Category Archives: Colossians

Colossians 1:21-23: News! News! The in-depth news![1]


Christ Art

By Spencer D Gear

I. Introduction

News! News! All the news! The latest news! The oldest news! Good news! Bad news! You get the most in-depth news coverage by tuning into this news.

It is not Channel 7 national news. I’m not speaking about ABC radio news. You won’t get it on 60 minutes, A Current Affair, Today Tonight, or the 7.30 Report. This is not The Courier-Mail, The Australian, the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age or Time magazine. This is the most in-depth news you need to live your life. I’m speaking about the news in Col. 1:21-23. These three verses read in the New International Version:

21Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

A. Let’s place this passage in context in Colossians 1

Paul has just written one of the most magnificent proclamations of the superiority of Jesus Christ. Just before he launches into today’s subject, Paul gives us the HEADLINE news in vv. 19-20.

There are three HEADLINES in the one article that tell us who Jesus is:

  • Main headline:

God’s fullness dwells in him (v. 19).

Jesus is fully God. It’s a similar expression to Col. 2:9, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.”

  • Second headline:

Even though this is a wicked, hostile world, Christ will eventually reconcile all things to himself in heaven and on earth (v. 20).

  • Third headline:

How come? There will be permanent peace through Christ’s shed blood on the cross (v. 20).

This is the backdrop (context of the passage): The God-man, Jesus Christ, provides reconciliation and peace through his blood shed through death.

Now we come to Colossians 1:21-23.

B. What’s the message of this passage in a nutshell? (Proposition)

Paul wants to get through to the Colossians and to us: The gospelproclaimed is in-depth news. This is the most in-depth news you will ever discover about human beings. To be in-depth news,

II. Firstly, the gospel proclaimed must include the BAD news story (v. 21).

In vv. 21-23, we have a brief outline of some essential content of the Gospel. Please notice this in-depth news begins with bad news (v 21).

A. The bad news is this:

6pointblue-small all people are “alienated from God.” “Alienated[2] = “transferred to another owner.”[3] “As vivid a picture of the non-Christian world as in Rom. 1:20-23.”[4]

All people are in a fixed state of being alienated[5] from God. They are born as rebel sinners, whose allegiance is transferred to the devil himself. This alienation from God is not just for those in deepest darkest Africa. It describes all people in deepest, darkest, open and transparent Hervey Bay – they may be dressed in businessmen’s suits, teachers, school children , truck drivers, mothers and fathers, children.

All of the Colossians and all of us were “alienated from God” before we came to Christ in repentance, confession and faith. But the situation gets even worse. You were:

6pointblue-small “Enemies” of God. You had a hostile hatred[6] of God.

6pointblue-small Where is this hatred located according to Col. 1:21? You were “enemies in your minds.” For all people, in their thinking they are enemies of God before they come to Christ.

6pointblue-small Notice what happens with all ungodly people. When they hate God in their minds, it results in “evil behavior” (v. 21).

We know that God reveals himself to all people through creation: (the heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands, Ps. 19:1-4). God reveals himself to all people through conscience: (Rom. 2:14-15).

What do we do with this knowledge? Romans 1:18-19 explains, “The godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them” (NIV).

Do you see the vicious cycle for all unbelievers?

God reveals himself in creation and conscience (leads to) ð we are enemies of God in our minds

blue-satin-arrow-small we hold down (suppress) the truth of God

blue-satin-arrow-smallwe do evil deeds

blue-satin-arrow-small God continues to reveal himself

blue-satin-arrow-small we think hostile things

blue-satin-arrow-small we suppress the truth

blue-satin-arrow-small we commit all kinds of wickedness.

And the merry go round goes on and on UNTIL God intervenes in our lives with the GOOD NEWS.

It bothers me when this BAD news is toned down or only part of the story is told. Why don’t you examine your favourite method of presenting the Gospel and see how much emphasis it places on the BAD news. It surprised me when I examined some of these methods.

The in-depth, bad news, according to Col. 1:21, is this: All unbelievers are:

ø Alienated from God;

ø Enemies in their minds, and

ø Commit evil behaviour.


“Louis Blanc, French socialist . . . historian [journalist and politician of the 19th century],[7], said shortly before his execution, ‘When I was an infant, I rebelled against my nurse. When I was a child, I rebelled against my teachers. When I was a young man, I rebelled against my mother and father. When I reached a mature age, I rebelled against the state. When I die, if there is a heaven and a God, I’ll rebel against them.”[8]

That’s about as blatant a statement as you could get. But that’s the state of all people as far as God is concerned.

How can we apply this today?

What does God require of you to reflect this biblical principle in your life?

matte-red-arrow-smallWhen you share the gospel, you must include the BAD news;

matte-red-arrow-small I counsel rebel youth, abusive parents, and marriages that are falling apart at the seams. The BAD news tells me what is going on.

matte-red-arrow-small We cannot understand Iraq, Iran, persecution of 200 million Christians worldwide, Afghanistan, Bali, Sept. 11, without understanding the BAD news.

matte-red-arrow-smallYou won’t understand adultery, the push for homosexuality, use of illicit drugs, Governments that legislate immorality through prostitution, abortion and euthanasia, without understanding the BAD news.

Brothers and sisters in Christ! There’s a very important phrase that is found at the beginning of the BAD NEWS in Col. 1:21: “Once you were.” It reminds me of I Cor. 6:11, “And that is what some of you were.”

To be in-depth news , the gospel proclaimed must include the BAD news story – once you were. But also . . .

III. The gospel proclaimed must include the GOOD news story (v. 22).

“But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.”

v. 21 begins, “Once you were . . .”

Notice how v. 22 begins, “But now. . .”

A radical change comes when Christ enters your life. The ONCE bad situation becomes the NOW good situation.

A. The good news is that “now he has reconciled you” (v. 22).

  • What incredible good news that is! You who were once enemies in our mind that led to your evil behaviour. You are now reconciled to God if you have come to God in repentance and faith.
  • This word for “reconciled” appears only 3 times in the NT. Col. 1:20, 22 (here) and Eph. 2:16. It is not Paul’s usual word for “reconcile” [katallassÇ] that is used in verses such as 2 Cor. 5:17-20 and Rom. 5:10. But it is a closely related word.

Many of you will be familiar with 2 Cor. 5:17-20:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”

Here in Col. 1:22, Paul attaches a preposition, apo, to the regular word for reconciliation in 2 Cor. 5 & Rom. 5, katallasso.[9] Clearly he wants to communicate “the idea of complete reconciliation.”[10] Reconciliation means: to change from being an enemy to being a friend. It suggests that rebellious enemies of God submit to God and are now in harmony with God himself.[11]

snowflake-red-small In Col. 1: 20 we are told what this “complete reconciliation”

involves: “and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”

Through Christ’s death

snowflake-red-small “all things” will be reconciled to God. That includes the entire universe. The universe being out of harmony reminds us of Rom. 8:19-23.

The good news is that you were once hostile enemies towards God, have moved from enemy status to friendship with God — reconciled by “Christ’s physical body through death” (v. 22). “Physical body” (NIV) is literally, “body of flesh.”

It seems strange to us that Paul would use this redundant expression “physical body through death.” Physical death always includes the death of the physical body. Why would Paul mention it like this? Probably because he was addressing false teaching being promoted by the Colossian Gnostic heretics. They were teaching that reconciliation could only happen through spiritual (angelic) beings. Paul was stirred by the danger to the Colossians of false teaching of the Gnostics.

Gnostics “attached little or no value to the work of Christ in a physical body. In opposition to this, Paul stressed the importance of Christ’s physical body.”[12]

According to Col. 1:22, it was “Christ’s physical body through death” that reconciled believers to God.

snowflake-red-small How can Christ’s physical death lead to reconciliation of enemies with the holy God?

In other religions, it is the human being who does all he or she can to appease, turn aside the wrath of the gods. This is not the way it is with the law of God in Christianity. To turn away the wrath of almighty God and be reconciled with God, it takes the initiative of God himself. That’s why 2 Cor. 5:19 declares, ” God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.”

The good news is that now he has reconciled you as believers. Also

B. According to v. 22, The good news is that Christ’s death, “presents you

silver-arrow holy in God’s sight,

silver-arrow without blemish, and

silver-arrow free from accusation.”

How can this be? How can you and I be holy, without blemish and free from accusation before God when we KNOW that we sin after we become Christians. We are not goody two-shoes and sinlessly perfect. Well, I’m not! Please consult my wife and children.

Yet, God says that when we are reconciled with God we are holy, without blemish and free from accusation. How does that happen? I’m glad you asked.

It would be pretty natural to think that this holiness without blemish and free from accusation would only happen when we get to heaven when we will no longer be infected with sin.

Not so, says Paul. This is what Christ has done for the Colossians and all believers in reconciling them with God. “He brought them into his presence, no longer as [unholy][13], stained by sin, and bearing the burden of guilt; but ‘holy’ and ‘without blemish and free from accusation.'”[14]

How can this happen? Christian, your legal standing before God is that “at the time of and because of the death of Christ”[15], you are declared holy, without blemish and free from accusation.

This is the message of imputation, which seems to be foreign language to us today, but a core Bible teaching. Because of Christ’s death, the believer is legally declared before God to be:

foward buttonholy = in consecration and dedication;

foward button “without blemish” translates “a technical sacrificial term (anomous), [that] was used of animals that were without flaw and therefore worthy of being offered to God.”[16] Believer, before God you are declared as being without a sinful flaw – legally before God.

foward button You are also “free from accusation” by God for your sinful, rebellious, hostile attitudes and actions towards God.

Paul could not be referring to your and my personal behaviour NOW because our actions are not always holy and without blemish. There has never been nor will there ever be a Christian who is sinlessly perfect and without blemish in actual conduct.[17] Paul is speaking about our legal standing before God because we are in Christ. We are “holy, without blemish, and free from accusation” legally with God.

It’s another way of saying what he told the Corinthians: “2 Cor. 5:21 (ESV), “For our sake he made him [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Christian friend, by Christ’s physical death you, who were once hostile enemies in your mind, have been reconciled with God and declared to be holy, blameless and free from accusation.


In Yorkshire in England there is a picture at Catterick Camp, “which shows a signaler lying dead in no-man’s land. He had been sent out to repair a cable that had been broken by [gun][18] fire. And there he lies, cold in death, but with his task accomplished, for in his stiffened hands he holds the broken ends together. Beneath the picture is the one word, ‘Through.’

“So too, by his once-for-all death on Calvary, Christ has brought God and [people][19] together in reconciliation and fellowship.”[20]

Let’s apply this to us today:

What does God now require of you, the reconciled? You who have been declared holy, spotless and without a guilty accusation. How can we be silent? The good news is that you must be people who proclaim the good news of reconciliation through Christ.

Where? Make opportunities. Take opportunities. This is incredible good news that the guilty can have no charge against them before God. Don’t you need to share that news with your boss, your neighbour, your enemy? What will you do this week to share such incredible good news of reconciliation?

To be in-depth news,

Blue Golden Button Firstly, the Gospel proclaimed must include the BAD news – we are hostile enemies towards God;

Blue Golden Button Secondly, the Gospel proclaimed must include the GOOD news of reconciliation and declared righteous.

Then comes a statement that is somewhat unexpected in this context. Thirdly…

IV. The gospel proclaimed must include the CONTINUING news story (v. 23).

A. The continuing news is that you must continue in your faith for it to be good news and for your salvation.

This seems like a most unusual emphasis when Paul is giving instructions about the Gospel being proclaimed. We can understand the need for the BAD news, although we tend to want to downplay that aspect. We know we need the GOOD news of reconciliation with God and righteousness by legal standing. But why this emphasis on “if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.”

Why? Why?

Paul faced the problem in his day. We face it today in the church worldwide.[21] One “major denomination in the United States . . . disclosed it obtained an incredible 294,784 decisions for Christ in 1990. Yet, in 1991, it could only find 14,337 in a Christian fellowship. There were 280,447 decisions that couldn’t be accounted for. The leadership had no clue as to why this happened, but could only conclude, ‘Something is wrong!’

“The trend continued. In August 1996 a leading U.S. denomination revealed that during 1995 it secured 384,057 decisions, but retained only 22,983 in fellowship. It couldn’t account for 361,074 supposed conversions.”

Charles E. Hackett, the Division of Home Missions National Director for a large denomination in the USA[22] said: “A soul at the altar does not generate much excitement in some circles because we realise approximately 95 out of every 100 will not become integrated into the church. In fact, most of them will not return for a second visit.”

This phenomenon is not unique to the US. A pastor in Boulder, Colorado sent a team to Russia in 1991 and there were 2,500 decisions. The next year they found only 30 persevering in their faith. In Leeds, England, a visiting US speaker said that there were 400 decisions for a local church. However, six weeks later only two were going on, and they eventually fell away.

“A pastor who travelled to India every year since 1980 [said][23] he saw 80,000 decision cards stacked in a hut in the city of Rajamundry, the ‘results’ of past evangelistic crusades. But he maintained that one would be fortunate to find even 80 Christians in the entire city. That is one tenth of one percent.”[24]

Paul to the Colossians wrote that this is the gospel that you heard, “If you continue in your faith”. One of the great Bible teachers of the last century, F. F. Bruce, wrote about this verse: “If the Bible teaches the final perseverance of the saints, it also teaches that the saints are those who finally persevere – in Christ. Continuance is the test of reality.”[25]

Perhaps these Colossians were beginning to wane in their faith and there was danger of their slipping back, so there was the need for this exhortation.

The gospel of continuing faith, according to v. 23, means that you are:

  • “Established” – suggesting that your faith is secure when it on the rock of continuing salvation.
  • You are “firm” (literally, “settled”), shows that you have a “steady and firm resolve” to continue in the faith.

Hebrews 3:6 (ESV) states: “but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.”

We see a similar emphasis on the need to hold fast to hope in passages such as Heb. 6:11; 10:23; 1 Peter 1:13; 1 John 3:3.

Never let us forget that continuing in the faith – genuine perseverance – is not something that is done in our own strength. Jesus made that very clear in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (ESV).

Let’s apply this to us today:

Since Col. 1:23 is an essential to the Gospel, when you share Christ with people, urge them to continue in the faith. The real test of faith in Christ is continuing to trust in Christ alone for your salvation. Never say, “Give Jesus a go!”

“Just believe,” is not the Gospel. “Raise your hand and ask Jesus into your heart” is not the Gospel. Getting back to the core Gospel is long overdue. According to Col. 1:21-23, this means:

silver buttonThe Gospel proclaimed must include the BAD news;

silver buttonThe Gospel proclaimed must include the GOOD news;

silver buttonThe Gospel proclaimed must include the CONTINUING news, and

V. Fourthly, The gospel proclaimed must be newsworthy here in Queensland AND around the world (v. 23).

The theme of these three verses in Colossians is stated clearly in the NIV translation of v. 23, “This is the gospel that you heard.” Please note what Paul goes on to say. This Gospel is to be proclaimed around the world.

A. This most newsworthy story that was proclaimed at Colossae was by Paul, a servant of this gospel (v. 23).

B. This most newsworthy story must be proclaimed around the world (v. 23).

In fact Paul says that this gospel “has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven” (v. 23). How on earth was it possible that Paul, in the days before airline travel, radio, TV, newspapers and the Internet, could proclaim the gospel “in all creation under heaven” (ESV)?

Perhaps this was Paul’s way of saying that the Gospel had been “heard in all the great centres of the [Roman] Empire.”[26] Maybe Paul was using hyperbole (exaggeration). We do know from Rom. 15:19-23 that Paul preached from Jerusalem to Rome and that it was his ambition “to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that [he] would not be building on someone else’s foundation” (Rom. 15:20).

This is a basic outline of the gospel that Paul preached. Is this the total gospel content? No! There is no mention of confession, repentance, receiving Christ “by grace through faith” when the Gospel is preached (see Eph. 2:8-9; Rom. 10:9-10).

In our day of biblical ignorance, there is a need for the biblical plot-line as in Colossians to be proclaimed with Gospel presentations. Sadly, most secular people and many in the church don’t understand the major themes of the Bible – the plot-line of the biblical story.


I support the evangelist who preached an outreach series at the University of Durham in the UK. He understood the problem we face with temporary conversion. He preached 8 messages through the first 8 chapters of the Book of Romans (he was not a D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones who took 13 years[27] to preach through Romans, one sermon a week). The plot-line of the Durham University presentation

“Introduced [students] to God, Creation, the nature of sin and law, the place of the atonement in God’s redemptive purposes, the nature of grace and faith, justification, and the gift of the Spirit, and ultimately the hope of a new heaven and a new earth.”[28]

I recommend this Aussie evangelistic tool, “2 Ways to Live,” that presents Christ in six steps:

1. God – the loving ruler and creator,

2. Humanity in rebellion,

3. God won’t let people keep rebelling forever,

4. Jesus – the Man who dies for rebels,

5. Jesus – the risen ruler,

6. The Two Ways to Live: Our Way OR God’s New Way.[29]

Let’s make an application to us:

Will you take or make the opportunity this week to share the Gospel? With your friend, neighbour, perhaps a stranger you meet somewhere. Please do NOT take up the boss’s time by sharing the Gospel in working hours with a work mate. That is cheating the boss.

What will you do about God’s call, through Paul, to present the BAD news of people being enemies of God, hostile in the mind? Make sure you include the GOOD news of reconciliation to God through Christ. Never forget that this Gospel is for those who CONTINUE in the faith.

I call upon you to forever give up the cheap Gospel. Don’t proclaim Gospel L-I-T-E.

VI. Conclusion[30]

Malcolm Muggeridge died in 1990. He was the famous British author, media personality and journalist, who became a Christian late in life. He “once told of working as a journalist in India as a young man. One evening he walked down to the river for a swim. As he entered the water, he saw an Indian woman from the nearby village who had come for her evening bath. Muggeridge immediately felt the allurement of the moment, and he was besieged by temptation. He had lived with this kind of temptation all his adult life, but until this moment he had fought it off out of respect for his wife Kitty. But tonight, he was weak and vulnerable. He hesitated just a moment, then swam furiously across the river toward the woman, literally trying to outdistance his conscience. But when he was just a few [metres][31] away from her, he emerged from the water and what he saw took his breath away. She wasn’t a beautiful young maiden, but old and hideous, with wrinkled skin, and worst of all, she was a leper. He said later, ‘The creature grinned at me, showing a toothless mask.’ Muggeridge muttered, ‘What a dirty lecherous[32] woman!’ But as he swam away from her, a sudden shock gripped him, ‘It wasn’t just the woman who was dirty and lecherous,’ he said. ‘It was my own heart.'”[33]

Muggeridge was once a sceptic of Christianity and even denied the resurrection of Christ. In the later part of his life he became fully convinced of the resurrection of Christ and wrote the book: Jesus: The Man Who Lives (1975).

All of us are dirty and lecherous – lustful.

  • The Gospel proclaimed must include the BAD news about Malcolm Muggeridge and all of us. We are/were wilful, hostile enemies of God.
  • The Gospel proclaimed must include the GOOD news – reconciliation with God because of Christ’s death that declares us holy, without blemish and free from accusation;
  • The Gospel proclaimed must include the CONTINUING news – you have salvation if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the fundamental doctrine of the perseverance of the saints.
  • This gospel proclaimed is the in-depth, in-depth news for Hervey Bay and around the world.

Let us pray.

  • Thank you, Lord, for declaring our true state before you. We are sinners, alienated from you and we suppress your truth.
  • Thank you for the good news that we can be reconciled to you through Christ’s death if we repent and confess our sin to you.
  • We praise you that by repentance and faith, we are declared holy in your sight, without blemish and free from accusation.
  • That’s what we are legally before you, God, when we repent.
  • In our progressive sanctification, help us to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Saviour.
  • Thank you for giving us the daily strength to continue to persevere in our faith.


[1] Bundaberg West Baptist Church, 31 August 2003, 8am & 10am services; Northcote Baptist Church, Melbourne, 25 January 2004; Hervey Bay Presbyterian Church, 10 October 2010.

[2] Apellotriwmenous = perfect passive participle of apallatriow..

[3] Curtis Vaughan, “Colossians,” in Frank E. Gaebelein (gen. ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (vol. 11). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1978, p. 185.

[4] A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament: The Epistles of Paul (vol. 4). Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press, 1931, p. 481.

[5] Perfect tense.

[6] Old word, echthos (enemies). Robertson, p. 482.

[7] Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity: Volume II A. D. 1500 – A.D. 1975. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1953/1975, p. 1066.

[8] Roy B. Zuck, The Speaker’s Quote Book. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1997, p. 324.

[9] The word in 2 Cor. 5:18-10 and Rom. 5:10 is katallasso. In Col. 1:22 it is apokatallasso.

[10] Robertson, p. 481.

[11] Vaughan, p. 186.

[12] Vaughan, p. 187.

[13] The original said, “unhallowed.”

[14] Vaughan, p. 187.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Suggested by ibid.

[18] The original said, “Shell.”

[19] The original said, “Man.”

[20] John Wood, “Reconciliation,” in Zuck, p. 423.

[21] Christian lawyer, Bernie Koerselman, says that “years ago I began to suspect that one of the evidences of fraud in the presentation of the gospel is the high percentage of people who quickly desert the church after having ‘made a commitment.'” He says, “Ray Comfort’s book, Bride of Heaven, Pride of Hell confirmed my suspicions. Ray quotes statistics.” The following statistical details are in Bernie Koerselman, “Fraud & Deceit in the presentation of the gospel.” Vanguard, February 2000, p. 5.

[22] The Assemblies of God USA

[23] He told Ray Comfort.

[24] Bernie Koerselman, “Fraud & Deceit in the presentation of the gospel.” Vanguard, February 2000, p. 5.

[25] F. F. Bruce, “Commentary on the Epistle to the Colossians,” in E. K. Simpson and F. F. Bruce, Commentary on the Epistles to the Ephesians and the Colossians (The New International Commentary on the New Testament, F. F. Bruce, gen. ed.). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1957, p. P. 213

[26] C. F. D. Moule, The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon (The Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary, C. F. D. Moule, gen. ed.). London: Cambridge University Press, 1957, p. 73.

[27] The fly-leaf of the dust jack to the hardback edition of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans:Exposition of Chapter1, The Gospel of God. Edinburgh, Scotland: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1985, states: “Dr. Lloyd-Jones’ exposition of Romans, the major work of his mid-week ministry in London, occupied him from 1955 until 1968. Throughout these years, no other event in the calendar of evangelicals was comparable to Friday night at Westminster Chapel.”

[28] D. A. Carson, The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996, p. 504.

[29] From “2 Ways to Live: A Bible study explaining Christianity.” Kingsford NSW: Matthias Media (PO Box 225, Kingsford 2032, Australia.)

[30] When I preached this message, a knowledgeable Christian objected to my use of Malcolm Muggeridge (see what follows), claiming that he doubted Muggeridge’s conversion as he did not believe in the resurrection of Christ. I have since checked, “Malcolm Muggeridge’s Conversion Story”, available at: (Accessed 26 January 2007). Here it is recorded that in 1966, Muggeridge stated: ” I don’t believe in the resurrection of Christ, I don’t believe that he was the son of God in a Christian sense.” This quote has the endnote, Hunter, Ian, Malcolm Muggeridge: A Life, London: Hamish Hamilton, 1980, p. 225. However, John Ankerberg and John Weldon wrote in, ‘The Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Part I—Can It Persuade Skeptics?”

Among great literary writers, few can match the brilliance of famous author Malcolm Muggeridge. He, too, was once a skeptic of Christianity. But near the end of his life he became fully convinced of the truth of the Resurrection of Christ, writing a book acclaimed by critics, Jesus: The Man Who Lives (1975; HarperCollins 1984). He wrote, “The coming of Jesus into the world is the most stupendous event in human history….” and “What is unique about Jesus is that, on the testimony and in the experience of innumerable people, of all sorts and conditions, of all races and nationalities from the simplest and most primitive to the most sophisticated and cultivated, he remains alive.” Muggeridge concludes, “That the Resurrection happened… seems to be indubitably true” and “Either Jesus never was or he still is….with the utmost certainty, I assert he still is”, available at: (Accessed 26 January 2007)

[31] The original said, “feet”.

[32] According to, “lecherous” means lustful, erotically suggestive, inciting to lust. Available at: (Accessed 2 October 2010).

[33] Robert J. Morgan, Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations & Quotes: The Ultimate Contemporary Resource for Speakers. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, “Muggeridge in India,” p. 751.


Copyright (c) 2012 Spencer D. Gear.  This document last updated at Date: 9 October 2015.

Noah's Animals


Five ingredients for a healthy church: Colossians 4:7-18 [1]

Man jumping from church across the globe


By Spencer D GEar

What do you do when a pastor’s adultery shatters a church? Jerry Cook, a pastor of a largish church in Gresham, Oregon, USA, tells this story[2]. “A pastor in our town whom I knew only slightly became involved in adultery. As a result, his marriage went on the rocks and his ministry was destroyed. Since he was a strong Christian leader in our area, this brother’s fall came with a resounding crash. His church splintered into a dozen fragments and hurting, confused people were scatter all over the city.

“A year and a half after all that happened, I received a phone call at 7:30 A.M. one Sunday. It was this former pastor. He said, ‘Would you mind if my wife and I came to church this morning?’

“I said, ‘Why would you even call and ask that question? Of course we wouldn’t mind.’

“‘Well’, he said, ‘you know this is my second wife and I am divorced from my first. Are you aware of this?’

“I said, ‘Sure, I’m aware of it.’

“‘Well,’ he said, ‘I’ll tell you, Jerry, we’ve been trying for eight months now to find a place to worship. The last time we tried was a month ago. That morning we were asked from the pulpit to leave. We’ve been met at the door of other churches by pastors who heard that my wife and I were coming. They asked us not to come in, said we would cause too much trouble. Still others have heard that we might show up and called in advance to ask us please not to come.’

“He said, ‘Frankly, I don’t think we could handle it again if we were to come and be an embarrassment to you and be asked to leave. I just don’t know what would happen; my wife is close to a nervous breakdown.’ By now he was weeping. ‘I know that you have video for overflow crowds,’ he said. ‘If you want you can put us in a room where no one will see us and let us watch the service.’

“I said, ‘Listen, you be there and I’ll welcome you at the door.’

“He came with his wife and their little baby. They came late and sat in the back.”

Does this ever bother you? Acts 4:34, “And there was not a needy person among them.” In the church of the Book of Acts it is stated that not a needy person was to be found in the church. Church people met the physical & financial needs of the people in the church. How would they get on with Jerry Cook’s situation of meeting the need of an adulterous former-pastor, new wife and child? Would they be welcome in the early church? Would their needs be met in this church?

We rely on the Salvos, St. Vincent de Paul, counselling agencies, and Centrelink government handouts.

What is the difference between the first century church and the 21st century church? Paul tells us in Col. 4:7-18 that if any church (this church) wants to be a healthy, it will have five ingredients.

Before we examine these 5 ingredients, please note with me some issues arising from this passage:

  • “Paul mentions over 100 people by name in his New Testament letters! In Romans 16 alone, there are 26 people listed. Here, in Colossians 4, he mentions 10 individuals.”[3] Paul could not survive in the Christian life alone. He was in deep relationship with people in the churches.
  • Close friendship was part of discipleship and Christian growth for Paul. To grow in Christ, you need close relationships. I’m reminded of Prov. 18:24, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
  • For Paul, people were more important than programmes.
  • Paul’s friends included Luke, the doctor & Onesimus the runaway slave. He had friends who were Jews and with others who wouldn’t have a clue who Abraham was. Some were male, some female. Some were faithful Christians; others were deserters from the faith.
  • When Paul talks about real people by name, he roots his letters in real history with real people. This is not fantasy or myth. There is no such thing as Christianity without its historical base dealing with real people in real places in the real world.
  • This entire epistle to the Colossians exalts the supremacy of Christ (see especially 1:15ff) and how that impacts our

clip_image002 prayer life[4];

clip_image002[1] ministry in the church[5];

clip_image002[2] freedom from legalism of human regulations[6];

clip_image002[3] holy living[7];

clip_image002[4] how families, employers & employees should live[8]; and

clip_image002[5] gospel proclamation at every opportunity.[9]

Let’s look at these five ingredients for a healthy church.

I. First, if this church is to be healthy, it needs faithful people in radical relationships (vv. 7-9)

7Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. 8I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our[10] circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. 9He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here.

Let’s meet . . .

A. Tychicus

This is the Tychicus of Eph. 6:21; 2 Tim. 4:12; Titus 3:12. Paul sends Tychicus to the Colossian church, in Turkey today, trusting Tychicus to:

clip_image004 Tell them all the news about Paul (4:2 says Paul is “in chains”, possibly in Rome, for proclaiming “the mystery of Christ”);

clip_image004[1] Tychicus will tell them about Paul’s circumstances;

clip_image004[2] He will encourage the Colossian believers. Paul had never been to Colosse. Reading this letter gives one the impression that Epaphras introduced these people to Christ and founded this church and possibly churches at Laodicea and Hierapolis (4:13).

Why has Paul chosen Tychicus to deliver this letter, fill them in on

what is happening to Paul in prison, and to encourage them? We learn 3 important things about Tychicus that caused Paul to have confidence in this man. He’s:

clip_image004[3] A dear brother; a beloved brother. Of all the Christian people

that Paul knew, of Tychicus he could say that he was one “who has become beloved by those who know him.”[11]

How many people in this church could you describe as a loved brother or a loved sister by you because you know them so well and have such a deep relationship with them that they are dear to you? Honest?

Tychicus was loved, but this verse also says that he was

clip_image004[4] A faithful minister; A minister is not a pastor but a “diakonos”

(from which we get deacon). In ch. 1:7, Epaphras is called a “diakonos”; the apostle Paul calls himself a “diakonos” in 1:23. A “diakonos” is the word to express this idea and ministry: he or she is “one who renders voluntary service ‘in behalf of’ other people so that they may have the benefit.”[12]

There’s nothing in the context to say that Tychicus was a Deacon as we understand it. But he was a “servant of the Lord” or a “minister in Christian work, in a general sense.”[13] We must understand that this person was one who served others. That’s why Christians ought to be so radically different from the secular world. We are here to serve others, whatever their need.

But Tychicus served others not in some occasional, slap-happy way. He was known to be a FAITHFUL minister. He was dependable. I’m reminded of I Cor. 4:2, “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove FAITHFUL.”

One of the fruit of the Spirit, according to Galatians 5:22 is “faithfulness.” If you are lacking in faithfulness, you have a spiritual problem. The fruit of the Spirit are lacking in your life.


What would this church be like if all of us were so growing in the fruit of the Spirit that we were faithful in church attendance, faithful in our giving, faithful in leadership of Brigades, deacons’ meetings, etc.

I go to churches around the country and I find that one of the greatest lacks is preachers who are faithful in preaching the Word of God. The Bible calls all preachers to “preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season” (2 Tim. 4:2). Preachers read the Word, preach around the text, preach what’s in their mind, but many, many are not faithful preachers of the Word.


“Old Faithful is not the largest geyser in Yellowstone National Park [Wyoming, USA], nor does it reach the greatest height [when it spurts forth.] But it is by far the most popular one. Why? It is regular and dependable, hence its name, ‘Old Faithful.'”[14]

God does not call you and me to be brilliant, with brawn and beauty. He does call all believers to be faithful.

Tychicus was the person who was faithful in serving others, no matter what their need. He’s also described as . . .

  • “A fellow servant[15] in the Lord” – “a fellow slave of Paul and of Timothy (1:1) who submitted his will completely to the Lord.”[16]

In these final greetings, Paul mentions another faithful person in v. 9. Tychicus is going to the Colossian church with

B. Onesimus

“Our faithful and dear brother.” If you want to know more about

Onesimus, read the epistle to Philemon. This is an amazing story. Onesimus the slave “ran away from his master in Colosse, came into contact with Paul in Rome, and was converted and completely changed. Paul is now sending him back to his master. Tychicus is serving as his protector, for a runaway slave was liable to arrest anywhere by the . . . slave catchers who were everywhere on the lookout for such slaves. Paul does not say what the congregation is to do with this slave; he says only that he is sending him back as ‘a faithful and beloved brother’ who is from their city.”[17]

First, if this church, any church, is to be healthy, it needs faithful people in radical loving relationships (vv. 7-9). But this is such a low priority in the materialistic western church. I call you to be faithful in your ministry here. Love one another deeply, warts and all. I have warts in my Christian life. Will you love me in spite of them? Will you be faithful in ministering to the needs of people here in this church?

II. Second, if this church is to be healthy, it needs prayer warriors (vv. 12-13)

12Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. 13I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis.

Epaphras is an amazing believer (v. 12). He’s the founder of the Colossian church (see 1:7) but here he is described as a:

  • Bond-slave (doulos) of Jesus Christ;
  • He’s “always wrestling in prayer for you.” Why?
  • “That you may stand firm in all the will of God;
  • “That you will be mature and fully assured.”

This church was under threat from the heretical sect known as the Gnostics and there was a danger that this newish church would go under through false teaching.

These Gnostics believed matter was evil, there were mediating beings, salvation through knowledge. So, God and matter were antagonistic. What would they do with Jesus, fully God and fully man (which included matter)? That’s why Paul in Col. 1:15 had to correct this error with this refutation: “[Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth . . .”

Christ was born a human being and he created matter. That directly corrected these false Gnostic teachers.

If false teachers were infiltrating this church, you correct them with sound biblical teaching, but Paul says that the Colossian church, to be healthy had their founder who engaged in “agÇnizomai‘ in prayer.

Epaphras was “always wrestling in prayer” (v. 12. He was in prayer that was “constant, frequent, and intense. He’s a great illustration of Colossians 4:2: ‘Devote yourselves to prayer. . .’ The verb ‘wrestling’ can be translated ‘agonized’ and is the same word used for the prayers of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. This battle metaphor pictures prayer as a struggle.”[18]

Paul uses the same word for himself in ch. 1:29 in a different context: “For this end I labor, struggling [there’s the word] with all the energy he so powerfully works in me.” In his apostolic ministry, Paul was laboring with an agonising, intense struggle.

“Epaphras ever ‘agonizes’ for the Colossians with strong pleading in his prayers, and his prayer for them is that they may ‘stand’ firm and solid, ‘as complete,’ as having reached the goal and lacking nothing to make them true Christians in every way.”[19]

Do you agonise in prayer for Christians in this church that they would stand firm in the faith and grow into maturity in the faith? Do you think there are enough prayer agonisers in this church? What will cause us to agonise in prayer for this church? Will it take the threat of false doctrine, as with the Colossians, or the threat of persecution of Christians, to call us to agonising, struggling, powerful and pleading prayer for believers who are in danger of falling away from the faith.


Leonard Ravenhill wrote much on revival and to challenge the church in many areas. He said: “The church has many organizers, but few agonizers; many who pay, but few who pray; many resters, but few wrestlers; many who are enterprising, but few who are interceding. People who are not praying and praying. . . Tithes may build a church, but tears will give it life. That is the difference between the modern church and the early church. In the matter of effective praying, never have so many left so much to so few. [Brothers and sisters],[20] let us pray.”[21]

Like Epaphras, will you be an agoniser in prayer for this church’s ministry:

clip_image006 to those who do not know the Lord;

clip_image006[1] for ministry outreach;

clip_image006[2] that we might be a truly Christ-centred church in what we say and do;

clip_image006[3] for the Holy Spirit to rule every part of this church.

First, if this church is to be healthy, it needs faithful people in radical relationships;

Second, if this church is to be healthy, it needs prayer warriors, agonisers.

III. Third, if this church is to be healthy, it will need to minister to those who are slack in fulfilling their ministry (v. 17)

v. 17 Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.”

In v. 17, Archippus apparently was being slack or ineffective in ministry and is urged to complete the ministry that he had received from the Lord. We don’t hear of this person very often in the Word, but Philemon 2 describes Archippus as “our fellow soldier.” But there was something not being completed in this person’s ministry. We are not told what it was.

In today’s church, this can happen to Christians

  • Through letting your spiritual life slip.
  • How’s your prayer life?
  • What about your discipleship?
  • To whom are you accountable?
  • How does anybody know what spiritual shape you are in?
  • We can’t be strong in the Lord if we are weak in some areas and are not fulfilling our ministry.
  • What is your ministry and are you doing it?

Sadly, a church that is becoming a healthy church will have to deal with disease in its midst. Some of that will be people who are not completing the Lord’s ministry. God gifts every one of you. Are you doing the ministry that God has given you? If you are doing the ministry that you think you have, you are likely to fail. There are not just one or two ministers in this congregation. You all are gifted for at least one spiritual ministry. Which are yours? Are you doing your ministry in this church? If not, why not? Are you like Archippus who needed challenging?


IV. Fourth, if this church is to be healthy, you will need to minister to the doubters and backsliders in this congregation (v. 14).

v. 14 Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings.

Could we say that there are a number in this congregation who are faithful servants and ministers of the Lord? Would it be safe to say that there are a few, maybe very few who agonise in prayer? Are you backward or slack in exercising the gifts God has given them?

In v. 14 of Col. 4, we have an example of somebody whose name is just mentioned as “Demas sends you greetings.” That tells us nothing more than Demas was with Paul when Colossians was written, BUT something else was happening in Demas’s life. We read about him in Philemon 24 as one of Paul’s “fellow workers.”

BUT if we go to 2 Tim. 4:9-10, which was written about five years later than Colossians,[22] we read, “Do your best to come to me quickly, for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica” (NIV).

Demas, who was with Paul the great apostle, was developing the spiritual disease of backsliding, losing the faith through worldliness. When Paul wrote Colossians he did not condemn Demas, but within 5 years the spiritual disease of worldly thinking and living had infected him.

We are not told exactly what happened, but I John 2:15-16 tells us how this can set in.

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For everything in the world–the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does–comes not from the Father but from the world” (NIV).

Like Demas, we all have within us the potential to develop fickle, fragile, backsliding, apostatising faith that could lead to leaving the faith. We here in the affluent West are especially vulnerable. In even an evangelical church it is so easy to fake it when you are not accountable to anybody. Do you know what things in the world can pull you away from the faith? Where are you vulnerable. Look at the list from I John 2. See if these tempt you:

  • “the cravings of the sinful nature.” Galatians 5:19-21 tell us what they are:

v 19,The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery [that’s excessive indulgence in sexual pleasures]; 20idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (NIV).

The first 3, immorality, impurity and debauchery have to do with the matter of sex, the next two (idolatry & witchcraft) deal with false gods. Then follow 8 that have to do with strife and division among people, and the last two with abuses of alcohol.[23]

What could some examples be for you where you are tempted into sexual sin? We live in a very loose sexual society where condoms, porn and prostitutes are freely available. Where are you tempted? If you succumb, you are down the road of worldly thinking and living that may draw you, like Demas, away from the faith.

What other gods could you be serving? Who’s your rock music or reality TV idol? I’m very concerned at the baptism into the occult that is happening with so much access to Harry Potter books and movies for children. Fiction, yes! But dangerous fiction! I spoke with a woman recently who has been wonderfully saved out of witchcraft and she drew to my attention the witchcraft of the Harry Potter series and how attractive it is made to look, but how dangerous it really is.

“Filmmaker and occult expert Caryl Matrisciana explains the dangers of the Harry Potter series and how the books portray a lifestyle diametrically opposed to that of the Christian. Matrisciana and her husband have spent 25 years researching the occult.”

She was an occult practitioner, raised in India. Eventually, she became a Christian and worked through the British media to raise awareness of the dangers of the occult.

Matrisciana encourages Christians in her new hour-long documentary video to take an honest look at the world children fantasise about when reading J. K. Rowling’s books. Through Harry Potter books and audios, children as young as kindergarten age are being introduced to human sacrifice, the sucking of blood from dead animals, possession by spirit beings, and satanic ritual.

She is going around England warning the young and old about the occult dangers through Harry Potter. Her video is called: “Harry Potter, Witchcraft Repackaged: Making Evil Look Innocent “[24]

Are you tempted to become like Demas through the anger and strife you create or are engaged in, with your family, kids at school, in the workplace, in this church?

What about the temptation to alcohol and drug abuse in this alcohol soaked society that also has a softly, softly approach to illicit drug use?

Back to the examples of the temptations to the principles of this world, stated in I John 2:

  • ” the lust of his eyes.” That’s self-explanatory. You will be tempted to lust into worldliness by what you see. Where are you vulnerable? This could be cars, the surf, sex and materialism, TV & internet.
  • Also, “the boasting of what he has and does.” I guess this applies to women as well as men. You will be tempted into worldly ways by boasting about what you have and do. Capitalism, wealth and greed foster such.

Is there a Demas streak in you right now?

If this or any other church is to be healthy, it:

clip_image008 needs faithful people in a radically close relationship;

clip_image008[1] needs prayer agonisers, people powerful through prayer;

clip_image008[2] will have some who are slack or ineffective in ministry;

clip_image008[3] will minister to the doubters & backsliders;

V. Fifth & finally: if this church is to be healthy, it will have radically forgiven people in this fellowship (vv. 9-10).

Demas bombed out of the faith. BUT there were two others in Paul’s list of greetings who made serious mistakes but were forgiven – radically forgiven.

The first is:

1. Onesimus (v. 9)

We are told that he is “a dear brother, a faithful minister.” To better understand Onesimus, please read that one chapter book of the NT, Philemon (right after Titus). Onesimus was from Colossae but was a runaway slave. We’ve dealt with him already in this message.

There’s another friend mentioned in Col. 4:10 who experienced radical forgiveness. That’s

2. Mark

Mark was the cousin of Barnabas but he didn’t have a good trackrecord in the faith. He’s also known as John Mark, the writer of the Gospel of Mark. He came a long way with the Lord, but if you remember that when Paul and Barnabas went on the first missionary journey something drastic happened (see Acts 15:39-40):

“They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord” (NIV).

Here in Col. 4:10, Paul and Mark had been reconciled and Paul was sending greetings from Mark. In fact, reconciliation took place to such an extent that Paul was able to say in 2 Tim. 4:11, “Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry” (NIV).

Isn’t this amazing. Paul fought with Barnabas and Mark and they split from him, but then there was reconciliation with Paul so that Paul could say that “he is helpful to me in my ministry.” Wow!

I guess it was 2-3 years ago that I was doing a devotion at the local ministers’ association on Rom. 15:7, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” As an example of the need to accept one another, I said that in my many years of ministry to hurting and sinful people I have found one group of people who find it most difficult to be accepted by church people and they are the redeemed and forgiven homosexuals.

At that point, a leading pastor in this city shouted me down with words something like: “How dare you! These are dangerous people. People need to be protected from them.”

Brothers and sisters, we do not deserve to be part of the church of the living God unless we dare to have, support and accept people from very sinful pasts in our church. All of us were once filthy, rotten, degraded sinners in God’s sight. How dare we look down on forgiven, homosexuals, prostitutes, thieves, cons and other rebels!


Are you interested in what happened to that adulterous pastor, his new wife and baby at Jerry Cook’s church?[25]

Jerry explains: “The compounding thing was that many of the people who had been hurt through his fall [into sin] were now a part of our congregation. Nevertheless, we extended fellowship to that man and the Lord did a cleansing and a healing. We shed so many tears together. I never will forget how he grabbed me and buried his head on my shoulder, a man 15 to 20 years my senior. He wept like a baby and held to me like a drowning man. He said, ‘Jerry, can you love me? I’ve spent my life loving people but I need someone to love me now.’

“In the weeks and months that followed, he met with our elders regularly and wept his way back to God through a most intense, sometimes utterly tearing repentance. If ever in my entire life I’ve seen godly sorrow for sin, I saw it in that man. He literally fell on the floor before our elders, grabbed their feet and implored them, ‘Brothers, can you ever forgive me?’

“God healed that man and restored him to wholeness. Today, he’s back in the ministry.

“I say to you, that brother was restored only because God enabled us to love and accept and forgive him. Love, acceptance, forgiveness—those three things are absolutely essential to any ministry that will consistently bring people to maturity and wholeness.”

clip_image010 Are you a faithful Christian? Can you be depended on in ministry, work and at home?

clip_image010[1] Are you a prayer warrior, an agoniser? I pray that more of us will get serious with prayer.

clip_image010[2] Do you know your gifts? Have people, including the leaders, of this church, affirmed them? Are you being slack and ineffective in your ministry? Will you allow God to get hold of you so that you minister in your gifts?

clip_image010[3] If you are a doubter, a backslider, or somebody thinking of chucking your faith, please see me after this service so that we can arrange to spend time in working through your doubts.

clip_image010[4] All of you who know Christ have been wonderfully forgiven. Some of you have been forgiven from a deeply depraved lifestyle. I praise God for you. May you know the reality of sins forgiven and grow in grace and knowledge of the Saviour.


[1] I, Spencer Gear, preached this sermon at Bundaberg West Baptist Church, Bundaberg, Qld., Australia, on 29 February 2004. I now live in Brisbane, Qld., Australia.

[2] This is found in Jerry Cook with Stanley C. Baldwin, 1979, Love, Acceptance & Forgiveness, Regal Books, Ventura, CA, pp. 9-11. At the time Jerry wrote the book he was pastor of East Hill Church [International Church of the Foursquare Gospel], Gresham, Oregon.

[3] “Colossians 4:7-18, Why We Need Each Other,” Brian Bill, Pontiac Bible Church, Sermon Central. Available at: (Accessed 19 August 2012).

[4] See 1:3ff., 4:2-4.

[5] See 1:24ff.

[6] See 2:6ff.

[7] See 3:1ff.

[8] See 3:18ff.

[9] See 4:2-6.

[10] Some MSS read, “that he may know about your.”

[11] R. C. H. Lenski, Commentary on the New Testament:The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians, to the Thessalonians, to Timothy, to Titus, and to Philemon, Hendrickson Publishers, 1937, 1946, 1961, p. 195.

[12] Lenski, p. 30.

[13] C. F. D. Moule, 1957, The Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary: The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, p. 136.

[14] In Robert J. Morgan 2000, Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations, & Quotes, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, p. 289.

[15] A “sundoulos.”

[16] Lenski, p. 196.

[17] Lenski, p. 196.

[18] Brian Bill, op cit.

[19] Lenski, pp. 202-203.

[20] The original said, “Brethren.”

[21] Michael P. Green (ed.) 1982, Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, illustration No. 1030, pp. 277-278.

[22] Brian Bill, op cit. The ESV states that Paul wrote Colossians ca. A.D. 60 (p. 1183) and that Paul wrote 2 Timothy in A.D. 64-68 (p. 1197). [The Holy Bible: English Standard Version, 2001, Crossway Bibles, Wheaton Illinois]. Curtis Vaughan considers that “the Epistle should therefore be dated about A.D. 62 during Paul’s first Roman imprisonment (cf. Acts 28:30, 31) [ The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 11, Zondervan, 1978, p. 166]. Ralph Earle considers that “it is obvious that the second Epistle to Timothy was written not later than A.D. 67. It may have been as early as 65” (1 Timothy, in ibid., pp. 343-344)]

[23] Based on William Hendriksen, 1968, (New Testament Commentary), Galatians, The Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, p. 219.

[24] Based on: “Harry Potter: Witchcraft Repackaged: Making Evil Look Innocent “. Available at (Accessed 19 August 2012).

[25] This is in Cook & Baldwin 1979:10-11 (bibliographic details above).


Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 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.

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