John T. Willis

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Guidelines for Christian Households--Colossians 3:18-4:1

Paul and Timothy next deal with guidelines for Christian households, presented in Colossians 3:18-4:1. Very similar texts appear in Ephesians 5:22-6:9; 1 Timothy 2:8-15; 6:1-2; Titus 2:1-10; 1 Peter 2:13-3:7. Colossians 3:18-4:1 is relatively brief. This section falls into three pairs of members of the household: wives and husbands, children and "fathers" or parents, and slaves and masters. This blog briefly deals with these guidelines.

I. Wives and Husbands. Colossians 3:18-19.
a. It is significant that Paul mentions wives first. Wives are to be subject to their husbands. See 1 Corinthians 14:34; Ephesians 5:22-24; Titus 2:5; 1 Peter 3:1. This is a Christlike attitude. This is "fitting in the Lord." Jesus Christ our Lord is the guide of all of life.
b. Husbands are to love their wives and never treat them harshly. See Titus 2:4. Christian husbands are not overbearing or demanding as if they were superior creatures of God. They are responsible for their wives and must live together with them in love. This is God's Christlike attitude, which Paul already emphasized in Colossians 3:14: "Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony."

II. Children and Parents. Colossians 3:20-21.
a. Children are to obey their parents in everything. See Ephesians 6:1. Parents' functions are not dictatorial, but in love. In response, children naturally do what their parents guide "in the Lord." As in verse 18, "the Lord" is our guide for everything.
b. Parents are to not to provoke their children lest their children lose heart. Parents have a special responsibility to support and encourage and love their children, not to dominate over them. Thoughtless or undisciplined conduct of parents us unbecoming for Christlike living. See Ephesians 6:4.

III. Slaves and Masters. Colossians 3:22-4:1.
a. Paul gives three instructions for slaves. (1) Slaves are to obey their earthly masters. The real master of slaves and earthly masters is God through Jesus Christ. For Christians, it does not matter whether an individual is a slave [an employee, a daily worker, whatever] or a master [an employer, a CEO, whatever], because in God's eyes, all human beings are equal before God. "The rich and the poor have this in common; the Lord is the maker of them all." (Proverbs 22:2). "Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but those who are kind to the needy honor him." (Proverbs 14:31). Yes--human beings often abuse others, but in God's eyes, all are equal. So, for Christians, in the eyes of God, slaves or employees are on the same level as masters and employers. See 1 Corinthians 7:21-24. Paul's teaching about Philemon is a sterling example of this idea--see especially Philemon 10-16. (2) Slaves or employees are to work diligently and honestly, "wholeheartedly," not just when masters are watching over them. "Eyeservice" is beneath the dignity of Christian living. All Christians, including Christian slaves, are to "fear the Lord," that is, hold the Lord in the highest regard. This guideline is the primary principle for daily living. See Job 28:28; Proverbs 3:7; Luke 18:2, 4; Acts 10:2,
22, 35; 13:16, 26; 1 Peter 2:17; Revelation 11:18; 14:7; 19:5. (3) Slaves or employees are to put themselves into their task, as for their masters or employers, but as done for the Lord. This is a heart issue, not an external act. See Mark
12:30. In due time, God our Father through Jesus Christ will give us the inheritance God offers. But a wrongdoer will be paid back for whatever wrong has been done, and there is no partiality. See Romans 14:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10.
b. Masters or employers are to treat their slaves or employees justly and fairly--as Christians. If this happens, whether slaves are called "slaves" or employees are called "employees," slaves or employees are equal with their masters or employers in the eyes of God. Colossians 3:11; Galatians 3:28; 1 Corinthians 12:13, and other biblical texts make clear that in the eyes of God, there is not distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcision and circumcision, barbarian, Scythians, SLAVE and FREE, male and female. So, God through Jesus Christ obliterates and completely removes such distinctions.

This paragraph is very brief, but exceedingly important. I hope YOU will ponder over this section of Colossians often and reflectively.

Share YOUR thoughts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


  • Paul consistently distinguished between slaves (1 Cor 7, Eph 6,, Col 3) and paid workers (e.g., 2 Thess 3:6-15). We do not have the warrant to take rules for slaves and simply convert them into rules for employees, it's apples and oranges.

    By Blogger Gary, at 5:50 PM  

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