Book of Colossians Bible Studies
Col 3:16-25 Practical Christianity – Great clothing choices Part 2
By I Gordon
We’ve been talking clothes from the book of Colossians lately. What to wear. What not to wear. What’s in. What’s definitely out. It’s been telling us to clothe ourselves with particular things and to put off certain things. Last time was about what we should clothe ourselves with. Someone once said ‘When our days are characterized by trouble, anger, hurt, or bad feelings, it's time to invest in a new wardrobe’ . This is true. Here is what was in vogue 2000 years ago – compassion, kindness, love, patience, humility; And thankfully, unlike the clothing choices you’ve made this morning, these things never go out of fashion! We are going to carry on with some other great clothing choices this morning and finish off chapter 3.
This passage in Colossians is about practical Christianity. It’s about the doing. It’s about action. We read Col 3:12-15 last time and we saw lots of verbs in the passage:
Clothe yourself with a heart of compassion. Bear with one another. Forgive one another. Put on Love. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. Be thankful.
As mentioned these are all verbs – doing words. And, as we saw last time, what we are called to do is based on what’s been done for us and in us. It is treating others, and passing on to others, something of forgiveness, compassion, patience or love that you have already experienced from God.
In this study we are going to carry on and there are lots of little mini-topics in the passage but they all fall under the larger umbrella of ‘Practical Christianity’. Paul focuses on three areas of practical Christianity:
- In your personal life
- In your family life
- In your work life
Practical Christianity in your personal life
Col 3:16-17 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. (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.
Firstly it speaks about the importance of allowing the word of God to dwell in you richly. Why? Why is it important to do this? What does the word of God actually do in our life anyway? As I started to think about this I thought – ‘Well how is the word pictured in the Bible? What images or metaphors does the Bible use to help us understand the ways in which the word operates in our lives?’ I found 8 but there are no doubt more. Can you think of any? What is the word of God likened to in the Bible? I’ll give you the first one.
Sharp Sword – Heb. 4:12 ‘ For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.’ The word as a sword operates on others as well for, in describing the armour of God, Eph 6:17 says to take up ‘…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.’
I’ll add the others into the footnote so you can test yourself before seeing the answer!  No cheating now!
So it says we are to ‘let’ the word of God dwell in us richly. It’s not difficult. It’s not expensive. It costs you nothing... but time. We are to read His word, hear His word and meditate on His word. Another way is to sing His word. Now you may not be a Luciano Pavarotti or even a Susan Boyle. You may be tone deaf and have a singing voice that only a mother could love. If that’s you you’ll appreciate the three little words ‘in your hearts’ in this verse. ‘Sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.’ You can sing in your hearts. You can have a little song of thanks going on inside. You can do this as you go for a run, weed the garden, ride your bike, walk the dog, mow the lawns or wash the dishes. And maybe even a few other places as well. It’s another way of having your minds and hearts renewed with the truth of God’s word.
Secular vs. Spiritual time: Is there is difference?
Col 3:17 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.
The second area of practical Christianity in our personal lives involves doing all in the name of the Lord Jesus. We can tend to divide everything into the secular and the spiritual. We think ‘right, I’ve got church in the morning – a spiritual God time. Then I’m mountain biking in the afternoon – secular or worldly me time.’ But that’s religion, not relationship. It is a trap to be avoided and it is the total opposite of what the New Testament teaches that, as 1Co 10:31 says, ‘whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.’
Jesus has given himself to the believer and that wasn’t just for church, home group and times of devotion! Try to avoid the trap of seeing somethings as spiritual and others as meaningless.  We’ll come back to this thought in the last few verses as it is brought up again so we’ll leave it there for now. But I want to focus your attention on the last aspect of personal practical Christianity...
How many times does Paul say this? Look at the end of verse of vs. 15. Now look at the end of 16. And finally, though you are probably getting the point, look at the end of verse 17. Paul repeats this command to give thanks over and over. This tells my little brain that giving thanks must be very important and not something we little humans are overly good at! Have you been thanked recently? How did that make you feel? What are you thankful for? What is the last thing that you thanked the Lord for? When was the last time you gave thanks in the middle of difficulty or discontentment?
H. A.Ironside said ‘We would worry less if we praised more. Thanksgiving is the enemy of discontent and dissatisfaction.’ We live in an age where the abundance of what we have is only matched by the level of discontentment and dissatisfaction most feel! Odd but true. But thankfulness is the key to unlocking the Lord’s work in our lives. It is that important. 
You may remember the story of how 10 lepers fall down before Jesus begging Him to heal them. He told them to show themselves to the priest and they would be healed. They went off and before they arrived there they were miraculously healed. Now imagine if you were one of those lepers? How would you feel? Unbelievably grateful right? Yet only one came back to Jesus to give thanks. Does this story not speak volumes of humanity?
Practical Christianity in your home and relationships
Col 3:18-21 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 embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.
We move on now to practical Christianity in the home. You could say this can be where the rubber hits the road! There is so much pressure on families today. God puts great focus on the family structure and family relationships and in this passage mentions wives, husbands, parents, children, fathers... So that includes you somewhere in there. Maybe you are three out of the five! If we are going to talk about Christian character then were not just talking about Sunday at 10am. We are talking about how we respond to our kids, how we treat our parents and how we relate to our wife or husband.
Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
Here is a verse that has been used by some husbands as a bit of a stick. Hopefully not many... but some! Let me just say the following (and please take this footnote into account!  ) The Bible does say that there is an order within the family structure and that the husband has that role of leadership. But that doesn’t make one better than the other – it is just the roles that God has established. The problem we have, it seems to me, is that we often think of some kind of dictatorship or military style barking of orders by the husband desperately trying to force the wife to submit! But that is not what this is about. The Greek indicates a willing submission by the wife and it is obviously tied in to verse 19 – having a loving husband. In fact the corresponding passage in Ephesians says that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Goodness... That is putting a lot back onto the husband! Now, we don’t like this word ‘submit’ very much. We don’t like it and society doesn’t like it. Society has placed bad connotations upon it. But within a loving relationship it is an important and positive word. We should remember that the whole of Christianity involves submission. Christ had to submit everything unto the Father and does so again when He returns 1 Cor.15:27-28 tells us. Christians need to submit themselves unto the Lord. Ephesians, speaking to all Christians, tells us to submit to one another (Eph 5:21). Philippians 2:3 tells us that we are to regard one another as more important than ourselves. In terms of leadership, Jesus said the greatest amongst us will be the servant of all. So ‘submit’ isn’t a bad word. It is meant to fit quite normally into a relationship where the husband loves his wife.
Husbands love your wives and do not be harsh with them.
Now I stumbled upon a quote about husbands that I think the wives will like. ‘A husband is one who stands by you in troubles...’ That’s nice isn’t it? They are there for you. Supportive... Loving... Standing by you... Oh wait a minute. Sorry... that’s not the full quote. Argh, silly me. Here it is. ‘A husband is one who stands by you in troubles you wouldn't have had if you hadn't married him.’ Well... ok... at least he’s standing by you in the troubles he’s now causing you. That’s sort of good of him!
‘Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.’
What about children? It isn’t just marriages feeling the pinch. There is so much pressure on kids today... so much rebellion by kids today. God put ‘honour your Father and Mother’ in His top ten list of commandments for a reason. The strength of a community or a nation comes down to the strength of the families within it, which in turn is built on the respect, honour and right relationships between its members. If Christianity is going to make a difference in the family then it has to impact how fathers and mothers treat their children and how children respect and honour their parents. But here is the challenge: In the list of not so great characteristics of the last days, amongst other things the Bible tells us that people will be ‘boastful, arrogant, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving.’
Pro 30:11-12 (NKJV) tells us that ‘there is a generation that curses its father, and does not bless its mother. There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes...’
I believe we are in that age, and it’s not easy as I’m sure many of you can attest to. There is a real challenge for kids these days - a very real pressure upon them.  One thing it does say here is ‘Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.’ How can parents embitter them? Children can become embittered through neglect or mistreatment, through being spoilt or in treating one child as more important than another.
Practical Christianity in your work life – Christianity on the job!
Col 3:22-4:1 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. (23) Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, (24) since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (25) Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favouritism. (4:1) Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.
We move now to practical Christianity in the work place. Now, obviously, the context of this passage is that of slaves and their masters. Slavery was obviously a big part of first century Roman culture. Not so much today thankfully! But we can apply these words to whatever task, job or position we have been given to do. Paul tells them to obey those over them and do what they are asked to do – not only when their eye is on you to win their favour, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Those words very much apply to our life and jobs today! Not much has changed. The ability of man do get away with doing very little in his work has been around for a long time it seems!
Some of us might be able to go off to our jobs in the morning, just as the seven dwarfs did, singing ‘Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it's off to work we go’. For others its ‘I owe, I owe, so off to work I go...’ That’s just a fact of life.  Often it seems that you’re just slaving away at ho-hum boring repetitive tasks. That survey I just mentioned in the footnote said that 46% of the people surveyed were looking for other jobs! The fact is, if that many people are looking for another job it probably indicates that most jobs are not all that exciting and the next job you get could well be filling the role left by some other disgruntled employee! It’s just life! The slaves of Paul’s day probably had a lot to complain about as well. They wouldn’t have liked their lot in life. They were tempted to not try all that hard. What does Paul tell them?
1) Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men,
I work for a big organization so emails are sent when someone is away. It is often amazing seeing the Friday-itis or Monday-itis where people just keeping getting sick around those days! Whatever you do, this passage tells us, it’s for the Lord. Gulp! It could be the most menial task – but if it is for the Lord then that makes all the difference. If you had a job scrubbing the floors of the local public toilets, you’d probably put an average amount of effort in. If you were cleaning the floors in Buckingham palace for the Queen you’d probably want to make a pretty good effort. Who you are doing it for makes a difference. Sometimes at work you may get sick of the company you work for or be slacked off with your boss. This can affect your work because you can’t be bothered working for someone who you don’t respect. Well, that’s the natural reaction! It’s not the spiritual reaction. Your “boss”, Paul says, is the Lord. And this applies for whether you have the most important of tasks or the most menial. You work for the Lord.
2) Since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
This reminds us that the Lord watches and the Lord rewards. Normally we think of ‘rewards’ in the sense of doing some great spiritual work that lasts for eternity! We all want to be doing something that has eternal significance and may result in a reward at the judgement seat of Christ. That’s normal and natural. But here Paul was reminding us, ‘no it doesn’t have to be some great grand spiritual work. It can be the most mundane work. It can be as simple as a slave working hard for his master because he is doing it as to the Lord – and the Lord watches and the Lord rewards.’ We need to remember that it is the Lord that we serve.
The Lord of all, watches all
Col 3:25-4:1 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favouritism. Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.
Finally he reminds us that there is no favouritism with God. It doesn’t matter whether you are at the top of the corporate ladder or just trying to balance on the first rung. In Paul’s day the masters could often treat their slaves improperly. They thought they were in control and could call the shots. They were at the top of the tree and these lowly slaves were their property to treat how they liked. Well this verse is reminding us that God isn’t partial and He isn’t impressed. He doesn’t look down, then or now, and think ‘wow – you’re really somebody! Look at how many people you get to lead and command… I’m impressed!’ No, He doesn’t take note of such things. The person running the country is no more important that the person sweeping the floors in His view. He treats no one any different based on their earthly standing. The Lord’s judgment is based on faithfulness – whether for good or for bad. That is what this verse is saying. It is a reminder to the slaves to do their work unto the Lord. It is a reminder to the master to treat their slaves fairly because they have their real master in heaven Who watches and repays.
Now I know there have been quite a few different topics and thoughts that arise from this passage. But all of these verses touch on some aspect of where your faith in Jesus Christ should make some practical difference as to how you live your life; whether it is in your personal life, your marriage and family life or your work life. Can you remember the verse from James earlier? Jas 1:22-24 do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. (23) Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man, who looks at his face in a mirror, (24) and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.
As we have looked into God’s word for this study we don’t want to be like that man who hears but just forgets! No...There may have been something that you can take to the Lord and talk about. For me, as I was reading through this passage, the main two were the importance of thankfulness and doing your work, whatever it is, unto the Lord. For you it could well be something different. But whatever it is that spoke you (hopefully something did!) be sure to ask the Lord about it and see what He would have you do.
 ↩ As well as a sharpt sword this Word of God is compared to the following:
- Psa 119:162 I rejoice at Your word, As one who finds great spoil.
Lamp and Light - Psa 119:105 ‘Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.’
Fire and Hammer - Jer 23:29 ‘Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, "and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?’ Fire is often used in the Bible to speak of purifying
A Seed - Luk 8:11 "Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God. 1Pe 1:23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.
Bread and Food - Mat 4:4 Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.' " 1Pe 2:2 ‘…long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation’
Mirror - Jas 1:22-24 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. (23) Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror (24) and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.
 ↩ Ray Stedman writes: ”Everything in life, every activity can become an act of worship. Even routine things can be offered to Christ; done "in the name of the Lord," motivated by our relationship to him. Ruth Graham had for years a sign over her kitchen sink that said, "Divine services held here three times a day." Washing the dishes can be an act of worship if you do it in the name of the Lord, as unto him.”
 ↩ Consider the following quotes on this topic from a couple of ‘giants’ in the Christian world:
‘Gratitude is an offering precious in the sight of God, and it is one that the poorest of us can make and be not poorer but richer for having made it. A.W. Tozer’
‘Begin to rejoice in the Lord, and your bones will flourish like an herb, and your cheeks will glow with the bloom of health and freshness. Worry, fear, distrust, care-all are poisonous! Joy is balm and healing, and if you will but rejoice, God will give power.’ AB Simpson
 ↩ When I was preaching this message I saw my brother giggling and chatting in the back row. Nothing has changed since his school days! So I asked if he would like to share with the class what was obviously amusing him very much. He said that he was reading verse 18 and laughing at what I would say about it. He obviously knew that my practical experience in the area of marriage is less than extremely limited... which is another way of saying zilch! So the reader should bear in mind that being neither a female, nor married, my comments on this particular verse are high on theory and low on experience. Real low!
 ↩ I had a graphic reminder of that this week when a co-worker had a ring from her husband who had come home and their 14 year old son is lying unconscious on the floor with an empty bottle of pain killer medication close by. The boy was rushed off to hospital where he was unconscious until the next day. His mother, my co-worker, went on his ‘facebook account’ and found that there were 4 other “friends” talking about taking things and egging each other on. At the start we didn’t really know whether he was just being completely stupid and ignorant in taking all the pills or whether there was something more worrying. On Friday we heard that as he was waking he said ‘Oh, I’m still here. I didn’t take enough’. How heart-breaking is that for a parent? So it is another reminder that our families need prayer. Our children need prayer. It is a difficult age in which to grow up.
 ↩ I did a little Googling this week about job satisfaction and found a page that had the title: ‘Working hard or hardly working?’ – It spoke of a major recent survey of office workers which found:
23% are bored by their job, 36% said they are distracted by
41% use portable devices for non-work related activities during meetings, 46% said they had had enough and were looking for another job. And then there’s… “cyberloafing ”! 51% said they are distracted by social media each day at work. Researchers found that 60 to 80 percent of the time employees spend on the internet has nothing to do with work. According to a Salary.com survey ‘Specifically, the survey revealed 64 percent of employees visit non-work related websites every day at work. Of that group, 39 percent spend one hour or less per week, 29 percent spend 2 hours per week, 21 percent waste five hours per week, and only 3 percent said they waste 10 hours or more doing unrelated activities.’
This makes it all the more important to remember that a Christian does his or her work unto the Lord!