Ephesians 6:1-9, The hard life of a slave and his dignity in Christ, part 2.

Class Outline:

Wednesday Fbruary 9,2022

Every role, both authority and subordinates, have a role of subordination to one another in the way of Christ.


The parents are to be careful not to discourage their children or provoke them to anger. The masters and slaves have the same Master, the Lord Jesus Christ and masters must be careful not to threaten their slaves. In Christ’s new humanity, the roles remained but everyone was made equal, not in society, or even in the home, but in Him while they submitted in their various roles.


We discover from these chapters as well that the new humanity was not created in isolation. This is seen the most in the relationship shown for the master slave. If they are loving one another as Christ demands, and are not separated by the formidable social barrier that existed between them, then it is clear that the new life in Christ brings people together. Sin, fear, and selfishness eventually drive people away from one another.


Christ gave His life that the sinner (a slave to sin and death) might live and be free. Western culture is very individualistic and materialistic, even in the midst of their own families. This is no longer mainly a part of the West. As globalization gains a stronger grip of the planet, we find it in the East. China’s men’s and women’s Olympic hockey teams, comprising 48 players, consists of 28 not born in China including 6 with no Chinese heritage at all. I think they want to win at all costs.


The world system is becoming all over a mob of self-serving people whose morality is based only on what makes them feel good or happy. One Olympian, who is American born and raised but is competing for the Chinese, said, “If people don’t like me, then that’s their loss. They are never going to win the Olympics.”


God made us new with a community in mind, which is actually God’s human family.


Christians can overemphasize their own life and put no effort into their God given relationships. Your God-given relationships are those in your church, your spouse, your kids, your neighbors, etc. They seek out their own relationships that they think fulfill their individual desires rather than seek to stimulate those that God has put in their lives. They seek other partners in extra-marital affairs, other friends, and church hop in the quest for the perfect church.


The cross not only redeems the individual but creates a new humanity who are all in one family.


EPH 6:5-9

Slaves, be obedient [same command as given to the children in vs. 1] to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; 6 not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. 7 With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, 8 knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free. 9 And, masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.


Slaves - in the ancient world they were members of the household and in the lowest caste without rights.


We will deal with this in more detail when we do our topical studies.


We start with the word slaves  - doulos - means just that. In the Greco-Roman world, slaves were by nature less human and women were less rational than men. In that time, the wife, children, and especially slaves were more than a role or position, but the inferior fabric that made up their selves. What God did for them in the church was to reveal their value as belonging to Him (as unto the Lord) and give them heavenly dignity while leaving them in their roles of subordination.


Paul was not legitimatizing the slavery where one man owns another. In 1CO 7:23 Paul states slavery as wrong, but he also lived in a world where it was legal and common. He told slaves to remain as they were unless they could legally become free.


But notice how in Paul’s words the slave is given his dignity, personhood, family, and an inheritance, as due them along with all who have faith in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.


We naturally, and too often, interpret the Bible as if its world was our own modern one. When we do this we lose some of the Bible’s truth and sometimes interpret it falsely. I give you the following short history of slavery in the Greco-Roman world so we will avoid this.


The Greco-Roman world esteemed honor above all else, and the slave was without social capital, even if he or she had some material wealth. One historian describes the slave’s life as “social death.” Think of a man or woman on a block, stripped so that they could be examined as one would a horse for defects, bought and sold, threatened and mistreated, and this was a common sight. About 20% of the population were slaves.


Aristotle, in his work Politics, theorized that nature created some peoples to be slaves and others to be masters. And because nature is just and beneficent, both the slave and the owner benefit from the institution of slavery. Aristotle saw the barbarian (non-Greek speakers) as lacking reason and thus being natural slaves, while the ethnic Greek was a natural master. This wouldn’t matter if Aristotle wasn’t so influential. He was the teacher of Alexander the Great who would conquer the East and be the forerunner of the Hellenism that would so influence the world.


In the Roman view slaves were not so by nature but by Fortune or plain bad luck. Of course, prejudice made some powerful people think that some peoples were born slaves. Cicero smeared Jews and Syrians as people born to be slaves. And in Roman society, owning slaves was a status symbol and so those wealthy enough found they could suppress their natural hesitance and easily justify owning another human being as property. Slaves were seen as inferior, made so by the very institution to which Fate consigned them. Being terrible to another human being can be justified in the mind by the concept of karma. The slave was characterized as cowardly, weak, lazy, conniving, cruel, lacking in judgment and in wisdom. Therefore, the slave must be beaten in order to work hard and speak truthfully. Circular logic at its best (worst). Finally, something that usually would be swept under the rug should be mentioned in order to get a good view of this institution in Paul’s time. The male and female slave’s body was owned, including the sexual use of that body. Social conventions frowned on a female owner using her male slave for sex, but male owners had sexual use of their female slaves as well as anyone to whom the owner made the slave available. It’s ugly and terrible, but a documented reality (Mouritsen, Freedman in the Roman World, 27, citing Seneca). Even worse is that these slaves, boys and girls, could be quite young (7 years old) and used in this way. A Christian slave would obviously not be exempt by their unbelieving owners. We would hope that believing owners would follow Paul’s commandments and treat their slaves as they would themselves.




A slave did not have a family or any kind of inheritance, in contrasts to the sons and daughters of the house.


“On of the greatest cruelties of slavery was that, having no legal family, a slave was boxed off in time, without a real tomb or recognized descendants or anything else to ensure he was remembered.” [Ruden]


The entire social construct was not different from our own. It favored those in power and allowed those with money and influence to solidify power. The slave was the lowest in that system. The slave, owned by another, without family or anyone to care for or fight for him, was truly alone.


Christ did not come to correct society’s wrongs, nor does the church exist for that purpose. Christianity is for making men like Christ.


That does not mean that Christians ignore injustice or overlook it. If we can legally and peaceably make good changes in society, or course we should if we can and we should be aware of them. But only Christ can change the world and its governments and powers. We must strike a balance between doing worldly good in the secular sense and divine good through the gospel of Jesus Christ. If Paul found a way to eradicate slavery from the Roman Empire but neglected his work in the gospel, the outcome is far, far worse.


1CO 7:17-24

Only, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, in this manner let him walk [code of marriage in . And thus I direct in all the churches. 18 Was any man called already circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Has anyone been called in uncircumcision? Let him not be circumcised. 19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God. 20 Let each man remain in that condition in which he was called. 21 Were you called while a slave? Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that. 22 For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord's freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ's slave. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. 24 Brethren, let each man remain with God in that condition in which he was called.