The Slavery That Leads to Death
Many people prefer the slavery of sin to the voluntary labor of liberty, even though that slavery leads to their death—the death of their name eternally. It is fascinating that the Founders of the United States understood this. And this is the practical value of Christianity – namely, that the western world’s tradition of liberty and personal responsibility owes its existence to the legacy of Christianity.
The Slavery That Leads to Death
By Nathan Warner
“They appointed taskmasters over them to afflict them with hard labor. And they built for Pharaoh storage cities, Pithom and Raamses.”
(Exodus 1:11 NASB)
THE PHYSICAL SLAVERY
The story of Exodus is one of enslavement and liberty. It deals with the physical enslavement of the tribe of Jacob by the world superpower of Egypt.
That slavery led from bad to worse: “The Egyptians compelled the sons of Israel to labor rigorously” (Exodus 1:13). And then, “they made their lives bitter with hard labor in mortar and bricks and at all kinds of labor in the field, all their labors which they rigorously imposed on them” (Exodus 1:14). And then, speaking of Israel, “Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, ‘Every son who is born you are to cast into the Nile, and every daughter you are to keep alive’” (Exodus 1:22).
Yet, even in these awful circumstances, Israel continued to attend to their duties as slaves. Why? We see later that it was likely because of the supposed “benefits” of slavery that they continued in their estate as slaves without striving against it. After they are liberated, they complain at every sign of trouble and difficulty about how wonderful things were in their state of slavery: “Is this not the word that we spoke to you in Egypt, saying, ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness’” (Exodus 14:12). “The sons of Israel said to them, ‘Would that we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger’” (Exodus 16:3). “But the people thirsted there for water; and they grumbled against Moses and said, ‘Why, now, have you brought us up from Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?’” (Exodus 17:3)
The hardships of personal responsibility, accountability, and liberty led many to look back fondly on the “comforts” of slavery, even if that slavery led to death (in this case, the death of all their boys—the death of the nation of Israel—wiping their names from history).
The fear of accountability and fear of personal responsibility kept the Israelites from shedding their blood in pursuit of freedom and in defense of their children. So, God had to act. He raised up Moses to free them, but in their freedom, they only grumbled about how better slavery is to freedom.
Part of the issue here is that there is a false sense of security in slavery. As a slave you think you aren’t accountable for anything. The Israelites didn’t understand that being “okay” with slavery was a decision they would be held accountable for also – one which they will be judged for in the end.
They believed they were not responsible for their actions – after all, you’d think a slave only does what he’s told by his master and doesn’t have to wrestle with right and wrong. This was a similar argument made by Nazi soldiers who “followed orders” to exterminate Jews: “We were just following orders – we didn’t make the decision – we aren’t accountable for our actions.” This is a false security as to obey an evil master is a decision you will be held accountable for.
Now, out in the wilderness, Israel learned the cost of liberty meant personal accountability. Every decision the Israelites made had personal consequences.
THE SPIRITUAL SLAVERY
OF ALL TO SIN
Similarly, many people prefer the slavery of sin to the voluntary labor of liberty, even though that slavery leads to their death—the death of their name eternally.
“Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin’” (John 8:34). “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?” (Romans 6:16)
Paul speaks of death here very importantly, and it echoes how Israel’s enslavement to Egypt was a gradual process that got worse and worse until it led to the eventual death of their entire nation (the murder of all their boys) - similarly, mankind’s enslavement to sin brings us eventually to eternal death: “each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death” (James 1:14-15).
Like Egypt’s genocide of Israel, Satan’s slavery of mankind to sin leads to their extinction, only this time, its eternal. Strive as man might, there was no way to find freedom, but few had the will to even try, preferring the momentary pleasures of their slavery of sin in exchange for their souls.
But then something happened. Just as God sent Moses to offer freedom to Israel from their physical slavery to a nation state, God sent His only begotten Son to offer freedom to mankind from our slavery to sin.
Just as Israel had to make a decision to obey Moses or not, no one can be a fence-sitter with regards to salvation, either. Remaining a slave does not absolve you of guilt when you reject the offer of freedom when it comes. You will be held accountable for your decision: “He who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18b). But speaking of those who obey the call to freedom, Paul says, “Thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:17-18).
JESUS, THE SECOND MOSES
Jesus is the second Moses: “For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). Moses himself prophecies about a coming “prophet” who would be “like” him. Speaking of Jesus, the Book of Acts quotes Moses: “Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren; to Him you shall give heed to everything He says to you” (Acts 3:22). This “prophet” would be meek, gentle or humble for “Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3), and He would be used by God for a great exodus from slavery.
Just as God commanded Moses to lay on emancipated Israel the voluntary yoke of the Law, Jesus speaks of a yoke He must supply to Believers. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle [meek] and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:29).
This “yoke” is the burden of liberty and personal responsibility that will come to each Believer by way of God dealing with you through grace on the individual level. Salvation is a personal thing between you and God, “so then each one of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12). (This is in contrast to the contemporary Jewish belief that salvation related to the corporate nation, not individuals).
The liberty of personal accountability and responsibility before God is a burden because God expects you to “take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak” (1 Corinthians 8:9), “for you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13).
We can see here that the burden is “light” because it is freedom, but it is a burden because God’s expectation is that we still behave AS IF we are slaves to God, even though we do it voluntarily: “Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God” (1 Peter 2:16). What does this entail? “For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life” (Romans 6:19b-22). A voluntary slave to righteousness is a servant to all, loving others more than themselves.
THE PRACTICAL LIBERTY
OF THE GOSPEL FOR A FREE SOCIETY
It is fascinating that the Founders of the United States understood this. And this is the practical value of Christianity – namely, that the western world’s tradition of liberty and personal responsibility owes its existence to the legacy of Christianity. A free government relies exclusively on a people that do not turn their “freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13b).
The Founders, for all their flaws, warned incessantly about free government failing if the culture abandoned the teachings of Christ. Although he did not believe in the divinity of Jesus, Thomas Jefferson set the record straight on the practical value of Christianity: “The practice of morality being necessary for the well being of society, He [God] has taken care to impress its precepts so indelibly on our hearts that they shall not be effaced by the subtleties of our brain. We all agree in the obligation of the moral principles of Jesus and nowhere will they be found delivered in greater purity than in His discourses.”
James McHenry, a ratifier of the Constitution said, “Public utility pleads most forcibly for the general distribution of the Holy Scriptures. Without the Bible, in vain do we increase penal laws and draw entrenchments around our institutions…Bibles are strong protections. Where they abound, men cannot pursue wicked courses and at the same time enjoy quiet conscience.”
Another ratifier of the Constitution, Benjamin Rush, said, “The Bible, when not read in schools, is seldom read in any subsequent period of life… [T]he Bible… should be read in our schools in preference to all other books because it contains the greatest portion of that kind of knowledge which is calculated to produce private and public happiness.”
Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story declared, “One of the beautiful boasts of our municipal jurisprudence is that Christianity is a part of the Common Law. There never has been a period in which the Common Law did not recognize Christianity as lying at its foundations….I verily believe that Christianity is necessary to support a civil society and shall ever attend to its institutions and acknowledge its precepts as the pure and natural sources of private and social happiness.”
Speaking to non-Americans, George Washington said, “You do well to wish to learn our arts and ways of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are.”
U.S. Senator Daniel Webster explained that “the Christian religion – its general principles – must ever be regarded among us as the foundation of civil society….Whatever makes men good Christians, makes them good citizens….[T]o the free and universal reading of the Bible… men [are] much indebted for right views of civil liberty….The Bible is a book… which teaches man his own individual responsibility, his own dignity, and his equality with his fellow man.”
Noah Webster, a Revolutionary soldier, judge, legislator, educator, and writer of the first U.S. Dictionary, explained that “[T]he religion which has introduced civil liberty is the religion of Christ and His apostles… This is genuine Christianity and to this we owe our free constitutions of government….[O]ur citizens should early understand that the genuine source of correct republican principles is the Bible, particularly the New Testament, or the Christian religion….[T]he Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children under a free government ought to be instructed. No truth is more evident than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people….The Bible is the chief moral cause of all that is good and the best corrector of all that is evil in human society – the best book for regulating the temporal concerns of men….[T]he Christian religion… is the basis, or rather the source, of all genuine freedom in government… I am persuaded that no civil government of a republican form can exist and be durable in which the principles of Christianity have not a controlling influence.”
These people had both an “eagle’s eye view” of human nature and had “boots on the ground” with regards to practical government. They intimately understood the practical value of the spiritual salvation of Jesus Christ and the power of God’s Word.
The Congress of 1854 reaffirmed the conviction laid down by the Founders: “The great, vital, and conservative element in our system is the belief of our people in the pure doctrines and the divine truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
In vain, then, do the great intellectuals of today attempt to advance our society by removing God’s Word from the public discourse and from our centers of education. By scrubbing it from our society, they are removing the single greatest protection for the innocent that the world has ever seen – the freedom that comes from salvation in Jesus Christ, which carries a burden of personal responsibility to God and a responsibility for our neighbors.
Instead, these teachers of today are advocating for the passions and lusts of the flesh. As we saw, the lusts of the flesh enslave us to sin and ultimately to eternal death, for “when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death” (James 1:14-15).
From a practical perspective, this leads to the breakdown of personal responsibility and accountability in our communities and as a result, the loss of the “yoke” of freedom and liberty. Modern servants of Balaam are laying the groundwork that spiritually enslaves people to sin and which is physically enslaving people to anarchy or tyranny—they are promoting the enslavement of generations of people.
In light of this, Christ’s Bride must be all the more dedicated to the Gospel and the Word of God in these dangerous times, testifying to our families, friends, and neighbors—living out our freedom in Christ in service to God and our neighbors—always eager for the return of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. May we affirm and testify that this is world is but a temporal reality that we shall be freed from when Jesus takes up His throne and frees the earth at last from the chains of man’s fallen estate.
“Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:19-25). Even so, amen.