How To Live Under The Yoke

October 31, 2021 Speaker: Reid Strahan Series: First Timothy - Guard the Deposit

Topic: Gospel Living Passage: 1 Timothy 6:1–6:5

I believe God has a word for us today that can bring great peace and freedom to our hearts, even in the most disadvantageous situations we find ourselves in. But even more important God tells us something to do here that will honor his name, and advance the message of Jesus. 

I am talking specifically about the instruction to honor those who are over us in some way, as “masters” or employers.  Paul addressed this to “all who are under the yoke, as bond-servants.”   But in a general sense it ALSO shows us how to deal with life when we are under ANY kind of yoke.  Many times we are in situations we simply do not want to be in, but we don’t have any choice.  How we react when we are under the yoke, has everything to do with whether we bring honor to God, or not.

But first we have to understand what was happening in the church that made Paul feel he had to write this. 

One of the most shocking truths of Christianity, is that all who believe in Jesus are brothers. God sends His Spirit into all who believe.  We are attached to God as our father and to one another as brothers and sisters.  No matter what our status is in the world, we share this equal privileged status in Christ. 

Paul said, “all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:27,28

In the first century, society was deeply divided by race, by gender, and especially by slave and free.  It has been estimated that about half the people in the Roman Empire were slaves, or a total of 60 million.   And many slaves AND masters got saved. So now because of oneness in Christ, slaves and masters could come to church, sit with each other, sing together, worship together, serve one another with their spiritual gifts.  The slave and the master are now brothers!

The NT book of Philemon is about a runaway slave named Onesimus, who Paul led to Christ.  Paul then wrote to his former master, Philemon, who was now ALSO saved, and appealed to him to “have Onesimus back, no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother”.  That would have been unthinkable in pagan Roman society, but was now a reality in the church! 

So today, right here, in this church, our oneness in Christ must be lived out in our fellowship. Here we are one! The world categorizes people by possessions and power and popularity.  But in the church we come together as family, as equal heirs of the grace of God.

Yet this beautiful truth COULD be twisted by some.  And no doubt it was, because Paul issues a strong warning in verse 2 “Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brothers.”  IE Bond-servants, could use “brotherhood in Christ” as a reason to defy their masters.  “Because you are my brother I do not need to obey you, or work hard for you or even treat you with respect.” 

But Paul said, No, no no! Don’t take this wonderful truth that we are all brothers in Jesus and start a rebellion. “RATHER, (those who have believing masters) must serve their masters all the better since those who benefit by their good service are believers and beloved”. 

One way of thinking is to resent those who profit from your hard and long work, to mull over the inequity of the situation. The Christian way of thinking, especially when another believer is involved, is “I will bless the person I work for, by my hard and zealous work, and because they are my brother and fellow believer, and because I love them.


Paul is not promoting slavery, here. He is not commanding Christians to be slaves.  In fact he said Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—but “if you can become free,  rather do that.” "For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise he who is called while free is Christ’s slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.” (1 Cor. 7)  But Paul recognized the reality that many are, “under the yoke as bond-servants” and he tells them how to live to the glory of God IN THAT situation. 

He is telling us how to honor God, in the midst of the sin-damaged, broken and unfair world. Paul recognized the plight of being a slave.  He recognized that it was not easy.  He recognized it as a situation you would not choose to be in.    No one prefers to be “under the yoke” but sometimes we are.  

For some here today your work situation is not ideal.  Some people in authority are harsh and unreasonable. Even when you employer is reasonable, the question comes, why am the employee and not the business owner?  Or why to I have to subject to this person, or to anyone?  Some people seem to have all the advantages, or gifts or personality.  You may be “under the yoke” in some other situation in life with family members, or hard circumstances that you cannot escape. Sometimes Christians have called this a “hard providence”.  

Many of the situations in this fallen world will not be changed until Christ comes back to rule in the new heavens and the new earth.  One way to insure that we will not be happy in life is to internally keep demanding that everything be fair and fixed right now! Dawn said, “I always tell people, life isn’t fair. “Fair” is something you go to in the summer over on the east side of Des Moines”.  

We certainly work to change things for the better, but we have to know how to live THROUGH the inequities of life, THROUGH times of being under the yoke.  Specifically, the New Testament is saturated with commands to Christians to obey and honor masters, to submit to those over them in the Lord.  

*The 1st reason we looked at earlier, is that in cases where the person over you is a believer, (which is not all cases but a common one) you don’t disrespect him (or her) but you work to bless him BECAUSE HE IS a brother (or sister)  So that is the Christian perspective.  This is the godly way of thinking that frees us from much resentment about the inequities in life. Particularly in work situations where we others over us.  If we can benefit another believer, even if we are in a hard spot ourselves we will do that, and I think it is assumed that we will do that with gladness or contentment because of love.

*But verse 1 gives another strong reason for bearing up under the yoke and honoring those over us,  “Let all who are under a yoke as bond-servants regard their own masters as worthy of all honor, SO THAT the name of God may not be “spoken against” or “dishonored”.

Those who have masters, or employers, or some kind of authority over them, are to treat them with honor, so that the name of God may not be dishonored!  The way we work for those over us, directly affects what people think about the God we serve.  Very few sins destroy out testimony more than  defiance, or laziness or carelessness in our work habits.   

Our tendency is to fret and stew over the fairness or lack of fairness in a situation.  But our foremost concern is to live for the honor and glory of God (no matter what our situation is!) When the Holy Spirit enters our heart, he changes the cry of our heart from “I am Lord”, to “Jesus is Lord”.  “Not to us but to Him be all the glory”.

This change of heart often involves a real inner tussle for us!  We are talking about a really radical change of heart.  New born people are new born people! We are moved from being totally absorbed with our own comfort and freedom and will, to what will please, honor and glorify God. 

William Gurnall said this change cannot happen quietly!  He said, “Can Christ be (king) in your heart and you not know it?  Can one king be dethroned and another crowned in your soul, and you hear no scuffle?”   Can you be taken down off the thrown of your life and Christ be put in your place as king, and you not be aware that anything has happened to you?”  Of course the answer is NO!  And the question for every person is, has Christ been enthroned on your heart as master and Lord!  Has your heart been changed from a passion for your own honor and pleasure, to honor and please the Lord! 

It is only as we really want God’s name to be honored, above our own selves, that we can be content with submitting to those over us.  Otherwise we will live in constant state of simmering discontent and resentment. By choosing to live for the glory of God a thousand problems are solved!  And living under any kind of yoke becomes a place to please God. 

Everyday our basic prayer is “how can I honor you today?” 

So Paul commanded slaves to honor their masters, out of concern for God’s honor.  We are here for him, for his name, for his pleasure and delight.  Paul was captivated by a desire that would Christ be exalted whether by life or by death, whether slave or free. In any and every circumstance may Christ be lifted up. 

*Third. Paul advises showing honor to masters so that “the teaching” of God” would not be dishonored. The teaching of God would include all the word of God.  But especially the good news found in Jesus: Because of God’s great love, he sent His Son into the world to save us from wrath, and to bring us into a status of peace and friendship with God. We are here to protect and defend and honor that teaching.

We are not to do anything, not to express attitudes, that would hinder or dishonor this gospel message. There are lots of important things in life but nothing in this world is as important as the message of Christ!  It is the power of God for salvation for all who believe. So..Many times we bear up under difficult situations JUST for the sake of the gospel message!!  

*The fourth reason for honoring masters. There is eternal reward for doing so.  In Eph. 6 Paul said, “Bond-servants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bond-servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bond-servant or is free. Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.”  

No matter how hard or humbling your situation may be, you will receive great reward back from the Lord for doing what it good, in THAT situation.  “whatever good ANYONE does this he will receive back from the Lord...whether he is bond-servant or is free”.

Instead of being consumed about whether things are fair or not, Paul said concern yourself with doing good, with pleasing the Lord WHATEVER you situation for the sake of eternal reward.  Jesus said, “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.”  Rev. 22:12  

So you bear up under your yoke, KNOWING Christ will reward you!  Psalm 58:11 “Truly, there is a reward for the righteous!” The Bible doesn’t say there will be a reward for those who have the most advantages in this life!  Jesus said, many who are last in this world will be first.

Fifth: Look beyond people in your life, to Jesus and make life all about pleasing Him.  Colossians 3:23,24 “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” Eph. 6 “render your service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man”

We don’t dismiss people as nothing, but we live our lives unto Jesus.   Until we do that, submission will always be a bitter pill for us.  Bearing up under any kind of yoke is made sweet by doing it as unto the Lord we love. 

In case anyone wonders if these are important issues are not, Paul clears up all doubt about that!  

“Teach and urge these things. If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.”

This applies to all that Paul has written, but in certainly includes what he just said!  “If anyone rebels, especially against other believers, or shows disrespect, based on this teaching of being brothers, then he is NOT in agreement with the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, or with the teaching that accords with godliness.

Four key lessons for us: 

*Focus on the honor of God when you are “under the yoke”.  Not saying anyone should stay in an abusive situation.  But, our main concern is to conduct ourselves while we are under the yoke, in a way that brings honor to the Lord AND we do nothing to cause the gospel to be spoken against.  It is true, you and the way you live, is the only gospel message that many people will see.  And you are live in a way that honors that message.  

*Second: The entire Christian life is mostly lived in submission to someone: as an employee with the people over you, children with parents, wives with husbands, and we are all commanded to be subject to one another in the Lord. The Bible is clear that honoring those in proper authority is a way we honor God.  

*Third: We are not all in the same circumstances and we never will be!  We each glorify God by living through vastly different life situations.  No one but you can glorify the Lord in your circumstances.  Comparing ourselves to others is a deadly distraction.

*Fourth: No matter what you are going through, the ultimate blessings of life are yours.  God has said “I will never leave you or forsake you”.  So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” ….  Nothing can separate you from the love of God.  The Holy Spirit belongs to you, as much as anyone, in ANY circumstance.  You can be filled with love and joy and peace.  You are out from under the wrath of God.  You have peace with God, and an inheritance of unspeakable glory.

These are the realities that all of us need to fix our thoughts on as we go though the very imperfect situations of life!    

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