SUBMISSIVE TO YOUR MASTERS WITH ALL RESPECT: Oi oiketai hupotassomenoi (PPPMPN) en panti phobo
tois despotais: (1Cor 7:21, Ep 6:5-7; Col 3:22-25; 1 Ti 6:1-3;
from oikos = house) means one who lives in the same
house as another and then household slaves or domestic servants not as
strongly servile as
Many of these household or domestic slaves were well educated and held responsible
positions in the households. Many of them were doctors, teachers,
musicians, actors and stewards over great estates.
The oiketes or household
describes one who generally holds closer relations to the family than
other slaves. He is one of the household of the “family” and yet to
promote order he too is called by Peter to submit to those in
is used 4 times in the NASB and is always translated as servant
In the first NT use of oiketes, Jesus teaches that
No servant (oiketes) can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love
the other, or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. You
cannot serve God and mammon." (Luke 16:13)
Paul writes that each believer is an oiketes of the Lord
and therefore has no right to sit in judgment as if we were the
Who are you to judge the servant (oiketes) of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and stand he
will, for the Lord is able to make him stand." (Ro 14:4-note)
Here is the
other NT use of oiketes...
Acts 10:7 And when the angel
who was speaking to him had departed, he summoned two of his
servants and a devout soldier of those who were in constant
attendance upon him,
is used 36 times in the
(Ge 9:25; 27:37;
44:16, 33; 50:18; Exod. 5:15f; 12:44; 21:26f; 32:13; Lev. 25:39, 42,
55; Num. 32:5; Deut. 5:15; 6:21; 15:15, 17; 16:12; 24:18, 20, 22;
Dt 34:5; Jos. 5:14; 9:8, 11; Pr. 13:13; 17:2; 19:10; 22:7; 29:19, 21;
30:10, 22; Isa. 36:9) For example oiketes is used in the "epitaph" of
Moses who died at 120 years (Dt 34:7)...
Deut 34:5 So Moses the servant
(Hebrew = 'ebed; Lxx = oiketes) of the LORD died there in
the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD.
By some accounts
there were as many as 60 million slaves during the writing of 1Peter
and the NT repeatedly gives more instructions to servants than to
doulos related word for "servant")
Trench adds that
is often used as equivalent to doulos. It certainly is so in
1Peter 2:18; and hardly otherwise on the three remaining occasions
on which it occurs in the NT... oiketes does not bring
out and emphasize the servile relation so strongly as doulos does (but) rather contemplates that relation from a point of
view calculated to mitigate, and which actually did tend very much to
mitigate, its extreme severity. He is one of the household, of the
‘family,’ in the older sense of this word; not indeed necessarily one
born in the house..." (Trench, R. C. Synonyms of the New
Testament. Page 33)
The life and
status of a slave in the Roman Empire
by Arthur A. Rupprecht
While an individual was a
slave, he was in most respects equal to his freeborn counterpart
in the Graeco-Roman world, and in some respects he had an
advantage. By the 1st cent. A.D. the slave had most of the legal
rights which were granted to the free man. Sepulchral
inscrsiptions of the 1st and 2nd centuries indicate the
prosperity and family solidarity of the imperial slave. Many had
a considerable amount of money at their disposal and had rights
to wife and family. In A.D. 20 a decree of the Senate specified
that slave criminals were to be tried in the same way as free
men (Just. Dig. 48. 2. 12. 3). Pliny the Younger treated the
wills of his slaves as valid on the ground that the master’s
house was the substitute for the state (Ep. 8. 16. 2; 8. 24. 5).
In A.D. 61 the family of a slave owner attempted to use an old
prerogative: the execution of all of the slaves of the master,
who had been killed by one of them. When the family of Pedanius
Secundus ordered this, so great a riot broke out when the report
reached Rome that troops had to be called in to quell it, and
the slaves were not killed (Tac. 14. 42. 45). There was also the
interesting incident that took place during the reign of
Hadrian. The emperor was attacked by an insane slave, but,
instead of being put to death, the slave was turned over to the
care of a physician (Script. Hist. Aug., Hadrian 12. 5).
The living conditions of many slaves were better than those
of free men who often slept in the streets of the city or lived
in very cheap rooms. There is considerable evidence to
suggest that the slaves lived within the confines of their
master’s house. They usually lived on the top floor of their
owner’s city house or country villa (Cil. Phil. 2. 67; Colum.
Rust. 1. 63). In Pliny’s Laurentian villa the quarters for the
slaves and freedmen were in separate sections of the house, but
were considered attractive enough to be used for the
entertainment of overnight guests (Plin. Ep. 2. 17. 22). At
Pompeii in one villa, the Casa del Menandro, separate quarters
for slaves were provided on one side of the building. These
rooms were on the second floor, included a kitchen and a
latrine, and were connected to the rest of the house by a long
corridor (Maiuri, Casa del Menandro 1. 186-188).
The slave was not inferior to the free man of similar skills in
regard to food and clothing. That most slaves at Rome were as
well dressed as free men is indicated in an unusual way. Seneca
stated that legislation was introduced in the Senate that slaves
should be required to wear a type of clothing that would
distinguish them from free men (Sen. de Clementia 1. 24. 1).
It is presumed that the slave ate as well as the poor free man
but there is no direct evidence on the subject. At least it is
hard to believe that a master would provide well for his slaves
in other ways and not feed them well.
The free laborer in NT times was seldom in better circumstances
than his slave counterpart. The average free laborer at Rome and
in the provinces could expect to earn about one denarius a day.
This was the pay of the workers in the vineyard of Jesus’
parable (Matt 20:2). Julius Caesar’s troops received 225 denarii
a year plus fringe benefits of food and booty (Libernam in RE
S.V. “Exercitus” 1672-1674). One of Caesar’s scribes, a skilled
workman, received one denarius per day (Dessau 6087.62).
Augustus raised the pay by giving a bonus of 3,000 denarii for
twenty years of service in addition to the salary of 225 denarii
per year (Cassius Dio 55.23). Finally in Diocletian’s time, when
food prices were approximately the same as those of the late
republic and early empire, where they can be compared, the wages
of the unskilled were set by imperial decree at one-half to one
denarius a day (Frank ESAR 1. 404). At this point Frank’s
comparison of the free man with the slave is worth noting (ESAR
2. 266-283). The free man might receive one denarius a day in
wages or c. 313 denarii a year, if he worked six days a week. He
would spend half of that, two to two and one-half sesterces per
day on food or 184 denarii a year. This would provide him with a
diet of bread, vegetables, and fruit. Clothing of poor quality
would cost five to ten denarii a year. If the individual did not
sleep in the streets as many did, housing would cost thirty
sesterces a month or ninety denarii a year. Therefore, of the
313 denarii earned, 279 would be spent on basic necessities.
However, the slave, in addition to receiving these basic
necessities, was given five denarii a month as spending money
(Sen. Ep. 80. 7). From these statistics one can only conclude
that the average free man lived no better than the slave. In
fact, in time of economic hardship it was the slave and not the
free man who was guaranteed the necessities of life for himself
and his family."
(Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the
Bible Volume 5:Page 460)
It is difficult for twentieth-century Christians to understand the
slavery of the ancient world. During the time of the NT writings,
slavery was not as bad as that practiced in America before the Civil
War. Ancient slaves had fairly normal marital lives. Often people sold
themselves into slavery (for a period of time) as a way to get ahead
in the world. Nevertheless the lot of a slave could be very hard if
the master was unkind. (Gaebelein,
F, Editor: Expositor's Bible Commentary 6-Volume New Testament.
hupó = under +
= arrange in orderly
means literally to place under in an orderly fashion and was
a military term meaning “to arrange in order under” a commanding
general and thus being subject to his orders. Submission is to a position of
authority rather than to a person. Hupotasso means
to be placed under in an orderly fashion (Click
1Peter 3:1 for more detail on "hupotasso").
Submission focuses not on
personality but position. We need to see authority over us not acting
on their own, but as instruments in the hand of God. If we look at
people as acting on their own we will eventually become bitter, but if
we can see them as acting as God allows, we will become holy. A
beautiful example of this is found in the life of Joseph. His brothers
consistently mistreated him and it would have been very easy for him
to become bitter at them. Yet he had a divine perspective on the whole
situation and it helped him become a holy man of God.
And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good
in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people
alive. (Ge 50:20).
present tense conveys the
force of the imperative (command) in
this verse and calls for this to be the household slave's lifestyle or
habitual action (submission) so as to ensure order in the household.
Subjecting one’s self to another is the opposite of self assertion,
the opposite of an independent, autocratic spirit. It is the desire to
get along with one another, being satisfied with less than one’s due,
a sweet reasonableness of attitude. But you say, "You don't know my
boss or the one in authority over me!" I agree. I do not. But God
does. And He promises to never test us beyond what we can endure (1Cor
And the only way to obey this instruction is to give up on self and
surrender to the Spirit, Who alone provides supernatural power for a
supernatural response (yes, a veritable miracle in a sense!). Notice,
the Spirit does not just "help" us to submit but He enables us to do
so giving us not just the power but even the desire (Php 2:12-note,
cp 2Cor 12:9-note,
Help implies I have some ability, but that is a lie. Am I saying just
"let go and let God?" No, it's a synergistic relationship. You still
have the responsibility to yield to the Spirit's gift of desire and
power to obey, and follow though on submitting. What is so exciting
about this lifestyle is that it is so liberating. Not me trying
harder, but learning daily to die to self and rely on Savior (Spirit
of Christ)! And what is one result of your "supernatural response"?
Others see and discern it and receive a proper opinion of the unseen
God through your seen words, attitude and actions! (Mt 5:16-note)
instruction here regarding a servant's submission continues his previous
charge for all (no exceptions here!) believers to submit themselves "for the
Lord's sake to every human institution" (1Peter 2:13-note).
This same motivation would (for the Lord's sake) certainly apply to the institution of slavery and slaves to their
In summary, slaves saved by grace through faith were to
cooperate, be loyal, and willingly obey their masters. Believers who
were servants were not set free from serving their masters, but they
were set free from slavery to sin, self and Satan! (E.g., see Ro 6:17-20-notes on
While their masters might not be Christians, that did not allow the
servants to be disrespectful or lazy. All of us need to remember that
our ultimate Master is the Lord God and He will reward us for
what we "sow"! (Col 3:22-25-note,
1Cor 4:5 [even our motives!!!], Gal 6:7-note,
problem of taking advantage of one's employers is still present with
us. Some think that because their bosses are Christians, they have the
right to slough off on the job. Peter is saying that God expects
Christians to be the best workers a boss (master) could ever ask for.
Christianity should make us more conscientious than others.
English = despot) means one
who possesses undisputed
ownership and absolute, unrestricted authority, so that the Greeks
refused the title to any but the gods. The despotes was one who has
legal control and authority over persons, such as slaves. In the NT
despotes & kurios are used interchangeably of God,
and of masters of servants. In Greek culture and terminology, servant and despótēs went together.
The English word
despot often congers up a negative image of one who exercises power
tyrannically, harshly or abusively, but the Biblical uses do not
convey such a connotation.
Despotes is one
who has legal control and authority over persons, such as subjects or
slaves and was used especially as the ruler over a household.
TDNT summarizes the secular
Greek uses of despotes:
"The first meaning is the
domestic one of “owner.” This extends to the political sphere
when an alien people takes over a land. The word thus acquires such
varied nuances as
master of the house,
master as distinct from slave,
absolute ruler (equivalent to týrannos in Plato),
powerful divine being,
the Roman emperor, and
While the term expresses social rank or
position, it is not one of status; hence the Jews can not only follow
normal Greek usage but also link the term with God. In the Greek
Bible, while strongly subordinate to kýrios, it appears some 56 times
(25 times in direct address to God with a special emphasis on his
omnipotence). God is kýrios because He is despótēs of all things (cf.
Job 5:8ff). Elsewhere in the LXX
(Septuagint - Greek translation of the Hebrew OT) we find all the
other nuances except a.
but these are less prominent compared to that for God." (Kittel, G., Friedrich, G., &
Bromiley, G. W.
Theological Dictionary of the New Testament.
-10 times in NAS translated: Lord, 3; Master, 3; masters, 4. In
summary, 6x despotes refers to God or Jesus and 4x to human masters.
Luke 2:29 Now (now
that the divine promise that he should see the Messiah before dying
had been fulfilled) Lord (despotes), Thou dost let Thy
bond-servant depart In peace, according to Thy word; for my eyes have
seen Thy salvation (the Messiah Who would make
redemption possible for Jew and Gentile alike), which Thou hast
prepared in the presence of all peoples. (Luke 2:29-31)
Acts 4:24 And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God
with one accord and said, "O Lord, it is You who MADE THE
HEAVEN AND THE EARTH AND THE SEA, AND ALL THAT IS IN THEM,
1Timothy 6:1 All who are under the yoke as slaves are to regard their
own masters as worthy of all honor so that the name of God and
our doctrine will not be spoken against.2 Those who have believers as
their masters must not be disrespectful to them because they
are brethren, but must serve them all the more, because those who
partake of the benefit are believers and beloved. Teach and preach
2 Timothy 2:21 Therefore, if anyone
cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor,
sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.
Implication? Believers are
servants! Servants submit their rights. How are you doing?
Titus 2:9 Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in
everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative,
1 Peter 2:18 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all
respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those
who are unreasonable.
2 Peter 2:1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as
there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly
introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who
bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.
Implication? Believers are note
their own but have been bought or purchased! Are you living for you
SELF or your SAVIOR? It will make a lot of difference in your
enjoyment of this life and the one to come!
Jude 1:4 For certain persons have crept in unnoticed (Very
picturesque verb = pareisduo from para = beside +
eis = into + duo = go down, sink = literally means to go
into and alongside of, to settle down alongside those already there.
In short to slip in secretly as if by a side door!), those who were
long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly (asebes
= depraved conduct and their corrupt doctrine as if God did not exist)
persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness (aselgeia
Christian liberty into license) and deny our only Master and
Implication? What are we doing
when we choose to live by a list of rules? Are we not in effect
denying our Master and the grace He generously gives to carry out
whatever He calls us to accomplish?
and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord,
holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on
those who dwell on the earth?"
Implication? Pay day will come
someday for all who reject God's children because they reject Christ!
Do not be deceived for a day of divine avenging is coming!
Corollary: Believer, don't seek to take your own revenge! Your command
is to forgive! Only possible by the enabling power of the Spirit of
Christ! Jettison self reliance and rely fully on Spirit power to live
a super-natural life!
The first NT use was Simeon's
thankful acknowledgment to the Father:
that the divine promise that he should see the Messiah before dying
had been fulfilled) Lord (despotes), Thou dost let Thy
bond-servant depart In peace, according to Thy word; for my eyes have
seen Thy salvation (the Messiah Who would make
redemption possible for Jew and Gentile alike), which Thou hast
prepared in the presence of all peoples. (Luke 2:29-31)
In Acts, after their companions
heard of the release of Peter and John from prison, the disciples did
not ask God to deliver them from future persecution but instead,
they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and
said, “O Lord (O despotes, Absolute and
Sovereign Master and Master), it is Thou Who didst make the heaven
and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them... (Acts 4:24)
Comment: In this context we see the disciples using despotes as a
reflection of God's sovereignty or control over Creation (and by
implication over any opposition they might experience to the
proclamation of the gospel).
Paul uses despotes
to speak of human masters (over their slaves and
servants) in passages that convey a parallel meaning to that of Peter.
In first Timothy Paul writes
Let all who are under the yoke
(colloquial expression describing submissive service under another’s
authority, not necessarily describing an abusive relationship) as
slaves regard their own masters (despotes) as
worthy of all honor (give them due respect, work obediently and
faithfully, and in general seek to be a help rather than a hindrance) so that (the great motive for diligent service for every
believer involves the testimony of God and His glory) the name of
God and our doctrine (the revelation of God summed up in the
gospel) may not be spoken against. And let those who have believers
as their masters (despotes) not be disrespectful
to them because they are brethren, but let them serve them all the
more, because those who partake of the benefit are believers and
beloved. Teach and preach these principles." (1Ti 6:1-2)
Paul and Peter
are both conveying the foundational truth that how believers act while
under the authority of another affects how people view the Gospel, the message of
salvation. . Displaying a proper attitude of
submission and respect, and performing quality work, help make the
Gospel message believable. “UNDERNEATH ARE THE EVERLASTING ARMS":
"God—the eternal God—is Himself our Support at all times, & especially
when we are sinking in deep trouble. There are seasons wh...en the
Christian sinks very low in humiliation. Under a deep sense of his
great sinfulness, he is humbled before God till he scarcely knows how
to pray, because he appears, in his own sight, so worthless. Well,
child of God, remember that when thou art at thy worst and lowest, yet
“UNDERNEATH” thee “ARE EVERLASTING ARMS.” Sin may drag thee ever so
low, but Christ’s great atonement is still under all. You may have
descended into the deeps, but you cannot have fallen so low as “the
uttermost”; and to the uttermost he saves (Hebrews 7:25KJV). Again,
the Christian sometimes sinks very deeply in sore trial from without.
Every earthly prop is cut away. What then? Still underneath him are
“THE EVERLASTING ARMS!” He cannot fall so deep in distress and
affliction but what the covenant grace of an ever-faithful God will
still encircle him. The Christian may be sinking under trouble from
within through fierce conflict, but even then he cannot be brought so
low as to be beyond the reach of the “everlasting arms”—they are
underneath him; and, while thus sustained, all Satan’s efforts to harm
him avail nothing.
This assurance of support is a comfort to any weary but earnest worker
in the service of God. It implies a PROMISE OF STRENGTH FOR EACH DAY,
GRACE FOR EACH NEED AND POWER FOR EACH DUTY. And, further, when death
comes, the promise shall still hold good. When we stand in the midst
of Jordan (on "death's doorstep"), we shall be able to say with David,
“I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.” (Psalm 23:4) We shall
descend into the grave, but we shall go no lower, for the eternal arms
prevent our further fall. All through life, and at its close, we shall
be upheld by the “EVERLASTING ARMS”—arms that neither flag nor lose
their strength, for “THE EVERLASTING GOD FAINTETH NOT, NEITHER IS
WEARY!" (Isaiah 40:28)
Gospel in your life,
so that you can speak in with your lips!
to be subject to their own masters (despotes) in
everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not
pilfering (steal stealthily in small amounts or things of small
value and often again and again), but showing all good
faith (truly loyal ,entirely reliable, faithful throughout)
that they may adorn (be an ornament, to make attractive -
used to describe how women make themselves attractive) the
doctrine (teaching in context refers to an established body of
teaching that is accepted as correct by the Christian community) of
God our Savior in every respect." (Titus 2:9-10-note)
In explaining to Timothy the
qualities that God expected in those He would use in His supernatural
work, Paul writes
"therefore, if a man cleanses himself from these
things, he will be a vessel for honor (God can use only clean
vessels in holy service. “Purify yourselves, you who bear the vessels
of Jehovah” - Isa. 52:11) sanctified
(set apart from profane use and for holy use), useful
(profitable) to the Master (despotes - the
One Who has absolute ownership and all power), prepared (fit
and ready) for every good work." (2Ti 2:21-note)
Peter introduces his great
warning passage describing false teachers by reminding the saints that
false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will
also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce
(bring in false alongside the truth, teaching much true doctrine,
would cleverly include false teaching with it thus secretly and
stealthily smuggling in) destructive (this word speaks of the
loss of everything that makes human existence worthwhile) heresies,
even denying the Master (despotes - Jesus Christ) Who
bought (used of the purchase of slaves in the slave-market)
them (paying the ransom price with His precious blood),
bringing swift destruction upon themselves." (2Pe 2:1-note)
In a parallel passage
Jude warns that
certain persons have crept
in unnoticed (to get in by the side, to slip in a side-door), those
who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly (depraved conduct and their corrupt doctrine as if God did
not exist) persons who turn the grace of our God into
licentiousness (twist Christian liberty into license) and deny
our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ." (Jude 1:4)
writes that these men
deny His absolute right to rule (despotes), His deity, His vicarious
death, His resurrection—in fact, they deny every essential doctrine of
His Person and work. While professing an expansive liberality in the
spiritual realm, they are dogmatically and viciously opposed to the
gospel, to the value of the precious blood of Christ, and to His being
the only way of salvation." (MacDonald, W., & Farstad,
Believer's Bible Commentary : Old and
New Testaments. Nashville: Thomas Nelson)
In the final NT use of despotes,
we hear the cry of those slain in the last 7 years of Daniel's
Seventieth Week (click
Summary Chart of Daniel's Seventieth Week), as they cry out
"with a loud voice, saying, "How
long, O Lord (despotes), holy and true, wilt Thou refrain from
judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" (Rev 6:10)
Wuest notes that
two classes of these “despots,” the good and kind, and the
froward (perverseness, deceit, or falsehood). The word “good” in
the Greek refers to intrinsic goodness, namely, good at heart.
“Gentle” is from a word meaning “mild, yielding, indulgent.” It comes
in its derivation from a word meaning “not being unduly rigorous.”
Alford describes the master, “Where not strictness of legal right, but
consideration for another, is the rule of practice.” The idea can be
summed up in the word “reasonable,” a reasonable man. “Froward” is
from a word which literally means “crooked.” The English word
“froward” comes from the Anglo-Saxon “from-ward,” namely, “averse.” It
describes a master whose face is averse to the slave, whose whole
attitude is one of averseness to him. Household slaves are exhorted to
put themselves in subjection to both classes."
K. S. Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: Studies in
the Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament: p.23. Grand Rapids:
the lord as owner and master in the spheres of family and public life,
where lordship sometimes entails harshness and caprice. (Brown,
Colin, Editor. New International Dictionary of NT Theology. 1986.
The fact that Peter
singles slaves out for special admonition indicates that slaves, as a
class, formed a large part of the early Christian community (by some
estimates there were over 60 million slaves in the Roman empire).
In Paul’s day, women, children, and slaves had few rights. In Christ
however they had freedom that society denied them. Paul explained how
masters and slaves should live out the dichotomy of being on different
social levels yet one (equal) in Christ.
Some newly converted slaves may have reasoned that their spiritual
freedom also guaranteed personal and political freedom, and this line
of reasoning created problems for themselves and the churches. Paul
dealt with this problem in (1Cor 7:20ff),
and also touched on it in his letter to his friend Philemon. As a
sidelight it is interesting (and encouraging) to note that the Gospel
eventually overthrew the Roman Empire and the terrible institution of
slavery, even though the early church did not preach against either
With all respect - Peter could have stopped with
"Servants be submissive" but he adds this qualifying phrase.
panti phobo) is literally in all fear where respect
is the Greek word
phobos which means fear but in this
context conveys the idea of a reverence toward their masters that
and faithfulness to one's duty. It is an attitude of "healthy fear"
which motivates the slave to conduct themselves in a manner that
pleases their masters on earth and their Master in heaven. It does not
mean in dread of punishment from the master. God wants all believers
to have respect for the system of authority in the employer/employee
relationship. A reverence for God our true final Master should
engender and motivate and empower (by the Spirit) a heart desire to
not speak or do anything that would impugn the name of our Lord, and
it is this underlying principle which "drives" our desire to submit
"respectfully" (in reverential fear) to all those in authority over
us! How are you doing with those whom God has placed over you?
born again believer, our job is full-time Christian service wherever
we are placed. If we disagree with management, God wants us to do it "in
all fear." To respect authority does not mean that we must
respect the person. It does mean that we respect the authority that
NOT ONLY TO
THOSE WHO ARE GOOD AND GENTLE
ou monon tois agathois kai epieikesin:
(2Co 10:1; Gal 5:22; Titus 3:2; James 3:17)
- Watch out for the flesh driven tendency to submit with respect to
only those who you think "deserve it!"
(agathos) refers to inner or intrinsic goodness as
seen from the outside by a spectator. Many of the masters were not despots
as our English word usually conveys (tyrannical, abusive, etc) but were good at heart
benevolent, kind and generous to their slaves.
(1933) (epieikes) refers to that disposition
which is mild, yielding, indulgent. It is derived from a Greek word
meaning, “not being unduly rigorous.”
In Philippians Paul exhorts
the believers to...
Let your forbearing
spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. (Phil 4:5-note)
Thayer defines epieikes as "mildness, gentleness, fairness, sweet reasonableness."
Vincent says epieikes means "not unduly rigorous, not making a determined stand for one’s just due."
The word reasonable sums up well the meaning of epieikes.
This is simply a testimony to the saint’s status as a citizen of the
Kingdom of God, for in that kingdom there is no anarchy or rebellion,
but instead the perfect harmony that comes from a thoroughly organized
and disciplined order. In other words, all believers are to exhibit a
microcosm of the peaceful and respectful conditions that will prevail
in the eternal kingdom, a kingdom that will run in perfect order under
one autocratic (benevolent despotic) head-God. Christian employees are
to be advertisements for the Kingdom they represent. The rider to v18
makes it plain that the character of their employer is not a factor in
determining their behavior.
BUT ALSO TO
THOSE WHO ARE UNREASONABLE: alla kai tois skoliois:
(Ps 101:4; Pr 3:32; 8:13; Pr 10:32; 11:20)
Always be alert for
term of contrast
which mark a change of direction. Use "but's" (>4000 in NAS!) as an
opportunity to "PPP"
(pause and ponder the passage)! What is the change of direction? Why?
Why now? What does it mean? etc. Learn to query the text and you will
be amazed at how the Spirit will speak to you!
from skéllō = to dry) refers to
that which is bent or warped from dryness.
Skolios - 4x in NT
translated: crooked, 2; perverse, 1; unreasonable, 1. The opposite of
orthos = straight. - Luke 3:5; Acts 2:40; Phil 2:15; 1Pet 2:18
literally refers to that which is bent, crooked, curved or winding.
The more frequent use in the NT and the Septuagint (Lxx) is
figuratively where skolios refers to a perversity for
turning off from the truth and so that which is morally crooked, bent
or twisted and thus unscrupulous (unprincipled), dishonest, unfair,
perverse. In the present verse the context conveys the figurative use
of severe, hard to deal with, overbearing, unjust, bad-humored, cruel,
ill-tempered, unfair, dishonest, cross or harsh.
MacArthur adds that
was used metaphorically of anything that deviates from a standard or
norm, and in Scripture, it is often used of things that are morally or
spiritually corrupt. (MacArthur,
J. Philippians. Chicago: Moody Press
In secular Greek skolios
was used literally of rivers and roads meaning “winding” or “twisted.” Skolios also referred to the movement of snakes. Secular
Greek transferred the literal meaning to denote what is "crooked" or
dishonest. Kittel adds that
Deceit (of skolios)
spoils things, bondage leads to crooked action, and an ambiguous
oracle is skoliós. (Kittel,
G., Friedrich, G., & Bromiley, G. W. Theological Dictionary of the
New Testament. Eerdmans)
The medical condition
scoliosis involves an abnormal curvature and misalignment of
One’s Christianity does not give the right to rebel against
one’s superior in the social structure no matter how unfair or harsh
he may be. A Christian employee may be wronged by an unbelieving
coworker or supervisor. For conscience’ sake, he must “take it” even
though he is not in the wrong. A Christian’s relationship to God is
far more important than his relationship to men. Remember Jesus'
admonition & encouragement (Jn 16:33).
A crooked master might used
his power over a slave to inflict severe punishments, withhold wages
or not pay fairly, force his slaves to live in squalor, or have other
unreasonable expectations. It would take the indwelling Spirit's
filling (Eph 5:18-note)
and God’s grace (Php 2:12-note,
for Christian slaves to loyally and obediently serve such a master.
Peter encouraged loyalty and perseverance even in the face of unjust
treatment. These same principles apply to believers today & we too
need the same enabling power and grace to comply.
adds this note on the unreasonable
The masters had their faces dead set against these Christian slaves.
We can understand that attitude when we remember that these slaves
lived lives of singular purity, meekness, honesty, willingness to
serve, and obedience in the households of their heathen masters. This
was a powerful testimony for the gospel, and brought them under
conviction of sin. All this irritated them, and they reacted in a most
unpleasant way toward their slaves, whom they would punish without
provocation. Yet they did not want to sell these Christian slaves and
buy pagan ones, for the Christian slaves served them better. So they
just had to make the best of the situation."
There are 18 uses of skolios
(Deut. 32:5; Job 4:18; 9:20; Ps. 78:8; Pr 2:15; 4:24; 8:8; 16:26, 28;
21:8; 22:5, 14; 23:33; 28:18; Isa. 27:1; 40:4; 42:16; Hos. 9:8)
Skolios is used with
its literal meaning in Luke (quoting Isa 40:3-5) who writes that
ravine shall be filled up, and every mountain and hill shall be
brought low; and the crooked (skolios) shall become
straight, and the rough roads smooth. (Luke 3:5)
Luke is referring to the tradition in which a monarch
traveling in wilderness regions would have a crew of workmen go ahead
to make sure the road was clear of debris, obstructions, potholes, and
other hazards that made the journey difficult. In a spiritual sense,
John was calling the people of Israel to prepare their "crooked"
hearts for the coming of their Messiah.
Peter had earlier used
skolios figuratively in his sermon to the Jews at Pentecost,
Luke recording that
with many other words he solemnly (and
earnestly) testified and kept on exhorting (and admonishing or
warning) them, saying, “Be saved (aorist
imperative = command to do this now) from (Apó
indicates the separation of a person or an object from another person
or an object with which it was formerly united but is now separated) this perverse (skolios - wicked, unjust,
evil, unrighteous) generation! (Acts 2:40)
Peter appears to be quoting from
(Dt 32:5) and (Ps 78:8 see below) Some 40 years later, many thousands from that "skolios"
generation were to perish during the Jewish revolt which culminated in
the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD. On that day on that day, 3,000
Jews repented, believed, and were saved from the perverse generation.
Paul exhorts believers to
yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above
reproach in the midst of a crooked (skolios) and
perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world."
(Php 2:15-note) Paul also quotes from (Dt
32:5 see below)
As noted above, skolios is used 18
times in the
(Greek translation of the Hebrew OT) and
most often in a figurative sense as in Proverbs where we read of men
paths are crooked (Lxx = skolios - devious or
deceptive), and who are devious in their ways. (Pr 2:15)
Again we read
Put away (cause to go away)
from you a deceitful (Lxx = skolios = here
describes a mouth that speaks without integrity, that does not speak
truth but rather falsehood, dishonestly and deception and thus a mark
of an evil, worthless person) mouth (literally "crookedness of
mouth"), and put devious lips far from you. (Pr 4:24)
Moses describes Israel as those who
have acted corruptly toward
(God). They are not His children, because of their defect; but are
a perverse and crooked (Lxx = skolios =
wickedly cunning, distorted) generation. (Dt 32:5).
In a similar description of faithless Israel, the
psalmist describes Israel as
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation that did not prepare its heart (“heart”
refers to the mind as the center of thinking and reason, the emotions,
the will and thus the whole inner being which is the depository of all
wisdom and the source of whatever affects speech, sight, and conduct)
and whose spirit was not faithful to God. (Ps 78:8)
God expects us to do our job not
primarily for our employer but for God himself. What is your attitude
toward your job? What is your state of mind toward your boss? Perhaps
you say, "Well, my boss is about the most unreasonable, unrelenting,
implacable and merciless man you have ever seen. He makes demands that
are not just. It is impossible to please him. No matter how much I
extend myself he still isn’t pleased." Still, the believer is to give
his employer a full day's work. It matters not whether the boss is
fair or whether he has a miserable personality.