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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder


1 Tim 6:1-2 Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, that the name of God and His doctrine be not blasphemed. And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort.

The majority of the world is free from slavery as it has been known in the past, and especially as it was practiced during the days when Paul wrote this epistle to his young fellow preacher, Timothy. History tells us that slaves were almost, if not more numerous, than the free population of the known world during the first century, and vastly more in number than Christians, after the establishment of the church of Christ. Therefore, it can be easily understood that many of the first converts to Christianity were slaves.

The term "servants ...under the yoke" carries with it the meaning of bond servants. Servitude came in many forms and by various means. One could be become a bond servant by being captured by force, or being purchased in slave markets. Domestic servants were common. This was probably Hagar's lot in the household of Abraham and Sarah (Gen. 16:1). The brothers of Joseph sold him to merchantmen dealing in the slave trade existing in that era of time (Gen. 37:28). By force the Israelites became slaves under the Pharaohs of Egypt (See Ex. 5). God allowed the Israelites to purchase men and women from the heathen nations, which became their bondmen and bondmaids (Lev. 25:44). Most Jews of the twelve tribes of Israel also became slaves under both their Assyrian and their Babylonian captors. Under Solomon, Canaanite people were captured and became servants of the nation of Israel (1 Kings 9:20-21). Even ones that cannot repay a debt can be made to become slaves to those to whom the debt is owed (2 Kings 4:1).

Throughout the New Testament, Holy Spirit-inspired inspired writers admonished salves, especially Christian slaves, to give due service, honor, and obedience to their masters (See Eph. 6:5-8, Col. 3:22-25, Titus 2:9-10, 1 Pet. 2:18-20). However, as the passage noted above from the Ephesian letter continues, we find that masters, under the law of Christ, were to treat their servants with forbearing kindness and justice, knowing that their Master in heaven was no respecter of persons (Eph. 6:9). We learn from Paul's letter to Philemon, that New Testament law did not compel the freedom of slaves (Philem. 8-14). In his letter to the church in Corinth, Paul counseled servants to seek freedom if the legal opportunity presented itself. As a Christian, they were to become Christ's servant. Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men (See 1 Cor. 7:21-23). Although New Testament law did not abolish the servitude of slavery, it did establish the standards of mercy, morality, love, and equality that eventually led to the elimination of it from Christian societies.

Although it was used here to mean a slave that is bound under servitude to a master, the meaning of the word translated "servant," not only includes involuntary service, but also means one that freely and voluntarily chose to become a servant of another person.

As a side issue, both sin and righteousness, if allowed to do so, can, and does, enslave mankind. Jesus said that whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin, but obedience to the Son of God shall make you free (See John 8:34-36). This truth is expressed by Paul in his Roman letter: Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine, which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness (Rom. 6:16-18).

Paul spoke of himself as a servant to God and to Jesus Christ (Rom. 1:1, Titus 1:1). Paul, other apostles, preachers, and teachers are servants of Christ. So is every Christian (Acts 2:18, 2 Tim. 2:24, Rev. 22:3). Although servitude existed in the days of Christ, and exists today in military, governmental, educational, and employment institutions, in Christ it cannot be found. Among members of the church of Christ (those baptized into Christ), there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus (See Gal. 3:26-28). Servants, whether social or spiritual, must be devoted and obedient to their master. Christ Jesus is our master! Serve Him faithfully!