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Masters and Servants

Growing in Grace / Doug Agnew
The Truth Network Radio
May 16, 2022 2:00 am

Masters and Servants

Growing in Grace / Doug Agnew

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May 16, 2022 2:00 am

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I invite you to turn in your Bibles to 1 Timothy 6.

Let's pray. Heavenly Father, our Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we pray that you would be with us this evening. We pray that we would consider the person of Christ. We pray that we would consider how He submitted Himself to the Father. He humbled Himself and came into a lost and dying world, and He communicated to us the life-giving Gospel.

We see that He had no will in His own, but He came to do the will of Him who sent Him, that is, the Father's will. We pray that we would have this will on our own hearts. We pray that we would love your Word, that we would do the will of the Father, and that is, look to the Son by faith, honor Him in our work, honor Him in our status in life, in our placement in our work, in our employment. We pray that you would write these truths upon our hearts. In your Son's name we pray.

Amen. We are continuing in our series through 1 Timothy, and as you preach through a book of the Bible, you cannot dodge any topic that the next passage comes across. Tonight, as we go into this passage, we are going to be looking at work, at slavery, at what it is to be an employer or an employee within the workplace, and how we are to conduct ourselves, not only as the letter talks about the household of faith, but also how we are to conduct ourselves within the workplace. Today, in our modern society, there is a movement going on, whether you're aware of it or not. There is an anti-work movement. There is a website going on where men and women who are fed up with working, they're done with work, they post online about quitting their jobs in a very triumphant way, posting text messages and emails with their overbearing and abusive bosses. The subheading for this webpage says, For those who want to end work or are curious about ending work, want to get the most out of a work-free life, want more information on anti-work ideas, and want personal help with their own jobs or work-related struggles.

There is a movement going on. But this isn't the first time we've heard this. The famous country singer Johnny Paycheck wrote a song about quitting his job and it was so effective that it actually changed the unemployment rate within our nation. Unemployment went up in America when that song came out. There are bad jobs and there are bad bosses and work in general is something that can be very difficult depending on the nature of the work, but work is good. It is not some sort of necessary evil. We are commanded since the beginning. Since the beginning of time, we've been commanded to work.

Prior to the fall of mankind in Genesis 3, when sin entered into the world, we had the Garden of Eden. Work was a blessing from God. The covenant of works was an agreement between God and man where Adam and Eve would tend to the Garden, would take care of Paradise.

Work was a great agreement. Unfortunately, sin entered into the world and with sin there was a curse. And the curse was that work would not be difficult. Thorns and thistles and by the sweat of our brow we would work.

And Adam did this. He worked. It was still good and necessary to work, but now it was no longer easy.

It became a difficult process. And so with the fall there was corruption not only within the land, but also within our own hearts and within our own attitudes toward work. Prior to the Reformation, our Christian forefathers wanted to work out what is a biblical view of work and they developed what is called the Protestant work ethic, also known as a Calvinist work ethic or Puritan work ethic. This is the biblical teaching on work and it goes into our theology, our sociology, our economics and it's well established throughout history and it emphasizes three main concepts.

Diligence, discipline and being frugal with the money that we earn. In other words, what we should do as Christians, we should work hard, we should be disciplined in our work and be good at what we do, but then finally we should be very careful and save our money, be frugal so that we can take the money that God has blessed us through our hard work and that we can be good stewards of it, placing it in places where there is need and where we can best glorify the Lord. But beyond this, it was counter-cultural to the current Roman Catholic status quo. At the time, the Roman Catholic view of vocational ministry, that is they thought that Catholic priests, because they were answering the high holy calling of being a priest in the church, they view this as a greater calling, a higher calling. What we remember from Peter is that we are a holy nation, a royal priesthood. We are all a priesthood of believers within the church. We are all called to our individual calling and this is a high calling. Whatever our hands find to do, do with all our might and that is our calling from God. So whether you are a priest in the church, a pastor in the church, or if you are an entry level worker at a company, it is a noble vocation. The work that we find ourselves to do, we must fulfill this work with dedication and do this with all our might. We are to have a positive view as Christians on the concept of work. Another topic I must address before we get into verse 1 is this word, as you see in your ESV, but all who are under the yoke as bondservants.

In the original Greek, the word is doulos and while we clean up the language, because I appreciate what the ESV translators are trying to do here. They want to avoid the lightning rod, the emotionally charged, politically charged word that is slave. They don't want to say it.

They want to avoid it. They don't want to bring in the background that we have as Americans in our American culture. It brings in too many cultural assumptions.

It brings in too many implications. For most Americans, I think that slavery began in 1619, but for the rest of the world, slavery began thousands of years ago. Thousands of years ago, it was not necessarily only race-based. Slaves were across different races and nations and ethnicities, sometimes within your own nation. When you couldn't travel far away and get slaves, you would just enslave those that were nearby. You enslaved enemies in war.

People would travel far and wide, but they would also just enslave those just to the east or just to the west. Some historians even say that nearly everyone alive today has had an ancestor that either, actually not either, has been a slave or was an owner of slaves. Just about everybody has had some ancestral connection to the institution of slavery. Before we go into this passage, we need to understand what is the biblical concept of slavery.

What does it mean when we pass over this word, bondservant, or slave in our Bibles? Going back to Roman law, back in the first century, back in Paul's time, the Greco-Roman world was extremely brutal to their slaves. Masters could kill their slaves without warrant.

They had no legal rights within Rome. At the time, estimates are one in three, sometimes one in five, of all people in major cities were slaves. They were free to walk around in these cities. They were reasonably educated. Many slaves were allowed by their masters to earn wages. They could, over time, through work, purchase their manumission, which was their certificate of freedom. Free persons could sell themselves into a wealthy person's slavery.

He could be an indentured servant. They could use that money later to purchase themselves right back out of slavery. But slavery has really been the norm throughout the history of the world.

It is the reality in which we are living. When we look back in history, 50 million people in Paul's day, just in Paul's day, not prior to or after, but at the time that Paul was writing to the church in Ephesus, 50 million people were in slavery. Two examples of this that are most common would be indentured servitude. Slavery came when you owed someone a debt and you needed to pay it off.

You could indenture yourself into their service and you could, over time, pay off debt through your service. Another way would be by being a prisoner of war. We see this actually back in the Mosaic Law, back in Deuteronomy chapter 20. We see that there is a place for slavery due to prisoners of war. Under Jewish law, they could not be your slave for more than six years.

So even they are put into God's law that this was a temporary institution and not a lifelong institution. It's actually a movie called Kingdom of Heaven and the main character gets into a sword fight and he wins. The Christian kills the Muslim and the Muslim's translator says, basically, I'm now your slave. He takes him to Jerusalem and when he gets to Jerusalem, the Christian tells the Muslim, I've been close to a slave. I'm not going to keep one. Take my horse.

Take your freedom. And the Muslim explains to the Christian, according to your law, according to Deuteronomy chapter 20, I could be your slave if you wished it. Of course, as the movie goes, later on they go into battle. Our main character becomes a prisoner of war and the Muslim wins the battle. And you realize he's not just a lowly translator. He's actually a very prominent leader within the army. And just as he was shown mercy at the beginning of the movie, later on he gets to show mercy to the Christian as now he has him at bay and he tells him, he quotes the Muslim, quotes the Bible to the Christian and says, you reap what you sow.

You've heard of this. And so he gets to turn around and bless the Christian with his own word. But again, it's just a fact back in the 12th century that you gained slaves through war. But again, our Judeo-Christian faith, the goal here is to regulate, to minimize, and to correct the abuses of slavery and ultimately leading to its abolishment. But slavery existed within Israel.

Like I said, it was no longer than six years unless you stayed on longer if you had a good job and wanted to stay on for the economic gain. Slaves had rights. They could invest money. They could work and receive wages and food and clothing and housing. They had religious freedom.

Reading our fourth commandment, they were acknowledged in the Sabbath keeping. Slaves were more permanent than the day laborers. Jesus talked about day laborers in his parables. And the slave would be the one that would hire on these day laborers. He had more job security than a free man who was doing day labor. So he would be a property manager of farmland. In our own American history, unfortunately, we do have men that knew the Bible, knew God's Word, knew the sinfulness of the race-based transatlantic slave trade that is its origin goes back to man stealing.

We'll get to that in a minute. But Deuteronomy 24 verse 7 condemns kidnapping and claiming someone as property. But great men like John Newton unfortunately led a slave ship. He would later be converted.

He would resign from his position. But even as a new convert, it was an internal struggle there. Jonathan Edwards was critical of the slave trade, but he did himself have slaves. George Whitefield had seventy-five slaves as he would build orphanages down in South Georgia with the use of slave labor. It's a complicated matter. We're all coming from where we're coming from in history.

And we have to compare scripture and commit to God's Word, but at the same time I see where these men are trying to figure out and work through these doctrines and serve the Lord as best as possible. Slavery even today still exists. I think the obvious example would be human trafficking and thankfully there are international laws against this. And so where slavery still exists today, we are all in agreement to abolish this throughout the world.

A more positive example of indentured servitude as is what biblical slavery really is. Military service. For a time you sign a contract and agree to a period of service. I've heard people joke about those that are enlisting in the military. You're signing your life away.

And there's a little bit of truth to that. In one sense you are committing yourself, committing a portion of your life to service to your country. You are given a contract that you agree to and you cannot put in your two weeks and just leave. You are committing yourself to a number of years in the service as the government trains you to be a weapon of the military. Back in World War II in Vietnam they were called GIs. That is government issue.

It's a product of the government. But again Paul uses this language. He loves the idea of being a soldier for Christ.

2 Timothy 2 verse 4. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits since his aim is to please the one who enlists him. This is not a negative thing. Paul does not look at this as a negative label.

He commits himself as a soldier of Christ Jesus as we all should commit ourselves to this Christian service. Another example would be mortgages. In a financial sense you're signing up and committing yourself to a debt to the bank.

Proverbs 22 verse 7. The rich rules over the poor and the borrower is a slave of the lender. The rich in this illustration would be the bank. You're indenting yourself to the bank and they're letting you live in the house until you pay off this debt.

You can sell the house and get out of this debt or you can commit and pay off the house. Prisoners who are in prison are paying off their debt to society. They've been given a designated amount of time to be in the prison system literally in chains and behind bars.

They are serving the penalty that they are due and they are only freed from bondage and imprisonment as they pay off this debt. As Eugene mentioned in one of his recent sermons and we see this in 2 Corinthians 7, Paul suggests that if you can get out of this, this institution of slavery is a temporary thing and he is encouraging Christians. While it is your circumstances at the time, seek to exit slavery. Seek to get out of slavery. While you were there, Paul is encouraging Christians to follow biblical guidelines of Christian ethics, not just for slaves as he does address throughout his epistles. What we also see is for masters and slaves to improve the conditions of slavery, having mutual respect between slave and master.

Let's go back to chapter 1 of this letter. It is very clear that Paul does condemn further slavery. Looking at verse 10 in context here, the law is not laid down for the just, but for the lawless and the disobedient, for the ungodly sinners, for the unholy and the profane. Among them, look at verse 10, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, and enslavers. This practice, as he finishes verse 10, is contrary to sound doctrine.

Paul is crystal clear. The word here in verse 10 is referring to one who is a kidnapper, a man stealer. This is the direct concept that comes out of Deuteronomy chapter 24 verse 7. If a man is found stealing one of his brothers of the people of Israel, and if he treats him as a slave or sells him, then that thief shall die.

So you shall purge the evil from your midst. Paul is clear here that we are not to initiate. He sees the institution as just part of what is going on in the culture at that time, and he is saying endure. But what he is very clear on here is that we do not initiate any form of kidnapping or man stealing. Paul stands with the law, and we do too, seeing very clearly that this is against God's law.

Paul is working through this, trying to figure out how do we best serve our brothers and sisters in slavery. He is not a revolutionary. He is a preacher. He is not a picketer. He is not a demonstrator. He is not seeking to overthrow the government.

And Jesus and Paul and the other writers of the New Testament, they are very clear. They are not seeking out violent revolution. What they are trying to do, and I think they have done this throughout the history of the world, is they are trying to transform culture. They are trying to transform society and they did so. They did this by effectively destroying all the foundations that are beneath sinful slavery, including racism, greed, class hatred. And what we now have is a world that is trying to eliminate slavery where we see it. He is calling Christians not to propagate this, not to further this, not to initiate enslavement, but if you find yourself in it, continue to endure.

Endure in these hard trials. Have respect for the one you call master. Christian masters have respect for those that you would call a slave or a servant. And oppose the pagan brutality that we see in the Greco-Roman slave trade. How do we look at this this evening?

What does this mean for us today in 2022? John MacArthur in his chapter on this passage, he says, the conscientious Christian employee, the way that we look at this, when you see the word bondservant, think employee. When you see the word master, think boss, or manager, or owner. What is the conduct of a Christian employee?

What does it look like to be under the yoke of employment? What is the relationship between employers and Christian employees? What we see very clearly here in verse 1, let all who are under a yoke as bondservants regard their own masters as worthy of all honor. The word masters is generic.

It's in contrast to verse 2, which refers to our believing masters. So you could say here, if you're working for an unbelieving boss, if your manager is an unbeliever, endure. Regard your own masters as worthy of honor. Show honor to the one who is your manager.

A yoke, we all know what a yoke is, a wooden cross piece that's over the neck of two animals that guides the plow. We see this as sort of a symbol of our service as our work under an employer. We would all like to have Christian bosses, but oftentimes in the marketplace we find ourselves with unbelieving bosses. We want a Christian boss that appreciates that we want to be at church, that we want to honor the Lord's day and be with God's people on Wednesday night. But at times we find ourselves in the workplace working with unbelievers. So it's an opportunity to give a good example of what hard Christian work looks like under the yoke of employment and to be a witness to our bosses, despite their unbelief, that we would give them an illustration of Christian work. We are to regard them worthy of honor. This is a respect that's not partial, it's not begrudging, we're not dragging our feet, but we're looking at our honor that is due to Christ and our obligation to the Lord. In our duty and our action, we honor the unbelieving employer. When we go back to the Sermon on the Mount, remember Jesus spoke on the heart of the law. Jesus said, if you say thou shalt not commit adultery, but I say if you commit lust in the heart. You say thou shalt not kill, but I say do not hate your brother.

Jesus gets back to the heart of the issue. Much the same way when we read the fifth commandment, we default to our own parents. We think of our natural born immediate family parents.

Honor your father and your mother that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God has given you. But it does not end with just simply your parents. It applies more broadly to all those that are in authority in your life. Our Westminster Larger Catechism number 124 tells us what are meant by father and mother in the fifth commandment. By father and mother in the fifth commandment are meant not only natural parents, but all superiors in age and gifts and especially such as by God's ordinance are over us in place of authority, whether in family, church, or commonwealth.

That last phrase there, commonwealth, speaking to the broader society, speaking to the government, speaking to the civil laws that we must obey, our civil society, within that commonwealth would be those that we work for. We are to be good Christian workers. We are obligated to honor the Lord through hard work.

But why? So that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled. Titus 2, verse 10 tells us bondservants are not to pilfer, but show all good faith so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.

This is not about our own honor. This is not about how others might view us as individuals. What this is about is the evangelistic witness of our lives in the workplace. This is about the opportunity to give God the most honor and glory through our hard work in the workplace to show people the love of Christ, to show people the self-sacrifice of Christ, to show people the humility of Christ, to glorify God by illustrating Christian character within the workplace. I wonder oftentimes what do our unbelieving employers think of Christians?

When they think of hiring Christians, what is the work ethic that they see? Are we known for being lazy? Are we known for being proud and self-righteous?

Are we known for being know-it-alls? What is the reputation of Christians by the watching world when we go into the civil realm? And in one sense I want to say I don't care what the world thinks. I care what Christ thinks. But Paul is coming in and saying it matters to God how you represent Him in the workplace.

You think you're just representing you, but there is a bigger picture here. You are the one Christian they might experience. Be the best example of Christianity to your unbelieving employer. And when we disrespect and when we gossip and when we slander and the unbelieving world joins in, well they're the unbelieving world. We are called to something greater. We are called to set an example to the unbelieving world. And they take note.

And they do think to themselves that's the way that Christians act. So I hope that as we go out into our workplace that we would best illustrate, we might best glorify God in our obedient service to our unbelieving employment, unbelieving employers. My hope, with Paul's encouragement here and the Spirit's conviction, my hope is that we would see our calling to be diligent in our work and to be good employees to those who do not know Christ.

But secondly, we see there's a reference now to believing bosses. Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brothers. Rather, they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their good service are believers and beloved. Here believing masters are called brothers. They are fellow brothers in Christ. We are brothers and sisters in the family of God. And we have one Lord and Savior and a Heavenly Father that we want to honor and glorify. Paul speaks to this equality in Galatians 3, verse 28. There's neither Jew nor Greek. There's neither slave nor free. There's no male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

And if we just take that at face value, it seems like there's no distinction between an employer and an employee. But quite to the contrary, what this verse is referring to is our spiritual equality before God. As they say, the ground at the foot of the cross is level. We all have the same salvation. We have all the same faith.

Some of us have stronger faith than others, but the idea is the same saving faith that saves you, saves me, saves anybody that looks to Christ and believes on Him by faith. But there's still a distinction within the workplace where we must not be too chummy, not be too buddy with our bosses here. The idea here is that where this can slip into sin, those believing masters must not be disrespectful. The way that they can be is that they are too chummy with their bosses. They are not giving their boss the full honor and respect that is due to them. Kind of the attitude that now that I work for a fellow Christian, I can do whatever I want now.

This is a wrong view. This is not the viewpoint that we ought to have as employees. We do not presume on our employers. What we must do is honor our employers through hard work. We must, if anything, be further motivated.

What does Paul say here? They must serve all the better since those who benefit by their good service are believers and beloved. We should work all the more for a Christian employer. We ought to work better for our Christian bosses. We ought to set a greater example that we want to lead the way, that we want to, along with our boss, be a better example to the unbelieving co-workers that we work amongst. We want to best serve Christ by serving our employers and our businesses that we work for.

Right there, under the subheading, we'll see the last little phrase here, teach and urge these things. Paul writes to Timothy, but he also writes to the church at Ephesus. As a minister of the Gospel, in one sense I feel like Paul is writing to me, but no, he's writing to the congregation.

He's writing to every one of us here. Teach and urge these things. We want to look at this as something that we apply to ourselves. This same phrase coming out of 1 Timothy 4.11, Paul talks about training in godliness. He ends with command and teach these things.

Titus 2.15, declare these things, exhort and rebuke with all authority, let no one disregard you. Teach these things to the fellow saints in the church. This is application for us. In conclusion, a few points of application. Work hard. We are called to work, whether it's for a paycheck or raising and taking care of children. We're to work hard. We're to embrace work. We're to do the best job that we can.

Our job is to do the work at hand. It's not necessarily to evangelize. I had a professor tell me one time, if you're on the clock and you're supposed to wait tables and you start evangelizing people at the restaurant and you're off task, you are not honoring the Lord with diligent work. Thankfully, at my job as a pastor, I get to tell people about Christ. I love it, but if my job is to wait tables, my primary goal is to wait tables to the glory of God as best as I can. Martin Luther, speaking of this concept, he said the Christian shoemaker does his duty not by putting little crosses on shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.

I think of Chick-fil-A. It's great that we can support a Christian company. It's great that the leadership of the company is very clear on their Christian conviction.

I love that. But if they started making chicken sandwiches with Salmonella and people started getting sick, their Christian faith is great, but they are not making chicken sandwiches to the glory of God. We need to do a good job.

If you work for Chick-fil-A, make a good chicken sandwich. Submit to the government, to the governing bodies at your company. Your employer or boss is an application of the fifth commandment. Just the same way that we look at the governing society, we look at the government that is over us, we see Romans 13, let every person be subject to the governing authorities.

There is no authority except from God and those that exist have been instituted by God. Whether you are serving your employer or serving the local police by keeping the civil law, we are honoring the Lord when we honor authority that God has placed by His providential hand. When it asks us to sin, we must practice civil disobedience. That's very clear in Acts 5, where Peter and the apostles say we must obey God rather than man.

But as it agrees with God's law, let us keep the civil law. John MacArthur was at G3 and he spoke about how we ministers need to preach judgment. How we must preach the reality that our nation is under judgment. He spoke on Isaiah chapter 3, he said, we know that we are under judgment because Isaiah chapter 3 verse 12 says, my people, infants are their oppressors and women rule over them.

Our vice president is a woman and our president is an infant. So he took a jab, but at the same time he does acknowledge government has been placed by God and we are to honor the office, honor the governing office that God has placed. Finally, and I think the most obvious point that I want everyone to take home is to consider Christ. Consider the example of Christ.

Let Christ be your model. Consider the fact that He was a doulos, that is a slave to the will of the Father. Paul in Philippians chapter 2 verse 6 and 7, Christ Jesus who those in the form of God did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking the form of a servant, the root word there being a slave.

He took the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men. We are not greater than our master, the Lord Jesus Christ. And let us willfully submit to the Lord Jesus Christ.

He came down from heaven not to do His own will, but to do the will of Him who sent Him, that is the Father. Let us serve our employer as we would Christ. Let us serve our employers with humility. Just as He served the Father, we serve Christ. We are slaves to Christ alongside our older brother the apostle Paul. In conclusion, I would like to share these words from Paul himself from Colossians chapter 3.

Verses 22 to 24. Bond servants, that is slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye service, as people pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as a reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. Let us pray. Heavenly Father, we pray that your Spirit would work mildly within our own hearts and prepare us for the daunting task that you have put before us to submit to an unbelieving employer, to those that hate you, that revile the faith. We pray that you would undergird us, that you would strengthen us under the circumstances that you have set out. Father, we pray that we would delight in our Christian service, especially alongside a Christian believing boss or manager. We pray, no matter our circumstances, that we would seek contentment, that we would love Christ above all, that we would do all we can to honor him, and that we would always look to Christ as our example. Heavenly Father, you can put this in our hearts. You can sanctify us by your Spirit. We pray that you would work these things mightily within us and cause us to work with all diligence, with hard work, honor you. Your Son, let me pray. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-16 11:25:28 / 2023-04-16 11:38:09 / 13

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