The Affections of the Christians Set on Things Above. Col 3:1-4.
V.1. If ye, then, be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. V.2. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. V.3. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. V.4. When Christ, who is our Life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory.
As the Bible-student will note, the similarity between Colossians and Ephesians is everywhere apparent, but nowhere more pronounced than in this chapter. The apostle here holds out before the Christians the highest inducement that he could possibly bring: If, then (as is the case), you were raised with Christ, seek those things that are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. That we Christians have been raised with Christ, that we have risen together with Him, that we have been made partakers of His resurrection and its blessings in our conversion, that is the principal and most profound basis of all our Christian life.
“For, as St. Paul here says, the excellent work and supreme treasure of the resurrection of Christ shall not be a useless, inefficient, and powerless talk or thought, as a dead picture hewn in stone or painted on paper, but a power and might of a kind to work a resurrection also in us through faith; which he calls ‘rising with Christ,’ that is, to be dead to sins, to be torn out of the power of death and hell, and to have comfort and life in Christ.” 5) Luther, 12, 513
Having become partakers of Christ’s life, of the fruits of His resurrection, having entered into the most intimate fellowship with Him, it follows that we will have only one thing in mind, that we will set our thoughts upon the things that are above. Christians will at all times strive after the possession of the invisible, eternal, holy, heavenly world of God, on the eternal blessings which the exalted Christ has prepared for them in the mansions above. They will heed the admonition: Set your mind on the things above, not on those on the earth. All our thinking, all our desiring, all our loving should be directed heavenward. The transitory things of this world should engage our attention only inasmuch as we are stewards of the gifts of God for the space of this short life. But Christians cannot set their affections upon the treasures, upon the joys, upon the honors of this world. The things of this world are at best only a means to an end, namely, to support this earthly, physical life, to enable us to perform the work which was given us by the Lord to perform. In the right use of the earthly things entrusted to us, we really mind and seek heavenly things; with their attainment our hearts are engrossed.
Paul substantiates his admonition: For you died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When the Lord converted us through the power of His Word, He gave us complete fellowship with Christ. So we Christians died to the world and to earthly, transitory things; we renounced the devil and all his works and all his pomp. At the same time we entered into the communion of Christ’s wonderful life. We now enjoy the mysterious union with Christ which is concealed with Him in God. This life, which belongs to the depth of our inward experiences, may be foolishness in the eyes of the foolish children of this world, but to us Christians it is a divine conviction, a certain experience. At the same time, by our union with Christ, we are united in fellowship with God the Father Himself. The apostle thus has the strongest reason for speaking so emphatically.
“To such earthly behavior, he means to say, after which the heathen and unbelievers seek that put the Word of God out of their mind entirely and permit themselves to be led and driven by the devil, you must be dead, proving thereby that the resurrection of Christ in you is not vain words, but living power, which also give evidence in you that you also have risen and now live differently than before, namely, according to God’s will and Word; which is called a divine, heavenly life.” 6) Luther, 12, 516.
Eventually this life will no longer be hidden: When Christ shall appear, who is your Life, then you also with Him will be manifested in glory. Christ, our Savior, is our Life; He is at the same time both Possessor and Source of all true life, spiritual and eternal. The life of our Redeemer is our life, it was transmitted to us by His gracious power; He Himself is the essence of our life, all the manifestations of spiritual life in us are due to His life in us. Cp. Rom 6:10-11; Gal 2:19.-20. Christ will be manifested on the great day of His judgment, He will appear before all the world in the majesty of His glory. And then the days of humility will be past, then the time of the hidden life will be ended, then we Christians shall also be manifested with Him in glory, to the astonishment of the unbelievers, that considered us more or less harmless or harmful fools with our belief in the risen Christ; we shall be taken out of our disgrace and obscurity to become partakers of His eternal state of blessedness.
Putting Off the Old Man and Putting On the New. Col 3:5-11.
V.5. Mortify, therefore, your members which are upon the earth: fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry; v.6. for which things sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience; v.7. in the which ye also walked some time when ye lived in them. V.8. But now ye also put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. V.9. Lie not one to an other, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds, v.10. and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him; v.11. where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free; but Christ is all and in all.
The apostle here shows how the life of the believers in and with Christ should be manifested: Put to death, therefore, your members that are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, lustfulness, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
The apostle here speaks of the members of the body in its unregenerate state as servants and instruments of sin, bidding the Christians to put them to death in that capacity, by a single decisive act to terminate their functions in this respect. Cp. Rom 6:13.
Among the sins that are performed by the members of the body the apostle mentions especially such as were prevalent among the heathen in those days, sexual vices: fornication, when people that are not husband and wife cohabit as husband and wife; uncleanness, impurity, the being addicted to erotic thoughts and acts in one’s own mind and body; lustfulness, to desire the gratification of sexual desire outside of holy wedlock; evil lust, out of which all the other sins against the Sixth Commandment flow.
With these sins was often associated that of covetousness, of devising ways and means for indulging in lustful passions. Monsters of covetousness have usually been also monsters of lust. But covetousness, which kills brotherly love and hardens the heart against the gentle working of God’s Holy Spirit, is, as St. Paul specifically states, idolatry, a gross transgression of the First Commandment, Matt 6:24.
Faith cannot live in a heart which is devoted to Mammon, 1 Tim 6:9-10. And the end is: On account of which things comes the wrath of God on the children of disobedience. All these things, all the sins which the apostle has mentioned, are under God’s judgment of condemnation; His righteousness and holiness demands the punishment of the transgressor by death, eternal death. There is, therefore, an alternative held before the Colossians: Either put to death the members that perform such deeds, or suffer eternal punishment on account of your transgressions. All the children of disobedience that refuse to heed the gentle call, the warning admonition of the Lord, are under the wrath of God, which will eventually overtake and condemn them.
The apostle now places the Colossian Christians in direct contrast to the children of unbelief and disobedience: in which also you formerly led your lives when you lived in these. The moral conduct of all men by nature is subject to the censure and condemnation of God. The Colossian Christians also, before their conversion, had been habitual transgressors with reference to the one or the other, or to all the vices named above. They had been living in these vices; they represented the sphere of their conduct, the state in which any one could find them. Cp. Rom 7:5; Eph 2:2.
The contrast between the converted and unconverted state is stressed still more: But now do you also put away all of them: anger, rage, malignity, slander, abusive speech out of your mouth. The life of heathendom, of disobedience and unbelief, lies behind the Colossian Christians, and yet the apostle addresses this urgent admonition to them, since by reason of the Christian’s evil nature the tendency, the proclivity, toward all these sins is found also in their hearts.
A Christian’s entire life is a battle against the efforts of the old Adam to regain supremacy in his heart. Only a few of the most flagrant offenses are named: anger, the settled, continued condition of extreme displeasure against one’s neighbor, which is so apt to culminate in hatred; indignation or rage, the sudden and passionate outburst which, in a way, is worse than s low anger, since the enraged person loses all control over himself; malignity, the feeling which causes a person to make a habit of injuring his neighbor; slander, by which the neighbor’s good name is dragged into the mire; abusive talk and language which reveal the malice of the heart.
Even as the finest garden will be ruined quickly if the weeds are permitted to gain a foothold, so the Christian community life, in home and congregation, will soon be utterly spoiled if these sins gain a foothold.
And one more sin the apostle adds to the transgressions of the mouth which he has enumerated: Lie not to one another. For Christians to belie one another, deliberately to pervert the truth in order to work harm to their neighbor, is the very opposite of their calling, it cannot be reconciled with the life in and with Christ of which they have become partakers. To lie is characteristic of the devil’s domain, John 8:44.
The apostle now brings the motive for proper Christian conduct from another point of view: Seeing you have put off the old man with his practices, and have put on the new man that is being renewed toward knowledge, according to the image of Him that created him. When they were converted, the Christians put off the old man, the old sinful nature, like an old, filthy garment.
This putting off, this laying aside, included also that of the evil deeds and practices in which the old evil nature of man delights, the denying of the flesh with all its affections and lusts. Cp. Rom 8:13; Gal 5:24. This was a single process, it took place in regeneration; but it is also a continued process, for the evil thoughts and desires in the heart, murders, adulteries, fornications, false witness, blasphemies, are always seeking to overcome the resistance of the Christian and to plunge him again into the filth of the children of disobedience.
The believer, therefore, will at the same time put on the new man, the nature which is created by God, a product of His grace, consisting in righteousness and holiness in truth, Eph 4:24.
This new man, this new, spiritual nature of the Christian, is continually being renewed. So long as we live in the flesh, so long must this process go on without ceasing; we must be renewed in knowledge and unto knowledge. We must grow in the knowledge of God’s Word and will, after the image of God, who wrought the new nature in us in conversion. We are not only to be restored to the image of God which Adam possessed, but we shall eventually know and see our heavenly Father face to face, in everlasting glory and majesty.
The more we Christians, by daily, prayerful study, penetrate into the wonderful Gospel-message, the more we understand the wonderful depth of love which was revealed in Jesus Christ, the more the image of God is impressed upon our soul, until finally, in the light of the eternal glory, we shall know Him even as we are known, 1 Cor 13:12.
In this respect, so far as this renewal unto the perfect knowledge is concerned, the fact stands out: Where there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave, freeman, but all and in all Christ. Cp. Gal 3:28. Wherever there are Christians, wherever the new man is created, all these distinctions vanish.
Whether a person be a Greek, a person versed in all the wisdom of this present world, a member of the most advanced and enlightened nation of the world, or a Jew, priding himself upon his descent from Abraham and upon certain outward advantages which his nation enjoyed; whether a person is circumcised or uncircumcised: whether a person is a barbarian or even a Scythian, the most extreme example of lack of civilization and culture; whether a person is a slave and subject to an earthly master, or free and his own master before the earthly law, – all these factors have no influence with reference to the power of God in the Gospel and with regard to the standing of the individual Christians before God.
There is no difference: all are sinners before the righteous and holy God, all are in need of redemption, for them all Christ died on the cross, for them all He obtained a perfect reconciliation, and so all Christians are in a state of absolute equality before God. And Christ is all and in all. The fullness of all blessings is found in Him, and this fullness He transmits, He gives to His members, to the believers, Eph 1:23. In the Church, as the vessel filled with the fullness of Christ’s grace and mercy and with all the gifts which they include, the great union is brought about, by virtue of which all man-made distinctions are abrogated and perfect love and harmony in Him results. “Christ is the aggregation of all things, distinctions, prerogatives, blessings, and, moreover, is in all, dwelling in all, and SO uniting all in the common element of Himself.”
The Rule of God’s Peace and Its Effect on Various Stations in Life. Col 3:12-25.
The Christians’ conduct toward one another:
V.12. Put on, therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering, v.13. forbearing one an other, and forgiving one an other, if any man have a quarrel against any; even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. V.14. And above all these things, put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. V.15. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. V.16. Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. V.17. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him.
The Christians being united in fellowship in Christ, it behooves them to lead a life in conformity with the intimacy and sacredness of that bond, to express in their whole lives and all their actions the love which unites them in Christ: Put on, then, as the elect of God, saints and beloved, a heart of compassion, kindness, humbleness, meekness, longsuffering. These are wonderful titles which the apostle applies to the Christians, and his use of them shows that he is an expert in the art of evangelical admonition. He calls the believers “elect of God,” thereby indicating the source and fountain of all the spiritual blessings of God. God has chosen the Christians in Christ before the foundation of the world.
According to His counsel of love He has elected certain people out of the mass of the redeemed to be holy and blameless before Him in love. Not by reason of our merits and works, but out of free grace, according to the good pleasure of His will, He has chosen us in Christ. A result of this election is that we are holy, cleansed, sanctified by the blood of the Lamb. Christ has borne the sins of all men earned forgiveness of sins for them all. The righteousness of Jesus is imputed to all that believe on Jesus Christ as their Savior. For the sake of Christ and His perfect righteousness they are holy before the face of God, without a spot or blemish. And therefore they are finally the beloved of the Lord. For the sake of Christ, His beloved Son, the Father loves us, the fullness of His good pleasure rests upon us, the complete measure of His love and mercy.
These facts are the strongest possible inducements toward a holy life on our part; they should induce us to put on, to be clothed with, hearts of sympathy and compassion toward one another, that this feeling characterize our entire behavior toward one another.
This term the apostle unfolds by naming some of the virtues that are combined with Christian love and compassion: kindness, a cordially loving disposition which knows no harshness; humility, lowliness of mind, that a Christian always places his own person on a lower level than that of all other believers; meekness, mildness over against his brother, which will overlook even an insult and knows no such thing as violent rage; long-suffering, which not only suffers wrong, but rejects every thought of vengeance and desires only the salvation of the sinner.
Just how these Christian virtues are brought out in practical life the apostle shows next: Forbearing one another and forgiving each other, if any man have a complaint against any, even as also Christ forgave you, so also doing yourselves. Christians should forbear, literally, hold one another up. No Christian is perfect as long as he walks in the flesh of this body, and in spite of all vigilance blemishes and faults will show. Therefore there must be such mutual bearing and helping, with much charitable overlooking of slights and injuries, as will bring out the charitable disposition which should characterize all believers.
Together with this, however, must be found the willingness to show mercy, to forgive. It is not only a matter of bearing and forbearing, but also of cordial remitting of sins that have happened. The forbearing is general, the forgiving is usually a matter between two persons; but in both respects there must be a cheerful willingness among the Christians. For they have herein the example of Christ, which they must endeavor to emulate and equal.
In the case of injuries which happen in Christian congregations, we can at the worst speak only of complaints on account of insults in comparison with the unspeakably great mass of guilt which is charged against every man before God. And yet, Christ freely gave His holy blood, His divine life, into death to earn forgiveness of sins for us. Can there be any question, then, of our being ready at all times to forgive a fellow-Christian for any wrong done to us?
The compelling motive and cause of the Christian’s charitable behavior as here outlined is brought out by Paul as a climax of his admonition: But over all these things love, which is the bond of perfection. The apostle retains the figure of clothing which is put on.
The final, most splendid garment, which holds all the other virtues together in the heart, is the girdle of love, of true, cordial affection for the brethren. Without love all the other Christian virtues and works are useless and vain. For love is the bond of perfection. With love binding the hearts of all Christians together, the ideal of Christian perfection is attained. This love, as Luther writes, causes us Christians to be of one mind, of one heart, of one pleasure; it unites rich and poor, rulers and subjects, sick and healthy, high and low, highly honored and despised.
This thought is enlarged in the next sentence: And the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which you were called in one body, and become thankful. Christ has gained for us the reconciliation of the Father, He has established peace between us and God. This peace He gives through the Gospel, making us certain that we are God’s dear children.
This peace, therefore, should rule in our hearts, be the governing principle of our lives in love. We should maintain it over against the attacks of Satan, the world, and our own flesh; we should hold firmly to the conviction that the mercy of God rests upon us. This certainty will make all Christian virtues become a habit with us as a matter of fact, for our hearts will be filled with the enjoyment of this peace, to which we were called in conversion.
Thus the fact also that all we Christians together form one body will be expressed in our lives. Thus our gratitude toward God, which is growing in the same rate as our understanding of the mercy of Christ toward us, will always find opportunities to show its appreciation of the divine grace. The best proof of the grateful condition of our hearts toward God is that by which we show in our entire lives those virtues and works which meet with His approbation.
As the means for bringing about this ideal condition among the Christians St. Paul names the edification of the Word in teaching and singing: The Word of Christ, let it dwell in you richly, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing each other in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, in grace singing in your hearts to God; and everything, whatever you do in word and deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
The Word of Christ is not only the sum total of His sayings as recorded in the Gospels, but the entire Word of God; for of this Christ Himself is the beginning, middle, and end. The preaching of sin and grace must dwell, must have its home, among the Christians. The Christian religion is not to be a matter of Sunday only or of the sermon alone; it should also not merely be an occasional guest in the Christian homes, but it should be a member of the household, to he used and consulted day after day. The abundant comfort and strength of the Gospel should be used abundantly, not only by the pastor in the pulpit and in the homes, but also by every individual Christian. It contains the right wisdom and teaches the right wisdom for both doctrine and admonition.
Our brethren. Without love all the other Christian virtues and works are useless and vain. For love is the bond of perfection. With love binding the hearts of all Christians together, the ideal of Christian perfection is attained.
This love, as Luther writes, causes us Christians to be of one mind, of one heart, of one pleasure; it unites rich and poor, rulers and subjects, sick and healthy, high and low, highly honored and despised.
This thought is enlarged in the next sentence: And the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which you were called in one body, and become thankful. Christ has gained for us the reconciliation of the Father, He has established peace between us and God.
This peace He gives through the Gospel, making us certain that we are God’s dear children. This peace, therefore, should rule in our hearts, be the governing principle of our lives in love. We should maintain it over against the attacks of Satan, the world, and our own flesh; we should hold firmly to the conviction that the mercy of God rests upon us.
This certainty will make all Christian virtues become a habit with us as a matter of fact, for our hearts will be filled with the enjoyment of this peace, to which we were called in conversion. Thus the fact also that all we Christians together form one body will be expressed in our lives. Thus our gratitude toward God, which is growing in the same rate as our understanding of the mercy of Christ toward us, will always find opportunities to show its appreciation of the divine grace.
The best proof of the grateful condition of our hearts toward God is that by which we show in our entire lives those virtues and works which meet with His approbation. As the means for bringing about this ideal condition among the Christians St. Paul names the edification of the Word in teaching and singing: The Word of Christ, let it dwell in you richly, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing each other in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, in grace singing in your hearts to God; and everything, whatever you do in word and deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
The Word of Christ is not only the sum total of His sayings as recorded in the Gospels, but the entire Word of God; for of this Christ Himself is the beginning, middle, and end. The preaching of sin and grace must dwell, must have its home, among the Christians. The Christian religion is not to be a matter of Sunday only or of the sermon alone; it should also not merely be an occasional guest in the Christian homes, but it should be a member of the household, to he used and consulted day after day.
The abundant comfort and strength of the Gospel should be used abundantly, not only by the pastor in the pulpit and in the homes, but also by every individual Christian. It contains the right wisdom and teaches the right wisdom for both doctrine and admonition. Our constant endeavor must be not only to grow in knowledge of the way of salvation and to teach others, but also mutually to encourage one another to maintain an unflagging interest in true sanctification. This can be done also by the use of psalms, the incomparable poetry of Holy Writ, hymns which are intended chiefly for use in church services, and spiritual songs, such as are more popular in form and content, but also tell of the wonderful blessings of God for our salvation. All this should not be a mere mouth service on the part of the believers, but they should, at the same time, sing to God in their hearts, and that with grace.
The mercy of God is the theme of their grateful singing, of their continuous thanksgiving, even when this is not accompanied with a single word of their mouths. In most cases, however, the sincere gratitude of the heart cannot be retained in silence, but out of the fullness of the heart the mouth will sing praises to God, the Father of all mercy.
The apostle’s entire admonition is therefore fitly summarized in the rule that they do everything, no matter what it is, whether it be with words or with deeds, in the name of the Lord Jesus, through whom, as our Advocate, all thanks are given to God the Father. All our words and deeds must flow from true faith in Jesus, the Redeemer, and be spoken and performed to His glory, all our words and actions being expressions of our thankfullness. 7) For vv. 12-17, cp. Hom. Mag., 1906, 32 to 48; Luther, 12, 381-397.
The conduct of Christians in various stations in life:
V.18. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. V.19. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them. V.20. Children, obey your parents in all things; for this is well-pleasing unto the Lord. V.21. Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged. V.22. Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but in singleness of heart, fearing God. V.23. And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men, v.24. knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance; for ye serve the Lord Christ. V.25. For he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done; and there is no respect of persons. Cp. Eph 5:22-Eph 6-8.
In giving specific instructions to individual classes of Christians the apostle addresses himself first to the wives: Wives, be subject to your husbands, as it should be in the Lord. The submission of the wife to the husband is in agreement with the order of God in creation, 1 Tim 2:13, not an absolute obedience, but one which every Christian wife cheerfully yields in the Lord, as it should be. As all Christians willingly acknowledge the headship of Christ and gladly obey Him according to His revealed Word, so Christian wives acknowledge the headship of their husbands and permit them to be the leaders in all matters which do not oppose the Word of God. That nevertheless an ideal marriage can and should be a partnership goes without saying.
But the husband, as the responsible head, also has a specific duty: Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them. The leadership, the headship, of the husband should be exercised in love, not merely the conjugal love, which would at best be subject to great fluctuations, but with the steady, unwavering affection, of which he has an example in the love of Christ for the Church, Eph 5:25-33. This love cannot permit bitterness to creep in and spoil the relationship which the will of God demands. The man is neither master of his wife nor slaveholder with respect to her, but the husband, who will never cause bitterness to arise in her heart by irritable harshness on his part. Indifference and neglect on the part of the husband, whether that be due to the cares and worries of his work or business or to the changing moods of the flesh, cannot be excused.
To the children the apostle says: Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing in the Lord. The phrase “in all things” is synonymous with the “in the Lord” of the parallel passage, Eph 6:1. The statement is purposely general; for parents are the representatives of God over against their children, and their authority is that of the Lord. An unwilling, grumbling obedience on the part of the children is just as directly against the letter and spirit of this admonition as outright disobedience. The Lord wants willing hearts, a service on the part of the children which flows from faith and a grateful heart toward God, whose gifts the parents are.
But no less urgent is the apostle’s admonition to the parents: Fathers, provoke not your children, lest they be disheartened. This requires a great deal of wisdom and patience. For if parents are over severe, unjust, capricious in the treatment of their children, if they irritate them by exacting, harsh commands and perpetual faultfinding, such a foolish exercise of parental authority may easily discourage the children, may break their spirit, may cause them to lose all affection and confidence, all pleasure and power for good and against evil.
The longest admonition of the series is addressed by Paul to the servants, in this case the slaves, probably on account of the incident in which Onesimus was involved. He writes: Servants, obey in all things those that are your masters according to the flesh, not in eye-service as men-pleasers, but in singleness of the heart, fearing the Lord. The statement “in all things” is naturally modified by the limitation set by God Himself, Acts 5, 29. Slaves are bound to yield obedience to their earthly lords; that is the will of God.
Their work should not be done with acts of eye-service, namely, that they show all eagerness while the eye of the master rests upon them, and afterwards idle and loaf away the time. In that case they would be mere men-pleasers, they would consider the performance of their duty to consist only in gaining the approval of their masters. A Christian servant will remember that his first duty is toward the Lord, that he should strive to please Him, and that he should therefore perform his work in singleness of heart and purpose, not with the double-dealing which accompanies mere eye-service. A Christian servant is always conscious of the presence of God, for whom he has the highest feeling of respectful regard. His aim is, above all, to gain the approbation of his heavenly Father.
It follows, then: Whatever you do, do it from the heart as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. Although Christian servants are in the immediate service of men, as far as appearances go, they should know that in reality they are in the service of God. All their labor, therefore, must be done heartily and with a right good will. And all this should be their willing obedience all the more because they should know that the Lord would give them the reward, or recompense, of mercy. The Lord will look upon the faithful labor of every servant and every workman as a continuous good work for Christ’s sake and will reward him accordingly. In the inheritance which is promised to them as the children of God the slaves would have the full recompense for all their hard labor in the service of their masters here on earth.
They must never forget, therefore: Serve the Lord Christ, for he that does wrong will bear what he has done wrong, and there is no respect of persons This is a warning from the Law: Every person reaps what he sows. For although the Christians, and also the Christian slaves, are no longer under the Law as believers, they are always in danger, on account of the weakness and perversity of their old flesh and evil nature, to yield to sin in some form. In that case they must remember that the evildoer must bear the curse and punishment of his evil. At the same time, the terrible part of the warning is contained in the fact that the wrong done here on earth and enduring for only a few moments will be punished with eternal destruction. Obedience and faithfulness is required of Christian servants, and those that deliberately transgress in this respect, probably with the plea that they have become partakers of the true Christian liberty, will find that God will not overlook misdeeds or idleness. It makes no difference to Him whether the sinner occupies a high social position in the world or is reckoned with the very lowliest of men; He judges the heart.
On the other hand, therefore, the masters should also heed the warning, chap. 4, v.1. Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal, knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.
The treatment which any master accords to those under his authority, and especially to slaves, should be determined by justice and equity, not by caprice. Masters should regard their slaves, OR their side, as far as they are concerned, as human beings with themselves, like themselves. On the social, historical side there may be a wide difference in their stations, but by creation all men are equal before God, and that fact must never be forgotten. The almighty and just Lord in heaven will call every master to account for the treatment accorded those entrusted to his authority.