Wednesday in the Nineteenth Week of Ordinary Time

1 Timothy 6:1-2

On Slavery

There are some who would have us believe that Jesus came to turn the social structures of the world upside-down.  That’s not true.  Now when the Kingdom comes in its fullness, the first shall be last and the last first (Matthew 19:28-30), and we are certainly to do all we can to alleviate poverty and sickness and distress wherever we find it.  But Christ did not come to destroy the social order whether we are talking about marriage or government; these are of divine institution.  Instead, he came to sanctify them.  Sanctification betters them in the sense that they should now be ordered in a Christlike manner serving him and his Kingdom.

One such institution at that time was slavery.  This troubles people today who rightly find slavery abhorrent.  We should note that the New Testament nowhere condones slavery; on the contrary, it condemns outright the enslaving of people which Paul does in this very letter (1:10; also Revelation 18:13), and I have said elsewhere that I consider Paul’s letter to Philemon the “Emancipation Proclamation” of the New Testament.  We should also note that slavery in the ancient world was not based upon race as it was in America.  It could sometimes be driven by economic necessity as the ancient world was not what we would call “upwardly mobile.” 

But the Church did accommodate it.  Why?  “So that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled.”  So the apostles commanded slaves to be obedient to their masters but sanctified such obedience as it was rendered as unto Christ (Ephesians 6:5-7). Likewise, masters were commanded not to threaten understanding that they both served the same Master in heaven who shows no partiality (Ephesians 6:9). It seems from the context here that slaves in Ephesus were taking advantage of their believing masters.  Paul condemns this as unloving and lacking integrity.  In short: 1) the institution of slavery was a mainstay in the ancient world; 2) slaves were coming to saving faith in Christ; and, 3) the ancient world lacked democratic institutions, to say the least.  Moreover, the Church herself was a powerless and persecuted institution.  And above all, the gospel needed to be preached.

What?  Does the advancement of the Kingdom and the spread of the gospel mean more than my personal freedom, convenience, or happiness?  Why yes, it does.  By the nineteenth-century, cultural attitudes had changed.  But let us never forget—the worst slavery of all is slavery to sin of which the institution of slavery is that most horrifying mirror image (John 8:34-36).

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

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