Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;
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Christianity promises the kingdom of heaven only to those who believe, in order that they will not feel human pride on meriting this. Our faith is by grace, which is exalted to a higher plane than works. Only faith avails. On this gracious premise we are ordered to discharge all that is due to earthly masters. This will have the effect of inciting all the more the minds of unbelievers toward the worship of God. They will see by our behavior that our religion is both righteous and humble. Then, as masters see their slaves become more educated and more faithful in rendering service, they will see with what light reins true religion exercises governance in human affairs. So, when servants for their part notice the increased kindness of their masters, they will be similarly moved to more avid faith. . ...
In the Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians: "Servants, obey your fleshly masters with fear and trembling, and ill simplicity of your heart. as to Christ; not serving for the eye, as if you were pleasing men; but as servants of God."
Thus then it is not husband only, nor wife, nor children, but virtuous servants also that contribute to the organization and protection of a house. Therefore the blessed Paul has not overlooked this department even. He comes to it, however, in the last place, because it is last in dignity and rank. Still he addresses much discourse also to them, no longer in the same tone as to children, but in a far more advanced way, inasmuch as he does not hold out to these the promise in this world, but in that which is to come. Knowing, says he, that whatsoever good or evil thing each one does, the same shall he receive of the Lord, and thus at once instructs them to love wisdom. For though they be inferior to the children in dignity, still in mind they are superior to them.
Servants, says he, be obedient to them that, according to the flesh, are your masters.
Thus at once he raises up, at once soothes the wounded soul. Be not grieved, he seems to say, that you are inferior to the wife and the...
Paul instructs those virtuous servants who contribute so much to the organization and protection of the household. He does not overlook them. Though their instruction comes last, because they are last in dignity and rank, he addresses them at great length. He does not speak to them as children but in a far more advanced manner. He does not make this worldly promises to them but points directly to the world to come. He instructs them to love wisdom. In this way he raises up and soothes their wounded souls. He counsels them not to grieve that they have less status or honor than others. Their brief earthly submission is for a time only. Whatever power their masters might have remains transient and brief and subject to the vulnerabilities of the flesh. All that is carnal is fleeting. It is “in fear and trembling” and that they are learning obedience. He does not call for the same kind of reverence from the servant as from the wife, who is called to reverence her husband. Rather he heighten...