Summary: Heavenly realities working themselves out in marriage.
It’s been said that in the FIRST YEAR of marriage, the man speaks and the woman listens. But in the SECOND YEAR, the woman speaks and the man listens. Then in the THIRD YEAR, they BOTH speak and the NEIGHBOURS listen. Others say that marriage is like undertaking a LEGO project without instructions. More positively, marriage is described as the UNION of two forgivers. Or a successful marriage requires FALLING IN LOVE many times, always with the same person.
This morning we come to the RELATIONSHIP between a husband and wife. Paul says in Col 3:18 and 19, ‘Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them’. There are a few reasons why these verses might TROUBLE us. You may have LOST a husband or a wife through death or divorce. What about spouses with UNBELIEVING partners? Do these verses say anything to SINGLE people? And there are Christian marriages which the world has DISRUPTED and there is a need to RETURN to the biblical pattern.
We should understand that verses 18 and 19 are NOT ONLY for husbands and wives, but for the congregation IRRESPECTIVE of marital status. For these verses consolidate the principles ALREADY explained in Colossians 3. Here is a PRACTICAL EXAMPLE of what it means to ‘set your minds on things above’. Relationships in the home, especially between HUSBAND and wife, illustrates the principle laid out in verse 17, ‘And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him’ (Col 3:17).
The apostle gives us a further reason why verses 18 and 19 are for all of us. The relationship between a husband and a wife introduce us to the DOCTRINE of the church and the relationship of the CHURCH to Christ. For example, in Eph 5:23 Paul says, ‘For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church’.
If you DON’T OBJECT to Christ as the head of the church, then there can be NO OBJECTION to the husband as the head of the wife. And Paul says to husbands, ‘love your wives, just as Christ loves the church and gave himself up for her’ (Eph 5:25). If you DON’T OBJECT to Christ loving you and giving himself up for you, then husbands CANNOT object to loving their wives in the SAME way.
So whilst in the letter to the COLOSSIANS the relationship between wives and husbands is an outworking of MINDS set on heavenly realities, in the letter to the EPHESIANS it is a glorious stepping stone to a magnificent DOCTRINE about Christ and his church. Indeed, only when we understand the relationship between Christ and his Church can we fully UNDERSTAND the nature of Christian marriage.
So don’t be tempted to push Col 3:18 and 19 aside and say it has NOTHING to do with me. But you will need HELP thinking through this passage and you should NOT assume that you can do that on your own. When you became a Christian, this raised NEW problems which you may never have confronted before. When you became a Christian you started seeing situations DIFFERENTLY. Whereas before you may have blindly acted, now you are COMPELLED to think about a situation in light of the lordship of Jesus.
A good example is the WIFE who becomes a Christian while her husband remains UNCONVERTED. In the ancient world the danger was for the wife to MISINTERPRET her new life in such a way as to UPSET the marriage relationship. It can be a problem for us too. Martyn LLOYD-JONES says, ‘The result is that we have to think very carefully to discover exactly what is right in this new life, and how we are to apply this new teaching to the new situation in which we find ourselves’ (DM Lloyd-Jones, Life in the Spirit, 88). And so as we consider verses 18 and 19, you will need to consider very CAREFULLY how this section applies to you.
Do not be foolish and think that the GOSPEL only applies to my religious life but it has NOTHING to do with my MARRIAGE or my work or my parents. The Lord Jesus has every RIGHT to speak about life in the kitchen. He has every right to speak into our MARRIAGES and how we raise our children and the way we behave at the SHOPPING CENTRE and in the workplace. ‘And whatever you do (and this means wherever you are), do it in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him’ (Col 3:17).
Please also notice that the apostle does NOT discuss the matter of husbands and wives as though it were an ISOLATED question. He DOESN’T rush mindlessly into the topic. Rather Paul considers the GENERAL PRINCIPLES which bring us to a point of MEANINGFUL discussion about families. The apostle starts his letter with God the Father who vested his IMAGE in his only Son. This SON ‘is before all things and in him all things hold together’ (Col 1:17). The SON reigns supreme by virtue of creation and his resurrection. This is the same CHRIST through whom God is reconciling to himself all things.