Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, September 25, 2016
Godly Contentment - September 25, 2016 - Ninth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 21) - Text: 1 Timothy 6:6-19
In our Old Testament reading for this morning the prophet Amos warns the children of Israel and us against the sin of self-reliance. In the Gospel lesson, using the story of Lazarus and the rich man, Jesus also warns us against the sin of self-reliance. In our text for this morning, we continue reading Paul’s letter to Pastor Timothy. This morning Paul echos the words of our Old Testament reading and our Gospel reading by reminding us of the importance of being content, not relying on ourselves, but relying on our Lord. Perhaps you have heard the cliche’ “When we worry we undo our prayers.” To fret and to worry is indeed a show of a lack of faith! To be content in all circumstances shows great faith, just ask Paul.
Paul begins by reminding us of the importance of being content. We read, “6Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, 7for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (v. 6-10).
Paul begins by reminding us that what we have when we are born into this world and what we take with us when we die is what is truly ours, in other words, nothing is truly ours. We may talk about the things we own or have, but really everything is God’s. We might liken our conversation to that of our children who talk about their room and their bed while living in our house. It is not really our children’s room or bed, but ours which we have purchase for them to live in. Likewise, nothing is really ours, it is not really our house or our car, but it is all God’s which He gives to us to use while we live in this world.
Paul reminds us that all we really need is food and clothing and yet how much more do we have and very often how much more do we want, because we can always want more. Perhaps we would do well to make a distinction between needs and wants. Do we really need a television in every room of our house? Do we need a telephone in every room of our house or for that matter, does everyone in the family need their own telephone? Do we need ten pairs of shoes, twenty changes of clothes, four coats, and I could go on and on. Paul reminds us that all we truly need is food and clothing. And really, if we think about it, if we were honest with ourselves, we could survive this world if all we had was food and clothes. Think about Jesus, the only thing He owned while living on earth was the clothes on His back and He never concerned Himself with where He would sleep or where He would get His next meal.
Paul’s warning is a warning against covetousness and envy which lead to destruction. As children we are more blatant in our covetousness suggesting such things as “I gotta have it,” in reference to the latest and greatest toy or video game. As adults we are more subtle in our covetousness, not necessarily stating that we “gotta” have something, but often making sure we have the latest and greatest so as not to be outdone by our neighbor.
Blatantly, Paul tells us that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Notice, money is not the root of all kinds of evil. Money is not evil in and of itself. Money is simply a means of barter. However, the love and desire to amass more and more money does lead to all kinds of evil. And we see this time and again in our world as the news paper and the evening news have story after story of anything from petty robbery to corporate scandals.
Thankfully Paul does not simply give us words of warning, but he also points us to a proper pursuit. We read, “11But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen” (v. 11-16).
Paul gives us a different goal, that is to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness and gentleness. Interestingly enough, as we hear Paul’s words of encouragement, because of our sins of omission, that is because we fail to live as we ought, some of Paul’s words may seem as an accusation against us. Paul suggests that we are to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness and gentleness, but these are not what we pursue. Do we always do the right thing, think the best of others, speak well of others, explain everything in the kindest way? Do we live our faith or do we rather trust more in ourselves? Are we steadfast and gentle or are we more unforgiving and hardhearted? Do we believe everything we have is a gift from God or do we believe we have worked for and earned everything we have?
Paul’s urging is to live the life we have confessed, that is to live a life of faith in Jesus. Yet, how often do we find ourselves worried and fretting about our lives, about our finances, about our bills, about who knows what? Unfortunately, no matter how hard we may try, because we are conceived and born in sin, we cannot live as Paul urges us. The fact of the matter is, we sin and we sin boldly.
Yet, Paul gives us the answer. He reminds us that Jesus’ confession was to give His life for ours. Remember, the very reason Jesus was born into this world was to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Jesus was born to live perfectly for us, in our place. Jesus was born to live a life of contentment because we cannot. And Jesus was content. He lived His whole life owning only the clothes on His back and the sandals on His feet and He was content.
But Paul is not done. He goes on to encourage those who have been given to, in other words He encourages us. He says, “17As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life” (v. 17-19).
Paul is not writing to give us a new law, rather he is writing to us to help us live lives of faith, that is he is encouraging us in our response of faith. To those who have been given, Paul says, they are expected to be good stewards, in other words, they are to be doing good works and be generous in sharing what God has first given to them with others. As we come to realize that God does give us all that we need, we will also come to realize that God gives us even more than we need and much if not most of what we want. God is gracious to us because His desire is not that we keep these things for ourselves, but that we share from our bounty with others. And we will find that as we do so, returning first to God, He will bless us even more. Because you cannot out give God.
Interestingly enough Paul reminds us that in giving we will be storing up treasure in heaven. I know that is exactly opposite of what the world believes, teaches and confesses, but God’s reality is not the worlds reality. Returning to God first, from what He has first given to us is a sign of faith. As we believe God has first given to us and so we return a portion of our first fruit to Him, that is a sign that we do believe He has given to us in the first place and that He will continue to give to us. Which means that the opposite is also true, when we fail to first return a portion of our first fruits, that is a sign of a lack of faith and perhaps even a sign that we believe we have earned what we have and that we believe it is ours. Yes, we might well conclude that the gift of possessions is a lot of work.
So, what does this mean? First and foremost we are again reminded that God owns and man owes. Everything we have is God’s and we are simply stewards of all we have. Perhaps we might take care, then, in the way we speak about the gifts God has given to us. Maybe we need to change our language from speaking about our things and instead begin speaking about how we are to care for the gifts God has loaned to us to care for, then maybe we will not be so tempted to be so possessive or so envious or covetous.
Second, God, through Paul reminds us that a life lived in pursuit of financial gain and possessions is not only folly, but could be detrimental. In other words, our continued pursuit of money for the sake of gaining more could lead us to idolatry, believing in ourselves and our own powers instead of believing in God and the gifts He has to give.
Third, God, through Paul reminds us that all we really need is food and clothing. And yet we have more than we need, much of what we want, and often more than we could want. Last week Paul reminded us of our need to pray and especially our need to give thanks to our Lord. This week even more we are reminded of our need to give thanks. We are indeed so well blessed in this country. We have so much more than others do in many countries around the world. And what is our attitude, to give thanks or to ask for more?
As we are reminded every Sunday, God has given to us our greatest need, that is He has given His all in Jesus. God gives us the greatest gifts we need; faith, forgiveness and life. These are not things we get for ourselves. These are not gifts we deserve or earn, rather they are gifts because they are not earned or deserved. If they were earned or deserved, they would no longer be gifts. But the fact is, they are gifts because God gives them to us because of His great love for us. They are gifts because God gives them without expecting anything in return. Yes, God gives and we are given to.
And finally, not only does God give us all the good gifts and blessings we have, not only does He expect us to be good stewards of all that He has given, but to make sure we are good stewards, He also promises to help us. And He continues to forgive us when we fail, as we often do. So, as always, we are pointed back to God and what He does and gives. What a great God we have. What a loving God we have. What a gift giving God we have. To Him alone be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Sunday, September 11, 2016
A Trustworthy Saying - September 11, 2016 - Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost - (Proper 19) - Text: 1 Timothy 1:(5-11) 12-17
Our text for this morning is another letter. This letter is one in which Paul is writing to the young pastor, Timothy. The main emphasis of Paul’s letter is to warn and instruct Timothy concerning the heresies of Gnosticism, decadent Judaism, and false asceticism. To help you get a handle on what these heresies are let me make a general comparison to attach these heresies to something from today. The comparisons that I can make to today of these heresies would be something like this: Gnosticism might in a small way be compared to the New Age teachings that the spirit is the main thing and this physical world is just a holding place until we all reach our spirit goal; decadent Judaism might be compared to decadent Judaism of today, that is, the false teachings and myths that are promoted in many Jewish churches, especially those concerning Jesus; and false asceticism might be compared to our modern day “post-modernism” with its understanding that image is everything. Out of these three I believe the one which speaks most to us today is the last, that is, that we are more interested in image than substance, we are more interested in what something looks like rather than what it really is inside, which leads to the question I often ask which is, “What do our actions say concerning what is in our hearts?” With that said, I would, again, remind you that this is a letter. Paul is writing to Timothy, but God through Paul is also writing to us today.
Paul is speaking to us today concerning what were we like before faith was given to us. Using himself as an example, Paul says he was a blasphemer, a persecutor and a violent aggressor. We know about his former way of life. We know about how he was there at the stoning of Stephen, watching the coats, and approving of what was happening. We know about how he was a Pharisee of Pharisees. We know about how he went about persecuting the Christians thinking that he was doing what God wanted him to do. He was indeed practicing decadent Judaism, as he calls it. We know that Paul speaks from experience.
What about us? What is our background? How were we before faith was given to us? We confess that we are born spiritually dead, spiritually blind and enemies of God. We confess with David, “surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Ps. 51:5). We confess, every Sunday morning, that we are “by nature sinful and unclean.” We confess that this is something that stays with us as we confess that we “have sinned against [God] in thought, word and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone.” To the person who says they do not go to church because there are hypocrites in church, I say, “yes, and that is why we go to church, to repent and be given God’s forgiveness for saying we are Christians and then acting otherwise.”
Paul says that he was the foremost of sinners. He literally says he is the first. Paul humbles himself, reflecting on his own life, knowing his own sins. He admits that he should be a better person, but he is a sinful human being who deserves nothing but God’s condemnation.
Paul’s words remind us that we too should confess with Paul that we are the foremost of sinners. One quick trip through the ten commandments reminds us of our own sinful human nature, not that we have broken all the commandments by actually committing crimes against them, but that we break them daily in thought and in word, what we say and even how we say it, as well as many time actually in deed. Here, as we contemplate and confess our sins we are reminded of Jesus’ words, “he who is forgiven little loves little, he who is forgiven much loves much” (Luke 7;47). Think how much more Jesus’ death means to us when we realize how sinful we really are. If we think we have only sinned a little, then we live a life which says that we think we are actually good people and do not have much need for Jesus, thus we fail in our making use of the means of grace and we actually often refuse and reject God’s gifts. When we realize how sinful we truly are, as Paul says, when we confess we are the foremost of sinners, then we realize just how much we need Jesus and thus we live our lives in such a way that others see our clinging to our Lord for forgiveness and life as our desire is to be where and when His gifts are given out.
We are conceived and born in sin, but that was then, and this is now. How have we changed? Or have we changed? First, we have changed, or we have been changed at our Baptism. At our Baptism we have had Jesus’ name put on us. We have been given faith, forgiveness and life. We have been given grace, God’s riches at Christ’s expense. We have been given mercy, God’s mercy, because without God’s grace and mercy we would be lost. God’s mercy is this, “while we were still sinners [while we were in the middle of sinning, being enemies of God and actually fighting against Him] Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God’s mercy is seen in this, “very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:7-8).
We have been given faith, that instrument which takes hold of and makes the rest of God’s good gifts and blessings ours. We have been given faith at our Baptism. We have that faith nurtured and strengthened through regular divine service attendance, regular reading of God’s Word, and regular Bible class attendance. We have been given faith because without faith we would be lost.
We have been given love, that thing which reflects that faith which God has put in our hearts. Love is the culmination of all that God gives. If we do not have love, can we say we have the other of God’s gifts (1 Cor. 13)? Faith, poured out in our hearts shows itself in the fact that we show love for God and for one another. Which reminds us that the opposite is true as well, if we are not showing love then that is an indication of gift refusal and no faith in the heart. John says it this way, “We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:19-21). God’s grace and faith show itself in our love which is seen in our actions and in our giving of ourselves, our time, our talents and our treasure, not that we give out of compulsion, because we have to, but that we give because God has first given to us. We have been given love because without love we would be seen to not have faith.
We have changed, but what brought about our change? Was it that we looked deep within ourselves? Society tells us that change comes from within. Look inside yourself for the answer we are told, over and over again, ad nausea. Today we have the electronic e-mail to help us to look inside ourselves. How many e-mails to we receive and forward that encourage such behavior, looking inside ourselves, making a decision for Jesus, don’t feel guilty, just forward this and all will be well we are promised. But what do we find within ourselves? Earlier we made note that we are by nature spiritually blind, spiritually dead, and enemies of God. All we find inside is a person completely against God. Really, there would be no change in us if it had to come from within.
Did this change come because we worked for this change? Again, society will tell us that we need to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and make our own way. We are pretty good people after all, at least we are not as bad as our neighbor down the street. “Pastor, I know I am a sinner, tell me what I have done right,” but there is the rub. Can we change ourselves for good? Here again, when we remember that our nature is that we are spiritually dead, spiritually blind and enemies of God we realize that there is nothing that we can do to work a change in ourselves, at least not by ourselves.
So, was this change something that came from outside of us? Yes, as always, change, faith, forgiveness, all things must come from outside of us. Faith comes by the Holy Spirit working in us through the Word and the sacraments. Forgiveness is given to us through the Word and the sacraments. Strengthening of faith is given to us through the Word and the sacraments. Change that is good change, that is life changing and life giving change must and does come from outside of ourselves.
As I said earlier, Paul is speaking to you and me. Paul reminds us that we are dependent on God for our salvation, it does not come from ourselves. We cannot save ourselves. We cannot choose Jesus. We cannot be good, we cannot, we cannot, we cannot. It comes from God and God alone.
How, then, is our dependence on God reflected in our life? I always tell people, “you do not have to tell me your priorities, they show.” What does your life show is important? Does your life reflect self-dependence or God-dependence? Take a look at your life and you will know. How do you spend your time? Do you spend your time concerned with the cares and concerns of this world or with the cares and concerns of your spiritual well-being? How about your talents? Where and how do you use the talents and abilities God has given you? Do you use them simply as a way of making a living, or do you also use them in service to the Lord in His kingdom? And what about your treasure? Where do you spend you money, on the things of this world or in service to the Lord in His kingdom? And when you do give to the Lord, of your time, talents or treasure, do you do so begrudgingly, as if under compulsion, because you have to, or freely, as a response of faith, because you get to. As Paul says to Timothy, so he speaks to us, “5The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (v. 5). And our aim is the same today, that is that we love because God first loves us, that we love and show our love through the life we live, a life that is guided by our faith and good conscience. Because, as we said, the opposite is just as true, a life of lovelessness, a life of thinking, speaking and doing sinful things reflects a lack of love, a lack of gifts received and instead it reflects a life of gifts refused and no faith and no love.
If image is everything, what do our lives say concerning our faith in Christ? On Christ’s part, He gave everything for us. Because of His love for us, His creation, His creatures, He gave up the glory that was His in heaven in order to take on human flesh and blood. He owned nothing except the clothes on His back while He was here on this earth and He never was concerned about where His next meal would come from, He lived perfectly, obeying all God’s commands perfectly and fulfilling all God’s prophecies perfectly, for us, in our place as our substitute, because that is what is demanded of us and what we are unable to do. Ultimately, He took all our sins upon Himself in order to pay the price for our sins, that is to suffer eternal spiritual death and hell, even to die for our sins. He gave His life for ours. He died and He rose and now He is seated at the right hand of the Father where He is watching over us, ruling over us and interceding for us. God created you to love you and He does love you and He shows His love for you in His desire to shower you, to lavish you with His good gifts and blessings which He does through His means of grace. May the Holy Spirit work in your life so that you may be moved to respond in such a way that your desire is to be given even more of our Lord’s good gifts and blessings and finally that your life says, thanks be to God and to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Sunday, September 4, 2016
On Being a Slave - September 4, 2016 - Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 18) - Text: Philemon 1:1-21
Our lessons for this morning remind us of the difficulty of being Christians. God’s commands are good, even meet, right and salutary. And yet, His commands really are more than just commands, they are statements of instruction for our well-being. Both the Old Testament lesson and the Gospel lesson remind us that no matter how God instructs us for our own good, we tend to disobey and do things our own way. Perhaps that is why our Epistle lesson is the account of Paul’s letter on behalf of the runaway slave Onesimus. At the same time, in giving instruction concerning the conversion of this slave, Paul has some powerful words for us concerning our own nature and our relationship with our Lord.
I do not want to re-fight the Civil War this morning, but our text leads us back to two questions that I am sure were asked in the days of the Civil War. Is slavery a good thing or a bad thing? And does the Bible condemn slavery? Prayerfully we will be able to answer those questions and get a better understanding of our own nature and relationship with our Lord by the time we are finished this morning. My prayer then, is that first and foremost we might connect Paul’s words of address to this issue to our own spiritual well-being and need. I want to begin by asking you not to take anything that I say out of context, because if you stop at any point you may think that I am saying something that I am not saying. I want to begin by quoting from the Kretzmann commentary which says, “the apostle establishes the principle that the Gospel does not invalidate human ordinances that are not in themselves against the Moral Law.” In other words, slavery is not against the Moral Law, that is the Ten Commandments, but that is not where we need to stop when discussing the issue of slavery.
In our country we have a rather limited view of slavery. When we hear the word slavery we immediately think of the slavery of Africans that were brought to America before the Civil War. We forget that in Biblical times slavery included those people that were defeated in war, as well as slavery of one’s own people. Slavery included other nations making the Israelites slaves. The Israelites making other nations slaves. The Israelites making other Israelites slaves and on and on. Slavery was a rather broad topic. You might also remember that the Moral Law made certain stipulations for dealing with slaves. But, that does not answer the original question, “Is slavery a good thing or a bad thing?”
The background of our text is that Paul was in prison for preaching the Gospel. Paul, who had been putting Christians in prison for being Christians, who was now an Apostle for Jesus, was now himself in prison for preaching that Jesus Christ is Lord. Yet, while he was in prison, he was able to continue to have visitors and to preach the good news of salvation.
While in prison, Onesimus, a runaway slave, came to Paul. He heard the message of salvation that Paul was preaching. The Holy Spirit worked through the Word of the Lord that he heard and he believed the message of salvation. And he wanted to make amends, thus he came to Paul to seek his help. In the process he and Paul had become friends and he had become very helpful for Paul, probably running errands and doing things that Paul could not do because he was in prison.
Our text is the letter that Paul is writing to pave the way for Onesimus to return to his master. You may have noticed that I am still dodging our initial questions, “Is slavery a good thing or a bad thing?” and “does the Bible condemn slavery?”
Again, our text is the letter that Paul wrote for Onesimus. Paul begins his letter to Onesimus’ owner and master, Philemon, by pointing out Onesimus’ conversion. He is no longer a heathen, but a fellow believer. He is now a brother in the faith. He is a brother to Paul as well as to his master, Philemon.
As a solution to the trouble that Onesimus has caused, Paul offers himself to be in debt. His solution is to be a type of Christ. Notice I did not say he was trying to be Christ, but rather he is being a type of Christ. Just as Christ gives His life for ours, Paul offers to give his life for Onesimus. In a minute we will talk a little more about what this says to us about slavery in general and our own slavery.
You might also notice in this letter the fact that Paul is acting as a mediator for Onesimus. Paul is writing as the go-between for Philemon and Onesimus. In this way he is also a type of Christ. Just as Christ is our Mediator, our go-between for us and God the Father. As our Mediator, Jesus offers His life, His suffering, His death and His resurrection for us, in our place. Jesus gives Himself for us so that we might stand before the Father in His holiness and purity.
As we contemplate slavery, right or wrong, we want to direct our attention to our own slavery, that is that we are slaves, not to another person, but to sin. We are all very much like Onesimus, that is we are all slaves to sin. And yes, although we do not like that word, slavery, and would rather shy away from using that word and perhaps use another word, maybe, servant, that is the word that our text uses, slavery. We are slaves to sin. We are conceived and born in sin, “surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceive me” (Ps. 51:5). We are slaves to sin and our desire is to sin (every inclination of man’s heart is evil all the time). We are slaves to sin and, interestingly enough, this slavery is not something we rebel against. We like being slaves to sin. But this slavery is a condemning slavery. This slavery is a bad slavery. Thankfully, this slavery is one from which Christ has come to free us.
Yet, the fact of the matter remains, at least for us as human beings, we must be slaves to something. Our nature is that we must be slaves. While our first option is to be slaves to sin, our second option is to be slaves to Christ. To be a slave to Christ is a good thing. To be a slave to Christ is a right thing. It is unnatural, but it is the only thing that will save us.
By God’s grace, by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the means of grace, we have a desire to be slaves to Christ. This desire does not come from inside of us, but it comes from outside of us, it comes as a response to the fact that Christ is our Mediator between us and God. Again, as I said earlier, Paul was a type of Christ in his being a mediator for Onesimus. Christ is our Mediator. He stands before the Father in heaven offering His life for ours. The Father looks at us and by faith, instead of seeing us as sinful human beings, He sees us wearing Jesus’ white robes of righteousness.
What does God through Paul tells us this morning concerning slavery? He reminds us that we are to become slaves to Christ. We are people who have to have something in our lives. If Christ were not in our lives we would fill that void with something else, and most probably that something else would be sin.
How do we become slaves to Christ instead of slaves to sin? This becoming a slave to Christ is not something we can do in and of ourselves. We become slaves to Christ by first and foremost being given to by Christ. We are given to by Christ by being where He comes to give His good gifts and blessings, in other words, by making regular and diligently, daily and weekly, use of the means that He has of giving us His good gifts and blessings, that is by being in the Word and making use of the means of grace, the Word, the Bible and the Sacraments, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper and confession and absolution. As we are given to by God, He moves in us and stirs in us to give ourselves to Christ. We give ourselves to Christ, not because of some inner motivation, but because the Holy Spirit works this response of faith in us, working through the outward means of grace.
One result of our becoming slaves to Christ is that He stirs in us to respond to His good gifts and blessings. We respond by giving ourselves first to the Lord and also by giving of our time, talents and treasures. In this way we have become slaves to the Lord.
Now, getting back to our original questions, “Is slavery a good thing or a bad thing?” and “does the Bible condemn slavery?” The Bible does not say, “thou shalt not have slaves.” In this way, the Bible does not condemn slavery. I would say, not according to the Biblical understanding of slavery, which includes an understanding of our sinful nature, yet I would believe that according to how it was practiced in the United States, and is still practiced around the world even today, it would be condemned. I want to quote another commentator, Lenski says: “This epistle is the Biblical answer to the question of slavery. Here we have no law of outward compulsion to forbid slavery but a gospel spirit of love which so changes the heart that slavery automatically withers and becomes impossible.” In other words, although the Bible does not say, “thou shalt not have slaves,” as Christians, we would be convinced by the Gospel that slavery is impossible.
Yet, the struggle remains for us and our relationship with the Lord. We are of a nature that we must be slaves. We must be slaves either to idolatry or to God. We cannot free ourselves from our slavery to sin. Paul’s words are our prayer for ourselves to our dear Father in heaven. His prayer is that the Holy Spirit will give us faith through the means of grace and that, having been given faith, God the Father will free us from our slavery to sin and make us slaves to Christ, even brothers of Jesus. My prayer for you is that the Lord will so fill you with His Holy Spirit that you will be moved to be slaves to Him, first by being given the gifts He has to give and second by responding with giving Him first yourself and then by giving from all that He has given to you. Ultimately I pray that your response may be to live your life in such a way that it says, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.