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Ephesians 6:5-9


Intro: Again we turn our attention to the Spirit-filled life. I would remind you that the Spirit of God wants to control every area of the lives we live. Paul has already touched on our walk with God, our worship life, our marriages, and the parent-child relationship. In these verses, he focuses our thoughts on the master-slave relationship.


It is estimated that in that time period, there were as many as 50 million slaves in the Roman empire. Slavery was a very common institution, and interestingly enough, slavery is never condemned in the Bible. While the Bible does not condemn slavery, it was a system rife with abuse.


Since we are unfamiliar with the practice of slavery, I thought I would share a few insights I came across as I prepared. Dr. John MacArthur writes this about the ancient institution of slavery.


In both Greek and Roman cultures, most slaves had no legal rights and were treated as commercial commodities. Roman citizens came to look on work as beneath their dignity, and the entire empire gradually came to function largely by slave power. Slaves were bought, sold, traded, used, and discarded as heartlessly as if they were animals or tools. Considerate masters such as Pliny the Elder, who was deeply grieved over the death of some of his slaves, were exceptional.


One Roman writer divided agricultural instruments into three classes— the articulate, who were slaves; the inarticulate, which were animals; and the mute, which were tools and vehicles. A slave’s only distinction above animals or tools was that he could speak!


The Roman statesman Cato said, “Old slaves should be thrown on a dump, and when a slave is ill do not feed him anything. It is not worth your money. Take sick slaves and throw them away because they are nothing but inefficient tools.


Augustus crucified a slave who accidentally killed his pet quail, and a man named Pollio threw a slave into a pond of deadly lamprey eels for breaking a crystal goblet.


Juvenal wrote of a slave owner whose greatest pleasure was “listening to the sweet song of his slaves being flogged._


Since the system of slavery was so filled with abuse, God instructed Paul to lay down the Lord’s commands to both slaves and their masters. We want to look at those instructions for a few minutes today.


We do not have slaves in our culture. Thankfully, that institution has been outlawed in our nation. The closest we can come to the master-slave relationship is the relationship between employers and their employees. The principles Paul gave to masters and slaves years ago still apply to us today. There is a word here for each of us, if we will receive it.


Let’s examine these verses today and consider Spirit-Filled Service. The principles in these verses have something to say to us about the way we serve the Lord and the way we serve others.




Paul addresses “servants” in these verses. The word always means “slave.” He is talking to people who were owned by some master. They were bought and sold, beaten and put to death, all at the whim of a human master. As I said, thankfully, no one here is a slave to man. However, many of you are still in the workforce. You have an employer. These verses tell us how we are supposed to relate to those who are over us in our secular work.

A.  V. 5  How They Are To Submit - They are commanded to be “obedient.” This word refers to one who “waits for a command from the master and who then carries out that command.” It was used of “a porter who waited at the door for the sound of a knock, so that the door could be opened immediately.” It is a word that speaks of willing, expectant service. This kind of servant jumps at the sound of his master’s voice and does what he is told to do without argument or complaint.


This kind of obedience is to be carried out “with fear, and trembling.” The idea of “fear and trembling” does not mean that we fear the people we work for. It means that the godly servant strives to do what is right out of a fear of disobeying God. We will talk more about this in a minute, but your work in the world is actually service to the Lord.


So, we are to submit to those who are in authority over us in the world and serve them with “singleness of heart as unto Christ.” This phrase refers to “wholehearted dedication.” We are to yield ourselves to our employers, serving them as if they were the Lord.


This isn’t always easy! There are people who are hard to work for. They are mean-spirited, demanding, demeaning, and cruel. As best as you can, look past the person and their issues and set your eyes on the Lord and serve Him, even as you do your work on earth.


B.  V. 5-7  How They Are To Serve - According to these verses, your secular employment is just another means of serving the Lord. In verse 5 He says, “as unto Christ.” In verse 6 He says, “as the servants of Christ.” He also says in verse 6, that we are to do “the will of God from the heart.” In verse 7 He says, “doing service as unto the Lord.” This means that if the Lord has given you a job, and if you carry out the duties of that job to the glory of the Lord, God will bless secular work the same as He blesses sacred work.


He will bless the plumber just like he blesses the preacher. He will bless the miner and the missionary. He will bless the truck driver and the deacon. He will bless all those who will serve Him and honor Him in the work they do. The key to the Lord’s blessing is to see your work as service to the Lord and not to a person or a business. Work as if you were working for the Lord.


We are not to serve “with eyeservice.” The phrase refers to serving to impress. It has the idea of working hard when they are looking, but slacking off when they aren’t. The Lord’s will is that we give them a full day’s work for a full day’s pay. Even when the boss isn’t looking, the Lord is!


He also says that we are not to be “menpleasers.” This word speaks of those who are smooth talking, slick, smarmy, suck ups. It speaks of those who use flattery to advance on the job.


Both of those actions are manifestations of the flesh. They speak of someone who is walking in pride and who is actually serving themselves and not the Lord. Instead of seeking to promote ourselves, we should be in the business of serving the Lord.


Look again at those phrases, “as unto Christ,” “as the servants of Christ,” “doing the will of the Lord from the heart,” “with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men.” All of these statements teach us that we are to see our selves as slaves to the Lord first and foremost. When we go to our job, whatever it is, we are to look at our work as service to God. We are to see ourselves as His slaves. We are to remember that we will answer to Him when this life ends. If we work for Him, we will please Him, and if our service rises to the level of pleasing HIm, surely our employers will be pleased with our service as well.


There are several ways we can serve the Lord in this world. This applies to what we do on the job, to what we do in life, and to what we do in the church. Let me mention a few of the ways we might serve Him.

  We can serve Him out of Discipline - This is an attitude that says, “I have to do it.” This describes someone who feels compelled to serve the Lord.

  We can serve Him out of Duty - This is an attitude that says, “I ought to do it.” This describes some who is convinced that one owes it to the Lord.

  We can serve Him out of Devotion - This is an attitude that says, “I want to do it.” This describes a person who is captured by the Lord. They serve Him because they love Him. This is the way our service ought to be. We serve Him because we love Him, John 14:15.


We should want to serve Him like Joseph served Potiphar, Gen. 39:4, and the warden of Pharaoh’s prison, Gen. 39:23.

We should want to serve Him like the servant girl served Naaman, 2 Kings 5:1-4.


Whether we are serving the Lord directly, or whether we serve Him through our service to our employers, always do “the will of God from the heart.” Strive to serve Him in all things!


  I.  A Word To Employees



Christian masters are told to do the “same” as their slaves. The slaves are to submit to their masters, and the masters are to acknowledge the worth of their slaves through faith treatment of them. Saved slave owners were called on to care for those who served them. They were called to a far higher standard than the world around them.


Paul described this kind of mutual submission when he wrote the book of Philemon. In that book, a slave owner by the name of Philemon has a slave named Onesimus who ran away from his master and stole some of his master’s goods. Onesimus goes to Rome where he meets Paul He hears the Gospel and is saved by the grace of God. Paul sends Onesimus home with a letter. This letter, which is what we call the book of Philemon, calls on Philemon to forgive Onesimus and to welcome him home as a brother. That is an amazing request! Most slaves who stole from their masters and ran away were executed when they were captured. If they weren’t executed they were tortured or castrated. They suffered for their sin!


This is a call for Philemon to make His Christianity real. He is not to treat slaves like Onesimus as mere property. He is to treat them as people God loves. Masters like Philemon were to realize that they have a Master too. Just as their servants served under them, they served under the Lord. They expected their slaves to submit. God expected them to submit.


If the Lord has blessed you and you are in a place of authority over others, you need to take this command to heart. It is far too easy for employers to take advantage of their employees. It is too easy for the employer to see the employee as nothing more than a means for them to increase their profits. Employers would do well to remember that they also have a Master, and one day they will answer to the Lord for how they treat their employees.


So, while the master can’t really know what it is like to be a slave, the master must respect his slaves. He is to honor their humanity and sympathize with their condition.


This is simply a call for Christian masters to treat those under their authority in a Christlike manner. LIke the servants the master is to “do the will of God from the heart.” The employer, like the employee, must be motivated by a desire to obey God and to do His will. Just as the employee is to submit to the employee “as to the Lord,” the employer is exercise his authority “as to the Lord.” This is the only way to fulfill the command of Eph. 5:21.


A Christian employer’s first duty is to do the will of God and to manifest a Christlike spirit in everything he does. Every business decision must be based on God’s standards of righteousness, truth, and honesty. He must deal with his employees with an eye to their welfare and to the best interest. He is to deal with them fairly because it is the will of God for him to do so. He is to respect them because to respect his employees is to respect and honor the Lord.


  He is not to “threaten” them. That is, the Christian employer is not to use the threat of violence to coerce his employees into doing what he wants them to do.

  He is to exercise his power over them as little as possible.

  He must realize that his authority is temporary and given to him by God. Thus, he is to never be abusive, either physically or verbally.

  He is not to throw his weight around. He is to do all things with the sure knowledge that he has a master in Heaven that he will answer to some day.

  He is to treat his employees with the same love and care that the Lord displays to him.

  He needs to realize that, in God’s eyes, he is not more important than the least of his employees, because there no “respect of persons with Him.

  The Christian employer does not play favorites because God doesn’t platy favorites.

  He is to be Christlike in all he does.


  I.  A Word To Employees

 II.  A Word To Employers



In these verses, Paul draws our attention to the employee, to the employer, and then finally to eternity. In life, we all occupy different place on the socio-economic ladder, but there is coming a day when all men will be equal. Death is a magnificent leveler. One day, when this life is over, it will not matter whether you were and employee or an employer. What will matter is what you did with the life you were given. Notice how Heaven looks upon us.

A.  How God Considers Us - Verse 9 reminds us that God has no “respect of person.” God does not think less of you because you are an employee, and He does not think more of you because you are an employer. He could care less which place you occupy, but He has placed you where you are so that you could serve Him there. The best thing you can do is “grow where you are planted,” and be fruitful to the glory of God. That is His will for all His people regardless of their station in life, John 15:1-8. God is not impressed with a person’s position in life, but He is keenly interested in how a man uses that position. So, wherever you are in life, be all there for the glory of God. He will bless that!


B.  How God Compensates Us - Verse 8 tells us that one day, the Lord will reward the faithful service of His servants. You may not be rewarded, recognized, promoted, or properly compensated for the work you do here, but it isn’t payday yet! The Lord doesn’t pay off on the weekend; He compensates His children at the Judgement Seat of Christ. On that day, all the faithful service you have rendered to Him will be rewarded, 1 Cor. 3:11-15. Many of God’s servants, both employers and employees, who have been faithful here, will hear Him say, “Well done,” there, Matt. 25:21. That is when the obedient life of a servant will pay off! God always honors faithful service!


Conc: What’s the message? We are all servants. We may serve men here, or men may serve us here, but ultimately, we are all the servants of God. Every moment of our lives is to be lived in His service for His glory.


So, how is your servant life? Are you serving the Lord by serving others?

  If you are a person in authority, do you treat your employees with a servant’s heat?

  If you are an employee do you treat your work as service to the Lord?


Let’s make up our minds today that we will use every opportunity we are given in life to faithfully serve the Lord and those around us. Regardless of where we stand on the socio-economic ladder, we are all servants. Let’s live the servant life to the glory of God.



1 John MacArthur, Ephesians (The MacArthur New Testament Commentary; Accordance electronic ed. Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), 323._


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