11 RELATIONSHIPS Colossians 3:18-4:6Philippians and Colossians – Joyful Living in Christ
All written materials for this series will be posted on this website, http://servingandsharing.com/, under the category, “Philippians and Colossians – Joyful Living in Christ.” Here is my video presentation introducing this series – https://youtu.be/VBg_Wdyu104. The video of this specific class presentation, as well as all the others in this series, will be posted to this YouTube playlist as they are recorded – Faith Builders Class: Philippians, Colossians: Joyful Living in Christ – YouTube. Please use the “Contact” button to request corresponding handouts and outlines.
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11 RELATIONSHIPS Colossians 3:18-4:6
We’ve seen from Col 3:17 that everything we do in word or deed is to be done “in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” Notice that Scripture does not divide life into “sacred” and “secular.” Instead, all of life is to be lived as a Christian in the Lord’s name. To this same point, we read in 1 Co 10:31, “Whether then you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
That single, overarching purpose is the aim shared by every Christian, whether male or female, married or single, young or old, etc.
That raises some questions, however. How does a Christian wife in particular carry that out, as compared to her husband? What if one is a child, a father, a slave under authority, or a master who has authority?
So, what follows is a specific set of instructions, actually commands, for those in these various situations. In each case, true spirituality means serving God in the gender, role, and position that one has, rather than abandoning one’s status to seek something “higher.” Some may mistakenly think, “Oh, I could really serve God if I were a fulltime missionary … if I had a different spouse … if I were the opposite gender … if I were in charge,” etc. Instead, God’s message is, “Live as a Christian, right where you are.”
Remember as you study that this passage does not stand on its own. It is based on and expresses the truths described in Col 3:1-17. Those who are committed to that previous passage will understand and approach what follows in ways that please the Lord.
Also, as we proceed, we will include other texts, especially Eph 5:22-6:9.
Col 3:18 Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
Eph 5:22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. … 33 … and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.
1 Pe 3:1 In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, 2 as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. 3 Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; 4 but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. 5 For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; 6 just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.
Until rather recently, most people in our world, religious or not, understood by nature and by law that marriage was the union of one male and one female. That’s what Jesus taught in Matt 19:1-9. That truth is assumed in this passage as well.
What about the wife’s subjection to her husband? The words “be subject” or “be submissive” render an old Greek military term, meaning to line up under or place oneself under another who is ranked higher in authority. The idea is that an enlisted soldier willingly subordinates himself to the one above him in the chain of command.
Of course, every Christian has first of all already submitted himself or herself to God, as Jas 4:7 commands, and to God’s law, as Rom 8:7 teaches. It is said specifically of the Christian man, that “Christ is the head of every man” (1 Cor 11:3).
Christians are commanded to be subject to those in civil authority.
Ro 13:1 Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Tt 3:1 Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed … 1 Pe 2:13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, 14 or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.
Without authority and submission, it would be impossible to have a structured society or any institutions within it. Government could not function. The rule of law could not exist. Schools could not operate. There could be no police, courts, judges, or prisons.
Of course, this is exactly what’s at stake in our culture today. Where there is rebellion against legitimate, God-ordained authority, the result will be anarchy and chaos. We’re seeing this in various places and events throughout the nation.
This authority is to be evident in the family as well. It must be! Note this comparison between the authority of human fathers and that of the heavenly Father given in Heb 12:9: “Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live?”
When a student enrolls in school, he or she subjects himself or herself to the authority, the rules, and the administration of that school. When one applies for a driver’s license, a job, US citizenship, insurance, a loan, or disability income, the same principle applies. When the laws are ignored or rejected, a breakdown is inevitable.
When a Christian woman and a Christian man enter Christian marriage, they do so with the understanding that the wife is to be subject to her husband, to line up under him and get behind him.
But what about the husband who is mean, selfish, dishonest, and greedy? We’re going to read about the husband next! But first let’s notice that this has already been covered. How! By the woman insisting that any man she might marry is already committed to what precedes this – Col 3:1-17. If a man has not been raised with Christ, if he is not “putting to death” and “putting on” as directed in that text, she will not consider him! In other words, Col 3:1-17 is her “shopping list!”
Of course, subjection to God comes first and supersedes subjection to anyone or anything else. So, we appreciate the apostles’ words in this regard.
Ac 4:19 But Peter and John answered and said to [the Jewish authorities], “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; 20 for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
Ac 5:28 … [the authorities were] saying, “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.”
3:19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them.
Eph 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself …
When a man chooses to marry, he also chooses to be subject to Christ in his role as a husband. Specifically, he loves his wife to the extent of laying down his life for her as Christ did for the church. His job is just that simple and just that profound. He will give all that he is and all that he has to help her become all that she can be. No wrinkles for this woman, at least not in his eyes!
He loves her first of all because he’s been raised with Christ (Col 3:1-17). In addition, he loves her as he loves himself (that’s the second great commandment!) because he and she have become one. In a very practical sense, “He who loves his wife loves himself.” A godly man who loves his godly wife sacrificially will reap all kinds of benefits, beyond his wildest imagination.
When a wife has a husband who loves her as Christ loves the church … who’s been raised with Christ … who puts sin to death … who puts on the Christian virtues – she has a man worth following!
“Do not be embittered” calls Christian men to be kind, patient, and “not easily provoked.” Note 1 Cor 13:5: “[love] does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered …” One wonders if males are more likely than females, generally speaking, to need this prohibition.
As we also read in 1 Pe 3:7, “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.”
What about the wife who will not submit? Once again, the godly man considers this matter in advance. If a woman shows her unwillingness to honor her future husband’s leadership and headship, a godly man will realize that he cannot lead her. He will look for a woman who understands and supports God’s design.
Keep this in mind, too. It’s okay for a man, who is not willing to love his wife as Christ loved the church, to remain unmarried. It is not okay for him to marry and refuse to love his wife in that way. It’s okay for an independent woman, who prefers not to be subject to a husband, to stay single. If she does marry, she must adhere to this God-given arrangement.
I’d like to recommend two excellent books for every married person. Its title is Love and Respect, and it’s written by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. It’s based on Eph 5:33, emphasizing that wives primarily need love and husbands primarily need respect. In my experience, when married people struggle, in almost every case the husband does not love his wife as she needs to be loved, and/or the wife does not respect her husband as he needs to be respected.
The other book is His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage, by Willard F. Harley. Harley identifies and discusses the five primary needs of married men and the five totally-different primary needs of married women. He points out that the man or woman whose basic needs are not met may be more likely to stray. When these needs are understood and met, that mutual effort helps to “affair-proof” marriages.
3:20 Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord.
Eph 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”
The word for “obey” has the same root as the word for “hear,” but an intensive prefix is added to it. Think of obedience as hearing plus heeding or hearing with the intent to act accordingly.
Children are to submit to their parents, not because their parents are always right or because they pay the bills, but for three other very significant reasons.  It pleases the Lord.  It is right.  It is the first command with a promise attached.
As a general rule, children who do as they are told will live happier, healthier, and longer as a result. A harmonious relationship in the family of origin contributes immeasurably to an effective Christ-like life.
3:21 Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.
Eph 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
If the father is frustrating, irritating, and pushy, the child will feel he is impossible to please, and the child will lose heart. If that same father, again based on the teaching of Col 3:1-17, will “train up a child in the way he should go” (Prov 22:6), that same child can grow into a capable, confident adult.
The father is singled out here, indicating that the primary responsibility for discipline and instruction is his. Of course, the mother’s supportive role is crucial as well, but the father must not neglect his leadership in this area or expect his wife to do what God has commanded him to do.
3:22 Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. 25 For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality.
Eph 6:5 Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; 6 not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. 7 With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, 8 knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.
Tt 2:9 Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.
Much has been said and written regarding the Bible’s treatment of slavery. All human beings, no matter their status in life, are equally valuable to God. Remember that Col 3:11 describes “a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.” Also remember Ga 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Having said that, one must recognize that there were first-century Christians who were slaves and others who were masters. In many cases, it was an arrangement that worked for all involved, as long as all treated each other with love, respect, and fairness. The Bible would certainly not condone inhumane treatment of anyone, and that is evident here.
The question for slaves was, how could they “do all in the name of the Lord” (Col 3:17) in their current situation? The texts above clearly indicate that they would honor the Lord by being obedient, sincere, and trustworthy. Their Christ-centered, second-mile work ethic would prove that they were not out just to please their earthly masters, but even more their Master in heaven.
These passages may also be rightly applied to employees, Christians on the job. We work, not mainly for a paycheck, and not mainly for the boss, and certainly not just for the weekend or retirement! We serve Jesus Christ in our “vocation,” which means our “calling.” I love the phrase in Tit 2:9-10 about “adorning the doctrine” or making it beautiful by the way we serve every day.
4:1 Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven.
Eph 6:9 And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.
In the New Testament, one could be a Christian and a master at the same time, but not just any kind of master. He was to be just, fair, and nonthreatening, because he too was a “slave” subject to his “Master” in heaven. Ultimately both the earthly slave and the earthly master would be accountable to the same divine Master in heaven, and there would be no partiality with him.
These passages also apply to bosses, directors, supervisors, and employers today. Any smart “slave” (employee) today would or should be pleased to serve under such a “master” (boss), who leads this way and follows the directives of Col 3:1-17. Read that passage again, and imagine having a boss who is compassionate, kind, and peaceable, rather than greedy, angry, and insulting.
Prayer and Outreach
4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; 3 praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; 4 that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak.
“Devote” suggests an all-out commitment, even an addiction, to prayer. Note the grateful tone of prayer and the evangelistic object of prayer. Ask God every day to open doors for you to reach others for Christ. The time is short, the need is great, and your opportunities are unique to you. Checkout the prayer hymn, “Lead Me to Some Soul Today,” and another hymn, “You Never Mentioned Him to Me.”
Conduct and Outreach
Col 4:5 Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. 6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
Eph 5:15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish but understand what the will of the Lord is.
See here the tight connection between the Christian’s walk and the Christian’s talk. The two must fit and be congruent and consistent with each other. Our walk or conduct, if it is unwise, will contradict our words and overshadow them. If our walk is credible, but we never talk with others about Christ, they will not receive the message of salvation.
The Greek text literally says, “redeeming the time.” The idea is to buy up every bit of time available, to get the maximum value of it, as if it were a coupon that you were cashing in. Time is precious and not to be wasted. To waste time is like throwing away a ticket worth $1,000,000 rather than redeeming it for the prize it can gain.
Our speech as disciples of Christ is to have these three qualities. First, it is gracious, offering forbearance and forgiveness. Second, it is seasoned with salt, flavored in such a way that others will find it tasty and edible. Third, it is to respond properly to each person’s questions and needs.
Likewise, God’s Word says in Eph 4:29, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”