Sunday, December 8, 2013

Colossians 3:18-4:1

 3:18 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them. 20 Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. 22 Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. 23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. 25 But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.
4:1 Masters, give your bondservants what is just and fair, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.

The Apostle Paul having concluded his Holy Spirit given exhortations on the Godly character that we as the elect of God are to both pursue and exemplify. Now gives us some instructions regarding the Christian home. And given the world wide cultural "climate" (call it cultural climate change) that is increasingly renouncing God's everlasting moral decrees for marriage and human sexuality within it.
It bequeaths us who believe in God, and want to obey Him through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ, not too likewise be led astray with the error of the wicked (see 2 Peter 3:17-18). And so we have set before us here some timeless and dare I say all inclusive (or cultural-less) exhortations (like the previous ones on Christian character) of just what a Godly home/family should look like.

Vs. 18-19 "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them."

In God's Divine plan for human relationships and families, He has ordained that wives are to be subject to their own husbands (see Eph. 5:22-24; 1 Peter 3:1, 5; Titus 2:5). And so their submission there in many ways is a reflection of their submission to the Lord Jesus Christ (consider 1 Cor 11:3). That said, God requires that husbands as the heads of the home, be loving towards their wives. That is what God requires of the husband, too meet the wives need for emotional affection and connection. Which maybe something he will have to learn, just as she may have to learn to let go of the reigns and let her husband rule the home. Nonetheless when God's designs for the family are embraced the results are a well balanced and loving home. Where each fulfills their God given purpose, through their God given designs for them. Therefore to reiterate wives are to submit to their own husbands, for nothing undermines the husbands authority more in the eyes of their children than a contentious and a argumentive wife who will not submit to her husband. Similarly nothing undermines a wives desire to be subject to her husband if the husband only seeks to "lord" authority over her. For in commanding the wife to be submit to her husband the Apostle does not deny the husbands responsibility to do this with her well being in mind. Similarly a husband should not dismiss his wife's counsel simply because she is to submit to him. She may indeed be wiser or more discerning in certain areas of life than he, and thus a wise man always receives wise counsel from his wife, because she can help strengthen him in those weaker areas of his life (consider Prov. 1:5). Though the flip side of this is where weak-willed husbands allow themselves to "led around by nose" by their wives (as if they were their mothers) and thus they do not exercise the leadership in the family that God has called them to be. Which is not exercising their own "manhood" through the role of family leader, rather a Godly leader is to be both gentle and firm when he needs to be, as well he must, when he has weighed the facts impartially, be decisive in his decisions. For nothing creates more confusion and insecurity in a family, or an organization for that matter, than an indecisive leader.
That a husband is not to be bitter towards his wife is usually a result of a breakdown in their own relationship, this is especially true if he feels continually undermined by his wife, that is she as a pattern of life shows him little or no respect, especially in the presence of their children. Though there are other causes for a husbands bitterness, (which after the birth of children may even be that she has started to look for an intimate emotional connection with her children, rather than with him). Nonetheless the husband as the head of the home must do what he can to address these or any other issues in their marriage, by being honest about his feelings with her, (as she should be with him) and not act like a sulking child, but rather always seek grounds for renewing their love.

Vs. 20-21 20 Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

Just as the Lord Jesus Christ was subject to His own earthly parents (in accord with God His Father's will, Luke 2:51), so all children should be taught to obey their own parents as well (see Eph. 6:1-4). For this is well pleasing to the Lord. When children learn this Divine principal that runs throughout all creation, in the home first. Of our obeying all God ordained authority, whether in the home, or in the church, or in the world. And so whether this is our subjection to God the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ, by keeping His commandments. Or obeying lawful authorities as sent by God (Rom 13:1; Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 2:13-14), or our obeying God's designs for marital relationships and the family, and thus here children obeying their own parents. We only submit ourselves to Jesus Christ's Lordship in our lives as much as we let God's designs for human relationships with Himself, each other, and governments, govern us. For Jesus Christ was obedient to His own Father's Will even to the point of death on a cross. 
And so God has highly exalted Him and given Him the Name above all Names (Phil. 2:8-11; 1 Peter 3:22). Therefore we too must be subject to God's designs for us, if we expect too be exalted with Christ. Now Jesus' obedience to the Father will culminate at the end of ages when Jesus having had all things made subject to Himself, will in turn be subject to God the Father (1 Cor 15:28). And so regardless of our current place in this life the Divine Will and order is to be respected and obeyed by us all who believe in Him. Now in regards to young people submitting to their elders, and we all submitting to one another, and thus being clothed with humility as is fitting for us all, please see Eph. 5:21; 1 Peter 5:5.
Now in commanding the children to obey to their parents, especially their fathers, (and thus not run to mom to have her take sides with them against one of his decisions for them) the Apostle Paul exhorts the fathers of their responsibility in all of this by saying: "Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged."  In the Apostles parallel exhortations in Eph. 6:1-4 all believing fathers are to bring up their children in the training and admonition of the Lord. Thus a father is to have a critical role in the children's development in all of life's matters. And so here as part of the father's responsibility in the children's personal development, the Apostle commands the father's not to provoke their children, lest they become discouraged. Now the verb translated provoke here means: to cause someone to feel resentment—‘to make resentful, to make someone bitter.’ ‘do not cause your children to become resentful’ LN. 88.168  Given that children have a great affection and natural adoration for their fathers (see Prov. 17:6), it seems wise that a father not destroy this in them.
Thus the father must be sensitive to his children's need for affirmation from him (as well he must help them grow in their independence from him, as they move from childhood to teenagers and finally move into their own adulthood). And so he must always seek too encourage them in every good thing throughout their lives, and not belittle them, or slight them, at any point in their lives when they try something on their own and fail. For trying and at times failing is a part of life, and is a part of growing up in this life. And so whether seemingly an insignificant "failure" or not. A Father should never provoke his child (or any child) by ridiculing them. Which often only leads to childhood and later more serious adolescence rebellion. None of which helps a child grow up in the training and admonition of the Lord. Same with laying all kinds of unnecessary and or hypocritical legalistic demands on children, and thus stifling their God given creativity, as well as His designs for them to become their own persons, with their own unique likes and dislikes. All which can very easily fit within the safe and secure confines of His commandments and decrees, which bless and benefit us all. Therefore fathers do not provoke your children by being a hard-case! Which is only a false means by which men try to hide their own insecurities and weaknesses. Instead be honest with your children about your own weaknesses and limitations, for ultimately it is not you, (and your strengths and abilities) it is Christ working through you by which you become a Godly father to them. And so be a father who is willing to share in their joys and sorrows, their successes and failures, throughout their lives. And thus be a father they can look too for guidance and counsel throughout their lives, because they know you will listen to them, as well as dialogue maturely with them about anything that may be of a concern to them. And when its time and it's appropriate to do so show them that you are strong enough in the Lord to admit to your own failures and weakness, because Godly fathers are not infallible, nor are they "supermen" , they are though real men who love and desire the very best for their children.

Vs. 22 "Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God."

In Biblical times slaves and or bondservants was a reality, and often times a necessity, as people instead of going into deep poverty and despair would sell themselves in someone's servitude. Though within the nation of Israel God's commandment was to first try to assist those in need, and failing that then they could sell themselves into their brethren's servitude. Of course God had laws governing ones treatment while so indebted, as well as He provided for their redemption if one of their relatives could financially redeem them. As well He commanded their release from their servitude after seven years, and or in the year of Jubilee (see Lev. 25:35-55; Deut. 15:7-18 etc.). That said, in the early and growing church, Christians were increasingly from the Gentiles, and within the Roman Empire (which ruled all nations and peoples at that time) slavery was a way of life (see "Slavery in the Roman Empire" for details about Roman Slavery). And so as the Gospel spread from Jerusalem to the surrounding nations and peoples many of these people who heard the Good News were themselves slaves or bondservants at the time of their salvation. And having been set free from their sins many wondered if this also meant that they were immediately released from their earthly responsibilities and or indebtedness or bondservice. Some even began to teach others that they had no more responsibility to submit to their earthly masters since Jesus Christ was now their Master, which of course was only erroneous and self-serving on their part (see 1 Tim 6:1-2; Titus 2:9-10). And so throughout the Apostle Paul's letters, he frequently calls himself, or refers to himself and or his co-workers as bondservants of Christ and of all believers (see 2 Cor 4:5; Gal. 1:10; Phil. 1:1; Col. 4:12; Titus 1:1). Something that may have begun with the Apostles who were before him (see James 1:1; 2 Peter 1:1; Jude 1:1). Since from of old God's prophets and saints have always been referred to by Him as His servants (Rev 1:1; 11:18 etc. Note: the same word used for slaves is frequently translated servants and or bondservants in the N.T.). Now the Apostle Paul never opposed the liberation of anyone from their earthly bondservice. Indeed if one could be made free then all the better, especially if it helped in the Gospel's furtherance (1 Cor 7:21-23). But if not then a bondservant having been freed by Christ, and having been brought to everlasting life, by the Holy Spirit just as all believers are, was no longer to be considered just as "bondservants" of man, but instead as beloved and equal brethren (see 1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:28) and bondservants of God, with all believers everywhere (1 Peter 2:15). Therefore bondservants were not too revolt against their earthly masters, which would've brought swift destruction to them and great upheaval to the early church (see 1 Peter 2 :18-25). Instead as the Apostle Paul commands here they were to "obey in all things their masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God." And so from this brief exhortation we garner the principal of both our own bond service to Jesus Christ in all things, but also of our dutifully doing our duties in whatever capacities of life we are called to serve God and Jesus Christ in. And so whether this is in the home, or the work place, or anywhere else, a Christians work ethic is in many ways a reflection of their worship and obedience towards God.

Vs. 23 23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. 25 But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.

The Apostle Paul's exhortation here is to faithful and dutiful service (consider Prov 18:9). That is what we are to be as disciples of Jesus Christ, in whatever capacities of life we find ourselves serving others, or gainfully employed in. For there is no menial service or servants of God. Consider if you will, that the Lord Jesus Christ took up a towel long before He took up His throne (see John 13:3-17; Mark 10:42-45). Indeed in the prophetic Scriptures in Isaiah Jesus is referred to as simply "My Servant" (Isaiah 52:13-53:12). Therefore seeing that the Lord has given both the example as well as the commanded His blessing on us if we follow Him in doing likewise; that is serving others as He has served us (John 13:17); whatever one does is to be done (and will be rewarded as being done) as unto the Lord and not mere men (vs. 23). For ultimately we who believe in Jesus Christ are serving the Lord Jesus Christ in whatever capacities of life we serve others. And thus it is from the Lord Jesus Christ that we will receive the inheritance (vs. 24). And so whether in home, or the workplace, or in the church, or in Christian ministry somewhere, one is serving the Lord Christ. Notice also that no one is "greater" than another if they are serving in a more "important" duty. For all service that is done heartily as and unto the Lord will from the Lord receive the inheritance. And thus we all will be repaid according to the service that we rendered. Similarly those who do wrong (in whatever capacities they served) will likewise be repaid for the wrong they have done, for there is no partiality.

4:1 "Masters, give your bondservants what is just and fair, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven." 

Though 4:1 begins a new chapter it is actually linked to what the Apostle Paul commanded in 3:22 and so it is included here. If you recall the Apostle said that bondservants are to obey their earthly masters in all things, not with eyesservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart fearing God.
And so having commanded that an honest work ethic be exemplified by us all who serve others, in the fear of God. Here likewise commands that Master's give their bondservants what is just and fair, knowing that they too have a Master in heaven to whom they are likewise accountable too. And so we have Scripturally before us a outstanding precedent for our modern employee/employer relationships. Which if actually followed would do so much more too enhance these, as well strengthen our economies were such just and fair practices to take root. Instead we often find one vying for a more advantageous position at the cost other, and thus nobody actually "wins" in the end. Nonetheless in the Kingdom of heaven's economy whether an employer or an employee we are mutually responsible to the Lord and to each other, (and thus not just serving our own interests). And so hopefully the principals set forth here will guide both our conduct as well as our attitudes towards each other into greater Christian love and community. Amen

Scripture Quotations
The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982

Word Studies
Bondservants: STR 1401 (also see 1400); GK 1528/1529; TDNT 2.261; TDNTA 182; LN 37.3 (125x)
Provoke: STR 2042; GK 2241; LN 88.168; 90.55; (Col 3:21) 1x

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