1 Timothy 6:1
Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor…
The apostle next proceeds to deal with the distinctions of civil duty, and takes up the case of a very numerous But miserable class which appears to have been largely attracted to the gospel in primitive times.
I. THE HONOR DUE TO PAGAN MASTERS. "Whoever are under the yoke as bondservants, let them reckon their own masters worthy of all honor."
1. The condition of the slaves was one of much hardship. There was practically no limit to the power of the masters over the slaves. They might be gentle and just, or capricious and cruel. The slaves had no remedy at law against harsh treatment, as they had no hope of escape from bondage.
2. Yet their liberty had not been so restricted that they had not the opportunity of hearing the gospel. There were Christian slaves. Their hard life was ameliorated, not merely by the blessed hopes of the gospel, but by the privilege of spiritual equality with their masters which was one of its distinguishing glories.
3. The gospel did not interfere with the duty of obedience which they owed to their masters. They were to give them all honor - not merely outward subjection, but inward respect. Christianity did not undertake to overturn social relations. If it had done so, it would have been revolutionary in the last degree; it would have armed the whole forces of the Roman empire against it; it would itself have been drowned in blood; and it would have led to the merciless slaughter of the slaves themselves. Yet Christianity prepared the way from the very first for the complete abolition of slavery. The fact that with the great Master in heaven "there was no respect of persons," and that "in Jesus Christ there was neither bond nor free, but all were one in Christ," would not justify the slaves in repudiating their present subjection, while it held out the hope of their eventual emancipation. They must not, therefore, abuse their liberty under the gospel.
4. Yet there was a limit to the slave's obedience. He could only obey his master so far as was consistent with the laws of God and his gospel, consenting to suffer rather than outrage his conscience. Cases of this sort might arise, but they would not prejudice the gospel, like a simple revolt against existing relationships.
II. THE REASON FOR THE DUE HONOR GIVEN TO THEIR PAGAN MASTERS. "That the Name of God and his doctrine may not be blasphemed."
1. There would be a serious danger of such a result if slaves were either to withhold due service to their masters or to repudiate all subjection. God and his doctrine would be dishonored in the eyes of their masters, because they would be regarded as sanctioning insubordination. Thus a deep and widespread prejudice would arise to prevent the gospel reaching their pagan masters.
2. It is thus possible for the meanest members of the Church to do honor to God and the gospel. The apostle contemplates their adorning "of the doctrine of God our Savior in all things" (Titus 2:10).
3. The same considerations apply to the case of domestic servants in our own day. The term translated here "slaves" is used with some latitude in the Scripture. It applies sometimes to persons entirely free, as to David in relation to Saul (1 Samuel 19:4), to Christians generally (Romans 6:16; 1 Peter 2:16), to apostles, prophets, and ministers (Galatians 1:10; 2 Timothy 2:24), and to the higher class of dependents (Matthew 18:23; Matthew 21:340. Thus the term implies a relation of dependence without legal compulsion. Christian servants must yield a willing and cheerful service that they may thus honor the gospel. - T.C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed.