Monday, February 6, 2017

Book Review: Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature


This is a continuation of Handbook for Old Testament Exegesis; thus, it centers on the apocalyptic of the Old Testament.  As such it focusses upon Daniel and Joel. I am disappointed that he says little about other apocalyptic sections of the Old Testament (Ezekiel, Zachariah). The book is divided into the following sections:

·         What is Apocalyptic Literature? This is the best chapter of the whole book. It deals with definition and with both its distinctiveness and its problems with defining the word. The word has been a problem to accurately define, but he does a good job (page 33). He holds that apocalypse is a literary genre; is rich in angelology; and has to do with the eschaton.

·         Major themes in Apocalyptic Literature. Since it is both is represented in the Old Testament, intertestamental Jewish literature, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. He spends time with all three. The O.T. is seen to have sowed the seeds of the genre, especially Daniel, but found in other prophets as well. It is extended to new heights in the intertestamental Jewish literature. This is somewhat helpful in understand the character of this genre, but with mixed results. He characterizes the genre in broad terms, too broad at times. I agree that the fundamental feature of Apocalyptic nature is written expression and revelatory in content.  The chapter in my opinion sees little difference between Biblical Apocalyptic literature and secular. This to me is a major flaw in the work. I see three conflicts between the two—pseudonymous authorship (not true of most of the Biblical apocalyptic literature); pessimism,  optimism; and the presence of ethnical demands. These conflicts are overlooked. 

·         Guide for Interpretation (chapters 3-4). These are two helpful chapters no matter how you view the genre. In chapter 3 it centers upon preparing for interpretation. It mostly defines figures of speech which the genre is heavily burdened with. He gives a wide variety of tools to use. It relies mostly on the original Hebrew text and recourses of Hebrew language. Chapter 4 gives guidelines for interpretation. He gives six clear and general guidelines. There are two I consider the most valuable: The grammatical-historical approach, and the limits of figurative language.  He clearly points out a warning against reckless speculations that come by over attention to detail.

·         Proclaiming Apocalyptic Literature. In other words, this chapter is on preaching from this type of literature. He strongly advocates its preaching. He gives good sound features of doing so, using a good example from Daniel 7.

·         The last chapter is on sample texts.

·         An appendix of the history of this type of literature.

This volume is worth having and gives a sound survey of the subject, in spite of what I see as weaknesses. It will be helpful, but to do a more detailed study, one will need to supplement it with more advance works. However, this will help in understanding the basics of the subject and its history.


I received this book free from the publisher to review. It did not have to be a positive review.The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Studies in Colossians #35

Practice Christian Living in our Personal Life 4:2-6

Having given instructions to various groups, Paul now turns to the reasonability of all believers. These ending verses give the final word on the individual actions that are to be taken and exercised on a daily basis. Each has to do with our personal relationship to God, other believers, and ourselves. We are to persistently continue in three areas:

Prayer 4:2-4

The key exhortation is to “devote yourselves to prayer” (4:2). Gromacki calls it the “very breath of spirituality.”[1] It speaks of our relationship to God. The keyword speaks of our devotion, translated continue in the KJV. The Greek word proskartereo, meaning to persist in adherence; to engage in the continuous practice of. It is an imperative, thereby a command to continue steadfastly. Both English words capture the meaning well. They point to the consistent and faithful practice of prayer. Prayer involves our communication with God. We are to be in continuous communication with Him. It is used in Romans 12:12 of the believer’s attitude in prayer. It notes participation with God, not just presenting to Him our desires. “It is a way for believers to participate in the unfolding of God’s redemptive plan in history” declares Pao.[2] It is participation in the mission of God (Rom. 15:30-33; Col. 1:9-14), The same Greek word is used in Eph. 6:18, where it is translated perseverance.

The second key to prayer is alertness— “keeping alert in it” (4:2). It is a form of our consistent and faithful practice of prayer. The word is gregoreo in the Greek text, and means alertness, watchfulness, and attention. Dunn says it is a military term that means to keep awake on guard duty.[3] Its remindful of what Jesus commanded his disciples (Mark 13: 32-37; 14:38 Johnson tells us it “suggests the aroused conscience and the keen attention to the task that ought to characterize the one who prays.[4] Alertness in prayer indicates we are to pray always (1 Thess. 5:17).  involves

  • Giving thanks (1: Thess. 5:18), which is the will of God. We are to pray “with the attitude of thanksgiving” (4:2; cf. Phil 4:6). Thanksgiving is a key concept in this epistle (1:3, 12; 2:7; 3:17; 4:2). It is a vital element in prayer. The Greek word has the meaning of good grace and carries the idea of gratitude, appreciation or gratefulness.[5]
  • Pray for enlightenment (4:3). This speaks of directing our prayers toward others to enlighten, guide, and speak boldly the mystery of Christ. In this case, it is Paul who is in prison for preaching the mystery of Christ (cf.  There are a number of features Paul is requesting in prayer (cf. 2 Tim. 2:9)
    • Paul is not asking for physical wants.
    • Paul is asking that the object is boldness to preach the Word.
    • He prays for open doors. Paul normally uses the term in regard to the gentile ministry (cf. Acts 14:27; 1 Cor. 16:9; Eph. 16:9), It is used also to remove barriers, and give opportunity for the word.
    • Notice he does not pray for the gospel in general, but specially the mystery of Christ.  This mystery entails the body of Christ which was held secret until the ministry of Paul (cf. Eph. 3:1-10; Rom. 11:25-26, 33).  Christ is now the head of the church (Eph. 1:22-23; 5:23-32). The mystery of Christ pertains to the purpose of God in His program for the church.

Prayer is a participation ministry and not a spectator one. When we pray for someone we are actively joining them in helping their ministry. Prayer is the most sublime energy of which man is capable.

  • To rejoice always (1 Thess. 5;16—the shortest verse in the Greek New Testament). Rejoicing is the constant attitude of contentment in raising our voices to God. It has the element of praise to God by our prayers.           
How do we develop devotedness in prayer?

·         Deepen our realization of the goodness of God. Realize He has in His goodness comes concern for us.

·         Deepen our trust in God.

·         Pray. The more we pray the more devoted we become to it.

·         Pray for clarity of thought and speech (4:4). Here is the prayer of understanding. Paul’s ultimate purpose was to preach “the mystery of Christ.” (cf.1:26-27; 2:2; Gal. 1:12; Eph. 3:2-4). The word clear means to bring to light, to make plain.  We need to pray for the understanding that we as members of the church, the body of Christ, may be given the opportunity to make know the mystery of Christ.

Walk in wisdom (2:5).

Conduct yourselves with wisdom” (2:5). The KJV has the word “walk” instead of the translation of conduct. The Greek word is peripateo, which means to walk, walk about in the ordinary, a certain walk of life, behavior, or conduct. Although conduct is in line with the meaning of the word, walk is more accurate. The word is a present active imperative. This last command is a summary and goal of the epistle.[6] Gromacki gives us four features about our walk:[7]

  • It must be consistent on a daily basis.
  • It must be done in wisdom. In fact, the command emphasizes this; which in Greek literally reads, “in wisdom walk.” Campbell points to the truth of the mystery as a part of this wisdom. The two are often associated by Paul—1 Cor. 2:7; Col. 1:26-28; 2:2-3; Eph. 1:8-9; 3:9-10).[8]  In this case, wisdom has to do with God’s will and our walking worthily of the Lord (1:9-10).
  • It is to be especially directed “toward outsiders.” These are ones who are outside the community of believers and the church. It speaks not only of our testimony to the world, but also our treatment of them (cf. 1 Cor. 5:12-13; 1 Thess. 4:12). Our life should not be an obstacle to the salvation of others (cf. 1 Cor. 10:31-32; Phil. 2:14-15; 1 Thess. 4:11-12).
  • This type of life is urgent. This is brought out by the participle phrase: “making the most of the opportunity” or the more consistent translation of the KJV, “redeeming the time.” The Greek word means to buy up, purchase or acquire the time. It is also used in the instruction of Ephesians 5:16. We are to utilize the time with others in buying up the opportunity to be an example and messenger of grace.
Speak in grace (4:6).

This verse has been taken in two ways: first, as a continuation of verse 5; second, as a separate idea and verse. The emphasis here is on the method of speech and it is a continuation of our walk before outsiders. Our walk is to be reinforced by our talk. This is the third exhortation to believers in regard to their testimony and actions to those not a part of the church. Their speech is to be gracious. The word for speech is a general term which refers to casual speech to a proclamation of the gospel of grace. It is best to take grace not in the divine sense, but a human action of graciousness. Our witness is to be gracious. It is the sharing or demonstration power of the simple free, and clear grace to others.

This is illustrated by the modifier of salt— “[as though][9] seasoned with salt” (4:6). It is the only time Paul uses the term, but Jesus used it a number of times. But what does Paul mean by using this metaphor?  It seems that most use it in parallels in Greek and Roman literature, indicating winsome speech.[10]  This certainly means the context. However, others connect the word with wisdom in 5a which fits well with purpose of verse 6, It is one of two requirements of our speech: grace and wisdom. Salt is found in rabbinic parallels as wisdom.[11]

The purpose is “so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (1:6). It seems to be know how to respond favors the wisdom essence of the world salt. Taken in context it is not winsome language that gives one the ability of how to answer; rather it is the application of wisdom that gives this knowledge. Thus, our speech (witness) must be characterized by the following:

  • Consistent. Indicated by the word “always.”
  • Gracious. We speak with and manifest grace in speaking with others.
  • Wisely (or with salt). We must speak with edifying wisdom (Eph. 4:29). That is not to say we cannot use winsome words, but that comes from wisdom.
  • Individually. Our speaking is to the individual (to each person). Wisdom gives us a sensitivity to the needs of others and how to respond to them.
Paul exhorts us as believers to live daily by and in prayers, walk in wisdom, and exercise gracious wisdom in speaking to others.

[1] Gromacki, STAND PERFECT, 155.
[4]  Johnson Jr., “Studies in Colossians—Part 8: Paul’s Final Words to the Colossians,” BIB-SAC, Oct 1964, 313.
[5]  Campbell, COLOSSIANS & PHILEMON, 175
[7]  Gromacki, STAND PERFECT IN WISDOM, 158-159.
[8]  Campbell, COLOSSIANS AND PHILEMON, 179-180.
[9]  Not in the KJV— “seasoned with salt.” The word as though is not in the text.
[10]  Pao, ZECNT: COLOSSIANS & PHILEMON, 298, Lightfoot, COLOSSIANS, 232.

Saturday, January 14, 2017


Paul the receiver of grace and apostleship (1:5). Paul brings out a number of issues in this text.

  • The phrase “Though whom” connects verse 4 and 5.  Clearly Paul is a receiver by the means of Jesus Christ. It reveals the continued activity of Christ and indicates that God is the source (cf. 1 Cor. 1:9; Gal. 1:1). Some downgrade this phrase, saying it is “scarcely necessary.”[1]Though whom” or “by whom (KJV) is the preposition genitive, dia, signifying immediate agency or instrumentality. Wallace identifies it as a genitive of production which produces the nouns (grace and apostleship).[2]
  • The main verb is the word “received,” which means to take in hand, thus, to receive. It applies directly to Paul. It is used with we, an epistolary plural. As such, it refers to Paul alone. In the English, it is the same as the editorial we. It speaks of Paul, who alone is the apostle to the gentiles (cf. 1:8-16; 11:13)
  • What he received is identified by the two main nouns: They specify the awareness that his ministry is unique to the Gentiles (cf. 1:8-16). He states clearly in verse 5 that his ministry is for all the Gentiles. The nouns of grace and apostleship entail his mission and area of responsibility. There is some debate on the understanding of these two nouns. Either way is permitted.[3] Some understand these as two distinct things: grace and apostleship. Others take it as a hendiadys denoting grace-apostleship. If this is correct, it certainly signifies that the apostleship was a gift of grace. However, Haldane is probably correct that both terms are to be distinguished.[4] God saves us by grace; He gives us gracious gifts to be used in His service.
  • The purpose of grace and apostleship given to Paul is “to bring about [the] obedience of faith” (1:5). This phrase is used both at the beginning of the epistle and at the end (16:26). It has particular reference to the ministry of Paul and his gospel or apostleship (15:18). Paul received grace and the gracious gift of apostleship for the purpose of obedience of faith. The phrase itself has given way to a number of interpretations, which Longenecker contributes to the uncertainty of the meaning of the genitive (of faith). He identifies 5 ways in which it could be taken, but he takes it as a genitive of source.[5] Thus, obedience that comes from faith. However, Moo makes these two statements the same: “This obedience to Christ as Lord is always closely related to faith, both as an initial, decisive step of faith and as a continuing faith relationship with Christ. In light of this, we understand the words obedience and faith to be mutually interpreting; obedience always involves faith, and faith always involves obedience.[6] Godet in his commentary says, “The only possible meaning is: the obedience which consists in faith itself.[7]
  • The object of this mission to bring obedience of faith “among all the Gentiles” (5:5). It speaks of the unique ministry of Christ through Paul. His apostleship was a gentile apostleship (Rom. 11:13; Eph. 3:1-10). Only Paul has such an apostleship…it was unique, directed, and focused upon the Gentiles.

[1]  C.E.B. Cranfield, ICC: ROMANS, [Edinburgh, T&T Clark, 1975], 1:66
[2]  Daniel B Wallace, GREEK GRAMMAR: BEYOND THE BASICS, [Grand Rapids MI, Zondervan, 1996], 105-106.
[3]  C.E.B. Cronfield, ICC; ROMANS, 1:66;
[4]  Robert Haldane, AN EXPOSITION OF ROMANS, [Grand Rapids MI, MacDonald, reprint, n.d.], 30.
[5]  Richard N. Longenecker, NIGTC: ROMANS, 79-80,
[6]  Douglas J. Moo, NICNT: ROMANS, 54.
[7]  F. Godet, COMMENTARY ON THE EPTISLE TO THE ROMANS, [Grand Rapids MI, Zondervan, reprint1956], 82.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Book Review: Preaching OT Narratives

Preaching Old Testament Narratives

Benjamin H. Walton [Grand Rapids MI, Kregel, 2016]

You hear very few sermons on the Old Testament anymore. Here is a book that will help a Pastor to feel more confident in doing so.

Walton begins where preaching should begin with hermeneutics. This is fundamental to preaching, specially to preach with authority. He is correct that preaching with authority is to preach the Word. However, he seems to overlook the job of the Holy Spirit and what used to be called the unction of the Spirit in preaching. He emphasizes genre as an essential unit the Old Testament text and must be preached in that light. He is correct in indicating Old Testament text differs from the New Testament epistles, not being as direct or as understandable. Be careful. Walton, uses his own jargon in this book (example: “CUT,” meaning complete unit of. “THT” take home truth, “OTM;” original Theological message, among others). These are generally useful.  He uses this jargon in giving an overview of the steps of his hermeneutical process.

The second part of the book is on delivering the message. He starts this with the four pillars of excellent preaching—Accuracy, relevance, clarity, and inspiring. He briefly writes on the common ways of preaching text (verse by verse, alliteration, principlization, etc., but does not appear to be a fan of any of these). He rather gives his own method, explaining it section by section, which takes up most of the book. This is the heart of the book, where he gives the nitty-gritty of putting together the sermon. In a nutshell, his method involves:

·         Create an Introduction (Chapter 5). Included in this is what I call the basic ingredients of an introduction that he brings out—identification, relevance, and setting the stage. Somewhat simple, but necessary ingredients.

·         Preach through the CUT (compete units of thought) movement (Part 1: Chapter 6). He says these movements are effective and illuminate the text. He warns not to make these main points; they are only to keep the sermon on focus. Make the connections to real life.

·         Preach through the CUT (Part 2: Chapter 7). This is a continuation of chapter 6. He says the CUT movements can simply be summarized, read and explaine, or used as lead-ins. Movements are not the same as main ideas.

·         State the Take-Home truth (Chapter 8). What he refers to Take-Home truth, I would classify as application. He defines it as a timeless or contemporary expression of the OTM (the original Theological Message).

·         Help listeners “buy” the Take-Home truth (Chapter 9). This is to overcome objections listeners may have with the Take-Home truth. This is a helpful chapter.

·         Develop Picture-Painting Applications (Chapter 10). He states preaching is about life. Painting life pictures from the sermon gives it added meaning.

·         Move to Christ (Chapter 11). He deals with the meaning of preaching Christ in the Old Testament narrative that the sermon must reflect New Covenant reality about by Christ (a definition not all will agree with).

·         Finishing well in the conclusion (Chapter 12).

·         From good to excellent (Chapter 13). He gives us elements both outside the pulpit and inside to makes us better.

 In an appendix, he gives some example sermons.

My overall evaluation is that this will be helpful in preaching the Old Testament. Preaching from the Old Testament is a common struggle among preachers, in which this can help. He gives good detail of this method of preaching, which some would equally apply to other types of sermons. However, everyone will not agree with the overall method which is presented in a rigid manner. At times, he seems too narrow. However, these will be overlooked by most experienced preachers. This is a good solid work that will be a benefit to preachers on Old Testament narratives.

Thanks to Kregel for the free provision of work for my review.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017


James R Gray
[from forthcoming book]

The sermon is aimed at those who will enter the earthly kingdom of the Messiah. This is evident by two truths: First, those in the already in earthly kingdom cannot have the promise made that they will inherit the earth. They have inherited the earth once the kingdom begins. Second, the character of the age is the same as this present evil age. Evil is dominant (5:6); corruption is widespread (5:13); moral darkness, for they need the light (5:14); ambition, jealousy and pride rule; and the Devil is free (6:13).  As McClain notes, “The age of which the Lord spoke, and the age of His Millennial Reign, could not be set in sharper contrast.[1] Thus, the primary audience is those who will enter the earthly kingdom, especially those who will go into and through the Tribulation period. This fits the theological pattern of Matthew, which deals with the King and the kingdom. The kingdom is at hand (Matthew 4:23), but not yet arrived.

However, there is real application of us today. Four principles make this clear:

  • The teaching of discipleship cannot be restricted to the Tribulation or the kingdom. A disciple is a believer and learner of Christ. That includes every believer since the giving of the sermon.
  • The sermon has to do with the character of believers. He is speaking of the character they are to have. Paul likens it to be imitators of God (Eph. 5:1). The characters of believers are inter-dispensational in principle. 
  • The teaching of Paul sustains the applying Jesus’ teaching on discipleship to this dispensation. Paul does not teach a different or reduced code of behavior. In fact, we find in Paul’s epistles corresponding teaching to the sermon. For example, Paul says we are to shine as lights, just as Jesus told his disciples they were lights (Matthew 5:15 cf. Ephesians 5:8). Believers in all dispensations were to be the lights to the world.
The teaching of Jesus on character and discipleship apply to us because the sermon gives principles and characteristics that are inter-dispensational.

[1]  Alva J. McClain, DANIEL’S PROPHECY OF THE SEVENTY WEEEKS, (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1959), 9.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Chart of Galatians

The book of Galatians is a defense of the truth of justification by faith, which is the heart of the gospel of grace. It presents a defense of Paul, his message, and the believer’s liberty in grace. It deals with two main problems: (1) The so-called lack of the authority of Paul. (2) Circumcision, representing legalism and the Law.

The structure of the book is somewhat simple. It could be outlined as such:

Salutation 1:1-10
Defense of Paul’s Authorship 1:11-2:21
Defense of the Message of Grace 3:1-4:41
Defense of Our Liberty in Grace 5:1-6:10
Conclusion 6:11-18

Independent Revelation 1:11-12
Gospel of Grace Vindicated 3:1-29
Liberty apart from the Law 5:1-12

Independent Apostleship 1:13-2:21
Gospel of Grace Illustrated 4:1-20
Warning: Liberty is not License 5:13-25

Liberty is Life in the Spirit 5:16-26

Liberty to Service 6:1-10

Monday, December 26, 2016

Studies in Colossians #34

Servants and Masters 3:22-4:1


This speaks of household servants. Slavery has in the last 150 years all but vanished in western society. However, this is timely, especially in the light of boss and employee relationships and responsivity. Modern readers need to keep that in mind when reading this verse.

As we read this verse we cannot help but see the parallel with verse 21. Children are to “obey” / “in everything” just as are the servants. In each case the same Greek words are used (hypakouo / kata panta). The word obey is a present middle imperative, indicating continual obedience, and is the action of the servant (as well as children). This obedience is to encompass all things. The section makes up Colossians 3:22-4:1, and the majority of instructions are directed toward the servant. The masters are addressed only in 4:1.

Moo brings out that while this may seem to uphold the status quo, it delicately challenges it in the following ways:[1]

  • It is significant that they are addressed, implying they are not only a part of the assembly, but they need to choose the kind of behavior spoken of.
  • It relativizes the status by reminding both slave and master that both are responsible to obey the Lord.
  • Paul never endorses slavery as an institution, only how one should conduct themself when they are in the institution.
  • Paul instructs that Onesimus is to be received as no longer a slave, but a brother (Phlm 16). Pao observes, “the status of this slave is consistent with the trajectory one finds throughout Colossians.”[2] 

Whom servants are to obey is their masters on earth. The KJV has the longer translation of “according to the flesh (more literal).” How they are to serve is given in a negative and positive manner.

  • Negative— “not with external service, as those who [merely] please men…” (3:22 cf. Eph. 6:6).  This speaks to the manner in which they serve. The phrase speaks of earthy service only to curry favor with them while they are watching. But with no loyalty or respect toward the master. This is clear from the negative phrases. It is not to be external service (ophthamodoulia). The Greek literally means eye-service, service given under a watchful eye. Harris points to three characteristics of the word:[3] (1) it is concerned with what can be observed; (2) service only when watched; (3) Service performed only to impress the master. The word is unique to Paul. We have all seen and worked with these types of people who look busy only while the boss is watching. They serve only for their advantage. They do only the minil; there in no heart or respect in their service. What effort they put in is simple to please the boss.  
  • Positive— “but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord” (3;22). This is a phrase of contrast, as seen by the word but. In contrast to insincerity of heart or singleness of heart (KJV). The word translated sincerity is a cognate adjective indicating singleness of purpose of mind (cf. Matt. 6:22). A purpose that is sincere, pure in motives, and exercised conscientiously. The reason of our sincerity is the fear of the Lord, i.e. Christ. Fear here speaks more of reverence or in awe of Christ. It speaks of the true manner of service. In using the last part of the phrase Paul seems to be doing two things: (1) giving the basis of our service and (2) providing a transition to our motivation of service.

The transition denotes an exhortation: “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men” (3:23). This is an exhortation that explains our service in threefold way :

  • Ordinary service (Whatever you do). This does not signify special service, but the daily routine; working in the ordinary; the mundane; and the normal task. All work is service to the Lord. We are called to serve in the ordinary. Some limit the service as only that which meets the Christian standard. That is hardly the case for two reasons (1) The word whatever applies to everything we do. It places no limits on what we do. (2) The results may include punishment (3:25). This clearly indicates that some service is not up to par. It falls short, and we will be held accountable for it.

  • Energetic service (do yours work heartily). The word work means to energize or produce, in thee present tense, indicating a constant energy. This energy is to come from the heart or soul. It indicates our work is to be done out of the depth of our heart or soul (cf. Deut 6:5; Matt 22:37). It can indicate the motivation of our service, but more than likely it refers to the totality of commitment.[4]
  •  Direct service (as for the Lord rather than for men). Our true master is the Lord. Our service is for Him, not simply men. It has been noted that the exhortation in designed to prevent any possibility of a mechanical perfunctory obedience.[5] The phrase shifts the believer’s focus from an earthly master to the heavenly one. Paul redefines master as the true Lord—Jesus Christ! That is who we serve, rather than man.

The basis or reason for such service is clear, its origin is our knowledge (3:24), The word knowing has the idea of sense you know. The word that is the Greek word speaks of a specific and knowable knowledge.[6] In this case there is a twofold exhortation:

  • Reward— “from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance” (3:24). This is the first aspect of our knowledge. It should be pointed out that this is eschatological knowledge, which is affected by the present life. One will received from the Lord a reward—for they serve the Lord. The word receive has the meaning of receive what is due, or to receive in full. That which is receive is “the inheritance.” Johnson points out two thoughts that are bound up in the word:
    • “In the first place, the word implies that the reward of grace. The verb may be rendered received as your due. If the is the thought of the word, the reward is considered to be debit in the sense that God has promised it.
    • In the second place, there is a paradox involved in the word. A slave in pictured as receiving the reward of an inheritance! The slave is not an heir!”[7]

It needs to be pointed out that all believers will receive an inheritance based on God’s grace, not our works (cf. Rom. 5:2, 9; 8:1, 31-39; Thess. 1:10; 4:13-17, 1 Pet. 1:9). However, it appears that the faithful will receive even more of an inheritance (cf. John 12:26; 1 Cor. 3:8, 14; 3:14-15; 9:16-18; Gal, 5:21; Eph. 5:5).

The exhortation reiterates the fact that our service is to the Lord. It reinforces the key concept that our true object of our service is to the Lord (3:22-24),

  • Retribution— “For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality” (3:25). The Greek phrase who does wrong speaks of one who continually does wrong. It is a habitual act. It is primarily talking to slaves and against injustice and wrong they do against their master. However, it also goes beyond the physical to the spiritual and eternal. This is clearly seen in the phrase “without partiality.” It implies the heavenly master—the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Eph. 6:9; Rom. 2:1; Acts 10:44).  This does not speak of the loss of salvation, but a loss of rewards before the judgment seat of Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 3:11-15).

Here is the instruction to the earthly masters— “Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master  heaven” (4:1). Up to this point the main focus has been on the slaves. Note the double use of the word knowing (3:24; 4:1). The slaves are to know that they serve more than just the earthly master; the masters know they serve the same Master in heaven. This knowledge should affect their ethical behavior as to how they are to treat their slave. “Give” it the compound word papa and exw; meaning to hold out, to confer, render, or provide, Dunn notes that it is in the middle form which means to grant.[8] Paul gives a command earthly masters are to grant two things to their service.

  • Justice. The word for justice is the Greek word dikaios meaning right, just, or equitable. It speaks of the treatment they are to give to their slaves and corresponds to the righteousness of God.
  • Fairness. O’Brien observes the “second term reinforces the first denoting the spirit of equity as distinct from the letter of obligation.”[9] It speaks of how to lay out justice on an equal basis.

Masters are to treat their slaves on a just and fair basis.

The reason is clearly defined: “knowing that you too have a Master in heaven” (4:1). This puts masters and slaves on the same level. Each answer to a higher authority. Both are subject to the higher Master (Eph. 5:24). Yet, believers are to be subject to their earthly status before God. By being obedient to their earthly masters, they are obedient to the heavenly Master.  

[5]  S Lewis Johnson Jr, “New Man in the Old Relationship,” BIBIOTHECA SACRA, April 1964, 114.
[6] According to Harris, EGGNT: COLOSSIANS AND PHILEMON, 159; The Greek word opi speaks of a well-known fact that indicates basis of exhortation.
[7] Lewis Johnson Jr. “The Man in the Old Relationships, BIB-SAC, 114.