Posts tagged “slavery”

Come as You Are, Grow Where You're Planted

September 4, 2012

Today, we are looking at an interesting passage; it reflects a cultural issue within the early church, but the principle is as relevant today as it was then.

17Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. 18Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. 19For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God. 20Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. 21Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) 22For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. 23You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men. 24So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.

1 Corinthians 7:17-24 (ESV)

Circumcision was a big deal to the Jews, and much of the Old Testament law is built on circumcision. Jewish children were to be circumcised 8 days after birth, and converts to Judaism, mirroring Genesis 17:10, were circumcised as adults. With both Jews and gentiles being added to the church, circumcision had become quite the divisive issue. In the passage above, Paul writes that there is no need for the circumcised to try to alter that, nor is there a need for the uncircumcised to become circumcised. In Romans 2:29, he wrote that circumcision doesn’t even mean what either side thought that it did.

29But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

Romans 2:29 (ESV)

Paul also dealt with the issue of slaves. Slavery was much more common in that day than it is today, and was not viewed as the moral abhorrence that we have come to realize that it is. In some cases, entering into slavery was a way to pay off a debt. In other cases, it was a way for someone to attempt to better their lives, by living as a slave for a period of time. However, there were some slaves who, upon their period of slavery being fulfilled, chose to stay and work in their master’s house. These were called bondservants, and that title represented a lifetime choice.

Just as with circumcision, Paul emphasizes that one’s status regarding slavery has no effect on one’s ability to serve, and that coming to Christ does not require a change in status. In verses 19, 22, and 24, Paul zeroes in on where the focus should be. Circumcision and slave status are side issues, distractions from the “main thing.” Keeping God’s commandments is the focus, and slave status can be flipped either way in Christ. The summary, in verse 24, tells them (and us) that in whatever condition we were when we were called, we should remain there – but in God.

Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church, recently put it this way:

The person who tries to clean themselves up before coming to Jesus is like the gunshot victim performing surgery on themselves before going to the hospital.

He’s right - there is no reason for anyone to try to clean themselves up before coming to Christ. This runs against the way we normally think. We clean our houses before we have company - there are even people who clean before the housekeeper comes - because we do not want to expose our literal “dirty laundry” to others. However, Jesus already knows what we are, how we think, and what we have done; He knows all that, and still offers us His payment for sin, free of charge. All we must do is answer His call.

The set of people who God calls is as diverse as the set of people He created. There are Christian businessmen, MMA fighters, actors, retail workers, athletes, motorcycle customizers, landscapers, and on and on. God’s desire is not for every person, once saved, to go into full-time Christian service. He cares about all people, and by having His representatives in all these various fields, these people can tell their peers how their relationship with Christ has changed their lives. God doesn’t want to change your job; He wants to transform your life.

If you have never answered His call, today is the day! Take a look at God’s Simple Plan of Salvation, and begin your relationship with Him. If you are a Christian, consider where you are. Barring sin issues, you are where God wants you to be. He has chosen you because of your abilities and place in this world; use that for Him!

How to Change from Useless to Useful

September 26, 2007

This week’s book, Philemon, does not have three chapters; additionally, verse 16 of the only chapter is in the middle of the sentence. So, let’s start out by looking at the entire context - Philemon 8-16.

8For this reason, although I have great boldness in Christ to command you to do what is right, 9I appeal, instead, on the basis of love. I, Paul, as an elderly man and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus, 10appeal to you for my child, whom I fathered while in chains - Onesimus. 11Once he was useless to you, but now he is useful to both you and me. 12I am sending him - a part of myself - back to you. 13I wanted to keep him with me, so that in my imprisonment for the gospel he might serve me in your place. 14But I didn’t want to do anything without your consent, so that your good deed might not be out of obligation, but of your own free will. 15For perhaps this is why he was separated [from you] for a brief time, so that you might get him back permanently, 16no longer as a slave, but more than a slave - as a dearly loved brother. This is especially so to me, but even more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

Philemon 8-16 (HCSB)

Onesimus had been a slave of Philemon, and had run away after stealing from him. Philemon had several reasons to have Onesimus killed on sight; accepting him as a brother was likely the last thing on his mind. But Paul had witnessed a change in Onesimus that Philemon could have never imagined! In verse 10, Paul says that he has “fathered” Onesimus; while together, Paul shared the gospel with him, converted him, and trained him in the things of the Lord.

In verse 12, Paul goes on to say that Onesimus is a part of himself; and, in verses 13-14, although Paul would rather keep Onesimus there with him, that would be stealing from Philemon - taking Onesimus without Philemon’s consent. Paul also tells Philemon that Onesimus is now much more than a slave - he is a brother in Christ, and especially valuable.

This is the context of this short epistle - it is an object lesson illustrating 2 Corinthians 5:17.

17Therefore if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (HCSB)

Have you experienced this life-changing power? If not, take a look at God’s Simple Plan of Salvation; Christ died for you, and all that He requires is that you believe in Him to cleanse your sins and make you into that new creation about which Paul wrote - it really is that simple. If you have, are you living in that power? The new creation is not just about saving grace, but a living, day-to-day grace, and the power to continually triumph over sin. Don’t waste the gift you have received.