Things Paul Wrote About – Slaves and Masters

Being aware of human trafficking and slavery you would want to find a clear answer to the problem/question in the Bible.  But in Paul’s writings and the rest of the Bible it seems to send a mix message!  Paul does not condemn slavery nor does he promote it.  In Exodus 21 there are guidelines for when Israelites sold themselves into slavery (bond servant).  Many of Paul’s letters mention slaves and masters, and how they are to view and treat each other:

slaves to master– Ephesians 6:5, Colossians 3:22, 1 Timothy 6:1,2a, Titus 2:9

master to slaves– Ephesians 6:9 Colossians 4:1; 1 Timothy 6:2b

So how should slavery be viewed?  The answer is one of the basic teachings of Christianity and is found in many places in Scripture: Luke 6:31 – do to others as you would have them do to you; Romans 13:9, Galatians 5:14 – Love your neighbor as yourself.  Slavery is wrong because no one wants to be treated and used as slaves!

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Things Paul Wrote About – Slaves to Righteousness

Just as intense as being a slave to sin, we can be slaves to righteousness!  The more we “sell” ourselves to Jesus the more of Him we will want.  And just as we gave into sin, we have to put ourselves into submitted relationship with Jesus.

Jesus will be as gentile as sin was harsh.  He values us just as much as sin could care less about us.  He will use us for good as sin would use us for evil.

The verses below are my attempts at paraphrasing.

Romans 6:18– Because we are slaves to righteousness we are set free from sin. (16) If we are slaves being obedient to God it leads to righteousness.  (22) Now that we are slaves to God we are free from sin and can have the benefits of holiness that lead to eternal life.

Romans 7:25– Because of Jesus my Lord, God delivered me, so I choose to have my mind focused on God’s Law.

Romans 8:15– The Spirit of God does not bring fear but reminds us that we are children of the Father and can call on Him.

Galatians 4:7+8– God made us heirs because He made us His children, so we are no longer slaves to things that are not gods.  (5:1) We need to stand against being tied up by sin, because Christ made us free from things that use to have us all tied up.

1 Corinthians 9:19– Paul choose (sold himself) to be a slave of God, to serve people, so he could win as many as possible to Jesus.  (27) Paul choose to make himself a slave to righteousness and deny himself so he would not disqualify himself from the good things of God.

Things Paul Wrote About – Slaves to Sin

“Slaves” is a complex subject with many parts: slaves, servants, serve, bonds, bondsmen, and the ability to sell yourself to pay off debts in Israel.  Another part is the Gentile/Roman practices and views that Paul used in writing his Letters.  Another aspect to work with is KJV vs NIV and other translations.  The word “doulos” is the major word used for slave in the New Testament (see notes in Slave); KJV translate it “servant” while NIV uses “slave”. Then there are about thirteen other words that reflect slavery and serving. I thought I would add chains into the word search but Paul connects then to prisoners more than slaves.

In Romans 6:19 Paul explains why he compares our spiritual life to one of slavery, it was very a common practice.   Just because it was a common practice does not mean that it was a good or moral practice.  I think that is why slave traders are singled out as someone who will receive harsh judgement.

Doulos is a word that stresses the slave as serving the will of the master.  In Israel you could sell yourself to someone and the Jubilee determined the price.  (I wish I could say that these men and women were treated better but you need to read Exodus 21.)   So, when Paul is using the servant/slave to describe our relationship to sin it is not a pretty one.  Sin controls everything in your life because you allow it to have that authority over you.

The verses below are my attempts at paraphrasing.

Romans 6:6– Our body was ruled by sin but we crucified our old self so we are no longer slaves to sin.

Romans 6:16– If you offer yourself to obey someone you are their slave; if it is sin, that leads to death. (17) We use to be slaves to sin but now we obey from our hearts and follow the teaching that has claimed our hearts.  (19)  Comparing us to slaves is something we can see every day in our lives.  We use to offer ourselves as slaves to impurity and we wanted more wickedness.  (20) If you do not want Jesus and righteousness just be a slave to sin.

Romans 7:14– I have sold myself to sin as a slave because I am unspiritual, I do not understand the Law of God. (25) My sin nature makes me a slave to the law of sin.

*Romans 8:18 – 27 is part of Paul’s use of the idea of slavery to/because of sin. Creation was also forced into slavery and is not free.  It also is waiting for the return of Jesus so it can share in the freedom that is to come.

Things Paul Wrote About – Slaves

Slaves

Writers Note – even though I will try to focus on Paul’s writings and ideas this topic will go beyond just Paul and his words.  In studying “slaves” I remembered that I will not have all the answers and that I am working through this as I write these posts.  To get a better picture of the topic of slaves I will go into the Gospels, Acts, the other New Testament writers and the Old Testament references.

There is a notable difference in terminology depending on the translation of the Bible you use. KJV uses the word “servant” while NIV uses the word “slave” when you compare most passages. The KJV also uses the term bond______ man, maid, servant, etc. which for the most part is rendered slave in the NIV.

To start this study, I think it is important to begin with 1 Timothy 1:10. This “paragraph” should start in verse eight.  Paul is talking about the Law and how it is for lawbreakers and in this list is slave traders.  The word is “andrapodistes” it is used once as slave trader in the New Testament and its explanation, in my concordance, gives the idea that these people use/treat animals and humans the same.  Paul condemns them!  The other references to slaves by Paul, generally, fall into two groups- (1.) slaves to sin or righteousness and (2.) how slaves and masters are to act toward each other.

These references are from The New Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible for King James.  These are notes to myself and are not the complete explanation.

NT –     1401, 1402 –doulos: slave; #2 to enslave, stresses relationship; they are subject to the will of another

 5257- huperetes – minister- a subordinate that acts under another’s supervision

 341 – anakainoo renewal of spiritual power 2 Corinthians 4:16, Colossians 3:10 (Mark    1:20). I have to wonder if this is not a mistake in the concordance as the definition does not fit the verse!

3407 – misthios – hired servant Luke 15:17

3816 – pais – child/son/maid; manservant

1249 – diakonnos – waiter, teacher or pastor, deacon, focus is on activity and not on the relationship

3610 – oiketes – one of the family, household servant

1248 – diakonia – aid,

2324 – therapon – higher dignity than a doulos, menial attendant, Moses Hebrews 3:5

1398 – douleuo– to be a slave, serve, be in bondage, do service (not necessary associated with slavery)

1397 – douleia– any kind of bondage – creation (Rom 8:15,21)

1396 – doulagogeo– a slave driver, to enslave 1 Cor 9:27 (mastery of your own body)

Slave- 4983- soma – Only time slave is used in KJV; Revelations 18: 13. It usually deals with the body.

405– menstealers/slave traders; 1 Timothy 1:10 – a brutal word that only differs animals and men because of the number of feet they have

pic from: Christian clipart.com

Passover to Pentecost to Persecution – Greeks

The trains of thought, Passover to Pentecost to Persecution and Things Paul Taught, are coming together in this post.  In Acts 21:21 Paul was in trouble in Jerusalem and was talking to an angary crowd when he mentions that he was sent to the Greeks.  Jesus had told him that he was to go to them and preach the Word.  The crowd went crazy and Paul would be sent off to Rome.

Paul’s part in the Great Commission was the non-Jewish world.  The Twelve eventually went but they were not going very fast “to all the world” and they seem to think that only people who believed in the Law were worthy of God.  The death of Stephen had started moving disciples out of Jerusalem but the Twelve did not seem like they were going to leave their comfort zone.

Antioch was the church that really started bringing in non-Jews.  It would be Paul’s base church for his missionary journeys.  It would have the appearance of being the second most important church in Christianity for many years.  There are several stories in Acts/ New Testament that take place in Antioch.

I have often wondered why Jesus would call Paul when He had trained the Apostles to do the job?  I have come to think that it is because Paul could/would do the Great Commission with Grace in mind!  I have to wonder if Paul’s extensive schooling in the Law and his life as a Pharisee opened his eyes to the fact that the Law could not be kept.  He understood his sin against Jesus very well so he knew the true mercy that the Messiah had.  Matthew and Peter should have had that revelation: Matthew was a hated tax collector and Peter denied Jesus and got to talk to Cornelius and his family. It seems that Paul alone had the strength and understanding to see beyond the Law into Grace and what actually was finished at the cross.

I am not trying to discount what the Apostles did, but as a group they had several “red flag” moments: Mark 8:14-21 when they forgot bread, Mark 9:34 they argued about who was greatest, and other times when they just did not get it.  Their reluctance to go to non-Jews is possible another example of them not see clearly.  It might seem that their closeness to Jesus clouded their eyes to what was really needed, maybe they felt they “had all the truth”.

Paul, on the other hand, understood the traditions of his religion but saw clearly the freedom the cross brought to mankind.  For him, teaching Greeks and pagans about Jesus was done with the knowledge that Jesus had completed the Law.  But many times, in Acts his teaching with his freedom in Jesus upset both Jews and pagans.  It is a shame to see we have slipped back to wrong thinking!  We will uphold our religious thoughts and favorite doctrines before fellowshipping in Jesus.