In case you haven’t been here for a while, we’ve been studying through Paul’s letter to the Colossians during our sermon time. We’re past the halfway mark, and nearly to the end of this short book.
For the past couple Sundays, Paul has been talking to the Colossians about Christian living. He hasn’t been talking so much about how their sins got forgiven, he’s been focusing on how to live since they have been.
On the one hand, Paul tells the Colossians to cut old sinful habits out of their lives. On the other hand, Paul tells them to bring new godly ways into their lives, putting on these God pleasing ways like a fresh set of clothes.
Turn to Colossians 3, verse 17. Paul finished last Sunday’s reading by saying,
“17And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17 NIV).You see, God the Father sent His Son to rescue sinners from an eternity apart from Him. God the Son lived and died to erase the record of our sins. The reason we will live forever with God, the reason our sins have been forgiven – is God’s plan, and Christ’s action.
Paul is essentially telling the Colossians, Christ is your future! So let Him be part of your today. The best direction for your life is for you to let Christ bleed into your interaction with everyone. Let your relationship with God’s Son be REFLECTED in your relationships with people.
That’s what we’re going to see in our reading today. Paul is going to describe three human relationships that were present in the congregation at Colosse. And Paul is going to point out how each of these relationships can REFLECT the greater relationship that exists between the Christian and their Savior God.
The first relationship Paul talks about is the relationship that exists between husband and wife in Christian marriage.
Colossians 3:18-19 (NIV)
18Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
19Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.
The first word that we really want to deal with here is that word, “submit”. It’s kinda one of those words that sticks out in this section. In English it can have lots of different shades of meaning, so, we gotta go back to the Greek.
The Greek word for “submit” is actually made up of two different words put together. The word for “under” and the word for “order”.
This particular verb is a passive verb. So, it’s not something that wives are to do to someone else, it’s something that wives are doing to themselves.
Paul is telling wives, he’s addressing wives: Order yourselves under your husbands as is fitting in the Lord. Order yourselves under. In other words - Put your husbands first.
I don’t think I’ve let you in on a little secret. Colossians has a sister book that is identical in many ways. Colossians is a sister book to the book of Ephesians. A lot of times if you’re not understanding something in the book of Colossians you can open up the book of Ephesians and find a parallel section that’ll fill in the gaps.
That’s certainly the case here. We get a lot of help in the area of husband wife relationships from Ephesians 5.
Interesting thing, in Ephesians 5 verse 21, that same word for “submit” is used. To order yourselves under. Except in Ephesians 5:21 Paul uses this word when addressing the whole congregation, both men and women. He says to them…
“21Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21 NIV).Order yourselves under each other, put each other first – out of reverence for Christ. He says this when addressing all Christians. Then when you look at Colossians 3:18, he’s just addressing this same thing specifically to wives.
Ephesians 5:22 gives us even more detail. Ephesians 5:22 says…
22Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22 NIV).As to the Lord. You see that’s different than in Colossians. In Colossians it says, submit to your husbands as is FITTING in the Lord. In Ephesians it says, submit to your husbands at TO the Lord. Is if your husband was actually your SAVIOR! Put him first in that way.
How’s that for a tall order? How you doing on that one?
Wives, do you see how your relationship with your husbands is to mirror your relationship with your husband? That’s what Paul says here.
This isn’t a make-your-wife-do-what-you-want-her-to-do thing. This isn’t an obedience thing. Paul is addressing the wives here. He’s saying, This is how YOU should order YOURSELVES. He’s not addressing the husbands saying, Make your wives do this.
And the same thing is true when Paul gives direction to the husbands. He says to the husbands, Husbands, this is how YOU are to act. This is how YOU are to order YOURSELVES. Husbands love your wives. And in case you didn’t get that, let me give you another one – DO NOT BE HARSH WITH THEM!
And guess what, the book of Ephesians gives us a little bit more detail as to how we’re supposed to do this. Ephesians 5:25. There Paul says to husbands…
“25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25 NIV).Husbands are to love their wives with the same intensity and dedication that Christ had for the church. Remember what Christ did before he picked the 12 apostles? He prayed ALL night! Do you remember why Jesus’ family thought He was crazy on one occasion? Because he was SO busy caring for the needs of others that He didn’t even have time to eat! The house that He was teaching in was surrounded, was thronged with people trying to get to Him. And his family thought, This guy’s crazy, He can’t keep doing this!
Jesus was always patient. Always loving. He corrected when it was needed, to be sure. But He always forgave.
This is how a Christian husband is to treat his wife. And again this is for you husbands, not for your wives to make you do. This is only something that you can do.
Husbands, do you see how your Savior’s relationship with you is to impress itself on your relationship with your wife? That’s what Paul says here.
The second relationship Paul talks about is the relationship between parents and children. Verse 20-21…
Colossians 3:20-21 (NIV)
20Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
21Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.
The word that we have to deal with first here in this section is the word “obey”. This word is also made up of two parts. The first part means “under” and the second part of this word means “listen”. So, children are to “under-listen” to their parents, or, listen under them.
This is for you children. Paul is saying this is how YOU should live as Christian children. You should listen under you parents.
Now, why do you think Paul says to listen “under” your parents? I think it’s because if we think we’re more important than someone, we usually don’t listen to them. If we really admire someone, if we think they’re the best, then we hear what they say. We repeat the things they say, and do the things they tell us to do right away.
Listen carefully to what your parents tell you. If it’s something to remember then remember it. If it’s something to do, then do it. If it’s something to say, then say it.
This is actually the same way that all Christians are to act toward God. We are to “under-listen” to Him. When we hear His word, if it’s something to remember then we should remember it. Write it on your hand, on the doorposts of your house, on the gate of your yard. Like it says in Deuteronomy 11, verse 18...
“18Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 19Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 20Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, 21so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the LORD swore to give your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth” (Deuteronomy 11:18-21 NIV).If the Lord says something we are to do, then we should do it. Not in a minute, or when we feel like it, but when HE says.
If the Lord says something we are to say, then we should say it. Not if it suits us. Not if we were thinking of saying that same thing anyway.
You see, a child’s relationship with parents is to mirror the Christian’s relationship with our Creator God. And, in the same way, a parent’s relationship with a child is to do the same.
Fathers are directed not to “stir their children up” in verse 21. The idea is kinda like poking a dog through it’s cage to get it riled up. Father’s are warned here not to antagonize and aggravate their children just because they’re bigger and stronger. Paul says that if we do this they can become discouraged.
This word, “discouraged” is a very heavy word in the Greek. I want to share this with you parents. In the Greek that word for discouraged is “a-thu-me-oh”. This word is the word “thu-me-oh” with an alpha privative on the front of it. When you add an alpha privative, it’s like adding “un” to and English word. If you’re liked and then un-liked, it’s the opposite. Get it? “Thu-me-oh” and “A-Thu-me-oh” are like that.
“Thu-meh-oh” means to be fired up, to be passionate, to be spirited. When you add the alpha privative it means no more. No more fired up. No more passion. No more spirit. “Discourage” here really means to take away a child’s heart by aggravating them. To cause a child to lose their passion. To break their spirit.
What a cold and empty things to even think about.
God has been ever so patient and loving with us, let us be the same with our children. Disciplining them, yes! But never aggravating them or provoking them. Being patient with them. Allowing them to keep their passion and their spirit and their excitement alive.
The third relationship Paul talks about is the relationship between slaves and masters. Look at verse 22…
Colossians 3:22-4:1 (NIV)
22Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.
4:1Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.
One more time we see that our relationship with our Savior God, is to impress itself onto our earthly relationships. Even such a potentially bad one, such as the relationship between a slave and a master.
Paul goes so far as to say, Don’t even look at it like serving your master. Open your eyes. As a redeemed child of God, your actions serve your Savior.
In 1 Corinthians 7, verse 21 Paul wrote…
“21Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. 22For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord’s freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ’s slave” (1 Corinthians 7:21-22 NIV).The ways and institutions of this world only last for so long, and then we will stand with our great God in heaven. Until then, the slaves in Colosse were to serve their masters (both good and bad ones) in a Christian fashion, like Paul said, doing all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Some of the Christians in Colosse owned slaves. These weren’t necessarily evil people for owning slaves. Things were different then. People sometimes would voluntarily enter into slavery in order to pay a debt they had racked up. But if a Christian owned a slave, they were still to treat that person right, with fairness.
Absolute authority leads to abuse of authority. And we can imagine how easily a slave master could begin to treat his slave as less than a person. Just like children can to get bossy and mean when they’re put in charge of others.
Paul directs the slave owners of Colosse to remember, that they have a Master also. They have someone who owns them fully. He’s in heaven. And even though they have sined against Him time and time again, this Master has been loving. He has not abandoned them or beaten them. He has given them peace and forgiveness even though their service to him was lazy and full of holes.
They were to remember God’s relationship with them each time they interacted with one of their slaves.
Paul ended our last section by saying,
“17And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17 NIV).At the beginning of this message I said that Paul isn’t focusing on the Gospel so much here. He’s not telling the Colossians HOW they got their sins forgiven, he’s talking about how to live because their sins HAVE been forgiven. That’s true, but perhaps it’s better to say that Paul isn’t building the foundation of the Gospel, instead he’s building ON that foundation. For each of these direction directs our vision BACK to Christ and our relationship with Him. A relationship of free forgiveness and utter peace.
Our Christian living flows from our faith connection to Christ. Our Christian living is modeled after our relationship with our great God.
Prayer: Father in Heaven, help us to grow in faith. Help us to totally rely on Jesus. Open our hearts to pray. Open our mouths to sing. And open our eyes to ways that we can model our Savior to one another. In each of our relationships show us how to mirror the relationship we have with You. Fill our relationships with forgiveness, understanding, love and peace. Amen.