Slavery & The Bible
Ephesians 6:5-9 contains instructions for slaves and their masters. What are we to make of this?! On examining the major passages addressing slavery we find that the Bible's instructions regarding slavery are like its instructions regarding divorce: Commands intended to mitigate the worst consequences of human sin and of living in a fallen world - NOT endorsements of slavery as good. On the contrary, God commanded Israel to shelter escaped slaves and forbid Israel to return them to their masters. In the New Testament, Philemon was exhorted to release Onesimus and Paul commends freedom to any slave who has the opportunity to gain it in 1 Corinthians 7:21. However, those who are trapped in slavery may still serve and honor the Lord and are called to do so.
How do we respond to Ephesians 6:5-9? Learn from slaves that we can glorify God even in the worst of circumstances and strive to do so. Learn from masters to see authority as an opportunity to serve Christ by recognizing him as the one above who will judge and as the one below who stands with those over whom you have authority. Thirdly, as scripture itself is honest about heroes of the past, so should we be honest about those of the past who twisted scripture and who promoted slavery as good. May we wholeheartedly declare them wrong and pray for healing from the natural consequences of such sins.
Finally, Pastor Josh read from the autobiography of Josiah Henson, a slave who became a Christian and sought with all his might to honor the Lord. This story is free online HERE and provides a sobering reminder of what slavery really was in our nation while glorifying God as the testimony of a man who loved him in the midst of horrific circumstances.
Leading in Following
Sunday's scripture was Ephesians 6:1-4 which instructs Christian children to obey and honor their parents and then, in turn, instructs parents to raise their children in the instruction and discipline of the Lord. Parents have a responsibility to lead their children in following Christ. This is about much more than passing on information - it is about passing on the culture of God's Kingdom. This requires parents to be actively following the Lord and modeling spiritual disciplines as well as instructing and teaching their children. As a parent, what habit can you focus on this week so that you can say to your children, "Imitate me as I imitate Christ"?
The whole church is called to support godly families by prayer, encouragement, teaching, and modeling. In addition to all that we do to teach children in the church, the whole church must live the reality of a relationship with Jesus. It is in this way that young people see what matters, understand how to live it out, and are discipled in the values of the Kingdom. As a church member, how is your walk with the Lord? Can you say to those younger in the faith, "Imitate me as I imitate Christ"? May we live such faithful lives that we have no fear of saying such a thing.
Walking in the will of God does not insulate us from trials
1 Kings 17
Mark 4:35 - 41
I Peter 5:7
Ephesians 5:22-33 shocks us by calling wives to submit to their husbands but this would have been unremarkable for most of human history. Rather, the instructions to husbands were shocking when Ephesians was written! Called to love with sacrifice like Jesus, a Christian husband would have been considered unmanly by ancient society. However, in loving his wife with sacrifice, in looking to her good and using his authority as a servant, a husband showed the world what Jesus is like - the one who did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped but who humbled himself even to the point of death on a cross to save sinners who deserved judgement. On the other side of this, a wife so loved is reminded to respect and submit to her husband as a picture of the church's loving submission to Christ - a submission based on trust and respect. Together, husband and wife live as one - a further picture of the Christian life where Christ and his people are one in salvation. As a picture of Jesus and the church, the best of marriage reveals the Christian life to be one of joyful, loving union with Jesus.
Ephesians 5:22-33 tells us that marriage serves as a picture of Christ and the church. If we are to rightly understand the relationship of Christ and the church, then we must understand what is said about marriage in this passage. Moreover, to rightly communicate about the reality, those who are married must strive to present a clear picture. While the passage speaks of love and respect, the high point is the statement that, in marriage, the two become one. This is the picture of Christ and the church. In salvation, we become one with him as he shares with us his life, his righteousness, and all that he has. The one flesh union of marriage is a relationship of love, intimacy, and delight. So our relationship with Jesus is one of being known and loved with joy. While marriage is an ordered partnership, the ordering facilitates the joy of two becoming one. To live a clear picture, strive for oneness in marriage. Face and deal with all that may break trust, violate intimacy, or steal joy. How will you foster oneness in your marriage this week? Finally, married or not, let the best elements of marriage experienced, hoped for, or remembered cause you to more deeply appreciate the incredible union you as a Christian have with Christ.
According to Ephesians 5:15-21, God wants us to know his will! Knowing his will is how we live wisely and make the best use of our days. Reading Ephesians 5:15-21 in context reveals that God wants us to know his revealed, moral will rather than his secret, comprehensive will which extends to all that happens. God's moral will tells us what kind of people to be regardless of our circumstances. God's moral will is revealed in the Bible. As we read and study the Bible, the Spirit of God fills us with the character of God so that we mature spiritually to be like Jesus. What can we do to help this process of being filled by the Spirit with the character of God? Be committed to reading and studying the Bible. Consider how you can make Bible reading a routine part of your life. If you have an established habit, consider improving your study habits by summarizing thought units, creating a bullet point outline, asking what the passage means, and only then asking how it connects to your life.
Ephesians 5:1-2 calls us to consider the obligations of being children of God. By the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross we are made clean. Being clean, we who believe in Jesus are adopted as genuine children of God! The requirement of children is to honor the family name by right action and character. This is why children of God become imitators of God.
Specifically, we are called to imitate the love of God revealed in the sacrificial death of Jesus. Christians are to love others sacrificially and practically. Rather than a focus on our own rights, we are called to consider the good of others and to act for their good in practical ways. As you go through the week, pay attention to your focus. Do you primarily see the needs of others or your own needs? Do you focus on what is your due and right, or do you act for the good of others? Make it your goal to imitate the love of God in order to honor our heavenly Father.