The New Man at Home

Posted: June 16, 2008 in Colossians


So what should a Christian family look like? It’s interesting to me that the popular image of Christian families deal more with externals (bumper stickers, radio stations, political causes) – yet Paul repeatedly deals with internals: how we relate to one another in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Contextually, this comes right at the tail end of Paul’s discussion of putting on the New Man in Christ…which fits perfectly. After all, because we are raised with Christ (symbolized through baptism) we know what to put off (the Old Man in sin…put it to death!), and we know what to put on in its place (the New Man – characteristics of Christ that we might put on agape love & be unified as we worship the Lord). Summarized in vs. 17…

So the 1st place Paul brings application to this is the home. If we’re going to live as new creations in Christ, than the 1st place we ought to do it is with our families. Our families deserve vastly more than our ‘leftovers’ – if there’s anyone that we should relate to with the New Man, it’s the ones we love the most & spend the most time with…

This section of Scripture is VERY similar to Eph 5:22 – 6:9, repeating some sections word-for-word. But they make a great commentary on each other & we’ll go back & forth a bit today.

Colossians 3:18-4:1 (NKJV)
18 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

A. Keep in mind, this was also controversial to the 1st Century church. To the Roman mindset, wives were little more than property who were needed to bear legitimate children & not much else use (they had concubines for ‘recreational’ sex). Paul does two extraordinary things in these 1st two verses:

a. Addresses women as being worthy of being addressed. He’s not talking down to them; he’s addressing them as valued members within the Body of Christ who have a choice on how to live out their “New Man” as a wife.

b. Teaches their husbands that they are worthy of far more than motherhood – but of their specific directed love…

B. 1st, note who this is directed to. This isn’t “all women are supposed to submit to all men”…this is specifically for “wives” directed to the relationship between them & their “own husbands… Women are not obligated as a whole to submit themselves to anyone outside their husbands. There are roles within the church that Paul addresses in 1 Tim 2 & 1 Cor 11, but nothing outside of that.

a. How can we say this for certain? Because Christ is not divided! Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. [] Keep in mind Paul is writing about a wife’s role in a marriage relationship; not her value as a woman. A woman’s value is the same as any man because Jesus shed the same blood for her as for him.

C. 2nd, note what he says: “submit.” He does NOT say “obey” (different words in Greek from vs. 20). Actually a military term meaning to ‘fall into ranks’ – when applied to non-military use, it implies a voluntary willing submission/cooperation. This isn’t a command from Paul for wives to be “barefoot, pregnant, & in the kitchen” – it’s a call to order…an application of the humility of Christ.

a. Is submission bad? No! Jesus is fully equal within the Trinity, but His role is submissive to the Father (“the head of Christ is God” – 1 Cor 11:3) & Jesus willingly humbled Himself (Phil 2:8). Submission isn’t bad; it’s Christ-like!

D. Why? This is “fitting in the Lord. Paul ISN’T saying that as long as a husband is acting as a Christian, that’s the only time a wife needs to submit to him. Paul doesn’t even specify that both husband and wife are both Christians in this context & Peter goes so far as to suggest that a Christian wife’s Godly submission is a wonderful witness to an unsaved husband… 1 Peter 3:1-2 (1) Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, (2) when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. [] So what IS Paul saying? Simply that: Godly submission from a Christian wife to her husband is fitting/proper because that is the role God designed a wife to fulfill.

a. What is the role God designed for a wife? To be a helpmate – a “helper comparable” to her husband (Gen 2:18). Keep in mind this was before the Fall – the conflict in roles didn’t come until afterwards.

19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.

A. Wives are exhorted to “submit”; husbands are exhorted to “love.” Do husbands get off easy here? No! “love” = demonstrative form of ἀγάπη. [phileo – eros – storge – agape]. Agape is the love exemplified by Christ (beautifully defined in 1 Cor 13). Shown practically as “service/sacrifice” – Jesus loved His disciples to the end (John 13:1) & immediately began to wash their feet – God demonstrated His love for us by sending Jesus to die for us (Rom 5:8)… So then: how did Jesus love/serve the church? … Ephesians 5:25-29 (25) Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, (26) that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, (27) that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. (28) So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. (29) For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. []

a. He gave Himself for her…He sanctified & cleansed her…He will present her to Himself…THAT’s how husbands are to love/serve their wives! Completely sacrificial where husbands are serving their wives in such a way that we can present them back to God in an act of spiritual stewardship. (Sobering thought!)

B. 2nd exhortation: don’t be bitter. Speaks of one’s attitude towards their wife…husbands are not to be cross or harsh with the helpmate that God has entrusted to them. Always keep in mind that although your wife may be yours in marriage, she ultimately belongs to God! []

a. ‘Does that mean I’m in sin every time I have an argument with my wife?’ That depends – how do you treat your wife during your argument? We CAN be angry with each other & not sin (Eph 4:26)…the challenge is continuing to die to our flesh when we’re angry. Contextually, Paul seems to be referring to an ongoing attitude of bitterness (in opposition to an ongoing demonstration of love) – but we want to avoid bitterness at all times…even the rare times.

b. If we know husbands should not be bitter, what SHOULD they be? Understanding! 1 Peter 3:7 Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered. []

20 Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.

A. Note the primary difference from wives here. Wives are not exhorted to “obey” their husbands; children are. The word properly means “to obey/to hearken” – the same response someone has to a knock at the door is to immediately answer…this is the same form of obedience Paul exhorts.

B. Is there an age limitation on this? Not necessarily, but the word & context implies that the children would still be in the home. A 30 yr old living at home would seem to be under the same obligation as a 10 yr old…which might provide them good motivation to move out.

a. We may not always be in a position to obey our parents (might not be Christian – may be out of the house, etc.) – but we ARE always in a position to honor them! (5th commandment…) Why? Because they are representative of God the Father in the home…

b. When children (no matter the age) honor/obey their folks, it pleases God!

C. What do children obey their parents in? all things”…pretty exhaustive! There are always going to be some things kids aren’t going to want to do (clean room, mow the lawn) – but our responsibility as parents is not to cater to our children’s whims, but to help them grow up to be responsible God-fearing followers of Christ. When children learn to obey the law of the home, they’re going to be predisposed to obey the law of the land & the Law of Christ. []

a. This is not “carte blanche” for parents & it’s certainly not a license forcing kids to engage in illegal and/or sinful behavior. [Austrian incest crime] Kids (like the rest of us) 1st have a responsibility to God before anything else…

21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

A. If children have a command to obey, then fathers have a responsibility not to provoke them…we’re not to overuse the authority God has entrusted to us thus creating an environment ripe for rebellion. (Josh McDowell – “Rules without relationships lead to rebellion.”)

a. Just fathers? Same word translated “parents” in Heb 11:23…so the command could apply to both father and mother. BUT the heart of this is especially to fathers! Gk: πατήρ (paternity) – fathers have a tendency to provoke their children & thus need to be specifically aware not to do it.

B. Why? They might “become discouraged. (AMP) “Fathers, do not provoke or irritate or fret your children [do not be hard on them or harass them], lest they become discouraged and sullen and morose and feel inferior and frustrated. [Do not break their spirit.]” That’s intense! Dad, we don’t want to encourage an unhealthy obsession with self-esteem (which is the tendency with our culture), but at the same time we don’t want to break the spirit that God put into our kids either! We should raise them in such a way where they see themselves as God sees them: in need of a Savior, but so much loved by God that He provided One.

a. Basically, Paul’s saying that we can get in the way of that! It’s possible for fathers to put such a burden on their children that it becomes almost impossible for them to see their Heavenly Father. So what’s one way of ensuring they don’t get discouraged? Lead your kids to the Lord. Ephesians 6:4 And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. []

C. What if you didn’t have the best example of a father at home? How can you learn to be a good Christian dad? Look to the example of our Heavenly Father! There’s a reason the Bible says we call Him “Abba” (Gal 4:6) – He not only gave us physical life, He gave us spiritual life & adopted us into His own family… He loves us perfectly (which includes not provoking us – 1 Cor 13:5) – when you have doubts, do what you would do in any other situation: go to God in prayer & the Scripture & model His character.

D. This Father’s Day, enjoy the love of your family…but take the time to reflect on what kind of father you are. If you’ve been failing, it’s never too late to change & ask God for restoration – that’s part of the reason behind the gospel message. Malachi 4:6 And he will turn The hearts of the fathers to the children, And the hearts of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse. []

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.

A. “Bondservants” = δοῦλος = slaves. Is this still a relationship in the home? For the Roman world, yes! Very much part of the day-to-day relationships…

B. Bondservants are to obey…this is the same word Paul used of the children. They were obligated to serve their masters as however their masters directed.

a. Does this mean Paul approves of slavery? No! Christian slaves were not to be concerned about their servitude, but if they had an opportunity for freedom, they were to take it. (1 Cor 7:21)

C. There’s a qualification here: “obey in all things your masters according to the flesh…” They may have had to perform menial tasks for their masters, but it was only physical stuff. Jesus alone was master of their spirit! In the Lord, they were already a freedman (1 Cor 7:11) – this was merely their physical responsibility due to the social condition.

D. BUT – just because they were obligated to serve didn’t mean they shouldn’t serve well. How not to serve? With “eyeservice”…i.e, when only their master was looking & then goof off the rest of the time. God desired them to serve in “sincerity of heart…” to be without guile & without hypocrisy. Like Joseph (Gen 39), they were to serve in such a way that it would give glory to God…

a. Why? This comes out of a healthy fear of God! See 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.

A. Ultimately bondservants (and everyone else!) serves the Lord & not men. We belong to Him – we were bought at a price – so everything that we do, we should do unto the Lord. The bumper sticker is half-true: “My boss is a Jewish Carpenter” – the full truth is that our “boss” is the Risen Savior! We serve the Lord Christ!

a. What’s the implication of this? We’re ALL in ministry…despite what your career title might state. Your occupation might be accounting, but your vocation is ministry. We’re a kingdom of priests, so no matter if you’re the servant or the boss – we all serve the Lord in whatever it is that we do.

B. Thus: Do things heartily! Because we serve the Lord, there’s no work that we perform that we should be lazy in. Literally, we should work “with soul” – think of yourselves as musicians… J

C. Why is it bondservants/slaves could be expected to serve their masters with soul? (1) Because ultimately they serve the Lord… (2) Because even though they may not have one now, they’ve got a reward coming from God Himself. They may not have lands or possessions, but they are co-heirs with Christ!

25 But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.

A. Sober warning. BECAUSE we serve the Lord Christ, then we know Jesus is going to be truly just: to servant AND master. Paul warns the servants in Colossians & masters in Ephesians.

a. We reap what we sow…can’t avoid it! If we sow to the flesh, we’re going to reap of the flesh (Gal 6:8). If we’re lazy at work, we shouldn’t be surprised when we’re fired…and we definitely shouldn’t blame God for it.

B. Although this is a warning, this is also a glorious truth: “there is no partiality” with God! Amen!

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

A. Masters aren’t exempt. They are to give what is just and fair. Slaves may have had no legal recourse for any rights, but that doesn’t absolve the master’s responsibility to answer to God for how he treated his slaves. He had the responsibility to feed/clothe & generally treat them well.

B. What’s their motivation to do so? … Masters have a Master in heaven! Every idle word a man speaks will be accounted for on Judgment Day (Matt 12:36) – how much more the way earthly masters treat those under their roof?

a. Interesting that Paul is writing to Christian slave owners here. (Non-christians wouldn’t be reading the letter!) We need to keep the cultural context in mind. Slavery was (1) vastly different than what we know in American history, and (2) universally accepted at the time & thought of as vital to the fabric of society. Christianity was THE major factor in abolishing slavery in the Western world (and still is today!) – but it took time.

b. Also interesting that Paul sends another letter to Corinth about a Christian slave & slaveowner (Philemon). What is just & fair? I suggest a good argument could be made that Paul’s hinting at freedom.

C. Any modern application to this? Sure – are you an employer?


Did you notice the common thread in all of these exhortations? None of this comes naturally! Wives don’t want to submit – husbands don’t want to serve – children (definitely) don’t want to obey, etc… Yet what doesn’t naturally comes supernaturally when we put on the New Man in Christ!

In Christ, wives can submit & husbands can serve… In Christ, children can obey & fathers can build them up… In Christ, slaves can heartily serve & masters can do what’s right… It’s ONLY possible through Christ Jesus! Too often we look to self-help books to try to accomplish these things…as if our “self” is any help at all in our home life! (Our “self” is what generally gets us into trouble.) If you want your home transformed, it only happens through the Lord Jesus & putting on His character. Christian: one of the worst things you could do is play the worshipper in the world & live in your flesh with your family…that’s called hypocrisy. May we be sincere at all times – and give our families the very best of what Christ is doing in us.

Is Christ doing anything in you at all? Before your home can be transformed, YOU have to be transformed (born again) by the grace of God. Too many people want the benefits of salvation without being saved…but it doesn’t work that way! The most important need you (and everyone else) has is to be forgiven of your sin – everything else is secondary.


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