Explore the Bible Sunday School Lesson for November 21

By Robert Olsen, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Christian Studies, University of Mobile


Colossians 3:18–4:6

In Our Families (3:18–21)

Chapter 3 in Colossians is a transition from arguments against false teachers to how Christians should live in light of Christ’s resurrection. In this section, Paul explains to the Colossians the dynamics of Christian family relationships.

The role of the husband and wife is a touchy subject in today’s society for a variety of reasons. First of all, historically, men have often used this verse (and Ephesians 5) as a license to be tyrannical toward their wives. This is not how God intends the relationship to work.

In Ephesians 5, Paul says wives are to submit to their husbands as the husbands submit to Christ. Christ is the example for how husbands are to love their wives. If Christian men would love their wives in this regard, then the family would operate well and set an example of how the Christian family looks in opposition to the modern Western idea of the family, where personal, selfish interests often take the fore, leading to a high divorce rate.

Secondly, the modern idea of feminism has contributed to this touchy subject. While many aspects of feminism have been helpful, some aspects have undermined the family. Women need to discover their identity and understanding of what it means to be a wife from the Bible.

Continuing in the line of submission, children are to obey their parents, who are not to exasperate them. Obedience to parents is for the child’s benefit.

As parents are called to love their children, children need to understand God has appointed their parents over them to help them grow in the knowledge of who Christ is and what God expects of them. The home is the parents primary missions field.

Fathers are not to belittle their children or shame them to try to get them to behave.

Fathers are not to tell their children they will never be good enough or demoralize them. Instead, fathers are to love their children in a Christ-pleasing way. This does not mean the absence of discipline; after all, discipline is a form of love (Heb. 12:7). The key is to discipline in a way that displays love, yet teaches them what acceptable behavior is.

In Our Work (3:22–4:1)

Paul also applies teachings about acceptable behavior to the slave and master, which in Paul’s day would have been an aspect of familiar living.

However, for us today, the lessons here works in an employer-employee relationship.

Business owners and managers need to treat workers with respect, not looking to exploit them or overwork them. God will judge Christian employers for how they treat their employees. As for Christian employees, they are to work to the best of their ability for the glory of God.

We work as if we are working for the Lord, and so others may see the good works we do and our love for God.

In Our Interactions (4:2–6)

Transitioning to the last chapter of Colossians, Paul emphasizes the importance of prayer.

We are to be thankful for what God has done for us, and we are to pray for other Christians to be bold in their lives, living for Christ.

Lastly, Paul tells us how to act with outsiders, being wise and speaking graciously. Paul says we are to live in the world without becoming like the world. This admonition is becoming more important as Western world culture continues to move away from basic Christian principles.

Christians need to treat others with grace, forgiving others when they sin against us. When people observe this type of countercultural behavior, it points to the fact we find hope and meaning from God, not from society.

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