Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, … And you, masters, … giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.
As we have been studying the household table of Ephesians 5:22-6:9, we have been surprised as Paul has addressed not only wives, but children. It is perhaps most surprising of all, that he would address slaves. This is proof that slaves were part of the Christian community. Slavery, with all its attendant evil, was universally accepted in ancient times – it was considered an indispensable aspect of civilized society. But rather than dealing with the evil of the institution of slavery, Paul’s instruction gets to the heart of slaves and their earthly masters.
Read Ephesians 6:5-9 – take note of the Christ-centeredness of the instruction. With a changed heart, the slave is liberated from “men-pleasing,” in order to serve Christ Himself! His mundane tasks are raised to the level of God’s will and the good pleasure and glory of Christ. And then likewise, the earthly masters, without suggesting any privileged superiority, are admonished to know that Christ is ultimately the Master of both slave and slave-owner, and there is no partiality with Him. Rich slave-owners who were used to being puffed up and flattered receive no such accolades from the Lord Jesus Christ! And instead of suppressing and using slaves for their own end, masters are admonished to develop relationships with their slaves.
Study this passage along with Col 3:22-4:1, 1 Pet 3:18-25 and the book of Philemon (especially vs. 16) to discover God’s heart toward slaves. The abolition of all slavery is, of course, God’s perfect desire for all nations; however due to the hardness of men’s hearts, slavery still exists even to this day. And Christians of all social classes from every tribe, tongue and nation, Jew and Gentile, slave and free, are to live together under Christ; slaves, with a sense of dignity in their work and comfort in their affliction; and masters loving their slaves, treating them with kindness.