Colossians 3:22-4:1

Talks for Growing Christians

Relationships Between Slaves and Masters

Colossians 3:22-4:1

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Lesson Number 20

Background Notes

Doctrinal Point(s)

  1. We must submit to God’s authority structures.

Practical Application

  1. Let’s not play favorites.


  1. Review the five New Testament approaches to slavery as a part of the first century Roman Empire.
  2. What is the underlying New Testament approach to the problem of slavery?
  3. What is the source of all authority?
  4. In the slave-master or employee-employer line of authority, review and discuss the meaning of a. “according to the flesh” (Colossians 3:22) b. “not with eye service, as men pleasers” (Colossians 3:22) c. “inheritance” (Colossians 3:24) d. “just and fair” (Colossians 4:1)
  5. Discuss the meaning of Colossians 3:25.


  1. New Testament approaches to slavery in the first century: a. slavery is neither prohibited nor promoted b. Christian slaves were not to revolt, but Christian masters were not prevented from releasing their slaves c. while the institution of slavery is not condemned in the New Testament, the abuses of it are strongly condemned id. f Christian masters followed New Testament directions concerning slaves, the employer-employee relationship would be good e. it was the outworking of New Testament Christian principles that finally led to the abolition of slavery, both in the Roman Empire and eventually in our own country.
  2. Not revolution, but the gradual outworking of Christian principles, starting in the home.
  3. All authority finds itself in God. There are times when authority is misused and abused, and even directed against God Himself, but only because God has allowed it. Even Satan’s temporary authority derives from God.
  4. a. In this line of authority, the area of labor. A Christian slave in the Colossian church could have been an elder or church leader, where the master could have been subordinate to the slave in the church. b. This means not just when the master is watching. The slave is serving Christ, even if the master is not a Christian. It means doing the right thing, even if a job is on the line. Submission is required as long as it does not counter God’s principles c. Slaves would not get any earthly inheritance, but by submitting to the authority structures that God has designed, they will receive an inheritance and a reward. d. Masters (the boss in the labor force) are the authority figure. He is to be just and fair in payment, in work load, and in privileges.
  5. Because there is not to be partiality, the authority figure will be repaid for doing wrong, as well as for doing right. This is true in all lines of authority.


  1. Review your job (school, home) relationships. Do you submit to the authority structure? How pleasantly or how grudgingly do you submit?
  2. Is your service to the Lord or to men? Are you more concerned with how the Lord views your work, or how man views what you do?
  3. If you were asked by your supervisor (teacher, husband) to do something against God’s principles, how would you respond? Cite some specific examples.


  1. Are you just and fair in all of your relationships? Are you in line with what God expects from you? If not, determine to set things right.

Key Verses

  • “…whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.” Colossians 3:23

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