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The Awkward Subject of Slavery

Sermon Notes

Main Verse: Col 3:22-25 – Col 4:1

Key Thought: For obvious reasons, many are caught off guard when they read verses in the Bible that seem to condone slavery. But part of this surprise is due to a cultural gap in understanding between the first century and the twenty-first century. Another important factor is that the Bible may not be teaching what you think is related to this topic. Today, Pastor Rusty will walk us through this thorny issue by clarifying what the Bible does and does not say about slavery. He will also remind us that it was the tireless work of Bible-believing Christians that helped end slavery in the Antebellum South, helping to bring in urgent reform.

Intro:

Taking someone against their will and forcing them to become the property of another is evil. Some may be surprised to know that our own Southern Baptist Convention has ties to the evil institution of slavery in the south during the 18th and 19th centuries. In an attempt to acknowledge this dark part of our history Al Mohler (President of Southern Seminary) commissioned a 71-page report seeking to educate modern learners of our painful past. In his opening letter to this report, Mohler writes:

“The founding fathers of this school — all four of them — were deeply involved in slavery and deeply complicit in defense of slavery. Many of their successors on this faculty, throughout the period of Reconstruction and well into the 20th century, advocated the inferiority of African Americans and openly embraced the ideology of the lost cause of southern slavery. The seminary leaders opposed Abraham Lincoln’s election and argued vigorously on the eve of the Civil War in favor of secession, seeing it as the only hope for preserving slavery.”

Fortunately, we have come a long way. Since then, the SBC has publicly recognized its error of promoting slavery and has sought ways to build bridges with the communities it had treated so horribly in the past. One example of this effort was in 2012 when the Southern Baptist Convention elected its first African American as Convention President Fred Luter.

Here is the key passage for today: Col 3:22-25 – Col 4:1

Bear in mind the following:

  1. Slavery, which was developed by humans and not God is considered evil (Exodus 21:16, 1 Timothy 1:9-10).
  2. Slavery in the ancient Near East and Roman world was markedly different than the slavery of the Antebellum South.
    • Many slaves operated as bondservants or household servants
    • Slavery was a common way to pay a debt or avoid prison (and thus, slaves fared better than those living in poverty or placed in debtors prison).
    • A large portion of the population (30% or more) were slaves.
    • Slavery in the ANE and Roman world was not designated by race or skin color
    • Slaves could purchase their freedom.
    • The Col 4:1 passage most likely has household servants in view since this is part of the family code.
  3. God did not create slavery. God gave regulations to existing conditions that humans had created.
  4. We see God’s revelation progressing away from slavery as in the story of Philemon vs. 15-16.
  5. The abolition of slavery would have never happened apart from Biblical teaching and a Christ-honoring impulse.

For the skeptic: If you reject the Bible’s moral authority, then where did you get the idea or the moral information that it is wrong for one person to own another person?

Application:

My relationship with Christ impacts all other relationships- especially when I have authority. So, if I am in charge, I will strive to be:

– Right

– Fair

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