Bible Materials


by   02/06/2009   Colossians 3:18~4:1


We could see that a person in Christ is so precious as God’s chosen one, holy and dearly loved. The eternal begotten Son, the Creator came to this world and died and was buried and raised for us so that we might also die and be raised with him. Then how much more precious a Christian family is! A family in Christ should be preserved and grow and bear much fruit for God’s glory. And as we live in the world as Christians, work is necessary. It is easy to become negative about the work in this world. But in God all things are sacred. Today’s passage teaches obligations and responsibilities for wives, husbands, children and parents in the family and for slaves and masters in the work. Christian ethic is that each one has his or her unique responsibility and obligation. No one has only rights and privileges . This was a revolutionary teaching at Paul’s time. This is a timeless teaching that is applicable even to people of our times. May we learn the biblical truth for the family and for the work in our society so that our whole life may honour and glorify Christ the Lord. I. Christian life in the family (3:18-21). Look at verse 18. “Wives, submit to your husband, as is fitting in the Lord.” In addressing Christian family, Paul calls wives first. It is likely that the wives’ role in the family is of foremost importance, although a family is a unit of all the family members. In ancient time the society was male-dominant. So women were usually ignored and wives were treated like maid-servants. But since Christ came, women’s position was restored, especially in the family. Here calling wives first, Paul seems to speak out, “Wives, you are so precious and so important in the family. Without you, it is not possible to think of the family.” Then, what direction does Paul give to wives? Did he say, “Wives, be diligent and take good care of your husbands.” No. Many other beautiful words could have been said for the wives. But it says, “Wives, submit to your husband…” What? Submit? Many wives in our time would probably respond, “No, way. We must share power equally.” However, the Bible says, “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” “Submit to your husbands” in other translation, is “be subject to your husbands” (NASB). Literally, submit means “to give over or yield to the power or authority of another.” But we should understand it spiritually. At that time Christian wives would have thought, “Christ redeemed us and all became equal in Christ. Why should we submit ourselves to our husbands again? Our past submission was enough.” In the Christian family wives’ submission to husbands is not a blind or sorrowful or fatalistic submission. No. Never. Not at all. This submission is a spiritual submission, a submission in the Lord. It is a prayerful, prudent and willing submission. It is to serve the will of the Lord. Submissive attitude in Christ is not a sub-ordinate attitude, but really a mature and positive and wise attitude. The restoration of a family in Christ encompasses the restoration of spiritual order, order of love between the husband and the wife. The order is that the husband is the head of the family and the wife, a suitable helper though they are equal in Christ. With a submissive attitude a wife can be a suitable helper acknowledging her husband’s authority and building him up. A man seems to be authoritative but weak. They say that usually a wife can live without a husband’s help, but in reality, a husband cannot live without a wife’s help. A husband needs his wife’s help in many ways. If a wife has submissive spirit, she can move her husband’s heart and help him quietly and wisely. An excellent example of the submissive attitude is that of a Syrophoenician woman. When she came to Jesus with her pained heart due to her demon-possessed daughter, Jesus rejected her, treating her as if she were a dog, unworthy of God’s blessing. Yet, she was not bitter toward Jesus’ unexpected harsh treatment. Surprisingly, her attitude was, “Yes, Lord.” Then she added some scintillating words: “but even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” She meant, “even dogs need God’s mercy.” Jesus was so moved by her submissive attitude and gave her the blessing she wanted, the healing of her demon-possessed daughter. We must remember how submissive our Lord Jesus was to the Father God. Hebrews 5:7 says, “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” May God bless all wives here to deeply grasp the word, “submit” and learn submissive attitude to their husbands in the Lord so that they may know the secret for happy and blessed family life. We must know that this command to submit is given for the wives to keep, but the husbands to demand. It is also good to know that each one in Christ requires the submissive attitude toward others. Ephesians 5:21 says, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Look at verse 19. “Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.” At that time this command was needed partly because husbands could easily desert their wives, and they could easily take other wives. Paul said, “Husband, love your wives…” Nowadays many people think of love as physical or romantic. But this kind of love cannot last long. Then love becomes bored and even easily turns to hatred (2 Sa 13:15). Here love is not such love, but in Greek “agapao” meaning God’s sacrificial and unconditional love. In Ephesians (5:25) it is written clearly: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Wow! What an obligation! It says, “…just as…”, not even “similarly”! This obligation seems to be too much and too high. But there is no belittling this obligation and responsibility. The Bible says continually, “…to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this way, husbands ought to love their wives…” (Eph 5:26-28a). This love is truly sacrificial, cleaning and caring love. Husbands ought to love their wives with this love of Christ, not less. The words for husbands go continually, “… as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church.” How much we love and care for our bodies, when hungry, or feel cold or hot! According the creation truth, in fact one’s wife is out of his own body. Through marriage God joined them together. From God’s point of view one’s wife is God’s best choice, more than that, the only choice for the husband. So husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. Loving his wife is loving himself. In order to help husband to make sure that they love their wives, Paul wrote again and again concerning love, using the expression, “Just as Christ…,” “In the same way…” “as their own bodies,” again, “Just as Christ does…” To husbands, the family is the very place where Christ’s love is practiced. When a husbands does so, his authority in the family will surely be established. In order to love their wives with the love of Christ, husbands need much spiritual struggle. Most of all they must have Christ and his words in their hearts. Otherwise they have no spiritual power to love their wives. Many people want to love, but they have no inner power to love. Only having close relationship with Christ husbands can have inner power and strength to love their wives. With the power of love a husband can bear the role as the head of the family. Remember that the love command is given for the husbands to keep, not for the wives to demand. So the wives should not demand their husbands, saying, “You should love me as Christ loves the church, giving himself up for the church.” Paul said at the last part of verse 19, “...and do not be harsh with them.” It seems to be a very low standard command and unnecessary. If a husband loves his wife as Christ loves, how can he be harsh with her? But still this command is needed because even one time of harsh treatment can hurt the wife who is emotionally sensitive and damage the relationship. Out of sudden momentary anger a husband can be harsh with his wife and even give her one blow against his wishes. Satan who is so crafty can use such a mistake of the husband and divide the husband and the wife. At any reason the way husbands treat their wives shows the husbands’ personality. Husbands need the both commands, to love and not to be harsh with their wives. It is really important to know that the purpose of a family is not pursuing happiness for each other or success in the world, but grow in the image of Christ, as for wives in Christ’s submission and as for husbands in Christ’s love. It is through their mutual relationship. That’s why the commands for wives and husbands are directed to their relationship, not to the separate individual life, though the commands require each part’s personal struggle. In that aspect marriage is an utmost blessing of God. A family life is God’s wisdom for the growth and maturity of the husband and the wife in Christ. God wants them to experience his power as they become one in spirit, and heart and body through the growth in Christ. Then they can fulfill God’s purpose for their family. Now God’s command for the children comes. The order of the commands is important in the family. Look at verse 20. “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.” In the Bible obedience is the key of God’s world and the maintenance of his Blessing. In Genesis after preparing the Garden of Eden for man, God gave him a command so that he might continue to enjoy all the blessings of God in the Garden, which was a paradise. But when the holy command was disobeyed, the paradise was lost. Jesus came to this world and called his disciples to raise them as obedient disciples. Jesus said to his disciples, “You are my friends if you do what I command” (Jn 15:14). After his resurrection he said to the disciples, “…go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…” (Mt 28:19,20). The restoration of obedience is the restoration of paradise. So when Paul said, “Children, obey your parents…” his heart desire was that each family in Christ be a paradise restored in Christ. Through the obedience the paradise of the family is maintained. Obedience is such a beautiful and significant character of both God’s children and the children in the family. In Greek, and it means ‘put oneself under someone.’ But the word ‘obey’ in verse 20 is ‘hupakouo’ in Greek, and it means to pay attention to others and follow their instructions. Paul said, “Children, obey your parents in everything…” To obey in everything is possible through loving and full trust relationship. Also, he said, “…for this pleases the Lord.” The deep reason of Children’s obeying their parents is their pleasing the Lord. Their obedience is not just horizontal but vertical as well. It is important to know that children should obey our parents within the boundary of obeying the Ten Commandments. It is recommendable that sometimes children come to their parents and have conversation in times of inner conflict so that they can obey from their hearts. The sweet and sincere conversation between parents and children should go on in their relationship. Ephesians 6:1-3 says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honour your father and mother’—which is the first commandment with a promise—‘that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the erth.’” God assured his blessing, long life with all well-going, for the obedient children. They can be happy and successful in God’s blessing in this world. May God bless all the children here to live in God’s blessing in all the areas of their lies through their obedience in the Lord. Look at verse 21. “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will be discouraged.” Here ‘embitter’ means to disturb their emotions. It is easy for fathers to think that the children are theirs and try to raise them according to their ambition. They can embitter their children and treat them according to their feelings when the children do not come up to their standard. Then the children are discouraged and disheartened. But they must know that the children are God’s children and God’s gift entrusted to them. Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Childhood and youth are the time to be trained. If they are not trained in the right way, they become like unstrained horses. They can cause problems and become trouble-makers in the school and society. But when they are properly trained, they can overcome their weaknesses and at the same time fan into flame their strengths and God’s given talents. Then they can become very useful people as blessings to others. And children must be instructed in the words of the Bible. Fathers cannot but pray humbly and ask God for his wisdom to bring up their children in the training and in the instruction of the Lord. (nine to one, not too generous or not to strict). Parents should know that the family is the most important training and education centre. II. Christian work ethics (3:22-4:1). We do not live in the time of slavery. But God’s instruction for slaves is still useful for employers and employees. Since we live in a civil society, we should know how we should behave when we are under some people or above others. In those times, slaves were considered as living tools and property of their owner, and they were treated so harshly. But Christianity saw slaves as children of God equally to everyone else. Because of this many slaves believed in Jesus and came to churches. Since everyone was equally called as brothers in the Lord, it was easy for slaves to think that it was allowed for them to disobey their masters. So there could be much tension between masters and slaves in churches. For this reason, Apostle Paul teaches what kind of attitude slaves should have in the Lord. Look at verse 22. “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favour, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.” The right attitude for believing slaves is to obey their masters. Here the word ‘obey’ has the same meaning of ‘obey’ used for children. It means to pay attention to other’s instructions and follow them. Paul said, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything…” This is an unambiguous direction for the Christian slaves. Children’s obeying their parents is understandable. But how could slaves obey their masters? Yet, slaves were to obey their earthly masters in the thought of heavenly masters. And their obedience did not have to be superficial but sincere before the Lord, the heavenly master. By putting such a high godly standard for the slaves, Paul truly respected them, regarding them as God’s free people. Their slave position could be an opportunity for them to learn sincere and deep obedience to God. Also, by giving obedient direction to the slaves, Paul wanted them to overcome their slave mentality. They became free people in Christ. But they had grown up as slaves for a long time and so slave mentality were embedded in them just like the Israelites who had been slaves in Egypt for 430 years and liberated from the slavery by God’s grace. Slave mentality was that they worked when their masters’ eye was on them and then were sluggard when the eye was not on them. It was because they suffered from a sense of loss and developed bitter roots against their masters. They saw that their hard working only benefited their masters. So whatever they did, they worked at it grudgingly, with a half-hearted attitude. But Paul wanted them to know how to work for the Lord and serve him in their given human condition, even in their slavery. They would receive a reward from the Lord. In this way Paul wanted them to form their inner character as truly free men and women in Christ with their faith and hope in the Lord. It is amazing that when slaves overcame their slave mentality and truly obeyed the Lord’s teachings they were greatly used by God in his work to evangelize the whole Roman Empire. These work ethics are timeless Christian work ethics. In our society we often hear about strikes going on among workers. Even professors and teachers do not seem to care for the students. They want to rise and speak and act for change at any rate. Becoming obedient workers seem to be quite non-sense. But Christian workers are to obey their bosses as their expression of their obedience to the Lord. They can work for and serve the Lord at any work condition, if they keep obedient spirit with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. They can find God’s will for them in any circumstances, for in all things God works for the good of those who love him and have been called according to his purpose. As for us we have a wonderful prayer topic that Toronto be a holy city and Canada be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. We work in our mission field GTA as our prayer for Toronto to be a godly and holy city. May we have the will of God and the prayer topic in our hearts even though we study and work in secular schools and companies. Look at 4:1. “Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.” May God raise Christian bosses and employers who can provide their workers with what is right and fair. We pray that all our 2nd gens and future 3rd gens become very influential people, even company employers and CEOs as we keep our prayer topic according to God’s will that Toronto be a holy city and Canada, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. The major theme of Christian ethics is not to ask “What can others do for me?” but to ask “What can I do for others?” There will be no problem at all if a husband or a wife or parents or children or masters or slaves discharges their obligations first, instead of demanding others to discharge their obligations. Another important thing for Christian ethics is that everything should be done ‘in the Lord’ and ‘for the Lord’. It should be done based on the ‘Christ-centered’ idea. May Christ be the Lord in our family and at our work.

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