If Slavery was a sin, God would not have provided for it. [pg.60]
Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt-Manipulator
We All Serve Someone or Something
In the NT, Slavery is a helpful picture of our relationship to sin. The Bible teaches that we are all naturally Slaves to sin. We are unable to be freed from the chains of sin without the redemption of Christ. Freedom from sin doesn’t mean we can live our lives however we choose. Freedom allows us to live lives that are obedient to God. The truth is, we all serve someone or something. Once we are freed from Slavery to sin, we become Slaves to Jesus Christ (Romans 1:1; Titus 1:1). The concept of being a Slave to Jesus shows that we are not our own. We are under the authority and lordship of Jesus Christ. Far from being a negative thing, this is the best news possible. We have the privilege of serving a gracious master who loves us so much that he gave his life for us. (John 3:16). https://www.pursuegod.org/slavery-bible/
Slavery immediately invokes deep visceral disdain from many people, especially African Americans living today in the United States of America, and deservingly so. I join all in this emotional reaction to the mere mention of Slavery. Yet, I believe it is still helpful to discuss Slavery in a holistic fashion so we can wisely distinguish the Slavery practiced in the Old and New Testament and the Chattel Slavery so egregiously practiced in America until the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment.
Let me state unapologetically from the onset I aim to both think and write influenced solely and unapologetically by an Evangelical Worldview, so although I am proudly African American [that was God’s choice for me, and He is all-wise], my chief identity marker has nothing whatsoever to do with my ethnicity. So, although American Chattel Slavery will forever leave a deep inedible dark and gross stain upon how I view America’s sorted past, I want to allow Holy Writ to properly inform my thinking.
Thus, let me categorically state that Slavery, when understood biblically, is not always a sin. Now, I know that declaration is a mouth full, and on first blush, offends one’s sensibilities, but please give me a chance and just hear me out. If you just breathe and allow your mind to ponder God’s response to Slavery, you can begin to follow my thinking.
First, let me give credit to what grounds my new enlightenment. I highly recommend Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt Manipulators by David Chilton. Chilton persuaded me when he wrote,
Indeed, since God is the standard of right and wrong, the fact that He gives rules for the proper management of slavery shows that to disregard the laws of slavery is a sin. For example, since fornication is a sin, God does not give directions for the right management of a brothel. Nor does He offer instructions about successful methods of murder or theft. Slavery is not a sin, but the violation of God’s slavery laws is. [Emphasis author’s]
The God of the Bible is a thrice-holy God. The triune God is so Holy His eyes cannot even look upon sin (Habakkuk 1:13). Yet, as Chilton astutely points out, God regulates Slavery. Hopefully, the wheels are spinning in your head. You can begin to connect the dots, hopefully. God cannot and will not ever regulate sin because He is the God who is Holy, Holy, Holy!
There are Angels who, as you read this blog, Revelation 4 reveals are before the very throne of God executing the following action, “Day and Night they never stop saying: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come. You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and had their being.”
As an aspiring theologian [no hubris intended; as R.C. Sproul taught, all believers are theologians], it is my meat and drink to allow the Holy Writ and only the Holy Writ to bind my conscience. Consequently, as appalling as Chattel Slavery was and will forever be regarding America’s past, the Bible nonetheless has much to inform the Evangelical who only seeks to follow wherever the evidence leads.
Even though Slavery is permitted, God institutes limitations to what slaveowners can and cannot do.
Israelite law governed how slaves were to be treated (Exodus 21; Deuteronomy 15). If a master beat or harmed a slave, then the slave could go free (Exodus 21:26-27). No Hebrew was to permanently be a slave to another Hebrew. After six years of service, a slave was to be released. And in the Year of Jubilee, no matter how long a person had been a slave, they were to be released (Leviticus 25:37-43). A slave could choose to remain a slave if they desired. A slave could buy their freedom, or another person could buy their freedom. https://www.pursuegod.org/slavery-bible/
I write not as a glutton for punishment or incessant ridicule and dismissal. I know my blog post, especially this one, will be immediately dismissed by many, even those who profess faith in Jesus Christ. I choose to deal with the hot topic of Slavery because:
1) It is prevalent in the news because of Vice-President Harris’s brouhaha about Florida’s revised history curriculum
2) Slavery, surprisingly, has always gotten a bad rap
3) No human sans Adam and Eve before the Fall and Jesus Christ, the God-Man, has ever possessed unfettered and encumbered Free-Will.
Now, before you check out, let me express again and again I am not referring to America’s Chattel Slavery or other sinful practices of Slavery practiced in time and space. I only refer to Biblical Slavery, in which God has full authority to delineate what is right and wrong and who only can absolutely bind the human conscience and do so comprehensively.
I encourage you to check out my previous blog post for a detailed accounting of my issues with VP Harris and the national response to Florida’s Board of Education revision of their History Curriculum.
Concerning #2 & 3, I agree with the late Dr. RC Sproul. He understood that most people adopt a pagan understanding of Man’s Will. When correctly understood, every person born after the Fall comes into the world spiritually dead upon arrival (DOA). Contrary to the Arminian view of salvation, human beings are not born neutral or merely sick. No, according to the correct Calvinistic understanding [my theological position], every human being born after the Fall comes into the world totally spiritually dead.
Man indeed has a Will, but that Will is never Free; outside of regeneration, it is always in complete and utter bondage to sin. All humans can do is choose their peculiarity to a particular sin. As the Apostle Paul says in Romans 8:7, “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.
This blog cannot and will not attempt to delve too deeply into grammar but suffice it to say most can remember their elementary teacher correcting them on the proper use of the words can versus may. The word may concern permission, while the word can concern ability.
Consequently, it is crystal clear the Apostle Paul understood that man, in his natural state, cannot submit to God’s Law. Now, as a quick aside, we all better thank our lucky stars the Word of God never says we may never submit to God’s law. If that were ever the case, then Kitty Bar the Door because, again, the word may deal with permission. If there were no Divine Permission, no one would ever come to know Jesus Christ.
My fellow Evangelical, you have likely grossly misunderstood how Slavery has played prominence in your entire human existence. Biblically speaking, you have NEVER been free for a solitary second. Pause for one second and reflect upon what Jesus Christ said to the Pharisees when they objected to being classified as slaves,
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." They answered him, "We are Abraham's descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?" Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. (John 8:31-35)
Now Q.E.D., if the Holy Writ categorically states that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23-24), then every human being BEFORE regeneration is enslaved to sin, with no exceptions whatsoever except for Jesus Christ [hence why Christ needed to be born of a Virgin and possess no male involvement as the male seed is how Original Sin transmits].
I purposely coined the phrase entire human existence because, rightly understood, you and I came into the world, not as a sweet, little angel but as a viper in a diaper [quote lifted from Dr. Voddie Baucham]. For those of you who are truly regenerated, and I pray and trust you are, you have only moved from one state of slave ship to another. You came into the world as a Slave of Satan and an enemy of God and now according to Romans 6 you are a slave of Jesus Christ!
See the following Bible passages for due consideration.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins. Ephesians 2:1
Among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. [emphasis mine] Ephesians 2:3
And might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.
And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds. Colossian 1:21
In conclusion, while the mere mention of Slavery might offend your alleged moral sensibilities, my conscience is held captive only by God and His Word. Chattel Slavery and any form of Slavery outside of the sanctioned conditions outlined in the Holy Scriptures are to be sternly opposed by God’s People with all of the furor and energy Evangelicals can muster.
Yet, Evangelicals must not throw the baby out with the bathwater. I know some will accuse me of excusing the barbarity of America’s involvement in Chattel Slavery. In response, I will reply to my imaginary interlocutor that only God knows and can judge what is in my thoughts. I abhor America’s involvement in enslaving my ancestors from Africa. I will forever do so, but as an Evangelical, I am duty-bound to obey all God reveals in His Holy Word.
My momma was fond of colorful sayings. I am sure you can still remember particular expressions your mom had while you were growing up. One of my favorites was, “When you know better, you gotta do better.” Thus, because I am always seeking to grow, I better understand that God instituted Slavery, again not Chattel Slavery, for two reasons:
1) As an object lesson, all of our human existence will be under slave ship of one or the other: Satan or God
2) To serve as a deterrent. Some of the provisions God allows under the subject of Slavery frankly seem harsh to the human ear. Again, I have been enlightened by Chilton. He writes,
While many of the laws may seem harsh, we must recognize that, first, these laws are remedies for irresponsibility, and seek to drive men out of Slavery; and second, the laws of God are not nearly so harsh as the laws of man. [pg.61]
I was born a now lamentable slave of Satan. I am today a proud slave of Jesus Christ. I became a slave of Jesus Christ at the moment of my rebirth, my spiritual regeneration. There was never an interim between my slave ship of Satan to Jesus Christ.
I am now venturing into the territory my daughter, Constance, will hollow, “Your blog posts are too long😜,” so I will stop it here, but I hope I have adequately made the case that:
1) Slavery is not inherently evil
2) America Chattel slavery was inherently evil
3) God used Slavery as an object lesson
4) All human beings are Slaves of one or the other: Satan or God
I close by pleading with any reader of this blog, who has not done already, to repent of your sin and trust in Jesus Christ’s free offering of salvation while there is still air in your lungs and blood coarsing through your veins. For indeed, whom Jesus Christ sets free is free indeed.
As always, let me know what you think. Until then, keep your hands to the plow and seek to serve for an Audience of One.
With fear and trembling,
Ricky V Kyles DEd.Min