Christian House Slave
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Christian House Slave
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Bondservants

A Christian house slave was commanded in 1 Peter 2.18-22 to submit to their master. Saint Peter wrote, "Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 'He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.' When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly."

Greek Word Doulos

It is possible that it was more common in these early churches for slaves to be Christians than masters, since masters were not addressed and since the lengthy theological foundation in 1 Timothy 6.1-2, "Let all who are under a yoke as bondservants [Greek word "doulos"] regard their own masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled. Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brothers; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their good service are believers and beloved." We note here that "bondservants" if the Greek word "doulos" which means "slave." Titus 2.9-10 also established Christ's suffering as the pattern for Christian household slaves who must continue to suffer unjustly, "Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior." We note here that the Greek word "doulos" for "bondservants" may be translated as "slaves" indicating those who were "under bondage." Some slaves actually bought themselves out of slavery and yet as "freedmen" chose to remain in the service of their master. Many slave owners were kindly and treated their slaves almost like family members. Many slaves were intelligent and learned and were used as tutors for children or as scribes for reading or writing letters. ✞

Servant Attitude

The unique grounding on Christ revealed the special circumstances of the churches to which Peter wrote to ground behavior in the Faith. Titus 2.11-14 (also 3.3-7) read, "For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good." Ralph P. Martin and Peter H. Davids wrote in "Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Development" that in any case, the church's calling to engagement in the world prohibited a Christian house slave from opting out of this social institution. To encourage anything else would be regarded by unbelievers as anarchy. How does a "servant attitude" affect our relationships to one another? Discuss the phrase "there is no longer slave or free."

"Christian House Slave"
by Ron Meacock © 2018

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