Summary: 1) The Submission of Slaves, or Employees (Ephesians 6:5-8), and about 2) The Submission of Masters, or Employers (Ephesians 6:9).
As Children in Ontario headed back to school this week, it was surrounded by labor issues between school boards and the province of Ontario. Last minute negotiations meant that students were spared a delay in their school year, but ongoing disputes with support workers and unresolved contract issues with various boards remain. In many ways, expectations from students, parents, teachers, school boards and governments always seem to be at odds.
But God did not design humanity’s freedom to work against others. He designed it to allow us to earn a living, provide for our families, and be of service to others. Yet, as in every other area of life, people's depraved nature turns God’s provisions to selfish ends. As with problems in relations between husbands and wives and parents and children (Eph. 5:22–6:4), the solution to labor relations problems must begin with God’s solution—salvation through Jesus Christ and the empowerment of His Holy Spirit.
In every aspect of human life God’s plan 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 (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 Employees (Ephesians 6:5-8), and about 2) The Submission of Masters, or Employers (Ephesians 6:9).
1) The Submission of Employees (Ephesians 6:5-8)
Ephesians 6:5-8 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. (ESV)