Slavery: An Excercise in Hermeneutics

| 25 May 2020

Throughout the history of the world, I don’t know if there has ever been anything more de-humanizing than the institution of slavery. I don’t know if there is anything more opposed to the way of Jesus than the practice of owning other humans as property. Slaverly is clearly one of the most shameful practices in the history of humanity, and yet, it is all over the pages of Scripture. Have you ever wondered why there are no explicit condemnations of slavery in the Bible? Did you realize that there is no verse that we can go to in our Scriptures that says slavery is wrong? However, the same Bible has been used to justify slavery and abolish slavery. How is that? And a better question is, how do I know that we are right and the pro-slavery people are wrong? I’d like to give you five reasons.

First, God gave us brains to think critically with. Second, God gave us other people with brains to stand up to us and correct us when our thinking has gone awry (we are much smarter together than any one of us on our own). Third, God gave us the Holy Spirit to guide us (God Himself in/with you!) Fourth, he gave us the example of Jesus as our model (the truest picture of what God is really like). And fifth, God gave us Scripture that points us in the right direction.

Of course, we could spend a lot of time talking about each of these, but the point for today is this: We can use our God-given minds, collectively, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, with Jesus as our example, to determine what direction God’s Word would point us to today in areas that the Bible is either unclear.

Very quickly, let’s apply this to slavery. (1) It seems reasonable to believe that slavery is wrong. (2) Other people agree that it is wrong. (3) The vast majority of people who are indwelled with the Holy Spirit agree that it is wrong. (4) The Jesus of the Bible does not seem like a person who would endorse slavery. (5) Scripture points us in a direction toward more freedom, not less (Jn. 8:32; 1 Cor. 7:21; Gal. 3:28; 5:1; etc.). When we take that all together, we can be confident that the correct biblically-guided position on slavery is to oppose it at every turn.

In fact, it is my prayer today, that this little exercise in hermeneutics (the study of how we interpret Scripture), will actually give you freedom. Do you ever feel like you don’t know which way to go? Well, even in that, God has given you freedom. Put your situation through this grid and trust the Spirit to guide you to the truth.

By Josh Rose
Pastor of Adult Ministries



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