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Jan 07, 2018

Family Faith

Family Faith

Passage: Colossians 3:17-19

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Colossians

Keywords: culture, family, husbands, love, marriage, submission, wives


Family Faith

Colossians 3:17-19

January 7, 2018


  • How many of us have been a husband at some point in our life?
  • A wife?
  • A child of parents? (Good to see we have no robots here today.)
  • How many are currently married?
  • Currently single?

We’re continuing our series from last fall in Colossians.  Today we encounter some of God’s instruction about marriage and family in 3:18-21.  We’ll dive into that in just a moment.  But first, I want you to get 2-bird’s eye views of marriage.  One is of its status currently in America.  The other is of its status in Paul’s world when he penned his letter to the Colossian church.  So let’s start with our world, America.

  • For a sizable share of American adults, “till death do us part” was more guideline than promise. While 52 percent of U.S. adults, 15 or older, have married only once, roughly 1 in 6 (17 percent) have been married twice or more.  [https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2015/03/11/the-state-of-marriage-in-america-today-in-6-charts-and-maps/?utm_term=.5c9515bea381]
  • The share of Americans who are married is at its lowest point since at least 1920. Half of Americans ages 18 and over were married in 2015, compared with 72% in 1960. One factor driving this change is that Americans – particularly men – are staying single longer. In 2012, 78% of 25-year-old men had never married compared with 67% of their female counterparts, and by 2016, the median age at first marriage had reached its highest pointon record: 29.5 years for men and 27.4 years for women.  [http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/02/13/5-facts-about-love-and-marriage/]
  • In addition to the half of U.S. adults who are married 2015 Census Bureau data shows that about 8% of adults are cohabiting (among those who are householders or partners of householders).
  • Marriage may be on the decline, but remarriage is rising.In 2013, 1 in 4 (23%) of all married people had been married before, compared with just 1 in 9 (13%) in 1960.

In that same year, 40% of new marriages included a spouse who had said “I do” (at least) once before, and in 20% of new marriages both spouses had been married at least once before.

  • The average length of a marriage that ends in divorce is 8 years. People wait an average of three yearsafter a divorce to remarry (if they remarry at all). The average age for couples going through their first divorce is 30 years old.
  • Are there any statistical benefits to marriage? Married adults do live longer and have higher incomes, and not simply because two incomes mean more money. (Married men make, on average, as much as $18,800 a year more than their unmarried counterparts, according to an American Enterprise Institute study.) It also helps children…HUGLY: Kids in intact families have better educational opportunities and economic well-being. They also have better physical and emotional health.  [http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/relationships/a32759/marriage-facts-today/]
  • What’s the average wait time from dating to marriage? It takes couples longer to get married.  Several studies show that most couples wait, on average, just under three years from the time they start dating to get married. And the average engagement? 14 months.
  • But those wait times seem to be helping. Younger couples are less likely to divorce today. Divorce rates have actually fallen since the 1980s. For marriages that started in the '90s, 70% will last at least 15 years, and that's up 5% from the '70s and '80s.
  • Why are people getting married? (See slide)
  • Keys to happy marriages? (See slide)
  • Why people aren’t yet married? (see slike)
  • Half of today's 25 to 34 year olds have never married (that was a mere 12% in 1960). But they're not opposed to it: According to Pew Researchonly 4% of this group say they never want to marry.
  • Dads with daughters, heads up! The cost of saying "I do" is at an all-time high.  An average wedding costs $31,213,  And that doesn't even include the cost of the honeymoon. Twenty years ago, for comparison, it was $15,208.

Well, that’s the modern landscape of marriage in our culture. But what about the day in which Paul penned these instructions by the Holy Spirit?  Were things better or worse? 

            First, we don’t have marriage and divorce statistics from the ancient world.  But we do have plenty of descriptions of the roles of husbands and wives in the ancient Greek and Roman world. 

The biblical commentator, William Barclay, (not to be confused with Charles Barkley, sports commentator), says this about the status/plight of women in the ancient world:

Under Jewish law a woman was a thing; she was the possession of her husband, just as much as his house or his flocks of his material goods were.  She had no legal right whatever.  For instance, under Jewish law, a husband could divorce his wife for any cause, while a wife had no rights whatever in the initiation of divorce.  In Greek society a respectable woman lived a life of entire seclusion.  She never appeared on the streets alone, not even to go marketing.  She lived in the women’s apartments and did not join her menfolk even for meals.  From her there was demanded a complete servitude and chastity; but her husband could go out as much as he chose, and could enter into as many relationships outside marriage as he liked and incur no stigma.  Both under Jewish and under Greek laws and customs, all the privileges belonged to the husband, and all the duties to the wife. [William Barclay, The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1959), pp. 192, 193.]

Knowing that, now let’s read what the Holy Spirit told Paul to write about Christian marriage—marriage of a man and a woman united under their common faith in and submission to Jesus Christ.  Imagine, women, how strange Paul’s words would seem to your ears raised in a culture where wives had no rights, no power and no authority.  And men, imagine how radical Paul’s words to you as a husband would sound in that same culture. 

            While most of our Bible translations have a paragraph break between 3:17 and 3:18, the original language doesn’t.  That doesn’t mean there isn’t a natural break here or change of theme.  There is.  But don’t forget what spurred Paul to talk about marriage and family as he does in vss. 18-21.  It’s vs. 17—

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 yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

Paul has gotten a very bad rap as a misogynist and an oppressor of women. Reality could not be farther from the truth!  But a high view of both women and men does not mean an erasure of either God-given differences or God-ordained rolls. Volumes have been written on both.  I will give you what I think is the clear, plain and consistent view of those roles and differences according to God’s Word.  You must then either do your own research and come up with a different opinion or trust my research and seek to order your life accordingly. 

[BTW, I’m talking about taking an entire semester course on the roles of men and women in marriage and the church when I was in seminary.  We read whole books and wrote pages of exegetical research and conclusions based on that research.  But I’m always open to new research that will change my mind… especially when it is done by my wife!  J]

So let’s start off in the spirit of vs. 17—Doing all things “in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” 

#1.  Marriage and family is primarily to be an outworking of our life in Jesus and an expression of our gratitude to God. 

            There is no human institution or cohesive unit in human experience that has better potential to help us experience the life of Jesus than marriage and family.  Marriage and family are not to be primarily about a social contract.  They are not to be primarily about pro-creation, as important as that is.  Marriage and family, no matter what your role in it, is to be THE best opportunity for most of us to experience the life of Jesus. 

            As we are going to see, marriage and family call for more of Jesus life than any other daily interactions we may have…more  mutual and consistent submission, more self-sacrifice, more selflessness, more “looking to the best interests of another” than any other institution in life.  Marriage and family invite us to carry God’s love and self-sacrifice to higher heights and deeper depths than any other relationship in life. 

            This is one reason I grieve so much when I see good, well-meaning Christian couples move from being wildly in-love with each other during their courting and early marriage days to being wildly wounded by each other in marriage.  And those wounds spill over into the lives of their children.  What was intended to be THE primary human relationship triad helping Christ-followers experience Jesus becomes instead a painful, conflicted and damaging experience.

            To be sure, EVERY marriage and family experiences real challenges, real conflicts and real times of disillusionment. But God never intended for that to be the norm for marriages.  He designed it for husbands, wives and children to be THE best place to experience the love of God….THE best experience for mutual submission, THE best place for willing obedience. When it isn’t, it’s extremely painful, which all-to-many families find out. 

            Our culture is fine with the word “love”…since we’ve made it to mean just about anything we want to.  But mention the words “submission” and “obedience” and people freak out.  If we do NOT get a handle on those two terms from a biblical perspective, we will not get a handle on marriage as God designed it to be. 

            So let’s start where Paul begins in vs. 18—18 Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

There are 2 others N.T. passages that deal specifically with a wife’s submission to her husband. 

  • Ephesians 5:21-24--Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
  • I Peter 3:5, 6--For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands,like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.

Both of them add understanding about what this word “submit” means.  Just in terms of the basic etymology of the word (hupotasso), it’s a compound Greek word meaning “to place or rank under,” to “put yourself in subjection” or “to obey.”  You won’t find ANY article in Vogue or Better Homes & Garden or Family Circle that dares to use these words when speaking of the role of a wife in a marriage.  This is as much counter-cultural today as it was when Paul wrote it, just to the other end of the spectrum of “women’s rights.” 

            We shouldn’t expect the Bible to ever accommodate our culture.  In a rabidly women’s-rights culture like ours that has gone almost completely off the rails in the other direction, expect to be shocked. 

ILL:  Conversation with Ron H. this week.  He heads the Spokane Fatherhood Initiative, a movement designed to both call and equip fathers to step up to their irreplaceable role as fathers. 

            In a meeting this week with Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers at which the participants were addressing the question of poverty in Spokane, as each person was asked to introduce themselves and say briefly what they felt were the root causes of poverty.  Ron said, “I lead the Spokane Fatherhood Initiative.  We believe that fatherlessness is at the root of the vast majority of our social ills facing Spokane.” 

            Immediately the Director of the local Planned Parenthood office blurted out, “I find that statement extremely offensive.”  To which Ron said, “I’d be glad to talk with you afterwards and find out why.”  When the meeting ended, she bolted and didn’t bother to fill Ron in on why. 

            Why would one of the best-funded non-profit organizations in our community take umbrage at a man in his 60s laying the blame for many social ills at the feet of fathers?  I would think she would be cheering!  My guess is that she views fathers…perhaps men in general…as a disposable commodity in society.  They and the LGBTQ champions have been telling us for 3 decades that children don’t need dads in their lives.  Two moms can do just as good a job, maybe better, thank you. 

            But despite their loud protestations, the research data continues to confirm just what Ron is saying.  You cannot find a credible study that supports the idea that fathers or mothers are interchangeable in a family…or unnecessary.  That isn’t a slap at single parents.  Their job is unbelievably challenging and deserves accolades and help.  But to run counter to the tsunami of data that links teen sexual activity, pregnancy, poverty, poor academic performance and more with fatherlessness is to deny reality.  And this from those who keep demanding education that is “medically and scientifically accurate.”  So don’t be surprised if you are reviled for holding to God’s plan for marriage of both a man and wife.

Notice the qualifier that Paul gives to this command to embrace submission in marriage:  “…as is fitting in the Lord.”  Women, if your husbands tells you to do something against God’s clearly stated will, you need to let him know that, as much as you want to submit to his leadership, you cannot do that which is against God’s leadership in your life.  What is “fitting in the Lord” is the kind of lifestyle of submission that Jesus demonstrated before the Father.  The Father never asked him to do anything against His will.  But he did ask him to do a lot that sacrificed and spent His life for a lost world. 

I Cor. 15:27-28, Paul uses the same Greek word used here to speaks about how Christ is subject to the Father and everything is subject to Christ. Wives, Jesus isn’t asking you to do anything he hasn’t already carried out further, deeper or more painfully.  He submitted to wicked rulers but didn’t engage in evil.  He submitted to traitorous disciples but didn’t fight back. Being the object of horrific evil, he chose not to fight back until all the Father had called Him to was accomplished.

NOTE:  I’m not advocating staying in an abusive relationship.  Too many men can be physically, emotionally and even spiritually abusive.  You don’t have to put up with that one day longer than the Lord calls you to stay there to call him to repentance and Christ.  But if you find yourself in a situation like that, know that Jesus can walk you through it because He’s already been through horrible abuse.  And GET HELP!  Blow the whistle on abusive behavior.  Don’t let it stay in the hidden darkness of your marriage. 

It is my belief that this theme of a wife’s submission to her husband started in the Garden of Eden and will go right into the Wedding of the Lamb in the New Heaven & Earth for all of us

Q:  What should Eve have done with the Serpent’s temptation IF she was living out marital submission to Adam? 

(Consulted him before making a decision and listened to him.)

What DID she do? 

            I think there is very good biblical grounds to believe that the temptation of women to usurp God’s divinely ordained role of leadership given to the husband is the reason why wives are consistently called to submission in marriage. 

If you don’t believe that, then give me a good explanation of 1 Timothy 2:11-15, particularly the part that speaks about the order of creation (Adam first, then Eve—all pre-fall) and WHAT it is that “women will be saved from” by raising children and continuing in “faith, love and holiness with propriety.”

 I think that God’s way for most women throughout history escape the temptation to reverse God-give roles with their husbands in marriage is by engaging lovingly, in faith and holiness in this divine calling of motherhood.  Certainly not every woman, but most, I would say.  

And since that passage appeals to men to lead in the church and women to be in submission to that male leadership in the church, it isn’t surprising that Paul would go back to creation itself and the marriage relationship when teaching on church leadership and submission. 

NOTE:  That doesn’t mean women cannot lead in a church.  I think that passage makes only eldership (the combining of leadership authority and the office of lead church teacher) off-limits for women.  In this regard, I’d say I’m in agreement with the R.C. Church limiting the priesthood to men. 

But let’s make this practical.

APP: Women, men are real knuckleheads a lot of times...just in case you didn’t know! But despite that seeming design flaw (or at least sin-induced flaw), God wants you to learn to see your husband as the church is to see Christ.  When the church willingly and passionately submits to Christ, it’s a beautiful thing. When we dumb-down our submission to Christ to mere duty or whining about some obedience piece or doing service grudgingly, all the joy goes out of it.  It’s still better than disobedience.  But it sure isn’t the beautiful, attractive and adoring church Jesus longs for. 

            The same is true of the husband-wife relationship.  Granted, Christ is perfect and your husband isn’t.  But one of the spiritual practices/disciplines that the church has historically said was important for Christ-followers to practice is submission.  If you’re having trouble with that, study all the ways Jesus submitted to the Father’s will, especially when He may not have wanted to. 

Just imagine you decide for, say Lent, to take one of those 6 weeks to practice submission…in every possible divinely-ordained relationship?  What would have to change about…

  • Your driving habits and speed?
  • Your spirit, attitude, words and actions towards a difficult boss?
  • Your interactions with your husband?
  • Your words or feelings or attitudes towards spiritual leadership in your church?

We ALL must practice submission in life if it is to “work” as God designed it to.  As we will see next week, it must start during our childhood.  But for this passage, parents, maybe your kids are having a hard time getting a picture of submission because they aren’t really seeing you practice it in your marriage and only see you demanding it of them.   

Of course, this dance of husband and wife takes two. 

 19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

πικρός, originally meant “pointed,” “sharp,” e.g., of arrows (Hom. Il., 4, 118), then more generally of what is “sharp” or “penetrating” to the senses, like a pervasive smell (Hom. Od., 4, 406), a sharp, “shrill” noise (Soph. Phil., 189), then of something “painful” to the feelings (Hom. Il., 11, 271), esp. “bitter,” “sharp” to the taste[1]  In the N.T. it clearly has the idea of becoming embittered, getting angry or resentful. 

            Men are not the only people who can be harsh or angry in a marriage.  But the Holy Spirit is definitely being counter Roman and Greek culture when it calls men not to be harsh, angry and brusque towards their wives.

 Unfortunately, men, our anger does more damage than we want to admit.  Our short or harsh or edgy words cause wounds that don’t always heal quickly or easily.  Sometimes they kill a marriage.  Sometimes the literally kill a wife, as we see far too often in this community month after month.

ILL:  When I first began pastoring in Spokane in the 90s, I received a call one day from the police chaplain asking if I would help out with a family in our neighborhood whose daughter had just been killed by her husband.  She had been standing in the front yard, holding their little 1-year old daughter in her arms, when her husband shot and killed the mom….right on the front lawn!  The grandparents, themselves rather infirmed, now had custody of the children and were trying to navigate their grief and a funeral. 

            All of us recoil at just the thought of that incident.  That a man would become so angry with his wife that he would literally kill the mother of his children while she is holding them, is certainly an extreme case.  But men, our words are either weapons that cause wounds or bandages that bind up.  They are cold as steel or comforting as a warm blanket on a winter’s night. 

POSTSCRIPT:  Having coffee with Pastor Danny Green recently we got to talking about ministry and he happened to mention a young woman in his church that was recently married whose father had killed her mother.  Turns out, it’s the same girl!!!  God does shepherd the motherless too.

            If we look to Christ as our model, we’ll see that He was sometimes confrontational with his words.  But the vast majority of the times he was like that, it was towards stiff-necked and stubborn religious people and leaders who were out to kill him and needed a good waking up to the danger they were in. 

Can you think of any event recorded in the Gospels where Jesus was angry with his own disciples, the church?

  • Peter trying to talk him out of the cross.
  • Falling asleep in the Garden when should have been praying?
  • Maybe their lack of faith in a storm?
  • Other "lack of faith" times.

Anything in Revelation towards the churches that could be construed as anger towards the churches?  Probably rebukes but not real anger.  Certainly not hurtful, piercing, intended-to-wound words.

            Husbands, might it be that something Eve did in the Garden that fateful day left Adam just a little frustrated with Eve?  I’m not thinking sinful-frustrated. And certainly she hadn’t “sinned” against him that morning.  But what if she just wasn’t very attentive to him?  No sin there. What if he expected Eve to somehow “mind-read” him and his plans or desires…and she didn’t.  Something caused Adam to back into some sort of isolation and silence.  Something moved him in the direction of just letting her flounder in her discussion with the Serpent.  He evidently did set aside his God-given responsibility to love her sacrificially by protecting her from something she obviously didn’t see coming. 

Q:  If Adam had obeyed this command to “Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them,” how might the whole fruit fiasco and following blame game have gone differently?

[Congregational answers.] 

            If we superimpose what we have in the N.T. in Romans & 1 Timothy 2 on Adam, called to lovingly lay down his life for his wife, it makes perfect sense why God would call every husband to love their wife “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”  This is what God calls Christ-following men to do.  The sad reality is, many times our wives do more dying to self and self-sacrificing love than we husbands do. 

Paul in Romans 5 & 1st Corinthians 15 presents Christ as being the “second Adam.” His argument is that sin came into human experience through Adam’s sin (“one man’s”), not Eve’s.  Then he argues that God’s redemption and righteousness also came through one man, Jesus.  Add that to 1 Timothy 2 of Adam “not being deceived” but willfully choosing the wimp’s way out of following her folly and then blaming her for the problem, I don’t think it is a huge stretch to assume that, even after Eve had sinned by eating the fruit, that Adam could have said “no” to her offer to join him. 

Then what would have happened?  IF he had loved her with agape love, I can only really see one possible outcome. 

  • He couldn’t have continued to love her as Christ loves the church and just isolated himself from her. He couldn’t have abandoned her to her sin.  He couldn’t have built a wall and given her half the garden but not continued to shepherd her soul.
  • He would have had to love her enough to give up his life in some way for her, possibly die for her and her sin. That would have required either a belief in the resurrection or such a trust in God that God would somehow use his life to right Eve’s wrong.   Other than Jesus, Adam was the only sinless human life who could ever have even tried to died and atone for another human’s sin.  Infinite God incarnate could die for a world of sinners.  But perfect Adam, only a finite man, at best could only have died for one other human, Eve. 

But men, that is not our battle to fight.  Ours is the battle to daily push to the background what we would prefer to do in satisfying self so that we can bring to the foreground what is best for our wives.  Isn’t this why women love watching or reading a love story?  Some guy is finally at his best and is proving he’ll die for his sweetheart.  

Wives, none of us men can do that perfectly or even consistently… especially when we are new at it.  I’m talking the first couple of decades of marriage.  I’m serious!  Marriage is not for selfish men… and every man I’ve ever met is selfish.  And marriage is not for impatient or dominating women…and most women I’ve met can do one or both well.  So women, DON’T expect a rapid transformation.  And men, DO expect loving a woman to cost you more than you dreamed of…and money is not the most of what I’m thinking of. 

            But marriage for both men and women was designed by God to make us both more Christ-like.  That’s why we’re called to it for a whole lifetime…”until death do us part.”  When we embrace that vow, we will embrace Christ and His character as both men and as women. 

APP:  Husbands & wives—ready to love and submit?  What is the Holy Spirit saying that should look like in your marriage...now?  

APP:  Starts with love and submission to Jesus Christ.  (Call to faith in Jesus.)


[1] Michaelis, W. (1964–). πικρός, πικρία, πικραίνω, παραπικραίνω, παραπικρασμός. G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley, & G. Friedrich (Eds.), Theological dictionary of the New Testament (electronic ed., Vol. 6, p. 122). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.