Ephesians 6:5-9

Bible Passage: Ephesians 6:5-9

Big Idea of Message:

We ALL are under authority, so act like it.


Ephesians 6:5-9

5 Slaves, obey your human masters with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as you would Christ. 6 Don’t work only while being watched, as people-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, do God’s will from your heart. 7 Serve with a good attitude, as to the Lord and not to people, 8 knowing that whatever good each one does, slave or free, he will receive this back from the Lord. 9 And masters, treat your slaves the same way, without threatening them, because you know that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.


Commentary Notes: (Click to view)

As with the passage on marriage, this section is ultimately tied to Paul’s exhortation “Watch carefully how you walk” (5:15). These household instructions are directly dependent on Paul’s subsequent command to “be filled with the Spirit… by submitting to one another in the fear of Christ” (5:18, 21). Paul is convinced that properly ordered domestic relationships lived out under the lordship of Christ are foundational to the free and unhindered work of the Spirit in the lives of believers in the community. An attitude of self-denial and a deep concern for the needs of others is essential to living as a Christian in the household and in the larger community of faith. On this basis, Paul delivers his instructions to each social grouping within the Christian household, based on their respective role obligations. (Clinton E. Arnold, Ephesians, pg. 766)

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Children, obey your parents in the Lord,

for this is right,

Honor your father and mother (Exod. 20:12; Deut. 5:16),

which is the first commandment with a promise,

so that it might be well with you and

that you might live long upon the earth. (Exod. 20:12; Deut. 5:15)

Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath

but bring them up in the instruction and admonition of the Lord.

Slaves, obey your human masters

with respect and fear,

in the sincerity of your hearts

as [you would obey] Christ,

not serving them to be seen, as people pleasers, but

as slaves of Christ doing the will of God from the heart,

serving with a good attitude as to the Lord and not for men,

knowing that each person, if he does something good,

this he will receive back from the Lord whether he is a slave or a free person.

Masters, do the same thing to them,

giving up the threat,

knowing that the Lord in heaven is both their Lord and yours and

there is no favoritism with him.

ὑπακούετε – Obey; listen; answer the door; to listen, to give ear; to make answer when called (6:5a).


Distinctive Features of Roman-Era Slavery

Slavery was part of Judaism in every period of its history. Even the patriarchs — Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob — owned slaves (see Gen. 12:16; 26:19; 30:43).

Over one-third of the population of Rome in the first century was slaves. Wealthy landowners could own hundreds of slaves, where a free Roman Citizen owned maybe one or two slaves for domestic help.

Widespread practice of slavery does not give moral justification for its existence. It always involves the ownership of one or more persons by another that constitutes the deprivation of their freedom. Paul never gives a theological basis for slavery; he assumes its presence in society and helps believers understand what it means to live as a Christian within this socio-economic institution.

The word slavery triggers people into thinking about the form of slavery practiced in the New World. However, slavery during the Roman Principate was vastly different. We must understand the nature of these differences so that we not unwittingly import modern ideas of slavery into the biblical context.

There are several distinctive characteristics of Roman-era slavery that should be observed:

  • Racial factors played no role. Slavery in America in the 17th to 19th centuries principally involved the acquisition of black African slaves forcibly taken from their homeland. Roman-era slavery had nothing to do with race or a particular people group. Roman slaves were of virtually every race of people in the Mediterranean region and involved people from every country. The most common source of slaves were prisoners of war. When Roman general Pompey conquered Israel in the first century BC, he brought many thousands of Jewish prisoners to Rome, who became slaves. A smaller number of slaves resulted from the rescue of abandoned infants and from those who sold themselves into slavery because of debt. Some, however, did enter the slave market because they were captured by professional slave traders (see 1 Tim. 1:10).

1st Timothy 1:10

…for the sexually immoral and males who have sex with males, for slave traders, liars, perjurers, and for whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching…


  • Many slaves could reasonably expect to be emancipated during their lifetime. A great number could expect to be released by the time they were thirty years old. So many slaves were being released from their servitude in the early first century AD that Caesar Augustus declared thirty-year-old to be the minimum age for emancipation, and then limited how many were freed each year. Owners paid their slaves an occasional sum of money (called a peculium) to reward them for their hard work. This fund was commonly used by the slaves to purchase their freedom. By contrast, slaves in the New World had no hope for manumission and freedom.
  • Many slaves worked in a variety of specialized and responsible positions. Although some slaves were confined to many years of hard labor in agriculture, manufacturing, or domestic duties, many others served as “doctors, teachers, writers, accountants, agents, bailiffs, overseers, secretaries, and sea captains.” African slaves, by contrast, were seldom entrusted with responsible positions nor did they have the training for any skilled jobs.
  • Many slaves received education and training in specialist skills. Few opportunities were provided to slaves in the New World to receive general education or skill development training, yet this was common practice of slave owners in the Roman world. This was beneficial to both the master and the slave. Masters often viewed it as a wise business strategy to buy and train intelligent slaves to motivate them to a high-quality workmanship by holding out the prospect of freedom after a specified time.
  • Freed slaves often became Roman Citizens and developed a client relationship to their former masters. It was common practice for an emancipated slave to gain Roman citizenship. Having gained their freedom, life out from under the provisions and protection of their former masters could be difficult. With the former master now becoming their patron, the transition to a more independent life was eased.

Even with these differences, it is important not to construe this ancient form as more humane or a morally justifiable economic system. Although there are some features that were better than slavery in the New World, it still involved the coercive ownership of another person.

The bare record of fact shows that Roman slaves, like those in the Americas, were bought and sold like animals, were punished indiscriminately and violated sexually; they were compelled to labor as their masters dictated, they were allowed no legal existence, and they were goaded into compliance through cajolery and intimidation. They were the ultimate victims of exploitation.

Bradley

Slaves possessed few legal rights, lacked honor, were subject to whatever punishments their masters deemed appropriate (and were sometimes treated with hideous cruelty), were permitted no legally sanctioned marriage or family bonds, could not keep their children born to them while in slavery, could be separated from their spouses by the slave master, and were not allowed to own property of any kind. Few, if any, would willingly want to live in this disempowered, exploited, and subservient state. It is in this context that the apostle Paul casts a vision for how slaves and slave owners should live out their Christian lives within the constraints of this prevailing social and economic system.


6:5

Slaves, obey your human masters with respect and fear, in the sincerity of your hearts, as [you would obey] Christ

Οἱ δοῦλοι,* ὑπακούετε τοῖς ⸉κατὰ σάρκα κυρίοις⸊ μετὰ φόβου καὶ τρόμου ἐν ἁπλότητι °τῆς καρδίας ὑμῶν ὡς τῷ Χριστῷ,

Paul appeals to slaves to comply with the orders of their masters and qualifies it with six different ways that they should live out this relationship, based on their status as belonging to Christ.

  • Obey with an attitude of deep respect and sincerity of heart. Paul addresses slaves in the Western Asia Minor as free moral agents, capable of thinking for themselves and acting with moral responsibility. That Paul would address them in at all was remarkable. Slaves may be tempted to behave in duplicitous, resentful and cunning ways, but says that as a Christian, their motivation and attitude should be different. Paul’s instruction to obey their master was the expectation everywhere. But the manner and motivation that should inform their relationship to their masters was unique. This same instruction was found in Colossians 3:22.

Obey “with respect and fear.” This phrase was frequent in the LXX. Canaanites during conquest should have dread because of the terror and fear because of the Israelites. This phrase was also used to characterize the attitude people should have in serving the Lord (Ps. 2:11) and the way they should work out their salvation in the new covenant (Phil 2:12). Paul says he approached the Corinthians “in weakness and fear, with much trembling” when he initially preached to them the gospel (1 Cor. 2:3). The Corinthians were also supposed to receive Titus with fear and trembling (2 Cor. 7:15). It is too far to say that the words suggest that slaves should obey their masters with a foreboding terror and dread. It is nearer to the mark to accept the idea espoused in the NLT that Christian slaves should obey out of “deep respect and fear.”

  • Slaves should respond to their masters with a “sincerity of your hearts” (Col. 3:22). This means hearts that are innocent of any kind of improper motivation. Purity in their intentions, not to succumb to guile, scheming, deceit, or any other kind of base motive. “And I knew, Lord, that you are the one who tests hearts, and you love righteousness. In simplicity of heart, I have shown zeal for all these things” (1 Chr. 29:17).
  • Slaves should obey their masters as they would obey Christ. Paul knows these Christians have given their ultimate allegiance to Jesus, yet, as a consequence, Christians should be obedient to their human masters. The slave master does not represent Christ to the slave, but the slave is to serve with the same devotion that they serve Christ. See Col. 3:17. “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to the God in the Father through him.”

6:6

Not serving to be seen, as people-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ doing the will of God from the heart

μὴ κατʼ ὀφθαλμοδουλίαν ὡς ἀνθρωπάρεσκοι ἀλλʼ ὡς δοῦλοι Χριστοῦ ποιοῦντες τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ ἐκ ψυχῆς,

  • Slaves should provide their service as followers of Christ in terms of contrasting attitudes and behavior. Based on their new identity as slaves belonging to Christ, they should serve human masters not simply to make a good impression, but with the purest of motives.

Paul makes up a new word here. “Serving to be seen” (ὀφθαλμοδουλίαν). A compound word combining eye and service. Slaves are to know that he repudiates any form of service that is done out of a motive of just being seen. How they behave when the master turns his back or leaves is just as important as the nature of the service they offer when he is present. Don’t be people pleasers — Christians have a higher calling than that. Instead, be motivated to serve your human master because your ultimate indenturing is to Christ alone; as slaves of Christ. They belong to someone who has far greater authority and far more honor than any human slave owner. They serve someone whom God has exalted high above any earthly or heavenly power (1:20-23). Slaves are to belong to and serve the greatest master of all. Their status and honor is ultimately derived from belonging to Christ, and not to their human masters. Anyone who becomes a Christian is indentured as a “slave of Christ.” (1 Cor. 7:22).

The highest priority is to do the will of God. This is a call for all believers, whether slave or not. This does not mean that it is God’s will for them to remain in slavery, but it does mean that as long as they are under this structure of authority, they should serve their human masters as though they were serving Christ himself and not attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of their masters.

They should serve not grudgingly but from the heart or “wholeheartedly”. “From the soul,” the part of a person that thinks and plans. Deut. 10:12 — Serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. For believing slaves, this means complying with the orders of their human masters and dong so with a good attitude, as hard as this might be.


6:7

Serving with a good attitude as to the Lord and not for men

μετʼ εὐνοίας δουλεύοντες °ὡς τῷ κυρίῳ καὶ οὐκ ἀνθρώποις,

Serve with a good attitude by considering their work as a service done directly for the Lord himself. Present participle “serving” should be interpreted as one of manner and related to the principle imperative that serves the heading of this section “obey.” The key term is “good attitude” and is common in koine (although this is the only time in the NT) and it refers to a positive attitude exhibited in a relationship. This way of thinking about their service will enable them to overcome the temptation to judge the motivations of their earthly masters, which might lead them to lose heart and serve begrudgingly.


6:8

Knowing that each person, if he does something Good, this he will receive back from the Lord whether he is a slave or a free person

εἰδότες ὅτι ⸂ἕκαστος ἐάν τι ποιήσῃ⸃ ἀγαθόν, τοῦτο κομίσεται παρὰ κυρίου εἴτε δοῦλος εἴτε ἐλεύθερος.

One of the motivations for serving with a good attitude and performing good works is the assurance of God’s blessing and reward. Since the preceding clause is a summary of the entire section (6:5-6), the motivation of receiving blessing is also tied to the main admonition of the section (obey) and relates to the whole series of thoughts on how to serve. Yes, it is true for all who are in relationship to Jesus Christ to live out their lives devoted to doing good deeds, but Paul wants slaves to know that their good works are noticed by the one Master who really cares, and they will be rewarded. In other words, if he does something good — or anything good — it will be taken int account by the Lord. Then they will be rewarded. At the eschatological judgement, when the works of believers is evaluated and rewarded by God: “For we must all appear before the judgement-seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). Paul is trying to give believing slaves an eschatological perspective on their present condition. Although they may face arduous days of difficult work and be asked to do thankless tasks that no one would ever want to do, the Lord notices all that they do, and they can be assured of future reward.


6:9a-b

Masters, do the same thing to them, giving up the threat

Καὶ οἱ κύριοι, τὰ αὐτὰ ποιεῖτε πρὸς αὐτούς, ἀνιέντες τὴν ἀπειλήν,

The same attitudinal traits that should characterize slaves should characterize the slave owners. These new attitudes were not typical of Roman slave owners, and would lead them to quit threatening and ultimately abusing their slaves. Slave owners are to have a positive attitude and goodwill toward their slaves (6:7), wholeheartedly committing themselves to the will of God (6:6b) and live under the recognition that they too are slaves of an ultimate master, the Lord Jesus Christ (6:7). Part of the slave owners’ attitude toward their servants include abandoning the use of threats and the related harsh punishments that went with the threats.


6:9c-d

Knowing that the Lord in heaven is both their Lord and yours and there is no favoritism with him

εἰδότες ὅτι καὶ αὐτῶν καὶ ὑμῶν ὁ κύριός ἐστιν ἐν οὐρανοῖς καὶ προσωπολημψία οὐκ ἔστιν παρʼ αὐτῷ.*

The principle motivating factor for slave owners to treat their slaves with goodwill and not harshness is the fact that slave owners are too under the authority of a master. Since their master shows no preferential treatment based on socioeconomic status or honor, neither should they.

Just as the slaves ultimately belong to Christ and serve him, so also are the Christian slave owners indentured to a life of servitude to the Lord Jesus Christ.

“For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes” (Deut. 10:17).

To not show favoritism — first used in James 2:1 — built on the Hebrew expression “to receive or esteem a face” — to prefer someone based on their appearance, position, status, or wealth. The attribute of God became foundational to Paul’s understanding of the universality of the gospel — that God show no preference for Jew or Gentile (Rom. 2:11). Now, Paul invokes this attribute to argue that since God shows no preference for one’s social or economic status, neither should slave owners. Therefore, treat slaves the same way God treats them.

Theology in Action

All of those living in the Roman Empire had a deeply ingrained set of cultural expectations concerning what it meant to live out their respective role in society. Men had an implicit understanding of how they were to think and act as husbands, as fathers, and even as owners of slaves, or how to live as a male slave under the ownership of another male. These role expectations were defined by culture and were not to be questioned or changed. Life was more difficult for Jews living under the Roman Imperium, since they attempted to order their lives around their confession of the one true and living God and by the ethics and observances prescribed by the Torah. Jewish and Roman culture often came into conflict on matters of daily life and how to live as members of a household.

The recipients of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians share one common trait — they all received Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. Nevertheless, they are a diverse group in every other way. Male and female, rich and poor, children and parents, husbands and wives, slave owners and slaves. As Christians come together regularly to worship the Lord and receive teaching about God and his kingdom, they would all have one question on their mind: What does it look like to live as a Christian in my role in the home and in society? How does the lordship of Christ transform how I conduct my day-to-day life in my specific role?

The lordship of Christ is foundational to this passage. Jesus Christ is the “one Lord” (4:5). They are to do all they can to discern what is pleasing and acceptable to the Lord in terms of how they live (5:10). They are to identify sinful practices, remove them, and replace them with virtues commended and embodied by Christ (4:17-24).

Culturally, Children are to live in obedient to their parents — but Paul gives them motivation and points them towards obedience on the basis of their relationship to the Lord. Fathers not only train and discipline their children, but now are responsible for instructing them in the ways of the Lord. Because of their relationship with the Lord, slaves are called to a new set of attitudes, motivations, and conduct expectations.

Paul reaffirms to them an entirely new identity. They may belong to an earthly master as slaves, but ultimately, they are owned and responsible to Christ himself (6:6).

Relevance for Today:

Was Paul an Advocate of Slavery?

Because Paul gives instructions to believers on how to live within an unjust social structure does not imply an advocacy of that institution. Paul never provides a theological rational for the institution of slavery, yet he does establish a theological basis for male headship and female submission in 5:21-33. His only concern is to provide perspective on how to live as Christians within the empire wide socioeconomic structure. Just as he never tries to subvert the Roman political structure, he does not engage in social protest and lead a revolt against the evils of the institution of slavery.

Paul lays a foundation affirming human dignity and value of freedom, and makes a handful of comments encouraging the freedom of slaves. 1 Cor 7:21: “Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you — although if you can gain your freedom, do so.” in Philm 16, Paul appeals to Philemon for Onesimus’s emancipation. It is inappropriate to compare the institution of slavery to the male leadership in the home and label both as unjust social institutions. Such a conclusion fails to consider the essential difference between the two social structures, and the fact that one is theologically grounded, and the other is not.

Employees, Soldiers, Prisoners, and ALL under Authority Structures

Paul’s instructions to slaves are not directly and immediately applicable to most people living today, especially in the West because we have abolished the socioeconomic institution of slavery. Nevertheless, there are 40 million slaves in the world today, with 71% of them being women and girls. To these people, Paul’s instruction have direct relevance. But it is important for the rest of us not to skip over the slave passages in Scripture and assume they have nothing to say for us.

None of Paul’s instructions or accompanying reasons and motivations to slaves in 6:5-8 are solely contingent on an ownership relationship. In other words, his commands can be equally applied to other forms of socioeconomic authority structures in the contemporary world. If Paul had said, “never leave your master because he owns you” — both the command and the causal statement would render the instruction inapplicable to any situation other than a slave-master relationship. In this context, Paul’s instructions — all having to do with attitude, manner of service, and motivation — have equal applicability to a variety of authority relationships.

The typical application is that Paul’s comments are relevant to employer-employee relationships. Also, applicable would be prisoners and military. Believers should do their work as if they were doing it directly for Jesus himself. This is more than just hypothetical — because Paul is making an appeal rooted in their new identity in Christ. Just as Paul is a “slave of Christ” — believers are now “slaves of Christ” and owe him their ultimate allegiance and full obedience. Among other attitudes and work practices that should characterize Christians in their jobs, especially in relationship to their managers, are a number of principles:

  1. Treat your managers or supervisors with deep respect (6:5b). Because of their position over you, managers or supervisors should be accorded respect, even if you think they do not deserve it. Soldiers sometimes say: “You may need to salute the rank and not the person.”
  2. Do your work with a pure heart and good attitude. There are many possible duplicitous motives that do not please God. It is important for workers to check their hearts and periodically engage in self-evaluation.
  3. Don’t perform just to make a good impression. When the boss is gone, how’s your job performance? The Lord is aware of all we do. If in our hearts, we are serving him in our jobs, we will always give our all.
  4. Give God’s will top priority in your life and work. Because we are ultimately serving Christ and will answer him at the end of the age, God’s will should always overrule any wrong attitude or behavior we might be tempted by in our work, or if we are asked to do something that is clearly wrong or unethical. In the first century, “doing the will of God” would have prevented Christian slaves from obeying commands from their masters that were contrary to God’s will (such as worshiping an idol or a female domestic having sex with her master).
  5. Remember, the Lord expects us to do good works, notices when we do them, and will reward all that we have done. There are many good things that an employee may do and are never properly recognized by his or her supervisor. Remember, there is one supervisor that matters, and He notices.

Employers, Supervisors, and All Who Manage:

All the attitudes, motivations, and work behaviors that are commended to those under authority are equally applicable and necessary for those who exercise authority over others. Perhaps most significant continues to be the criterion of doing everything as if one is doing it directly for the Lord himself. Specific to those who are managers, Paul gives two instructions. 1) Paul strongly discourages the use of threats. This does not mean that employees should not be held accountable for their performance, but more how not to motivate employees to do their work. It is better to motivate with positive comments than negative, especially angry reactive threats of demotion or losing the job. 2) Paul appeals to avoid favoritism. He does this by asserting that there is no favoritism with the Lord himself. Nepotism and every other form of favoritism shown by a manger are not only unjust, but greatly demoralize all of the coworkers of the one shown special favor. (See Exodus. 23:3; Leviticus 19:5). The key thing to remember for those in authority is that you too are under authority. All managers are answerable to the Lord Jesus Christ for every decision they make and how they treat personnel. Every supervisor, boss, manager, warden, and colonel will be called to account at the judgement-seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10).


In Paul’s word to servants must be heard in the same context as his word to wives, husbands, and children. Here one significant understanding must be noted. Paul’s ethics, and especially his ethics of relationship and societal status, was thoroughly influenced by his expectation of the imminent return of Christ. This produces what appears to be a “conservative” stance, for he actually urges his readers to remain in their present roles in society. In 1 Corinthians 7:17–24, for example, he applies this ethic to three situations: circumcision, slavery, and marriage.

17 Let each one live his life in the situation the Lord assigned when God called him. This is what I command in all the churches. 18 Was anyone already circumcised when he was called? He should not undo his circumcision. Was anyone called while uncircumcised? He should not get circumcised. 19 Circumcision does not matter and uncircumcision does not matter. Keeping God’s commands is what matters. 20 Let each of you remain in the situation in which he was called. 21 Were you called while a slave? Don’t let it concern you. But if you can become free, by all means take the opportunity. 22 For he who is called by the Lord as a slave is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise he who is called as a free man is Christ’s slave. 23 You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of people. 24 Brothers and sisters, each person is to remain with God in the situation in which he was called. 1 Corinthians 7:17-24


While Paul may have been cited as a champion of the status quo and in support of oppressive systems, this is a misuse of his message. Because he expected Christ to return soon, he expected the institution of slavery to be abolished without human effort. Even so, he called for a transformation of attitude and thus of relationship within external strictures of slavery. The obedience of a slave to a master was to become a heart response “as to Christ,” not a response in cowering, manipulative “eyeservice, as men-pleasers.” Masters were to relate to their servants in the same way, as to Christ—how radical!—“giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him” (v. 9).
The lessons are clear and relate to all. (1) The slave who becomes a Christian is the Lord’s freedman though he may still belong to an earthly master; likewise the free person who becomes a Christian is Christ’s slave. (2) Inner freedom is not tied to external status. In Paul’s thinking, with the expectation of the parousia, to attempt to change one’s status would have been a tacit denial of the fact that one’s relation to God is a matter of trust/faith; Paul’s conviction that inner freedom is what matters caused him to see that attempts to change one’s situation makes the externals more important than they really are. Ephesians 6:5 (Preacher’s Commentary)

 1   ME

How DO I STRUGGLE WITH THIS?

I pretty much started working as soon as I was able to. My first job, when I was 14, was being a soccer referee. Not a glamorous job, but I saw my siblings do it, and it paid a bit of cash, and my parents were willing to get me where I needed to be to work, so it worked out. Pretty soon after being in the soccer world, I decided I wanted to make more money, so I started my own little business doing wedding videography, for some reason. I didn’t enjoy it, and looking back at it, who in their right mind would pay a 15-year-old to film their wedding? I mean, come on. Anyway, I got several gigs and was working “for myself” doing weddings, until I realized how crazy it was and how much pressure I was putting on myself. After weddings, I got a job at Milwaukee Grill when I was 16. One of my sisters had a boyfriend at one point who was the owner’s son of this bar and grill and gained for herself a good reputation at the restaurant. Then my older brother got the job from her, and following suit, I got the job from my brother. Now my brother is 3 years older than me and by the time I started my first day, I’ve seen him as a bus boy, to host, to waiter, to expediter, to bartender, and even filling in as the manager occasionally. I also saw the amount of cash he brought home from work.

I realized from a young age that life was about who you know, and got the job passed on to me because after all, Petrys are hardworking, personable, and reliable. So, I started working my first “real job” as soon as I could drive, as a bus boy, and man, it was hard work. As a bus boy, you’re pretty much the whipping boy of the kitchen. Any job that no one else wanted to do – let the bus boy do it. Be there to open, stay till close. As much as I didn’t like the job, it shaped me. I remember there was one particular evening when I was supposed to be done at 9pm, but the closing bus boy had something come up, so my boss told me that I was closing. Without asking for my permission, without asking what my thoughts would be, without asking me if I was willing, he just told me — Brian — you’re closing tonight. To most of us – sure. That seems reasonable. But from my prideful and arrogant perspective — how dare he? How dare he just tell me I need to stay an extra three hours? Didn’t he know I had homework to do? Didn’t he know that I didn’t have to be there, and I could leave? Doesn’t he know that the Petrys are special to the owners? I then learned an important lesson. Do your job. Remember your place. You see, this was my first “real job” where I had a boss and the dreams of promotion. If I wanted to move up, I needed to work, and so I worked.

There was another day when I was at work, doing the dishes, clearing tables, doing the grunt work that other people didn’t want to do. Apparently, my emotions were quite visible. My mom always told me that I wear my emotions on the sleeves of my shirt — that everyone around me knows how I’m feeling, for better or worse. In this case, I was tolerating work. I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t think I was getting paid enough. I didn’t want to put up with my managers. I didn’t want to take the belittling from the cooks. At that moment, the owner of the restaurant asked to speak with me, and he told me about one of the other bus boys. Esteban. Esteban didn’t speak very much English, but if the restaurant was open, he was there. And if he wasn’t there, it was because he was working at his other restaurant as a second job as a bus boy. I never asked him how old he was, but Esteban had kids back home in Mexico that he was working for. Because of the language barrier, he could never work in the front of the house, and so he settled for doing the dishes. And man, was he joyful. Always smiling. Always thankful to have a job to go to. The owner of the restaurant tried to share with me the perspective of Esteban, grateful to have a job, grateful to have a paycheck, compared to me. Crabby, bitter, prideful. Too good to be washing dishes. Too good to submit to the managers. He also told me about what that communicates to Esteban and the rest of the staff. If the job I’m doing, which they were also were doing, was too good for me, I’m saying that I’m too good for them.

 2   WE

HOW DO WE ALL STRUGGLE WITH THIS?

I think this is a lesson that we all have learned at some point, and if we’re lucky, the sooner in life, the better. We live in a society where there are socioeconomic structures that form the lens from which we live. No matter what the work is, we have bosses and authorities that work under, and if we don’t like it, well, we won’t keep that job for very long. Work. Authority. Goals. Attitudes. These are things we are talking about today.

 3   GOD

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT THIS?

For the last few weeks, we’ve been studying in the book of Ephesians the concept of obedience. Ephesians 5:15 says, “Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk — not as unwise people but as wise.” Pay careful attention to how you walk. You see, what Paul has done through this letter so far is that he established the truth of the gospel, and then draws conclusions for how, if the gospel is true, how it ought to look in our lives. Wives, submit. Husbands, love and honor. Children, obey. Be careful how you walk. And then, if you were to keep reading, there’s a set of instructions that seemingly doesn’t apply today, so we sometimes skip over them, but not today. Open with me to Ephesians chapter 6, starting at verse 5.

Slaves, obey your human masters with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as you would Christ. Don’t work only while being watched, as people-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, do God’s will from your heart. Serve with a good attitude, as to the Lord and not to people, knowing that whatever good each one does, slave or free, he will receive this back from the Lord. And masters, treat your slaves the same way, without threatening them because you know that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him. (CSB).

Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him. (ESV).

If you have been in the church for some time, you likely have heard this teaching before, and you know how it is normally contextualized — brought to today’s time and culture, and that’s the employee-employer relationship. Before we get there, I want us to open our eyes wide open and seek to understand what it is that Paul was asserting.

The recipients of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians share one common trait — they all received Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. Nevertheless, they are a diverse group in every other way. Male and female, rich and poor, children and parents, husbands and wives, slave owners and slaves. As Christians come together regularly to worship the Lord and receive teaching about God and his kingdom, they would all have one question on their mind: What does it look like to live as a Christian in my role in the home and in society? How does the lordship of Christ transform how I conduct my day-to-day life in my specific role? Basically, Ok, I’m a Christian now, now what?

In this section, Paul assumes the Roman socioeconomic power structure is what it is, and does not offer a critique of it. People are living within a society where slavery was the norm. In fact, slavery was part of Judaism since the very beginning with patriarchs, with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all owning slaves. At the point in time that Paul is writing, over one third of the population in Rome were slaves. Wealthy landowners who were farmers could have owned hundreds of slaves, where free Roman Citizens maybe owned one or two for domestic help. Paul also assumed that Jesus would be coming back — quickly — so quickly that a critique of the entire social system would have been seen as distrust in the imminent return of Christ. Let me be really clear about something. Widespread practice of slavery does not give moral justification for its existence. Slavery is the owning of another human and constitutes the deprivation of their freedom — and is bad, and people through history have used the Bible to defend slavery. We are not doing that today. Paul never gives a theological basis for slavery. If we look at what he wrote about parenting or marriage — he used theology as the basis. As for slavery, it is just the way it was. Paul assumes its presence in society, and so he helps believers understand what it means to live as a Christian within that context.

Today, the word slavery triggers people to think about the form of slavery that was practiced in the New World. However, slavery in the Roman Principate was vastly different and for us to understand what Paul was writing about, it’s important to understand the context.

First, we have to understand that racial factors played no role. Slavery in America in the 17th to 19th centuries primarily involved the taking of black African slaves, forcibly taken from their homeland. Roman-era slavery had nothing to do with race or a particular group of people. Roman slaves were virtually every race of people in the Mediterranean region and involved people from every country. The most common source of slaves were prisoners of war. When Roman general Pompey conquered Israel in the first century BC, he brought many thousands of Jewish prisoners to Rome, who became slaves. A smaller number of slaves resulted from the rescue of abandoned infants and from those who sold themselves into slavery because of debt. Some, however, did enter the slave market because they were captured by professional slave traders.

The second difference is that many slaves could reasonably expect to be freed during their lifetime. A significant number could expect to be freed by the time they turned thirty years old. In fact, so many slaves were being released from their servitude in the early first century AD that Caesar Augustus declared thirty years old to be the minimum age for emancipation, and then he limited how many were freed each year. Owners would pay their slaves a sum of money occasionally, called a peculium, to reward them for their hard work. They would commonly use this fund to purchase their freedom. In contrast to slaves in the New World, they had no hope for freedom.

Third, many slaves worked in a variety of specialized and responsible positions. Some slaves were confined to many years of hard labor in agriculture, manufacturing, or domestic duties, many others served as doctors, teachers, writers, accountants, agents, bailiffs, overseers, secretaries, and sea captains. New World slaves, by contrast, were seldom entrusted with responsible positions nor did they have access to training.

Many slaves received training and education in specialized skills. Few opportunities were provided in the New World to receive education or developmental training, yet this was common practice of slave owners in the Roman world. It was seen as beneficial to both the master and the slave. Masters saw it as a wise business strategy to buy and train intelligent slaves to motivate them to a high-quality workmanship, and hold out the prospect of freedom after a specified time.

Freed slaves often became Roman Citizens and developed a client relationship to their former masters. It was common practice for a freed slave to gain Roman citizenship. Having gained their freedom from life under the provisions and protection of their former master could be difficult. Often they would arrange for their master to become their patron, and the transition to more independent life became easier.

With all of these differences, do not hear me saying that ancient slavery was more humane or morally justifiable. There were some features that were better than slavery in the new world, but it was still coercive ownership of another person. Slaves possessed few legal rights, lacked honor, were subject to whatever punishment their masters deemed appropriate, were permitted no legally sanctioned marriage or family bonds, could not keep their children born to them while in slavery, could be separated from their spouses by the slave master, and were not allowed to own property of any kind. Few, if any, would willingly want to live in this disempowered, exploited, and subversive state.

It’s in this context that the Apostle Paul writes and casts a vision for how slaves and slave owners should live out their Christian lives.

In Ephesians 6:5, Paul writes:  Slaves, obey your human masters with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as you would Christ.

Previously, Paul spoke to Husbands, Wives, and Children for how to live out their lives as Christians within their social structure. Now he’s speaking to the slaves. Remember, over a third of the population of Rome at this time would have been slaves. He appeals to slaves to comply to the orders of their masters and as we read, we will see six different ways that they should live out this relationship, all based on their status as primarily belonging to Christ first. And that is key. Because you belong to Christ, this is how you are supposed to live.

1. Obey with an attitude of deep respect and sincerity of heart. Paul addresses the slaves with the perspective that they are morally free agents, capable of thinking for themselves and acting with moral responsibility. Truthfully, that Paul would address slaves at all was remarkable. Slaves may have been tempted to behave in dishonest and resentful and cunning ways, but Paul says that as Christians, their motivation and attitude should be different. Paul says that they should obey their masters – and this would have been the expectation everywhere by everyone – but what’s unique was the manner and motivation that should inform their relationship to their master, the same thing that is found in Colossians 3:22-24.

Slaves, obey your human masters in everything. Don’t work only while being watched, as people-pleasers, but work wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people, 24 knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ. Col 3:22–24.

Slaves, obey your human masters with fear and trembling. Some of us may read that and envision something like a child after he just pushed a button for the 15th time and knows that a spanking is coming for him. There is a brief period of obedience, of fear and trembling, hoping that the punishment won’t come. But I think that is the wrong image to read into this context of the attitude of Christian slaves. In Psalm 2, this phrase was used to characterize the way that people should have in serving the Lord. In Philippians 2, it’s the way that people should work out their salvation in the new covenant. Paul says that he approached the Corinthians “in weakness and fear, with much trembling” when he initially preached to them the gospel in 1 Corinthians 2. The Corinthians were supposed to receive Titus with fear and trembling. It’s too far off the mark to say that slaves should obey with a foreboding terror and dread, but much closer to the idea in the NLT that Christians should obey out of deep respect and fear.

They also should respond with the sincerity of their hearts. This means with hearts innocent from any kind of improper motivation. Purity in their intentions, no scheming, deceit, or any kind of base motive. Instead, they are to obey as they would obey Christ. Paul knows that these Christians have given their ultimate allegiance to Jesus, he’s not questioning that, yet, as a consequence, Christians should be obedient to their human masters. Their slave master does not represent Christ to the slave, but the slave is to serve with the same devotion that they serve Christ. Colossians 3:17 says “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to the God in the Father through him.”

Ephesians 6:6 – “Not serving to be seen, as people-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ doing the will of God from the heart”. Based on their new identity as slaves belonging to Christ, they are to serve their human masters not simply to make a good impression, but with the purest of motives. Paul makes up a new word, as he sometimes does. “Serving to be seen.” It’s a compound word, combining eye and service. Slaves are to know that Paul is teaching against any form of service that is done out of a motive of just being seen. How they behave when the master turns his back or leaves is just as important as the nature of service they offer when hie is present. In other words, don’t be people pleasers. Christians have a higher call than that. Instead, be motivated to serve your human master because your ultimate indenturing is to Christ alone, as slaves of Christ. They belong to someone who has far greater authority and far more honor than any human slave owner – they serve someone whom God has exalted high above any earthly or heavenly power. Paul calls slaves to belong to and serve the greatest master of all, recognizing that their status and honor is ultimately derived from belonging to Christ and not their human masters. We’ll come back to this at the end – but spoiler alert. Anyone who becomes a Christian is indentured as a “slave of Christ” (see 1 Corinthians 7:22).

For Paul, the highest priority for Christians is to do the will of God. This is a call for all believers, slave or not. This does not mean that it is God’s will for them to remain in slavery, but as long as they are under this structure of authority, serve human masters as though they are serving Christ himself and not attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of their masters. When this is true, they are not serving grudgingly, but from the heart or “wholeheartedly” is the way we put that today. They’re serving from the soul, or the part where we think and plan. If you recall the Shema (yes, I teach about it a lot, but I think it’s a big deal) — it says to Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul. For believing slaves, this means to comply with the orders of the human masters and doing so with a good attitude, as hard as that might be.

Ephesians 6:7 – Serving with a good attitude as to the Lord, and not for men. Serve and obey with a good attitude as to the Lord. It’s astonishing what power attitude has over our lives. I frequently find myself with a bad attitude and crabby. But then I realize that the attitude is the problem, and not my circumstance. It’s remarkable how capable we are to change our attitudes. Paul instructs slaves to serve and obey with the attitude that they would serve Jesus with. This is simple, but crazy. John Maxwell said, “People may hear your words, but they feel your attitude.” What Paul was getting at was that ultimately, the way of thinking about their service will enable them to overcome the temptation to judge the motivations of their earthly masters, which might lead them to lose heart and serve begrudgingly.

Ephesians 6:8 — Knowing that each person, if he does something good, this he will receive back from the Lord whether he is a slave or a free person. Paul wants slaves to know that their good works are noticed by the one Master who really cares, and they will be rewarded. In other words, if he does something good — or anything good — it will be taken int account by the Lord. Then they will be rewarded. Paul is trying to give believing slaves an eschatological perspective on their present condition. Although they may face arduous days of difficult work and be asked to do thankless tasks that no one would ever want to do, the Lord notices all that they do, and they can be assured of future reward.

Next, the passage turns attention to the slave-masters. But before we get there, let’s review just for a second. How is Paul striving for slaves to live as Christians? 1) Obey with deep respect and fear for their authority, not from terror, but from respect (and occasionally, they needed to salute the rank, not the person). 2) Have pure motives, innocent from any kind of improper motivation. 3) Serve consistently wholeheartedly, not only when seen as people pleasers do, but even when no one but Christ knows what is being done. They are to remember that they belong ultimately to Christ as their first and greatest master of all. 4) Serve with a good attitude, assuming the best. 5) Serve in a way informed by the truth that the Lord is noticing, and it will be credited to them. In other words, work with an eschatological perspective on the present condition. 6) ???

This is a high calling. This is a hard standard to live out today, if we tried, even on the good days, much less the days where we feel like we’re being abused.

Then Paul moves to slave owners. 6:9 — Masters, treat your slaves the same way, without threatening them… What?! Paul, sure, tell the slaves all to behave and be the slave of the month every month, but masters — treat the slaves in the same way? Paul is telling masters how they are supposed to treat their property, in their home. Is he going too far? He says that they should treat their slaves with deep respect and fear, not from authority, not with terror, but from respect. To have pure motives and not abuse or manipulate. To treat them in this way consistently, not just with other people are watching. To assume the best in them, knowing that the Lord is noticing how they treat them. Needless to say, this was not the typical way that slave owners treated their slaves. Part of the slaves owners’ attitude toward their slave were to include the abandoning of the use of threats (and the harsh punishments that were included with the threats). Why?

Paul continues: 6:9b … Knowing that the Lord in heaven is both their Lord and yours, and there is no favoritism with him. The principle motivating factor for slave owners to treat their slaves with goodwill and not harshness — get this — is that they are under the authority of a master themselves. Just as slaves ultimately belong to Christ and serve him, so also are the Christian lave owners indentured to a life of servitude to the Lord Jesus Christ. So much of Christian living comes back to remembering that God is God and you are not. Deuteronomy 10:17 says, “For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes.” This attribute of God — of not showing favoritism — is foundational to Paul’s understanding of the universality of the Gospel and that Jesus is Lord for both Jews and Gentiles. Now, Paul uses this same attribute to argue that since God shows no preference for one’s social or economic status, neither should slave owners. Essentially, treat slaves the same way God treats them.

 4   YOU

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO ABOUT THIS?

So, what do we do about this? This is a radical teaching for how being a Christian should dictate how slaves and slave owners live. None of Paul’s teachings here are contingent on an ownership relationship — they’re contingent to life within an authority structure. Paul never says, “Slaves, be nice and never leave your master because he owns you.” He says, “Hey, you ultimately belong to the Creator, so act like it.” This means that what Paul is teaching to slaves and slave owners, can apply to anyone who is in any sort of authority structure. I said earlier that this passage normally gets applied to the employee-employer relationship, and I got to be honest — I was really hoping that that was just lazy eisegesis. I was really hoping that that application was just a throwing of our arms up in the air saying “well, this is about slavery, and slavery is bad, and it must mean something, so let’s apply it to employees.” But the more I studied, the more I came to the conclusion that simply equating a Roman era slave to an employee is what is lazy because let’s be real — coercive ownership of humans is not at will employment. But that does not mean the teaching does not apply. Instead, it applies even more, to any number of types of relationships within our socioeconomic system. Yes, employer-employee, but also soldiers-colonel, prisoners-warden, students-teacher, athlete-coach, property-owner-contractor. If you are a Christian, if Jesus is Lord of your life — act like it. It better show up in the way you live your life.

Given our current context, we’ll focus on the employer and employee relationship because broad brush that will involve most of you, but the principles apply. if you are a student, athlete, contractor, or in any way report to someone else who has authority over you – listen up.

  1. Treat your managers or supervisors with deep respect. Because of their position over you, managers or supervisors should be given respect, even if you think they do not deserve it.
  2. Do your work with a pure heart and good attitude. There are many possible deceitful motives that do not please God. It is important for workers to check their hearts and periodically engage in self-evaluation.
  3. Don’t perform just to make a good impression. When the boss is gone, how’s your job performance? The Lord is aware of all we do. If in our hearts, we are serving him in our jobs, we will always give our all.
  4. Give God’s will top priority in your life and work. Because we are ultimately serving Christ and will answer him at the end of the age, God’s will should always overrule any wrong attitude or behavior we might be tempted by in our work. Or if we are asked to do something that is clearly wrong or unethical. In the first century, “doing the will of God” would have prevented Christian slaves from obeying commands from their masters that were contrary to God’s will (such as worshiping an idol or a female domestic having sex with her master). God is God first.
  5. Remember, the Lord expects us to do good works, notices when we do them, and will reward all that we have done. There are many good things that an employee may do and are never properly recognized by his or her supervisor. Remember, there is one supervisor that matters, and He notices.

Now to those in authority positions, employers, supervisors, and all who manage. All the attitudes, motivations, and work behaviors that are commended to those under authority are equally applicable and necessary for those who exercise authority over others. This is common in our contemporary leadership wisdom. Go to Barnes and Noble and look at the leadership shelf, and you will find many common themes. What’s unique, and perhaps most significant continues to be the criterion of doing everything as if one is doing it directly for the Lord himself. Specific to those who are managers, Paul gives two instructions. 1) Paul strongly discourages the use of threats. This does not mean that employees should not be held accountable for their performance, but more how not to motivate employees to do their work. It is better to motivate with positive comments than negative, especially angry reactive threats of demotion or losing the job. 2) Paul appeals to avoid favoritism. He does this by asserting that there is no favoritism with the Lord himself. Nepotism and every other form of favoritism shown by a manger are not only unjust, but greatly demoralize all of the coworkers of the one shown special favor. The key thing to remember for those in authority is that you too are under authority. All managers are answerable to the Lord Jesus Christ for every decision they make and how they treat personnel. Every supervisor, boss, manager, warden, and colonel will be called to account at the judgement-seat of Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:10 says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may be repaid for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”

The day that you are in a position of authority — whether at home as husband or wife, or as parent, or any other kind of authority — and your attitude is “I’m in charge, what I say goes,” you’ve already failed. In your heart, you are god, and God is not. Instead, here’s the charge. Repent. Remember that God is God, you are not, and He’s our authority, so act like it.

For those of us who are often not in the positions of authority, but instead are the workers, the laborers, the yes-men. You should serve not grudgingly but from the heart or “wholeheartedly”. “From the soul.” I so often question my motives and my heart. Why do I put my time where I do? Whose impression am I trying to sway? Did I just take that project because it will look good on my resume and get me the next opportunity? Sometimes I question my motives so much that I don’t trust my interpretation of my motives, you know what I mean? It can be a scary loop to be in, why am I doing what I am doing, and is it honorable and praiseworthy? When that’s the question we ask to assess, we’ve already missed the mark. Instead, in everything we do, are we doing it as we’re doing it for the Lord? There’s a concept that I’ve been trying to hit home with my teenagers lately, and it’s this: Everything we do is worship, just the target or object of our worship changes. We’re always glorifying, drawing attention, something. We’ll say things like “Please stand and worship for these three songs” (and afterwards sit down and stop worshiping). But the reality is that we are always serving something, always worshiping something. Paul’s charge to us is to worship God. All the time. In everything we do, do it as we’re doing it for Christ. If that is the case, we’ll no longer be questioning what secret motive of my heart am I trying to get out of this. And guys, workers, this is hard. I know it. I’ve worked for some really unethical and ungodly authorities. But Paul’s teaching means that to the boss who belittles you, to the manager who gaslights you, to the coach that won’t give you a chance, serve them and obey them as you would serve Christ, with the attitude that you would present to Christ.

Two sidebars I want to take. One is on modern-day slavery, the other on the practical implication of working at will for unhealthy, unethical, ungodly managers and how that compares to Roman-era slavery.

First. I believe that Paul did not condone or support slavery as an institution. However, he also did not write against it as it was the way of life, and he believed that Christ was returning very soon — too soon for a socioeconomic revolution that was existent since the patriarchs. For his conclusions regarding husbands, wives, headship, and parenting, he uses theological rational. For slavery, he does not. Just as he never tried to subvert the Roman political structure, he does not engage in social protest or lead a revolt against the evils of the institution of slavery. In other writings of Paul, we can find a handful of comments, affirming human dignity and the value of freedom. In 1 Corinthians 7:21, he wrote, “Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you — although if you can gain freedom, do so.” In Philemon 16, Paul appeals to Philemon for Onesimus’ emancipation. What does that mean for us? It’s my conviction that if you report to an authority that you are unable to serve as you would serve Christ — you are not a slave. It’s your responsibility to “gain freedom if you are able.” Find other work. We are called to worship God in everything we do, at all times. If we place ourselves in situations where we are unable to worship God, who are we worshiping? It might be security, money, identity, success, or one of our other countless idols.

Second. Currently, scholars estimate that we have 40 million slaves today, with 71% of them being women and girls. That is evil and messed up, and quite frankly, I don’t know what to do with that information. This passage we have today would be really hard to preach to those women and girls. Does the message of God change for them? I’m not sure if it does. Let God be God and serve as you’re serving Him. For us, on the outside, looking in — I think God has strong words to care for the sick, poor, and vulnerable. I think of Matthew 25:40 where Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me. Truly, I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of these, you did not do for me.” Maybe I’m just a hippie — but when I read scripture, I can’t help to see a call for social justice. Whether that means social awareness, product boycott, or whatever form of attainable justice, we are called to do everything as worship to God and to take care of the vulnerable – but that’s another sermon.

 5   WE

HOW CAN WE ALL LIVE THIS OUT TOGETHER?

How can we live this out together? The entire point of this sermon is that if Jesus is our Lord (and that’s a big IF), then we ALL are under His authority, so act like it. We sometimes say things like, “The way we live will cause people to ask questions about Jesus.” But we usually say things like that in the context of kids and how they should be nice. But I think that that’s true for us today as well. The way you live out being a Christian, regardless of your particular environment or circumstance, is like being a living walking statue with an image that represents Jesus. It says, “This is who is in charge, and he’s worth following.” What a powerful testimony it would be if our non-christian employees or employers began to associate Christians not with “those outspoken or stubborn” people, but instead as the examples that they wish others were like. What if they started wondering — why? Why does Craig treat his employees that way? Why does Veronica log her timesheet the way she does when everyone else adds extra time at the end of the shift? Everything we do ought to point to our Lord, if he is our Lord.

Segue to Communion

The hard part of all of this is that last piece. If Jesus is our Lord. Everybody loves a Jesus that just lets us get out of hell and go on living our life the same as it was. What people don’t like is a God that demands all of who we are. A God who is a jealous God, wanting our entire allegiance. Savior, Lord, King. Jesus is all of it or none of it. Jesus showed in many ways that he is King — the book of Matthew is all about that. People expected a warrior king that would come and wipe out the Romans and restore Judaism. Peter wanted to be the right hand of Jesus, and all the glory that came with being a hero. What Jesus was instead was a suffering servant. A foot-washer. The sacrificial lamb. He was the Messiah in every way he needed to be, and not at all like people wanted him to be. We abandoned God in the Garden and kicked him off the throne, disrupting our entire relationship with him and others. Then the rest of the Old Testament was God working to woo his people back to him, not by force, but by love. But every time that people began to make Him their Lord and king, they just as quickly failed, turned their back on him and rejected him. There was a need for a savior. When the Old Testament ended, everything seemed hopeless. Then for a period of 400 years, it seemed like God stopped caring. Stopped listening. Stopped talking. And then, suddenly and unexpectedly, we get Jesus, born of a poor virgin girl, in a barn, needing to flee to Egypt as a refugee. Jesus lived a sinless life, obedient to the Father. He revealed the fullness of who God is, and then he submitted to the will of the Father and died on the cross. For three days, he laid in the grave, separated, defeated. But then he rose from the dead, conquered death, defeating the curse of sin and made a way for God’s beloved to be united back with their Creator with the promise of everlasting life for those who love him. In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul writes this.

23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 27 So, then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sin against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself; in this way let him eat the bread and drink from the cup.
1 Co 11:23–28.

The act of taking communion does not save us, but is an act of worship and remembrance of Jesus as Lord. By taking communion, we are functionally rededicating ourselves, saying this is who I am, and I’ll stand by it. We’re saying that Jesus is the Lord of our lives, and we’re taking it together as a community, saying “we’re in this together.” Here at Oak Grove, we invite anyone who says that Jesus is their Lord, King and Savior to participate, even if you are here just visiting today. If you like the idea of Jesus as Savior, but not King or Lord, I encourage you to talk with someone, whether it’s Matt, an elder, or anyone else that you trust, about what it means to take the next step and have Jesus as Lord and King of your life. The worship team is going to come up and play our last song and during this time, when you are ready, you may come to one of the four stations to receive the elements and eat and drink them when you are ready. If you would rather have it brought to you, just raise your hand and someone will bring it to you. If you feel led by the Spirit to have a conversation with someone before you reaffirm your commitment to Christ, I encourage you to do that now before you take the elements. Guys, the message today is simple, but the application is weighty. God is God and we are not. We all have Him as our authority, so we need to act like it.

Let’s pray.