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Read Introduction to Ephesians

5 Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ;

Up to this point the Holy Spirit has addressed two groups: (1) husbands and wives and (2) parents and children. Now he introduces a third group (masters and slaves). Verses five to eight show the role of slaves and verse nine the role of masters to their slaves.

Verses five through eight give seven characteristics that a slave was to have toward his human master:

He was to respect his master, v. 5

He was to approach his master with deference, v. 5

He was not to be duplicitous with his master, v. 5

His service was to be unto the Lord, v. 5

His service was to be consistent, v. 6

His motives were to be right, v. 6

His attitude was to be one of good will toward his master, v. 7


Paul now turned to the role of slaves to their masters. Slavery was a predominant social institution in the first century (with its sixty million slaves). Its abuse by masters was rampant. They bought and sold slaves as though shopping in a department store. Slaves were used like animals. However, Christianity introduced the idea that masters and slaves were equals in God’s eyes (6:8,9). This was revolutionary to Roman society.

be obedient to those who are your masters

God’s purpose is not to change the social institutions of society but to change people in those societies. Neither the Old or New Testaments condemns slavery. They both qualify the treatment of slaves. Restructuring social institutions never changes the ultimate problems in society, because corrupt men lead those institutions. Regenerate people will justly relate to others no matter the system.

according to the flesh,

“Masters according to the flesh” refers to human masters. Slaves were to be true to their human master’s authority as well as their sovereign Master.

with fear [respect] and trembling,

There are two attitudes to have toward our employment: (1) fear and (2) trembling. “Fear” means to respect the human master by doing what is expected well. This is not a cringing fright but an honor of the employer. “Trembling” is fear by the slave of displeasing his master. This speaks of someone who distrusts himself to meet the requirements of what he does. He wants to stay on top of his employment with a sense of loyalty and deference to his master (1 Ti 6:1-2).


A major place for our testimony is our employment.


Evangelicals today put great hope in political solutions but the issue is not a political system. The problem is the heart of man. He needs a new heart. He must be regenerated to be different. No political, social, or economic solution can resolve a spiritual problem.

A Christian should set high standards for his employment. Regardless of what kind of boss he may have, he represents Jesus Christ in everything he does. He should be more productive than non-Christians around him. Insubordination is not biblical.