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Doctrinal Discussions:

Must All Men Be Free?

January 04, 2006

These studies examine the traditional doctrines held by the Church of Christ to see if they are actually taught in the scriptures. This is not an "anti-Church of Christ" site. I was reared in the Church of Christ and have preached in the Church of Christ since 1968. My desire is that we walk righteously before God, not according to traditions of men.  Bernie Parsons

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Must All Men Be Free?

by Bernie Parsons - January 04, 2006 

Sometimes the question is asked, "Does God want all men to be free? Or, does God condone slavery?"

God has established freedom in humankind since the beginning of humanity in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were given the choice of obeying God, or disobeying Him. That is freedom. This freedom of choice has continued throughout the ages.

Nevertheless, we do see servitude among the Israelites. There was a distinction made between the Israelite as servant, versus the Gentile as servant.

Exodus 21:2: "If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing.
3: If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him.
4: If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out by himself.
5: And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free:
6: Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever.
7: And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do.
8: If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed: to sell her unto a strange nation he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her.
9: And if he have betrothed her unto his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters.
10: If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish.
11: And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money."

Leviticus 25:38: "I am the LORD your God, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God.
39: And if thy brother that dwelleth by thee be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee; thou shalt not compel him to serve as a bondservant:
40: But as an hired servant, and as a sojourner, he shall be with thee, and shall serve thee unto the year of jubile:
41: And then shall he depart from thee, both he and his children with him, and shall return unto his own family, and unto the possession of his fathers shall he return.
42: For they are my servants, which I brought forth out of the land of Egypt: they shall not be sold as bondmen.
43: Thou shalt not rule over him with rigour; but shalt fear thy God.
44: Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids.
45: Moreover of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land: and they shall be your possession.
46: And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever: but over your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigour.
47: And if a sojourner or stranger wax rich by thee, and thy brother that dwelleth by him wax poor, and sell himself unto the stranger or sojourner by thee, or to the stock of the stranger's family:
48: After that he is sold he may be redeemed again; one of his brethren may redeem him:
49: Either his uncle, or his uncle's son, may redeem him, or any that is nigh of kin unto him of his family may redeem him; or if he be able, he may redeem himself.
50: And he shall reckon with him that bought him from the year that he was sold to him unto the year of jubile: and the price of his sale shall be according unto the number of years, according to the time of an hired servant shall it be with him.
51: If there be yet many years behind, according unto them he shall give again the price of his redemption out of the money that he was bought for.
52: And if there remain but few years unto the year of jubile, then he shall count with him, and according unto his years shall he give him again the price of his redemption.
53: And as a yearly hired servant shall he be with him: and the other shall not rule with rigour over him in thy sight."

Deuteronomy 15:12: "And if thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee.
13: And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty:
14: Thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the LORD thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him.
15: And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the LORD thy God redeemed thee: therefore I command thee this thing to day.
16: And it shall be, if he say unto thee, I will not go away from thee; because he loveth thee and thine house, because he is well with thee;
17: Then thou shalt take an aul, and thrust it through his ear unto the door, and he shall be thy servant for ever. And also unto thy maidservant thou shalt do likewise.
18: It shall not seem hard unto thee, when thou sendest him away free from thee; for he hath been worth a double hired servant to thee, in serving thee six years: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all that thou doest."

Jeremiah 34:12: "Therefore the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,
13: Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel; I made a covenant with your fathers in
the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondmen, saying,
14: At the end of seven years let ye go every man his brother an Hebrew, which hath been sold unto thee; and when he hath served thee six years, thou shalt let him go free from thee: but your fathers hearkened not unto me, neither inclined their ear.
15: And ye were now turned, and had done right in my sight, in proclaiming liberty every man to his neighbour; and ye had made a covenant before me in the house which is called by my name:
16: But ye turned and polluted my name, and caused every man his servant, and every man his handmaid, whom ye had set at liberty at their pleasure, to return, and brought them into subjection, to be unto you for servants and for handmaids.
17: Therefore thus saith the LORD; Ye have not hearkened unto me, in proclaiming liberty, every one to his brother, and every man to his neighbour: behold, I proclaim a liberty for you, saith the LORD, to the sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine; and I will make you to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth."

Even so, it was common to grant servants their freedom. If the Hebrew (Israelite) servant still served in the year of jubilee--the seventh year--he or she was to be set free. Not only that, the male servants were to be given enough to go away and take care of their own needs. They were furnished out of the goods of the employer, or master. The female Hebrew servants became wives, or daughters-in-law. These were to be treated well, and sustained materially. Gentile servants were not set free in the jubilee, but were servants in perpetuity.

With the coming of Jesus Christ as our Savior, came freedom We enjoy a measure of freedom such as the world has never known. We are free from sin; free from ignorance; and free from guilt.

John 8:32: "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

John 8:36: "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed."

This is freedom in the spiritual sense. Jesus spoke of a freedom that comes from hearing and believing truth.

Romans 6:18: "Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness."

The Apostle Paul spoke several times of being free from the Law of Moses. The book of Romans addresses this in depth, because certain Jews from Jerusalem, professing to follow Christ, attempted to also force the converted Gentiles to learn and adopt the Law of Moses, including circumcision of the males.

Paul also addressed the reality of those who were servants of men, but who became Christians. He notes that, in Christ, there is neither bond nor free. All are brothers and sisters in Christ, regardless of station in life. A man who was born free, or who had purchased his freedom, became a servant to Christ, and to his fellow Christians. A man who was "owned" or controlled by a master, although a
servant in the human sense, was free in Christ in the spiritual sense.

1 Corinthians 7:21: "Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.
22: For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant."

1 Corinthians 9:19: "For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more."

1 Corinthians 12:13: "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit."

As Paul instructs the Gentile Christians regarding this freedom in Christ, he reminds those who are servants to serve their masters well. This, he says, is because of their service to Christ, and not to their worldly master. The Apostle Peter also gives the same advice.

1 Peter 2:13: "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme;
14: Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.
15: For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:
16: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.
17: Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.
18: Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.
19: For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.
20: For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.
21: For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:
22: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:
23: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:"

Peter also recognizes that masters who are not Christians might inflict pain and suffering upon their servants. Rather than rebelling against such a master, Peter instructs the Christian who is a servant to obey their masters, and do their jobs well, although the master might mistreat them. If they are so made to suffer, Peter reminds them that Christ became a servant for us all, and was made to suffer.
Therefore, he concludes, the suffering Christian servant must not rebel against his master, but must serve him well, regardless of the treatment received at his hand.

Ephesians 6:5: "Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;
6: Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;
7: With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men:
8: Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.
9: And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him."

Like Peter, Paul tells the servants, who are Christians, to give their masters good service. Like Peter, he emphasizes that this good service is not because that worldly master deserves it, but because it is the example that Jesus Christ set for us all. Paul instructs masters, as well as servants, who are Christians. He tells the masters that Jesus is the master of all. They should follow the example of the heavenly master, and treat the servants with respect and kindness. In the eyes of  the Lord, master and servant are the same. He holds no greater respect for the master than he does for the servant. Our master became our servant.

Philippians 2:5: "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
6: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
7: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
8: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."

John 13:13: "Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.
14: If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet.
15: For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.
16: Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.
17: If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them."

In Paul's treatment of the subject of the oneness of the servant and the free man, he shows the qualities that Christians are to have toward one another, and others. Charity--that love that is not earned or deserved--is to be that which binds us all together in the Lord. So, the servant should love his Christian master, and the master is to love his Christian servant.

Colossians 3:11: "Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.
12: Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;
13: Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
14: And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness."

Galatians 3:27: "For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
28: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus."

The lesson is epitomized in the letter that Paul wrote to Philemon about his runaway servant, Onesimus. Paul urged love and kindness, rather than anger and retribution, upon the return of Onesimus to the service of Philemon. Paul told Philemon that, with the conversion of Onesimus to Christ, the servant is now a servant in the flesh, and in the Lord. He begged Philemon to receive the servant as a brother, and as a partner in the work of the Lord.

Philemon 10: "I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds:
11: Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me:
12: Whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels:
13: Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel:
14: But without thy mind would I do nothing; that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly.
15: For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever;
16: Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord?
17: If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself.
18: If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account;
19: I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it: albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides."

We are made free in Christ. We are free to serve. True leadership comes through serving others.

Matthew 20:25: "But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.
26: But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;
27: And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:
28: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many."

The gospel of Christ is about freedom--from ignorance, sin, and guilt. It is also about servitude. We are set free spiritually in order to serve each other, and thereby serve the Lord.

Matthew 25:31: "When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
32: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
33: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
34: Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37: Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38: When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39: Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40: And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
41: Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
42: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
43: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
44: Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
45: Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.46: And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal."

When we serve one another, we serve Christ. We are free to serve! Our freedom comes by understanding the truth of God, and His love toward us. Once we have that understanding, we understand that our role is to serve. We choose to serve, just as Jesus chose to serve. We do not use our freedom in Christ to place stumblingblocks in the way of others. Rather, we use it to bring them to Christ.

Galatians 4:22: "For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman.
23: But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.
24: Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.
25: For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.
26: But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.
27: For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou
that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an
28: Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.
29: But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after
the Spirit, even so it is now.
30: Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son:
for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.
31: So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.
5:1: Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be
not entangled again with the yoke of bondage."

Galatians 5:13: "For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty
for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.
14: For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
15: But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.
16: This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
17: For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
18: But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law."

James 2:12: "So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.
13: For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.
14: What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
15: If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
16: And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?"

By meeting the needs of others--which is the meaning of service--we lead others to Christ, and in the love of Christ, showing charity to all.

2 Corinthians 3:17: "Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
18: But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."

We are free to choose to serve the Lord. We are free to learn of Him, and become like Him! In doing so, we understand that our freedom is to be put to use in the service of others.

Hebrews 5:8: "Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;"

We must learn to be obedient servants, even if that means that we are maligned and mistreated. There is no call from Christ to rise in rebellion against worldly masters. On the contrary, Christians are called to be good servants.

Does God demand that all men be set free? God desires that we become free from sin, ignorance, and guilt. Jesus died to give us that freedom. He gave His life that we might be free.

Both Old and New Testaments contain the language of servants and masters. A master who is a Christian is to be kind, wise, and respectful. It should be his goal, not to demean the servant, or reduce him to poverty. On the contrary, the scriptures plainly teach a godly master will see that his servant's lot in life is improved. He will seek to elevate his standard of living.

On the other hand, the servant is to be respectful to his master, doing his job well.

In our times, an employee is basically a hired servant. The employer is a master of his employees. As such, whether we discharge the role of employer, or employee, we should follow the teachings of the apostles in our relationships with each other.

Borrowers become servants to the banks, credit card companies, and other lending institutions.

Proverbs 22:7: "The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender."

The borrower has a responsibility to be a good servant to his lender, repaying the debt as agreed.

Psalms 37:21: "The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again: but the righteous sheweth mercy, and giveth."

If possible, we should try to get out of debt, so that we are not servants to the lenders. If we follow the instructions given to the Israelites, we will assist our brothers in Christ to rise from poverty and prosper in the Lord.

Deuteronomy 15:6: "For the LORD thy God blesseth thee, as he promised thee: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, but thou shalt not borrow; and thou shalt reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over thee."

Deuteronomy 28:12: "The LORD shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow."

This is reflected in the Apostle Paul's writings to the Corinthian church.

2 Corinthians 8:12: "For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.
13: For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened:
14: But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality:
15: As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack."

Paul told the Romans to owe no man any thing, except to love one another.

Romans 13:8: "Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.
9: For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
10: Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law."

If we find ourselves to be masters in this life, as Christians, it is our duty to improve the lot of those who might find themselves our servants. We are to treat them with kindness, respect, and love. We should do our best to arrange for their success and prosperity.

If we Christians find ourselves to be servants in this life, we are to be good servants, obedient to our masters. If the opportunity comes to be free from a master in this world, it is a welcome opportunity to futher do the work of the Lord, by freely serving our fellow Christians, and our fellow man.

1 Corinthians 7:20: "Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.
21: Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.
22: For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant.
23: Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.
24: Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God."

There is no condemnation in scripture of a just master. There is no condemnation in scripture of a faithful servant. The call is for us to use our position in life to serve the Lord faithfully, and to lead others into the path of righteousness.

Love, in Christ,

Bernie Parsons 

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