Wilful Submission (Colossians 3: 18—4: 6)
Having stressed the importance of sticking to the Apostolic Gospel and being steadfast in what they first received, Paul is encouraging the Colossians to recognise what is the perfect will of God, the Supremacy and Pre – eminence of Christ and that all that they needed for the Christian walk was to be found in Jesus Christ alone.
He goes on to exhort them to live lives that are pleasing to God, by walking and depending on Christ, by putting on the new nature and putting off the old. He stresses the need to put away the sins of the flesh, wherein they once walked.
In our next passage of scripture, Paul gives some practical and godly advice in how they can do this.
In the Scriptures, there are only four chapters without sin Genesis 1–2 (The Garden of Eden) and Revelation 21–22 (Eden restored).
In Genesis 1 & 2 We see the order that God intended and there was harmony. Adam was created first then Eve out of Adam as a helper for him.
However this was soon broken by sin. Gen 3. God gave them freedom to eat of any fruit in the garden with one exception, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Eve was under the guardianship of her husband Adam. God made her to be in subjection to him.
However, she broke the rule, she believed Satan’s lie and she disobeyed God and her husband and did what she shouldn’t have done.
What follows, shows the devastating effects of sin on the family.
Adam was responsible for his wife, she was put under his care but he chose to join her in the sin.
Both Adam and Eve sinned, and Adam responded by blaming his wife and Eve blamed the serpent, then they tried to hide from God.
They parented two male children, and one of the sons killed the other.
Later, Abraham, God’s chosen man, married two wives, again, breaking God’s design, and he eventually kicked one wife and her child out of the family home.
A generation down the line, Jacob married several wives like his grandfather. His twelve sons eventually sold their younger brother into slavery. David too espoused many wives and we read in 2 Sam 13:14 how his son Amnon raped his sister. Then the daughter’s brother, Absalom, killed the son who raped her.
When we read through the scriptures, we see many family relationships that were broken by sin. Today’s story is no different; sin still destroys family relationships, and therefore we don’t have great models of God’s design.
In fact, today we even see the effects of sin in the redefinition of marriage. In some cultures men take many wives and in others, homosexual marriage is acceptable. In many cases, couples just bypass marriage and co – habit.
So, what is God’s design for family, and how can we have the relationships that God meant us to have? Are the relationships I have with my family a proper reflection of my heavenly standing in Christ?
The one word that ties all this together is “Submission”.
The word submission (Greek: hupotassó: to place or rank under, to subject, to obey) often doesn’t mean the same to us in our society, but we must realise that submission does not mean “inferiority”. “Submit” is actually a military word. The word simply means, “to arrange under rank.” It does not mean "inferior"
Men and women are equal.
Submission does not mean that the wife is less than the husband, for Scripture clearly proclaims the equality of all in Christ.
Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” God has created an order of things. 1 Corinthians 11:3 says: “Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.”
Each of us has a godly responsibility to the other in Christ.
Paul begins this section by giving us God’s order of things, what each one of us should do, if we are to be in submission to the perfect will of God. Remember, Paul is a minister of the Gospel and not a social worker or politician.
The Wife’s Responsibility To Her Husband.
“Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord” (Col. 3:18)
What is meant here, is that there is an order that works, it is the order that God originally intended, that which was lost by sin. In Christ, this is what we need to get back. However, to have order, whether in the military, the work place, school or in the home, authority must exist in the relationship or chaos will ensue.
In the same way, when God made the husband and wife relationship, he made it with order so that it would function properly. There is equality in Christ. However, our equality and unity in Christ does not remove our roles. The husband has one role and the wife her role and the children have their place.We must always remember the body of Christ and how we are fit together. Christ the head and everyone in his proper place.
This seems contrary to the worlds thinking. However God tells us in the Bible, the true order of things in Christ.1 Cor 12:18 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?
18 But in fact, God has arranged the members of the body, every one of them, according to His design.
19 If they were all one part, where would the body be?…
Christ submits to the Father even though they are equal, He obeys the Father.
Php 2:5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
In the same way, when God created male and female, He put authority and submission in the relationship. Although equal in worth, "the head of the woman is man", This unity and authority in the marriage is a reflection of how mankind is made in the image of God.
God the Father does not dominate, or force Christ to submit to him. Submission and authority happen in the context of God’s love for the Son. The Father loves the Son and the Son is in submission to the Father out of love.
In the same way, the husband does not demand that the wife submit to him. He is to love her, care for her, encourage her to grow in God, and serve her. The wife’s response is to submit willingly out of her love for him. He cannot force it. That is not God's way. It is a willing submission.
At the fall, marriage was broken. Gen 3:16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
Submission in the context of a loving relationship was destroyed, and as a result we see brokenness in the majority of marriages.
Over fifty percent of marriages end in divorce. The wife tries to control the husband, and the husband tries to rule and dominate the wife. In fact, marriage is becoming redefined totally as no longer simply consequences are disorder in our society. If the home is broken, then you can be sure the education system is broken, and the government is broken since the home is the foundation of society.
God began with a marriage and when this breaks down it creates all kinds of problems.
The ideal marriage is how God created it. 1 Cor 11:3 But I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.
Paul moves on to how the husband.
The husband should Love his wife and in doing that, submit to his wife.
The submission here is love. Like Christ, out of His love for the Father, submitted Himself.
“Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them” Col. 3:19
In the Jewish and Greek customs a woman had little to no rights. She was a piece of property meant to serve the husband. Under Jewish law, a woman was a thing, the possession of her husband, just as much as his house or his ﬂock, or his material goods. She had no legal rights whatever.
For instance, under Jewish law, a husband could divorce his wife for any cause, while a wife had no rights at all in the initiation of divorce; and the only grounds on which a divorce might be awarded her were if her husband developed leprosy, gave up his beliefs, or sexually assaulted a virgin.
In Greek society, a respectable woman lived a life of entire seclusion. She never appeared on the streets alone, not even to go shopping. She lived in the women’s apartments and did not join the men of the household, even for meals. Complete servitude and chastity were demanded of her; but her husband could go out as much as he chose and could enter into as many relationships outside marriage as he liked without incurring any social criticism.
Under both Jewish and Greek laws and custom, all the privileges belonged to the husband and all the duties to the wife.
We can see in this, how God's idea had become distorted. Sadly these ideas are still prevalent today in many societies.
Even though in the western world there has been a development in equal rights for women in society, the distortion of marriage has continued, in that marriage has become unnecessary or has been changed from a union between one man and one woman to union between male and male or female and female, this is in total opposition to God's order of things.
Therefore, what Paul was teaching here was totally opposed to the ideas of Jewish and Greek society. The husband was commanded to love his wife, which was radical.
Ephesians describes what the husband’s love should look like. He is called to love like Christ.
Ephesians 5:5–28 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church,without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
The interesting word in this verse is the word “love”. In the Greek there are three words for love. Eros, Philo and Agape. Eros (the love a man has for his wife, an erotic love) Philo (the love that a man has for his friend, his parents, his brother.) Agape, (the pure love of God).
It is this love that is spoken of in the great love chapter in 1 Cor 13. This is the word that is used here in this verse. This word indicates an unselfish, sacrificial love for another. What it is saying is that a man, whilst having erotic love for his wife, should also love her with the same love that Christ loved the church, with the love of God. Cherishing, Caring, being devoted, always looking out for her best interest. There is no room in a marriage for selfishness, abuse or unfairness. No suggestion of superiority. On the contrary a properly functioning marriage should have the same equality and submission found in the Triune Godhead.
Paul’s exhortation to children.
Col 3:20 Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.
Here we see a command to children to fulfil the teaching that is found in the Ten Commandments.
Exodus 20:12 “Honour thy father and thy mother” Notice why! Obedience to parent’s, pleases the Lord.
We read in scripture again our example for this in Christ. He submitted not only to his earthly parents, Mary and Joseph but also to His heavenly Father.
Luk 2:51 And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.
Luk 2:52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God.
John 6:38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but to do the will of Him who sent Me. John 4:34 Jesus explained, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work.
Paul’s exhortation to fathers.
Col 3:21 Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.
Fathers are not to act in such a way that it causes resentment in children, so that they become discouraged.
This is the kind of treatment that causes problems in our children. If they see unfairness and aggression in fathers, it very often is repeated in the child and so the old statement goes, “like father, like son”.
However, this is not always the case, as sometimes the mother steps in and in effect counteracts the father’s behaviour.
Fathers are not to be problem makers to their children but to be providers,encouragement and examples in life.
When fathers fall down in this area, very often it can have long lasting impact on their child.
We must also take notice that this responsibility is not to be delegated to the mother.
The word is to the father. The wife is there to be a helper and an influence, to work as a team, that all the family may reap the benefit.
Paul up to this point, has been dealing with the family unit. We can link the verses together, keeping to the context of the chapter.
The whole object behind this teaching is that to live in a family relationship in this Godly manner keeps us from sin.
Col 3:5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:
Some people have a gift of God to remain single and keep themselves from sin. However, human nature being what it is and the fact that we are in constant danger of succumbing to the flesh. God has instituted the state of marriage.
1 Corinthians 7:8-9 I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I.9 But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.
Paul is giving very practical and godly advice in things of this nature. Marriage is a God given sacrament. “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favour from the Lord.”(Proverbs 18:22)
Marriage is the answer to those who desire to be in a sexual relationship.
We can only imagine what our society would be like if we would stick to this godly pattern. If men and women would marry and be faithful to the one partner, being an example to the children. If our children would wait until married to engage in sexual behaviour. If men and women would take the marriage vow serious and not engage in extra marital sex.
Mark 10:9 what God has joined together, let no man put asunder.
What a different world this would be. Less illegitimacy, less abortion, less sexual transmitted disease and less divorce.
Pauls advice to servants.
Col 3:22 Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eye service, as men pleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God.
The word servant in the Greek is (doulos -a slave (literally or figuratively,involuntarily or voluntarily; frequently therefore in a qualified sense of subjection or subserviency): - bond (-man), servant).
In the context of these verses, bond servants were considered part of a person's household, yet did not enjoy the same level of freedom as their masters.According to Paul, these servants are to show submission and obedience to their masters. Rather than teaching Christian slaves to rebel, Paul instructed them to obey.
As was said earlier, Paul was not a social or political revolutionary but a preacher of the Gospel. However we do find Paul seeking freedom for a bond servant named Onesimus, recorded in the book of Philemon, although Paul was not stirring servants up to rebel against their masters but, in Christ to be obedient to their masters. He was exhorting them to be the best that they could be. What this meant was not only doing their best when the master was watching, (men pleasing) but as unto the Lord, (God pleasing). We read in the letter to the Galatians that the slave was still supposed to submit to and obey his master Col. 3:22; Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eye service, as men pleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God:
Eph. 6:5. Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;
That was his role even though he was equal with the master in his standing before God.
Col 3:17 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.
This is a lesson for us all, whether we are a father, mother, child, employer,employee or student, we should all do our very best as though we are doing it for the Lord.
Colossians 3:24, "Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ."
Servants had no status in life, not entitled to any inheritance in the family where they were employed.Servants had very little to look forward to in this life. Paul was lifting their sights above the earthly and pointing to the heavenly reward that awaits all of God’s elect.God's inheritance, our eternal dwelling place with Him, will far exceed the trials and limitations of this life. Paul sought once again to focus readers on things above rather than the daily concerns of this life.
Col 3:1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
Col 3:2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. Pauls exhortation to masters.
Col 4:1 Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.
Paul concludes this section with a word to the master or employer.
Masters or employers are to be fair and just to those that are in their care, treating each one with respect, again remembering that they too have a master in heaven. The master in Heaven will not look kindly on anyone, master or servant that does evil.
For each one of us, the answer lies in the wilful submission of ourselves to each other.
Philippians 2:3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.