Paul and Slavery
The apostle Paul explained his stand toward slavery and slaves in the following passage addressed to the Corinthian Church: “Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called. Were you called while a slave? Do not be concerned about it; but if you can be made free, rather use it. For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise he who is called while free is Christ’s slave” (1 Corinthians 7:20-22).
This message is again repeated in verse 24 to re-stress the truth that Christianity should not attempt to overturn or cancel the existing social order. Christ’s Church is not put in the world to change the order of society, but to unite it (Matthew 5:14-16). For Christians have the hope that the evil state in the world is soon to be brought to an end by the second coming of Christ (1 Corinthians 7:26, 29), and then all Christians who are now slaves will be literally and spiritually free.
The slave is taught to perform his obligation to his master and witness to the converting power of the gospel (Ephesians 6:5–8; Colossians 3:22–24; 1 Timothy 6:1; Titus 2:9, 10; 1 Peter 2:18, 19). God loves all of His children, whatever their state in life may be, and He will grant grace and power to each one according to his situation (Philippians 4:19).
Believers may recognize that slavery is a wicked practice and should not exist in the world. But it was allowed by the Lord in His laws for ancient Israel (Leviticus 25:44–46; Deuteronomy 14:26). His allowance did not always mean His approval. It is similar to His allowance in divorce: “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives” (Matthew 19:8).
The Christian missionary to pagan countries should not try by force to change the rules and customs when he sees that they are opposite to the teachings of Christ. For he realizes that such a behavior would not help the spread of the gospel, but would close the door to his missionary work. He should follow God’s council: “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18).
Accepting the Lord Jesus as Savior and His truths does not give one the permission to rebel against the existing order and try to liberate oneself from his situation unless there is a clear conflict between his situation and the truth: “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
The Cure for Injustices
It is the spreading of the gospel, by the power of the Holy Spirit, that will perform the great change in the lives of all who receive it, and then, as a result, there will be a transformation in the social order which will bring it in line with God’s principles (2 Corinthians 5:17).
The apostle Paul doesn’t forbid the Christian slave to seek to be freed from slavery, if he can do so lawfully. He simply teaches that a Christian should be content to wait for the Lord to lead him in this matter. If the Lord does not open the path to freedom, then the Christian slave should be content to serve the Lord where he is. For he can certainly serve the Lord well while he is serving his human master (1 Corinthians 7:22).
The Christian slave must not bring dishonor to the body of Christ by giving the idea among unbelievers that Christianity is a religion of rebellion. Every Christian should live by faith in all situations, testifying of Jesus to all whom he meets by his words and actions (Matthew 5:16).
In His service,