Main Idea: Paul gives instructions to slaves and masters, exhorting them to glorify Christ with proper attitudes, work ethic, and a deep awareness of Christ’s Lordship. In our day, I believe we can compare and talk about the Christian employee and his or her relationship to their employer and how they can live out their faith in the work environment.
For an overview of the topic of slavery in the Scriptures, Bro. Steve Wolfgang gives us this perspective,
“There is so much to say about slavery and the Bible. Sometimes we can miss the forest for the trees. “In the beginning,” slavery was not part of God’s created order. It was invented by sinful humans, taking “ownership” of other humans in a bid for monetary gain by total control of others’ lives, usurping a role that only God should play – and thus, idolatrous at its core. When time is no more, the Almighty will judge all such barbarities.
The Mosaic Law had regulations for it, as well as for other human re-arrangements of the Divine creation (e.g., divorce, which God hates). In a New Testament context, 1 Timothy 1:10 condemns “manstealing” (KJV = slave traders, or “enslavers” in the ESV), which would cover nearly everyone down the chain of a slave economy. Imagine becoming a Christian while enslaved, and required to perform whatever task the “master” required – including all sorts of illicit sexual (and other) behaviors.”
How did one become a slave in New Testament times? Klyne Snodgrass, in his commentary of Ephesians, writes the following,
“People became slaves through various avenues: birth, parental selling or abandonment, captivity in war; inability to pay debts, and voluntary attempts to better one’s condition. Race was not a factor.”
The Bible clearly opposes the type of cruel slavery we think of today, even in our country. Here are a few observations from the Scriptures:
- First, we are called to love our neighbors, not own our neighbors. (Luke 10:27)
- Second, we are to treat others as we would want to be treated (Matthew 7:12). This is commonly referred to as “the Golden Rule.”
- Third, neither slavery or masters are ever view positively in the Bible.
- Fourth, one of the pictures of the gospel is that of freedom from bondage. Christianity is a release-the captives faith (Luke 4:18)
- Fifth, Paul’s teachings and other New Testament teachings undermine slavery.
In our next article, or articles, we are. Going to deal with Paul’s Christ-centered words to slaves and masters.
-Larry Miles, March 30, 2022, Jefferson Manor Rehabilitation Center