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Bondservants and Masters: The New Life at Home

Rev. Michael Calvert, Ph.D., February 3, 2019
Part of the Colossians series.

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

On Sunday we will once again open the Word of the Lord to the Epistle to the Colossians, chapter 3. Our sermon text will be Colossians 3:22-4:1.

We are continuing our look at a portion of this inspired letter, authored by the Apostle Paul, that has is its subject, ‘The New Life That We Have in Christ Our Lord.’ And in this section, we are learning more specifically about ‘The New Life at Home,’ and how the grace of God changes each of our relationships within the family.

This coming Lord’s Day we will see how Paul speaks of the third component of the first-century household, that of the bondservant and master relationship. Initially, this is the relationship that we are least familiar with from the perspective of our time and culture.

In Paul’s day, the horrible institution of human slavery was alive and well. Some scholars have estimated that a third to one half of the citizens of any given Roman city were “bondservants,” or slaves. Slavery was so ingrained in the ancient Greco-Roman culture that slaves were considered to be a part of the typical family, or household. And this is why Paul addresses “bondservants” and “masters” in this section of his letter which deals with family relations.

Obviously, this fact leads to a significant curiosity about slavery, and the link between such a dehumanizing institution and the Christian Gospel. For example, we might ask why Paul does not speak here of the overthrow of slavery, or at least strongly condemn it. We might also wonder about Christian slave-owners, which there obviously were, for they are directly addressed in Colossians 4:1 (see also Ephesians 6:9). Can one be a “master” and a Christian? And we might want to know about the connection between this passage and our own lives here in a country where, by God’s grace, this institution has been recognized as evil and defeated. Does this section of Paul’s letter really have anything to say to us today? What is the contemporary application of this passage of inspired Scripture?

Well, I believe that this text is so important and relevant to us that we will spend two Sunday’s examining very carefully Paul’s message. I hope that you will take some time to read and reflect upon these words, and also the parallel passage found in Ephesians 6:5-9.

May our dear Father bless you with a restful weekend, and I’ll see you Sunday as we gather before Him.

Colossians 3:22-4:1

22Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: 23And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; 24Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. 25But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons. 4:1 Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven. (KJV)