DUNCAN/The rule of Christ in the home
Please turn in your Bibles to Colossians 3:18-21. In verses 9-17, we saw the Apostle Paul apply the principle of the rule of Christ to our life within the local church. In this passage, we see the Apostle Paul apply the principle of the rule of Christ to the family life. Paul wants us to recognize that the supremacy of Christ is worked out practically in the lives of Christians at home. He wants us to understand that godliness is best reflected in family life. As such, Paul gives us four concise directives for the Christian family life. First, Paul tells us that wives are to be submissive to their husbands. Secondly, he says that husbands are to love their wives. Thirdly, Paul tells us that children are to obey their parents. Fourthly and finally, he says that fathers are not to provoke their children.
I. Wives Be Submissive To Your Husbands.
In verse 18, Paul says, “Wives, be subject to your husbands as is fitting in the Lord.” This is a controversial command in our day and age. But it is important to remember that Paul's word is based on broad-based biblical teaching. For example, in 1 Timothy 2:13-14, Paul says that the headship of husbands in the home is based on the way God created man and woman and on the results of the fall. Both in this passage and also in Ephesians chapter 5:23, he gives a direct biblical mandate that wives are to be submissive to their husbands, and that husbands are to be the head of their homes. Furthermore, in 1 Corinthians 11:14, he says that nature itself teaches that men are to have headship in the home.
Paul’s call to submission entails at least three things. First, Paul calls wives to a practical recognition of the divinely given order of the household. Paul wants wives to know that this is not only how God has made things to be, but He has made things to be that way for their good. His is the divinely given order of the household, and when His order is reversed, when these roles are reversed, just like with Adam and Eve in the fall, it always results not only in the destruction of the man, but in the self-destruction of the wife. Secondly, he is calling for a practical recognition of the husband’s authority under God. This is a recognition that the man bears certain responsibilities before the living God for which one day he will give an accounting at the throne of God. It is an awesome thing to be appointed the head of the household. And Paul is encouraging wives to recognize the awesome weight of responsibility that the husband has and to support him in it. Finally, Paul’s call for submission entails the wife’s sacrificial self-giving loyalty to her husband. In other words, Paul calls upon wives to show that type of sacrificial loyalty which Christ Himself shows to His people.
II. Husbands Love Your Wives.
In verse 19, Paul gives a command to Christian husbands to love their wives. Is it not interesting that the New Testament commands love. We don't think today very often about commanding love. But Paul turns to husbands and says, “Love your wives. It is not an option. It is not something peripheral to your obligations.” In these commands, Paul is telling us that the wife's submission and the husband's love form reciprocal duties within the marital relationship. There are mutual obligations and responsibilities beautifully meeting, and interestingly going against our natural tendencies. And yet, Paul calls on the two of them, in their mutual relationships, to fulfill these reciprocal responsibilities.
It is also important to notice that Paul calls on men to show not just a romantic love, but to show that self-giving love which Christ has shown to the church, that love which looks out for the other's best interest, and desires to up build the person who is being loved. Furthermore, Paul adds a practical test of love for husbands. Specifically, he says, “Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them.” In other words, the Apostle Paul is saying, “Love your wife and do not be harsh. Love her with your lips and heart.” Paul knew that man’s love for his own wife was not only a blessing for her, it was a blessing for him.
III. Children Obey Your Parents.
In verse 20, Paul says, “Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord.” In the midst of all of the horrible sins listed by Paul in Romans 1:28-32 is disobedience to parents. We cannot say that Christ is Lord and live lives of perversion and continual disobedience to our parents. God takes obedience to parents very seriously. It is a manifestation of the rule of Christ in our lives. And notice the motivation in Paul’s command. He says that children are to be obedient to their parents because “it is well-pleasing to the Lord.” Paul is reminding us here of the truth that the heavenly Father takes pleasure in our obedience to our parents.
IV. Fathers Do Not Provoke Your Children.
Finally, in verse 21, Paul says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, that they may not lose heart.” Paul's command here for fathers, is specifically that they would not dishearten and discourage their children in the context of discipline. We may ask, “Why not mothers here?” And perhaps the answer is apparent. Perhaps it is that fathers have more of a tendency to be heavy handed in the criticism and discipline than do the mothers. His is a warning against destructive and continual criticism, a warning against overly severe punishment that would break the spirit of a child. So Paul is saying, “Be careful fathers, as you discipline, as you rear your child in the correction of the Lord, do not be destructive and continual in your criticism of them so that they lose heart.” In other words, punishment and correction, though it must be done, must be done and balanced with the positive discipline of the Lord. Paul is calling fathers to rear their children in such a way that they will not feel only the rebuke of God, but they will also feel His approval.
Notice, also, that there is a necessity of grace as we seek to be Christians in the home. We could not do these things were it not for grace. Husbands and wives are sinners. Parents and children are sinners. Only the grace of God can help us. Here, perhaps more than anywhere else, we are shown the depth of our sin. And though that is a discouraging thing, it's the first step towards encouragement, because when we realize that we can't do it on our own we are precisely at the point where God wants us. May God, by His Holy Spirit, enable us to live godly family lives in sole dependence upon Him.