Locations of visitors to this page
The Freedom of Slavery
Scripture: Philippians 2:6-7; Romans 6:22; Malachi ...
Track 1 of 8 in the Slaves of Christ series
Running time: 1 hour, 09 minutes, 10 seconds.
Christ came to set us free from bondage, from the bondage of sin and from the bondage of a religious system that prevented the believer from living for God fully. He came so every believer could live a life of freedom and to give us a life full of adventure as we follow after the Holy Spirit. But when we look closely at that freedom, it is best described in the following way: In order to be truly free, one must become a slave to Christ.

Click above to listen in this window.
Right-click to download MP3. With one-button mouse, control-click.

Be sure to scroll down to read the transcript.

Mike Nobis Speaker: Mike Nobis
Sunday School Teacher, Former Elder at Madison Park Christian Church. Mike is President of JK Creative Printers & Mailing in Quincy, IL. He is married to Pam and has three children, Tom, Tyler and Jennifer. Mike has three grandchildren: Ryne, Ivy and Alicia.

View all sermons by this speaker.

A Better Freedom
The Freedom of Slavery

We spent 7 weeks talking about and studying chasing after the Holy Spirit. The point to everything we looked at was to be free from the things in life that cage us up and won’t let us run after the Wild Goose (the Holy Spirit). So many things get in our way and in most cases, we end up caging ourselves by what we do, what we pursue after or the things we let trap us from doing the things God calls us to do. The Holy Spirit calls us to be free and to run with Him where ever He wishes to go.

Freedom, what an awesome thing to experience. Imagine what it would really be like to have the means, have the desire and even have the energy to take on new and adventurous opportunities. If a school needed to be built, how fun would it be to go to a foreign country and build the school, or a hospital or help a community dig enough wells for clean water that the shortage of water would never be a problem for that village again. This is what the Holy Spirit calls us to. He wants us to be unchained and available to Him to help others where ever we are. He wants us to be ready to move on behalf of the Kingdom no mater what he wants us to do or where he wants us to go.

This concept of freedom is a hard thing to grasp for many Americans. For most of us, we have always lived in freedom. We live in a society where we really are free to do what we want. I don’t care who you are or how poor you are when you begin your journey, we still live in a country that if you work hard enough, get your education and are willing to take some risks, every person can become somebody and go in any direction they want to go and be what ever they want to be. We are so fortunate and we are so blessed to live in this country.

What are the images that come to mind when you hear the slavery? Are the images positive or negative? Is it desirable to be in slavery or to be found a slave in life?

Here in America we have a past that was darkened by slavery. Even though we are working through the problems of that unfortunate period in our history, there are so many more people in this world who have never lived in the freedom we know.

• Today in this world, human trafficking is the 3rd largest criminal enterprise behind drugs and weapons.
• Worldwide it is estimated that nearly 2 million children are enslaved in the commercial sex trade.
• 80 percent of human trafficking victims are women and children and 50% of them are minors.
• According to the United Nations, an estimated 20 million people were held in bond slavery as of 1999.
• In 2004 alone there were more people enslaved than those who were seized from Africa during the 4 centuries of the transatlantic slave trade.
• Two thirds of the slaves today are in South Asia. Human Rights Watch estimates that in India alone there are as many as 15 million children in slavery.

Slavery is a horrible thing. Slavery has a long trail throughout history and has touched almost every nation and civilization. But here is what is fascinating, slavery is also found all throughout the Bible, even in the New Testament…especially in the New Testament. We see nations conquering nations and taking the conquered people as slaves. Israel was held in bondage and experienced slavery and there were times when Israel also conquered and took slaves. But when we get to the New Testament and look at the relationship between the Christian and Jesus and the Christian to Christian, there is an astounding paradox that comes into view. People who were set free in Christ became slaves to Christ. In fact if one looks closely, Christianity is preeminently the religion of slaves. It first started with Jesus:

Philippians 2:6-7 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant (slave),…

So what we see in scripture is something that is confusing to the outside world, Christ came to set us free from bondage, from the bondage of sin and from the bondage of a religious system that prevented the believer from living for God fully. He came so every believer could live a life of freedom and to give us a life full of adventure as we follow after the Holy Spirit. But when we look closely at that freedom, it is best described in the following way:

“In order to be truly free, one must become a slave to Christ.”

Romans 6:22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.

Not only does this freedom/slave theme run in relationship with God, but it also runs in the relationships we have with each other.

Galatians 5:13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.

Our study for the next number of weeks is going to look at the complex and contradictory world of slavery. You and I live in a world that seduces us with the call to be free when in reality we only end up living as slaves. But there is a better freedom, Jesus calls us to be His slave, to take up his yoke that is easy which leads to the only true freedom there is.

If you had to sit down and write a short essay on what you personally know about the 1st century church, what would be some of the things you would include in your essay? Who are some of the characters? What about the 2nd century church, the church that immediately followed the apostles? Who are some of the characters?

Ignatius writes a letter to Polycarp days before Ignatius was martyred in the arena in Rome. He was sentenced to fight the wild beasts. Ignatius was a disciple of the apostle John and was sent to Antioch in AD 69 right after Paul was martyred in AD 64. Ignatius was alive when Pau wrote his epistles. Ignatius is the first Christian writer after Paul. Polycarp also was a disciple of John’s and was sent to serve the church in Smyrna. Polycarp is said to be the last eye witness to the resurrection of Jesus.

Ignatius writes the following to Polycarp in AD 110:

Letter to Polycarp 4:3 But let slaves serve more faithfully to the glory of God, that they may obtain a better freedom from God.

Everything Jesus did and said turned the world and it’s reasoning upside down. What are some of the teachings of Jesus that was the exact opposite what the world taught?

• To be free one must become a slave
• The last will be first and first last
• To be rich one had to become poor
• To become mature in the Kingdom one had to come as a little child
• A person had to become born again
• In order to live one must die
• In order to be wise one must embrace the foolishness of the Gospel

All of these truths shattered the world’s definitions and images of reality in order to fulfill them. In order to follow after Jesus one has to realize that life is shrouded in a paradox. In order for you and I to truly experience freedom, we first must become a slave. There is no “ME” in this picture, only my MASTER.

How hard is it for Americans to truly embrace this concept? What do we have to change in order to truly be free in this country? What should our attitude be like?

One Word, Three Worlds

When we read about slavery in the scriptures, the word slave calls together at least three worlds; the Old Testament Hebrew world, the New Testament Roman world and the world of the African American slave. The lack of understanding of these three worlds when it comes to slavery really makes the servant concept in scripture confusing. When Paul or Peter talked about slavery, their thoughts originated from their unique background in Judaism and Roman slavery. But for most people in the American church today, especially the African American, slavery takes on a whole different meaning.

Malachi 1:6 A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the LORD Almighty. “It is you, O priests, who show contempt for my name.

In the very beginning, the national identity of Israel was connected to slavery. As a nation they started out as a free nation, a nation set free from slavery.

Exodus 20:2-3 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me.

The very first block of legal mandates found in the Jewish law dealt with the protection of slaves. Even in the rules dealing with the Sabbath, the rules extended to the slave; they too were to have rest. Why? Because they were once a slave in the land of Egypt and they know first hand how important it is to have rest.

Do you know why God forbid Israel from selling another Hebrew into slavery?

Leviticus 25:39, 42 If one of your countrymen becomes poor among you and sells himself to you, do not make him work as a slave. Because the Israelites are my servants, whom I brought out of Egypt, they must not be sold as slaves.

They were not their own. God was their master. He brought them out of Egypt and paid for them. The Hebrew understood the concept of their servanthood and carried a title of honor as the slave of God. Abraham, David, Moses and Joshua all referred to themselves as a servant of God.

Slavery as a practice played a minor role in Jewish society but when they did hold slaves, they were known to be the kindest slave holders in the ancient world. Notice I said slave holders and not owners. That is exactly what slavery was. In most cases, if a person owed something to someone else and was unable to pay, in order to make the debt right, they would sell themselves into slavery (or in service) until the debt could be worked off. It was only right, a debt had to be paid and slavery was one way of doing it.

Roman Slavery:

When we enter the New Testament, the Roman world was totally different. The reason was primarily Rome itself. Through its 982 years of existence, Rome was heavily dependent upon slave labor. Their slaves came primarily through Roman conquests. Taking someone into captive slavery seemed more humane than executing them. To the Roman, a slave was property and the owner had the right to do with his property as he wished. No matter how the slave was treated, it was better than being dead. This twisted logic of slavery was seen as kindness.

Slaves were despised in Rome. The goal in life was to become someone who owned slaves. The more slaves one had, the higher in value the family had in Roman society.

What are some of the job professions today that we consider respected positions?

Jobs we hold in high regard such as doctors, lawyers and artists were given to slaves to do in the first century. Slaves were never trusted and always looked upon with suspicion. To call someone a slave was a serious insult but it was better to be the slave of a rich man than to be a pauper who is owned by no one. Rome had a law that stated:

“A poor free man must yield way in the market place to a rich man’s slave.”

The posture of a slave also was detested in the Roman world. Kneeling was reserved only for slaves. A Roman never would kneel even while in worship. To fall on your knees to the Roman world was not a sign of worship but a sign of humiliation. No Roman every found himself on his knees.

Enter Jesus and the church; how hard would it be for a Roman to accept Jesus, His teachings and Christianity? What would a Roman have to overcome in order to follow Jesus? How would that affect his social standing even if he were rich?

African American Slavery:

This kind of slavery provides a lens through which we can understand the slavery of the New Testament times. African and Roman slavery have a lot more in common than differences. When we compare the written narratives from slaves in both worlds, their plight, pain and sorrows sounded very much the same.

Emotionally, spiritually, physically, relationally, the American slave experience was fundamentally the same as the Roman slave of the first century. When trying to imagine what it was like to be a slave in the first century, one only has to look upon what happened with the black slaves in America. But there was one difference that stands out in my mind; at least to the Roman, the slave was a human being. In America, the black slave was less than a dog and was considered nothing more than a slave than human. Their value was only in their work for their master, nothing more.

QUESTION: So when we hear Paul say, I am a slave for Christ, what did the Roman world hear or think?

Our study will look into what it means to be a slave of Christ.