Work as to the Lord

Ephesians 6:5 Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; 6 not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, 8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. 9 And you, masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him. (NKJV)


The book of Ephesians is part of what is known as the Prison Epistles. The writings, themselves, affirm that the epistles were written by the Apostle Paul from prison. 

There are differing opinions as to during which of Paul’s prison confinements the epistles were written. There are many sources that discuss this subject fully. For our purposes, we will go along with the thought of most scholars that Paul wrote the prison epistles during his house arrest in Rome from AD 60-62. 

It is believed that the epistle was written about AD 61 to the house churches in Ephesus, Asia. The idea was that this authoritative letter would be passed along to the other churches. 

The book of Ephesians can be divided into two halves. The first half, the first three chapters, is concerned with the positional; doctrine outlining our position in Christ. 

The second half, the last three chapters, is concerned with the practical; how we work out our position in the practical living of our Christian life. This is similar to the breakdown of the book of Romans, Paul’s previous writing.

The key to this passage lies in the commandment just preceding it. In Ephesians 5:18 Paul commands “be filled (controlled) with the (Holy) Spirit.” It is this filling with the Holy Spirit that gives us the power to obey the Lord. 

When Paul commands us to “be filled” it is a call to action on our part, not something we wait on the Lord to do. The action is to die to self and allow the Holy Spirit to control us rather than our own selfish desires. Once we are filled with the Holy Spirit, instead of ourselves, we are more able to please God. 

In this teaching on submission, we will look at the topic of Christian workers submitting to their Christian bosses. The passage uses the terms “bondservants” and “masters”. The word “bondservant” is a translation of the Greek word “doulos” which means slave or servant. 

The reference today would be to a servant, since slavery has been ended in this country primarily through Christian morality. Thus, the application today, in this country, for this passage is to workers and their bosses. 

Paul first addresses Christian workers. He writes that they should obey their Christian bosses in the same way that they obey the Lord, with respect, reverence, and sincerity (v.5). Workers should work to please God, and not man (v.6). 

Therefore, there should be no slacking off because the Lord is always watching, even when man is not. Workers should work as if they are serving the Lord, because they know that He will reward them for their faithfulness (vv.7-8) 

Paul then turns to bosses and the Lord requires even more of them than He does of workers. First, Paul writes that bosses should act the same way as workers, and for the same reasons. But he goes beyond requiring what he does of workers and gives a warning to give up “threatening” workers because both the worker and the boss report to the Lord and the Lord sees them as equals, not favoring one over the other (v.9). 

This is the final teaching in Ephesians on the subject of submission. Here is a summation of the teachings.

(1) Every Christian should first submit to the Lord, by the power of the Holy Spirit. They should submit to His teachings, the Bible, out of a desire to please the Lord. Therefore, they should submit to other humans when that is His teaching, so as to please the Lord. If they are asked to do anything that does not please the Lord, that is unbiblical, they should refuse, because their first allegiance is always to the Lord.

(2) Every Christian should submit to every other Christian.

(3) Wives should submit to their husbands.

(4) Children should submit to their parents.

(5) Husbands should submit to their bosses.

The Lord intended the wife and husband to each be submissive to one human, other than the commandment to submit to other Christians. The wife was to submit to the husband, as the head of the home, and the husband was to submit to his boss, as the head of his employment.

Wives were not to work outside the home. Therefore, they were not considered to be a servant, a worker. Today when wives work outside the home, they take on a second human in whom they are required to submit.

This was not the Lord’s plan for wives. It does not change the Bible’s teaching that wives should submit to their husbands. Please don’t shoot the messenger. Take it up with the Lord. God Bless you. .

Art Toombs Ministries 

Online Bible Commentary