We want the Bible to say that slavery is immoral, but it doesn’t come right out condemn it. It does speak of freedom (1 Corinthians 7:21), but God’s word is more about spiritual freedom than physical emancipation. However, Paul’s teaching did subvert the concept of slavery, as slaves now had a greater loyalty to God than to their owners. All believers, slave and free, had become slaves of Christ, serving Him and doing God’s will. And slave owners were to respect their slaves in the same way slaves respected their masters.
Read Ephesians 6:1-9 in The Message. To engage more of your senses, read it out loud if possible.
1-3 Children, do what your parents tell you. This is only right. “Honor your father and mother” is the first commandment that has a promise attached to it, namely, “so you will live well and have a long life.” 4 Fathers, don’t frustrate your children with no-win scenarios. Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master. 5-8 Servants, respectfully obey your earthly masters but always with an eye to obeying the real master, Christ. Don’t just do what you have to do to get by, but work heartily, as Christ’s servants doing what God wants you to do. And work with a smile on your face, always keeping in mind that no matter who happens to be giving the orders, you’re really serving God. Good work will get you good pay from the Master, regardless of whether you are slave or free. 9 Masters, it’s the same with you. No abuse, please, and no threats. You and your servants are both under the same Master in heaven. He makes no distinction between you and them. Ephesians 6:1-9, MSG
Signs of the Times
- We want the Bible to say that slavery is immoral, but it doesn’t come right out condemn it. It does speak of freedom (1 Corinthians 7:21), but God’s word is more about spiritual freedom than physical emancipation. Related texts include: Exodus 1:11-14, 21:6; Deuteronomy 15:17; Ephesians 6:5-8; Colossians 3:22-25; 1 Timothy 6:1-2; Titus 2:9-10; 1 Peter 2:18-21
- Slavery in the New Testament is pictured differently from the first century. Roman law allowed ownership of slaves, but they were expensive to purchase and keep, and they had most of the legal rights of a free citizen. They could marry, have money, and be tried in court. However, running away was a punishable offense, but many slaves chose not to because their often had a better life than free men, with a place to sleep, clothes, food, and sometimes spending money.
- Many Jewish teachers considered the Biblical instruction for children to honor their parents (Exodus 20:12) to be the greatest commandment. For them, this also meant not bringing shame on your parents by your behavior.
Read Ephesians 6:1-9 for a second time, this time using the New Living Translation.
Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. 2 “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise: 3 If you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.” 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord. 5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ. 6 Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart. 7 Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. 8 Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free. 9 Masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Don’t threaten them; remember, you both have the same Master in heaven, and he has no favorites. Ephesians 6:1-9, NLT
I made three columns in my chart showing the relationships that Paul addresses. No matter our place in the family or status in the world, we are all under Christ.
Read Ephesians 6:1-9 one more time. Quiet your mind, turn away from distractions, and ask God to show you a word or a phrase that is important for your relationship with your heavenly Father.
Children, if you want to be wise, listen to your parents and do what they tell you, and the Lord will help you. 2 For the commandment, “Honor your father and your mother,” was the first of the Ten Commandments with a promise attached: 3 “You will prosper and live a long, full life if you honor your parents.” 4 Fathers, don’t exasperate your children, but raise them up with loving discipline and counsel that brings the revelation of our Lord. 5 Those who are employed should listen to their employers and obey their instructions with great respect and honor. Serve them with humility in your hearts as though you were working for the Master. 6 Always do what is right and not only when others are watching, so that you may please Christ as his servants by doing his will. 7 Serve your employers wholeheartedly and with love, as though you were serving Christ and not men. 8 Be assured that anything you do that is beautiful and excellent will be repaid by our Lord, whether you are an employee or an employer. 9 And to the caretakers of the flock I say, do what is right with your people by forgiving them when they offend you, for you know there is a Master in heaven that shows no favoritism Ephesians 6:1-9, TPT
We are on our last chapter of Ephesians, and Paul has been very clear about Who we follow and how that affects our interactions. What special word did you hear from God today?
As always, I invite you to share with me in the comments below or send an email to KSEvenhouseWWV@gmail.com