Listen: Christian Growth with Simon Manchester. (Airs 8am Sundays on Hope 103.2 & Inspire Digital.)
Simon Manchester presents a 4-part series of messages called ‘Colossal Christianity’. The title is a play on the book of the Bible named ‘Colossians’ – a letter written to the church in the ancient city of Colossae.
Part 4: ‘Order in the House’ – Colossians 2:6-23
Well, good morning, everybody. Thank you, Dimitri, very much. This is the seventh in a series of nine in the book of Colossians, which we are doing right across the church, and let’s pray for God’s gracious help again.
[Prayer]: Father, we thank you for causing these words to be recorded, and we now pray that in your mercy and power, you would cause them to do good in our heads, hearts and in our living, and we ask it in Jesus’ name, amen.
Some of you may know that there was a man in this church who had taken his family to America, and he was in the real estate business, and he was working way too hard. In fact, he was working so hard that his wife told him that if he kept going at the same pace, she would leave him. And he took no notice of this, and he came home one day, and there was the note saying that she had left, and she’d taken the boys, and she’d gone interstate.
While he was standing reading the letter, the doorbell rang, and a pastor of a church that they had visited came in to see him, listened to the sad news and said to the man, “You need Jesus Christ.” And the man said, “I need my wife.” And the pastor said, “You need Jesus Christ.” And they sat on the bed, and he led him in prayer, repentance, and faith in Christ.
And then the pastor said to him, “I want you to contact your wife. I want you to take 100% blame for what has happened, and I want to ask you to offer to change or amend your behavior in any way she declares and decides.” So, he did this, and she agreed to be reconciled. She was subsequently converted, and this man began a new career trying to get a small business off the ground.
And I’ve always remembered his testimony for two reasons. The first is that, when one of the men at the new church discovered that he was trying to get his life on track and live responsibly, he gave him a cheque to help his business, and the cheque was for $10 million, a tremendous help to business. I would’ve filled it. I never forgot that. But the more important thing… somebody is just contemplating whether they could do that for me after the service, and my comment is “Yes, you can”. The more important thing is that the pastor had said to him in the face of all his difficulties, “You first need Christ.”
The pastor, incidentally, was Michael Youssef, Jonathan’s dad. And, I rang the guy whose story it was yesterday to check that I had it all correct. I’m saying this to you because this is really the message of Colossians, that you need Christ, and when you have Christ, so much else flows from that particular blessing.
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So, this is a very brief letter that we’re looking at, and I want to ask you if you’ll turn up the passage if you haven’t already, 3:18 and following, and we’re going to think especially about these roles in the home. If your home life is a little taste of paradise, well, we praise God for that. And you might become a little dozy as I read these verses, and you’re entitled to, you know, in a sense. But if your home life is difficult, and if for some of you, your home life is quite desperate, I want you to know that God is very able and very gracious and that there is hope to be found in these verses.
Sundays are not a very good time for working out what is really going on in our private lives. You know, we’re singing, we’re smiling, we’re drinking coffee, and behind the facade can be a lot of difficulty, a lot of difficulty. There is what is called the famous car park miracle, where you drive to church, tension all the way, step out of your car, and suddenly it’s, “Hello, praise the Lord, great to see you.” And then back in the car and tension all the way home. Well, these verses, I think, tell us that God has great resources for us.
So, Paul the Apostle is writing the letter. It’s very profound what he’s gonna say to us this morning. It’s very practical. It has to do with marriage, parenting, and work. And if there’s anybody here this morning and you’re not married, you have no children, or if work is a non-issue for you because you finished work or because you’re out of work, I want you to know that you’ll still find these verses very helpful, because they come after the teaching of Christ, and he’s the most important person of all. You’ll also find that these verses are good because they tell you that God is a God of wisdom and order and grace. You’ll find these verses may help you to equip others. You’ll find these verses may help to equip you with your children and grandchildren, and you’ll also discover that these verses are pointing ultimately ahead to the day where we will come face to face, and all the problems of relationships will be removed, and we’ll enter into what God has planned for us, this great and gracious God that He has planned for us.
So, I want to think about it this morning, firstly, under three headings. The first is “Brief Words to New People”, and I wanna spend a little bit of time on this before we get to the text – that these are brief words but they’re to new people.
And then I want to think about the text that there are very “Wise Words to New People”, and then I want to finish in the last 30 seconds by telling you that there are very “Memorable Words” and that we can go home with this sentence in our minds and hearts.
Brief Words to New People
First of all, then, “Brief Words to New People”. Is it not amazing that the Apostle Paul writes one line to the Colossian church on how to be a wife or a husband or a child or a parent? I mean, just imagine yourself in the Colossian church, and you’re sitting there, and you’re next to your relative or amongst your relatives, or maybe you’re on your own, because all your relatives are against your faith. And the Apostle Paul gives you one sentence. And you say to yourself at that point, you know, “Does he not realise that there’ll come a day where Dymocks bookshop and Koorong bookshop will have shelves of stuff on parenting and marriage and children? Does he not realise that, you know, life is very complex and we need probably libraries of material to get through all the issues?” And here’s the Apostle Paul giving one sentence. And so we ask again, have they been short-changed? And, of course, the answer is no.
Christ Gives us the Resources for Life
This question takes us back to the heart of the letter and the heart of the Gospel, which is that if you have Christ, you have all the resources for living in a new way.
So, I’m not pretending that becoming a Christian means all your problems will be over. When you become a Christian, you’ll get some new problems, and some of those new problems could very well be because of your faith in Christ. But you’ll also receive from Him new resources. If I as a husband remember that I must love my wife and not be bitter with her and if I as a father remember that I must not be bitter towards my children, I also need to remember that I have all the resources of Christ to help me to put those simple things into place.
So you may be thinking this morning, “I’ve got a very difficult situation”. “You have no idea”, you may be thinking, “how difficult my marriage is. You have no idea how difficult my children are. You have no idea how difficult my parents are.” But you need to remember that Paul is not being simplistic, but he is the one who has written Chapters 1 to 3.
And if you’re a person whose faith is in Christ, well, you have faith, and you have hope, and you have love, and you’re given wisdom from above in order to know and do his will, and you’re given power to be patient and to be joyful. And you’re thankful because you have been brought from darkness to light, and you have been forgiven your sins, and you are therefore able in his grace to forgive other people. And you’re learning to be discerning, and you’re putting to death the sins of the flesh, and you’re putting away the things that ruin relationships. You know that you are greatly loved by God, you’re chosen wholly and dearly loved, and you’re taking on board the priorities of wanting to be peaceful, and to have the word of God central, and to live under the lordship of Jesus Christ. You see, the Apostle Paul is not asking the impossible. He’s asking the possible.
It’s as if he’s writing to watering cans and saying, “I want you to cover the garden at the back, but I’m going to give you the whole of the Warragamba Dam, you know, filling by filling in order for you to do that.”
So this is very brief, but it is on the back of Colossians 1 to 3, and it’s very practical. Even though it’s brief, it’s very practical, and we want practical Christianity.
We often come to church and think, “Say something that hits the road”, and these verses are practical and concrete, and they hit the road, because they tell us that when you’ve received new life from Jesus Christ, he will help you to live it out even behind the front door. And behind the front door can be a lot more difficult than even the local church. And behind the office door can be more difficult again.
So, when Paul says in Chapter 3, “I want you to seek things above,” he’s not being impractical. You know, some people hear the words seek the things above and think, “Well, I’m just going to ignore that. That doesn’t really mean anything to me.” But when Paul says, “Seek the things above,” he means put Christ first and so much else will follow. Get the first button in your shirt in place, and the other buttons will follow. So Paul says the first priority is that you surrender to Christ. And then if you’re a husband, you can love your wife, and if you’re a father, you can raise your children. This is practical, and this is concrete.
The Ways of Christ are Liberating
So, it’s liberating as well, because Colossians is all about being free. The apostle is not adding more burdens. If you’re sitting there the first time this letter was being read, and you heard your one line for the wife, and your one line for the husband, and your one for the child and the one for the father, you can say to yourself, “This is so liberating.” I mean, he could have given just pages and books of information and made us feel as though we could never absorb it all, but here we’ve been set free by Jesus Christ, we’re set free from sin, we’re set free from guilt, we’re set free from judgment and now comes the simple instruction, so brief, so liberating, so practical. So, they’re brief words, but they’re to new people.
Wise Words to New People
The second thing is that they’re wise words to new people, 3:18, “Wives submit to your husbands as is fitting in the Lord.” That’s all he says. And it doesn’t look very appealing, and for some of you it may not sound very appealing, but if you’re a Christian, you know how Jesus has submitted for your sake to the cross, and you know that that is a very impressive submission and a very effective submission. And you’ll know also that Christians are to submit to one another. So it’s not as though this is just wives being submissive to husbands, all Christians submit to everyone in the sense that we all serve everyone. Ephesians 5:21, and if you’re a Christian woman this morning and you’re a wife, you have already gladly submitted to Jesus Christ. He’s your king and your Saviour, and now your king and Saviour says, “This is what I want you to do, give your husband the freedom to lead.” Let him take care of you. Don’t stop him from caring for you. Support his care for you. Support the role that God has given him, because one day he’s going to have to give account to Jesus for how he has cared for you. So don’t keep pushing in front as though you’ve got the job that God says he’s got the job for.
It seems to me that every institution in the world teaches the equality of its members, but also the differences of roles. If you go to a school, you’ve got equality from staff and students, everybody’s a human, but you’ve got different roles. If you’re in a company, you’ve got equality, but difference. If you’re in government, you’ve got equality, but you’ve got difference. If you’re in the church, you’ve got equality, but difference. If you’re in the home, you’ve got equality but difference. This is how the institutions work. And it always amazes me that one particular lady I know who hates all this idea of different roles actually runs an institution with an iron fist where everybody does exactly what she tells them. And she wouldn’t for a second think of a person telling her what to do in that institution. So God’s wisdom, you see, is very wonderful, and there will be peace when a wife encourages her husband’s leadership. There’ll be chaos and there’ll be tension when she fights it.
What “Wives, Submit to Your Husbands” Looks Like
Now, what does it look like in practice? I just have to do this in very broad strokes. The Christian wife won’t fight for the leadership in the home. She learns to take her very great gifts and sometimes her superior intellect and use that in support of her husband’s leadership. She uses all of those things for his encouragement that he might play his role well.
Nor, however is she a doormat. And she should not be a doormat. If the husband abuses his role, and remember, he’s meant to be a lover, if the husband abuses his role, well, firstly, he’s a disobedient fool to abuse his role, he’s a spiritual pygmy if he abuses his role, she may need to speak to him very peaceably and carefully, and she may need to escape the situation until it’s safe to return. But she has all the resources of Christ at her disposal to help her, to encourage him to play his part. So, the husband and the wife are gonna be living together, they’re gonna be thinking together, they’re going to be planning together, they’re gonna be working together, but her life is gonna help his life be a life of loving leadership.
What “Husbands, Love Your Wives” Looks Like
“Husbands,” verse 19, “love your wives and do not be harsh with them.” Two things for the husband, love your wife and do not be harsh. So simple, so liberating. The husband needs to make it his aim day by day to take the love which he has received from Christ and consider the welfare of his wife all the time. Hour by day he must take the love that he has received and think how he can seek the welfare of his wife, her spiritual welfare and her physical welfare. And if he will do that, he will be a great lover. He doesn’t wait till she is perfect. He remembers that Christ has loved him, the imperfect. He doesn’t stop loving when changes appear. That’s to continue as Christ continues to love us in all the ups and the downs. And he’s asking himself this, “How can I make sure that she’s joyful in Christ and secure in life?” And he puts steps in place to encourage her joy, her security as best he can.
He’s to take a lead in prayer, he’s to take a lead in priorities, and he’s to take a lead in Christian fellowship, and she encourages him. He doesn’t wait until he himself is perfect to do this. He doesn’t say, “Oh, gee, she’s a much better Christian than I am. I’m really a lousy Christian. I need to wait until I’ve got my act together before I can do this.” No, he waits until he’s got a great Savior, and he waits until she’s got a great Saviour, and then he says, “You know, we’ve got a great Saviour. Let’s serve him well together.” That’s how he does it.
And the little addition in the verse, “Don’t be bitter,” is very, very interesting, isn’t it? Because when you’re the leader, and you’re taking the role which is more perhaps influential, your words can be very helpful or unhelpful. And in the commentary by Dick Lucas, which is the commentary written by a bachelor, he nevertheless is very shrewd in understanding the word and the world in which we live. And he says this in his commentary, “We easily deceive ourselves in these matters and men more readily than women. To say ‘I love you’ has always been conspicuously easy. It is again characteristic of the New Testament to give to Christians, in this case husbands, a practical test by which each may be able to recognise the genuineness or otherwise of his devotion to his spouse. Do not be harsh. Literally, do not be bitter. It’s a salutary reminder that bitterness easily creeps into human dealings, and then it justifies itself so as to become even more deeply entrenched. A wife can disappoint a man’s hopes and ambitions, failing to live up to his unrealistic ideals for her and which are often an unconscious compensation for his own inadequacies.” Ouch, it’s a searching comment. Tiredness and ill temper mean that such feelings of disappointment quickly find expression in harsh words. And I’ve noticed as we get older it’s easier to get grumpy and to express that to somebody who will bear with it or take it but shouldn’t be getting it at all.
Children, Obey Your Parents
And 3:12 tells us that we are the sort of people who can ask the Lord to give us compassion, gentleness, humility, patience, and kindness in our speech. 3:20, “Children, obey your parents in everything for this pleases the Lord.” Notice that Paul expects children to either be present as the letter is read or to be told afterwards what God requires. And this is the simple sentence for the children, “Obey your parents in everything for this pleases the Lord.” Now it sounds very moralistic, doesn’t it? It sounds very ordinary, but remember that the child is not obeying the parent in order to get the love of the parent. The child is obeying the parent because the child knows the love of the parent. And the child is not obeying the parent to win salvation. The child knows that salvation is a gift. And so the child is ideally living in the security of the gift of salvation and the love of the parents, and in response to that, the child wants to spread around the love which he or she is receiving.
So, here’s the opportunity for a child, a Christian child, to do more than just know all the answers and to do more than just play the game at home. But this very challenging test, which is, will they put into practice what their parents who’ve been put in place to raise them tell them to do? Obviously, of course, disobedience changes as they get older, and obviously, they will not obey their parents if their parents ask them to do something that’s contrary to faithfulness. But it’s a very concrete test, isn’t it? And it would be interesting if the camera followed some children home who are answering all the questions in the Sunday school but could do with some improvement behind the front door. So Paul is, you notice, addressing the supportive member of each couplet, the wife first, and then the child first, and then later the worker first, because the wife can make the husband’s leadership easy or difficult, and the child can make parents’ parenting easy or difficult, and a worker can make a boss’ leadership a pleasure or a pain. So, he addresses the supportive one first.
Instructions for Fathers
And then fathers, verse 21, “Fathers, don’t embitter your children or they will become discouraged.” Here’s an amazing sentence. He doesn’t tell them one thing to do. He just tells them one thing not to do. And the one thing is don’t embitter, because the father…we might say the parent, but especially the father who has new life and new power, as we know from Colossians Chapters 1 to 3, is a very influential person. And the one thing that Paul is warning of here is that the father would provoke or nag to the point of causing the child to be despairing or discouraged or resigned to life. And though the father and the mother could both do this, the father is more likely to do this. I know this from my own home. And again, Dick Lucas says, he’s a bachelor, but some wise words for fathers, problem fathers are more likely to need this instruction, problem fathers are more likely to be the cause of problem children. If there is endless criticism and harsh punishment, it is no use the father bemoaning the inability of his children to be strong and self-reliant like himself since he has used his strength to crush and undermine them. That’s the care we need to take, isn’t it? When we’re fathers, how do we make sure that our children know they are loved and feel they’re loved? So again, the father or the mother needs to stop and think, “How can I seek the Lord’s wisdom to help my children steer safely through this world without becoming arrogant, staying humble without being a brat?” Ideally, a believer, we need all the wisdom and the grace of God, and without him, of course, we’re helpless to do this, but with him, there is great resource.
Conduct at Work
Now the third couplet this morning, which has more to do with work behind the front door, behind the work door, is these longer verses that follow. In the first century, of course, a lot of servants or slaves were actually in the home, but I suppose given the 21st century we need to think about these verses much more behind the office door, behind the work door. In the first century, a lot of families had domestic servants or slaves, and therefore we mustn’t think when we read the word slave that this is kind of like the 19th century American legion slavery. These servants were often domestic helpers or sometimes tutors who were treated as members of the family. And you’ll see the Apostle Paul gives just a few brief words to these servants or masters, and he’s not wanting to promote anarchy. He doesn’t say to the servants, “Leave en masse.” That would be to bring the name of the Lord Jesus into great discredit. Now, he wants Christ to be honored.
And so he writes to show the slaves as you read in these verses here that they are in a great sense already free. They’re free from guilt. They’re free from judgment. They’re free from despair. They’re actually serving Christ primarily. He is their new king, their new law, their new boss, and they’re gonna be rewarded one day by Christ, and therefore there is great immediate help for the servant, the slave or the worker. Verse 22, “Slaves, obey your master. Do it from the heart, working for the Lord.” We might say to the worker today, if you’re a Christian, you’re wonderfully free, you’re somewhat provided for, you must look beyond your company, your business, your job description, and see the Lord who loves you on the throne. He’s the one you’re really working for. One day you’re going to be unbelievably rewarded by him, and therefore do it gladly for him, because he cares for you, he loves you, he watches over you.
And again, of course, we’re gonna need all God’s wisdom for serving Him in this world, because serving Him in this world in many of the jobs that are around today is extremely complex. How to be a wise doctor, how to be a wise businessman, how to be a wise teacher, how to be a wise worker, we need the wisdom of Jesus Christ. “So lift up your eyes to your king,” says Paul, “and remember that he will provide for you.” Masters, 4:1, we might say bosses, “Think of how you are to care for your workers, for your employees, remembering that you also have a master.” So, there you are, you’re heading off to work. You look at your employees, you think, “They live for my business.” No, we’ve got to say, “These are precious people. How do I make sure that I treat them as I myself am treated?” And the Christian boss or the Christian CEO should be known for treating workers as precious people and not just means to their own profits.
Everyone, Remember the Lord Jesus
Notice that in so many of these verses, from 3:18 to 4:1, references to the Lord Jesus. It’s as if the wife is to remember the Lord Jesus, the husband is to remember the Lord Jesus, the child, the Lord Jesus, the parent, the Lord Jesus, the employee, the master to remember the Lord Jesus. He stands behind everything that we are doing.
Now, my final word this morning is a memorable word to busy people, because not only are these brief words to new people and also wise words to new people, but they’re also memorable words to busy people. You may not be able to remember a lot from the sermon this morning, but you may be able to remember the one verse that really applies to you. And I’m walking out of this building today, and I’m thinking to myself the word which is addressed to me is love your wife, don’t be bitter with her, and don’t be bitter with your children. That’s the message to me. I can remember that.
I can walk out of here, and I can say, “Lord, please give me the grace and the resources to put into practice what you’ve wisely told me to do, remembering that not only have you come and died for me in order that I would have a new life, that you’re also able to give me the grace to put into practice what you call me to do, and when I do put into practice what you call me to do, I will find that it’s a joyful way to live. The people around me will find that it’s a helpful way, and you Lord, you will be seen to be great and gracious, because your ways are always great and gracious,” and that’s what He calls for us to do today.
[Prayer]: Our Heavenly Father, we thank you that you’re a God of great wisdom and power. We thank you for giving to the believer new power to live as you call us to. And we thank you for giving us wisdom above and beyond our own in order that we might act for your glory and the good of many. We pray that you would strengthen us, that you would look in mercy and power on our homes. We pray that you would give special grace to wives, to husbands, to children, to parents, and we pray too for us as workers or employers that you would enable us to live to your praise. And we ask all this in Jesus’ name, amen.