A Study of Colossians 3:17–21
And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the Name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him.
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.
Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them. Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.
Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.
Now we come to the place where we first begin to see the Christian life begin to show itself. Verse 17 connects to verse 16, where we learn of our living together and ministry to each other in the body, so now it connects to verse 17 where we learn of our living together in the family and in work and life situations.
Verse 17 certainly gives us a good comprehensive view of how we should make our choices too. Rather than creating lists of “do this”, and “don’t do that”, we have an all-encompassing filter: “whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the Name of the Lord Jesus”. So when determining things like, “what is the will of God for me?”, we do not need to think of a singular thing. THIS is the will of God for you. And if it cannot be done in the Name of the Lord Jesus, it should not be done. If it can be done in His Name, then do it in His Name.
Again, here we come back to thankfulness. As Christians, our overarching attitude should be one of gratitude. We should be thankful for all that we can do. We should be thankful for opportunities that sometimes show themselves up as challenges. Sometimes, even as we labor for His Name, the only applause we may get is the scorn of this world. Maybe even worse than scorn; sometimes it is vehement hatred. But even in this, look at the example of Peter and the other apostles in this: “they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His Name” (Acts 5:41).
So then it should go without saying that we should be characterized by thankfulness for the good things that God gives. It is surely that IN ALL THINGS we should be thankful.
Next we come to more specifics of the Christian life. Now as we look at these things spelled out, I would ask you to consider that these points of Christian character and behavior in these everyday things are every whit “the Christian Commission”. While every Christian is a representative of Christ and to speak His Word and the saving gospel of Jesus Christ, it is not said that everyone is to start an “over there” missionary campaign, or begin a great evangelistic movement in their own city. All are not called into a “full-time” ministry as that is popularly understood, but we all can learn to live as the apostle of Jesus Christ teaches here.
I purposely said “the apostle of Jesus Christ” in the last paragraph rather than simply “Paul” to make an important point: This is not simply a man’s words. This is the word of God. The apostle of Jesus Christ is the “one sent” of Jesus Christ and as a reminder of the authority of the one sent:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth Me; and he that receiveth Me receiveth Him that sent Me. (John 13:20)
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God…(Colossians 1:1)
Now we come to instructions to husbands, wives, children, parents, servants, and masters. It seems here that no one is left out, and many people can take instructions here that pertain to more than one group.
Wives are told to submit themselves to their own husbands. Husbands are told to love their wives and to not be bitter against them. This is a very interesting way of putting things. In these things we find there to be shown things that no matter how things change in this world, people do not. How often now, even after around 2000 years of “progress”, do we find that wives have the hardest time submitting, or giving themselves, to their own husbands? How many men do not love their wives, and in one way or another show themselves bitter? Why is that?
The “normal Christian life”, as spelled out here, is a call to be different than the world around us. Both of these reciprocal attitudes that the apostle speaks to are practical outworkings of “putting on the new” (Colossians 3:10). These attitudes, when working properly with each other, build each other in the proper way. Men, obey the Lord in this whether your conversation with your wife is going smoothly or not. Ladies, obey the Lord in this whether your married life is all you hoped for or not. You cannot change anyone, and it is not your job.
Before any objection in any of this regarding extreme situations, these instructions are not for “extreme situations”, so let us not use them as an excuse to disregard the word of God through His apostle. This holds true for all of the relationships spoken of in these verses. The Lord, even when the children of Israel were living under the law of Moses (which was given him by the Lord Himself), allowed for “extreme situations”, but they did not overturn the rule of the law itself. So lets not argue with the Lord regarding hypothetical extreme situations and have the understanding that He knows how to deal with them when they come along.
So now that we have settled that, lets move on to children. The context is definitely children (minors) living under the rule of their parents, rather than adult children. If you children want to be well pleasing to the Lord, this is a good first step. The verse says plainly “Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord”. The rule does not stop there, for although the context here is specific to minors under the rule of parents as they are growing up, Paul references this in Ephesians in the following way:
Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. (Ephesians 6:1-3)
Here, Paul absolutely references the fifth commandment, and the promise that comes with it: “that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee” (Exodus 20:12).
That the command to “Honor thy father and mother” does not only mean obedience when minors, but actually speaks of honoring when an adult and the “shoe needs to be on the other foot” is evident when the Lord is speaking to the scribes and Pharisees of Jerusalem about their taking a “religious exemption” to the Law:
But [the Lord Jesus] answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, he that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. (Matthew 15:3–6)
This very much gives the indication of honoring father and mother having to do with taking care of elder parents in the time of the grown child’s strength. This honor starts when the child is young and learns to obey. Regarding parents, especially fathers, we hold the futures of our children as much, humanly speaking, as anyone. I say this with a caveat that the Lord truly holds all of our future, but we as fathers have the time and opportunity to speak life into our children like no one else in the world can. We have the privilege for a short time to build them up. Yes they do exasperate us sometimes when they do not heed that which they were commanded, but we are the adults, and in the body of Christ, they are saints too if believers and it is our opportunity to first show to them “body life”.
In all these family relationships, it is very interesting that we all somewhat seem to know this is the way that it should be, but in reality, this life of a properly functioning family is rare, and seems to have been rare back when Paul wrote this epistle from the Lord. Wives seem willing to submit to anyone except their own husbands. Husbands do not love their wives, not as Christ loved the ἐκκλησία and gave Himself for it (Ephesians 5:21). Husbands are prone to bitterness against their wives, but these things should not be. They can be expected from the people of this world’s system, but not from the body of Christ. This world’s system encourages children to obey any and everyone except their parents, and parents go from extremes of destroying their children’s lives by anything goes to “you can’t do anything right”. But parents in the body need to get off of that continuum and parent on another plane, that of bringing them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). This may involve discipline and so-called “tough love”, but the tough should not be exalted over the love. The entire purpose of the discipline is love. We discipline our children because we know they need it.
I have said all this not because I have all answers, or anything near a perfect family life. I am speaking this about what the Lord is teaching me through this .
Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12)
(I know that is out of context, but it came to my mind when writing this, so I will share it with you.)
By the life given to us by the Lord Jesus, and the resurrection life that we have in Him, we have the ability given to us to live on this plane of family life that the world cannot know because of its broken system.
If you do not know the assurance of sins forgiven, striving for this life is in vain. You need first to come to the reality of your need for a Savior from your sins. You need redemption, and this is found in Christ alone. He died on the cross in your place, for your sins, and to show the full payment was accepted, He rose again from the dead. When you believe this gospel, and accept this free gift of God, your sins are removed from your account, because the Lord Jesus Christ paid them in full. Then you may know eternal life.
In Whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace… (Ephesians 1:7)