Online Bible Commentary
Colossians 3:18 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them. 20 Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. 22 Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. 23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. 25 But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality. 4:1 Masters, give your bondservants what is just and fair, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven. (NKJV)
The book of Colossians is part of what is known as the Prison Epistles. The writings, themselves, affirm that the epistles were written by the Apostle Paul from prison.
There are differing opinions as to during which of Paul’s prison confinements the epistles were written. There are many sources that discuss this subject fully. For our purposes, we will go along with the thought of most scholars that Paul wrote the prison epistles during his house arrest in Rome from AD 60-62.
It is believed that the epistle was written about AD 61 to the house churches in Colossae, Asia Minor. The idea was that this authoritative letter would be passed along to the other churches.
The book of Colossians can be divided into two halves. The first half, the first two chapters, is concerned with the positional; doctrine outlining our position in Christ.
The second half, the last two chapters, is concerned with the practical; how we work out our position in the practical living of our Christian life. This is similar to the breakdown of the books of Romans and Ephesians, Paul’s previous writings.
Colossae, in Paul’s time, was a small city in decline. Once a great mercantile city, it was now the least significant of the cities to whom Paul wrote his letters.
The city of Colossae was located in what is southwestern Turkey today. It was located in the province of Phrygia, ten miles east of Laodicea, thirteen miles southeast of Hierapolis, and about one hundred miles east of Ephesus. It was about a hundred miles north of the Mediterranean Sea.
In the previous passage, Paul exhorts the church to do the will of God. It is telling that he follows this with instructions on relationships.
Relationship is all important to God. He had a relationship with Adam and Eve in the Garden, coming to them each day “in the cool of the day” (Gen. 3:8).
Adam and Eve broke that relationship with mankind through sin, requiring that each of us reestablish our relationship with God, individually. Not only does God desire a relationship with us while on earth, He desires that we would join Him in Heaven for an eternal relationship.
Paul begins this passage on relationship with addressing wives. This is fitting as wives are the energy of the family, which is precious to God and the building block of the church as well as society.
Paul writes “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” (v. 18). God is a God of order, not disorder.
God establishes order in the family by appointing the husband to be the head of the family. This authority places responsibility upon the husband to raise a Godly family, a family that pleases God.
Here, wives are ordered to submit to their husband’s leadership, “as is fitting in the Lord”. It is God’s will to have order in the family, and our duty to do His will.
Wives are to submit to the husband, not because it is earned by the husband but through obedience to God. However, wives are required to follow God if the husband is clearly leading in a different direction.
Next, Paul writes “Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.” (v. 19). Many things can happen in relationships, but husbands are not to allow themselves to become bitter towards their wives or to stop loving them. Love is a choice.
Paul continues by addressing children when he writes “Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.” (v. 20). Notice that children should obey both parents.
This requires that parents be on the same page, regarding the raising of the children. This will not always be the case.
Therefore, parents should, in private, settle any disputes in this area before presenting a united front to the children. Anything less only confuses the children and results in chaos in the home.
Next, Paul addresses fathers when he writes “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” (v. 21). It is interesting that this command is addressed to fathers and not mothers.
Perhaps, this is because mothers are generally the nourishers while fathers can be more harsh. Fathers should be encouragers, not discouragers.
In the rest of this passage, Paul turns his attention from family relationships to relationships between slaves and masters. This can also represent the relationship between employee and employer.
Paul writes “Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh” (v. 22a). In matters of “the flesh” we are ordered to obey our masters. Our heart belongs to the Lord, but when at work our time belongs to the boss.
Paul continues “not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God.” (v. 22b). We should always work as to the Lord, which means doing the best job possible.
God knows that none of us are perfect but we should do the best job possible within the allotted time. Even the most perfectly performed job is not good if it is not completed. God says “well done, good and faithful servant” (Mt. 25:23), not “perfectly done, perfect servant”.
Paul writes “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (v. 23). Our goal should be to not only please our boss, but, more importantly, to please God. God sees all that we do, and don’t do.
Paul continues “knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.” (v. 24). We work for Heavenly rewards, not for earthly rewards. Our reward is our inheritance as a child of God, rewards in Heaven for the good done here and eternal life with God and our loved ones.
On the other hand, there are consequences for a job not done well. Paul writes “But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.” (v. 25).
We are not rewarded in Heaven for a poor job on earth, even though we are a child of God. We will “escape the flames” (1 Cor. 3:15) of Hell, but we will miss out on many of our rewards during our eternity in Heaven.
Paul completes this passage with instructions to our masters. He writes “Masters, give your bondservants what is just and fair, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.” (v. 4:1).
This is one of those verses in the Bible that seems out of place since it was placed as the first verse of the next chapter. Chapter divisions, along with punctuation, were not part of the original Biblical writings and were decided later by scholars. It seems clear to this writer that Paul intended this verse to be part of this passage, and not the next.
Here, Paul instructs masters to treat their servants, and employees, in a Godly manner. They are called to give them “what is just and fair”, knowing that they also have a Master, God in Heaven, from whom they also wish to be given “what is just and fair”.
This idea of “what is just and fair” would seem to fit all relationships. We should always seek to be just and fair with others, just as God is with us.