Friday, April 30, 2010

Does the Bible Condone Slavery?

A thoughtful treatment of this topic, re-posted from Ravi Zacharias International Ministries

Does the Bible Condone Slavery?

Every thinking reader of the Bible is bound to ask at some point in time, “Does this book actually condone slavery?” To be sure, slavery is not the only issue the Bible causes us to question. The Old Testament is rife with palace intrigues, polygamy, divorce, violence and the like, and godly people are very often part of the problem. Although the New Testament is decidedly improved, it still seems to fall far short of that which twenty-first century human rights would expect. There are no women among the twelve disciples of Jesus and Christian masters do have slaves working for them.

To address issues of this kind, we need to step back and ask three larger questions: What are the theological, political, and cultural contexts in which the Old Testament narrative unfolds, and how is the behavior of God’s people in the Old Testament expected to be different from those of other cultures? What are the major developments in the New Testament that give us a clue to interpretation of Old Testament ethics? And are we expected to further extrapolate changes in behavior beyond the New Testament times to the present day?

To begin with, it should not be forgotten that the Old Testament narratives contain codes which are ethical, ceremonial, and social. Therefore, their application to the present day should not always be considered in literal terms. The social elements of those narratives need not apply to us, and the ceremonial ones are largely fulfilled in the completed work of Christ. It is the ethical aspects of Old Testament teaching with which we should be concerned, and there is indeed much to consider.

As an example, on the way to Canaan, God tells his people through Moses that the alien, or foreigner, among them should not be oppressed (Exodus 23:9). The reason given is fascinating: the people of Israel know in their hearts how it feels to be oppressed! (The word translated “alien” is not the same as slave, but the experience of the Israelites in Egypt was certainly that of slaves.) Thus, we see the first statement on human rights: the alien was to be treated as a citizen; in fact, he was to be loved as one of their own.(1) Even when Hebrew law and custom shared in the common heritage of the ancient world, there is a unique care in God’s Name for those people who by status were not considered people—something absent from the codes of Babylon and Assyria.

The New Testament further gives us a paradigm to interpret Old Testament practices. In one of their notorious fault-finding missions, the Pharisees test Jesus on the subject of divorce.(2) He initially appears to play into their hands, asking what Mosaic Law has to say on the subject. When they gleefully quote the permission of Moses to divorce one’s wife, Jesus lays down a method of interpretation that has to be taken very seriously. He makes it clear that certain Old Testament commandments were to be understood as concessions to the hardness of the human heart rather than as expressions of God’s holy character. He goes on to reference how this was not the state of affairs in the beginning—that is, before the fall.

The regulation of slavery should therefore be seen as a practical step to deal with the realities of the day resulting from human fall. The aberrations that lead to alienation among individuals, races, and nations are the result of a fundamental broken relationship between humankind and God. Within this tragic scenario, Scripture comes as a breath of fresh air as it seeks to redeem the situation and sets us on a path of ever-increasing amelioration of our predicament. While the Bible does not reject slavery outright, the conclusion that it actually favors slavery is patently wrong. Scripture does reveal that slavery is not ideal, both in Old Testament laws forbidding the enslavement of fellow Israelites, the law of jubilee, and in New Testament applications of Christ. In fact, the Bible teaches that the feeling of superiority in general is sin!(3) The abolition of slavery is thus not only permissible by biblical standards, but demanded by biblical principles. The pre-fall statement that should guide and ultimately abolish such (and any) practices of superiority is the declaration that all humans—men and women—are made in the image of God.

On this principle, the Bible even lays the foundation for progressing far beyond what was possible in New Testament times by addressing the very economic discrimination and favoritism of which slavery is the worst expression.(4) Of course, lamentably, it must be admitted that the Church has taken many centuries to live out what Scripture taught long ago, and no doubt we continue to drag our feet. The time delay between the Word of Scripture and its implementation in society is often due to the “holy huddle” mentality prevailing among Christians who are largely unconcerned about issues outside of their immediate periphery. Another reason many Christians continue to remain silent in the face of injustice is the platonic view of the cosmos we have adopted, implying that life in the hereafter is the only issue to be addressed, while we watch the world go by in its destructive way. Both mentalities are sadly misguided.

Those of us who say that we believe the Bible to be the Word of God have to raise our level of awareness and involvement regarding social issues. Having failed to do so, we have let these issues pass into the hands of those who may not be Christians, but are better informed about social injustice and concerned enough to fight wrong practices through legal means. While they have no logical basis to do what they are doing, the real tragedy is that we who do have a basis to address these issues remain largely indifferent. May the Lord of Scripture open our eyes to see that God is interested in the redemption of the whole of creation and not just disembodied souls and spirits!

L.T. Jeyachandran is executive director of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Singapore.

(1) See Leviticus 19:33-34.
2) See Matthew 19:1-9; Mark 10:2-9.
(3) See Philemon 2:1-8.
(4) See James 2:1-9; 5:1-6.

Monday, April 26, 2010

I Never Knew Jesus Was So Wonderful

As a student pastor, Dr. McGee's first church was located on a red clay hill in Midway Georgia. It was there that he received his greatest compliment: "It was from a country boy wearing high buttoned, yellow shoes. After a morning service he came to speak to me. He groped for words, then blurted out, 'I never knew Jesus was so wonderful!' He started to say more but choked up and hurried out of the church. As I watched him stride across the field, I prayed, 'Oh, God, help me to always preach so that it can be said, I never knew Jesus was so wonderful.'"

From Dr. J. Vernon McGee's bio at Thru the Bible's web site.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Ascribe Not to Thyself

Re-posted from Facets of Grace

Thanks to Eddie Eddings and Martin Luther

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


"Overwhelmed with God's Creative Brilliance"
Painting by Albert Bierstadt
(Click on the picture for full-view)

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty;
The whole earth is full of His Glory.
(Isaiah 6:3)

For the Beauty of the Earth

For the beauty of the earth,
For the glory of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies:

Christ, Our God, to Thee we raise
This our sacrifice of praise

For the wonder of each hour
Of the day and of the night,
Hill and dale and tree and flower,
Sun and moon and stars of light:

Christ, Our God, to Thee we raise
This our sacrifice of praise

For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child;
Friends on earth and friends above;
For all gentle thoughts and mild:

Christ, Our God, to Thee we raise
This our sacrifice of praise

For Thy Church that evermore
Lifteth holy hands above,
Offering upon every shore
Her pure sacrifice of love:

Christ, Our God, to Thee we raise
This our sacrifice of praise

For Thyself, best gift divine,
To our race so freely given;
For that great, great love of Thine,
Peace on earth and joy in heaven:

Christ, Our God, to Thee we raise
This our sacrifice of praise

(Lyrics by Folliott Sandford Pierpoint)

Psalm 104

Praise the LORD, O my soul.

O LORD my God, you are very great;
you are clothed with splendor and majesty.
He wraps himself in light as with a garment;
he stretches out the heavens like a tent
and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.
He makes the clouds his chariot
and rides on the wings of the wind.
He makes winds his messengers,
flames of fire his servants.

He set the earth on its foundations;
it can never be moved.
You covered it with the deep as with a garment;
the waters stood above the mountains.
But at your rebuke the waters fled,
at the sound of your thunder they took to flight;
they flowed over the mountains,
they went down into the valleys,
to the place you assigned for them.
You set a boundary they cannot cross;
never again will they cover the earth.

He makes springs pour water into the ravines;
it flows between the mountains.
They give water to all the beasts of the field;
the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
The birds of the air nest by the waters;
they sing among the branches.
He waters the mountains from his upper chambers;
the earth is satisfied by the fruit of his work.

He makes grass grow for the cattle,
and plants for man to cultivate--
bringing forth food from the earth:
wine that gladdens the heart of man,
oil to make his face shine,
and bread that sustains his heart.
The trees of the LORD are well watered,
the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
There the birds make their nests;
the stork has its home in the pine trees.
The high mountains belong to the wild goats;
the crags are a refuge for the coneys.

The moon marks off the seasons,
and the sun knows when to go down.
You bring darkness, it becomes night,
and all the beasts of the forest prowl.
The lions roar for their prey
and seek their food from God.
The sun rises, and they steal away;
they return and lie down in their dens.
Then man goes out to his work,
to his labor until evening.

How many are your works, O LORD!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
There is the sea, vast and spacious,
teeming with creatures beyond number--
living things both large and small.
There the ships go to and fro,
and the leviathan, which you formed to frolic there.

These all look to you
to give them their food at the proper time.
When you give it to them,
they gather it up;
when you open your hand,
they are satisfied with good things.
When you hide your face,
they are terrified;
when you take away their breath,
they die and return to the dust.
When you send your Spirit,
they are created,
and you renew the face of the earth.

May the glory of the LORD endure forever;
may the LORD rejoice in his works--
he who looks at the earth, and it trembles,
who touches the mountains, and they smoke.

I will sing to the LORD all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
May my meditation be pleasing to him,
as I rejoice in the LORD.
But may sinners vanish from the earth
and the wicked be no more.

Praise the LORD, O my soul.

Praise the LORD!


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

You Are Not Your Own - For You Are Bought With A Price

What is your only comfort, in life and in death?

That I belong - body and soul, in life and in death- not to myself but to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who at the cost of his own blood has fully paid for all my sins and has completely freed me from the dominion of the devil; that he protects me so well that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, that everything must fit his purpose for my salvation. Therefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.

How many things must you know that you may live and die in the blessedness of this comfort?

Three. First, the greatness of my sin and wretchedness. Second, how I am freed from all my sins and their wretched consequences. Third, what gratitude I owe to God for such redemption.

(Heidelberg Catechism - Lord's Day 1)

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.          (Galatians 2:20)

Sunday, April 11, 2010


"...and it was his blood, shed on that tree, that is the only reason the black filth of your sin could be washed away. That blood - on the tree - the slaughter of the Son of God - and that man, that God, that man, the Christ Jesus rose again from the dead..."
(From Paul Washer's message: "Jesus Died")

Click here to listen to an 11 minute excerpt from that message.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Ligonier Conference

So, I read the subject heading on the email from Ligonier Ministries: "Changes to the National Conference Speakers Line-Up" and for one crazy moment I thought, "Rick Warren?"

No. Actually, John Piper is taking a hiatus from speaking engagements for a time, so he can devote more time to his family. Taking his place at the Ligonier Conference will be, not Rick Warren, but, John MacArthur.

It would have been interesting, though. Can you imagine the Q. & A?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

We Got Him Back

"He lived a 'full life'."
"He will be fondly remembered ."
"His legacy will live on."
"He made the world a 'better place'."
"He had such a lasting influence upon those whose lives he touched."
"We are better persons for having known him."

These words and sentiments do offer some consolation for us when death has taken away someone we love. But our hearts are crying out only one thing:  We just want them back.

We got him back!

11 But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre,
12 And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.
13 And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.

14 And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.
15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.

16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.
17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.

(John 20:11-18) KJV

Saturday, April 3, 2010

"Thank You" Lord Jesus

What language shall I borrow
to thank thee, dearest friend,
for this thy dying sorrow,
thy pity without end?

O make me thine forever;
and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never
outlive my love for thee.
From the hymn: "O sacred Head once wounded" (Bernard of Clairvaux)

Listen to the hymn.

Friday, April 2, 2010


Lowering Christ from the Cross __Rembrandt - 1633

The Hands of the Carpenter

Now behold, there was a man named Joseph, a council member, a good and just man. He had not consented to their decision and deed. He was from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who himself was also waiting for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a tomb that was hewn out of the rock, where no one had ever lain before. (Luke 23:50-53 NKJV)

It was Joseph of Arimathaea who had the honor of taking the body of Jesus down from the cross. Think what it would be like to have to pull the cold and lifeless hands of the Son of God from the thick, barbed Roman nails.

These were carpenter’s hands, which once held nails and wood, now being held by nails and wood. These were the hands that broke bread and fed multitudes, now being broken to feed multitudes. They once applied clay to a blind man’s eyes, touched lepers, healed the sick, washed the disciple’s feet, and took children in His arms. These were the hands that, more than once, loosed the cold hand of death, now held firmly by its icy grip.

These were the fingers that wrote in the sand when the adulterous woman was cast at His feet, and for the love of God, fashioned a whip that purged His Father’s house. These were the same fingers that took bread and dipped it in a dish, and gave it to Judas as a gesture of deep love and friendship. Here was the Bread of Life itself, being dipped in the cup of suffering, as the ultimate gesture of God’s love for the evil world that Judas represented.

 Joseph’s shame, that he had been afraid to own the Savior, sickened him as he tore the blood-sodden feet from the six-inch cold steel spikes that fastened them to the cross. These were the "beautiful feet" of Him that preached the gospel of peace, that Mary washed with her hair, that walked upon the Sea of Galilee, now crimson with a sea of blood.

As Joseph reached out his arms to get Him down from the cross, perhaps he stared for an instant at the inanimate face of the Son of God. His heart wrenched as he looked upon Him whom they had pierced. This face, which once radiated with the glory of God on the Mount of Transfiguration, which so many had looked upon with such veneration, was now blood-stained from the needle-sharp crown of thorns, deathly pale and twisted from unspeakable suffering as the sin of the world was laid upon Him. His eyes, which once sparkled with the life of God, now stared at nothingness, as He was brought into the dust of death. His lips, which spoke such gracious words and calmed the fears of so many, were swollen and bruised from the beating given to Him by the hardened fists of cruel soldiers. As it is written, "His visage was so marred more than any man" (Isaiah 52:14).

Nicodemus may have reached up to help Joseph with the body. As the cold blood of the Lamb of God covered his hand, he was reminded of the blood of the Passover lamb he had seen shed so many times. The death of each spotless animal had been so quick and merciful, but this death had been unspeakably cruel, vicious, inhumane, and brutal. It seemed that all the hatred that sin-loving humanity had for the Light formed itself into a dark and evil spear, and was thrust with cruel delight into the perfect Lamb of God.

Perhaps as he carefully pried the crown from His head, looked at the gaping hole in His side, the deep mass of abrasions upon His back, and the mutilated wounds in His hands and feet, a sense of outrage engrossed him, that this could happen to such a Man as this. But the words of the prophet Isaiah rang within his heart:

"He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities . . . the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all . . . as a lamb to the slaughter . . . for the transgression of my people he was stricken . . . yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him . . .by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many" (Isaiah 53:5–11).

Jesus of Nazareth was stripped of His robe, that we might be robed in pure righteousness. He suffered a deathly thirst, that our thirst for life might be quenched. He agonized under the curse of the Law, that we might relish the blessing of the gospel. He took upon Himself the hatred of the world, so that we could experience the love of God. Hell was let loose upon him so that heaven could be let loose upon us. Jesus of Nazareth tasted the bitterness of death, so that we might taste the sweetness of life everlasting. The Son of God willingly passed over His life, that death might freely pass over the sons and daughters of Adam.

May Calvary’s cross be as real to us as it was to those who stood on its bloody soil on that terrible day. May we also gaze upon the face of the crucified Son of God, and may shame grip our hearts if ever the fear of man comes near our souls. May we identify with the apostle Paul, who could have gloried in his dramatic and miraculous experience on the road to Damascus. Instead, he whispered in awe of God’s great love:

"God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world" (Galatians 6:14).

From The Evidence Bible - (Bridge - Logos)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying,  "E-lo'i, E-lo'i, la'ma sa-bach-tha'ni?" which is, being interpreted, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, "I thirst." Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar, and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, "It is finished:" and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ, my God;
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to his blood.

See, from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down;
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet;
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

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.

Passion Week - part 3

Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. John 13:1