We can look back at Classical Antiquity, the Dark Ages, the Enlightenment, the Renaissance, the Great Awakening, the Roaring 20’s, the Industrial revolution, and so on. How will history remember our generation? What label will we receive? R.C. Sproul Jr. believes we’ll be labeled as the generation which wholly moved beyond one great and God-given institution: the family. I don’t know if I completely agree with that statement simply because we could make many statements like this one attributing our times to many wicked things we allow. But I do think he’s on to something there. For the past few generations we have ceased identifying ourselves as parts of families, and have started doing something that no other generation as begun doing (at least to our degree) – begun identifying ourselves only as individuals.
In Colossians 3 Paul is detailing how life changes because of what God has done for us in Christ. His main point is that because our relationship with God has changed through Christ, our relationships with those around us must change for Christ. In Colossians 3:18-4:1 Paul gives special instructions as to how we now relate to those within our family. I have 4 today. Point 1: The Fitting Submission of Wives (3:18). Point 2: The Sacrificial Love of Husbands (3:19). Point 3: The Right Obedience of Children (3:20). Point 4: The Un-Provoked Discipline of Parents (3:21). Next week, in part 2 of this message we’ll look into the special instructions Paul gives in as to how we relate to those at work in 3:22-4:1. Taken together these verses form the instructions for all Christian households, and they are, in reality, the beautiful life the gospel of grace calls us into.
As courtesy teaches, ladies first:
1) The Fitting Submission of Wives (3:18)
3:18 says, “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” Similarly in Ephesians 5:22-24 we read, “Wives, submit to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the Head of the Church, His body, and is Himself its Savior. Now as the Church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” This command of wives submitting to their husbands is to be universally applied to every Christian wife. The Christian wife submits, because it is fitting in the Lord, meaning if a wife walks with Christ it is suitable, right, and correct for her to submit to her husband. She is not to submit to all men in general, but to one man, her husband. And she submits to her husband, as to the Lord, meaning her submission to her husband is first and foremost an act of her obedience to God, not obedience to her husband. A Christian wife is to submit to her husband regardless of her own abilities, education, or spiritual maturity. And the opposite is just as true. A Christian wife is to submit to her husband regardless of his abilities, education, or spiritual maturity. The reason the Christian wife is to submit is because a wife’s submission to her husband is a reflection of the gospel where the Church, under Christ’s own leadership, submits to Him in all things. See the gospel: there is sacrifice here that is seldom mentioned. It takes a great deal of the grace of God to put another’s desires before your own, and a wife is called to do this very thing, so the life of a Christian wife is a life of costly sacrifice.
This means the wife goes where the husband goes, the wife moves where the husband’s job takes him, the wife orders her home at her husband’s direction, and the wife follows the lead of another. The life of a Christian wife is a life of prayer, where she fights for the hearts within her home, she is to be found in prayer so often not because she is so holy but because God is so holy, and out of a heart stunned by God’s holiness, she’ll submit to her husband. If this rubs you the wrong way, I think it’s because of a misunderstanding. It is wrongly thought that those who submit to another are lesser in value or importance. This is far from the truth. The Trinity proves this. The Father planned redemption, the Son executes redemption, and the Spirit applies and seals the work of redemption to our hearts. In this grand work of redemption the Son submits to the Father, and the Spirit submits to both the Father and the Son. Does that therefore make the Father greater than the others, or the Spirit lesser than the others? Not at all. All members of the Trinity are equal in glory in and power, yet though equal they don’t have the same roles to play. The same is true with husbands and wives. Equal in value and importance, yet different in the complementary roles God has created us for.
When a wife acknowledges her own sin and embraces the gospel of grace, her heart will beat for Joshua 24:15, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” That wife will submit to her husband.
2) The Sacrificial Love of Husbands (3:19)
Paul says here in 3:19, “Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.” Similarly in Ephesians 5:25-28 we read, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word, so that He might present the Church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” We’re reminded here in these verses that Jesus didn’t die a hypothetical death for the Church, He died a real death for the Church. Husbands therefore aren’t to die a hypothetical death for their wives. This demands the love every Christian husband ought to have for his wife be a sacrificial love, a love that costs something, a love that costs you your very life. The husbands calling is to die to self everyday and be so used of God to sanctify your wife, helping her to grow in grace and wisdom, helping her to bear the fruit of the Spirit. Yes it’s true that these things can only be done by God but this text teaches that God does these things in wives, and I think in children too, through Pastor Dad. When we look at the ministry of Christ we see Him fulfilling three distinct roles or offices in behalf of the people of God. We see Him as prophet, priest, and King. Since the love of a husband to the wife and to the children is to reflect the love Jesus has for His Church, we should rightly see that the husbands calling is to fulfill the same three offices, leading the home as the prophet, priest, and king.
As prophet, Jesus reveals to us, by His Word and Spirit, the will of God for our salvation. So too as the prophet of the home the husband teaches the Word of God to his family. He brings God’s Word to bear on each situation the family finds itself in. He leads by example and does his own devotion, learning of Christ and His ways, and out of that personal devotion the husband leads in family worship (or a family devotion) instructing his family of Christ and His ways. He instills, educates, trains, and imparts the whole household with the whole counsel of God. How often should this happen? Duet. 6:4-9 says it’s to happen when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up – in sum, it’s a constant teaching.
Whereas the prophet speaks God’s Word to God’s people, the priest speaks to God in behalf of the people. This means the husband, as priest of the home, are called to stand in the gap for his family through prayer. It’s as if the husband brings his family, through prayer, before the throne of God and pleads on their behalf. But there’s more than just prayer in the priestly role of husbands. Jesus not only acts as our priest by praying and interceding for us, He acted as priest by sacrificing Himself for us. This means it is the husbands calling to make the sacrifice before the rest. If you can’t afford two nice cars, you drive the junker and give the nice car to your wife. When there’s barely any food in the pantry husbands are called to go hungry first while the rest of the family eats. Husbands, rather than asking your family to sacrifice for you, you’re called to be the first one to make the sacrifice in behalf of the family. Again, see the gospel. Jesus gave Himself for the Church, so too husbands are to give themselves for their wives, for their families.
As king, Jesus now rules over us, defends us, and conquers all His and our enemies. Thus, as the king of the home the husband is to graciously rule, defend, and eliminate any threats to the home. He isn’t to rule with an iron fist, but is to recognize that he bears the responsibility of the home. Israel, throughout the Old Testament, rose or fell based on the condition of their king. If there was a good king the people were righteous; if there was a bad king the people were wicked. So too husbands, you’re the ones who sets the tone for your household, you’re the ones who set the priorities, and husbands…before God you’ll be the ones who will answer for the condition of your home. In terms of warfare husbands are called is to be first in every attack and last in every retreat. Now it’s great to be the king, not because you demand the citizens of your kingdom to do great things for you, but because you’re in the position to do great things for the citizens of your kingdom.
Husbands, love your wives, love your families, do not be harsh with them. As Eve was the queen of Adam’s garden so too your wife is the queen of the home. You should love her in such a way that she feels like she’s the queen of the home. When a man loves his wife like that, submission is no problem. Martin Luther once said, “Let the wife make the husband glad to come home, and let him make her sorry to see him leave.”
When a husband acknowledges his own sin and embraces the gospel of grace, his heart will beat for Joshua 24:15, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” That husband will love his wife and his kids sacrificially.
3) The Right Obedience of Children (3:20)
We move onto children in 3:20, “Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing in the Lord.” Not only does God call the husband and the wife to live a certain way, He also calls the children of every Christian home to live in a certain way too. The manner of living for children in a Christian home is a life marked by one thing: obedience. Obedience not to anyone who is a parent, but obedience to your parents. This means children, that God calls you to make a sacrifice also. You’re not free to do whatever you want. The home you live in is not your own, it’s Dad’s and Mom’s. The stuff you enjoy is all a gracious gift from them to you. They are the authority you must obey. They are the ones you must submit to. A life of obedience as a child means God calls you to live in compliance with your parent’s rules, to live in agreement with their teaching, and to live in submission to what they ask of you. This is why Ephesians 6:1 says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” When you obey your parents in all things, God is well pleased. I think most of us find this easy when we were young, but when we grow older and become teenagers, obedience becomes difficult. Children, you must fight to remember what God calls you to. You must fight to remember that your parents know how life works best, and out of their wisdom they ask you to do this and not do that. Trust them. Though everything in the world may tell you otherwise, trust your parents. They love you more than you can understand. To fight against them, is to fight against God.
When children acknowledge their own sin and embrace the gospel of grace, their heart will beat for Joshua 24:15, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Those kids will obey their parents.
4) The Un-Provoked Discipline of Parents (3:21)
3:21 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” This, I believe, is a call to parents about how to discipline our children. We’re to do so, in an un-provoked manner, in a manner where our children do not get exasperated, discouraged, or hopeless. The discipline of parents should be a hand of steel wrapped in a velvet glove. Firm when it needs to be, but comforting and reassuring through it all. Proverbs has a mine of wealth for parenting. Proverbs 13:24 says, “Whoever spares the rod, hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” Proverbs 23:13 says, “Do not withhold discipline from a child, if you strike him with a rod, he will not die.” Lastly Proverbs 29:17, “Discipline your son, and he will give you rest, he will give delight to your heart.” While the un-provoked and patient discipline of parents has great benefit, the provoked and angry discipline of parents has a dreadful affect. It is good for parents to ensure that they are in the right frame of heart and mind before before disciplining children, and that may mean you defer it for 5-10 minutes while you calm down. See the gospel here: Jesus did not treat us as our sins deserved but freely took our place on the cross, so too parents we must discipline our kids, but even in discipline our kids must feel the grace of the gospel.
When parents acknowledge their own sin and embrace the gospel of grace, their heart will beat for Joshua 24:15, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Those parents will discipline un-provokingly.