1 Timothy 6:1

(1) Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour.--From questions connected with the presbyters and others among the recognised ministers and officials of the church, St. Paul passes on to consider certain difficulties connected with a large and important section of the congregations to whom these presbyters were in the habit of ministering--the Christian slaves.

It was perhaps the most perplexing of all the questions Christianity had to face--this one of slavery. It entered into all grades and ranks. It was common to all peoples and nations. The very fabric of society seemed knit and bound together by this miserable institution. War and commerce were equally responsible for slavery in the Old World. To attempt to uproot it--to preach against it--to represent it in public teaching as hateful to God, shameful to man--would have been to preach and to teach rebellion and revolution in its darkest and most violent form. It was indeed the curse of the world; but the Master and His chosen servants took their own course and their own time to clear it away. Jesus Christ and His disciples, such as St. Paul and St. John, left society as they found it, uprooting no ancient landmarks, alarming no ancient prejudices, content to live in the world as it was, and to do its work as they found it--trusting, by a new and lovely example, slowly and surely to raise men to a higher level, knowing well that at last, by force of unselfishness, loving self-denial, brave patience, the old curses--such as slavery--would be driven from the world. Surely the result, so far, has not disappointed the hopes of the first teachers of Christianity.

This curse at least is disappearing fast from the face of the globe. St. Paul here is addressing, in the first place, Christian slaves of a Pagan master. Let these, if they love the Lord and would do honour to His holy teaching, in their relations to their earthly masters not presume upon their new knowledge, that with the Master in Heaven "there was no respect of persons;" that "in Jesus Christ there was neither bond nor free, for all were one in Christ." Let these not dream for an instant that Christianity was to interfere with the existing social relations, and to put master and slave on an equality on earth. Let these, by their conduct to unbelieving masters, paying them all loving respect and honour, show how the new religion was teaching them to live.

That the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed.--There would indeed be a grave danger of this, if the many Christian slaves, instead of showing increased zeal for their masters' service, should, as the result of the teaching of the new society they had joined, become morose, impatient of servitude, rebellious. Very soon in Pagan society would the name of that Redeemer they professed to love, and the beautiful doctrines He had preached, be evil spoken of, if the teaching were for one moment suspected of inculcating discontent or suggesting rebellion. An act, or course of acting, on the part of professed servants of God which gives occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, is ever reckoned in Holy Scripture as a sin of the deepest dye. Compare Nathan's words to King David (2Samuel 12:14) and St. Paul's reproach to the Jews (Romans 2:24).

Verse 1. - Are servants for servants as are, A.V.; the doctrine for his doctrine, A.V. Servants; literally, slaves. That slaves formed a considerable portion of the first Christian Churches may be inferred from the frequency with which their duties are pressed upon them (see 1 Corinthians 7:21-22; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 6:5-8; Colossians 3:11, 22; 1 Peter 2:18 (οἱ οἰκέται); see also 1 Corinthians 1:27-29). It must have been an unspeakable comfort to the poor slave, whose worldly condition was hopeless and often miserable, to secure his place as one of Christ's freemen, with the sure hope of attaining "the glorious liberty of the children of God." Under the yoke; i.e. "the yoke of bondage" (Galatians 5:1). Perhaps the phrase contains a touch of compassion for their state (comp. Acts 15:10). How beautiful is the contrast suggested in Matthew 11:29, 30! Masters (δεσπότας); the proper word in relation to δοῦλος. The doctrine (ἡ διδασκαλία); equivalent to "Christianity," as taught by the apostles and their successors (see the frequent use of the word in the pastoral Epistles, though with different shades of meaning (1 Timothy 1:10; 1 Timothy 4:6, 13, 16; 1 Timothy 5:17; 2 Timothy 3:10; 2 Timothy 4:3; Titus 1:9; Titus 2:10, etc.). Blasphemed (compare the similar passage, Titus 2:5, where ὁ λόγος τοῦ Θεοῦ answers to ἡ διδασκαλία here). Βλασφημεῖν does not necessarily mean "blaspheme" in its restricted sense, but as often means "to speak evil of," "to defame," and the like. If Christian slaves withheld the honor and respect due to their masters, it would be as sure to bring reproach upon the Christian doctrine as if it taught insubordination and rebellion.

6:1-5 Christians were not to suppose that religious knowledge, or Christian privileges, gave them any right to despise heathen masters, or to disobey lawful commands, or to expose their faults to others. And such as enjoyed the privilege of living with believing masters, were not to withhold due respect and reverence, because they were equal in respect to religious privileges, but were to serve with double diligence and cheerfulness, because of their faith in Christ, and as partakers of his free salvation. We are not to consent to any words as wholesome, except the words of our Lord Jesus Christ; to these we must give unfeigned consent. Commonly those are most proud who know least; for they do not know themselves. Hence come envy, strife, railings, evil-surmisings, disputes that are all subtlety, and of no solidity, between men of corrupt and carnal minds, ignorant of the truth and its sanctifying power, and seeking their worldly advantage.Let as many servants as are under the yoke,.... Not under the yoke of the law of God, or under the yoke of Christ; though the servants here spoken of were under both; but "under the yoke of government", as the Arabic version renders it; that is, under the yoke of men, in a state of servitude, under the government of masters, and in their service; being either apprentices to them, or bought with their money, or hired by them:

count their own masters worthy of all honour; and give it to them; which includes subjection to them; obedience to all their lawful commands, which are consistent with religion and reason, with the laws of God, and with the light of nature; and all reverence of them, and respect unto them, expressed by words and gestures: and all this is to be given to their own masters to whom they belong; who have a property in them; whose money or goods they are; and that be they what they will, as to their religion and temper; whether they be believers or unbelievers; or whether they be good and gentle, kind and humane; or whether they be froward, peevish, and ill natured:

that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed; by unbelieving masters, who, should their believing servants be refractory, disobedient, rebellious, or disrespectful, would be apt to say, what a God do these men serve? is this their religion? is this the Gospel they talk of? does their doctrine teach them such things, to be disobedient to their masters, and carry it disrespectfully to them? does it disengage them from the laws of nature, and dissolve the bonds of civil society, and destroy the relation that subsists between man and man? If this be the case, away with their God and their doctrine too. Wherefore the apostle exhorts, that if believing servants have any regard to that name they are called by, and call upon, and to the doctrine of the Gospel they have embraced and professed; that they would be obedient and respectful to their masters; that they may have no occasion to speak reproachfully of God, and of the Gospel.

1 Timothy 5:25
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