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Col. 3:22-4:1

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The good news of a Christ who came to set us free is seldom far from Paul’s mind as he writes his Colossian letter.
At the start he had explained that ‘deliverance for the captive’ was an essential part of the meaning and experience of forgiveness (1:13, 14).
And as we know, it was because the visitors had taken hold of this exciting concept of spiritual freedom, and
presented it in an exaggerated (and therefore even more exciting) and potentially harmful way,
that the apostle was alert to protect the gospel from misunderstanding and
the Colossian Christians from misguided action in the pursuit of a fuller ‘liberty’.
You cannot preach freedom from the old inequalities as Paul did
(e.g. ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus’),
without being asked how in practice this works out in a society where these inequalities continue unchanged.
In other words: in the church how are we one while the world remains divided.
If it seemed necessary to say a word to Christian wives and husbands lest their newfound ‘freedom in Christ’
drive a wedge between them, and between them and their neighbors (thereby discrediting the notion of spiritual liberty),
how much more urgent to say something to slaves and masters!
It must have been bewildering at times for both sides, and threatening too,
not only for those within the little Christian communities,
but also for those who anxiously looked on, deeply disturbed at
what seemed likely to overthrow the stability of their social order.
But these new radical principles were actually going to bring true stability.
Lucas, R. C. (1980). Fullness & freedom: the message of Colossians & Philemon (pp. 165–166). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
So let’s continue to see how God brings stability between masters and slaves starting in v22.
"Slaves, obey your human masters in everything. Don’t work only while being watched, as people-pleasers, but work wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord.” ()
So the gospel arrives at a house.
This house is made up of wives, husbands, children (older children would have their spouses with them, as well as house slaves).
Lucas, R. C. (1980). Fullness & freedom: the message of Colossians & Philemon (p. 165). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
That was the typical household at this time.
Let me just give you a few lines of thought on this verse.
First, it brings dignity to the slave. It is very significant that Paul chooses to address slaves at all,
implying not only that they are assembled with the other Christians of the Colossian church to hear the letter being read
but that they are responsible people who need to choose a certain kind of behavior.
Second, Paul clearly relativizes the status of the slave’s master by repeatedly reminding both slave (vv. 22, 23, 24) and master (4:1)
of the ultimate “master” to whom both are responsible: the Lord Jesus Christ.
Third, Paul never hints that he endorses the institution of slavery.
He tells slaves and masters how they are to conduct themselves within the institution,
but it is a bad misreading of Paul to read into his teaching approval of the institution itself.
But these slaves are to obey, not simply “to catch the eye” of their master for selfish purposes.
Instead of striving to please men, with the ulterior motive of seeking profit for themselves, they should “wholeheartedly” (“with singleness of heart,”)
that is, with an undivided mind, hence, with sincerity and uprightness (cf. ),
render service to their earthly masters, and in so doing show reverence for their Lord.
But v22 ends with a key phrase, “fearing the Lord”.
Submission to the household master over fear of what he may do to you is one thing.
This is bring a forced and slavish submission.
No submission is acceptable to God but that which is performed through a a true Father to son, or Father to daughter fear of the Lord.
A true fear of God makes us respect more what God requires and commands than what our corrupt heart desires and suggests.
It subdues our unruly desires, and brings them within the compass of duty.
It makes us deny ourselves and our own desires, and, though through the
corruption of our nature and
inborn pride
we have a hatred towards submission
yet God’s fear will bring down that proud mind and make us humble and gentle.
It will keep those who are in authority from tyranny, cruelty, and too much severity,
and it will keep those who are under subjection from giving half-truths, deceit, and conspiracies.
So ‘fearing the Lord’ shows that we have respect to God, and labor above all to approve ourselves to Him.
Thus David is commanded to rule “in the fear of God” ().
"The God of Israel spoke; the Rock of Israel said to me, “The one who rules the people with justice, who rules in the fear of God,” ()
Other magistrates are to perform their duty “in the fear of the LORD” (),
"He commanded them, saying, “In the fear of the Lord, with integrity, and wholeheartedly, you are to do the following:” ()
which Nehemiah, that good governor, was careful to do ().
"The governors who preceded me had heavily burdened the people, taking from them food and wine as well as a pound of silver. Their subordinates also oppressed the people, but because of the fear of God, I didn’t do this.” ()
Subjects are likewise to obey in the fear of the Lord, which Peter implies by adding this precept, “Fear God,” before, “Honor the emperor” ().
"Honor everyone. Love the brothers and sisters. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” ()
It is as if he had said that by honoring the king, you may manifest your fear of God.
Servants likewise are commanded to be obedient to their masters with this provision, fearing the Lord ().
Such phrases as these,
“for the Lord’s sake,”
“as unto the Lord,”
“in the Lord,”
“as servants of Christ,” etc.,
when describing the duties of subordinates, imply a healthy fear of God (; ; ; , ).
v23"Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people,
In spirit, people cease to be slaves as soon as they begin to work for the Lord, and no longer in the first place for men.
This was, accordingly, the most helpful advice anyone could ever have given a slave.
The slave now was given an eternal purpose!
Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Colossians and Philemon (Vol. 6, p. 174). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
Think of all the summary accounts recorded in make it clear
that the notable saints mentioned all gained their power to act meaningfully in the present precisely from their orientation toward the future.
The biblical principle is that it is only the long term that can fuse short-term purposes and goals into a meaningful overall pattern.
God is the Alpha and Omega, and His Son, Jesus Christ, is the One who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Thus all purposes take on ultimate meaning only in relationship to Him.
Apart from Him, they are simply isolated short-term objectives
which randomly come and go without any necessary connection and, thus, no ultimate purpose.
Indeed, if there is no ultimacy of purpose in one’s daily activities, there is no purpose at all.
It is only to such ultimacy that Paul could appeal in encouraging slaves to do their work well:
“from the Lord you will receive the reward … It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” ().
The Scriptural understanding of this helps us to point disillusioned, disheartened wives, husbands, and children to this eternal reality!
Also by means of his wholehearted cooperation with his master,
Also by means of his wholehearted cooperation with his master,
rendering obedience to him in every way, and doing this while his master was
fully aware of the fact that the service was being rendered by a Christian, the slave was promoting the cause and honor of his Lord.
The master would begin to think, “If the Christian religion does this for slaves, it must be wonderful.”
Paul continues, v24"knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ.
Even though from his earthly master the slave may receive far less than he should, yet
from his heavenly Lord he will receive the full amount which by God’s grace has been allotted to him.
Though salvation is entirely “by grace” and definitely not “of works” (, ; ),
yet this gracious recompense of eternal life will be given “according to works”.
This is where some people misunderstand.
Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Colossians and Philemon (Vol. 6, p. 174). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
v24"knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ.
What we’ve done here is going to go with us there, to the other side.
"and faithful love belongs to you, Lord. For you repay each according to his works.” ()
"For God will bring every act to judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil.” ()
"The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable—who can understand it? "I, the Lord, examine the mind, I test the heart to give to each according to his way, according to what his actions deserve.” ()
"For many nations and great kings will enslave them, and I will repay them according to their deeds and the work of their hands.’ ”” ()
"For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will reward each according to what he has done.” ()
"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may be repaid for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” ()
"Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a person sows he will also reap,” ()
"Then I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so they will rest from their labors, since their works follow them.”” ()
"“Look, I am coming soon, and my reward is with me to repay each person according to his work. "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” ()
What are the works specified in Colossians?
Killing sin (3:5).
That Christ is your all! (3:11)
The practice of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, forgiveness, loving one another and preserving unity.
Thankfulness.
Wives submitting.
Husbands loving.
Children obeying!
Fathers shepherding!
Remember then: "For God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you demonstrated for his name by serving the saints—and by continuing to serve them.” () Whatever others might do, he won’t exploit you. There will be recognition, appreciation and greater rewards than these.
"For God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you demonstrated for his name by serving the saints—and by continuing to serve them.” ()
It also has to be said that harsh slave-owners and unfair employers will also receive an appropriate reward.
They will not get away with it.
"For the wrongdoer will be paid back for whatever wrong he has done, and there is no favoritism.” ()
There’s no favoritism with God.
Christian slaves must have drawn much comfort from the stories of Joseph and Daniel.
Arthur, J. P. (2007). Christ All-Sufficient: Colossians and Philemon Simply Explained (p. 187). Darlington, England: Evangelical Press.
It is possible to serve God when you have no freedom of maneuver and you are trapped in unpleasant surroundings.
Your circumstances may not have been what you would have chosen, but Jesus knows, and he won’t forget.
"Masters, deal with your slaves justly and fairly, since you know that you too have a Master in heaven.” ()
There was at least one Christian slave-owner in Colosse, a man named Philemon.
If you read the short letter that Paul wrote to him, you will discover that a runaway slave of his, named Onesimus, had been converted.
Philemon was now going to have to think of his slave in a new way.
While the two men were at opposite ends of the social spectrum,
the fact that both had put their trust in Christ for salvation meant that they were spiritual equals.
Within the church, if not in society or in the home, the old distinctions were now meaningless.
There is a message here for all those who have responsibility for people who are lower in the hierarchy.
“you too have a Master in heaven.”
This ought to serve as a reminder that no one reaches a point so high up the tree that he ceases to be accountable.
‘He who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done’ (3:25).
Philemon in Colosse needed to grasp that all Christians are servants.
However elevated our income or status, we are as much servants of Jesus as the person on the lowest rung of the ladder.
Our role model is one who took ‘the form of a bondservant’ ().
He himself is a good master and those in authority must strive to be like Him.

There is a message here for all those who have responsibility for people who are lower in the hierarchy.

Arthur, J. P. (2007). Christ All-Sufficient: Colossians and Philemon Simply Explained (p. 188). Darlington, England: Evangelical Press.
Arthur, J. P. (2007). Christ All-Sufficient: Colossians and Philemon Simply Explained (p. 188). Darlington, England: Evangelical Press.
Gouge, W. (2013). Building a Godly Home: A Holy Vision for Family Life. (S. Brown & J. R. Beeke, Eds.) (Vol. 1, p. 13). Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books.
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