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Didactics Course Article
1 Thessalonians 1:8-10
Why does the bible condemn slavery?
Published November 12th, 2019
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1 Thessalonians 1:8-10
Main point summary
Why doesn't the bible condemn slavery? This question is often posed as an objection to Christianity, claiming that it's ethics are either fundamentally flawed; or at least contradictory. Firstly, it must be said that the bible never condemns slavery. This is not because the bible is silent on the topic. Indeed, the bible mentions it a lot, in both Old and New Testaments. This article aims to highlight two reasons why slavery is not condemned. The first reason, which is commonly cited, is that slavery in the bible is not the slavery that most objectors (those who pose this very question) assume it to be. An illegitimate assumption in the thinking of many is that slavery is always as bad as its most cruel form (e.g. the African slave trade. Make no mistake - that period was horrific and God is absolutely opposed to such injustice and degrading racism (see 2 Chr 19:7; Jer 22:13; Rom 9:14). However, this is not what slavery usually entailed when it was mentioned in the bible. As much is clear by a quite reading of Exodus 21:5-6 in which a law is established whereby a slave, rather than being released after the expected period of 6 years, can voluntarily submit himself to his master for life. Such is the bible's understanding of slavery: it is possible for there to be a joyous, glad and satisfying relationship between slave and master. The second reason that the bible does not condemn slavery flows from an extension of the first point made above. Not only can slavery be a glad situation, actually the bible expects slavery and submission to be a glad situation. We see this hinted at in verses like Ephesians 6:6-9. We see the same thing even more fully in 1 Thessalonians 1:8-10. The Thessalonians have recently become Christians, and Paul is telling them how the story of their conversion has spread widely in the surrounding areas to such an extent that apostolic itinerant preaching of himself and his team has hardly been necessary. Paul gives details about the kinds of things learned about the Thessalonians by the surrounding regions: not only have they turned to God from their previous idols, and not only are they living lives focused on the expectant hope of the return of the Lord Jesus Christ; but also they are glad servants of God. Paul's short summary of the core truths of the good news includes not only future salvation, but also present submission and service. That is: every Christian is a slave; and a glad one, at that. We can see this confirmed countless times in Paul's other writings (e.g. Romans 6:19; 1 Corinthians 7:22; Phil 1:1) The main reason that the bible doesn't condemn slavery is not because God is indifferent to injustice and racism. Rather it is because slavery is the default position of every Christian. Essential to the gospel is not only the idea that we are saved, but also the idea that we serve God. We are not saved simply to inhabit heaven in the future. We are saved from rebellion into glad submission and obedience of the most Glorious Master - from whom slaves do not seek to run - but to whom they gladly commit themselves.
1 Thessalonians 1:8-10 NIVUK
1 Thessalonians 1:8-10
8 The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia – your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, 9 for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead – Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.
Main point summary
The gospel of repentance and service of God in light of the death, resurrection and return of the Lord Jesus has spread from the Thessalonians meaning Paul has no need to pioneer gospel work in those areas.
1 Thessalonians 1:8-10
For not only has the word ... sounded forth
of the Lord
from you
in Macedonia and Achaia,
but your faith ... has gone forth
in God
so that we need not say anything.
For they themselves report ... the kind of reception we had
among you,
concerning us
and how you turned
to God
from idols
to serve the living and true God,
Purpose #1
and to wait
Purpose #2
for his Son
from heaven,
whom he raised
from the dead,
who delivers us
from the wrath to come.
1 Thessalonians 1:8-10
For not only has the word of the Lord u sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia,
ἀφʼ ὑμῶν γὰρ ἐξήχηται ὁ λόγος τοῦ κυρίου οὐ μόνον ἐν τῇ Μακεδονίᾳ καὶ [ἐν τῇ] Ἀχαΐᾳ,
but your faith in God has gone forth v everywhere,
ἀλλʼ ἐν παντὶ τόπῳ ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν ἡ πρὸς τὸν θεὸν ἐξελήλυθεν,
so that we need not say anything.
ὥστε μὴ χρείαν ἔχειν ἡμᾶς λαλεῖν τι.
For they themselves report concerning us
αὐτοὶ γὰρ περὶ ἡμῶν ἀπαγγέλλουσιν
the kind of w reception we had among you,
ὁποίαν εἴσοδον ἔσχομεν πρὸς ὑμᾶς,
and how x you turned to God y from idols
καὶ πῶς ἐπεστρέψατε πρὸς τὸν θεὸν ἀπὸ τῶν εἰδώλων
to serve the living and z true God,
δουλεύειν θεῷ ζῶντι καὶ ἀληθινῷ
and a to wait for his Son b from heaven,
καὶ ἀναμένειν τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ ἐκ τῶν οὐρανῶν,
c whom he raised from the dead,
ὃν ἤγειρεν ἐκ [τῶν] νεκρῶν,
Jesus d who delivers us from e the wrath to come.
Ἰησοῦν τὸν ῥυόμενον ἡμᾶς ἐκ τῆς ὀργῆς τῆς ἐρχομένης.
Disclaimer: The opinions and conclusions expressed on this page are those of the author and may or may not accord with the positions of Biblearc or Bethlehem College & Seminary.