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THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PAUL TO TIMOTHY - Chapter 6 - Verse 2

Verse 2. And they that have believing masters. Masters who are Christians. It is clear from this, that Paul supposed that, at that time, and under those circumstances, a man might become a Christian who had slaves under him. How long he might continue to hold his fellow-men in bondage, .and yet be a Christian, is, however, quite a different question. It is quite clear, from the New Testament, as well as from facts now, that God may convert men when pursuing any kind of wickedness. The effect of religion, however, in all cases, will be to lead them to cease to do wrong. It is by no means improbable that many of those who had owned slaves, in accordance with the prevailing custom in the Roman empire, may have been converted—for the fact that a man has been living a life of sin does not prevent the possibility of his conversion. There is no evidence that Paul refers here to any who had bought slaves after they were converted; nor is there any intimation of any such transaction among Christians in the New Testament. Nor is there any intimation that he regarded it as right and best that they should continue to hold slaves; nor that he would approve their making arrangements to persevere in this as a permanent institution. Nor is it to be fairly inferred from this passage that he meant to teach that they might continue this, and yet be entitled to all the respect and confidence due to the Christian name, or be regarded as maintaining a good standing in the church. Whatever may be true on these points, the passage before us only proves that Paul considered that a man who was a slave-holder might be converted, and be spoken of as a "believer," or a Christian. Many have been converted in similar circumstances, as many have in the practice of all other kinds of iniquity. What was their duty after their conversion, was another question; and what was the duty of their "servants," or slaves, was another question still. It is only this latter question which the apostle is here considering.

Not despise them, because they are brethren. Not treat them with any want of the respect which is due to their station. The word here used sometimes denotes to neglect, or, not to care for, Mt 6:24; Lu 16:13. Here it is not necessary to suppose that it denotes actual contempt, but only that want of respect which might possibly spring up in the mind if not well instructed, or not on its guard, among those who were servants or slaves. It was to be apprehended that the effect of the master and the slave having both embraced religion would be to produce in the mind of the servant a want of respect and deference for his master. This danger was to be apprehended from the following causes:—

(1.) Christianity taught that all men were made of "one blood," and were by nature equal, Ac 17:26. It was natural, therefore, for the slave to infer that by nature he was equal to his master, and it would be easy to pervert this truth to make him disrespectful and insubordinate.

(2.) They were equal to them as Christians. Christianity taught them that they were all "brethren" in the Lord, and that there was no distinction before God. It might be natural to infer from this, that all distinctions in society were to be abolished, and that, in all respects, the slave was to regard himself as on a level with his master.

(3.) Some, who did not well understand the nature of Christianity, or who might have been disposed to cause trouble, may have taken advantage of the undeniable truths about the equality of men by nature and by redemption, to produce discontent on the part of the slave. They may have endeavoured to embitter the feelings of the slaves towards their masters who held them in bondage. The effect, it is easy to see, may have been to lead those who were in a state of servitude to manifest open and marked disrespect. In opposition to this, the apostle would have Timothy teach that Christianity did not rudely assail the existing institutions of society, and especially did not teach those who were in subordinate ranks to be disrespectful to those above them.

But rather do them service. That is, serve them with more cheerfulness and alacrity than they did before the master was converted; or serve them with the more cheerfulness because they were Christians. The reasons for this were, because the master was now more worthy of affectionate regard, and because the servant might look for better treatment at his hands. Comp. Notes on Eph 6:6.

Because they are faithful. That is, because they are believers, or are Christians -pistoi; the same word which in the beginning of the verse is rendered believing. It does not here mean that they were "faithful" to their servants or their God, but merely that they were Christians.

And beloved. Probably, "beloved of God;" for so the word is often used. As they are the friends of God, they who are servants should show them the more respect. The idea is, simply, that one whom God loves should be treated with more respect than if he were not thus beloved; or, a good man deserves more respect than a wicked man. In all the relations of life, we should respect those above us the more in proportion to the excellency of their character.

Partakers of the benefit. That is, the benefit which the gospel imparts—for so the connection requires us to understand it. It cannot mean, as many have supposed, that they were "partakers of the benefit of the labours of the servant," or enjoyed the fruits of their labours,—for how could this be a reason for their treating them with the more respect? It would be rather a reason for treating them with less respect, because they were living on the avails of unrequited toil. But the true reason assigned is, that the master had been, by the grace of God, permitted to participate in the same benefits of salvation as the servant; he had received, like him, the pardon of sin, and he was to be regarded as a fellow-heir of the grace of life. The expression here might be rendered, "they are partakers of, or are devoted to, the good cause." Rob. Lex. The argument is, that they were not infidels, or strangers to religion, or those who would try to hinder the progress of that which was dear to the heart of the servant, but were united with them in that same good work; they participated in the blessings of the same salvation, and they were really endeavouring to further the interests of religion. There ought, therefore, to be the more respect shown to them, and the more cheerful service rendered them.

{1} "faithful" "believing"

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