Ephesians 6_ 5- 9      How to Handle Slavery

Rev. David Holwick  E

First Baptist Church

Ledgewood, New Jersey

February 2, 1992

Ephesians 6:5-9


  I. The problem of slavery.

      A. Universal in ancient world.      60,000,000 slaves.

      B. Christianity did not call for outward revolution.

          1) Many of our ancestors owned slaves here in America.

          2) Change came only slowly.

      C. How is the gospel supposed to speak to our situation in the world?

          1) What does it say to unbearable conditions at work?

          2) What does it say to unreasonable bosses?

II. How the Bible handles slavery.

      A. Mild form in OT.

          1) Humane treatment demanded.

          2) All were supposed to be freed on Day of Jubilee.

          3) Life-long slavery was slave's own decision.

      B. Situation in NT.

          1) Slaves accepted as members of church.

          2) No outright call for revolt, but great change in attitude.

              a) Our relationship with God is supreme.

                  1> When Jesus is our Lord, all other relationships


              b) With God, we have overcoming attitude in any situation.

                  1> Applies to circumstances in workplace today.

III. Three qualities of transformed relationships in Ephesians 6:5-9.

      A. Equality.

          1) All are equal before God.             6:9

          2) God has no favorites.                 6:9

              a) Your social situation means nothing to him.     1 Sam 16:7

          3) Slaves and owners both must know they will answer to God.  6:8

              a) James:  God will be harsh on the rich.   James 2:1-7, 5:1-5

      B. Justice.

          1) Justice is implicit in Ephesians, explicit in Colossians.

              a) Eph 6:9, "treat your slaves in the same way."

              b) Col 4:1, "provide your slaves with what is right and fair."

          2) The gospel gives everyone rights, including slaves.

              a) Revolutionary idea for Roman society.

              b) Significant thrust in our own day, in E. Europe, Russia.

          3) All relationships are reciprocal.    6:9

              a) Workers have duty to do good job / right to decent wage.

              b) Bosses have duty to treat and pay fairly / right to

                    expect job done right.

              c) Problem:

                  1> Each side concentrates on securing its own rights,

                       and on making the other side do its duty.

                  2> Paul says concentrate on your responsibilities, not

                        your rights.

      C. Brotherhood.

          1) The runaway slave Onesimus was to be welcomed as a brother.

                                                         Philemon 1:16

              a) Incredible thought in that day and age.

              b) Even Seneca called them "comrades" instead of brothers.

          2) Paul's message:  "Slavery must be abolished from within."

              a) Philemon 1:8 - instead of "ordering," Paul appeals on

                   the basis of Christian love.

          3) Paul includes slaves in God's family, the theme of Ephesians.

              a) Churches shouldn't look down on anyone.

              b) All have sinned, all can be saved by blood of Christ.

              c) There is no slave or free, worker or boss, in eyes of

                    Jesus.                           Gal 3:28

IV. Christ is the center.

      A. The whole passage emphasizes on our relationship with Jesus.

          1) "Just as you would obey Christ"           6:5

          2) "Like slaves of Christ"                   6:6

          3) "As if serving the Lord"                  6:7

          4) "You know the Lord will reward"           6:8

          5) "You know God is master, and in heaven"   6:9

      B. The problem most people have is they focus on their circumstances,

            not on their Savior.

          1) God has placed you where you are for a reason.

          2) He can use you there.

          3) View it as an opportunity to witness for Jesus.

      C. Serve others as if you were serving Jesus.

          1) People cannot own us, only Jesus can.

          2) No matter what your circumstances, be proud.

             Before the Civil War, some visitors from the North were

                watching a company of slaves in New Orleans.

             The slaves were wearily shuffling along the dock.

             But one, in striking contrast, with head erect strode among

                them with the dignified bearing of a conqueror.

             "Who is that fellow?" someone asked.

                "Is he the straw boss; or the owner of the slaves?"

             "No," was the answer, "That fellow just can't get it out of

                his head that he is the son of a king."

             And that's exactly what he was.

             He had been dragged into slavery as a small child.

             He had already been taught, though, that he was no ordinary

                person; he was the son of a king.

             Now, after half a lifetime of hardship and abuse, which had

                broken the spirit of the others, he was still the son

                   of a king!                                      #1726

  V. Are you a son of the King?

************************   notes  *****************************

John Stott, "God's New Society" (Ephesians)

  I. The place of slaves in ancient world.

      A. Slavery was universal.  60,000,000 in Roman empire.

          1) It was not considered a problem by them.

      B. Slavery was dehumanizing.

          1) Aristotle:  "A slave is a living tool, just as a tool is an

               inanimate slave."

          2) He could at least concede that "a slave is a kind of

               possession with a soul."

          3) This dehumanization was mirrored in early Roman law.

              a) Yet some treated slaves well.

              b) The Stoic Seneca taught the brotherhood of man.

      C. The place of slavery in the church.

          1) That Paul addresses them shows they were accepted in church.

          2) Their perspective is changed.

              a) The whole passage centers on Christ.

              b) Four times Christ is referred to.

              c) Slaves are liberated from the slavery of "men-pleasing"

                   into the freedom of serving Christ.

              d) Their higher preoccupation is now the will of God.  6:6

      D. Christ is the center.

          1) Serve others as if you were serving Jesus.

          2) Should not excuse bad conditions, but motivate to change them.

II. Duty of slaves.

      A. We should be respectful (fear and trembling).

          1) "Fear" refers to respect in most passages.

          2) Colossians has "fearing the Lord."

      B. Obey in singleness of heart.

          1) No ulterior motives.

      C. Be conscientious, not working only when eye is on them.

          1) Don't do shoddy work.

      D. Willing service.

          1) Not reluctant or grudging.

          2) God rewards good work.

III. Three principles for bosses.

      A. Do the same to your slaves.

          1) Show respect to receive it.

              a) Application of golden rule.

          2) Masters are not superior or privileged in God's eyes.

      B. Don't threaten.

          1) Relationships must not be based on threats.

      C. Know that Jesus is master of both slave and owner.

          1) Jesus doesn't show favoritism.

IV. The abolition of slavery.

      A. Inadequate response?

          1) Why didn't Paul advocate revolution?

          2) Why didn't Paul advocate emancipation?

          3) Why is NT so feeble on issue?

      B. All slavery must be condemned.

          1) Roman slavery was not worst or best.

          2) Evil of slavery is its dehumanization.

              a) Humans are reduced to goods.

          3) Evil is not due to servitude (Jesus was a servant) or


      C. Reasons New Testament doesn't condemn slavery outright.

          1) Christians were a weak, insignificant group.

              a) Liberation would have led to starvation and poverty.

              b) Slavery was regarded as a symptom of this "present evil age."

          2) Millions of slaves were routinely freed.

              a) Some became wealthier than their owners.

              b) The NT urges slaves to seek freedom.  1 Cor 7:21; Phlm 16

          3) Humanitarian treatment of slaves was improving.

              a) They gained many legal rights.

      D. Shame should be felt for long tolerance of slavery.

          1) Calvin saw slavery as totally against God's order of nature

               and a result of original sin.

          2) But Christianity lit the long fuse that destroyed it.

  V. The transformed relationship between slaves and owners, in Christ.

      A. Equality.

          1) All are equal before God.

          2) Both must know they will answer to God.

      B. Justice.

          1) Implicit in Ephesians, explicit in Colossians.

          2) The gospel gives everyone rights, including slaves.

          3) All relationships is reciprocal.

          4) Same situation exists for workers/bosses today.

      C. Brotherhood.

          1) Onesimus was to be welcomed as a brother.

              a) Incredible thought in that day and age.

              b) Even Seneca called them "comrades" instead of brothers.

          2) Paul includes them in God's family, the theme of Ephesians.

          3) Paul's message:  "Slavery must be abolished from within."

Copyright 2017 by Rev. David Holwick

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