Summary: The Words of Paul to Christian slaves not only give us insight in our own workplace, but a couple of life principles for every aspect of life.
HONOURING GOD IN THE WORK PLACE AS SERVANTS OF CHRIST
1.) An old Fanny Crosby hymn begins with the following words:
To the work! To the work! We are servants of God;
Let us follow the path that our Master has trod;
With the balm of His counsel our strength to renew,
Let us do with our might what our hands find to do.
2.) This morning as we continue with our series of messages from 1 Timothy Paul reminds those living under a culture of slavery that our purpose of life is to honour and glorify God in every part of our lives, even if they were slaves.
3.) Though much of the concept of slavery is foreign to us today, the words from Paul to those in that situation give us guidance and direction for our own wok, and also how to glorify God through it.
I. THERE WAS A SPECIFIC PROBLEM.
1.) Paul was writing to Christians living in a slave culture.
A.) Today, it is hard for us to relate to the situation of slavery in the first century.
B.) But in the first century Roman empire it is estimated there were as many as 50-60,000,000 slaves, with some of the larger cities such as Rome, Corinth, and Ephesus having about one third of the population as slaves.
ba.) Certainly such shocking figures, reveal to us why Paul would spend so much importance on the matter of slavery in his writings.
C.) According to a PBS documentary “Most slaves during the Roman Empire were foreigners and, unlike in modern times, Roman slavery was not based on race. Slaves in Rome might include prisoners of war, sailors captured and sold by pirates, or slaves bought outside Roman territory. In hard times, it was not uncommon for desperate Roman citizens to raise money by selling their own children into slavery.”
D.) We need to also remember that slavery in the first century Roman Empire was much different than what comes to our minds for slavery.
da.) Our minds tend to focus more on the slavery movement of the 17-19th. centuries which many times were very inhumane, and where people of different races were treated sometimes as worse than animals.
E.) The slave practice, and movement of first century Rome could have some of the abuses, and terribleness we tend to associate more with the slavery movement, but for the most part it was far better treatment of slaves than those of more modern times.
2.) By the time Paul was writing this letter of 1 Timothy sweeping changes had already been taking place in slavery of the Roman Empire.
A.) at the time of Paul’s writing the practice of slavery in the Roman Empire was already starting to diminish.
B.) There had been many changes brought in that had dramatically improved life for slaves of the first century.
ba.) There was what was called “Manumission”.
bb.) Under manumission, many of the slaves were being set free, and under this new system most slaves would never reach old age in slavery, but were being released many times by 30 years of age.
bc.) Another change was that slaves though considered property, could establish themselves, and come to own property themselves, even other slaves.
bca.) He was also allowed to make investments, and acquire wealth, and even buy his own freedom from slavery.
bd.) Another aspect of first century slavery is that it was not an indication of your social status.
bda.) Instead a slave would be noted by the social status of the slave owner.
bdb.) In fact, in some instances this was a means of elevating yourself in society if you were a slave of someone very wealthy, or of the upper classes.
bdc.) Many times slaves may not necessarily even live at the owner’s property, but might still be able to maintain his own residence.
be.) Sometimes for foreigners and aliens, slavery was a means of becoming Roman citizens.
bea.) After a few years as a slave, they would be freed, and become Roman citizens.
C.) Certainly the Roman slave trade was much different than the terrible things that have happened in more recent centuries including in Canada and the United States.
ca.) That is not to say it was a perfect institution. There were still abuses, murders, maiming, rape, and sexual abuse of slaves, as well as other atrocities that at times.
D.) Certainly the church was a major force in changing and improving the conditions for slaves in first Century Roman Empire.
da.) Just the same, the church never completely outlawed the practice, and I believe a great deal of the reason is that it was so major of an institution that it would have crippled the entire society, and would have immediately brought both the owners and the slaves into complete poverty, and confusion.