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Colossians 3:18-4:1 (v19)

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says, “Husbands, love your wives and don’t be bitter toward them.”
Marriage is designed to be a unique display of God’s covenant grace because, unlike all other human relationships,
the husband and wife are bound by covenant into the closest possible relationship for a lifetime.
There are unique roles of headship and submission.
Here I want to consider husband and wife simply as Christians.
Before a man and woman can live out the unique roles of headship and submission in a biblical and gracious way,
they must experience what it means to build their lives on the vertical experience of God’s
forgiveness and
justification and
promised help, and
then bend it out horizontally to their spouse.
So let me throw you a curve ball and see if you can hit it!
Is God’s wrath relevant for marriage? Let me lay a foundation for this truth in Colossians.
We start with 3:6, Because of these, God’s wrath is coming upon the disobedient,
Wow, v7 says we all walked in these things, then v8 we are told to put away some things:
anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth.
If you say, “The last thing I want to hear about in my troubled marriage is the wrath of God,”
you are like a frustrated fisherman on the western coast of Indonesia on December 26, 2004, saying, “The last thing I want to hear about in my troubled fishing business is a tsunami.”
By the way, that tsunami killed 280,000 people.
A profound understanding and fear of God’s wrath is exactly what many marriages need,
because without it, the gospel is diluted down to mere human relations and loses its biblical glory.
Without a biblical view of God’s wrath, you will be tempted to think that your wrath—
your anger—against your spouse is simply too big to overcome, because you have never really tasted
what it is like to see an infinitely greater wrath overcome by grace, namely, God’s wrath against you.
So we begin with the wrath of God and its removal. In , Paul writes one of the most wonderful things imaginable:
And when you were dead in trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he made you alive with him and forgave us all our trespasses. He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it away by nailing it to the cross.
The word “it” in v14 is most crucial. “it” is the certificate of debt that stood against us.
Piper, J. (2009). This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence (pp. 44–45). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
God took it out of the way, nailing it to the cross.
When did that happen? Two thousand years ago.
It did not happen inside of us, and
it did not happen with any help from us.
God did it for us and outside of us before we were ever born.
This is the great objectivity of our salvation.
Be sure you see this most wonderful and astonishing of all truths:
God took the record of all your sins that made you a debtor to wrath
(sins are offenses against God that bring down his wrath), and
instead of holding them up in front of your face and using them as the warrant to send you to hell,
God put them in the palm of his Son’s hand and drove a spike through them into the cross.
It is a bold and graphic statement: He canceled the record of our debt … nailing it to the cross ().
Whose sins were nailed to the cross? Answer: My sins. And Niki’s sins. My wife’s sins and my sins.
The sins of all who despair of saving themselves and who trust in Christ alone.
Whose hands were nailed to the cross? Jesus’ were.
There is a beautiful name for this. It’s called a substitution.
God condemned my sin in Christ’s flesh. “sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh as a sin offering” ().
Husbands and wives cannot believe this too strongly.
It is essential to our fulfilling the design of marriage.
So let’s come and stare at our text for a moment.
Piper, J. (2009). This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence (p. 45). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
Husbands, love your wives and don’t be bitter toward them.
Here’s an amazing fact when Paul wrote these words:
Requiring wives to submit to husbands, was the widespread Greek and Jewish teaching about marriage.
Requiring husbands to love their wives does not.
No reader would have paused at v18. But they would have stopped and had to read again v19.
Secular culture at this time understood effective household management, because they new the household was a key building block of society and of the state.
So they focused a lot on heads of the households and what he should do to maintain order and appropriate behavior in his household.
And in those days, referring to a husband’s love for his wife would not have fit in their purposes.
The word “love” is the agape love we speak of.
God so loved the word
It’s the love that God has for the Son.
Moo, D. J. (2008). The letters to the Colossians and to Philemon (p. 302). Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co.
We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:28,37)
So now a distinctly Christian word is introduced into the family unit.
And just as Christ our Head introduces it into those under Him.
So to, the husband as head of his home, introduces it to those under his care.
He’s introducing the kind of sacrificial, self-giving love whose model is Christ Himself.
The only time that this word is used in Colossians is 3:12 where it speaks of God’s love for us, His people.
As the people loved by God, Paul urges us to “put on love” (3:14).
Now Paul applies this requirement to husbands specifically.
But why are only husbands urged to love their wives?
The pattern of requiring submission of the wife and love of the husband is consistent in the New Testament
(see also ; in , wives are urged to “submit” and husbands to live considerately with their wives and honor them).
wives are urged to “submit” and husbands to live considerately with their wives and honor them).
Think of the particular susceptibilities of each partner in the relationship:
wives may be tempted to chafe under the “headship” of their husbands; and
husbands are prone to abuse their leadership role.
Whatever the explanation, the command that husbands love their wives introduces
a somewhat revolutionary note of exchange and mutuality that is a hallmark of every Christian household.
Then moving from the positive command of loving our wives, to the negative.
“don’t be bitter toward them.”
The root word of the Greek word refers to rulership that is domineering and harsh.
Paul is urging husbands not to act with a heart of bitterness toward their wives.
The leadership that husbands rightly exhibit in marriage is not to be carried out harshly or selfishly, but lovingly.
So what is bitterness and how does a person become bitter?
Moo, D. J. (2008). The letters to the Colossians and to Philemon (p. 304). Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co.
We can define bitterness which is the result of responding improperly to a hurt. Take a look at :
Make sure that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no root of bitterness springs up, causing trouble and defiling many.
The Scripture likens bitterness to a root.
Roots have to be planted. So, what’s the seed that sprouts into a root of bitterness when planted? It’s a hurt.
Priolo, L. (1999). The complete husband: a practical guide to biblical husbanding (p. 104). Amityville, NY: Calvary Press.
When someone hurts you it’s as if a seed has been dropped onto the soil of your heart.
The hurt can be real or imagined, it makes no difference: the result is the same.
If you do not deal with it biblically you’ll become bitter.
If I hurt you as a result of my sin, and you choose not to overlook it or cover it in love (; )
you must follow and pursue me with the intent of granting me forgiveness, and I must repent.
If you get your feelings hurt as a result of something that I did which was not a sin,
you must repent of your unbiblical thinking which caused you to be offended at something that was not a sin.
Priolo, L. (1999). The complete husband: a practical guide to biblical husbanding. Amityville, NY: Calvary Press.
You can choose to respond in two ways:
You can either reach down and pluck up the seed by forgiving your offender, or
you can begin to cultivate the seed by reviewing the hurt over and over again in your mind.
Bitterness is the result of dwelling too long on a hurt;
it’s the result of not truly forgiving an offender (cf. ).
So husbands should remove seeds of bitterness by explaining your disappointment to your wife,
forgiving her when she repents, and working with her on a biblical solution to the problem.
Or you can allow the your hurt to paralyze you from taking the appropriate action, replay those offenses over and over again in your mind, and consequently you’ll become embittered against her.
If you’ve done that, you have sinned.
What are the evidences that a husband has become embittered towards his wife?
How many can you personally identify in your own marriage?
Frequent arguments (inability to resolve conflicts)
• Outbursts of anger (raising of the voice, throwing, hitting, etc.)
Outbursts of anger (raising of the voice, throwing, hitting, etc.)
• Withdrawal (giving her the silent treatment or the cold shoulder)
Withdrawal (giving her the silent treatment or the cold shoulder)
Diminished affection and sexual activity
• Diminished affection and sexual activity
• Sarcasm (mocking, ridiculing, mean-spirited joking, etc.)
Sarcasm (mocking, ridiculing, mean-spirited joking, etc.)
• Acts of vengeance (getting even or trying to hurt her back)
Acts of vengeance (getting even or trying to hurt her back)
• Condescending communication (speaking to her as though she were a child or an inferior person)
Condescending communication (speaking to her as though she were a child or an inferior person)
• Criticism (a critical, condemnatory, judgmental attitude)
Criticism (a critical, condemnatory, judgmental attitude)
Suspicion and distrust
• Suspicion and distrust
Hypersensitivity (treating a pin prick as though it were a knife in the heart)
• Hypersensitivity (treating a pin prick as though it were a knife in the heart)
Intolerance (not overlooking little offenses that once went unnoticed)
• Intolerance (not overlooking little offenses that once went unnoticed)
• Impatience
Impatience
• Misuse of authority (domineering, dictatorial, or tyrannical attitudes which require needless exactions of obedience)
Misuse of authority (domineering, dictatorial, or tyrannical attitudes which require needless exactions of obedience)
• Lack of social interaction with others as a couple
Lack of social interaction with others as a couple
• Loss of companionship (the intimacy of the one flesh relationship is damaged and communication becomes superficial)
Loss of companionship (the intimacy of the one flesh relationship is damaged and communication becomes superficial)
• Lack of respect (dishonoring her to her face and in the presence of others)
Lack of respect (dishonoring her to her face and in the presence of others)
Lack of kindness and sympathy
• Lack of kindness and sympathy
Angry children (who have been greatly provoked by their parents)
“I’ve tried to forgive my wife for the hurts she has caused me, but it’s so hard to do—especially when she does the same hurtful things over and over again.”
Perhaps that’s because you’ve never understood what it really means to forgive someone biblically. You may, like so many, have a feelings-oriented view of forgiveness. Notice though, what God’s Word says about forgiveness from
• Angry children (who have been greatly provoked by their parents)
Priolo, L. (1999). The complete husband: a practical guide to biblical husbanding (p. 107). Amityville, NY: Calvary Press.
For I will forgive their wrongdoing, and I will never again remember their sins.
What is forgiveness? Forgiveness is not a feeling. Forgiveness, first and fundamentally, is a promise.
Forgiveness isn’t a feeling. If it were, we would never know that we have been forgiven. No, when God forgives, He goes on record. He says so. He declares, “I will not remember your sins” (; see also ). Isn’t that wonderful? When He forgives, God lets us know that He will no longer hold our sins against us. If forgiveness were merely an emotional experience, we would not know that we were forgiven. But praise God, we do, because forgiveness is a process at the end of which God declares that the matter of sin has been dealt with once for all. Now what is that declaration? What does God do when He goes on record saying that our sins are forgiven? God makes a promise Forgiveness is not a feeling; forgiveness is a promise!
Obviously, when God forgives us, He does not simply sit in the heavens and emote. So forgiveness isn’t a feeling. If it were, we would never know that we have been forgiven. No, when God forgives, He goes on record. He says so. He declares, “I will not remember your sins” (; see also ). Isn’t that wonderful? When He forgives, God lets us know that He will no longer hold our sins against us. If forgiveness were merely an emotional experience, we would not know that we were forgiven. But praise God, we do, because forgiveness is a process at the end of which God declares that the matter of sin has been dealt with once for all. Now what is that declaration? What does God do when He goes on record saying that our sins are forgiven? God makes a promise Forgiveness is not a feeling; forgiveness is a promise!
When you grant forgiveness to someone, you’re making a promise to that person which involves the following three things:
1. You’re promising not to bring up the offense again to the forgiven person in the future. You will not use the offense “against him” in any kind of negative or belittling way.
2. You’re promising not to speak to others about the offense. That is, you will cover the sin in love, not revealing to others that which has been covered.
3. You’re promising not to dwell on the offense yourself. This is perhaps the most important of the three steps involved in forgiveness. By promising not to dwell on the offense, you’re promising that you’ll not “cultivate” the hurt by replaying it over and over again in your mind. Rather than seeing the face of your offender on a dart board ready to receive a dart right between the eyes (or on a golf ball which you intend to drive three hundred yards down the fairway), you will see him/her with the words “I Have Forgiven You” written in big bold letters across his/her face.
“But I still don’t understand how I can forgive until I can forget.”
Forgetting is not the same thing as not remembering. When you forgive, you will not remember your offender’s sins against him, just like God does not remember your sins against you as a forgiven sinner. Does God have amnesia? No, God is omniscient and therefore knew about your sins even before you were born. When the Bible speaks of God “forgetting” our sins, it does not mean that He ceases to be omniscient. God’s forgetting amounts to His not reviewing our sins in His mind and not holding our sins against us. God “remembers” the righteousness of His Son and imputes that righteousness to our account when we place our trust in the merit and mediation of Christ. Similarly, you are required to “impute” your forgiveness to those who ask you to forgive them. Forgiveness is an act of the will, not an act of the emotions. Forgetting is not the means of forgiving, but the result of forgiving. It is the last step, not the first.
“I’ve been hurt so often by my wife, I just can’t forgive her.”
If you’re a Christian, you can and you must. You can’t say “can’t” as a Christian.
No, the Christian will say with Paul, “I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me.” (). When God tells you to do something, you must believe that He will enable you to obey Him. That is, you must believe that He will give you all the resources to do what He has commanded you to do.
Priolo, L. (1999). The complete husband: a practical guide to biblical husbanding (pp. 108–109). Amityville, NY: Calvary Press.
Priolo, L. (1999). The complete husband: a practical guide to biblical husbanding (pp. 107–108). Amityville, NY: Calvary Press.
He promises to give you the wisdom to obey him: “Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God—who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly—and it will be given to him.” ().
He also promises to give you the ability and desire to obey Him: “For it is God who is working in you both to will and to work according to his good purpose.” ()
Priolo, L. (1999). The complete husband: a practical guide to biblical husbanding (pp. 106–107). Amityville, NY: Calvary Press.
Piper, J. (2009). This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence (p. 44). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
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