Study Notes

Colossians 3:18-21


As we've been studying Colossians three, we remember that the last thing Paul told us to do was,

Col. 3:17 And whatever you do in word or deed, {do} all in the name of the Lord Jesus...

Everything in our lives is supposed to be said and done in the name of Jesus. This causes us to analyze our actions, our attitudes, and our relationships. And so Paul challenges us to consider whether we're doing everything in the name of the Lord Jesus at home in our families.

3:18-21 Be Subject To Your Husbands

First comes the role of wives in marriage - certainly one of the most controversial topics facing Christianity in this post-Women's Liberation generation.

Wives are called to be subject to their husbands. If your husband is anything like my wife's husband, this must be a very difficult command! After all, in most relationships, the woman seems to be more on the ball, more spiritually sensitive, and generally have better discernment. Why not let her be the final authority? Well, we have to remember that God doesn't appoint people based on their qualifications. Instead,

1Cor. 1:27 ...God has chosen the foolish things of the world ... God has chosen the weak things of the world...

God delights in doing things backwards, just to show that He is the one carrying us through. So the wife is called to be under her husband's God-appointed authority. And although we as couples are told,

Eph. 5:21 subject to one another in the fear of Christ.

... we are also told that the husband is the final decision-maker.

Wrong Decisions

"Well, what if my husband is making a decision that I know is wrong? That will end in disaster? That will affect the whole family? I certainly shouldn't be expected to put up with that kind of nonsense, should I?" My answer might upset you: Yes, you do need to put up with that.

The reason is that this is how we grow. I have learned this about myself through the years. Whether we're talking about employees that I am an authority over, or my wife, or my kids, when I make a dumb decision there is either submissive acceptance or rebellious refusal.

If there is rebellious refusal, I dig my heels in and defend my position, no matter how lame-brained it may be. When I encounter resistance to my authority, I will die in defense of my stupid plan.

But if there is quiet submission, then I am free to realize that I made a wrong call. The Lord is free to speak to me and bring correction.

Wives, never forget this Proverb:

Prov. 25:15 Through patience a ruler can be persuaded...

1Pet. 3:1 wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any {of them} are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives

That's the key right there - when you submit to the dumb decision, God is free to thump us husbands on the head.

As Is Fitting In The Lord

The question often comes up in counseling: "Is it ever okay to disobey the authority established over me?" Yes, but only if obeying the authority would cause you to commit sin. This is something I call "allowable insubordination" - it is when you must obey God rather than the authority over you. For example, when Peter and John were arrested a second time for proclaiming the gospel of Jesus, they were brought before the authorities, who said,

Acts 5:27-29 ..."We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and behold, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us." But Peter and the apostles answered and said,"We must obey God rather than men."

And so we see that the Bible allows and even commands us to disobey the authority over us if our obedience would cause us to commit sin. Wives, if your husband is making a demand on you that would cause you to sin - if he says, "Lie to the police officer for me. Put your signature on this 1040 form I cheated on. Tell the bill collector that I'm not here." - you are not obligated to be subject in situations like that. Only to be subject as is fitting in the Lord.

The Role Of Husbands

Secondly, Paul explains the role of the husbands: love your wives. Before you begin to protest how easy our job is, remember what the Biblical definition of love is in 1Corinthians 13: It is patient, kind, not jealous, doesn't seek its own, isn't provoked, and endures all things. Jesus said,

John 15:13 "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life..."

And this is the love we're called to have for our wives: a love to the death.

Eph. 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her

How did Christ demonstrate His love for the church? He died for her. And not just a one-time sacrifice like pushing her out of the way of an oncoming bus. He actually took all the pain and sorrow caused by her sin and put it upon Himself.

Husbands, this is the key to fulfilling your role: unconditional love and forgiveness. Taking every sin your wife has committed against you, taking all of the pain and hurt that those things have caused, and crucifying yourself with them. Jesus didn't retaliate by throwing our sin back at us - He bore it in His body on the cross. We are called to do exactly the same thing:

1Pet. 2:21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps

And you cannot do this begrudgingly, for you will become embittered against them.

The Role Of Children

Children's role in the home is pretty self-explanatory: Be obedient in all things. As a parent, we wonder why they can't seem to grasp this.

Recently at church, a dad told me that his young son had just gotten in trouble. I took the little boy aside and told him a secret I'd discovered: "I figured out how to never get in trouble! You want to know how?" He nodded emphatically. I answered, "If you never disobey your parents, you never get in trouble!" He suddenly wasn't so excited.

You see, our sin nature is alive and well from the time we're born. We want pleasure and satisfaction. We want the world to revolve around us and to do what we want. That's why obedience is so difficult.

But also present in a child is a sense of wanting to please. Kids want their authority to be happy with them, and when you make the Lord a very real member of your family, they will desire to please Him. When a child cares what Jesus thinks, a child pays more attention to his own actions.

The Role Of Fathers

Finally, we as fathers are instructed not to exasperate our children, lest they lose heart. That sentence literally means means "Don't irritate and provoke your kids, or they will have no passion - they'll be disheartened."

When we impose perfection on imperfect kids, their spirits will be broken, for they will know that they can never measure up to our impossible standards. Encourage them to do better, but don't set the bar too high for them to reach.

And, as each of us analyzes our own roles, may we remember the statement that provoked these thoughts:

Col. 3:17 And whatever you do in word or deed, {do} all in the name of the Lord Jesus...

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