Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eye-service, as men pleasers; but in singleness of heart…
I. A PRECEPT OF OBEDIENCE.
1. The occasion of this precept seems to spring from the circumstance that converted servants thought themselves exempt from servitude. The error had some colour. If masters embraced Christianity with their slaves it seemed unjust to hold them in bondage; and if masters still adhered to paganism, what right had they, the servants of Satan, over those who were now Christ's free men?
2. The precept involves —
(1) Humility in receiving the commands of another.
(2) Alacrity in executing them.
(3) Universality "in all things" lawful and honest.He that is lord of the flesh must not command contrary to the Lord of the Spirit (Matthew 10:28).
(1) Christianity does not subvert political order, such as depriving heathen masters of their legitimate authority over Christian servants. Therefore those err who think all authority to be opposed to evangelical liberty, and papists who have it that the authority of a king over subjects is dissolved by heresy.
(2) Christianity frees from the yoke of human servitude that which is the best and most excellent thing in man, viz., the spirit and conscience (Galatians 5:1). They therefore err who would rule the consciences of men either by ecclesiastical or physical force.
(3) Christians ought to obey even the unjust commands of their masters (1 Peter 2:18).
II. THE MANNER OF OBEYING.
(1) Not with eyeservice — a disease familiar to servants — obedience under the eye (Luke 12:45).
(2) As men-pleasers — the cause of the disease. As comedians who act in order to please that they may obtain benefit do not mount the stage unless people are looking on, so men-pleasers move not a hand unless their masters are there to behold and applaud.
2. Positively. The remedies for the disease.
(1) Singleness of heart, which is opposed to deceitful eye-service. He who serves his master to the eye seems to have two hearts; one dutiful, which excites to obedience in the master's presence; the other undutiful, which impels to idleness in the master's absence. But he who obeys with singleness of heart has one heart alone and ever the same, which moves to duty irrespective of his master's presence or absence.
(2) Fearing God. As the study of deceitful pleasing can produce nothing but eye-service, so the fear of God produces simplicity and sincerity. He who fears man alone will be changeable, inasmuch as it is excited by presence and allayed by absence; but the fear of God is constant because He is always present.
(3) From the heart.
(a) Not compulsorily and unwillingly. We do anything heartily when the mind rejoices in what the hand does. On the contrary, when the mind murmurs, although the outward act rosy be performed, yet it is done from the body rather than from the mind.
(b) Benevolence of spirit towards the commander of the work (Ephesians 6:7). No one obeys better than he who renders obedience from love.
(4) As to the Lord. As those who serve the Lord more especially than men. Because —
(a) They who obey are more servants of Christ than of earthly masters. Earthly masters buy their servants' bodies with silver and gold; Christ redeems both soul and body with His blood for perpetual liberty.
(b) They obey earthly masters only at the appointment of Christ, and Him through them His stewards.
(c) Christ commands them to obey their masters.
III. INCENTIVES TO OBEDIENCE.
1. The promise.
(1) The Bestower of the reward. The apostle rightly would have those servants expect a reward from Christ. For earthly masters give food and clothing to slaves as due in common with beasts. They are consoled, therefore, by the fact that they have a heavenly Master who will not suffer them to be destitute of a reward.
(2) The quality of the reward. "Reward" and "inheritance" seem incongruous; the first being paid to labourers, the latter given to children. The celestial reward is called hire or wages, not because merited, but because of the resemblance in some sense between the two.
(a) As hire is only given to workmen, so the heavenly kingdom is not given to the indolent.
(b) As hire is not given until work is finished, so heaven is not bestowed until life is ended.But the heavenly reward is unlike hire —
(a) in that it is given, not according to the merit of the workman, but from the grace and liberality of the bestower (Luke 17:10);
(b) in that it is not proportioned to labours bestowed, for finite has no proportion to infinite.
2. The confirmation of the promise, "Ye serve the Lord Christ" (Matthew 25:40-45). All works of obedience are rendered to Christ because commanded by Him.
(1) No service is dishonourable since all is rendered to Christ.
(2) No honour screens a wicked man from disgrace since he serves an infamous master.
(3) They who, being placed under the rule of others, are unwilling to serve, are rebels against Christ (1 Samuel 8:7).
(4) We ought not to obey any who is opposed to the will of Christ.
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: