Colossians #16 Colossians 3:18-4:1


Colossians #16  Colossians 3:18-4:1

 To properly understand today’s teaching we must enter into another world, in another time, in an alien culture.  If we fail to do so we miss the revolutionary liberating power of what the Apostle Paul has written. This is our 16th excursion into the letter written to a congregation in the city of Colossae

 One of the more weird conventions of the culture was a woman was considered a thing, like livestock; the richer the family the more valuable the livestock but regardless a woman was considered property.  She had no legal rights.  A woman never would be on the streets alone, not even when carrying out assigned tasks.  She would be accompanied by other women.  She was not to be seen in public so she wore a veil.  This was an especially stringent rule in the cities.  It was a symbol of modesty and virtue, but also one of subordination.  When her family paid a dowry and married her off, sometimes referred to as the “acquisition of a bride,” she became the property of her husband.  Most marriages were arranged.  It was privilege for the husband and duties for the wife.  One of the chief duties was to birth heirs, male heirs.  There was a huge child mortality rate.  Women were not to converse with men, not even when a husband was accompanied by his wife was she to speak to him in public.  For the husband, there was no such thing as infidelity, but the wife was to remain chaste.  The more wealthy, women tended to be secluded, living with other household females, it was not even common for the wife to have meals with her husband.  As for security, a husband could divorce his wife for any cause, but there were strict guidelines for a woman to request a divorce from her husband.  The role of the wife was servitude.

 There is no doubt that in the ancient world children were important, not many of them survived to adulthood.  I am sure there was parental love and pride, though the scholars focus on the abuses of children more than the perks of being the son of a rich father.  We know that family ties were extremely important.  Yet children were seen as commodities. They had less legal protection than women.  Under Roman Law (Patria Potestas) the father had complete control of their children.  Whatever the father decided, pamper the kid, sell the kid into slavery, work the kid on the farm, execute the child, was all perfectly legal.  In another letter, Paul wrote to the congregations in the Galatian regions we read:  “As long as the heir is a minor, he has no advantage over the slave. Though legally he owns the entire inheritance, he is subject to tutors and administrators until whatever date the father has set for emancipation” (Galatians 4:1-2 (MSG).  And that’s the way it was in the first-century (Walter Cronkite).  [Paul uses the common practices of the culture as a metaphor, but that’s for another teaching.]  A child’s fate was completely in the control of the parents, especially the father.

 In the law’s cultural eyes, lower than the women, lower than the child was the slave.  Being enslaved was never a good thing.  The slave was property, a thing, like livestock, free labor upon which economies were built.  “All slaves and their families were the property of their owners, who could sell or rent them out at any time.”( The Roman Empire: in the First Century. The Roman Empire. Social Order. Slaves & Freemen | PBS)  It was a common practice to enslave people.  Slaves were used in the fields, the mines, the brothels, and the factories.  Slaves were used as public works staff.  Slaves were used as household servants, administrators, teachers, and for sport, Gladiators were all slaves.  According to the circumstances some slaves were treated well, but others, with no rights, were subject to the whims of their owners.  It was a death sentence for those who disobeyed or tried to escape.

 In a letter written to a slave owner named Philemon concerning a slave named Onesimus, Paul gives the best advice that he could give given the culture of the day.  Onesimus was a runaway slave.  Somehow he came in contact with Paul and converted to the faith in Christ.  There is always a moral change in a person who follows Jesus.  You do what is right even when it may be personally detrimental.  Paul is sending Onesimus back to Philemon. 

 Philemon 1:15-17 (MSG)

Maybe it's all for the best that you lost him for a while. You're getting him back now for good— 16 and no mere slave this time, but a true Christian brother! That's what he was to me—he'll be even more than that to you.

17 So if you still consider me a comrade-in-arms, welcome him back as you would me.

 These were the conditions for women, children, and slaves at the time Paul wrote.  The emancipation of women, children, and slaves were not even on the horizon. All privileges belonged to the Father all duties to all the rest.  That’s not to say that a wife didn’t have command over children and slaves also, but the husband’s word was law.

 Paul with his Christianity challenges the cultural norm.

 Colossians 3:18-4:1  (MSG)

18 Wives, understand and support your husbands by submitting to them in ways that honor the Master.

 19 Husbands, go all out in love for your wives. Don't take advantage of them.

 20 Children, do what your parents tell you. This delights the Master no end.

 21 Parents, don't come down too hard on your children or you'll crush their spirits.

 22 Servants, do what you're told by your earthly masters. And don't just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. 23 Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, 24 confident that you'll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you're serving is Christ. 25 The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being Christian doesn't cover up bad work.

 4:1 And masters, treat your servants considerately. Be fair with them. Don't forget for a minute that you, too, serve a Master—God in heaven.

 Everything rises and falls on relationships.  It is about relationships that Paul writes. What Paul writes is entirely new to the culture, “reciprocal obligation,” “mutual responsibility” (Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT). 

 Wife respect your husband.

Husband love your wife

Children obey your parents

Parents encourage your children

Slaves work from the heart

Masters treat slaves fairly.

 Those five statements were revolutionary.   This is a picture of family life in the kingdom, a totally new concept in the culture of the day.  Mutual love and respect.  In the husband-wife relationship when a husband feels respected and supported by his wife, he finds it easy to do loving things for her.  In those loving things, she knows that her heart is safe in his hands.  She knows he has her best interests at heart.  So she honors and respects him that much more which results in his loving her that much more. 

 A wife’s respect for her husband is demonstrated by her recognition of his needs for:

Conquest is that desire to work and to achieve. 

Hierarchy is the desire to protect and provide.

Authority, that desires to serve and lead

Insight, that desires to analyze and counsel

Relationships, that desire to do life with companions

Sexuality is that desire for sexual intimacy.

          [Emerson Eggerichs, Love & Respect.  CHAIRS, chapter 15-22.  My personal evaluation of the book is that the good stuff is in Part 2 of the book]


A husband’s love for his wife is demonstrated by his recognition of her needs for

Closeness, that need to be emotionally close to her husband

Openness, the need for communication

Understanding, that need to be heard, to be listened to.

What a day it was when I figured out that she just wanted me to listen, not offer solutions to her problem, my task was to listen, not fix.

Peacemaking, that need for her husband to take responsibility for actions and when wrong say you’re sorry.

Loyalty is the need to know that her husband is committed to her.

Esteem, that need to be honored and cherished.

[Emerson Eggerichs, Love & Respect.  COUPLE, chapter 8-14]. 

 These types of exchanges between husband and wife were unheard of in Paul’s day.  This is a picture of marriage in the Kingdom.  This is how a couple is to relate to one another wrapped up in that all-purpose garment of love.

 Raising children has never been easy.  The job of the parent is to socialize these little beasts so that they become productive members of society.  Good parenting leads to prosperous adults.  It’s not always the case, but it is a solid foundation for a life to be built upon.  In Paul’s day, parental tyranny was the norm.  Fear kept children in line, “obey or else.”  Paul is advocating that love keeps children in line.  They are to obey their parent.  The parent will have to discipline, to correct, behavior that is missing the mark. This parental discipline is to be given with equal amounts of encouragement.  Correct poor behavior, reward good behavior. 

 Paul then addresses single adults, I mean slaves.  That’s a joke.  The reason why singles are not mentioned is that singleness was not the norm in that society.  Today singles are the fastest-growing demographic.  They are of infinite worth to the Kingdom, they have the time, they have energy, and they have resources to revolutionize the way we do Kingdom business.  Like attracts like, like reaches like.  Their ideas blow new life into the staleness of the church. 

 Paul addresses the relationship between slaves and masters emphasizing again the Kingdom value of “reciprocal obligation” and “mutual responsibility” to one another.  The slave is to do good work; the master is to give good care.  This was amazing teaching for the times, revolutionary.

 There have been people that have used this portion of scripture to proclaim that Christianity supported misogyny, child abuse, and slavery.  This is so far from the truth that it’s laughable.  We take what we read and put it into our current culture; the result is a misinterpretation of what is being communicated.  Recall what Paul wrote: chapter 3:11—

Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing. From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ. (Col 3:11 (MSG).

Paul has continued this same thought about equality.  The Kingdom levels the ground and demands that we treat each other the way we want to be treated.   The position of women and children, and in this case, slaves, was elevated. 


This is what you can walk away with. 

 For married couples, you have guidelines for how to keep love alive in your marriage.

For parents, you have guidelines for raising your children

 For all of us we have seen when it comes to our relationships with others, love is indispensable.  Righteous relationships reflect the Kingdom principles of “reciprocal obligation” and “mutual responsibility.”  These principles are part of the new wardrobe we are to wear.  Put them on in your heart.


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