To Masters and Slaves
Colossians 3:22-4:1 22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism. 4:1 Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.
In Col ch 1 and 2, the apostle Paul essentially tells us who Jesus is. Then beginning with Col 3, Paul tells us based on who Jesus is, this is who you are to be. Your behavior changes because your heart has been changed. When you come to Christ, you don’t automatically stop sinning, but you behavior, your attitude, and your speech are all transformed by the power of the Gospel. This affects our behavior and speech among non-Christians, among one another, and it also affects how we treat our own family. The gospel transforms hearts and lives.
It reminds me of a story I heard about a dedication service for a little baby. After that service, the baby’s older brother, Jason, sat in his car seat and cried all the way back home. His father asked him 3 times what was wrong. Finally he answered: “the preacher said he wanted us to be brought up in a Christian home, but I wanted to stay with you guys.”
Sometimes people think that their duty to God ends when they walk out the door of the church, but there is not one area of our life that is not affected and transformed by the power of the gospel. In Col 3:23, Paul is still addressing slaves here. The Romans, who were not fond of manual labor, had it done by a slave. The slaves had no rights. The master could do whatever he wanted with them, since they were considered just property. Last week I said that from 1/3 to ½ the Roman population were slaves. So Paul continues to address them in vs 23.
Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men;
The apostle uses two different Greek words, which both mean to do something. The first word is a generic Greek word meaning “to do.” The second word is the Greek word meaning “to work, or labor, as opposed to being idle.”
I think we’ve all been somewhere to eat something, or buy something from someone who has a “don’t care” attitude, like they are doing you a favor to by letting you spend your money there. What Paul is saying is “don’t be like that. Put your heart into your work.”
“work at it with all your heart” – Paul combines two words here: work and soul. We could translate this as; “work energetically.” In other words, whatever we do, whatever task we are given, we should do with enthusiasm and vigor. Do you know many people like that? When we go different places in town, do we see people who enjoy their jobs, and who are cheerful in their labors? I think they are rather rare. But here is one area where we as believers can be a witness for Jesus Christ in the workplace, in our homes, or when we are out doing things in town. Most of the people we meet are not satisfied with themselves, or with their jobs, or with their families, etc, the list goes on. They complain about what they have to do, how little they are paid, people they have to work with, and customers who make their lives miserable. And probably most of us here have been guilty of that at some time. So to see someone working with great enthusiasm and thankfulness for the work, is just not normal. But if we are like that in our gardening, our housework, our shopping, and in whatever we do, won’t our joyfulness attract attention? Being so different from the world is bound to open up opportunities for us to speak to people about the joy of knowing Jesus Christ. If we went around with long faces and a “woe is me” attitude, do you think people would be attracted to that?
The last part of verse 23 literally says “as to the Lord, and not to men.” Paul tells us that whatever we are doing, do it for the Lord. As insignificant as we may think some things to be, such as doing the dishes, mowing the lawn, or even driving a car around town, these are things that we need to do for the Lord and in a way that will glorify Him. I used driving as an example because sometimes we think that driving is a totally neutral task. But when we drive, do we follow the laws of the land? Do we cut people off? Do we beep our horn in anger if someone doesn’t jump when the light turns green? Do we tailgate, or drive slowly to make others angry? Something as ordinary as driving can show our own selfishness and sinfulness, or it can be done in a way that brings glory to God.
Often people’s attitude toward work is: “it is just a job,” and they tolerate it, but it interferes with their life. Paul points out that when something is done “for the Lord,” it is more than just a job, it is an attitude first, and then labor.
People often think their work is not important. If they are not an emergency room doctor, or a missionary in Africa, then what they are doing is insignificant. But Paul’s admonition about work means they are looking at it all wrong. Work is actually a way to bring God glory. God is glorified when believers do their work diligently. It is a way to bring praise to the Lord, in something that would otherwise be thought of as just ordinary activity.
This attitude toward work should spill over into all that we do. Whether we are studying the Bible, or singing, or taking care of a family member. All things that we do can and should be done in a way that brings God the glory. And it all starts with our attitude. And our attitude starts with a transformed heart.
Colossians 3:24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.
Our greatest and final reward comes from God, not from man, because we are ultimately serving Christ, not man. This is so important to keep in mind, and it makes all we do more challenging and interesting. It adds a quality to all our tasks that otherwise wouldn’t be there.
So what is the inheritance that Paul talks about? Heb 9:15 gives us better understanding of what Paul is talking about.
Hebrews 9:15 And for this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, in order that since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.
This verse is really interesting in several ways. Over the last few years, we’ve talked about how God deals with mankind. God made a contract with the people of Israel at Mt Sinai, and it was referred to as the Law. Moses was the person between God and man. He was the mediator of that Old Covenant. New testament writers refer to it as the Law, and also as the Old Covenant. It consisted of the 10 Commandments and all the other laws that have to do with worship, the priesthood, and with civil affairs. And that Old Covenant with Israel was temporary, because as Paul says, it could not change the heart. But Hebrews tells us that through Jesus, a new contract has been made by God with all believers, and this New Covenant is mediated through Jesus Christ, God’s own Son. And another difference between the two covenants is that the blood of Christ atoned or covered the sins of His people under the Old Covenant. The blood of bulls and goats never could do that. The sins of the righteous were not removed under the Old Covenant until Christ nailed them to the cross. Their system of worship was temporary. Their inheritance of the promised land was temporary.
But in Christ what comes is permanent. In Christ, His blood atones for His people once and for all. No more blood can be shed for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus paid it all. There is a movement today supported by many Christians that want to see sacrifices restarted in Israel. The epistles to Hebrews was written against that kind of thinking, because it makes a mockery of what Jesus did on the cross.
So what came through the Old Covenant was temporary, it lasted until Christ. When we talk about types and shadows of the OC, we see that the blood sacrifices all pointed to Christ’s sacrifice. The Sabbath rest pointed to Christ, and the rest we have from sin, because of Christ. The Exodus from Egypt was a picture of people who repent of their sins, leaving that bondage behind, and come to Jesus Christ. And the inheritance of the promised land was a type of the kingdom of God that Jesus established by the cross, and that believers inherit when they come to know Christ. We who are in Christ have received the inheritance of the God’s kingdom. Jesus reigns now, and He has made us to rule with Him. Many Christians think that this kingdom will come at some point in the future, but God’s word says you’re in it now.
Eph 2:4-6 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
Not only are we in that kingdom now, but Paul says we are seated with Christ in heaven. That’s not for the future, that’s right now.
In the book of Job, it talks about how Satan could go into God’s presence and make accusations about God’s people. But he was booted out of heaven and now we as believers are in the very presence of God. Paul clearly says that, but most Christians can’t understand that because their spiritual vision is clouded. But this is part of our inheritance in the New Covenant… “seated with Christ in the heavenly places.”
In Col 3: 24, Paul says it is the “called” – the believers, who “…receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.” What is the promised inheritance? It is the New Covenant, and all the blessings that New Covenant brings.
Colossians 3:25 For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality.
This is a general principle that applies to all situations and to all men. What a man sows, he will reap (Galatians 6.7). This verse comes after Paul’s statements to the slaves, and right before his statement to the masters. I think Paul put it right there so that it applied to both masters and slaves. Whatever you lot in life, you will face the consequences of mistreating treating other people.
Colossians 4:1 Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven.
A man named Stephen Langton divided the Bible into chapters in the year A.D. 1227. He was a professor at the University of Paris and later he became the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Wycliffe English Bible of 1382 was the first Bible to use this chapter pattern. Since the Wycliffe Bible, nearly all Bible translations have followed Langton’s chapter divisions.
When I get to heaven, I do plan to ask this man why he put this verse here, and not at the end of Ch 3. This verse is obviously a continuation of the slave/master subject.
In the New Testament there is only one other verse written specifically to masters.
Ephesians 6:9 And, masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.
Paul commands masters to be fair and just, and to not show partiality or favoritism. When Paul says be fair and just, he means be fair to them not by the culture’s standards, but by Christ’s standard. Paul raises the standard for the treatment of slaves to a level that brings glory to God. The master, clearly, is expected to have in mind the slave’s “rights” even though the slave doesn’t talk about or insist on them.
These commands of Paul carry over to the workplace, also. In the workplace, there can be book of rules and regulations about how people are to behave. But all the laws in the world can’t create God pleasing relationships between the employer and employee because laws can’t change the heart.
From Col 3:18 to Col 4:1 it Paul speaks of relationships: husband-wife, child-parent, master-slave. The word “Lord” occurs 7 times in those verses. In other words, Paul is saying that the Lordship of Jesus Christ needs to be the basis of all our relationships.
We also see in Paul’s writing here that everything is to be done for the Lord.
1 Corinthians 10:31 Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
There is nothing that you do as a believer, that cannot be done for the honor and glory of the Lord. Theologians refer to it as a sacred/secular split when people say they aren’t doing anything for the Lord because they’re just a waitress, or a truck driver, or a school teacher. Paul says everything we do is sacred. Everything we do is for the Lord, when Christ is at the center. When the gospel of our Lord Jesus has so gripped your heart and mind, that you approach even the trivial aspects of your work as service to the King of Kings, then what you do is Christ-centered.
Every job and every task has spiritual value, because when it is integrated into the life of a Christian, it becomes the area where that Christian lives out his spiritual life.
In all our relationships, we are to honor God. This is where serving the Lord meets real life, and it is the place where we as believers have our greatest influence for the Lord.