Home Bible Study©
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published Weekly on Friday
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1Timothy 2:3-4)
Welcome to HBS.
In our study of Ephesians chapters 1-3 we’ve seen our Apostle Paul remark on the spiritual blessings each true Believer receives as a result of their faith (alone) in the gospel (Romans 2:16; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4), and he introduced several church related doctrines. Then in chapters 4-6, Paul explains how to apply these principles to our lives. Starting at Ephesians 4:1, he calls all Believers to live (walk) differently than their unbelieving counterparts. Initially, our walk as young Believers may best be described as a crawl (1 Corinthians 3:2; Hebrews 5:12; 1 Peter 2:2), however, by and by, our Savior expects Believers to grow in the faith (5:5) and knowledge of the Lord, to a mature man (and woman) - 4:13-15.
For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk (live) in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in knowledge of God; (Colossians 1:9-10).
The first step in this spiritual process begins by walking in submission to the Holy Spirit (5:18), and then in mutual submission to one another (5:21). Our relationships with each other, especially within the family, are to be marked by humility and obedience to God’s expressed will (1:9).
Teach me to do Your will, For You are my God; Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground (Psalm 143:10).
For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons (and daughters) of God (Romans 8:14)
For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law (Galatians 5:17-18).
Please open your Bible at Ephesians 6:5-9 then let’s read through this passage together.
Slaves (Doulos), be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, (how) as to Christ; not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free. And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him (Ephesians 6:5-9).
Here Paul addresses believing slaves specifically and gives them the Lord’s directives (commands) for the workplace. We know this is true because our Apostle Paul only writes to Believers. The KJV Bible uses the word “servant” instead of slaves; however, in Koine Greek slaves is translated Doulos (doo’-los), Adjective, Noun Masculine, Strong’s Greek #1401, meaning: a common bondslave, usually a male.
In our culture people have a negative view of the word slave. This is because they associate it with the Atlantic Slave Trade dating back to the 16th century. This involved the abduction and transportation of people from central and western Africa against their will to the Americas, primarily, to fill the great need for cheap labor. The people who survived the trip were sold to the highest bidder in the slave market. This is just one more episode of “man’s inhumanity to man” in this fallen world which dates all the way back to the time Cain in jealous anger murdered his brother Abel.
But slavery in the first century was quite different from the American experience. In Paul’s day Roman slaves were taken as the spoils of war, people were born into slavery, or were such because they sold themselves into slavery (these were known as "bond-servants") to pay off a debt for instance. The latter were often well-educated (Galatians 3:24). These slaves tutored and disciplined Jewish and Roman children in the home.
The masters had absolute rights over their slaves, but they generally showed them respect, unlike the days of Abraham Lincoln. They were treated with dignity; although they could beat them, it was not a usual practice. What’s more, slaves could marry, accumulate wealth, purchase their own freedom, run a business, etc. Cicero noted that a slave could usually be set free within seven years; in any case, under Roman law a slave would normally be set free by age 30, generally speaking. The revolt led by Spartacus in 73 BC caused Rome to treat slaves from the western regions more harshly (similar to how black slaves were treated on most plantations). Eastern slaves, however, enjoyed much greater freedom.
As much as two thirds of the Roman Empire was slaves (before the first century it was as high as 90%). By the first century AD an increasingly large number of slaves were being freed—so much so that Caesar had to write laws that governed the procedure.
Does the Bible Condone Slavery?
The short answer is, “No.” However, that didn’t stop many Christians from believing in and promoting slavery in America. Here are a few of the common arguments made by Christians in support of this wicked practice:
Abraham, the father of faith, and all the patriarchs held slaves without God’s disapproval (Genesis 21:9-10)
The Ten Commandments mention slavery twice, showing God’s acceptance of it (Exodus 20:10, 17)
Slavery was widespread throughout the Roman Empire, and yet Jesus never spoke against it.
The Apostle Paul specifically commanded slaves to obey their masters (Ephesians 6:5-8)
Paul returned a runaway slave, Philemon, to his master (Philemon 12)
Although the Bible contains more than three-quarters of a million words, Christian slave owners borrowed these Bible texts to promote the practice of slavery in America.
Historians have recorded there were approximately six million slaves throughout the Roman Empire at the dawn of Christianity. So, why didn’t our Apostle Paul speak out against slavery? Why didn’t he tell these slaves to leave their masters? Let’s think this through. To whom would he make this declaration… to the pagan masters? Since pagans do not know God, why would they place themselves under God’s authority? Paul's plea for them to do the right thing would be meaningless. The other reason Paul left this issue untouched is he knew speaking out against the widespread and accepted practice of slavery would bring the wrath of Rome against the Body of Christ. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day; likewise, Paul knew ending the practice of slavery would take time.
In Paul’s day, the word slave (Doulos –bond-servant) was used with the highest dignity, namely of Believers who humbly submit to a life under Jesus Christ’s divine authority. James, Jude, Paul, and Peter expressed this metal attitude in their writings:
Paul, a servant (Doulos) of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, and set apart for the gospel of God (Romans 1:1; 2 Corinthians 6:4; 1 Thessalonians 2:7; 1 Timothy 3:2-3; Titus 1:7).
Simon Peter, a servant (Doulos) and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those having obtained a faith equally precious with ours, through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:1).
James, a servant (Doulos) of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion… (James 1:1).
Jude, a servant (Doulos) of Jesus Christ and a brother of James, To those who are called, having been loved in God the Father, and kept in Jesus Christ (Jude 1:1).
Plainly said, a servant of the Lord must imitate his master earnestly contending for the faith (Jude 3).
So, in Paul’s day, a person entered into slavery by one of three ways, as a possession of a conquering nation, was born into it, or by volunteering to become a bond-servant. Paul knew slavery was as wicked as idol worship and prostitution, but these vices were not going away any time soon. So, Paul instructed Believers to walk in “obedience to their masters with fear and trembling.” Regardless of whom your employer is or what they are like, you as the employee are to respectfully submit to their orders except in issues of immorality. The respect is important. Our text says, “with fear and trembling.” This is not the idea of being scared to the point of cowering before them; instead Paul speaks of giving honor and respect to those in authority. He said do this “in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ.” Here Paul means to say without deception, i.e. give the appearance of serving faithfully while secretly planning to escape (6:5).
Paul goes on to say, “not by way of eyeservice, as men pleasers,” which conveys the idea of only working while in sight of their master and “goofing off” when he is not around. Instead of having that mentality, believing slaves were to consider themselves “as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart” (6:6). In other words, these folks were to approach their duties with the same mindset as Jesus Christ who chose to become the Servant of all. Please note this command is followed by the promise “…knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free” (6:8).
Paul speaks of the Bema Seat Judgment out future as he did while writing to the carnal Corinthians: For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:10).
Now, please turn with me in your Bible to Philippians 2:6. Here Paul writes about the Incarnation, i.e. Jesus Christ, the Creator God, taking on human form, without ever ceding the attributes of deity (Matthew 1:23):
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of (what) a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross (Philippians 2:5-8).
In verse 7, Paul said Jesus Christ took on the "form of a bond-slave"—a person who voluntarily submitted himself to a master in order to do his will.
…but (He) emptied Himself - the word "emptied" in Koine Greek is Kenoo (ken-o’-o), Verb, Strong’s Greek #2758, and it means: to make empty. Figuratively speaking it means: to abase, naturalize, to make of none effect, of no reputation. The Lord voluntarily emptied Himself and became the Servant of all mankind and yet He was fully God (John 20:28; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8) and fully man (Romans 1:2-4; 1 John 4:2-3).
"Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations (Isaiah 42:1).
“ For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
Were you called while a slave? Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that. For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord’s freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ’s slave. You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. Brethren, each one is to remain with God in that condition in which he was called (1 Corinthians7:21-24).
So, true Believers are to have the same mental attitude as our Lord and Savior who willingly became a bond-servant (6:5).
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, (Philippians 2:5).
The word "attitude" here is the Koine Greek word Phroneo, which means: To think, to exercise the mind, to have an opinion or attitude. Paul defines this exhortation in verses 3-4. The attitude Paul is calling Believers to put on is humility:
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4).
This entire chapter speaks of humility. Here Paul calls believers to have a mind, attitude, or thinking of humility, which was the Lord’s attitude.
Humility should first be our reaction toward God acknowledging the fact He has the right to control us and our lives; He can do with you and me as He pleases, while acknowledging to ourselves we are in control of nothing… not even our next heart beat. Because His authority is Sovereign (absolute) He can give us commands without first discussing the parameters of His orders with us personally:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
Biblical speaking, humility is a spirit of submitting to the Lord as master of every aspect of your life: Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by Him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves to God (1 Peter 2:13-16).
The humble individual understands they are as clay in the Potter's hands:
But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand (Isaiah 64:8).
…who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, "Why did you make me like this," will it (Romans 9:20)?
Although Paul directs his commands to believing slaves, and we’re not slaves even though you may feel as though you’re being treated as one at work, the principle he’s stating is applicable to us as Believers. If you are not satisfied with your current employer, you have the option of finding a more suitable situation elsewhere. Slaves weren’t given this option. In fact, the slaves of the Roman Empire were treated more cruelly than anything experienced in the Americas. Slave owners held the power of life or death over their slaves. Cato, a statesman and follower of Stoic philosophy advocated throwing out old slaves, as though they were trash and not feeding the ill slave because they were not worth the trouble or the expense. He compared sick slaves to “broken tools.”
So, Paul’s saying an employee is to walk in humble obedience at work, i.e. submissive to their employers in everything and at all times. Whatever you are asked to do, Paul says “With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, “(6:7). But here’s the thing, there is an exception to this command. Should your employer assign you something to do that is immoral or against God’s expressed will you are to remember God the Father is your Master.
Since we live in a fallen (corrupt) world, there is a good chance you’ll encounter an unscrupulous employer at some point in time. I have, so I know some of you will; it only stands to reason. Should your boss tell you to do something you know is wrong, then certainly appeal to them, ask them if they would consider something different, but leave the matter in their hands and make sure they know you will do it whatever way they decide. Don’t argue with them and don’t get mad. Don’t feel sorry for yourself and don’t talk behind their back. Don’t be disrespectful in anyway. Simply submit and follow your employer’s instructions. Remember, you’re to demonstrate Christ-like behavior (5:1). It would honor the faith if the employee performed his or her task with a willing mind rather than be disobedient. They could do more for the honor of the faith by patiently submitting to even what they felt to be wrong, than by being punished for what could be regarded as rebellion against their employer (master).
Let’s read what Paul wrote in Titus 2:9-10:
“bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.”
The behavior of our lives is to bring glory to God by living according to His principles in every area of our life. We are to have a singleness of mind about this, or as Paul put it at the end of verse 6:5, “in the sincerity of your heart…” There is to be nothing false in our submission to our employers. We are to serve them with true hearts.
YOU WILL RECEIVE A REWARD
The true Believer works in this manner because he or she knows they will receive a reward from the Lord at the proper time (6:8).
…knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.
There’s a good chance you and I may not be compensated reasonably for our work by our employers, i.e. some people may not be recognized for their efforts at work. However, according to this verse, so what? We are looking toward and living for eternity’s reward, not what occurs in the here and now. We must be like the elderly missionary that returned to the U.S. from Africa after many years of preaching and teaching the gospel. On the same ship was Theodore Roosevelt who was greeted enthusiastically by a great crowd. The missionary was quite discouraged at first as he thought about the welcome Roosevelt received for shooting game animals, while there was not one person there to welcome him home after a lifetime of working for the Lord.
But then he was reminded that all was as it should be in this world. He had received no acclaim or reward yet but this was because he had not reached his real home in heaven. This is the behavior and this is the mental attitudes every Believer in Christ Jesus should have. But what about the people in charge (employers)?
MASTERS AND EMPLOYERS
And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him (6:9).
Employers are to give respectful leadership and remember they too are slaves of Christ.
The believing employer should not permit his God-given authority go to his head (or feed his pride) as it does with those outside of Christ:
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves (Romans 13:1-2).
Employers are to” do the same things to them, and give up threatening.” In other words, the believing authority is to follow these same commands. He or she is to treat their employees with love and compassion, as the Lord Jesus Christ does His Church.
And there is no partiality with Him (6:9b) - there is no partiality (favoritism) with the Lord. Your God-given position in life has more to do with His grace to you than anything for you to be prideful about. All Believers have an equal standing before the Lord Jesus Christ because in Him there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female (Galatians 2:28).
For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another (Romans 12:4-5).
A believing employer should be the best employer there is to work for – and he or she will be if they recognize they too are slaves of Christ and run their operation according to God’s will. A believing employee should be the best employee there is – and he or she will be if they do work as unto the Lord as His bond-servants.
(To be continued)
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GJ Heitzman’s Ministry
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