A Commentary by John Stott


Ephesians 6:9.  4). The duty of masters.

Although the duties of Christian slaves are spelt out in some detail, Christian slave-owners are given only three principles, all of which however have far-reaching implications against the background of the middle of the first century AD. First *do the same to them*. This is, if you hope to receive respect, show it; if you hope to receive service, give it. It is an application of the golden rule. However masters hope their slaves will behave towards them, they must behave towards their slaves in the same way. Paul admits no privileged superiority in the masters, as if they could themselves dispense with the very courtesies they expect to be shown.

Secondly, *forbear threatening*. As parents are not to provoke their children, so masters are not to threaten their slaves. That is, they are not to misuse their position of authority by issuing threats of punishment. Punishment was accepted in the Empire as the only way to keep slaves under control, and Christianity does not deny that in some circumstances punishment is legitimate, even necessary. But threats are a weapon which the powerful wield over the powerless. And a relationship based on threats is not a human relationship at all. So Paul forbade it.

Thirdly, the reason for these requirements is their *knowing that* Jesus Christ is *master* of both salve and slave-owner, *and that there is no partiality with him*. Slave-owners were used to being flattered and fawned upon, but they should not expect (for they will not receive) such discriminatory favouritism from the Lord Christ. Thus all three principles are designed to lessen the cultural and social gap between slave and slave-owner. Instead of regarding his relationship with his slaves as that of proprietor to chattels, or of superior to inferiors, he was to develop a relationship in which he gave them *the same* treatment as he hoped to receive, renounced the unfair weapon of threats, and recalled that he and they both shared the same heavenly master and impartial judge.

Tomorrow: Ephesians 6. 5). The abolition of slavery.
The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of Ephesians. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.