El Shaddai: The Colossians Study (No. 6)
Words by Lexy Sauvé // Images by Candice Hackett
The previous section of Colossians ended with Paul’s encouragement to believers where he said, “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus” (3:17). That word “whatever” encompasses the whole of life, including the areas of life Paul writes about in these last verses. He digs into the details of what it looks like to do all things in the name of the Lord as it pertains to our marriages, families, work relationships, prayer lives, speech, and ministry.
“Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. 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. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality. Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.
“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
“Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts, and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you of everything that has taken place here. Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, welcome him), and Jesus who is called Justus. These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me. Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas. Give my greetings to the brother at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea. And say to Archippus, ‘See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.’ I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.” (Colossians 3:18–4:18)
Paul is not fearful of giving real life examples of how the knowledge of God should actively affect and shape our lives. I often find myself succumbing to the snare the Bible calls “fear of man” and don’t want to share God’s revealed plan for all of life, out of worry that I may be perceived as legalistic. I disbelieve God’s Word and that it truly provides all we need for living abundant lives. But I believe Paul was fully convinced in his mind of these truths, and that’s why he bluntly shares with the Colossians what these different areas of their lives will look like when Christ is set apart as preeminent to us.
Paul says the life where Christ is first will include marriages where husbands and wives trust God’s wise design and plan (3:18–19). This means wives will entrust themselves to the Lord, instead of letting fear and a desire for control to take root, and gladly submit to their husband as they nurture a gentle, quiet spirit and respond to the leaders of their families (1 Peter 3). In turn, husbands will not take advantage of their position through harshness and tyranny. Instead, they will reflect Jesus and descend to a place of servant leadership, just as Christ came to earth and gave his life up for the church (Eph. 5:25).
Next, Paul describes a family where Christ is first as a unit of people who understand and trust God with their individual places and callings within that family (3:20–21). This will look like obedient children who respect the authority God has lovingly placed over them in the dawn of their lives. Parents, mothers, and especially fathers, will work towards active discipleship of the young hearts God has blessed them with. Deuteronomy 6:4–8 describes this as parents who first know and love the triune God in their own hearts, and then overflow with that love and knowledge toward their children. This should be something that happens regularly, “when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” God’s Word is thought of so highly in these homes that the walls may even be adorned with the Living Power (Deut. 6:9).
Employees who love Jesus above all else—above their own comfort, desires, and pursuits—will be hard workers. Why? Because they know and believe Paul when he says, “You are serving the Lord Christ (3:24).” These employees are able to serve Jesus even when their boss is grumpy and keeping them too late, because they know this pleases God’s heart. They are able to bless Jesus as they serve frustrated, complicated customers. Those in authority in workplaces will also respect their employees because they have a sense of humility knowing they ultimately serve the same Master in heaven. This boss is not unfair and unnecessarily demanding, but generous and just. When both these areas of the workplace are functioning in this matter, employees mirror Jesus’ servant heart, and employers magnify his righteous leadership.
One who wholeheartedly believes in Jesus’ sufficiency for all these areas of life will by nature grow in prayerfulness, which is why Paul writes, “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving (4:2).” The pray-er goes often to its true source of life and help. This was true of my life when I became a mother. I was painfully aware of my need for help when I’d wake up to my own pity-party on Saturday mornings, begrudging my loss of weekends to a poopy, demanding newborn. This acknowledgment of being prone to self-preservation and weariness in my parenting has driven me to my knees at about 6:15 every single morning since then. As I watch God meet my needs, big and small—needs for potty training, needs for food to be multiplied through unexpected, busy seasons of hospitality, needs for love and patience in my marriage—I can continue to be “watchful in thanksgiving,” knowing he is always a faithful provider.
I believe one of the biblically described results of a life that pursues in prayer will be a desire to walk wisely and be gracious with our words. God realigns our priorities with his own as we go to him in this way, so how we treat others around us through our decisions and conversations will naturally begin to reflect this. As we trust Jesus to renew our minds, provide wisdom, and fill our thoughts with excellent, praiseworthy things, we will open our mouths only when wisdom and kindness is present on our tongues (Prov. 31:26).
At this point Paul recounts the names of those he is running alongside in ministry. Hard-to-pronounce names like Tychicus and Aristarchus appear and we may want to mentally check out. But all of Scripture is God-breathed and profitable (2 Tim. 3:16), including these sections that look to us like ancient phonebooks. So, what does it have to do with us today?
Through these siblings in the Lord, Paul is showing that a heart and life that raises Christ to his place of proper enthronement will overflow into a life of ministry that is concerned with the maturity of fellow brothers and sisters. This is how Paul described Epaphras when he wrote that he was, “a servant of Christ Jesus . . . always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God” (4:12). Paul goes on to say what a faithful, hardworking man Epaphras was in the ministry. Epaphras’ faithfulness to his family in Christ should challenge the ways we are willing, or not so willing, to struggle in order to see others around us grow in the Lord. Do we give up a comfortable seat in the Sunday morning service in order to provide an extra hand in the nursery? Do we lay down the TV remote and get out one night a week to attend a community group and offer vulnerability and encouragement? Those are the sort of sacrifices God never wastes. Honestly, that’s letting go of much lesser things in order to gain the joy accompanied by Kingdom work. God is a happy God, and those serving him should be happy in their enlistment as well! It’s his desire that we would all see that we fulfill the ministry that we have received in the Lord (4:17).
Questions to consider: