The Gospel and Relationships

Philippians – Colossians – Philemon Lesson 12

Colossians 3:18-4:6

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SUBJECT: RELATIONSHIPS

CENTRAL THEME: RELATIONSHIPS THAT MATTER

INTRODUCTION:  WELCOME TO FRIENDS AND FAMILY DAY 2021 here at Cherry St. Baptist Church.  We are so glad that you are a part of what God is doing here at CSBC.  Providentially we are in a study in the Book of Colossians and it’s about relationships.  God has wired us to relate to one another.  We do life together as families, friends, and coworkers.  So it’s no surprise when the Apostle Paul addressed practical Christian living, he spent a significant amount of time talking about our relationships.  When we are properly connected to God, the Gospel transforms our connections with everyone else.  Hopefully, our interaction with friends and family who do not know the Lord will be a testimony of our genuine faith and trust in Jesus, pointing them to eternal life. 

 

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

COLOSSIANS 3:18-4:6

       In our lesson last week, we examined the first part of Colossians 3 and established that there are many outcomes related to our salvation.  When our new life begins in Jesus, we are new creations, and our life is forever changed.  We put away those sinful and wicked patterns of our former life and put on a whole new way of living.  It is more than “turning over a new leaf,” it is a transformation that the New Testament refers to as “the new birth.”  Because of that fact, we have forever changed our relationship with God, through Jesus, and it is an intimate and personal one.  As we travel this new road to our eternal home in heaven, the Apostle Paul tells us there will be new relationships all along the way.  New connections will be made with people who know Jesus and others who need to know Him!  In Col. 3:16, Paul tells us along the path we must, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; . . . .”  If we allow this to happen, it is the same as being “Filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18b).  Then Paul in both Col. 3 and Eph. 5 gives us a series of results that will be true in a believer’s life who submits to God working in and through us.  It is a very interesting list of behaviors and relationships that will produce Godly actions in our lives and our friendships.  The results cataloged in Col. 3 and Eph. 5 are the same outcomes in the exact same order if we “let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; . . . . (or be “filled with the Spirit”).  Today, we want to examine some of those instructions and see how our relationships will be forever changed because of our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  In fact, everything will change because of Jesus!

EXPLORE THE TEXT:  COLOSSIANS 3:18-4:6

Objective Statement:  Every Believer should develop relationships that matter because of the 3 instructions described in our text.

 

#1 – INSTRUCTIONS FOR OUR FAMILIES (col. 3:18-21)

Verses 18-21

18 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them. 20 Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well-pleasing unto the Lord. 21 Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.

       Just prior to vs. 18, the Bible gives us a basic principle by which the Christian life is to be lived out in relation to others.  That principle says simply, “whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (3:17).  Paul now applies that principle to family relationships.  It is important to note that what is said to members of the household emphasizes duties, not rights.  Furthermore, the duties are not one-sided.  All members of the family are given responsibilities.  First, Paul addressed Christian “wives.”  The one duty given the wives was the responsibility to “submit yourselves unto your own husbands.”  This injunction in no way should be interpreted as a license for a husband to be a sort of domestic overlord ruling the family with harshness and as an authoritarian.  This command to wives ideally occurs in a relationship of the husband’s unselfish love!  In our parallel text of Eph. 5:25, the Bible says a husband’s love is to be like the love of Christ.  That instruction says, “Husbands love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it.”  If the husband will demonstrate that kind of sacrificial love, it will not be hard for a wife to line up (in a functional sense) under her own husband’s leadership.  In other words, a Christian wife’s submission is voluntarily offered; it is not something demanded by force.  This submission of an equal to an equal is described as “fit in the Lord.”  This lifts the admonition above the natural order of things and elevated it to a Christlike order.  The call for submission, properly made in the context of a loving marriage, is thereby lifted to a new and loftier level.  Some interpreters have tried to capture the meaning of submission in the context of Christian marriage with such phrases as “be willing to take second place” or “adapt yourself to” (also see Eph. 5:21 for the concept of mutual submission between a husband and wife). 

       Verse 19 addresses the role of the husband with the weightier responsibility of, “Husbands, love your wives.”  It is interesting but the N.T. nowhere commands a wife to love her husband.  She is to honor him, and help him, and be in subjection to him, but she is never commanded to love him.  It is the “Husband” that is ordered to “love” his wife!  In a culture where the Romans, the Greeks, and the Jews, all had Patriarchal societies where men dominated the wives, God’s instructions to Christian husbands were quite revolutionary.  Paul wrote of two primary responsibilities of the Christian husband that were radical for the culture of their day.  First, is a positive instruction: “husbands, love your wives.”  Paul’s term for love (agapate) was the highest term for love that he could have used.  It speaks of compassionate love that is concerned with the well-being of the one loved.  It is the N.T.’s term for God’s love: He so loved the world that He sent His only Son to redeem sinners.  The emphasis of this term for love is on a deliberate choice to concern oneself with the well-being of another.  In this instance a husband’s concern for his wives welfare.

       In Verses 20-21, Paul moved on to write of children’s duties to their parents.  Those duties are captured in a single command: “obey.”  This quality suggests a willingness to hear and carry out orders imposed by parents.  These commands are written with the nature of the habitual or ongoing response.  The first of two points regarding obeying is that the children are to respond with complete obedience and without reservations.  Obedience to parents is to be “in all things.”  It is important to remember that such thorough compliance assumes Christian parents who would not demand immoral or unchristian actions on the part of their children.  The second thing about this submission is that it “is well pleasing unto the Lord” (vs. 20b).  Again, this presupposes we are dealing with Christian parents as well as children.  Just because “everyone else is doing it,” is not the standard for a believing child’s behavior.  Parents must carefully and lovingly explain why we make choices that please the Lord who loves us supremely and wants the very best for us.  There remains a direct word to parents“Fathers” could carry the broad meaning of both parents, as in Heb. 11:23 where this very same Greek word is used to speak of the parents of Moses.  On the other hand, the specific naming of “fathers” might assume the Christian father as the head of the household bears a special responsibility in the training of the children.  In either case, the adult believers in a family are not to “provoke” the children to anger and thus discourage them.  The idea of provoking a child to get angry carries with it the idea of exacerbating the child with overly harsh demands or extreme expectations that are beyond the child’s ability to perform.  It just frustrates them to the point of giving up and developing unforgiving feelings towards their parent who they never seem to please.

#2 – INSTRUCTIONS FOR OUR WORK (col. 3:22-4:1)

Verses 22-Col. 4:1

22 Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God; 23 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; 24 Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. 25 But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons. 4:1- Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.

       Another important result of letting “the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (or being “filled with the Spirit”), deals with how the believer handles social situations in the workplace.  When this letter was written to the Colossians, it is estimated that half of the Roman empire was made up of slaves.  Slavery was the social status of many “professional” people, such as teachers, doctors, and craftsmen.  Slaves had no rights; they existed for the convenience of their owners.  Paul dealt with the duty of slaves in the context of writing about the family since slaves were considered part of the household.  In our modern culture, we can distill from what is said about slaves and masters some abiding principles that have a meaningful application to employees and employers in today’s workplace.  The singular responsibility highlighted is that of obedience “in all things” (vs. 22).  Given the fact that Paul was writing to a church audience of professing Christians, his wide-ranging inclusion of obedience in everything did not include illegal or immoral activities demanded by masters.  The nature of their obedience was to be heartfelt sincerity that viewed a slave’s work as a matter of the heart and not the eye.  Hence, the admonition: “not with eyeservice.”  The goal was to not be “menpleasers” but to work “in singleness of heart,” knowing that while the human manager might not be watching, the Lord is.  So, out of reverence for the Lord (“fearing God”), work was not to be slack or slipshod simply because it was out of the view of a human supervisor.  At issue was the integrity of the slave’s heart, not the presence of the master’s eye.  Verses 23-25, serve as an extension of the appeal to the slave’s integrity.  Paul admonished the workers to do it, “heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men” (vs. 23).  The ultimate payday will take the form of “the reward of the inheritance,” since ultimately a Christian servant serves “the Lord Christ” (vs. 24).  Who can set a price on an accolade from the Lord that says, “Well done, thou good and faithful SERVANT?”  Vs. 25 concludes Chapter 3 by reminding all workers that with God “there is no respect of persons,” and no one should be surprised if, when they do wrong, they reap what they have sown.  Let’s consider now the application of the slaves/master relationship from Roman Empire times, to one of employees and employers in the workplace today.  If the inspired Apostle could urge slaves, who had no voice in the conditions and circumstances of their work, to render faithful, ungrudging service to their masters, then surely he would say no less to those today whose work is entered voluntarily and who receive financial remuneration for their work.  Christian workers are to view their jobs as service rendered to the Lord.  This consideration should motivate employees to give honest and faithful work in return for the salary paid to them.  Such an attitude gives employees a sense of dignity in their work.

       In Ch. 4:1, Paul points out that Christian duties did not fall only on the slaves; their masters also had obligations toward their slaves.  The summary duty pressed on masters was to treat slaves justly and fairly and, “give unto your servants that which is just and equal.”  The reason for masters to be just and fair with their slaves was a powerful one – “knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.”  Ultimately, both Christian masters and Christian slaves would answer to their heavenly Master; the Lord Jesus Christ. 

 

#3 – INSTRUCTIONS FOR OUR INTERACTIONS (col. 4:2-6)

Verses 2-6

Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds: That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.

       Paul reminds his readers that there are other instructions that result in stronger relationships.  One such command is that believers “Continue in prayer,” all the while giving thanks to God.  It is fitting that during this Thanksgiving season we are always praying with thanksgiving to the Lord for all of His many benefits.  Paul also added the idea of alertness when he said, “watch in the same.”  Give diligent attention to the place of prayer in daily affairs.  But Paul interjects a special prayer request that these Colossian Christians would pray for him in a dedicated way (vs. 3).  WHAT WAS IT THAT PAUL ASKED PRAYER FOR?  Well, he wanted God to open doors of opportunity for the spread of the Gospel.  He earnestly desired for God to give him, “utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ” which was the reason he was already “in bonds” in Rome.  As we have seen before, the “mystery of Christ” was the previously hidden truth about His death, burial, and resurrection that was never revealed in the Old Testament to the Jewish people.  That’s what Paul desired to boldly preach to those who had never heard the Gospel.  He begged the believers in Colosse to pray, “That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak” (vs. 5).  In other words, Paul wanted Holy Spirit boldness to spread the Gospel and do it in a way that was clear to all that heard it.  So one of the ways to engage in interactions with other people is to “continue in prayer,” and seek boldness as we speak about the Gospel, always giving THANKS to God for all He has done. 

       In Verses 5-6, Paul adds, along with the privilege of prayer, the fact of our responsibility to witness toward outsiders.  It’s a major challenge to churches everywhere that they generally tend to become internalized, introspective, and isolated from people who are lost.  “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without,” (vs. 5) calls attention to the need to treat carefully our dealings with non-believers.  Nothing in word or deed should occasion unbelievers to dismiss our witness as unimportant or of questionable motives.  “Redeeming the time” adds emphasis to the matter of acting wisely toward outsiders.  This wording picks up the idea of taking proper advantage of witnessing openings, which we might term redeeming the time or buying up the opportunities rather than letting such occasions slip by unnoticed.  We can only be effective in our witness if our “speech be alway with grace” (vs. 6).  Our words should be pleasant and winsome.  The way we say something is as important as what we say.  But our verbal witness can’t be so gracious that the content of the Gospel is watered down.  In fact, Paul added the idea of “seasoned with salt.”  Verbal witness is not to be made so acceptable to those who hear that it loses its edge to bring conviction or call for a response.  The ideal is a healthy combination of grace and pointedness.  The ultimate concern in bearing verbal witness to others is to make our words fit each individual’s need for and openness to receiving that witness, expressed as knowing “how ye ought to answer every man.”  As Jude put it, “And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh” (Jude 22-23).  The needed quality is that of spiritual discernment.  Have a blessed time here at CSBC for Friends and Family Day!

Remember our Objective Statement: Every Believer should develop relationships that matter because of the 3 instructions described in our text.

#1 – INSTRUCTIONS FOR OUR FAMILIES (col. 3:18-21)

 

 

#2 – INSTRUCTIONS FOR OUR WORK (col. 3:22-4:1)

 

 

#3 – INSTRUCTIONS FOR OUR INTERACTIONS (col. 4:2-6)