Colossians 3:18-4:1 | God over Marriage, Family & Work
This section is very similar in structure and theme to Ephesians 5:22-6:9, albeit more condensed. The close similarity shows how concerned Paul was with encouraging believers to live Christ centred lives which affected their daily living.
Note how in all these examples, Paul mentions the ‘lesser/weaker’ partner in the relationship first, showing his concern for equality, justice and grace.
18Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.
- Submit = hupotassó – which means to arrange under, be under God’s arrangement. As is fitting in the Lord – just as we all submit ourselves to God, arranging ourselves under his will, so wives are instructed to submit to their husbands. Note this is different to hupakouó (obey) as in the context of children and their parents (v20). Submission implies order within a team context, whereas obedience simply implies carrying out a command.
- Likewise, husbands are to love their wives (as Christ loves his church), expressing care, kindness and gentleness instead of being harsh. Harsh = pikrainó which means to ‘make bitter’. A wife’s report of her husband should not be an embittered complaint but a thankful delight.
- In the order which God has established with and among his people, love and care should flow downwards whilst submission should flow upwards
20Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.
- Obey = hupakouó – which means to ‘hear under’, obeying what is heard. Just as we incline our ears to God and be attentive to his word in order to obey, likewise, godly children are eager to obey.
- in everything/all things – sometimes obedience comes at a cost or is not easy. Children do not understand all of the context and reasons why decisions are made but are told to obey likewise. This serves as a helpful reminder for adults too, that we too, like children, can struggle to get on board with the will of God.
- It is a godly trait when children obey their parents in all things, proving their respect and submission to their parents even when they would rather do something different. This truly pleases the Lord and should be praised in children.
- Provoke = erethizó, which means to stir up/arouse anger. The temptation to parents is to call upon the obedience of their children according to their own selfish preferences, defending their case with “because I said so”. Often, demands can be made for selfish motives and based on questionable reasoning. Children who are growing in awareness and reasoning see this and are provoked to anger, and so become discouraged from further obedience.
22Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.
- Similarly, servants are called to obey their masters in all things.
- God’s objective is not simply to better the human condition (in an earthly context) but to receive obedience and praise, in all circumstances, for his own glory. Therefore, we should not just seek to obey God and our masters when it serves us (as eye-service), for our goal is not simply to better our own circumstances but to serve the Lord.
- Neither should we live as people-pleasers placing our ultimate trust and hope in the hands of men. God alone is whom we should trust and seek to please, for he ordains our destiny and ‘prepares in advance good works for us to do’.
- sincerity = haplotés, meaning singleness/simplicity, without folds (as of a cloth laid out without folds). We should seek to obey God with a simple sincerity, with no caveats or hidden motives. A pure and undiluted reverence for God.
23Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.
- Above all, we should work as if working for the Lord, not men.
- heartily = psuché, which is the life/breath/soul of a person. The sentiment here then is to work ‘with all your soul’. This is a far cry from how many of us approach our working lives.
- The reason given is that we will receive our reward from God
- reward = antapodosis, used only once in the New Testament, meaning a recompense that richly rewards services rendered, emphasising that they match (anta) the service given. Even when we are not rewarded for our work/service on earth, we can be assured that God will recompense us within his inheritance. Therefore we should not lose heart when we are not shown justice or not recognised for the work we have done, for there will be a full reward/recompense in our heavenly inheritance.
- In a likewise manner, those who do wrong, do wrong to the Lord. If we cheat our masters and employers of work then we are trying to cheat the Lord. There is no partiality, we cannot excuse wrongdoing on account of other reasons, even if they seem justified to us.
4:1Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.
- Finally, masters, as those with authority and power should treat their servants justly/rightly and fairly/equally.
- Justly, in terms of the relationship between the master and servant, that all service has been recompensed at the agreed and correct value so that there is innocence and transparency before God.
- Fairly/equally, in terms of how servants are treated in relation to each other. Just as God shows no favouritism or partiality to us, so masters should not show favouritism or partiality to their servants.
- Similar to the other relationships, justice and equality should flow down, as it does from God.