Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eye-service, as men pleasers; but in singleness of heart…
The apostle enters into fuller detail in his injunctions to servants, because his intercourse with Onesimus, a Colossian slave now returning to his master Philemon in a new character, had turned his thoughts to the condition and difficulties of the whole class of dependants. His injunctions to them imply that they had a right to be instructed out of the Word, and that if men have less consideration for their interests, the Lord redoubles his concern for them. There was a danger that slaves in the Roman empire might repudiate their relation to their masters, and accordingly the apostle enjoins the duty of obedience to masters, while he announces principles destined ultimately to destroy the unnatural relation.
I. THE FAULTS OF SERVANTS. He specifies five of them.
1. Eye service. There was a temptation to this fault where the master's authority was regarded as unjust and cruel.
2. Hypocritical service, arising out of a divided interest and the absence of singleness of heart.
3. Half service. Servants might not please their masters "in all things," but in such things as pleased themselves.
4. Godlessness. They chose to please men rather than the Divine Master.
5. A base and discouraged spirit, which was to be banished by prospects of heavenly reward.
II. THE DUTIES OF SERVANTS. These are all summed up in the one word "obedience." But this obedience must be becomingly rendered in several important respects.
1. "Not with eye service, as men pleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God."
(1) Eye service is designed to please man. Work will be done only so long as the master's eye is on the servant. There is no thought of pleasing aught but man.
(2) There must be singleness of heart, that is, simplicity and sincerity of spirit, that will lead to an undivided devotion to work, arising from "the fear of God," because they realize that the eye of the Divine Master is ever upon them. Dissimulation, duplicity, pretence, deceit, must be far from Christian servants.
2. It must be hearty service. "And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not to men." Servants, in obeying their masters, serve the Lord. They do the will of God from the heart, not grudgingly or murmuringly, but with a truly hearty obedience.
3. It must be obedience "in all things;" that is, in all things lawful. Bat servants must consider the master's commands as well as his interests, and seek to obey them in everything, however irksome or humiliating.
III. THE ENCOURAGEMENTS OF SERVANTS. "Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ."
1. It is an encouragement for them to know that masters are only "according to the flesh." This limits human slavery. The master cannot touch the soul, which is the temple of the Holy Ghost (1 Corinthians 3:16), for the slave is "Christ's freeman" (1 Corinthians 7:22).
2. There is a reward for true obedience as well as a compensation for wrongs endured.
(1) Servants ought to know of their blessed prospects.
(2) Their works will be surely rewarded, reckoned, no doubt, of grace, not of debt. They shall receive "the reward of the inheritance," the heavenly glory, by the Father's bequest. God will be their Paymaster if they are wronged or defrauded by man. Therefore they have strong encouragement to give just obedience to man.
3. There is a retribution on unjust or tyrannical masters for the wrongs they have done to their servants. "But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons." Some think this refers to dishonest servants, or to both servants and masters who may have failed in their duty to each other. It is more natural to regard it as referring to the case of masters, for the passage is designed to encourage servants suffering injustice with the prospect of a day of judgment for those who wronged them. God is "no respecter of persons." Man may make a difference. God finds the claim of the slave as valid as the claim of the master. - T. C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: