jump to navigation

Slaves and Masters June 6, 2012

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
Tags: , , , ,

Here are my thoughts on Ephesians 6:5-9.

Summary: Paul begins by exhorting slaves to obey their (external) owners with:

  • conscientious solicitude
  • singleness of mind

as part of their obedience to Christ. Slaves should not only obey their owners when they are present, but they should obey them when they are absent; their souls should desire God’s will and aim to please Him. They should serve cheerfully and patiently, as they are truly servants of Christ. Indeed, at the Last Judgment, everyone will receive from Christ according to their deeds, whether they were slaves or freemen.

Paul concludes by exhorting owners to treat their slaves with conscientious solicitude and singleness of mind, as this is God’s will; they should neither treat them with contempt nor in an overly severe manner, as Christ is their Master in heaven, and He will punish them for such actions.

Thoughts: In this passage, Paul exhorts slaves and masters to treat each other in light of the fact that they are all slaves of Christ. Hodge offers some intriguing thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 9:

Slaves are not commanded to refuse to be slaves, to break their chains and repudiate the authority of their masters. They are required to obey with alacrity and with a sincere desire to do their duty to their masters, as part of their duty to Christ. Masters are not commanded, as an immediate and imperative duty, to emancipate their slaves, but to treat them according to the principles of justice and equity. It is not to be expected that men of this world will act in conformity with the Gospel in this any more than in other respects; but believers will. And the result of such obedience, if it could become general, would be that first the evils of slavery and then slavery itself would pass away as naturally and as healthfully as children cease to be minors.

Now Hodge’s point that slavery itself would eventually cease to exist if all slaves and masters followed Paul’s exhortations is well taken – yet I doubt that this goal will be achieved before the Second Coming. In particular, Americans are painfully aware of the United States’ checkered past in this regard. As Hodge wrote this commentary at the conclusion of the antebellum period, did he believe that the Civil War could have been forestalled? Ostensibly many of the slaveowners in the South viewed themselves as Christians, and they were probably aware of this passage. Did they employ this passage in making their case for the preservation of slavery? How did abolitionists of the antebellum period view this passage? Could a believing slave escape if their master failed to treat them with “justice and equity?” Was the Emancipation Proclamation crafted in accordance with God’s will as expressed in this passage?



1. Rules for Christian Households « Ringing In - October 21, 2012

[…] The analogous passage in Ephesians is Ephesians 5:22-6:9, which I’ve blogged about. Now this passage is relatively brief, yet it does delve into the nature of the master-slave […]

2. Paul’s Plea for Onesimus « Ringing In - November 11, 2012

[…] this note by Lightfoot actually dovetails with a quote by Hodge that I referenced here. Perhaps it is impossible for slaves and their masters to have a genuine Christian relationship; if […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: