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This is the last post in the series Complete in Christ: Colossians and the All-sufficient Preeminence of Jesus. With few exceptions, this blog category has walked us through this relevant and profound letter verse-by-verse. I pray that you have been as encouraged and edified as I have while meditating on Paul’s message to the church at Colossae; a writing that so clearly delineates Christ as both supreme and sufficient. In other words, the book of Colossians explains this simple but powerful truth: Jesus is all we need to be complete.

“I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you” (Colossians 4:18).

In an era of forged documents, Paul makes it clear that this letter is genuine and is no counterfeit (see 2 Thessalonians 3:17). Probably only writing the last verse (Paul was known to have others actually pen his writings – see Romans 16:22) he still puts his stamp of approval on the message and content by personally signing off. We can only image that his chains both restricted movement and painfully chafed his hands so this gesture is of great significance. He wants his audience, the faithful saints at Colossae, to know without a doubt that this letter is from Paul himself and, therefore, is inspired by God.

Despite these dire circumstances, the inevitable suffering that comes from following Jesus and courageously preaching Him and His cross, Paul ends with a blessing of grace to his readers. This farewell benediction reminds us of his inaugural blessing in 1:2: “To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.” Which means Paul begins and ends his instruction with the thought of God’s unmerited favor. But notice the slight change from the first blessing (1:2) to the second (4:18). Paul has moved from grace “to you” to grace ‘be with you.”

In other words, I believe, he is thinking of Jesus! Just like he was in the concluding verse of his letter to the church at Philippi where he used similar language. There Paul expanded on the thought of “grace be with you” by saying, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit” (Philippians 4:23). John further connects Jesus and grace when he stated, “And from [Christ’s] fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:16-17). In other words, we experience sustaining grace in Christ as part of His saving grace.

For the Jesus that Paul has exalted as all-supreme and all-sufficient is with them. As Anne Graham Lotz said, describing some of the challenges and difficulties of her life, “Don’t give my sympathy. Don’t give me advice. Don’t even give me a miracle. Just give me Jesus.” Why such confidence and contentment? Because He is “Christ in [us] the hope of glory” (1:27). In other words, Jesus is both the journey and the destination.

Paul wants them to move from receiving Jesus to living in Him (see 2:6). He wants them migrate from knowing Christ as the light of their salvation (see 1:12-14) to Him being their life (3:4)! He wants them to be elevated from a head knowledge of Jesus to now, “seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (3:1-3). He wants them to be so raised and united with Christ that they, “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” (3:15). That they be so emboldened and empowered by His indwelling presence that they diligently “declare the mystery of Christ” (4:3). In summary, he wants them to be complete in Christ

This is grace and this is what true, dynamic grace does! It discards our ugly old self and gives us His beautiful life (3:9-10). We now know Him as “all and in all” (3:11). Grace is God making us “[His] chosen ones, holy and beloved” (3:12). Or, in a very real sense, grace is God giving us Jesus not only as our redeemer but uniting us with Him now and forevermore. The all-supreme, all-sufficient Jesus not only has us but we have Him! This is what I believe Paul is saying when he concludes with “Grace be with you.” And I, like Paul, pray that we most fully experience this all-powerful Jesus in all that we are and in all that He is! That we become complete in Him so that we might magnify His name by abiding in His sufficiency and amplifying His supremacy.  So, with resounding  joy, let us trumpet this African Spiritual:

In the morning, when I rise, Give me Jesus. When I am alone, Give me Jesus.

When I come to die, Give me Jesus. Give me Jesus. Give me Jesus, Give me Jesus.

You can have all this world, You can have all this world, You can have all this world, Just give me Jesus.

“Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts, and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you of everything that has taken place here. Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions–if he comes to you, welcome him), and Jesus who is called Justus. These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me. Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas. Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea.  And say to Archippus, “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord” (Colossians 4:7-17). 

Recently a couple of advertisements for Christian programs found their way into my e-mail box. These programs are well marketed. They cast big names with much secular success. The speakers are former or current athletes, hyper-successful business folks, entertainers, and authors. Their message is simple: This is what Christianity has done for me. 

On the surface it might seem that these programs are offering a great message, but I’ve come to believe they may be using the wrong messengers. At they very least, they leave out several of the right ones. I don’t mean to condemn the folks who present their testimonies in such venues; in fact, I know virtually nothing about them. They may be genuine Christians that are striking models of what it means to “die to self and live for Jesus” (Galatians 2:20). But my concern is that they seem to be sending a message that secular success and “what Jesus can do for me” are the basis for following Christ. 

True, it does draw a crowd when celebrities proclaim their faith. But why are there so few missionaries and average joes and janes on the lecture tour? I think we are wise to heed Paul’s admonition in First Corinthians 1:19-31: 

For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.  

Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things―and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God―that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” 

The early church was filled with “nobodies.” The list we see in Colossians 4:7-17 attests to this. Their names are rarely remembered and their deeds rarely recounted. They may not be easily recognizable but these folks – excluding Demas (see 2 Timothy 4:10)  – were completely reliable (Re-liable. Re means over and over again and Liable means responsible for). These disciples of Jesus were servants not superstars. They were seeking Christ not the spotlight. We must understand that God didn’t use the elite to build His church.  He used average folks. Yet they turned the world upside down for Christ. In doing so they were witnesses to the power of Jesus as they boasted only in Him. Notice that “God chose the foolish things …the weak things…” to bring Himself glory. 

Today He is using those who are in the trenches and are waging real spiritual warfare. Let us learn from those whose lives exemplify self-renouncement and the rejection of temporary gratification―those who have “given it all away to follow Him” (Matthew 9:21). I want to know the thoughts of those who have found God as their all satisfying treasure―those who have counted all else as loss (Philippians 3:8).  I want to be compelled to project “the first shall be last” (Matthew 20:16) and “the greatest of you will be the least and the servant of all” for His glory (See Mark 9:35). You see, I want to be like the widow giving her only two mites (Mark 12:42). These are they type of “nobodies” and servants that Jesus finds so very useful in His work. 

Understand that nothing is wrong with those that are wise and secularly successful embracing faith in Jesus. In fact, I praise God for it. We must not, however, allow ourselves to believe that God can use only those who have achieved success in the world’s eyes. Jesus came so that all types of folks would help build His kingdom. We need to be reminded that He chose the foolish, weak, lowly, and despised to be His people and to glorify Himself.  We need not be elite when we are empowered by Him. When He is our wisdom and strength He uses people just like you and me.

“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– that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak” (Colossians 4:3-4). 

Before we start thinking that in the previous verse (4:2) Paul is seeing prayer only as a tool to have our personal wants and needs met, he now gives us a great priority in our praying; for the gospel to be spread. A dear friend of mine and faithful follower of Jesus once told me, “I don’t really get it but when I pray amazing things happen. When I don’t, nothing does!” Not being able to completely understand and certainly not adequately explain the nuances of the compatibility of divine sovereignty and human responsibility, I will leave this text as is. Paul calls each of us to pray for open doors for the God’s word and clarity in declaring the message of Christ our Savior. Which causes me to wonder: When was the last time we have done this? And when was the last time we heard a public prayer that was a cry to God for the advancement of the gospel message in powerful clarity? 

In language we can all identify with, it was not uncommon for Paul to describe opportunities to share Christ as an “open door” (see Acts 14:27; 1 Corinthians 16:8-9; 2 Corinthians 2:12). Being that these opportunities are precious, Paul says we should beseech God that the doors of evangelism be open wide. One of the great purposes in prayer is the privilege of looking to God for the spread of His kingdom. Jesus, in the model prayer, said to His Father, “Your kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10). In His divine plan God has decreed that our prayers would be instrumental in reaching a lost world with the message of Jesus’ redemption and hope. This is why we see Paul asking for the church to lift its voice to their Lord and ask that He grant His sovereign leadership in the proclamation of the mystery of Christ and the empowerment of His messengers (see 2 Corinthians 1:11). 

Paul also sees prayer as necessary given the spread of the gospel and the preaching of the true message of salvation in Christ have obstacles. Paul is in chains because of his mission of hope. He knew prayer helps to fortify us as we swim against the broad, strong current of a culture that is destruction-bound (see Matthew 7:13-14). There is conflict and resistance in our crusade to proclaim the name of Jesus because, “…the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). This why Paul here describes the message we share, the good news of Jesus as, “the mystery of Christ.” Those who are spiritually blind, deaf, and dead in their trespasses and sins naturally erect barriers to the message of the gospel. Our prayers are involved in unleashing the power of God in overcoming these challenges. 

But Paul doesn’t want our prayers to open doors for just any kind of word being spoken about Jesus. It is not a false gospel that we should pray to be spread. Paul wants the mystery of Christ to be clearly and rightly proclaimed. In our contemporary Christian culture we hear and see many things called “the gospel.” But much of it is false, misleading, and deceptive. With the goal of increasing their own followers, many distort the pure truth of God’s message of salvation into an ethnocentric, therapeutic, and carnal journey of self-discovery and self-enrichment. But following Jesus is about dying to self, bearing the cross, sacrificing, loving indiscriminately, and serving selflessly. It is about treasuring Him above all things. This is the type of gospel Paul wants our prayers to plead for; one of clarity, power, and biblical truth. 

Again, I do not totally understand why God has chosen to use our prayers in His sovereign act of grace in saving sinners. I do know that, in the end, His redemptive work is accomplished by His own power alone and due to no merit or effort on our part (see John 1:12-13). Yet we are called to pray for open doors for the spread of the gospel in clarity and truth.  Based upon His word, we are to be just as persistent, watchful, and thankful in our prayers for Christ-exalting evangelism as we are for our own personal needs and wants (see Colossians 4:2).

Is this our prayer? How often do we passionately plead with God that His clear message of the gospel be proclaimed and doors be opened for His truth? I know for me, it’s high time that evangelism be put at the top of my prayer list, that I pray for the lost to receive the message and it be confirmed in them by the Holy Spirit. It’s also time I pray more often for those whose “beautiful feet” share this greatest of all messages (Romans 10:15). May we also pray that God would use us as well, that we be His faithful instruments in the expanse of His kingdom and the calling of the Great Commission (see Matthew 28: 18-20). That as we go doors will be opened. And that our going will be saturated in His authority, presence, and power.

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2).    

Our words have consequences and power. Whether it is your spouse’s words of encouragement or criticism, your bosses praise or rebuke, or the despair or ecstasy of your reaction to your doctor’s diagnosis, we understand the affect what we say, and how it is said, can have. Jesus said, “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every…word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-38, NIV). Surely the gravity of our words must be of serious consideration. Including how we pray. 

So Paul now returns to one of this letter’s predominant themes; prayer (see 1:3, 9, 29; 2:1). These references are clear in depicting the perseverance and earnestness of Paul’s prayer life. Now he instructs the saints at Colossae concerning what their praying is to look like and it hardly resembles the devotional life of most of us. Why? Because we often go to God’s throne and do not get the desired response. Often times, because we ask for the wrong things (see Matthew 7:7-11), with the wrong motives (see James 4:3), or without faith (see James 1:5-8), we find God seems silent. Thus, our prayers weaken, become less frequent, or even cease. But Paul declares we should communicate with our Lord persistently, watchfully, and thankfully.   

In our culture of fast food, multiple job changes, short attention spans, rampant divorce and remarriage, and instant gratification, steadfastness in anything is seldom seen. Prayer is no exception. But we are called to pray with perseverance. I’m reminded of a preacher who once said, “For Christians, it is always too soon to quit.” Jesus had this in mind when he shared the story of the persistent widow: “And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1). Does this suggest we will always get what we desire? We mustn’t be that presumptuous. Yes, sometimes the Lord honors our requests when they are in accordance with His will, purpose, and plan. Yet sometimes God gives us new and better desires than what we had before: He gives us His desires. This is the real meaning of Psalm 37:4: “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” And this is why consistent pleading before God for His will, His wisdom, His provision, His kingdom, His righteousness, and His glory (see Matthew 6:8-13) is ever-critical. And we are to do this with obsessive consistency. 

Paul also instructs to pray watchfully. Now what does that mean? The original language suggests alertness to the working of God in response to our prayers, that our spiritual antennas be raised to recognize how He is moving. Although our petitions do not always guarantee a “yes” from God, Paul is indicating that we should pray with confidence that God is acting, “according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will…” (Ephesians 1:11). This fearlessness is echoed by the writer of Hebrews who said, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). This begs the question: do we pray in anticipation of God’s working? Are we on “high-alert” for His answer, knowing that no matter His response we are serving a God who continues His sovereign rule from the throne of Heaven? Often, I believe, the power of our prayers and prayer life is diminished when we don’t have a sense of expectation, attentiveness, and confidence in God. 

Lastly, we are to pray thankfully. Grateful hearts belong to those who know that God loves, listens, and leads us. His answer, whether yes, no, or wait, is to be met with a heart-appreciative that His answer is always right and for His own glory and our eternal good. We also swell with thanksgiving when we truly believe and bow “to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us…” (Ephesians 3:20). This is a heart-felt acknowledgment of who He is, what he has already done, and what He is going to do. When we are bathed in gratitude it’s difficult to be fearful and faithless. When we are saturated in thanksgiving for whatever He chooses to do we will be moved to steadfastly and expectantly wait on the response of our Father. 

Praying with these three attitudes – perseverance, attentiveness, and gratitude – may seem simple but they are not easy. Prayer is a discipline and a practice. The essence of this kind of heart-longing, desperate, pleading petition to God is often lost – lost in the business of life, the faithlessness of our requests, and the presumptuousness of our spiritual posture. I am of the definite opinion, however, that this one verse reeks with dynamic power and truth. Praying this way unleashes our confidence in Him and positions us to recognize His moving in response to us, His adored children. And in this process we will be drawn ever-closer to and more like Jesus.

“Slaves, 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.  Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,  knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism. Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven (Colossians 3:22 – 4:1). 

Modern bumper stickers tell us much about our perception of work: “I owe, I owe…so off to work I go” or, “Work fascinates me…I can sit and watch it for hours!” But Paul’s message, and the message of all Scripture is that Christ is to be Lord over our jobs. As Max Lucado has said, “Heaven’s calendar has seven Sundays a week. [Jesus] conducts holy business at all hours and all places, He uncommons the common by turning kitchen sinks into shrines, cafes into convents, and nine-to-five workdays into spiritual adventures.” 

In verses Colossians 3:23-24 Paul states, “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.” As a Christ-follower, I’ve found myself mentally accosted by this question: Do I worship my work, withstand my work, or worship God through it? If my response is anything but the later, I’ve got things wrong and need to make a change. And whether I’m the worker or the manager, I should come under the righteous rule of the Lord Jesus (Colossians 3:25 – 4:1). Our vocation is one of our greatest opportunities to demonstrate the supremacy and sufficiency of the Christ who alone makes us complete. 

The contemporary church does not completely ignore the issue of work. Nevertheless, I’m amazed that we do not have more sound teaching on the subject given the pure math behind it: we typically put in at least 40 hours at a weekly “job” plus spending innumerable hours doing housework and yard work for no compensation. Relatively speaking, believers spend much more of their lives “working” than “worshipping.” Shouldn’t we then have a greater understanding of the critical nature of this time consuming function? 

Most evangelical churches do recognize and remind us of the biblical message that God has ordained work. Some, but far too few, endeavor to find more a spiritual purpose in working. Our common misperceptions and shallow exposition of God’s truth on the subject has led to many problems, primarily that it can make us miss the privilege and all-consuming joy of glorifying our Savior during even the most mundane hours of our earthly time. When we use our vocations primarily to glorify the Lord, we will see the exponential blessing of a God who is steadfastly building His kingdom. 

Colossians 3:1-4 summarizes the attitude we should have in our work. Paul says, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” So then, we should have a Christ-honoring perspective in all things—including our work. Through this He will be glorified.

Consider the scene in Luke 5:1-9. Peter, Andrew, James, and John are cleaning their nets; they made their living catching and selling fish. As they work Jesus is preaching to a gathering crowd. As people come, the Messiah notices two boats tied nearby. In order for the crowd to better hear Him, Christ climbs into one of the empty boats and asks to be put out a little from shore. He teaches the crowd while using the boat for a pulpit (Luke 5:23). Before He completes the day’s lesson, He works a miracle (v. 4-6) and commissions the fishermen to begin seeking a new type of catch (v. 10).

In commandeering their place of business and in using it as the setting for one of His better known miracles, Jesus showed followers—particularly the laboring disciples―that even a place of business can become a platform for sharing the glory of the Father and for bringing Him honor. In other words, a workspace can become a forum for divine worship and even discipleship. Our cubicles, workshops, fields, and vehicles can serve similar purposes. When they do, we find that Jesus Christ is Lord of the weekday as well as the Sabbath. 

I find it interesting that the Hebrew word avodah is the root for the word from which we get the words “work” and “worship.” This indicates these two concepts are inseparable in the eyes of God.  Working and worshipping go hand in hand.  It’s also notable that in the New Testament, the vast majority of Jesus’ 132 public appearances were in the marketplace or workplace. The Lord knows much of our lives are spent in toil at our desks or behind machines. He wants to be a part of every part of our lives; that’s something that will never be accomplished should we choose to hold Him in esteem only on Sundays. 

Perfect sense comes from the fact that our places of business can and should become areas devoted to our relationship with God. After all, it’s at work that we can show His excellence through the quality of our output. There we can demonstrate His holiness through the purity and earnestness of our example. We can image forth His worth through our worthy contribution to our employers, and we can glorify Him through humble thanksgiving for His provision and prosperity. In short, we can effectively worship God at our places of business by using the gifts and abilities He has given us for His glory.  I am reminded that the faithful servants in the Parable of the Talents were honored and allowed to share in their Master’s happiness (see Matthew 25:14-30). 

And this dynamic of worshipping God through our work holds for those in supervisory positions as well. I’m reminded of the story of one such boss. This manager was in the habit of praying for everyone he supervised. Most of the time, he prayed privately so that his associates weren’t aware. But one particular occasion, when he and his team members were discussing a serious conflict in the office that was causing a disruption, he felt led to openly pray, after first asking permission, for the situation and team members.
Months went by and the serious disagreement escalated. In fact, it was so intense teammates would barely speak to each other. Office production suffered. The employees became increasingly more disgruntled. And then, quite suddenly, the disagreement dissipated and the associates were on civil terms again. Seemingly, business as usual had returned. But it really wasn’t just a revisit to normality at all. Something supernatural had occurred. When the relieved supervisor finally inquired as to what had changed one of those involved replied, “Well, we remembered the time you prayed for us at your desk.” 

Work is a form of worship. It must be. Do not think that worship takes place only at church and spiritual labor is performed only by the clergy. Our work is one of our great spiritual exercises. Just as we remember the command, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Colossians 3:23), so too must we remember to glorify God in all we do (I Peter 2:12), using our daily tasks and chores to bring us ever closer in communion with Him. 


Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged” (Colossians 3:18-21).

Some contemporary psychologists estimate the 97% of all families are “dysfunctional.” Although their prescriptions may vary and are usually unbiblical, they all recognize that most families have some rather serious issues. Even the divorce rate among professing Christians rivals that of unbelievers. The Bible, however, is consistent in what a family working within God’s model looks and acts like, what a biblically functional family is. Paul here outlines three basic characteristics of a Christ–honoring family; corporate submission and obedience saturated in sacrificial love towards God and each other. 

“Submission” has become a dirty word in our culture. Even in Christendom submission is viewed as a sign weakness and as something that makes us vulnerable to those who might take advantage. I’m shocked at the widespread aversion to submission among professing Christians. However, Nave’s Topical Bible contains an invaluable entry for submission. I think it sums up the whole matter well. It states, “Submission: See Obedience.” For believers, the two concepts go hand-in-hand. The Bible commands us to be submissive in various areas of our lives:

  • Submit to God-appointed civil authorities: “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God” (Romans 13:1).
  • Submit to God ordained spiritual leaders: “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you” (Hebrews 13:17).
  • Submit to bosses and employers: “Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh” (1 Peter 2:18).
  • Submit to fellow believers: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).
  • In order to facilitate spiritual victory, we should submit ourselves to God’s plans: “Submit yourselves, then, to God.” (James 4:7a).
  • Submit to God’s law: “The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so” (Romans 8:7).
  • Submit to God’s righteousness: “Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness” (Romans 10:3).

Despite its controversial nature, the biblical model for family dynamics is really quite simple. Paul explains it in just four sentences here in Colossians 3. It is our culture and even the church that has convoluted and twisted this model into something that in no way looks like the teaching found in God’s Word. We have let worst case scenarios, potential abuse, and the natural desire to be restrained by nothing or no one keep us from embracing the powerful simplicity and truth of this God ordained, complimentarian model. 

First, submission (the Greek term here suggests “voluntary yieldedness”) is always good in the presence of love that has someone else’s best interest at heart. The husband loves like Christ (this is submission to His loving Lord) and the wives then are secure in follow this Christ-like leadership. Children follow suit. The submission Paul mentions here is not some form of passive, co-dependant self-abuse based upon dictatorial, selfish, suppressive, and sin-inclined leadership. This yielding is clearly in the context of selfless caring for others and genuine benevolence of spirit. 

This is made even clearer in Paul’s more expanded teaching on Godly family dynamics in Ephesians 5:22-32 (I urge you to read that passage very closely). It begins with “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife…” (Ephesians 5:22-23). Upon hearing these words often the walls go up and the fangs come out!  But in a more careful reading of this passage one discovers the wife submitting to her husband appears only 2 times. The word love, however, appears 7 times in the NIV translation. In the context of love, submission (and children’s obedience) is more than palatable; it is liberating! 

Let me give you an example. I once had a wonderful woman boss. In a situation where I had determined that I needed to go to executive leadership with a situation (really a complaint) she said to me, “Let me do that for you. I’ll take care of it.” Since I trusted her and I knew that she had my best interests at heart, I submitted to her leadership. Sure enough, she returned to me with a workable solution and, if I’m honest, a better outcome then I would have had if I’d done it myself (bad attitude and all). This situation amplifies how submitting to one who truly cares about you is not confining but freeing. 

None of the Bible’s references to submission seem very appealing to the self-centered. But, as it usually does, God’s Word gives us a reward for our submission to His ideals. You can find it in Hebrews 12:9: “Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live”! 

Live, it says! Yet often we think by being our own authority we experience full living. The thought of yielding to someone else’s authority seems to be the least likely means to finding a full and rich life. But in God’s economy that’s the way things work. Listen to Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:39: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”  In other words, what we gain by submitting ourselves willingly to Him and His love-saturated model for the family is an immeasurably superior life that is both obedient and liberating.

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17). 

Even though the name “Christian” appears only three times in the New Testament, and was originally a term of derision and contempt, it eventually became a title of honor. It meant that the person who followed Jesus was identified with Christ. The disciple of Jesus had taken on His name as well as His identity. This unification with Christ that causes us to proudly bear the name of our Savior is central to this verse. And that identity with Him includes all that we are and all that we do. 

In this sweeping statement that describes a holistic following of Jesus, Paul leaves no option for believers to compartmentalize their walk with Christ. While it remains both easy and popular to segment our lives into the sacred and the secular, as if God is not sovereign over all spheres of life, this statement is an all-or-nothing proposition. Paul leaves no room for us to check our values and beliefs at the door in any area of our life. Since Christ is in us, He goes everywhere with us and thus is to be the dynamic that guides and dictates all we think, say, and do. His influence in us is not restricted to church gatherings, Bible studies, Christian concerts, and family time. He is to invade our work, leisure, and every seemingly mundane task of life.   

Paul’s admonishment in 1 Corinthians 10:31 sheds further light on the scope of our mission in Christ: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” John Piper has written on “Drinking Orange Juice to the Glory of God.” Does that sound silly to us? Well, it doesn’t to Paul. Nor did it to Peter: “…whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies–in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4:11).  This speaks to the totality of who Christ is and who He is in us and reminds us of Paul’s earlier soaring description of Christ as “all and in all” (Colossians 3:11). It makes sense, then, that all we are and all we do is to explicitly reflect His Lordship over all and over us in every “nook and cranny” of our lives. This is what is meant by the phrase “in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

This reminds me of Joanie’s story. She was an avid church attender, taught a Sunday school class, and even led a group of young girls in a church organized fitness program. She, however, had been in a long-term affair with a co-worker that eventually led to a divorce. Although she admitted her error and had repented of her adulterous behavior, I was compelled to ask how she (me, or anyone, for that matter) could lead this type of “spiritual double-life.” “It was just a matter of segmenting that part of me from my church life. It’s just a matter of compartmentalizing.” Or, as she would also admit, it is at best a form of “spiritual schizophrenia” and, at worst, a real and dangerous form self-deception and hypocrisy.

But before we put on our flowing robes and phylacteries of judgmentalism and begin hurling stones because Joanie’s was a “spectacular” sin, are we not all guilty of keeping parts of ourselves and our lives for our own, segmented from His divine influence? Do we all not think that some pieces or portions of our affairs are different or separated from our faith life? It could be our career, our hobby, our speech (like gossip), our secret lust, our unbridled ambition, our prideful posture, or our material hoarding that we have not surrendered to our Master. And, if so, how can this be if “he is [our] life” (Colossians 3:4), we are to be “living sacrifices” (Romans 12:1-2), and human “offerings” (2 Timothy 4:6)? This all reminds me of David’s transparent prayer in Psalm 19:12-14. The New Living Translation renders it this way:  “How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults. Keep me from deliberate sins! Don’t let them control me. Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin. May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” 

Maybe the explanation for our unwillingness to capitulate to Jesus in every aspect of our being is implicit in the last half of Colossians 3:17. Could it be a lack of deep-rooted thankfulness? Clearly clinging to both hidden and open sin and disobedience demonstrates a heart that is unthankful for Christ and all that He has given us (which, by the way, is everything – see Ephesians 1:3) but possibly it is that same ungrateful heart that may actually be the root-cause of our selfishness toward our loving, giving Lord. 

In other words, when we are not consumed by the amazing nature and gift of His grace, when we are not overwhelmed at the undeserved mercy He has demonstrated toward us, when we aren’t astounded by the richness of His love for us, His chosen children, it becomes quite easy to keep from Him that which He rightly deserves; all of us and every aspect of our lives. Let us remember with hearts of inexpressible gratitude what He has done for us – given all of Himself and all that we have! In that attitude we can better live out a life and lifestyle of, “whatever [we] do, in word or deed, [we] do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16). 

This verse is so pregnant with meaning there are many angles one could take in explaining its ideas. I, however, would like to reduce it to a simple discussion of the connection between “the word of Christ” and the essence of worship. Given that worship is not an event but a lifestyle (see Romans 12:1-3) we must individually and corporately understand its components. Interestingly, despite the “worship wars” that are raging in local churches today, there is no definitive New Testament description of the proper model or form of worship. Paul here, however, captures a much more important idea; the essence of worship. 

First, it is Christ-centered. When Paul instructs the church at Colossae to let the word of Christ fully dwell (which means “to feel at home”) in them he was talking about something dynamic and transforming. He’s referring to all Biblical revelation of the person, work, character, and mission of Christ and how it impacts all facets of our being, especially our heart and mind. Jesus said, “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24). Notice that the word spirit has a small “s”. It is referring to our hearts being engaged in true worship along with our minds (“truth”). There is nothing clinical or sterile about letting the word of Christ consume us.

So, despite our shallow modern tendency to teach and admonish one another with comfortable messages on successful living (some have called this the church’s “poverty of Scripture”), Paul says the essence of worshipful teaching is being saturated in the truth of who Christ is. It is the exhortation of all wisdom regarding our Lord and Savior. Christ, the Alpha and Omega, is the beginning and ending focus of all God-honoring worship. True worship involves the continual renewal and cleansing of the mind so that we might think as Jesus thinks. Worship engages the mind and thus affects our attitudes and behaviors. Although it should engage our emotions, it is not built on pure emotionalism alone. We are to worship Him “in spirit and truth.” Therefore God’s Word concerning Christ is always the foundational principle that guides us in all of our endeavors, including worship. This is why C. H. Spurgeon once quipped, “For every text in Scripture, there is a road to the metropolis of the Scriptures, that is Christ. And my dear brother, your business is, when you get to a text, to say ‘Now what is the road to Christ?…I have never yet found a text that had not a road to Christ in it.” 

Secondly, true worship teems with praise for Jesus. Paul is alluding to this when he says, “singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” True worship is bathed in the sincere humility of a servant. It is not about show but about subservience to God and service to others. This type of paradigm is fueled by the gift of faith that He has given us to see Him in all of His glory and respond accordingly. True worship is derived from the ongoing perspective of God’s underserved mercy towards us. A sense of His greatness and goodness must be the prompter of a transformed existence of perpetual reverence towards Him. The writer of Hebrews said, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe” (12:28). Thankful hearts are evidence that we richly understand, embrace, and adore Jesus in all fullness!

Thirdly, Christ-saturated worship is not limited to a set time or place. What Paul describes here can happen alone or when you and your family fellowship because, “…where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:20). Why? Because worship is not an event but a perpetual act. It is part and parcel of who we are in Him. It is the daily transformation of a life, moment by moment, spent honoring Him with our hearts, heads, and hands of Christ-exalting service. Let’s not think that worship as just an experience or a church service (or even a Christian concert) but, instead, a lifestyle that projects the glory that He is so worthy of. It is a holy, servant-oriented, and love-saturated expression of His greatness and beauty. And, in an encouraging way, this kind of true worship is but a precursor to an eternity of adoring Him. Listen to John describe the scene of never-ending worship:

“Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being” (Revelation 4:9-11).

Are we ready for this kind of worship? For those “in Christ”,  this is our destiny. And, if we  are not experiencing some expression of this type of Christ-honoring, Christ-centered adoration, today is the day to ask Him to give us a heart and life that reflects his infinite worth! Today is the day to start practicing what we will spend all eternity doing – worshiping the Word, Jesus (John 1:1).

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful” (Colossians 3:15).

It should not surprise us that after speaking of the harmonizing effects of love Paul now talks about peace; peace that is both internal and communal. Immediately we are reminded of Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” Paul declares to us here that true peace comes from Christ; it is His peace. He tells the church at Philippi the same thing: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).

Jesus extended spiritual peace by reconciling us to God through His gospel: “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in [Jesus], and through him to reconcile to himself all [people] … making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:19-20). The Apostle Paul further explains: “God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ … was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them…” (2 Corinthians 5:19). Through this plan, Jesus “create[d] in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace” for souls once torn by sin (Ephesians 2:15). He paved the way so that humanity could catch a glimpse of His original plan: relationships, interactions, and lives should exist under the banner of harmony.

Paul implies in Colossians 3:15 that the basis for peace, both internally and externally, is a heart of thanksgiving for our calling in Christ, that He has made peace with God for us. This calling is His drawing and adopting us into His body, His salvation. In other words, Godward thankfulness is created in those that embrace and most fully understand the gravity and amazing nature of what Christ has done for and in us. Those made thankful by this glorious reality are those who experience “the peace of Christ [ruling] in [their] hearts.” And this peace then reverberates throughout the Body of Christ, His church. Clearly, unless one recognizes the reconciling work of Jesus they are not fully capable of experiencing and promoting His peace.

Followers of Christ—those who’ve received God’s gift of peace for their souls—must purvey peace in their families, communities, and among other believers as they serve as ambassadors of the Lord (see 2 Corinthians 5:17-21). Following the Prince of Peace should make us desire to live at peace. We can, in fact, demonstrate this attribute to a world filled with conflict! Kingdom living requires that we be healers and not hurters. As we try to keep the peace and mend relationships, we foreshadow the eternal peace of the eventual and ultimate culmination of our reign with Christ. Heaven’s atmosphere is one of ongoing and complete accord!

Peacemakers never intentionally seek conflict. They pursue peace unless it means contradicting God’s Word or will. The New Testament writers urge Christ-followers to question, Am I, as a disciple of this King of Peace, a nurturer of conciliation in my sphere of influence? Am I perceived by both believers and non-believers as peaceable? (see Hebrews 12:14). If the answer to either question is “no,” he or she may not live in full surrender to our peace-giving Lord. The internal peace from Him “passes all understanding.” That sense of inner harmony generally impacts relationships for the better.

In one of His most encouraging messages, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you” (John 14:27). Peacemaking and experiencing the blessing of living in peace demand complete reliance on Him. He is our source. Again, it is His peace that must rule in our hearts and transform our relationships. So, through abiding in Him let us demonstrate Jesus and His kingdom by being surrendered ministers of His gifts. By reflecting the Prince of Peace and His kingdom of eternal peace, we can point a troubled world to the God of reconciliation and we can build up Christ’s body. Paul is speaking to all kingdom believers when he says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace” (Colossians 3:15). As we do, we’ll shine as His family, the sons and daughters of God.

“And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:14). 

Paul continues his list of character traits that the new man should put on. The climatic quality is now addressed. It is the crowning jewel, the foundational grace of Christ-likeness. It is love. But the word “love” as it is used Biblically is much richer, deeper, and more profound than the way the world uses, overuses, and abuses the concept. We hear the term spoken of so loosely – we love ice cream, love movies, love sports or it is used as a synonym for lust – that it is easy to miss its true spiritual meaning and significance. God-like love is not even similar to those kinds of superficial “likes” and that is why the Greeks used at least four different words to describe idea.

The Greek word used here is agape and is used to describe God-like love that demonstrates sacrificial, gracious, unselfish goodwill and benevolence. This is why the Word can describe God as the embodiment of love (see 1 John 4:16). It is love as revealed in Jesus, seen as divine and selfless, and a model for humanity. It is not eros (erotic), which is sexual or romantic love, philia (philanthropy), which is a brotherly love toward someone we like, or even caritas (charity), which is a love for people in general. Agape is the deepest type of love; it is “true” love. And yet, despite popular opinion, this word does not always connote the idea of “unconditional” love (the excpetion being Gods’ love toward His chosen children).

In Colossians 3:14 we see this God-induced characteristic as “above all” in the sense of its supremacy among Christ-like virtues. Other passages bear this out:

  • “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). 
  • “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6). 
  • Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in  this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Romans 13:8-9). 
  • Martin Luther, I believe correctly, deduced that love was the root or seed that precedes all the other fruit of the Spirit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness” (Galatians 5:22). 

Again Paul, reminding us of Jesus’ own words, says, “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:14). Love of God and our fellow-man is the essence of all Christian virtue. When asked by a religious scholar what he must do to inherit eternal life Jesus said, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself. And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live” (Luke 10:26-28). 

And it is in this sense that this true love, “binds everything together in perfect harmony.” Another, and I believe preferred, way to render this phrase is, “that produces maturity (or completeness).” So it seems clear that love is the catalyst for the other virtues listed in Colossians 3:12-13. In other words, without God-like, Christ-imparted love none of these other virtues will become a complete reality in and through us. Certainly their fleshly mimics have no real value. The same thought is found is Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). 

Additionally, this binding function of love may speak to its corporate influence, its role in harmonizing and unifying disparate individuals that make up a local congregation and His universal church. Without love, and the fruit that blossoms from it, there is little hope of coherence and maturity within the localized and universal body of Christ. The church of my childhood used to often conclude our services with a musical benediction that captures this idea nicely. The lyrics are by John Fawcett:  

Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above. 

So let us, above all,  love Him with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our strength and with all our mind, and our neighbor as our self. Let us look to Jesus, the perfect picture of love and draw from His limitless well-spring of selfless, God-exalting, and man-edifying agape. The kind of true, divine love that bears witness to a God of unimaginable grace who, “so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

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