Who’s the Boss?
Colossians 3:18-21- Who’s the Boss?
Paul is addressing how the Christian are to walk in Christ (Col 2:6-7). He has addressed how the Christian sets their heart, mind and focus on heaven and not on earth (Col 3:1-4). The Christian puts off the old sinful self (Col 3:5-9) and puts on the new self which is being made into the image of their creator (Col 3:10-17). He explains whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus (Col 3:17). The section has addressed the community, eg teaching and admonishing one another (Col 3:16), however it has spoken a lot of ‘self’. Today’s passage, and next week, will look at how the believer is to relate to others. The main message of Colossians has been Christ is supreme and sufficient, Paul takes this doctrine to command people how they are to relate to others.
I. Christ is Lord
We need to be reminded that Christ is supreme and sufficient in all aspects of our lives, not just the religious part of our life. Everything we do should be done in the name of Christ. Every title or task we have should be done for the glory of God as Christ as the head. This concept is not popular in today’s culture. We do not want to be under any form of authority or anybody. We want to be our own boss, our own king. When we are children, we make the statement, “you’re not the boss of me, you cannot tell me what to do.” Sadly, even Christians live with this mindset. We are happy to submit until we see fit. We are happy to call Christ our Lord as long as he doesn’t tell us to do something that we do not want to do. We do not live the life of the hymn “I surrender all.” The hymn says,
All to Jesus I surrender
All to Him I freely give
I will ever love and trust Him
In His presence daily live
All to Jesus I surrender
Humbly at His feet I bow
Worldly pleasures all forsaken
Take me, Jesus, take me now.
Instead of all we give some, instead of freely giving we begrudgingly relinquish control of some aspects of our lives. We seek to hold on to the world and try and see the promises it has to offer, while holding on to Christ with the other hand. Paul has made the supremacy of Christ clear throughout Colossians, he began with Christ’s preeminence, the Ministry of Christ which Paul is a minster, the rule and work of Christ, the false teachings that minimize Christ and even the new self which is made into the image of Christ. Paul turns to explain how a Christian relates to others, under Christ. The doctrine of Christ’s supremacy and sufficiency has an effect on our relationships, they cannot be separated. Paul, continuing on his previous sections written in Colossians the shows how we are to relate to others. All things are under Christ’s rule; your marriage, your parenting, your employment. If we forget this important principle, we either will turn to individualism, with no structure; Everyone doing what is right in their own eyes (Jud 21:25). The opposite, people claiming authority and using it for their own gain, abusing others while neglecting Christ as head. We need to be reminded of this frequently, even leaders in the Church need to give an account for how they shepherd (Heb 13:17). Everyone is under the Lordship of Christ.
a. Wives submit
We need to begin by explaining that some people might seek to remove this from their Bible under the argument of cultural differences from when the Bible was written compared to today. However, we need to come to the scriptures with clear hermeneutics. If this is cultural, then would all the relationships be cultural? E.g. Do children no longer need to obey parents? But more importantly we need to ask the question, “what does Christ command in his word?” Peter explains the world thinks a woman is beautiful because of their external hair, clothes and jewelry, but holy women should seek to be adorned in the hidden person of the heart with imperishable beauty, which in God’s sight is very precious, which includes submitting to their Husbands (1 Pet 3:3-5). God made Adam and Eve, he made Eve as a helper, this is not a derogative term, because it is used to speak of God (Ps 121:1-2). God made male and female to complement each other, equal in worth and value with different roles. Matthew Henry explains why Eve was made out of the rib,
“The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.”
We need to seek to place Christ and his word above all of our life. Wives are called to submit to their husbands (Eph 5:22, 24, Col 3:18, 1 Pet 3:1). However, they are not to do so blindly, but as fitting in the Lord. Blind submission is not biblical. Christ is Lord overall, and wives need to submit to Christ above all. Sadly, some men abuse women claiming that they are the head therefore their wives need to submit to them. They are cowards who do not read their whole Bible. If any woman is being abused, they do not need to submit to abuse, but should seek refuge for their own and their children’s safety. However, wives are called to submit to their husbands, as fitting in the Lord.
b. Husbands Love
The passage does not stop there. We can get caught up with particular passages and not seek to read our whole Bible. Husbands again are not supreme over all things, for that is Christ. Husbands are called to love their wives, as Christ loved the Church (Eph 5:25). The word love here is the strongest form of the word, agape, which is the love which is the attribute of God (1 John 4:8). Husbands who point to verse 18 and do not live out verse 19 are not submitting to Christ. They are to show love to their wife like Christ. The passage in Ephesians goes in more detail of what the Husband are to do.
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” Ephesians 5:25–33.
Husbands have the perfect example of love, in how Christ relates to the Church. Paul continues in Ephesians that the husband and wife are one flesh therefore the husband should love his wife as he loves himself (Eph 5:28-29). Each person will give account to the Lord, in the last day. Leaders of churches will be held to the standard of the Bible; they will face stricter judgement (Jam 3:1). Everyone will give an account for how they lived out their roles which they are called to, whether husbands or wives. Wives will be asked if they submitted to their husband as the church submits to Christ. Husbands will be asked if they loved their wives as Christ loved the church. Paul also explains that husbands should not be harsh with them (Col 3:19). This might be an odd command to give to husbands, but the word can be harsh or bitter. The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, uses the same word when Naomi changes her name to Mara which means bitter (Ruth 1:20). In Revelation 10:9-10 the word is translated ‘bitter’ and is used in comparison with honey. Husbands are commanded to be sweet to their wives and not bitter or harsh. As we put on our new self (Col 3:12-14), this affects all of our relationships, even our marriage. The Bible commands husbands to love their wives but also to be sensitive and sympathetic. Many commandments cut right to the heart, husbands have two simple commands that we all need to grow in, loving our wives and not be harsh with them.
c. Children Obey
The third group that Paul addresses is children. This is one that we can all agree on. Before we get to the specific command, we should take the time to understand why a command is written to children. The letter of Colossians is not only written to adults but also children. This can teach us a very important dimension to the church, firstly that children are seen to be a part of the covenant community. God relates to his people through covenant and covenant has a family dimension. God made a covenant with Noah (Gen 6:18-21), which effected his family, the same is said of Abraham (Gen 17:9-10), Israel in the ten commandments (Deut 6:4-8, Ex 20:12) and also David (2 Sam 7:12). We even see this in Acts chapter 2:38-39, “And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” Children are seen as a part of the church not as pagans outside of it.
Children are called to obey their parents in everything. Again, children obey parents because they are under the authority of God. Tedd Tripp in his book ‘Shepherding a Child’s Heart,’ explains this principle,
“God calls you [parents] to exercise authority, not in making your children do what they want, but in being true servants- authorities who lay down their lives. The purpose for your authority in the lives of your children is not to hold them under your power, but to empower them to be self-controlled people living freely under the authority of God.”
If we seek to have children obey for the sake of obedience, we miss the point. We seek that our children would be under the authority of God. The problem is the heart, shepherding a child’s heart is harder than fashioning particular behavior. The reason for obedience is to please the Lord. The same word ‘pleases’ is used in Romans 12:1-2 as acceptable,
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Obedience is not for the sake of the parents, but it is honoring and glorifying God. Children obey their parents because it is God they seek to honor.
d. Fathers encourage
Again, men are called to a high standard according to the Bible. We have seen two negative (do not) commandments in this passage and they are both directed at men. The command is not given to parents but to fathers. The absence of fathers is an ever-increasing problem in our society. Roughly one in four children grow up in a home without a father in their home. We see the rising of boys with beards, grown ‘men’ who act like boys. We should point men to the word of God that calls them to maturity. Even in this fatherless culture the church is called to take care of the widows and orphans (Jam 1:27). Fathers are commanded in the Bible to be present in the children’s life. Paul in Ephesians commands a similar thing to today’s passage, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4). The command is given to fathers to bring them up in the disciple and instruction of the Lord. Again, we see the authority given to parents is only in the Lord. Fathers should not stir up their children but nourish them in the Lord. As Paul’s ministry was to present everyone mature, fathers are called to the same ministry, “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom” (Col 1:28). Fathers are called to help present their children mature in the Lord with discipline and instruction; parenting has two sides of the same coin, discipline and instruction. Fathers are called to do both, pointing to the gospel. Martin Luther explains that parents have an important role in the house,
“Most certainly father and mother are apostles, bishops and priests to their children, for it is they who make them acquainted with the gospel.”
One of the things parents will be called to give an account to God for is not if your children behave when in public but did you make them acquainted with the Gospel and shepherd their hearts.
The book of Colossians is Christocentric, meaning Christ is the central. When we begin to discuss relationships this important truth does not cease to be the case. Doctrine effects what we do, especially in our relationships. Christ is supreme and sufficient over all things. If we forget this in our marriage or parenting, then we place ourselves above the word of God which is incorrect. We all are to submit to Christ as the head of all things. We are all going to give account to our particular roles we have been called to in our life. We should seek to honor Christ as wives, husbands, children and fathers.
As we consider the incarnation of Christ, we consider his love for the church as his bride. The sacrificial life of Christ. Christ did not just sacrifice his life in the act of dying on the cross but his whole life was one of sacrifice for the Church. He came and dwelt among the creation he made. The hymn “The Church’s One Foundation” says:
The church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ, her Lord;
She is his new creation
By water and the word.
From heav’n he came and sought her
To be his holy bride;
With his own blood he bought her,
And for her life he died.
From Heaven he came and sought her, his whole life he showed the love which a husband is to love their wife. Christ bought her with his own blood and for her life he died. He laid down his life so the church could have life. We think about this sacrificial love during this time of advent.