- Christian Servants Obey (verses 1-3)
- a. Respectfully (verse 5)
- b. Conscientiously (verse 5)
- c. Spiritually (verses 5-6)
- d. Gladly (verse 7)
- e. Rewardingly (verse 8)
- Christian Masters Rule (verse 9)
- a. As Servants Serve
- b. Without Threats
- c. Under Lordship
- d. Impartially
Ephesians 6, and we're coming this evening to the end of our passage, and let me remind you that - as we often say - the chapter outlines and verses that we have in all the English versions of the Bible, it's important to note this: that the Bible was not written in English, the Bible was written in Greek, ancient Greek, biblical Greek. Therefore these outlines that we have of verses and chapters are there to help us - it would be a hard job, wouldn't it, to find passages and verses without them, and thank God for the men that devised them - but sometimes (and we must remember that it was men that devised them) they are devised incorrectly with the gist of the passage. We found that in chapter 5, that there is a passage that begins in verse 21 of chapter 5, and it doesn't end until verse 9 in chapter 6. So the chapter division is a little bit misleading - it's important to note that.
So, we are finishing what has been a sequence of verses from verse 21, right down to verse 9 of chapter 6. The topic and the theme is found in verse 21 of chapter 5: 'Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God'. So, we've looked at wives, who have to submit to their husbands. We've looked at children, who must submit to their parents. We are looking now at slaves, or servants, who must submit to their masters. So, there is the theme, and we're carrying it out again this evening in the will of God.
Let's read from verse 5 of chapter 6, through to verse 9: "Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him".
Now we enter, as I have already said, the third and the final sphere of this theme that Paul gives us, of submission. Here we have the submission of servants to masters, or to put it into our modern language: the submission of employees to employers. Now it's natural that, as Paul deals in chapter 5 and chapter 6 with the Christian household, that he should include this relationship between the servant and the master - because, in the ancient world, that relationship was incorporated within the home. Every house, almost, was affected by the master-slave relationship. It is estimated that there were 60 million slaves in the Roman Empire as a whole - 60 million! That is a third of the population of each of the largest cities within the Roman Empire, including Rome, Corinth, and the city that we're reading about tonight: the city of Ephesus. One-third of those populations were made up of slaves! There would have been masters as well in Ephesus, as well as those slaves, so you can see the relevance of what Paul is writing to this church in Ephesus.
We read in the New Testament of Philemon who was a master, he was in Colossae, within the Colossian Church, and he was a master - his slave was Onesimus. Most of the people that Paul is writing to were either slaves at the moment he was writing to them, or they had been slaves, they were ex-slaves now - or as the Bible calls them: freed men. Most of them at one point had been in that master-slave relationship. Now, it's important for us at the beginning of this study, as an introduction, to understand what New Testament slavery really was. To understand this passage of scripture we must move away, and clear away, some misconceptions that people have had.
Many think that New Testament slavery was open to extreme exploitation - that slaves were mistreated, and great violence was done to them - that is simply not true as you read the New Testament and read historical records. There was the teaching, however, of Aristotle who believed that a slave was merely a tool, that he or she was an inanimate object, a thing, that could be used by their master for a desired end. Indeed, Roman law, to a certain extent, enforced that by saying that a slave was not a person, a slave was a thing to be owned, to be bought, and - if need be - to be sold. He was not a legal person in the eyes of Roman law, and because of that some slaves were mistreated, but it wasn't a general rule within the Roman Empire. Some who were mistreated was the slave of Augustus - we read in historical writs about him: he was crucified because he killed a pet quail! His master crucified him.
There were other mistreatments of slaves, and because of that we read about a slave rebellion started by Spartacus - and maybe you've seen the film all about how the slaves rose up out of their mistreatment, their maltreatment, and rose up for their rights. But let me say this: that conception of slavehood is pre-Christian. Spartacus was before the birth of Christ, and all this maltreatment and mistreatment of slaves was before our Lord Jesus Christ was born, and certainly was before the epistle that we read before us. Slavery changed greatly within that period, and by now - the period in which we are reading, the book of Ephesians - things had changed magnanimously. Under the Romans most slaves now could hope to be free before old-age. In fact, in Augustus Caesar's time he had to curb the releasing of slaves simply because too many owners were releasing them! Indeed we learn that 50% of all slaves in the Roman Empire at this time were released before they were 30 years of age, they were given their freedom. If, perhaps, a slave decided to stay with their master, he had the liberty of, in fact, owning his own property, and he himself - if he wished - could have his own slaves! He could even invest money in property, or land. He could sell that property, and Roman law said he could buy his own freedom back.
So, you see how this slavery is, perhaps, not as we conceived. Some might say: 'Well, there was still social class distinction' - well, to a certain extent there was, but generally speaking there was no social class distinction between slaves. In fact, slaves regularly were given the same social class as their master - so if their master was upper-class, his slave was upper-class also. Indeed, we read that he often dressed in the same way as his master, and if you were walking down the street you would hardly be able to tell the difference between slave and master - they were put in the one class distinction. In fact, some slaves even sold themselves that they might obtain Roman citizenship.
So, we cannot make the mistake - and this is what often people do - of comparing Roman slaves with the slaves that, perhaps, we had hundreds of years ago in the United Kingdom, or indeed with the slaves in the past century that has gone by - African American slaves in the United States of America. You cannot compare the two together, because slavery - believe it or not - in this particular age that we're reading of within the New Testament, was much more humane and much more civilised. Now the Bible is attacked all the time, isn't it? Every chance that every man, or scholar, or theologian - liberal - can get, they attack the word of God and try to tear it apart. This is one of the ways in which the word of God has been attacked: it is condemned because it does not condemn slavery anywhere within the word of God. Although the thrust of the gospel message is against everything, and every philosophy, that hides behind the precept of slavery, still men come out and say: 'Well, the Bible doesn't condemn it'. In fact, believers are described as being the slaves of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, we must notice - believers - first of all, that every single place where the gospel message has penetrated, and the Spirit of God has moved, slavery has disappeared and the abuse of slaves has gone. Not by revolution of morals, but rather by reformation, spiritually speaking. Now, to the Bible's accusers I would say this: in this passage that we have read, from verse 21 of chapter 5 right through to now verse 9 of chapter 6, both the marriage relationship and the parent-child relationship are said to be instituted by God. Isn't that right? God instituted both of them, but He doesn't institute slavery. Look at the passage, it is not there - we must note that tonight as we study this passage. There are four other things that I want to share with you tonight, for any who would accuse the word of God of being with double standards here, and ask the question: 'Why does the word of God not condemn slavery?'.
First of all: the word of God here does not condemn it because there were positive reforms in action, in Roman government at this time, reforming slavery. In other words: it was already happening! So why would the Bible condemn, or even suggest, social changes when those social changes were already taking place? Secondly: the practice of slaves and masters in society in general, with both the masters and the slaves, was not considered evil - it was considered the norm. Thirdly: the condemnation of slavery would have brought the economic structure of this present society down around the people's ears! This is the way society was ran, with masters and slaves. If Christianity had begun to condemn slavery - knowing right well that the positive mechanisms to reform slavery were already coming in in government, knowing well that the gospel message would penetrate these people and change their views of slavery - the Christians would have been seen to be economically subversive. Masters would have been launched into poverty, and servants would have been begging bread - that is not a message that would commend Christ to anyone, is it? But fourthly, and most importantly, and foundationally: the brotherhood of Christianity would eventually exterminate slavery. The fact, as Paul has been saying within this epistle, we are all one in Christ - there is no longer any bond or free - and once that great revolutionary, converting, regenerating message would penetrate the hearts and minds of unbelievers and convert them, there would be a massive change in society that would mean that slavery would go beyond the pale. The Gospel - hallelujah! - the gospel eventually would deal a deadly blow to slavery!
I hope that gives you your answer. The answer is simply this, 1 Corinthians chapter 1 - Paul's message, and subsequently our message, is the Gospel. '[I came] not to baptise' - not that baptism is wrong, but that was not his primary goal, his primary goal was that he would preach the gospel, preach the cross - and that's what we must do today. Ultimately it was that preaching of the gospel that led to the downfall of slavery. It wasn't his chief end to pull down slavery in society, it wasn't Paul's chief end to reform the Roman Empire - but I'll tell you this much: just as Wesley and Whitefield in their preaching resulted in the abolition of slavery in the United Kingdom, the abolition of child labour, and the elevation of women, and the care of the needy, the gospel message is revolutionary and reformatory to all society! We must grasp this, and this is what enthuses me as I study these verses of Scripture: that in the home, in the marriage relationship, in the child-parent relationship, in the school relationship, within the church of Jesus Christ, wherever we live our lives, and even in the workplace, the gospel of Jesus Christ and the message of the word of God turns everything upside-down!
We must note that in no sense does Paul confuse a 'social system gospel' with the spiritual order of the church of Jesus Christ. We do not believe in a social gospel, but there are certain things that are required of us as believers, the way we ought to live: in charity towards the poor and so on, that we read within the New Testament. But the crux of the matter is this: if you preach the gospel in the spirit of the word of God, and the Spirit of God, those effects will come into being! So then, to understand slavery is not just to disprove the Bible's critics, but as we come to study this topic it also brings the importance of understanding the parallels that there are between the slave-master relationship, and between the relationships that we work in employment today, between the boss and the employee. It's so enthusing - isn't it? - to realise that this message directly applies to you and me today.
So, let's look at what Paul says first. First of all he talks to Christian servants, and he tells them: 'Christian servants, obey!'. Verse 5: 'Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh' - now the word for 'servant' there is the word: 'bond slave'. But this principle applies to more than just slaves, it applies to all - as I have already said - in the servant/employee relationship. Although, as we have said, the New Testament doesn't condemn slavery, it says more than that - because it speaks first of all to the slaves! Now, we noted this last week, when he's talking in the marriage relationship who does he talk to first? Wives, those who are to submit. When he talks about the parent-child relationship who does he address first? The children, those who are to submit. And now, as he comes to the slaves in this society that he is living in and writing to, although the Bible doesn't condemn slavery, he gives them the respect and the honour to address the slaves first - those who are to be submissive.
It thrills me, you know, to think that the Bible has more to say to slaves than it has to masters and to kings. I believe the reason for that, Paul tells us, again in 1 Corinthians 1:26: '...not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called' - and in fact, if we were to be honest and look at it carefully, most Christians are probably found in the lower socio-economic brackets of this world. Again - here we go again - the Bible, and the word of God, and the Spirit of God, is turning upside-down the value system, the status system, of this old world! So he addresses slaves first - those who are lowest in the eyes of the world, yet those who cost the blood of Christ to buy to Himself for His own purchased possession.
These instructions are effective - let me say that. If you put these into your life they will make a difference in your work relationship, because in the first century - what we're reading about here - they made a great difference in the early church of Christianity. We learn from historical books that Christian slaves were a higher price than heathen slaves! Why? Because they were better slaves! Why? Because they were carrying out the directive from the Spirit of God that we find within the word of God here - and surely that must be the case? That we as employees, or employers, should be a better employee or a better employer - why? Because we have tasted of the grace of God, and we have got the life of the Lord Jesus Christ within us. You can see that, if you wish, if you read the book of Philemon. Onesimus ran away from his master - Onesimus the slave running from his master Philemon - and he came across Paul. He was converted by the grace of God, Paul sent him back, because Paul was inferring that if you are now a converted slave, you must be a better slave! You know the story, he went back - and here was Paul's injunction upon the master: 'You must treat Onesimus, now, as if you were receiving me'.
We will see the relevance of that as we go down this passage, and later look at God's directive to masters. But what Paul is saying, as we look at the slave, is this: as a Christian our standard always - young people, listen to this now - must be higher than the world's! Always! It's got to make the difference, it's got to be God's standard of holiness. Paul talks about that in relation to these slaves. First of all: in respect. Look at your first point: Christian servants ought to obey respectfully, verse 5: 'Be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ'. First of all: 'obey your masters according to the flesh' - now, that means this in the worldly sense, the employer has the jurisdiction in the physical and in the mental realm over the employee. In other words, your boss has jurisdiction over you! Paul is not saying that because you're now a Christian all those social relationships just come down - it's not the Sixties liberation, you know what I'm talking about, of burning certain things to be liberated of everything! That is not what the liberty that we have in Christ is - yet there is still that fleshly relationship between the employer and the employee, but what Paul is saying here is this: it is according to the flesh, and although he has jurisdiction over you physically and mentally, he cannot dictate to you with regards to the spiritual realm.
The employer cannot order the conscience, he cannot tell you what to believe and what not to believe, he cannot tell you how to carry out your religious convictions at all! He has no jurisdiction there, because he is the master according to the flesh. Therefore, even though he is according to the flesh, Paul still says - verse 5, look at it, that we are to obey him: 'with fear and trembling'. Now that's not a servile fear, an abject terror of shaking in your boots, it's not: 'Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full sir' - that's not what Paul is trying to say. It's a dutiful respect, it's honour for a boss, or for a master, of his position and his authority - and it should be a fear, not a shaking in your boots, but a reverent respect of honouring that position of the employer.
You see, what brings this home - and the fact that it does relate to the Christian home in the first century - is the fact that many slaves lived in the family home. Now you can imagine the friction, at times, that must have caused - for the slave and the master to live together - and even, from the perspective of the slave, the familiarity that breeded contempt for his master. Imagine living with your boss every hour of the day! That's what we're talking about here - and there could enter into the heart of even a Christian slave some resentment, even an inward sarcastic resentment that said: 'Whenever I get a chance to get one over you, I will get one over you!'. The likelihood was, inferred I believe by Paul, that some disobedient slaves had brought shame to the name and the testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ because of their disrespect towards their master. Indeed that's why, I believe, Paul wrote to Timothy and instructed him and exhorted him to tell all the slaves in his congregation, 1 Timothy 6:1: 'Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed'.
Now that may easily be seen - in the case of a Christian slave and an unbelieving master - how the testimony of the Lord could be dragged down if a Christian slave does not honour Christ in the face of an unbeliever, and witness to him through his life. But can you imagine, now, taking it a step further - how this can be intensified if the slave is a believer and the master is a believer? Now, you know what I'm talking about, because sometimes within the work relationship the resentment can become greater when there is that spiritual relationship of the Christian brotherhood, if it is used in the wrong way. Think about this: perhaps the slave, in the assembly, is a teacher and an elder - and perhaps the master, in the assembly, is just a member. And when they come into this work relationship there is a resentment because of their capacity, and their responsibility, in the assembly, and vice versa - and the friction that could be caused there, the problems, the resentment.
Paul has set out how, in the church, barriers are to be broken down - haven't we read that in the book of Ephesians? How there is no longer any wall of partition between any of us, yet Paul is saying here: that is what it is like in the church, but if you are a believer in the workplace you must abide by those instituted relationships of master and servant. You must fit those obligations that the world puts upon you, and you must fit them to the glory of Christ and His name. That is why Paul went on to Timothy in the second verse of chapter 6 of 1 Timothy: 'And they that have believing masters', the relationship between a believing slave and a believing master, 'let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort', Timothy. As one writer put it: 'There can be no place in the Christian employees life for subtle insubordination towards his employer, or for cleverly concealed contempt or sardonic humour' - no place! It must be respect!
Secondly, Christian servants obey conscientiously. Verse 5: '[with] singleness of your heart, as unto Christ'. Now that phrase: 'singleness of heart' is beautiful, and a lot of modern translations have wrecked it by trying to get the meaning across, and they have lost the idiom, have lost the metaphorical description, of what Paul is communicating. He is saying 'singleness of heart', he's talking about conscientiousness, putting your eye on the thing and going for the goal. In other words, to put it in contemporary language: 60 minutes work for every hour of pay! That's difficult, isn't it? I would concur with many that the Protestant work ethic - so-called - has died with the Protestant doctrine. The old doctrine is dead and so is the work ethic, it no longer applies. But what Paul is saying here is that you need to be conscientious as a Christian slave, singleness of heart - in other words: sincerity, sincerely, an undivided mind in your work, no ulterior motives or hypocrisy.
You know what it's like when an employee is going to move on in a week or two from now - you know what it's like. Maybe you're a boss, I don't know, but you know that their heart really isn't in the job where they are, sure it's not? It's in the next post, it's in the next place - well, what Paul is talking about is the opposite of that! Singleness of heart - that you are present, body, soul and spirit, as you are working as a slave or as a servant for your employer - that your mind and your heart is there. What is the key to that? How can you do that? I know you're saying in your mind: 'Well, how is that possible?'.
Well, here it is, thirdly: it's spiritually possible. That is obedience, as a servant, spiritually - because as Paul says: it is unto Christ. Verse 5: '...as unto Christ' - that's the only way that you can respect your employer, that's the only way that you can be conscientious: by being obedient spiritually.
Now, let's just say this in a digression: that tells me that there can be no distinction between the secular and the spiritual. You can't do it. You can't say: 'This is my business world, or this is my employment world, and this is my Christian world', because Paul just blows it out of the water with what he's just said. Your employment has to be unto Christ, and he is saying this: even in your work, your menial task - whatever it may be - if it is a good work, it can be done for Christ. Now there's a term that is bandied about within Christian circles: 'full time service'. Now I know it's an expression of convenience for those who are evangelists, and missionaries, and pastors, and so on - but it's not accurate, it's not scriptural, because Paul is saying here that we are all in full time service for the Lord, for we are all to be working as unto Christ! All that we do should be for the Lord Jesus Christ, it should be to glorify Him, and it should be to win the lost. The lowest task, it may be, becomes a love song of praise to the Lord Jesus when we do it as unto the Lord.
I just finished this over the weekend - a little book - and I would recommend it to all of you. Now I warn you, it's a 17th Century book by a monk - this is before the Reformation, now, so don't be throwing me out because of this! They hadn't any more light than this - a French monk by the name of Brother Lawrence, it is called 'The Practice Of The Presence Of God'. The whole point of the book is that every moment of every day we can know the presence of God in our life if we concentrate on Him, if we shut out every other thought of anything else and just concentrate on Him. But one of the things that Brother Lawrence says within the book - and let me say this: he worked in a kitchen, he peeled potatoes, he cut carrots and brussel sprouts, and boiled them and cooked them, and served the monks. He wasn't any big preacher or anything like that - that was his daily service day-by-day, and he said this much: as he worked in the kitchens, even if he were called to lift a piece of straw from the ground, he would do it for the love of God - and that's how he practised the presence of God: by doing everything unto the Lord.
As unto the Lord! Paul goes on - amplifies it - look at it, verse 6: 'Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers'. That word 'eyeservice' is related to the word 'servant' in verse 5, 'Servants obey your masters' - it's derived from the same word 'eye-service'. What we could translate it like is this: 'eye-slaves'. How many 'eye-slaves' are there in relation to employment? Watching every move of the boss, not slacking when the boss isn't looking - that's not being an 'eye-slave' - remembering that there is an all-seeing Master, there is One who sees everything, all-knowing, all-wise, almighty, and He is always looking!
You remember when you were at school and you were told to do push-ups, the P.E. teacher turned around and you took a breather! Isn't that what we're talking about? I remember in the swimming pool, you had to do so many widths of the pool. I got halfway, and when he turned his back I went back again! That's what we do, isn't it? 'Eye-slaves' - when that person of authority isn't looking we con them, theoretically, out of work! William McDonald says this: 'The Christian's standards of performance should not vary according to the geographical location of the foreman' - isn't that right? The Lord has no use - and I say it so often, as we look at many passages of Scripture - He has no place for lazy people! Indeed, that's what the parable of the talents tells us. The servant who did nothing and buried his master's talent in his absence, was told by the Lord: 'Thou wicked and slothful servant'.
But how are they to do it? They are to do it as servants of Christ. Look at verse 6: do it as servants, slaves, of Christ. Verse 7 says as serving the Lord, not men. Verse 8 says it is the Lord that will reward you - it's to be unto the Lord! That's the great need of today, that we work unto the Lord, that we serve the Lord in our workplace. Think of what is possible: it is possible for the housewife to cook a dinner as if the Lord were going to dine with them! It's possible for the teacher to educate children, doctors and nurses to treat patients, solicitors to help clients, accountants to audit books, secretaries to type letters, shop assistants to serve the public, builders to build buildings, dustmen to empty bins, to the glory and to the service of the Lord! It's all to do with attitude, that's the key: if you're doing it as unto the Lord.
It's like the three men that were building a cathedral, and a passer-by asked the first man: 'What are you doing?'. He said: 'I'm chipping stones'. He asked the second man: 'What are you doing?', and he says: 'I'm earning wages'. He said to the third man: 'What are you doing?', and he said: 'I'm building a great cathedral'. You see the difference in attitude? As unto the Lord, and he goes on, verse 6: 'doing the will of God from the heart'. Do we work with a sincere desire to please the Lord? That makes a day's work a holy sacrament! An act of sacred worship to go out to your work in the morning, brings untold glory to His name!
Fourthly, he says: do it gladly, obey gladly - 'With good will doing service'. In other words, we shouldn't feel an obligation to do it, any element of 'have to do' within our work, there should be no inward seething of resentment because you have to do your work. But he says it should be cheery, it should be willing, with gladness and pleasantness - and even if your master is harsh and unreasonable, it brings great glory to Christ if you even obey him in the Lord in that measure. That means this: there are to be no Christian sourpusses, none of them! There's no room for that within this passage of Scripture. There's no room for the attitude of the father whose son asked him: 'Daddy, why do all the idiots come out when you're driving?' - you know what I'm talking about? The attitude! What a motivation for a mother and a father in the drudgeries of life, for a husband trying to keep the budget afloat in the midst of ever soaring cost of living - what a motivation, that you can do it all to the glory of God! That's hard, but that's the life that we are called to live in Christ.
Fifthly, obedience is to be done by the slave or the employee rewardingly. The main incentive is not the reward, the main incentive is that it is to glorify the Lord and be as unto the Lord. But this is the outcome, and this is another resultant incentive to obeying in the Lord - that every good work that you do as unto the Lord, God will reward. He doesn't reward in status, He doesn't reward whether you're bond or free - He says that: 'whether bond or free' - but He rewards when we do works that are unpleasant, perhaps, works that are not enjoyable, works perhaps that deep down gall us in some sense. But when we bring ourselves to do it as unto the Lord, respectfully, conscientiously, spiritually, gladly, we will do it rewardingly - He will reward us. What is done for Him, He always rewards.
But secondly, and finally: what does Paul say to the Christian master? We've said already that Christianity doesn't change the social distinctions, it doesn't do that - it's not the hippy movement. But what it does do is: it changes the heart. It changes the heart within society, so that that heart change is seen so effectively around, and it changes the responsibility of masters towards their servants. How do you guard against violence on the shop floor, or yelling in the office, ulcers in the stomach and nervous breakdowns on your medical record? How do you guard against all that? The answer is: you follow Ephesians! As a Christian, you follow Ephesians - and first of all, as a master, if a master you are, you do as the servants would do to you. Look at verse 9: 'And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him'. Do as the servants would do to you, do the same things unto them!
Now, this is mutual, isn't it? We've see this right throughout all these relationships in this passage. First of all, the husband and the wife: 'Wives obey your husband in the Lord', but then there is a reciprocal love of the husband, to submit to the wife as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it. Do you see it? Reciprocal! 'Children, obey your parents in the Lord', but then, 'Parents, provoke not your children to wrath' - there's that reciprocal, mutual responsibility in love. Now we come to this: 'Slaves, servants, employees, obey your masters in the Lord', 'Masters, do the same!'. It's not a one-up-manship, it's not a dictatorship, but it's doing as you would have them do unto you. Treat them as you would wish to be treated as an employer, don't exploit them, don't think - like Aristotle - of your employees as hands, but do what Boaz did in the book of Ruth chapter 2 and 4. When he greeted his workers we read he said this: 'The Lord be with you', and they replied: 'The Lord bless thee'. Now that means that that was a spiritual man, as a master he was sensitive to the needs of his workers and even the stranger Ruth when she came into his working field. There was a mutual respect and a desire to glorify God. How many times have you heard this: 'My boss is meant to be a Christian, but you'd never know it'? You see that's what Paul is writing against here. He is saying this, listen: if you want respect as a boss, you show it. If you want sincerity, you show sincerity and honesty. If you want conscientiousness, you show it. If you want pleasantness, you be pleasant, you look after the welfare of your people. Do unto them - golden rule - as you would have them do unto you.
Secondly: without threats. Christian masters rule without threats. Look at verse 9: 'forbearing and threatening' - without those things. Now, in the Roman Empire at this time, a master could kill his slave if he wanted to - he could give his slave a beating, but he could actually kill him. Now that didn't actually happen most of the time, because it was too costly to kill him because he probably couldn't afford another one. But the point of it is this: that if he couldn't kill him - sticks and stones, the old story - he threatened him, or he forbore him in the sense that he could abuse him with his tongue, using threatening language. But Paul is saying here: 'No bullying behaviour, don't behave like an arrogant overlord' - forbearing threatening, without threats.
Thirdly he says this, like all these relationships of submission, you're to do it under the lordship of Christ. Now we get back to this every week, because Paul brings us to it. Under the lordship, knowing - look at verse 9 - that your master also is in heaven. The Christian master and boss has to always remember that they are not the final authority, that they have another Master, one in heaven, and they are His slave and His servant. No matter what the relationship is in the workplace, there is a spiritual equity, they are spiritual equals in the sight of God - and even if there is that authority in the workplace, they will both answer to God in the end. The servant, the master, will give an account to God on the same level that as sinners saved by the grace of God. Now imagine the sanctifying influence that that is in the workplace - imagine that! Imagine the impact upon your employees, or upon your boss, because you see God as your final Judge. If you're a boss it means that you'll pay them their wages, it means that you care about them even in their afflictions, in their illnesses, you should be concerned about their family welfare - and this, let me say, is true socialism. This is true socialism - not the abolishing of distinctions, but the levelling of all men under Christ! Ultimately, at the end of it all this whole passage could be summed up in the words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the rule that He lived His life by: the chief is the servant of all. As He said, 'Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant', and a good master on the earth will be a servant of heaven.
Fourthly: the Christian master will rule impartially. That means this: 'Neither', look at verse 9, 'is there respect of persons with him'. So if there is no respect of persons with God, you don't show any respect of persons in the workplace. No favours, in other words there is equity before God in the judgement of God when we will all stand before that Great White Throne. When we stand before the judgement seat of Christ, we're all equal.
In conclusion, let me say this: employees, employers, there is no option - no option. There is no distinction between secular and spiritual, it is implored upon you to do this as the child of God. Think of how many Christians that it has been said of them: 'They are murder to work for'. I hear this around the land, of Christian employers: they would get blood out of a stone! Think of how many bosses and fellow workers who have become opposed to the gospel because of their slacking Christian employees and a bad testimony within the workplace. Think of the impact it would have if we all lived as we should live! And how is that? The point of the whole of this passage, as we have been looking at it: be filled with the Spirit! And if you are filled with the Spirit, you will do all things to the glory of God.
Let's pray together - and as you bow your head, we all lack in this area, we would be liars to say that we are without sin. We all need to redeem the time more, and if you feel that lack within your life, why not come before the Lord now and just say: 'Lord, I confess this before you, and I ask you Lord, to help my weakness. Cleanse me from it, and give me the power to live as I ought to live as an employee or as an employer. Give me the strength to dare to do what is right'.
Our Father, we thank Thee for the word of God and its uncompromising standard. We thank Thee that there is no room for slacking. Lord, it's difficult - we do not undermine that, or underestimate how hard it is to follow it - yet Lord, at times we only find it hard because we're trying to do it in the flesh. But help us to walk in the Spirit, to be filled with the Spirit, and we shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the twenty seventh tape in his Ephesians series, titled "The Christian At Work" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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