In our former essay we noticed that Paul lays down a universal and a binding ordinance for all the servants (slaves) who are under the legal yoke of slavery, and owned by unbelieving masters. They are to do a little accounting; they are to judge them worthy of all honor.
Now we would investigate the teaching of Scripture concerning the attitude of the heart and soul of the believing slave toward his believing master. The danger here signaled by Paul is that, due to the new relationship of faith in Christ, constituting both “slave” and “lord” one new man in the fellowship of saints, the slave would not give “all honor” to his master.
In passing it should be remarked that in Ephesians 6:9 Paul also has a warning note to the masters, the earthly lords of the Christian slaves. Writes Paul: “And, ye lords, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening, knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him.” It is, therefore, by no means thus that Paul only has a word of admonition to the servants and not to the masters. The following partictilars should be noticed concerning the teaching of Scripture about the relationship of the masters, the “despotees,” to the slaves. In the first place, it should be evident that the Gospel of free grace does not come with outward force, nor is it in any way revolutionary. Christ submitted, while on earth, to the Roman government; He paid tribute to Caesar, and taught that we should give to God what is God’s and to Caesar what is Caesar’s. His Kingdom does not come up out of this world; it in no sense has its origin in the existing world and relationships. He “came into” this world as the Son of God to save the world, the Cosmos; He came to bear witness of the truth. John 18:36, 37.
In the second place, it should be evident that when Christ is preached in the world, and men are gathered into His church of all kinds—kings and subjects, man and wife, parents and children, slaves and masters—these earthly relationships are not destroyed, but rather sanctified. Each of these relationships becomes a certain domain where our salvation must be worked out with fear and trembling. The Bible knows of no social gospel, the proclamation that all men are born “free and equal,” as Rousseau and Voltaire, the men of the French revolution, proclaimed, and as is the attempt today of all “socializing” agencies. I say the Bible does not teach this. Scripture knows only of the Gospel promise in Christ Jesus; to receive this promise these are no social obstacles; to be a free-man and a lord is of no advantage, and to be a slave is no hindrance to being a Christian. Writes Paul explicitly inI Cor. 7:17: “But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all the churches.”
In the third place, it should be observed that Paul gives some particulars of what he means when he speaks of the Kingdom of Christ in the midst of the present earthly relationships; it is the truth that Christ’s Kingdom is not out of this world. Here follow a few particulars: “Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not become circumcised. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God. Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.” I Cor. 7:18-20.
In the fourth place, it is particularly interesting and instructive what Paul writes, applying the previously mentioned principles to the slave’s relationship to his master. Writes he: “Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.” I Cor. 7:21. Underneath this injunction is a deep and profound principle which are as golden apples in a silver bowl: “For he that is called in the Lord, being servant (slave) is the Lord’s freeman; (is madefree) likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant.”
These are the principles that must be taught.
Says Paul here in I Cor. 7:17: “And so ordain I in all the churches.”
In I Tim. 6:2b Paul writes: “These things teach and exhort.”
It is against this background, as we have iterated above, that we can understand the exhortation to the believing slaves in general, and particularly also in reference to their believing masters.
Paul insists that something “new” has come into the “old” relationship; Christ has brought in a new dimension. It is his LORDSHIP over all; He is Lord of both the slaves and the masters, being the One who has redeemed both to be His peculiar possession, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, called out of darkness into God’s marvelous light. And each, both slave and master, must work out his respective salvation with fear and trembling! They must work out their salvation not only in general, but the slave must sanctify his slave-relationship to his master in his new relationship to his LORD in heaven, and the master must sanctify his master-relationship in his new relationship to his LORD in heaven. That is the “new” in the midst of the old relationship. The slave-master, and, the master-slave society is no barrier for the Christian faith and life. For the entire law is fulfilled in either relationship in this one word: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself! The slave must act toward his master in love, and the master must act toward the slave in love.
The new relationship in Christ did not annul the legal and social relationship of slave and master!
Christ is not the author of confusion.
There is sinful flesh in every Christian who was “called” in Christ as a slave. This sin reveals itself in using the “liberty” in Christ as an occasion for the flesh. It would use the new relationship in. Christ as the occasion for despising the brother in the “old’ relationship,” and thus would lift this “old relationship” of being a slave from out of the providential direction of his LORD in heaven, and thus would make void the battle and victory which was his in that relationship. Hence, Paul admonishes as follows here in I Tim. 6:2: “And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit.”
In Christ they are equals, both servants and masters; both receive the same “benefit” in Christ; in this they are join theirs. But this is also true of husband and wife; and still this does not make husband and wife equals. The same must be said about our children, sanctified in Christ. However, this having the same benefit in Christ, being a fellowship of saints, sitting at the same Lord’s table together, does not take away social inequality; it does not do this per se!
This latter must be seen. It must also be taught and underscored with exhortations.
To “despise” the master does not mean to despise in general, but to so think of the master in his relationship as master, while he is a brother. One has but to read that masterful letter of Paul to Philemon concerning Onesimus, the slave of Philemon, to, see how Paul, while maintaining that Onesimus is a free man in Christ and, as such, not the servant of Philemon, still honors the master-position of Philemon and does not “despise” the latter for it. He hands the slave over to the master, reminding him at the same time that he must not forget his own indebtedness to Paul, and that he too has a Master in heaven! Philemon 1:18, 19.
Paul gives content to the honor, which is the very opposite of despising in Ephesians 6:5-8. He points out the following elements in this honor:
In the first place, it is to be a matter of “obedience.” They are to give ear to what their masters according to the flesh command them. They are not to account themselves on an equal par of authority in this “sphere.” It is conceivable, however, that a slave was the elder in the congregation, while the master was in this church not an elder. In the sphere of the church the elder would rule over the master. I doubt whether this happened often in life; but it is conceivable.
In the second place, it should be noticed that this obedience has a very lofty “motivation.” It is not at all humanistic. Then the situation of a slave would be impossible. Wherefore in the world we have revolutions and social reforms and a new social contract. However, here in the church that is not necessary. For the relationship to Christ determines the new attitude in the old relationship to the master. Wherefore Paul writes “as unto Christ.”
In this relationship with the new Christian motivation there will also be a new ethical quality. It will be “not with eye-service, as men-pleasers,” but “as the servants of Christ.” It will be a “new” obedience of the spirit and not of the letter.
It will, furthermore, be a service which has a great reward. This reward will not be social advancement necessarily. It may be that the circumstances were such that the master would give his slave liberty. Then he could use it gratefully in the service of Christ. However, the reward which the Lord gives is, (a) in this life the good conscience of being well-pleasing to Christ, to fight against all sin and unbelief, and to walk in the law which is fulfilled in one word: thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself; (b) and when the course of the life of a slave is ended there will be the reward of having been faithful in little and set over much; the reward of reigning with Christ over all things in heaven and on earth.
The perfect social state of all being equal, that is of being sons of God and of being brethren together, must wait till theParousia of our Lord. Presently in the reconstitution of all things under heaven, in a new heaven and a new earth where righteousness shall dwell, we shall have the perfect state. All the attempts of mere man to bring about the perfect state of the “inalienable right” that all men are “created free and equal” must needs lead to wars and bloodshed.
We must not be deceived in our day by the ado, the excitement of the world, her humanistic teachings, and become involved in the class struggle. We are to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling where God has placed us in His providence. We do not need any open forums of discussion of the calling of the church to make this world a better place to live in, nor do we need to import speakers to indoctrinate us in the social errors and wrongs done upon “minority” groups!
The church is the “minority group” and the world is the “majority group.” Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction and many there be who go in thereat; because straight is the gate and narrow is the way that leadeth to life and few there be that find it.
It was not many “slaves” who served the Lord from the heart, looking for the final liberation in the Day of Christ!