JohnSWilson3 Blog


“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.” Part 3
July 21, 2010, 2:01 pm
Filed under: N Letter to the Colossians, O Letter to Philemon

Paul has been describing how we manifest Jesus’ life to others in this last section of Chapter 3 of Colossians. Paul describes it as “whatever (we) do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Doing something “in the name of the Lord Jesus” doesn’t mean we do something because it’s just the right thing to do, but because it is the fruit of our life in the Lord. We must be careful not to put the cart before the horse. How we live is a demonstration of His life in us. By faith we “put to death” the old man, the flesh, by accepting we “died with Christ” to the things of this world and are completely forgiven of all sins by His cross; and by faith we “put on the new self,” the New Man, by accepting that we are “alive with Christ,” that He is our life. We do so by learning Christ together in community. As we learn Christ together from house to house and in the walk of life together with our Lord He will display Himself, His glory through us:

“Wives, voluntarily cooperate with your husbands as is fitting to the Lord. Husbands, sacrificially love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, listen to your parents in everything for this is well pleasing in the Lord. Father, do not provoke your children or they will become disheartened.” See notes for translation (1).

Paul’s intent was not so much as to change society by giving an alternate set of rules, but to enlarge Jesus Christ in His people so that change comes from an inward relationship with Jesus Christ. How often we try to make outward changes to either family life or working relationships, or society in general, without love. How often we enslave ourselves to some other human tradition. We have forgotten that our homes are the most important area of any society. Change the home, change society, change the world. But Jesus did not just die to change the world, He died and rose again to bring into existence His Church, a new creation, to reveal Himself through the body of Christ, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” So while I say that changing the home can change society and the world this is an effect not the purpose of Christ.

Paul now takes some time to write to the Christians in Colosse about slaves and masters. Evidently he has Onesimus in mind as he writes these words. Onesimus will be traveling with Tychicus to take this letter to the church in Colosse. Onesimus was a slave of Philemon of Colosse in whose household Onesimus was a former slave but had run away. Paul somehow came into contact with Onesimus and he received Christ Jesus as Lord. Here we have another instant of how important the church gathering in households can have a tremendous affect not just on a household but on society in general.

Men were masters or lords of their homes, especially in the case of slaves and free persons who worked for the family. Because they lived in a pre-industrial society most work was done by the home. Masters could treat their slaves however they wanted. They were property to be bought and sold and slaves or free persons were not specific to any one ethnic group. A master of a household, whether a man, husband, or widowed female if they knew Jesus Christ as Lord now had a tremendous life to be shared within their household! Most lived with their slaves and free persons which meant a daily interaction with them as well as when the church gathered at their home, sometimes almost daily! How this institution of slavery became at odds with Jesus Christ’s life of freedom and grace as the church gathered under Christ’s headship! How Christ came in mightily to a home when Jesus Christ became Lord and head of the household! Providing for others, showing “compassion, humility, gentleness and patience. Bearing with each other and (forgiving) whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” struck the death knell of slavery for those who lived by Jesus life!

Slaves or free persons who believed in the Lord Jesus were now free in Christ! Free from sin, free from the flesh. Alive in Christ and members of one body! Today we would say these would be workers in a business, since during and after the industrial age slavery was no longer needed, not to say a horrendous human tradition that was begun and perpetuated by human evil and exploitation. If we work for someone, no matter if they know Jesus or not, if we are living by the Spirit then we will listen to, or obey our “earthly masters” or managers “in everything.” Jesus again said He came to serve not to be served. So we follow the instructions of our managers and do the work we have been assigned and “not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.” The slaves and free persons were to see their masters/managers, if they knew Jesus, as being alive with Christ. They were to see themselves as fully able to function within the body of Christ as they gathered in the households that they served. In Christ there is no “slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” A slave will see his master/manager as in Christ. A master/manager will see his slave as in Christ. There are no more distinctions of slave or free but as members of one body and function freely together. How crazy to take a glimpse of a gathering in Colosse in the 1st century with slaves and masters together in the same room freely functioning by the life of the Spirit! The slave giving “a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or interpretation…for the strengthening of the church,” which includes his master!

Slaves, servants, workers as they live by Jesus’ life who is their life, will show His grace and truth to their masters/managers who do not know the Lord. These masters/managers will see Jesus on display and they will come face to face with the reality of the life of Christ and they to will have to make a decision, to confess Jesus as Lord and become a part of His body or reject Him.

Paul finally then says: “Masters (lords), provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master (or Lord) in heaven.” If the master of a household was a follower of Jesus Christ then as they live by His life, how they relate to their slaves were to be counter to what the world says. They are not to be sexually immoral, impure, or evil towards their slaves, being angry towards them, showing “rage, malice, slander” or speaking “filthy language” to them, which “belongs to your earthly nature,” the flesh, because they have “died with Christ to the basic principles of this world” and are now “alive with Christ.” When living by His life a manager will demonstrate Jesus’ life, His righteousness, His fairness, His grace, His mercy.

Paul had these thoughts in mind as he was finishing this letter to the church and in a moment to write his personal letter his “dear friend and fellow worker” Philemon who was master of the household where the church met and had previously owned Onesimus, now a brother in Christ. Would Philemon and Onesimus live by Jesus’ life, seeing each other as dead to their sins and alive with Christ, able to forgive one another, letting “the peace of Christ rule in their hearts, since (they were) members of one body”? May we let the Lord Jesus live deeply within us and through us to one another in the body of Christ and manifest His life in ways we could never imagine!

(1) Jon Zens uses Thayer’s Greek Lexicon to use the non-military use of the word “subject” which is “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden.” Jon Zens, “What’s With Paul And Women? Unlocking the Cultural Background to 1 Timothy 2,”Nebraska: Ekklesia Press, 2010, 118. Husbands ‘agape’ your wives, is “Christian love” and is selfless or sacrificial from W.E. Vine, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 381-382. “Obey” means to “listen” with intent of following the instructions from Vine, 438. Other parts of verses 18-21 are from Alfred Marshall, The Interlinear KJV-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, 1975, The Zondervan Corporation, 593.

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