Useful Bible Studies > Ephesians Commentary > chapter 6

Advice to Christians who owned slaves

Ephesians 6:9

Christians have long argued for the freedom of slaves. So it may surprise us to see Paul’s advice to those Christians who owned slaves. On this occasion, Paul does not tell them to free their slaves (compare Philemon 15-16). Instead, he urges them to look after their slaves in a right and proper manner. He reminds the masters that they are personally responsible to God in this matter.

The explanation of Paul’s words is that he was not trying to argue a political argument. The gospel (the message about Christ) is not politics. Rather, the gospel is God’s message, and he does not permit us to change it (Galatians 1:6-9). The gospel is that all people, including both slaves and their masters, have done wrong and evil things against God’s law (Romans 3:23). However, God will forgive all people who turn from their evil deeds to put their trust in Christ (Acts 3:19).

God does give to some people the special work to argue for the rights of slaves. It is untrue to say that it is impossible for a Christian to have slaves. However, it is extremely difficult to do that in a way that pleases God.

Paul urges the masters to study the same advice that he has given to their slaves (6:5-8). They - the masters - are responsible to God in the same way that their slaves are responsible to them. The masters must not imagine that their wealth or their importance will impress God. God knows the true attitudes of their hearts. So, the masters must direct their workers in a humble, careful and sincere manner. They must not allow themselves to become proud. They must not try to control their workers by cruelty.

Next part: Our power to live as Christians must come from God (Ephesians 6:10)


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