Slaves of Christ
Passage: Ephesians 6:5–6:9
1. To slaves: an exhortation to obey their masters as they would obey the Lord himself (6:5–8)
- With respect and sincerity of heart (5)
- With a wholehearted desire to please God, as a slave of Christ (6)
- With a great attitude, knowing that you will receive your eschatological reward (7–8)
- To masters: an exhortation to have the same attitudes as slaves (9)
- Do the same to them
- Forbear threatening
- Know that Jesus Christ is master of both slave and slave-owner, and that there is no partiality with him
Slavery in the First Century
- Racial factors played no role.
- Many slaves could reasonably expect to be manumitted during their lifetime.
- Many slaves worked in a variety of specialized and responsible positions.
- Many slaves received education and training in specialist skills.
- Freed slaves often became Romans citizens and developed a client relationship to their former masters.
- Slaves possessed few legal rights, lacked honour, were subject to whatever punishment their masters deemed appropriate (and were sometimes treated with cruelty), were permitted no legally sanctioned marriage or family bond, could not keep their own children born to them while in slavery, could be separated from their spouses by the slave master, and we’re not allowed to own property of any kind.
It is in this context that the apostle Paul casts a vision for how Christian slaves and Christian slave owners should live out their lives within the constraints of this prevailing social and economic system.
Slave of Christ: A slave is someone whose person and service belong wholly to another. This complete devotion to Christ includes three elements:
- Humble submission to Jesus
- Unquestioning obedience to Jesus’ will.
- An exclusive preoccupation with pleasing Jesus.