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Entries in Master (1)

Tuesday
Aug072018

Putting on the "New Man" at Home  II

Colossians 3:22-4:1.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on August 5, 2018 and is the 2nd part of a sermon that was preached on July 22, 2018.  If you haven’t read or listened to it first then please do so.

Today we pick up where we left off several weeks ago.  In summary this section is about believers in Christ taking off the “old man” and putting on the “new man.”  Of course the old man that we put off is our own nature with its thoughts, feelings, and desires.  The New Man that we are putting on is Christ.

When we stopped in part I, we had begun talking about what it means for a slave to “put on the new man.”  This relationship between masters and slaves was very common in those days and could not be overlooked.  Though western societies may be able to say that they don’t have slaves anymore, we must be careful of discounting these words as no longer relevant, or as morally corrupt.  As I said in part I, the western world has simply taken the slave class and added them to the poor class.  Though they are no longer owned as property by another, they still are at the mercy of those around them who have money and jobs in order to make a living.  Thus these words should be seen as speaking to the relationship of the fortunate and the less fortunate, the haves and the have-nots.

Slaves obey your masters

In verse 22, slaves are told to obey their masters.  In fact, they are challenged and commanded to please God by working hard even when the earthly master isn’t looking.  This is to be done out of a sincere heart that fears God.

In case you haven’t spent time thinking about why even the New Testament emphasizes a positive aspect to a fear of the Lord, I will take a few moments to stir your thinking on this.  It is easy to say something that goes like this.  Fear was proper when people were under the Law of Moses.  But now that we are free in Christ we should no longer fear God.  Besides, doesn’t the Bible say that “Perfect love casts out all fear?”  The problem is that this one verse is not all that is spoken in the New Testament about fear.  We cannot ignore all the other verses, like this one here, and others like Philippians 2:12.

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;” (NKJV)

The perfect love of God casts out all the fear in regards to His heart towards us.  When you recognize Jesus is on the cross for your sins, you no longer fear that He doesn’t love you.  You know that He has laid down His life for you.  However, this is not what the phrase “fearing God” means in verse 22.  There it is talking about the restraint we should have when tempted to sin.  Like Joseph when he was being seduced by Potiphar’s wife, we must shudder at the thought of sinning against The One who was willing to die for us.  When we are walking in harmony with God we are secure in His love and need not fear that He will change His mind.  However, when we are tempted by sin, we should shrink back from the hideous thought of betraying our Lord’s sacrifice, not because He will quit loving us, but because I might quit loving Him and become an adulterer at heart.  To summarize, the fear that is cast out is in regard to God’s love.  The fear that should remain is in regard to sin’s ability to pull our heart away from the Lord and destroy us.

In verse 23, Paul adds that they should do everything as if unto the Lord.  This verse is not only about slaves.  First of all, all Christians are slaves of God and thus this applies.  However, even contextually, Paul is just stating for slaves what he already stated for all Christians in verse 17.

“And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus…” (NKJV)

Now in verse 23 Paul has added the word “heartily.”  It means that we don’t just outwardly perform the duty.  Instead we put our whole heart into doing it. 

It is worth noting that the effect of what Paul is doing here is not a means of keeping slaves quiet and away from revolt.  Paul is not working for the master-class to keep the slaves in subjection.  Rather, he has just helped the lowest people of society, whose lives and duties give them no obvious sense of purpose and meaning, to see that there is a holy aspect to the thankless and abject station that they have in life.  Regardless of how the world views you and your place in it, God sees you as His servant and that is a high position indeed.  Such an idea lifts our hearts out of the muck and the mire, washes it off, and says, “You serve the King of the Universe!”  It is only our myopic and snobbish elitism that cannot see how many slaves came to find hope in the Gospel that they never found in revolts.  In Christ the Christian slave could lift up his head and know that His true Master loved him greatly.  This in no way supports slavery, but rather supports the slave who had no hope of getting out of their situation.

Paul goes on to explain why a slave, or employee for that matter, should obey this command.  First, they will receive the reward of the inheritance.  The inheritance that Paul is talking about is the one that all believers will inherit from God the Father.  Though they have no inheritance in this world, Christian slaves know that they stand to inherit from God alongside of every other station and class in this world.  This life is simply a testing ground.  The life to come is our inheritance.  No one can touch it or separate you from it.  Thus the slave could be faithful to God because God is always faithful and will reward our service to Him in temporal things with eternal things.

The second reason a slave should obey in this matter is because God will repay those who do wrong without partiality.  Now, this sword cuts both ways.  On one hand the slave, who remains in anger and hatred, and refuses in this matter will also be repaid with judgment from God.  On the other hand, the main purpose is to encourage the slave who tries to obey their master and yet is wronged by the master.  Many harsh, unrealistic, oppressive masters have existed in this world.  But here a play on the word reward is made.  Those who wrong slaves will be repaid by God Himself.  How does a person keep doing the right thing when others treat them wrongly?  Typically we become frustrated, angry, and vengeful.  We throw off the altruistic purpose and take the path of our flesh.  We reject Christ and embrace Satan.  These destructive works of the flesh then pull us down into the slavery of sin.  However, when I recognize that even those who abuse me will have their day of reckoning before God, then I can focus on my part of the situation and let go of theirs.  God is an impartial judge.  He does not say, “It’s okay that you were overly harsh with your slave even though he tried his best to be faithful to your commands.”  No.  The Lord of Heaven that sends Lazarus to Abraham’s bosom and the rich man into the fire will also pay back those who never seem to have to pay for their sins in this life.  With God, no one is ever “too big” to fail and that should be a shot across the bow for all those in this life who have position over others.  By the way, even if society says it is okay to abuse slaves because they are your property, God will then treat you as you treated your slaves.

Masters treat your slaves justly and fairly

Though chapter three ends at verse 25, verse one of chapter four clearly goes with chapter three.  For those who aren’t aware, no part of the Bible was written with chapter and verse divisions.  These were added later for convenience.  In the 13th century AD several chapter schemes were created and then later in the 16th century verse divisions were added.  The point being that we should be aware that the chapter divisions are not always in the proper spot.  Chapter four verse one is the counterpoint to chapter three’s instructions to slaves.

Notice that if Paul was just trying to prop up a hierarchical system, he wouldn’t say what he does to masters.  He would most likely tell them to obey the magistrates and the king.  But instead, Paul tells masters that if they have put on Christ it will affect how they treat their slaves.  This is critical because it is the tendency to treat slaves as subhuman, property, and undeserving of basic human treatment that makes it so odious and loathsome.  It is too easy for those of the higher class of society to look upon those of a lower station as being something less than human.  This dynamic did not cease with the Emancipation Proclamation.  It continues to this day.  The leaders of our governments have come to see certain parts of our citizenry as less of a human as they are.  This is always used to justify tyranny.  In the 1800’s it was common to hear slaves described as less evolved and thus on par with animals.  Throughout all of history slaves had no redress for any “wrongs” against them.  They were simply property.

Yet here masters are warned that God will take note of how they treat their slaves.  Both the slave and the master are equally human and therefore imagers of God.  Psalm 62:9 says, “Those of low estate are but a breath; those of high estate are a delusion; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath.”  The point is that those of high estate are not of greater substance before God.  If you buy into the idea that they do, or that they will somehow be treated differently then you are deluded.  Many a king, magistrate, judge, lawyer, politician, business owner, etc. will have their eyes opened on that day that they stand before God and give account for treating others as somehow less than human.  All humans should be respected as human beings created by God for His purposes, and created higher than the animals, yet lower than the angels.

The treatment is qualified by the word “justly.”  James 5:4 gives a picture of the lack of justice in those days when it says, “The wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Hosts!”  It is easy for masters, business owners, and their management to have unreasonable expectations for slaves or workers.  When Israel was enslaved in Egypt, Pharaoh gave the unreasonable demand that the Israelites continue to meet their quotas while additionally having to get their own straw (see Exodus 5).  The key here is that historically masters have done what is in accordance with the commands and laws of their country.  Such laws cared little for slaves.  But God does care for them.  Thus the justness of a Christian’s actions toward their fellow man is not determined by what is acceptable in their country.  It is determined by God.  Many people today are spouting and perpetrating injustices in the name of justice.  They believe that the end justifies the means.  All such self-justification will melt when you stand before God.  The question is what does God think is just and righteous?  His word makes it very clear.

The word “fairly” is also used.  This could be seen in relation to other servants, i.e. treat all the slaves equally without partiality.  However, it is more likely meant in relation to how the slave serves the master.  It is only equitable or fair that the master treats the slave kindly when the slave’s life consists of the lowly duty of serving you.  The slave’s task is not easy.  It is only fair that the master not oppressively add to that task out of selfish concerns.  In fact it begs the question, “How harsh of a task master is God to the master?”  It is intended to make the master realize that he will be held accountable for how he treats his slaves.

Verse one ends with the reminder to masters that they have a Master in Heaven.  We are all in subjection to God.  Clearly, He is not like we are.  But He will hold all men responsible for their actions in this life.  The ultimate principle here is to focus on your side of the relationship, and do it in a way that pleases God despite what others do or don’t do.  We are serving Him in this life not self or society.  If we can righteously work for a change in society then that is good.  But the end does not justify the means.  The goal does not justify the path that we take to get there.

This is the new man: a person who is not trapped in the constructs of today, whether hopelessly furthering them or vengefully rebelling against them.  Even if your flesh and heart wants to identify as homosexual, transgender, white nationalist, black power, ad infinitum, we are called to identify as simply a follower of Jesus.  Instead of seeing ourselves as a 99%’er we are called to see ourselves as a follower of Jesus.  Whatever the distinctions that this world tries to put on you, or you want to take upon yourself, today Christ calls you to drop those things and come follow Him.

New Man II audio