Lesson 28: "Ye Serve the Lord Christ." (Colossians 3:24)
This is lesson #28. We want to begin this lesson with a. reading. Our reading begins with Col. 3:18. We'll read down to 4:6, about 14 verses. Please get it tuned-in. In our last lesson Paul said (3:1), "IF...if ye be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above..." now, that's in contrast to "living in the world" (2:20) or "the rudiments of the world." After Paul said this, he tried to bring it down home, He said. "Put off the old man" (3:9) and don't miss that part: "WITH HIS DEEDS" The apostle gave a list of things, deeds, i.e. to put off. Then he gave a list of things to put on (v.12). Beyond that, he said: put on charity (v.14), teach and admonish one another (v.16) IN psalms, IN hymns, IN spiritual songs, IN singing. Whatsoever ye do (v.17) do it in the name (or by the authority of) the Lord Jesus. Who does this apply to? Preachers? Elders? Yea, it does! But, in the verses we're about to read, Paul also brought it down to wives, husbands, children, fathers, servants and slave masters. Let's read that! Beginning in 3:18, here we go:
"Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them. Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well-pleasing unto the Lord. Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged. Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: and whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons. Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven. Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds: that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man."
O.K., Paul discussed briefly the social duties of six classes of church members. As a quickie analysis, look at the action words, or verbs, Paul says: "wives submit." "Husbands, love your wives." "Children, obey..." "Fathers, provoke not..." "Servants, obey...your masters." "Masters, give..." (v.1), "Masters... continue in prayer" (v.2), "Masters... walk in wisdom" (v.5). I think you can see this is a. continuation of Paul's fundamental principle: "seek those things which are above" statement (3:1). Many observations could be made about each of these, I suppose. For example, Paul said wives are to submit "unto your own husbands." Not somebody else's husband. And some husbands need this little piece of advice also. Question: must a wife submit to any and every wicked thing a husband MIGHT demand of her? Notice that Paul qualified this with "as it is fit in the Lord." It is possible, you see, some wives might be demanded by their husbands to submit to things that are not fit in the Lord. So, here is an exception. Thus, wives have a responsibility to do what is right, not just do anything and everything that might be demanded of them. Every person, husbands or fathers (this could be the same person) and even children must apply Christian principles and biblical rules to their own social and family duties.
Something else you might notice that seems a little ironic to us is that slavery is not condemned in the Bible. I do not believe it is sanctioned or encouraged either. However, the Holy Spirit here deals with it as a fact of life. That's the way it was.
Something like one-third of the Roman empire fit under this social cast or citizen status of being a slave. It was a fact of life in the Roman empire. Thus, Christians were to deal with it as such. Neither slaves nor slavemasters were excluded from being Christians. With God "there is no respect of persons" (v.25). When you are baptized into Christ and "put on the new man" (3:10) there is no rank... "neither bond nor free" (3:11). To me, there is a great lesson in this: one must do the best he can, whereever he is and whatever his lot in life. The duties of a wife, or a. husband, or a slave may demand different training, different skills, a particular self-discipline or a higher level of patience than another, one may have to sacrifice a little more in one realm or another; but, Christian duties and Christian standards can be applied to all in the same way. "Ye serve the Lord Christ" (v.24). We are not robots. Slaves are to perform their service, whatever their masters require "as to the Lord, and not unto men..." (v.23). For those who adopt this outlook, I personally believe they will be much, much happier, even in this life. Slave masters are to treat their slaves "just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven," i.e. the Lord Jesus Christ. And even though slavery has been abolished, these same principles apply to employee and employer relations in our day. You see, we know how to treat our fellow man, it's just common sense. Do you remember what Jesus said about this back in Matt. 7:9-12? You might want to re-read that. Slave masters undoubtedly had more opportunity; thus, they have more responsibility. You might notice, Paul devoted six verses of instruction to slave masters. Again, there's great a lesson in this for us. For whatever it's worth I'm going to throw in a little of my philosophy here: I am inclined to think that slavery (like a lot of other ills in our society) gradually disappears and melts away when Christian principles are scrupulously applied. We bring these things upon ourselves as a society when we depart from Christian principles. They don't suddenly appear and they don't suddenly go away. Some problems are a build-up of several generations of greed, lust and selfish ambition. Therefore, biblical instruction deals with and can be applied to whatever the situation may be in your generation and in your community. It's a matter of every individual child of God applying these principles to himself, "knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance... he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong that he hath done..." (v.24-25). It always comes back to the personal level.
O.K. let's read some more. We've got one dozen more verses in the book of Colossians, let's read it. Are you ready? At this point in his letter, Paul dropped the doctrinal theme and began what we might call, final greetings. He is ready to close the letter. Here is his final comments:
"All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you, who is a beloved brother, and a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord: whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that he might know your estate, and comfort your hearts; with Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They shall make known unto you all things which are done here. Aristarchus my fellow prisoner saluteth you, and Mark, sister's son to Barnabas, (touching whom ye received commandments: if he come unto you, receive him) and Jesus, which is called Justus, who are of the circumcision. These only are my fellow workers unto the kingdom of God, which have been a comfort unto me. Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis. Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you. Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house. And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea. And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it. The salutation by the hand of me Paul. Remember my bonds. Grace be with you. Amen."
Alright, we mentioned Tychicus back in our introduction. He apparently delivered this epistle (or letter) to Colossae. We said probably on the same trip in which Tychicus (the same man) delivered the Ephesian letter also (we concluded this from Eph. 6:21-22). The man Onesimus that Paul commended in v.9 was a slave belonging to one of the church members at Colossae. His slavemasters was Philemon. This slave, Onesimus, was from Colossae, he had deserted Philemon; but, now he was a Christian apparently through Paul's influence and now he was returning to his slave master. Onesimus apparently traveled back to Colossae with Tychicus. We'll get back to this in the book of Philemon. In addition to Paul's letter to the Colossian church, Paul expected Tychicus and Onesimus to explain to the Colossian brethren about Paul's prison life and the circumstances of the apostle at Rome. Tychicus was given this same assignment, you'll remember, with respect to the Ephesian church (this is recorded in Eph. 6:22). The man, Aristarchus that Paul mentioned (here in v.10) was from Thessalonica (we learn this in Acts 20:4 and Acts 27:2). We don't know much about him; although, he had traveled a lot with Paul and we find here he is still with Paul at the time of this writing. He was one of Paul's helpers that got caught up in the riot at Ephesus nearly a. decade before, if you remember (Acts 19:29). Aristarchus traveled with Paul and helped deliver the offering from the Gentile churches to the Jewish nation at the time Paul was first arrested in Jerusalem (if you connect up Acts 20:4 and Acts 24:17). Two years later, after Paul's arrest in Jerusalem, he was with Paul when Paul appealed to Caesar and when Paul was transferred from Caesarea to Rome and apparently Aristarchus went through that winter ship wreck and all of that (I'm deducting this from Acts 27:2). Here in Col. 4:10, Aristarchus is referred to as Paul's fellow prisoner. In the letter to Philemon, apparently written at the same time, Paul referred to Aristarchus as "my fellow laborer." It's not clear to me whether this man was a Roman prisoner (as v.10 might imply) or whether he was such a close associate and servant of Paul that he stayed with Paul to the point that Paul simply, in a figurative way, may have referred to him as a prisoner also. He might be an example of some persons with lesser talents for public service, yet they serve Christ very effectively by simply assisting and aiding other soldiers of the cross. I suppose it's even possible he was arrested with Paul and imprisoned with Paul; but, I tend to discount this on the basis that it is not verified any place in the scriptures to my knowledge. The man "Justus" mentioned in v.11 possibly could have been the same one (from Corinth) whose house joined hard to the synagogue...(do you remember Acts 18:7?)...in whose house the church at Corinth started holding services when the congregation first began. It would not likely be the "Justus" mentioned in Acts (1:23). Epaphras (mentioned in v.12) we have already covered...he was apparently a prisoner in Rome. We don't know why. He was apparently from Colossae, Paul said: he "is one of you." He had been very active in initially teaching Christians at Colossae as well an in Laodicea and Hierabpolis, towns near by Colossae. Luke (in v.14) is undoubtedly the same man that wrote the book of Luke and the book of Acts. He was there in
Rome with Paul (we learn here) and this is just about the time Luke wrote the book of Acts... judging from where he ended that book (in Acts ch. 28). Luke and Timothy seemed to stay very close to Paul. Demas (v.14), we know nothing about except that he later forsook Paul (II Tim. 4:10). The sister congregation at Laodicea met in the house of a man named Nymphas we learn (in v.15). In the next verse, Paul instructed the two congregations to exchange letters, i.e. so that BOTH would be instructed by Paul's teaching. The Laodicean letter, we don't have. Thus, I would assume everything in that Laodicean letter relative to us is now duplicated someplace else in the scriptures we do have. It seems that the biggest portion of the N.T. was written about that time. I believe the church at that time was being phased over from the prophet directed church to what we might call the written New Testament directed church under the influence of the Holy Spirit of course. If you remember our study in Matt. ch. 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21 and the things Jesus said to Peter, Andrew, James and John on that Mt Olivet hillside across from the temple (Tuesday evening) the same week Jesus died on cross; I think there may be an association here in timing as prophesied by Jesus. I'll let you do the grinding on that. The man, Archippus, mentioned in v.17, was apparently a preacher or minister at Colossae. Perhaps he was once the helper of Epaphras and was now filling the leadership role in which Epaphras had served before. These would be interesting details; but, we simply don't know all these little factors. That personality of the Godhead, called the Holy Spirit, gave us what we need to know without burdening us with superfluous details.
In the moments we have left, we'll bring our study of Colossians to a close. In our next lesson we will move on to the book of Philemon. However, may I encourage you to take a moment at the close of this lesson, close your eyes and do a sort of mental summary, if you will. There was a camp of the saints, the church of Christ at Colossae, located about 100 miles east of Ephesus in the Lycus valley at the time of Paul. A busy Roman highway passed through that region and there were a couple other congregations near by: Hierapolis and Laodicea. The Colossian congregation regularly assembled each week in the home of a man named Philemon. You might think of Archippus as a preacher. There was pressure on these Christians (as there is today) to conform to the thinking of their peers and to keep the traditons of the community. There was angel worship, others promoted the old law with it sabbath days and new moons (2:16) and urged the observance of the O.T. dietary laws. Philosophy, ideology, cultural customs and pagan religions vied for attention, respect and participation. Like today, some were trying to serve Christ and support everything else too. Draw your own picture! Then, one day Tychicus arrived with this letter. It also contained some thoughts from their beloved Epaphras, who had faithfully labored with them in times past. Onesimus had been baptized into Christ and was now a Christian brother. If you are good at visualizing; you might try to visualize their Sunday assembly. As they gathered, there was Philemon, Apphia, Archippus, Onesimus, Tychicus and others with a lot of hand shaking (or that holy kiss greeting, however they did it). Archippus or Tychicus undoubtedly read Paul's letter, that day, there may have been a few tears for the bonds of Paul and Epaphras. They must have prayed about it. And, Paul's letter must have chastised some members pretty heavy. I visualize a strong spiritual uplift in that congregation that day. Try to get a good mental picture of this AND have a good day.