THE PLACE OF SERVANTS
Servants in biblical times were more bond servants than hired servants. In the context of today’s text, it would apply to all servants, bond or hired. Servants may be hired on a contractual basis, or on a permanent basis. Those hired to work in the home will be domestic servants. The children in the family sometimes will call the female domestic servants “aunties,” and the little ones may not know that they are not family members.
The Apostle here gave instructions to these servants on how they might render acceptable service. They were to be obedient to their masters according to the flesh. They should do so with fear and trembling, and with sincerity of heart, as unto Christ. They were to be faithful and not do their work only when the master was around but to do the will of God in their heart. They were to do it as service to God, not to man. Paul gave reasons for this in Ephesians 6:8: “Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.” The Apostle might have had many experiences (besides Onesimus) of servants who were not faithful. This might be why he was very particular in his instructions.
Masters also take wrong actions and they need guidance in order to develop good relations with their servants. They are to forebear threatening and to remember that they have a Master in heaven. The heavenly Master is perfectly just. There is no partiality in Him. When the Apostle reconciled Philemon and Onesimus, he talked to the servant first to ensure that he knew the Lord and that he would accept his duty to his master as his duty towards God. Secondly, Paul told the master to accept his servant as a brother-in-Christ. Thereafter, their relationship would be pleasing to God.
THOUGHT: Servants need love as much as their masters.
PRAYER: Lord, may I testify of Christ in all my relations.