- About Slavery
- Your Responsibility to Servants (Ephesians 6:9a)
- Your Responsibility to God (Ephesians 6:9b)
It is amazing sometimes what Employers go through to find good employees.
A recent survey asked directors of personnel of the nation’s 100 largest corporations to recount their unusual experiences in interviewing prospective employees. Here are a few of their responses.
- One job applicant challenged the interviewer to arm wrestle
- Another said he hadn’t finished high school because he was kidnapped and kept in a closet in Mexico.
- A balding candidate excused himself and then returned wearing a full hairpiece—a miracle of Rogain!
- One candidate wore headphones in the interview and, when asked to remove them, explained that she could listen to the interviewer and the music at the same time.
- Another said she hadn’t had time for lunch, and proceeded to eat a hamburger and fries in the interviewer’s office.
- One clumsy candidate fell and suffered an arm fracture during the interview.
- One applicant interrupted the questioning to phone her therapist for advice before answering.
- Another refused to sit down and insisted on being interviewed standing up.
- One candidate muttered, “Would it be a problem if I’m angry most of the time?”
Those who run, own, and manage businesses today have to deal with an awful lot. I don’t have experience with such things myself, but God’s Word, which touches upon and teaches us in all aspects of life has something to say to us today about how to be good employers at our jobs. This is what we see today from Ephesians 6:9.
Last week, as we work our way through the book of Ephesians, we looked at Ephesians 6:5-8 and God’s instructions to employees. Today, we put the employers on the spot and give them some instructions from God’s Word as well.
Again, like last week, if you already looking at Ephesians 6:9, you will notice that Paul is actually speaking to Slaves and Masters. But as I said last week, although there really are no longer slaves and masters today in our culture, the principles in this passage can be applied to the Employee and Employer relationship which all of us have in our jobs.
So today, we see God’s instructions to Employers, or as Paul says—Masters. Ephesians 6:9.
Ephesians 6:9. And you, masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.
This is a short verse, and pretty straightforward, so I don’t have a whole lot to say about the verse itself. So before I talk about the content of the verse, I want to spend some time talking about something that the verse does not say. I want to point out one very curious thing that Paul does not talk about here.
Most of us, living in our day and culture, if we had been Paul writing this, and there were masters who had become Christians, and they were now wondering what to do with their slaves, most of us would have written, “And you masters, now that you have become Christians, set your slaves free, for it is not right that one man should own another. After all, are not all people created in the image of God, and are not all equal in Christ?”
If you were to try and find this statement in the Bible, you would be searching for a long time—because it’s not there.
But that is what we would have written if we were Paul. We would have angrily asked these masters how they would like to be a slave. We would have demanded how they could be so ignorant and backward as to think that they had the right to own slaves. Didn’t they know that keeping a slave was sinful?
That’s what we would have written.
But that is not what Paul wrote. In fact, no biblical author wrote with such ideas. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that slavery is wrong. The Bible never blatantly attacks or condemns slavery.
Does that surprise you? It surprised me. In studying these verses during the past couple of weeks, I found nothing at all in the Bible clearly condemning slavery.
Let me say with complete clarity that I absolutely think that slavery is wrong. But for some reason, God never saw fit to have one of His divinely inspired authors of Scripture speak out against slavery.
For one very simple reason. To do so puts the cart before the horse. Although the overall thrust of the gospel message is against things like slavery, Jesus did not come to be a political ruler with a political agenda.
Along the same lines, Paul’s ministry, as well as the other apostles, was not to overthrow the government or get involved in politics. Rather, their goal was to reach the lost by preaching the gospel, and to make disciples of those who believed. That is why Jesus came, and that is what He did. And following His lead, that is what Paul and all the apostles did.
I think, that in large part, the poor condition of the church today can be laid at the feet of those who have abandoned the Bible, and have taken up the political agenda. This is always a losing battle. Church historians all point to the early fourth century AD as the beginning of the decline of the church.
What happened? Christianity became the state religion, and as such, became more political and religious. This church decline continued for over 1000 years as the church got deeper and deeper into politics. But the Reformation began in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the castle church door of Wittenberg.
And ever since then, we have been trying to climb our way back out of that huge hole that was dug.
The Bible tells us and church history tells us that we cannot have changed lives until and unless we have changed hearts. It is never successful to attempt a change of life when there is no change of heart. Jesus knew this. Paul knew this. The apostles knew this. The early church knew this.
The business of the church is to teach and obey the Scriptures. The primary business of the church is not to deal with conditions in this world. The task of the church is to constantly remind the unsaved of their dire need for starting a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and to constantly remind the believer of their dire need to grow in and maintain their relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
As the Bible is preached, hearts are changed. And when hearts are changed, lives are changed. And when that happens, society changes for the better as well. The results of such preaching led to the downfall of the Roman government and the eventual abolishment of slavery, but that was not the early church’s primary motive.
One of the greatest of all preachers was a man by the name of John Chrysostom. He lived and preached in the fourth century, and his preaching was so good, that people called him “The Golden Tongued Preacher.”
Chrysostom lived in a time when slavery was everywhere. But when he came to this verse as he preached through the book of Ephesians, he said nothing whatsoever about masters letting their slaves go. Instead, here is his advice to the masters:
“Teach [your slaves] to be religious, and everything else will follow of necessity. But now, when any one is going to the theater [to see a play], or going off to the bath, he drags all his servants after him; but when he goes to church, not for a moment; nor does he compel them to attend and hear. Now how shall thy servant listen, when thou his master art attending to other things? Hast thou purchased, hast thou bought thy slave? Before all things enjoin him what God would have him do, to be gentle towards his fellow-servants, and to make much account of virtue.”
So you see? Social and political issues were always secondary to spiritual issues. Chrystostom’s advice to the masters was to be such a good master that all of his slaves would become Christians. And that would, in turn, make them more obedient, hard-working, gentle, and virtuous.
In the end, the master ends up with a better working condition, better workers, and a better business.
That is the way it always works. When you focus on attacking the world by its own methods, the world always wins. But when you try to win the world for Jesus Christ, the sinful practices of the world die too. By putting spiritual matters before social and political matters, we get both.
We saw this happen in our own country many years ago when George Whitefield, John Wesley, and Jonathan Edwards were alive. They just preached the gospel and the Word of God, and as a result, people came to Christ.
One of the results of that was that people started freeing their slaves, and giving women their rightful place in society and caring for the needy and giving up their sinful habits of excessive drinking and gamboling.
Now, to be sure, there were countless other pastors who focused more on preaching against the evils of their day. But these men are long since dead and forgotten. We don’t even know their names! But those who remained faithful to teaching the Bible and using that to change lives—are the ones who helped bring about the change in society.
One famous preacher did try to speak out against slavery once. Martin Luther, who I mentioned before, because he was one of the early reformers, still had trouble knowing where the line was. Several times in his life, he became more of a politician than a pastor, and late in his life, this tendency caught up with him. All church historians agree that this event is probably the worst mistake he ever made in his life.
He rightly saw the terrible condition and oppression of the serfs and peasants by their Lords and Masters, and so Martin Luther wrote a little pamphlet called “An Admonition to Peace” which condemned the lords for their unjust treatment of the peasants, and told the peasants that many of their demands were just.
In this pamphlet, he told the lords that if they didn’t give the peasants some freedom, the peasants would revolt. But nevertheless, Luther wanted both sides to negotiate. Well, the lords gave no ground to the demands of the peasants, and so the peasants revolted, thinking they were following Luther’s advice about what the Bible taught.
In response, another pamphlet exploded from fiery Martin Luther’s pen. This one was titled, “Against the Murderous and Thieving Hordes of Peasants.” In it he counseled the lords and princes to act quickly. If the peasants would not come to terms, and lay down their arms, then the princes were to “smite, strangle, and stab [them], secretly or openly, remembering that nothing can be more poisonous, hurtful, or devilish than a rebel. It is just as when one must kill a mad dog: if you do not strike him, he will strike you and the whole land with you.”
And as you might guess, a massacre followed.
Martin Luther learned the lesson the hard way. We do not win the battle against slavery, drugs, alcoholism, pornography, gamboling, child-abuse, abortion, sex-trafficking or any such sins unless we first get our priorities straight. Lives must be changed by the gospel before we can make demands on the lives of these people to change society and culture. Changes in society will not come unless the hearts and minds of people are changed first.
Even if in America, we were able to ban abortion, and get everybody to “Just say No” to drugs, and we are able to stop drunk driving, and we no longer needed support groups … if we do all these things, although we may have been able to provide a better world for people to live in, we have not done anything about where people are headed in eternity. Laws might sometimes change the way people behave, but they do not can cannot change the condition of a person’s heart.
So do what you can in the political arena. I strongly urge every single person to vote and to pay their taxes and to subject themselves to the governing authorities. God definitely wants us to stand up for what it right, and to defend those who have no voice, and who cannot defend themselves.
God wants us to be lights in this world and beacons for the truth, but the first light and truth that we are to uphold is the light of Jesus Christ and the truth of the Gospel.
All of the New Testament authors are examples of this. Not one of them agreed with everything the Roman Empire was doing, but almost none of them wrote much of anything against the Roman Empire. Instead, they preached Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
That is what all great men and women of Christian history have done. That is what all great men and women in the Bible did. That is what we will do as well.
So with that in mind, let us look once again at the text that is before us today. Ephesians 6:9. In it, Paul does not condemn slavery. Neither does he condone it. He doesn’t really say anything about slavery at all.
All he does in Ephesians 6:9 is tell the masters how they should treat the slaves that they do have. All he does is tell them what the Word of God says, for these principles he provides in Ephesians 6:9 are pulled straight from the Old Testament (Lev. 25:35-46; Ex. 21:7; Dt. 15:17; Prov. 29:19-21) and the teachings of Christ and other apostles (cf. Matt. 20:27; 1 Tim. 5:21; James 2; 1 Cor. 7:17-24; Col. 3:22-4:1; 1 Tim. 6:1-2; Titus 2:6-10; 1 Pet. 2:18-21; Philemon 10-19).
So in looking at Ephesians 6:9, keep all of this in mind.
Your Responsibility to Servants (Ephesians 6:9a)
The first thing we see in this verse is really quite surprising. Most of us think that in the master-slave relationship—it is only the slaves who have to answer to the master. And that is what we saw last week.
Slaves, according to Ephesians 6:5, are to obey their earthly masters, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart.
But look what we see in Ephesians 6:9
Ephesians 6:9a. And you, masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatening,
Paul calls the masters to do the same things to them. This obviously does not mean that the masters are to obey the slaves, but it does mean, I think, that the masters are to take care of those who work for them.
I think that this phrase, do the same things to them, refers back to Ephesians 6:6-7 where Paul calls the slaves to do the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord and not to men.
This means treating your employees with respect, and dignity, and courtesy and honesty. Make sure that you are in their corner, fighting for them, not against them. Be reliable in your actions.
Employers should pay attention to the suggestions of their employees, listen to their concerns, and be willing to make adjustments if they are wrong. If you expect your workers to do the best for you, you must do your best for them.
Employers should do what they promise to do. If they do these things, they too will be assured of receiving a reward from Christ as Paul mentioned in verse 8.
Going on from telling the masters to behave toward their workers in the way they want the workers to behave toward them, Paul gives a specific instruction to the masters. He tells them to give up threatening.
In Roman culture, the master had the right to kill his servants if he wanted. And if he could do that, he could also beat them, or starve them, or chain them up in tiny rooms. So that may be partly what Paul has in mind here.
“People in positions of authority frequently face the temptation to take advantage of their position by being harsh or unloving to people under their authority. But God says a Christian employer must never do that.
“He must not use vile language, or throw out unjustified accusations, or pressure his workers to work overtime by continually hinting that he’ll fire them if they don’t. He should not use power-play leverage to try to squeeze more work out of them through constantly belittling them or demoralizing them with demands.”
Paul tells masters to not threaten people into obedience. One reason for this is because, as Paul shows in the last half of Ephesians 6:9, masters too have a boss. Masters are responsible to God.
Your Responsibility to God (Ephesians 6:9b)
Ephesians 6:9b. … knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.
Once again, just like last week, we see that though we all have earthly responsibilities to carry out, our primary responsibility is to serve God.
The last half of Ephesians 6:9 clearly shows that whatever our position is here on earth—as Christians we are first and foremost responsible to God.
If you are a master, or a boss, or an owner of a company, Ephesians 6:9 says that you have a Master also, [who] is in heaven. Your master is God. You are answerable to Him on how you run your business, and how you treat your employees.
God wants every boss to know that He is their boss.
And while people in this earth might be impressed with your position, or your power, or your money, none of these things matter to God. He is going to treat you in the same way he treats everybody else. Ephesians 6:9 says that there is no favoritism, there is no partiality with God.
That means He won’t show favoritism. He won’t be easier on you because of your title or position. When judgement day comes, God is not going to address you as “Mr. Vice-President of Company XYZ.” He is going to call you by name and ask, “How well did you treat your brothers who worked for you?”
God sees both you and your employees and equals, and if you don’t treat them right, on judgement day, God will settle the score.
Do you have people working for you? Remember that you are working for God, and He wants you to treat your employees with respect and dignity, as you would want to be treated. He wants you to give up threatening them.
When Christ comes to judge each person according to what they have done in the body, whether good or bad, if you treated your employees poorly here, and they followed the instructions found in Ephesians 6:5-8, God may see fit to place you under their authority for an eternity in heaven. In that day, God will set everything straight. Live right now with that in mind.
When a business owner is a Christian, he or she should seek to run their business as if Jesus was running it. This means that they will provide excellent pay and benefits for their employees. They will create working conditions that lift people up, encourage the workers for a job well done, and will seek a proper work-life balance. They will sacrifice their own time and money to make sure that the workers have sufficient time for life and family and make enough money to enjoy life with their family.
These are the sorts of the things a Christian business owner can do so that the company is run as if it were run and owned by Jesus Christ. Any Christian-owned business should be one of the best and most desirable places to work in town. It should be a model for honesty and integrity, for a hard work ethic, for quality products, and for being a great place to work. This is how Christian business owners can serve their employees as if they were serving Jesus Christ.
Let me close with how I started. Early Christians knew that what was important was not necessarily getting rid of slavery. Yes, it was cruel and degrading, just as some of our workplaces today are cruel and degrading.
But they knew that abolishing slavery was not nearly as important as getting the slaves and masters saved. If, like Martin Luther, we tell the slaves to rebel, or in our case, tell people to stop working, or go on strike, then we will offend the employers, and they will have nothing to do with Christianity.
On the other hand, again, like Martin Luther, if we tell the masters to beat their servants into submission, then we will offend the servants, or the employees, and they will have nothing to do with Christianity.
Whatever position of authority God has given to you, your primary role is to reveal Christ to those who are around you, and under you. Your primary goal is to make them Christians and once they become Christians, to encourage them on toward Christian maturity.
When this happens, you end up with all the positive things as well. Better workers, better working conditions, a better business.
You know, the Bible is not alone in recognizing this. Joseph Stalin, the communist leader of Russia, at the height of the war, suddenly relaxed the laws and rules concerning Christianity. Everybody was amazed at this. Had Stalin become a Christian?
No. Far from it. The explanation given was that Stalin recognized that the most reliable workers in all of Russia were Christians. He could rely upon them to do their job, to do it right, and to do it efficiently. And he figured that with as much manpower as he needed for the war, the more Christians he had working for him the better.
And the Christians worked hard for him, hoping that through their hard work, they might convert to Christianity one of the cruelest men who has ever lived. And even if they didn’t convert Stalin to Christianity, they knew—as we saw last week—that they were working for Christ rather than man.
The Bible teaches it. Christian giants throughout history have practiced it. Even the world recognizes it. Masters, business owners, if you want to have a good business, run your business for God (R.G. LeTourneau), and reveal Christ to your employees. Then, no matter what happens to your business here on earth, you will receive reward and honor in heaven.
“Never forget that everything you do, and everything you fail to do, is known to Him, and that you will have to face your own record again, and ‘give an account of the deeds done in the body, whether good or bad.’”
There is a loss that can be suffered which is greater than the loss of your business. Make sure you keep the proper perspective on who and what you are running your business for.
 From Chris Mueller, Sermons in Print, Titus 2:9-10.
 Wiersbe, 55.
 Chrysostom, commenting on Ephesians 6:9.
 MacArthur, Lloyd-Jones, 305-358; Stott, 254ff.
 James Kittelson, Luther the Reformer (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1986), 191-192.
 Lloyd-Jones, 356.
 Lloyd-Jones, 370.