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Digging Deeper: Woman, Behold thy Son!

Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank | Faculty in Theology, Living Education


Estimated reading time: 9 min.

Did you know that among the last things Jesus spoke while hanging on the cross were words directed to His mother?

Imagine her agony, despair, and terror as she stared at her firstborn son crucified by the Romans as an insurrectionist. Jesus suffered with her and desired to comfort her. As a widow’s firstborn son, he had a responsibility to her knowing He was about to die. This Digging Deeper details this heartbreaking scene to understand how Jesus met His duty to His beloved mother.

Our focus passage is: “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home” (John 19:25-27 KJV throughout). Jesus spoke seven times from the cross, as recorded in the four gospels; this is the third and the first recorded in the Gospel of John. Only John describes this incident.

The one whom Jesus loved

The disciple to whom Jesus assigned His mother is unnamed but has been deduced to be the apostle, John, the author of this gospel account. Bob Utley’s You Can Understand the Bible Study Guide Commentary explains John’s reluctance to name himself: “Since John is not mentioned by name in the Gospel, many assume this was his way of identifying himself (cf. John 13:23; 19:26; 21:7, 20)” (e-Sword 13.0.0). It was customary in the first century to refer to oneself in the third person to avoid drawing attention to oneself.

Notice that, though His disciples had all fled and forsaken Him when He was arrested in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:56), the KJV Study Bible declares: “Four women attend the Crucifixion, and they remain while the disciples flee (except for John, who returns). Several women, including these mentioned here, have accompanied Jesus and His disciples on their journeys, taking care of their daily needs” (Tecarta Bible App). Jesus had many loyal female disciples during His ministry and at least some stood by Him in His hour of need.

“Woman!”

Modern readers of John 19:26 may think Jesus’ use of the term Woman when referring to His mother is distant and harsh. However, the Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 5  shows otherwise: “Woman – In the Orient, a customary, dignified, and respectful term of address…” (Review and Herald Publishing, 1980, p. 921). Mary was not the only woman whom Jesus addressed this way. Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers highlights other examples: “Were proof needed of the tenderness which underlies the word as used by Him, it would be found in the other instances which the Gospels supply. It is spoken only to the Syro-Phœnician whose faith is great (Matthew 15:28); to the daughter of Abraham loosed from her infirmity (Luke 13:12); and, in this Gospel, to the Samaritan embracing the higher faith (John 4:21); perhaps to the sinner whom He does not condemn (John 8:10); to the same mother from the cross (John 19:26); and to Mary Magdalene in tears (John 20:13, 15)” (e-Sword 13.0.0).

Nonetheless, this was an unusual way for Jesus to refer to His mother, as the NET Bible explains: “The custom in both Hebrew (or Aramaic) and Greek would be for a son to use a qualifying adjective or title. Is there significance in Jesus’ use here? Jesus probably used the term here to help establish Mary and the beloved disciple in a new ‘mother-son’ relationship. Someone would soon need to provide for Mary since Jesus, her oldest son, would no longer be alive. By using this term Jesus distanced himself from Mary so the beloved disciple could take his place as her earthly son (cf. John 2:4)” (e-Sword 13.0.0).

Another suggestion is offered by the College Press Bible Study Textbook Series: “Perhaps He did not use ‘mother’ in order to spare her an increased awareness of her maternal relationship to the One in extreme agony. But ever since He reminded her in the Temple, when He was twelve, of His unique relationship with God, He has taught her that He is much more than her son. He taught her that He was her Lord and Saviour (cf. John 2:4; Matthew 12:46-50)” (e-Sword 13.0.0).

Jesus may also have been attempting to reduce her pain and guard her security, as John Gill explains in his Exposition of the Bible: “Christ calls her not mother, but woman; not out of disrespect to her, or as ashamed of her; but partly that he might not raise, or add strength to her passions [sufferings], by a tenderness of speaking; and partly to conceal her from the mob, and lest she should be exposed to their rude insults; as also to let her know that all natural relation was now ceasing between them; though this is a title he sometimes used to give her before” (e-Sword 13.0.0).

The responsibility of a son

By speaking to His mother and John together, Jesus was fulfilling a son’s duty, as explained by the ESV Study Bible: “In keeping with biblical injunctions to honor one’s parents (Ex. 20:12; Deut. 5:16), Jesus made provision for his mother, who was almost certainly widowed and probably in her late 40s or early 50s, with little or no personal income” (Tecarta Bible App). The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible adds:”…because men controlled most legal proceedings, having a male advocate was vital. Since Jesus as the eldest son was responsible for his mother’s care, entrusting this responsibility to another before he died was important. Jesus had younger brothers (7:3–5), who would normally take the responsibility, but Jesus entrusts her care to a disciple, treating him as a member of the family (cf. Mk 3:32–35)” (Ibid.). Jesus understood this proverb: “Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old” (Proverbs 23:22).

Why did Jesus not assign Mary to His half-brothers? John 7:5 reports they did not yet believe He was the Messiah. Henry Morris’ Defender’s Study Bible adds this: “It is sad to note that His brothers were not present with their mother. Presumably they had remained in Galilee while Mary had decided to journey to Jerusalem with Jesus and the other women” (e-Sword 13.0.0). The Book of Acts reports that His brothers were later part of the early church along with Mary (Acts 1:14).

Jesus was fulfilling His role as provider for His mother. The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible explains: “Testaments could entrust care for a family member to a designated person, and one who was dying could assign property or duties verbally. In contrast to many subsequent portrayals, Jesus’ cross left him close enough to the ground (like many other ancient crosses) for his mother and disciple to hear him” (Tecarta Bible App).

Why did Jesus chose John? William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible explains: “And, after all, John had a double qualification for the service Jesus entrusted to him–he was Jesus’ cousin, being Salome’s son, and he was the disciple whom Jesus loved. So Jesus committed Mary to John’s care and John to Mary’s, so that they should comfort each other’s loneliness when he was gone” (e-Sword 13.0.0).

A pierced heart

Mary’s attendance at the Cross reveals a special love of a mother for her son, even one who had been crucified by the Romans, as explained by Joseph Benson’s Commentary: “While Jesus, hanging on the cross, suffered all manner of insults and sorrows; there stood by the cross his mother — ‘Neither her own danger, nor the sadness of the spectacle, nor the reproaches and insults of the people, could restrain her from performing the last office of duty and tenderness to her divine son on the cross. Grotius justly observes that it was a noble instance of fortitude and zeal. Now a sword (according to Simeon’s prophecy, Luke 2:35) struck through her tender heart, and pierced her very soul; and perhaps the extremity of her sorrows might so overwhelm her spirits, as to render her incapable of attending the sepulchre, which we do not find that she did'” (e-Sword 13.0.0).

John 19:27 declares that John took Mary that hour to his home. One may wonder if there is any other record of John’s caring for Mary. Bob Utley’s You Can Understand the Bible Study Guide Commentary offers this: “Tradition says that John cared for Mary until her death and then he moved to Asia Minor (especially Ephesus) where he had a long and successful ministry. It is at the urging of the Ephesian elders that John, as an old man, wrote his memories of the life of Jesus (i.e., the Gospel of John)” (e-Sword 13.0.0).

This tragic crucifixion scene painfully strikes believers’ hearts. William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible offers us some final thoughts: “There is something infinitely moving in the fact that Jesus in the agony of the Cross, when the salvation of the world hung in the balance, thought of the loneliness of his mother in the days ahead. He never forgot the duties that lay to his hand. He was Mary’s eldest son, and even in the moment of his cosmic battle, he did not forget the simple things that lay near home. To the end of the day, even on the Cross, Jesus was thinking more of the sorrows of others than of his own” (e-Sword 13.0.0).

Kenneth Frank headshot

Kenneth Frank was born and raised in New Jersey, USA and attended Ambassador College, graduating in 1973. He served in the Canadian ministry from 1973-1999, after which he returned to the USA to pastor churches in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina for 15 years. Having earned a BA degree from Ambassador College he later earned a MA degree from Grand Canyon University before being assigned to the Charlotte office to teach at Living University, now Living Education. Currently, he teaches the Survey of the Bible course to the on-campus students and writes the Digging Deeper column for our online Bible study program. He is married, has four children, and seven grandchildren.

Course Spotlight: Two Types of Bread

There are two types of bread, leavened and those that are not. What can we learn from looking into these two different types? Take a look at the words used for these types in the Bible and consider learning more about the use of “bread” in the Bible by studying the articles linked.

COURSE SPOTLIGHT FROM  The Life, Teachings, and Ministry of Jesus Christ: (Unit 3) The Judean Ministry

Digging Deeper: The Heart Tablet

Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank | Faculty in Theology, Living Education


Estimated reading time: 7 min.

Did you know that the internal inscribing of God’s word, i.e., on the heart, is taught in the Old Testament?

Some may think that this is exclusively a benefit of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:33). However, this Digging Deeper presents Old Testament examples in which God required His law to be inscribed internally on the heart, not just externally on stone. The Almighty has always wanted His people’s motivation for obedience to come from within. Our focus verse is: “Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart” (Proverbs 3:3 KJV throughout). God’s teachings are to be imprinted deeply into the innermost being so they never slip out of memory, as will be explained further in this study.

The phrase, “the table of thine heart” appears only twice in the King James Bible and both references are in the Book of Proverbs. The other one is: “Bind them upon thy fingers, write them upon the table of thine heart” (Proverbs 7:3 KJV). In both cases, the believer is instructed to bind something to their fingers or neck. In the case of Proverbs 3:3, it is mercy and truth and in Proverbs 7:3 it is the commandments. The Book of Proverbs is filled with moral instruction for righteous living. There are other Scriptures of a similar nature that speak of God’s instruction being written in the inner person as opposed to being inscribed on stone, such as Deuteronomy 11:18-20, Proverbs 6:20-24, Jeremiah 31:33, 2 Corinthians 3:3, Hebrews 10:16. It is vital for our understanding that Hebrew often employed figurative language for depicting ways to influence human behavior.

Tables and Hearts

The older English word table in our primary text denotes a tablet, such as a writing tablet. The Pulpit Commentary by H.D.M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell defines it: “The table (luakh) was the tablet expressly prepared for writing by being polished, corresponding to the πινακίδον, the writing table of Luke 1:63, which, however, was probably covered with wax. The inscription was made with the stylus. The same word is used of the tables of stone, on which the ten commandments were written with the finger of God, end allusion is in all probability here made to that fact (Exodus 31:18; 34:28)” (e-Sword 13.0.0).

The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible provides additional historical background for this word: “In the ancient world, writing was often done on tablets. While in Mesopotamia writing tablets were normally made of clay, in the OT the term probably refers to wooden boards covered with wax (though the Ten Commandments were written on two stone tablets; Ex 24:12). The metaphor of the heart as a tablet (not a tablet worn on a cord over the heart as some would have it) on which one writes the law, of course, points to an internalization of God’s commands in one’s life, so that not only one’s actions but also one’s motives are pure (see also Pr. 7:3; Jer. 31:33)” (Tecarta Bible App).

Joseph S. Exell’s The Preacher’s Complete Homiletical Commentary additionally explains: “The tables were intended to be not a book only, but a type. An impress should be taken on our own hearts, that we may always have the will of God hidden within us.—Arnot” (e-Sword 13.0.0). As printing machine type leaves an impression on a sheet of paper, so God’s word is to impress our minds. The Pulpit Commentary by H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell explains the word write: “…i.e. inscribe them. mercy and truth, deeply there, impress them thoroughly and indelibly upon thine heart, so that they may never be forgotten, and may form the mainspring of your actions. The expression implies that the heart is to be in entire union with their dictates” (Ibid.).

A physical interpretation

Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers reveals how some misunderstood the command: “These directions resemble the figurative orders with regard to the keeping of the Law in Exodus 13:9 and Deuteronomy 6:8, the literal interpretation of which led to the use of prayer-fillets and phylacteries among the Jews. Certain texts of Scripture were copied out, enclosed in a leather case, and tied at the time of prayer on the left arm and forehead” (e-Sword 13.0.0). This practice appears in the Gospels relating to Jesus’ rebuke of the Pharisees: “But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments” (Mat 23:5). The word phylacteries appears only here in our Bible.

The Biblical and Theological Dictionary by Richard Watson defines the word phylacteries as “…little scrolls of parchment, in which are written certain sentences of the law, enclosed in leather cases, and bound with thongs on the forehead and on the left arm…The command ought doubtless to be understood metaphorically, as a charge to remember it, to meditate upon it, to have it as it were continually before their eyes, and to conduct their lives by it; as when Solomon says, concerning the commandments of God in general, ‘Bind them about thy neck, write them upon the table of thy heart,” Proverbs III, 1, 3; VI, 21” (Bible Analyzer 5.4.1.22). The Bible’s figurative language was a colorful way for God to stress that His instruction was to be very much part of the worshiper’s psyche leading to observant behavior. Even some Israelites misunderstood this language genre.

The heart as the center

Proverbs 3:3 and Proverbs 7:3 state that instruction was to be written on the heart, i.e., the mind. The word heart was used multiple ways in Scripture, depending on the context. Definitions from three dictionaries will broaden our comprehension. Easton’s Bible Dictionary notes: “According to the Bible, the heart is the centre not only of spiritual activity, but of all the operations of human life” (e-Sword 13.0.0). The Bridgeway Bible Dictionary declares further: “Both Old and New Testaments speak repeatedly of the heart as the centre of a person’s inner life. An examination of the hundreds of references to the heart in the Bible will show that the word is not limited in its meaning to one particular part of a person” (Ibid.). The Poor Man’s Dictionary by Robert Hawker adds another aspect: “The heart in all languages is considered as the leading principle of action and of character” (Ibid.).

The Holman KJV Study Bible clarifies what God intended: “To write something on the heart is to internalize it so that it directs one’s actions (Pro. 1:1-4; Pro. 6:20-24; Jer. 17:1; 31:31-34)” (Tecarta Bible App). Conversely, wrong attitudes can also be impressed on the heart, as the College Press Bible Study Textbook Series explains: “The heart is like a table or tablet on which can be written either good (2 Corinthians 3:3) or bad (Jeremiah 17:1)” (e-Sword 13.0.0). Jeremiah 17:1 declares that Judah’s sin was inscribed on their hearts instead of God’s law.

The inscribing process

As has been stated, action displaying character flows from a correct spiritual mindset. The NIV Study Bible explains: “These instructions are metaphors for internalizing in the very center of one’s being the character traits mentioned (see Ex 13:9; Dt 6:8–9 and notes)” (Tecarta Bible App). Christians are building godly character. This is accomplished through meditation, reflection, and internalizing God’s standards throughout the day (Joshua 1:8).

Daily Bible study and prayer are part of this inscribing process. Bible memorization (Psalm 119:11) is another method for keeping God’s word in our hearts, as explained by Gary Everett’s Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures: “It is a full time job of diligent effort to walk according to the Scriptures so we must constantly keep Bible verses on our mind in order to walk in them” (e-Sword 13.0.0). What facilitates this is explained by the Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary: “The Spirit alone can enable us to ‘write them on the table,’ i.e., the tablet, of the heart (Jeremiah 31:33)” (Ibid.). By employing God’s Spirit and rehearsing God’s Scriptures throughout the day, Christians will respond obediently to God’s instruction written on the tablets of their hearts.

Kenneth Frank headshot

Kenneth Frank was born and raised in New Jersey, USA and attended Ambassador College, graduating in 1973. He served in the Canadian ministry from 1973-1999, after which he returned to the USA to pastor churches in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina for 15 years. Having earned a BA degree from Ambassador College he later earned a MA degree from Grand Canyon University before being assigned to the Charlotte office to teach at Living University, now Living Education. Currently, he teaches the Survey of the Bible course to the on-campus students and writes the Digging Deeper column for our online Bible study program. He is married, has four children, and seven grandchildren.

Forum Summary: The Moon, Mars, and Beyond—God’s Awesome Universe

Author: Ryan Price | Student, Living Education – Charlotte, 2021-22


Estimated Reading Time: 4 min.

For the forum this week, the Living Education­–Charlotte students got to hear from guest presenter Dr. Roedolph Opperman, a systems engineer who worked on the fault protection team of the Mars Perseverance Rover.

He gave the students a unique look into the Mars 2020 mission and the difficulties that come with reaching the stars.

A Difficult Journey

Space travel has come very far since Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first stepped on the moon more than half a century ago. Since then, there have been multiple active missions on and around Mars, the most recent of which was the 2020 Mars mission. 

Sending something to Mars is a costly endeavor with many difficulties. Dr. Opperman shared with the students one of these difficulties, which has been dubbed the “Seven Minutes of Terror.” He shared a video explaining that it takes seven minutes for a spacecraft to reach the surface of Mars from the atmosphere—but it takes fourteen minutes for the signal to reach Earth. Therefore, by the time NASA learns the craft has entered the atmosphere, seven minutes have already passed since it did so. By that time, the spacecraft has either landed or crashed. The spacecraft’s computer must land it itself, and there is zero margin for error. Even with all the advances we’ve made in space travel to date, missions to Mars have only a forty percent success rate.

Perseverance and Ingenuity

Dr. Opperman then gave the students a look at the Perseverance Rover and what it can do. Perseverance’s main job is to collect samples of rock that will be retrieved during a later mission. These samples will be collected in the hopes of finding signs of ancient microbial life, though Dr. Opperman doubts they will find any life on Mars. 

But Perseverance didn’t come alone—the Ingenuity helicopter also arrived with it. Being the first aerial vehicle ever deployed on another planet, its purpose was to prove that flight was possible on Mars. Requiring special design considerations due to Mars’ thin atmosphere and lighter gravity, it has made eighteen successful flights. Having fulfilled its primary function, it now helps the rover determine where to go to locate the best soil samples. 

The bulk of the mission’s 2.7-billion-dollar cost was put into testing and development. Dr. Opperman explained how crucial it is that nothing breaks down that the rover can’t repair by itself. His primary job was to strategically introduce faults to the rover’s systems and predict the outcome of the fault, taking note of any anomalies, to ensure that nothing would break in an unexpected and irreparable way during the mission. The Mars 2020 mission was a milestone for the Mars expeditionary effort.

Man on Mars

Dr. Opperman explained that NASA and private ventures such as SpaceX are very serious in their endeavors to send man to Mars. But before man can go to Mars, he must go back to the moon. NASA’s Artemis program aims to put astronauts back on the moon by 2025. Technologies are being developed in the hopes of establishing a permanent, sustained presence on the moon. This needs to be done in order to properly develop, test, and refine technologies that will be used to get to Mars. It’s an exciting time for space exploration!

Mortality, the Universe, and the Future

Our fragile human bodies were not really made to go to space. There are many side effects to such an experience, ranging from muscle atrophy and bone loss due to the weightlessness of zero gravity to neurodegenerative disease from cosmic radiation. And despite all our efforts, mankind has barely scratched the surface of the vast universe the Creator made by merely speaking a word. Dr. Opperman shared another video visualizing the massive scale of this universe. Even now, the universe is still expanding, spreading so fast that there are galaxies we will never see because they slip away too quickly for their light to reach us. Yet Psalm 147:4-5 tells us that God knows every star by name—something our human minds cannot hope to comprehend.Dr. Opperman ended the forum by referring the students to 1 Corinthians 2:9, explaining that we have only a small sense of what’s in store. One day, we will no longer be limited by our mortal flesh, and the vast, unexplored universe will be fully open to us.  

Assembly Summary: God Has a Purpose

Author: Yolanda Watt | Student, Living Education – Charlotte, 2021-22


Estimated Reading Time: 3 min.

Mr. Gaylyn Bonjour opened his lecture to the students by talking about how our lives are similar to the sand passing through an hourglass.

He stressed that time is moving quickly and that we, as younger people, need to learn from older people. The reason for this, he said, “is that information is not knowledge—experience is.” We were advised to keep in mind that, though we will make mistakes before and after baptism, God has a purpose for us; He is bringing many sons and daughters into glory.

Biblical Examples

Mr. Bonjour spoke briefly about three individuals of the Bible with whom God worked despite the terrible mistakes they made. He spoke of the Apostle Paul, who persecuted the Church before Christ called him. He hated those of “the Way,” and they feared him in turn. However, after Paul was converted, the attitude of the Church toward him changed, and they eventually loved him. 

Mr. Bonjour also mentioned Moses, who killed an Egyptian for the sake of his Hebrew brethren—an action that was not pleasing to God. Yet God did not stop working with Moses, because He had a purpose for him. The final individual Mr. Bonjour referenced was David, who committed adultery and killed a woman’s husband—yet God called him a “man after My own heart,” and He will resurrect King David to rule over Israel in God’s Kingdom.

Mr. Bonjour mentioned that, despite God’s clear instruction that kings were not to have many wives, Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Some of these marriages, perhaps most of them, were political in nature. As one reads through Proverbs, one notices that Solomon wrote about problems with contentious women, and Mr. Bonjour made the point that Solomon probably wrote these proverbs based on experiences that he’d had with his wives. He also made the point that even though many believe that Solomon may not be in the first resurrection, we do not know this for a fact, and we even see evidence of Solomon’s repentance as we read through the book of Ecclesiastes. 

It’s How We Finish

Mr. Bonjour closed his lecture by reminding the students that while we may be waiting to see what God does in our lives before we make certain decisions, God may also be wanting us to make a move. God can work with us to shape the decisions that we make, even after we make them. Of course, this is not to say that we do not need to exercise wisdom or that we should not ask for God’s help in making decisions. Nevertheless, God will allow us to learn from our experiences, and even when we make mistakes, God will forgive us once we repent, even if He does not remove the consequences of those mistakes. God had a purpose for each of the biblical figures we read about, and God has a purpose for us all. It is not how we start that is important, Mr. Bonjour said, but how we finish that matters.

Course Spotlight: Laodicea and Passover Examination by Mr. Gerald Weston

Are you taking the time to examine yourself as we approach Passover? Take a look at our Passover course and the Sermon: Laodicea and Passover Examination by Mr. Gerald Weston.

Course Spotlight From God’s Feast Days: Passover

Digging Deeper: Servants of Jesus Christ

Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank | Faculty in Theology, Living Education


Estimated reading time: 9 min.

Did you know that Paul, despite being a Roman citizen (Acts 22:28), described himself as a servant?

Roman citizenship was highly prized in the first century. But when it came to his relationship to Jesus Christ, he referred to himself as a servant. This Digging Deeper explores why Paul chose this word for himself and how he intended brethren to understand it. Modern readers will uncover its relevance. This article highlights: “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God” (Romans 1:1 KJV throughout).

Before he declared his ministerial office as an apostle, he described himself as Christ’s servant. Gary Everett’s Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures emphasizes Paul’s word order here: “Notice that Paul calls himself a servant before declaring himself an apostle. The Greek language often lacks our familiar word order of Subject-Verb-Object. Instead, the Greek places words in the order of their emphasis, or the order of importance to the thought being presented.” (e-Sword 13.0.0).

Servant, not slave

Notice that the King James Version of the Bible translates the Greek word doulos as “servant” and not “slave.” Webster’s 1828 Dictionary explains the difference: “Servant differs from slave, as the servant’s subjection to a master is voluntary, the slave’s is not. Every slave is a servant, but every servant is not a slave” (e-Sword 13.0.0). The Expository Notes of Dr. Constable agrees: “In his relationship to Jesus Christ, Paul was a bond-servant (Greek doulos). Some translators have rendered this word ‘slave,’ but Paul was a willing servant of Christ (cf. Philippians 2:7)” (Ibid.).

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 10, explains why the word servant is appropriate: “Some prefer the rendering ‘slave,’ but this could suggest an unwilling attachment. In Israel the citizenry regarded themselves as servants of their king, even though they were free men. Since this word doulos is used of Christ in relation to the Father (Philippians 2:7), where ‘slave’ would be inappropriate, the translation ‘servant’ is altogether fitting here. By beginning in this fashion, the writer is putting himself on the same plane as his readers. He does not seek to dominate them” (Zondervan, 1976, p. 14).

By employing the word servant, Paul compares himself to God’s Old Testament prophets, as explained by the NET Bible: “Undoubtedly the background for the concept of being the Lord’s ‘slave’ or ‘servant’ is to be found in the Old Testament scriptures. For someone who was Jewish this concept did not connote drudgery, but honor and privilege. It was used of national Israel at times (Isaiah 43:10), but was especially associated with famous OT personalities, including such great men as Moses (Joshua 14:7), David (Psalm 89:3; cf. 2 Samuel 7:5, 8) and Elijah (2 Kings 10:10); all these men were ‘servants (or slaves) of the Lord’” (e-Sword 13.0.0).

The attitude of a doulos

Jesus referred to His followers as servants, as explained by Albert Barnes in his Notes on the Bible: “This name was what the Lord Jesus himself directed His disciples to use, as their general appellation; Matthew 10:25; 20:27; Mark 10:44. And it was the customary name which they assumed; Galatians 1:10; Colossians 4:12; 2 Peter 1:1; Jude 1:1; Acts 4:29; Titus 1:1; James 1:1” (e-Sword 13.0.0).

Daniel Whedon’s Commentary on the Old and New Testaments defines this Greek word: “Servant—Δουλος, derived from δεω, to bind, so signifying a bondsman … To be a doulos of a Divine Master is a high honour ... Just so in English we may say servant of God, but never slave of God” (e-Sword 13.0.0). In his comment on Luke 7:2, Whedon notes that this word designates: ” … any person performing a subordinate service for any reason whatever; as for hire, for love, from civil office, from religious duty, or from ownership” (Ibid.).

David Guzik’s Enduring Word Commentary establishes the attitude of service:

“i. There were several Greek words used to designate a slave, but the idea behind the word for servant (doulos) is ‘complete and utter devotion, not the abjectness which was the normal condition of the slave.’ (Morris)

ii. ‘A servant of Jesus Christ, is a higher title than monarch of the world’ (Poole)” (e-Sword 13.0.0).

Servanthood in the ancient world

Servanthood was quite a different relationship in the Greco-Roman world of the first century than what people think of slavery in the western world, as explained by the ESV Study Bible: “The Roman institution of being a ‘bondservant’ or ‘slave’ (Gk. doulos; see ESV footnote and Preface) was different from the institution of slavery in North America during the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries. Slaves (bondservants, servants) generally were permitted to work for pay and to save enough to buy their freedom (see Matthew 25:15 where the ‘servants’ [again Gk. doulos] were entrusted with immense amounts of money and responsibility)” (Tecarta Bible App).

Servanthood was not a relationship foreign to first-century people, as explained by John D. Morris in his article “A Bondslave and a Freeman” for the Days of Praise publication: “The parallel phrase ‘bondslave of the emperor’ was commonly used in governmental and commercial circles of the day, and the readers in Rome would fully understand the meaning of the new term. The emperor of Rome not only was to be obeyed as a human slave owner and king, he also was to be worshiped as a god. Paul boldly proclaimed himself to be the bondslave of a different slave owner, the subject of a different King, and the worshiper of a different God.”

Albert Barnes in his Notes on the Bible expands this idea further: “It is often, however, applied to courtiers, or the officers that serve under a king: because in an eastern monarchy the relation of an absolute king to his courtiers corresponded nearly to that of a master and a slave. Thus, the word is expressive of dignity and honor; and the servants of a king denote officers of a high rank and station. It is applied to the prophets as those who were honored by God, or especially entrusted by him with office; Deuteronomy 34:5; Joshua 1:2; Jeremiah 25:4. The name is also given to the Messiah, Isaiah 42:1, ‘Behold my servant in whom my soul delighteth,’ etc.; Isaiah 53:11, ‘shall my righteous servant justify many'” (e-Sword 13.0.0). Jesus was the Father’s servant.

Christians as servants

Not only did Paul describe himself as Christ’s servant, but our New Testament uses this term for Christians generally, as explained by R.C.H. Lenski’s Commentary on the New Testament: “In the New Testament John, as for instance in Rev. 1:1, often employs δοῦλοι with reference to all Christians, with which passage Eph. 6:6; 1 Pet. 2:16 agree and we may add Rom. 6:16–20; 14:4, 7, 8; 1 Cor. 7:22, together with the statements that we all belong to Christ, are bought by him, and are bound to serve him (δουλεύειν)” (Bible Analyzer 5.4.1.22).

Christ’s sacrifice has set His servants free from being slaves of Satan (John 8:34; Galatians 4:3), as explained by John D. Morris in his article “A Bondslave and a Freeman” for the Days of Praise publication: “Long before Nero’s executioner freed Paul from the limitations of his physical body, Paul had been made a ‘freeman of the Lord’ (1 Corinthians 7:22). The common title of the day ‘freedman of the emperor’ designated a bondslave of the emperor who had been elevated by the emperor to a higher position. Paul had been, and all believers have been, ransomed out of the slave market of sin by Christ’s blood and have been set free from the guilt, power, and penalty of that sin.”

Paul explained that Jesus purchased Christians: “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 KJV). Christ’s death provided the ransom price to set them free from slavery to sin, self, and Satan (Matthew 20:28; Ephesians 1:7).

Christians are servants of Jesus Christ. This is an honored position in Christ. Nonetheless, Christians owe everything to Him and are obliged to serve Him at every command. Jesus explained this discipleship: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

A special relationship

This servanthood also implies a special relationship with Christ: “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you” (John 15:14-15).

The Preacher’s Complete Homiletical Commentary, reconciles the competing terms servants with friends: “I call you no longer servants, etc.—Servants = δούλους … But the apostles rejoiced in His service (Romans 1:1; 2 Peter 1:1, etc.). It was, however, a free service, not that of a slave. The slave’s position admits but of one mode of action, unthinking obedience. It is far otherwise with Christ’s disciples and friends. He takes them into confidence, reveals Himself and His work to them, makes them fellow-labourers in His vineyard” (e-Sword 13.0.0). How privileged are Christians as servants of Jesus Christ! This servanthood and friendship are unlike any other in human history.

Kenneth Frank headshot

Kenneth Frank was born and raised in New Jersey, USA and attended Ambassador College, graduating in 1973. He served in the Canadian ministry from 1973-1999, after which he returned to the USA to pastor churches in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina for 15 years. Having earned a BA degree from Ambassador College he later earned a MA degree from Grand Canyon University before being assigned to the Charlotte office to teach at Living University, now Living Education. Currently, he teaches the Survey of the Bible course to the on-campus students and writes the Digging Deeper column for our online Bible study program. He is married, has four children, and seven grandchildren.

Forum Summary: Finding Good News

Author: Ryan Price | Student, Living Education – Charlotte, 2021-22


Estimated Reading Time: 3 min.

Luke 21:36 tells us that we are to watch and pray always. 

To “watch”, in part, means we have to be keeping up with the news and learning about the affairs of our world. But are we learning about our world from a Biblical perspective, or are we letting other influences shape our understanding? For the forum this week the director of Living Education, Mr. Jonathan McNair, explained that while we live in an age full of news sources, an increase in information comes with an increase in misinformation. Mr. McNair explained that there is a three-fold challenge in determining the reliability of the news sources we listen to and provided four strategies for meeting it.

The Three-fold Challenge

The first aspect of this challenge is that every news source has its bias. To illustrate this point, Mr. McNair had the students look at a variety of current news headlines from various right and left-leaning news outlets. By comparing the phrasing of the headlines alone, the students could determine the political leanings of the outlet. Mr. McNair explained that all people have biases and buy into that which supports their point of view. We must be careful to not fall into this trap. 

Another aspect to consider is whether the news is accurate. With so many different sources of information out there, news networks must compete to grab your attention. Sometimes a network will embellish and exaggerate the news to generate more traffic to their website or channel. 

The final question to ask is “am I getting the whole picture?” A news outlet may leave out information to support their stance, or even just by mistake. It’s impossible to cover every aspect of an event as it unfolds. So, now that we know the challenge, how do we meet it?

Four Strategies for Navigating the News Media Maze

1. Understand the System

As was previously mentioned, our whole news system is geared toward getting attention. It’s all about getting the “scoop” first, even at the expense of accuracy. We need to be wary and take eye-catching headlines and attention-grabbing articles with a grain of salt.

2. Know the Source

So much news is duplicated from an original source and finding the source can give us a clearer picture. But even then, we must be watching for any biases that the source may have.

3. Know the Perspective of the Source

Everyone has their own biases and perspective. Even “fact-based” news has its leanings. No reporter or news analyst is completely objective, and their values often come through in tone if not in the words they use.

4. Know Yourself

Your age, background, country, and values will affect your worldview. We must understand that some outlets use these aspects to emotionally manipulate us onto their side. It’s a tactic used by both sides of the political spectrum.

Final Recommendations

Mr. McNair ended the forum with a couple of recommendations on how to apply this knowledge. He suggested that when watching or reading the news, don’t just stick to one outlet with one point of view. By using multiple news sources while acknowledging their biases, we can still get valuable information. As an example, Mr. McNair explained that while science magazines might be biased toward evolution, we can still gain valuable scientific information from them. Varying the type of news we take in can give us a more balanced view of world events. However, we need to be careful of getting too caught up in the biases and politics of the world. A vital point to remember is that as Christians, we are not to focus on being right or left-leaning, but unified in the body of Christ

Course Spotlight: Peter’s Vision

Peter had a vision that many have taken as a revelation that unclean meats could now be eaten. Is this really what the Bible is talking about in Acts 10:1-16? And how often do those confused on this topic read the rest of the chapter? Find out more about what Peter’s Vision was all about and the setting surrounding it.

COURSE SPOTLIGHT FROM ACTS OF THE APOSTLES: (UNIT 2) APOSTOLIC TOUR

Assembly Summary: Getting the Job—Three Keys to Getting Hired

Author: Yolanda Watt | Student, Living Education – Charlotte, 2021-22


Estimated Reading Time: 4 min.

For his assembly, Mr. Michael DeSimone talked about the process of getting a job.  As we approach the end of this year of Living Education – Charlotte, Mr. DeSimone presented this lecture in hopes that the students would find it helpful as we plan ahead to apply for various positions and potential jobs in the near future. Referencing the book “48 Days to the Work You Love: Preparing for the New Normal” by Dan Miller, Mr. DeSimone gave us some practical keys for the following three steps to successfully get hired. 

Step 1: Successfully get the interview. 

Send an introduction letter. The purpose of this letter is to build name recognition; it is very important to stand out from other applicants.

A week after sending the introduction letter, submit a cover letter and resumé. Both of these need to be addressed to a particular person and not to a department. If addressed to a general department, there is a high chance your submission will be overlooked; however, if it is sent to a particular person, that person will likely follow-up with the application.

Follow-up with a call 4-5 days after sending your resumé. Mr. DeSimone highlighted this as an extremely important step in the process—one which is followed by only 1-2% of job hunters.  Mr. DeSimone advised the students not to leave a voicemail, except perhaps for the opportunity of leaving your name. It is also not a good idea to leave anything in the voice message telling them to call you back, nor to leave too many messages.

Step 2: Prepare and practice for the interview.

Grab a friend and practice your interview. We were advised to get a family member or friend and practice having a job interview with them. This way, that person can offer critiques and insights that may help at the actual interview.

Mr. DeSimone advised that, in order to show proper etiquette, you should not arrive to the interview too early—arriving 30 minutes before the interview creates an inconvenience for the interviewer. Instead, you should aim at arriving 5-10 minutes early. We were advised to dress appropriately, which means dressing one or two notches above the requirements for the position you are being interviewed for. You can also show proper etiquette by not wearing too much perfume or jewelry, making regular and friendly eye contact, shaking hands firmly, and wearing a smile.

Know yourself enough to be able to sell yourself well. Mr. DeSimone explained that preparation for a job interview involves being intimately familiar with your skills, strengths, weaknesses, dreams, and values. Solidify your answers for the typical interview questions, such as, “Tell me a little bit about yourself,” or, “Tell me about your strengths and weaknesses.” No answer should be more than two minutes in length.

Mr. DeSimone said to conduct your own research on the company that you are planning to apply to. It is essential to know what the company stands for before your interview—that way, you’ll be able to ask more appropriate questions.

Step 3: Negotiate compensation.

The salary that the company offers is based on the responsibilities of the job and not on your educational background or past experiences. When negotiating compensation, Mr. DeSimone advised, there is a right time to do it. Too often, job hunters will talk about compensation when it is not the correct time to do so. You should not be the first one to bring up the topic of benefits—unless the interviewer never brings it up at all. If the topic of compensation is brought too early by the interviewer, you should deflect it in order to first make sure that the job is a good fit for both the company and yourself. The arrow on the graph below shows the ideal time to discuss compensation during the interview.

Graph: The right time to negotiate compensation during an interview.

Mr. DeSimone hopes that these three steps will be helpful to the students as they prepare to shine God’s light in the workforce.