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9. Evidence of a Word-Filled Life (Colossians 3:18-4:1)

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We could never cover marriage and family relationships in the time allowed for this one lesson. The focus of the lesson is how an understanding of the word of Christ in Colossians 3:12-17 should direct (act as umpire) in our relationships in 2 specific relationship spheres—family and workplace—so as to foster peace (Colossians 3:15). The issue for all of chapter 3 is how Christians can live fruitful and useful lives for God in the middle of a messy world—follow vv. 12-17.

Day One Study

Read Colossians 3:12-4:1.

  1. What overall heart/mind focus from 3:15-17 is repeated in 3:18-4:1?
  2. Paul gives examples of putting into practice the word of Christ from vv. 12-17 specifically in typical households of the time, which included slaves and hired servants. What specific relationships is Paul addressing in vv. 3:18-4:1?

Focusing on Family Relationships

  1. Paul assumes the husband and wife are exhibiting the characteristics from 12-17 in their lives. What instructions does Paul give to the Colossians in directing their family relationships (vv. 16-21) when they are doing everything in the name of Jesus?
  • To wives —
  • To husbands —
  • To children —
  • To fathers —

Though today’s culture includes households headed by women or men without mates and/or children, the principles of Colossians 3:12-17 that lead to maturity in private home relationships—submitting to one another and loving one another in a family—still apply.

  1. Define the following words using the best definition that fits the context of this passage. See also “From the Greek” below for more insight.
  • Submit —
  • Obey —
  • Love —
  • Embitter —

From the Greek: Hypotasso (translated “submit”) was a Greek military term meaning “to arrange [as in 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.” Agapao (translated “love”) means to love dearly, welcome, be fond of.” (The Blue Letter Bible Lexicon)

The word translated “embitter” (NIV) means to “provoke or irritate,” something parents can do by continual agitation and unreasonable demands. Praise for well-doing rather than constant criticism will, along with loving discipline, help rear children in the “training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). (The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, p. 683)

  1. Compare submitting and obeying and give an example of each from Jesus’ life:
  • How are they similar?
  • How are they different? [Note: the admonition for children to obey parents in Colossians 3:20 refers to minors, not adult children.]
  • Jesus submitting to authority —
  • Jesus obeying His parent(s) —
  1. Looking specifically at marriage relationships, read Ephesians 5:22-6:9. As you read, recall and consider the definitions you gleaned above. Paul tells wives to submit to their husbands and husbands to love their wives. What analogy is given for wives submitting to their husbands and why?
  2. Paul says in Colossians 3:18 that wives are to submit “as is fitting in the Lord” (NIV). Define fitting. What could Paul have meant by that phrase?

Scriptural Insight: Submission is an attitude that recognizes the rights of authority. This subjection rests on divinely prescribed authority, not on any inherent inferiority in spirituality, intelligence, worth, or anything else. This is “fitting” in that it is consistent with what God ordained at the creation of the human race (Gen. 2:18; cf. 1 Tim. 2:13). (Constables Notes on Colossians, p. 62)

  1. Staying Healthy: Considering your family life and relationships:

If you are married:

  • Apply the word of Christ presented in Colossians 3:5-17 to your marriage relationship. What do you need to “put off” and “put on?”
  • What can you learn from these verses to help you submit to and encourage your husband’s authority and responsibility in the family? [Note: we will cover limits to submission in a later question.]

Think About It: I heard someone say that the best marriages are those where the husband and wife take a team approach to life. That requires deciding to be teammates, not just two individuals living together. By taking the team approach to life together, the couple seeks team identification (having the same surname helps with this), team progress, and team success.

If you are unmarried:

  • Apply the word of Christ presented in Colossians 3:5-17 to your singleness. What do you need to “put off” and “put on?”
  • What can you learn from these verses to help you be content as a single or to help you choose a mate and prepare for marriage?

If you are raising children:

  • Apply the word of Christ presented in Colossians 3:5-17 to your parenting. What do you need to “put off” and “put on?”
  • How will you submit to the Lord’s authority as a parent and nurture obedience to and love for God in your children’s hearts?

Day Two Study

Read Colossians 3:22-4:1.

Focusing on Work Relationships

  1. Let’s continue our discussion of submission to authority. Although households in most countries no longer consist of slaves doing the bidding of their masters, there are parts of the world where the slave-master relationship still exists. However, the principle of submission to authority can apply to another place that has an authority structure—a workplace. Why is it that submission to authority (family, church, government, workplace) is often seen as a threat?
  2. What are the instructions for employees?
  • Verse 22 —
  • Verse 23 —
  • Verse 24 & 25 —
  1. What are the instructions for employers (3:25 & 4:1)?

Focus on the Meaning: The phrase “with all your heart” (verse 23, NIV) literally means “out of the soul,” i.e., genuine and from within, not merely by outward pretense…If more Christian employees today served their employers with genuine concern and as though they were serving God, quality and productivity would increase dramatically…If employers…today manifested this kind of compassionate and impartial care for their employees, certainly their employees’ motivation to work would radically improve. (The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, p. 683)

  1. What could be the benefit (present and future) of applying Colossians 3:22-4:1 in a workplace environment?

Think About It: This view of work transforms a worker’s attitudes and performance. Even the most servile work thereby becomes a ministry and an act of worship. (Constables Notes on Colossians, p. 65)

General Relationships

  1. What is involved in biblical submission to authority? See 1 Peter 2:21-23; 3:1-6.
  2. In Colossians 3:20, 22, how do you qualify “in everything?” Are there any limits to submission to authority? See also Acts 5:29.
  3. If the other person in the relationship is not doing his/her part, how should you respond based on your understanding of Colossians 3:12-17?
  4. Considering what you have learned from Colossians 3:12-17 and other verses in this study, why do you think submission is pleasing to God?

Think About It: Submission to the Lord is saying, “Lord, I want your will more than I want my own way.” Is this your heart attitude?

  1. Staying Healthy: Thinking specifically about Colossians 3:19, 23-24, apply these verses to other areas of your life besides a workplace environment. How would following the word of Christ in these verses benefit your children, your volunteer service, and your general witness to an unbelieving world?
  2. Deeper Discoveries (optional): In Colossians 3:22-4:1, Paul gives specific instructions in slave/master relationships. Do you believe God approves of slavery? If not, why is it not condemned? Why would obedience to God’s commands in Colossians 3:5-17 actually lead to its abolition?

Historical Insight: Interestingly throughout history wherever Christians have constituted a significant segment of the population and have followed Paul’s directions here, the slave system has died. (Constables Notes on Colossians, p. 66-67)

Day Three Study: TRUTH—the Prescription for Healthy Living

Dwell in Truth You Can Know

  1. Review the Colossians passage we studied in this lesson. List the truths about God and His relationship to us that we can KNOW.

Humbly Accept the “I Don’t Know or Understand”

  1. From the Colossians passage we studied in this lesson, make note of anything that you do not understand at this time.

Discern Teaching through the Complete Revelation of God’s Word

  1. Evaluate something you have read or heard in light of the TRUTH you are learning—books, social media, billboards—things that sound nice and comfy but may actually lead to or be based upon error in biblical thinking. Does anything come to mind that fits with today’s lesson? Discern truth from error using the following process.
  • Step #1: Define the terms and issues involved.
  • Step #2: Ask questions and support your answers with Scripture, looking for truth you can know and what you can’t know.
  • Step #3: Think of a graceful response to someone holding to that type of thinking.

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Related Topics: Curriculum, Women

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