Ephesians 6 v 7 – 9
We discovered last week that, with regards to work, we are all ministers of the Gospel where the Lord has put us. Ephesians 6 v 6 – 8 teach us that Christian Servants, workers, employees, have duties towards their earthly masters. Because they are working “as unto the Lord” then they are working primarily for the Lord Jesus Christ and not for men. Workers should work diligently not just when the boss is looking but at all times. They should be obedient to their employers and seek to commend the Lord Jesus Christ by their quality of work.
We only really scratched the surface of verses 7 and 8 so we come back for a few moments first this morning to notice some significant words that tell us more about our responsibilities as Christians at work, in whatever capacity our work may be. As we said last week this includes EVERYONE – not only those in gainful employment, but retired, unemployed, disabled, old and young – there is work of some sort for all to do – and the Holy Spirit has something to say to each of us.
The Duty of the Servant of Christ to his heavenly Master.
Verse 6b but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; 7 With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: 8 Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.
1. Our work should be FROM THE HEART.
Here in these verses the Lord Jesus Christ is the master, and all of His believing people are his willing slaves. We are working for the Lord, no matter what we do, in his will. Therefore all work must be done from the heart. How is this worked out?
When our minds are captured by the Lord in order to serve him then we are motivated by a heart that is devoted saying, “I want to work for you Lord.”
The human heart is like a piston so that when it moves it sets in motion other items of complicated machinery. A steam engine has all kinds of rods and gears and levers connected to this piston and when the steam moves this piston the results are dramatic. So the motions of our hearts give action, direction and character to our work.
Our obedience to the Lord should be hearty – sometimes we say when we are not really committed to something, “I really have no heart for this job.” Or again we may have to hear the words sometimes, “Come on put your heart into it!” We are
the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.
It has been said that the worth of our work as a whole will be judged by how much heartiness, genuine energy we threw into every single duty.
Have you seen some of these pictures on sale that are made from some of the flotsam and jetsam washed and blown onto our beaches? We look at the bits of blue fishing net and broken branches and shells and see the prices – £35 and exclaim, “All that money for bits of rubbish found on the beach?” But we forget what we are really being asked to pay for – it is the work of the artist – that has made all the difference – he or she has put self, genius, flair and HEART into the picture.
Our work should be from the heart.
2. Our work should flow from a WILLING MIND.
7 With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men:
The standard that the Holy Spirit calls for here is high. Not only must we provide hearty work we must provide willingness. It is often said that, “One willing volunteer is worth more than five pressed men.” The Lord is looking for willing cheerful workers, not reluctant pressurised slaves who do not wish to be working at all!
There was once a man who trained as a Doctor and then came home to the village where he had grown up, to practice as a GP. He had never married so went to live with his widowed mother, who was delighted to have her son at home. During the Doctor’s long years of medical training he had come to know the Lord – he had been converted. His mother did not share his faith but tolerated his change in character although she did not agree with his new moral and Christian standpoint.
His practice was busy and he was often called out. Late one evening a call came for him to go to a needy patient. He was a man who didn’t think a second thought before agreeing to go. His mother said,” Oh dear, do you HAVE to go – what a pity – you were so settled and relaxed – poor you.” There was a mixture of sympathy but also irritation in the mother’s voice – she was of the opinion that her son was being taken advantage of. The son had a higher calling than that of a Doctor – he was a believer – and every visit he made he was intent on taking the Name and comfort of the Lord Jesus Christ his saviour with him reflected in his standard of work. He said to his mother,
“Mother, my work is not tedious as you suggest – my heart is light as I go on an errand for my Master the Lord Jesus Christ. It is as light as when I went on errands for you when I was a boy. I went because I loved you – even when you broke into my playtime to ask me to go to the shop I went willingly and gladly with a desire to please you. It is the same with my work – it is as unto my heavenly Master – I love Him and enjoy pleasing Him.”
I can remember delivering groceries on a bicycle after school each day when I was 13 – 14. It was tedious. Not even the 22/6 on a Saturday at the end of the day was enough to take away the monotony of the same old boxes to the same old addresses week in week out! But I was not a believer then. Duty and drudgery were part of the discipline of boyhood and could only be tempered by a bit of daydreaming as I rode along. If I had known the Lord Jesus Christ all would have been different. My heart and will would have been His and He would have made such a difference to my work – as He will ours as believers today. George Herbert’s hymn helps us here,
Teach me my God and King, in all things Thee to see, And what I do in anything, to do it as for Thee. A servant with this clause makes drudgery divine, Who sweeps a room as for Thy laws Makes that and the action fine.
Are our minds willing as we work for the Lord Jesus Christ in our daily labours, whatever they are? His Name can be spread as we work happily and cheerfully and willingly. Let us take stock and make sure that we do have a Christlike attitude in our work. Oh how willing our Saviour was – all in our interest too!
3. We should remember that genuine obedience is always rewarded.
8 Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.
Paul was concerned for the slaves that he was addressing in this letter. He wanted to encourage them with the thought that there was a reward awaiting them.
There have been many theories and doctrines built around the limited knowledge that we have concerning REWARDS. We are limited in knowledge because the texts in scripture are scarce. We know that as believers we have a place reserved in heaven. The Lord Jesus Christ has told us that in John 14. We know that there is the reward of heaven itself. We could become a little worried about such passages as 1 Corinthians 3 v 13 – 15
13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. 14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
But we tend to think in a carnal way about these things. We want to know who will have a greater reward and who will have a lesser one. Greater than who, and lesser than who? Why it is usually like this with you or me? We want to know what we are likely to get; and then we want to know what everyone else will get. We like to compare ourselves to each other – this is not a good idea, my friends – the Lord will never reveal to us sinful creatures, EXACTLY what He has in store for this precise reason – it would give us a reason to question Him and His benevolent wisdom.
What is true is this! When we get to heaven we will not be in the slightest bit interested in who has what, or who has not got much! We will be so taken up with the Lord, the Lamb sitting on the throne, that it will not matter!
Ted Donnelly cites an incident in the life of John Bunyan when a sceptical man persisted in asking Bunyan silly, unanswerable questions about heaven and rewards in the hope of making Christianity look ridiculous. The Puritan Pastor gave the man some good advice –
“Trust the Lord Jesus Christ and live a holy life so that you can go to heaven and find out the answers for yourself.”
The point is that the Bible’s mentions of rewards of any kind are not intended to satisfy our curiosity, or to measure whether it is worth becoming a Christian, but to call us to faith! These passages mentioning rewards and heaven are pastoral and evangelistic. And scripture tells us all we need to know about heaven.
There are some rewards for willing obedient and hearty work for the Lord here in this life. Godly work produces a holy character.
One life on earth, ‘twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.
For the slaves in Ephesus and the other New Testament Churches there was the reward that Christ would fill them with joy and peace as they remained slaves, with the forward knowledge that there are no Masters in heaven, only one – and that there would be no slaves nor slavery such as they were experiencing in this life. It is the nature of the deed that determines the reward – as the Lord Himself told us in Matthew 25 vs 31 – 34 and 41 and 46.
31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
What does this passage say to you my friend? Does it worry you? Are you a sheep or a goat? Are you one of Christ’s beloved sheep for whom He has died? It is no good if you are saying in your heart something like, “I hope I am. OR I am working on it by being the best I can.” None of that is any good. Christ’s sheep know His voice and they come to Him. He draws them with His love. They desire to come to Him and they abandon their own works and merits and the good things about themselves, and they surrender themselves, repenting of their sin and rottenness, and trusting in Him the great shepherd.
Goats don’t do that. Goats believe that they can get into heaven and receive rewards another way. Goats are not prepared to leave their sin behind. There are goats who come to church and mix with the sheep. Sometimes they pretend they are sheep, but most are deluded by the devil, that false shepherd who makes them comfortable in church and amongst the sheep.
My friend the Lord Jesus Christ calls goats to be converted to sheep – so that they will hear these wonderful words –
“Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:”
But we must move on to Paul’s words in verse 9.
And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him.
1. The Duty of the Christian Master to his servants.
If there is one thing that servants and slaves, and employees generally like to complain about – it is THE BOSS! This seems to be woven into the fabric of our human nature. But there comes a time in some people’s lives when they become THE BOSS – the master or mistress. The boot then is on the other foot. They are in the firing line and could be subject to the same kind of complaints about their style of management – good bad, indifferent, uninspired or some other adjective.
Paul cuts through this usual scenario by proclaiming the equality of all men and women in Christ – through this little phrase in verse 9. Having said all that he has about the duties of servants, employees, Paul does not have anything special to say to the masters – but he says this
1. You bosses – you keep doing the same things to your workers.
What does the apostle mean? Are the bosses to be obedient, submissive, subservient, diligent and willing towards their slaves? Of course not – this is no utopian egalitarianism where everyone is exactly the same with regard to their roles in life. No – Paul speaks of the priority of the masters, the bosses, to put themselves in the place of their slaves and act towards them as if the positions were reversed. Some months ago there were one or two documentary programmes in which top managers – a Hospital chief and a Haulage firm owner swapped places for a day with a Nursing Auxiliary and a lorry driver – so that they might experience first hand what the workers at the sharp end of the industries were going through. They found it a very worthwhile exercise – putting themselves in the position of employees – so that they could empathise and sympathise and understand what it was like to be a slave. How easy it is to only see things from one side. As an employee it always seems that we could do the boss’s job better than he does it. As a boss we don’t see why ordinary workers can’t do their jobs any better and be more productive.
Paul says, and he puts the onus on the Masters, “don’t expect more of your workers than you are prepared to do yourselves. Promote the welfare of your slaves as you expect them to promote yours. Show the same interest in them and their affairs as you hope that they will show in you and your affairs.”
Wouldn’t our modern industrial relations become better if these views were held and this procedure adopted, on both sides?
But there is more that Paul tells these Masters – a specific thought this time –
2. You bosses – desist from threatening.
The 2 words “forbearing” and “threatening” are interesting – they are used only infrequently in the New Testament. The first FORBEAR is ANIENTES and it means to relax, to loosen or as here to desist from. The other 3 times that it is used are
Acts 16 v 26 and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.
During this earthquake at Philippi everyone’s chains or bands were released – they came off. In the next verse the ship was left to the mercy of the winds and the ropes holding firm the rudder were left untied –
Acts 27 v 40 and when they had taken up the anchors, they committed themselves unto the sea, and loosed the rudder bands, and hoisted up the mainsail to the wind, and made toward shore.
Forbear means to leave off, to stop doing something. In the fourth verse it is used in the negative – the Lord Jesus Christ has promised NEVER to forbear to cut us loose or relax His grip of us –
Hebrews 13 v 5 let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. ANIENTES.
The next word THREATENING also has 4 occurrences in the NT – APEILEO – properly it means to menace someone.
Besides here in Ephesians 6 it comes in 3 texts in the Acts – when Peter and John had healed the lame man at the temple gate in Jerusalem, and had been called to account before the Jewish rulers, they were menaced by those rulers. Here is what those men of authority said
Acts 4 v 17 But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name.
The Church of believers in Jerusalem after this prayed – and in their prayers they said this -
Acts 4 v 29 And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word,
They were concerned that the Lord God was aware of the way that they had been treated, and asked for strength to carry on regardless of the menace. The last text with the same word in it is still in Acts – in Chapter 9 – and the verses describes Paul before his conversion -
1 And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, 2 and desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.
It would seem from the history books that the slave masters did much more than threaten and menace their slaves. There was actual cruelty; there was inhumane treatment and the masters ruled by fear and the threat of punishment to any slave who put his foot out of line.
It is interesting that Christianity in the beginning did not interfere with slavery or take steps to abolish it.
Rather we can observe a very positive approach. When the Christian principles preached and taught by Paul and the Apostles, which were of course the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ, were introduced, believed and applied, then slavery was abolished. It is a shame on our own British culture that it took many centuries to abolish it here – and then it was through a wonderful revival of faith in the Lord God that the ball was set rolling.
No Christian master can treat his servants with cruelty according to the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ.
On the contrary the Christian Master is to treat them all with kindness and justice, pay reasonable wages and take care of his servants. Forbearing threatening.
Anyone who has a position of authority must listen to the word of God in this verse. You may not be a boss, or a manager, but you might be a mother, a father, a Pastor, Elder, Deacon; you may be a Sunday School Teacher, a youth group leader; you may be a work party leader or you may be an older brother or sister given some responsibility to watch over the younger ones. These principles of kindness, respect, and concern for others, forbearing threatening, desisting from using fear are for all of us! The Lord Jesus Christ humbled Himself and became a servant to show you and me that the Great God of Glory knows how to occupy our position and then act accordingly – with knowledge and care for our souls. Can there be any reason that we cannot and should not do the same? He gives us the lead, this wonderful saviour. He threatens none of His dear children – indeed He is the mighty defender of us who are His willing slaves – which leads us to the final part of the verse –
3. The Duty of the Christian Master to His Heavenly Master.
knowing that your Master also is in heaven;
There are 2 things to say on this final section.
For both slaves and Masters, THE MASTER the Lord Jesus Christ is in heaven. The earthly master is to put himself in the place of his servant and act towards him, as he would desire to be treated because our Heavenly Master is always watching, and expects it of masters. Earthly masters, bosses, anyone with any authority, are accountable to the Lord Jesus Christ. The law of God demands equality and the final judgment will bring everything to light. The Lord Jesus Christ will punish the master for defrauding the slave as much as He will punish the slave for robbing the master. Paul knew this, which is why he wrote to Philemon his friend in the way that he did – and that letter has been preserved in our Bibles. Awareness of the Master in heaven leads us to this final phrase
neither is there respect of persons with him.
One of the most hurtful weaknesses of human beings with regards to the way that they treat each other is PARTIALITY – respect of persons. The phrase in the text is one Greek word that means that action or attitude that we hold towards another person based on our judgement of his OUTWARD circumstances. People who are rich, talented, popular, from a good family, or who have some kind of power are preferred; those who do not have much of this world’s goods, have no obvious gifts, are powerless and less worthy are rejected or given less attention. This is respect of persons – this is partiality – and the Bible calls it a SIN!
God condemns partiality in Romans 2 vs 1 – 11.
1 Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. 2 But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. 3 And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? 4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? 5 But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; 6 Who will render to every man according to his deeds: 7 To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: 8 But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, 9 Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; 10 But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: 11 For there is no respect of persons with God.
The same condemnation of partiality comes in Colossians 3 v 23 – 25
23 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; 24 Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. 25 But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.
When you get home read James 2 v 1 – 9. God sees men and women and boys and girls as the people He has made in His own image. Our God does not know how to look down His nose in a haughty manner like we do – for partiality is a result of our sinful fallen natures asserting themselves.
Oh my dear Christian friends – let us overcome and conquer this feature of our natures and be ready to accept ALL who come here – and I mean ALL. This does not mean that we accept and endorse sinful behaviour – but it does mean that we accept image bearers for themselves. God has laid down His standards for people to live by – but He does not have favourites. He is fair and just in all of His ways and cannot tolerate sin in anyone. He will judge fairly and will reward fairly and we can trust Him.
Do you trust Him with your life my friend? Have you placed your life into His impartial hands? You need not be afraid of the sort of person you are – perhaps people around you make you feel that you are not good enough. But at the end of the day it is what God thinks that matters. What does the Lord God think of you? Have you come to Him to ask Him? Have you asked Him to receive you and to forgive you your sins? Will you repent and turn from those sins and see His pardon? His Son the Lord Jesus Christ is ready to save any who come pleading His goodness and believing in the power of His cross. May He move in your life today, for His Name and glory’s sake!