The Power of the Cross: 167th Edition, February 7, 2021

Mike Cleveland

The Power of the Cross: 167th Edition, February 7, 2021

Greetings friends,

Welcome, new subscribers! This weekly newsletter shares short gospel teachings and testimonies from Setting Captives Free students. We hope you will find it helpful and encouraging.


Spanish version of newsletter: El Poder de la Cruz: Edición 166


Freedom Through Being a Bond-Slave

When I lived apart from Christ, I was in bondage to sin, yet I thought I was free. Like the kings of the earth, who, when looking at God and His Law, said, “Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles” (Psalm 2:3), I wanted to be free from the constraints of God and His Word and His law. I wanted to be free to live as I chose to live. But this “freedom” my flesh desired always lead to slavery. Slavery to sin. Slavery to the demands of my flesh. Slavery to Satan’s temptations. 

Can you relate? Have you been mastered by sin’s power, become a slave to that which you thought was freedom? Then you will appreciate the good news we find in Galatians, where we learn how to become free, truly free, free indeed:

In Galatians 1:10, Paul says, “If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” The word translated as “servant” here can also be translated as “bond slave.” And a bond slave is one who has surrendered their will, their life to a Master. 

Paul didn’t just pull this term out of thin air, it is a concept introduced in the Old Testament, and I want to look at it with you this week in Exodus 21:2-6:

“If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything. 3 If he comes alone, he is to go free alone; but if he has a wife when he comes, she is to go with him. 4 If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the woman, and her children shall belong to her master, and only the man shall go free. 5 “But if the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ 6 then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.”

The concept is that a Hebrew servant was only required to serve a maximum of six years to pay off a debt, and then he was to be released as free. But if he loved his master and his wife and children, he could choose to stay and remain with the family and become a bond-slave for life. But to choose this meant that the man would have to go and be publicly pierced on the wood of the doorpost so that everyone would know, by his marks, that he was a bond-slave for life.

Think about something: what kind of love must this servant have, to choose to be pierced on wood because of that love? He must have thought only of his master, his wife and children, and not his own pain. And when they saw his scars, they must have felt his love.

This tradition pointed straight to Jesus, who could have at any time gone free, who could have easily called a legion of angels to His rescue, but out of love, He went publicly to be pierced on the wood of the cross. He said, “the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and give His life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). 

He loved His Master, His Father, who sent Him to do this work, and He loved His chosen wife, the church, even though she was so unlovely. Spurgeon says, speaking of the wife of Christ, 

“He found her in the mire and He brought her up out of it. He found her in poverty and He became poor for her sake. He found her in rags and He stripped Himself to clothe her. He found her condemned and He was condemned for her acquittal.” 

Jesus chose to be a bond-slave out of love, and He forever bears in His body the marks of His love for you. The marks of your freedom from sin's penalty and power.

And Paul takes this very term, "bond slave of Jesus Christ," on himself. Meaning he could go freely back into sin, back into his self-righteous life, he was free, but he had chosen to surrender his will, and so he went to the wood of the cross and was nailed there with Jesus (Galatians 2:20) and was now a bond slave forever. Only a free man can become a bond-slave.

How about you? Have you surrendered your will to the Father? Ephesians 1:13 says, "And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit." 1 Corinthians 7:22-23 says, "the one who was free when called is Christ's slave. 23 You were bought at a price."

Do you know how to tell if you are a bond-slave? You have the chance to go free. Every day temptation comes our way, we can leave our Master and go out into sin, self-righteousness, or works/steps religion. But the love of Jesus constrains us, for we are convinced that one died for all and therefore all died, and this love keeps us. Out of love, we surrender all at the cross. Have you said, "Pierce me, Jesus, I'm yours"? That's how to be free.

Question for the week: Is that you? Are you a bond-slave of Jesus Christ? If not, why not see Jesus' love for you as He shed His blood on the cross, and come and surrender your old life? Why not die to your past life and rise to a new one?

Setting Captives Free has free, interactive Marco Polo studies that correspond to the teachings in this newsletter. If you’d like to join the discussion, click one of the following links: 


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After completing the Setting Captives Free Looking to Jesus devotional, Benjamin writes: "I must say that many of the topics discussed in this devotional through the word of God have deeply benefited me to look to Christ and grow in that area in my Christian walk and faith.


Some of the lessons were very touching, and I felt that God was speaking directly to me. Anger and being overwhelmed are among those lessons that gave me hope to change by looking to Christ and the great work He has accomplished for us through His death and the cross.


I recommend this devotional to everyone. It definitely will help one to grow in Christ."

After completing the Setting Captives Free Campo de Entrenamiento en Pureza course Cristobal writes, “Since I began the course, I have experienced radical changes. My relationship with God when I began was like this: at first, it was like going to the beach, with God being the sea and me, the swimmer.

I was on the sand for a long time, looking at the water, longing to go swimming, but without taking any action. I only looked from afar.

Today I'm writing from the water, not from a boat, but submerged in the refreshing waters of freedom. The Lord, through His Word, has succeeded in bringing me to the water; He has convinced me that being submerged in Him is more refreshing than the dry sand and the hot sun at the water's edge. And that's what sin is like: the dry sand and the choking heat. The other part is marvelous; in God, we can really refresh ourselves, really enjoy, really be free and peaceful.

One of the changes that God has done in this course is that He has made me see how sinful I am and how faithful and full of grace God is. He's made me see that I need to go daily to the cross for cleansing and that I should battle like it depends on me to win the battle, but resting in Jesus because He has already won the battle for me. The only way to win the battle is to follow Jesus' plan for us exclusively; only in prayer and reading His Word can we develop the plan that He has for us.

I hope that these first 30 days are the first of the rest of my life; I hope that they are the beginning of a life dedicated to serving my good Lord, and just like you all have served me, that I can serve other brothers who are going through the same situations that I went through.

Yes, [I would recommend this course] totally and completely. I have recommended it to others already, and I do so every time that I can. It is a powerful tool.

If you are troubled, if you are fighting alone, if you've been repeating the same sin / repentance cycle for many years without being able to stop impure habits, I recommend that you give yourself a tiny ray of hope with this course, because the battle against impurity really can be won, because Christ already has won it at the cross.” Translation from Spanish to English provided by Pastor Ken.


Friend, if you find you agree with the mission of Setting Captives Free, to see the gospel of Jesus Christ change hearts and lives, would you please consider helping us to continue reaching people with the gospel? Please pray for us, and consider setting up a monthly tax-deductible donation of any amount. Thank you in advance. 


Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free