Colossians 3:22
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;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(22-25) Compare throughout Ephesians 6:5-9. The only peculiarity of this passage is the strong emphasis laid on “the reward of the inheritance.” “The reward” is in the original, a perfect recompense or requital. The “inheritance” is exactly that which no slave could receive; only a son could be an heir (Galatians 4:7). Hence the slave on earth is recognised as a son in heaven. He “serves the Lord,” but his service is the perfect freedom of sonship.

3:18-25 The epistles most taken up in displaying the glory of the Divine grace, and magnifying the Lord Jesus, are the most particular in pressing the duties of the Christian life. We must never separate the privileges and duties of the gospel. Submission is the duty of wives. But it is submission, not to a severe lord or stern tyrant, but to her own husband, who is engaged to affectionate duty. And husbands must love their wives with tender and faithful affection. Dutiful children are the most likely to prosper. And parents must be tender, as well as children obedient. Servants are to do their duty, and obey their masters' commands, in all things consistent with duty to God their heavenly Master. They must be both just and diligent; without selfish designs, or hypocrisy and disguise. Those who fear God, will be just and faithful when from under their master's eye, because they know they are under the eye of God. And do all with diligence, not idly and slothfully; cheerfully, not discontented at the providence of God which put them in that relation. And for servants' encouragement, let them know, that in serving their masters according to the command of Christ, they serve Christ, and he will give them a glorious reward at last. But, on the other hand, he who doeth wrong, shall receive for the wrong which he hath done. God will punish the unjust, as well as reward the faithful servant; and the same if masters wrong their servants. For the righteous Judge of the earth will deal justly between master and servant. Both will stand upon a level at his tribunal. How happy would true religion make the world, if it every where prevailed, influenced every state of things, and every relation of life! But the profession of those persons who are regardless of duties, and give just cause for complaint to those they are connected with, deceives themselves, as well as brings reproach on the gospel.Servants, obey in all things ... - ; see the notes at Ephesians 6:5-8. 22. (Eph 6:5, 6.) This is to fear God, when, though none sees us, we do no evil: but if we do evil, it is not God, but men, whom we fear.

singleness—"simplicity of heart."

fearing God—The oldest manuscripts read, "the Lord."

Servants: the apostle knowing how hard the condition of servitude was, both under the Jews and Gentiles, lest any believers in that mean condition should disgust so strict a subjection, especially to unbelieving masters, and cast off the yoke by breaking their covenants, to the disturbance of human society, and the disparagement of the Christian institution, he takes a special care to sweeten the harshness of it to all those indefinitely whose lot it was, by recommending the duties of it to them from the consideration of the acceptableness of them to God, who of his unconstrained grace would vouchsafe to them the noblest reward.

Obey in all things your masters according to the flesh: wherefore Christianity requires that servants of all sorts should readily receive and cheerfully execute all the commands, {see Colossians 3:20} in things lawful and honest, of those of both sexes, whom God in his wise providence hath given a just authority over them according to the flesh; ( see also Ephesians 6:5); which expression is not only for distinction from the Father and Master of spirits, Hebrews 12:9, but for mitigation of their servitude, in that their earthly master’s power reacheth only things corporeal and temporal, not the conscience and things that are eternal, which might be some comfort, that the servitude would not last long, and in the mean time they were God’s free-men, 1 Corinthians 7:22, whom they might serve with the spirit in the gospel of his Son, Romans 1:9.

Not with eye-service; yet their masters after the flesh, in those civil things wherein they had power to command, were not lightly to be respected or served to the eye, or only to be observed while their eye was upon them, Ephesians 6:6.

As men-pleasers; as if regard were to be had to the pleasing of men, and not to the pleasing of God, who searcheth the heart, and by his gospel (which they should adorn) expects they should remember his eye is ever upon them, Titus 2:9 1 Peter 2:18.

But in singleness of heart, fearing God; and expects that, in a holy awe of him, they should do all that is incumbent on them, in the sincerity of their souls, {see Ephesians 6:5,6} with more regard to God than man. Servants, obey in all things your masters,.... That is, in all things relating to the body, and bodily service; not to the conscience, and religious worship; in things worldly, and not spiritual; in all things that are within a master's power, and it is lawful for him to command; and in all things that are fitting and proper that a servant should do; and even in such things as may be difficult, troublesome, and disagreeable to the flesh unto them; see Luke 17:7 who those servants are that are to obey, and who their masters, said to be according to the flesh, to whom they are to be subject; see Gill on Ephesians 6:5.

not with eyeservice, as menpleasers, but in singleness of heart; See Gill on Ephesians 6:5, Ephesians 6:6.

fearing God; who sees and knows all things, what servants do when their masters are absent from them, and to whom they are accountable; and a servant that fears God will make conscience of discharging his service faithfully, will not misspend his master's time, nor embezzle his goods, or waste his substance; but from a principle of reverential affection for God, and fear of him, with a concern for his name, and a view to his glory, will with all diligence, uprightness, faithfulness, and sincerity, do his duty, seek his master's good and interest, and cheerfully obey all his lawful commands. The Alexandrian copy reads, "fearing the Lord"; and so the Syriac version, "in the fear of the Lord".

{14} Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God:

(14) Of servants, that fearing God himself to whom their obedience is acceptable, they reverently, faithfully, and from the heart, obey their masters.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Colossians 3:22. Comp. Ephesians 6:5 ff. The minuteness with which Paul enters into this point in comparison with the others, may naturally have been caused by the flight and conversion of Onesimus, who was a Colossian slave.

τοῖς κατὰ σάρκα κυρίοις] the masters, who are so after a fleshly manner, i.e. in respect to material-human nature; a description, which presupposes another relation belonging to the higher pneumatic sphere, in which, namely, Christ is (Colossians 3:24) the master. Comp. Romans 9:3.

μὴ ἐν ὀφθαλμ. ὡς ἀνθρωπάρ.] See on Ephesians 6:6. The obedience of Christian slaves becomes men-pleasing, and, to appearance, eye-service, when it is not subordinated to, and normally conditioned by, the fear of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:11) as the higher Master. See below, where ἐν ἁπλότ. καρδίας (see on Ephesians 6:5) corresponds to the ἐν ὀφθαλμοδουλ., and φοβούμ. τ. κύριον to the ὡς ἀνθρωπάρ. Eye service presupposes insincerity of heart, and men-pleasing takes for granted a want of the fear of Christ. Comp. on the latter, Galatians 1:10.Colossians 3:22. The case of slaves is treated at greater length than that of the other family relations, probably on account of Onesimus. But Paul was much possessed with the need for keeping Christianity free from the suspicion it naturally created of undermining the constitution of society. So while δοῦλος, ἐλεύθερος is a distinction which has vanished for Christianity, in the interests of Christianity as a spiritual power social freedom had to be cheerfully foregone till the new religion was able to assert its principle with success. An instructive parallel is the exhortation to submission to constituted authority in Romans 13. In Paul’s time slaves probably made up the larger part of the population of the empire.—τοῖς κατὰ σάρκα κυρίοις: opposed to their spiritual Lord.—ὁφθαλμοδουλείαις: acts of eye-service (singular in Ephesians 6:6), i.e., service which is most zealous when the eye of the master or overseer is upon them. The word was perhaps coined by Paul.—ὡς ἀνθρωπάρεσκοι. It is the Christian’s first duty to please the Lord, and this he can do only by conscientious performance of his tasks quite apart from the recognition he receives from men. If the principle of his conduct is the pleasing of men, he will neglect his duty where this motive cannot operate.—ἁπλότητι καρδίας: “singleness of heart,” opposed to the double-dealing of eye-service.—τὸν Κύριον: in significant contrast to the masters according to the flesh.22. Servants] Bondservants, slaves. Cp. Ephesians 6:5-8; and see 1 Corinthians 7:21-22; 1 Timothy 6:1-2; Titus 2:9-10; Philemon; 1 Peter 2:18-25; and cp. Luke 17:7-10.—On the relation of the Gospel to slavery, see below, Introd. to the Ep. to Philemon, ch. 4.

in all things] See above, on Colossians 3:20.

according to the flesh] With the implied thought that the master was not master of his bondman’s spirit, and that master and bondman alike were bondmen, spiritually, of Christ. So Ephesians 6:5, where this clause is somewhat enlarged. The “neither bond nor free” of v. Colossians 3:11 above leaves thus undisturbed the actual duties of social status.

eyeservice] Ephesians 6:6. The word occurs there and here only, and was perhaps coined by St Paul. It means the “service” which works only when inspected, and does not come from the unseen source of love and goodwill.

menpleasers] Seeking merely the personal comfort of approval or indulgence, in a purely selfish and therefore insincere “pleasing.” Such obsequiousness might conceal deep contempt or malice all the while. See note on Ephesians 6:6.

singleness] Lit., simplicity; the desire to do right for its own sake, or rather for the sake of the heavenly (and also the earthly) Master; as against the selfish aim of the “men-pleaser.” See 1 Timothy 6:2 for a practical comment.—The phrase is verbatim as in Ephesians 6:5, where see our note. And see the last words of Ephesians 6:6; “doing the will of God from the soul.”

fearing God] Read, fearing the Lord Christ, the true Master, with the fear of reverent loyalty. The word “fear” is used in Scripture of holy and perfectly happy reverence too often to need quotation.Colossians 3:22. Θεὸν, God) who knows the heart.Verse 22. - Ye servants (literally, bondmen), be obedient in all things to your lords according to the flesh (Ephesians 6:5-9; 1 Timothy 6:1, 2; Titus 2:9, 10; 1 Corinthians 7:21-24; Romans 13:1, 5; 1 Peter 2:18-25). The duties of servants and masters are prominent here (ver. 22- Colossians 4:1), in view of the emphasis thrown upon the lordship of Christ; and partly, no doubt, with reference to the case of the runaway slave Onesimus (Colossians 4:9; Epistle to Philemon) "Servant" is δοῦλος, bondman, as in Colossians 1:1 and commonly in St. Paul. In 1 Peter 2:18 we have the milder οἰκετής, domestic. The vast majority of servants of all kinds at this time in the Greek and Roman world were slaves. In most districts the slaves were much more numerous than the free population. And they were undoubtedly numerous in the early Church. The gospel has always been welcome to the poor and oppressed. The attitude of St. Paul and of Christianity towards slavery claims consideration under the Epistle to Philemon; on this point see Lightfoot's 'Introduction.' Here and in Ephesians 6:5 (comp. vers. 7, 8) the apostle calls the master κύριος ("lord") in reference to "the Lord Christ" (vers. 22 b, 24); elsewhere in the New Testament, as in common Greek, the opposite of δοῦλος is δεσποτής (1 Timothy 6:1, 2; 2 Timothy 2:21, etc.), "According to flesh," that is, "in outward, earthly relationship" (comp. Romans 4:1): Christ is the Lord in the absolute and abiding sense of the word (similarly, "in the flesh" and "in the Lord," Philemon 1:16). Not with acts of eye service (literally, not in eye services), as man pleasers, but in singleness of heart, fearing the Lord (Ephesians 6:6; Ephesians 5:21; 1 Thessalonians 2:4; Galatians 1:10; Matthew 6:22; Luke 11:34; James 1:5-8; Psalm 123:2; Isaiah 8:13; Revelation 2:23). "Eye service" is plural here, according to Revised Text; singular in Ephesians 6:6. Here the word ὀφθαλμοδουλεία first oocurs in Greek, like ἐθελοθρησκεία (Colossians 2:23). It strikes at the besetting sin of servants of all kinds. Ανθρωπάρεσκος ("man pleaser") occurs in the LXX, Psalm 52:6 (comp. 1 Thessalonians 2:6; Galatians 1:10). The servant whose aim it is to please his earthly master in what will catch his eye, plays a double part, acting in one way when observed, in another when left to himself; with this duplicity is contrasted "singleness of heart" (comp. Romans 12:8; 2 Corinthians 11:3; ἀπλότης in 2 Corinthians 8:2 and 1 Cor 9:11, 13 has a different application). "Fearing the Lord" more than the eye of his earthly lord, the Christian servant will always act in "singleness of heart;" for "the eyes of the Lord are in every place." In the same manner the apostle ("bondman of Christ Jesus," Colossians 1:1) speaks of his own relations to men and to the Lord Christ respectively (1 Corinthians 4:3-5; 2 Corinthians 5:11; Galatians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:4-6, etc.: comp. John 5:37-44). The reading "God" of Received Text is a copyist's emendation, a sample of a large class of corruptions of the text, where a word more familiar in any given connection is, more or less unconsciously, substituted for the original word. Masters (κυρίοις)

See on Lord, 2 Peter 2:1, and see on Matthew 21:3. Κύριος Lord and δεσπότης master came to be used interchangeably in the New Testament, though originally the latter involved such authority as is implied in our use of despot, or in the relation of a master to a slave. The Greeks applied δεσπότης only to the gods.

With eye-service (ἐν ὀφθαλμοδουλείαις)

Only here and Ephesians 6:6. The word seems to have been coined by Paul.

Men pleasers (ἀνθρωπάρεσκοι)

Only here and Ephesians 6:6. Compare Plato: "And this art he will not attain without a great deal of trouble, which a good man ought to undergo, not for the sake of speaking and acting before men, but in order that he may be able to say what is acceptable to God, and always to act acceptably to Him as far as in him lies. For there is a saying of wiser men than ourselves, that a man of sense should not try to please his fellow-servants (at least this should not be his first object), but his good and noble masters" ("Phaedrus," 273).

Singleness (ἁπλότητι)

See on Romans 12:8. Without duplicity or doubleness.

Fearing the Lord (τὸν Κύριον)

The one Master contrasted with the masters (κυρίοις) according to the flesh. The parallel in Ephesians 6:5, has as unto Christ.

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