Colossians 3.18: Mystery of Family (Wives)

November 27, 2011 Series: Colossians

Topic: New Testament Passage: Colossians 3:18–3:18


Theology for Real Life
Paul ended last week by saying, “...whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  What Paul is talking about is a life rhythm of worship where all of your members of your body, all of your mind and heart are devoted to worship.  It is a lifestyle of repentance where, by the Spirit, we fight against our flesh and fight for joy in Jesus. And what I love about Paul is that, he makes brings a theology of Christ and applies it real life.  The false teachers are those guys who have all the spirituals rules, religious traditions, and heavenly experiences that never come down to earth—the ones whose convictions never actually impact what matters—their  marriages, parenting, jobs, etc.  Paul is going to take the gospel beyond the walls of the church family and make it personal—he is going to show you how it applies to your family. 

The next few verses speak to the husbands, wives, and children.  They are really part of one message about the about experiencing the fullness of Christ in what God calls FAMILY.  Do not dismiss Paul’s instructions here as culturally archaic or personally irrelevant.  Creation began a divine sense of order to all relationships. Sin deformed that order.  Jesus is restoring that order.  And consider that, after 2 ½ chapters of deep theology about restoration in Christ—the first specific deformed relationship he talks about are those in the family.   Here, Paul begins with speaking to how the person and work of Jesus Christ restores the role of the woman in the marriage relationship.  That does not mean this sermon is just for married women.  On the contrary it is for every woman and every man, married, single, young, and old.  Women, this is a day for you to fight for humility.  Men, this is your fight for compassion—your fight for humility comes next week. 

The “S” Word
As Paul wrote in Philemon 8…though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—.  In other words Ladies, I’m not scared to tell you like it is.  But I do want to try and be sensitive to the reality that it is difficult to feel enthusiastic about the word “SUBMIT” in our culture or in your personal experience.  A man can barely whisper the word “submission” today and not be demonized as a chauvinist, a Neanderthal, or worse.  And many a pastor has been crucified for preaching strong-handed sermons on the “S-word”, sadly, devoid of the compassion of Christ.  I don’t mind being crucified as long as I am speaking the Words of Christ in a Christ-like way. 

Let me talk gently, but frankly, about the big bad “S” word--SUBMISSION.  Usually, when we come across a word or idea that we do not like, but feel obligated to agree with (e.g. God said it), the first thing that happens is an attempt to redefine it, to make it more agreeable.  The word SUBMISSION means to take a subordinate role, specifically in relation to another person.   Now submission is not exclusive to women in marriage. According to Ephesians 5.21, mutual submission out of reverence for Jesus should characterize all Christians.  But as we demonstrate meekness, grace, and patience with one another, that does not mean we do not submit to God given authorities in our lives.  Submission to authority, be it God, parents, or governments is also a Christian virtue.  The question then is whether or not there is an authority in the marriage relationship? In Ephesians 5.22-24 Paul wrote, 22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.  Paul says that man IS, not should be, the head of the wife.  After searching over 2,300 different uses in ancient Greek literature, theologian Wayne Grudem determined that every instance of submission is always used in the sense of authority of one over another.  So the husband (not the man) is, in some sense, authoritative of his bride (not all women).

Formation of Women
But has it always been this way?  Was this God’s plan or was “submission” a result of the sin and the fall?   In order to understand submission in marriage biblically, it is important for us to go back to the garden.  We learn several things from the narrative in Genesis 1 and 2: Genesis 1.26-27  26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”  27   So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God later says in Genesis 2.18-20  “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” And all kinds of animals were made who came to Adam and God gave him the authority to name them.  Of course, none of the animals were suited to be what God wanted for Adam as a “FIT” helpmate, God created another human whom Adam first named Woman and, after the Fall, named Eve….Genesis 2.22 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.  We learn a few things from these passages:

1)      Men and Women were created to be equal:  God said that both male and female were created in His image. Both equally and uniquely bare the image of God. It is also significant that woman was created out of man and from his side.  If she had been created apart from Adam, we may lose a simple sign of their equality, mutual dependence, and companionship they were intended to experience. .

2)      Men and Women were created to be different:  Equality does not mean sameness. Men and women are beautifully different.  They were not created with the same responsibilities, roles, or responses.   Adam was created first. Adam was charged to lead the effort to work the garden, to build, and to subdue the world. Adam was given authority to name creation, including Eve.  Adam led Eve in the ways of God, Adam provided for Eve in the garden of God, Adam represented Eve before God, and Adam was responsible for teaching and caring for Eve physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  

3)      Women were created to help man in his work:  The woman was made to help Adam in his work.  She followed his lead, supported his work, received his love, and made beautiful what he built. . The word for helper is the Hebrew word that means a "helper like unto God."  We read the word and wrongly think secretary or sidekick.  The truth is God paid a compliment to women with this word. The same word is used of God in Psalms 115.9 where it says, "O Israel, trust in the Lord, for He is their Helper. The term is always used to describe someone who brings significant help and often as someone who delivers another from some great dilemma. The Ancient Jew would have viewed the woman as a God-like gift from God to help man be what he could not become or do alone.

Deformation of Women: Our Sinful Flesh.
According to Genesis, and Ephesians, submission was not a result of the Fall—it is part of the creative order and God’s divine plan. Before the fall, for however many years, Adam led and Eve followed in what was a natural, fruitful, and joyful relationship.  What came from the fall was a man’s reluctance to lead and work (because it was hard) and women’s disdain for submission made easier by man’s failureGenesis 3.16 16 To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”  The consequences of sin brought CONFLICT between the husband and the wife.  For him, leadership and work would be hard.  For her, being led would be hard.   This remains the greatest fight for women in their sinful flesh, made especially difficult (but not excusable) because of men’s failure to love (next week). Instead, for thousands of years, millions of men have abandoned, abdicated, or abused their leadership.  Submission to a husband is already difficult, but a colorful history men’s silence, pride, and abuse (esp. religious ones) make it completely repulsive.  Instead of bringing couples together, submission polarizes them. And God’s design becomes so perverted that submission in marriage looks like indentured service and feels like prison.  It’s not too long before God’s model for the family is rejected and a secular, more earthly definition is adopted, and things go from bad to worse for everyone.  She won’t respect or follow because she feels he isn’t respectable and lost.  He is silent, absent, and unloving.  And because now he is disrespected and treated like Neanderthal, he begins to act like one, and treats her like a 2nd class citizen. 

The Gospel and the Reformation of Women
That was probably the case in the community that Paul is writing to.  One commentator notes that in Jewish culture at this time, a woman had few if any legal rights and the practice of any-cause divorce had become rampant.  Greco-Roman society was not much better.  A respectable woman lived a life of restricted mainly to the home.  She lived a life of servitude, seclusion, and chastity while the husband enjoyed freedom, privilege, and promiscuity.  Everything changed with Jesus. Jesus own treatment, elevation, and engagement with women is evidence of what the kingdom really looks like.  The gospel is the reason that Paul addresses women before men.  It is not because they are struggling worse than men, but because the gospel liberated them greatly.  Galatians 3.28 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.   The gospel reestablished the equality of men and women.  The fact that Paul even addresses women directly is indicative of this renewed identity, but is also Paul effort to make sure that their new found freedom does not once again become a perversion of God’s design.

Christ’s Submission
Submission is not cultural, not part of the fall, it is part of God’s design for the family.  And the gospel restores that design so that, in Christ, you experience the FULLNESS of what family is supposed to be. Here in Colossians 3 and it the companion passage in Ephesians 5, Paul charges wives to submit to their husbands 1) “as is fitting in the Lord” 2) “as to the Lord.”  LADIES…these statements qualify your motivation for obedience to this command—which is the same for any command.  Biblical submission to your husband is not simply a good idea; it is what is characteristic of someone who is PUTTING ON CHRIST.  I have said Jesus is not only the motivation, and the means, he is also the model. We must consider what the submission of Christ looked like.  Though equal with the Father, Jesus submits to the Father.   In Christ, equality and submission can co-exist.  1Corinthians 11.3 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.  Jesus has already submitted and humbled himself infinitely more than you ever could.  

What Submission is…and is not
Now that you understand the WHAT and WHY of submission, I want to discuss the details of the HOW.  The how is very important because there are some misconceptions about what biblical submission should look like or how it should be lived out.  And men, this is not the time to squeeze your wife’s thigh or think critically, this is your chance to be compassionate and pray.  And on a side note, husband’s don’t you ever dare demand submission. The only men who have to demand that are the ones who have not loved their wives and are trying to appeal to law. It won’t work.  That is a card that is pulled once every 10 years, maybe, and on specific decisions not on an entire relationship.    

1)      Follow your husband leadership (in all things):   Follow your husband, let him lead.  Christlike-submission is not mindless obedienceYou must NOT follow him when he leads you into sin.  And a healthy marriage is a relationship where the truth of “one flesh” is lived out.  In other words, there is a great deal of interdependence. There is mutual consultation, seeking wisdom, and desire to have harmony and the peace of Christ.  But know that, for your marriage and your family, God holds your husband responsible for the family.  It’s not that you can’t, it’s that you were meant to (tea cup and hammer).He needs to know that, if no one else follows him up the hill, you are there, you believe he is in control and capable.


2)      Pray for your husband’s leadership:  The best way to pray for his leadership is to pray for his relationship with God.   He will lead like Christ when he is led by Christ.  Your prayer is not that he will make certain decisions, not make other decisions, or lead in a particular direction you desire. Your prayer is that he will receive strength and courage to do all that God’s Word says.  And if he is not leading now, pray.  If he begins to lead, pray.  If he stops leading, pray. 


3)      Encourage your husband’s leadership (Word and Deed):  Encourage your husband as an ally not an adversary.  Culture has already made him into an animal or a juvenile.  He already believes the world is against him, that everyone thinks he is a fraud, incompetent, incapable, and not measuring up.  You can help him to think differently.  Do this by encouraging him.  Tell him what you appreciate about his husbandry, about his fatherhood, about his manhood.—even if you don’t  fully believe it yet.  Find ways to always build him up among others even if you don’t feel like he deserves it at the time. 


4)      RESPECT your husband’s leadership (Public and Private).  Speak highly of Him, especially when he makes a wrong or bad decision.  Seek ways to honor him as the leader of your home in front of your children, your family, your friends, and your church.  You do not have to wait until he does something glaringly respectable in order to take a disposition of respect toward him.  He needs to actually feel respected (as you need to feel loved).  If you are unsure what this looks like, ask him? Ask him if he feels disrespected or how he would feel more respected?  It might surprise you.


5)      Help your husband’s leadership (Sanctification) Help him in his leadership.  This is perhaps the most important one.  Although equal before God, you are his helper.  God has brought your personalities together to complement one another, not compete.  I want you to understand as a woman, submission does not mean silence. All sanctification is relational, and the most powerful and intimate relationship you have is your marriage.  There are two ditches, silence and nagging.  You have permission, you have a responsibility, to help your husband grow in Him. Ask your husband what he needs, share with him the weaknesess you see, and do this in love (FAT DRESS…if it is the only thing you ever hear).

This is made easier when men lead. It is true, many husbands do little to deserve the devotion of a godly wife. But true Christ-centered womanhood is not just a response to whatever some sinful man can offer through good/bad leadership or a worthy/unworthy example.  Christ-centered womanhood is rooted in a personal commitment to Jesus as Lord, and a desire to live in the fullness of his design.  1Peter 3.1-2 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives— 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct A true gospel-centered woman does not abandon her biblical wifery when he abandons his biblical husbandry. .She fights to put on Christ, to obey today, out of desire to glorify God through living a He designed them to be. 

We are responsible for our response to God’s truth—no one else’s.   Much like our first parents in the garden, when we find ourselves caught in sin and God asks us “What have you done?” we often want to point to another person, a particular circumstance, or some past experience not just as a cause, but as an excuseSubmission looks, feels, and sounds difficult to someone devoted to their own glory.  Wives, your respect for your husband and submission to his leadership is not based on his merits, but Christ’s.  

Benediction – Phil. 2.12-16
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.