Colossians 3:18–4:18comment (0)
May 19, 2011
By Cecil Taylor
Related Scripture: Colossians 3:18–4:18
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Dean, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
Family Relationships (3:18–4:1)
The emphasis in the passage falls on duties, not rights. Although wives’ have rights, Paul talked rather about a wife’s duty to her husband. He took the same approach regarding other household members.
A wife’s duty is to submit to her husband. The thought is that she lets her husband lead the marriage and family. In no way does it suggest women are inferior to men. It simply calls for a wife to recognize that God commissioned the husband as the head of the household and holds him responsible for its well-being. The verb form (middle voice) shows submission is voluntary (it is not that a husband must make his wife defer to his leadership). And it is said to be “fitting in the Lord,” i.e., proper and becoming to a wife who belongs to the Lord.
A husband’s first duty is to love his wife. “Love” (agape) is the word for God’s love. It should be sheer joy for a wife to submit to a husband who always thinks more about her happiness than his own. He must never grow “cross with” his wife and treat her harshly.
A child’s duty is to “hear with a mind to obey” (literally) his or her parents. The present tense indicates ongoing action. This obedience is to be complete, i.e., “in all things” (surely Paul had in mind Christian parents whose commands were to do right things). It “pleases the Lord.” Any child who lives at home and depends on parental support owes his or her parents obedience.
A parent’s duty is to avoid provoking his or her children, i.e., not rousing resentment by always finding fault, nagging, over-correcting or being severe so that the children will not lose heart.
A slave’s duty is to obey his or her master in everything, whether the master is watching or not. Again a Christian master is assumed, one who will not order his or her slave to do wrong. It is permissible to apply the language to an employee on his or her job, but the text’s primary use is to explain how to live as a follower of Jesus should one ever find himself or herself a slave.
A master’s duty is to “do what is right and fair” by his or her slave, precisely as he or she expects his or her own Master in heaven to deal with him or her.
Spiritual Duties (4:2–6)
Christians’ duty is praying. Their prayers must be continuous, alert (never mechanical and dull) and marked with thanksgiving. Specifically Paul asked the Colossians to pray not for his personal blessing but for the gospel’s advancement.
Christians also have a duty to witness. To be an effective witness, they must show practical Christian wisdom in dealing with outsiders, i.e., non-Christians. To “redeem the time” is to “make the most of every opportunity” (NIV). Their speech must be winsome, i.e., “full of grace,” and wholesome, i.e., “seasoned with salt.”
Personal Matters (4:7–18)
Paul commended two men. Tychicus was a well-loved Christian brother, a faithful servant to Paul and a bond-slave of Jesus. Onesimus was the runaway slave whom Paul led to Christ in Rome, but nothing is said of his past. He was a loyal and dearly loved brother and “one of you,” i.e., the Christian community.
Paul sent greetings to the Colossians from six people. Three Jewish Christians stand first in the list: Aristarchus, Mark (Barnabas’ cousin) and Jesus Justus (mentioned only here). Apparently Epaphras (the Colossian church’s founder, cf Col. 1:7), Luke (“beloved physician” may mean he was Paul’s personal doctor) and Demas were Gentiles. Paul added his own greeting to the Christians at Laodicea, located only five miles down the Cayster Valley from Colossae, and Nympha and the house church that met in her residence, probably also in Laodicea.
The benediction shows Paul used a stenographer in writing the letter and then attached his signature to authenticate it. This reminded him again of the chains on his wrist, and he asked that the Colossians also remember his bonds.