NEW TESTAMENT – Paul and Peter insisted that Christian salves be obedient to their masters (Eph 6:5-8; Col. 3:22-25; 1 Tim 6:1-2; 1 Pet 2:18-21) and not seek freedom just because of conversion (1 Cor 7:20-22). Masters were urged to be kind (Eph 6:9; Col 4:1). Slave trading was condemned (1 Tim 1:10). Paul claimed that in Christ human status was unimportant (Gal 3:28). But neither Jesus nor the apostles condemned slavery. Slavery was so much a part of their society that to call for abolition would have resulted in violence and bloodshed. Rather, Jesus and the apostles set forth principles of human dignity and equality that eventually led to abolition.

METAPHORICAL USES OF SLAVERY In most ancient societies few things were more despicable than to be a slave. In Israel, however, the idea emerged that it was a great privilege to be a servant or slave of God (the various Hebrew and Greek words could be translated either). Many of the heroes of the OT are so called (Exod 32:13; Deut 34:5; 2 Sam 7:5; 2 Kings 21:10). Very significant are the Servant Songs of Isa. 42:1-4; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; and 52:13-53:12, which originally referred to Israel but where reinterpreted by the early church to refer to Jesus.

Jesus adopted a servant’s role (John 13:4-5; Mark 10:45; Phil 2:7) and indicated that His disciples should also (Matt 6:24; 10:24; 24:45-46; Luke 17:10; John 13:12-16). Paul referred to himself as a slave or servant of Jesus Christ (Rom 1:1; Gal 1:10; Phil 1:1), as did James (1:1), Peter (2 Pet 1:1), and Jude (1).

There are three other metaphorical uses of slavery in the NT. A life of sin is spoken of as slavery to sin (John 8:34; Rom 6:6,16-20; Heb 2:15). Legalism is a kind of slavery (Gal 4:24-25; 5:1). Paradoxically, however, there is also a blessed slavery to righteousness (Rom 6:16-22).

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