Colossians 3:17 How to Do Everything
We come to the end of a series on the church as presented in Colossians 3:12-17. We are to wear the traits of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, and forgiveness. We are to put love on over all, be ruled by the peace of Christ, and let the word of Christ dwell richly in our hearts. Verse 17 sums it all up.
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Let’s break this one sentence verse into three parts.
And whatever you do, in word or deed
Paul covers all the bases. What he is about to say covers every activity, not a category of activities. Because of the context of our passage, we might conclude he means only church activities, i.e. how we relate to one another in the church. And so we should teach and admonish the word of Christ. We should speak to one another in the spirit of Christ, and relate to one another with the dress code of Christ-like traits. We ought to do good works for each other in Christ’s name, and so on.
Certainly this admonition does apply to the church, which is the body of Christ. And yet it is also evident that Paul extends his thought beyond what we do in the church. The passages immediately following take this thinking into the home and the workplace.
Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. (3:18) And he says in Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church.”
Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. (3:20)
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (3:23-24)
Furthermore, in the first and second chapters he speaks of walking in Christ: walk in a manner worthy of the Lord (1:10); as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him (2:6). He does not restrict walking to walking among other believers or in the context of church life. It is our daily walk wherever we are walking.
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus
Now then we ask what is meant by “in the name of the Lord Jesus.” The primary thought is that of representing the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. The term “Christian” means Christ-follower or belonging to Christ. A paraphrase of this phrase could be “do everything as a Christian.” Paul could have said, “In everything you do live up to your name – Follower of Christ.”
When Christ reconciled us to God, he moved us from being enemies of God to being children of God. We have been adopted into his family. Our baptism signifies that adoption. We are baptized “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” We are now Christians, members of Christ’s family. We are in the name of the Lord Jesus; therefore, we are to do everything in his name, testifying by word and deed that we belong to him.
So, to act in the name of Christ is to represent our Lord Jesus Christ. It also indicates the authority, power, and resources that belong to us in Christ. We are to act in light of our union with Christ and all that comes with that. Earlier in the letter, in chapter 2, Paul challenges the Colossae believers not to give into the old ways and thinking of the world. On the cross Christ went through a circumcision and baptism in which he bore our sins, nailing them on the cross; he then was raised to life.
Now, here is the point. We were with him. We were united with him so that with him we too went through our own circumcision and baptism, and we too were made alive. The result? We are dead to the world. We are no longer alive in the world as those who must live by its rules and regulations. What the world has to say about earning one’s way to heaven and to favor with God does not apply to us, who have been saved and reconciled to God solely by the work of Christ. Therefore, in everything we do, do it as those who are resting in Christ’s work, not our own. Do nothing out of our effort to win God’s favor or to win our place in heaven.
But there is more. To act in the name of Christ is to act under his authority and protection. We are no longer subject to the world’s rules because we belong to Christ and are his subjects. Wherever we go and whatever we do, we remain, then, under his protection. We have the same status as ambassadors sent to foreign countries with diplomatic immunity. They go under the protection of their country as representatives of their country. In the same way, we are under the protection of our Head Jesus Christ. No evil can come against us; in particular, Satan cannot touch us. Our souls belong to our Lord, and no one can snatch us out of his hands.
Therefore, in everything we do, do it without fear in the freedom that is ours in the name of Jesus. Do what is right in the eyes of Jesus, not worrying about what offends the citizens of this world and the subjects of Satan. Do what is commanded by our Lord, not fearing how it may be perceived by anyone not in his domain.
And then, act in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, availing ourselves with his power and riches. In 1:9-11, Paul writes:
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy…
What do we have in Christ? We have true knowledge of God – who he is and what his will is for us, so that we can walk in a manner worthy of the Lord. We can bear fruit in our deeds. We can be strengthened with the power of Christ according to his glorious might. In his strength we can endure and act in patience with joy.
And so, Paul exhorts the believers to do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, acting as his representatives, knowing that as those who are united to him, they can act without fear, under his protection and in his strength. They do not act having to prove themselves, having to earn God’s favor, having to protect themselves from Satan, having to find strength in themselves.
This gives them the freedom and strength to wear the traits of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience in everything they do. It gives them the strength to forgive as their Lord forgave them, and to put on love above all. Knowing that one is in Christ gives the peace of Christ, so that we can act in Christ. So then, to do everything in Christ is to act with responsibility before Christ and to act in the power of Christ.
Now, one more important word: giving thanks to God the Father through him.
This is the third reference to giving thanks in three verses. It must be important. Evidently, acting in the name of Jesus Christ includes doing so in the spirit of thankfulness to God. 1 Corinthians 9:7 tells us that “God loves a cheerful giver.” He also loves a thankful doer. We rightfully admire Christians who labor in difficult fields and who make what we consider to be great sacrifices. Even so, they are the first, if they are acting with the right motivation, to attest that their Lord is gracious to give them such work.
I received a recent mission letter from friends serving in hard, hostile conditions with their family of four young children. Churches have been burned, lives lost. He has been beset with ill health. Their furlough is over and they are returning to the field. He writes:
We know that we are returning to a place of hardship, but the answer is not to slink away into an early rest. We must work while it is day, we must be courageous. And our Lord’s calls to courage are linked with the surety of success that he will bring his kingdom.
So we are remembering Christ’s “Lo, I am with you always.” His Church will surely blossom in our country, whether in our lifetime or in the future. And we are remembering God’s many graces to us.
Because they are in the name of Christ, they go forth in his name trusting him and giving thanks to God the Father for the blessings that are theirs through Christ, which leads to the final and critical qualification.
We are to be thankful to God the Father through Christ the Son. Listen carefully. These last two words of the verse and of our passage are critical. They are not extra words added to round off a sentence that began about Jesus. All that we have received, we have received through Jesus Christ. We are reconciled to the Father through Christ. We adopted in Christ. We have received the riches that are in Christ. We know God as Father only through Christ the Son. And the Father will hear us only through his Son.
And whatever you do, in word or deed, - whether in the church, outside the church, whether religious or secular – do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, - as his representative, under his protection, united in him, filled with his riches and strength – giving thanks to God the Father – in a spirit of thankfulness – through him – through and only through our Lord Jesus Christ.
We come to the end of a series in Colossians 3:12-17 on the church. We have talked about the spiritual traits that we are to wear in our relations to one another. We have talked about love, the peace of Christ, and the word of Christ, all of which are to dwell in us and among us as the body of Christ.
When we apply this last verse to the church, we see that it impresses upon us two things – responsibility and ability. With regard to responsibility, we are responsible before the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the head of his Church, to love one another. Remember his words to his disciples: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
There is no option. Jesus is not giving advice. The previous verse reads: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” This is a command. He has given himself as the example, and he calls us to follow him and to obey. Our love for one another is to be the identifying mark that we belong to him. We are to do everything in his name, and if we are to honor rather than dishonor his name, we must love one another.
We must love in word, in our speech. If we trip up, it is here. And if we do, it is likely to be about the church. In all churches there are differences of opinion about how things are run and what should get more emphasis or more money; differences about the building, differences about decisions. There often is miscommunication and lack of communication. That goes with having more than two members of any group. The church is no different except that, as the representative of Jesus Christ the Head, the members will supposedly relate to one another in the name of Christ. They will not act like the world and make cutting remarks and accusing remarks. Rather, they will bear with one another, forgive one another, speak with kindness.
We must love in word; we must love in speech. 1 John 3:18: “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” Let us not talk about loving one another if we do not love in deed. In the name of Christ we are to care for one another in practical ways. We are to look out for each; we are to pay attention to everyone and proactively meet real needs. Everyone matters because everyone is a child of God in Christ, and so we are to serve in the name of Christ.
These things are our responsibility in the name of Christ. That same name has also given us the ability. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. In the name of Christ we possess all that we need to love our brothers and sisters. He has given us the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. He has made us new creatures. We are no longer helpless, no longer slaves to sin. You can love in word and deed that individual who rubs you the wrong way. You can. You can be understanding of others who don’t measure up to your standards. You can. You can be forgiving. You can be kind. To say that you can’t is to say that Christ’s power is of no avail, that the Holy Spirit is not strong enough to work in you.
Christ has given you responsibility and ability. All you have to do is do everything in his name. Don’t know how to resolve conflict between you and another in the church? See that person in Christ, as belonging to your Lord, as having been redeemed by the blood of your Savior. Christ will then give you wisdom and courage. Not sure how to speak about a matter that concerns you? Then ask, What would Jesus have you do as his representative? Ask yourself that question; ask Jesus; he will give you the answer.
The key to doing everything the right way is to do everything in the name of Jesus. Our problem is that we act without consciously bringing him into the picture, and we most likely keep him out when we are upset. Bring him back in, especially into whatever is a conflict. See then if his peace does not rule you and lead you to bring peace.
Using the counsel of verse 16, sing to yourself about Jesus. Sing praise to him; sing thanks to him; give thanks to God the Father through him. What can you do then but love? Sing of Jesus, who is a friend for sinners, even such sinners as you and I.