Text: Colossians 3:18-4:1

Family Relationships - Colossians 3:18-21

Wives (Colossians 3:18)

Paul gives a very similar statement to this one in Ephesians 5:22. If the husband is to be head of the family, then it follows that the wife is to follow her husband’s lead. Paul said that submission is fitting in the Lord. In other words, a wife submitting to her husband is right and proper in God’s sight. To refuse to follow your husband’s lead is to rebel against God. Paul is not saying that only Christian wives are to submit or that wives should only submit to Christian husbands (I Peter 3:1). Women who are seeking to please the Lord will do as the Lord directs.

In the Greek text, “as is fitting in the Lord” is actually in the imperfect tense, indicating an action that has been taking place and is still not completed.

For Discussion:

  1. In Ephesians 5:22-33; 6:1-3, 5-8; I Peter 3:1-7; etc. the subordinate person is discussed first. Why do you think this was done?

Husbands (Colossians 3:19)

Husbands are to love their wives. The Greek word agape refers to love that comes from duty or dedication. It is a love that is given even if it is not returned. This is the type of love that Christ showed for us (Ephesians 5:25-30).

However, Paul also warns that husbands are not to allow themselves to become bitter toward their wives. The Greek word pikraino implies becoming harsh or sharp in the treatment of another person. Thus, a lack of love can cause a husband to treat his wife harshly (Matthew 7:12; I Peter 3:7).

Children (Colossians 3:20)

Children are to obey their parents as long as what is being asked of them is not against God's teachings. Notice especially that Paul said, "in all things." Declining to eat peas is not a sin, nor is avoiding taking a shower a sin, but parents tell their children to do these things because they are good for the child. To intentionally not do what is asked would be rebellion. Twice in lists of moral decay, Paul mentions that people are disobedient to their parents (Romans 1:30; II Timothy 3:2).

In Ephesians 6:1, Paul tells children to obey their parents and proves his point by quoting the command that says to honor your parents. Therefore honoring your parents means obeying them. Such obedience is pleasing to God (Colossians 3:20).

Fathers (Colossians 3:21)

Fathers are told not to provoke or exasperate their children "lest they become discouraged" (Colossians 3:21). This can happen when fathers make so many demands and in finding so many faults that the children lose all hope of being able to please their fathers. Nor are fathers to be so unfair and unloving as to provoke the children to wrath (total rebellion -Ephesians 6:4; not just "unhappy" over being punished - Hebrews 12:11). This is the way God treats men (Isaiah 57:16; James 1:5).

For Discussion:

  1. What is the difference between “submitting” and “obeying”?
  2. Why are the husbands and fathers given the warnings?

Work Relations - Colossians 3:22-4:1

Slaves (Colossians 3:22-25)

The Roman society made significant use of slave labor, so it is not surprising that some Christians were slaves (I Corinthians 7:22). Like children, slaves are told to obey their masters in all things. While modern society doesn’t make use of slave labor, the principles laid down can be applied to employees of a company. An employee should obey his boss so long as what is asked of him does not violate God’s laws.

An employee should work for his boss just as he would work for Jesus. Unlike any earthly boss, Jesus is always watching what is done. He should give his best effort even when the boss is not present (Ephesians 6:5-8). He should give sincere effort – not doing his tasks simply to win favor. He should be performing his duties with respect for those over him (Titus 2:9). Our behavior in the workplace is a reflection on our Lord.

Even if we have a bad boss, we know that the ultimate reward for service comes from the Lord (I Peter 2:18). If we give a poor performance, we will receive the just consequence because our Lord is impartial. Notice that is like our lives in general. We are not held accountable for the sins of other people, but we are held accountable for our own actions (Ezekiel 18:20; Jeremiah 31:29-30).

Note that Paul said to work heartily. We are to give our full effort (Ecclesiastes 9:10), so don’t waste your talents and opportunities. Sometimes goals cannot be achieved without us giving all we can give (II Chronicles 31:21; Jeremiah 48:10). A slack worker is a destructive worker (Proverbs 18:9). Be a self-motivated worker (Proverbs 16:26).

Masters (Colossians 4:1)

Those in authority have limits on their actions. Bosses are to treat their employees justly and fairly, just as they wish to be treated by God. A good example is Boaz. “Now behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said to the reapers, ‘The Lord be with you!’ And they answered him, ‘The Lord bless you!’” (Ruth 2:4). This was, apparently, a standard greeting (Psalm 129:5, 8). However, it demonstrates the proper attitude of a master toward his servants (Ephesians 6:9).

The key is to remember that in all our service, we ultimately and truly serve our Lord Jesus Christ. The master, or boss, should view himself as a servant charged with responsibilities by the Lord Himself.

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