Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. 22 Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.
4:1 Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.
2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. 3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— 4 that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.
5 Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. 6 Let your speech always be gracious,seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
Questions to Consider:
1. Refresh your memory on the main themes of Colossians so far, noticing how they build on one another:
- Chapters 1-2- Here’s a correct Christology (who Christ is, what He did, and why)
- Chapters 2-3- Now that you believe a correct Christology, you’ve died to the world and live to Christ.
Finish the theme of today’s passage:
- 3:18-4:6- Now that you’ve died to the world and live to Christ, here’s how to__________
2. Notice the structure of verses 3:18-4:1. Do you see a pairing, relationship-wise in verses 18-19, 20-21, 22 & 1? List the relationships (first word of each verse) in each of these pairs of verses. Whom does Paul address first in each of these pairings, the subordinate person or the person in authority? How might this emphasize the responsibility of the subordinate person to act in a godly way in the relationship?
3. Examine the instructions to the subordinates (wives, children, bondservants) in verses 18, 20, 22-24. How does Paul connect submission and obedience to earthly authority with the wife’s, child’s, and bondservant’s relationship to the Lord? Who are we truly serving and obeying when we submit to the authorities God has placed over us? What are the blessings of submission to authority? Examine the instructions to the authorities (husbands, fathers, masters) in verses 19, 21, 1. Does God reassure the authorities in the same way He reassured the subordinates? Is 4:1b (“knowing that you…”) a reassurance or a warning/example to follow? What does this say about the weight of responsibility those in authority have to act in a godly way? Compare this passage to Ephesians 6:1-9 to get a fuller picture of what God is saying here.
4. What does it mean to “continue steadfastly” and “be watchful” in prayer? (2) Paul again mentions “thanksgiving” in verse 2 (See question 5 in lesson 5, link above). Do you make thanksgiving a regular part of your daily prayer life? Why is thanksgiving such an integral part of the Christian’s life? What prayer request does Paul make to the Colossian church? (3-4) Think of all the other things Paul, in prison, could have asked them to pray for him. What does this tell us about his priorities? How could you pray verses 3-4 for yourself, loved ones, your pastor, missionaries, etc.?
5. Recalling that this is an epistle to the church, who are the “outsiders” Paul refers to in verse 5? How would you explain Paul’s instructions in verses 5-6 to another Christian? How do these instructions apply to the church? To individual Christians? Think of an “outsider” in your life who needs to hear the gospel. Give one specific way each that you could a) walk in wisdom toward this person, b) make the best use of your time with this person, c) use gracious, “salty” speech with this person, and d) answer this person.
This passage and the Ephesians 6 passage I linked to above are (among others) often used by critics of the Bible to support their accusation that God is in favor of slavery. Is this true? Do some further study on the Bible’s stance on slavery: