Colossians 3:22-4:1 by Robert Dean
Pastor Dean encourages us to listen to the excellent presentations from the recent Pre-Trib Conference where the core doctrine presented is the rejection of the sufficiency of Scripture.

In his address to masters and slaves, Paul is not making a statement about social change. Neither is he endorsing or rejecting slavery. Change is brought about by the application of Christian principles, and the universal principle here is; whatever you do, do it heartily as unto the Lord and not to men. Paul uses reward and repayment as legitimate motivation, not necessarily reward in time, but the reward of inheritance. Orientation to authority, accountability, obedience and humility of master and servant is a function of shedding the self absorption of the flesh and focusing on the pattern of service of Jesus Christ, the ultimate authority, in the same manner He subjected Himself to the authority of the Father when, as a man on this earth, he suffered injustice beyond any we will ever encounter.

Christian Work Ethic
Colossians 3:22–4:1
Colossians Lesson #83
December 9, 2012

In this section we are shifting to the relationship between the master and the servant. The term doulos [douloj] is often watered down in our anti-slavery post-19th century mentality, but it had as its primary meaning in the Roman empire, "slave," and all the negatives that were involved with that. We often soften that today because of our historic position of anti-slavery and because there is not as much slavery around, and we want to use words like "servant." Servant is a role that is voluntary but a doulos was a slave, an involuntary relationship. Often, if not frequently, the master did not have the best interests of the slave at heart when he governed a slave's life and he did things for whatever was in the master's best interest. The slave on the other hand may be doing that is what is best for him and so there would be a conflict set up, just as there are conflicts in any other human relationship. It always boils down to what one person wants for himself versus what the other person wants for themselves. Extended conflict always boils down to arrogance and self-absorption. 

Colossians 3:22 NASB "Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who {merely} please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. [23] Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, [24] knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. [25] For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality. [4:1] Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven."

The parallel passage in Ephesians is very similar. Ephesians 6:5 NASB "Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; [6] not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart." The point here is, slaves obey your masters because you are a slave to Christ; He is the one you are rally serving. The human master is only the mediate or intermediate position. You are really serving Christ, it doesn't matter who the physical master is, good or bad. The issue is, whatever your position you are ultimately serving Christ. That is the framework for our mentality. That is not any different from what Paul has said as he has addressed children's obedience to parents or wives obedience to husbands, it always comes back to the fact that all authority relationships are ultimately a reflection of our understanding of our position in relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 6:7 NASB "With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, [8] knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free. [9] And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him."

We should notice there is a gnomic or universal principle stated in Colossians 3:23, 24. This is a universal principle that applies to anything in life but Paul is taking it and applying it specifically to that relationship of the employee to the employer or the slave to the master. Whatever it involves, anything that you are doing for your master—whether it is drudgery, something you dislike doing, or whatever it is—do it heartily as to the Lord and not to men. 

It is interesting how Paul introduces reward in verse 24 and payment in verse 25: "For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality." He will be repaid. This is language that is used in labor related language, payment for a task that has been performed. But the reward, the payment, is not in time but in eternity. So we are not doing this for immediate gratification but recognizing that eventually, even if the circumstances involve injustice, there will be a setting of things right eventually at the judgment seat of Christ.

Notice the translation at the end of verse 24, NKJV: "for you serve the Lord Christ." There is no "for" in the Greek. In fact, it is translated by the NKJV and NASB and probably other translations as if that verb "serve" is an indicative mood, "which is you serve the Lord." Actually, it is an imperative. It is a concluding statement and the sentence stops, "knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance, serve the Lord Christ." That is the idea: in whatever position we are in. This applies in immediate context to the master-slave relationship, but even though that is involuntary the principle here is also applied to the voluntary relationship that we have in our work, and all of us work for somebody. This is emphasizing that the ultimate authority we are all accountable to is the Lord Jesus Christ.

This first verse is addressed to the slaves. Colossians 3:22 NASB "Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who {merely} please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord." It is highly significant that Paul addresses slaves because in Greco-Roman culture slaves were nonentities. Nobody would address a slave. This shows a radical departure from the cultural norm. Paul is not writing this because he is influenced by cultural ideas. He turns around and gives commands to husbands as well, and women were almost as much a nonentity in Greco-Romans culture as slaves were. The fact that Paul addresses them shows that he is elevating them to the same status of significance as masters and as husbands, and that is revolutionary. He is addressing slaves here and treats them as responsible people; they have volition. And in their position, even though they may not be free to leave, they are free to choose how they will function and what their mental attitude will be as a slave. No matter how bad the circumstances will be their mental attitude as a Christian slave is not to be determined by the negatives of their circumstances and their environment. If they are where they are God has placed them there, and they are there to serve Jesus Christ in that environment.

Paul addresses both the slaves and the masters. In addressing the slaves he is not endorsing the institution of slavery. The institution of slavery as it was outlined in the Mosaic Law is more akin to what we would call indentured servitude. This is neither and endorsement nor an approval nor rejection of slavery. It is important that he doesn't address that, and that is not because as Christians it shouldn't be addressed but it shows that as an apostle he has a mission and he is not to address social change. That is not the primary mission of Christianity. But when Christian principles are applied it will result in social change. That is what happened when Christian principles were applied to the institution of slavery in the early 19th century under the leadership of men like William Wilberforce and Granville Sharp. As they applied Christian principles to the institution of slavery it led to the outlawing of the international slave trade and to eventually ending slavery in both England and the United States. We should note that it was Christianity and only Christianity that led to the end of slavery.

The word for "obey" means to listen, to put into practice something; and the command is to "obey in all things." Everything? If we study the context of Scripture it does not mean that you will obey your master or anyone in authority who tells you to do something that is contrary to the direct command of God. If God directly tells us to do something in the Scripture—not something you think you should do, not an application of a principle, but a direct prohibition or mandate in Scripture—then if somebody in authority tells you to violate that we are to follow the principle of Peter and John in Acts 5:29 and we obey God rather than man. Other than that we are to obey our masters.

"not with external service" – don't just do it so it looks right. A lot of people who when they are being observed perform well but when the supervisor is out of the way they go back to their slovenly ways. "… as those who {merely} please men, but with sincerity of heart there fearing the Lord." The participle there, "fearing the Lord" is a participle of result. It is really tied to "obey"—obey as a result of fearing God. Obedience to the authority in our life, whatever that authority is, is a result of our respect and our fear of the Lord. The word translated "obey" is the same word used in Philippians 2:8 talking about the Lord Jesus Christ and the incarnation: "Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."

Our level of obedience to authority is directly related to our humility. Humility is the opposite of arrogance. If we are arrogant and self-absorbed and we are focusing on what we think is best and what we think is right then we can't be humble. We are going to be reactionary and disobedient. The Lord Jesus Christ modeled this for us, and that is important because no one suffered a greater injustice than the Lord Jesus Christ. Many of us focus on what we think are injustices—I've been mistreated, my boss doesn't understand me, this company doesn't take care of its workers, or whatever the circumstance is. It is irrelevant in terms of its seriousness when we compare it to the true injustice of the capital punishment on the Lord Jesus Christ when He was without sin. And yet He humbled Himself. He didn't make an issue out of His innocence. He humbled Himself to the plan of God and became obedient unto death. 

Hebrews 5:8 NASB "Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered." We go through injustice so we can learn to be obedient to the authorities around us—from God to the human authorities. 

1 Peter 2:18 NASB "Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. [19] For this {finds} favor [is commendable], if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. [20] For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer {for it} you patiently endure it, this {finds} favor with God." Then he compares that to Christ. [21] "For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps." So Christ is the pattern for Peter, just as He is for Paul.

Colossians 3:22 – "with sincerity of heart." The idiom means "with integrity." Where you have integrity is even when nobody is looking you are giving it the best you can give. Verse 23, the word "heartily" means from the soul. It comes from who you are, from your character, from your focus upon the Lord; "as from the Lord and not to men." It doesn't matter what people think, it matters what the Lord thinks and He has a higher standard than most of the people we know.

Colossians 3:24 NASB "knowing …" a causal participle, it should be translated "because you know something." We know "that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance." In other words, if you are walking by the Spirit and you are doing well, even if it is overlooked, then that accrues to gold, silver and precious stones in our inheritance at the judgment seat of Christ. Why? Because in our job we are serving the Lord. [25] "For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality."

Colossians 4:1 NASB "Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven." "Fair" is not a good word, it is a term that means too many different things to too many different people. The two Greek words that are used here are the word "just," which means that which conforms to a righteous standard, an absolute standard, and the word translated "fair" has to do with equality, so that all the slaves are treated the same way according to the same standard. There is a consistency towards each and every one.

The principle that we see in this entire study is that in our life as Christians we serve the Lord. If you are a wife, you are to submit to your husband—not because he is a great guy but because you are serving the Lord. Husbands, you love your wife. But the pattern isn't because she is so adorable it is because of the pattern of the Lord Jesus Christ. He loved us even when we were obnoxious to Him. Children are to obey their parents because it is right, and fathers are not to provoke their children to anger, they are to raise them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Bondservants; same principle. Obey your earthly master because you are really serving the Lord.

At the core of all these mandates is our relationship to God. If we don't understand and properly function within the realm of authority, especially when it runs against what we want, it says something not too good about how well we are obedient to the Lord; there is a direct correlation. And the pattern is always based on our submission to the authority of God. And why is that important? Because that is the core issue in the angelic conflict.