A “yoke” (6:1) was a symbol of slavery (Lev.26:13). Since slaves couldn’t change their circumstances, Paul’s advice was was to change how they thought about their circumstances (I Cor. 7:21,22). It’s the secret of life, since oftentimes our circumstances can’t be changed.
Slaves are often told to obey their masters (Eph. 6:5; Col.3: 22; Titus 2:9), but here Paul goes further and tells servants to “count” their masters “worthy” of the honor of their service. You could honor a master with your service with-out counting him worthy of it. But all that did was make a slave miserable, since he had to obey. So Paul told slaves to serve their masters as they served Christ (Eph.6:5,6). If you feel good about serving the Lord, you can feel the same about serving your boss, if you serve him as unto the Lord. We’re about to elect a new boss of our country. We all have to obey him. But if we don’t count him worthy of our obedience, all it will do is make us miserable.
Slaves that didn’t count their masters worthy of their service were more likely to serve poorly, and that would cause God to be blasphemed (6:1). When men don’t serve their bosses well, or women don’t do what God says they should do, God is blasphemed as well (Tit. 2:3-5). When Paul says not serving well would cause God’s doctrine to be blasphemed, he’s talking about the doctrine that said that “there is neither bond nor free” (Gal. 3:27,28). If you were a master who didn’t know anything about the Bible and you read that, you’d think Christianity was all about freeing slaves. And then if your servant was slothful that would confirm his wrong understanding of God’s doctrine.
It would be tempted for believing slaves to despise a believing master who wouldn’t free them, but men were servants for legitimate reasons, such as when a man would run up too much debt and had to work it off, so it wouldn’t be right to free them. Slaves might also resent a believing master if he didn’t give them preferential treatment, but masters were told to give all servants what was “just and equal” (Col. 4:1). This was lest unbelieving slaves resent Christianity when they didn’t get preferential treatment.
A slave might also despise a believing master for the reason Hagar “despised” her mistress when she could do what her mistress couldn’t. When you think you can do your master’s job better than he can, it’s easy to despise him.
The Jews thought they could do the job of leading Israel as well as Moses and Aaron (Num.16:3). But Moses and Aaron didn’t lift themselves up to be leaders as the Jews said, God lifted them. And whoever wins our election, we know that God lifted them up (Rom.13:1). To despise them would be “presumptuous” (II Pe.2:10), i.e., we would be presuming we could govern better. Hagar proved she could do a better job than her master, but when she despised her, her mistress “dealt hardly with her” (Gen.16:6), and the same might happen to us if we despise government.
It is said our leaders aren’t following the constitution, the law of our land, and so aren’t worthy of the honor of our service. But the Law of Moses was the law of the land of Israel, and it said “thou shalt not kill,” and Saul wasn’t honoring it when he was trying to kill David. But David felt bad when he despised him for it (I Sam.24:5,6).
God forbid that we should despise our leaders for not following the law of the land. God is all about order. He has let Satan himself sit on the throne of this planet for 6,000 years, knowing Christ will someday return and fix all our governments. All He asks of us is to do the same, and focus instead on the ministry He’s focusing on.
Masters are “faithful,” full of faith in Christ (Eph.1:1) and “beloved” of the Lord (cf. Rom.1:7; IITh.2:13), and despite their faults masers should be obeyed because they were.
Believing masters were “partakers of the benefit” of having a saved slave. If Onesimus served Paul in Philemon’s stead, he would “benefit” at the Judgment Seat (Phile.1:14). If Onesimus served Philemon, he’d be a partaker of the benefit of a believing slave. But either one would only be so if Onesimus chose to serve his master.