How to Teach on Philemon and Slavery in the Bible

How to Teach on Philemon and Slavery in the Bible

Nancy Guthrie interviews Nate Shurden

At church a few weeks ago, my husband took note of how our pastor, Nate Shurden, thanked God for the book of Philemon, calling it “this postcard epistle in the corpus of the canon.” It’s a little book that can get lost between the giants on either side, yet it has a powerful message.

Philemon also creates a challenge for Bible teachers in a time when, as a culture and as the body of Christ, we are dealing—perhaps like never before—with the lingering shame of chattel slavery in the United States. We want Paul not to just regulate slavery, but to call for it to be abolished. And yet he doesn’t.

In this episode of Help Me Teach the Bible, Nate Shurden, pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Franklin, Tennessee, helps us deal with inevitable questions about slavery that might arise when we teach Philemon, as well as other books in the Bible. He also capably demonstrates numerous ways we can get to the all-important gospel from this “postcard epistle.”

You can listen to this episode of Help Me Teach the Bible here.

Editors’ note: 

Racial unity is a gospel issue and all the more urgent 50 years after Martin Luther King Jr.’s death. The anniversary of his assassination marks an opportunity for Christians to reflect on our past and look ahead to where we must go as we pursue racial unity in the midst of tremendous tension.

Join the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and The Gospel Coalition at “MLK50: Gospel Reflections from the Mountaintop,” April 3-4 in Memphis, Tennessee. Learn more and register at