The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
November 11, 2012


1) Ephesians 6:5-12 (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes


Ephesians 6:5-12
by Tom Edwards

In Ephesians 6:5-8, Paul gave the following instruction: "Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.  With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free."

Though Paul had addressed this exhortation to the "Slaves," the principle he sets forth is also applicable in various other relationships as well --  such as in pertaining to the citizen toward his government (in obeying the laws of the land) and the employee toward his employer, etc.  For as this passage indicates, the submission or obedience rendered was to be carried out, first of all, as a service unto God Himself.  And, in like manner, our submission to the civil authorities should also be viewed and performed in that same way, since it is God's will for us "...to be in subjection to the governing authorities..." (cf. Rom. 13:1-8).  We, therefore, "render to Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and to God the things that are God's" (Matt. 22:21); but even that which the Christian renders to Caesar can be done so out of a love and devotion toward the Almighty and eternal God who is the Creator of the heavens and the earth and all things therein.  So in loving God, we strive to pay our taxes and obey the laws of the land, providing they do not conflict with God's laws.  And, similarly, we can also please the Lord by being a good worker in our secular jobs, knowing that the Lord expects the husband to provide for his own (cf. 1 Tim. 5:8).

The KJV uses the term "Servants" instead of "Slaves" in this passage.  The Greek word means "a slave (literally or figuratively, involuntarily or voluntarily..." (James Strong).  At the time Paul wrote this epistle, there were millions of slaves who were of various races, throughout the Roman Empire -- many of whom had been prisoners taken in war -- and making up a vast percentage of the population.  But whether slaves or hired servants, these instructions had applied to either.  

Slaves were to serve "with fear and trembling, in...sincerity...as to Christ."  The "fear and trembling" is out of their concern to do right in the sight of God.  It expresses that they would serve, as David Lipscomb defines it, "With earnest, conscientious care and reverence."  It is actually not a fear of punishment, but a fear of not doing what is right.  

This is also seen in how it should be for every Christian in developing his or her relationship with God.  As Paul states: "So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil. 2:12).

The KJV expresses the serving to be done as being "in singleness of your heart" (Eph. 6:5), with the Greek word for "singleness" meaning "sincerity" and "the virtue of one who is free from pretense and hypocrisy" (Thayer).  It is translated as "sincerity" in this verse in the NASB, as well as in various other versions.

Paul also gave instruction in Colossians 3:22 that "Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth...."  But we need to point out that the "all things" had to be qualified by only those things that would not conflict with God's word.  For this verse goes on to show that the slaves' service was to be carried out sincerely with a proper fear of the Lord, which indicates a reverence for God's word and adherence to it.  For by the fear of the Lord, a person "keeps away from evil" (Prov. 16:6).  

Paul admonishes that their obedience was to not be "by way of eyeservice," which, according to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, is a term that was actually "coined by Paul to express the conduct of slaves, who work only when they are watched, and whose motive, therefore, is not fidelity to duty, but either to avoid punishment or to gain a reward from their masters."  To do their work only to be seen by others would seem a shallow reason and, perhaps, it reminds us of the scribes and Pharisees whom Jesus spoke of in Matthew 6:1-5 as praying long prayers and performing other religious duties only to be seen of men -- rather than out of a sincerity toward God.  The Lord, therefore, gives the warning to "Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven" (v. 1).

Paul then includes in Ephesians 6:7 that their service was to be from a "good will" and, again, that it needed to be "as to the Lord, and not to men."  This latter part, of course, does not mean that earthly masters were not to be obeyed; for we began this section with the command that slaves were to "be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh" (v. 5); but, rather, the emphasis is being placed on the Lord to whom we are to devote ourselves above all.   

So, obedience to God did not eliminate the servant's respect toward his earthly master.  Instead, it actually improved it.  Consider, for instance, 1 Timothy 6:1,2: "All who are under the yoke as slaves are to regard their own masters as worthy of all honor so that the name of God and our doctrine will not be spoken against.  Those who have believers as their masters must not be disrespectful to them because they are brethren, but must serve them all the more, because those who partake of the benefit are believers and beloved. Teach and preach these principles."  Peter also had instructed on this: "Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable" (1 Pet. 2:18).  And notice the reason for this, as Peter goes on to show: "For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly.  For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God" (vv. 19,20).

Paul also gave a reason and motivation for why the slave should serve with "good will...as to the Lord, and not to men" by pointing out that "whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free" (Eph. 6:8). And what Christ has to give is much greater than what any earthly master could have ever provided -- or even what all earthly masters combined could have ever bestowed.  

Let us also point out that the Bible's regulation regarding the slave-master relationship is not an indication of God's approval of slavery.  But as David Lipscomb writes, "Slavery was in force in all the countries to which letters were addressed.  Indeed, it was in force in all countries at that time.  Christ did not propose to break up such relations by violence.  He recognized the relationship, regulated it, and put in operation principles that in their workings would so mold public sentiment as to break down all evil relations and sinful institutions. Slavery was so treated."  (For further consideration, read Paul's letter to Philemon with regard to his slave Onesimus -- especially verses 10-18.)  

Paul then gave instruction for the masters of these slaves, by saying, "And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him" (Eph. 6:9).  As Francis W. Beare writes, "Give them the same good will, love, and loyalty that you hope to receive from them."

Concerning the exhortation to "...give up threatening,"  B.W. Johnson comments that "The Roman law allowed masters to treat their slaves as brute beasts, to abuse and even to murder them. But Christianity at once put Christian masters under restraint."

And one reason for that proper regard for one another, as Paul brought to public attention, is in "knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven."  So whether one was the master or one was the slave, they both had the same master in heaven to whom they needed to submit -- and Paul makes it clear that God does not show favoritism.  The earthly master, therefore, had no advantage over the slave when it came to accessing God.  As Peter states in Acts 10:34,35, acceptance by the Lord is not on the basis of social status: "...'I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him.'"  God is not one to show favoritism: "For there is no partiality with God" (Rom. 2:11).  "For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality" (Col. 3:25).

As the Christian strives to develop the Lord's holy character, being impartial should also be true of the child of God.  Hear, for instance, James' warning on this: "My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism..." (Jms. 2:1-9).  He then gives the example of showing and granting special attention and honor to a wealthy man, with his gold ring and fine clothes, who would visit their assembly; and to whom they would give the good place to sit.  While to the poor man in the shabby clothes, they give the choice of either standing in a certain place or sitting down by a footstool; and, thus, they dishonor him.  James refers to these distinctions they would make between the rich and the poor as being judgments "with evil motives"; and that in their showing partiality, they are committing sin.  Paul also instructs "...to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality" (1 Tim. 5:21); and though this is written to Timothy, it needs to also be true of each of us as well.

After addressing these various relationships, Paul next exhorts the brethren in their spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6:10-13: "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.  Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm."

To "be strong in the Lord" requires drawing near to Him by our faith and obedience, which we should want to strive to increase through nourishing our souls upon God's word by hearing and applying it.  How essential that is!

Sadly, however, we live in a time in which many people feel that just believing in the deity of Christ is all that is necessary; but note what Paul states in this passage: We must "put on the full armor of God" -- for faith alone will not suffice.  

Paul then goes on to specify the different components of this spiritual armor.  And we need to also realize that even after acquiring all of it for our defense and the ability to strike back with that spiritual "sword," which is the word of God (Eph. 6:17), we still have a need to be continually vigilant and cautious. For according to 1 Corinthians10:12, "...let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall."  Yes, there is that possibility.  We need to, therefore, be watchful, along with fully equipping ourselves with the spiritual armor that the Lord provides through His word, lest we be vulnerable to the "flaming missiles of the evil one" (Eph. 6:16) and not able to withstand the schemes of the devil (v. 11).  Peter also gives a similar warning: "Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world" (1 Pet. 5:8,9).  

The more we increase our faith, the better we can resist evil.  Note, however, what happens when that faith isn't there: "And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God" (2 Cor. 4:3,4). 

Here Paul refers to Satan as "the god of this world," which puts the focus on the sinful things that make up the world, such as "the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life," which "is not from the Father, but is from the world" (1 Jn. 2:16).    J.W. Shepherd observes that "Probably there is no criminal known to men that has so many aliases as the devil."  Consider, for example, some of these terms God's word uses in referring to him.  He is the "evil one" (Matt. 13:19), the "enemy" (Matt. 13:39), "Beelzebub" (Mk. 3:22, KJV), "Beelzebul" (Mk. 3:22, NASB), "ruler of the demons" (Mk. 3:22), "murderer" (Jn. 8:44), "liar" (Jn. 8:44), "father of lies" (Jn. 8:44), "prince of this world" (Jn. 12:31, KJV), "ruler of this world" (Jn. 12:31, NASB), "Satan" (Acts 5:3), "god of this world" (2 Cor. 4:4), "Belial" (2 Cor. 6:15), "serpent" (2 Cor. 11:3), "tempter" (1 Thes. 3:5), "adversary" (1 Pet. 5:8), "angel of the abyss" (Rev. 9:11), "Abaddon" (Rev. 9:11, in the Hebrew), "Apollyon" (Rev. 9:11, in the Greek), the "great red dragon" (Rev. 12:3), the "dragon" (Rev. 12:7), "great dragon" (Rev. 12:9), the "serpent of old" (Rev. 12:9), the "devil and Satan" (Rev. 12:9), and "the accuser" (Rev. 12:10).  And in addition to the different roles these names indicate that Satan carries out, are also the many servants the devil has working for him today -- whether they realize it or not -- that we must also be aware of and not led astray by: "For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.  And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.  Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their deeds" (2 Cor. 11:13-15).  

Paul shows that this battle is not a carnal battle against flesh and blood; but, rather, a spiritual battle "against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places."  We noted in a previous lesson that one of the definitions of the Greek word for "heavenly" pertains to the region "of the clouds."  In Ephesians 2:2, Paul declares, "in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience."  And that the Christian is up against a spiritual battle can be seen in Galatians 5:16,17: "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.  For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please."

So may our lives be lived in service to the Lord, walking in the light, being motivated by God's Spirit through His word, rather than dwelling in the darkness and being under the  influence of  the sinful things of this world.  For by putting Christ first and equipping ourselves with the gospel's spiritual armor, we can then "overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us" (Rom. 8:37).  And don't you want to be sure to be on that winning side -- especially in the Judgment Day?!


News & Notes

Let those of us who are Christians be remembering the following people in prayer:

Kay Babin, while still in the healing process from viral meningitis, had to be admitted to the hospital recently, due to a staff infection.

Shirley Young will be having gall bladder surgery November 20.  She also has continual pain from fibromyalgia. 

Doris Crews recently had a knee replacement.

Pam MacDonald has severe back trouble.

Clifton Trimble is in his 80's with heart trouble.

Bill Barfield has been several months in a hospital's step-down unit. 

Terry MacDonald is healing from recent surgery.

Cheryl Crews has chronic ailments.

Caleb Davis is now in Afghanistan.

Mozelle Robertson is a little frail at 92.

Wayne Murray is in a nursing home in Columbus, Mississippi.

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

9923 Sunny Cline Dr., Baton Rouge, LA  70817
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 6 PM (worship)
Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/go (Gospel Observer website)
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)