(c) Personal Commands for Holiness <3:18-4:6>
(2). Holiness in Work Life <3:22—4:1>
“Slaves, obey your earthly masters” <3:22 (NIV)> Just as we are called upon to be obedient to our “Heavenly Master”, Paul urges us to be obedient to our “earthly masters”; and we should be obedient “in everything”. Here again, he is not suggesting that if we are called upon to break the law of God or country that we should do so when requested by our employer, rather, what he is suggesting is that we display the love that we have for God in our willingness to please the request of our employer. Furthermore, we should show our respect “not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.” (NIV), understanding that a good employer allows us to carry out our duties, doing so with the ability and knowledge of our job, for we know that in the end we will have to account for our actions whether good or bad. So, our willingness to be obedient should be “a sincere expression of your devotion to God” (J.B. Phillips). The goal of all our obedience should be sincerity and reverence for The Lord, and “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” <3:23 (NIV)>, knowing that your real reward, “a heavenly one, will come from God” (J.B. Phillips), for in our obedience to our earthly masters we display our respect and reverence to God, “It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” <3:24 (NIV)>.
“Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.” <4:1 (NIV)>. Paul reminds all employers of their responsibilities – “be fair and just towards those whom you employ, never forgetting that you yourselves have a heavenly employer” (J.B. Phillips). So often employees decide to stand for their rights for unreasonable demands and lack of fair compensation from their employer, but believers in Christ should continue to serve God and understand that God will command everyone to give an account for our motivations and actions towards one another and to His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ <see Rom.14:10b-12; Matt12:36-37>, so, whether or not our earthly employer believes or does not believe, there will be a day of accountability.
(3). Holiness in Public Life <4:2-6>
Here Paul describes what the Christian’s prayer life should be like; “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” <4:2 (NIV)> We need to dedicate ourselves to a life of prayer in which we do not “give up”, for our hope is in the Lord our God; we need to be faithful in prayer, praying at all times and in all circumstances Lk.18:1; Isa.40:31; Rom.1:10a; 12:12; Eph.6:18>. We should also remember to praise and thank God for ways in which He responds to our prayer. When this is our mind-set, God will open ways for us to share the gospel.
He also addresses the Christian behaviour in his statement “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders” <4:5 (NIV)>, meaning that we should “be wise in our behaviour toward non-Christians” (J.B. Phillips), especially in what we say to them in conversation. In his translation, J.B. Phillips expresses it “Speak pleasantly to them, but never sentimentally, and learn how to give a proper answer to every question.” <4:6>; and when we consider this, the only way that we can give a proper answer to their questions is for us to know what the Scriptures teach. Let us all consider that hurried formal devotions, thoughtless disregard for others and idle words, too often are characteristic of our lives; far removed from the ideal expressed in this segment; “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” <Eph.4:29 (NIV)>