Duties of the Christian Life (Part 5)
Eph. 6:5 – 9
In the New Testament times, it is estimated that there were at least six million slaves working under the Roman Empire. Paul’s Epistle was written not to protest against slavery but to preach salvation to those people who are lost. The servants that Paul mentions here are Christian servants. The masters may be Christians and non-Christians.
A. “Servant” in our English New Testament usually represents the Greek doulos (bond
slave). Sometimes it means diakonos (deacon or minister); this is strictly accurate,
for doulos and diakonos are synonyms. Both words denote a man who is not at his
own disposal, but is his master’s purchased property. Bought to serve his master’s
needs, to be at his beck and call every moment, the slave’s sole business is to do as
he is told. Christian service therefore means, first and foremost, living out a slave
relationship to one’s Saviour (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
B. What work does Christ set his servants to do? The way that they serve him, he tells
them, is by becoming the slaves of their fellow-servants and being willing to do
literally anything, however costly, irksome, or undignified, in order to help them.
This is what love means, as he himself showed at the Last supper when he played
the slave’s part and washed the disciples’ feet.
C. When the New Testament speaks of ministering to the saints, it means not primarily
preaching to them but devoting time, trouble, and substance to giving them all the
practical help possible. The essence of Christian service is loyalty to the king
expressing itself in care for his servants (Matt. 25: 31-46).
D. Only the Holy Spirit can create in us the kind of love toward our Saviour that will
overflow in imaginative sympathy and practical helpfulness towards his people.
Unless the spirit is training us in love, we are not fit persons to go to college or a
training class to learn the know-how or particular branches of Christian work. Gifted
leaders who are self-centred and loveless are a blight to the church rather than a
blessing. (J.I. Packer)
E. Duties of servants:
1. Obedience (Eph. 6:5). Servants are really serving Christ.
a. While they have earthly masters or “masters according to the flesh”, their
true master is in heaven (Eph. 6:9).
b. With fear and trembling (v. 5b); this is not being scared but respect for them
with great humility even if the employer does not deserve respect. It should
be given to them with genuine sincerity.
c. In singleness of heart (v. 6:5c); with readiness and cheerfulness, without
hypocrisy and dissimulation, and with all integrity and faithfulness:
d. As unto Christ (v. 5d); as if you were serving Christ. To serve your employer
well is like serving Christ well also.
2. Faithfulness (Col. 3:22). Servants should be working honestly, hardly and
diligently even when his master is not around watching, knowing that the Lord is
watching and how we do our works concerns Him.
3. Respect for masters (1 Tim. 6:1). Slaves works under the authority of their
earthy masters and they are to give them all the honour and obedience which is
due in that relation: let them account their masters worthy of all honour.
4. Desire to please (Titus 2:9). Servants must not only be obedient but they should
seek to please their masters whether they are believers or unbelievers, fair or
unfair, kind or cruel.
5. Patience in Hard places (1 Pet. 2:18). Servants must be subject to their masters
with all fear, even to wicked masters, because the ground of their obedience is
the will and command of God, which binds them to their duty to their masters;
though their masters fail and fall short in their duty to them.
6. Always remember these, “all things done for the Lord’s glory will never go
unnoticed and unrewarded.
Illustration: No Reputation
The use of the Greek word knenóo in Philippians 2:7 is of great theological importance. It refers to Jesus Christ emptying Himself at the time of His incarnation, denoting the beginning of His selfhumiliation of “being found in fashion of a man” (Phil. 2:8a). This can be explained in Christ taking the “form of a servant” and “was made in the likeness of man.” Imagine if you were asked to relinquish something beautiful for something quite undesirable. Christ, though remaining equal with God, made this sacrifice willingly. His love overflowed for mankind in becoming this “servant” and giving His life. As Romans 5:7 states “scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.” Christ paid the price knowing our sinful state. Though His earthly peers gave Him no good reputation, for the believer, His sacrifice makes Him our heavenly king. (Practical Bible Illustrations from Yesterday and Today)
A. Masters here may be Christian or not.
B. Duties of masters:
1. He must seek their welfare. “Do the same things unto them.” If the employer
expects the workers to do their best for him, he must do his best for them. The
master must serve the Lord from his heart if he expects, his servants to do the
same. He must not exploit them.
2. He must not threaten. Roman masters had the power and lawful authority to kill
a slave who was rebellious, though few of them did so. Slaves cost too much
money to destroy them. Paul suggested that the Christian master has a better
way to encourage obedience and service than threats of punishment. The
negative power of fear could result in the worker doing less instead of more, and
this kind of motivation could not be continued over a long period of time. Far
better was the positive motivation of “that which is just and equal” (Col 4:1). Let
a man share the results of his labour and he will work better and harder. Even
the Old Testament gives this same counsel: “Thou shalt not rule over him with
rigour, but shalt fear thy God” (Lev. 25:43).
3. He must be submitted to the Lord. “Your master also is in heaven” (Eph. 6:9).
This is practicing the lordship of Christ. The wife submits to her own husband “as
unto the Lord” (Eph. 5:22), and the husband loves the wife “as Christ also loved
the church” (Eph. 5:25). Children obey their parents “in the Lord” (Eph. 6:1), and
parents raise their children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph.
6:4). Servants are obedient “as unto Christ” (Eph. 6:5), and masters treat their
servants as their “Master in heaven’ would have them do. Each person, in
submission to the Lord, has no problems submitting to those over him.
4. He must not show favouritism. God is no respecter of persons. He will judge a
master or a servant if he sins, or He will reward a master or a servant if he obeys
(Eph. 6:8). A Christian employer cannot take privileges with God simply because
of his position; nor should a Christian employer play favourites with those under
his authority. Paul warned Timothy to “observe these things without preferring
one before another, doing nothing by partiality” (1 Tim. 5:21). One of the fastest
ways for a leader to divide his followers and lose their confidence is for the
leader to show partiality. (B. E. Commentary).
Illustration: Boss Or Leader
H. Gordon Selfridge built up one of the world’s largest department stores in London. He achieved
success by being a leader, not a boss. Here is his own comparison of the two types of executives:
The boss drives his men; the leader coaches them.
The boss depends upon authority; the leader on good will.
The boss inspires fear; the leader inspires enthusiasm.
The boss says “I”; the leader, “we.”
The boss fixes the blame for the breakdown; the leader fixes the breakdown.
The boss knows how it is done; the leader shows how.
The boss says “Go”; the leader says “Let’s go!”
—Sunshine Magazine Encyclopedia of 15,000 Illustrations: Signs of the Times.
Slave or master, we have a duty and obligation to our fellowmen and to the Lord Jesus
Christ. Obedience is utmost if we are to follow Him. Will you follow Christ? Now is the
time, tomorrow may be too late.