1 “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.”
The first duty of children is obedience, and “in the Lord,” i.e. in Christ, this
duty is confirmed. The ἐν Κυρίῳ - en koo-ree-oo – in the Lord - qualifies,
not “parents,” but “obey,” and indicates that the element or life which even
children lead in fellowship with Christ makes such obedience more easy
and more graceful. The duty itself rests on the first principles of morality —
“for this is right.” It is an obligation that rests on the very nature of things,
and cannot change with the spirit of the age; it is in no degree modified
by what is called the spirit of independence in children. The child’s faculties
cannot be developed apart from God! Secular education is a contradiction
of terms. Let the parents look well to the minds of their children. They are
to show them by their own practice what to follow and imitate; and what
to shun and avoid! (I saw on Facebook a post talking about the secular
Curriculum in Math” in
parents and this is the design intended – CY – 2019)
2 “Honor thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with
promise.” The exhortation, based on natural morality (v. 1), is here confirmed
from the Decalogue (Exodus 20:12). “Honor” is higher than obedience (v. 1);
it is the regard due to those who, by Divine appointment, are above us, and
to whom our most respectful consideration is due. Father and mother, though
not quite on a footing of equality in their relation to each other (ch. 5:22), are
equal as objects of honor and obedience to their children. It is assumed here
that they are Christians; where one was a Christian and not the ether, the duty
would be modified. But in these succinct verses the apostle lays down general
rules, and does not complicate his exhortations with exceptions. The latter part of
the verse contains a special reason for the precept; it is the first commandment
with a promise attached. But obviously the apostle meant more than this;
for as in v. 1, he had affirmed the duty to be one of natural religion, so
here he means to add that it is also part of the revealed will of God — it is
one of the commandments; but still further, it is the first commandment
with a promise. It may, perhaps, be said that this is appealing, not to the
higher, but to the lower part of our nature — to our selfishness, not our
goodness; but it is not an appeal to one part of our nature to the exclusion
of the rest; it is an appeal to our whole nature, for it is a part of our nature
to expect that in the end virtue will be rewarded and vice punished. In the
case of children it is difficult to look far forward; the rewards and the
punishments, to be influential, must be within the ken of vision, as it were;
therefore it is quite suitable that, in writing to them, the apostle should lay
emphasis on a promise which had its special fulfillment in the life that now is.
3 “That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on
the earth.” A free rendering (after the manner of the apostle) of the reason
annexed to the fifth commandment, “that thy days may be long in the land
which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” While the Decalogue was an
expression of the will of God on matters of moral and indefeasible (not able to be
lost, annulled, or overturned) obligation, it had a local Hebrew element here and
there. In the present case the apostle drops what is specially Hebrew, adapting the
promise in spirit to a wider area. The special promise of long life in the land of
before, we must not suppose that the apostle excludes exceptions. The
promise is not for each individual; many good and obedient children do not
live long. But the general tendency of obedience to parents is towards the
results specified. Where obedience to parents is found, there is usually
found along with it temperance, self-control, industry, regular ways of life,
and other habits that tend towards prosperity and longevity. In Christian
families there is commonly affection, unity, prayer, mutual helpfulness,
reliance on God, trust in Christ, and all that makes life sweet and
wholesome. The spirit of the promise is realized in such ways, and it may
be likewise in special mercies vouchsafed to each family.
All God’s commandments carry blessings in their bosoms. In the
keeping of them there is great reward (Psalm 19:11). “His commandments
are not grievous.” (I John 5:3)
Long life among the Jews was a token of Divine favor and it seems to have
been an emblem of the life to come.
Scripture references to back up the respect of children to parents:
Children are sometimes rude to their parents. “The eye that mocketh at his
father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick
it out, and the young eagles shall eat it” (Proverbs 30:17); - that is,
something terrible shall overtake him who dares to make light of
his parents. There was a time when they were entirely helpless, could
neither walk nor speak, and, but for the care of parents, they would have
perished. The children are not in a position to know all the sacrifices their
parents make for them, and the amount of thought that is bestowed on them,
and the prayers that are put up for them. (I think the first time the kindness
of my parents really came home to me was the first time I changed a diaper –
CY – 2010) Children receive daily acts of kindness from their parents
and these should be received, not as though they were entitled to them,
but with feelings of gratitude ever fresh. (How much more, as adults should
we likewise show gratitude to our Heavenly Father! - CY – 2010)
God has given in one’s parents! There is nothing by which a child can
better requite all the trouble that their parents have had on their account
than by their obedience!
Children are to look to their parents as standing in the place of Christ
to them, and to obey them as though they were obeying Christ!
“For this is right.” There is a relationship founded deep in nature
between parents and those to whom they have given being. This is
associated with an affection which is one of the most beautiful things
in the world. The strength of the parental affection qualifies the
parents for being placed in authority over their children. And
the filial affection leads the children to look to their parents as the natural
source of authority ever them. The obedience to parents has NO EXCEPTION!
Nor does any majority make the obligation to cease. (Especially in this day –
remember that one of the signs of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ
is that children will be “disobedient to parents” [II Timothy 3:2] – CY – 2010)
the old man and fear thy God: I am the Lord..” Leviticus 19:32
mother when she is old.” Proverbs 23:22
his father’s instruction” (Proverbs 13:1). The child must take much of
his knowledge for granted on the mere authority of his father.
experience. Those years are associated with superior attainments. A big ship
leaving for another land needs to be cautiously piloted out of the dock and past
the other ships in the harbor or river, away beyond the bar, and, it may be,
through the channel, until it is out to the open sea. (I recommend Thomas
Carlyle’s paintings called The Voyage of Life which can be found on the
internet or on this web site under: -CY – 2010)
in the heart of a child” (Proverbs 22:15).
Remember what the first verse says, “FOR THIS IS RIGHT!”
The Duties of Children to Parents (vs. 1-3)
There is a beautiful and appropriate simplicity in the counsel here
addressed to children. Their duties are founded in nature. They derive their
being from their parents; they are fed by them; they are trained by them for
the duties of life.
· THEIR DUTY IS SUMMED UP IN THE ONE WORD “OBEDIENCE.”
But it includes four important elements.
ü Love. This is an instinctive feeling, but it is not the less a commanded
duty, for it is the spring of all hearty obedience. It makes obedience easy.
Yet we are not to love our parents more than the Lord; we are rather to
love them in the Lord.
ü Honor. This is only another form of obedience: “Honor thy father and
thy mother.” Children are never to set light by their parents. “Cursed
be he that setteth light by his father or his mother.”(Deuteronomy 27:17);
“A son honoureth his father” (Malachi 1:6); “Thou shalt rise up before
the hoary head, and honor the face of the old man” (Leviticus 19:32).
God has, indeed, given His own honor to parents. We may not always
be called to obey them, but we are always to honor them. “Hearken
unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she
is old” (Proverbs 23:22). This honor is allied to reverence: “We have
had fathers of our flesh who corrected us, and we gave them
reverence” (Hebrews 12:9).
ü Gratitude. It is our duty to requite our parents (I Timothy 5:4), and
our Lord implies that we are to do them good (Matthew 15:4). We
ought to remember their love, their care, their concern for us. Joseph
provided for his father Jacob in old age, and the women said to Naomi of
Boaz, “He shall be unto thee a restorer of thy life, and a nourisher of
thine old age.” (Ruth 4:15)
ü Subjection. “Children, obey your parents in all things;” that is, in all
things falling within the sphere of a parent’s authority. If parents
command their children to steal, or lie, or commit idolatry, they are not
to be obeyed. They are to be obeyed “in the Lord.” There are several
reasons to make obedience natural.
Ø Parents know more than their children; therefore “a wise son
heareth his father’s instruction” (Proverbs 13:1). The child must
take much of his knowledge for granted on the mere authority of
Ø The habit of obedience is good as a discipline. It is even good for
the health of a child, as a desultory and dawdling obedience breaks
its temper and injures its health.
Ø Children are not able to guide themselves; for “folly is bound up
in the heart of a child” (Proverbs 22:15). It further states
(“.....but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.”
CY – 2019)
Ø Society is benefited by the due subordination of family life.
· THE REASON OF OBEDIENCE ASSIGNED IN THIS PASSAGE
IS SIMPLY “FOR THIS IS RIGHT.” It is right:
ü according to the light of nature;
ü according to the Law of God. “It is well-pleasing unto the Lord
It is embodied in the Decalogue, and holds the first place among the duties
of the second table, and “is the first commandment with promise” — the
promise of a long life. (Exodus 20:12) This implies:
ü that the fifth commandment is still binding on the Christians of this
ü that long life is to be desired;
ü that disobedience to parents tends to shorten life. There may be
undutiful children who live to old age, and dutiful children who die
young, but the promise abides in its general purpose. It is like the
saying, “The hand of the diligent maketh rich” (Proverbs 10:4),
yet diligent persons have felt the bitterness of poverty. Children are
therefore justified in having regard firstly to the command of God,
and then to the recompense of the reward.
4 “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up
in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” And, ye fathers, provoke not your
children to wrath: “Fathers” is inclusive of mothers, to whom the practical
administration of the household and training of the children so much belong. The
first counsel on the subject is negative, and probably has respect to a common
pagan habit, against which Christians needed to be put on their guard.
Irritation of children was common, through loss of temper and violence in
reproving them, through capricious and unsteady treatment and
unreasonable commands; but more especially (what is still so common) by
the parents being violently angry when the children, inconsiderately,
perhaps, disturbed or annoyed them, rather than when they deliberately did
wrong. All this the apostle deprecates. But bring them up in the nurture
(training) and admonition of the Lord. The words παιδεία - pahee-di’-ah;
correction, chastening, chastisement, instruction, nurture - and νουθεσία -
nouthesia – putting in mind; training by word; whether by reproof or
remonstrance - are not easily defined in this connection; the former is thought to
denote the discipline of training, with its appropriate rewards and punishments; the
latter, instruction. Both are to be “of the Lord,” such as He inspires and
approves. Instilling sound principles of life, training to good habits,
cautioning and protecting against moral dangers, encouraging prayer,
Bible-reading, church-going, sabbath-keeping; taking pains to let them
have good associates, and especially dealing with them prayerfully and
earnestly, in order that they may accept Christ as their Savior and follow
Him, — are among the matters included in this counsel. The former of these words
(παιδεία) is associated more with discipline, made up of order and of act, under
which the children grow, while the latter word (νουθεσία) will indicate education
by word. “The same spirit,” says Monod, in loco, “which in our day relaxes filial
obedience, softens paternal power; the abuse of independence among
inferiors and the forgetfulness of authority among superiors, march hand-in-
hand. Parents who have known how to guard themselves against an
excessive rigor, whether as a matter of principle or of temperament, fall
usually into the contrary excess; chastisement is banished from their
household, and as for corporal punishment in particular, it is held most
frequently for a mark of a hard heart or of a base-born spirit. Let us oppose
chasteneth him betimes.” (Proverbs 13:24)
correction shall drive it far from him.” (Ibid. 22:15)
him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him
with the rod, and shall deliver his soul from hell. ” (Ibid. 23:13-14)
give delight unto thy soul.” (Ibid. 29:17)
By the rod we do not mean corporal punishment alone; we simply say that one
ought not to exclude it (Ibid. 23:14), and that there are some cases where nothing
else will do. As for the rest, behold the principle which should direct Christian parents
in such a case — to employ discipline of the sweetest possible character, but
discipline sufficient to repress the sin.” Let this careful discipline be supplemented
by a careful instruction and the children shall be faithfully “nurtured” for the Lord.
(If we do our part, the Lord, when it comes time, will do His part – (i. e. Ibid. 22:6)
If the Christian father keeps Christ before him as his Great Ideal, then the
Divine Fatherhood regulates his conscience and he nurtures the little ones
The Lord’s command is, “Bring up this child for me, and I will pay thee thy wages.”
What infinitely precious results depend on the execution of these two precepts in
this verse! Every well-trained Christian household is a nursery of all that tends to
bless the world; while disorderly and unchristian families are hotbeds of vice and
evil. The prayer of Psalm 144:12,15, is never out of date: “That our sons
may be as plants grown up in their youth; our daughters as cornerstones,
polished after the similitude of a palace.... Happy is that people that is in
such a case; yea, happy is that people whose God is the Lord.”
“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will
not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
“And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which
are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is
in Christ Jesus.” (II Timothy 3:15)
We shall thus restrain our children from many follies and sinful habits
which would otherwise be the burden and curse of their after life. We
also shall be promoting our own happiness and comfort in old age.
We shall also be shaping the DESTINIES OF FUTURE GENERATIONS.
How wonderful to have the INTERESTS OF ETERNITY SECURED
EARLY IN LIFE!
Duties of Children and Parents (vs. 1-4)
have been an interesting day in the
known that a pastoral letter would be read in the public assembly from the
beloved and venerable apostle whose labors had been attended with such a
blessing. Whether the meeting was held in early morning or late in the
evening, every effort would be made by every Christian to be present, and
even as they were walking towards the place of meeting, a certain
briskness of manner and eagerness of expression would show that
something beyond the common was in expectation. Those who had to pass
the contrast between that magnificent shrine of idolatry and the very
humble building where the true God was worshipped, by whom all things
were made. Even the children would not linger to peep at the gorgeous
glory of the temple, for their parents would have told them that at their
meeting a letter was going to be read from the great apostle, now unable to
come to them because wicked men had imprisoned him, but still
remembering them all, as his letter would show. Remembering the interest
which, like his Master, the apostle had taken in the young, it would be an
interesting question whether the letter to be read would not contain some
passage for them, and, if it did, what would be its tenor? Perhaps the most
attentive of them would be beginning to feel weary as five-sixths of the
letter was read, but no word yet for them. But at last the message comes;
and when it comes it appears that it is not only about them, but addressed
to them; the apostle looks them full in the face, and says, “Children.” And
when the children’s morsel is brought out, it is perhaps not quite what they
expected. It is not a sugared morsel, nor is it particularly affectionate in its
terms. It is not a nice little story or a poetical allegory, carrying them to the
realms of dreamland; it is just a simple, practical requirements “Children,
obey your parents in the Lord.” Possibly even the older hearers were rather
surprised, and certainly there are many now who would have expected a
more spiritual counsel. They would have expected him to say something to
the children about Jesus, or about prayer, or about trying to teach the
heathen around them; but he speaks on none of these things. He probably
counted that, if the children were right with their parents, other things
would follow; if they obeyed their parents, and their parents brought them
up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, God’s blessing would rest on
their efforts and all would be well. But if the apostle did not speak to
children in the modern fashion, it is all the more important to notice and
ponder the message which he actually gives them.
· DUTY OF CHILDREN.
Ø To obey.
Ø To honor their parents.
The reasons are:
ü it is right;
ü it is a commandment;
ü it is the first of the commandments with a promise;
ü that promise gives expectation of long life and prosperity.
In one of the best books of the early Church, written by one of its greatest
men — ‘The Confessions’ of
he humbly confesses his disobedience as a boy, in neglecting his lessons,
and going to see games and sights in opposition to the wishes of his
parents. Long after, when he came to be a Christian, the thought haunted
and distressed him until, confessing it, and laying it on Jesus, he obtained
the mercy and forgiveness of God. Long life among the Jews was a token
of the Divine favor, and it seems to have been an emblem of the life to
come. We need not count in all cases on a literal fulfillment of the Jewish
promise; but we may rest assured that a spirit of honor to our parents tends
to make our earthly lot better and brighter, and will have some recognition
likewise in the life that is to come.
· DUTY OF PARENTS.
ü Negatively. Not to provoke or irritate their children. But:
ü Positively, to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
In the Old Testament, Samuel, and in the New Testament, Timothy, are
samples of children so brought up. The Lord’s command is, “Bring up this
child for me, and I will pay thee thy wages.” What infinitely precious
results depend on the execution of these two precepts! Every well-trained
Christian household is a nursery of all THAT TENDS TO BLESS THE
WORLD while disorderly and unchristian families are hotbeds of vice and evil.
The prayer of the hundred and forty-fourth psalm is never out of date: “That our
sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; our daughters as cornerstones,
polished after the similitude of a palace.... Happy is that people that is in
such a case; yea, happy is that people whose God is the Lord.”
Duties of Parents (v. 4)
They are here summarily expressed, first in a negative and then in a positive form.
· THERE MUST BE INSTRUCTION. “Train up a child in the way he
should go.” (Proverbs 22:6) Parents must not suffer them to grow up without
instruction, as Rousseau suggested, because not to teach religion is to teach
impiety and infidelity; not to teach truth is to teach error.
ü In what principles?
Ø In the principles of the Divine Word, which are able to make the
youngest “wise unto salvation” (II Timothy 3:15). “Desire the
sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby” (I Peter
2:2). This is counsel for babes.
Ø Teach them they are sinners.
Ø Lead them to Christ as the Savior, and pray that the Lord may
place His hands of power and blessing upon the little ones, as
He did when on earth.
Ø Train them in habits of piety, church-going, and religious action.
ü In what manner?
Ø Early, like Timothy;
Ø gradually (Deuteronomy 6:6-9);
Ø patiently (ibid. vs. 20-23);
Ø by example — your own example, and Scripture examples;
· THERE MUST BE DISCIPLINE.
ü Children soon manifest a corrupt and selfish nature, for folly is bound
up in their hearts; therefore they need correction (Hebrews 12:9).
ü Parents must isolate them by their personal authority from evil or evil
companions or temptations to evil.
ü Parents must use discipline with due discretion; they must not “provoke
their children to wrath, lest they be discouraged”
Ø by unreasonable commands;
Ø by undue severity;
Ø by exhibitions of anger.
· ENCOURAGEMENTS OR MOTIVES TO THE FAITHFUL
DISCHARGE OF PARENTAL DUTY.
ü The promise: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when
he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
ü We shall have the interests of eternity secured early in life.
ü We shall thus restrain them from many follies and sinful habits which
would otherwise be the burden and curse of their after life.
ü We shall be promoting our own happiness and comfort in old age.
ü We shall be shaping the destinies of future generations.
Children and Parents (vs. 1-4)
Christianity purifies and elevates family life. It is supremely natural,
orderly, and reasonable in the treatment of domestic affairs. We meet with
frequent allusions to families and households in the New Testament. The
order and health of the home are clearly recognized as of primary
importance. This is seen in the treatment of parental relations.
· THE DUTIES OF CHILDREN TO THEIR PARENTS.
ü The duties.
Ø Obedience. A condition of subjection is necessary and right for
childhood. Children must be taught to reverence an authority
above them and to yield their will to a higher will. Thus the
first principle of what, in after life, must be the fundamental
relation to God, is instilled. Children should obey, for the very
sake of obedience, orders for which at present they see no
reason, and from which they can foresee no good results. But
there is a limit to obedience. “Obey your parents in the Lord.”
When parents command what is plainly contrary to the will of
Christ, disobedience becomes a duty.
Ø Honor. It is not enough to obey in act. Love and reverence
should be found in the heart of children. It is most injurious
for children to lose reverence for their parents. They are
themselves degraded when this is the case. (Think of
the consequences of “disobience to parents” as a symptom
of the end of time! (II Timothy 3:2)
ü The grounds on which these duties to parents are enforced.
Ø It is right. This comes first. It is an appeal to conscience.
No obedience or honor can be of worth when only low,
selfish motives prompt the performance of filial duty.
Ø It is profitable. In the long run the principle that underlies the
ancient promise of the fifth commandment is abundantly
exemplified. Family life is the root of social order. When
this is corrupt that will be upset. Good domestic habits are
the safeguards of the best kind of conservatism. The
most frightful revolutions are those that begin at the family
hearth. (The Progressivism of the 21st century IS ANTI-
FAMILY! – CY – 2019)
· THE DUTIES OF PARENTS TO CHILDREN. The family relation is
reciprocal, and so are the duties of parents and children. It is most
unreasonable to expect the children to discharge their share of domestic
duty if parents, who have so much larger knowledge and experience and
whose example is the most powerful instructor of their children, fail in
theirs. (If a parent’s work is shunned, its work will never be done!
Copied – CY – 2019) To stern Roman fathers the Christian view of
parental duty was novel Even now it is too little regarded.
ü The negative duty. “Provoke not your children to wrath.” While
strictly enforcing necessary commands, parents should be most
careful not to lay on the shoulders of their children unnecessary
burdens. Obedience is hard enough under the best of circumstances.
Especially is it desirable not to provoke childish irritation by hasty,
harsh manners when a wiser, kinder method might be more efficacious
in securing obedience and respect.
ü The positive duty. “Nurture them in the chastening and admonition
of the Lord.” The parent is the spiritual guardian of his children. He
cannot delegate to another the responsibility that God will some day
call him to account for. (Like dropping them off at Sunday School and
sending them to Christian schools? CY – 2019) In caring for their
children’s health, happiness, and worldly prospects, etc., parents are
often least anxious about the most essential point, THE SPIRITUAL
WELFARE OF THEIR FAMILY! Let it be remembered that the
first requisite in training children for Christ is that the parents should
be themselves his disciples.
Christian Nurture (vs. 1-4)
Having shown how Christ sanctifies the marriage union and gives to husbands the
ideal of devotion (ch. 5:22-33), the apostle proceeds in the present section
to show the relation which should exist between children and parents. He
directs children to the fifth commandment and to the promise it contains,
and he calls upon fathers to afford their children Christian nurture in place
of provocation. The section suggests:
· PARENTAL QUALIFICATIONS. And here we fall back upon the
previous section. It is when husbands and wives are related as Christ is to
the Church, when self-sacrificing love is met by reverential obedience, that
the parents are qualified to train up the children. It is surely significant also
that upon the father the burden of the nurture is laid. For he is in danger of
provoking the children by severity, and so is not naturally so sympathetic
as the mother. Besides, if the Christian father keeps Christ before him as his
great Ideal, then the Divine fatherhood regulates his conscience and he
nurtures the little ones accordingly.
· THE NURTURE ITSELF. The children are not to be provoked, but
“nurtured in the chastening and admonition of the Lord” (Revised Version).
The former of these words (παιδεία - pahee-di’-ah; correction, chastening,
chastisement, instruction, nurture) might mean, as Harless suggests,
“education in general” but it is better to restrict it to the discipline, made up
of order and of act, under which the children grow, while the latter word
(νουθεσία - nouthesia – putting in mind; training by word; whether by
reproof or remonstrance) will indicate education by word. “The
same spirit,” says Monod, in loco, “which in our day relaxes filial
obedience, softens paternal power; the abuse of independence among
inferiors and the forgetfulness of authority among superiors, march handin-
hand. Parents who have known how to guard themselves against an
excessive rigor, whether as a matter of principle or of temperament, fall
usually into the contrary excess; chastisement is banished from their
household, and as for corporal punishment in particular, it is held most
frequently for a mark of a hard heart or of a base-born spirit. Let us oppose
to these prejudices Proverbs 13:24; 22:15; 23:13, 14; 29:17. By the rod
we do not mean corporal punishment alone; we simply say that one ought
not to exclude it (compare Proverbs 23:14), and that there are some cases
where nothing else will do. As for the rest, behold the principle which should
direct Christian parents in such a case — to employ discipline of the
sweetest possible character, but discipline sufficient to repress the sin.”
Let this careful discipline be supplemented by a careful instruction and the
children shall be faithfully “nurtured” for the Lord.
· THE EVOKED OBEDIENCE (vs. 1-3.)
Children are to obey their parents; they are to honor their
father and mother. There is to be reverence in the obedience. This will be
secured if the parents are qualified by being God-like. It should, however,
be rendered even when the parents are far from perfect. The loyalty of the
children must not be determined by the character of the parents; as the
natural governors, the parents are entitled to obedience even though they
do not morally deserve it. The obedience has no exception. NOR DOES
ANY MAJORITY MAKE THE OBLIGATION TO CEASE! Our
obedience as God’s “dear children” should be the model of our filial
obedience. Let us be loyal to our parents, JUST AS WE FEEL BOUND
TO BE LOYAL TO OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN!
· THE ATTENDANT BLESSING. (v. 3.)
All God’s commandments carry blessings in their bosoms. In the
keeping of them there is great reward (Psalm 19:11). But the fifth
commandment has this temporal blessing associated with it of longevity.
Obedient children, by a Divine law, live longer than disobedient ones. Dr.
apparent exception — where the soul itself prefers to leave this world for a
better, and where, therefore, the letter of the promise yields to its spirit,
and God, instead of continuing the saint upon earth, takes him to his
desired home in heaven. Where this exception does not occur, we must
believe that every one who dies before old age has disregarded this
command.” Now, Christianity, in promoting nurture and evoking
obedience, is so far securing the longevity of its children. We can see that
the unity of Christian families must, ceteris paribus (with other conditions
remaining the same), foster health and longevity. In this way Bushnell’s
assurance may come true of “the outpopulating power of the Christian
The Duties of Children and Parents (vs. 1-4)
· DUTY OF CHILDREN. “Children, obey your parents.”
ü Sphere in which the obedience is to take place. “In the Lord.”
It was said in ch. 5:21, as determining the character of the whole
subjection that there is between human beings, that it is to be “in the
fear of Christ.” That is to be interpreted as meaning that, in each case,
Christ is to be regarded as the authority (behind the visible) before
which those who are subjected are to bow. The husband, we have seen,
represents Christ (so far as it goes) to the wife. And so the parents
represent Christ to the children. And then only can the children obey in
the Lord when they regard their parents as placed over them in the Lord.
In baptism parents acknowledge that their children belong to the Lord as
standing over them. And, in accordance with this, children are to look
to their parents as standing in the place of Christ to them, and to obey
them as though they were obeying Christ.
ü Natural ground of the duty. “For this is right.” There is a relationship
founded deep in nature between parents and those to whom they have
given being. This is associated with an affection which is one of the
most beautiful things in our nature. The strength of the parental
affection qualifies the parents for being placed in authority over their
children. And the filial affection leads the children to look to their
parents as the natural source of authority ever them.
ü Scriptural confirmation. “Honor thy father and mother.” This is the
fifth commandment, and is wider in its range than obedience to parents.
The contents of fifth commandment:
Ø Children are to honor their parents by treating them with proper
respect. Children are to respect their parents on the ground of their
superior age. We are commanded to rise up before the hoary head, and
honor the face of the old man. So children should show reverence to
their parents because of their years. And those years are associated with
superior attainments. A big ship leaving for another land needs to be
cautiously piloted out of the dock and past the other ships in the harbor
or river, away beyond the bar, and, it may be, through the channel, until
it is out to the open sea. Men of special knowledge need to be employed
for this, that the ship may not get on to the sandbanks or on to the rocks.
So children in their inexperience, their ignorance of the shoals and rocks
and seamanship, need to be piloted by the superior wisdom of their
parents until they are out to the open sea of life. And it is right that
they should think of themselves with humility, and treat with respect
those who are appointed their guides. There are certain natural signs by
which this may be shown — a readiness to give place to them, to give
them the best seat, to be silent when they speak, a tone of deference
(while at the same time of confidence), and a certain courtesy in address
which is not inconsistent with familiarity. When Solomon on his throne
saw his mother approaching (inferior though she was to him in one
relationship), he rose to meet her, and bowed himself unto her, and
caused a seat to be set for her on his right hand. It would be well for
children (who are sometimes inclined to be rude to their parents) to
take an example from the wise king. “Cursed be he that setteth light
by his father or his mother.” (Deuteronomy 27:16) “The eye that
mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens
of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it”
(Proverbs 30:17); that is, something terrible shall overtake him who
dares to make light of his parents.
Ø Children are to honor their parents by showing gratitude to them.
How much are children laid under obligation to their parents! There
was a time when they were entirely helpless, could neither walk nor
speak, and, but for the care of parents, they would have perished.
And parental cares for them do not soon cease. How they need to be
watched, to be kept out of harm’s way! And when they are sick, how
they need to be attended to day and night! The mother needs to labor
on all day in the house (sometimes when she is not strong) to keep
things right for them. And the father needs to go out and work that he
may provide shelter, and clothing, and food, and schooling for them.
The children are not in a position to know all the sacrifices their parents
make for them, and the amount of thought that is bestowed on them,
and the prayers that are put up for them. But they are receiving daily
marks of their kindness, and they should receive these, not as though
they were entitled to them, but with feelings of gratitude ever fresh.
They will never have on earth better friends, greater benefactors, than
Christ has given them in their parents. And let them value the gift.
Ø Children are to honor their parents by being obedient to them. This is
the point on which stress is laid (as though it summed up the command)
by the apostle. There is nothing by which children can better requite all
the trouble that their parents have had on their account than by their
obedience. This is the most beautiful flower that there can be in their
character as children. It is true of them (as of those who have not come
out of the childish state) that they are creatures of impulse, and inclined
to, seize upon present gratification, without thinking whether it is for
their good or not. Parents, as preferring their future happiness to present
gratification, must lay commands on them, and the commands should be
felt to be easy as coming from those who are at the same time heaping
kindness on them. Children should be prompt to obey. They should not
wait until they are threatened. They should not yield with a grudge.
They should not think of opposing their untutored wills and crude
wishes to the disciplined wills and ripe judgments of their parents.
Let them honor their parents by giving them all obedience.
Ø Children are to honor their parents by being helpful to them. There are
little services which, from an early age, children can render to their
parents. They should be pleased even to leave their play to run an errand
for them. They should not grudge doing things about the house to
relieve an overworked mother. Sometimes sick parents have been
thrown on their children, and then it has been seen what little hands
can do. Some Parents have a very hard struggle, and children may
relieve them of much care and save them not a little expense by taking
care of what takes money to replace. There are some children who only
think how much they can get out of their parents (they do not think
whether their parents can afford it, or have to want to give them).
Children who wish to honor their parents will be unwilling that they
should want for them, and will think how much they can save to their
parents of labor and expense.
Ø Children are to honor their parents by placing confidence in them.
Parents and children are friends, and there is nothing on which friendship
more hinges than confidence. Parents are intended to know all that their
children do, and it is wrong for children to conceal anything from them.
If they wish to undertake anything, let them ask their parents’ consent.
Let nothing be done on which they would not wish their parents’ eyes
to rest. If they have done wrong, let them frankly come forward and
confess their faults, and ask forgiveness. But let there be no concealment,
no artifice, no untruthfulness. Children who practice deceit on their
parents are likely to form character according to one of the most
detestable types. All will come to regard them with distrust.
Ø Children are to honor their parents by attending to their instructions.
Children are to take full advantage of the provision made by their
parents for their education; but their duty does not end there. They are
to lend a ready ear to their parents when they talk to them, especially
about serious subjects. They should love to hear the story of Christ and
His love. They should not turn away their ear when their parents tell
o what dispositions they are to cultivate,
o what temptations they are to shun,
o what company they are to keep,
o what books they are to read; and
o when they tell them to be:
§ kind, and
§ above all dutiful to their Father in heaven.
“My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law
of thy mother. For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy
head, and chains about thy neck.” (Proverbs 1:8-9)
ü Promise annexed to the fifth commandment. “Which is the first
commandment with promise, that it may be well with thee, and thou
long on the earth.” It is no longer the
is mentioned, as it was when the promise was first given. The whole
earth (not merely the heavenly
promise now for God’s people. The promise is not to be understood
as absolutely guaranteeing long life to dutiful children. For there
are some who die in childhood and who have not been less exemplary
than those who get the blessing of a longer life. “The good die first,” it is
said, and there is truth in the saying. Some who have been early taken away
have exhibited a singular sweetness and a ripeness beyond their years. Still,
it is true (apart from other considerations that may come in) that long life is
promised to children who honor their father and mother. And we can see
how God (in His ordinary providence) works towards this end. Those
who are dutiful to their parents are likely to grow up good members of society.
They are not likely to bring their life to an untimely end in disgraceful
quarrels or by crime. They are not likely to shorten their days by
intemperance or by idleness. They are likely, too, to grow up good
members of the Church, and may have their lives prolonged to them
because of their usefulness. When Peter’s life was in danger, prayer was
made without ceasing of the Church unto God for him. And his life was
spared because of its felt valuableness. (aCTS 121) So if we interest people
in us, by services rendered to them, their good wishes and prayers may go
to our days being lengthened out for us.
· DUTY OF PARENTS. Fathers are addressed; mothers might have
been addressed as well. But one class only being mentioned it is those who
represent the others.
ü Negatively. “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath.”
Parents have not a right to act as they please toward their children. They
are responsible to Him who has placed them over their children, and
are bound to act in His Spirit. Parents provoke their children to wrath when
they give them a sense of wrong.
Ø By over-commandment. Parents have a right to exact of their children;
but there are limits to what is to be exacted of them. To heap command
upon command, prohibition upon prohibition, is not to accomplish the
end aimed at. When the requirement is more than can reasonably be
rendered, it becomes vexatious. The children lose the sense of their
ability to obey, and under compulsion are provoked to wrath.
Ø By unreasonable blame. It is true of children that they need a great
amount of encouragement. And where it is deserved it ought to be freely
bestowed. To bestow it where it is not deserved is to encourage
unreality. Faults (at least the more serious, where they are numerous)
are to be dealt with. But extreme care must be taken never to impute
blame undeservedly or tentatively to children. There should be no hint
of blame unless there is sure ground to go upon. For if children are
stung with a sense of injustice, then, provoked to wrath, they are apt
to think that they may as well do the things with which they are
Ø By passionateness. Children can understand a burst of indignation for
some serious offence, and are the better for it. But they are also quick
to understand when their parents lose command of themselves and
punish beyond what the offence deserves. This is carefully to be
avoided, for passionateness provokes passionateness; the passionate
father makes a passionate son.
ü Positively. “But nurture them in the chastening and admonition of the
Lord.” Such nurture is to be understood as a tender plant needs. If it is to
be brought to any perfection, then it needs to be suited as to soil, as to
exposure, as to temperature, as to nourishment, as to protection from
insects, as to its particular habits. So parents have tender plants given
them in their children to rear up, sometimes exceptionally tender,
but tender in any circumstances. They have to keep them from the
storms and blasts that would wither them. They have their physical
development carefully to watch over. Their intellectual development,
too, needs great care, that they may not grow up stunted. And especially
has care to be bestowed on the nurture of their spiritual powers.
Ø This nurture is to have a distinctively Christian character. The
appliances mentioned are described as being “of the Lord.” That is,
they are such appliances as those acting for Christ should use. They
are to be used toward Christian ends. They are to be used toward the
children being trained up as Christians. Parents are to train up their
children as those committed to their care by Christ. They are to
train them up for Christ. They are to indoctrinate them with
Christian truth. They are to seek to attach them, not merely to
themselves, but through themselves to Christ. They are to seek
that their whole being may be subject to and center round Christ.
Ø The Christian applications.
o Chastening. It is difficult (apparently impossible) to get words
in the English language to represent the two words that are in
the Greek original. They are in a general way to be
§ discipline by power and
§ discipline by reason.
This distinction is effected in the words which are used in the
Revised translation (“chastening and admonition”), but by an
undue limitation of the meaning. (see v. 4 in exposition above).
The first word is more than discipline by punishment; the
punishment is accidental, or what is only occasionally to be
resorted to in discipline. It is rather all that drilling which a
parent gives his children in virtue of the executive (magisterial)
power which is placed in him. He has certain rules by which he
goes in training his children, and he has got the power to
enforce them. The first lesson he has to teach them is that he is
their master. And so they are, at first, purely in his strong
grasp. In vain is all their resistance. As soon as they can lisp
words they must use them in prayer. They are passive in his
hand, and he can make them utter what he pleases, he makes
them observe simplicity, restraint, good manners in eating,
that they may not learn to make too much of the pleasures
of the table. He makes them say “grace before meat,” that they
may learn betimes from whom all table-comforts come. He
makes them attend to their lessons, that they may know that
they have got to work and not to be idlers. He makes them be
select as to their companionships, that they may not get out
into evil associations. He appoints certain hours for
the house, that they may learn order and punctuality. He does
not ask them if they will go to church, but he makes them go
to church with him. That is the kind of drilling that is meant
here, and when it is necessary it must be backed up by
chastening, or judicious punishment for good.
o Admonition. This is also a word of too narrow a meaning. The
Greek word means generally an appeal to reason. This
commences at a later stage, viz. when intellect begins to open.
It is not necessary that a parent should always explain to a
child the reasons of his procedure. But it is important that, as
a rule, children should have explained to them the evil of
the course they are asked to avoid, and the advantages of
the course they are asked to follow. And if they evince a
tendency to any evil course, it is right that they should be
remonstrated with or reproved. The importance of an appeal
to reason is that it has in view the emancipation of the children
from parental authority. The time has to come when they have
to go from under their parents, and be thrown upon their own
responsibilities and resources. And it is all-important that, when
they go out to the world and meet its temptations, they should
be fortified with good habits and reasons which they have in
their minds for a course:
§ of sobriety,
§ of industry, and
§ of godliness.
Parents, then, should feel their responsibility with regard to the
proper up-bringing of their children. This responsibility is great
in view of the evil that is so natural to them, and in view of the
evil example with which they are surrounded. They should
see to it that they are first of all Christians themselves,
leading a Christian life before their children. They are
especially to see that they are Christians in the methods
which they use with their children.
Children and their Parents (vs. 1-4)
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honor thy father
and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; that it may be
well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. And, ye fathers,
provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and
admonition of the Lord.” In the preceding paragraph the apostle had
treated of the relative duties of husbands and wives; here he directs
attention to the relative duties of parents and children.
· THE DUTY OF CHILDREN. The words lead us to consider the nature
and reason of the obligation which children owe to their parents.
ü The nature. The duty is:
Ø Obedience. “Children, obey your parents.” This duty has its
limitation. When, for example, the command is impracticable, it is not
binding. When the parent makes demands surpassing the child’s
capacity, he is a tyrant, and the child is free from the obligation. Or
when the command is morally wrong, when it clashes with the rights
of conscience and the claims of God, obedience to it is no duty, but
would be a sin. The duty is obedience rendered in a Christian spirit.
“In the Lord.” Any conduct towards parents, mankind in general,
or to the great God, that is not inspired with love to Christ, has no
virtue in it. All acts to be acceptable to God must be done in the
name and spirit of His blessed Son.
Ø Honor. “Honor thy father and mother.” That is, reverence them. This
implies, of course, that they are honor-worthy. It is, alas! often the duty
of children to abhor and despise the character of their parents, because
of its falsehood, intemperance, profligacy, and crime. Paul supposes
parents to be what their relation to their children and God demands -
pure, generous, and noble. Such parents are to be honored. Not to
honor them is to dishonor God.
ü The reason. What is the reason for this obedience and reverence?
Ø Because it is right. “For this is right.” Nature teaches the rectitude
of it. There is implanted in every child’s mind the feeling that he is
bound to obey and reverence his parents. This feeling of obligation
in some form or other is universal. The Bible teaches the rectitude
of it. It was engraven by the finger of God on the tables of stone;
it was inculcated in the teaching and exemplified in the life of
Ø Because it is expedient. “That it may be well with thee, and thou
mayest live long on the earth.” A happy and a long life depends
upon it. Children who are regardless of their filial duties will be
regardless of all others, and rendered liable to fall into those habits
OF DEPRAVITY which will render THEIR LIFE A MISERY
and CUT SHORT THEIR DAYS ON THE EARTH!
· THE DUTY OF PARENTS. The duty of parents is here set forth in
two forms, negatively and positively.
ü Negatively. “Ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath.” The
temper of a child is of transcendent moment; it is that which determines
his character and destiny. To act upon that temper in its opening years
so as to fret and sour it is to do an incalculable mischief. Against this
evil it is the duty of parents strenuously to guard. Petty interferences,
trivial prohibitions, incessant chidings, and an irritable spirit, are the
things in parental conduct which “provoke children to wrath.”
ü Positively. “But bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the
Lord.” Train their faculties, bring out their latent powers, teach them”
Ø to think with accuracy,
Ø to love with purity,
Ø to act with adroitness and promptitude.
Do this by admonishing them “in the Lord.” Let the lessons
of instruction and warning be drawn from:
Ø the existence,
Ø the life,
Ø the character, and
Ø the teachings of the Lord.
The child’s faculties cannot be developed apart from God. Secular
education is a contradiction in terms; it is as great a solecism as a
sunless vegetation. Let parents look well to the minds of their children.
The farmer who neglects the culture of his fields will soon have his acres
overrun with thorns and briars and noxious weeds; and the parent who
neglects the culture of his child will soon discover evils far more hideous
and disastrous. The following from the quaint pen of
smart old Fuller will be read with interest and profit on the subject:
“The good parent. He showeth them, in his own practice, what to follow
and imitate; and, in others, what to shun and avoid. For though ‘ the words
of the wise be as nails fastened by the masters of the assemblies’
(Ecclesiastes 12:11), yet, sure their examples are the hammer to drive
them in, to take the deeper hold. A father that whipped his son for
swearing, and swore himself whilst he whipped him, did more harm
by his example than good by his correction. He doth not welcome and
embrace the first essays of sin in his children. Weeds are counted herbs
in the beginning of spring: nettles are put in pottage, and salads are made
of elder buds. Thus fond fathers like the oaths and wanton talk of their
little children, and please themselves to hear them displease God. But
our wise parent both instructs his children in piety and with correction
blasts the first buds of profaneness in them. He that will not use the rod
on his child, his child shall be used as a rod on him. He allows his
children maintenance according to their quality. Otherwise it will make
them base, acquaint them with bad company and shocking tricks; and it
makes them surfeit the sooner when they come to their estates. It is
observed of camels, that having traveled long without water through
sandy deserts, implentur, cum bibendi est occasio, et in praeteritum
et infuturum (‘when they find an opportunity they fill themselves both
for the past and the future’); and so these thirsty heirs soak it when
they come to their means, who, whilst their fathers were living might
not touch the top of their money, and think they shall never feel the
bottom of it when they are dead. In choosing a profession, he is
directed by his child’s disposition, whose inclination is the strongest
indenture to bind him to a trade. But when they set Abel to till the
ground, and send Cain to keep sheep; Jacob to hunt, and Esau to live in
tents; drive some to school, and others from it; they commit a violence on
nature, and it will thrive accordingly. Yet he burnouts not his child when
he makes an unworthy choice beneath himself, or rather for ease than use,
pleasure than profit. If his son proves wild, he doth not cast him off so far
but he marks the place where he lights. With the mother of Moses, he doth
not suffer his son so to sink or swim but he leaves one to stand afar off to
watch what will become of him (Exodus 2:4). He is careful, while
quenched his luxury, not withal to put out his life; the rather, because
their souls who have broken and run out in their youth have proved the
more healthful for it afterwards. He moves him to marriage rather by
argument drawn from his good than his own authority. It is a style too
princely for a parent herein to ‘will and command;’ but, sure, he may
will and desire. Affections, like the conscience, are rather to be led
than drawn; and it is to be feared, they that marry where they do not
love, will love where they do not marry. He doth not give away his
loaf to his children and then come to them for a piece of bread. He
holds the reins (though loosely) in his own hands; and keeps, to
reward duty and punish undutifulness. Yet, on good occasion, for
his children’s advancement, he will depart from part of his
means. Base is their nature who will not have their branches lopped
till their body be felled; and will let go none of their goods, as if it
presaged their speedy death; whereas it doth not follow that he that
puts off his cloak must presently go to bed. On his death-bed he
bequeaths his blessing to all his children. Nor rejoiceth he so much
to leave them great portions as honestly obtained. Only money well
and lawfully gotten is good and lawful money. And if he leaves his
children young, he principally nominates God to be their guardian;
and, next to Him, is careful to appoint provident overseers.
The good child. He reverenceth the person of his parent, the old, poor,
and froward. As his parent bore with him when a child, he bears
with his parent if twice a child; nor doth his dignity above him cancel his
duty unto him. When Sir Thomas More was Lord Chancellor of England,
and Sir John his father one of the judges of the King’s Bench, he would in
lawful commands, and practiced his precepts with all obedience. I cannot,
therefore, excuse St. Barbara from undutifulness, and occasioning her
own death. The matter this: her father, being a pagan, commanded his
workmen, building his house, to make two windows in a room. Barbara,
knowing her father’s pleasure; in his absence enjoined them to make three,
that, seeing them, she might the better contemplate the mystery of the
Holy Trinity. Methinks two windows might as well have raised her
meditations, and the light arising from both would as properly have
minded her of the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son.
Her father, enraged at his return, thus came to the knowledge of her
religion, and accused her to the magistrate, which cost her her life.
Having practiced, then, himself, he entails his parents’ precepts on
his posterity. Therefore such instructions are by Solomon (Proverbs 1:9)
compared to frontlets and chains (not to a suit of clothes, which serves
but one, and quickly wears out, or out of fashion), which have in them
a real lasting worth, and are bequeathed as legacies to another age.
The same counsels observed, are chains to grace, which, neglected,
prove halters to strangle undutiful children. He is a stork to his parent,
and feeds him in his old age. Not only if his father hath been a pelican,
but though he hath been an ostrich unto him, and neglected him in
his youth. He confines him not a long way off to a short pension,
forfeited if he comes in his presence, but shows piety at home, and
learns as Paul saith (I Timothy 5:4) to requite his parent. And yet
the debt (I mean only the principal, not counting the interest) cannot
fully be paid. And therefore he compounds with his father, to accept
in good worth his utmost endeavor. Such a child God commonly
rewards with long life in this world. If he chance to die young, yet
he lives long that lives well; and time misspent is not lived, but lost.
Besides, GOD IS BETTER THAN HIS PROMISE, if he
takes him a long lease, and gives him a freehold of better value. As for
disobedient children: if preserved from the gallows, they are reserved for
the rack, to be tortured by their own posterity. One complained that never
father had so undutiful a son as he had. ‘Yes,’ said his son, with less grace
than truth, ‘my grandfather had.’ I conclude this subject with the example
of a pagan’s, which will shame most Christians. Pomponius Atticus,
making the funeral oration at the death of his mother, did protest that,
living with her three score and seven years, he was never reconciled to
her, se nuncquam matre in gratiam rediisse, because there never
happened betwixt them the least jar which needed reconciliation.”
5 “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh,
with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;”
Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh.
There were many slaves in the early Church, but, however unjust their
position, the apostle could not but counsel them to obedience, this course
being the best for ultimately working out their emancipation. The words of
Christ were peculiarly welcome to them “that labor and are heavy laden”
(Matthew 11:28-30); and, as we find from Celsus and others, the early Church
was much ridiculed for the large number of uneducated persons in its pale.
With fear and trembling. Compare I Corinthians 2:3; Philippians 2:12, from
which it will be seen that this expression does not denote slavish dread, but
great moral anxiety lest one should fail in duty. It was probably a
proverbial expression. In singleness of your heart, as to Christ. Not
with a made-up semblance of obedience, but with inward sincerity, knowing
that it is your duty; and even if it be irksome, doing it pleasantly, as though
Christ required it, and you were doing it to Him.
6 “Not with eye-service, as men-pleasers; but as the servants of Christ,
doing the will of God from the heart.” Exegetical of the last exhortation,
with a negative and a positive clause, according to the apostle’s frequent practice
(compare chps. 2:8, 19; 3:5; 4:14-15, 25, 28-29; 5:18, 27, 29; and v. 4 above).
Eye-service and men-pleasing have reference only to what will pass muster in the
world; Christians must go deeper, as bound to Christ’s service by the great claim
of redemption (I Corinthians 6:20), and remembering that “man looketh on the
outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (I Samuel 16:7).
The will of God is our great standard, and our daily prayer is, “Thy
will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” In heaven it is done “from the
7 “With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men.”
Some join the last words of the preceding verse to this clause, “from
the heart with good will,” etc., on the ground that it is not needed for v.6,
for if you do the will of God at all, you must do it from the heart. But
one may do the will of God in a sense outwardly and formally, therefore
the clause is not superfluous in v. 6, whereas, if one does service with
good will, one surely does it from the heart, so that the clause would be
more superfluous here. Jesus is the Overlord of every earthly lord, and His
follower has but to substitute Him by faith for his earthly master to enable
him to do service with good will.
Servants and Masters (vs. 5-7)
The early preachers of the gospel were wise in not provoking futile and
fatal attempts at a social revolution by denouncing slavery. Nevertheless,
they laid the foundation of that revolution and secured its peaceable and
bloodless accomplishment. Slavery could not permanently survive the
establishment of the principle of Christian brotherhood. Meanwhile under
the then existing circumstances Christianity taught certain necessary duties
of slaves and masters, the essential ideas of which apply to so much of the
present state of society as is at all analogous to that of the first century.
· THE DUTIES OF SERVANTS.
ü The duties.
Ø Obedience. The position of service, whether forced as in slavery or
freely accepted as among us, implies obedience. Indeed, where the
condition of service is voluntarily entered upon for the sake of
adequate payment the duty is so much the stronger. The disobedient
servant commits a double sin; he is unfaithful to his engagement,
and he is robbing his master of unearned wages.
Ø Singleness of heart. Half-hearted service is semi-disobedience.
Ø No eye-service. How common is this degrading and dishonest habit in
all walks of life, from that of the maid who is idle when her mistress
is away, to that of the statesman who works for what will win the
applause of the multitude to the neglect of the real welfare of the
nation, or the preacher who preaches popular sermons to catch the
ear of the congregation and hides unpopular truths that men much
need to hear!
Ø Serving the Lord. We are all to serve Christ in our daily work. This
consecrates the most menial task.
ü The reward. Gross injustice characterized the old-world treatment of
slaves, and tempted to disloyal service. This injustice will not be
seen at the great reckoning. The slave will be as fairly judged as
his master. The lowliest work will win as high a reward as the most
pretentious if the motive is equally good. Here is an inducement to
faithfulness in little things.
· THE DUTIES OF MASTERS. It was hard to teach a slave-holder his
duty. Yet it is fair to observe that in many households the rigor of servitude
was much softened, and kinder and more humane relations maintained than
those that sometimes characterize our modern commercial connection of
workman and employer, relations out of which all humanity seems to have
vanished. It is interesting to see that in the New Testament a hired servant
is considered to be worse off than a household slave (e.g. Luke 15:17).
ü The duties.
Ø Fairness. “Do the same things unto them.” The duties are reciprocal.
Masters have no right to expect more devotion to their interests from
their servants than they show to their servants’ interests.
Ø Kindness. “Forbear threatening.” It is cowardly to use the power of
the purse, as old masters used the whip, to gain an unfair advantage
over a servant. In the end sympathy and genial friendliness will
secure the best service.
ü The motives.
Ø Servants and masters have ONE COMMON MASTER! . Both are
alike servants of Christ; both must give account to Him of their
Ø Christ will judge without respect of persons. The advantages of
social superiority are but temporary. They will be of no use at
8 “Knowing that whatsover good thing any man doeth, the same shall
he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.” The hope of reward
is brought in to supplement the more disinterested motive, such addition being
specially useful in the case of slaves (as of children, vs. 2-3). For the slave the
hope of reward is future — it is at the Lord’s coming that he will have
his reward. Whatsoever good you do, you shall receive of the Lord; He
will repay you. “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and
labor of love, which ye have shewed toward His name” (Hebrews 6:10).
Duties of Servants (vs. 5-8)
It is interesting to reflect that the New Testament devotes more space to
the instruction of servants than to the instruction of either parents or
children, husbands or wives. The servants, or rather slaves, were a large
class in the cities of
numerous than freemen, and very many of them had embraced the gospel
with great heartiness. There were obvious reasons for a studious
minuteness in the counsels given to such a class.
· THEIR DUTY IS SUMMED UP IN THE SINGLE WORD “OBEDIENCE.”
Christianity does not rudely strike at existing relations in life, but seeks to
improve and sanctify them. In its appeals to slaves as well as to masters,
it sowed the seed-corn, small as a grain of mustard seed, which grew into
a harvest of emancipation in the ages which were to see the full power
of the gospel. Obedience was therefore the duty of slaves, or servants,
“in all things” (Colossians 3:22), that is, in all things included
within the sphere of a master’s rightful authority, not contrary to the Law
of God, or the gospel of Christ, or the dictates of conscience. It is set forth
first in a negative, then in a positive form.
ü Negatively. “Not with eye-service, as men-pleasers.” This word is coined
by the apostle for the occasion. Eye-service is either work done only to
please the eye, but which cannot bear to be tested, or it may be good work
done only when the master’s eye is upon the worker. This was a vice
peculiar to slavery. But it enters into all forms of service. Dishonest work
is to be avoided quite as much as dishonest words. An acted lie is as
dishonorable as a spoken one. There must be no mere perfunctory
(of an action or gesture) carried out with a minimum of effort or
reflection) discharge of human duties.
Ø “With fear and trembling.” Not from regard to the lash of the
master, but with an anxious and tremulous desire to do our duty
thoroughly. Obedience is to be yielded “with all fear” (I Peter
2:18), that is, with the fear of incurring the just rebukes of their
masters, and “as fearing God” (Colossians 3:22).
Ø “In singleness of heart, as unto Christ.” In simplicity and
sincerity of spirit, without dissimulation or hypocrisy. There
is a great temptation to duplicity (double-dealing) in those
subjected to another’s will, especially if the service is irksome
or unreasonable. Let there be a single desire to do your duty.
Ø “With good-will doing service,” not grudgingly, or murmuringly,
or by constraint, but with cheerfulness and alacrity, “seeking to
please them well in all things,” that they may obtain their good
will (Titus 2:9).
· THE MOTIVES TO SUCH OBEDIENCE.
ü The command of God here addressed to all servants.
ü The Lord’s mastership, for they are “the servants of Christ,” and are
“doing service as to the Lord, and not to men.” Here is the constraining
force of the Lord’s love. How this motive sweetens, sanctifies, ennobles
work! The work is done, not for wages, not by constraint, but “unto the
Lord,” and therefore becomes part of our worship. It is thus that the Lord
has married the work of earth to the worship of heaven.
ü The rewards of this service: “Knowing that whatsoever good thing any
man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond
or free.” Whatever disappointment may mix itself with the service
of men, the Lord will have a rich reward in store for the faithful worker.
He is not unrighteous to forget your labor of love (Hebrews 6;10), for
“of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve
the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:24).
ü The honor of the gospel. His Name and His doctrine will be blasphemed
by a contrary spirit (I Timothy 6:1; Titus 2:10).
ü The example of Christ Himself. He “took upon Him the form of a
servant;” for “He came not to be ministered unto, but to minister.”
(Matthew 20:28) He always did the things which pleased God
(John 8:29), and has set us an example that we should follow in
His steps. (I Peter 2:23)
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.” And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing
threatening. Act correspondingly toward your slaves, as if the eye of
Christ were on you, which indeed it is; if you are ever tempted to grind
them down, or defraud, or scold unreasonably and make their life bitter,
remember that there is a Master above you, into whose ears their cry will
come. If they are to do service to you as to the Lord, you are to require
service of them as if you were the Lord. Therefore forbear threatening;
influence them by love more than by fear. Knowing that your Master
also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with Him.
Both of you stand in the same relation to the great Lord, who is in heaven
and over all (compare ch. 1:20-21). Your being higher in earthly
station than they will not procure for you any indulgence or consideration.
You will be judged simply and solely according to your deeds. Your
responsibility to the Judge and your obligations to the Savior alike bind
you to just and merciful treatment. If such principles were applicable to the
relations of enforced labor, they are certainly not less so to the relations of
labor when free. (I am in the process of reading a book Voices From Slavery
(100 Authentic Slave Narratives) by Norman R. Yetman which sheds light
on the wisdom of the above – CY – 2019)
This can be carried out to employers and employees – both need to beware of
offending Christ by a bitter and unreasonable spirit. Occasions for glorifying God
by the manifestation of a noble Christian spirit may become occasions for letting
out the selfishness of the carnal heart. Yet, complicated though the question is,
it is probable that the true solution would be reached by all Christian men
if the spirit of this text were carried out, if both masters and men tried to do
all as to the Lord and not to men, and to esteem His approval the very highest
reward to which they could look.
Duties of Servants and Masters (vs. 5-9)
Church, and, however little esteemed by man, as greatly regarded by God.
In Christ all are brethren, for all are brothers of Christ, therefore of one
ü The duty of servants is obedience. Qualities of the obedience.
Ø With fear and trembling (see Exposition);
Ø in singleness of heart;
Ø as unto Christ and not to men;
Ø not with eye-service, but as servants of Christ;
Ø doing the will of God from the heart;
Ø with good will.
ü The reward of good service. Whatsoever good you do, you shall receive
of the Lord; He will repay you. We are apt to be jealous of this doctrine.
It seems to undermine free grace. But no; salvation is wholly of grace;
but one feature of grace is that, when you receive it and act on it, it begets,
as it were, another gift of grace. If by grace the servant obey in the Lord, a
further act of grace will follow; the obedience rendered will be rewarded
and blessed. Better this surely than any amount of earthly reward! “God
is not unrighteous to forget” the faithful work of those who remember
him above all other.
ü Do the same things to them, observe their rights and do as you would
be done by;
ü forbear threatening. Reasons for this.
Ø You have a Master also, One in heaven, who oversees all you do;
there is no respect of persons with Him. One of the great problems of
the day is how to permeate the relations of master and servant with
the Christian spirit, and carry into effect the aim of such passages as
this. We do not refer particularly to domestic service, for a servant,
by entering a house, becomes in a sense a member of the family,
and is thereby bound to fall in with the family order. The difficulty
lies mainly with the case of large bodies of men working under a
single employer. The problem is too intricate to be discussed here.
But both masters and men need to beware of offending Christ by
a bitter and unreasonable spirit. Occasions for glorifying God by
the manifestation of a noble Christian spirit may become occasions
for letting out the selfishness of the carnal heart. Yet, complicated
though the question is, it is probable that the true solution would be
reached by all Christian men if the spirit of this text were carried
out, if both masters and men tried to do all as to the Lord and not
to men, and to esteem His approval the very highest reward to which
they could look.
Servants and their Masters (vs. 5-9)
“Servants,” etc. There are two thoughts underlying these verses.
1. The existence of social distinction, s amongst men. There are masters
and servants, rulers and subjects. These distinctions are no accidental
phases of society, they grow out of the constitution of things. Diversity in
the temperaments, tastes, capacities, and circumstances of men give rise to
masters and servants.
2. The one spirit which is to govern men of all distinctions. The rich and
the poor, the sovereign and his subject, the master and the servant, are
under an obligation to be animated by the same moral spirit, and controlled
by the same moral consideration. “All in all things should do the will of
God from the heart.”
· THE DUTY OF SERVANTS. The duty of servants, of course, is
obedience. “Be obedient to them that are your masters.” But the obedience
is here characterized.
Ø It is obedience in bodily matters. “According to the flesh.” Their service
is limited to secular concerns, things that have reference to the material
and temporal interests of their masters. They were to give their muscles,
and their limbs, and their contriving faculties, but not their souls.
“Consciences and souls were made to be the Lord’s alone.”
Ø It is obedience honestly rendered. “With fear and trembling, in
singleness of your heart” — “not with eye-service.” These expressions
mean that there should be no duplicity, no double-dealing, but downright
honesty in everything. A servant is bound to be honest towards his
employer. He has no right to be lazy or wasteful. He has contracted to
give, on certain stipulated conditions, his energies and time to promote
the secular interests of his master.
Ø It is obedience inspired with the religious spirit. They are to regard
themselves in everything as the servants of Christ, and are bound to
do the “will of God from the heart.” In everything the authority of
Christ must be held as supreme. Whatsoever is done in word or deed
should be done all to the glory of God.
Ø It is obedience which, if truly rendered, will be rewarded of God.
“Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he
receive of the Lord. whether he be bond or free.” (v. 8) The faithful
servant may feel that the wages he receives from his earthly master are
unjustly inadequate. Yet the great Master will award to him at last an
ample compensation. Whatsoever good thing he has done, however
trivial, shall meet its reward at last. The good thing must be rewarded.
Goodness carries evermore its own reward.
· THE DUTY OF MASTERS. The way in which masters should
exercise their authority is here indicated.
Ø They are to exercise it religiously. “Ye masters, do the same things unto
them.” “The same things,” as we have said, do not mean the same work,
but the same spiritual attributes. Servants are to be honest and respect the
will of God in all; the masters are here bound to do “the same things.”
Both are to be under the domination of the same moral spirit.
Ø They are to exercise it magnanimously. “Forbearing threatening.”
Though the servant may by accident, or, what is worse, by intent, by
omission, or by commission, try severely the temper of his master, his
master should forbear threatening. He should show his right to be a
master by governing his own soul. The man who takes fire at every
offence, whose eyes flash with rage, and lips mutter threats, is too
little a creature to be a master. He has no license from Heaven to
rule either children, servants, or citizens, who is not magnanimous
Ø They are to exercise it responsibly. “Knowing that your Master also is in
heaven.” They are amenable to God for the way in which they use their
authority. The master has the same Lord as the servant, and they must
stand at last together at THE GREAT JUDGMENT! . To that Master
all social distinctions vanish in the presence of moral character.
“Neither is there respect of persons with Him.” (v. 9)
The Christian Treatment of Slavery (vs. 5-9)
The treatment of slavery by Christianity is one of the most interesting of
themes. Because Christianity did not preach a servile war, that is, did not
propose emancipation by force, it was imagined that it was a conniver in
the selfish plot against the liberties of man. But Christianity confines itself
to spiritual means. It is by a spirit that it regenerates mankind. Force and
mechanical appliances may subserve its purposes, judgment may have to
take place in consequence of men’s selfishness and sin, but the
instrumentalities of Christianity are not carnal, but spiritual, and so mighty
through God to the pulling down of the diabolic strongholds. (II Corinthians
10:4) It can be shown that the Mosaic legislation, as well as the Divine judgments
in Old Testament times, were hostile to slavery. But we are now concerned with
Paul’s policy about slaves. Suppose, then, that he had advocated revolt and
immediate emancipation. The slaves would have been separated from their
masters, and a chasm created between them which would not have been
filled for generations. Christianity would have been the separator instead
of the unifier of mankind, and the evils of separation would have been
excessive. Was it not better to infuse a new spirit into service and
masterhood? Was it not better to carry both into a Divine light, and so
secure the master and slaves dwelling together in unity? Christianity
consequently told master and slave how they were each related to the one
Master in heaven, and so made them one. The actual emancipation has
been the outcome of the Christian spirit.
· BOND AND FREE WERE TOLD ABOUT A COMMON MASTER
IN HEAVEN. (vs. 7-9.) The slave was thus asked to look past his earthly
master to his heavenly. He might be possessed by a master on earth, but a
Master in heaven told him he was not his own, but bought with a price, and
so bound to serve Him with his body which was God’s. This lifted life at once
to a new plane and infused into service a religious spirit. The Christian slave
became the conscious property of Jesus. But at the same time, he felt that
this slavery to God was “perfect freedom,” that to be God’s “slave” was to
be at the same time His “freeman.” He was thus spiritually emancipated.
Again, the master was given to understand that he had a Master in heaven,
and was the slave of God. Hence his spiritual life gave to him the ideal of
what authority is when its spirit is love. Lovingly dealt with by God above,
he had a model of masterhood evermore set before him, and his own
relation to his slaves was of necessity modified thereby.
· THEY WERE ASSURED THAT HE WAS NO RESPECTER OF
PERSONS. (v. 9.) Here a blow was struck at the caste prejudices of the time.
Here persons were lifted into the light of eternal justice and seen in their
native equality. Now, if God took no account of personal distinctions so as to
draw any line between bond and free, if the distinctions dwelt on by men
were of no account with Him, the truth tended to annihilate the distinctions.
Here was a great Leveler before whom high and low, rich and poor, bond
and free, were absolutely undistinguishable. It is this primary truth of all
men having equal rights before the Supreme which has led in time to all
men having equal rights before enlightened law, as for
from meaningless distinctions. The method taken by Christianity has thus
been to bring unmeant distinctions into the light of God’s countenance, and
when men realize that He disregards them, they are sure to see eye to eye
with Him in the end. It is by reason, not by force, that the emancipation is
· THEY WERE ASKED TO SERVE EACH OTHER FOR THEIR
HIGHER MASTER’S SAKE. Mutual service for God’s sake was the ideal
set before masters and slaves by the gospel. For God Himself became
incarnate, “not to be ministered unto, but to minister.” (Matthew 20:28)
He came to show that “it is better to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)
He came to consecrate service, to glorify devotion to another’s welfare.
When masters and slaves learn this, their relations will contract a cordiality,
and be mutually helpful in a degree impossible otherwise. The gospel has
thus quenched tyrannies by the dazzling light of Gods unsuspected justice.
There was wisdom in the arrangement. Another policy would have disorganized
society and brought evils greater than existed. Onesimus goes back to Philemon
to be a son in his house rather than a slave, and to help his master in his
progress home to the common Master in heaven. Patiently waiting in his
spiritual freedom and doing his part, he can assure himself that the political
emancipation will be realized in due season.
The Duties of Servants and Masters (vs. 5-9)
· DUTY OF SERVANTS. “Servants, be obedient unto them that
according to the flesh are your masters.” The Revisers have shown good
judgment in retaining “servants” here, and putting “bond-servants” in the
margin. For though” bond” (the same word) is in the eighth verse
distinguished from “free,” yet the thought requires a modification of the
meaning. It would be pedantic to translate in the sixth verse “bond-servants
of Christ” (or elsewhere, “Paul a slave of Christ”), for slavery is the idea
we exclude from the service of Christ. And this wider use of the word is
favored by the word not being used for” masters” which conveys the idea
of despotic authority. Further, the principles laid down have no exclusive
reference to slaves. They are such as would have had force if this perverted
form of service had never existed. It is right, then, to use a word which
covers all forms of service. It is true that (owing to the carrying out of the
apostolic principles, and generally the influence of Christianity) times have
very much changed. There is almost nowhere now bondage on the one side
and absolutism on the other. The relations between masters and servants
are of a freer nature, and depend on reasonableness on both sides. This
being the case, it is to be desired, not that self-interest or class-interest
should rule these relations, but the principles here laid down by the apostle.
ü The grounding of the duty. “With fear and trembling, in singleness of
your heart, as unto Christ.”
Ø The master is representative of Christ. Four times are servants
reminded of this. The apostolic exhortation is saturated with it. A very
unworthy representative the despot of the household or slave-holder
(in the very conception of the thing, apart from personal qualities) was.
But the apostle does not stigmatize him as a usurper, a pretender, and
call upon the slaves to rise and cast off his despotism. Strange to say
(having him principally in his mind), he regards him as legitimately
filling the place of Christ. That is to say, underneath all that slave-
holding (whatever it was) there was still a representation, a true
representation, of the authority of Christ, before which the slave was
to bow. And that was going to the root of the matter. It was more
decisive and penetrative than if he had asked them to be reconciled
to the evil of their position on the ground that Christ had suffered
greater evil when in the world. He refused to regard the relation as
disannulled by the accident of despotism; in the master according to
the flesh (whoever he might be) he saw a real representation
of the authority of Christ, and he called upon them to render obedience
unto him as unto Christ. All cannot be masters. For disciplinary
purposes, some are servants and some are masters, and some both
servants and masters. In the early and Middle Ages there were men
who were carried away with a frenzy of obedience. Those words,
“I am among you as one that serveth” (Luke 22:27), seemed to put
a bad mark on the master state, and to mark out the servant state as
not only the safer, but the grander, more Christlike state of the two.
And so they put themselves under superiors, begged in Christ’s name
to be ruled, and thought they approached Christ when they
performed the most menial duties. It must be understood that the state
which with Christ carries the blessing is that (whether of master or
servant) which is not self-sought, but in which Christ sees fit to place us.
Ø The appropriate disposition toward the master as the representative
of Christ. “With fear and trembling.” The slave was to fear and
tremble before his master, not because that despotic master of his was
able to put him in chains or to take away his life, but because he
represented an authority above backed by boundless power, which was
able to deal with him, and would righteously deal with him, for
neglected duty. That being the ground, the duty remains unmodified.
The workman is to fear and tremble before his master, the domestic
is to fear and tremble before her mistress, not because the master or
mistress is better born, or has more wealth, or has a title (for in that
there is little to cause fear and trembling), but because he or she
represents an authority in heaven that in no case is to be trifled with.
“In singleness of your heart.” That is to say, the servant must
give the reality, and not the semblance of service. And the only ground
on which this can be thoroughly secured is by regarding his service as
done unto Christ.
ü Fault to be avoided. “Not in the way of eye-service, as men-pleasers.”
The word translated “eye-service” seems to have been of the apostle’s
own coining, and is strikingly descriptive. The eye-servant is one who
takes the rule of his action from the eye of his master. His object or
motive (as expressed in the word “men-pleasers”) is to get credit for
whatever he does. Such a person may work with a will when he thinks
of the master’s eye being upon him, and expects that it will be put to
his credit. Even in such a case the principle is wrong. It would lead him
to “scamp” his work when he thought that his master’s eye was not on him,
and that he would not be made to suffer for it. Could it be secured (which
it cannot be) that the master’s eye was always on the servant, and that the
servant always got credit for what he did, yet work done on such a
principle (whatever it may be in political economy), from a Christian
point of view is radically wrong.
ü Positive excellence to be sought.
Ø In relation to work. “But as servants of Christ, doing the will of God
from the heart.” The servants of Christ must apply the principles of
Christ to their work. According to the teaching of the apostle, a servant’s
thought is not to be this — how little work he can get off with; nor this,
in the first place (though it is an important consideration) — what is the
will of his master; but this — what is the will of God, i.e. what does
God expect of him in amount, in excellency, to be rendered to his
master. Having found out this, he is to do his work, not in the spirit
of drudgery, but with a true, it may be an ardent, love for it, as it is
here put — “from the heart.” To do the will of God in this way may
sometimes require not a little Christian courage. In these days there
are trade-unions, combinations among the workmen, with the view
of protecting their rights. Though unobjectionable in principle, yet
(like other combinations) they may sometimes be dominated by
selfishness, and act tyrannically. And a Christian workman may be
in the position of choosing between the will of God and incurring
the disgrace of his fellow-workmen. If he is worthy of his master’s
Master, he will not, to please his fellow-workmen, give stinted,
heartless work, but he will brave the consequences of doing his
duty, saying, “I must obey God rather than man.”
Ø In relation to his master. “With good will doing service, as unto the
Lord, and not unto men.” A servant may not be able altogether to
approve of the treatment he receives. What is exacted of him (and what
he cheerfully renders, as being the will of God) may be unjust. Never-
theless, as a Christian, he is to keep up good feeling toward his master.
He is always to respect him because of his position. More than that,
he is to have “good will” toward him, that good will which (as the
angelic doxology shows,) is so much of the essence of the gospel.
And he is not merely to have good will toward him as a man, but
good will also toward him in the particular relationship in which he
is placed to him as his master. And he is to have this good will
toward him, not on worldly grounds, nor on purely rational grounds,
nor on purely theistic grounds, but specially on Christian grounds.
“As unto the Lord,” and not unto a master by himself or out of
relation to the Lord. That is to say, he is to bear good will toward his
master as being (by no figure of speech, but in very fact) the Lord’s
representative, and thus, it may be said, for the Lord’s sake, and further,
that the Lord’s ends in the relationship (so far as he is concerned) may be
ü Encouragement to duty. “Knowing that whatsoever good thing each
one doeth, the same shall he receive again from the Lord, whether he
be bond or free.” The slave, or bondman, here referred to (and very
common then) was considered to be entitled to nothing. His earthly
receivings were very meager, unless in lashes when he came under
the displeasure of his master. The apostle, then, is to be understood
as holding out to him this encouragement (for he names him particularly,
that there may be no mistake), that, if he did his work in a Christian
manner, then he would be a receiver, equally with the free man —
he would be a receiver, if not on earth, yet in heaven; he would receive
from the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. He who saved his soul as well as
that of the free man, and put both on the same platform of privilege,
would see to it that no smallest piece of work done to an earthly master
for his sake (overlooked here) would go unrewarded in heaven. And the
same thing is to be said of the free servant; for he also is particularized.
It is true that if he is guilty of eye-service, if he “scamps” his work, that
will be put against him in heaven, and there will be a day of reckoning
for his evil thing, for his bad work; his life-work has lost in quality,
in measure by it, and his reward will most unmistakably be curtailed —
it will be so much the less for that idling of his master’s time,
that soulless work, that grudge in his heart to his master (for upon such
things as these shall judgment be passed, by such things shall destiny be
affected). But if, on the other hand, a servant, even in the humblest
position, grasps his opportunity, and seeks to be regulated in his work
by the will of God, and cherishes good will to his master, then, in
encouragement (as before in principle), he is made independent of such a
variable element as a good or a bad master, his getting his rights or his
not getting his rights; he can feel that he has to do with a Master with
whom there is no inequality, and who will see to it that whatsoever
good thing he doeth, what he does unobserved or what he does under
the menaces of his fellow-workmen, shall be rewarded.
· DUTY OF MASTERS.
ü Positive statement of duty. “And, ye masters, do the same things unto
them.” Though they stand differently in the relationship (servant to
master and master to servant), they are to do the same things, the
regulative principles being the same.
Ø In relation to work. As the Christian servant is to be regulated by “the
will of God” in the work rendered, so the Christian master is to be
regulated by the will of God in the work required. There is that which
(in the Divine balances) is fair between them. It cannot be got at by
selfishness on the one side and selfishness on the other, which is often
made a trial of strength. If harmony is to be attained, it can only be
by both, with Christian disinterestedness, agreeing to bring
themselves (in what is required and what is rendered) to the Divine
Ø In relation to servant. As there is to be “good will” toward the master,
so there is to be good will toward the servant. The master may not find
the servant what he would like him to be. He may have to reprove him
for eye-service or for careless service under his eye. But he is always
to have good will toward him, as placed under him by Christ. He is to
show his good will by seeking to make him comfortable in his position.
Especially is he to use his influence with him on behalf of his higher
well-being. In the name of Christ, then, let good will be met by
good will. Education alone is ineffectual. It has sometimes been
found that, with the spread of education, there has been an embittering
of the relations between masters and servants. It is wrong, however
(as not a few do), to blame education for this. It may be said that,
if these relations cannot stand educative influences, then they are not
what they should be. And the conclusion to be drawn is, not that we
are to dispense with education, but that those relations can only be
thoroughly maintained by reasonableness and genuine good feeling
on both sides. And Christians are not to give up the problem
in despair, but ought to be prepared to demonstrate to the world that it
is possible, on Christian principles, for masters and servants to work
together in harmony.
Ø Fault to be avoided. “And forbear threatening.” “The too
familiar threatening” is the idea conveyed in the Greek. It was
the ready resource of persons possessed of irresponsible power.
Slaves were made to work under fear of the lash. And, though
masters have not so much in their power now, yet the power
that they have (there is generally an advantage in their
circumstances compared with their servants) they are not to
abuse. It is those who are deficient in the right management of
their servants, in reasonable dealing, especially in that good
will which is so necessary to management, that take to the
clumsy, coarse method of threatening. Power must sometimes
be put into execution against servants’; but to hold threats
over their heads, to treat them with clamor, with insult, or
with something worse, is not worthy of the Christian master.
Ø Word of warning. “Knowing that both their Master and yours
is in heaven.” Christ is represented as the Master of the slave.
There was a wrong involved (apart from any harsh treatment he
might receive) in the very fact of his being a slave. He is
represented as the Master of the slaveholder, too, i.e. of the man
who was so unenlightened as to hold slaves. As the Master of
them both, he would see to things in the end being righted
between them. The Christian master still is to be influenced to
do what is just and proper by his servants by the consideration
that Christ is the Master of his servants as well as his Master.
And in the righting that, is to take place, for every advantage
that the master has taken of his servant, for every harsh speech
and threatening word he has used toward him, he will suffer
everlasting loss. “And there is no respect of persons with Him”
(i.e. with Christ). There is a real distinction between master and
servant, proprietor and tenant. What is adventitious may gather
round it, but the essential thing is that Christ has not ordained
equality here, but has placed his authority in some, and has
subjected others, and has thus given rise to mutual obligations
and trial and the formation of character in connection with these
obligations. But though a real distinction, it is not to be carried
beyond what there is really in it. After all, it is only to last
through the present earthly economy. It is destined to be
obliterated with other time distinctions. And meantime Christ
does not respect a person less because he is a servant, or more
because he is a master. He has an equal interest in them as both
included within the sweep of his work, as having taken him as
their Savior and Master. He has an equal interest in them in the
relationship in which they stand to each other. And if they do
their part equally well, one in the position of servant and the
other in the position of master, then He will see to it that they
will be equally rewarded.
The Duties of Masters (v. 9)
They needed to be instructed as well as their servants; for they had
irresponsible power in their hands, and might be led to use it severely or
· THEIR DUTIES WERE RECIPROCAL. They were “to do the same
things unto them” — not the same duties as servants were bound to do,
but after the same manner, in obedience to God’s command, with the same
singleness of heart, and with the same heartiness and good will. They were
to give their servants what “was just and equal.” They were to treat them
with justice and equity, with a full recognition of their rights. The apostle,
however, demands something more than just treatment; masters are to
forbear the threatening which was a too familiar feature of slavery. They
are not to rule them with rigor or harshness, or even with displays of
temper, but with gentleness, moderation, and kindness.
· THE ARGUMENT TO ENFORCE THE DUTIES OF MASTERS,
“Your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with
Him?” He is the, Judge of master and servant alike, and will not respect
either of them on account of their station in life, but will reward them justly
according to their works. Both masters and servants, therefore, ought to
have an eye to the presence of their great Master in heaven, ought to seek
His glory, and pray for His assistance and acceptance.
THE CHRISTIAN WARFARE (vs. 10-20)
After having treated Christian morals so carefully and shown how
Christianity elevates the individual, the family, and the slave, Paul
proceeds, in the close of this remarkable Epistle, to speak of the enemies
and the arms of a Christian. Life is seen to be a battle, The enemies are
manifold. It is not flesh and blood against which we fight. We leave the
carnal warfare to the world. We contend against “the principalities, against
the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual
hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Revised Version). These foes
are of a spiritual character – false principles and their advocates, whether
men in flesh and blood or demons in their invisible might. So that the
Christian finds himself confronted by a most serious host, perhaps not in
very strict order of battle, yet mobbed together into perplexing power.
How is one to withstand the assault of so many? There is but ONE WAY, by
becoming “strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might” (Revised
10 “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His
might.” Finally. The apostle has now reached his last passage, and by
this word quickens the attention of his readers and prepares them for a
counsel eminently weighty in itself, and gathering up the pith and marrow,
as it were, of what goes before. My brethren. The Authorized Version, is
rejected by the Revised Version and most modern commentators, for lack
of external evidence. We note, however, that, whereas in the preceding
verses he had distributed the Ephesians into groups, giving an appropriate
counsel to each, he now brings them again together, and has a concluding
counsel for them all. Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.
Compare with ch. 3:16, where the heavenly provision for obtaining strength
is specified, and with ch. 4:30, where we are cautioned against a course that
will fritter away that provision. The ever-recurring formula, “in the Lord,”
indicates the relation to Christ in which alone the strength can be experienced
(compare II Corinthians 12:9). The might is Christ’s, but by faith it becomes
our strength. As the steam-engine genders the dynamic force, which belts and
wheels communicate to the inert machinery of the factory, so Christ is the
source of that spiritual strength which through faith is communicated to
all His people. To be strong is our duty; to be weak is our sin. Strong trust,
strong courage, strong endurance, strong hope. strong love, may all be had
FROM HIM, if only our fellowship with Him be maintained in uninterrupted
The Secret of Spiritual Strength (v. 10)
This strength is needed under all the burdens, in all the conflicts and temptations
of life, beneath its sorrows and its cares:
· “BE STRONG.” This is a strange command, just as strange as it would
be for a physician to say to a weak man, “Be strong.” It is like the
command, “Rejoice in the Lord;” but it seems more difficult by any volition
of our own to add to our strength than to add to our joy. Yet, as we can do
much to regulate our emotions by determining what set of thoughts shall
engage us, we can equally provide for an increase in our strength by a
direct recourse to the secret and source of it. Our obedience to this
command stands on the same footing as our obedience to God’s other
commandments; and if we continue to be weak, it is more than our
misfortune, it is our fault. But there is nothing strange when we consider
the secret of the origin of this strength. We are conscious of a sense of
feebleness, of heartlessness, of hopelessness, which of itself goes far to
disqualify us for duty, and gives us up an easy prey to the adversary of
souls. It is to meet this want that God reveals Himself to us as the great
Giver of strength.
· “BE STRONG IN THE LORD, AND IN THE POWER OF HIS
MIGHT.” The strength poured into us is strength in Christ, sprinting out of
a realizing apprehension of the continued presence, love, and help of the
Redeemer. “My strength shall be made perfect in weakness.” (II Corinthians
12:9) A fly is able to walk upon the ceiling of a room. The cause is to be
found in the vacuum in its webbed foot caused by its very weight, and it is
thus enabled to hold on by the smooth surface of the ceiling. So our safety
lies likewise in our emptiness. The soldier fights with greater confidence
when he is led by a general who has been always successful.
calculated the presence of Bonaparte at the head of an army as equal to
a hundred thousand additional bayonets. Thus we understand the invincibility
of the French army under his leadership. Thus the Christian fights with
greater resolution BECAUSE JESUS CHRIST IS THE CAPTAIN OF
· THE COMMAND IMPLIES A CONTINUOUS DEPENDENCE
UPON THE LORD. The strength is not given at once and in full measure,
but according to the desire, the capacity, the faith, the need, the duty, the
trial. (“As thy days, so shall thy strength be.” Deuteronomy 33:25) Our
lowest powers, those of the body, we get by growth, and they
grow by exercise. Such is the law of our physical childhood, and no other
is the law of our spiritual being. The sense of weakness obliges us to repair
EVERY DAY afresh to GOD for fresh supplies. “He giveth power to the
faint; to them that have no might He increaseth strength.” (Isaiah 40:29)
Divine Strength (v. 10)
As the Epistle draws to a close, Paul gives emphasis to the requisition
of Divine strength by singling it out for a final word of exhortation. The
doctrinal principles of the earlier chapters lead up to the practical duties of
the later, and these several duties to the need of Divine strength wherewith
to discharge them in face of the assaults of evil.
· CHRISTIANS ARE EXHORTED TO BE STRONG. Spiritual strength
is decision of character and force of will. Religion centers in our will and
character. Unless there is strength, fixity, determination, and energy, then
all our elaborate thinking and all our beautiful sentiments are worthless.
(We need to have our minds made up on what to do before getting into
situations that we cannot morally handle. Better still, avoid such situations!
CY – 2019)
ü Clear belief in the gospel is not sufficient. We may believe
intellectually, but if we are too weak to act according to our
belief that counts for nothing.
ü Feelings of love to Christ are vain if they do not inspire us to faithful
service and sacrifice.
ü Passive reliance on Christ will not avail us unless we have also
the active faith that puts forth spiritual strength in obedience to
His will. We are not only to flee to the refuge in Christ. We are to
go forth to battle in the open field. And then we are not only to be
endued with Divine armor, but first to be made strong ourselves.
First comes the exhortation to be strong, and only second that to
arm in the Divine panoply. It is only the strong man who can wear
ü It is our duty to be strong. Weakness is not merely a calamity to be
bewailed. It is a sin to be repented of. It leads to our falling into
temptation and our failing in duty.
· SPIRITUAL STRENGTH IS A DIVINE INSPIRATION. We cannot
be strong by merely willing to be so. A wish will not convert the feeble
body of the invalid into the robust frame of a healthy man, nor will a wish
give to the weak soul fixity of character and energy of will. The body must
gain strength through nourishing diet, bracing air, exercise, etc. So spiritual
strength arises from FEEDING UPON CHRIST IN FAITH AND IN
ü There is might in Christ. He is the Lion of the house of
ü Christ puts forth that might. The strength is the might in exercise.
Christ’s great might is not a mere latent force. It flows out in energy.
ü This strength is ours BY OUR
in the Lord.” We must, therefore, BE IN CHRIST in order that we
may have this strength, and the more close our union to Christ
becomes the more vigorously shall we be supplied with
11 “Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the
wiles of the devil.” Put on the whole amour of God. Chained to a soldier, the
apostle’s mind would go forth naturally to the subject of amour and
warfare. Put on amour, for life is a battle-field; not a scene of soft
enjoyment and ease, but of hard conflict, with foes within and without; put
on the amour of God, provided by Him for your protection and for
aggression too, for it is good, well-adapted for your use, — God has
thought of you, and has sent His armor for you; put on the whole armor of
God, for each part of you needs to be protected, and you need suitable
weapons for assailing all your foes. That ye may be able to stand against
the wiles of the devil. Our chief enemy does not engage us in open
warfare, but deals in wiles and stratagems, which need to be watched
against and prepared for with peculiar care, “for we are not ignorant of
his devices.” (II Corinthians 2:11)
12 “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities,
against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against
spiritual wickedness in high places.” For we wrestle not against flesh and blood.
Our conflict is not with men, here denoted by “flesh and blood,” which is usually
a symbol of weakness, therefore denoting that our opponents are not weak mortals,
but powers of a far more formidable order. But against (the) principalities,
against (the) powers. The same words as in ch.1:21; therefore the definite
article is prefixed, as denoting what we are already familiar with: for though
all of these, evil as well as good, have been put under Christ the Head, they
have not been put under the members, but the evil among them are warring
against these members with all the greater ferocity since they cannot assail
THE HEAD! Against the rulers of the darkness of this world. (Compare
Ephesians 2:2). “World-rulers” denotes the extent of the dominion of these
invisible foes — the term is applied only to the rulers of the most widely
extended tracts; there is no part of the globe to which their influence does
not extend, and where their dark rule does not show itself (compare Luke 4:6).
“This darkness” expressively denotes the element and the results of their rule.
Observe contrast with Christ’s servants, who are children of light, equivalent
to order, knowledge, purity, joy, peace, etc.; while the element of the devil
and his servants is darkness, equivalent to confusion, ignorance, crime,
terror, strife, and all misery. Against spiritual wickedness in high
places. Who are these beings? We are not confronted with beings like
ourselves; it is not our own flesh and blood that we are pitted against,“But against
the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this
darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
To show the need for being properly armed, the apostle gives a bold description
of the foes with which we have to contend. As to their rank, they are powerful
chieftains (principalities and powers). As to their domain, it is “this darkness,”
WHICH IS WORLD-WIDE! As to their essence, they are not encumbered with
clay, but are spirits. As to their number, they are hosts, vast multitudes. As to their
character, they are wicked, their inveterate disposition is to seek to work our
ruin. As to their haunt, as it was before hinted at (rather than dogmatically taught)
as The Air, so here it is the heavenly or super-terrestrial places. The general effect
of the description is that, as men ourselves, we are unequally matched in
having to fight against superhuman powers. The natural meaning, though
questioned by some, is, either that these hosts of wickedness have their
residence in heavenly places, or, that these places are the scene of our
conflict with them. The latter seems more agreeable to the context, for
“in heavenly places” does not denote a geographical locality here any
more than in chps. 1:3 and 2:6, when it is said that “we have been seated
with Christ in heavenly places,” the allusion is to the spiritual experience of
His people; in spirit they are at the gate of heaven, where their hearts are full
of heavenly thoughts and feelings; the statement now before us is that,
even in such places, amid their most fervent experiences or their most
sublime services, they are subject to the attacks of the spirits of wickedness.
The Divine Panoply: Its Necessity and Design (vs. 11-12)
Christians have a spiritual warfare on earth (II Timothy 4:7). They have to fight for God
(I Samuel 25:28), for truth (Jude 1:3), and for themselves (Revelation 3:11).
· THE DIVINE ARMOR. It is so called because God provides each
individual part of it. It is armor for offence as well as defense — “forged
on no earthly anvil and tempered by no human skill.” The
— celibacy, poverty, obedience, asceticism — is for flight, not for conflict.
This Divine armor we are not required to provide, but merely to put on,
and its efficacy depends entirely upon the power of Him who made it.
· ITS PURPOSE. “That ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the
devil.” The grand enemy of the Church is the devil, a superhuman tempter
older than man. This language implies:
ü the personal existence of Satan;
ü his possession of immense resources of cunning and craft;
ü his power to inject evil into the minds of the saints;
ü his great end to destroy the souls of men and the whole moral order of
ü the possibility of resisting his wiles in the strength of the Divine armor,
· ITS NECESSITY. This Divine equipment is indispensable in view of
the serried (rows of people or things standing close together) ranks of evil
which are leagued against us under the leadership of Satan. Our conflict is
not with feeble man. It is with fallen spirits. The language of the apostle
ü that these spirits have a hierarchy of their own of different orders;
ü that their malignant activity is exercised in the world of men under a
reign of darkness;
ü that their moral character is wickedness;
ü and that, as Satan is the prince of the power of the air, they seem to
have their abode or the scene of their activity in the atmosphere that
surrounds our earth. (Compare the smoke associated with their release
in the end times – Revelation 9 – CY – 2019)
We need, therefore, to be strong and valiant in this warfare,
ü because we are fighting for our life;
ü because, though our enemies be strong, our Captain is stronger still;
ü because nothing but cowardice can lose the victory (James 4:7);
ü because, if we conquer, we shall ride triumphantly into heaven
(II Timothy 4:7- 8).
The Foe (v. 12)
The Christian life is a warfare. In order to wage this successfully we must understand
the nature of the foes we have to contend with, because the weapons and armor will
have to be selected according to the character of the attack that is made upon us.
· THE NATURE OF THE FOE.
ü Negatively considered.
Ø Not material. Imagination has given the tempter a material form, e.g. in
the legends of St. Anthony, because it is so much easier to grapple with the
most fearful enemy that can be seen and touched than with an invisible,
intangible foe. But our foe is not of flesh and blood. The subjugation of the
physical world is easy compared with the task of conquering this invisible
Ø Not human. It is hard enough to think of the obstructive and tempting
influence of bad men. But we have something worse to resist. We are
attacked by an unearthly army. The black tide of hellish sin surges against
the shores of our human world and bespatters us with its withering spray.
ü Positively considered.
Ø Spiritual. The fact that the word “immaterial” has come to mean
“unimportant,” is a striking proof of our earthly-mindedness. The
spiritual world is the most real world. These spiritual foes are the most
truly existing enemies we can ever meet. Our experience of them is in
spiritual attacks, i.e. in temptations.
Ø Dominant. They are “world-rulers,” they are in “heavenly” (or high)
places. When Paul wrote this Epistle evil was uppermost in the world.
Is it not also supreme in many regions now? (satanism, drugs,
pornography, deviant sex, etc. CY – 2019) We have to oust the forces
that hold the field and to storm the citadel.
· THE CHARACTER OF THE WARFARE, Mediaeval armor is useless
before rifle-bullets. Old castle walls are no protection against modern
artillery. Nor will modern cannon drive back noxious gases. Sennacherib’s
hosts were powerless before that invisible angel of God, the pestilence.
(II Kings 19:35) So the foe in the Christian warfare determines the character
of the armor and weapons and the tactics to be pursued.
Ø Physical force will not serve us. Samson’s strength is of no avail
against temptation. Money, material resources, scientific skill, are
useless. This is the age of steam, steel, and electricity (solar and nuclear
power, age of computers, etc. – CY – 2019). But such things give us no
help in subduing greed, lust, and SELF-WILL!
Ø Human influence is vain. Arguments, threats, and promises; influences
of authority and of sympathy; appeals to the reason, the feelings, and the
conscience; these methods that affect our fellow-men do not touch the
awful foes we have to contend against. (Some of them seem to be
living in human bodies today! CY - 2019)