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SERVANTS & MASTERS – Ephesians 6:5-9

Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on August 23, 2017 under AM Bible Study |

AM Bible Study Group; August 23, 2017 from Ephesians 6:5-9

Theme: The song begins by declaring an expression of divine love at its fullest.

(All Scripture is taken from The New King James Version, unless otherwise indicated).

The apostle Paul had been giving instructions to the believers in how to walk the worthy walk (Ephesians 4:1) in respect to the various relationships in which we live and work in daily life. He has already addressed the worthy walk in the wife/husband relationship (5:22-33), and in the child/parent relationship (6:1-4; directing his specific parental comments to fathers). These all have to do with domestic relationships. It may be that he is still speaking of domestic relationships as he comes to the next set of instructions; but it seems that their application can extend far beyond just the home.

In 6:5-9, Paul addresses “bondservants” and “masters”. The word that is translated “bondservant” or “servant” is doulos; and though many prefer to soften the word up a bit, it really means “slave”. Slavery was a very common feature of the Roman empire in Paul’s day. Some ancient records suggest that slaves outnumbered free people by a significant percentage; and this would naturally impact the Christian faith since here would naturally be many occasions when a slave and a master would both—at the same time—be brothers or sisters to one another in Christ. How then should they conduct that relationship in accordance with the worthy walk of a believer?

It’s surprising to many today to discover that the Bible does not condemn the practice of slavery. But it’s important to also note that it does not condone it either. On the one hand, it encourages a believing slave to become free if he or she can; but to otherwise “not be concerned about it” (1 Corinthians 7:21). It also reminds the believer—whatever their state of being—that “he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise he who is called while free is Christ’s slave” (v. 22). And Paul adds this: “You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men” (v. 23). Whether under servitude to men or the master over men, all are the slaves of Jesus Christ. This means that the Bible is more concerned with the worthy and just conduct of the believer under whatever relationship God has placed them. All are to be equally in the service of Christ.

We see this very clearly in Paul’s words to the Ephesian believers when he gives instructions regarding …


First, Paul writes, “Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh … That this is speaking of ‘slaves’ is shown to us in the word doulos. (The Bible has other words for “servants” and “employees”.) But how far can we legitimately extend the application of the principles being described? The context would require that we’re talking about ‘slaves’ as opposed to ‘freedmen’ (see v. 8). But it doesn’t seems at all unreasonable to apply these same principles to any relationship in which a debt of service of some kind is owed to another human being in a temporal and material sense. The slave is commanded to “be obedient” (a translation of a word that basically means to “hear-under” another); and the context is specifically stated as being “according to the flesh”. And so, these principles can be legitimately extended to any other such ‘servant/master’ type of relationship such as an employee/employer relationship (in which time and service is contracted for a wage), or a student/teacher relationship (in which duties are submitted to as a part of an educational agreement).

How should the believing servant behave in such a relationship? Paul writes that they are to do this “with fear and trembling …” (v. 5); that is, not in fear and trembling of men (see Philippians 1:28), but rather with a reverent attitude toward God from whom the position of authority has been granted to the ‘master’ in the relationship (see Romans 13:1-2).

Paul also writes “in sincerity of heart, as to Christ …” (v. 5). The word “sincerity” here means ‘simplicity’; that is, with a singleness of heart, not with a divided allegiance. That whole-hearted allegiance is to be to Christ first, and to Christ completely; and then, only to the earthly master as under the authority of Christ. If a servant is totally devoted to Jesus Christ first, then he or she will be properly devoted to the service of the master Jesus places over them.

Paul adds also, “not with eye service, as men-pleaders, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart …” (v. 6; literally, “out of soul”). The word “eye service” basically means to be an “eye-slave”. It’s the idea of only working diligently when the boss is looking or coming by; or only putting forth the visual impression of work being done. As bondservants of Christ, we are to do our work as if doing the will of God from the heart at all times; because He sees at all times, and we wish to please Him. We can never do mere “eye service” before Him.

Paul even addresses the attitude of the servant; “with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men …” (v. 7). A servant is not to do his work ‘grudgingly’ and with a complaining attitude (see Philippians 2:14-16); because such complaining betrays a rebellious spirit toward the Lord. He or she is to do his work as if he were doing it for the beloved Lord Jesus; because that is who they are serving as they serve their master according to the flesh.

And Paul exhorts them to do it all with an eye to eternity; “knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free” (v. 8). We are to not grow weary in well-doing; knowing that we will reap of we do not faint (Galatians 6:9-10). And we are to do this with the expectation of receiving the ultimate reward not merely from man but from the Lord Himself (Colossians 4:22-24). As someone once said, at the throne of Christ, the question will not be “who did it” but “how was it done”.


Because all are the slaves of Jesus, Paul then goes on to speak of the duty of the masters. “And you, masters, do the same things to them …” The “them” in question is the slaves who serve under them; and the master is to be the Lord’s slave—in the way that the slave is—by the way he or she treats his or her servants. The masters are, in fact, commanded to do the same things that the slaves are commanded to do in verses 5-8: (1) fulfill their role with reverence toward Christ, (2) do so with a sincere and undivided heart toward Him, (3) doing the will of God ‘out of soul’, (4) with an attitude of good-will toward the Lord and toward men, and (5) with the expectation of receiving the same from the Lord—whether slave or free. (If this was faithfully done as it should be—and in the power of the Holy Spirit—it would utterly remove the need for labor unions!)

In practice, this would require the master to be “giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.” The master would no longer berate or scold; because he or she would not want to be treated in that way by the Lord Jesus who he or she truly serves. As Paul puts it in Colossians 4:1, they would give their servants “what is just and fair”, knowing that they “also have a Master in heaven”.

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Until the day we stand before the judgment seat, there will be differing stations in life; and these different stations would mean differing degrees of the servant/master relationship. May we always conduct ourselves in those places, then, in a manner worthy of our calling in Christ—always, first and foremost, as His slaves from out of a heart of grateful love.

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