Thursday, February 22, 2018

Double-Minded? – Interpreting the Law of God (59)

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Interpreting the Law of God (59)

Paul was not double-minded, but far-sighted, where slavery was concerned.

Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Colossians 3:22

Paul might seem to have been double-minded about the institution of slavery. Earlier in his ministry, writing to the Galatians, he appeared to think that slavery was no longer to be practiced among the followers of Christ. Now, toward the end of his ministry, we find him seeming to endorse the status quo and instructing slaves to be content under the boot heels of their masters.

Well, not exactly. Note the qualifying phrase, “fearing the Lord.” For all believers, every earthly allegiance or commitment is qualified by this phrase. We do not yield without qualification to governors, employers, spouses, or even pastors. We do everything as unto the Lord and in the fear of the Lord, and that means according to His Law and Word. Within the Christian community of Paul’s day, slave owners were expected to treat their slaves “justly and fairly” (Col. 4:1), also in the fear of the Lord and, hence, according to His Law.

But the Law was given, at least in part, as a condescension to the hardness of men’s hearts. Now that the Spirit had brought new hearts to the followers of Christ, we might expect that newness to come to expression in ways that would override the letter of the Law, as given to Israel, and, by bringing us closer to the actual spirit of the Law (Ezek. 36:36, 37), put humankind on a course to recover God’s original purpose and design.

This is precisely what we find. However, such change begins in “the heart” (v. 22) and must be firmly rooted there before social institutions or political arrangements can be altered on a grand scale.

Paul’s instructions concerning slavery amount to this: Slavery exists, but its days are numbered. For now, let us act as if it were finished by living in the freedom of God’s Law and grace to the fullest possible extent. Let us, that is, love God and our neighbors according to our callings in life and regardless of our social status. The rest will come in due course.

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In the Gates is a devotional series on the Law of God by Rev. T.M. Moore, editor of the Worldview Church. He serves as dean of the Centurions Program of the Wilberforce Forum and principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He is the author or editor of twenty books, and has contributed chapters to four others. His essays, reviews, articles, papers, and poetry have appeared in dozens of national and international journals, and on a wide range of websites. His most recent books are The Ailbe Psalter and The Ground for Christian Ethics (Waxed Tablet).

Scripture quotations in this article are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, (c) copyright 2001, 2007 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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