17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. 18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. 22 Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality. (Colossians 3:17-25)
Today, instead of moving to verse 20 regarding children obeying parents, I’m going to revisit verses 18 and 19 in a different way. We have already looked at these two verses, verse 19 last week and verse 18 the week before that. One verse speaks of the wife’s role and the other of the husband’s role. What I want to do today is for us to consider how these two verses are intended to work together.
The Bible in its entirety gives us grand pictures of God’s mind, creative power, and His will for us and for the world. It is more of a unified book of many accounts, descriptions, and workings of God. It is not just a chronicling of unrelated events or commands. The Bible is a book about redemption, from beginning to end. It’s about a great and loving God who redeems an unworthy people through the great price of the death of His Son. I say a loving God because the cross, the crucifixion of Jesus is a transcendent display of God’s love for His people. It is an unearned love. It is a giving love.
If we understand and think of the Bible in that way, then we begin to see how the Bible is putting this same message on display again and again throughout its pages. God is about bringing His people to Himself to display His love. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.” God loved, so God gave His Son for what? For the redemption of His chosen ones. That is the story of the Book that He gave to us.
Now what does this have to do with verses 18 and 19? Well, a lot, I think. Verses 18 and 19 flow together. They are not isolated from one another, they too tell the story of the Bible as a whole, a story of love and redemption, they tell the story of God’s grace through the act of marriage, and I don’t want us to miss out on this.
When we see God’s revealed will come together in any way, and in this case through marriage, it is a beautiful display of God’s character. His will is good, it is right, it is perfect. And so when we live in obedience to Him we get to see this! I want us to see this.
In pre-marriage and marriage counseling, really in any type of discipleship, there should always be an emphasis on living for Christ, in His strength, depending on Him no matter what anyone else is doing. Our obedience is not dependent on anyone else’s obedience. That is an important truth. God does not put us in a position where we have to choose sin. We can live for Christ wherever we are, in whatever situation we are in.
So when we talk today of husbands and wives putting on display the glory and grace of Christ in marriage, and we see that as a beautiful picture of our Lord, I don’t want us to fall into a trap of thinking, “Okay, well if she does her part I can do mine,” or, “If he lives according to God’s Word, then I can and will as well.” I’m not promoting that. Each of us should live as we are called no matter what. But it is particularly beautiful to see each spouse living together for God’s great glory. I hope that makes sense. Marriage is to be a team effort.
18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” 19 Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”
24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:18-25)
What we see in Genesis is a perfect design. Adam was living in God’s creation, and yet he was lacking a fitting helper, a true companion. And so God made one for him! He designed her, He designed Eve with a special purpose and role in marriage. And let’s not forget, God designed Adam with the knowledge that Eve too would be created. Marriage was instituted by God, and as its creator God alone is the one who can best instruct us on how it should work. We are not left to ourselves to define marriage or to define roles within marriage. God as creator and grand designer has done that for us. And so we have passages like Colossians 3:18-19 to help us follow His gracious and wise plan.
We have talked about these roles separately, now let’s consider them together. Husbands and wives can work together as a team, in harmony for the good of the other, and to help one another fulfill their roles when there may be timidity and even fear. Let’s face it, we may at times feel unprepared or even unwilling to live within our roles, and this can happen for many, many reasons. But if we can see God’s grand design as good and holy, then we can think of the other person in our marriages as more important than ourselves and help them with their role.
So I want to look at this, I want to give you a vision for helping your spouse fulfill his or her role while living faithfully in the manner God has called you to.
Men, let’s start with you. How can you help your wife in her role? Let’s think about this. She is called to submit to you – “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” First of all, what we don’t want to do is have an attitude of, “Submit to me? She’s got it easy! I don’t mind submitting to me.” That’s not going to help anyone! Submitting to others is not easy, and let’s face it, she probably knows you better than anyone else and that means she is well aware of your faults. I mean, she probably knows your faults, patterns of sin, weaknesses, tendencies toward selfishness. She knows you well. Men, we can fool many, but it’s pretty hard to fool our wives. And knowing you well, my wife knowing me well, it can make it even more difficult to submit to you and to me.
With the many decisions that must be made in the home, she may be asking herself, “Is he really looking out for me in that decision? Is he really looking out for the kids? Is he focusing in on what is best for all of us, or is this one of those times when he is just being pragmatic, doing what is easy, or just making a quick decision to get us off his back?” Our wives may legitimately wonder these things. We may, whether knowingly or not, be making submission to us even more difficult than it already is for her.
So what can we do, husbands? Let me give you some principles that may help. First, we can become as David was described in Acts 13:22. Paul was preaching of the rise of David, and in Acts 13:22 he mentioned the way God described David when He said, “I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.”
David was not a perfect man. He had many flaws, he sinned greatly, but we read that he was a man after God’s heart. This means he sought after the Lord God. Yes he sinned, but in that he repented, he loved God.
Husbands, if we are men who are seeking after God in the things we do and the decisions we make, then won’t our wives more clearly see that our decisions are not just our decision, but they are decisions made while seeking God? Won’t it help if our wives know that we are first of all concerned with God’s desires, with glorifying God?
Secondly, along with seeking after God, wouldn’t it also help her to know that we are in the Word of God and that we are committed to its sufficiency for all of life? Wouldn’t it be helpful for her to know that we are not getting our ideas from the TV or some guy at work or from traditions that we grew up with, but that our ideas and source for decision making comes from a study and love for God’s Word? That God’s Word finds its way into our minds and comes out in our speech and in our instructions to our family. In other words, God is leading our thoughts.
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth (1 Timothy 2:15)
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (1 Timothy 3:16-17)
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence (2 Peter 1:3)
Again, we are talking about how we can help our wives in her responsibility to submit to us in the home. How can we help her with this? So far we have said that she can see us as men who are going after God, men after God’s own heart, and secondly that we are in the Word of God and firmly believe that God’s Word should be the source for direction in all our decisions in the home.
One other thing I’ll add that may help her. We can communicate our thought processes of how we came to the conclusions or decisions that we have come to. She may see us in the Word of God, and she may believe that we really are seeking after God, but are we also taking her through the steps that we have taken to get to the decisions we have made? I don’t mean we have to explain every decision for two hours, but are we at least explaining why we are doing what we are doing, and how that has come from our understanding of God and His Word? It may help her to hear that. How will she know if we don’t communicate?
Why are we spending all this money on a car, or why are we taking a vacation this year, why are we changing jobs, or playing golf on Saturdays? Why do we want the kids to go to the local public school, or a private school, or home school? We should be able to explain our decisions and we should be sure our wives know they are welcome to ask if we don’t explain them.
Men, we can help our wives in this area of submission. It is a hard road for her. Acknowledge that and help her by being a man after God’s heart, by being a man who is committed to God’s Word, and by explaining your decision processes and key biblical reasons for doing whatever you are doing.
And one last thing I’ll add: let your wife see you seeking counsel from other godly men, let her see you humbly ask others for advice who can lead you in deeper understanding of God’s Word.
Now wives, your husband has been called to love you, to not be harsh with you. How can you help him with this? Well, to love you means that he will give to you sacrificially in many ways. This means he will love you in the way that Jesus loves us. That is a tall order. It is a huge deal to really give to another consistently and sacrificially for life! It is good, it will be good for wives to realize the grandeur of this command. He is to do this no matter what you are doing, whether you are loving him or not, whether you are being kind to him or not. This is his calling in marriage to you, no matter what!
But are there ways that you can help him with this high calling. I think there are ways that you can help him. This may sound unusual, and maybe you haven’t thought of this, but I believe you can help him be a loving, giving, sacrificial husband by simply living in submission to him as you have been called to do. I believe that if you stay in your role, you help him with his.
Since the beginning of marriage in history, in the Garden we see that wives are tempted to rule over their husbands. As we have noted, submission is hard, and being hard there are temptations for wives to rule in the home, to rule over their husbands. But what happens when she does? Well, too often one of two things will happen: either he will step aside and let her rule, or he will struggle with her and it can be like war seeing who will come out on top. Either way, roles become confused.
But think of this: when a wife truly submits from the heart, if it is her desire, her chosen path to truly submit, then the gravity of responsible leadership may strike at a husband’s heart. When he sees that you really are going to submit, then he must learn – I am speaking of a believing husband – he must learn to lead well. He must learn to lean upon God. He will be forced to make decisions. He must lead. I am not saying that you don’t help him, that you don’t encourage him, that you don’t give good and godly input – those things are very important. But if you refuse to lead and you embrace submission, he will have to lead.
But what if he doesn’t lead well? Pray that he will, trust God that he will, and encourage him to seek counsel where he struggles.
Submission is not a position of weakness, but a position of beauty before God.
4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 5 For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands (1 Peter 3:4-5)
Wives, your submission may help your husband move toward greater obedience in his love and care for you. And husbands, as you love your wife, you may help her move toward greater obedience as she willingly submits to you. God has ordered marriage in such a way that mutual obedience strengthens the union and brings glory to God.
But let me end with this reminder. Husband, wife, don’t wait for your spouse to live this way, to begin living as you should. In fact, some of you have unbelieving spouses. Maybe you married as a non-Christian and have since found the Lord, and your spouse has not believed by faith. Where does this leave you? It leaves you in a special place of faith and trust in our most gracious God who can guide you to live for Him even as you struggle in this place of being spiritually unequally yoked.
Again, each of us are called to live faithfully with our God no matter what anyone else is doing, so that ultimately is our great call. But in a Christian marriage we can and are called to represent both Christ and the church, and that is to be our aim for the sake of our Lord, for the good of all those who see that picture through us. So for His glory, for His namesake…
18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. (Colossians 3:18-19)