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Begin with Your Mini-Cosmos

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Every household has house rules. Codes of behavior for the household. We have a sign on our wall that reads
Keep your promises
Think of others before yourself
Say I love you
Listen to your parents
Say Please and Thank You
Always Tell the Truth
Laugh at Yourself
Hug Often
Use Kind Words
Love Each Other
And, you know, that’s pretty good, for something found in the clearance bin at
Hobby Lobby.
Every household has a code of behavior and order. Some are stated; many are un-
stated. But everyone has them. The only question is who or what is the standard for those codes.
Today we turn our attention toward HOME.
There are three reasons:
- The household, as we will see, is the basic building block of civilization.
- And our civilization needs rebuilding. It is either Christ or chaos, and we are
dissolving into the goo of chaos.
- And thus, if WE want to join God’s rebuilding project, WE must have some-
thing to contribute.
If we want to rebuild this civilization, we must start with reforming our own house- holds.
Now, when everything is in flux, of course we must NOT just go with the chaotic flow. But we must also not determine our game plan according to what we are AGAINST. What is needed most, when everything is in flux, is to GROUND ourselves in the Word of God.
So this morning I’m going to explain one of the New Testament’s most straightfor- ward passages on how we are to order our households, from the end of Colossians 3. Then I’m going to drill down more deeply on TWO points.

The point today is this: if you want to rebuild civilization, start by reforming your own house, according to the biblical blueprint.


1. The Passage:

Colossians 3:18-4:1

Again, I’m going to first simply explain this passage, without much to say about our current cultural conflicts. And then I’ll circle back on two important issues.
The passage must first be understood in its larger context.
The big point of Colossians is that Christ is risen, and ascended, and he is PREEMI- NENT, over all things. He is SUPREME, period. And God is uniting ALL things into Him.
(Col. 1:15-17
Colossians 1:15–17 ESV
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
And this uniting all things is following a process. He begins first with the church (Col. 1:18
Colossians 1:18 ESV
And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.
And once he is done bringing in all his elect, He will unite ALL things to Himself (
Colossians 1:19 ESV
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,
And so we who are in Christ are already united to Him, by faith, by the Spirit. And therefore we are ALREADY seated WITH HIM in the heavenly places.
So then, in chapter 3, Paul is basically saying, so act like that. Act like one who has already been raised with Christ. BE WHO YOU ALREADY ARE.
Individually -
Colossians 3:1–3 ESV
If then you have been raised with Christ, 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.
So then, put everything that is NOT the new you, BACK into the grave that you
were raised out of. That’s Col. 3:5-11
Colossians 3:5–11 ESV
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
And then wear your new suit, v
Colossians 3:12–17 ESV
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 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. 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.
Be who you are, to each other: (
Colossians 3:12–14 ESV
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
And then, Paul says in v. 18 - 4:1, do the same thing with your household. Order your household according to Christ. Let the cross and the resurrection give SHAPE to your household. What does this look like? Here is household code, for those who are IN CHRIST:
Paul begins first with WIVES in v. 18
Colossians 3:18 ESV
Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
And he starts with WIVES for a very important reason. A crucial reason, that I trust will be made clear as we go along. But first the first household code in Christ: wives are to SUBMIT to their husbands. Not to ALL men. Only their husband.
The word submit has a military background to it. It means an overall ATTITUDE that places oneself under the rank and authority of another.
And Paul adds, this is FITTING, for wives who are IN the Lord. When, chapter 3, v. 1,
Colossians 3:1–2 ESV
If then you have been raised with Christ, 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.
they set their minds on things above, they find it fitting to then place themselves UNDER their husbands. We will consider this further in a moment.
But Paul balances this with commands to husbands, v.
Colossians 3:19 ESV
Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.
, to LOVE their wives. At the same time, husbands must not be harsh with them. Husbands are never to use their strength and authority to deal harshly or run roughshod over their wives. Instead, when he sets his mind on things above, he finds something there that moves him to LOVE her, GLADLY, and sacrificially.
She should be able to say that his general attitude toward her is glad, sacrificial LOVE.
Then on to children, v. 20
Colossians 3:20 ESV
Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
: you kids, God commands you to OBEY your parents. When? In EVERYTHING, Paul says. Everything.
The only exception is if your parents ask you to sin. Otherwise, God’s commands you to obey them in EVERYTHING.
And for this one, a reason is given - this PLEASES the Lord. When you obey your parents, God is literally pleased. God literally gets MORE happy when you do.
Now, again Paul balances his command to those who are UNDER authority, with one to those who are IN authority - Fathers
Colossians 3:21 ESV
Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.
, just because you’re in charge, doesn’t mean you get to do whatever you want. You don’t OWN your kids. They’re God’s. And the goal is for them to do things that, as we just said, PLEASE GOD. So don’t discour- age them, v. 21, by provoking them, with constant criticism, or biting sarcasm, or any- thing like that. You should be FOR them. You should look at them with the eyes of faith, seeing the 25-year-old version of them, that God can grow them into, and there- fore have a faith-filled OPTIMISM about them.
And then lastly, Paul’s attention goes to the economic activity of the home. Every home, up until the 1800’s, was a center of economic industry. Everybody WORKED. Everybody contributed. And slavery was very much a part of that. And in Roman cul- ture, slavery was indeed slavery, but it often looked more like your job than the race- based slavery of the American south.
So then, bondservants, slaves, v. 22
Colossians 3:22 ESV
Bondservants, 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.
- OBEY - there’s that word again - OBEY your masters, with sincerity of heart. Why? Because, v. 23,
Colossians 3:23–24 ESV
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.
the Lord will reward you. You mean, for getting another bucket of water for my master? Yes! You will receive an in- heritance from your Lord, never mind your master, v. 24. And, v. 25, for any way that your master does you wrong, it WILL be justly dealt with, when the Man comes around.
So then, for one last time, Paul balances his commands, to those IN authority, 4, v. 1:
Colossians 4:1 ESV
Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.
masters, treats your slaves justly and fairly, knowing what I just told them - YOU have a Master, too, and you best submit to Him, in how you treat your servants.
So that’s the household code of the kingdom. There is authority, and there is sub- mission. There are roles, and they are different. Everyone is not the same. There is a prescribed ORDER, prescribed by God himself.
Now, what I want to do next is to drill down into the questions that I know you have. And then lastly, I want to ask WHY - why THIS order?

2. Submission and Authority

Now, how oh how did I know that you have questions about the s-word - submission? Again, the word means an attitude of placing oneself under another, in terms of
rank and authority.
Now, you might say, before we go any further, isn’t this a culturally-conditioned
command? In other words, haven’t we progressed beyond this? Isn’t this something for a more patriarchal time than ours?
Well, let me challenge you to answer that question with this presupposition: that is Christians are NOT conservatives or progressives, according to the world’s definitions of those words. But we ARE BOTH conservative AND progressive. A Christian is some- one who wants to conserve ALL that GOD wants to conserve, AND we want to PROGRESS towards all that GOD says we should progress towards.
And we know what those things are, by looking to the Bible, not our brief season of history, or our own intuition. And so when we look at this passage, Col. 3:18
Colossians 3:18 ESV
Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
what we immediately see is that Paul gives no cultural or historical contingencies to this command. It is, in fact, timeless.
He doesn’t say, a wife’s submission to her husband is fitting in patriarchal societies. He doesn’t say it is fitting up until the point of the Industrial Revolution and the inven- tion of mass-produced feminine hygiene products and when the boys come home from the war. He says, it is fitting “in the Lord.”
Every wife that has ever been a Christian, there is something about being in Christ that makes it FITTING for you to submit to your husband. Even, as the traditional wed- ding vows put it, to OBEY him.
That word “obey” is NOT in the husband’s vow, but it IS in yours.
Now, that word OBEY brings up another question. That is, really? Obey?
And my answer to that is YES, definitely. But in a good marriage, obedience
should rarely be the FORM that submission takes. All obedience IS submission, but not all submission is obedience. Nor should MOST of submission be obedience.
Not that our marriage is perfect, and not that we have it all figured out, and not that we are not on a trajectory of growth ourselves, but . . . In our 27 years of marriage, I think the number of times Annie has had to OBEY me, I can count on one hand. And in at least one of those occasions, she THANKED me for it.
It was a friendship, that was what we call toxic now - it was draining her soul. So I said, I’m TELLING you, I’m commanding you, I want you to dial back this friendship. I want you to spend less time with her. And Annie thanked me - she sort of needed that command, for permission to back away.
So then, the wife is to submit and obey. And then SHE would then be justified, if she then turned to her husband, and said, OK, then, dear, you are the leader. I’m not sure I know what this submission stuff looks like. Show me how it’s done, dear.
Now, if he turned around and submitted to her, that would go against what Paul is saying here. But that’s not really what the wife is asking. She saying, please show me, up-stream, what submission looks like. And this is why I believe so many women find submission hard to do - because their husbands are not submitting upstream to God themselves. Nor to the president, nor to their own bosses. This does not let either of you off the hook, but it does tell us the problem.
So this is why Paul began with Christians and the church in general, before moving on to the household. Everyone submits to God; EVERYONE is called to OBEY.
Though we are male and female, the Bible also describes us ALL - male and fe- male - as the BRIDE of Christ, who submits to Christ’s headship. That doesn’t mean that men should become effeminate. But it does mean that we all submit to Christ, in obedience, under His glad, sacrificial love, lavished on us.
This is why, I believe, Paul begins the household code with women. Because in the corporate sense of being the Bride of Christ, we must all be feminine, in the sense that we all have our obedience to fulfill. Women submit to husbands, taking their lead from their husbands, who submit in humble obedience to God. Children obey their par- ents, learning from both mom and dad’s respective submission. And servants submit in obedience to their masters, following the example of the whole household, but es- pecially their masters, who submit in obedience to THE Master.
Again, the reason why Paul lists the wife’s part of the household code first is be- cause she is a paradigm for everyone, because EVERYONE in the household is meant to be part of the Bride - feminine - of Christ. This gets after something of the deep magic of femininity - God designed it as a living parable of what ALL of the Bride of Christ should look like, and act like, IN Christ.
I think the biggest problem with feminism is that it has got us to describe feminini- ty using feminISM’s categories and questions. But God’s design for femininity far tran- scends the earthly, mundane concerns of feminism. But we can only see that if we set our minds on things above, where Christ is.
And when we do, we see something marvelous. And this leads me to the second part of this household code that I want to drill down on. That is, WHY?

3. A Mini-Cosmos

Why THIS code?
Why is it FITTING, for a wife IN the Lord to submit to her husband? What is it that
we see, when we set our minds on things above, that makes sense of all this?
Well, we have already answered this is part. But here is the answer in whole: What we see is that the HOUSEHOLD is meant to be a mini-cosmos. Like a snow globe,
imaging the cosmos, as should be, and WILL, one day be.
This cosmos has a Father - our Father, who art in heaven.
And this Father has a Son, who submits to the Father, gladly, joyfully, sacrificially.
And this Son is going out into the world for two reasons - to kill the dragon, and get the girl. And in order to do that, just as he submits to His Father, so he gladly, joyfully assumes the responsibility for the sins of the girl, that the dragon led her into.
And so he sacrifices himself FOR her, on her behalf. And in doing so, he cleanses her, with the washing of water with the Word, Eph. 5:26 He cleanses her, and he brings her to himself. And this girl, His Bride, she submits to Him in everything, but she’s drawn to do this by LOVE, by His gladly assuming the responsibility of sacrificing himself for her.
Ephesians 5:26 ESV
that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,
He loves her; she submits to Him. BOTH in joy. BOTH gladly.
And as she submits to him, she does what he says, which is to go and disciple the nations, teaching them also to DO ALL that the Son commands them to do - Matt. 28:20
Matthew 28:20 ESV
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
. And so when she does this, they have offspring. Every one of the kids are differ-
ent - every nation is different from the next - but they all learn from the mother AND their father - how to submit to and obey THE Father.
The household - YOUR household, Christian, is meant to be mini-cosmos - a snow globe - of a renewed cosmos, where all things are united together IN Christ, where His glory covers the cosmos, as the waters cover the sea.
Truly - your family, your household has nothing LESS than THAT transcendent pur- pose. Embrace that purpose, by fulfilling YOUR role, in this household code. Own it, and thus fulfill your purpose.
Now, you may have other questions. Single-person households, or further ques- tions about submission. I’m happy to come to your small group or talk one-on-one to continue the conversation.
But to all of us, God is saying, this is not easy - I know that. It wasn’t easy for first- century Christians either - that’s why, God says, i had Paul write this to THEM. THEIR wives found it hard to submit; THEIR husbands found it hard to gladly assume sacrifi- cial responsibility; THEIR children found it hard to obey their parents; THEIR employ- ees tended to resent their bosses; and THEIR bosses tended to take advantage of their employees.
In fact, they were just like you, their eyes tending to be fixed only down here, quick to forget what was true already about them, in the heavenly places. We’re not so dif- ferent, across the centuries.
But are you willing to go with me on this?, God asks. That’s what I asked the Colos- sians; that’s what I ask you.
Because every piece of this household code is fitting, IN the LORD. Because when someone becomes IN the Lord, they are changed, forever. Jesus said the only sign that would be given to his generation was the sign of Jonah.
Jonah, who was three days and three nights IN the whale. When the whale vomit- ed him on the beach, with onlookers peering at him, I believe, he was resurrected from the dead.
That’ll change a man. And so, out that experience - skin bleached from the acids of the whale, and so was his soul - cleansed and made new - he OBEYED God, and went to Nineveh, and the nation repented.
In the same way Jesus was three days and three nights in the belly of the earth, and he was raised from the dead, in a new and glorified body, changed forever
Now WE who trust in Jesus are UNITED to him, in his experience, by the Spirit. Thus we are IN the Lord . . . And we too are cleansed, and raised from the dead. Bought and purchased, brought to Jesus, as a beautified Bride. No longer our own, but united, in a one-flesh union, as if in marriage, to Him.
Thus we have come to HIS house, with HIS household codes. No longer walking in the way of our sin, or our intuitions, or the philosophies of this age. But in OBEDI- ENCE, to Him.
The key that unlocks this obedience is HOPE. For this Jesus, our husband, lavishly REWARDS all those who joyfully, humbly obey him. Each of these household codes come with promises of BLESSING and REWARD. The Lord Jesus SEES every moment of your obedience, and he counts them all up.
And, 1 Peter 1:7 , when he returns, he will reward EVERY last one of them. So Let’s pray now - for grace to trust and hope IN him.
1 Peter 1:7 ESV
so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
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