God’s plan for people who lived before Jesus involved salvation by faith-just as it does for the people who follow Jesus today. Jesus’ atonement for sin on the cross applies backward in history as well as forward.
OLD TESTAMENT – Slavery laws appear in Exod 21:1-11; Lev 25:39-55; and Deut 15:12-18. Most of these concern humane treatment and manumission. A Hebrew sold to another Hebrew or a resident alien because of insolvency was to be released after six years of service and given provisions to start over. If he had come with a wife, she and any children were also released. If the master had given him a wife, she and the children were to remain. If, however, the slave wanted to stay with his wife and children rather than be free, he could enroll himself as a slave for life. A Hebrew who sold himself to another Hebrew or resident alien was to be released during the Jubilee Year. A slave could be redeemed at any time by a relative. A Hebrew girl sold by her father to another Hebrew to become his wife was to be released if that man or his son did not marry her.
In Paul’s time, slaves were branded with distinctive marks to show that they belonged to their masters, much as cattle are branded in modern times (Psa 40:6). Paul declared that his body bore marks from the persecution he had endured in Christ’s service. These showed the he belonged to the Lord Jesus.