Monday: Masters and Slaves
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Read 1 Peter 2:18-23. How do we today understand the difficult content of these verses? What principle can we take from them for ourselves?

A careful reading of 1 Peter 2:18-23 reveals that rather than an endorsement of slavery, the texts give spiritual counsel on how to think about difficult circumstances that, at the time, could not be changed.

Masters and Slaves

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The word translated as “servant” or “slave” in 1 Peter 2:18, oiketes, is used specifically for domestic slaves. The more usual word for slave, doulos, is used in Ephesians 6:5, a passage that gives similar advice to slaves.

In the highly stratified Roman Empire, slaves were considered a legal possession under the absolute control of their master, who could treat them well or cruelly. Slaves came from a number of sources: defeated armies, children of slaves, or those “sold” to pay off their debts. Some slaves were given great responsibility. Some managed the large estates of their owners. Others managed their owners’ property and business interests, and some even educated their masters’ children.

A slave’s freedom could be purchased, in which case the slave was described as “redeemed.” Paul uses this language to describe what Jesus has done for us (Eph. 1:7, Rom. 3:24, Col. 1:14).

It is important to remember that a number of early Christians were slaves. As such, they found themselves caught in a system that they could not change. Those unfortunate enough to have harsh and unreasonable masters were in particularly difficult situations; even those with better masters could face trying circumstances. Peter’s instructions to all Christians who were slaves are consistent with other statements in the New Testament. They should submit and endure, just as Christ submitted and endured (1 Pet. 2:18-20). There is no credit for those suffering punishment for having done wrong. No, the real spirit of Christ is revealed when they are suffering unjustly. Like Jesus, at such times Christians are not to return abuse, nor to threaten, but entrust themselves to God, who will judge justly (1 Pet. 2:23).

What practical applications can we make from what Peter wrote here? Does it mean, then, that we never stand up for our rights? Bring your answer to class on Sabbath.
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Amen!(37)

Comments

Monday: Masters and Slaves — 31 Comments

  1. I feel a little bit confused here. if the apostle Peter is telling us to be submissive to our masters whether or not they be good, aren't we going to be just always taken advantage of? I thought it was my christian duty to fight for my rights, forexample in Africa we have bosses that eat our salaries and we spend months without earning, in such circumstances should we just sit back and continue following him even when he is hindering our economical development but also the development of the church. thank you.

    Amen!(32)
    • Dear Solomon, if there is a payment relationship things are different. A worker that is not being paid, being free, can look for another place to work. But be sure that God does not want us to live in ignorance!

      Amen!(22)
    • Brother Solomon, what those bosses are doing to their workers is unlawful. What you wrote brought my mind to what were are studying in 1 Peter 2: 13-14. The Roman government, for all its evils, was effective “in punishing evildoers” and “maintaining civil order” (1 Peter 2:13-14). I do believe even the remote places in African we do have functioning governments. You need to appeal to the court where you live. In Matthew 20:8 "So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward (Slave), 'call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first."
      As my brothers and sisters has offered their support, prayer and suggestion. I would like to add for all of us to read (Malachi 3:5) has the answer for all of us.
      May God give us extra measure of His Holy Spirit to guide us as we study the Epistle of Peter. Amen.

      Amen!(11)
    • brother sevvume i think we should do apply thorough resasoning, as christians we should always ask for the presence of the spirit in our lives: if it leads us we can not find ourselves submitting to wrong intentions or cases of injustice, i happen to come from uganda and i know our leaders behave , if at all we just submit to them without the guidance of the spirit we would be doomed to hell!

      Amen!(5)
  2. I also find this lesson hard to fully apply in everyday life. We cannot do this ourselves. We need to pray to God, as often as needed, to have the Holy Spirit guide us and give us wisdom.

    Amen!(29)
  3. I agree with you Deborah when treated unfairly only Jesus can keep us focused in a positive direction

    Amen!(12)
  4. Hello!!!Jesus is our example. Each time we try to defend ourselves it shows that self is not crucified. Jesus commiteth Himself to the Father so we should also.

    Amen!(8)
  5. As Christians we are called upon to be true examples of Christ. In whatever situations we find ourselves, we must display Christlike behaviour. This will bring glory to God who is the just judge.
    Solomon I would encourage you to ask God to provide another job. In all our doings we must seek God's help. Someone once said God calls the foolish but then equips them for better things. Please remember that some things only come through fasting and prayer

    Amen!(7)
  6. Under unreasonable situation such as mention above, Peter advises us to entrust our plight unto the one that will judge justly. Now who do you think that is? God is not indifferent to those that are being treated unjustly, (Israel in Egypt), casting all of your cares upon him will be the only solution in some of these cases. We are not in heaven yet, even Paul could tell you that. He refuse to leave his jail cell, even when God opened the door for him, just to save the guard and his family. In any case, or rather every case we are more then conquerors through Jesus Christ.

    Amen!(12)
  7. I'm 8782 confused, in some companies the bosses do pay nhf cards but when you look at your balance you find nothing. Is it practical to humble yourself and watch this???

    Amen!(4)
    • Leonard, I believe it is practical to assume the best of your boss and courteously draw to their attention that the money was not transferred to you. Could they please do it as soon as possible, since you need the money...

      You don't have to look beaten down when you approach them. Pray before you go, then be friendly and confident. I don't believe the Lord intends His children to be willing victims of either a mistake or calculated abuse.

      When I look at the passage regarding slaves being subject to their masters, what I see is that it is not God's first priority to change the existing social order. His first priority is that all who accept Christ will also have the mind of Christ. A slave owner with the mind of Christ would be easy to server. I also believe that slavery was never God's plan for any person. And the influence of Christianity eventually officially abolished slavery throughout the world. (Unfortunately much unofficial slavery persists. But the assurance of Christ is that we can be free in Him, though we may be enslaved in body.)

      Amen!(13)
      • Inge, thank you for the comment. Sometime back I acted as per your advise above and the best i got from my employer was termination without notice 🙂 🙂
        I did not bother to go to court but pray and i thank God the company later on realized the mistake was not mine. They tried to reach me through the clients and staff and i felt that was not right procedure. This to me was insecure, maybe/not i was wrong but i continue to thank God for opening another door.

        Amen!(6)
  8. In 1 Peter 2:18-20, the addres is specifically to slaves serving their harsh masters. Peter tells them to submit to their masters because it is commendable before God. God will reward those who submit faithfully conscious of His presence. “For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.” (1 Peter 2: 19). In this way a believer will reflect the true character of Jesus.

    Amen!(5)
  9. This lessons has a lot of confusions, especially for people who don't know Christ deep enough. They will be perplexed with this subject. I already feel empathy for them. Evem me, I'm already confused a little bit. By connecting with Jesus in prayer and fasting, He will continue to give me wisdon, love and patience how to apply myself when people approach me certain ways. Before I become responsive, I usually try to raise my heart softly to Jesus, in helping me to give a sweet professional answer. that is my theory.

    Standing for your right will be discussed for Sabbath School as the question requests

    Amen!(4)
  10. slave should submit to their master with respect and fear and with sincerity of heart in the same way you could obey Jesus Christ. DO it[slave] with the best of your ability because each slave has a reward according to his or her work, because we know christ will reward each one for whatever good they do whether a slave or free in the same way master must treat their slave in the same way because our father in heaven has no favourtism

    Amen!(3)
  11. Should the human societal context require it as in ancient Roman Empire, the christian who happens to find Him/her self in bond servitude can accept the mind of Christ, knowing and believing that Jesus Christ is the real Master to whom and through whom all of our services must bring glory and honor. To honor and glorify God I will serve my employer --tyrannical or benevolent -- to the best of my ability with humility, peace, and joy as God empowers and enthuses me.

    Amen!(4)
  12. The texts in 1Pet 2 and Eph 6 appeared to endorse slavery. We must submit to our "master" whether good or bad. I understand the principles however it is easier said than done in some cases. This is just hard for me to digest that our God and Savior would want us to endure it unless it is in His honor. Lord help me to understand!

    Amen!(3)
    • Like the lesson author, I see nothing in those texts to endorse slavery. What I do see is that both Peter and Paul recognize slavery as an established institution that the believers have no hope of changing. Thus they give counsel in how to behave in such a situation. (Eventually the principles of Christianity would so permeate society that slavery was largely abolished.)

      Amen!(5)
      • Agree. Jesus came to abolish slavery, not by force, but by the heavenly balm of the Gospel of peace. If received, men will love their neighbor as themselves. In the kindness, courtesy and sympathy of believers, the gospel seed is sown into all hearts.

        Amen!(5)
      • Inge Anderson, makes a good observation. Peter was writing in the context of a socio-economic situation that his listeners were living in and had no way of changing. Reviewing this question by taking a look at other scriptures we see that in the story or Cornelieus in the book of Acts, Peter learned that all men are created equal and no one is inferior in the eyes of God and as christians we should regard all men as equals. ( Acts 10: 28,34,35). With that understanding, it would be difficult to conclude that Peter endorsed slavery.

        Amen!(2)
  13. I'd like to propose another question/situation, drawn from an experience of someone I know:
    Let's say you are the parent of young boy who is just beginning high school. He's getting picked on daily, beat up and teased. You first tell him to ignore the bullies. It doesn't work. They continue to berate and abuse your kid. Daily. What if the bully threatened to hurt them more if they tell a teacher or principal. What then, as a Christian parent, do you tell your child to do? Defend themselves? Run away? Tell a teacher/adult and hope it doesn't make your kid get beat up more?

    In this case a bully is not treated as the Master-slave situation, correct? Does the child have to suffer injustice patiently?
    Do we turn the other cheek and let the child continue to be beaten and teased? Matthew 5:38-40

    I don't currently have children, but this has happened to someone I know

    Amen!(2)
    • They are many steps you can take and you did all these steps. You let the principle and the teachers be aware of the bully situation and nothing was fixed. So report to the authorities. Then next step is to transfer your child to a better school with God's choice. Pray for your friend. And I will do the same.

      Amen!(2)
    • We have only what the Bible teaches us for these circumstances. Perhaps there is another school to look into? Does the bully have parents that other parents can talk to? School teachers and staff should be notified so the proper steps can be taken to control such situations, which they can't if they are not being vigilant enough or are not informed. Do all that can be done with God's approval and then ask Him to lead when all else fails.

      Has the afflicted child been educated on how to love their enemies? Have they been encouraged to diffuse the situation with kindness in return? Have they been taught to pray specifically for their enemy? Do they personally know Jesus as it is our privilege to know Him?

      All who are Christ's will suffer patiently as He has demonstrated Himself. We have no other example we can safely follow if we would be found faithful to Him.

      Amen!(3)
      • Are we as christians supposed to defend ourselves? What if the child doesn't want to change schools because they have friends at that school and only one bully. I suppose there are a lot of things we could do to avoid the bully but what about standing up to them?

        Amen!(1)
        • I believe that the Bible clearly teaches that we are not to harbor a vengeful spirit or take revenge. But not physically fighting does not prevent anyone from thoughts of revenge. And standing up against bullies does not have to involve anger or a vengeful spirit. I write from experience.

          Solutions may differ, depending on the situation, and if we pray for guidance, the Holy Spirit will give us wisdom to match the situation. Claim James 1:5

          I grew up in a fairly rough town where there were lots of fights. I did not want to fight, and I never hit anyone, even in defense. But I defended myself when I had to. Instead of hitting anyone, I wrestled down attackers, pinned them to the ground and sat on them. Unorthodox, but it served to keep me from being attacked. Being sat on didn't hurt anybody, but it was humiliating.

          I was big for my age, over 6' tall at 12yo. However, that didn't stop bullies from attacking me. I remember, getting off from the school bus 30 miles from home, another big guy jumped me from behind. There was still snow on the ground and I knew there was water underneath the crust of snow. So I was determined not to get wet, and made sure he got wet instead. He left me alone after that.

          When I became a Christian, I didn't really have to change my approach. I did my best to protect the weak and stay out of fights, but I saw no virtue in allowing myself to be beat up. Bullies do not normally respect those who allow themselves to be bullied. Thus I could not see how allowing myself to be beat up would honor God. I gained more respect by standing my ground.

          Even at an Adventist academy I had to be "tested." Since I was big, I was tackled by the biggest boys in order to establish a sort of \"pecking order.\" In one instance I was walking down a hallway in a boys\' dorm. I sensed someone running up behind me to tackle me. In one quick motion, I grabbed the person and used his momentum to help him fly past me. I got the reputation of knowing judo (I didn't) and was not challenged again.

          I believe we need to teach our children to respect others, not to bully them and to do what's best for others. Could that sometimes mean not allowing oneself to be beat up by a bully? (Is it good for a bully to beat others up?)

          The Psalms are full of fighting language. Could it be that that's a male thing? Is some "fighting" normal among boys? Is it sometimes a matter of mutual respect after a "fight"? In my experience, it happened fairly often that after a good fight, both boys became friends - something that would not have happened otherwise.

          I never trained in wrestling or judo. It came natural to me. However, for others some training in wrestling and non-lethal martial arts, such as judo, that allow a smaller person to defend himself against larger persons could be helpful. The principle would be not to hurt anyone unnecessarily and to never be the aggressor. And we could add to that to not be angry, but trust in God like David did. And when a boy gets the upper hand in a conflict, teach him to extend a hand of friendship.

          I'm just giving my perspective from my experience. We all need to go directly to God for answers to fit our situation.

          Amen!(5)
          • I really appreciate your answer and oddly, my fiance had done the same thing, being a bigger kid he got challenged a lot and his mom just told him to sit on them. It worked for the most part for him and the bullying stopped for a while until later in high school. A kid who had literally challenged him to fight every day after school brought a knife and stabbed him in the hand. Fortunately, in his case his dog, who was just down the street, came to the rescue. I think the dog attacked the kid with the knife and was able to scare him off enough not to threaten my fiance again after that. I'm sure knives are more rare in high school fights, but it is scary knowing some kids can take it to that level, just to prove they're tough by fighting the "big guy". My fiance said that if it hadn't been for his dog he was sure those kids would have injured him a lot worse than just his hand, I think God definitely sent an angel to him that day.

            I think you understood the heart of my question though, it's hard to find the line between passive aggressive defense and violence. Sometimes we can't run away from our abusers/bullies. And for the most part I think God wants us to stand up for ourselves (in a way that is respectful and not too violent if we can avoid it). Continuing to let kids be picked on or beat up can cause a lot of mental pain and sometimes even disorders, so I think standing up for yourself in most cases is a good thing. I like to think of David and Goliath, in the sense of a small person can stand up for what's right, and be justified with God on their side, when a bully threatens them.
            I'm not sure if fighting is a male thing or not, but it seems to be more physical with guys in school and more vocal with girls. I've heard friends and family talk about getting picked on and usually standing up to the bully works best to get the abuse to stop.

            Amen!(2)
  14. I believe that the 'master/slave' relationship is different to the 'abuser/victim' relationship.
    Although masters and slaves were a 'normal' part of society, and fortunately was eventually abolished, I think that in these days the 'abuser/victim' situation is one that cannot be tolerated. Everyone who finds themselves in an abusive relationship of any kind has to make a prayerful decision about how to deal with it and no-one should judge them for it, leave that to God!

    Amen!(5)
  15. It would help us to remember Matthew 25:23 " His master said to him, well done good and faithful servant you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things..." Sometimes we are placed in situations to try us for greater things. We go through trials not only in the work place, but in sicknesses, loss of loved ones, children out of the Ark -of -Safely, those things we have no control over. We have to be patient. God hears every prayer. Catches every tear drop. He is only going to allow us to endure what we can bear with his help. So hang in and remember God is with us always, He will never leave us or forsake us, even to the end of the world.

    Amen!(1)
  16. I think the master slave bible instruction is context specific for that historical period. It is not to be used to condone and allow us to be complicit in unjust, exploitative and unlawful acts against Christians in 2017. Pure religion as defined in the bible is to help the powerless, be merciful and to remain set apart for God's use. May we be found faithful in all our doings.

    Amen!(1)
    • I agree with you this is situation specific. In my country due to economic conditions I know companies that can stay for 6 months without paying their workers. Would we tell these workers to keep on going to work for the glory of God?

      Amen!(0)

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