Colossians 3 Part 3

New King James Version 16. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

The Resultant Version 16. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with the grace which is in your hearts to God.

Now he calls on the Colossians to let the word of Christ dwell in them richly. The “word” here is the Greek word logos, which means the expression of a thing, as it does in John 1:1, where it speaks of Jesus Christ as the Logos or Expression of God. Here, it speaks not just of the living Word, Jesus Christ, but also of the written Word, the Bible, which teaches us of Him. If we are to live in true union with God, if we are to partake of the substance of Christ, then we must allow His Word to dwell in us by reading, studying, memorizing, and understanding it. That Word needs to dwell in us richly, and it will only dwell richly in us if we give much time and effort to this end. Many believers are quite content to let the word of Christ dwell moderately or poorly in them, as they know only snippets of the word, verses here and there, and not the full riches of God’s written truth. Therefore, we can hardly be surprised when they have difficulty expressing Christ in their walks and lifestyles. It requires a rich infusion of the word of Christ into a person’s life to produce the proper kind of worthy walk that God desires of His children.

Yet Paul also urges them to let the word of Christ dwell in them richly in all wisdom. Wisdom has to do with the skillful use and application of knowledge. We must be well aware of the fact that one can possess a good knowledge of the word of God and yet lack in the wisdom to discern the true teaching of it. When I consider some of the muddled views of prophecy that I have heard, or some of the wild and godless conclusions I have seen people draw, or some of the complex schemes of error that people have tied together from a host of verses and passages, I cannot help but realize that the word of Christ needs true, Godly wisdom in order to allow it to express itself fully in a believer’s life. God’s wisdom helps us put all of the word of Christ in its proper place.

Then he urges them to teach one another. This is the Greek word didasko, which means teaching or instructing. Next he urges them to admonish one another. This is the word noutheteo, and has to do with warning, admonishing, and exhorting. Clearly by the time one has managed to let the word of Christ dwell in him richly, he will have achieved a state that many other believers have not achieved. This means that he will now have the ability to instruct and admonish these believers in expressing His word more fully. However, note that the instructions here are not to become teachers, but to teach and admonish one another. Who teaches the teacher, we might ask? And the answer is that all of us are to be teachers, and all to be students. If one has more to say than others, this does not mean that he cannot still be taught. Particularly when we see that this has to do not just with knowing the Word, but also with applying it wisely and expressing it in our lives, we can see that even those of us most thoroughly acquainted with the word of Christ still need teaching and admonishing at times when we fail to put the word of Christ into practice in our lives as we should. None of us are so completely on the Lord’s side that we do not need warnings from our fellow believers from time to time. None of us follows Christ so well that we do not need instruction and exhortation to keep us on the right path. These words of the Lord then are most wise. We must teach and admonish each other, for then we can help each other to keep on the narrow road walking the worthy walk God has for us.

Now Paul urges us to perform at least some of this teaching and admonishing in things like psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. The word “psalms,” psalmos in Greek, speaks of a composition that tells of experiences. This is the word that is used of the book of Psalms in the Old Testament, which tells in poetic form of the experiences of the man David and of the experiences of others of God’s Old Testament saints. “Hymns” are the Greek humnos, and speak of praise. We perhaps tend to think of hymns as an old style of song found in church hymnals, but really a hymn is any song that gives praise to God. A “song” is an ode in Greek, and when we add the word “spiritual” in front, this speaks of songs written or produced by God, and not by human means. In our day, we speak of “spirituals” or spiritual music, but really in the Biblical sense this cannot be so, for a spiritual song is a song actually given directly from God, not written by some Christian song author. They had God-given songs passed down from God to the Israelites. Even the temple music and the instruments to be used in playing it was given by David from God in many cases. At this time all the music to such God-given songs is lost, and all we have left is the record of the words of some of them in our Bibles. Yet these songs are God-given songs, and even if we must put our own music to them, these are still God’s songs. It was for this reason that in time past some opposed even writing our own songs, but insisted that all Christian songs should be the Word of God put to music. Perhaps we should not be so insistent on this, since he does not say that the psalms and hymns have to be spiritual, but it is good to sing songs whose words come directly from Scripture, for these then take on the character of spiritual songs, even though their music is not spiritual.

Finally, he urges them to sing with the grace which is in their hearts to God. This shows us that the beauty that God looks for when His people sing to Him is not so much the melody they sing with their mouths, but rather the grace they display in their hearts. The Lord has poured out His grace on us, and we must both rest in the grace He gives us, and also display that same kind of grace towards each other. This true heart beauty is what will ultimately please the Lord when we sing, not the beauty of our voices. My grandfather would say that there is a song wherein the author longs for ten thousand tongues to sing his Redeemer’s praise, but that he wished he just had one tongue to sing. In other words, he did not feel that his singing voice was any good. Yet whatever one’s voice may sound like, it is the grace in a person’s heart that pleases the Lord when he sings, not the quality of his voice. So let us sing to God with honest and sincere hearts full of grace. It is this, not the quality of our voices, that will truly please Him when we sing.

New King James Version 17. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

The Resultant Version 17. And whatsoever you may be doing in word and in work, all things do in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Now God concludes the teaching regarding the worthy walk that we have been studying in this portion by saying that whatever we may be doing in word and in work, we should do all things in the name of the Lord Jesus. The Greek for “word” is again logos, so this would have to do with however we express ourselves, which could include spoken or written words or any other means of communication. The word for “work” in Greek is ergon, which does speak of words, deeds, or actions done. As for the name of the Lord Jesus, we need to realize that the idea of your “name” is not just that of the word someone calls you or your cognomen, but rather of the reputation you have. Since a true name is based on a person’s true character, this word can also speak of the character of a person. Therefore, what God is urging us to do is to do all in word and in work in the character of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is indeed a summary statement, for it encompasses all we read before this in this passage. If we truly have peace or a true union with Christ, if we are positioned in His one substance and therefore are connected with Him, if we let His word dwell in us richly, then the outcome should indeed be that all our words and actions are done in His character. This is the way that we as His people are called upon to act and to speak. This is how we are to walk. This is how we are to live.

Finally, he urges us to give thanks to God the Father through Him. As we have already discussed in Colossians, there are few things more important to God than thankfulness. Conversely it is clear that He very much dislikes ingratitude. God has given us so much, and it is inexcusable for us not to have a mindset of thankfulness before Him. Moreover, it is the precious gift of the Lord Jesus Christ, the greatest of all God’s gifts to us, through which we should offer this thanks. If we had not Him, we would have nothing before God. Therefore, it is through Him that we give thanks. Let us ever and always be thankful to God for His great grace towards us!

New King James Version 18. Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

The Resultant Version 18. Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as is proper in the Lord.

Now we have a short summary teaching regarding how believers should act in their relationship towards each other regarding the common relationships of life in this world. First he speaks of the relationship of wives to husbands, and God urges the wives to be subject to their own husbands. This is important, for it is not telling women to be subject to men, or women to be subject to anyone’s husband, but rather it is telling wives to be subject to their own husbands. This, he proclaims, is proper in the Lord.

This verse is clearly a parallel to Ephesians 5:21-24.

The Resultant Version 21. Putting yourselves in subjection to one another in the fear of Christ, 22. The wives to their own husbands as to the Lord, 23. Seeing that the husband is head of the wife even as Christ is Head of the outcalled; and He is the Savior of the body. 24. Nevertheless, as the outcalled is being subject to the Christ, thus, are the wives also to their husbands in everything.

From this, we can clearly see the similarities between these verses. It is particularly clear in this second half of the book of Colossians that it and Ephesians are companion books, and contain the same teaching to different members of the same group of new, dispensation of grace believers. The instructions in Colossians might be shorter and more to the point than those in Ephesians, but clearly they correspond with each other. Ephesians provides some more justification for this and compares it to Christ and the ekklesia, but otherwise the commands are the same.

Now there are those who would like to eliminate such a command as this. They feel that this is demeaning somehow to women to tell them that they should be subject to their husbands, and suggest that this statement is “cultural,” in other words, it was true in Paul’s day, but it is no longer true in ours. Apparently, they fail to believe that this is indeed “proper in the Lord,” as God claims it is. The claim of culture is without any real evidence or reflection. What really teaches us when a thing is for us and when it is not is its context. There is nothing in this context to suggest that wives to husbands stands out different than all the rest. Is it also true, then, that husbands need not love their wives because this command was only cultural? Need children no longer obey their parents since this was cultural? This is merely a poor excuse for a smorgasbord mentality, wherein one takes what he likes from the table of teachings and leaves everything he doesn’t care for behind. Yet the honest student of God’s Word cannot do this. This book was written after Acts 28:28, and it was written to believers today. This is as much a command to us as any command in the Word of God. It is still true that wives need to subject themselves to their husbands.

Now I suppose that part of the reason that this seems so odious to many women is that they have the idea of subjection that would be common in this world. That is, one might imagine a conquering king standing over a subdued foe, holding a sword against his neck, and demanding, “Submit!” So we have the idea of force and unwillingness in our idea of subjection. Moreover, we tend to think of those in submission as being inferior to their overlords, as subjects are considered to be inferior to a king. However, all these perceptions are wrong, for this is not how Godly subjection works.

If we want to learn about God’s version of subjection, we need look no farther than to our Lord Jesus Christ. We have the example of His kind of subjection in I Corinthians 15:27-28.

The Resultant Version 27. For “He has put all things under His feet.” But when He says “all things are put under Him,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all these under Him. 28. And when all these shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also be subject unto Him That did put all these under Him, that God may be everything in everyone.

Here we read of Christ, that God put all things under His authority, Himself only excepted. If ever Christ were in a position wherein He could if He wished (perish the thought!) rebel against the Father and set up Himself and His Own will, this is the time. However, we know that Christ would never do this. He loves His Father, and His response to having all things subdued under Him is to turn back and subject Himself unto the One Who subdued all these things under Him. This is so that God can be everything in everyone.

Now does Christ submit himself to the Father because He is inferior to the Father? Most certainly not! In the book of John, we read that the Word was in relationship to God, and that the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God, and over and over John emphasizes Christ’s equality with Him. Christ is not subject to God because He is inferior to Him. Nor is He subject to God because God forces Him to be subject to Him. No, Christ is subject because He loves the Father, and because it is right for Him to be subject. He does so freely, out of His Own free will, and not under compulsion because of some inherent inferiority in Him. No, if Christ were inferior to the Father, then I suppose it would be quite natural that Christ would subject Himself to Him. Yet it is because He is equal with the Father and because He is not forced to submit to the Father in any way that His submission is so meaningful. It shows His love for the Father, and His desire to do what is right. This is true, Godly subjection.

So we can see what God’s kind of submission is like, and we can understand that His command for wives to subject themselves to their own husbands is a call for them to subject themselves this same way. He is not asking them to do anything He Himself would not be willing to do, and indeed that He has not already done in relationship to God. That is, wives are to submit to their husbands even though they don’t have to, and even though they are not inferior to their husbands in any way. It is because women are equal to men and therefore wives are equal to their husbands that makes the subjection of a wife to her husband so meaningful. It is because she loves her husband and wants to do what is right that she subjects herself to him. It is not because she is in any way inferior to him, or because she is  forced to do it in some way. Thus love is always the true motivation for Godly submission, and a wife who subjects herself to her husband for this reason will find that far from demeaning her, this elevates her very much indeed. Love is indeed a noble and amazing thing!

New King James Version 19. Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.

The Resultant Version 19. Husbands, be loving your wives and be not bitter toward them.

Next the Lord speaks to husbands, commanding them to love their wives. This is their part that complements the subjection of the wives. This verse again is parallel to the passage in Ephesians 5:25-33.

The Resultant Version 25. The husbands be loving their wives even as the Christ loves the outcalled, and gives Himself in its behalf, 26. In order that He should be hallowing it, cleansing it by the bath of water, in the realm of His Word, 27. In order that He might present to Himself a glorified outcalling, not having spot or wrinkle or any such things, but that it may be holy and flawless. 28. Thus, the husbands also ought to be loving their own wives as their own bodies. He that is loving His own wife is loving himself. 29. For no one at any time hates his own flesh, but is nourishing and cherishing it, even as the Christ, the outcalled, 30. Seeing that we are members of His body. 31. Corresponding to this, a man will be leaving his father and mother, and will be joined to his wife; and the two will be one flesh. 32. This secret is great. However, I am speaking in regard to Christ and the outcalled. 33. Moreover, let each one of you individually be loving his own wife as himself; and the wife, let her reverence her husband.

This passage is long and complex. It brings in much more than just the simple one-verse statement we have here in Colossians. Yet ultimately it is saying the same thing that this verse in Colossians is: that husband ought to love their wives. It makes the same point. It just does not bring in all this side information about Christ and the outcalled.

“Love” here in Colossians 3:19 is the Greek word agapao, which speaks of loving her with the self-sacrificing, agape love of God which is the highest love in the Bible. He also commands husbands not to be bitter toward their wives. This speaks of embittering, exasperating, or to become angry, indignant, or irritated. An unwise and unrestrained wife can make her husband all of these, and perhaps any woman in this fallen world could raise such feelings in her husband from time to time. Yet God commands husbands not to give in to these feelings, but rather to love their wives in a way that sacrifices their pride and indignation to their self-sacrificing love for the women they married. Therefore, they should not be bitter.

I suppose that these two commands of verse 18 and verse 19 by far work best when they go together. A wife is going to find it very hard to subject herself to a husband who does not love her in a self-sacrificing way, but who only loves her when it meets his own, selfish needs and does not force him to put himself out for her. She would find it hard to subject herself to a man who is embittered against her. A husband, however, is going to find it hard to be loving and not bitter toward a wife who refuses to subject herself to him and respect him as she should. Men need respect from their wives more even than they need love from them, and a man whose wife does not respect him will have a very hard time not becoming bitter toward her. Therefore, the worthy walk of a husband and wife who both believe in and serve the Lord is clear. Both must do their part, and then they will help each other walk the worthy walk God requires of us.

New King James Version 20. Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.

The Resultant Version 20. Children, be hearkening submissively to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing in the Lord.

Next Paul calls upon children to obey their parents in all things. This verse is again a condensation of what we have in Ephesians 6:1-3.

The Resultant Version 1. The children, be hearkening submissively to your parents in the Lord; for this is right. 2. “Honor your father and mother,” which is the chief precept in connection with a promise. 3. “That well with you it may be, and you may be a long time on the earth.”

The word “obey” is the Greek upakouo, and literally has to do with listening, as in listening to a command, and then submitting to it. Children are to listen to the commands of their parents and follow them. This is something that many children find difficult to do, due to the fact that it is not desirable for them to do it! Yet the Lord assures the believing child that this is well pleasing in the Lord. The Lord’s way is to establish authority structures. He has done this from the very beginning, when He took the creation He had made in six days and placed it under the authority of Adamkind. This seemingly did not work out so well for creation when Adam rebelled from under the power of the Lord and took creation into corruption along with him. Yet the Lord’s way is still the way of authority, and therefore it pleases Him when children submit to this. This is just plain right, as the Lord says in Ephesians 6:1.

Now we do have to make note of the fact that this is said to be well pleasing in the Lord, not to the Lord. The point here seems to be not just that it pleases God, but that it pleases Him when one does this in Him, or for His sake. This does put a qualifier on it, for we must acknowledge that not every parent who has a believing child is likewise a believing parent. At times, then, a child of the Lord must apply the higher principle of obeying God and not men, as the apostles argued when they defied the civil authorities of their day in Acts 5:29. I know one Godly young lady whose father, not a believer, advised her to start wearing immodest clothing! She did not listen to her father’s ungodly advice, and rightfully so. There must be times when we seek to please the Lord first and our parents second. Yet let all children whose problem with their parents is regarding taking out the trash, or not playing loud music at night, or not spending time with unacceptable friends, or not dating an unacceptable person, see to it that they not use this excuse to justify the sinfulness and rebellion in their hearts! By far the more common occurrence will be that obeying God and obeying your parents will be doing the same thing.

New King James Version 21. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

The Resultant Version 21. Fathers, avoid vexing your children, lest they be disheartened.

Now God speaks to fathers, calling on them to avoid vexing their children. This is the father’s part that complements the obedience of the children. Again this verse has its parallel in Ephesians 6:4.

4. And the fathers, do not be provoking your children to anger, but be nurturing them in the discipline and admonition of the Lord.

There are many ways that a father can vex his children. One is by never praising them or being satisfied with anything they do. Another is by failing to show them the love and affection they need. Another is by not loving their mother or breaking up their home with a divorce. We could go on and on about the things that fathers can do to vex their children. It is so easy for fathers to do things because of their own focus or hang-ups or desires, yet a Godly father should put his love for his children first and his desire to do everything he can for their good should override everything else. This, a real attitude of love for his children, will do more to hearten them than anything else.

New King James Version 22. Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God.

The Resultant Version 22. Slaves, in all things be hearkening submissively to your masters according to the flesh; not with eye-slavery, as man-pleasers; but with singleness of heart, fearing the Lord.

Next addressed are not the bondservants, but the Greek is douloi, which means “slaves.” Slaves are to in all things be obeying their masters according to the flesh. This again is parallel with Ephesians 6:5-8.

The Resultant Version 5. The slaves, be hearkening submissively to your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the singleness of your heart as unto the Christ, 6. Not with eye-slavery as man-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the soul, 7. With good will, slaving as to the Lord and not to men, 8. Knowing that whatsoever good each one should be doing, for this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.

To be a slave in the Roman Empire was to be a very important part of their blue-collar workforce, which was largely slaves. Slaves were considered men’s property, and as such could sometimes be mistreated, but at the same time many slaves had much freedom to serve half-heartedly or unwillingly, if they wished. God calls here upon slaves who are also followers of Jesus Christ to hearken submissively to their fleshly masters, just as they would to their heavenly Master. They are not just to be good slaves when the eyes of their masters are upon them, and to be lazy and unproductive when their masters are not there or paying attention. This would be for them to take the attitude that they are only there to please the men to whom they are enslaved. Rather, Paul urges them to act from their fear of God, and to serve their masters with the same singleness of heart with which they would serve God. By this they show their reverence for God, not just reverence for a man.

New King James Version 23. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,

The Resultant Version 23. And whatsoever you may be doing, be working from the soul, as unto the Lord, and not unto men,

This statement is also speaking to the slaves. They are urged that whatever they may be doing, they should do it working from the soul. The Greek phrase is ek psuches, or out of the soul, and has to do with the soul, not the heart. Since the Hebrew idea of the soul made it the seat of emotions, whereas we speak of the heart as the seat of emotions, our translators have often seen fit to exchange the heart for the soul when translating. However, I would suggest that it would be better for us to relearn the meaning of the word “soul” rather than to lose a true, Biblical conception of the meaning of that word. The Colossian slaves are to serve enthusiastically with their emotions behind their service. They are to work as if their true Master is the Lord, not men, for that indeed is true.

These verses might not speak to slaves in our society, for we have none, but certainly there are plenty of good applications we can make of this when it comes to employees. Those of us who work for another should learn to work hard at all times as well, not just when under the eyes of our employers, but with our emotions behind it we should work to the best of our abilities, as if the Lord were our true employer, for He truly is the One we should be seeking to please.

New King James Version 24. knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.

The Resultant Version 24. Knowing that from the Lord you shall receive the compensation of an allotment. Unto the Lord Christ are you slaves.

These words help the slaves realize what their true reward will be for such service from the soul. They may or may not ever receive any compensation for their faithful slaving from their earthly masters, and yet from their true Master, the Lord Christ, they will receive the compensation of an allotment. This was a grand privilege for a slave, for one thing that was true of slaves was that, though they belonged to a certain household, they had no inheritance, that is, no portion or allotment in that household. Though they might work hard for that household, they were entitled to no compensation beyond the regard of their masters. They were part of the property of the household, and none of that household belonged to them, no matter how hard they worked. Yet in Christ, though they are slaves, yet they are qualified to receive compensation from Him for their faithful service. In Christ, they have an expectation of receiving an allotment, a portion, an inheritance from Him right along with those who are free. In Him, slave or free makes no difference. All receive the allotment that God gives freely to those who are in Him.

His reminder to the slaves, that they really are slaves to the Lord Christ, is a good one for us to remember. We might not be slaves, but for those of us who are employees, we can look at it the same way: that our true employer is the Master Anointed. He is the One we truly work for. As such, when sometimes we might not feel like working as hard as we ought to or putting in the effort we should, if we feel resentful like we are not getting treated right, or other grievances that might make us want to work less diligently or honestly than we should, we should remember our true Employer and work as to Him, and not to our human bosses. Whether or not we ever receive our rightful recognition or compensation from them, our true compensation comes from Him. This is good to remember, and it will help us to work honestly, fairly, and diligently, as we should.

New King James Version 25. But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.

The Resultant Version 25. For he who is injuring will be repaid according to the wrong which he has done, and there is no partiality.

Yet the slave who does wrong and is injuring his master will be repaid according to that wrong that he has done. This also promises the Lord’s action. It may be that his master never catches him, since he is expert at eye-slavery. Yet the Lord has seen every injurious thing he has done to his master, and so it is the Lord who will repay him for that wrong. He will not ultimately get away with his actions, for his true service was to the Lord, and the Lord will call him to account for not carrying out that service honestly and with integrity.

Finally, Paul assures us that there is no partiality with our Lord. He favors neither the masters nor the slaves. He looks instead to all to see if they will serve Him as they ought to serve and do right by their fellow man. Both master and slave will be called into account with Him, and He will favor the position of neither. Therefore, they both need to serve Him as they should. This leads us right into the next verse, which proclaims the masters’ complementing part of this.