Colossians 3:22
Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything, not only to please them while they are watching, but with sincerity of heart and fear of the Lord.
Servants and MastersW.F. Adneney Colossians 3:22-4:1
Servants and Their MastersE.S. Prout Colossians 3:22-4:1
Faithfulness in WorkH. D. Machay.Colossians 3:22-25
Loving Service is True ServiceC. H. Spurgeon.Colossians 3:22-25
Religious Regulations for Master and ServantU.R. Thomas Colossians 3:22-25
Servants and MastersBishop Davenant.Colossians 3:22-25
The Duties of ServantsG. Barlow.Colossians 3:22-25
The Duties of ServantsT. Croskery Colossians 3:22-25

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.

Servants, obey in all things your masters.

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).

3. Instructions.(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).


1. Negatively.(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.


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.

3. Corollaries.(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.

(Bishop Davenant.)

I. THE DUTY OF A SERVANT IS TO OBEY HIS MASTER IN ALL THINGS RELATING TO HIS STATE OF SERVITUDE. There is nothing degrading in service. It is the employment of angels, and is ennobled by the example of Christ. To obey in all things is not pleasant or easy; but the Christian servant will strive to accomplish the task. He consults not his own but his master's will, nay, time. But his employer is only according to the flesh, and has no power over the spirit; nor is he to command anything forbidden by God.


1. Free from duplicity. From the treatment he received the slave was tempted to be diligent in the presence of his master, but indolent and reckless in his absence. Christianity has elevated man from slavery, and provided him with the highest motives to moral action.

2. It is to be done in the fear of God. "Fearing God" — the one Lord as contrasted with the master according to the flesh. The Christian servant has a conscience to satisfy. The fear of the Lord is the holiest motive power in all acceptable service. He who serves man as he seeks to serve God will take care that the Divine and human interests do not collide.


1. In every duty God is to be recognized. "And whatsoever ye do, do it as to the Lord, and not unto men." This will give a moral dignity to the most menial employment, and exalt the common drudgery of toil into a means of religious refreshment.

2. In every duty the best powers should be exercised. "Do it heartily." If the heart be engaged, it will put into operation the best powers of the whole man. No work is well done when the heart is not in it.


V. EVERY ACT OF INJUSTICE WILL MEET WITH IMPARTIAL RETRIBUTION (ver. 25). Some regard the wrong-doer referred to in this verse as the servant who defrauds the master of his service; others, as the master who defrauds the servant of his just recompense. But the words announce a general principle which is equally applicable to both. The philosophers of Greece taught, and the laws of Rome assumed, that the slave was a chattel, and that as a chattel, he had no rights. The New Testament shows that between both there is a reciprocity of duties and of penalties. The injustice done in the world, whether by master or by servant, shall be impartially redressed, and the injured one vindicated at the day of final retribution.

(G. Barlow.)

To lead a discouraged people to the Holy War is as difficult as for Xerxes' commanders to conduct the Persian troops to battle against the Greeks, The vassals of the great king were driven to the conflict by whips and sticks, for they were afraid to fight: do you wonder that they were defeated? A Church that needs constant exhorting and compelling accomplishes nothing. The Greeks had no need of blows and threats, for each man was a lion, and courted the encounter, however great the odds against him. Each Spartan fought con amore; he was never more at home than when contending for the altars and for the hearths of his country. We want Christian men of this same sort, who have faith in their principles, faith in the doctrines of grace, faith in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost; and who therefore contend earnestly for the faith in these days when piety is mocked at from the pulpit, and the gospel is sneered at by professional preachers. We need men who love the truth, to whom it is dear as their lives; men into whose hearts the old doctrine is burned by the hand c,f God's Spirit through a deep experience of its necessity and of its power. We need no more of those who will parrot what they are taught, but we want men who will speak what they know. Oh, for a troop of men like John Knox, heroes of the martyr and covenanter stock! Then would Jehovah of hosts have a people to serve Him who would be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

A carpenter was once asked why he troubled to finish off a magistrate's bench so carefully? His reply was, "I can't do otherwise; besides, I may have to sit on it One of these days."

(H. D. Machay.)

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