Next week? Finishing Colossians
Baptism – bring someone to church with you!
In 2 weeks – Romans – last series before we are in the building. Longest series ever in the history of Oasis.
Today we find ourselves in Colossians 3:22 – 4:1
‘ Slaves, obey your earthly masters in every respect, not only when they are watching – like those who are strictly people-pleasers – but with a sincere heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you are doing, work at it with enthusiasm, as to the Lord and not for people, because you know that you will receive your inheritance from the Lord as the reward. Serve the Lord Christ. For the one who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there are no exceptions. ‘ Masters, treat your slaves with justice and fairness, because you know that you also have a master in heaven.’
At the surface this is a jarring text
I came into today hoping to finish chapter 3 with a sermon about working hard. However, I cannot read this and just skip over the obvious. So we are going to spend some quality time talking about a Biblical view of slavery.
Some of your translations say slave and some of your translations use the word bondservant. We will learn today that both are appropriate.
–Forced Labor Camps / Child Labor (many of our favorite brands & electronics and the most popular shopping website have been implicated)
–Sex Trafficking / Child Sex Trafficking (your secret life supports modern slavery)
-Domestic Servitude (under paying, over working, vulnerable people in your own home – this may be happening in your neighborhood)
I did this preliminarily because, before we go on a rampage and start demonizing previous generations, I find it important to note that we are not an exception, we are guilty, because we have allowed it to happen in our own back yards, and we have supported it with our own secret sin.
The fact that the Bible talks about slavery so much makes us uncomfortable, especially those who are looking at it through the lens of American history.
RACISM – American Slavery was racial, that’s evil. Slaves were deemed to only have 3/5 representation, 60% representation, under the law.
1/6 of the US population were slaves.
In the Kingdom of God, all the nations and all the races and all the tribes and all the tongues will be gathered around Jesus. He’ll be our King.
There won’t be any second-class citizens in the Kingdom of God.
Slaves were a master’s property and this was a life sentence.
Some of the documents of our Founding Fathers include WILLS
And the wills would say, “the land goes to_____, and my money goes to _____, and my livestock goes to _____, and my slaves go to ____.
The slaves were listed along with the remainder of the household property.
Slaves didn’t have legal rights. They couldn’t stand before a court and seek justice.
In American slavery, even if they had children, they were part of the estate of the master.
And so this exchanging of slaves as property is repulsive, and sinful, and abhorrent.
What does the Bible have to say about his kind of slavery?
1 Timothy 1:9-10
‘We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine ‘
One of the grossest sins is slave trading. This is clear!
Slave trading is where someone is free and they are taken captive and made the property of another.
-part of the estate,
-can be bought and sold and traded,
-they become part of the inheritance for the next generation.
That’s exactly what happened in the history of the United States of America.
This is immoral, ungodly, unjust, sinful, wicked, evil, and inexcusable.
**In the history of our nation, this is the most shameful and painful part of our entire history.
The Bible was written long before the United States of America.
It goes all the way back to the ancient Roman Empire
Slavery in the Bible
Joseph, he’s one of God’s people. He’s taken as a slave in Egypt.
Daniel. There’s a book named after him. He was taken a slave in a nation called Babylon.
Israel – freed from slavery to Egypt.
The Roman Empire was the most powerful nation on the Earth. A conglomeration of nations
All different types of people speaking different languages, etc
There are a couple of verses I’d like to point out that give us a picture of what it was like to be a slave in this day.
1 Corinthians 7:21: ‘Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. ‘
If you can, Get out. Move on, move forward.
1 Corinthians 7:23, “do not become slaves of human beings.”
What he’s saying is, “If you are free, “don’t become a slave.”
The implication here is that sometimes a slave had a choice. Some could opt in, others could opt out.
Slavery was part of the economic, sociological system of Ancient Rome.
1/3 of all people were slaves in that day.
5 Categories of Slaves.
1- Gladiators / Prostitutes
Lives were not valued at all. Freedom was never
2. Miners / Agriculture
These were chattel slavery. Lives were short. Freedom was not an option.
These were people who were out and about, on the ocean, making deals with other merchants, etc
These people could work for a while and eventually buy themselves out of slavery
Vast majority of the city of Colossae were Domestic slaves. They did the cooking, cleaning, educating of kids, etc – eventually could also be released or buy themselves out of slavery.
5 – White Collar Slaves
Doctors, Lawyers, Politicians, etc
Daniel was a white collar slave. They had the best food, education, etc
Joseph was a white collar slave.
We can’t wrap our heads around this.
The Colossians church was made up of 1/3 slaves
Most of the slaves were domestics or white collar.
How did a person become a slave?
Sometimes it was forced.
A lot of the time it was a choice.
BANKRUPTCY? You could become a bond servant because you were in debt. This was bankruptcy, essentially. You would choose to become a slave to survive.
Some would become slaves for the purpose of improving their life.
“I’ll come to work for you for X number of years. “You teach me a trade and then at this age, I am free.”
And then they would go and start their business and basically serve as a subcontractor of the one who trained them.
Roman Slavery was very complicated, and nuanced, and there were a lot of variations so while we can historically say it’s not a good economic system – we can also look back historically and see that it was so common and accepted by the whole of society, this is why Paul and the Bible at large mentions slavery so frequently.
WHY DOES THIS MATTER?
Because we can’t fully understand what Paul is trying to communicate until we can immerse ourselves into the historical context of Colossians 3.
He hits marriage
He hits children
He hits slavery
He says, “In the same way we have the hierarchies and caste systems of living, in our own households, the same way you already submit to one another and surrender to each other, etc…
DO THAT TO JESUS. Because he is at the TOP of the food chain.
Paul’s whole goal in this entire book – is to say, “JESUS is supreme” and no matter what your place in life is, even if it’s in the midst of an unfair, evil, system that pushes you down. You should surrender, submit and give yourself to Jesus as a slave.
A Few Takeaways
#1 – Jesus DISSOLVES all human barriers and divisions – making us ONE in Christ.
‘There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. ‘
#2 – As a slave of Jesus, we do ALL for Jesus.
We have a different picture of slavery,
Nobody would choose to be a slave.
In the 1st century, many chose to be slaves.
And Paul is telling them, in the same way, choose to be slaves of Jesus
You and I are slaves one way or the other.
Slave to SIN
Slave to JESUS
Those are your two options – you get to choose.
‘Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? ‘
For a person in the first century to recognize they are destitute, bankrupt, with NO SHOT at surviving unless they give themselves over as a slave to another person…
This is a Spiritual Metaphor – a picture of the gospel.
That you and I are spiritually DESTITUTE, we literally have no hope without Christ. And because of our spiritual bankruptcy, we surrender ourselves to Jesus as a slave.
He is our only hope, our only chance, our only savior!