Colossians 3:25

And Ye Masters…



1. In this section, Paul has been dealing with the issue of submission to authority within the Christian household.

a. In every area, God expected each one to submit to the authority over them.

b. Vs. 18 – wives were to submit to their husbands…

c. Vs. 20 – children were to obey their parents…

d. Vs. 22 – servants were to obey their masters…

2. Paul also gives some instructions to those who are IN a position of authority.

a. Those in a position of authority were to be kind and gracious to those under them.

b. Vs. 19 – the husbands were to love their wives…

c. Vs. 21 – the fathers were to be sensitive to their children and not provoke them to anger or discourage them by being oppressive.

d. 4:1 – the masters were also to be just and equal to servants.

3. Rather than give directions which would upset the natural order of their society, and could potentially throw their socio-economic system into chaos (for which Christianity would have been blamed) Paul gave instructions to believers that would improve the quality of life for everyone… regardless of the system… regardless of one’s position… regardless of one’s lot in life.

4. For the past few weeks, we looked at Paul’s instructions to the servants… slaves.

a. They were to obey their masters

b. They were to perform their duties heartily

c. They were to do so with a heavenly mindset:
• They were not serving men but Christ.
• Although they received precious little by way of rewards for their service on earth, they would be rewarded one day at the Bema Seat.
• Even if they were being treated unfairly on earth, the Bema Seat would correct all that.
• In glory and throughout eternity, JUSTICE would prevail… even if it was noticeably absent in their present, earthly circumstances.
• Vs. 24 – If they did well on earth, endured injustice, one day they would get the reward that was coming to them.

5. Next Paul addresses the masters. He tells them to beware, because they would get what was coming to them too!

He that Does Wrong Shall Be Rewarded Too (3:25)

A. But he that doeth wrong…

1. Note the word “but.” This changes the direction of Paul’s discussion.

a. He had been talking about good rewards for good service.

b. Now he warns that bad service… poor work will also be judged and rewarded accordingly.

c. He switches gears from that which was position to negative: rewards for faithful service and good works TO a “reward” for unfaithful service… evil works.

d. It is also possible that this term “but” not only contrasts the two kinds of works… but also contrasts the two kinds of men: servants and masters.
• The chapter division implies that vs. 25 is to be included in the section on servants (beginning at vs. 22).
• The preposition “but” may indicate that Paul intended to end his notes to the servants at vs. 24 and begin his message to the masters at vs. 25.
• Actually, the warning about evil works is appropriate for both servants and masters.
• However, the fact that Paul amends that warning with the phrase, “And there is no respect of persons” seems to imply that he had the masters in mind.
• Certainly no slave would expect special treatment because he was a slave!
• But the masters might expect special treatment just because they are big shots! They were the power brokers and the movers and shakers of their day.

2. There are “rewards” for evil doers: whether slave or master… for as believers, whether bond or free, we are all servants of Jesus Christ…

a. Servants of Christ (bond or free) are to perform their duties with Christlike character.

b. As Paul wrote the book of Colossians, the issue of master/slave relationships was on his heart.

c. For while in prison, Paul met a runaway slave named Onesimus.

d. He ran away from his master Philemon, who was a Christian friend of Paul’s.

e. In prison Paul wrote the book of Colossians and had another friend, Tychicus deliver this letter to the Colossians for him.

f. Along with the book of Colossians, Tychicus also was to deliver the letter to Philemon and to deliver Onesimus himself to his master!

g. Paul sent this converted slave back to his Christian master.

h. Legally, Philemon had the right to beat, whip, and even kill this runaway slave… who evidently STOLE from his master as he ran away.

i. Paul wrote to Philemon and told this master how to treat his slave.

j. Philem. 8-9 – Paul did not want to ORDER any action. He worded his exhortation in the language of grace. (cf. vs. 14)

k. Vs. 16 – receive him not as a mere servant, but above a servant, a brother in Christ! An equal in Christ!

l. Vs. 17 – receive him in the same way you would receive me!

m. Vs. 18-19 – if he owes you anything, I will repay it! It is likely that this slave stole from his master when he ran away. “Put that on my account!” Christlike character — our sins were put on Christ’s account… and He paid them all for us!

n. Paul sets the example of HOW to treat a slave… treat them as Christ treats us! Do unto others as you would have others do unto you!

3. Roman law had to address the dual status of slaves: by nature they were persons, but from an economic standpoint they were disposed of as property. The head of a household could legally execute his slaves, and they would all be executed if the head of the household was murdered.

4. Christianity was not intended to change Roman law… it was intended to change the hearts of men.

5. And if your heart is not right before God and men… keep in mind that one day we will stand before the Lord…

B. Motivation: God Is No Respecter of Persons

1. The Bema Seat is a RAISED platform… but it is a level platform.

2. On that platform the slave and his master will stand on level ground, even if they didn’t stand on level ground on earth.

3. This was a warning to the masters… God’s judgments are JUST and equal! Therefore, treat your servants with justice and equity too.

4. We picture Lady Justice as being blindfolded and holding a level balance. That’s the best way to picture from a human perspective: blind to a man’s outward appearance, social ranking, skin color, and position in society.

5. But with Divine justice, God is not blind, but ALL SEEING… He sees all and knows all. His eyes pierce into the minds and hearts of men… we stand naked before His piercing eyes and nothing we have ever thought, said, or did escapes His notice.

6. The Christian master was to deal with his servants as fairly and justly as he would want the Lord Jesus to deal with him!

7. And the Lord is no respecter of persons.

a. At the Bema seat, every believer will stand on equal footing…

b. And every believer will be held to the exact same standard: Christlike character.

c. Did you manifest Christlike character in the way you performed your responsibilities on earth… and in the way you treated others… or not???

d. Was it Christ in us, or the flesh working in us?

Give unto your servants that which is just and equal (4:1)

1. In the first century, most slave masters considered their slaves to be property… as human tools.

2. This was a radical notion Paul proposed in the New Testament: treat them as people… and be fair and equal! (Wives, children, and slaves had virtually no standing before Roman law.)

a. Gal. 3:28 – there is no difference in Christ.
• Slaves and masters were brothers and shared the exact same POSITION and the same calling in Christ.
• The Christian master was to treat a Christian slave as a BROTHER in the Lord!
• That means that EVERY passage in the New Testament that tells a brother how to treat a brother is to be applied to the master toward his slave.
• Think of some of those passages: let each esteem others better than themselves… (Phil. 2:3)
• Look not every man on his own things, but on the things of others… (Phil. 2:4)
• Love thy neighbor as thyself.
• “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another.” (Rom. 12:10)
• “Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility.” (I Pet. 5:5)

b. I Cor. 7:22 – the slave master (a freeman) was to consider himself a slave to Jesus Christ.
• Hence, he was not to do whatever pleased himself. He was to please Christ… who loved the slaves as much as He loved the masters.

c. Col. 3:17 – the masters were reminded that in whatever they did with their slaves, they were to do so in the name of the Lord… as representatives of Christ. They were to treat their slaves as Christ would treat them… in His name…

d. Col. 1:18 – And if Christ is preeminent in the minds and hearts of the masters (as Paul exhorted), then this too would change the way they treated their slaves. If that were the case, a Christlike heart would prevail in human relationships.

3. A spiritual relationship will radically change physical, social, and earthly relationships.

a. The New Testament never calls for the overthrow of a political system… or to change the social structure. It calls for a change of heart instead. (Do unto others…)

b. As Christians, we ARE slaves to Christ. It is the greatest relationship that exists!

c. I wouldn’t mind being a slave to someone who treated me the way Christ treated people.

d. In fact, if we were all slaves to men who treated us as Christ treated people… slaves to men who had hearts like that of the Lord Jesus, then we would be far better off… regardless of what century, what society, or economic system we lived in!

e. A Christlike heart would change even the WORST of human systems into the best of relationships!

f. If everybody had a heart like the Lord, (government officials; workers; employers; masters; kings; etc.) then it wouldn’t matter WHAT kind of government or social structure we had!

g. Imagine if you lived in the first century and Jesus Christ hired you to work for Him in his carpentry shop? What kind of an employer do you suppose Jesus Christ would have been? How would He have treated you?
• He would have paid you a fair wage… generously!
• He would have been understanding and compassionate toward you if you were sick.
• He would have been interested in YOU and in your family… how you were getting along in life…
• He wouldn’t treat you like a number or a commodity, but as family!
• He would have been more than a boss; He would have been a wonderful friend and counselor!
• And most importantly, He would surely have shared with you the gospel of God’s grace… and He surely would have LIVED the life before you… day in and day out!
• Wouldn’t it be great if, in real life, we could have a boss who was LIKE the Lord Jesus?
• That’s what Paul is telling employers or masters to BE!
• I wouldn’t mind working for Christ. In fact, I wouldn’t mind being a SLAVE to Jesus Christ!

4. The real evil of earthly systems does not lie in the system itself (slavery; caste system; capitalism; communism; totalitarianism; monarchy; tribal rule). The real evil lies in the hearts of sinful, selfish, greedy men.

a. If the hearts of men were like that of Christ, ANY system on earth would work… and it might even be a taste of heaven!

b. Wiersbe said: “The heart of every problem is the problem of the heart.”

c. The problem of injustice that slaves endured was not really so much an economic issue… or a social issue… or a political issue.

d. It was a heart-issue. That was the real problem… and remains the real problem of life in our world today.

e. That is how Paul addressed the issue in Col. 3.

5. Paul calls upon the Christian slave owners to GIVE unto their slaves that which is JUST and EQUAL.

a. Notice that Paul never tells the slave owners to set all their slaves free and bring an end to the systems.

b. Rather, Paul addresses the HEARTS of the masters… and tells them to be just and equal with their slaves.

c. Give = offer.

d. The masters were to offer justice and equity to their slaves.

e. Paul gives BOTH sides of the master/slave relationship.
• The servant/worker is to do his best and give an honest day’s work.
• The master/employer is to treat his workers fairly and give them just compensation for their labor.

f. Masters giving unto their servants that which is “just and equal” would include their wages: the laborer is worthy of his hire! Pay him fairly… even generously!

g. It would include the way they were treated.
• That would mean that slaves were to be treated as EQUALS… (Not in authority, but as persons.)
• In fact, the Christian slave WAS his equal in Christ!
• This would imply imposing the golden rule: do unto others as you would have others do unto you!

h. If Christian slave masters OBEYED this command and did in fact treat their slaves with justice and equity one might expect to see some unusual things begin to occur:
• Some of those slaves might be given their freedom!
• Some of those freed slaves might choose to remain with their master and work for him willingly!
• Either way, the injustice of slavery issue would be over!
• A Christian in a position of authority over others is expected to apply this passage: give unto them under you that which is just and fair! (fair wages; fair treatment; dignity; respect; justice)

6. Eph. 6:9 – Masters were commanded to do the same things unto them and to forbear threatening.

a. Do the same thing:
• Here Paul tells slave owners to follow the SAME instructions that he just gave to their slaves.
• Vs. 7 – with GOOD WILL (a right heart attitude towards others) perform your responsibilities as if you were dealing with the Lord Jesus Himself!
• The servants were expected to do their work as if they were serving the Lord Jesus Himself.
• The masters were to do the same thing: deal with their slaves AS IF they were serving or ministering to the Lord Jesus Himself, as His reprepresentative.
• Boy would that change things!

b. Forbearing threatening: (vs. 9)
• This is virtually the same context… a parallel passage to Col. 3.
• Here Paul tells the slave owners not to threaten their servants. (harsh, vicious, threatening language)
• Forbear: dismiss… send away.
• They were to dismiss any idea of threatening the servants…
• They were not to terrorize them verbally…
• Servants of a Christian slave owner should never live in fear or terror.
• Paul addresses part of human nature here: that it is human nature for men in positions of authority to let that authority go to their heads… and they tend to throw their weight around verbally through threatening.
• And in the context, cruel husbands sometimes threaten their wives and abuse them verbally. Sometimes parents do the same with their children. And masters did it towards their slaves.
• Cf. Col. 3:21 – fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged… same idea.
• It is human nature to threaten and to cause those under your authority to live in fear… to be terrorized by what you might do to them…
• It is human nature to behave that way… but it is also evil! It is sinful… and God hates it.

7. What great application for the Christian employer today!

a. The obvious application of the servant is to a worker or employee.

b. The obvious application concerning the master would be toward the employer… or an office manager… a business owner… or a factory foreman… a school teacher…

c. If you are in a position of authority at work and have people under you, God has a message for you in this passage:
• Treat them like people… not like numbers.
• They are people made in the image of God whether they are saved or not.
• And treat them with justice and equity!

Ye Also Have a Master in Heaven

1. Paul exhorts the earthly masters to be careful in the way they treat their servants…

a. FOR they also have to report to a Master in Heaven: the Lord Jesus Christ!

b. The masters were not only IN authority, but they were also UNDER authority… under the authority of the Master in heaven.

2. KNOWING: (4:1)

a. Paul wanted the masters to KNOW something.

b. He wanted them to keep this information in their minds and hearts as they dealt with their servants: that they have a master in heaven to whom they must give an account one day.

3. KNOWING: (3:24)

a. Paul wanted the servants to KNOW something too.

b. He wanted them to keep this information in their minds and hearts as they performed their daily chores heartily: they have a reward awaiting them in heaven for faithful service.

4. KNOWING: The grammar is the same in both cases:

a. Knowing = Perfect active participles
• This speaks to the fact that they came to know this truth in the past and they now stand settled in this truth…
• There was some truth… some settled knowledge that God wanted to be lodged in the minds of both the slaves and the masters.

b. The slaves: stood settled in the truth that they would one day be rewarded for their faithful service in heaven.
• This would enable them to be content even if they were not compensated on earth.
• This settled knowledge would enable them to persevere through injustices of all stripes.

c. The masters: they also stood settled in another truth: that they would one day face their master in heaven and would have to give an account of their actions to Him!
• And he is no respecter of persons.
• Cf. Eph. 6:9 – the masters were not to threaten KNOWING that they had a master in heaven… a Master who would not be impressed with the fact that they were part of the upper class!
• This is obviously a WARNING to the slave owners.

d. Notice the contrast in the truths that Paul tells them to keep in mind:
• Consolation to the slaves: a glorious heavenly reward! The thought of the Bema Seat should lift up their hearts and encourage their souls as they do their chores.
• Warning to the masters: a Master who treats them with justice… and will one day judge them as to how they treated their servants. The thought of the Bema would not encourage them, but instill in them the fear of God! A stern warning!

e. The connection between the main verb and the participle:
• Slaves: work heartily… KNOWING that there is a heavenly reward. AS they work, they are to KNOW this. What a glorious motivator!
• Masters: give justice and equity to your slaves… KNOWING that you have a Master in heaven. AS they deal with their servants, they are to KNOW this. This was a wonderful motivator… and also a warning!

f. Eph. 6:9 – KNOWING: the same perfect, active, participle as is found in our passage in Colossians twice.
• Paul calls upon the Ephesian masters to keep this truth settled in their minds as they deal with their slaves: YOU too have a master in heaven with whom you will have to give an account one day. And He is no respecter of persons!
• KNOWING this (keeping this truth in the forefront of their minds) will prevent them from threatening their servants.
• Knowing this will also prevent those here who may be in a managerial position at work… or a business owner and employer… or a person in any position of authority… from threatening… and will motivate such a person to treat them with justice and equity.
• Wouldn’t it be great to have a boss like that? (He treats you like a person; kind; compassionate; thoughtful; treats you honestly, fairly, and with justice and equity?)

g. Jas. 5:1- Here James deals with the subject of men in positions of power and authority treating those under them unfairly.
• The system here does not seem to be a master/slave relationship, but that of wealthy land owners and poor, peasant workers.
• James is really appealing to the Christian workers suffering injustice and fraud. But he also gives a word of warning to the wealthy… who may or may not be saved.
• James approaches the subject as Paul does.
» Paul did not call for the believers to change the system of slavery… but to change their hearts and the way they treated other human beings.
» James does not call for a redistribution of the wealth or property. Instead he warns the wealthy and consoles the poor, just as Paul did. He attempts to change their heart attitudes rather than the earthly system.
• Vs. 1-3 – James warns the wealthy land owners who have gathered much gold to themselves that their gold is rotting away before their very eyes… cankered… and their earthly joys will soon be turned into misery.
• Vs. 4 – they hired poor laborers to do their work and they kept back their pay fraudulently. The warning is that God hears the cries of these poor workers!
• Vs. 5 – the wealthy land owners who are living well off this fraud… they are rich and fat… are in fact more like pigs being fattened up for the day of slaughter!
• Vs. 6—they were violent, unjust, and seemed to get away with it in this life.
• Vs. 7-8—then James turns to the poor Christian workers and reminds them that the Lord is coming and His reward is with Him…
• The reminder of the Lord’s coming was a two edged sword – it served to console the poor workers, and it also served as a severe rebuke and warning to the unjust wealthy land owners.
• God wants both parties to KNOW that one day we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ and give an account for everything we did in this life… be it good or bad.

h. KNOWING: this is Paul’s way of telling both the slaves and the masters to be heavenly minded!
• They were to think on things above as they lived out their lives here below!
• They were to be settled in their knowledge of the fact that the future Bema Seat… standing before the Heavenly Master… our Judge… ought to have a profound effect on our present lives!
• As you live your life and deal with people day in and day out… KNOW this! Keep it in mind…
• Whether you are an employee or an employer… KNOW these truths…
• Being heavenly minded makes us BETTER workers and BETTER employees!
• Being heavenly minded also makes us better managers… and better employers.
• It makes us more diligent in our work… and more careful about the way we treat people under our authority…
• It is good for us ALL—regardless of our lot in life—to think on things above.
• Keep the coming of the Lord in the forefront of our thinking… as we endure difficulties and injustice in this life… and as we deal with people.

i. Our relationships to one another on earth ought to be carried out in light of that future day of judgment… where we all stand on equal footing before the Lord… and we will all be judged by the same standard of justice and equity.

j. Jesus said in Matt. 7:2: “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”

k. Be careful about how we treat people and what we expect of others. That standard might be held to us one day!

Back to top of page

Back to Chapter-3 Index

Back to Colossians Index

Back to Bible Studies