Paul never condoned gender role religion or slavery

1 Timothy 6 :1-5, is relevant to the modern-day issue of gender role-religion and Christian women's equality.   

1: Let as many slaves as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed 2: 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 [1] 3: Whoever teaches otherwise and consents not to wholesome words even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ[2] and to the doctrine which is according to godliness 4: [They are] proud knowing nothing but doting about questions and strifes of words whereof comes envy strife railings evil surmisings 5: Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth supposing that gain is godliness from such withdraw yourselves

[1]  The subject of 1 Timothy 6, is slavery. Paul did not change the subject after verse two, but because he could not safely or legally speak against the sin of slavery, he sought the spiritual and physical welfare of all his flock (both slave and free) by addressing the root causes of all sin.

There had obviously been disputes about the rightness or wrongness of slavery. And, in chapter six, the apostle deals with the issue in a way that could have resolved the issue completely, if Christian hearts had been dedicated to living in God's love and Christ's humility. 

As late as the 19th Century, many Christian leaders insisted that the first few verses of Timothy chapter six, taught that slavery was mandated and ordained by God. This passage was wrongly used to that effect. Most contemporary Christian leaders agree that the verses in Timothy have historically been misused, and great harm has been done because of that. 

Slavery in ancient Rome was just as wrong as slavery in the the British Empire or slavery in the United States, but early Christians cannot be criticized for not becoming the first abolitionists. From this letter, it appears that some were and hot debate on the subject was going on. But few among the ancient peoples ever publicly questioned slavery. It was too dangerous to do so and simply part of life. This writer believes the modern mind is so far divorced from the context of our forebear's living reality, that great effort must be made to understand the risks and fear [associated with cultural change] that must have been an ever-present part of ancient life. 

Slavery was the law of the land, and early Christians faced crucifixion or worse for fomenting rebellion against Roman policy. At first, most believers were not citizens and were protected by few rights—and those, only if they toed the line. 

Slavery was an institution of Rome, passed down from the Greeks. Ancient Rome was a Greek culture. All ancient cultures had slavery. Some modern cultures still do. It was wrong then, and it is wrong now, but few people, even today, would risk crucifixion or some other cruel death, in order to become change agents. In the Roman Empire, death was guaranteed for dissenters.

Throughout history, conviction in Christian hearts, has brought about much improvement and relief from suffering, including the abolition of slavery in the British Empire and the United States…but not in ancient Rome. That culture did not permit such movements, and mass-killings quickly discouraged any who might get any such ideas.

Paul was a great traveler, spending his life for the gospel. He eventually became a prisoner of Rome, continuing his care for the churches while living under house arrest. The death penalty hung over his head for years. He knew the sentence would eventually be executed, and for nothing less than preaching the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. He understood better than most, that causes must that time. 

There is a time and a season for every purpose under Heaven. Nothing could be gained by fomenting rebellion against Rome. The time to rise up against slavery had not yet come. Nothing but mass death could be gained by fomenting rebellion over it in the Roman Empire. All abolitionists would die; all rebellious slaves would die. But this was not to be a permanent situation. The time would come when that would change. But not in Paul’s day. So the apostle did the only thing he could. He wrote to the young pastor and did his best to squelch the fiery debate between those who rightly saw the evil of slavery and the slave-holders whose hearts were not surrendered to God.

The only thing Paul could do, was encourage discipleship and Christian growth through love and humility. When the Holy Spirit has control of a heart, that person will do what is right. Paul knew that change comes from within. Outward laws must be enacted to protect the oppressed, only because people do not heed the laws that are already “written on our hearts.” Until hearts change, restraint must come through civil laws. But, concerning the sin of slavery, abolishing it was not a possibility in Paul’s day.   

Paul did what he could to mitigate the cruel effects of slavery on both slave and master, but he never condoned it.

[2] Paul appeals to the Words of Jesus. Jesus said to treat others as we would have others treat us. If we do that, we fulfill the Word and Will of God. The apostle knew that, if they were so inclined, slave owners had the legal right to free their slaves, but he could not suggest such a thing. His letter to Philemon, concerning the slave, Onesimus, shows how sensitive and dangerous the subject of slavery was. It also shows how much faith Paul had in Philemon to read between the lines, do the right thing, and not kill Onesimus, but rather, to allow him to return to Paul and fulfill his calling and service to God. 

This passage on slavery, is relevant to the issue of gender-role-religion. Like slavery, gender-role-religion was never mandated by God and the cultural context is no longer relevant. Many of the same arguments used to keep slaves in bondage are still used today to keep women in illegitimate subservience to men. Paul dealt with the woman issue along with slavery and racial prejudice in his letter to the Galatians. He chided them for not tearing down the walls of prejudice that separated races, masters, slaves, women, and men. He said that even though the secular world was full of those things, they did not belong among Christians, who were all ONE in Christ Jesus. 

The book, Woman this is WAR! Gender, Slavery and the Evangelical Caste System, illustrates extensive parallels between the historic issue of slavery and the contemporary issue of women's equality. Similar [sometimes identical] arguments were used to support both the enslavement of human beings and the subjugation of women to men. There is little difference between how Christian leaders have dealt with the "woman" issue, even in the current century and how Christian leaders dealt with the slavery issue in previous centuries. 


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