About Jesus - Steve Sweetman
response to questions asked me about what the Bible says about slavery, I
write the following.
is first mentioned in Genesis 9:25. Beyond
that, God instituted guidelines concerning slavery into Judaism as seen in
the Law of Moses. These
guidelines were meant to protect slaves, not ban the practice of slavery.
Similar guidelines concerning divorce were meant to protect a
divorced, innocent, wife, not to ban the practice of divorce.
Matthew 19:8 tells us that God permitted divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1 -
4) because of man's hard heart. Slavery,
like divorce, was an accommodation on God's part.
He overlooked such social ills until New Testament days when we
are expected to repent of our sin (Acts 17:30).
Law of Moses said the following about slavery.
Leviticus 25:44 says: "Your slaves are to come from the nations
around you." Deuteronomy
23:15 says: "If a slave has taken refuge with you, do not hand him over
to his master." Exodus
21:26 says: "If a man hits a slave in the eye and destroys it, he must
let the slave go free to compensate for it." Exodus
21:20 says: "If a man beats his slave with a rod and if the slave dies
… he must be punished."
Old Testament passages show how God feels about abusing slaves.
"I have indeed seen the misery of my people in
Old Testament accommodated the practice of slavery, therefore, it regulated
it in Jewish culture to protect slaves.
Here's how the New Testament approaches the issue.
Ephesians 6:5 to 8 says that Christian slaves should "obey their
earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as
they would obey Christ." See
also Colossians 4:22 and 23 and 1 Timothy 6:1 and 2.
1 Corinthians 7:20 says that slaves should not try to gain their
freedom, but if offered, then they should take it.
1 Peter 2:18 and 19 adds to this by saying that any hardship incurred
by a slave should be considered a form of suffering for Christ.
These guidelines were meant to lead the slave owner to Jesus.
New Testament does not overtly oppose slavery.
Neither does it overtly condone it.
Unlike today, slavery was part of the economic landscape of the
first-century, Greco-Roman, world. Almost
half of the
New Testament teaches that God makes no distinction between slaves and free
people in respect to salvation (1 Corinthians 12:13 and Galatians 3:28).
It also teaches that slave owners must treat their slaves with
respect because God is the Master of both them and their slaves, and, God
does not favour one person over another (Ephesians 6:9).
letter to Philemon, a Christian slave owner, is key to this issue.
Onesimus was one of his slaves who apparently ran away.
In Philemon 8 through 16 Paul told Philemon this:
in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, I appeal
to you on the basis of love …take
Onesimus back, no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear
behalf of Jesus, Paul told Philemon to do the right thing by releasing
Onesimus and treating him as a brother.
This expresses the heart of God and the Bible concerning slavery.
might wonder why Paul did not vigorously oppose slavery.
Paul's mission was to be "God's chosen instrument to carry His
name before the Gentiles and to their kings and before the people of Israel" (Acts 9:15). He was not
commissioned to be a social activist. He
was called to lead individual people to Jesus.
If a slave owner became a Christian, he was expected to do what was
best for his slave.
been a social activist. I've
protested in front of abortion clinics, but that never closed the clinics,
and, it led no one to Jesus. Banning
abortion does not end abortion. It
sends it underground, where slavery exists today in our so-called civilized,
slavery-banned, western world.
His inaugural speech to Israel, Jesus said this:
Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach the
gospel to the poor, He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach
deliverance to the captives, and the recovering of sight to the blind, to
set at liberty them that are bruised" (Luke 4:18).
you interpret "preach deliverance to the captives" and "set
at liberty them that are bruised," Jesus is the source of freedom,
whether inward freedom or cultural freedom. "If the Son sets you free,
you are free indeed" (John 8:36).