“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;”

“Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters”
Literally:  “The slaves obey your Lords according to flesh”–Having dealt with the Christian family, Paul now turns to deal with the position of Christian believers who are slaves in the Roman Empire.

This phrase (used also in Col. 3:12) at once implies the necessary limitation of all human slavery. It can subjugate and even kill the body, but it cannot touch the spirit; and it belongs only to the visible life of this world, not to the world to come. The slave is a man in spiritual and immortal being, not a “living tool” or “chattel,” as even philosophy called him.

        SERVANTS:  (Gr.-douloi)–Here literally means, “slaves;” however, the same admonition can apply to employees of another.  In this appeal Paul was addressing a numerous class. 

         The word douloi used here denotes one who is bound to render service to another, whether that service be free or voluntary; and may denote, therefore, either a slave, or one who binds himself to render service to another. There is a responsibility put upon a believer who is a laborer, and also a responsibility put upon one who is an employer.
         It is estimated that half of the 120 million people living in the Roman Empire were slaves.  In many of the cities of Asia Minor slaves outnumbered freemen.  By Roman law, slaves were not people, but were merely things.  Gaius, the Roman lawyer, in his “Institutes,” wrote, “We may note that it is universally accepted that the master possesses the power of life and death over the slave.”  Aristotle said 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…”  The Roman scholar Varo wrote that a slave is no better than an animal that happens to be able to talk.  If a slave ran away, the least penalty for him was to be branded on the forehead with the letter “F” for the Latin word fugitivus.  Augustus crucified a slave because he had killed a pet quail.
         Christianity never attacked slavery; rather, it reached down to the slave in his degradation and lifted him up, assuring him of his liberty in Christ.  The very nature of the gospel condemned slavery.  Multitudes of slaves came to Christ.  Notice that the Word of God says to “be obedient.”  This shows that Christianity did not instigate revolution against the practice of slavery. 

        BE OBEDIENT: (Gr.-hypakouete)–This is the uniform direction in the New Testament, and the same word used in v. 1 in the address to children.

        “Art thou called {being} a servant (doulos–slave)?   Care not for it:  but if thou mayest be made free, use {it} rather” (I Cor. 7:21).

        “Let as many servants (douloi–slaves) as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, that the Name of God and {His} doctrine be not blasphemed.”
        “And they that have believing masters, 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.”

        “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, {even} the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness” (I Tim. 6:1-3).

        “Servants (douloi-slaves) {be} subject to {your} masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the forward” (I Pet. 2:18).           

The idea is that they were to show in that relation the excellence of the faith which they professed. If they could be made free, they were to prefer that condition to a state of bondage, (I Cor. 7:21); but while their relation remained, they were to be kind, gentle, and obedient, as became Christians. In the parallel passage in Colossians 3:22, it says that they were to obey their masters “in all things.”  

         MASTERS:   (Gr.-kyriois)-Literally: “lords.”  Those, who in a merely human relation are your rulers, i.e., your human masters, whose slaves you are as regards your outward temporal position in life, by way of distinction from the higher divine Master, Christ.  According to the present state of things: afterward the slave is free from his master.

Persons to whom you justly owe service, or who by human laws do have the power to force you to serve them. Obey their commands whenever you can do it without disobeying the commands of your heavenly Master.

“according to the flesh”
Literally:  “according to flesh”- A consolatory note from Paul that the mastership to which they were subject, was but for a time and that their real liberty was still their own (I Cor. 7:22).

This makes it clear that slavery applied only to the bodies of men, and not to their souls.  This obedience was to be with “fear and trembling.”  Your masters in secular things; for they have no authority neither over your faith, nor over your souls. This was evidently meant to limit the obligation to obedience.  The meaning is, that they had control over their body, i.e., the flesh.  They had the power to command the service which the body could render; but they were not lords of the spirit. The soul acknowledged God as its Lord, and to the Lord they were to be subject in a higher sense than to their masters.

“With fear and trembling”
Literally:  “with fear and trembling”– This does not mean abject and base cringing before a master, or slavish terror;  but it does men treating him with respect and dignity.  This was probably a proverbial expression of that time implying care and diligence.

1.      With great humility and respect, with reverence of them, and giving honor to them,
2.      With carefulness not to offend them, with submission to their reproofs and corrections, and
3.      With fear of punishment; but more especially with the fear of God, being by that influenced and constrained to obedience. 

This phrase is a favorite with Paul, and in all which cases it is applied to the condition of man as man under the weight of solemn responsibility before God.  It recognizes the “spirit of bondage unto fear” (Rom. 8:15) necessarily belonging to all who are “under law,” i.e., under obedience to the will of another, as enforced upon them by compulsion; and this fear, moreover, is viewed as showing itself in “trembling” anxiety to obey.

        “And I was with you in weakness and in fear, and in much trembling(I Cor. 2:3)
        “And his inward affection is more abundant whilst he remembereth te obedience of you all, how with fear and trembling ye received him” (II Cor. 7:15).

        “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling(Phil. 2:12).

Peter says, “Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the forward (perverse);” (I Pet. 2:18) and it is to be noted that he describes the suffering herein implied as a fellowship with the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ

“in singleness of your heart”
Literally:  “in singleness of the heart of you”–With readiness and cheerfulness, without hypocrisy and dissimulation, and with all integrity and faithfulness:

        SINGLENESS:  (Gr.-aplotēti)–With a simple, sincere desire to do what ought to be done.  Not merely through fear of punishment, but from a principle of uprightness, serving them as you would serve Christ.

Without double-mindedness, or “eye service” (v. 6), which seeks to please outwardly, without the sincere desire to make the master's interest at all times the first consideration. “Simplicity” might be another way of putting this. There should not be any taint of duplicity; not being “two-faced,” as we might say.  There should not be and “boot-licking” of the employer when he is around and then stabbing him in the back when he is away.  This definitely is being “two-faced.”  Such action should never be in the life of a Christian.

“as unto Christ”
Literally:  “As to Christ”–With that sincerity and uniformity of conduct, which a regard to the honor of Christ, and His all-seeing eye, will require and produce. Doing what is agreeable to His will, and what makes for His glory, and serves to adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things. 

This shows that the slave has been lifted from the base position of degradation where he sullenly worked as little as possible, and only when his master was watching.  Now he is the slave of Christ, and Christ has made him free.  He is to look above the earthly master in his attempt to please his Master in heaven.  An earthly master could control only the bodies of the slaves.  The slaves of Christ have yielded their souls to Him, even their total personalities.  Remember that Paul called himself the bond slave of Jesus Christ.

“Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;”

“not with eyeservice,”
Literally:  “not by way of eye-service”–Not with service rendered only when the master is watching you.

        EYESERVICE:  (Gr.-ophthalmodoulia)–Meaning service rendered merely for the sake of impressing others. This would be a form of “boot-licking.” This word is used only here and in Col. 3:22.  This word may have been coined by Paul.

         Not just outwardly while men are looking on, or for the purpose of pleasing them, but from the heart, out of regard to God. Paul has here referred to one of the evils of involuntary servitude as it exists everywhere. It is that the slave will usually obey only when the eye of the master is upon him. The freeman, who agrees to labor for stipulated wages, may be trusted when the master is out of sight; but not the slave. This direction, moreover, is one of great importance to all who are employed in the service of others. They are bound to perform their duty with as much fidelity as though the eye of the employer was always upon them, remembering that though the eye of man may be turned away, that of God never is. 
         Christians must go deeper, as bound to Christ’s service in the great claim of redemption:“For ye are bought with a price:  therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (I Cor. 6:20) and remembering that “man looked on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on  the heart” (I Sam. 16:7).  The will of God is our great standard, and our daily prayer should be, “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”  In heaven it is done from the heart.

“as man-pleasers”
Literally:  “as men-pleasers”–As if it were the main object to please men. The object should be rather to please and honor God.

        MENPLEASERS:  (Gr.-anthrōpareskoi)–Literally:  One who acts as if it were his main object to please men. The object should be rather to please and honor God.

doing the will of God”
Doing whatever you do, as the will of God, and with all your might.  That is, God requires fidelity, conscientiousness, submission, and obedience in our lives. This to be expressed in the present fact of your servile duty.  The will of God is our great standard, and our daily prayer is, “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”

We render acceptable service to God when we perform the services which are demanded of us in whatever situation in life where we may be placed; however humble that may be. Paul is saying, “Seeing that you are in the state of servitude, it is still the will of God that you should act conscientiously in it.”

              WILL: (Gr.-thelēma)–Literally:  “will, wish, desire.”

“from the heart”
Literally, “from {he} soul”–That is, not the will of God in a religious, but in a civil sense, yielding a cheerful and hearty obedience to their own masters.   

FROM THE HEART:   (Gr.-ek psuches)–Literally:  “from the soul.”  In heaven it is done “from the heart.” 

        “I will praise the LORD with{my} whole heart, in the assembly of the upright, and {in} the congregation”  (Psa. 111:1)


“With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men:”

“With good will”
With cheerfulness; do not take up your service as a burden, or bear it as a cross, but take it as coming in the order of God's providence, and a thing that is pleasing to Him. 

        GOOD WILL:  (Gr.-eunoias)–“Good will” is stated by XENOPHON to be the principal virtue of a slave towards his master: a real regard to his master's interest as if his own, a good will which not even a master's severity can extinguish.

“doing service, as to the Lord”
Literally:  “serving as slaves…as to the Lord”–Seeing that you are in the state of servitude, it is the will of God that you should act conscientiously in it. Not merely because it is the will of men, and in order to please them, but because it is the will of the Lord, and is well pleasing in His sight.

         This show that their attitudes should reflect their Christian service.  When a child of God—whether a slave or a master, employer or employee—gets to the place where the motive of life is to please Christ, then the hurdles posed by capital and labor are easily passed over.
         The Lord has lifted the employee to a high positions:  He has dignified labor.  It doesn’t make any difference whether a man is working at a bench or digging a ditch or working in an office or mining down in the bowels of the earth.  If he is a child of God, he can say, “I serve the Lord Christ.” 

“Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether
{he be} bond or free.”

“Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth,”
Literally:  “Each one knowing that whatever good things he does”– Whatever a man does that is right, for that he shall be appropriately rewarded.

A man in a state of servitude may so live as to honor God; and, so living, he should not be greatly solicitous about his condition. A master may fail to render suitable recompense to a slave. But, if the servant is faithful to God, He will recompense him in the future world. It is in this way that Christianity would make the evils of life tolerable, by teaching those who are oppressed to hear their trials in a patient spirit, and to look forward to the future world of reward.

       ANY MAN DOETH:  (Gr.-ekastos poiēsē)-Greek, “any man shall have done,” that is, shall be found at the Lord's coming to have done.  The hope of reward is brought in to supplement the more disinterested motive, such addition being especially useful in the case of slaves (as of children, vv. 2, 3). For the slave the hope of reward is future – it is at the Lord's coming that he will have his reward.

“And, ye matters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect with Him.”

“ye masters, do the same things unto them”
Literally:  “And the lords, do the same things toward them.”–Act correspondingly toward your slaves/employees, as if the eye of Christ were on you, which indeed it is.  If you are an employer, before Christ, you are just another man.  God is no respecter of persons.

The object of this is to secure for servants a proper treatment. It is evident, from this, that there were in the Church those who were masters (i.e., lords); and the most obvious interpretation is, that they were the owners of slaves. Some such persons would be converted, as such are now. Philemon is an example of such believers who were “masters” or slave owners.  Onesimus was Philemon’s slave.  As for Paul’s letter…
1.      He did not say that they could not be Christians,
2.      He did not say that they should be excluded at once from the communion.
3.      He did not hold them up to reproach, or use harsh and severe language in regard to them.
4.      He taught them their duty towards those who were under them, and laid down principles which, if followed, would lead ultimately to universal freedom.

        MASTERS:  (Gr.-kurioi)–Literally:  “lords.”  The object of this is, to secure for servants a proper treatment. It is evident, from this, that there were in the Christian church those who were “masters;” and the most obvious interpretation is, that they were the owners of slaves. Some such persons would be converted, as such are now. 

Act correspondingly toward your slaves, as if the eye of Christ were on you, which indeed It is. If you are ever tempted to grind them down, or defraud, or scold unreasonably and make their life bitter, remember that there is a Master above you, into Whose ears their cry will come. If they are to do service to you as to the Lord, you are to require service of them as if you also were before your Lord. Therefore, forbear threatening; influence them by love more than by fear.

“Do the same things unto them”
The “same things,” here, seem to refer to what he had said in the previous verses. In obedience to the same command of God, with an eye to the same glory of God, with the same singleness of heart, with the same love and goodwill.

1.      They were, to give evidence towards their servants the same spirit which he had required servants to evince towards them.
          The same kindness, fidelity, and respect for the will of God.
He had required servants to act conscientiously; to remember that the eye of God was upon them, and that in that condition in life they were to regard themselves as serving God, and as mainly answerable to him. The same things Paul would have masters feel.
2.      They were to be faithful, conscientious, just, true to the interests of their servants, and to remember that they were responsible to God.
3.      They were not to take advantage of their power to oppress them, to punish them unreasonably, or to suppose that they were freed from responsibility in regard to the manner in which they treated them. In the corresponding passage in Colossians this is, “Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal” (Col. 4:1).

“Forbearing threatening”
Signifying to relax or not exact threatening; that is, threatening them with punishment. Behaving with gentleness and humanity, not in a harsh or domineering way. If they should transgress at any time, lean more to the side of mercy than justice; and when you are forced to punish, let it be as light and as moderate as possible; and let revenge have no part in the chastisement, for that is of the devil, and not of God.  

         FORBEARING:  (Gr.-anientes)–Literally: “moderating.” The Greek word means, “to relax, loosen; and then, to omit, cease from.” This is evidently the meaning here. The sense is, that they were to be kind, affectionate, just.

It does not mean that they were not to withhold punishment where it was deserved; but the object is to guard against that to which they were so much exposed in their condition-a fretful, dissatisfied temper; a disposition to govern by terror rather than by love. Where this unhappy state of society exists, it would be worth the trial of those who sustain the relation of masters to see whether it would not be possible to govern their servants, as Paul here advises, by the exercise of love. Might not kindness, and confidence, and the fear of the Lord, be substituted for threats and stripes?

“knowing that Your Master also is in heaven”
Literally:  “knowing that the Lord of you and of them is in heaven”– Know that their Master and your Master is in heaven.  In the presence of Christ, the master and the servant stand on the same footing.  They are brothers in Christ.

If you are tempted to grind your people down, or scold them unreasonably, and make their life bitter, remember that there is a Master over you into Whose ears their cries will come. According to the common reading, the sense is, that masters should remember that they were responsible to God, and this fact should be allowed to influence them in a proper manner. This it would do in two ways:
1.      By the fact that injustice towards their servants would then be punished as it deserved-since there was no respect of persons with God.

2.     It would lead them to act towards their servants as they would desire God to treat them.
        Nothing would be better adapted to do this than the feeling that they had a common Master, and that they were soon to stand at His bar.

“Neither is there respect of persons with Him.”
Literally:  “and there is no respect of persons with Him”–The meaning here is, that God would not be influenced in the distribution of rewards and punishments, by a regard to the rank or condition of the master or the slave.

1.      God would show no favor to the one because he was a master;
2.      God would withhold favor from the other because he was a slave.
3.      God would treat both according to their character. In this world they occupied different ranks and conditions. 
         At His judgment bar they would be called to answer before the same Judge. It follows from this,

        a.      That a slave is not to be regarded as a “chattel,” or a “thing,” or as “property.”
                 (1).  He is a man; a redeemed man; an immortal man.
                 (2)  He is one for whom Christ died.  But Christ did not die for chattels” and “things,”

        b.     The master and the servant, in their great interests, are on the same lev
                (1).   Both are sinners;
                (2).   Both will soon die;
                (3).   Both will molder back in the same manner to dust; both will stand at the tribunal of God.

The one will not be admitted to heaven, because he is a master; nor will the other be thrust down to hell because he is a slave. If both are Christians, they will both be admitted to a heaven where the distinctions of rank and color are unknown. If the master is not a Christian and the servant is, he who has regarded himself as superior to the servant in this life, will see him ascend to heaven while he himself will be thrust down to hell.

Considerations like these will, if they have their proper influence, produce two effects:|
1.      They will lighten the yoke of slavery while it continues, and while it may be difficult to remove it at once.
If the master and the slave were both Christians, even if the relation continued, it would be rather a relation of mutual confidence. The master would become the protector, the teacher, the guide, the friend; the servant would become the faithful helper-rendering service to one whom he loved, and to whom he felt himself bound by the obligations of gratitude and affection.
2.      This state of feeling could soon lead to emancipation.
         There is something shocking to the feelings of all, and monstrous to a Christian, in the idea of holding a Christian brother in bondage.

Accordingly, the prevalence of Christianity soon did away the evil of slavery in the Roman empire; and if it prevailed in its purity, it would soon banish it from the face of the earth.

Leave a Reply