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Colossians (8)

Norman Mellish, Stoke-on-Trent, England

Chapter 3.15 - 4.6

Chapter 3.15-17: The Spiritual Man

Verse 15: In every circumstance of life we need the guiding principle of the peace of Christ. It is always a blessed thing to let this be the arbitrator in everything to which we put our hand. Can we really say that our lives are motivated by seeking at all times to be in the will of God, and that we are happy for His eye to be always upon us? This is the calling that we have, and it should, and will, cause a thankful spirit to rise within us. Every believer should seek to know the truth that Christ has given us, and what a blessed thing it is when it dwells in us richly. This means that there is a necessity to be constantly reading and meditating on God’s Word, and there should also be a desire to teach one another, as well as to admonish one another where necessary. Sadly, it is a far cry today from the time when an invitation to a meal was an occasion for a Bible reading!

Verse 16: We cannot always be reading, but we can always have our spirits moving in the good of those things which are spiritual: hence the call to keep our hearts in tune by singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. It is not the tone of the voice that matters, but the theme of the song, and this should always be with grace in the heart, and unto the Lord. How sad when the songs of the world are of more value to the heart than those that are spiritual! As far as we know, there was no instrumental music used in the early days of the Church. Many would refer to the use of instrumental music in the Old Testament, but it must be remembered that such things never went into the section of the Temple where the presence of God was manifested. The New Testament makes a very clear distinction regarding where the saints worship: it is in the naos, the true sanctuary where God dwelleth, and in such a place instrumental music could not be sounded.

Verse 17: We are ever to keep the Lord before us, and nothing should be done that is incompatible with the will of God, either in speech or in deed. Everything should be done with a thankful heart, and carried out in the name of the Lord Jesus. This means that we will always be moving in His will, and for His glory.

Chapter 3.18 – 4.6: The Practical Man

Paul now moves on to the practical outworking of Christian principles in our lives. In chapter 3.18-21 he deals with the family. In 3.22 - 4:1 he speaks of the factory. Then, in 4.2-6, he moves to the fellowship which we have one with another. The first is marital and parental, the second is industrial, and finally there is that which is personal. In every phase of Christian living there is a word from the Lord for us to follow.

Verses 18-19: The home is the first place where the value of salvation must be seen. How blessed it is when salvation affects homes and marriages as it ought to. The wife is called to arrange her life under the headship of her husband, and to be in subjection to him. This is to follow what the Lord did in Luke 2.51, when He was subject to His parents. The husband is to love his wife, and such love must be consistent with the love of God: it is a divine love. He must never be bitter, that is, sharp, pungent or acrid toward her. She is his wife, not his servant, and mutual love and respect should be manifested in the home.

Verse 20: Children are called to obey in all things, not to escape punishment of some sort, but because this brings pleasure to the heart of God. As the apostle is writing to an assembly, it is evident that there were children there who were associated with that assembly. So, we see that the wife must be in submission, the husband must move in affection, and the child must be in subjection. There is a difference, however: the wife’s submission is voluntary and cannot be forced upon her, whilst the child’s subjection is a compulsory obedience.

Verse 21: I notice that when it comes to the rearing of children, it is the father who bears the primary responsibility. Both in Ephesians, and here in Colossians, it is the father who is addressed with a view to dealing with children, and this must be done responsibly. They are not to provoke, that is to excite or stir up. In their dealings with the family, they must see that an even temper is used to regulate their lives. If parents are not careful, they can cause their children to be spiritless and dismayed, afraid of living a normal life because of fear of rebuke and the demonstration of uncontrolled anger against them.

Verse 22: In many families in those days there would have been bondslaves, as seen in the family of Philemon. Paul shows that the work of a slave should be lifted above that which is natural, to that which is spiritual. Again, the message is to those who are in assembly fellowship. They are called to obey their masters in all things according to the flesh. They must give unstinted service and undivided loyalty. Both eye and heart are to be put into their service, since they do it with the fear of God, and not man, upon them.

Verses 23-25: As believers are called to do everything in the name of the Lord in verse 17, the same applies to servants in relation to their work. This takes their service far above that of serving men, for they serve with the Lord before them, and as unto Him. This service is not in vain for, though they may gain little as far as man is concerned, they are assured of a rich reward in the future. They will enter into the inheritance that lies before all believers in Christ and, then, with all social distinctions removed, they will be blessed on the same ground as all saints. There is also a warning delivered by Paul: he reminds the Colossians that, at the judgment seat of Christ, all service will be assessed, and there will be no distinction made because of positions held on earth, for God is no respecter of persons.

Chapter 4.1: This practical section now closes with a word to masters. They are reminded of the responsibility that they have, not only to their servants, but also to the Lord. Believers have a dual responsibility in all that they do for, ultimately, every action is to the Lord, and not merely to those around us.

Verses 2-4: We are now faced with the individual responsibilities of all saints. In verse 2 we are instructed to pray watchfully, meaning to be vigilant or wide awake. We remember the disciples who fell asleep in the garden of Gethsemane, and this should be a warning voice to us all. In verse 3 we are encouraged to pray intelligently. God would have us know His servants, and their activities in the Gospel, so that they can be supported in prayer. In Ephesians 6.19-20 he asks for prayer for the power to preach, but here in Colossians he desires favourable circumstances, even though he is in bonds, that a door may be opened to him to make known the mystery of Christ. Does he have in mind the great truth of His Person and Godhead when speaking of this mystery, as in Colossians 2.2? In verse 4 he desires that the dignity of the Gospel might be upheld. There is a very definite way in which we make known the truth of God or, as Peter describes it, “the oracles of God” (1 Pet 4.11). The Gospel must not be handled carelessly or haphazardly.

Verse 5: If in verses 1-4 we bow the knee, we are now called to “walk in wisdom toward them that are without”. Our testimony before men must befit the transforming power of the Gospel. If our walk is God-honouring, then our ways must be the same, and in this we should know how to redeem the time, taking every opportunity to bring the word of salvation to sinners.

Verse 6: This verse is not about the knees or the feet, but the tongue. Is Paul again concerned with the Gospel, and the manner in which we set it forth? He exhorts that our “speech be alway with grace”. Since God has appeared in grace, in Christ, so grace must mark us. Salt should also be an integral part of our speech: salt smarts, but it also heals, and it is a great preservative. Such a manner of speaking will be a blessing to any. Paul, in Colossians, states how we should speak, Peter tells us when we should speak (1 Pet 3.15), and the Lord will direct us as to what we are to speak (Mt 10.19).

(To be continued …)

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