One Comment to “The Bible Does Not Condone Slavery”

  1. Donald McMahon
    January 13, 2019

    “The Bible Does Not Condone Slavery” (Philemon)(1.16.19) Substitute Sermon (snow)
    There has been a terrible accusation made against the Bible. This is an accusation made by enemies of Christianity. They say that the Bible supports or condones slavery. They have an unsavory ally. Liberal theology agrees that the church once supported the institution of slavery because of what the Bible states. They go on to say that as modern enlightened thinkers we have grown into a different understanding about slavery.
    This undermines the inerrancy of the Bible as the Holy inspired Word of God or paints the Almighty as less humane than modern humanists. Surely you can see that this perception of the Bible and God carries over into other theological debates and taints traditional orthodox understanding of God’s word.
    Yes there was error; but, the error was by those that brought their presumptions to bear on the scripture instead of allowing the scripture to bear on their presumptions. In cultures were slave ownership maintained power and economic privilege for the few, they sought to justify their lives and viewpoints. They did this through very selective reading of scripture and then got the stamp of approval from those in the church with worldly outlooks versus godly outlooks.
    What parts of the Bible did they use to support slavery? Yes, slavery was central to the Old Testament. Jewish slavery was not the same as slavery in America. There were strict guidelines. The key things to remember is that it was descriptive of that culture now prescriptive for any other culture. Then Jesus came and announced that he had come to set the captives free.
    So, what New Testament scriptures were used to support a system of slavery.
    Ephesians 6:5–8 (NIV84)
    Slaves and Masters
    5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. 6 Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. 7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, 8 because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.
    Colossians 3:22–24 (NIV84)
    22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
    1 Timothy 6:1–2 (NIV84)
    All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered. 2 Those who have believing masters are not to show less respect for them because they are brothers. Instead, they are to serve them even better, because those who benefit from their service are believers, and dear to them. These are the things you are to teach and urge on them.
    Titus 2:9–10 (NIV84)
    9 Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, 10 and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.
    1 Peter 2:18–21 (NIV84)
    18 Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. 19 For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
    People claim that because Paul and Peter ordained obedience by slaves to their masters the Bible condones slavery. Hogwash! Do they expect that Paul and Peter to proclaim rebellion; to order violence; to suggest any behavior that would dishonor the love of God and neighbor? When Jesus was being taken by force in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter cut off a man’s ear with a sword. Jesus commanded Peter to put down the sword for those that live by the sword die by the sword. Was Jesus condoning the oppression of the Jewish Sanhedrin? Of course not. God’s ways are higher than our ways.
    1 Corinthians 7:20–24 (NIV84)
    20 Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him. 21 Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. 22 For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord’s freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ’s slave. 23 You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. 24 Brothers, each man, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation God called him to.
    Colossians 4:1 (NIV84)
    Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.
    1 Timothy 1:9–10 (NIV84)
    9 We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine
    1 Corinthians 12:13 (NIV84)
    13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
    Galatians 3:26–28 (NIV84)
    Sons of God
    26 You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
    Ephesians 6:9 (NIV84)
    9 And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.
    Many claim that Paul should have spoken out against slavery much more boldly. Slavery was the law of the land and had been for centuries. That includes Rome, Greece, and Israel. At one point, it is estimated that one third of Rome’s population were slaves. There had been a couple of large slave rebellions and they resulted in the death of thousands.
    Many claim that Jesus was a revolutionary even though he said, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.” Yes, Christianity is a liberation movement but not a fomentation for violence. Christianity is not a call to insurrection but a call to resurrection.
    And then we have a whole letter from Paul whose central theme is on slavery. It reveals Paul’s heart and the heart of God. It is Holy Scripture. Though this letter is personal and private it was meant to be read publicly. This indicates that Paul’s purposes are not limited to this isolated instance. Notice that many exchanges of greeting and various persons are referenced.

    Philemon (NIV84)
    1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,
    To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker, 2 to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier and to the church that meets in your home:
    3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
    Thanksgiving and Prayer
    4 I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, 5 because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints. 6 I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. 7 Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.
    Paul’s Plea for Onesimus
    8 Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, 9 yet I appeal to you on the basis of love. I then, as Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus— 10 I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.
    12 I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you. 13 I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. 14 But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do will be spontaneous and not forced. 15 Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good— 16 no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord.
    17 So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18 If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. 19 I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self. 20 I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ. 21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.
    22 And one thing more: Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers.
    23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. 24 And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers.
    25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
    The word of God for the people of God.
    Everywhere Christianity spread, a sense of morality and social justice naturally went with it.
    To William Wilberforce. (the primary abolitionist)
    London, February 24, 1791.
    My dear Sir,—Unless the divine Power has raised you up to be as Athanasius contra mundum [against the world], I see not how you can go through your glorious enterprise, in opposing that execrable villainy, which is the scandal of religion, of England, and of human nature. Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils; but, if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them together stronger than God? O! ‘be not weary in well doing.’ Go on, in the name of God, and in the power of His might, till even American slavery (the vilest that ever saw the sun) shall vanish before it. Your affectionate servant, John Wesley
    ‘Methodists put all their strength into the battle for freedom. Out of 352,404 Nonconformist signatures to petitions to Parliament on that behalf, 229,426 were those of Methodists.’—Rev. J. Telford’s A Sect that Moved the World, Chapter iv. J. R. Green connects the abolition of slavery with the Methodist Revival.
    From the beginnings of Methodist preaching in America, African Americans have been attracted to Methodism’s bold stance against both slavery and human oppression. From Wesley to Coke to Asbury and all of the itinerant preachers who succeeded them, Methodist preachers abhorred the practice of slavery in the strongest of terms and proclaimed a God of liberation, both from sin and from human oppression. Admittedly, often this message has waned, but this has been the historical thrust of Methodism.
    Yes, the Bible has been misused. That should be a warning to us. We need to be well studied in God’s word. Do not lay your prejudices and presumptions upon it. Instead, submit to God the Holy Spirit as the Almighty speaks through the Living word.
    Amen and amen. Let us pray.


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