Colossians 3:18-21

Sunday Morning Bible Study

June 19, 2009


We’ve seen a progression in Paul’s letter to the Colossians.

He started by laying a good foundation of solid doctrine, talking about who Jesus is and what He’s done for us.

Then he laid out some warnings concerning the heresies that were beginning to form in Colosse.

Next he’s moved onto the practical.

Correct doctrine leads to correct living.

Then Paul gets to what is very personal, very practical.

(Col 3:12-15 NKJV) …put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; {13} bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. {14} But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. {15} And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.
That’s nice to say, but just what does that look like in real life?
Sometimes we can sit in church, listen to the pastor, nod at all the great points that he makes, but the moment we walk out of this place, we don’t see any of it actually applying to our lives.

:18 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

Wivesgune – a woman of any age, whether a virgin, or married, or a widow; a wife

submithupotasso (“under” + “to put in order”) – to arrange under, to subordinate

A Greek military term meaning “to arrange troop divisions in a military fashion under the command of a leader”. In non-military use, it was “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden”.

Note: More than obedience

In our passage, the English word “obey” is found twice (vs. 20,22), and both times it translates a different Greek word (hupakouo).
The fact that Paul uses a different word here gives the sense that his emphasis here is on “order”, “order under”, and not just “obey”.  Focus on “order”.

Note: Submission is not just for wives.

We’ve pointed out before that submission is a mutual thing. In Ephesians 5, Paul also tells the wives to submit to their husbands, but only after pointing out:
(Eph 5:21 NKJV) submitting to one another in the fear of God.

Note:  There are limits

No, the Bible does not teach that we must submit to everything.
We are told that we are to “submit” to governing authorities. Peter writes:

(1 Pet 2:13-14 NKJV) Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether to the king as supreme, {14} or to governors …

Yet when the authorities told Peter and the other apostles to stop telling people about Jesus, Peter didn’t have any trouble disobeying the authorities:

(Acts 5:29 NKJV) But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: "We ought to obey God rather than men.

But be careful that you don’t abuse this concept.  Just saying, “God told me not to submit” doesn’t pass the test.

your ownidios – pertaining to one’s self

This is kind of silly, but the Greek word makes you think of the English word “idiot”, as if Paul is saying, “Wives submit to your idiot husbands…”

That’s not what Paul wrote.

husbandsaner – with reference to sex; of a male; of a husband

is fittinganeko – to pertain to what is due, as was fitting

The word is used in another place talking about what it fitting and what is not fitting for Christians:

(Eph 5:3-4 NKJV) But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; {4} neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.
Just as immorality, greed, and filthy language are NOT fitting for believers, submission IS fitting for believers.

A.T. Robertson: Wives have rights and privileges, but recognition of the husband’s leadership is essential to a well-ordered home, only the assumption is that the husband has a head and a wise one.

as is fitting in the Lord

Does Paul mean that sometimes submitting isn’t fitting because it isn’t “in the Lord”?

No, Paul is saying that submitting in general is “fitting” in the Lord.

Even though we all need to learn submission, this morning the exhortation is to wives.  One thing to remember about submission:



Submission changes things.  Sometimes submission even changes the one we submit to.
(1 Pet 3:1 NKJV) Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives

What does it mean if a husband does “not obey the word”? Perhaps he’s a jerk. Perhaps he’s an idiot.

Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that we only have to “submit” to the person who is nice, smart, and asks me to do what I wanted to do anyway.  That’s not submission.  That’s Fantasyland.
Sometimes my behavior can teach the other person about what is right.
A couple was celebrating their golden wedding anniversary. Their domestic tranquility had long been the talk of the town. A local newspaper reporter was inquiring as to the secret of their long and happy marriage. “Well, it dates back to our honeymoon,” Explained the man. “We visited the Grand Canyon and took a trip down to the bottom of the canyon by pack mule. We hadn’t gone too far when my wife’s mule stumbled. My wife quietly said, “That’s once.” We proceeded a little farther when the mule stumbled again. Once more my wife quietly said, “That’s twice.” We hadn’t gone a half mile when the mule stumbled a third time. My wife promptly removed a revolver from her pocket and shot him. I started to protest over her treatment of the mule when she looked at me and quietly said, ‘That’s once.’”

Note:  Staring down the barrel of a gun is probably not the best picture of submission.

In fact, the Bible doesn’t tell men to make their wives submit.  Put your guns away.  The responsibility of submission is the wife’s lesson to learn.  The husband has other things to pay attention to.

As I was working on this study, I began to notice how the things we’re going to be looking at today resembled the things we’ve already studied (back in 3:12-15).  At first I was thinking that some of the concepts only contained parts of the elements of the earlier study.  But the more I looked at the passage, the more I began to realize that each of the elements of 3:12-15 are contained in the verses we’re going to look at.
Sure, “submission” involves humility, meekness, and longsuffering.
But it also should include the elements of compassion, kindness, peace, and grace as well.
Submission is one of the ways these elements of the new life work their ways into us in a practical way.

Submission is what you “look good” in.  It’s part of how we allow the Word of God to dwell “richly” in us.

:19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.

Husbandsaner – with reference to sex; of a male; of a husband

loveagapao – love that is based on choice, choosing to value another person, God’s kind of love

This is the love that’s described in 1Corinthians 13 – “love is patient and kind…”

This is the love that Jesus has for us, demonstrated when He died for us.

Here, Paul gives the men one aspect of love to focus on, “do not be bitter”

wivesgune – a woman of any age, whether a virgin, or married, or a widow; a wife

be bitterpikraino – to embitter; render angry, indignant; irritated

Present tense - “Stop being bitter” or “do not have the habit of being bitter.”

Where does bitterness come from?

Unforgiveness.  The cure for bitterness is to love with a love that forgives.
(1 Cor 13:5 NASB) (agape) … does not take into account a wrong suffered,
Love doesn’t keep a long list of all the times you’ve been insulted.

Husbands, you need to forgive your wives.


Forgiving love

Here’s a story from a 1930s edition of the Chicago Herald Examiner about a husband and a wife. The article, “Man Spites His Wife by Staying Blindfolded in Bed Seven Years,” reads:
The strange story of Harry Havens of Indiana, who went to bed—and stayed there—for seven years with a blindfold over his eyes because he was peeved at his wife, was revealed here today when he decided to get out of bed. Havens was the kind of husband who liked to help around the house—hang pictures, wipe the dishes, and such. His wife scolded him for the way he was performing one of these tasks, and he resented it. He is reported to have said: “All right. If that’s the way you feel, I’m going to bed. I’m going to stay there the rest of my life. And I don’t want to see you or anyone else again.” His last remark explains the blindfold. He got up, he explained, when the bed started to feel uncomfortable after seven years.
Van Morris, Mount Washington, Kentucky; source: Chicago Herald Examiner (11-17-1930)
A man and his wife were having some problems at home and were giving each other the silent treatment. The next day the man realized that he would need his wife to wake him at 5 am for an early flight to Sydney. Not wanting to be the first to break the silence, he finally wrote on a piece of paper, “Please wake me at 5 am.” The next morning the man woke up, only to discover it was 9 am, and that he had missed his flight! Furious, he was about to go and see why his wife hadn’t awakened him when he noticed a piece of paper by the bed. It said, “It’s 5 am, wake up.”
It doesn’t pay to not forgive.
Bryan Chapell writes,
Friends of ours grew up in the church and have a fine house, sweet kids, and good jobs. But the wife has an emotional/mental problem. She periodically steals from her own family and gambles the money away.
She’s been to counselors, doctors, and pastors, but nothing helps permanently. Imagine your own wife stealing from you, pawning objects of value, withdrawing money from bank accounts intentionally (but not infallibly) denied her, and lying about it for months.
Every time she’s stolen from her husband and ruined his future, he’s forgiven her and taken her back. Even when she gave up on her own life and tried to kill herself, he refused to give up on her.
I asked this husband once why he didn’t end this marriage, in spite of pressure from many friends and family to do so. His words were courageous and simple: “She is a good mother most of the time, and my children need her. But more than that, they need to know the love of their God. How can they know of a Father in heaven who forgives them if their own father won’t forgive their own mother?”
Bryan Chapell, "Why He Just Takes It" Men of Integrity (September/October 2001)

You may be tempted to say this is “enabling” the other person.  I say love forgives.

:20 Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.

Childrenteknon – offspring, children

obeyhupakouo (“under” + “to listen”) – to listen, to obey

parentsgoneus – fathers, parent, the parents

well pleasingeuarestos – well pleasing, acceptable

Parents, it is important that you teach your children at an early age to obey their parents. But since we are mostly adults here today, I want to address this topic a little differently.


Parental honor

Paul writes in Ephesians,
(Eph 6:1-3 NKJV)  Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. {2} "Honor your father and mother," which is the first commandment with promise: {3} "that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth."
Thirty years ago when I was a Sr. High youth pastor, I would tackle these verses by talking about the age you are when you get to be old enough to not pay attention to this verse any more.  My point used to be that when you grow up, you no longer need to worry about this.
The trouble with that approach is that I’m not too sure I know of a verse that supports the idea that you grow out of respecting your parents.

Don’t misunderstand me – I’m not saying that parents are to always make all the decisions for their children.  I understand the importance of my sons learning to make adult decisions on their own.

But I’m not sure that the “honor” part ever really goes away.

That’s the heart behind “Father’s Day”.
Play “The Story of Father’s Day
I know that some of your parents weren’t perfect.  But that’s no excuse to not show them a measure of respect and honor.  You don’t have to excuse all their faults, but you do owe them honor.
In reality, we don’t always agree with everything that God does in our lives, do we?  And we know we ought to honor Him, even if we don’t understand.  Showing your parents honor is a way of learning to honor God.

:21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

Fatherspater – generator or male ancestor

provokeerethizo – to stir up, to provoke; to nag as a habit; from eris – contention, strife, wrangling

childrenteknon – offspring, children

discouragedathumeo (“not” + “passion”) – to be disheartened, dispirited, broken in spirit

Present tense, “continued discouragement”


Don’t crush their passion

Too often we dads can crush the very thing we want to cultivate.
We can put the wrong kinds of expectations on our kids.
We can get overly angry at the smallest things.
And our kids get crushed.
But there’s another way to be a father,
We ought to ignite passion, not crush it.
Gordon MacDonald writes,
For most of my life, my father and I have struggled to connect with each other. We are very different men, and our differences have grown during the passage of the years. Nevertheless, there were occasional exceptions to this distancing, and I think I remember almost every one of them. They were the events when, for a short while, there was—between him and me—a sense of sublime closeness.
One of the more memorable of those moments came when I was a second grader at P.S. (Public School) 33 in New York. On a spring day shortly before lunch hour, my father came to the door of my classroom. After a brief word with the teacher he gestured for me to join him. “Son,” he said, “clean off your desk and come with me.” Soon after, we were walking down the hallway and out the front door of the school.
Only when we reached the privacy of his car did my father speak again and disclose his real purpose in taking me out of school. “I thought you’d like to go to the ball game with me today,” he said. Sixty years later I can still see his mischievous grin as he disclosed this wonderful plan.
Muse on this! You’re seven or eight years old. It’s the middle of a school day, and your father springs you from school to see a baseball game.
Ninety or so minutes later, my father and I, hotdogs and Crackerjacks in hand, were in our seats along the third-base line at old Ebbits Field in Brooklyn where Jackie Robinson, just feet away, was warming up to play one of his first games as a Brooklyn Dodger. Does this smell like Heaven?
Somewhere in the early innings of the game, a batter, the New York Giants’ Johnny Mize, hit a towering foul ball. An instant replay deep in my memory recalls the trajectory of that ball going almost straight up, losing its momentum and beginning its descent … right over my seat. Down and down and down it came. Then, when it was close enough for me to see the stitching on the ball, a hand (my father’s hand!) reached out and snatched it from the air.
In one of my young life’s über-glorious experiences, my father handed the ball to me. Given my age, the keys to a brand new Mustang convertible could not have been a better gift. I was filled with abounding love and admiration for him.
Gordon MacDonald, “Dodger Heaven,” (6-4-07)
One more example of a Dad who hasn’t crushed his son’s passion, but has ignited it…
Play “Team Hoyt” Video.