Life with Christ in God: Relationships and Responsibilities

Colossians 3 continued

Every realm of life reveals the leadership of Christ and expresses His character. Each believer serves the Lord according to the particular relationship and role given by the Lord. As we honor our position in the relationship and fulfill our role, we are behaving suitably, and pleasing Him.

3:18-4:1 The Christian in Natural Relationships: As to the Lord

In harmony with the headship of Adam in creation, God holds the husband today responsible for his family. The wife is to recognize that order and willingly work with her husband on that basis (v 18). The husband is to sacrificially love and tenderly treasure his wife, refusing to allow any embitterment to develop between them (v 19). Obedience is the first responsibility of a child entering life on earth; the choice to be submissive and obedient to those appointed by God as our guardians till we reach adulthood (and hopefully maturity and self-control) is the greatest factor of Divine blessing in our life (v 20). As a child approaches adulthood, there should be a gradual transfer of control from the parent to the emerging adult, hopefully in subjection to the eternal principles of the sovereign Lord. Parents are cautioned to avoid provoking and frustrating their children, as they seek to lead them to maturity and independence (v 21).

While there is no distinction between bond and free in Christ, in acknowledgement of both prevailing law and social order in the Roman Empire at that time, believing slaves are exhorted to obey their masters and diligently serve, in devotion and reverence for the Lord. The thrilling reality applies equally today, that each of us is serving the Lord in all we do, and will be rewarded directly by Him in His kingdom (vv 22-24). However, this carries a sobering counterbalance: the Lord will also impartially recompense all wrong done in His service (v 25). Employers are equally accountable to the Master in heaven, to represent Him by fair and equitable treatment of servants (4:1).

Colossians 4: Responsibilities in the Work of God – Key Verses 4:2, 5-6

4:2-6 Responsibilities as Intercessors and Witnesses

Perseverance and vigilance in prayer, and a thankful attitude, are essential elements in keeping in touch with God, and with our responsibilities to people (v 2). Paul acknowledges his dependence upon a sovereign God, and the faithful intercession of fellow saints, to successfully fulfil his stewardship of the mystery of Christ (vv 3-4). We all share in the responsibility to bear witness effectively, with the wisdom and grace of Christ governing our interactions with unbelievers. Gracious, respectful, and caring words are essential to win the soul, not merely the argument (vv 5-6).

4:7-18 Responsibilities and Relationships in the Work

The closing section of the epistle reveals touching glimpses of relationships among fellow laborers in the Lord’s work. It is wonderful when spiritual relationships are warm and mutually enjoyable. Tychicus is entrusted with this epistle (as well as the Ephesian epistle), and is highly commended as “a faithful minister and fellowservant in the Lord.” It gives great encouragement to older believers and leaders in the work to see faithfulness, commitment, and consistency in younger Christians. Onesimus, the subject of the Philemon letter, is likewise commended as a faithful and beloved brother. The testimony of Philemon’s former runaway slave would be intensely interesting to the saints at Colosse (vv 7-9)!

Aristarchus had hazarded his life with Paul at Ephesus, and is now “my fellow-prisoner.” Whether he voluntarily shared Paul’s confinement, or was arrested because of his association with Paul, he is suffering once again along with the apostle to the Gentiles. He likewise shares the apostle’s interest in the saints at Colosse and sends his greetings (v 10). Evidently there was a possibility of Mark also coming to Colosse, and Paul carefully commends him. The story of John Mark reveals the triumph of grace in restoration to God and to useful service, and in reconciliation with fellow workers. This would also be significant to the assembly at Colosse, in view of Paul’s intercession with Philemon for reconciliation with Onesimus. Aristarchus, Mark, and Justus are specially mentioned as Jewish co-workers who have stood firmly with Paul in his defense of the gospel in Rome, and became a special comfort to him. No doubt many Jewish believers were hesitant or less than enthusiastic about his teaching of the mystery of Jew and Gentile in one body in Christ, the present work of the kingdom of God (vv 10-11).

Epaphras was responsible for bringing the gospel to the people of Colosse (1:4-8), and possibly Laodicea and Hierapolis, but is now a fellow-prisoner with Paul (Phi v 23). “Always laboring fervently for you,” indicates continuous agonizing intercession on behalf of the assembly, pleading with God to preserve the saints from false teachers and their influence, and to establish them in His will centered upon Christ. The decision to write the epistle to them was no doubt born out of this deep concern (vv 12-13).

“Luke, the beloved physician” (v 14) must have been a tremendous comfort to Paul, both spiritually and physically. Demas was also a fellow-worker with Paul. He later defected from Paul, as sorrowfully recorded in Paul’s last letter to Timothy shortly before his execution. The references to Laodicea and another assembly (probably Hierapolis) meeting in the home of Nymphas remind us that fellowship both in active service and in acceptance of common teaching is essential for functional unity in the work of God (vv 15-16). Why is Archippus publicly challenged to fulfil his God-given ministry (v 17)? Was Archippus lacking courage to confront the false teachers? Is Paul confirming to the saints a true teacher and shepherd among them? Are we prepared to confront the challenges we face today?

“Remember my bonds” is a touching appeal and reminder that his sufferings were on their behalf. “Grace be with you” is a final blessing out of the fullness of the risen Christ, in Whom all divine fullness and all sufficiency dwells (v 18)!