The Colossians Series
Pr Anand Kumar
31 March 2020
23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving." Colossians 3:23-24 is the key verse that we must apply to our lives daily. - Colossians 3:18-4:18
This is our last message in our study of Colossians. Paul has taught us throughout that "It's All About Christ!" The church must reach its potential in Christ. The message of the church is Jesus Christ and the ministry of the church is Jesus Christ and it’s focus is on Jesus Christ. The church must live freely in Jesus Christ and not by the false teachings of this world. We are free in Christ to live in the right relationship with God, the Father. The final passage teaches us that we are free in Christ to live in the right relationship with those involved in our lives daily, with unbelievers, and with the family of God. We are living the life God created for us when we see the world through Jesus Christ as our filter.
Whatever we do, we must do it with all our hearts, as we are doing it for the Lord Jesus Christ. It is Jesus Christ we are serving. We are to honor Christ in who we are and what we do. We are to allow Him to dictate how we interact with others. Jesus is the cornerstone of our behavior, our foundation is built on the Solid Rock and not on sinking sand. We are free in Christ to live in the right relationship with those involved in our daily lives. In Colossians 3:18-4:1, Paul shows us how a life centered on Jesus Christ should act at home with family and at work.
Living Christ Centred Family
Paul applies the biblical principle of submission to the three most common human relationships: the husband-wife relationship, the parent-child relationship, and the boss-worker relationship.
As we read through his application of this principle, we realize that behind these commands about submission is a greater submission - our submission to the Lord:
“as is fitting in the Lord” – verse 18.
“for this pleases the Lord” – verse 20.
“with … reverence for the Lord” – verse 22.
“… as working for the Lord, and not for men …” – verse 23.
“It is the lord Christ you are serving” – verse 24.
“you also have a Master in heaven” – 4:1.
The principle of submission – that in all of our roles and relationships we should put aside our own perceived ‘rights’ and make our choices with:
what pleases the Lord as our first priority, and
the well-being of the other as our second priority.
Live Christ Centred Marriage
In the parallel passage in Ephesians 5:18-21 - Paul includes ‘submitting to another’ as the last of five present participles expressing what being ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’ will look like. In Colossians, where he describes what letting ‘the word of Christ dwell in you richly’ will look like, he omits ‘submitting’ as a present participle. However, he gives us an identical list of relationships as examples of how ‘submitting’ to each other works out in the practicalities of life. [Ephesians 5:22-6:9, Colossians 3:18-4:1].
Wives – are instructed to ‘submit to’, that is, to ‘arrange themselves under’ [Greek = hupotasso] the headship of their husbands. This is not about inequality; it is not about subservience or servility or a fearful cringing attitude in the presence of a domineering, autocratic, unpredictable husband. It is about the God-ordained roles and functions in the marriage relationship. Note that the verb ‘submit’ is in the middle voice – the ‘submission’ is something the wives do to themselves: though equal, they voluntarily put themselves under the authority of their husband. This is not the husband demanding and exacting unquestioning obedience to puff-up his self-importance; it is about the wife willingly enabling the husband to fulfil his God-given responsibility of headship.
We see from scriptures what this ‘submission’ means :
Does not negate or override the equality, reciprocal responsibilities and inter-dependence of the man and the woman [1Corinthians 7:3,4; 11:11,12].
Does not exclude discussion towards mutual agreement [1Corinthians 7:5].
Will be evident in a public way [in the New Testament cultural context this meant wearing a head-covering in public – 1Corinthians 11:6-10.]
Parallels submission to the Lord [Ephesians 5:22].
Recognizes the God-ordained role/responsibility structure [Ephesians 5:23].
Parallels the submission of the church to Jesus Christ [Ephesians 5:24].
Can be defined as ‘respect’ [Ephesians 5:33].
Is the opposite of usurping the husband’s authority [1Timothy 2:11,12].
Contributes to the public reputation of the Gospel [Titus 2:5].
Should parallel the submission of Christ in his incarnation and suffering [1Peter 2:21-3:1].
Has the well-being of the husband as its motivation [1Peter 3:1].
Is evident in a gentle and quiet spirit [1Peter 3:4].
This, Paul states, is to be done “as is fitting in the Lord”. That is, because it is proper, appropriate, and a moral obligation, for those who belong to Jesus Christ.
Husbands – are to be loving and gentle with their wives. The verb Paul uses for ‘love’ is agapao. He does not define the husbands love for his wife in terms of sexual love, nor the love of friendship. He requires of husbands the highest form of loving – that same love with which God has loved us. This love outlaws bitterness – “do not be harsh” translates pikraino – do not be embittered towards them. It is a passive voice – meaning that this forbidden bitterness is something stirred up in the husbands by a person or circumstance. In context, the husband is commanded here not to let anything about his wife make him bitter towards her. There are a great number of things that in the normal course of life, can cause a husband to feel bitterness towards his wife. For example, sometimes even the fact that he is tied to her, or has to support her, or she has needs that he feels inadequate to meet can cause him to feel bitter. He is no longer free. He has the responsibility of leading the household. Any of these, in addition to annoying attitudes and behaviours of his wife, can cause bitterness. Paul’s instruction is “don’t let that happen”, rather he is to love her.
Paul commands the love of the husband means action of the husband, the head, in which he puts the well-being of his wife above his own comfort. Some
We see in scripture what he means by this:
Recognizes her rights as his wife and meets her needs [1Corinthians 7:2,3].
Engages in discussion leading to mutual agreement [1Corinthians 7:5].
Is considerate of his wife’s spiritual needs, above his own perceived rights or needs [1Corinthians 7:12-16].
Recognizes the equality of his wife and their interdependence [1Corinthians 11:11,12].
Is available to lead her into deeper spiritual understanding [1Corinthians 14:35].
Parallels the self-denying, self-sacrificing, saving love of Christ for the church [Ephesians 5:25-27].
Parallels the husband’s love and care for his own body [Ephesians 5:28-30,33].
Overrides his prior primary responsibilities [Ephesians 5:31].
Outlaws harsh treatment of his wife [Colossians 3:19].
Demonstrates the attitude of Jesus Christ in his incarnation and suffering [1Peter 2:21-25; 3:7].
Is considerate and respectful, taking into account both his wife’s weakness and their common identity as heirs of eternal life in Christ [1Peter 3:7].
Live Christ Centred Servants
Servants are commanded to work persistently for their masters as if they were working for Christ. They are given several commands such as:
Obey your earthly masters in everything – the same command that is given to children in respect to their parents. This obedience is to be ‘not only when their eye is on you’ and not ‘to win their favour’. Rather this obedience is to be sincere [with undivided heart] – the same whether or not it is seen, and whether or not it gains a word of approval from the master. This consistent, sincere obedience to earthly masters is given ‘out of reverence for the Lord’, that is, for the divine Master.
‘Whatever you do …’ – Although in context it applies directly to servants, Paul here gives a command that has application to every believer, not just servants. No matter what our task is, no matter what we are doing.
Work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. This is an exceedingly heavy command that reaches into every corner or our lives. The reason for working with this perspective is that we know that we ‘will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward’, regardless of whether men reward us for what we do for them. The Greek text reads “knowing that you will receive the reward of the inheritance” - note the definite articles. The reward for this consistent, sincere service is the inheritance. Not ‘a’ reward, not ‘an’ inheritance, but the inheritance - the inheritance that every believer has as heirs of God and co-heirs with Jesus Christ [Romans 8:17].
It is based on promise, not on works of the law [Galatians 3:18, 3:29]. It is given to all who are ‘in Christ’ [Ephesians 2:11] .It is guaranteed by the indwelling Holy Spirit [Ephesians 1:13,14].God himself has qualified us to share this inheritance [Colossians 1:12]. It is grounded in justification by his grace, and consists in the hope of eternal life [Titus 3:7]. It is an eternal inheritance [Hebrews 9:15]. It is an indestructible inheritance, kept safe for us in heaven [1Peter 1:4].It is ‘salvation’ [Hebrews 1:14]. It is ‘the kingdom promised to those who love him’ [James 2:5].
This glorious and guaranteed inheritance is the motivation Paul puts before us for doing everything we do as if we are working for the Lord. It is, in fact, the Lord Jesus Christ we are serving [verse 24], even when we are working for men. This perspective sanctifies every task.
In Colossians 3:25 – This verse is equally applicable to both ‘slaves’ and ‘masters’. Where the bible has ‘does what is wrong’ the Greek has adikia which means ‘unjust’. The issue is not about ‘wrong’ behaviour, but about ‘unjust’ behaviour. Slaves should render to their masters what is just. And masters should treat their slaves with justice. This is in stark contrast to the norm in ancient Rome, where slaves had no legal rights. Justice was not a question in respect to treatment of slaves. But in God’s system of justice, both slaves and masters are treated with the same application and measure of justice – ‘there is no favouritism’.
In Colossians 4:1 – Masters will provide for their slaves with fairness and justice [dikaios], even if it costs them to do so. They will not use their position or authority to justify unfair or unjust treatment. The rationale for this equity is that masters themselves have a ‘Master in heaven’.
This principle of submission applies to every believer in whatever relationship we find ourselves: that in every situation we are to act for and to seek the well-being of the other.
Live Christ Centred Prayer
Paul sums up this principle in three verses. He instructs us:
“Devote yourselves to prayer …” which in Greek means proskartereo – persevere, be diligent, be steadfast, cling closely, remain constant, persist, constantly attend to. The verb is in the present continuous tense, commanding a present and on-going continuity of action. This constancy in prayer was practised by
The disciples [male and female] between the ascension of Jesus and the out-pouring of the Spirit [Acts 1:14].
The newly formed church immediately following Pentecost [Acts 2:42].
The Twelve disciples/apostles [Acts 6:4].
Additionally, it’s commanded by Paul in Romans 12:12 – “be faithful in prayer” which means being watchful, keeping awake, being vigilant. The Greek is literally watching in the same. That is, watching in prayer. Not only is there to be a devotion to prayer, but that prayer is also to be characterised by continual spiritual and mental alertness. The verb – gregoreuo - is often used in the context of watching for the return of Christ; it is used of being watchful because of the devil’s destructive intentions; and it is used by Jesus when he asked the disciples to ‘watch’ with him while he prayed in Gethsemane, also in that context as he exhorted them to ‘watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation’ [Matthew 26:41].
‘…and thankful’ – literally ‘with thankfulness’ or ‘in thankfulness’. The concept of thankfulness is mentioned five other times in this small letter: Paul continually thanked God for the Colossian believers [1:3,4]. He joyfully thanked the Father for the amazing salvation provided in Christ [1:11-14]. He encouraged his readers to be ‘overflowing with thankfulness’ [2:7].He commanded thankfulness in the context of the peace of Christ ruling in our hearts [3:15].He listed singing with grateful hearts as an effect of the word of Christ [3:17]. Now he commands that thankfulness should accompany and characterize the sustained, alert prayer that he commands all believers to pursue.
“And pray for us too …” Paul now moves from the all-embracing command to perseverance in prayer, to a critical specific focus of prayer – the proclamation of the Gospel by himself and his companions. In this he lists:
That ‘God may open a door for our message…’ – unless he does so, the message will not be preached, no one will hear, no one will understand and no one will be saved. Even though he is under arrest in Rome he still knows that God can open doors for the message to be preached.
‘so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ…’ – this is the mystery to which he has referred at length from 1:25 to 2:4, the hidden meaning of the Old Testament, now brought to fulfilment in Christ. This is the ultimate truth, speaking of the ultimate Saviour and the ultimate salvation. This is the message that must be heard and believed if anyone is to be saved.
‘for which I am in chains.’ – at the time of writing Paul was under arrest in Rome, precisely because of his proclamation of Jesus Christ as Lord.
“Pray that I may proclaim it clearly as I should.” Paul has prayed that God will open opportunities for the proclamation of the Gospel; now, assuming that those opportunities will arise, he prays that he himself will be able to proclaim the message clearly. He sees this as a necessity, a responsibility – to present the Gospel clearly is something he must do. This brief instruction about prayer is very similar to Paul’s instructions about prayer in Ephesians 6:18-20.
This passage encourages and teaches all Christ focused disciples how we ought to live as Christ followers. In every one of our relationships, we have the opportunity to see the image of God in the other person and to treat them in a way that brings glory to God. This is the challenge of taking our faith home.
For some of us, we need to apologize to someone for how we’ve acted toward them. We haven’t treated them with the type of respect or honor that brings glory to God. One of the best things that we could do would be to go to them and acknowledge this, and to ask their forgiveness.
Some of us may need to focus on a relationship that we have. It’s always tempting to think the problem is with the other person. It might be time to look at what we’re bringing to the table. It may not be all our fault, but we can begin to live faithfully no matter how the other person chooses to respond.
Some of us may need to take the difficult step of forgiving someone who has wronged us. Taking our faith home may mean forgiving someone, not because they deserve it, but because Christ forgave us when we didn’t deserve it.
This is where living our faith is the hardest. But it’s exactly the place for us to start. Jesus Christ is our Savior and Lord. We must follow Him with the entirety of our being. When He is the center of our heart's affection and our mind's attention then we are positioned rightly in relationship with God. When we live our theme, "It's All About Christ!" then we are free to live rightly in relationship to those in our lives daily, with unbelievers, and with those in the family of God.
You can find success in life and be the person that God wants you to be if you will live for Jesus. "It's All About Christ!"
May the Lord find us faithful.
In every one of our relationships, we have the opportunity to see the image of God in others, and to treat them in a way that brings glory to God