Faithlife
Faithlife

Slaves All - Eph53

Notes & Transcripts

Several weeks ago we started through this series of relationships

·         People in positions of leadership and followership

·         People wrestling with how to both follow and lead with a heart of submission and service toward one another.

·         People with renewed hearts (new wills, new attitudes, new actions, and new reactions)

·         People in relationships that are driven / permeated / controlled by the power of God’s Spirit

 

Paul has applied God’s command for mutual submission – (5:21 - Submit to one another in the fear of Christ) – to several specific relatonships:

·         marriage (wives and husbands, 5:22-33)

·         family (children and parents—6:1-4)

·         and now slaves and masters (6:5-9).

In each relationship Paul covers the essence (mindset and motivation) of submission. And all three help al of us to nuance and live out our understanding of true biblical mutual submission.

Ephesians 6:5-9 takes our consideration of submission farther than any of the previous relationships, pressing us hard toward the essential heart and spirit of submission.

Slavery in the Roman Empire

(William Barclay) “It has been computed that in the Roman Empire there were 60,000,000 slaves. In Paul’s day a kind of terrible idleness had fallen on the citizens of Rome. Rome was the mistress of the world, and therefore it was beneath the dignity of a Roman citizen to work. Practically all work was done by slaves.”

Aristotle stated that there can never be friendship between master and slave, for they have nothing in common; ‘for a slave is a living tool, just as a tool is an inanimate slave.’

Varro, writing on agriculture, divides agricultural instruments into three classes—the articulate, the inarticulate, and the mute.

·         The articulate are the slaves

·         the inarticulate are the cattle

·         the mute are the vehicles

·         The slave is no better than a beast who happens to be able to talk.

Cato gives advice to a man taking over a farm, writing: “He must go over it and throw out everything that is past its work; and old slaves too must be thrown out on the scrap heap to starve. When a slave is ill it is sheer extravagance to issue him with normal rations.”

Gaius, the Roman lawyer, writes in the Institutes: ‘We may note that it is universally accepted that the master possesses the power of life and death over the slave.’ If the slave ran away, at best he was branded on the forehead with the first letter of the word fugitivus, which means runaway, at worst he was killed.’

Slaves lived at the whim of their master.

·         Augustus crucified a slave because he killed a pet quail.

·         Vedius Pollio flung a slave (while still alive) to the savage lamprey eels in his fish pond because his slave dropped and broke a crystal goblet.

·         A Roman writer stated: “Whatever a master does to a slave, undeservedly, in anger, willingly, unwillingly, in forgetfulness, after careful thought, knowingly, unknowingly - is judgment, justice and law.”

Paul spoke about slavery.

·         Slavery was assumed to be a fact of life.

·         Paul frequently writes to both slaves and masters – instructing both regarding their conduct.

·         He spoke of himself and others as God’s slaves.

When Paul met Onesimus (a runaway slave) he led him to faith in Christ. Then, Paul wrote to Philemon (Onesimus’ master) and sent a letter (The Book of Philemon) to Philemon along with his runaway slave.

·         Paul told Philemon what a blessing Onesimus had been to him.

·         Paul urged Philemon to accept Onesimus back, receiving him as a brother, while still his slave.

·         Paul infers but doesn’t presume upon Philemon to set Onesimus free, so that he could return and minister to Paul.

Paul makes it that earthly status does not affect his standing before God, in Christ. In Christ there are no second class citizens

(I Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:28)

 

Paul’s Instruction to Slaves

Ephesians 6:5-8

5 Slaves - obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, 6 not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, 8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free.

Slavery is really a matter of the “flesh” and not of the “spirit.”

·         A human master’s authority is limited to the “flesh”.

·         A servant can be either obedient or disobedient in action.

·         Even an obedient servant can retain an attitude in rebellion.

o         He does only what is required.

o         He only works when he is being watched.

o         He works begrudgingly.

o         He doesn’t actively look out for his master’s best.

o         He may even steal from his master by pilfering. (Paul forbids - Titus 2:9-10).

How is a Slave to Obey?

1.       Humbly

5 Slaves - obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling,

Paul uses the phrase to refer to a deep sense of humility and dependence on God. (Example: Philippians 2:12-13)

·         The Philippians were to work out their salvation with “fear and trembling.” They were to humbly (see the early verses of chapter 2) conduct their lives, knowing it was not their own strength, but God’s strength and wisdom which was being accomplished through them.

·         So, too, slaves are to obey their masters, aware of their master’s God-given authority, and also aware that this submission requires what only His Spirit can produce (see Ephesians 5:18).

How is a Slave to Obey?

1.       Humbly - “with fear and trembling” (verse 5)

2.       Intensely

5 Slaves - obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart,

The term is used by Paul in Romans 12:8; 2 Corinthians 8:2, 9:11.

·         Refers to a singularity of purpose (as opposed to mixed motives) evidenced by generosity. 

·         When a slave obeys his master, he is to have a single motive - to please his master (the Master).

·         The proof of this single purpose is generosity - going above and beyond the minimum required by the master.

How is a Slave to Obey?

1.       Humbly - “with fear and trembling” (verse 5)

2.       Intensely - “with a sincere heart” (verse 5)

3.       Consistently -

5 Slaves - obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, 6 not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers,

[Armando – Your job is to make me happy.]

A mixed motive to be rejected is “people-pleasing” (verse 6).

·         The man-pleaser seeks casual, undiscerning approval.

·         His obedience exists only when it has performance value.

·         The hope is to win approval and reward by deception.

·         Greek for actor ~ “hypocrite”

How is a Slave to Obey?

1.       Humbly - “with fear and trembling” (verse 5)

2.       Intensely - “with a sincere heart” (verse 5)

3.       Consistently - “not by the way of eye service, as people-pleasers (verse 6)

4.       Sincerely

5 Slaves - obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, 6 not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart,

Paul presses to the “heart” of the matter. (verse 6).

·         It is not simply about the outward acts of obedience alone but an inward spirit of submission and obedience.

·         Paul’s appeal isn’t to the slave’s feelings – but to his determined will and disposition.

Christian Slaves Are Slaves of God, And Not Men

Our text calls for slaves to obey their masters in a way that makes it clear that they are doing so as service to God.

Ephesians 6:5-8

5 Slaves - obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ,

·         6 not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers,

·         but as servants of Christ,

o         doing the will of God from the heart,

o         7 rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man,

o         8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free.

The submission and obedience Paul is calling for is to our Lord.

·         The Ephesian slaves were not instructed to obey their masters and Christ – they were to obey their masters in obedience to Christ.

·         The fundamental obedience is to Christ

o         This is not only true for slaves

o         it is true for wives (5:22)

o         and it is true for children (6:1).

[Illustration – Animal trainer off camera]

Imagine how the Book of Ephesians could transform the world-view of a Christian slave:

·         Chosen from eternity past by God

·         Adopted

·         Redeemed by the cross

·         Joined together with believing Jews, a legitimate part of the new people

The Christian slave comes to understand from Ephesians that the purpose of history is not to make people happy or to help them achieve momentary comfort, but to glorify God, now and for all eternity.

·         God accomplished this through the submission of Jesus Christ to suffering.

·         God has purposed for us to glorify Him by our submission through suffering as well.

Paul’s Instruction to Masters (v9-parallel Col. 4:1)

Ephesians 6:9

9 Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.

What is not said to masters - free all your slaves.

What is said:

·         masters - submit to God, trust God, obey God

·         masters – subordinate self-interest and serve others

·         masters - use your position to serve the interests of slaves

Can you imagine what a different place the Roman Empire would have been if every slave owner had used his position to benefit his slaves? [The CBT/ICW shop at Whiting]

How is a Master to Lead?

1.       Like an Obedient Slave

[A concise statement of servant leadership]

9 Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.

Like an obedient slave:

·         Humbly

·         Intensely

·         Consistently

·         Sincerely

No double standard

·         With God there is one standard, for masters or slaves, for husbands or wives, for parents or children.

·         All are slaves of Christ, and all are called upon to submit themselves one to another in the fear of Christ (5:21).

How is a Master to Lead?

1.       Like an Obedient Slave – “…do the same things to them”

2.       Without Threatening

9 Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.

Only one imperative to masters - “give up threatening.” 

Christian masters are to rule their slaves in a different way.

·         Threatening produces obedience through fear.

·         Fear short-circuits a sacrificial response

·         Christian leadership motivates grace and gratitude.

·         The reverence of the slave should be created by the work of the Spirit (see verse 5 above).

It’s a relationship hubbed in Christ:

·         The slave’s devotion to his master is the result of the slave’s relationship to Christ

·         the master’s care for his slaves is the outgrowth of the master’s relationship to Christ.

·         Both are equally slaves of Christ - The master is just as much a “slave” of Christ as his slave is.

And just as the Christian slave obeys his earthly master, looking to God for his reward, so the slave master fulfills his obligation to his slaves, knowing that he will give answer to his Master, in heaven.

Concluding Applications

1.       Submission to authorities is rooted in submission to God.

2.       Submission to authorities is the will of God.

Culturally we tend to err – focusing on individualism and principles of democracy. The clear teaching of scripture is – unless the issue violates God’s moral will – Trust God and obey the authorities He has placed in headship over you.

3.       Submission is deeper than simple obedience.

Submission is right action sourced in right attitude, and has as it’s goal the benefit and blessing of the one toward whom we are in followership. [Angry, head-covered Amish]

4.       God’s glory (not our happiness) is the chief end of our salvation.

God saved us for His own pleasure, and to bring glory to Himself. The error is to see man as the chief end of God’s purposes rather than God. God often chooses to glorify Himself through suffering.

 

5.       The Gospel does not call for the overthrow of evil institutions as much as it calls us to be lights in this world by our response to them.

The Scriptures do not urge us to overthrow institutions, but to submit to them, and to live our lives to the glory of God, showing how the Christian faith can endure and even thrive in the worst circumstances.

 

6.       Trusting in Jesus Christ is inseparably tied to our submission and obedience to His authority.

Submission is the appropriate response of the Christian to divinely appointed authority. Why is it, then, that some try to separate saving faith from submission to the authority of Jesus Christ. [Lordship Salvation]

“Whose slave are you?” – Ephesians 6:16-17 - You are either a slave to Satan, sin and self - or you are the bond-servant of Jesus Christ.

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