Two weeks ago we watched as the nation of Iran took 15 British sailors into captivity in the waters of the Persian Gulf. Though controverted by England, Iran believed these hostages to have crossed into their territorial waters thus transgressing the borders of their nation. What is not in dispute is that they were precariously near the border and as a result of their being so near ended up being captured. While in captivity, the hostages each were paraded on television and coerced to speak out regarding their transgression of Iranian waters. They became instruments of the Iranian government. This past week those hostages were released and rejoiced as they returned to their home country. We're very happy that they are back home.
Looking at captivity from a spiritual perspective, 2 Timothy 2:25b-26 (ESV) reads, “God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” This reflects the state or condition in which all are who transgress God's will and fall into the hands of the devil; they are captured! And while they are captured by the devil, they are bound to do his will. What spiritual lessons can we draw from this analogy?
First, the proximity of those British sailors to the border increased their chances of being captured. Had those British hostages kept their distance from that line, they likely would not have been captured. Similarly, when we don't take sin seriously and take chances by hanging out on the border between right and wrong, Satan has a much easier time capturing us. Several proverbs instruct the wise man not only to stay away from wickedness, but to stay far away from it. Proverbs 22:5 says plainly, “Thorns and snares are in the way of the froward: he that doth keep his soul shall be far from them.” See also Proverbs 4:24, Proverbs 5:8, Proverbs 30:8. The wise man knows not to play along the border between right and wrong, but to stay far away from wickedness.
Second, when those British sailors were captured they became the instruments of the Iranian government. So also, being captured by Satan through sin means becoming his instrument as well. Romans 6:13 says, “Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.” Those who cross that line between right and wrong and enter Satan's camp and become instruments to his desires.
Third, there is a way back home. Those British sailors were fortunate to be able to return to their home after the Iranian president allowed them to leave, though, they could have faced serious penalties. The Bible tells us that the penalty for the trespass of sin is death (Romans 6:23). There is, however, a way out of that penalty through the grace of God. God sent Jesus, His Son, to die in the place of the sinner and to bear the guilt of man's sin. Paul wrote, “For he [God] hath made him [Jesus] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Because Jesus took our place, He was able to redeem sinful man out of sin's captivity and bring him back to God. Paul said to Titus, “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14).
What a great blessing it is to know that God has provided a way out of the captivity of sin. To escape, we need to accept God's plan for our release and follow His instructions to return. What must we do? Hear the gospel message (Romans 10:17); believe that message (Hebrews 11:6); repent of the sin that brought us into captivity in the first place (Acts 17:30); confess Jesus as our new Lord (Romans 10:10); and be baptized in water to show our obedience to our new master (Mark 16:16, Hebrews 5:9). By so doing, our freedom is promised by God and by continuing to live faithfully to Him we will remain His for all eternity.