Shades of Red GospelSpice Podcast

What does the Bible teach about slavery? | Paul's letter to Philemon

gospel spice podcast shades of red Mar 08, 2022

Episode 138 - in Shades of Red, our series on the consequences of sin on human relationships, Stephanie now takes a moment to ponder Paul's words to his dear friend Philemon. In this short letter, tucked towards the end of your Bible, many have found discomfort and controversy because Paul does not seem to openly reject the then-common institution of slavery. Does it mean that Paul condoned slavery? What does the Bible teach about this infamous practice? How can we reconcile what we think we read there, with our modern sensibilities? 

Could it be that Paul actually commanded Philemon to free his slave? Might we just need cultural eyes to read what Philemon read between the lines? Can we conclude with confidence that Paul rejected slavery in all its forms, even as he called himself a slave to Jesus Christ? This is the case we are making with this episode. Stephanie and GospelSpice team members are convinced that Paul utterly ordered Philemon to free Onesimus--albeit in culturally sensitive terms that our own 21st century Western culture does not have eyes to see. Slavery is an extreme form of human trafficking, clearly condemned by Scripture.

You've probably heard that slavery back then was different from what we moderns think of--1619 and African slave ships. But even so, does it mean that Paul condoned THAT ancient form of slavery? how can that be right? what does the Bible teach about slavery, both in ancient times, and today? Slavery is an extreme form of oppression and trafficking, and a sin against God because we are all created in His image, male and female, Shades of Red, Adama-humans. We believe God rejects all forms of oppression, including slavery in all its forms. He calls us to surrender to Him alone, and to encourage one another to live in freedom under His perfect Lordship.

This is an uncomfortable topic for many. Stephanie did much research, and sought the approval of several African Americans, on her team and outside her team here at GospelSpice before publishing this content. But it does not make this topic an easy one. So, take a listen. And then let us know what you think! We would love to hear from you.

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