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Slaves and Masters

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice
The Truth Network Radio
January 27, 2021 7:00 am

Slaves and Masters

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice

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January 27, 2021 7:00 am

A man once pondered why God would allow such poverty and injustice to exist in the world. After a friend suggested that he just ask God the question directly, the man hesitated and explained, I’m afraid He’ll ask the same question of me. In this message, Dr. James Boice challenges us to stop pointing fingers and take personal responsibility for seeking justice.

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A man once pondered why God would allow such poverty and injustice to exist in the world after a friend suggested that he just asked God the question directly. The man hesitated and explained. I'm afraid he'll ask the same question of me in today's broadcast of the Bible study our Dr. James Boyce challenges us to stop pointing fingers and take personal responsibility for seeking justice to the Bible study our radio and Internet broadcast with Dr. James Bortz preparing you to think and act biblically.

Slavery is never comfortable to talk about, but it is a very real aspect of American history and it has been and continues to be a tragic reality in many cultures throughout the world. In fact, slavery was common practice during the time when Paul was writing Ephesians. Let's find out what the Bible has to say about this sensitive topic number of years ago. The present Surgeon General of the United States.

Dr. C. Everett Cooper gave an address to Christian doctors in England.

He was speaking of the Christian medical Fellowship at Bournemouth on the topic of his address was in the form of a question went like this Christian medicine.

A compromise with mediocrity question he was asking and did ask in detail in the addresses whether Christian doctors are poor doctors because of their relationship to Jesus Christ or whether their commitment to Christ has actually given them commitment to the highest possible standards of medicine and the bottom line of his address was to encourage them to the highest standards in their work concern that the surgeon general expressed so many years ago, is the concern that the apostle Paul has in mind when he writes in the sixth chapter of Ephesians of the duties of slaves and masters. It's important that we see this because we fail to say that this is what is talking about. Instead of understanding that he's talking about work and Christians obligation to be diligent and work instead of that we ask wrong questions of this paragraph if we ask, for example, about the legitimacy or legitimacy of slavery where inevitably lead astray. Slavery was a terrible thing in the ancient world as it has been any age. The people who study the sort of thing estimate that that the time the apostle Paul wrote this. There were approximately 60 million slaves in the Roman Empire is to say it was getting close to half of the people being slaves to the other half.

Sometimes the position of the slave would be quite good. Have a benevolent master, but often times the condition of a slave was terrible. The master of absolute power over slave Berkeley as he writes about. It said this was the great terror of the slave that he was at the absolute whim of the master.

Any displeased master it was possible for the master to imprison them to beat him mutilated him eventually even the kill it, which is what happened in some instances, in time, as the impact of Christianity began to work its way out in the Roman world.

Much of this change, and eventually I believe through the impact of Christianity. Slavery was abolished, but as I say this is not the primary concern Paul has in mind as he gives us these words that's not the whole story. I say this because what we have in the latter half of Ephesians 5 the first half of Ephesians 6 is three parallel examples of submission going back to the topic sentence of Ephesians 521 submits to one another out of reverence for Christ developing this idea Paul speaks of wives submitting the husband's children submitting to parents and finally slaves abutting the Masters very fact that the examples occur that way. Lead us to ask. Well, does Paul mean to imply by this that slavery is as permanent and violent an institution as marriage, for example, with its relationships or the home with its relationships or if we look at it the other way if we say is we probably wouldn't today. It's clear that slavery needed to be abolished. Does it follow from acts that the relationships involved in these other examples need to be abolished or should we do away with the hall. Should we do away with marriage or let me put it even more stringent language approaching the matter for my point of view. What are we to say the critic who condemns Paul because in this passage where he had every opportunity to speak out against slavery we find in failing to do so, let me suggest a number of things before we look at the specific instructions where working in the work relationships are concerned. First of all, it is true that Paul does not condemn slavery in these verses, but it is very important to notice that he does not condone it either. I say that's important to notice and it's important to notice that this is a significant thing because it sets these verses apart from the examples of gone before say when Paul talked about marriage as he did at the end of Ephesians 5 and spoke of those relationships. He went back to the relationship of Jesus Christ was church relationship that existed in the mind of God, even before the creation of the world. That's to say those relationships are grounded on eternal verities. Marriage is an illustration and outworking of that great and prior and eternal relationship began when he talks about children and their relationship to parents. He grounds this first as we saw on natural law. He says, for this is right and secondly on revealed religion because as he says this is the first commandment with promise. This is not what he does when he refers to slaves and masters. She doesn't condemn it, but he doesn't endorse it either. Nothing in the passage can possibly be construed as a validation of slavery. Secondly, as Paul writes here to slaves masters perfectly evidence that his approach utterly transforms the institution even though he doesn't speak out and ask for its abolition. Notice the contrast here between what Paul says what existed in the ancient world. Aristotle, the greatest mind, probably of the Greek world said that there could never be friendship between the master and the sleigh because as he said, master and slave have nothing in common. A slave is a living pool just as a tool as an in animate slave. Paul's words slaves are quite different. Paul speaks of them as servants of Christ in verse five, whose desire is to win Christ favor primarily as his servants, and to do the will of God, primarily, and when he begins to speak to masters in corresponding language.

He says masters, treat your slaves in the same way. This is a way of saying that the slave no less than the master is made in the image of God because he is made in the image of God he has great worth and dignity the opportunity to serve not only in this life, but to serve in this life in a way that reaps fruit for all eternity.

Begin to think along those lines without realizing that you have here most profound transformation and then thirdly transformation of slavery that Paul introduces by these terms is the very thing that ultimately destroyed it. We tend to think in secular terms of the way you get changes by changing laws. All you have to do is change law and then all kinds of good follows doesn't work that way.

What you have to change first in the hearts and minds of people.

After that the laws following her expression of it. If you try to do the other way around. The law is an effective doesn't accomplish what you try to do here we have an example of God working through the church to change human thinking and as a result of that, eventually, to change the institutions.

Let me give an illustration of that some years ago, theologian, RC Sproul, my friend was speaking to a group of top executives of Fortune 500 company. He was speaking about management the worth of the individual as he did that he was toppling religion with his advice.

Running a business and the executives were very uneasy as he apparently himself quite easily mingled religion business, but he kept at it again to get their interest and finally he sparked the particular interest of the chairman of the board of that particular organization and the man eventually interrupted him and said something like this. Let me see if I can connect what you're saying when I hear you say is that our business life is affected by how we treat people how we treat people as a matter of ethics. Ethics is determined by our philosophy. Our philosophy reflects our theology, so respecting people is really a theological matter. I was absolutely on target. That is what Paul is doing here. He's dealing with this issue theologically and that is the way if we can use the outline of the executive. The change really does come permanently in this world Christianity brought a new theology new understanding of who God isn't, because it had a new understanding of who God is a new understanding of man created in God's image theology affected the philosophy, the philosophy affected the ethics of the ethics affected how people were treated as a result of that, and in that way. This institution of slavery was first transformed and then abolished. If I may say so. Those principles continue to affect the marketplace today. I stress this matter of continuing to affect the marketplace today because, in my judgment, that is the ultimate answer to the critic who says well Christianity had hundreds of years. Why didn't it speak out against slavery and other social evils earlier my reply to that particular kind of criticism is, why don't you live by these principles today out strewn today that you can't lease to most areas of the world. Teleworker because he doesn't do what you want them to do, but workers are still brutalized in one way or another are still threatened there still insulted their still degraded. Why don't you change that today you see the points of passage like this is not why didn't people in an earlier generation do what we think they should have done earlier, but why don't we do what God wants us to do now. That is why when we come to something like this, we can begin to talk about it as guidance for the relationship between employers and employees, bypassing the issue of slavery but as an expression of the application of these principles to where we live today as we must do if we are followers of Jesus Christ. So I approach it that way. I asked the question once you employees. First of all, 02. Employers passage suggests a number of items. First of all, it suggests obedience. We like outward obedience. This is the word that Paul used in verse one of children. First thing children of parents is obedience. Now he comes to slaves and he says slaves also obedience and as he does that. I'm sure does it deliberately because what he saying you say is that in terms of the work to be done in terms of age or understanding, or anything else but in terms of work to be done on the employee stands in the same relationship to the employer as children stand their parents is employer determines what is to be done and in many cases, how the job is to be God and it's the duty of the employee to carry out those instructions, does not mean that the duty of the employee to when they employers absolute number that way for Christians that is not true in the other relationships either. Children do not have an absolute duty to obey their parents wise not have an absolute duty to follow the lead of their husbands of husbands or parents are masters lead a way that is contrary to the explicit teaching of the word of God, particularly of a command that which is illegal or immoral.

The wife, the child, the slave, the servant, the employee has an obligation to disobey, but generally that's not the case doesn't mean either that an employee especially in our workplace today can't express suggestions as to how a job should be done, especially if the employer or the boss is willing to listen. But it does mean that in the final analysis, it is employer determines the task. I had an experience of this not so long ago, my wife and I were having carpet installed and crew came out to do it form in the number of people who were working for them and they wasted a great deal of time because this particular foreman was incensed at the way the salesman had plotted out the job installing the carpet salesman and a lot of today's the work in the foreman came in he was just as angry as could be anybody could say it was a three or four day job, not a two day job like an idiot. That was it had done that.

Furthermore, the way it plotted out for the carpet to be cut. That wasn't the right way to do it. I listen to this for a long time tried to offer him coffee, and calm them down and least a couple hours were wasted in this particular sort of thing. But eventually he and his crew to get to work and surprisingly the carpet all did fit when it was caught up in that way. And surprisingly, the job did get done in two days.

In spite of the fact that several hours already been wasted in the first day say when we think in terms of our relationship to those given instructions. There is certainly a measure of obedience to be given. Secondly, this passage speaks of respect in the particular term is respect and fear. Now we have to understand that rightfully respects is not mean respect of that which is respectful and it doesn't mean fear in the sense of Craven bowing down in terror before one who has absolute authority, though that was the case in the Roman world of the relationships of masters and slaves we get our understanding of this by recognizing that these are terms are used of a Christian's relationship to God. We are to bow before God in respect and fear. That is a proper respect and reverence. What this is saying is that there is a sense in which this same attitude is to be displayed in the one who is over us in the marketplace. I know this is often quite difficult, especially when bosses are arbitrary or very very unwise sermon is helped at this point.

Employee certainly does help by recognizing that in the final analysis, the services done not to the boss of the company, but the Lord. This indeed is the key to understanding the passage because when you read it you find it again and again slaves here are directed to God as their ultimate master slaves, obey your earthly master with respect and fear with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ obey them when their favor with Arius on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord and not man that kind of understanding certainly transforms even the most difficult situation. The third thing sincerity and with sincerity of heart, says Paul, just as you would obey Christ.

That word sincerity is an interesting one comes from two Latin words today, which means without Sarah, which means wax.

What is that mean without wax will understand that Understand its meaning comes from the ancient industry making pottery is a very big thing in the ancient world, everybody use pottery and it was the case in the firing process that some pottery. Particularly, it wasn't properly prepared, would break a crack. Now pottery should be thrown away, but dishonest traders found that if they took wax and rubbed it into the cracks in certain ways they could cover it up so that it's an unwary purchaser would not think it was a sound piece of pottery, but actually it had cracks or chips in it. What you detected the cracks was still hold the piece of pottery up to the light light will shine through where the light which I threw there, the crack would show up as a lighter line Greek language even had a word for doing that. Which means son tested. It is interesting that on some pottery by special dealers that word son tested for the Latin word in the Roman society cynic Sarah would be stamped on the bottom to show this was a tested piece and approved piece of merchandise and could be taught with a guarantee of the seller is what Paul is saying. He's saying that we are to be tested. Service one whose service ring stroke. I must say, however, the actual word that occurs here in Greek is not that word son tested which would properly be translated is sincere, but a word which really means generous or liberal as well is sincere. So what it's saying is that the service that the employee gives us to be well, as John Stott says with heart and soul because he is really plunging into this job and wants to do it in a way which honors Christ is no easy word to summarize this next idea that Paul has in verse six, where he says obey them not only to win their favor with Arius on you but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, but I think I would call it loyalty has in mind here is something we all observe slave would work very hard when the taskmaster was there, but as soon as the master turned his back. The slave would slough off like a secretary who typed furiously when the office managers on the floor but spend the rest of the time talking is not are the young manager who works very hard at the job as long as his bosses around is always out to lunch if the bosses away from a trip somewhere else, is what Paul is talking about. He saying look at. Shouldn't be like that there should be a wholehearted commitment to the task, which is why I use the word loyalty is a loyalty to the boss. It's a loyalty to the company as a loyalty to the work that needs to be done final word is this word wholehearted verse seven. This is the way the NIV translated the new English Bible says cheerful the old authorized version of the revised standard version used the words goodwill well.

It summarizes all of the terms that go before this is the way an employee is to serve one more point it's worth noticing before we move on to that verse. Verse nine talks about the responsibility of employers masses matter of rewards in verse seven. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not man because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.

Paul is speaking of heavenly rewards course because it was most unusual in the ancient world for slave to receive from earthly reward. We have to talk about heavenly rewards but is interesting isn't it that introduces this ideas a motivation seems to be not the least bit embarrassed to speak about do rewards for work done.

I think that when you carry this over into the marketplace.

It suggests I want to suggest this gently but I think it suggests that an economic system that gives an employee a due share of the rewards of his labor is a better economic system than one that doesn't make up with that in terms of capitalism or communism.

I would say I think it's fair to say that capitalism is closer to what the Lord would have done. Communism is that is not the same thing. However, I wanted say this very clearly that is not the same thing as saying that the Bible endorses capitalism or endorses communism or doesn't endorse either one or the other. We are not here to endorse a particular economic system to baptize it with the name of Jesus Christ our kingdom is the kingdom of our God and of his Christ. All earthly systems have to bow before that rule, but it is say that when in a pragmatic way trying to work these things out.

It is better and closer to God's own way of handling things to allow those who work to share in the rewards. I think it follows from that that the systems are developed today in which employees have profit-sharing options that these are good things, and they should be encouraged and will work well and enhance the importance of the individual who does the work in the company, but I we come to the end and the end has to do with Masters Masters, treat your slaves the same way I threaten them since you know that he was both their master and yours is in heaven and there is no favoritism with him. Paul's words to Masters or less.

In his words to slaves and this is no doubt because as I've said several times earlier. What he's doing here is giving illustrations of submission wives to husband's children to parents, slaves to Masters and therefore he deals with slaves a greater length is not to say that the Masters floor in our terms, employers have less responsibility because notice he says Masters, treat your slaves in the same way.

That is, everything I've been saying about the slaves supplies. You also doesn't mean I am sure that pastors are to obey their slaves as slaves are to obey their masters that would make chaos of obedience, but it is to say that that basic relationship which underlies the whole passage, namely, the idea that human beings are made in the image of God and deserve respect because they're made in that image that the accident use the Masters attitude as well is it infuses the attitude of the slave should characterize management just as well, as it should characterize labor.

This is a matter of basic human dignity. Let me give an illustration of that again, which I borrowed from RC Sproul.

He was writing a book some years ago and Wayne Alderson, which eventually appeared under the title stronger than steel in order to do this he was interviewing some of the people that had worked with this great pioneer in labor-management relations in a foundry out in Western Pennsylvania was on the floor in talking to the workers and they used the phrase which you never heard before. It was dropping the head occurred in a sentence like this. The supervisor comes in and drops his head and sprawled to know what that meant the puzzle over it and one day he was in a hospital where he had to wait for a while and he was passing the time by observing kind of nonverbal communication that goes on in hospitals indicating the status of the various people who work there, he noticed, for example, that when the doctors appeared on the floor. The nurses all picked up said that was perfectly evident that in this pyramid, the doctors were at the top and then while he was still thinking along these lines, he noticed a man coming up the corridor pushing a cart full of soiled laundry was man was obviously at the bottom of the social scale of the hospital. He was a member of the housekeeping force and about the time he began to come up the hall. One of the nurses would just been responding very brightly to the doctor began to walk down the hall in such a way that she would pass his housekeeper now scrolls watching them, he noticed that as he came toward her.

His head went up in parent recognition. His face brightened in anticipation of the greeting, but at almost the same moment, the nurse tilted her head forward and stared at the floor as she walked on by briskly and the man's face fell and scroll noticed that he began to slow his pace as he made his way on up the corridor and he realizes with dropping the head meant the supervisor comes in and drops and said, that is, he doesn't look at me. He doesn't recognize I'm here it's almost a way of saying that I don't count one scroll concluded from that is what we most want, regardless of our status in life is to be recognized as human beings who have value regardless of what it is God is called upon us to do this in the final analysis, it doesn't matter a whole lot better.

Someone wants weather was slaver master even bond or free employee your employer. What matters is whether we recognize as having worth that comes from being recognized as a creature made in God's image. Christianity says yes you do have worth. You are made in God's image and what you do does matter. That's the theology leads to the philosophy that affects the ethics transforms how we treat other people and really does bring lasting revolution to the world our father we ask for your blessing upon our study in this hour, not just that we might understand what it is you say to us in this passage, but far more important than that, because it's not all that hard to understand. We might actually do what we are told to do by the apostle of Allah gives grace of where an employee position to serve as Paul says we should surface Christians where we have responsibilities over others give us the wisdom to treat them with the same respect that we would have given DOS for the sake of Jesus Christ, who didn't treat us disrespectfully, but loved us and gave himself for our salvation. We pray in his name, and with Thanksgiving you are listening to the Bible study hour with the Bible teaching of Dr. James Boyce listener supported ministry of the alliance of confessing Evangelicals. The alliance exists to promote a biblical understanding and worldview. Drawing upon the insight and wisdom of reformed theologians from decades and even centuries gone by. We seek to provide Christian teaching that will equip believers to understand and meet the challenges and opportunities of our time and place. Alliance broadcasting includes the Bible study hour with Dr. James Boyce every last word with Bible teacher, Dr. Philip Reich and Dr. Barnhouse in the Bible featuring Donald Barnhouse.

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