March 31, 2019
Colossians 3 – New Identity, Deep Roots – Part 12
The timing is great because as our Couples Desert is tonight, this morning we’re talking about marriage. And there’s a very touching story about a married couple that been circulating over the past few years-Marriage joke. That’s love-talk about marriage!
Over the last several weeks we’ve been studying our new identity in Christ. That if Christianity means anything, it means your life is different, it’s changed. It’s the basic truth that as a Christian you’re not who you used to be, you’re not the old you anymore. Because of what Jesus has done you’re someone new. And few places give a clearer picture of what your new identity ought to look like than Colossians 3. This is where we’ve been camped out recently-so turn there in your Bibles. And as you do, Colossians 3 is a snapshot, a portrait, of what God wants to do in your life. On the one hand, starting in v. 5 it’s telling us to put to death a lot of the old junk in our lives-v. 5, 8. And on the other hand, it’s telling us what things to put on in v. 12. Then it says to bear with one another, to forgive others, to put on love which binds everything together-and then as we saw last week-17. So it reads like a fitting way to conclude the chapter-but what I love is that Paul isn’t content to just let these characteristics stay at the theoretical level-which is something most of us are tempted to do. It’s easy to convince ourselves-Oh yeah, I’m a kind and loving person, I’m patient, I’m humble, I’m willing to forgive others. We like to believe those things about ourselves, but we all know that in the moment when we need to be patient or forgiving it’s really hard to live them out. So here in chapter 3 Paul’s going to put our feet to the fire by saying that the very first place we ought to display all these characteristics he’s just listed is at home. That if we’re truly going to put on the new self, if we’re going to be kind and compassionate and loving it needs to begin in the smallest circle of relationships we have, with the people that we see the most, meaning our families or even more specifically, your spouse. These verses in Colossians raise an important question: Does following Christ actually impact your marriage and your home? It’s no accident these verses come on the heels of Colossians 3. Paul is very intentional in structuring it this way-one commentator said it’s practical theology for the kitchen and bedroom Since Christ is the fulness of the universe, He must also be the source of fulness at home. So back to-3:17-specifically-v. 18-21. If you want to know what a godly home looks like-that’s it right there. Husband, wife, children, parents putting on love and living in harmony with one another in order to please the Lord and follow Him. And this morning we’re going to specifically zero in on the first part of that which is marriage. These two verses are what God intends for your marriage. Or if you’re not married, what God intends for your future marriage if He brings someone into your life.
Now these descriptions might seem like a stretch, something hard to imagine for you and your spouse, something that might even seem old-fashioned in our culture, but this type of marriage is possible because of who you are in Christ, these commands in v. 18-19 are the restoration of what sin has tried to destroy in marriage. And over the centuries sin has done a good job of taking marriage down and destroying homes.
Think about it for a moment-what was the first relationship that ever existed between humans? It was marriage-Adam and Eve. The first human relationship wasn’t a couple of buds going fishing together, it wasn’t two friends hanging out over coffee, or a couple of kids climbing trees, it was a married couple-husband and wife in the garden. In the very beginning of our Bibles in Genesis 2, God brought to Adam a woman, much like a father presents a bride to the groom. And there they were, male and female, husband and wife, in the garden, living in paradise. And we’re all envious because for them the honeymoon wasn’t taking a week or two off work to fly to Hawaii, the honeymoon was their everyday life. Each morning they were waking up to birds chirping, fresh fruits and juices, the fragrance of blooming flowers in an unpolluted earth, with perfect weather. Their home was an all-inclusive, 5-star resort-day after day. This is why people spend tons of money on tropical vacation homes or getaways-deep down it’s that return to Eden. But God told Adam and Eve-All that you see, every tree in the garden, bearing every kind of fruit is yours-so enjoy it, live life to the fullest, be amazed and enjoy everything I’ve given you. There was nothing that couldn’t be there’s-except for that one tree. How hard was that! You can have millions of trees to choose from, all sorts of fruit-but not this one. It’s like going into a candy store where you can have whatever you want-except for the black licorice in the corner-and who likes that anyway-eat all the chocolate, gummy bears and M&M’s and Skittles you want!
But as we all know human nature, what we want is often the one thing we can’t have-and that became the problem in Eden. They fixated on that one tree to the exclusion of all the rest so that before too long they disobeyed and sinned against God. And more than that, they hid from God, they didn’t own up to their mistake, they tried to deny it, and even shifted the blame elsewhere; trying to convince God they weren’t at fault. All kinds of consequences resulted. Their sin ruptured their vertical relationship with God, they were separated from him and kicked out of paradise, forced to work the hard ground. But not only that, their sin ruptured their horizontal relationship with each another.
It’s worth looking at this fractured marriage in Genesis a little closer to see what happened-Gen 2:16-17. Who did God give the command to? To Adam. Adam was given a responsibility, an authority from God that no other part of creation had been given. God didn’t tell the lions or the elephants-Hey, you guys are in charge out there-as king of the jungle keep everybody in line. No-this was an incredible privilege given to man. Long before Eve ever showed up, the Creator had singled out one part of His creation, one person, and said-Adam, I’ve put you in charge of the garden, to tend it and keep it, so I want to entrust you with something very important. I want you to hear and obey this command. I believe this was a powerful and solemn moment in Adam’s life, this was his commissioning. It’s like the owner of the company telling the shift manager-You’re in charge here and I want you to lead the other employees well and provide good customer. Our business is in your hands. That authority for planet earth was given to Adam. Yet who is the one who ends up exercising the authority? Look at Gen 3:6. That one little verse in the Bible captures one of the biggest events that’s ever occurred on our planet-for this is when mankind sins, when God is disobeyed because Eve usurped Adam’s authority and Adam just let it happen. Why is he submitting to Eve’s leadership as she offers him the fruit? He doesn’t say no, he doesn’t take responsibility and challenge her thinking or try to help her; he never even speaks up in the chapter. Adam’s silence is painfully obvious. Hey Adam, eat this yummy fruit. And without any second thoughts or hesitation on his part that’s even suggested in the text, Adam, like every guy basically says-Hmmm-food good. And he eats.
The whole thing is turned upside down. God had given the authority to Adam, yet somehow an animal, the serpent, talks to Eve, Eve then tells Adam what to do, and Adam, the guy who’s supposed to be in charge, acts like the helpless victim. In fact, the only time Adam does speak up in this chapter is to tell God he’s the victim. Look at Gen 3:9. Notice who God calls to task, it’s not Eve, it’s Adam. Adam, I want to hear from you what happened because I gave you the authority. And look at his response-3:10-12. Just like a little kid who gets caught misbehaving-It’s not my fault, they tricked me-Adam shifts the blame. He’s not owning up to his failure or being honest. Instead look at how harsh he is with Eve-talk about throwing her under the bus! Just think about Adam’s statement for a second-what does he hope to gain by saying that? Does he think God’s going to agree with him? Yeah, that’s right, Adam. That Eve is one sneaky lady-I don’t know what I was thinking when I brought her to you-should have seen that coming. Let me boot her out of the garden, and you can stay here Adam. That’s what he’s suggesting to God. Adam’s trying to maintain his innocence while throwing Eve under the hammer of God’s judgment. How is that loving in any capacity? Ohh-you’re in trouble, Eve-good luck. Adam should have owned up to his failure right away. Yes, Lord, Eve sinned-but I let it happen. I didn’t intervene, I didn’t stop her or try to talk with her, in fact I went right along with it and sinned too. If you’re going to punish anybody, punish me, because I failed in my authority and didn’t obey your command. But that kind of humble, loving thinking is the furthest things from his mind. Genesis 3 shows a complete breakdown in the very first human relationship that ever existed.
And if you look back to Col 3 you’ll see where the remedy, the resolution, is found. Here in the NT we see the undoing, the untying of this painful knot that sin created. Col 3:18-the very thing Eve failed to do. Col 3:19-the very thing Adam failed to do. God’s design for marriage was ruptured because of sin, yet it can be restored because of who we are in Christ.
But let’s be honest a word like submission in v. 18 isn’t all that popular these days-of course it wasn’t all that popular with Eve thousands of years ago either. So how are we to understand it? First of all, we must not think of submission as slavery or oppression or bondage. It doesn’t describe a wife with no freedoms who stands at her husband’s beck and call-you do what I say! Submission isn’t a negative word. It’s literally a military term that means “to arrange under rank.” And when you think of the military, the fact that one solider is a private and the other a lieutenant doesn’t mean that one man is necessarily better than the other, they just have different positions, different roles to fulfill. Likewise, the fact that a woman is to submit to her husband doesn’t mean that the man is better or more important than the woman. Not at all. It simply means that the man has the God-given responsibility of leadership within the home, which began with Adam way back in the beginning. And the wife has the complementary role of submission, so that together these roles create a harmony within the marriage. So Pt1a:Wives Submission: a distinct, God-given role that doesn’t impact value.
And it’s really important to distinguish between value and function. God created both men and women in His image, both are equal in their essence and personhood, yet their functions in marriage are different. We see this example of different functions very clearly in the Trinity. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit are all absolutely, equally God-we praise all 3 of them the same-yet they have different functions. The Father dwells in heaven, Jesus took on flesh and came to earth, and the Spirit fills believers. Their roles are distinct, even though they each share the same divine essence. Jesus isn’t less God than the Father because in John 10 Jesus says that He and the Father are one or in John 14 He says if you’ve seen Me you’ve seen the Father. They are both equally God-having the same divine essence and value. Yet look at what Jesus says in John 6:38. He willingly submits to the Father because that’s His distinct role as the Son. In the same way, wives willingly submit to their husbands because that’s their distinct role established by God. And notice the reason in v. 18-as is fitting in the Lord.
So that means Pt1b:Wives Submission: an act of obedience to God, regardless of a husband’s worthiness or spiritual condition. It’s based on what God says, not how good their husband is. This verse isn’t saying-Wives don’t bother to submit to your husbands if you’re more spiritual than they are. Nor does it say that wives should only submit when their husbands have earned it, or acted really nice to them. Those qualifying conditions aren’t given in the verse. A wife is called to obey God-which includes submitting to the man God has wisely and providentially given to her as her husband. Did you notice the word your in the verse? Wives, submit to your husbands. Don’t forget the obvious. A wife submits to the one man that intimately and lovingly belongs to her as her husband. And that means submission doesn’t need to be a resentful, bitter duty; the wife shouldn’t be in competition for control of the family; putting down her husband, or always trying to manipulate him to get what she wants. Certainly because of sin those temptations will come, but a wife should desire to follow God’s design for marriage-submitting to the husband God has blessed her with-because refusing to submit is nothing short of disobedience to God.
So as we all know, submission is a challenge-it’s not easy-but I believe a large part of the reason is found in v. 19. That is God’s command for husbands. And just as a wife refusing to submit is disobedience, so a husband failing to show love and acting harshly with his wife is also disobedience. Let me say this-submission will be a constant battle if the husband does not clearly communicate and demonstrate love to his wife. This command to love is the centerpiece of it all. Flip back just a few pages to Eph 5-look at v.22-25, 28-29. How are men to love? Like Christ loved the church. What does that look like? The passage says it’s giving yourself up for her-like Christ did for us on the cross. It’s nothing short of dying to self, of sacrificially loving the woman God’s given you. It also means nourishing and cherishing your wife as Christ does for us. If husbands poured their energy into those things-into loving their wives and taking the time to nourish and cherish them, submission wouldn’t be nearly as much of an issue. But how many times do men drop the ball here? How many times have you heard a guy say-She knows I love her, I don’t have to say anything. Does she? How does a wife feel cherished if it’s never spoken or rarely mentioned? What’s a wife to think if those words are never communicated. Now Shakespeare was the master of all things romantic-and a terrible comparison because what guy can compete with the words of Shakespeare! But in Act 1, Scene 2 of his play, Two Gentlemen of Verona, the character Julia comments on her beloved’s lack of communication-His little speaking shows his love but small. They do not love that do not show their love. Julia wanted Proteus to be bold and clear about his love for her. And that’s so true for all of us! Love isn’t just good intentions or hidden emotions. Paul is telling us here in Eph that Christ’s love for the church was far more than just good intentions, He actually showed His love through sacrifice, so this passage is directly challenging husbands to do the same thing with their wives. Pt2a: Husbands Love: is demonstrated, expressed and woven into real words and deeds. That’s what nourish and cherish is all about. This word nourish doesn’t just mean that husbands are to work hard to put food the on table and say-there you go, I’ve done my husbandly duty. Here in Eph this is talking about spiritual, emotional, and relational nourishment. And as men this is where it gets challenging. Thinking about emotions and speaking from the heart probably makes you shudder! But that’s where trusting God and applying some forethought comes in.
So Pt2b:Husbands Love: requires forethought and willingness to speak tenderly to his wife. That’s no small task-and I’ll be the first to say I have plenty of growth in this area (let’s not ask Monica how much!)-but this is the practical application of what God’s Word is saying here in Eph and in Col. There has to be thinking and forethought-because without it men often won’t speak lovingly from the heart or communicate their emotions. Think about the apostle Peter for a second. He was a bold guy, often speaking first without thinking and then getting himself into trouble. His mouth just blurted out whatever and Jesus often rebuked him. But over time I think Peter learned the value of thinking first and then speaking-because look at what he says in-1 Peter 3:7. Now Peter was married, no doubt he’s writing from personal experience-and by weaker he simply means delicate, tender, more caring and sensitive to others-women are like fine china and men are the stoneware dishes. But I love how he uses that word understanding. He’s saying-Men, you’ve got to engage your brain and think this through. Live wisely live with your wife. Take time to understand her and consider her, know what makes her tick, understand what she likes, think about how to communicate with her and love her. And this is really radical teaching back then when it was a male-dominated, patriarchal society. Men were in charge, they did what they wanted. Women had very little rights and needed to stay at home with the other women doing the daily chores-yet here in God’s Word we’re reading something very counter-cultural. One commentator said the Christian command for a husband to love his wife was light-years beyond the formal domestic ethics of the day. Men weren’t to just keep doing their own thing and spend all their time in the marketplace or the fields talking business with other men, but to reach out to their wives and have meaningful conversation, to invest in them and understand them, to be sympathetic and cherish them.
I love what Stu Webber, an author and pastor out in Oregon, says on this-Tender Warrior, 129. That’s what God is calling husbands to do. Flip back to Col 3:19a. Love the woman God has richly and wisely blessed you with. She’s yours, treat her as the treasure she is. And that’s what the second part of the verse is saying-v. 19b. And this is the complete opposite of the understanding that Peter is saying. A husband who lovingly leads his wife doesn’t need to behave harshly or throw his weight around or make ultimatums. So thirdly Pt2c:Husbands Love: avoids errors of aggressiveness and passivity. Now Colossians isn’t mentioning passivity-but that is what we saw from Adam in Genesis. But these are the two traps husbands can easily fall into. The error of aggressiveness is being harsh with your wife and always being demanding; its acting selfish, saying you’re here to serve me, it’s my way or the highway, do what I say. That’s not God’s design for marriage or how to exercise leadership in the home; but neither is the husband who does nothing and fails to take any initiative in leading his family or his wife. Too many men want to be passive and expect that their wife will be the spiritual leader of the home while he just does his own thing. Obviously we saw the disaster that resulted from Adam making that error-so as husbands today we can’t afford to repeat it. Instead we have to take the initiative. To determine in your mind to follow God’s command as a husband who loving leads his wife and understands her-not by being harsh, but with tenderness and wisdom.
It all begins by believing that God knew what He was doing when He brought your spouse into your life. God didn’t mess up or mistakenly give you the wrong person-Oops, I was supposed to give you her and she was supposed to have him! No-God knew what He was doing. Look at one last verse-Mark 10:6-9. Who does the joining? God. It’s all of Him bringing your spouse into your life. Who does the staying together? We do. Man and woman, husband and wife. God established marriage as the foundational human relationship-and that relationship was totally ruptured because of sin. We see broken marriages and wreckage all around us. Relationships, lives, homes are ruined by sin-yet because of who you are in Christ, that can be changed. Your marriage can be restored, relational patterns of how you relate to your spouse can be changed. It’s no accident that Paul goes from saying in-v. 12-13-and then transitions right into the home, right into marriage where those qualities matter most. Maybe this morning you’ve seen a picture of your marriage in what happened between Adam and Eve, a failure to submit or a failure to lead. Maybe love has taken a backseat, and things have grown stale. Maybe you’ve been harsh and demanding to your spouse. Maybe God’s been impressing upon you that your marriage needs some serious change. Take time to talk about, be willing to forgive one another and start fresh. It’s never too late.
I’ve jotted down a coordinating set of applications at the bottom of the bulletin. Wives, what are two specific ways that you can encourage and honor your husband this week? He needs to hear that from you, to know that you support him and respect him. And husbands, what are two specific ways that you can show affection and cherish your wife this week? What comes to mind? She needs to see that from you. I return back to this book-Tender Warrior, 138.
This is how God has designed you to live. Sure it will stretch you and pull you outside your comfort zone-but remember, you don’t do this on your own. This isn’t a solo effort, try as hard as you can to love your husband or wife, hope you’re strong enough. This happens because of who you are in Christ. You can love because of the changes that He’s working within you, because of your new identity in Christ. Commit yourself to Him. Say-Lord I want you to radically impact my heart and let it change how I act at home. Instead of treating those closest to you the worst, as we so often do, being polite to everyone else in public but taking things out on our families, say-Lord, I want the people closest to me, my kids and specifically my spouse, to see the love of Christ reflected in me. And let your home model the kind of marriage God has beautifully designed.