“You Were Bought With a Price”
“You were bought with a price. By all means, glorify God.”
1, 2. (a) According to the Mosaic Law, how were Israelite slaves to be treated? (b) What choice did the slave who loved his master have?
“SLAVERY was prevalent and widely accepted in the ancient world,” states the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. It adds: “The economy of Egypt, Greece, and Rome was based on slave labor. In the first Christian century, one out of three persons in Italy and one out of five elsewhere was a slave.”
2 Although slavery also existed in ancient Israel, the Mosaic Law ensured that Hebrew slaves received protection. For instance, the Law required that an Israelite could serve as a slave for no more than six years. In the seventh year, he was to “go out as one set free without charge.” But the regulations concerning the treatment of slaves were so fair and humane that the Law of Moses made the following provision: “If the slave should insistently say, ‘I really love my master, my wife and my sons; I do not want to go out as one set free,’ then his master must bring him near to the true God and must bring him up against the door or the doorpost; and his master must pierce his ear through with an awl, and he must be his slave to time indefinite.”
3. (a) What type of slavery did first-century Christians accept? (b) What moves us to serve God?
3 The provision of voluntary servitude provided a foregleam of the type of slavery that true Christians are under. For example, the Bible writers Paul, James, Peter, and Jude identified themselves as slaves of God and of Christ. (Titus 1:1; James 1:1; 2 Peter 1:1; Jude 1) Paul reminded the Thessalonian Christians that they had “turned to God from [their] idols to slave for a living and true God.” (1 Thessalonians 1:9) What moved those Christians to become willing slaves of God? Well, what was the motivating force in the case of the Israelite slave who renounced his personal freedom? Was it not love for his master? Christian slavery is based on love for God. When we come to know and love the true and living God, we are moved to serve him “with all [our] heart and all [our] soul.” (Deuteronomy 10:12, 13) What, though, does becoming slaves of God and of Christ involve? How does this affect our daily lives?
“Do All Things for God’s Glory”
4. How do we become slaves of God and of Christ?
4 A slave has been defined as “a person who is the legal property of another or others and is bound to absolute obedience.” We become Jehovah’s legal property when we dedicate our lives to him and get baptized. “You do not belong to yourselves, for you were bought with a price,” explains the apostle Paul. (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20) That price, of course, is Jesus Christ’s ransom sacrifice, since on that basis God accepts us as his servants, whether we are anointed Christians or we are their companions with an earthly hope. (Ephesians 1:7; 2:13; Revelation 5:9) Thus, from the time of our baptism, “we belong to Jehovah.” (Romans 14:8) Since we have been bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ, we also become his slaves and are under obligation to keep his commandments.
5. As slaves of Jehovah, what primary obligation do we have, and how can we fulfill it?
5 Slaves must obey their master. Our servitude is voluntary and stems from our love for the Master. “This is what the love of God means,” states 1 John 5:3, “that we observe his commandments; and yet his commandments are not burdensome.” For us, then, our obedience is proof of our love as well as our submission. It is evident in everything we do. “Whether you are eating or drinking or doing anything else,” said Paul, “do all things for God’s glory.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) In everyday life, even in small ways, we want to show that we “slave for Jehovah.”
6. How does being slaves of God affect the decisions we make in life? Illustrate this with an example.
6 When making decisions, for example, we want to be careful to take into account the will of our heavenly Master, Jehovah. (Malachi 1:6) Difficult decisions may test our obedience to God. Will we then heed his counsel rather than follow the inclinations of our “treacherous” and “desperate” heart? (Jeremiah 17:9) Melisa, a single Christian, had been baptized for only a short time when a young man began to take an interest in her. He seemed to be a nice person, and he was already studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Nevertheless, an elder spoke to Melisa about the wisdom of following Jehovah’s command to marry “only in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:39; 2 Corinthians 6:14) “It was not easy for me to follow this advice,” Melisa admits. “But I decided that since I had made a dedication to God to do his will, I would obey his clear instructions.” Reflecting on what transpired, she says: “I am so glad that I followed the advice. The man soon stopped studying. If I had pursued that relationship, I would now be married to an unbeliever.”
7, 8. (a) Why should we not be overly concerned about pleasing men? (b) Illustrate how fear of man can be overcome.
7 As slaves of God, we must not become slaves of men. (1 Corinthians 7:23) True, none of us like to be unpopular, but we must bear in mind that Christians have standards that are different from those in the world. Paul asked: “Am I seeking to please men?” His conclusion was: “If I were yet pleasing men, I would not be Christ’s slave.” (Galatians 1:10) We simply cannot give in to peer pressure and become men pleasers. What, then, can we do when confronted with pressures to conform?
8 Consider the example of Elena, a young Christian in Spain. She had several classmates who were blood donors. They knew that Elena, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, would not donate blood or accept blood transfusions. When an opportunity arose to explain her position to the whole class, Elena volunteered to give a presentation. “Frankly, I felt very nervous about doing this,” Elena explains. “But I prepared well, and the results were surprising. I won the respect of many of my fellow students, and the teacher told me that he admired the work I was doing. Above all, I felt satisfied that I had defended the name of Jehovah and had been able to explain clearly the reasons for my Scriptural stand.” (Genesis 9:3, 4; Acts 15:28, 29) Yes, as slaves of God and of Christ, we stand out as different. However, we may well win people’s respect if we are prepared to defend our beliefs respectfully.
9. What do we learn from an angel who appeared to the apostle John?
9 Remembering that we are slaves of God can also help to keep us humble. On one occasion, the apostle John felt so impressed by a magnificent vision of heavenly Jerusalem that he fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who had served as God’s spokesman. “Be careful!” the angel told him. “Do not do that! All I am is a fellow slave of you and of your brothers who are prophets and of those who are observing the words of this scroll. Worship God.” (Revelation 22:8, 9) What a fine example the angel set for all of God’s slaves! Certain Christians may be in positions of special responsibility in the congregation. Nevertheless, Jesus said: “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your minister, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave.” (Matthew 20:26, 27) As Jesus’ followers, all of us are slaves.
“What We Have Done Is What We Ought to Have Done”
10. Give Scriptural examples to show that faithful servants of God did not always find it easy to do his will.
10 Doing God’s will is not always easy for imperfect humans. The prophet Moses was reluctant to obey when Jehovah asked him to go and bring the sons of Israel out of Egyptian bondage. (Exodus 3:10, 11; 4:1, 10) Upon receiving an assignment to proclaim a judgment message to the people of Nineveh, Jonah “proceeded to get up and run away to Tarshish from before Jehovah.” (Jonah 1:2, 3) Baruch, the scribal secretary of the prophet Jeremiah, complained of growing weary. (Jeremiah 45:2, 3) How should we respond when our personal desire or preference conflicts with the doing of God’s will? An illustration that Jesus gave provides the answer.
11, 12. (a) Briefly relate Jesus’ illustration recorded at Luke 17:7-10. (b) What lesson do we derive from Jesus’ illustration?
11 Jesus spoke of a slave who had been caring for his master’s flock all day in the field. When the slave arrived home, weary from some 12 hours of hard work, his master did not invite him to sit down and enjoy a good supper. Instead, the master said: “Get something ready for me to have my evening meal, and put on an apron and minister to me until I am through eating and drinking, and afterward you can eat and drink.” The slave could attend to his own needs only after he had served his master. Jesus concluded the illustration by saying: “So you, also, when you have done all the things assigned to you, say, ‘We are good-for-nothing slaves. What we have done is what we ought to have done.’”
12 Jesus did not give this illustration to show that Jehovah does not appreciate what we do in his service. The Bible clearly states: “God is not unrighteous so as to forget your work and the love you showed for his name.” (Hebrews 6:10) Rather, the point of Jesus’ parable is that a slave cannot please himself or concentrate on his own comforts. When we dedicated ourselves to God and chose to be his slaves, we agreed to put his will ahead of our own. We must subject our own will to the will of God.
13, 14. (a) In what circumstances may we have to override our own inclinations? (b) Why should we let God’s will prevail?
13 Regularly studying God’s Word and the publications of “the faithful and discreet slave” may require great effort on our part. (Matthew 24:45) This may be the case especially if reading has always been difficult for us or if a publication is discussing “the deep things of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:10) Should we not, though, make time for personal study? We may have to discipline ourselves to sit down and spend time with the study material. Yet, without doing so, how would we acquire a taste for “solid food [that] belongs to mature people”?
14 What about the times when we come home tired after a long day’s work? We might have to push ourselves to attend Christian meetings. Or preaching to strangers may go against our natural inclination. Paul himself recognized that there could be times when we declare the good news ‘against our will.’ (1 Corinthians 9:17) However, we do these things because Jehovah
Do Not Look at “the Things Behind”
15. How did Jesus set an example of submission to God?
15 Jesus Christ demonstrated his submission to his heavenly Father in a superlative way. “I have come down from heaven to do, not my will, but the will of him that sent me,” Jesus told his disciples. (John 6:38) When in anguish in the garden of Gethsemane, he prayed: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass away from me. Yet, not as I will, but as you will.”
16, 17. (a) How should we view the things we have left behind? (b) Show how Paul was realistic in assessing his worldly prospects as “a lot of refuse.”
16 Jesus Christ wants us to keep faithful to our decision to be slaves of God. He said: “No man that has put his hand to a plow and looks at the things behind is well fitted for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62) Dwelling on what we have left behind is definitely not the right thing to do when slaving for God. Instead, we should treasure what we have gained by choosing to be God’s slaves. To the Philippians, Paul wrote: “I do indeed also consider all things to be loss on account of the excelling value of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. On account of him I have taken the loss of all things and I consider them as a lot of refuse, that I may gain Christ.”
17 Think of all that Paul considered a lot of refuse and abandoned in favor of the spiritual rewards as a slave of God. He left behind not only the comforts of the world but also the possibility of becoming a future leader of Judaism. If Paul had continued to practice Judaism, he may well have risen to a position similar to that of Simeon, the son of Paul’s educator, Gamaliel. (Acts 22:3; Galatians 1:14) Simeon became a leader of the Pharisees and played a prominent role
18. Give an example to show how spiritual achievements bring rewards.
18 Many of Jehovah’s Witnesses have followed Paul’s example. “Within a few years after leaving school, I got a job as an executive secretary for a prominent London solicitor,” says Jean. “I enjoyed my work and earned good money, but in my heart I knew that I could do more to serve Jehovah. Finally, I handed in my resignation and started pioneering. I am so thankful that I took that step nearly 20 years ago! My full-time service has enriched my life more than any secretarial job ever could have. Nothing gives greater satisfaction than seeing how Jehovah’s Word can change a person’s life. To have a part in that process is wonderful. What we give to Jehovah is nothing compared with what we receive.”
19. What should be our resolve, and why?
19 Our circumstances may change with time. However, our dedication to God remains the same. We are still Jehovah’s slaves, and he leaves it up to us to decide how we can best use our time, energy, talents, and other assets. Hence, the decisions we make in this regard can reflect our love for God. They also show the extent to which we are willing to make personal sacrifices. (Matthew 6:33) Regardless of our circumstances, should we not be determined to give Jehovah our best? Paul wrote: “If the readiness is there first, it is especially acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what a person does not have.”
“You Are Having Your Fruit”
20, 21. (a) What fruitage is produced by slaves of God? (b) How does Jehovah reward those who give him their best?
20 Being slaves of God is not oppressive. On the contrary, it provides an escape from a pernicious form of slavery that robs us of happiness. “Because you were set free from sin but became slaves to God,” wrote Paul, “you are having your fruit in the way of holiness, and the end everlasting life.” (Romans 6:22) Our slaving for God bears fruit in the way of holiness in that we reap the benefits of holy, or morally clean, conduct. Moreover, it leads to everlasting life in the future.
21 Jehovah is generous to his slaves. When we do our best in his service, he opens to us “the floodgates of the heavens” and pours out upon us “a blessing until there is no more want.” (Malachi 3:10) What a delight it will be to continue to serve as Jehovah’s slaves for all eternity!
Do You Recall?
• Why do we become slaves of God?
• How do we demonstrate our submission to the will of God?
• Why should we be prepared to put Jehovah’s will ahead of our own?
• Why should we not ‘look at the things behind’?
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The provision of voluntary slavery in Israel was a foregleam of Christian servitude
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We become God’s slaves when we get baptized
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Christians put God’s will first
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Moses was reluctant to accept his assignment