And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. – Colossians 3:17 NLT
So far in this chapter, Paul has reminded us that God has chosen us to live as holy people, set apart and distinctively different than the world around us. We are to live lives that exhibit tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. We are to make allowance for one another’s faults. We are to forgive when others offend us, just as the Lord has forgiven us. We are to clothe ourselves with love, seek to live in harmony and peace, and allow the message of Jesus’ life-changing power fill our lives and impact our relationships with others.
Now he gets practical and personal. He gives us concrete examples of what this kind of life looks like in the everyday world. Wives are to submit to he Lord. This is always a controversial and somewhat unpopular topic among Christians. In our modern-day context it sounds archaic and antiquated. It comes across as someone who is out of touch with reality. But before we get too bent out of shape, it might help to take a look at another one of Paul’s letters where he addresses this same issue. “And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:21-22 NLT). Notice that Paul puts his statement within the context of mutual submission within the body of Christ, and under the headship of Christ. So when he tells wives to submit to their husbands, the issue is headship and God-given authority, not a matter of value or worth. The submission he is calling wives to is the same kind Jesus exhibited in relationship to His heavenly Father. It was done willingly and gladly. Paul told the Ephesians that wives were to submit to their husbands as if they were submitting to the Lord Himself.
Paul tells husbands to love their wives and never treat them harshly. In Ephesians, he takes it a step further, explaining that their love is to be like that of Christ’s for the church. Christ died for the church. He gave up His life so that we might live. And His objective was to be able to present a church that without spot, wrinkle, or any kind of blemish. So the kind of love to which Paul calls husbands is difficult, if not impossible. There is no doubt that most wives find it hard to submit to their husbands because they fail to love in the way that Christ did. Many men find it difficult to love their wives, because they refuse to acknowledge their God-ordained authority and responsibility as the heads of their households. And some of those same men have failed to take seriously that God-ordained authority and responsibility, turning over the reigns of their home to their wives. Keep in mind, all of this is to be done in a way that it is accompanied by tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Children are to obey their parents. Not just when it’s convenient or falls in line with their own desires, but at all times. In other words, always. They are to submit to their father and mother – willingly, gladly, humbly, and regularly. At the same time, fathers are not to aggravate their kids, driving them to despair or discouragement. Don’t irritate them, or arouse within them feelings of bitterness or resentment. Some fathers are experts at exasperating their children by setting up unfair or double standards. They say one thing and do another. They live lives of hypocrisy, demanding of their children what they are unwilling or unable to do themselves. That can be discouraging and defeating for a child.
Paul tells slaves, of which there were many in the New Testament church, to obey their masters in every area of their lives. Many of these slaves had come to faith in Christ and yet were still required to live as slaves in the society in which they lived. In some cases, they could have actually attended the same church as their owners. And Paul calls them to live as redeemed slaves, serving their masters out of reverence and fear for the Lord. They were to submit to their masters, working diligently and recognizing that their efforts were to be done with a degree of integrity and consistency, marked by a new nature provided by the indwelling Holy Spirit.
In Paul’s context, faith in Christ was to be lived out in the context in which one found themselves. He told the Corinthians, “Each of you should continue to live in whatever situation the Lord has placed you, and remain as you were when God first called you” (1 Corinthians 7:17 NLT). If you were a slave when you were saved, remain one. But be a redeemed, holy, set apart slave. If you were married, remain so. But live in such a way that God gets the glory. Submit, love, humble yourself, show mercy, extend kindness, and live in patience with one another. “Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ” (Colossians 3:24 NLT).
Father, this is difficult stuff. Living in submission, loving sacrificially and selflessly, obeying willingly, and serving faithfully are all hard things to do. But that is what it means to live differently and distinctively. You have called us to a higher standard, but You have also provided us with the Holy Spirit to equip and empower us to pull it off. So that at the end of the day, You get the glory. What a difference we would make in the world if we actually lived this way – in obedience to Your will and empowered by Your Spirit. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men