Randy Lee and Richard Anthony
This article will describe how "the law of slaves" pertains to the doulos (bondman) of Jesus the Christ. We hope and pray that the following will shed some light on the subject, and further reveal the Perfection of our Father's Order and how His Truth reigns eternal.
We must begin by bringing to remembrance that all men are under “involuntary servitude” to He Who created them. We were all made to serve His Purpose:
Romans 9:20-23, “Yea, rather, O man, who art thou that answerest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed [it], Why madest me thou thus? Or has not authority the potter over the clay, out of the same lump to make one vessel to honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God willing to shew wrath, and to make known his power, bore in much longsuffering vessels of wrath fitted to destruction; and that he might make known the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy, which he before prepared for glory, us whom also he called not only from among [the] Jews, but also from among [the] nations?”
It is clear that many of His vessels serve Him disobediently by following another master (Matthew 6:24), and that there is always a remnant of His vessels that serve Him obediently (Revelation 22:14); but either way both serve His purpose—some for a short time, and others for an extended duration; either way, that time is His gift of life to His vessels. As we know, only those who follow His expressed Will “shall have right to the Tree of Life.”
This record will not concern itself with the “disobedient” ones that take that gift of life, and, seeking the rudiments of the world, “voluntarily” serve other gods, “which are no gods”; but will concern itself with His obedient ones who serve Him only, continually seeking the Riches of His Glory, Mercy, and Blessings.
In the King James version of the “New Testament,” the word “servant” appears 82 times. These 82 instances are derived from 5 different types of servants in the original Greek. In the English, they are doulos, diakonos, therapon, oiketes, and pais.
When speaking of the bondman of Jesus the Christ, or the involuntarily dependant and voluntarily obedient slave under his worldly master, and their inter-connection to and protection under “The Law of Slaves,” it is the station of doulos that we speak of.
- doulos views a servant in relation to his master ["for one is your master, even Christ"];
- diakonos, in relation to his work;
- therapon, in relation to the dignity and freedom of serving his master [used of Moses in Hebrews 3:5];
- oiketes, as a household servant; and
- pais, as a boy (child) household servant.
Doulos is defined by Trench, in part, as:
“Of the five Greek words translated “servant” in the New Testament, doulos is the most common word. It designates one who, (a) was born into his condition of slavery, (b) one bound to his master as his slave, (c) one who was in a permanent relationship to his master, which relationship could only be broken by death, (d) one whose will was swallowed up in the will of his master [*1 Corinthians 7:23], and (e) one who served his master even to the extent that he disregarded his own interests [*Matthew 20:27, Mark 10:44]. This word was used in the first century as a designation of a class of slaves that represented a most abject, servile condition.
The verb douleuo which has the same root as doulos, therefore having the same implications, and which means, (a) to be a slave, (b) to serve, (c) to do service, (d) to obey, and (e) to submit to, — in a good sense meaning, “to obey one's commands and render to him the services due,” is found in Acts 7:6; Romans 6:18, 22; I Corinthians 7:15, 9:19; Galatians 4:3; Titus 2:3; and II Peter 2:19. It is translated either by the word “servant” or “bondage,” together with the accompanying verb, and in Titus 2:3 by the word “given” [*wholly given up to, enslaved to (Vine)].” Richard Chenevix Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament.
And from Zodhiates, in part:
“Doulos; A slave, one who is in a permanent relation of servitude to another, his will being altogether consumed in the will of the other (Matt. 8:9; 20:27; 24:45-46). Generally one serving, bound to serve, in bondage (Rom. 6:16, 17).
Metaphorically spoken of voluntary service, a servant, implying obedience, devotion (John 15:15; Romans 6:16). Spoken of the true followers and worshipers of God, e.g., a servant of God, as Moses (Rev. 15:3; see Josh. 1:1) or prophets (Rev. 10:7; 11:18; Septuagint: Josh. 24:29; Jer. 7:25), or simply of the worshipers of God (Rev. 2:20; 7:3; 19:5; Septuagint: Psalm 34:22; 134:1); the [*true] followers and ministers of Christ (Eph. 6:6; 2 Tim. 2:24); especially applied to the Apostles (Romans 1:1; Gal. 1:10; 2 Peter 1:1; Jude 1:10.” Zodhiates' Complete Word Study Dictionary, pages 483-484.
And from Vincent:
Doulos, from to bind, is the bondman, representing the permanent relation of servitude.” Vincent's Word Studies of the New Testament, Vol. I, page 112.
Although the natural man abolished slavery and involuntary servitude between man and man in 1865 by the implementation of the 13th Amendment to their Constitution, they were not able to abolish the law of slaves. Why? Because that law goes back before the “legal memory” of man, having been applied to the servants of Almighty God, and therefore could not be touched. They can, on paper, abolish the worldly condition of slavery, but not the law governing it, or the Spiritual Law (God's Order) from which their law is derived.
Those laws remain the same today as they existed within the Roman Empire, except in one particular; the right to take the life of a slave was abolished since the birth of Christ, to wit:
“The master did not have the right to take the life of his slave under the Common Law. It has been refused to him since the birth of Christ. Cooper's Justinian, 411.
"Pure slavery, that which gives the owner a right over the life of his slave, never did exist in England or any of the American colonies." 1 Blk. Com. 423.” Neal v. Farmer, 9 Ga. 555.
From this, we are able to see that the ministers of man's law recognize that the law of slaves (both physical and spiritual) is fully under the dominion of our Lord and Saviour Jesus the Christ, and that the power of life and death (physical and spiritual) flows only through Him (Matthew 28:18).
Persons and Slaves
Under the “Roman law of slaves,” as it pertained to the slave captured in physical warfare, those slaves were not “persons,” in the sense of “rights and duties” under the Roman civil law, because they were fully under the dominion of their master as it pertained to contracts, etc. The following is a collection of the precepts of the Roman law of slaves in relation to the Roman courts and their “justice” system. Additionally included are statements from American court cases as pertaining to slavery. Keep in mind, that when the word “rights” is mentioned, it means “privileges.”
“The word 'slave' is supposed to have been taken from Sclavi, the name of the Sclavonian race, a common source for slaves in early times; old Dutch slavven (a slave, anyone held as a bond-servant for life; a human being wholly the property of another; one who surrenders himself wholly to any power, as to an appetite, or to the influence of another; a drudge; v. to drudge; to toil unremittingly.” Stormouth's Dictionary (1886).
“If one having good title to personal property, should transfer it into the possession of a slave, this transfer would not be void; the title would be changed, but the title and possession must be referred to the master." Fable v. Brown, 2 Hill's Ch. 397.
"When the gift was perfected by delivery, the articles became the property of Mr. Devaughn, the slave's master.” Devaughn v Heath, 37 Ala. 595.
“A reference to the definitions in the dictionaries of words whose meaning is so thoroughly understood by all seems an affectation, yet in Webster's 'slavery' is defined as 'the state of entire subjection of one person to the will of another.' Even the secondary meaning given recognizes the fact of subjection, as 'one who has lost the power of resistance; one who surrenders himself to any power whatever; as a slave to passion, to lust, to strong drink, to ambition,' and 'servitude' is by the same authority declared to be 'the state of voluntary or compulsory subjection to a master.' ” Hodges v. United States, 203 U.S. 1.
Romans 8:33-39, “Who shall bring an accusation against the elect of God? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? It is Christ who died, but rather also who is raised up; who also is at the right hand of God; Who also intercedes for us: who shall separate us from the love of Christ? tribulation, or strait, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? According as it has been written, For Thy sake we are put to death the whole day; we were reckoned as sheep of slaughter. But in all these things we more than overcome through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to be, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
We will thus examine the implications, contrasts and parallels between the Roman law of slaves and our Father's Law:
“Captives may be slain: to make them slaves is to save their lives; hence they are called servi, ut servati [Greek equivalent: doulos].” Digesta Justiniana 50. 16. 139. 1.
In our Father's Law, we see the parallel of going from the captivity of the ways of the world and the death and destruction thereof, to life eternal as a bondman of Jesus the Christ:
Romans 6:21-23, “What fruit therefore had ye then, in those things [*the captivity of sin] of which now ye are ashamed? for the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having become bondmen to God, ye have your fruit unto sanctification, and the end life eternal. For the wages of sin is death; but the free gift of God life eternal in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
John 5:24, “Verily verily I say to you, that he that hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has life eternal, and comes not into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.”
John 3:16-18, “For God so loved the world that He gave His Son, the only begotten, that everyone who believes on Him may not perish, but may have life eternal. For God sent not His Son into the world that He might judge the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”
“A servi is a man without rights, viz., without the power of setting the [*Roman] law in motion for his own protection.” Inst. Rom. Jur. priv. §121.
“In personam sevilem nulla cadit obligatio—The slave is not only rightless, he is also dutiless [*in relation to civil law]. Digesta Justiniana 50. 17. 22. pr.
The only “rights” that His bondmen have is the “right” (authority) to the Tree of Life (Revelation 22:14); none other is needed or desired; and all duties are to the Lord, not to the natural man:
Revelation 22:14, "Blessed are they that do His commandments, that their authority [*right] shall be to the tree of life, and by the gates they should go in to the city.”
“Judgment against a slave is a nullity: it does not bind him or his master.” Digesta Justiniana, 5. 1. 44. 1.
Asking for or desiring justice from Caesar and his “magistrates” is folly:
Job 29:26, “Many wait on the favour [*rights and privileges] of rulers; but justice comes to a man from the Lord.”
1 Corinthians 2:15, “...he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.”
“If a man be enslaved his debts cease to bind him, and his liability does not revive if he is manumitted.” Digesta Justiniana 28. 8. 1. pr.
When one becomes, and remains, a true bondman of his lord and master, he is as his lord and master (Matthew 10:25); all debts and other bindings are paid.
1 Corinthians 7:21-23, “Wast thou called being a bondman [*of men]? Let it not be a care to thee: but and if thou art able to become free, use it rather. For he being called in the Lord, being a bondman, is a freedman of the Lord: likewise also he that is called, being free, is a bondman of Christ. With a price ye were bought; become not bondmen of men.”
“A servi is pro nullo—akin to death in relationship to civil law.” Digesta Justiniana 50. 17. 209.
When walking in newness of life and therefore hid in the Christ, man's law cannot, in Law, see or touch His bondmen:
Romans 6:3-4, “Are ye ignorant that we as many as were baptized unto Christ Jesus, unto His death we were baptized? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism unto death, that as the Christ was raised up from among the dead by the glory of the Father, so also we in newness of life should walk.”
2 Corinthians 3:17-18, “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.But we all with uncovered face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord the Spirit.”
“Quasi nec personum habentes—a slave is incapable of taking part in legal procedure by the fact that he has no persona.” Buckland, Roman Law of Slavery, page 4, quoting the Novellae of Theodosius 17. 1. 2.
Under the Roman law, the servi/doulos had no character (persona) in which that law could take cognizance of, for the “character” of the bondslave was not considered his own, for his character (spirit) was representative of the master's, due to their “permanent” relationship. Paul understood these precepts:
Romans 14:4, “Who art thou judging another's servant? to his own master he stands or falls. And he shall be made to stand; for God is able to make him stand.”
But if that permanent relationship is broken through self-will (no longer bound with the spirit of the master), then the world becomes the master, and the destruction follows:
John 15:6-7, “Unless anyone abide in Me, he is cast out as the branch, and is dried up, and they gather them, and cast them into a fire, and it is burned. If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, whatever ye will ye shall ask, and it shall come to pass to you.”
“Our system of slavery resembles that of the Romans rather than the villenage of the ancient common law, and hence both the community and the courts have looked to the Roman rather than the old common law of England for rules applicable to it. (Neal v. Farmer, 9 Georg. 555; Byrum v. Bostwick, 4 Dess. S. C. 266; Dulany's Opinion, 1 Har. & McHen. R. 561.) Under the former [*Roman] law, slaves were things and not persons; they were not the subjects of civil rights, and of course were incapable of owning property or of contracting legal obligations; they and all that appertained to them belonged to their master, and they were under his dominion. In a word, slavery was then defined to be 'an institution by which one man is made the property of another,' (Just. Inst. lib. 1, tit. 3)... According to the Roman law, although a slave could not acquire any thing for himself, he could acquire for his master;” Douglas v. Richie , 24 Mo. 177.
“... a slave can have no rights adverse to those of his master; he can neither sue nor be sued, nor can he make any contract or acquire any rights under a deed which either a court of law or of equity can enforce.” Wicks v. Chew, 4 H. & J., 547; State v. Van Lear, 5 Md. 91.
From the above, we see that even the heathen recognizes that the master reigns, and that all belongs to him. But with them, the master is themselves and they believe that they, and everything else, belong to themselves. But the children of Almighty God know otherwise:
Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.”
1 Chronicles 29:11-15, "Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the might: for Thou art Lord of all things that are in heaven and upon the earth: before Thy face every king and nation is troubled. From Thee come wealth and glory; Thou, O Lord, rulest over all; the Lord of all dominion, and in Thine hand is strength and rule; and Thou art Almighty with Thy hand to increase and establish all things. And now, Lord, we give thanks to Thee, and praise Thy glorious name. But who am I, and what is my people, that we have been able to be thus forward in offering to Thee? for all things are Thine, and of Thine own have we given Thee, for we are strangers before Thee, and sojourners, as all our fathers were: our days upon the earth are as a shadow, and there is no remaining.”
Therefore, the bondman of Jesus the Christ owns nothing and claims nothing, and thereby does not become entangled in the vanities of men.
“Where they are held and claimed as slaves they are presumed to be slaves.” Hall v. Mullin, 5 H. & J., 190; State v. Van Lear, 5 Md. 91.
The faithful bondman of the Lord is faithfully claimed by Him:
John 17:5-10, “And now glorify Thou Me, Father, with Thyself, with the glory which I had before the world was with Thee. I manifested Thy name to the men who Thou hast given Me out of the world. Thine they were, and to Me them Thou hast given, and Thy word they have kept. Now they have known that all things whatsoever Thou hast given Me, of Thee are. For the words which Thou has given Me I have given them, and they received them, and knew truly that from Thee I came out, and they believed that Thou didst send Me. I make request concerning them: I request not concerning the world, but concerning whom Thou hast given Me, for Thine they are. And all My things are Thine, and Thine are Mine; and I have been glorified in them.”
Therefore, the bondman of Jesus the Christ belongs to Him, and Him alone. His bondman does not engage in suretyship (contracts) with others, and does not replace the Lord's light yoke with the heavy yokes of the world:
“[These slaves] ..were incapable of making any contract by reason of their bondage.” Bigstaff v. Lumpkins, 16 S.W. 449.
Proverbs 22:26, “Be not thou one of them that strike hands, or of them that are sureties for debts.”
Proverbs 6:1-2, “My son, if thou be surety for thy friend, if thou hast stricken thy hand with a stranger, Thou art snared with the words of thy mouth, thou art taken with the words of thy mouth.”
Which kind of bondman does the heathen see you to be. To who or what are you a slave to? The answer will determine who you belong to, and the jurisdiction thereof.
“Even the secondary meaning [*of “slave”] given recognizes the fact of subjection, as 'one who has lost the power of resistance; one who surrenders himself to any power whatever; as a slave to passion, to lust, to strong drink, to ambition,' and 'servitude' is by the same authority declared to be 'the state of voluntary or compulsory subjection to a master.' ” Hodges v. United States, 203 U.S. 1.
I John 2:16-17, "Because all that is in the world, the desire of the flesh, and the desire of the eyes, and the vaunting of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it, but he that does the will of God abides for ever.”
Old Testament Scriptural Passages on Slavery
The following passages will explain the scriptural duties of masters and slaves. People became slaves usually from either selling themselves to pay off a debt (from either borrowing money that they cannot pay, or from paying restitution to someone for a wrong done to him, like theft or damage to property), or by being conquered by another nation.
In short, if a master was a servant of God, and so was his servant, then the master must set his servant free after six years of service. It was forbidden for a master, who was a believer in God, to have a bondman (lifelong servant) who was also a fellow believer in God, unless the servant voluntarily wanted to be a lifelong slave to his master. However, if the servant was a heathen, then that servant was to be a bondman (a lifelong slave), and could be held in servitude for life. This was primarily to help bring the slave to God's Truth. And whether or not the master was kind or froward, the believing servant must submit himself to his master (as long as he did not violate the law of God). When a slave would have an earing, it would be a sign that he was a lifelong slave (bondman). If a slave had no earing, it would be a sign that he was only a hired servant.
Exodus 21:2-11, "If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing. If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out by himself. And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever. And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do. If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed: to sell her unto a strange nation he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her. And if he have betrothed her unto his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters. If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish. And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money."
The purpose of the following law, in Exodus 21:20-21 shows that it should be presumed that the man died through some other cause. And all penal laws should be construed as favorably as possible to the accused. The phrase "he is his money" means that the master had such a monied interest in the continued life of his servant, that it was not to be concluded that he meant to kill him, unless there should be clear evidence of the fact.
Exodus 21:20-21, "And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished. Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money."
Exodus 21:26-27, "And if a man smite the eye of his servant, or the eye of his maid, that it perish; he shall let him go free for his eye's sake. And if he smite out his manservant's tooth, or his maidservant's tooth; he shall let him go free for his tooth's sake."
Exodus 22:3, "If the sun be risen upon him, there shall be blood shed for him; for he should make full restitution; if he have nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft."
Leviticus 25:39-43, "And if thy brother that dwelleth by thee be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee; thou shalt not compel him to serve as a bondservant: But as an hired servant, and as a sojourner, he shall be with thee, and shall serve thee unto the year of jubile: And then shall he depart from thee, both he and his children with him, and shall return unto his own family, and unto the possession of his fathers shall he return. For they are my servants, which I brought forth out of the land of Egypt: they shall not be sold as bondmen. Thou shalt not rule over him with rigour; but shalt fear thy God."
Leviticus 25:44-55, "Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids. Moreover of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land: and they shall be your possession. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever: but over your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigour. After that he is sold he may be redeemed again; one of his brethren may redeem him: Either his uncle, or his uncle's son, may redeem him, or any that is nigh of kin unto him of his family may redeem him; or if he be able, he may redeem himself. And he shall reckon with him that bought him from the year that he was sold to him unto the year of jubile: and the price of his sale shall be according unto the number of years, according to the time of an hired servant shall it be with him. If there be yet many years behind, according unto them he shall give again the price of his redemption out of the money that he was bought for. And if there remain but few years unto the year of jubile, then he shall count with him, and according unto his years shall he give him again the price of his redemption. And as a yearly hired servant shall he be with him: and the other shall not rule with rigour over him in thy sight. And if he be not redeemed in these years, then he shall go out in the year of jubile, both he, and his children with him. For unto me the children of Israel are servants; they are my servants whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God."
Deuteronomy 15:12-18, "And if thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee. And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty: Thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the LORD thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the LORD thy God redeemed thee: therefore I command thee this thing to day. And it shall be, if he say unto thee, I will not go away from thee; because he loveth thee and thine house, because he is well with thee; Then thou shalt take an aul, and thrust it through his ear unto the door, and he shall be thy servant for ever. And also unto thy maidservant thou shalt do likewise. It shall not seem hard unto thee, when thou sendest him away free from thee; for he hath been worth a double hired servant to thee, in serving thee six years: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all that thou doest."
Deuteronomy 21:10-14, "When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the LORD thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive, And seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife; Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house; and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails; And she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife. And it shall be, if thou have no delight in her, then thou shalt let her go whither she will; but thou shalt not sell her at all for money, thou shalt not make merchandise of her, because thou hast humbled her."
The following passage is in reference to a servant who left an idolatrous master that he might join himself to God and to his people. In any other case, it would have been injustice to have harboured the runaway.
Deuteronomy 23:15-16, "Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee: He shall dwell with thee, even among you, in that place which he shall choose in one of thy gates, where it liketh him best: thou shalt not oppress him."
New Testament Scriptural Passages on Slavery
The following passages are from the New Testament books. These passages all agree that a slave is to fulfill his obligations to his master and serve him until that obligation is satisfied, as long as the master was a godly man.
Ephesians 6:5-8, "Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the 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 whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free."
Colossians 3:22-24, "Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ."
1 Timothy 6:1-2, "Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed. And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort."
Titus 2:9-10, "Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again; Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things."
1 Peter 2:18, "Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward."
The following passage, in 1 Corinthians 7:21, explains that if a servant can lawfully acquire his freedom, then he should do so. That is, if your master or the laws set you free; or if you can purchase your freedom; or if the laws can be changed in a regular manner. If freedom can be obtained in any manner that is not sinful. In many cases a Christian master might set his slaves free; in others, perhaps, the laws might do it; in some, perhaps, the freedom of the slave might be purchased by a Christian friend. In all these instances it would be proper to embrace the opportunity of becoming free. The apostle does not speak of insurrection, and the whole scope of the passage is against an attempt on their part to obtain freedom by force and violence. He manifestly teaches them to remain in their condition, to bear it patiently and submissively, and in that relation to bear their hard lot with a Christian spirit, unless their freedom could be obtained without violence and bloodshed.
If thou art able in doing right to be free, use it rather; be free, because freedom is a better state than servitude. In it, persons can more generally own and search the Scriptures, worship God according to the dictates of an enlightened conscience, and discharge the duties which God requires of husbands and wives, parents and children, as rational, accountable, redeemed, immortal beings. Men should continue in the situation in which God has placed them, and in the business, if it be right, to which they are accustomed; unless without committing sin they can change them for the better. If they can, they are bound to do it; and in a manner accordant with the revealed will of God.
1 Corinthians 7:21, "Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather."
We should not use unlawful means of attaining our freedom, as Onesimus tried to do in the book of Philemon. In this book, our brother Paul gives instruction to this slave to return to his master and finish his obligation with his master. Both this slave and his master were fellow believers. Philemon is the master, Onesimus is the slave.
Philemon 1:1, 10-25, "Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer, I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds: Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me: Whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels: Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel: But without thy mind would I do nothing; that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly. For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever; Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord? If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself. If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account; I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it: albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides. Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my bowels in the Lord. Having confidence in thy obedience I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say. But withal prepare me also a lodging: for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you. There salute thee Epaphras, my fellowprisoner in Christ Jesus; Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellowlabourers. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
Your Questions Answered
But do not the above verses contradict 1 Corinthians 7:23, "Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men"?
Answer: The meaning of this verse is the following. Act from supreme regard not to them, but to Christ. Honor him, manifest his spirit in every condition, by faithfully discharging the appropriate duties of your master.
Do not regard yourselves as the slaves of men. Even in your humble relation of life, even as servants under the laws of the land, regard yourselves as the servants of God, as obeying and serving him even in this relation, since all those who are bought with a price--all bondservants of Christ, whether bond or free--are in fact the servants (slaves, douloi) of God, yet. In this relation, therefore, esteem yourselves as the servants of God, as bound by his laws, as subject to him, and as really serving him, while you yield all proper obedience to your master.
This view promotes contentment, and would even prevent their taking any improper measures to disturb the relations of social life, by the high and solemn consideration that even in that relation they were, in common with all Christians, the true and real servants of God. They belonged to God, and they should serve him. In all things which their masters commanded, that were in accordance with the will of God, and that could be done with a quiet conscience, they were to regard themselves as serving God: if at any time they were commanded to do that which God had forbidden, they were to remember that they were the servants of GOD, and that he was to be obeyed rather than man.
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