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STUDIES IN ACTS      Studies in Acts

13. RHODA - a Christian slave

"Peter knocked... and a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the door" (Acts 12:13).

Rhoda was a slave girl in the influential home of Mary, the mother of John Mark (Acts 12:13).

Consider the person
We know very little about Rhoda. She is involved in the story of Peter's miraculous escape from prison, as the one who went to the door in response to the apostle's knocking. Her joy at hearing Peter's voice may indicate she was a Christian. The fact she belonged to Mary's household supports this view. See Acts 16:13-16 for another household conversion.. Rhoda raises a number of searching questions. A slave in the first century had no liberty or rights – they were the property of another human being and an instrument of labour. So, how could a Christian home accept slaves? Secondly, how could a Christian tolerate the status of slave, especially in a Christian home?

Study the Scriptures
Answers to these questions may be gleaned from two passages in the Pauline epistles (Eph.6:5-9; Col.3:22-4:1). Specific instructions are given to Christian masters and slaves. It may surprise us that the church did not protest against the slave system that dominated society. However, the dynamic of the gospel changed human relationships. In Christian fellowships Jews and Gentiles, educated and uneducated, slave and free, male and female worshipped the Lord as one congregation (see Gal.3:26-28). The gospel began to change society from within!

Ask questions

1. The book of Philemon tells the story of a runaway slave named Onesimus. It contains Paul's appeal to his master, Philemon, on his return. How does this short, personal letter illustrate the transforming power of the gospel? Notice how Onesimus (his name means 'useful') really became 'useful' (note the pun in v.11). He returns not as a slave, but as a brother (v.16).

2. The empires of Greece and Rome were built on slavery. The Lord Jesus did not condemn slavery? Why?

3. Can you name the evangelical Christian who, as a Member of Parliament, campaigned for the abolition of the slave trade? What can we learn from him?

Apply some thoughts

1. Today's society needs changing. But legislation is not working. Pray for the preaching of the gospel – it is the power of God for salvation (Rom.1:16).

2. We do need a moral majority in our Government. Pray for Christian MPs.

3. Consider your attitude as an employer to your employees; and your attitude as an employee to your employer.

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Copyright 2008 Vernon Ralphs

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