During Roman rule, one who was emancipated from slavery was called a “freedman” (Gr., a·pe·leuʹthe·ros), whereas a “freeman” (Gr., e·leuʹthe·ros) was free from birth, possessing full citizenship rights, as did the apostle Paul.—Ac 22:28.
Formal emancipation granted the freedman Roman citizenship, but such former slave was not eligible for political office, although his descendants were, in the second or at least the third generation. Informal emancipation, however, gave merely practical freedom to the individual, not civic rights.—See CITIZEN, CITIZENSHIP.
Since the freedman was viewed as belonging to the family of his former master, a mutual obligation rested upon the two parties. The freedman either remained in the home and in the employ of his former master or received a farm and capital to get started in making his own living. The patron buried his freedman, when deceased, in the family tomb, took charge of any surviving minor children, and inherited the property if there were no heirs. On the other hand, if the patron suffered financial reverses, his freedman was required by law to care for him. But the rights of a former master in relation to his freedman could not be passed on to his heirs.
It has been suggested that those who belonged to the “Synagogue of the Freedmen [literally, Libertines]” were Jews who had been taken captive by the Romans and then later were emancipated. Another view is that these persons were freed slaves who had become Jewish proselytes. The reading in the Armenian Version presents these persons as “Libyans,” that is, persons from Libya.—Ac 6:9.
As indicated by the Scriptures, although a Christian may be a slave to an earthly master, he is actually Christ’s freedman, liberated from bondage to sin and death. But having been bought with a price, Jesus’ precious blood, a Christian who is a freeman in a physical sense is a slave of God and of Jesus Christ, obligated to obey their commands. This indicates that for humans freedom is always relative, never absolute. Therefore, from God’s viewpoint, in the Christian congregation there is no difference between slave and freeman. Moreover, the freedom possessed by a Christian does not entitle him to use this as a blind for badness.—1Co 7:22, 23; Ga 3:28; Heb 2:14, 15; 1Pe 1:18, 19; 2:16.