呢?」非利士人就指着自己的神咒诅大卫。 17:44 非利士人又对大卫说:「来吧!我将你的肉给空中的飞鸟、田野的走兽吃。」

17:45 大卫对非利士人说:「你来攻击我,是靠着刀枪和铜戟;我来攻击你,是靠着万军之耶和华的名,就是你所怒骂带领以色列军队的 神。 17:46 今日耶和华必将你交在我手里。我必杀你,斩你的头;又将非利士军兵的尸首给空中的飞鸟、地上的野兽吃,使普天下的人都知道以色列中有 神;17:47 又使这众人知道耶和华使人得胜,不是用刀用枪,因为争战的胜败全在乎耶和华。他必将你们交在我们手里。

17:48 非利士人起身,迎着大卫前来。大卫急忙迎着非利士人,往战场跑去。 17:49 大卫用手从囊中掏出一块石子来,用机弦甩去,打中非利士人的额,石子进入额内,他就仆倒,面伏于地。 17:50 这样,大卫用机弦甩石,胜了那非利士人,打死他;大卫手中却没有刀。 17:51 大卫跑去,站在非利士人身旁,将他的刀从鞘中拔出来,杀死他,割了他的头。非利士众人看见他们讨战的勇士死了,就都逃跑。(撒母耳记上17:41-51)

(11) 福音及撒旦被打与及我的防御。 耶稣在福音书中曾经多次提及撒旦被打败。每次提及撒旦被打败时,都是透过各各他的十字架把撒旦打败。当耶稣在各各他被钉十字架,并且在第三日复活,我们的救恩和撒旦被打败都已经成就了。主已战胜了祂的敌人,最重要是撒旦已被战胜了。

12:31 现在这世界要受审判,这世界的王要被赶出去。(约翰福音12:31)

16:8 他既来了,就要证明世人在罪、在义、在审判的错误。 16:9 在罪,是因他们不信我;16:10 在义,是因我往父那里去,你们不再见我; 16:11 在审判,是因这世界的王受了审判。(约翰福音16:8-11)


(12) 武器的性质给很多事本资料,与及撒旦努力毁灭所使用的方法。 当我们稍后研究每种装备时,我们就会发现神所赐给我们的装备正正针对撒旦的不同诡计,与及他怎样引发与圣徒的争战。因此,认识神为我们预备的装备,就是认识撒旦使我们跌倒的方法。



(1) 们战胜撒旦的攻击时,通常不能明看到撒旦被打或我;反来,有些候我们战胜了,却看似撒旦得而我们败来。 当耶稣在各各他被钉死在十字架上,岂不像撒旦胜了吗?然而当我们的主表面上看似被打败时(和撒旦表面上得胜),我们的救主却给我们成就了救恩,打败了撒旦。这情况同样在一些圣徒身上发生。启示录告诉我们,撒旦和他的仆役一度为战胜圣徒而奏凯歌,但这只能说是一时失利,却成就了神的旨意,成为撒旦被终极毁灭的前奏。

6:9 到了羔羊揭开第五印的时候,我看见在祭坛底下,有为 神的道并为作见证被杀之人的灵魂。 6:10 他们大声喊着说:「圣洁真实的全能主啊!还要等多久你才审判住在地上的人,给我们伸流血的冤呢?」6:11 于是有白袍赐给他们各人,又有话告诉他们还要安息片时,等着一同作仆人的和他们的弟兄,也像他们被杀,满足了数目。(启示录6:9-11)

(2) 撒旦通常使用既自然又人性化的方法,他并不常使用异乎常或超自然的攻 你会发现我们的经文并没有把撒旦恶魔化,虽然撒旦的武器包括行各样异能神迹和虚假的奇事,但在这段经文却没有加以强调。撒旦引诱亚当和夏娃时,是使他们怀疑神的美善和违背祂的命令。撒旦攻击约伯时,他使用天然灾害和疾病。他也使用疾病来折磨保罗(参哥林多后12:7)。他利用大卫的骄傲来试探大卫(代志上21:1)。而试探我们的主时,他透过人的野心和欲望(太福音4:1-11路加福音4:1-13)。

(3) 撒旦极少正面攻信徒,他会透过别的方法,一些我们难以察是出于撒旦的途径。 只有少数的例子,撒旦会自己正面攻击人,例如他亲自试探我们的主,但很明显,这是一个很独特的例子。通常他会透过别的工具「说话」,使我们无法辨别是他正在攻击我们。在伊甸园,他透过蛇说话;他透过彼得阻挠基督死在十字架上的计划(太福音16:23)。他更常使用的方法是指示他的差役执行他的命令(参哥林多后12:7)。



我并不建议把一切恶行都算到撒旦头上,或把一切的攻击、困难和试探,都推到撒旦头上。约伯并不知道撒旦是他所面对的苦难的幕后黑手,他也无需要知道这实况。他需要知道的是那全智、全能的神掌管宇宙万物和他的生命。约伯应该做的有相较「捆绑撒旦」更重要的事情,那就是相信神和顺服神。世界里很多苦难和邪恶的事件,我们都找到撒旦的指纹;但有些恶事的主因源于我们肉体的情欲(雅各1:13-15)与及我们是活在一个充满罪的堕落世界(罗马书8:18-25 )。

(4) 撒旦的攻是他自己的叛逆和扭曲产生的 简单而言,撒旦使用经过他自己包装那对事实扭曲了的观念,来引导他的攻击。他不能相信任何人敬拜神是单纯因为神是神,而是因为神的赐予。撒旦以神是人按祂的命令而行时的受益人,他不能想象神本身就是我们的奖赏。故此撒旦攻击约伯,因他认为这样做会令约伯不再顺服神。



(5) 撒旦是被打人,但仍需等待他被完全歼灭 我们已提及撒旦已被各各他的十字架打败了,在这里我们再重申我们肯定撒旦被歼灭。

(6) 撒旦现时敌挡神的旨意和神的子民看似教会不利,但事上,撒旦是把神的旨意和推得更 神有意延迟将撤旦扔进火湖,任由这「世界的王」自由运作,让他在不知不觉中完成了祂的旨意。他也算是为神带来荣耀,神也使用他成为我们的益处。当撒旦给犹大出卖耶稣的灵感时,这正好是完成救恩所需要的。虽然撤旦的差役以一根刺来使保罗受痛苦,但这却成了对保罗的益处(参哥林多后12:7-10)。撒旦经常被捆锁,被神捆锁。当撒旦含恶意地进行他的工作,神却使用他,让我们从中得益处,也让神得荣耀。若非能成就神的旨意、神的荣耀或我们能从中得益处,没有一件事情撒旦会被容许进行。神和撒旦之间的属灵争战,战果是肯定的。我们经历挣扎是神永恒计划的一部份;而穿上神所赐的属灵军装来抵御撒旦的攻击和站立得稳,却是我们的责任。



这场战事的重点并不是谁胜谁负,因为神已经透过祂儿子在各各他十字架上之死已得胜(参 翰福音12:31; 16:11)。现时进行的战事是为了我们的益处,也为神带来荣耀。这场战事是神给天军的部份指示(参以弗所3:8-11)、也是神为祂的创造所定下的永恒计划和旨意的一部份。


5:13 约书亚靠近耶利哥的时候,举目观看,看见有一个人手里有拔出来的刀,对面站立。约书亚到他那里,问他说:「你是帮助我们呢?是帮助我们敌人呢?」5:14 他回答说:「不是的,我现在来是要作耶和华军队的元帅。」约书亚就俯伏在地下拜,说:「我主有甚么话吩咐仆人?」5:15 耶和华军队的元帅对约书亚说:「把你脚上的鞋脱下来,因为你所站的地方是圣的。」约书亚就照着行了。(约书亚记5:13-15)


17:44 非利士人又对大卫说:「来吧!我将你的肉给空中的飞鸟、田野的走兽吃。」17:45 大卫对非利士人说:「你来攻击我,是靠着刀枪和铜戟;我来攻击你,是靠着万军之耶和华的名,就是你所怒骂带领以色列军队的 神。 17:46 今日耶和华必将你交在我手里。我必杀你,斩你的头;又将非利士军兵的尸首给空中的飞鸟、地上的野兽吃,使普天下的人都知道以色列中有 神;17:47 又使这众人知道耶和华使人得胜,不是用刀用枪,因为争战的胜败全在乎耶和华。他必将你们交在我们手里。」(撒母耳记上17:44-47)



23:29 我不在一年之内将他们从你面前撵出去,恐怕地成为荒凉,野兽多起來害你。 23:30 我要渐渐地将他们从你面前撵出去,等到你的人數加多,承受那地为业。 23:31 我要定你的境界,从红海直到非利士海,又从旷野直到大河。我要将那地的居民交在你手中,你要将他们从你面前撵出去。(出埃及记23:29-31)

神并没有给予以色列人即时的胜利、也没有给予他们完全战胜他们的仇敌——迦南人。以色列人要和迦南人争战,把他们赶出迦南地,但胜利是神所赐予的,故此,祂派祂的天使打败敌人(出埃及23:20-23; 32:34; 33:2)。我们正处于属灵争战中,我们必须穿上神所赐的军装。胜利是属于神的,而我们只有靠祂的力量才能站稳。


11:1 有一年春天,列王惯常作战的时候,大卫差派约押和以色列全军出战。他们打败亚扪人,包围了拉巴。但大卫留在耶路撒冷。(撒母耳记下11:1)

20:1 到了春天,列王出战的时候,约押率领军兵毁坏亚扪人的地。他围攻拉巴,而大卫留在耶路撒冷。约押打败拉巴,将城倾覆。(历代志上20:1)


按历代志上的记载,大卫决定留在家中(也许这和 撒母耳11 是同一事件),没多久,他就决定数点以色列人的人数,引致神审判以色列。如果我们不参战,我们就已经败下阵来。



当我们在世的日子终结时,我祈求我们能像保罗所说的:「那美好的仗我已经打过了,当跑的路我已经跑尽了,所信的道我已经守住了;」( 提摩太后4:7


: 以弗所书4, 5, 6, 弟兄组讨论问题

第1部份: 属灵争战, 弟兄组讨论问题


1. 在你的教会里,你在哪里看到和经历过属灵争战?

2. 它是如何影响你的灵命成长?

3. 描述它对你家人的影响。

4. 你采取怎样的步骤来持守你的信仰?


5. 你在哪里看到对你的教会产生负面影响的阴谋?

6. 你的教会里存在甚么教义或行为上的谬误?

7. 描述撒旦如何使用诡计,在你的教会发动属灵争战。

8. 与组员分享你曾上当或受骗的事件。             

第2部份: 属灵争战, 弟兄组讨论问题


1. 描述一个你在撒旦攻击时,倚靠圣灵的力量站稳的例子。

2. 你曾经历过看似被打败,但实质是胜利的经历吗?请加以描述。


3. 你能道出几个撒旦间接攻击你的方法吗?

4. 撒旦怎样间接攻击你的家庭?

5. 撒旦使用了哪些「伪装」的手法?

6. 撒旦怎样间接攻击你的教会?

7. 当你,你的家人和你的教会受到撒旦攻击时,你采取了甚么步骤使你能够站稳?

第3部份: 属灵争战, 弟兄组讨论问题

以弗所 4:1-16 弟兄要在基督里合一,运用神所赐的属灵恩赐,避免诡诈,活出基督的样式。属神的人明白神所赐予的属灵恩赐的唯一目的是建立基督的教会。

1. 作为基督的追随者,你拥有甚么性格的特征来支配自己的行为?

2. 我们的呼召带来了甚么希望?

3. 保罗列出了好些基督给人的恩赐,你有哪些恩赐?请说明。

4. 神给你恩赐的唯一目的是甚么?

5. 在以下领域,你怎样应用你的属灵恩赐:

  • 你的家
  • 家庭
  • 教会

6. 组讨论 以弗所书4:1-5所列出的性格特征,有哪些方面你需要加以改善,并且会承诺立即这样做?可以请求组员来帮助你。

第4部份: 属灵争战, 弟兄组讨论问题

以弗所 4:17-5:8 人的生命应是圣洁、纯正、诚实和顺服。属神的人要纯洁、顺服、坦率,并在任何时候都愿作牺牲。

11. 试述保罗在以弗所书4:17-19提供了哪些和弟兄应如何生活的具体方法。

2. 成为「新人」是甚么意思?

3. 个人行为在哪些方面会给撒旦立足之地?

4. 有益身心的话会带来甚么果效?

5. 在哪些领域你要洁净你的言语?

6. 在以弗所书5:1-2,跟随基督的人应怎样生活?

7. 以弗所书5:3-4禁止甚么行为?

8. 你正面对甚么挣扎?必须诚实和具体地回答。

9. 那些不道德的,不纯正的或贪婪的人,会有甚么后果?

10. 神将如何处理那些不顺服和欺诈的人?

11. 组讨论 哪些思想和行为是你要活出保罗在以弗所书4:17-5:8的生活最大障碍?

第5部份: 属灵争战, 弟兄组讨论问题

以弗所 5:9-6:9 . 男人要明智、清醒、顺服创造秩序、披露诡诈,并且为神所给予的呼召而感恩。属神的男人爱他们的妻子,愿为妻子作出牺牲,按真理教导儿女,热忱地服侍主人,对待他人时,都给予对方应有的尊严。

1. 顺服结出怎样的果子?

2. 为什么我们要把欺骗者公诸于世?

3. 以弗所书5:15-21,保罗继续陈述追随基督的人必须具备的性格特征。它们是甚么?

4. 这经文教导作丈夫的应怎样去爱妻子?

5. 描述你如何实践这种对妻子的爱。

6. 按以弗所书6:4,你应成为一个怎样的父亲?

7. 你每天应怎样在主里教导你的儿女?

8. 试述「管教孩子却不惹他们的气」是什么意思?

9. 在主里管教和指导孩子,你要面对那些艰难的决定?

10. 组讨论爱妻子,愿意为她牺牲和更着意地管教孩子,你需要考虑哪些个人风险?

第6部份: 属灵争战, 弟兄组讨论问题

以弗所 6:10-20 弟兄要穿上神所赐的军备,才能在属灵争战中不败。属神的人在属灵争战中,不论是对抗不道德的事、欺诈和不顺服,都需要神所赐的军备。

1. 在属灵争战中谁是我们的敌人?

2. 我们在那里可以找到用来束腰的真理?

3. 为何要以公义为「护胸甲」?

4. 「撒旦的火箭」指的是甚么?

5. 信心的盾牌怎样保护我们避过撒旦的攻击?

6. 为甚么救恩被比喻为「头盔」?

7. 圣经如何作为一把剑?

8. 不论何时,我们必须做什么?

9. 组讨论在你生命的哪些领域,你经历了最严重的属灵争战?请具体说明。

第7部份: 属灵争战, 弟兄组讨论问题

1. 在你的家里,你维持了哪些使用互联网的规则?

2. 你的电脑放在共享的地方吗?如果不是,你把它们放在那里?

3. 你有使用过滤软件吗?若果没有,是甚么缘故呢?

4. 你的孩子可以在自己的卧室上网吗?为什么?

5. 你的孩子有要求自己的网上账户吗?

6. 他们有自己的网上账户吗?为什么?

7. 你会在互联网上浏览甚么网页?

8. 组讨论和组员分享你所采取的步骤,让你的家人能安全使用互联网?

第8部份: 属灵争战, 弟兄组讨论问题

1. 你有卫星电视或有线电视吗?

2. 你让你的孩子观看什么节目?

3. 你会否检查电视节目的内容是健康的、还是不纯正的吗?

  • 语言?
  • 剧情?
  • 含色情?
  • 含暴力?

4. 你怎样过滤不合宜的广告?

5. 你会选择观看甚么节目?

组讨论 有没有一些特定的节目你不容许你的孩子收看,为甚么?你容许他们观看的节目会否含有道德或灵性相异、使人反感的内容?你和你妻子所看的节目,是否也适合你的孩子收看?

第9部份: 属灵争战, 弟兄组讨论问题

1. 在下列场合,你女儿的衣着端庄高雅吗?

  • 学校?
  • 教会?
  • 公众场合?
  • 與与朋友交往时?

2. 她们的衣服:

  • 太紧?
  • 透视?
  • 含暗示性?

3. 在下列场合,你儿子的衣着合宜、有品味吗?

  • 学校?
  • 教会?
  • 公众场合?
  • 与朋友交往时?

4. 他们的衣服:

  • 太松垮垮的?
  • 令人不快的?

5. 你让他们在那里购物?

6. 谁倍同他们前往购物?

7. 组讨论 你和孩子之间,有没有因为他们希望穿著的衣服和你希望他们穿的衣服有所不同而出现争吵?你如何解决冲突?

第10部份: 属灵争战, 弟兄组讨论问题

1. 你的孩子放学返家后,谁照顾他们?

2. 你会允许你的孩子与他们的朋友一起逛商场吗?

3. 你认识你孩子的朋友的父母吗?

4. 你容许孩子在外过夜,不回家吗?

5. 谁会帮助孩子解决学习上遇到的困难?

6. 你有否和家人每天一起祷告和读经?

7. 你的孩子听那类音乐?

8. 你的孩子有iPod播放器吗?

9. 谁替他们下载音乐?

10. 他们有自己的手机吗?

11. 他们和谁通话?

12. 他们的手机有拍摄装置吗?

13. 他们会拍摄甚么影像?

14. 组讨论 那些文化带来的影响会引发灵性上、情绪上和身心健康上的危机?

第11部份: 属灵争战, 弟兄组讨论问题

请详细描述在下列领域你会采取甚么行动来保护你的家人,包括那些可能会破坏你和妻子或和孩子的关系的行动:骗局、不道德的事、叛逆的文化、媒体和不良娱乐 。




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