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Apr 18 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Colossians 3:18-41 Chuck Smith Jr. April 18, 2010

Colossians 3:18-41 

INTRO: When Jesus began his public ministry, he quickly became popular
People crowded streets, came to the seashore, or climbed mountains to be near him
Then he returned to Nazareth, where he faced toughest crowd
Mt. 13:57, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household” 

I think our household is also most difficult place to be our spiritual self
For the same reason: “Is not this the carpenter’s son?” (Mt. 13:55)
They think they know us, but they know us in just one way and can’t see our other side
Also, our mundane chores have a way of leveling every member in a family 

After Jesus’ first brilliant moment when he was twelve years old, we read, “And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and He continued in subjection to them . . .” (Lk. 2:51)
He returned to being their respectful and obedient adolescent son
But, it was exactly there that he continued to develop spiritually
Lk. 2:52, “And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” 

Paul presents the Colossians with what has been called a “household code”
It is a brief outline of domestic obligations
These household codes are easy to read this the wrong way—i.e., we need to handle these relationships properly so we can walk with God
But these relationships are exactly where we walk with God!
The paths we take every day are where we walk “in Him” (2:6)
It’s our daily situation-in-life that affords us opportunity for spiritual growth 


In the beginning of ch. 3, Paul revealed a contemplative strategy, “keep seeking”
Next, he intensified the magnification, giving us a closer look at seeking God in terms of vices and virtues
Now, he increases the magnification again, and we peer into our home life 

Paul has subtly added another factor (vv. 13 & 17), “Lord Jesus”
He shows us how the lordship of Jesus enters our lives and influences us
This passage is really loaded with the word Lord
Jesus’ lordship provides rationale or motive for proper behavior
The wives, children, slaves, and masters are all pointed  toward Jesus as Lord
In fact, all but husbands and fathers
The former depends on understanding how to accept authority
The later depends on understanding how to exercise authority 

First century society was built on the model of authority and submission
This was the glue that held world together and it began in the home
It gave everyone clear definition of their role and identity
And it assured them they would be held in place throught the uncertainties of life
These instructions are what was needed for life to run smoothly 

But it’s not likely Paul merely wanted to preserve status quo
Christianity more likely represented a threat to the status quo
Did wives begin to question whether they needed two lords?
Should they not, like all Christians, have only one Lord?
So Paul points out how submission was “fitting in the Lord” 

A couple of general observations:

  1. It’s possible to find an identity in our relationships
    a. When people do it right, it is usually out of love (we enjoy being a parent, a spouse, etc.)
  2. Paul uses a formula for laying out these injunctions
    a. He addresses each party in pairs: wives and husbands, children and fathers, slaves and masters
    b. With each pair, he addresses the party in the submissive role first
    c. In each line he
      (1) addresses the party (“wives,” “husbands,” etc.)
      (2) gives the injunction
      (3) then adds a reason, motive, or explanation
  3. The exception is the instructions to slaves–their situation was the most problematic
    a. and it would be the easiest position in which one could justify slackness, theft, rebellion–and also the most vulnerable to abuse
    b. also, keep in mind that Onesimus, the runaway slave, was with him (4:9; Philem. 10-16) 

It would be surprising if Paul said, “Let world define your home life”
Even though these instructions don’t look liberating to us, can we find anything subversive in them?

  1. Wives, children & slaves are addressed, not just husbands . . .
    a. Not telling husbands, “Assert your authority”
      (1) Or “Bring your wife & children in line!”
      (2). Rare in ancient code to address wife or children (slave!)
    b. The idea here is that submission and obedience are voluntary
      (1) Something that one may give to another person, but not something that can be demanded of another
  2. He orients submission to Jesus as Lord
    a. Not the human lord (4:1, “earthly master”)
      (1) Ths undermines the Roman demand that all citizens swear, “Caesar is lord”
    b. “In the Lord,” who “is our life” (v. 4), who awakens our soul
      (1) This suggests that we develop an awareness of the potential spirituality that is inherent in relationships
  3. Nowhere in ancient household codes do we find, “Husbands love your wives”
  4. The ancient codes don’t contain reciprocal injunctions (they are one-sided)
  5. Masters are told to treat slaves with justice and fairness (also translated equality)

This, obviously, is not on all-out assault on social institutions
But the remarkable thing Paul does, is he gets people thinking about social institutions differently
And how they will approach their roles in those institutions differently 

Look again at the adolescent Jesus, when he returned to Nazareth his “subjection” to his parents
This did not diminish who he was
It did not eliminate the possibility of him doing greater things
Rather, it was this environment where he continued to develop

These verses do not contain anything personal
they say nothing about who we are as individuals
nothing about our gifts, creativity, or brilliance
They say only that we are in these situations
and there’s a way to live in them to promote God’s work
As Paul has shown us in 3:16-17, we can assist each other in our spiritual journeys

CONC: Relationships – are we stuck?
We are if we’re convinced that something outside us must change for the relationship to work
If anything, Paul challenges us to think differently about them
To see the spiritual opportunities within them
But he’s also suggesting we can transform our situation-in-life
And that begins with the contemplative shift: From being in this for myself, to being in the Lord

“But look, the world is the same. It didn’t change!”
“It did for you”

With the contemplative shift from things on earth to things above, my world changes
and as a result, I can live differently in the world the way it is–I can live for the glory of God

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