Ephesians 6:5-9 Our Work Life

Slavery was an accepted part of life in the ancient world. Salves were the work force, influding domestic servants, manual labourers and educated people like doctors, teachers and administrators. Slaves were the property of their owners and had few if any rights. Paul does not attack slavery directly but his teaching in Ephesians, Colossians and Philemon) was designed to transform the master-slave relationship. The principles he set forth were radical for his time and ultimately led to the end of slavery. The fact he addressed slaves as accepted members of the Christian community was remarkable, treating them as responsible people with choice. They are no longer property but brothers (family) a concept that would have been incredible to non-christians! This is most clear in Philemon 16. In Christ we are all equal members of Father’s family related to each other as brothers and sisters (Col3:11, Gal 3:26-28). This uniting of master and slave as brothers challenged the owner-property relationship, and then it was a matter of time for slavery to be abolished from within, although it took much too long to happen in Christian countries. Paul’s attitude toward slaves and masters as being equal in Christ means that his teaching applies to Christians today in their work as employers and employees.

The Duty of Employees, to those in authority over them (v5-8), comparing Colossians 3:22-25 (in italics) 
“BONDSERVANTS, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh” (v5a)
“BONDSERVANTS, obey in all things your masters according to the  flesh”  (Col 3:22a). 

They are to obey those in authority, because behind the earthly boss is their Master in heaven (v9), the Lord Jesus. In these 4 verses to slaves, Christ is mentioned 4 times as the One they are ultimately serving in their work. They are to obey ‘as to Christ’ (v5), to behave ‘as bondservants (slaves) of Christ’ (v6), giving service first ‘as to the Lord’rather than men (v7), knowing they will receive 
their reward ‘from the Lord’ (v8). This changes his perspective completely. His work is now Christ-centered. His tasks are no longer mundane but doing the will of God and pleasing the Lord Jesus Christ. Likewise we are to do our work‘as unto the Lord’. to please Him. If slaves could transform their work in this way, how much more can we under easier conditions.

This revelation leads to more than outward obedience but exemplory attitudes in the work-place: “with fear and trembling, in sincerity (singleness, simplicity) of heart, as to Christ, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ” (v5b,6a)
“not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God (Col 3:22).

First, they would be respectful
. ‘Fear and trembling’ always refers to our fear (reverence) of the Lord’s authority as Colossians confirms. It is not a cringing or cowering before men.

Secondly, they serve ‘in sincerity of heart’ without hypocrisy or ulterior hidden motives

Thirdly, they are conscientious
, not just offering ‘eyeservice as men pleasers’ -working hard only when the boss is watching to get favour from him, but ‘as servants of Christ’ who is watching all the time and sees everything, even the heart, and who is not deceived by shoddy work.

Fourthly, they are wholehearted: “doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill (wholeheartedly) doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men (v6b,7). 
“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men”  (Col 3:23). 
 Their heart and soul is in it. They are focused on doing a good job, to the best of their ability. Their service is willing and cheerful instead of reluctant. Because they know they are doing the will of God, to please Him they do it from the heart in faith and love (goodwill) and in hope of His reward (v8).

They know that Jesus is their heavenly Lord, Master and Judge and so He will reward their efforts: “Knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether slave or free” (v8).

“Knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done and there is no partiality” (Col 3:24,25). 

They look beyond the rewards and payments of their employers to the One who sees all and judges truly, Who will give eternal rewards at the Judgement Seat of Christ (at the Rapture). It is His opinion, favour and reward that ultimately matters and which we should be concerned about. Colossians also points out the danger of loss of reward for poor service and for doing wrong. Whether or not we are justly recompensed on earth for our work, the Lord will render just judgement and rewards to all His servants. No good work will be unrewarded. All (masters and servants, bosses and employees) will stand as equals before the Lord, Who will judge everyone without partiality.

The Duty of Employers (to those in authority under you)
“And you, MASTERS, do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him”(v9).

“MASTERS, give your bondservants what is just and fair, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven” (Col 4:1). These requirements had far-reaching implications for slave-owners. The gospel lit a fuse that led to the destruction of slavery, for here masters and slaves stand as EQUALS before God, because they 
have the same Master (Lord) and Judge who shows no partiality between them (v8,9). Master and slave are equal, both knowing the Lordship and Judgement of Jesus Christ over them. Since He is their common Lord now and their common Judge later, their attitude to one another is transformed.

Thus masters should FAIR and JUST to those under them (Col 4:1). They are to “do the same things to them.” This is an application of the Golden Rule: “Treat others as you would like them to treat you.” As you want respect, so you you should give due respect, treat them well, with courtesy, as equal not as inferior, as people not as property. Therefore they must not take advantage of their power to oppress them, ‘giving up threatening (bullying).’ In speaking of justice he established the rights of slaves. The master’s duties were the slave’s rights and vice-versa. However he calls each side to focus on their responsibilities not on their rights. 

The motivation given to masters is that they also have a Master in Heaven they are accountable to, Who sees everything and will treat them according to how they have treated those under them. He treats masters and servants equally (the masters will receive no advantage or favouritism before Him, as they did before the Law of the times in which Paul wrote).



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