Category Archives: Exposition of Scriptures

Learning to understand the Bible

Bible Study


By Spencer D Gear

Is it possible for a person who has no knowledge of the original languages of the Bible to have an accurate knowledge of the biblical text? If that were not so, it would leave a lot of people down through human history with a deficient biblical understanding.

Let’s examine some of the issues here. I was reading a person’s post on Christian Forums. She wrote:

I agree there are many watered down [Bible] versions today, but if we are really living by the Spirit, God gives us discernment on which ones really do portray everything that He wanted to get across. But, what did you mean when you said life more abundantly? Because many people believe in the prosperity gospel and I was hoping that wasn’t what you meant by it.[1]

My response was:

So do you know Greek and Hebrew so that you can say with confidence that translations of Scripture are among the “many watered down versions”?
We need to understand that it is the role of a Bible teacher to bring out the exegesis of a text from the original languages. Translations can’t do that because they are meant to be read by the populace. That does not make them watered down. It causes translators to translate with a fundamental, basic understanding of the Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic words and grammar.

By the way, could you give me some examples of modern translations that are “watered down”?[2]

Another person responded to me:

I’m wondering, OzSpen: I don’t know Greek or Hebrew or Aramaic.

What I have done is learn about the various translations (who did them; whether they have a specific theological bent; whether they’re paraphrasing, literal, thought for thought; what time period they were written in; etc.), and then I compare several translations to one another so as to try and come up with the best rendering and such. At times I’ll use the lexicons over at, and the few concordances I have on my shelves at home. Anyway, I was wondering, is this a good way to do exegesis?

I’m asking you, specifically, because I truly do value your opinion (don’t blush now! just kidding…). But yeah, besides becoming masters of the original languages, is this also a good way to go about it?[3]

How to understand the Bible

If a person does not have knowledge of the Bible’s original languages of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, how is it possible to exegete and understand the Bible? My response to beforHim was as follows:[4]

I would say that there are (1) better, and (2) best ways of doing exegesis of a text. I am able to approach the best for the NT because I read, exegete and have taught NT Greek. So I know how to use the Greek tools of grammars, lexicons and word studies.

However, I was short-sighted in my days of training in theological college and seminary and did not take Hebrew. So I have to use the better approach in the OT. This means ….

(a) using a number of different translations to compare. I use the ESV, NIV, NASB, NKJV and NRSV. This will give me a fairly reasonable understanding of the meaning of the Hebrew & Aramaic texts of the OT.

(b) However, I’m handicapped by not knowing the grammar of the Hebrew. This is where I call on my son for help. He has completed his MDiv and reads both Greek and Hebrew. However, most people don’t have this help of a son who knows his Hebrew. When I finish my PhD next year, I’ll take a couple courses in Hebrew at a Bible college here in Brisbane. My son learned his Hebrew from an excellent Hebrew exegete at Brisbane School of Theology.

(c) However, translating Hebrew and Greek does not provide the only challenge. Knowing culture is important and for that I use various Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias. There are some reasonable sites on the Internet.

(d) All Bible texts must be read in context. Many well-meaning Christians do not understand that and can come to some divergent answers to a verse when they don’t understand what came before and after that verse and in line with the main emphases of the OT or NT writer.

For those who do not read the original languages, I’d recommend a read of Gordon D. Fee & Douglas Stuart 1993. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth (2nd edn). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan. There are so many excellent guides, especially for the lay person, here. Chapter 2 is titled, “The Basic Tool: A Good Translation”. They highlight the problem with using only one translation by using 1 Cor. 7:36 as an example:

KJV: But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry.
NASB: But if any man thinks that he is acting unbecomingly toward his virgin daughter, if she is past her youth, and if it must be so, let him do what he wishes, he does not sin; let her marry.
NIV: If anyone is worried that he might not be acting honorably toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if his passions are too strong[a] and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married.
REB [NEB]: But if a man has a partner in celibacy and feels that he is not behaving properly towards her, if, that is, his instincts are too strong for him, and something must be done, he may do as he pleases; there is nothing wrong in it; let them marry.


Most people throughout history have not had access to the exegetical skills made possible with an understanding of NT Greek and OT Hebrew and Aramaic. Therefore, any Christian is able to reach an understanding of the biblical text by:

  • Comparing several translations. This is beneficial for people who speak English, but not so helpful for the people who speak the Buru language in East Timor as the SIL translators have now translated their first Bible into Buru (two of my SIL translator friends have been involved in the project). Those who don’t have a translation in the native language rely on missionary Bible teachers to teach the Bible.
  • Obtain an understanding of the culture of the day when that portion of the Bible was written.
  • Always read the Bible in context (read the verses around it) to obtain a meaning when understanding the intent of the passage.
  • It is the role of Bible teachers to help people understand the meaning of a biblical text.

In English there are many useful tools to help with understanding the culture of the day. Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias are good starters. There are books of Bible archaeology that may throw additional light on a text. InterVarsity Press (USA) has published a whole series of dictionaries on OT and NT background. This is but one example: T Desmond Alexander & David W. Baker (eds) 2003. Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch. Downers Grove, Illinois / Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press.

book cover

Courtesy InterVarsity Press


[1] Allykelly #331, 14 October 2012. Christian Forums, Christian Apologetics, ‘Do infants deserve hell since they are born in a sinful nature’. Available at: (Accessed 14 October 2012).

[2] OzSpen #339, ibid.

[3] beforHim #340, ibid.

[4] Ozspen #141, ibid.


Copyright (c) 2013 Spencer D. Gear.  This document last updated at Date: 14 October 2015.


Marriage Garments (Colossians 3:12-19)

Wedding couple


By Spencer D Gear

This is the message that I presented when I married a Christian couple. I have changed their names to preserve their privacy.

I know this is a very personal question, Bill and Cindy. What clothes will you be wearing for the very first night of your marriage? If you are only thinking of skimpy negligee or sexually stimulating undies, you may be very disappointed by your first night. In fact, those kinds of clothing are designed to bring a bit of spice into the relationship, but you will need more than that for a lasting marriage.

If your clothing is from the list I am about to read, it will:

  • give you a magnificent start to your marriage;
  • be the greatest gift you can give to each other for a lifetime of marital bliss–and I mean that. If you put on these clothes,
  • it will guarantee that your married life will be like heaven on earth.

I do not have time to talk about the ragged clothes that you need to discard. These are the clothes that build a magnificent marriage:

Are you ready?

As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity… 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. 18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. (Colossians 3:12-14, 17-19 NIV)

That’s not the normal list of clothes for your honeymoon. This spiritual clothing is critical, not only for a dynamic fellowship of Christian believers, but also for a marriage that has the blessing of God himself.

In your marriage, both of you need to put on,

1. Compassion.

Being able to feel with somebody who is experiencing joy or sorrow and then act show identification with joy and to bring comfort for those who are injured. “Compassion, pity, mercy.”[1] The “oh, no” that comes when you see another’s misery. 2 Cor. 1:3, God is called the “Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

God and Christ are like this. In Jesus’ parables, certain key people show what God’s compassion/mercy is like.

  • Take the parable of the unmerciful servant in Matt. 18:27, “The servant’s master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go.”
  • Luke 10:33, “But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.”
  • The parable of the prodigal son (the lost son), Luke 15:20, the prodigal concluded, “So he got up and went to his father. `But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him. He ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”[2]

Each of you, Bill and Cindy, may have times of sickness, injury, or feeling down. As believers in marriage, you must not be indifferent to suffering. You should be concerned to meet one another’s needs. This is compassion

Another piece of clothing that is related to compassion is:

2. Kindness

“The radical idea of the word is profitableness. Compare have become unprofitable. Hence it passes readily into the meaning of wholesomeness.” It is the opposite of being abrupt and severe in your words and actions. “Gentle, gracious and kindly.”[3]

Christ called the weary and burdened to come to him for rest. “Take my yoke…For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” “Easy” is the related word to “kindness.” It does not mean “easy” as we understand it. The idea is that Christ’s yoke is “good, serviceable.” Luke 5:39 says the “old wine is better.” “Better” is the same word. It means “good, mellowed with age.” It is hard to get an English word that conveys the idea. Christ’s yoke is “wholesome, serviceable, kindly.”[4]

“A gentle, gracious disposition.”[5]

Again, this is a quality which God demonstrates in very specific ways. It expresses “the abundance of his goodness which he displays to his covenant people–indeed to all men as his creatures. His constant mercy and readiness to help are essential themes of the psalms (Ps. 25:7; 31:19; 65:11; 68:10; 85:12). We see it with the prophets where the “kindness of God is all the more amazing in the face of his people’s sin (Jer. 33:11).” “As a response to God’s merciful kindness the person who has put on the new man, the Lord Jesus Christ, is to show kindness to others. This does not come naturally; nor can it be produced from one’s innate ability. Along with `patience’ it is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22) and according to I Corinthians 13:4 is a direct outworking of love (itself a fruit of the Spirit): `love is patient and kind.'”[6]

John MacArthur says that “kindness” is “the grace that pervades the whole person, mellowing all that might be harsh”. A kind spouse is as concerned about the other spouse’s good as about his/her own. God is kind, even to ungrateful or evil people. Jesus said, “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back, then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked” (Luke 6:35).

3. Humility

“Having a humble opinion of one’s self, a deep sense of one’s (moral) littleness, modesty, lowliness of mind.”[7] In the NT, this word speaks of the “lowliness” with which one serves Christ. In Acts 20:19, in his farewell to the Ephesian elders, Paul said, “I served the Lord with great humility and with tears, although I was severely tested by the plots of the Jews.”

This lowliness causes us to be “submissive to other Christians” (Eph. 4:2; 1 Peter 5:5). Phil. 2:3-4 beautifully summarises what this clothing should look like in the Christian church and in marriage,

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”[8]

“Humility” is clothing that must replace the self-love and selfishness that will poison your relationship.

4. Gentleness

Closely related to humility. This word needs to be understood against its OT background. This word in the Greek translation of the OT (the LXX) was “used to designate the poor in Israel, those without … property, many of whom were victims of unscrupulous exploitation (Isa 32:7; Ps 37:14; Job 24:4. The `poor’ are the defenceless, those without rights, who are oppressed, cheated and exploited (see Psalms 9 & 10). However, Yahweh is the God of those without rights (Ps. 25:9; 149:4; 34:2); he comforts those who find no mercy from their fellow-men (Isa 29:19; Job 36:15) and will finally reverse all that is against them (Isa 26:6; Ps 37:11; 147:6).

“Meekness” is another translation and it is one of the marks of Jesus’ ministry. This is how Jesus treated people when he was on earth (Matt 11:29).

Gentleness/meekness if the way Christians are to treat fellow-believers who have sinned (Gal 6:1-2) by bearing one another’s burdens and thus fulfilling the “law of Christ.” This is also the way we are to treat outsiders (Tit 3:2; cf. Phil 4:5, “let your gentleness be evident to all”). One of the fruit of the Spirit.

We must not confuse this gentleness with weakness. It contains these two elements:

  • consideration of others, and
  • a willingness to waive one’s rights.[9]

“An inwrought grace of the soul, that temper of spirit in which we accept God’s dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting… Does not fight with God… or struggle to contend with Him.” It is “first of all a meekness before God… In the face of men, even of evil men, out of a sense that these, with the insults and injuries which they may inflict, are permitted and employed by God for the chastening and purifying of His elect” (Trench).[10]

This is not spineless Christianity. Instead, it is the “willingness to suffer injury instead of inflicting it. The gentle person knows he/she is a sinner among sinners and is willing to suffer the burdens others’ sin may impose on him/her. This gentleness can only be produced by the Holy Spirit” (cf. Gal 5;22-23).[11]

5. Patience

Long-suffering. “The patient person does not get angry at others.” If you are injured by your spouse by words spoken or actions against you, you do not allow yourself to be provoked by him/her or to flare up in anger. “Patience under ill-treatment of others.”[12]

We see this with God himself and His people. Ex. 34:6, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” God’s patience with people means that we ought to act in a similar way to others. It’s a fruit of the Spirit. You can’t generate it yourself from your own resources.[13]

Bill and Cindy, your clothes of “patience” endure wrong and put up with exasperating conduct of others rather than flying into a rage or wanting to get even.[14] It’s the opposite of resentment or revenge.

This is the way all Christians are to treat others, especially believers.

6. Bear with each other

“Holding yourselves back from one another.”[15] It simply means to “endure,” “bear with,” “put up with.” Present tense means it is continual, but it is also reciprocal, “one another.”[16]

“To endure, to hold out in spite of persecution, threats, injury, indifference, or complaints and not retaliate.” It is what Paul meant when he told the Corinthians, “When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly” (I Cor 4:12-13). It did not characterise the Corinthians who were taking each other to court.

“`To bear with’ suggests the thought of putting up with things we dislike in others.”[17]

7. Forgive as the Lord forgave you

What did Jesus say in Matt. 6:14-15? “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

You will only receive the forgiveness of God if you forgive others.

Here in Colossians, this is not the most common word for remission, forgiveness. The usual word (aphiemi) means to cancel, remit, pardon. This one emphasises the “gracious nature of the pardon (at Luke 7:42 in our Lord’s parable of the two debtors, the KJV translates the word, “frankly forgave.” It is elsewhere in Paul’s writings, speaking of “God’s gracious giving or forgiving” (Rom 8:32; I Cor 2:12; Gal 3:18; Eph 4:32; Phil 1:29; 2:9; Col 2:13).

Again it’s the present tense. This forgiveness is “to be unceasing, even unwearying (a point which Jesus himself taught when instructing his disciples that forgiveness ought to be `not seven times, but seventy-seven times’ or `seventy times seven.’[18]

Built on God’s “grace”, so it means “to grant as a favor.” Sometimes this special word was used for the cancellation of a debt (Luke 7:42-43).[19]

Within your marriage (and the Christian congregation), “there will be grounds for grievance from time to time” of one person against another. Whenever these grievances arise, Bill and Cindy, you are to forgive. How often? Seventy times seven–an endless number. In the church, in a Christian marriage, it ought to be a mutually forgiving fellowship.

Why should we do this? The example that has been set for us: “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” “God did not love us, choose us, and redeem us because we were deserving, but purely because He is gracious.” Rom 5:8, 10 reads, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us… When we were enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son.” “If God is so gracious to us, how much more, then, should we be … forgiving to fellow-sinners, especially to one another.”[20]

If we harbor bitterness or are driven by an unforgiving attitude, we ignore what Christ has done for us. Can we do less than forgive one another when we have been forgiven so much by God?

“Leonardo da Vinci was one of the outstanding intellects of all time, for he was great as a draftsman, an engineer and a thinker. We’re told that just before he commenced work on his`Last Supper’ he had a violent quarrel with a fellow painter. So enraged and bitter was Leonardo that he determined to paint the face of his enemy, the other artist, into the face of Judas. In this way, he would take his revenge and vent his spleen by handing the man down in infamy and scorn to succeeding generations. The face of Judas was therefore one of the first that he finished, and everyone could easily recognize it as the face of the painter with whom he had quarrelled.

“But when Leonardo came to pain the face of Christ, he could make no progress. Something seemed to be baffling him, holding him back, frustrating his best efforts. At length he came to the conclusion that the thing which was checking and frustrating him was the fact that he had painted his enemy into the face of Judas. He therefore painted out the face of Judas and commenced anew on the face of Jesus, and this time with success the ages have acclaimed.[21]

The lesson? Cindy and Bill, you cannot at one and the same time be clothing yourselves with the features of Christ in your own life and at the same time be putting on other clothing of animosity and hatred. Whenever there are spats in your marriage (and they will come because of your sinful natures), forgive one another as Christ has forgiven you.

8. Love, which binds them all together in perfect unity

The image is of loose eastern garments. “Put on love as the binding factor, which will hold them together and make them useable… When these virtues are practiced without the accompaniment of divine love, they are as sounding bras and a tinkling cymbal.”[22]

Love is the garment that produces these qualities and unity in marriage and the church. Bill and Cindy, you will never have a magnificent marriage of superb Christian fellowship through compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with each other and forgiving one another, unless you love one another with a truly, self-sacrificing, giving kind of love that only God can give. We can sum up these commands in Colossians 3:12-14 by “love one another.”

Paul, to the Romans (13:10) said, “Love does no harm to its neighbour. Therefore love is the fulfilment of the law.”

To all Christian believers, not just this Christian couple entering marriage, “love is the beauty of the believer, dispelling the ugly sins of the flesh that destroy unity.”[23]

If your life is clothed with these garments, Cindy, you will find no difficulty in submitting to Bill, your husband.

Bill, if you put on this attire, you will “love your wife, Cindy, and not be harsh with her.” You will love her as Christ loved the church.


[1]Kenneth S. Wuest 1973. Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament (Colossians), Vol. 1. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, p. 224.

[2] Based on Peter T. O’Brien 1982. Word Biblical Commentary, Colossians, Philemon. Waco, Texas: Word Books, Publisher, p. 199.

[3]Marvin R. Vincent 1887. Word Studies in the New Testament (The Epistle to the Romans), vol 3. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., p. 335.

[4]Vincent, vol 1, p. 70.

[5]Wuest, p. 224.

[6]O’Brien, p. 200.

[7]Wuest, p. 224.

[8]O’Brien, p. 200

[9]O’Brien, p. 201.

[10]Wuest, p. 224.

[11]John F. MacArthur Jr. 1992. Colossians & Philemon (New Testament Commentary). Chicago: Moody Publishers, p. 156.

[12]Wuest, p. 224.

[13]O’Brien, pp.24-25.

[14]O’Brien, p. 201.

[15]A.T. Robertson 1931. Word Pictures in the New Testament: The Epistles of Paul, vol 4. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press, p. 504.

[16]O’Brien, pp. 201-202.

[17]Frank E. Gaebelein (gen ed) 1978. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians – Philemon, vol 11 (Curtis Vaughan: Colossians). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, p. 215.

[18]O’Brien, p.202.

[19]Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Colossians, p. 201.

[20]John F. MacArthur 1986, Ephesians (New Testament Commentary). Chicago: Moody Publishers, p. 190.

[21]Gene A. Getz, Living for Others When You’d Rather Live for Yourself (Studies in Ephesians 4-6), Regal Books, 1985, p. 82.

[22]Wuest, p. 225.

[23]MacArthur, Colossians, p. 157.


Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 January 2014.

Colossians 1 – 4

(public domain)

By Spencer D Gear

The Introduction to the Book of Colossians in the English Standard Version of the Bible gives an excellent, brief overview of this book:

“Paul wrote this letter to the church in Colossae (about A.D. 60) to counteract false teachers. Evidently these teachers were trying to impose strict rules about eating and drinking and religious festivals, and were advocating the worship of angels. Paul shows the superiority of Christ over all human philosophies and traditions. He writes of Christ’s deity (“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” [1:15]) and of the reconciliation he accomplished with his blood. He explains that the right way of living in this world is to focus on heavenly rather than earthly things. God’s chosen people must leave their sinful lives behind and live in a godly way, looking to Christ as the head of the church (1:18)”.[1]

The following table incorporates my developing series of expository sermons on the Book of Colossians. I’m a part-time preacher, speaking when receiving invitations to preach at various churches in Australia. I’m currently located in South-East Queensland

Chapter 1

Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4
1:21-23 3:12-19



[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Cross Reference Edition) 2001. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Bibles (a division of Good News Publishers), p. 1183.


Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 January 2014.

What is a family? (Colossians 3:17-21)

(public domain)

I. Introduction

What is a family? Why should we need to be asking this question in a sermon in church on Mother’s Day? Simple!

Families are in conflict in this town & district. Dare I suggest that there might be family disharmony in this church. Also, families are being redefined today, but that’s nothing new. Here are a few examples of how the definition of marriage has changed over the years.

On April 6th we celebrated a very important anniversary in church history – well, important for some. On April 6 1868 – Mormon Church leader Brigham Young, aged 67, married his 27th and last wife. (In all, Brigham Young’s 27 wives bore him 47 children.)[1] This cult leader officially believed in and practised polygamy.

Does the name John Stanhope ring a bell? Have you heard some of his philosophy about marriage in the mass media lately? He’s the chief minister of the ACT (Australian Capital Territory, Canberra) and has introduced the “Civil Union Bill” into the ACT Legislative Assembly.

Angela Shanahan wrote in The Canberra Times, 1st April, 2006:

‘Mr Stanhope has denied that he wants to pass an act enabling marriage between people of the same sex. “Civil unions are not marriage and I have been at pains throughout the debate to make that point plain,” he said in Wednesday’s Canberra Times [29th March 2006]. Oh, really? So why does the Civil Union Bill state, “Civil union is to be treated under territory law the same way as marriage”‘.[2]

There’s another way that family life is being redefined in Australia: “Between 1996 and 2001 the census count of people aged 15 years and over in defacto [relationships][3] rose by 28% from 744,100 to 951,500.”[4]

This is what the Australian Bureau of Statistics states:

‘The . . . marriage rate has been declining since 1970. This decline in the marriage rate can be mainly attributed to changes in attitudes to marriage and living arrangements that have occurred since then’.[5] [Those are the words from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.]

Into this situation God steps with these words:

II. God’s Word on marriage (Col. 3:17-21)

Let’s turn to what God says about family in Col. 3:17-21.

Please note these fundamentals for the health of your family and mine, the health of the church, and the health of the nation. There are key words in this passage.

  • Whatever you do in words and actions, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks (this is the foundation); [this is obviously addressed to Christians];
  • Wives (are female);
  • Husbands (are male);
  • Children (male and female);
  • Parents (male and female);
  • Fathers (male). Or as we’ll see, this word could just as easily be translated, “parents.”

Let’s get something clear at the outset. Here in Colossians, God’s order for the family is heterosexual marriage (a man and a woman). Elsewhere in the NT we learn that “a woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord” (I Cor. 7:39). Marriage is for this life.

God’s best order for children is in a marriage relationship and not a defacto relationship (it’s impossible to produce children naturally in a homosexual relationship). God invented marriage, human beings invented the alternatives.

One of the fundamental laws in God’s universe is in Gal. 6:7: “Don’t be misled. Remember that you can’t ignore God and get away with it. You will always reap what you sow!” (NLT).

That’s why we need to examine this passage from Colossians in the light of Col. 3:17.

A. Do everything in the Name of the Lord Jesus (v. 17)

If you want things to go God’s way in your household, the foundation is: “Do everything in the name of the Lord.” What does that mean? It does not mean: (1) We try to live the best way that we can, not imposing our views on others, not being homophobic, not being judgmental – it does not take that line. (2) It certainly does not mean grit your teeth, call on friends for support, and exhorting – you can do it! Forget about human effort. You cannot do it.

Here’s the key. In all that you say and do, “do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” (1) Christians have a new power to carry out God’s commands. That power comes from the grace of God they have received in Christ’s salvation. (2) Christians have a new purpose in life. As I Cor. 10:31 puts it: “do it all for the glory of God.”

The only way that you will have the power and purpose to do what I am preaching is by doing it all to the glory of God. Here in Col. 3:17, the language is: “Do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” To do something “in the name of the Lord Jesus” refers to Jesus as he revealed Himself to us in the NT. “In the name” means “in vital relation with him” that you are “in harmony with his revealed will, in subjection to his authority, in dependence on his power.”[6]

What kind of culture was it like in Colossae, Asia Minor (Turkey today) in the first century? When Paul addressed these Christians, through the God-breathed Scriptures, what kinds of people were his audience?

Paul wrote in Col. 1:2, “To the holy and faithfulbrothers [meaning brothers and sisters] in Christ at Colosse.” What was their background? In vv. 5-11 of Col. 3 we get a picture of why Paul had to write about the basics of the Christian family. The Colossians were recent converts from the darkness and putrid sensuality of a heathen lifestyle. There was a danger of drifting back into a sexually promiscuous life. Three things could have been influencing these new Christian converts:

  • Their evil past;[7]
  • The wicked environment in which they lived;
  • Passion in their hearts that had not been totally controlled by Christ; and
  • The tug of Satan’s clever tricks.

Paul needed to teach them family and sanctification matters to prevent them from slipping back into the evils of paganism. What did Paul teach?

This is not a choice in Kingdom living. What I’m about to preach is not politically correct in our decadent culture. This is why some families are in disorder, even disaster. Over the next 25 minutes, I want to teach what the Bible says about how the family can survive and thrive in a feminist, chauvinistic, and opinionated culture.

Remember this acronym: S-L-O-NE. If all families in this church practised S-L-O-NE, our church would become radical and Bundaberg people would have to sit up and take notice.

Paul gives 4 commands for every family to become a S-L-O-NE family.

First command:

B. If you want things to go God’s way in your family, in the Name of the Lord Jesus, wives submit to your husbands (v. 18)

The parallel Scripture in Eph. 5:22 expands this a little: “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.”

That’s the first part of becoming a S-L-O-NE family. It’s a command: Wife, submit to your husband. This is a simple straightforward statement but this teaching is widely challenged in Christian circles, even among some evangelicals. Some of these “argue that Paul’s teaching on this theme is not Spirit-inspired, but reflects his [male] chauvinistic, rabbinic attitude toward women.”[8] However, when we come to the command for husbands to love their wives, I wonder if these same people would argue that this also is not Spirit-inspired.

What we have here in Col. 3 is God’s way for marriage and the family. It’s not surprising that it is at odds with the world’s thinking. Folks, here we have commands for all times.

Wives, “be subject to/submit to” your husbands!

1. What is submission?

Feminists think this is an abusive word. I read a review of a book on submission and it stated: “For many modern Christians, and not only for feminists, submission of any kind is seen as degrading, while power in an ecclesiastical or spiritual context is always regarded as abusive.”[9] Is that so?

What does it mean to “submit” (the Greek hupotasso)? This verb appears about 40 times in the NT and it “carries an overtone of authority and subjection or submission to it.”[10] Before we get to a specific explanation of submission, let’s look at some other passages in the NT where submission is used:[11]

  • Luke 2:51, Jesus’ submission to his parents;
  • Luke 10:17, 20 describes the demons who were subject to the apostles;
  • Rom. 8:7, Paul uses the word to describe being submissive to the commands of God’s law;
  • In Rom. 13:1, 5 we have the need for every person to submit to the governing authorities which are established by God;
  • In I Cor. 15:27-28 and Eph. 1:22, hupotasso looks forward “to the time when all things in the universe are made subject to Christ and God in eternal glory.”[12]

“To submit” is a military-style[13] word in the Greek that means to recognise “the rights of authority. [Paul’s] main thought is that the wife is to defer to, that is, be willing to take second place to, her husband. Yet we should never interpret this as if it implies that the husband may be a domestic [dictator][14], ruling his family with a rod of iron. It does imply, however, that the husband has an authority [that] the wife must forego exercising.”[15]

Let’s say a few things about what submission is not:[16]

First, there is absolutely no suggestion or implication that the wife is inferior to her husband.

“Jesus made some of his most startling revelations to women” (John 4:13-14, 21-26; 11:25-26; 20:11-18).[17]

Clearly, in Christianity, women are not inferior to men.

Secondly, the command for wives to submit to their husbands is not an absolute with no exceptions.

A wife must never submit to her husband who is abusive to her. A husband should never ask his wife to do something that would violate her scripturally informed conscience. We have this limitation for the wife from Acts 5:29, “Peter and the other apostles replied: ‘We must obey God rather than men!'” (NIV). God does not endorse abuse or anything that violates another’s conscience.

Thirdly, this command for the wife to submit to her husband is issued in the context of a husband who loves his wife.

A wife must never be treated by a husband as an object. She is to be loved by her husband. We’ll get to that in a moment.

2. Is this for all wives?

God’s command for an orderly family is, “Wife, submit to your husband.” It is not a command for a husband to state, “Wife, submit to me.” That would be completely out of order from God’s intention here.

It’s a command to the Christian wife: If you want things to go well in your family, submit yourself to your husband. We know this because it is the middle voice in the Greek. We don’t have a middle voice in English, but it means, Wife, submit yourself to your husband.” A wife’s submission to her husband is, therefore, voluntary. However, if a Christina wife does not submit, she is being disobedient to God’s command here.

3. In what areas should she submit?

Here v. 18 states, “as is fitting in the Lord.” If you go to the parallel passage in Eph. 5:22, we read, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” “As is fitting in the Lord” has “the thought of what is becoming and proper” and relates to Christian marriage.

This is where it gets a bit tricky because this amounts to my application of the Word of God and I want to only make suggestions of how submission of the wife to the husband might happen in a Christian family:

  • I think it would be a foolish husband who would require authority over areas in which he was not gifted. For example, I’m a hopeless cook and am not astute in handling financial matters. My wife is an excellent cook and is a former National Bank employee. Who should cook and handle the finances in our family? Desley, of course.
  • Child rearing is often a contentious issue but I’m of the view that mutual agreement is needed with husband and wife agreeing on implementing God’s way of raising the family. It often spells disaster when a husband and wife are not in agreement over parenting principles and actions.
  • Just one other practical example. I consider that a husband’s choice of profession and location for employment should involve the wife yielding in submission – but not without extensive discussion on the pros and cons of going there to do that.

Wives, if you want your family to go God’s way, “submit to your husband as is fitting in the Lord.” That’s the S of the S-L-O-NE family – submit.

Alright husbands, it’s now your turn.

C. If you want things to go God’s way in your family, in the name of the Lord Jesus, husband, you must love your wife (v. 19).

In 33 years of marriage and family counselling, I do not ever recall one husband or wife who disagreed with the command: “Husband, love your wife.” Please note the fundamental: It’s a

1. Command to love.

It’s a present, active imperative in the Greek: It means, “keep on loving” your wife. But what is love? Is it what you see in the movies? Is that what you get in bed? What kind of love is it?

In the world of the first century, even among the Jews, the wife was often treated as little more than a piece of property to be used. Husbands would force wives to obey.

Agape love is “a willing love, not the love of passion or emotion, but the love of choice—a covenant kind of love.”[18] It’s a “caring love, a deliberate attitude of mind that concerns itself with the well-being of the one loved.”[19] You are commanded to love with a devotion to your wife and NOT with satisfaction for you.

One of the most beautiful ways this can be done is expressed so profoundly in Eph. 5:25-28:

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself”. (NIV)

God designed that a wife would submit in the context of this kind of other-centred love.

Husbands, that’s the positive command – love your wife! There’s a negative command:

2. Do not be harsh or bitter with them.

The word, “harsh”,[20] “suggests a surly, irritable attitude. Perhaps the [common lingo] ‘don’t be cross with [her]’ best expresses the meaning.”[21] In the only other uses of this word in the NT (Rev. 8:11; 10:9-10), “it refers to something bitter in taste. Paul tells husbands not to call their wives ‘honey’ and than act like vinegar. They must not display harshness of temper or resentment toward their wives. They are not to irritate or exasperate them, but rather to provide loving leadership in the home.”[22]

Why would God have to give Paul this command to make a healthy family? It was obviously being violated in the Colossian church and Paul had to teach what God wanted for a Christian family to function.

This continuing agape love by the husband will have “a moderating influence upon the husband’s exercise of authority.

Husband, how can we apply this – being other-centred in loving your wife and not being bitter against her?

When children are young and you come home from a hard day at work, how do you think you could love your wife in relation to dealing with the children? If your wife is an at-home Mum who has been running after children all day, she needs a break. Love her by caring for the children – even though you may feel worn out. Imagine how she feels?

I had a very practical application come home to me as I was preparing this sermon. We have a rather large lawn to mow and I use a ride-on mower. I sometimes get a bit uptight (exasperated) with my wife’s need to rake the grass and rake the leaves under our 4 mango trees. I am not loving her as Christ loved the church when I resent all that raking after all that mowing. If that is her need, I need to love her by unconditional response to her need.

Husband, in the S-L-O-NE family life, this is the L=love your wife.

Now it’s time for the children

D. If you want things to go God’s way in your family, in the name of the Lord Jesus, children must obey their parents (v. 20);

2 Tim. 3:1-5 gives a penetrating analysis of our culture. It reads:

‘But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them’ (NIV).

Will you note that one of the signs of the last days will be those who are “disobedient to their parents.” We have problems with law and order in society, when families come to church, and especially in the family because children do not heed this command: “Children, obey your parents. Who are these tekna? This “is a general term for children and is not limited to a specific age group. It refers to any child still living in the home and under parental guidance.”[23] Again this is the present tense command – continue to obey your parents.

Remember the 10 Commandments: “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” It is very serious to disobey your parents. Disobedience to parents is what marks the ungodly children (2 Tim. 3:2; cf. Rom. 1:30).

Children, please note how extensive this obedience to parents is:

1. In everything?

Should children obey their parents if parents are into drugs, sexual immorality or assault their children – parents who act illegally?

Absolutely not because “in everything” is covered by this over-arching biblical principle from Acts 5:29, “Peter and the other apostles replied: ‘We must obey God rather than men!'”

Children, a fundamental for life going well in your family and in this nation is for you to obey God’s command: “Obey your parents.” Why? This verse makes it clear

2. This pleases the Lord.

So, the O in the S-L-O-NE family is “obedience” by children to parents.

S = submit, a command for wives

L = love, a command for husbands

O = obey, a command for children

There’s one more:

E. If you want things to go God’s way in your family, in the name of the Lord Jesus, parents must not embitter their children (v. 21)

Col. 3:21 reads: ” Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” This word, “fathers” is probably better translated as “parents” as it is in Heb.. 11:23, which reads: “By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born.” That’s the same word — parents.

We have a parallel here with Eph. 6:4: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

1. What does it mean to embitter them?

“Embitter”[24] in the original language of the NT means “to stir up, provoke, irritate, or exasperate. Another way to phrase Paul’s command is, ‘stop nagging your kids.’ Failure to obey this can cause children to ‘lose heart.’ Parents can take the heart out of their children by failing to discipline them lovingly and instruct them in the ways of the Lord with balance.”[25]

How can you embitter your child?[26]

  • You can embitter by overprotection. If you have too strict rules and don’t give them liberty to make mistakes.
  • You can embitter them by playing favourites with your children.
  • Your children may become bitter if you do not encourage them. If you regularly put down what they do, they become disheartened and withdrawn.
  • Some parents have unrealistic goals for their children. This may embitter them.
  • If you fail to show love to your children verbally and physically, they may grow bitter. Some boys may become touchy when parents try to show love by putting arms around them. Be sensitive to that.
  • You can embitter your children by criticism.
  • You may neglect your children and they become bitter.
  • Finally, you can embitter your children with excessive discipline that becomes abuse. This happens when you abuse your children verbally, emotionally or physically. Parents sometimes say things to their children that they would never say to anyone else. There is godly discipline of children (another subject for another time). But never discipline your children in anger, but lovingly correct them, just as your heavenly Father lovingly corrects you.[27]

That wraps up the S-L-O-NE Christian family:

S = submit to your husband.

L = love your wife.

O = obey your parents.

NE = never embitter your children.

III. Conclusion

What are the essentials of the family?

  • Heterosexual – mother and father – and not homosexual;
  • Marriage and not defacto;
  • One woman for one man until death of one of them;
  • Wives: submit to husbands;
  • Husbands: love their wives;
  • Children: obey their parents;
  • Parents: never embitter their children.

I conclude with this comment by Ray Stedman:

‘I know it is popular to make jokes about bossy wives and henpecked husbands, but having observed the marriage scene for [a] considerable time and having personal involvement in it, I would say the problem is not so much due to the demand of wives to assert leadership as it is the refusal of husbands to assume their responsibilities’.[28]

What would happen to this church, to this town and district in Queensland, and our country of Australia, if all Christian families lived this way?

Pray for Christian families.

Prayer by Suzanna Wesley[29]
mother of John and Charles, founders of Methodism

You, O Lord, have called us to watch and pray.
Therefore, whatever may be the sin against which we pray,
make us careful to watch against it, and so have reason to expect that our prayers will be answered.

In order to perform this duty aright,
grant us grace to preserve a sober, equal temper,
and sincerity to pray for your assistance. Amen.

Suzanna Wesley had seventeen children, but is said to have given each of them one day of special attention and training per month. From John’s writings we know that both he and brother Charles Wesley viewed their mother as a vital source of inspiration and encouragement for their ministries.

Oh Happy Home

v. 1

Oh happy home, where You are loved the dearest,

You loving Friend and Saviour of our race,

And where among the guests we’ve never sighted

One who can hold such high and honoured place!

v. 2

Oh happy home, whose little ones are given

Early to You, in humble faith and prayer,

To You, their Friend, Who from the heights of heaven

Guides them, and guards with more than parents’ care!

v. 3

Oh happy home, where each one serves You, lowly,

Whatever his appointed work may be,

Till every common task seems great and holy,

When it is done, O Lord, as unto Thee.

v. 4

Until at last, when earth’s day’s work is ended,

All meet You in the blessed home above,

From where You came, to where You have ascended,

Your everlasting home of peace and love!

Carl Johann Philipp Spitta, 1833, tr. Mrs Sarah Laurie Findlater, 1858, altd. Tune: O Perfect Love


[1] Copyright 1987-2006, William D. Blake. Used by permission of the author, from ‘Almanac of the Christian Church’, available as emailer from: “In this day in history” at: [email protected] (Accessed 6 April 2006)

[2] Available at: The Australian Christian Lobby website at: (Accessed 7 April 2006).

[3] The ABS called it “marriage.”

[4] Australian Bureau of Statistics, “1301.0 – Year Book Australia, 2005,” released 21/01/2005, Available at:[email protected]/94713ad445ff1425ca25682000192af2/992C91E65FB38B66CA256F7200832F7E?opendocument (Accessed 7 April 2006).

[5] Ibid. (Accessed 7April 2006).

[6] Hendriksen, W. 1964, Colossians & Philemon (New Testament Commentary), The Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, p. 164.

[7] Based on ibid., p. 17.

[8] John MacArthur Jr. 1992, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Colossians & Philemon, Moody Press, Chicago, p. 167.

[9] Fergus Kerr, 2006, Lead Book Review, ‘A joyful dependence: Powerless before God’, a review of Sarah Coakley, Powers and Submissions: Spirituality, Philosophy and Gender, Blackwell Publishers Ltd., Oxford, UK. Available at: (Accessed 10 October 2010).

[10] Peter T. O’Brien 1982, Word Biblical Commentary: Colossians, Philemon, vol. 44 (gen eds David A. Hubbard & Glenn W. Barker) , Word Books, Publisher, Waco, Texas, p. 221.

[11] Based on MacArthur 1992, p. 168.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Robertson A. T. 1931, Word Pictures in the New Testament: The Epistles of Paul, vol. 4, Broadman Press, Nashville, Tennessee, p. 506.

[14] Vaughan had “despot.”

[15] Vaughan, C. 1978, ‘Colossians’, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (vol. 11), gen ed F. E. Gaebelein, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, p. 218.

[16] Based on Hendriksen, p. 169.

[17] Ibid.

[18] MacArthur Jr., p. 169.

[19] Vaughan, p. 218.

[20] Pikrainesthe.

[21] Vaughan, p. 218.

[22] MacArthur Jr., p. 169.

[23] MacArthur Jr., p. 170.

[24] Erethizo.

[25] MacArthur Jr., p. 171.

[26] Based on ibid., pp. 171-172.

[27] MacArthur Jr., p. 173.

[28] Stedman, Man the Initiator, pp. 78-79, cited in Cleveland McDonald 1975, Creating a Successful Christian Marriage, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, p. 70.

[29] Available at: (Accessed 10 May 2006).


Copyright © 2006  Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 9 October 2015.

Whytehouse designs

Preach the Word: Expository Sermons

Bible and Wheat


By Spencer D Gear

In this article on my homepage, Can the Sermon Be Redeemed? I make a plea for all preachers (pastors and laity) to treat the biblical text with seriousness when they preach and teach.  When Paul urged Timothy to “preach the word”,that’s exactly what he meant for all preachers in the entire church age – preach the Word of God. Paul wrote to Timothy, “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2 ESV).

I was somewhat startled when I was introduced by a person in my church to a visitor.  The church member said, “Spencer believes in preaching what the Bible states.”  She got my vision: “Preach the Word.”  This can be done through topical, Bible-based preaching, but I find the most suitable method is to preach my way through books of the Bible (Old and New Testaments).  This forces me to deal with controversial and even difficult passages.  It also requires me to preach all Bible doctrines, including the ones in which I am least conversant.  I have to deal with eschatology, predestination, free-will, baptism, gifts of the Spirit, and other controversial subjects.  God knew what he was up to when he commanded all preachers to “preach the Word.”

When you preach, don’t preach your own opinion.  Preach the text — preach the Word of God. Of course, the message proclaimed from the Scriptures needs to be illustrated and applied for a contemporary audience, but it must be based on a sound exegesis of the passage.

What is exegesis?  ”Exegesis is the process of interpreting a text of Scripture” (Grudem 1994, p. 109).  The problem any interpreter of the Bible faces is that “everyone who interprets a passage of the Bible stands in a present time while he examines a document that comes from a past time.  He must discover what each statement meant to the original speaker or writer, and to the original hearers or readers, in their own present time” (Mickelsen 1963, p. 55).  This is the process of exegesis.  It is critical for the understanding of any text written in the past.

If one wants to convey this message to a contemporary audience, the speaker engages in the discipline of exposition, but exegesis precedes exposition: “He must see what meaning these statements had in the past, but he must also show what is their meaning for himself and for those to whom he conveys these ideas” (Mickelsen 1963, p. 55).

For a number of years I have been convinced that many of my Australian preaching colleagues are more convinced by a purpose-driven, seeker-sensitive mentality than a biblical view of preaching.  Therefore, as I get time, I will format and upload more of my own expositions, praying that the Lord will use them for edification, growth and blessing.
If you want help in learning Bible exposition, I highly recommend this book that has been the most helpful for me in devoloping my skills as a preacher of the Word: Bryan Chapell 1994, 2005,
Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon, 2nd edn, Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, Michigan.  I am by no means a Bryan Chapell purist, but this is the most helpful and practical book I have ever read on how to prepare expository messages with something that is unique to Chapell, in my understanding: “The Fallen Condition Focus.”

I must admit that I get bored and frustrated when I hear boring preachers who do not connect with God’s people. I was provoked by one such boring episode recently to write this article, “It’s a sin to bore God’s people with God’s word”.

Here are links to my expositions of Scripture. These are all based on messages I have preached at churches.


1 Peter


Works consulted

Grudem, W. 1994, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Mickelsen, A. B. 1963, Interpreting the Bible, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan.


Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 January 2014.

Easter: God’s solution to our greatest need (1 Peter 3:18)

(mega tsunami, Indonesia 2004, public domain)

By Spencer D Gear

1. Introduction

The deadliest tsunami of all time hit the Indian Ocean on 26th December 2004. “In the aftermath of the quake, resultant tsunami waves … killed over 280,000 people in towns and villages along the coast of the Indian Ocean. Over 3 million of survivors have [had] their livelihoods destroyed.”[1]

The death toll in the earthquake in Haiti was expected to be over 100,000 according to the Haitan Prime Minister.[2]

Is our greatest need to end all earthquakes and tidal waves of the enormity of tsunamis?

What about curing all paedophiles, all diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C?

What about stopping war and violence around the world? If we could solve the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Middle East, the Sudan, North Korea, would that provide the solution to our greatest need?

What about the tragedy of murder and suicide in our own country? What is the world’s greatest need? What is your greatest need?

I’d like to share a verse from Scripture with you that, if practised, would help to put an end to war, violence and sexual abuse. It helps us to understand why tsunamis, earthquakes and the September 11 2001 disaster happened.

It causes us to reflect on what is wrong with our world and what can be done about it. The verse I am referring to is: 1 Peter 3:18, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit” (NIV).

The title of this message is: “Easter: God’s solution to our greatest need.”

This verse shows us what is wrong with our world and proclaims the solution. Here we see:

  • The greatest problem with our world;
  • The greatest need of individuals and our world.
  • And the solution to the greatest problem;

2. The greatest problem with our world

This verse uses two words that describe our greatest problem, but we don’t want to hear them. I don’t expect that you’ll hear them too often on the radio or TV. Some of you may object with me this morning for even mentioning them. But unless we understand the greatest problem, we will never know the greatest solution. If we don’t understand what is really wrong with our world, we won’t want to seek the best way to solve it.The greatest problem is NOT:

  • Osama Bin Laden[3] and Al-Qaeda[4],
  • the Americans and their Allies in Iraq; OR
  • paedophilia, murder and violence around the world.

These are symptoms of the greatest problem.

Those two words that spell out the greatest problem with our world from this verse are:

a. Sin, and

b. Unrighteousness

We don’t like to be told we are sinners, but if we don’t understand that every human being since the time of Adam and Eve has been born sinners, we won’t understand the solution.

What does it mean that we are sinners? Most of us think that the meaning is simple: We do wrong. That’s only part of the answer. Those of us with a long association with the church can easily rush over this greatest problem in the whole world. Briefly, let’s talk about


In this 1973 book by a secular Jewish psychiatrist, Karl Menninger, Whatever Became of Sin, he wrote this:

In all of the laments and reproaches made by our seers and prophets, one misses any mention of “sin,” a word which used to be a veritable watchword of prophets. It was a word once in everyone’s mind, but now rarely if ever heard. Does that mean that no sin is involved in all our troubles . . ? Is no one any longer guilty of anything? . . Anxiety and depression we all acknowledge, and even vague guilt feelings; but has no one committed any sins?[5]

Menninger says that “the sinful act” includes “an implicitly aggressive quality—a ruthlessness, a hurting, a breaking away from God and from the rest of humanity, a partial alienation, or act of rebellion. . . sin has a willful, defiant, or disloyal quality; someone is defiled or offended or hurt.”[6]

These are amazing statements from a secular psychiatrist. Karl Menninger pushed the boundaries of what is wrong with our city, our country, the world – what is wrong with you and me.

Our text agrees that the major problem is “sin.” SIN, with a big “I” in the middle.

Too often we think of “sin” as an act of wrongdoing like telling a lie, stealing, killing somebody, sexually abusing a child. Sin includes wrong actions such as those, BUT its fundamental understanding in the Scriptures is “a state of alienation from God. For the great prophets of Israel, sin is much more than the violation of “[7] something that is forbidden or breaking some external law.

Sin indicates a breaking “of a personal relationship with God, a betrayal of the trust he places in us.”[8] Here are a couple of examples.

Isa. 6:5, “‘Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.'”

Luke 5:8, “When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!'”

The British evangelist, Michael Green, put it this way:

“What would you think of a doctor who, on discovering you had a tumor buried deep in your body, responded, ‘Take two aspirin and you’ll be just fine.’?

“How about a fireman who responded to the fire alarm by saying, ‘It’ll probably burn itself out soon enough,’ or a policeman who, on arriving at the scene of a robbery, merely shook his head and said, ‘Boys will be boys’!

“In each case the response is inappropriate to the situation. Is your response to sin also inappropriate.”[9]

Our greatest problem is not only that we are alienated from God, but that the sinful acts that come out of this alienation, flow from deep within all of us. Jeremiah put it as straight as you can get: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (ESV)

So, SIN is a state of alienation from God and this comes from deep within all of us.

And this SIN is associated with:


What does it mean for all of us to be unrighteous? “Righteous” or “just” is based on the Hebrew word meaning “straight” or “right.” “The corresponding Greek term[10] in Greek society referred to that which is in accordance with law or social norm.”[11] For example, the God of Israel, asks, “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen. 18:25).

If righteous means to do what is right and in accordance with the law, what do you think unrighteousness might mean? The opposite: To fail to do what is correct and to do what is against the law.

Here’s the BIGGEST problem: We all are sinners by nature, alienated from God, and we DO what is wrong and against the law – against the law of God, against the law of the land, and even against the law of our own consciences.

Unless we understand the GREATEST problem, we will not grasp the GREATEST solution celebrated at Easter. We will not understand the wickedness in our world if we miss the meaning of these two words: SIN and UNRIGHTEOUSNESS.

That great British Baptist preacher of the 19th century, C. H. Spurgeon, often told this story:

“A cruel king called one of his subjects into his presence and asked him his occupation. The man responded, ‘I’m a blacksmith.’ The ruler then ordered him to go and make a chain of a certain length.

“The man obeyed, returning after several months to show it to the monarch. Instead of receiving praise for what he had done, however, he was instructed to make the chain twice as long.

“When that assignment was completed, the blacksmith presented his work to the king, but again was commanded, ‘Go back and double its length.’ This procedure was repeated several times. At last the wicked tyrant directed the man to be bound in the chains of his own making and cast into a fiery furnace.”[12]

We are like that cruel king because sin takes a dreadful toll in our lives. Rom. 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death. . .” In the verse we are considering in 1 Peter, it says, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous.” Why was it necessary for the righteous one, Christ, to die for the sins of the unrighteous?

  • Since sin means we are alienated from God;
  • Since unrighteousness means that we do wrong and crooked things,
  • that tells us something about our greatest need. This verse from First Peter nails it:

3. Your greatest need . . .

is “to bring you to God.” Wait a minute, you might be saying: “I haven’t the faintest interest in God.” In fact, I’m of the Perry Como vintage and I believe “Love Makes the World God Round,” and my greatest need is LOVE. Or if you’re of the Madonna vintage, “Love [still] Makes the World Go Round.”

Just a moment folks. Who or what makes the world go round? Who is the one “who gives food to every creature. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever” (Ps. 136:25-26)?

There would be no understanding of “love” without the one whose love endures forever and the one who provides food for every creature, sends rain on the just and the unjust, and who sustains this world – in spite of its sin and unrighteousness.

We think our greatest need is love, human love. Our biggest need is not to deal with war, tsunamis, Sept. 11, cancer, crime, our job and our family.

God says that your greatest need is to be in fellowship with God himself – your greatest need is for somebody “to bring you to God.” The greatest issue is that we are cut off from Almighty God, our Creator and Sustainer.

If this greatest need and greatest problem are NOT solved, then the anger of God will rest on us and our eternity will be miserable.

Please understand what this would mean. If we were in fellowship, companionship, friendship, in love with the Lord of the Universe, we would not want to tear one another apart, violate one another, and do violence in our world. We would want to love as God loves.

You see, no matter whether you have been raised in deepest, darkest Africa or deepest, darkest Bundaberg, you know that God exists. How do I know? God tells us in Rom. 1:20, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (TNIV).

Deep down within you and me, our conscience convicts us of the existence of God. But we feel out of step with him. The Bible puts it that we are “alienated from God.” Augustine of Hippo, Northern Africa, was a sexually immoral man who indulged his passions in his youth, fathering an illegitimate child.[13] He eventually obtained a reputation to be called, St. Augustine, and described this alienation in the 4th century in his book, Confessions. In that book he wrote: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you”.[14]

Our greatest need is for somebody who can bring us to God. We are rebels who don’t want anything to do with God but our greatest need is to be in relationship with the Lord God of the universe.

How can that happen? I’m glad you asked. That leads us to what this verse tells us about.

4. The greatest solution to our greatest need

If sin and doing wrong are our problems, we too often think of better security, more police, bigger prisons, tougher penalties, better parenting.

If you don’t understand the greatest problem with our world and reject the greatest need that we have, you won’t be interested in the greatest solution to our personal problems and the world’s problems.

A T Easter, we are directed to the greatest solution and it has nothing to do with police, prisons and security: “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.”

These are the steps to the greatest solution.

  • Christ suffered for sins;
  • Christ, the righteous one suffered for us, the unrighteous;
  • Christ died on the cross and rose again from the dead.

A. Step One: Christ suffered for sins once for all; [15]

What’s the deal about Christ’s suffering “once for all”? Understand what happened for the Jews in the OT. If they wanted to be right before God and have their sins forgiven, “God set up a system by which the people of Israel could make atonement for their sins. To atone is to make amends, to set things right.”[16] God’s law was that “the high priest entered the Most Holy Place once a year to sprinkle blood [of animals] as an atonement for the sins of the people (Lev. 16:3-34: Heb. 9:7, 25).”[17] To set things right between the Jews and God, blood was sprinkled on the altar only once a year.

When Jesus Christ suffered on the cross, he provided the blood atonement, not once a year, but once for all people for all time, so there is no need to wait for this once a year sacrifice. You can set things right with God any day at any time because “Christ suffered for sins once for all” times. This is wonderful news of freedom from sin and easy access to God.

You might ask: “Why does any blood have to be shed? That sounds gruesome to me.” We need to understand that when it comes to dealing with sin and unrighteousness, we don’t set the rules. God does.

That’s step one from this verse: Christ suffered for sins once for all.

B. Step 2: Christ, the righteous one suffered for us, the unrighteous.

This is God’s justice in action. There are no unfair, unjust sentences with God.

When Peter was preaching to the Jews in the Temple at Jerusalem, according to Acts 3:14, he said, “You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you.” He was speaking of Christ, “the Holy and Righteous One.”

Jesus is “righteous.” He’s without sin. We are unrighteous – with sin deep within us and in the behaviour we do. How is it possible for us, the unrighteous, to enter the presence of the totally righteous and holy God?

This is how God does it. God set in place this wonderful solution to our greatest problem. This is how he says it in 2 Cor. 5:21, “God made him who had no sin to be sin [or a sin offering] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

So, what’s the effect of this? Simon Kistemaker summarised this beautifully when he wrote:

Jesus’ sacrificial death is to enable us to enter God’s presence. Jesus opens the way to the throne of God, introduces us to the Father, and re-establishes for us an intimate relationship with the Father. By removing sin as the cause of our alienation from God, Jesus provides access to God and makes us acceptable in his sight.[18]

This is what is means to be justified by faith – to be declared righteous before God. For all those who place their total trust in Jesus Christ by faith, they now have a friendly relationship with God, “are acceptable to him and have assurance that he is favorably disposed toward us.”[19]

The third step in this greatest of all solutions is:

C. Step 3: Christ did this by dying on the cross and rising again from the dead.

I Peter 3:18, “He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.”

We must always keep these two actions together: Christ’s death and Christ’s resurrection.

The resurrection shows that God was satisfied with Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross. This means that God will be satisfied to have you, if you become a believer, in his presence because of Christ’s death and resurrection. We know that when Christ died on the cross that he continued to live in a new realm. How do we know that? To the repentant thief who was crucified alongside Christ on the cross, Jesus said, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

Then Christ was resurrected three days later, transformed into a new “spiritual body” that didn’t have the limitations of his fleshly body.

God said a big YES to Christ’s death as a substitute for our sins by raising him from the dead.

5. Conclusion

Let’s pull this all together, based on 1 Peter 3:18. That verse again, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.

a. The greatest problem with our world is not tsunamis, Sept. 11, crime, violence & sexual abuse. Our greatest problem is defined by two words that you probably won’t hear on TV tonight: SIN (a state of alienation from God) and UNRIGHTEOUSNESS (sinful actions that we do).

b. The greatest need of all people is not to solve the teenage rebellion or broken relations, to find peace in the Middle East, Iraq, the Sudan, or in downtown Bundaberg, but that greatest need is to deal with our alienation from God. How can we ever have a relationship with the holy, righteous God of the universe?

c. The greatest solution, that you won’t read in tomorrow’s newspaper, is found in 3 steps that are linked together:

  • First, Christ suffered for sins once for all;
  • Second, the righteous one suffered for us, the unrighteous;
  • Third, Christ did this by dying on the cross and rising again from the dead.

I would be remiss if I did not offer this challenge. This message is wasted if you do not respond.

  • How are you going to deal with the biggest problem you have – your sin and unrighteousness?
  • Since your greatest need is to be in relationship with God and you are alienated from him, what will you do about that today?
  • What’s the point of the greatest solution: Christ suffered for your sins, the righteous for the unrighteous by dying on the cross and rising again from the dead?
  • What’s the meaning of all this if you don’t repent of your sin and trust Christ alone as your Lord and Saviour?
  • How can you do that? The Bible says:

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19).

“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).

If you repent and receive Christ by faith, what will happen to you?

  • “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Cor. 5:17 TNIV).
  • Won’t you receive the greatest solution today? If you want to know more, please speak with me after the service.

Chuck Swindoll once said:

If our greatest need had been information,

God would have sent us an educator.

If our greatest need had been technology,

God would have sent us a scientist.

If our greatest need had been money,

God would have sent us an economist.

If our greatest need had been pleasure,

God would have sent us an entertainer.

But our greatest need was forgiveness,

So God sent us [the][20] Savior.[21]


[1] Dr. T. Matthew Ciolek (ed.), “2004 tsunami disaster: Scholarly and factual analyses,” updated 22 January 2020, Asian Studies WWW Virtual Library, available at: [Accessed 23 January 2010].

[2] “Death toll in Haiti expected to be over 100,000 says Prime Minister”, Gather News, 13 January 2010, available at: [Accessed 23 January 2010].

[3] See “Osama Bin Laden”, Wikipedia, available at: [Accessed 23 January 2010].

[4] “Al-Qaeda”, Wikipedia, available at: [Accessed 23 January 2010].

[5] Karl Menninger 1973, Whatever Became of Sin, Bantam Books, New York, p. 15.

[6] Ibid., p. 22.

[7] D. G. Bloesch 1984, ‘Sin’, in Walter A. Elwell (ed.), Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, p. 1012.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Michael P. Green (ed.) 1982, Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, p. 346.

[10] Dikaios.

[11] D. W. Diehl 1984, ‘Righteous’, in Walter A. Elwell (ed.), Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, p. 952.

[12] ‘Sin’s Deadly Wages’, Our Daily Bread, Saturday, December 28, 1996. Also available as Richard W. De Haan, ‘Sin’s Deadly Wages’, Sermonettes, available at: [Accessed 23 January 2010].

[13] Earle E. Cairns 1954, 1981, Christianity through the Centuries (rev. & enl.), Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, p. 146.

[14] Confessions of Saint Augustine, 1.1 (I have modernised the language), available at: [Accessed 23 January 2010].

[15] Some of the following information is summarised and changed, but based on Pastor John Piper, May 18, 1997, Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota, “What is Baptism and Does It Save? 1 Peter 3:18-22,”, available at: [Accessed 23 January 2010].

[16] R. C. Sproul 1992, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois, p. 173.

[17] Simon J. Kistemaker 1987, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and of the Epistle of Jude, Evangelical Press, Welwyn, Hertfordshire, p. 139.

[18] Ibid., p. 139.

[19] Thayer, p. 544, cited in Kistemaker, p. 139.

[20] The original said, “a”.

[21] Charles R. Swindoll 1998, Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, p. 315.


Copyright © 2010 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 9 October 2015.


What is God up to in my life?[1]

Image result for everyone sucks public domain

By Spencer D Gear

I Corinthians 10:31

In the hustle and bustle of your life, do you ever stop to ask questions like these when:a

  • relative dies;
  • a child breaks an arm;
  • bills seem to be more than income;
  • I lose my job;
  • I am in conflict with my wife, children, the boss, or workmates;
  • there is sickness in your family;
  • life comes crashing down around me;
  • I have thoughts of suicide;

Have you ever asked: “What is God up to in my life?”

I had a 14-year-old say to me in counselling recently, “School sucks, Dad sucks, life sucks.”

What am I here for?

Does God simply want my happiness?

When the chips are down and life seems to be splitting apart at the seems, is there any reason for living?

For the believer, does God have a direction for my life?

What is God’s purpose for you?

I was thinking like this recently when God brought two verses to my attention:

The first:

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed,

do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,

giving thinks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:17);

The second:

“So[2] whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (I Cor. 10:31).

A. What is Paul talking about?

“Therefore, also connects it to the previous verses, in fact to chapters 8-10 in I Corinthians.

Paul had been teaching them about things that are not essential to be picky about in the Christian life. The issue was buying meat in the meat markets. Meat that had been offered as a sacrifice in the heathen temples was often taken to the meat markets for sale.

Paul’s view was that, if it is good meat to eat, it is still good meat even though offered to idols. After all, the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. God made the meat. You’re hungry. Go ahead, buy the meat and eat it.

A good, godly man has FREEDOM to go where he pleases, to eat what he wants, to dress as he sees appropriate, because a good man will always be driven by a godly motive.

I Cor. 10: 25 makes it clear, “Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for, ‘The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.'” That’s based on Ps. 24:1.

Believers, you have LOTS OF FREEDOM to do all these things — UNLESS, UNLESS — the other [person’s] conscience, especially the unbeliever’s, is going to be hindered (see v. 29).

If a person reminds you that this food, dress, whatever you do, is part of secular, pagan, non-Christian culture that you would be promoting if you used that food, that clothing, whatever. If that is the case, DO NOT DO IT for his sake and your conscience’s sake.

Paul says, in effect, you godly people, motivated by godly goals, have freedom to eat, drink, dress, go places and do things that you want. You have FREEDOM in Christ. But don’t you EVER do anything that will cause offence to the unbeliever and hinder his coming to Christ. Don’t ever do anything that will hinder a new believer.

You will NOT praise and glorify God if your actions cause ANYONE inside or outside the church to doubt the moral integrity of the gospel.

The general principle is in v. 24, “Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.

Imagine what would happen in our families, at work, in the church, our relations with neighbours, if this drove our lifestyle: “I WILL NEVER EVER seek my own good, but only the good of other people — my spouse, my neighbours, my kids, other people in the church, my boss.

When your boy comes to you and asks you to play with him after a hard day at work, IF you wanted to do what was good and best for YOUR BOY, what would you do?

Imagine what would happen in your marriage relationship IF you only thought to do what would benefit your wife. I know many Christian wives would almost drop dead;

If you turned up for work on Monday and said to your boss, help me to do things better so that your business will prosper. I want your business to succeed. Show me how I can help you to offer a better service to the public. Boss, I want you to hold me accountable so that I can do a SUPERB job for you.

If Christian children in the primary school class room or high school class room, took the attitude, I am here to learn. I want to make the job easier for my teacher. I will do all I can to help my classmates behave in class. I will set the example.

I’ll ask my teacher what I can do in the class to make teaching a pleasure. The teacher might be shocked, but what a marvellous testimony it would be to the teacher and the school.

I can guarantee you that that action would get around the staff room in a flash.

Imagine what would happen if you, a Christian teacher, treated all students with respect as people made in the image of God and precious. If the put downs and abrupt language were gone. If you treated your enemies in the classroom as you would have them treat you, what would happen?

I would be out of a job as a youth counsellor if children only sought to do good to others, especially to their parents, brothers and sisters, school students and teachers. My counselling service would close down if we treated one another like this.

What would happen if ALL of you men, from today, said I will seek the good of OTHER people in this church? Do you think it might start a revolution if you decided: From today, I will seek the good of my pastor, his wife and family? I will NEVER seek to do him harm.

I will ask him how I can make life easier for him. I want to direct

ALL of my life so that it is OTHER-CENTRED. I will only seek and do what is good for my pastor, his family and other people. I will ask him to help train me in winning other people Christ. I want this church to grow through evangelism growth. I want only to do the church leaders good.

We need to move from the specifics of Corinth to the specific examples in this city for you.

B. From Corinth (specifics – eating and drinking) to the city where I live.

From FREEDOM in eating and drinking, Paul now moves to the general principle that should dominate your life and mine. This should motivate us for life. It is the purpose or goal that should drive your life: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (I Cor. 10:31).

WHATEVER YOU DO, EVERYTHING IN THE CHRISTIAN’S LIFE, should be done “for the glory of God.”

For the believer, that means there is no such thing as: this is SECULAR WORK and that is CHRISTIAN WORK. All of life is Christian that must be lived for the glory of God. My working for the non-Christian or Christian boss is sacred; my going to a state school is Christian work; it doesn’t matter whether I am a pastor or a garbage collector. ALL OF LIFE IS TO BE DONE “TO THE GLORY OF GOD.”

C. But what does it mean to do things “to the glory of God”?

That’s pretty theological sounding stuff. Sounds a bit lofty.

Matt. 5:16 says, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (NASB). The NIV reads, “and praise your Father in heaven.”

In the NT, the Greek word, doxa (glory) conveys the meaning of brightness, splendour, radiance, magnificence, fame, renown, honour.[3]

“Here we find glory attributed to Jesus Christ, just as it was to God in the Old Testament. Jesus prayed that the Father would glorify him as he had glorified the Father (John 17:1-5). It is especially in the resurrection of Christ that we see his glory.”[4]

“The glory of God” is to promote, point to, advertise the magnificence of God.[5]

We see this greatness of God in terms of his power. He spoke this world into existence; he raised Jesus from the dead. He still performs miracles. He redeems the proud, drug addicts; changes adulterers into children of God. Homosexuals who bow the knee to him are changed from the inside out.

The glory of God includes his greatness of knowledge. He is ALL knowing. He knows your thoughts (Luke 5:22; 6:8). He knows you so well that even the hairs on your head are numbered. For many of us they get less every day. But he knows us that intimately. He knows when a sparrow falls.

But God’s glory also includes the moral attributes of God. God always does what is RIGHT; he NEVER does anything WRONG.

God is absolute holiness; he is total love; his mercies are beyond our imagination. He will NEVER let you down. He is absolutely faithful and trustworthy. Nobody will get away with sin and wrong. God’s justice is absolute.

The “glory of God” amounts to the “sum of his attributes and powers as he reveals them in bringing his saints to their ultimate happiness in the enjoyment of himself.”[6]

Is your life promoting God’s glory as far as the magnificence of God is concerned? Do you uplift God in all that you say and do? That’s a high calling, but God wouldn’t require it of us if it were not possible.

In everything that you do, do you honour God? Do your thoughts and actions show up God’s magnificence? Whether drying the dishes, raising a family, pushing a pen (more likely to be a computer these days) for the government, working at the local hardware store, somebody serving you at MacDonald’s — your life is to bring glory to God.

D. Let’s get very practical

1. If people watch you at work, in the home, when you go to watch your kids play sport, anywhere. If people were to peep in on you and what you say to your wife, how you treat her as a sexual person, how you discipline your children, would they be attracted to your God. Would they glorify the living God by looking at your life?

This is an awesome responsibility. But that’s what God calls us to

do in everything. Our lives have to be a lighthouse, drawing people to God. Before I open my mouth, before I do that thing, I do need to ask, “WWJD –What would Jesus do?”

2. Is your life in ALL aspects, pointing to the brightness, splendor, radiance, magnificence, fame, renown and honor of Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Discipleship within the Body of Christ is meant to hold us accountable for how we live in honour of the King of Kings.

3. Too often our cell groups degenerate into, “What do you think this verse means?” when they should be calling you and me to accountability. Spencer, what did you do this week that did NOT draw attention to the magnificence of your Saviour? How can we as a body of believers help you in making your life and advertisement of God’s radiance and renown?

I noticed that you spoke harshly to Joe when you got angry with him over his being late to the committee meeting. Was that uplifting Jesus, praising him, glorifying him?

E. Parenting & men

Dr Graeme Russell of Macquarie University, Sydney, published a report[7] that found that the mean (middle) number of hours per week that fathers took complete care of their children was 2.8 hours (or, 24 minutes a day). However, 60% of fathers interviewed were not spending any time taking complete care of their children.. The figures for the USA are similar.

Men, in what you are doing as a father, are you giving glory to God? Are you promoting God’s greatness in the way you treat your children?

I read a letter written by a runaway son. It said,

Dear Mum and Dad,

Thank you for everything, but I am going to [Sydney][8] to try to start some kind of new life.

You asked me why I did those things and why I gave you so much trouble, and the answer is easy for me to give you, but I am wondering if you will understand.

Remember when I was about six or seven and I used to want you to just listen to me? I remember all the nice things you gave me for Christmas and my birthday and I was really happy with the things for about a week at the time I got the things, but the rest of the time during the year I really didn’t want presents. I just wanted all the time for you to listen to me like I was somebody who felt things too, because I remember even when I was young I felt things. But you said you were busy.

Mum, you are a wonderful cook, and you have everything so clean and you were tired so much from doing all those things that made you busy; but you know something, Mum? I would have liked [fresh bread and vegemite][9] just as [much][10] if you had only sat down with me a while during the day and said to me, >Tell me all about it so I can maybe help you. . .

I think that all the kids who are doing so many things that grownups are tearing out their hair worrying about, are really looking for somebody [who] will have time to listen a few minutes and who will really treat them as they would a grown up who might be useful to them, you know B polite to them. If you . . . had ever said to me, “Excuse me,” when you interrupted me, I’d have dropped dead.

If anybody asks you where I am, tell them I’ve gone looking for somebody with time because I’ve got a lot of things I want to talk about.

Love to all,

Your son.[11]

Men, are you glorifying God as a parent in your family? How about arranging time with your children, one by one. Ask them to tell you about their day and you had better be an attentive listener. Ask them what they would like you to do with them.

I heard of a little girl who followed for father as he carefully stepped through a new garden. She stepped exactly where he stepped and she said to him, Daddy, if you don=t get mud on your feet, I won’t get any mud on me.[12]

Dad, will your children get mud on their feet? Fathers, wear shoes you want to be filled.

Men, God knows your thoughts and actions. What would God’s estimate be of your family life? Are you giving glory to God in how you live and lead the family.

F. Responsibility as spiritual leaders in the home

Men, what view of God and the world does your family see from you? I haven’t time to develop this much, but God expects men to lead the family spiritually and practically.

Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (Eph.5:25); As Christ loved the church. How much did he love the church? So much that he died for her!

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6:4).

Whose role is it to take the lead in the training and instruction of the Lord in your family? Eph. 6:4 says, Fathers. Men, are you glorifying God in your responsibilities as a spiritual leader in the home?

Men, too often we think this is the wife’s primary role. Not so as far as God is concerned.

The role of decay in any society will be seen in the attitude and action of spiritual leadership and what happens to the family.

Down through the years, some assessments have been made of what caused the great Grecian Empire to crumble. Why did the Roman Empire fall? These are some of the elements:

G.  The Common Pattern of Decline in Many Nations

1. Men ceased to lead their families in worship.

2. Men selfishly neglected care of their wives and children to pursue material wealth, political and military power, and cultural development.

3. Men, being preoccupied with business or war, either neglected their wives sexually or became involved with other women or with homosexuality, and a double standard of morality developed.

4. The role of women at home and with children lost value and status.

5. Husbands and wives competed against each other for money, home leadership, and the affection of their children, resulting in hostility and frustration and possible homosexuality in the children.

6. Selfish individualism grew and was carried over into society.

7. As unbelief in God became more complete and parental authority diminished, ethical and moral principles disappeared, affecting the economy and government.[13]

This chain of events began by the men turning from God to pursue material wealth, and each successive step occurred automatically. The domino effect. That’s where Australia is going today. It will take Christian men like you to help turn the tide.

Two factors will contribute to where your family goes and where Australia will end up:

First, when you turn away from God, the slide begins. Read Romans ch. 1, The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness (v. 18);

Second, What the family is, such will society be.[14]

H.  Aware of their responsibility as men

God views the relationship between the husband and his wife as a picture of Christ and the church. How awesome! Your Christian marriage will either exalt the love relationship between Christ and his church or it will be a denial of it.

Base your marriage on God’s Word and he will pour out his blessing on it.

Right now I’m thinking of the father whose family was grown up and the kids were all gone. He said,

If I could do it all over again, this is what I would do:

I would love my wife more in front of my children.

I would laugh with my children more–at our mistakes and our joys.

I would listen more–even to the youngest child.

I would be more honest about my own weaknesses and stop pretending perfection.

I would pray differently for my family. Instead of focussing on them I would focus more on me.

I would do more things with my children.

I would do more encouraging–and bestow more praise.

I would pay more attention to little things, deeds, and words of love and kindness. Finally, if I had to do it all over again, I would share God more intimately with my family. I would use every ordinary thing that happened in every ordinary day to point them to God.[15]

There’s a desperate need for Christian men to share with other Christian men how to be better husbands. Let’s join forces and build Christian marriages that can withstand the assaults of an antagonistic culture. Build marriages that shout to a seeking world that Jesus is the Redeemer of his people–including marriages. Wives who submit to their husbands, and husbands who love their wives as Christ loved the church. Fathers who don’t exasperate their children. Wives who submit to their husbands.


I. Priority of worship instead of fishing

If you woke up to a beautiful sunny day on Sunday and you faced this: The water on the Bay was calm and the whiting were biting, where would you rather be: out fishing or meeting with the people of God? If you choose fishing over God, what message does that send to your children, neighbours and the people of God?

J. My struggles

These are some of my struggles when it comes to glorifying God in all that I do:

  • eating. I just love sweet things. They are not good for me and my heart condition. How can I glorify God and draw attention to his marvellous Self when I do NOT control my intake?
  • working with secular people in counselling and moving them towards considering ultimate issues, particularly their relationship with God;
  • When I come to a quick assessment of an issue, it can be crystal clear to me. Why can’t others see it? I can be abrupt in the way I speak;
  • Why can’t people get fair dinkum with God instead of playing around with him?
  • My patience is stretched when I see an epidemic of drug abuse and yet there are people, community leaders, politicians, media personalities who accept or promote illicit drug use.
  • I want to speak forthrightly in exposing injustices and unrighteousness in our society, but I want to continue to love such people who are sinning their way to hell. How can I stand up for Jesus, confront sin, and bring glory to God?
  • I want to give God glory in my sharing Christ with as many people as possible. The busyness of my life can stop those opportunities. No matter how much success a person achieves in this life, if they are lost for eternity they are BIG LOSERS. I must proclaim Christ while God gives me breath. Lord, I want to do it to your glory.


[1] This message was preached for a men’s breakfast at Redlands Alliance Church (greater Brisbane area, Qld., Australia), 6 June 1999.

[2] Greek, oun, is better translated as, “Therefore.”

[3]William F. Arndt & F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature (translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1957, 202-203.

[4]Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1985, 998.

[5]The following is suggested by Erickson, 266ff.

[6]J.I. Packer, Laid-Back Religion: A penetrating look at Christianity today. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1987, 25.

[7]It was in 1979.

[8]The original said, Chicago.@

[9]The original said, crackers and peanut butter.@

[10] The original said, “well.”

[11] This was a letter from a young boy, printed in a midwestern [USA] newspaper several years ago. It was sent to the editor by his parents, with hopes it would help other parents avoid the mistakes they had made.

[12]Green, 147.

[13]In Carl Wilson, Our Dance Has Turned to Death. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, pp. 84-85.

[14]The famous Harvard sociologist, Pitirim Sorokin, wrote this back in 1956 and is quoted in Wilson.

[15]In John MacArthur, Jr., The Family. Chicago: Moody Press, 1982, p. 104.


Copyright © 2009 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 28 January 2018