There is much spiritual understanding we can glean about our relationship with God from the verses in Ephesians 5:21-6:9. In this segment, I want to look at some of the lessons Ephesians 6:5-9 teaches about the master/servant relationship and how this passage serves as a model for a particular aspect of our relationship with God and Jesus.
Of the triad of relationships covered in this section of Ephesians, the master/servant interplay can be the hardest to bring into terms applicable to the current culture. Possibly the closest we have is employer/employee, although that relationship doesn’t have quite the same overtones. Perhaps the best way to distill the concept down into a broader application is between “one in command and one who follows those commands.”
Why is it so important that those in charge and those who obey them invest in a healthy relationship?
To properly answer that question, we have to go all the way back to Ephesians 1.
- The Master Model
The first chapter of Ephesians tells us that when Jesus was raised from the dead, God placed him “far above every ruler, and authority, and power, and those having dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come; and he put all things in subjection under his feet and appointed him as the head over all things for the church.” (1:21-22)
What this means for us is that Jesus is our Master. We are subject to him in all things. He is the model of the perfect Master, Lord, and One in command: he is sinless, impartial, wise, just, and loving.
To that end, masters (those in command) are meant to exude those same qualities as imitators of the One who is Master over all. There’s no space for threats and domineering because this behavior distorts the perfect Master/Servant relationship we have with our brother Jesus. When someone in a position of power over others uses that position to make threats or come down harshly on those subject to them, they are misrepresenting the one who is both the servant’s master and theirs.
- The Servant Model
Ephesians 6 actually tells us point-blank that in servitude, we are to display qualities of “[obedience] to those who are your lords according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, and in sincerity of heart” as if to Christ (6:5). The Greek word translated sincerity here has the meaning of “Of simple goodness, which gives itself without reserve, ‘without strings attached’, ‘without hidden agendas.’”
In other words, wherever we are working, whoever is in command over us, we’re to serve in a way that is honoring to our God and to Christ. We lead by example in this way, showing our genuine reverence, trust, and pure-hearted obedience not just toward our earthly “bosses” but to the One who is their boss as well as ours.
In all things, we have the opportunity to model our obedience to our Master Jesus through our conduct toward those in authority. Ephesians 6 tells us to conduct ourselves this way, “knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same back from the Lord.”
Similarly, Colossians 3:23 tells us “Whatever you do, work from the depths of your soul, as for the Lord and not for people.”
What these few verses ultimately show is that whether we are in positions of service or leadership, we have a responsibility to conduct ourselves in a way that honors God and Christ. We’re to show restraint, respect, humility, sincerity and fairness, and love.
To do any less shows a fault in the posture of our hearts as servants of Christ, or else it misrepresent the nature of the Master himself—the one who is seated above all and is through all and in all.