Concluding Exhortations – 4:2-6


2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Paul’s concluding exhortations center around two themes: prayer and witness. These exhortations are personal, not general, and Paul includes an appeal that they would pray for him as he witnesses wherever he goes. This section provides a fine complement to the sweeping gospel-vision he proclaimed in 1:6: “The gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world.” And how does it bear fruit? Through the proclamation of Spirit-empowered people like Paul, Timothy, and Epaphras.

His first command is to be devoted to prayer. One of the core values of the Christian & Missionary Alliance, the denomination of which I am a part, is “prayer is the primary work of God’s people.” Prayer is the first course of action for the believer, and nothing of kingdom value is accomplished without it. Our devotion to prayer must be greater than our commitment to plan and strategize, for it is only through prayer that the plans of God’s people succeed. When our first impulse in any situation is to pray, then worry and anxiety will be unable to take root in our hearts.


Prayer requires follow through.
Within prayer, believers are to be both watchful and thankful. The object of our watchfulness is uncertain. Perhaps we are watching for the Lord’s return. Perhaps we are watching out for the works of the evil one. Could it be that we are to be watching for answers to our prayers? Whatever Paul had in mind, all three of these forms of watchfulness are beneficial for the Christian. But his point is well made: prayer requires follow through. Prayer does not exist in isolation from the rest of our lives. Rather, when we pray, we must watch for God’s activity, and be thankful when we see him move.

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Submission is a loaded word. It carries a ton of cultural baggage because it has been used to keep women in a place of subservience to their husbands in particular, and to men in general. It’s a biblical concept that has been distorted and abused, but because it is biblical, it is meant to be life-giving and freeing. But how can we talk about in a way that honors God’s command, rather than supporting our particular cultural or political perspective?

I’ve already written about this important topic, and even spoke about it at Hope Church. But here’s the short version. When God commands wives to submit to their husbands, he does so within the context of Genesis 1 and 2, not Genesis 3. In Christ, God is making all things new. That means that he is recreating the world so that it aligns with the original creation, before sin came in and messed everything up. So when God issues commands in Scripture, he does not do so to support the curses of Genesis 3 or to uphold the fallen state of the world. Rather, his commands in the New Testament are always issued with his new creation in mind.

So when it comes to the issue of submission in a marriage, our model cannot be Genesis 3:16, where God says to Eve, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” This is part of the curse, the same curse which Jesus died to reverse. Instead, our model must be Genesis 1:27 and 2:23. In the first passage, God declares that he has made humanity, both male and female, in his image. And in the second, Adam sees Eve for the first time and rejoices, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.”

In this context, submission assumes the equality of the sexes. God, in Christ, does not elevate women to a status slightly below men. Instead, he invites wives to participate in the humility of Christ, just as he invites husbands to participate in the self-giving love of Christ. This, of course, does not mean that men need not be humble and women need not be loving. It simply means that each partner has a role to play in the lived demonstration of the character and work of Jesus.

After all, as Paul says in Ephesians 5, our marriages are living metaphors of the eschatological marriage of Christ and the Church. Christian marriage is a sign that the Church is the Bride of Christ and that Jesus will return someday to betroth us to himself forever. It is not simply a promise to one another, but to the world – the promise that history ends with a wedding, not a funeral. This is the picture of marriage into which submission so appropriately fits.

Household Code – 3:18-4:1


18 Wives, submit yourselves 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 embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.

1 Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.

In these verses, Paul supplies the Colossian church with a Christian version of a Roman household code. A household code is a set of rules meant to govern the affairs of the home. In Rome, the household codes followed the teaching of Aristotle, who instructed men to rule over their wives and children, particularly noting that the inequality of the sexes is permanent. The man ought to be the pater familias, governing the home with absolute authority. But is this what we find in Christian teaching?

Though not explicitly stated in this epistle, Paul’s words in 3:11 echo what he triumphantly declared in Galatians 3:28: In Christ, there is neither male nor female. This does not mean that there is no gender differentiation in Christianity. Rather, it forces us to examine the ways that we consider ourselves better than others. In Christ, men are not more important than women, just as masters are not more important than slaves or Jews more important than Gentiles. The social revolution of the Gospel is that all are one in Christ, for Christ is all and is in all.


The social revolution of the Gospel is that all are one in Christ, for Christ is all and is in all.
Therefore, when Paul opens his household code by commanding wives to submit to their husbands, he is not operating from a belief that women are of less worth than men. On the contrary, the biblical teaching of the submission of wives assumes the equality of the sexes in the eyes of God. God does not, in Christ, elevate women from their culturally lowly estate to a position just below that of men. In fact, God assumes the equality of the sexes because that is how he created humanity (Genesis 1:27), and it is this equality (and not merely of the sexes, but between all people everywhere) that is a part of the restoration project begun in the resurrection of Jesus. In commanding wives to submit to their husbands, he is inviting women to participate in the faithful obedience and humility of Christ. Biblical submission assumes equality because it is a volitional act of humility in letting another lead. Like love, submission can never be forced upon or demanded of. Submission is a gift freely given to another in humility, not the humiliation extracted by force from a weaker person. (For more on this topic, please see my post on Biblical Submission.)

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What’s your favorite church song? There are a lot of good ones out there. A lot of bad ones, too. Not to sound too crotchety, but there’s one song in particular that just aggravates me. I don’t know who wrote it, but the offending line goes like this: “like a rose trampled on the ground, you took the fall, and thought of me above all.” I think I just threw up in my mouth.

Church songs are meant to be rich with theological truth, not sweet with saccharine pop song lyrics. Paul told the Colossians, “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” This verse can guide us as we gather together to sing at church.

As we sing psalms and hymns to God, we are simultaneously praising the Lord and teaching one another. We learn by singing. (Daniel Tiger, anyone?) Therefore, the message of Christ should be richly present in our music.

The message of Christ is the Gospel – the powerful proclamation that Jesus has died for our sins, was buried, and rose again on the third day. The implications of the Gospel are numerous, and all are worthy of being sung in lyrical poetry. But wherever we depart from the message of Christ in our songs, we depart from true worship.

When the message of Christ dwells in us richly as we sing psalms and hymns together, we ourselves become enriched. Singing about the Gospel honors God and encourages us in our faith. We receive the riches about which are neighbors are rejoicing!

So next Sunday, as you’re praising the Lord in church, remember that you’re doing more than singing. You’re teaching those around you, and you’re learning from them at the same time. Singing together builds up our faith and brings glory to God. So sing with all your heart!

forgive

Have you ever thought about how you want to age? Maybe that’s a weird question, but it’s something that I think about all too often. And I’m not talking about aging physically. How do you want to age emotionally? Spiritually? Mentally? What kind of person do you want to be when you’re 70, 80, or 90?

One of the things that I’m terrified of becoming is a bitter old man. It’s one thing to be crotchety (which I already am!). It’s another thing to be spiritually poisonous. I don’t want to become the grandpa whose kids and grandkids don’t want to be around because he’s always complaining, cutting others down, or is consistently expressing bitterness and negativity.

I learned a long time ago that the key to aging well is learning to forgive. Not only does forgiving others improve our spiritual state, but it’s being proven to increase our physical health, as well. When we forgive someone, we let go of the need to be paid back, to come out ahead, or to be proven right. Forgiveness uproots the saplings of bitterness. Learning to forgive quickly and thoroughly prevents the development of bitterness because you have let go of the things that bitter people hold onto.

But you might be thinking, “That sounds wonderful, but you have no idea what that person did to me.” That’s true. I don’t. But God does. God knows all the sinful things that every person has done, whether it’s the things you’ve done to others, or the things others have done to you. And he has forgiven all of them at the cross of Jesus.

Paul tells us in Colossians 3:13, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” With his dying breath, Jesus cried out on the cross, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” What a dramatic moment of forgiveness, and what a breadth of forgiveness he has offered! This is the example for us. This is how we are to forgive, with radical disregard for our own rights.

With radical forgiveness comes radical freedom. Freedom from bitterness. Freedom from emotional bondage. Freedom from sin. Don’t let the sins of others bind you to sins of your own. Don’t let your heart become embittered. Forgive, as the Lord forgave you.

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