THE NEW TESTAMENT PASSAGES ON SLAVERY

“Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called. Were you called while a slave? Do not be concerned about it but if you can be made free, rather use it. For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise he who is called while free is Christ’s slave. You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. Brethren, let each one remain with God in that calling in which he was called.”     (1Cor. 7:20-24, NKJV)

“Servants (douloi=bondmen, slaves, alipin), be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; not with eye service, as men-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. And you, masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.”  (Ephesians 6:5-9, NKJV)

“Servants (douloi=bondmen, slaves, alipin), obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eye service, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God.”  (Col. 3:22, NKJV)

Mga kasama, our discussion regarding this issue of slavery should take into consideration the attitude of various historical epochs . In the time of Moses the God of heaven allowed slavery among the people of Israel but it was tempered by the national experience in Egypt. Israelites were treated as slaves in Egypt and they knew the inhumane treatment they received from the hands of Egyptian slave drivers. Moses was so angry on the way an Egyptian supervisor lashed at a weakened Israelite laborer that Moses killed that Egyptian master. The Egyptians’ view of human slaves is that of a work animal or a machine. But God’s law on slavery as revealed to Moses was much enlightened. It didn’t allow killing of slaves. God’s law provided for the Year of Jubilee when slaves were emancipated. Please see Leviticus 25.  Some 1500 years before Christ was born, there was slave emancipation, but European and American laws on slavery lacked this human provision of emancipation until it was insisted on by Abraham Lincoln the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 Anno Domini.

Sa panahon naman ng Roman Empire, slaves comprised about 25 percent of the Rome’s population.   Soldiers and inhabitants of conquered lands were considered as spoils brought home by the victors of wars. Slaves were considered chattels personal or personal properties of the masters. This attitude on slavery in the Roman Empire was tempered by God’s laws in the writings of Paul as quoted above. The Apostle Paul didn’t give an outright prohibition against slavery. It was a neutral thing. What mattered to the apostle was a genuine relationship with Christ. But there were some suggested alleviations of the attitude on slavery. “Do not become slaves of men” suggests avoidance of slavery so that a person could be free from the control of another which might keep him away from his service to God. Masters, on the other hand, were encouraged to treat slaves as their equal in the sight of the Absolute Master in heaven “giving up threatening” which suggests that the more severe act of killing or maltreatment were prohibited.

Paul’s treatise in the Book of Philemon should provide the model for an attitude on slavery. Paul’s thesis of treating Onesimus “no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved  brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord”  (v. 16) is much more enlightened than Lincoln’s Proclamation of Emancipation which came 1863 years after.

Yes, there are instances when the law of the land may differ from God’s laws, but in this case of slavery, God’s law is more excellent and far more superior than man’s law. © (Eusebio Tanicala 2.5.11)

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