Summary: Standing against the devil
October 10, 2012
The main point of what we’re studying shows that there’s one body and bride of Jesus Christ, and as members of it we’re to treat each other a certain way. Marriage, fathers and children, and slaves and masters typify our relationship with Christ. We spent a good chunk of our time last week answering how Paul could be pro slavery, so we’re not going to get into that again except to say that his idea of it wasn’t the same as ours and he’s building on the command in 5:21 to submit to each other.
5Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters
Remember, these aren’t culturally irrelevant verses. They’re not telling us to be better workers—slavery is a type of our relationship with God who has bought us with a price. There’s no reason for Christians to fear these verses because they’re the true and useful words of God; they were good for those who originally heard them, and they’re good for those who hear them today. These are masters,
according to the flesh,
Their authority only goes so far and is temporary. The listening slaves were believers whose real Master is Master of their souls. So they obey,
with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; 6Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; 7With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men:
Obedience isn’t to be feigned. When they work it’s to be done in a sincere way as if they were working for Christ. It’s not hard to see the spiritual substance behind the shadow—“doing the will of God from the heart.”
8Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.
Think of our lives as time out in a field. There are many different positions and levels of authority, but we’re all working for the same Master. The promise is that all the workers reap the benefit of what’s sowed. In the big picture we’re working for God’s harvest or to build His house, so we do it happily knowing He won’t forget us.
Look again at Col. 3:22-25: “Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God; 23And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; 24Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. 25But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.”
9And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him.
Imagine slaves and masters listening together in church—everyone knows slaves are to obey their masters, but then Paul says, “Masters, do the same things to them.” “Give up threatening.” I’ll wager that where we have a hard time accepting verses 5-8, the New Testament church had an equally hard time accepting verse 9! How is the master supposed to keep the slave in line, and how is productivity going to be kept if the master treats the slave with reverence and doesn’t make any threats? Well, the slaves have to live “knowing” that God rewards obedience, and so the masters have to live “knowing” that they aren’t at the top of the totem-pole. They may be masters here on earth, but they are themselves slaves to the impartial Master. Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven” (Col. 4:1). All the harshness ever practiced in slavery in any form is rejected by the Bible. Believers are one body, and we’re to submit to each other the same way wives submit to husbands, children submit to parents, and slaves submit to masters. On the other hand, husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the church, fathers are to train their children as our Father trains us, and masters are to serve and protect their slaves as our Master does us.
10Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
Now we come to these verses, and they seem a little out of place with the rest of the book. How do we go from union and submission to warfare? Think about how tough it is to submit to each other. “Don’t be lords; be servants.” That just goes against everything that seems natural, but pride and selfishness are the original platforms of sin. Satan says, “I will ascend” (Is. 14:13-14). He tells Eve, “You will be like God” (Gen. 3:5).