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Following Christ Changes Relationships: Colossians 3:18-25

I am a Christian pastor who wishes to bring glory to God in all that I do, and to help people through my writing to know Him better.


Introduction: Jesus Changes Our Everyday Life

Author Ian L. Wilson gave this interesting illustration of how Jesus Christ changes each of us when He enters our life. Wilson writes:

London businessman Lindsay Clegg told the story of a warehouse property he was selling. The building had been empty for months and needed repairs. Vandals had damaged the doors, smashed the windows, and strewn trash around the interior.

As he showed a prospective buyer the property, Clegg took pains to say that he would replace the broken windows, bring in a crew to correct any structural damage, and clean out the garbage.

"Forget about the repairs," the buyer said. "When I buy this place, I'm going to build something completely different. I don't want the building; I want the site."

Compared with the renovation God has in mind, our efforts to improve our own lives are as trivial as sweeping a warehouse slated for the wrecking ball. When we become God's, the old life is over (2 Cor. 5:17). He makes all things new. All he wants is the site and the permission to build.

Earlier in Colossians 3, the Apostle Paul tells the believers in Colossae:

"Therefore if you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God."

He goes on to tell the Christian to put off the things of the old nature and put on, like a clean fresh garment, the things of the new This takes us up through verse 17 where the Apostle makes a sweeping statement on how we are to live if we want to be consistent with the new life that we say that we have. He tells us:

"Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

Now, in 3:18-4:1 of Colossians Paul gets very specific as to what our everyday life should look like as opposed to the worldly way of doing things. He looks directly at 3 different aspects of a typical person's life and shows how being a Christian should affect them. He deals with the husband and wife relationship, the parent and child and finally the slave and master, which equals our employer and employee relationship today..

Let us study a little more closely these 3 major areas of life and see how being under the Lordship of Jesus Christ should make a difference in them.

I. Husbands and Wives (18-19)

The first area is that of the relationship between husbands and wives, where wives are to be submissive to their husbands and the husband must love their wives. However, before we get started it is essential for us to confront the issue that many seem to have with the way the Bible, especially Paul, sees women. They look at the idea of submission or being in subjection in the Scriptures and see it as a way of subjugating women and others and taking away their freedom. The interesting thing is that before the gospel came along women were seen as little more than property with very few, if any, rights of their own in essentially all cultures of the time. And Judaism was no exception. One unnamed author has said this:

Women's behavior was extremely limited in ancient times, much as women are restricted in Saudi Arabia in the modern day. Restrictions in ancient Israel included the following things:

Unmarried women were not allowed to leave the home of their father without permission. Married women were not allowed to leave the home of their husband, without his permission. They were normally restricted to roles of little or no authority. They could not testify in court. They could not appear in public venues. They were not allowed to talk to strangers. They had to be doubly veiled when they left their homes.

On the other hand, Jesus' view of women was countercultural and revolutionary for His time. For Christ, women were seen as having intrinsic value equal to that of men. In Matthew 19:4 he alluded to the fact that men and women are both created in the image of God which we also see in Genesis 1:27. He did this by noting that God created man as male and female.

We can see His respect for women in all of His encounters with them. He had many women disciples, for instance. And He regularly addressed them in public, which was unheard of at the time. Further, you only have to read His various encounters with women in the Gospels to see that He treated them differently than most men of the day would have done

We can witness the Lord's compassion in such incidents as the woman at the well (John 4:4-26), the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11), and the woman who washed Jesus' feet with her tears (Luke 7:36-50). They all show us how much He loved and respected women as people, while at the same time, not glossing over their sins.

The Apostle Paul continued this understanding in his writings with verses such as Galatians 3:28 where he tells us:

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“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

It was that difference in the way the Bible looked at women that has lead, over the centuries, to what we have today in all places that are influenced heavily by Christianity. Women in Christian cultures, in the 21st century, enjoy greater freedom and opportunity than any others in the history of the world.

So, the idea of submission definitely does not mean inferiority in any way, just as Jesus Christ Himself, being in submission to God the Father does not imply His inferiority. He is equal to the Father and, according to Paul:

"In Him all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form." ( Colossians 2:9).

Rather, submission is self-denial out of love for God and others. It denotes willingly putting yourself under someone or something and doesn't mean being forced to submit. In the case of the husband and wife, God has placed the responsibility of the spiritual and physical well-being of the family in the hands of the husband and father. He ultimately is responsible to God for making sure that all are taken care of and treated with the proper dignity and respect that should be afforded a co-heir of Jesus Christ.

It is in this sense that Paul can talk with both the man and the woman and tell them:

"Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them."

We get Paul's teaching more fully in the book of Ephesians where we see that submission is something that all Christians do in one way or another. In Ephesians 5:21 he says:

"Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ."

He then goes on to tell the wives to be subject to their own husbands. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church ( Ephesians 5:22-25).

However, once again, that is not something whereby a man is to force his wife to submit. And it is not used in order to get his own way in everything. Rather, he is to love his wife as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her. This is a self-sacrificing love that is willing to die on behalf of his beloved wife to see that she is cared for physically and emotionally and that she might grow to be spiritually mature and become all that she was meant to be. It is in Ephesians 5:25-33 that we see this quite clearly.

The world is selfish, and looks out for themselves overall. The Christian is to look out for the welfare of others. With the husband and father, number one in that area is his own family. And if the husband himself is in subjection to the Lord Jesus Christ he won't knowingly do anything that Scripture forbids, or ask his wife and family to do so either. For those who refuse to follow Scripture, the wife is under no obligation to sin in order to please her husband. Submission is always to be in the Lord (Colossians 5:18).

This leads Paul to another aspect of family life and submission. That is the children's obedience to their parents.

II. Children and Parents

Once again, before the gospel took hold in the ancient world, children were seen as little more than property. Here is what one scholar by the name of Richard Kieninger had to say about the subject:

"In antiquity, adults regarded children as troublesome animals; and until two centuries ago, children were treated much like pets and were used and abused even unto death without anyone much caring. A Roman patriarch had total power of life and death over his slaves and children, and Roman Law formalized it. Even in Greece infanticide was the rule rather than the exception. Parents routinely resolved their anxieties about taking care of children by killing them, and this affected the surviving children profoundly. A sense of terror and dread overshadowed their lives. A large percentage of girl babies were abandoned to the elements by all classes in Greece and Rome, and rarely more than three children were kept for rearing by a family. The rest were killed or sold into prostitution while babes. Adult sodomy with boys and girls was a part of the Roman and Greek way of life. The killing of legitimate children by even the wealthy Greek parents was so common that Polybius blamed it for the depopulation of Greece. The rest of the pre-Christian world indulged in child sacrifice to the gods. Those of means would purchase children from the poor, who offered them for sale, and slaughtered them like so many lambs or doves. It wasn’t until A.D. 374 that the Roman Senate began to consider infanticide to be punishable as murder,"

So we can see, once again, how Jesus' treatment of children was counter-cultural. It was He who said in Matthew 19:14 to:

"Let the children alone and do not hinder them from coming to me, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.

Of course, we can way back to the book of Genesis and see that all mankind was created in the image of God. And the Bible, in general, including the Old Testament, saw children as a heritage and reward from the Lord (Psalm 127:3-5).

If we take these things to their logical conclusion, which Jesus and Paul ultimately did, we get the Judeo-Christian view of children that has lead to our society loving, protecting and nurturing them. And indeed that is what the Lord would have us do. Further, it also shows the dangers, in our society and others, of getting away from these values that have guided us over the centuries. All we have to do is say the word abortion and it doesn't imply anymore the killing of innocent children for our own convenience. We think rather of a woman's right to choose.

Getting back to Colossians 3, we see how the Apostle Paul first addressed children and then Fathers. Since it is the father's responsibility, as the head of the house, to see that the children are properly reared, he is the one addressed here rather than the wife.

The children are to obey their parents in all things. Why? Because this is well-pleasing to the Lord. Once again, we get further insight from the parallel passage in Ephesians 6 which states:

"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you, and that your may live long on the earth." (6:1-3).

Of course, the obedience to parents is for young children up until they become old enough to form their own household. They then are to leave father and mother and the man is joined to his wife (Genesis 2:24) thus making a new household. The idea of honoring father and mother never ends, however. They deserve honor as the vessels that the Lord used to bring you up to the point where you can take responsibility for yourself.

On the other hand, we see Paul's admonitions to fathers in Colossians 3:21. He tells them:

"Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart." This can also be translated as provoke. The word means "not to stir up or irritate." Ephesian 6:4 expands on this by saying:

"Father's, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord."

The father's whole goal with his child is to rear them so that when they are older, they will love and serve the Lord with their lives and bring up their own children to do the same. Of course, the child ultimately has a mind of his or her own and may not choose to do so. However, the parent should constantly be thinking of how they can teach their children in the ways of the Lord, so that their offspring can make good choices in the future.

Now, let us turn to the final set of changed relationships which Paul talks about in Colossians 3:18-25. That is that of the slave and master, or in today's understanding, the employer and employee.

III. Slave and Master

Of course by now it should go without saying that the gospel changed the way mankind has viewed slavery. Most of the ancient world was full of men owning other men, women and children for various reasons. And they didn't always do menial work. There were slaves who were doctors and lawyers, for instance. And not all slaves were treated poorly by their masters. Some were treated well because they were valuable property and could not be easily replaced.

However, once again, the Judeo-Christian view of man being created in God's image revolutionized the world. And it ultimately has lead to the abolition of slavery all together in the parts of the world where the good news of Jesus Christ has taken root fully.

There were millions of slaves in Paul's time and he and the other Apostles didn't approach the situation by telling people to release their slaves. In order to do that they would have had to totally restructure ancient society. And their mission wasn't to do that. It was to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to all of humanity. And that alone is what has changed societies, as we have seen in our own country.

Paul tells those who were slaves in the Colossian church that their way of submission to the Lord was to obey their masters. Not just with external service to merely please men but sincerely out of fear of the Lord. For God is ultimately their master. And it is the Lord that will one day reward them. And if they do wrong, it is the Lord who will be their judge (3:22-25).

In the same way, masters were to treat their slaves with justice and fairness. The reason for this is that even the master answers to a higher authority. The Lord is their master. A master was to treat his slaves well in submission to the Lord.

Once, again we don't have the master and slave relationship today. However, most of us work, or have worked, for someone else. Or we are in charge of those who work for us or our companies. It is the job of the employee to give an honest days work for an honest days pay. And the employer, or boss must do all they can to treat the people under them with fairness, dignity and respect. For we all still answer to God our Creator and Master in heaven.


Someone once wrote and asked Emily Post, the etiquette expert of another generation, "What is the correct procedure when one is invited to the White House but has a previous engagement?"

Replied Post, "An invitation to dine at the White House is a command, and it automatically cancels any other engagement."

That is how we should look at our lives as servants of Jesus Christ. We have been invited, not to dine, but to give our lives totally to the one who gave His life for us. And His invitation should usurp our own desires and that of all others.

As we conclude this section of Colossians we are reminded that we no longer belong to the world in which we are passing through on our way to heaven. We are now under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. As a result, that Lordship affects every part of our lives, including the husband and wife, the parent and child and the relationship that we have with our employers.

It was the Apostle James who said:

"You show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works." ( James 2:18).

All of us have been left on this earth for a reason. God is using us to show the world His glory. And we do that, in part, by submitting to one another as we would to Christ. May it be our ambition to have people look at us and see those who are totally sold out to Jesus. And by that, maybe some will be encouraged to follow Him as we do. Then we can truly say that our lives have been successful.

© 2021 Jeff Shirley

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