Summary: Paul covers all the bases. What he is about to say covers every activity, not a category of activities.
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.