‘Receive him forever, not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother.’ Philemon 1:15–16 KJV
What finally brought about an end to slavery? The gospel of Jesus Christ. Note the small letter Paul wrote to Philemon. A runaway slave was thrown into a Roman prison along with Paul, and Paul converted him to Christ. And when the slave was released, Paul sent him back to his owner, Philemon. The custom at that time was to kill escaped slaves after they’d been recaptured. But now Philemon had also become a Christian, another convert of the apostle Paul, who instructed him to receive him back ‘not as a servant, but above a servant, a brother.’ And in that new brotherhood, slavery found its death knell.
Now, fast forward to the days of William Wilberforce, who was convicted of his sin and converted under the preaching of John Wesley. Wilberforce, a slight, hunch-backed man, became one of the most powerful members of Parliament. Consumed by the Gospel and the freedom that Christ offered, Wilberforce devoted all his energies and eloquence to overthrowing the obnoxious African slave trade. And his success in abolishing it throughout the British Empire led to agitation for similar action in the United States. In fact, it was through the proclamations that thundered from pulpits throughout the northern states that abolitionist parties came into being and succeeded in destroying slavery once and for all. So it was through the church that slavery was eradicated. Jesus came ‘to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives.’ (Luke 4:18 NKJV) Are you a member of Christ’s redeemed church? If not, you can sign up today!