Summary: Exposition of Col. 3:18–21

God’s Design for the Family

“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 embitter your children, or they will become discouraged” (Col. 3:18–21).

What was God’s original design for the family?

Sadly, when thinking about family, many don’t have great memories. In the Scripture, there are only four chapters that are without sin (Genesis 1–2 and Revelation 21–22), and therefore even the Scripture has many tragic stories about families. It shows the devastating effects of sin on the family.

Adam and Eve sinned, and the first thing Adam did was blame his wife. They had two male children, and one of the sons killed the other. Abraham, God’s chosen man, married two wives, breaking God’s design, and he eventually kicked one wife and her child out of the house. Jacob had several wives like his grandfather. His twelve sons eventually sold their younger brother into slavery. David had many wives and his son raped his sister. Then the daughter’s brother, Absalom, killed the son that raped her.

When we look at the story of the Bible, we see how family relationships have been broken by sin. Today’s story is no different; sin is still destroying family relationships, and therefore we don’t have great models of God’s design. In fact, today we even see the effects of sin in the redefinition of marriage. In some cultures men have many wives and in others homosexual marriage is acceptable.

What is God’s design for family, and how can we have the relationships God meant us to have? Are the relationships I have with my family a proper reflection of my heavenly standing in Christ?

Often, when a person comes to Christ there isn’t much change at all, but in Colossians 3 Paul says that one’s relationship with Christ should affect everything. He starts off the chapter talking about the believer’s new position in Christ. Listen to what he says: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1).

When a believer was saved, he was spiritually identified with Christ. He died with Christ; he rose from the dead with Christ. He is now seated with Christ in heavenly places (Eph. 2:6). However, this position should not simply be a mental note or point of theology for a Christian; it should radically change his life.

It should change the way a person thinks. Paul says to think on things above and not on the things of the earth (v. 2). This position in Christ should affect every thought.

It should change the “clothing” we wear. Paul tells the church to take off the old clothing of sin and put on the new clothing of righteousness, which fits our heavenly position in Christ. Put on love, compassion, kindness, forgiveness, bearing with one another, etc. (vv. 5–14).

In Colossians 3:15–17, he describes the priorities of our heavenly position, the outer garments of every believer. The Christian must let the peace of Christ rule in his life. We should make every decision based on the reality of whether this decision will disrupt our peace with Christ and his body. We must let the Word of Christ dwell richly in us. It must be our desire to know the Word of God more daily and to allow it to overflow in our lives. We also must do everything in the name of the Lord. We must seek his glory in everything we do. These are the priorities of the heavenly citizen.

However, the questions remain, “What about our relationships? How should my position in Christ affect my family life?” In this lesson, we will see the responsibilities of the family members in God’s original design.

Big Question: What are the responsibilities of each member of the family according to Paul?

The Wife’s Responsibility to Her Husband

“Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord” (Col. 3:18).

First, we will see the wife’s role. Paul says, “Wives, submit to your husbands as is fitting in the Lord.” The wife must submit to her husband because this is fitting or appropriate for her position in Christ.

The word submission often has a nasty connotation in our society, but it must be noted that submission does not mean “inferiority.” “Submit” is actually a military word. The word simply means, “to arrange under rank.” It means to “come up under.” A sergeant is not inferior to a captain. They are equal. However, to have order in the military, there must be authority in the relationship lest there be chaos. In the same way, when God made the husband and wife relationship, he made it with order so that it would function properly.

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