Ask Father Paul
October 30, 2013
Answers to your questions about life, religion and the Bible
Who are the captives?
Dear Father Paul: In Isaiah 61 and again in Luke 4 the Bible (King James Version) talks about “preaching deliverance to the captives.” Who is the Bible talking about? I don’t feel like a “captive” and I don’t need to be “delivered.” — Eugene.
Dear Eugene: In the Bible, when “captives” are mentioned by the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 61 … and the Lord Jesus Christ in Luke 4, it is clearly talking about every single man, woman, boy and girl on planet earth, including you and me. I’m sorry … being called a captive or a slave is pretty jarring to hear, isn’t it?
The Bible teaches us that, because of sin, all humans are literally born into captivity, or said another way, born into slavery and bondage. The Bible says that we are all “captives” from birth.
You might then rightly ask, “Captives, slaves and in bondage to what or to whom? I’m a free born American. Don’t you know your history, Father Paul? President Lincoln freed the slaves 150 years ago. There are no captives today.”
True. But neither the Bible nor I are talking about that kind of captivity or slavery … physical slavery. No, both the Bible and I are talking about “spiritual” slavery … and spiritual slavery can be far, far worse than physical slavery because it can last for eternity if you are not set free.
Some of the people in Jesus’s day felt just like you. In the Gospel of John, chapter 8, Jesus tells them, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth (God), and the truth will set you free.” This set them off. The people were offended, “We have never been slaves to anyone,” they yell. To which Jesus replies, “I tell you the truth, anyone who sins, is a slave (a captive) to sin.” In Romans 7:14 even the great Apostle Paul says that (before he knew Christ) he himself was a “slave to sin.” Again, without knowing God personally, the Bible teaches that a person is in fact a spiritual “captive … a slave.”
The very first recorded words of Jesus as he is beginning his earthly ministry, after his temptation by Satan in the desert, are his words about “setting the captives free.” In Luke, Chapter 4, the Bible says that Jesus went to his hometown of Nazareth and on the Sabbath day he went to the local synagogue as usual and he was asked to read from the scripture. Scripture reading was part of the Jewish synagogue service.
The scroll was handed to him, and he began to read from Isaiah 61 … (New International Version) ”The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners (captives) and recovery of sight for the blind, to release (set free) the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Emphasis mine)
He then rolled up the scroll, sat down and said, “Today this scripture (prophecy) is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Jesus had just given his job description … what he had come to the earth to do … his mission statement. And a big part of his mission was to set free all the people of the earth who, because of sin, were and are oppressed and held as slaves, captives and prisoners by his archenemy Satan. But even Jesus’s own disciples and followers misunderstood this important teaching. They expected that Jesus would “set them free” from Roman oppression, not set them spiritually free. Many folks still misunderstand Jesus’s teaching on captives today.
The Gospel (the “Good News”) of the Bible is simply that Jesus came, yes as Savior, but also as “Deliverer, Redeemer and Emancipator” to literally set all mankind free to live the blessed, abundant life for all eternity that God originally intended.
Are you in bondage? Honestly now? Are you a slave to drugs, sex, food, envy, tobacco, anger, alcohol, bitterness, jealousy, pride, unforgiveness, self or any of the like?
If the answer is “yes,” the good news is you don’t have to be. Jesus came to set you free. You’ve tried everything else, try Jesus. What have you got to lose except your chains? If you have not confessed Jesus the Christ as your Lord and Deliverer, I urge you to do so now today … and be set free! As the Bible says in John 8:36, “If the Son (the Son of God) sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Romans 10:9 tells you how to do this in one short, simple verse.
Do you have a question? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will try to answer you in the paper.
[Father Paul Massey is pastor emeritus of Church of the Holy Cross in Fayetteville, Georgia. Information, service times, directions and downloads of Sunday messages are available at www.holycrosschurch.wordpress.com.]