The Epistle to the Colossians

David Bambrick          Chapter Three: verses 1-25.

As in the last two chapter of Galatians, Paul here, in these last two chapter gives lots of practical teaching or application on what he has taught previously. It’s one thing to state and defend the truth but it’s a whole other thing if we are not demonstrating the truth in our lives. We don’t want to end up as a (Titus 1:16) statistic. These last two chapters are written for us.

As in Paul’s day a worshiper could go and bow down before an idle, give a sacrifice then go away and live the same old life. How perfect is that for our corrupt nature. There’s nothing in this that is personal, therefore there’s no conviction.

But the Christian faith brought a whole new concept into pagan society: what we believe has a very definite connection with how we behave! After all, faith in Christ means being united to Christ; and if we share His life, we must follow His example. He cannot live in us by His Spirit and permit us to live in sin. Paul associated the whole counsel of God with actually doing. Just as James pointed out in chapter two of his epistle. Paul gave all his readers three instructions.

  • Seek the things above, vv1-4, (Matt 6:33).
  • Put to death those earthly things that bind, vv5-9.
  • Strengthen and encourage one another, vv10-11.


“Therefore (if then) you have been raised up with Christ.” The Greek assumes this as true, ie once for all time. So, continuing on from chapter 2 Paul again gives us a statement of fact and then a goal to “keep seeking the things above” (the upward things), like Paul stated in (Phil 3:14). This word seek has the meaning “having an urgency, and a desire, and an ambition.” There’s also many good reasons why we should desperately keep on seeking the things above:

  • Time is running out.
  • The powers that be are tightening their grip on this world.
  • Temptations in all manner have increased 10,000 times over.
  • False teachers are a dime a dozen.
  • Experiences’ are now becoming proof of the outward expression of having the Spirit.

The fullest explanation of this wonderful truth is found in Romans 6–8. Christ not only died for us (substitution), but we died with Him (identification). Christ not only died for sin, bearing its penalty; but He died unto sin, breaking its power. Because we are “in Christ” through the work of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13), we died with Christ. This means that we can have victory over the old sin nature that wants to control us. “How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Rom. 6:2).


“Set your mind on the things above.” Remember that little discourse the Lord had with Peter in (Matt 16:23) a great example of what not to set your mind on, “But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” either Peter was innocently trying to steer the Lord away from death (understandable) or Satan was using him without Peter actually knowing.

One commentator said “The new life we have because of our identification with Christ should cause us to discard the ugly remnants of our former lifestyle and display the Christlike character appropriate to our new life.”

  • So, should everything we do then be seen and done through a spiritual microscope, magnifying glass or spotlight.

This doesn’t mean that we sit around and contemplate our navels nor ponder the mysteries of the universe, otherwise living for Christ (eg; the Great Commission) would be meaningless. Wouldn’t it? Aren’t we supposed to take what the Lord has given us, for example, a Spirit of power, love and self-control. Also the things according to (2 Peter 1:3) in order to live a simple life in a Godly way.

Let’s not forget those false teachers (Gnostics) who would probably say the same thing as Paul said in verse 2. They too were always looking for a higher spiritual plain. I think though that Paul’s higher plain were not the elementary things of this world. Everything we do, say, think, see and read must marry up with scripture. Because “The Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb 4:12).

“Not on the things that are on Earth.” The Earth is full of beauty and riches, all God given by the way. There’s also all sorts of perversions, temptations and all manner of mind altering escapes (drugs, alcohol, tobacco) with dire consequences, all man given by the way.

(Matt 6:20-21) “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”


“For you have died.” Scripture gives us some examples of this word “died.” Here’s just a couple:

  • (Rom 6:2) “May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?”
  • (2 Cor 5:14-15) “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.”
  • (Col 2:20) “If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as,”

“And your life is hidden with Christ in God.” This word “hidden” is (krypto in the Greek) it’s probably where we get our English word cryptic/cryptology. The Greek dictionary has the meaning (keep safe, protect, hide, making invisible) much like the enigma did in W.W.ll.

John Newton wrote a hymn in which (Col 3:3) is quoted:

  • Rejoice, believer, in the Lord,

Who makes your cause His own;

The hope that’s founded on His word

Can ne’er be overthrown.

Though many foes beset your road,

And feeble is your arm,

Your life is hid with Christ in God,

Beyond the reach of harm.

Augustine (354-430 A.D) put it this way: “Ye must die practically to the world in order to become dead with Christ; but the latter is assumed as once for all having taken place. in the regeneration; what believers are told is, Develop this spiritual life in practice. “No one longs for eternal, incorruptible, and immortal life, unless he be wearied of this temporal, corruptible, and mortal life.” But this doesn’t answer the question “why is our life hidden?”


I think this hidden life is talking more about what we will become when Jesus is revealed in glory.

“ When Christ who is our life (this part of our life is made known in (John 11:25, Gal 2:20). “Is revealed” (Matt 13:43, Rom 8:19-23), so there’s almost like two parts here. Our life in Christ and our life when He and we are revealed in glory.

We don’t know exactly what form our glory will take, but according to (1 John 3:2) we will be like Him. There’s also a little bit more to it than that (1 Peter 1:7).

“Then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” Then and not before! There’s a thread that I found in scripture that kind of leads up to this “revealing” for both parties:

  • We eagerly await, (1 Cor 1:6-7) “even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ,”
  • We will be transformed by His glory, (Phil 3:21) “who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.”
  • We are to prepare and keep watch, (1 Peter 1:13) “Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
  • We must cling to Christ while we wait, (1 John 2:28) “Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.”
  • Christmas is just around the corner, (1 John 3:2) “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.”

Q. concerning verse 4. How can the Lord Jesus come back in power with us? Is this because He gathered us earlier?


These 7 verses concern us individually and personally. So do we have to be right with ourselves before we can be right with others?


“Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead.” The GB/KJV says it this way “Mortifie therefore your mẽbers which are on the earth.” The words “dead and mortify” are the same Greek word (necrosate) is where we get our English word “necrotic.” Meaning “to make a corpse of it, make dead, give it to the undertaker/mortician. Debriding dead flesh, in other words separating dead and black necrotic flesh to reveal pink, live flesh is not the most glorious job in nursing. Isn’t that a picture of our state before and after Christ Jesus. This Greek word (necrosate) is also used of the spiritual condition of the unsaved.

“immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.” Notice that Paul, after naming these sensual sins that he says “greed (covetousness) which is idolatry” so why coveting? It’s the same question I ask about the Ten Commandments (Ex 20:17), the last being “You shall not covet!” Covetousness is the sin of always wanting more, whether it be more things or more pleasures. So obviously the covetous person is never satisfied with what he has, and he is usually envious of what other people have. Whichever way you look at it its idolatry. Covetousness puts things in the place of God, not just the gaining of things but the very act of wanting.

  • Do you think this sin can make us break all of the other nine. Is that why Paul used it lastly, to remind us of the tenth commandment?

So what needs to be done with these “deeds of the flesh?” I guess the first thing is to purify our hearts and minds by  (2 Cor 10:5) “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,” I’ve got to be honest, this is not easy to do, it takes practice. The beauty for us is that scripture is full of promises to claim. I know that might not sound like much but it’s what we have. We have the HS of promise, we have our life in Christ, we have the love of the Father and no one or nothing can pluck us out of Their hands. Here’s another “Lord you said that if we walk by the Spirit we won’t carry out the deeds of the flesh.”

It doesn’t matter how many promises are in scripture, what matters is, do we believe them enough to claim them?

“Standing on the promises that cannot fail,

When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,

By the living Word of God I shall prevail,

Standing on the promises of God.

What I have found is, what we desire usually determines what we do. If I create in my children an appetite for sugar, then I must satisfy that appetite. If they become overweight and unhealthy and I’m running up doctor and dentist bills, then I must change their appetites, and I must teach them how to enjoy foods other than sweets. “Create in me a clean heart, O God” (Ps 51:10) should be our prayer; for it is out of the heart that all these unhealthy desires come (Mark 7:21–23).


“For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience,” verse 6 is relatively straight forward. We know that God cannot abide sin and just like in the days of Noah, just like Sodom and Gomorrah and many other places in scripture God will bring an end to sin. (Rom 1:18-19) says “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.” So they/we are without excuse.

I think that’s why Paul said in (Eph 5:6-7) “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them;” so in other words false teachers, false teachings, false religion etc.

“and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them.” (Eph 2:1-2) explains it better, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.” We’ve been on the other side of the fence so we know exactly what unbelievers are thinking about God. The word “living” is “I live (zao)” carries the idea of “being one’s own master.”

Do believers in local churches commit sins like this? Unfortunately, we sometimes do. Each of the New Testament epistles sent to local churches makes mention of these sins and warns against them. One commentator described a pastor who preached a series of sermons against the sins believers commit. A member of his congregation challenged him after and said that it would be better if the pastor preached those messages to the lost. “After all,” said the church member, “sin in the life of a Christian is different from sin in the lives of other people.”

“Yes” replied the pastor, “it’s worse!”


“But now you also put them all aside,” (rf Eph 4:22). It’s this whole idea of putting aside, putting off, discarding. I guess if you picture walking around in absolutely filthy, stinking clothes much like graveclothes after you’ve been buried you get the idea that Paul is saying you have no need of your graveclothes anymore. Much like the Lord who left His grave clothes behind and Lazarus whom the Lord commanded his graveclothes removed, to be “set free” In other words believers are to discard their old, repulsive habits like a set of worn-out clothes. I guess then that we are to realise that we have been clothed with the righteousness of Christ, so you could say we are finally well dressed and appropriately fashionable.

I couldn’t help notice that verse 8 is a progressive regression (I’m not sure if that’s good English but it works for me) starting with anger, followed by wrath, malice, slander and then the flood gates are open to whatever comes out of the mouth. We know what the tongue is capable of doing. James warns us in chapter three of his epistle. Even the Lord warned us in His parable of “The heart of man” in Matthew chapter fifteen. All this poison can be summed up in one word “blasphemy.” It is basically defamation of character. To slander someone is to injure their reputation. This term, a lot of the time, is used in reference to God; but in this context, it mostly refers to slanderous speech against another person. When anger is prevalent there’s only one thing to remember and that’s not to let the sun on your anger (Eph 4:26). In other words the quicker you deal with it before the sun sets the quicker it’s over. This of course can only be done by bringing everything to God seeking forgiveness, experiencing peace and having joy restored in its rightful place.


“Do not lie to one another,” Following on from verse 8 I guess lying would be incorporated in slandering someone with abusive speech. We are supposed to be discarding our graveclothes and putting on garments that only God can supply. I used to tell lies like it was the natural thing to do and call it exaggerating or stretching the truth, so don’t do it anymore, Paul is saying.

The “sticks and stones” saying is a misnomer. (Prov 18:21) says “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.”

“Since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices.” It was this passage that in part at least suggested to John Bunyan his picture of the sinister character of “Adam the First”, who “dwelt in the town of Deceit”, whose invitation to go with him and be his servant and son-in-law Faithful was “somewhat inclinable” to accept, until he noticed the words inscribed in his forehead: “Put off the old man with his deeds.” We covered this idea in (Col 2:11-12).

“who is being renewed (lit renovated) to a true knowledge,” When Paul speaks of the renewal of the new man, his intention is much the same as when he says in 2 Cor. 4:16, “though our outward man is decaying, yet our inward man is renewed day by day.” It is the life and power of Christ within that is thus being constantly renewed, as the Spirit of God reproduces more and more of the Christ-likeness in the believer’s life. It’s similar to (2 Cor 3:18) “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”

(Rom 12:2. 2 Cor 4:16, Eph 4:23).

  • Q. does this happen automatically?

“according to the image of the One who created him,” In the phrase “after the image of him that created him,” is, I think, an allusion to (Gen 1:26-27), where the first Adam is said to have been created by God “in his own image.” But the first Adam is now seen as the “old man” after he sinned of course and who must be discarded, in order that the believer may put on the new man, the second Adam (isn’t this amazing how it all fits in).

Nor is there any doubt about the identity of the second Adam; as Paul told the Corinthian believers that “the first man Adam became a living soul; the last Adam a life-giving spirit … the first man was from earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven … and as we have worn the image of the man of earth, we shall also wear the image of the heavenly Man” (1 Cor. 15:45ff.). The second Adam, that is to say, is Christ. This appears quite explicitly in (Gal 3:27) where, instead of telling his readers (as here) that they have put on “the new man”, Paul says point blank “as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ.” We could look at it this way. The start of Christ as the second Adam, head of a new creation as the first Adam was of the old creation, is thoroughly Biblical, and there is no need to spiritualise it.

Thus, as the Puritan Thomas Goodwin put it, “there are but two men who are seen standing before God, Adam and Jesus Christ; and these two men have all other men hanging at their girdles.”

Verses 10 and 11 are all one sentence, so it reads “the image of the One who created Him (a renewal) in which there is no (distinction) Greek or Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.”

Paul was succinct in covering a, if not the, whole of the conditions of man. Remember the Jewish daily prayer book. I think Paul was tongue in cheek here with a view to pushing home that privilege a Jew supposed to recite each morning when he thanks God that He did not make him a Gentile, a slave or a woman. We all know the curtain was torn, the wall came down and that’s why there is no partiality with God.

In our tiny minds there is still distinctions, but not in God’s mind. He gave salvation as a way out of this life to everyone. How much clearer does scripture have to be (Rom 10:12) “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him;” and (Rom 3:22-23) “even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” We are, as they say, tared with the same brush according to (Rom 11:32) “For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.” I guess the truth is, all believers are equal and all believers are to reject any and all types of behaviors and attitudes that are totally inappropriate for our new life.


I wonder if its here that we get the idea of vices (previous verses) and virtues (here), maybe, but I think the verses in (Gal 5:19-23) is just as revealing.

“So, as those who have been chosen (the elect) of God, holy and beloved.” Paul again reminds us of who and what we are in Christ Jesus:

  • “Chosen of God.” Up to the point of being chosen, and that was a long process in itself, God’s love for me was finally realized. Don’t go to sleep Christian or take anything for granted, because the process of sanctification after being chosen takes longer and at times is painful. The only thing that happens instantaneously, at the blink of an eye, is receiving the Holy Spirit at conversion. Before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4-6).
  • Predestination vs free will, a paradox if viewed from within time. God knows the choices you will make.
  • If you read (Deut 4:37 and 7:7-8) you’ll see that these concepts of “chosen, holy, beloved” was given to Israel. However, if you read (1 Peter 2:9-10) I’m sure you will understand that it still applies to Israel but also to us, the community of believers.

William Barclay (1907-1978) commented on these virtues:

“It is most significant to note that every one of the virtues and graces listed has to do with personal relationships between man and man. There is no mention of virtues like efficiency, cleverness, even diligence and industry—not that these things are not important. But the great basic Christian virtues are the virtues which govern and set the tone of human relationships. Christianity is community.”

The heart here is (splachnon in the Greek) it means the inward part of a man heart, kidneys, liver, intestines etc. We use the word heart as in I love you with all my heart. Paul says it beautifully in (Phil 2:1-2), “Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.”

  • Put on a heart of compassion: mercy, pity, a longing to want the best like the Samaritan.
  • Put on a heart of kindness: to provide something as an act of kindness. Samaritan.
  • Put on a heart of humility: (Phil 2:3) would be a test of humility.

Put on a heart of gentleness: the Vines Dictionary puts it this way denotes “meekness.” In its use in Scripture, in which it has a fuller, deeper significance than in non-scriptural Greek writings, it consists not in a person’s “outward behaviour only; nor yet in his relations to his fellow-men; as little in his mere natural disposition. Rather it is an inwrought grace of the soul; and the exercises of it are first and chiefly towards God. It is that temper of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting.

“and Put on a heart of patience” : the Greek Lexicon of the NT says forbearance long-suffering of men, esp. in experiencing troubles and difficulties. All of these can be understood as an example in (2 Cor 6:3-10).


“bearing (be patient with, put up with, endure, bear with) one another, and forgiving each other,” Of course without the catalyst of love this is all gone with the wind. Not only that we need to bear one another’s burdens (Gal 6:2), as in the household of the faith, but surely there’s an element of helping the unbeliever by being patient with, putting up with, enduring with so as to win them to Christ. When you are bearing with one another it’s much easier to forgive one another because you share that common ground.

“whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” Both (Rom 15:7 and Eph 4:32) remind and admonish us of the immense sacrifice that Jesus made for us along with the forgiveness we didn’t deserve. Notice it says “anyone” not just the household of the faith. Yes, at times it’s hard to forgive a wrong, but sanctification is a life long process. However, the quicker we learn these important basic lessons, the quicker we grow to maturity in Christ.


“Let the peace of Christ “rule” (to act as a judge or umpire, to arbitrate, decide on, to direct, arrange, control) in your hearts,” (John 14:27) better explains this peace. The Lord said “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”

When I find myself troubled or fearful the first question I ask is “is this of my own doing Lord?” if it is then the process to peace is obvious. If it isn’t my own doing which it usually is, then its from the Lord so then the question is “what lessons are you trying to teach me from this Lord?”

The Colossians were told earlier not to allow anyone to “act as umpire, arbiter or judge against you” (Gal 2:18). Instead, when disputes arise, the believer is to let the “peace of Christ” make the call. Whatever will lead to peace must be the deciding factor so that peace will be well-maintained.

“to which indeed (also) you were called in one body; and be thankful.” By way of a reminder Paul lays out (Eph 2:14-16). This passage in Ephesians is an explanation of this verse in Colossians. It explains what the peace is, who the peace is, how we got and get this peace and how we use and maintain this peace in the unity of the body of Christ, the church. Being thankful is more than just mouthing the words. Like everything there has to be proof or an outward showing of the heart within.

David is an example of the loneliness he must have felt by covering up his sin When David covered up his sins, he lost his peace and his praise. When he confessed his sins, then his song returned, have a read of (Ps 32 and 51).


“Let the word of Christ richly (in abundance, generously, in a great amount) dwell within you,” Once again an admonishment to feast on the Word of God. Trying to harmonise God’s word with other teachings, as some religions do, is a dangerous occupation. God’s word and only God’s word magnifies our Lord Jesus.

It was the Word of God that brought us to salvation (Rom 10:17, Col 1:5). It’s the Word of God that purifies, cleanses us from every stain of sin (Eph 5:26, 1 John 1:9). The Word of God has given us full permission to proclaim and act upon it (Matt 28:16-20. This same Word gives us life and sustains and strengthens us (1 Peter 1:22–2:3). Surely it’s a natter of reading, studying and memorizing God’s Word. I think that’s what “richly dwell” means.

“with all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another.” There is obviously a connection between our knowledge of scripture and the way in which we approach brothers and sisters in Christ. In the wisdom of God, which He gives liberally, is the only way we can teach and admonish one another. (1 Tim 1:5) tells us “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”

“with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” I was reminded some time ago by the Holy Spirit about the choruses and hymns I sing. He ask me if I’ve taken notice of all the words in these songs. He pointed out that these choruses and hymns have doctrinal implications and do I do what the words say or just sings them because they sound nice. What the HS was getting at is if I sing the words which in a sense is making a promise to God and not fulfill that promise, then I’m lying to God.

It’s true that there are a plethora of emotional and unbiblical songs in some churches today. A singer has no more right to sing a lie than a preacher has to preach a lie. When we sing certain hymns and choruses we’re addressing the Lord, its Him we are singing to and for.

Paul gave a bit of a description of a local church worship service in (1 Cor 14:26). I think it sums it up nicely. Our singing must be from our hearts and not just our lips. But if the Word of God is not in our hearts, we cannot sing from our hearts. Another reason why it’s important to know the Word of God, it really helps with the worship of God.

Our singing must be with grace. This does not mean “singing in a gracious way,” but singing because we have God’s grace in our hearts. It takes grace to sing when we are in pain, or when circumstances seem to be against us. It certainly took grace for Paul and Silas to sing in that Philippian prison (Acts 16:22–25). Our singing must not be a display of fleshly talent; it must be a demonstration of the grace of God in our hearts.


“Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus,” Paul adds a little more to the meaning of “word or deed” in (1 Cor 10:31-33) “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved.”

“giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” Have you ever been faced with an issue that you may not have been able to find in the Bible any explicit word relating to whatever is happening? You can ask yourself, What is the Christian thing to do here? Can I do this without compromising who I am in Christ? Can I do it in the name of the Lord Jesus without hypocrisy? I mean the last thing we want to do is drag the Lord’s name through the mud. Then ask, can I really give thanks to God the Father in Jesus name?

 It’s easier to say “yes but” to rules and regulations, it’s not so easy to compromise when you follow up with “I give you thanks Father in Jesus name.


This section deals with family relationships, even though slaves are included here. Let’s face it if you had a slave living with you 24/7 then fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, that slave is part of the family.


There’s more than one place in God’s Word that describes husband, wife relationships, here and in (Eph 5:22-6:9). Before I go further, let me say that there is no partiality between man or woman, husband and wife in God’s eyes. However, there are standards of duty and position clearly laid out in scripture.

Domestic behaviour and for that matter love, was not unknown in this time. The roles of men, women, husbands, wives, parents, children masters, slaves &c had already been established for centuries. Although there would have been many exceptions with unbelievers based on selfishness, the moral and ethical standards for believers is based entirely on the Lord Jesus and the teaching of the apostles.

“Wives, be subject to your husbands,” even though this word “subject” (hypotasso) is a military term has nothing to do with subjugation but everything to do with willingness. It is literally described as “I put in a lower rank, I rank under, I subject, I put into subjection: mid. (and pass.) I subordinate myself, I put myself into subjection, I submit. When military personnel submit to a higher rank it’s not the man himself that they submit to, but to the rank and authority bestowed upon him.

It’s the same in a church setting. We submit to the Eldership because they have been given the office of and authority to shepherd each one of us.

The Lexam Survey of Theology textbook says it this way:

Matrimony is an estate of life founded in the creation itself that persists in all cultures despite corruptions introduced by sinful humanity, such as divorce (Mal 2:13–16; Matt 5:32; Luke 16:18) and polygamy (one can see an attempt in the apostolic church to heal the corruption of polygamy by the requirement that all elders be “the husband of one wife” in 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6).

The original integrity of marriage was sanctified by Christ when he performed his first miracle at a wedding at Cana in Galilee (John 2:1–12) and in the challenge he issued to the corruption of easy divorce (Matt 19:4–12). A number of Christian traditions see matrimony as a sacrament as well, a means of grace, based on Paul’s description of marriage as a “great mystery” that reveals the intimate nuptial relationship between Christ and his church (Eph 5:32).

Covenants in Scripture, when they are (two-sided) like marriage is, are generally attested through an oath and accompanied by a covenant sign, with the sign sealing the oath and binding one to it. Covenantal bonds in Scripture have a kinship-making character of which marriage is a model.

Marriage is a principal image in the Scriptures for describing the binding covenantal relationship between YHWH and Israel (Jer 3; 31:31–33; Isa 54:5; 62:5; Ezek 16; Hos 2) and again between Christ and the church (Eph 5:22–32; Gal 4:26–28; 2 Cor 11:2; Rev 19:7–10; 21:9–21; 22:17). The foremost idea conveyed through this image is not sexual union but complete steadfastness, fidelity, and loyalty. It is on the basis of YHWH’s fidelity to his people that the people of God are to understand the permanent and comprehensive union that is human marriage.

“as is fitting in the Lord.” Notwithstanding all of what we’ve just read and the scripture references with it, specifically (Eph 5:22-33) but verse 22 says Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” The word “submit” is a doing word, in other words the ownness is on the person submitting, you can do it willingly or begrudgingly. The last phrase in verse 18 means simply doing it out of love for your saviour (it is fitting, it is proper, do one’s duty).


“Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them.” That’s easy for you to say, you haven’t met my wife. This kind of humour is common to many husbands, and dare I say Christian husbands as well. For all believers this should be abhorrent humour. Christian love is more than (to “feel affection” or “show affection”) or (to “love with sexual desire”). Plutarch similarly uses a compound of this verb in his essay On the Control of Anger, where he condemns those who “behave harshly towards (or rage bitterly against) women” especially wives. For the general thought “Rab said: ‘One should always be on his guard against wronging his wife, for since her tears are frequent she is quickly hurt.” Paul bases his authority on the hierarchy of creation, (1 Tim 2:13-14, Eph 5:25-33, 1 Cor 11).

Christ’s love for the church is a type of the husband’s love for the wife, and the words of (Gen 2:24) “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” already quoted by Jesus in (Mark 10:7-8) as setting the basic principle of the marital bond. Paul finishes his speech in chapter 5 of Ephesians by making sure we understand what it’s about and who it’s about, with the comment, “This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.” If love is reigning in our hearts for our wives as we’ve been told to do, then I’m sure it becomes an easier and pleasant duty not to be embittered against them.


I think we can agree that obedience is something that the Lord delights for parents and for children, it’s a given! The parallel passage in (Eph 6:1-9) is taken from (Ex 20:12, Deut 5:16). The first verse in the Ephesian passage is an exhortation to children and it’s reinforced by the Fifth Commandment, “the first of the commandments which has a promise attached to it.”

Yes, although this verse is written for children, how are they going to understand if it’s not explained to them. Maybe father’s bless their children by presenting this verse instead of hindering them.

Once again Paul qualifies v20 as he did with vv18-19 by offering a reason by way of encouragement to fathers not to, in any way, hinder your children by developing contempt in them. In other words not to irritate their children lest they lose heart and come to think that it is useless trying to please their parents, and you know what that means!

Sir Robert Anderson has some wise remarks to make on this in a little-known book:

“The late Mr. Justice Wills, who combined the heart of a philanthropist with the brain of a lawyer, used to deplore the ill-advised legislation which so multiplies petty offences that high-spirited lads, without any criminal intention, are caught in the meshes of the criminal law. But the traps laid by modern bye-law legislation are few as compared with the ‘don’ts’ which confront the children of many a home during all their waking hours. And against this it is that the Apostle’s ‘Don’t’ is aimed: ‘You fathers, don’t irritate your children.’

“For the children his only precept is ‘Obey your parents’; let parents see to it that they deserve obedience: and more than this, that they make obedience easy. The law, which for the Christian is summed up in the word ‘love,’ is formulated in ‘thou shalt not’ for the lawless and disobedient. And the ‘thou-shalt-not’s’ of Sinai have their counterpart in the ‘don’t’s’ of the nursery. Grace teaches us to keep His commandments, law warns us not to break them. And it is on this latter principle that children are generally trained. ‘Don’t be naughty’ is the nursery version of it.…”

“William Carey … wrote to his son: ‘Remember, a gentleman is the next best character to a Christian, and the Christian includes the gentleman.’ And if a little of the effort used to teach the children not to be naughty were devoted to training them to be gentlemen and ladies, parents would come nearer to fulfilling the Apostolic precept!”

Stobaeus follows up a consideration of the duty of children with a collection of passages from ancient authors under the general heading: “How fathers ought to behave to their children.” He quotes many sayings to much the same effect as Paul’s injunction, including these two from Menander: “A father who is always threatening does not receive much reverence,” and “One should correct a child not by hurting him but by persuading him.” In the setting of this epistle, however, these ethical observations, good as they were in their pagan expression, are given a Christian significance and emphasis, which are made still more explicit in (Eph 6:4), where the positive injunction is added: “but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children,” the word “exasperate” is make resentful, to stir up embitterment, to provoke, irritate. I think this would also mean passive aggressive and challenging them unnecessarily. What are some of the ways we might exasperate our children? We can easily say that our children’s only mandate is to obey, but most children would not have the capacity to theologise what that means. It’s more of an action, reaction with children.

Would it be prudent for parents see to it that they actually deserve obedience? And what about making it easier for children to obey. Jesus summed up the Law by the word love. Everything must be done in and with love. However, it’s not easy training children, mistakes are made especially when there was never anyone to model yourself after. My wife and I found that training children in the funnel was the most productive way to help our children to grow. Paul summed it up beautifully in (Eph 6:4) “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” A father cannot bring his children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord if he is not being disciplined and instructed by the Lord. It just doesn’t work!

“so that they will not lose heart.” Have you ever seen a child lose heart? It’s one of the most heart breaking moments for a parent. I have two daughters Kira and Jenna. I’ve never had to worry about Kira making friends, she has a sanguine type of personality. Jenna on the other hand has a much more serious and deep thinking personality but, for some reason, could not make friends. Even from an early age friendships for Jenna were difficult to establish. Both my daughters are the sweetest girls you could ever find and both their hearts are in the right place.

I remember vividly the time she said “why haven’t I got any friends.” I think she was around 6-7 years old. To hear those words and to see the hurt in those eyes drove me to tears. When a child loses heart, for whatever reason, I would never want to be that reason. With much prayer and a few years later Jenna began to make friends and even that brought tears.

So, Christian fathers, unless you are the stone cold type that has little regard for your children I think you will agree that you would do anything biblically to edify and encourage your children.


“Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth (lit; according to the flesh),” The parallel to this is (Eph 6:5), a strange verse with the term “fear and trembling” in it. Seeing as though we don’t have slaves here in Australia, what would we associate the term slave today?

“in all things obey,” really, in ALL THINGS! Is there any reason at any time not to obey? I mean, do we thank the unions for giving us the ammunition to become a sluggard at work knowing that there is a rather lengthy and tedious process for the employer before they have any right to fire us? How about the advancement of HR (human resources) and HR (human rights) and then there’s OHS&W, not to mention the thousands of laws and by-laws pertaining to the right of the individual. Yes, we’re a clever lot, so much so that we’ve even outsmarted ourselves.

“not with external service (begrudgingly, because I have to do it), as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Paul said it well when he addressed the Corinthians (1 Cor 10:31-33) “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved.”

Slaves were attached to households in Paul’s day, but we can apply these same truths to Christian employers and employees today. Paul reminds servants that they have masters according to the flesh as well as a heavenly Master, Christ. The Christian employee is to work to honour and please Christ. “Eyeservice” (v. 22) means working when the employer is watching, then slacking off when his back is turned. But the heavenly Master is always watching! We are not to be men-pleasers, but Christ-pleasers.

“Singleness of heart” implies a heart fixed on one goal—to honour Christ. What a blessing it is to know that Christian employees are actually ministers of Christ as they operate their machines, use their tools, drive their trucks, or work at whatever vocation they might have.

Work must come from the heart: “Do it heartily as unto the Lord!” Let’s face it, we all know half-hearted work is a poor testimony. The half-hearted, unfaithful worker will be judged when Christ returns, so it’s our duty to do our best for Jesus’ sake. You remember the parable of the talents, very concerning!


Clearly this verse belongs to chapter three.

“Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness,”  as far as fair and impartial employer go, and I mean those who don’t know the Lord, are maybe few and far between. However, I have had two or three of these employers that were an absolute pleasure to work for.

By way of observation I’ve worked in a factory environment where employees were made up of 50/50 believers and unbelievers. I can tell you, it was a strange mix. Funny at times, frustrating the next.

I have only worked for one Christian employer many years ago. It had its up’s and down’s and communication wasn’t his strongest gift but we got by and I was grateful that he was not a micro manager and he was fair in his dealings with me.

Employers too must manage their affairs as Christians. It is not right for the Christian employer to short-change his Christian workers because they are all in Christ. He should give them that which is just and equal. In these days of union contracts, government regulations, and competitive economic conditions, it is a challenge for the Christian employer to put Christ first in business, but God promises to honour the believer who will do so. If the employer works to put Christ first and gives Him pre-eminence, then the peace and joy that comes with that will enable him to face the challenges of owning a business in this day and age. In other words a mature Christian life.

Masters (those in authority), like husbands and fathers, are not to abuse their authority. They are to treat their workers fairly with justice. Why? “knowing that you too have a Master in heaven.”

Paul began chapter 3 by urging believers to “seek the things above.” He has closed the chapter in the same way. Wives are to “seek the things above” to Christ as their example of submission; husbands are to “seek the things above” to Christ as their example of love; children are to “seek the things above” to Christ as their example of obedience; slaves are to “seek the things above” to Christ as their impartial rewarder; masters are to “seek the things above” to Christ as their judge and ours.


  • Jesus Christ has the position of highest honor and authority.
  • All believers are identified with Christ and given new life.
  • A heavenly perspective impacts our earthly activities.
  • Jesus Christ indwells all believers.
  • Christ is our model of love and obedience in our relationships with others.


  • Do some personal inventory. Based on what you think about most and how you spend your money and time, honestly evaluate whether you have set your heart and mind on “seeking things above.”
  • Which area needs your immediate attention: perverted passion, hot temper, sharp tongue? Begin working on it today. Don’t make excuses. Ask for assistance from a trusted friend. I try to start on my shortcomings the moment the Holy Spirit exposes them.

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