A Kingdom of Rescued Slaves

Many Christians think that the most important work a Christian can do is to argue with unbelievers and convince them to believe in Christ. Members of our church sometimes express discouragement with the fact that all they've been enabled to do, so far, is love one another and serve one another in the church,"I never 'win' anyone to Christ. I don't know how to argue like that." 

  But listen! Nobody ever gets "argued" into the Kingdom of God anyway! And your love for one another—the way you serve one another—is the very best 'proof' of the truth of the Christian faith. It may, in fact, be the only proof that will ever convince them that this new life in Christ is worth pursuing. 

  I read something interesting about the 'glorious' Roman Empire! My! They played that thing up big when it happened! They called it the 'Pax Romana'—the 'Roman Peace" that had finally descended upon the world. It was touted as the ultimate pacifying, civilizing influence; a gift of the gods to a barbaric, violent, chaotic world.

  Romans spoke of their empire as a "kingdom without end", whose rulers were "divine. Every Roman was taught from childhood that he was the most privileged person on earth.

  But...then there were the slaves of Rome. And—my goodness!—were there ever a lot of those! One estimate puts the number at 120 million slaves throughout the Roman Empire. Most of them were captives taken from under the crushing heel of Rome's numberless conquests. 

  In the capital alone, one out of every five people was a slave of the Roman empire. There was nothing 'civilized' about Roman slavery; it was incredibly cruel. To a Roman slave-holder, his slave was just a piece of property and nothing more. He could do anything he wanted with him, or her; and usually he did. There was a saying back in those days: "A Roman dog has more rights than a Roman slave." That was probably no exaggeration; Romans did love their dogs. 

  People think the Greek culture was even more "refined" than the Roman. The English Romantic poets—Byron, Keats, Shelley, and all the rest—ideal-ized the Grecian period as a "golden age" of culture, art and sophistication. 

  But—oh!—the slavery! It was more brutal and inhumane than that of any other time in history. Friedrich Tholuck, the 19th Century Biblical scholar, described Greek slavery in the starkest of terms: 

"Slaves were forced to wear disgusting clothing and a dog-skin cap that distinguished them from all the rest of humanity. Masters were required under penalty of law to purposely weaken the strongest of their slaves and break them down by hard labor and ill treatment. Every slave received an annual flogging, required by law, just to remind him that he was a slave. Whenever a slave's family became too numerous, they were murdered and secretly disposed of. Every year at a certain period, young Spartans clad in armor used to hunt slaves down and kill them for sport with their daggers." 1

My! What a wonderful 'golden age' that was! Aren't the cultures of the world delightful?

  You know? When the Gospel of Jesus Christ finally came into the world, the slaves of Rome and Greece came pouring into the church! Many of them are mentioned in Scripture, some still bearing their crude slave-names: Tertius ("Three") and Quartus ("Four") in Romans 16: 22-23; Urbanus and Ampliatus in Rom 16: 8-9; the slaves "of the household of Aristobulus" (Rom 16: 10). Then there's the Book of Philemon,  written for the rescue a runaway slave (Onesimus). 

  When the Gospel of Jesus Christ came into the world, one of the very first things that happened was an end to slavery. As early as the time of Trajan (98 AD), we read about a rich slave-holder named Hermes who gave his life to Christ and liberated all 1250 of his slaves. 

  Even earlier, under Domitian, 81 AD, we read about a prefect of Rome named Cromacius, who gave his life to Christ and then went on to lead almost all of his 1400 slaves to Christ. Eventually, he set them all free saying: "Whoever becomes a child of God can no longer remain a slave of man."  Wow! (And doesn't that put to shame those of our own nation who tried to excuse and even defend this vile practice, even touting themselves as "Christians" in the process?)

  Think of it dear ones: the glories of Greece and the splendor of Rome, now lying in the ruins of archaeological digs, long left behind as rubble and garbage, now that the One Kingdom has come. And—oh!—what a kingdom it is! "My kingdom is not of this world," Jesus said in John 18:36. Oh it certainly isn't, blessed be His name! His Kingdom bears no resemblance whatsoever! His is a kingdom of rescued slaves, of every stripe and origin: "a kingdom of righteousness, peace and joy..." Rom 14: 17. 

And as for the "peace" this One Kingdom brings? Well, it certainly is no temporary Pax Romana! "For of the increase of His Government and its peace there shall be no end." Is 9:7

  No, there has never been but 'One' kingdom in the history of this world, and only one True King reigns over it. And you, dear faithful rescued "slave", "shine like the stars" in the midst of it all, with your love for one another! Phil 2:15

See you Sunday!                         RAS 

1. Fredrich August Tholuck, Commentary on Paul's Epistle to the Romansch 16.

He Remembers
The Man Who Hit Me