Sermons

Summary: 1) The Submission of Slaves, or Workers (Ephesians 6:5-8), and about 2) The Submission of Masters, or Employers (Ephesians 6:9).

Ephesians 6:5-9 [5]Slaves (Employees), obey your earthly masters (Employers) 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. [9] Masters (Employers), 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. (ESV)

This week, in an article entitled: “We are Not all in this together”, business owner and financial commentator Andrew Hodd remarked: “There are no good options when it comes to dealing with COVID. It is obviously a real public health concern, but there is another side of the ledger that needs to be evaluated, too. This is the challenging part, but if we do not ask the right questions now it will be too late. The job losses are disproportionately at the bottom of the income scale. We cannot keep pretending there are no consequences. Getting people back to work is crucial, but if we can’t agree on how to do that safely we need programs that work to assure people their employer is solvent and they have a home..”

The reality present in every aspect of human life is one of authority and submission, and those two pillars are the bedrock of biblical labor relations. To avoid chaos and anarchy, someone must lead, and others must follow. The mutual submission Paul teaches in relation to masters and servants, just as that between husbands and wives and parents and children, is in the context of the God–designated roles of authority—of husbands over wives, parents over children, and masters over servants. But that authority is not based on any inherent superiority of husbands, parents, or masters. They possess their authority as a stewardship from God, to be used for His purposes and according to His principles. Their authority is not total or unrestricted and is to be used only to serve God and to serve those over whom they have been given the authority. Submission, therefore, is not one–way but mutual. Being under Christ’s authority does not mean believers are free of all civil or social authority; rather, it means that believers should display His gentleness and humility to all authority (Barry, J. D., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible (Eph 6:5). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.).

In the book of Ephesians, Paul gives his final illustration of the principle of Spirit–produced mutual submission, “and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ” (Eph. 5:21), applying it to relations between slaves and masters—and, by extension, to all employer–employee relationships. In Ephesians 6:5-9, Paul continues to deal with the practical effects of the Spirit–filled life (Eph. 5:18), without which none of God’s righteous standards can be met, including those which regulate working relationships. Paul explains: 1) The Submission of Slaves, or Workers (Ephesians 6:5-8), and about 2) The Submission of Masters, or Employers (Ephesians 6:9).

God desires Christianity on the Job, as seen through:

1) The Submission of Employees (Ephesians 6:5-8)

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. (ESV)

Paul’s instructions to masters and slaves continues in the setting of the household. The vast majority of businesses in New Testament times were family operated, and therefore most Slaves/servants/employees were part of an extended household. In agrarian situations the servants, or slaves, worked in the fields or tended the flocks. If the master had a shop the servants worked as craftsmen or helpers. If he was a merchant they would do whatever chores were required to help in the business. In any case, the head of the household was also head of the business. He was usually the employer and the servants were his employees. Slavery seems to have been universal in the ancient world. A high percentage of the population were slaves. ‘It has been computed that in the Roman Empire there were 60,000,000 slaves.’ They constituted the work force, and included not only domestic servants and manual labourers but educated people as well, like doctors, teachers and administrators. Slaves could be inherited or purchased, or acquired in settlement of a bad debt, and prisoners of war commonly became slaves. Nobody queried or challenged the arrangement. (Stott, J. R. W. (1979). God’s new society: the message of Ephesians (p. 250). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.). Contrary to the supposition that everyone was trying to avoid slavery at all costs, it is clear that some people actually sold themselves into slavery in order to climb socially, to obtain particular employment open only to slaves, and to enjoy a better standard of living than they had experienced as free persons. Being a slave had the benefit of providing a certain personal and social security (Lincoln, A. T. (1990). Ephesians (Vol. 42, p. 418). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.).

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