The first-century church had to live within the confines of the existing laws of the Roman Empire. The Apostle Paul had to confront the Roman institution of slavery when he had led a runaway slave, Onesimus, to Jesus Christ (Phil. 10). Should Paul have called for the abolition of slavery by petitioning the Roman government? Should the apostle have encouraged Onesimus to lead a rebellion against the Roman slave holders and ultimately against the Roman government? Should Paul have remained silent on the issue, claiming that it was not the responsibility of the church to involve itself in social reform?
The church was in no position to petition the Roman government to do much of anything, let alone release millions of slaves that were vital to the Roman way of life. There was little that Israel could do, even when faced with the murder of infants (Matt. 2:16).
No formal protest is recorded as having been registered with the king, and no action violating accepted civic law is reported. It may have been that the action was taken too rapidly to allow organized protest. But it seems more likely that any protest of citizenry would have been quickly suppressed by the Roman state.
The Roman State was indifferent to the slaughter of infants and the institution of slavery. Of course, this does not mean the church should remain silent when the odds are stacked against it. A law can be opposed without a revolution taking place.
The historian Edward Gibbon estimates that there were more than sixty million slaves throughout the Roman Empire. Other writers place the estimates even higher. Tacitus, a Roman historian of the first century, writes that the “city of Rome was in constant fear of an uprising of the slaves. When a measure was proposed in the senate to have all slaves dress alike to distinguish them from freemen, the suggestion was promptly killed by the argument that to do so would reveal to the slaves their great numerical strength and endanger the peace of the city by a possible revolt.”
Myths, Lies, and Half-Truths
Myths, Lies, and Half-Truths takes a closer look at God's Word and applies it to erroneous misinterpretations of the Bible that have resulted in a virtual shut-down of the church's full-orbed mission in the world (Acts 20:27). Due to these mistaken interpretations and applications of popular Bible texts to contemporary issues, the Christian faith is being thrown out and trampled under foot by men (Matt. 5:13).Buy Now
Gary is interviewed by his long-time friend Marlin Detweiler with Veritas Press. The two discuss history, current events, and education. Ultimately the entire conversation is wrapped around the need for a biblical worldview and how every area of life fits into a person’s view of the world and ultimate reality.
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 O. Palmer Robertson, “Reflections on New Testament Testimony Concerning Civil Disobedience,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 33:3 (September 1990), 332.
 Charles David Eldridge, Christianity’s Contributions to Civilization (Nashville, TN: Cokesbury Press, 1928), 21.