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EPHESIANS - Chapter 6 - Verse 9

Verse 9. And ye masters. The object of this is to secure for servants a proper treatment. It is evident, from this, that there were in the Christian church those who were masters; and the most obvious interpretation is, that they were the owners of slaves. Some such persons would be converted, as such are now. Paul did not say that they could not be Christians. He did not say that they should be excluded at once from the communion. He did not hold them up to reproach, or use harsh and severe language in regard to them. He taught them their duty towards those who were under them, and laid down principles which, if followed, would lead ultimately to universal freedom.

Do the same things unto them. ta auta. The "same things," here, seem to refer to what he had said in the previous verses. They were, to evince towards their servants the same spirit which he had required servants to evince towards them —the same kindness, fidelity, and respect for the will of God. He had required servants to act conscientiously; to remember that the eye of God was upon them, and that in that condition in life they were to regard themselves as serving God, and as mainly answerable to him. The same things the apostle would have masters feel. They were to be faithful, conscientious, just, true to the interests of their servants, and to remember that they were responsible to God. They were not to take advantage of their power to oppress them, to punish them unreasonably, or to suppose that they were freed from responsibility in regard to the manner in which they treated them. In the corresponding passage in Colossians Col 4:1 this is, "Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal." See Barnes "Col 4:1"


Forbearing threatening. Marg., moderating. The Greek word means, to relax, loosen; and then, to omit, cease from. This is evidently the meaning here. The sense is, that they were to be kind, affectionate, just. It does not mean that they were to remit punishment where it was deserved; but the object is to guard against that to which they were so much exposed in their condition—a fretful, dissatisfied temper; a disposition to govern by terror rather than by love. Where this unhappy state of society exists, it would be worth the trial of those who sustain the relation of masters to see whether it would not be possible to govern their servants, as the apostle here advises, by the exercise of love. Might not kindness, and confidence, and the fear of the Lord, be substituted for threats and stripes?

Knowing that your Master also is in heaven. Marg., "Some read, both your and their." Many Mss. have this reading. See Mill. The sense is not materially affected, further than, according to the margin, the effect would be to make the master and the servant feel that, in a most important sense, they were on an equality. According to the common reading, the sense is, that masters should remember that they were responsible to God, and this fact should be allowed to influence them in a proper manner. This it would do in two ways.

(1.) By the fact that injustice towards their servants would then be punished as it deserved—since there was no respect of persons with God.

(2.) It would lead them to act towards their servants as they would desire God to treat them. Nothing would be better adapted to do this than the feeling that they had a common Master, and that they were soon to stand at his bar.

Neither is there respect of persons with him. See this expression explained in the

See Barnes "Ro 2:11".

The meaning here is, that God would not be influenced in the distribution of rewards and punishments, by a regard to the rank or condition of the master or the slave. He would show no favour to the one because he was a master; he would withhold none from the other because he was a slave. He would treat both according to their character. In this world they occupied different ranks and

conditions; at his bar they would be called to answer before the same Judge. It follows from this,

(1.) that a slave is not to be regarded as a "chattel," or a "thing," or as "property." He is a man; a redeemed man; an immortal man. He is one for whom Christ died. But Christ did not die for "chattels" and "things,"

(2.) The master and the servant, in their great interests, are on a level. Both are sinners; both will soon die; both will moulder back in the same manner to dust; both will stand at the tribunal of God; both will give up their account. The one will not be admitted to heaven, because he is a master; nor will the other be thrust down to hell because he is a slave. If both are Christians, they will be admitted to a heaven where the distinctions of rank and colour are unknown. If the master is not a Christian and the servant is, he who has regarded himself as superior to the servant in this life, will see him ascend to heaven while he himself will be thrust down to hell.

(3.) Considerations like these will, if they have their proper influence, produce two effects.

(a.) They will lighten the yoke of slavery while it continues, and while it may be difficult to remove it at once. If the master and the slave were both Christians, even if the relation continued, it would be rather a relation of mutual confidence. The master would become the protector, the teacher, the guide, the friend; the servant would become the faithful helper—rendering service to one whom he loved, and to whom he felt himself bound by the obligations of gratitude and affection.

(b.) But this state of feeling would soon lead to emancipation. There is something shocking to the feelings of all, and monstrous to a Christian, in the idea of holding a Christian brother in bondage. So long as the slave is regarded as a "chattel" or a mere piece of "property," like a horse, so long men endeavour to content themselves with the feeling that he may be held in bondage. But the moment it is felt that he is a Christian brother—a redeemed fellow-traveller to eternity, a joint heir of life—that moment a Christian should feel that there is something that violates all the principles of his religion in holding him AS A SLAVE; in making a "chattel" of that for which Christ died; and in buying and selling, like a horse, an ox, or an ass, a child of God, and an heir of life. Accordingly, the prevalence of Christianity soon did away the evil of slavery in the Roman empire; and if it prevailed in its purity, it would soon banish it from the face of the earth.

{1} "forbearing threatening" "moderating" {2} "your Master" "Some read both your and their {a} "of persons" Ro 2:11

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