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Colossians 3:18-19 - Biblical Marriage

Colossians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  36:41
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According to most available statistics, around 50% of marriages end in divorce. And if you look at the top two reasons for divorce, they usually vacillate between infidelity and finances.
But I want us to realize that these two reasons for divorce are much deeper than we give them credit. The primary reason for divorce is due to the low view that we have regarding marriage . We are raised on movie after movie that portrays a couple living happily ever after. Pew Research has shown that 88% of Americans get married because of love. This sounds like a wonderful reason to get married. And all marriages should be marked by love. However, the biggest problem in our marriages from a Biblical worldview is that most people get married because they love themselves and they love how their future spouse makes them feel. How many times do you hear people say - he makes feel this way or she makes me feel this way. That is called self love.
I think we can all see the error of extreme self-love and how destructive that will be over years or even months of marriage. Because eventually, he or she is going to make you feel angry or upset or frustrated. And what do you do then when the idol of self is not happy?
Yet, I bring up an even more difficult circumstance. Even in more solid premarital relationships, there is still often a problem. And this problem is that there is a focus on the other person more than God. There is a love for the future spouse more than Christ and it’s an illusive form of idolatry.
Of course we should love our spouse. We will get into that later today as well. However, the primary reason that we are to marry is to glorify God. I guarantee 99% of couples will not list that as their reason for marrying. It is not very common to hear a young couple say they are getting married so that they can glorify God and raise godly children who go forth and make disciples. Yet this is the exact reasoning we are given in Scripture for marriage.
Malachi 2:15–16 ESV
Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”
We see here that God loves marriage and hates divorce. And His reasoning is because He desires godly offspring and desires the covenant of marriage to remain unbroken. God is a God who keeps His promises and His people are to follow Him in this.
I understand that this is a tough teaching for those of you who may have been divorced. But we also need to know that the Lord forgives our past sins. We need to live in light of the knowledge that He gives us. If you are married or going to be married - make honoring Christ the reason for your marriage. Anything but that is idolatry and will lead to marital struggles and not marital blessing.
It is only if we love Christ first that we are going to be able to love our spouse well. Let’s jump into our Scripture for today:
Join me as we read God’s Word:
Colossians 3:18–19 ESV
Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.
Ephesians 5:32 ESV
This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
Let us pray.
Before diving in further, I want to give a couple of quick disclaimers:
If you are not yet married and plan to be married - this is probably the most applicable to you! It is much more helpful to learn how God intends for us to do marriage before we get married than after we have been floundering at it for a while! Yet God can redeem our times of floundering as well!
If you don’t plan on being married - I am certain that you will have friends and family that are married that will need truth spoken into their lives during hard times in their marriages. We cannot advise based on God’s Word if we don’t know it!
Finally, there is no way I can hit on all of the aspects of a godly marriage in one sermon. Feel free to send any questions you might have by email. Also, if you would like to meet with my wife Lauren and me for marriage counseling to discuss further issues, we would be glad to do so. Biblical marriage and Biblical family is a huge passion for us.
Today we are going to discuss two ways that Christ is glorified through the Biblical union of one man and one women in covenantal marriage. The first is...

I. Christ is Glorified by Godly Wives (Colossians 3:18)

Colossians 3:18 ESV
Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
There is probably not one word in the Bible that has been more misunderstood than the word submit. Because of this misunderstanding, verses like this have been skipped over and ignored by pastors and church members. This has lead to a disease in our marriages. Clear distinctions between husbands and wives have been blurred and men have continued to shirk their responsibility as leaders in the home and women have began to dominate their husbands.
Yet as we come to this verse we are given a huge command here for wives. Wives, submit to your husbands. Before we get into what that means, I think we need to finish the verse to understand the gravity of this command. Paul goes on to say as is fitting in the Lord. This Greek word for fitting is anēkei (an-ay-ko) which means ‘is proper,’ ‘is fitting,’ or ‘is appropriate.’ In other words, by submitting to your husband, you are doing what is proper unto the Lord. We talked about worship and the many facets of worship a couple of weeks ago. Submitting to your husband is another way that you can worship God. He is glorified by your obedience in being a godly wife.
So what does it mean to submit. Despite what most liberal theologians and liberal pastors preach today, the Greek word for submit here is crystal clear. Hypotassō (hippo-tass-o) means to obey, to be subordinate, to place or arrange under. The prefix -hypo that we see in this Greek word is even used in English to mean under or beneath. Think of such words like hypodermic which means the region just beneath the skin. Now understand that this word does not mean beneath in value or worth. This word is actually used in military vocabulary and means to arrange under rank. The Bible is clear that men and women are equal in standing with God. Galatians 3:28 shows this:
Galatians 3:28 ESV
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
We see here that we all equal in standing before God. Yet, we have different roles, jobs, and responsibilities as husbands and wives. We must understand that equal does not mean same. Our culture today does not understand this at all. They seem to think that equality must mean the same. The ridiculousness of this notion is seen no better than when we see emojis of pregnant men. Any rational person would understand that a man cannot have a baby as he does not have a womb in which to bear a baby! But this doesn’t mean that men are inferior to women because we can’t have babies. We are equal but we have different jobs and different anatomy!
No matter how we try to slice this word ‘submit’ differently we come to the same conclusion. Paul through the inspiration and direction of the Holy Spirit, commands wives to submit to their husbands.
Let’s look at a parallel passage in Ephesians 5 to further understand this as well:
Ephesians 5:22–24 ESV
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
We see Paul go even further to command the wife to submit to their husbands and compares this submission as the church submitting to Christ.
This is an incredibly difficult command. I have heard countless examples of women saying - but you don’t know my husband. If you were married to him you wouldn’t submit to him. He isn’t worthy of submission. He is weak. Or he is dominating. Or he is lazy. Or my favorite quote which is: if my husband was like Jesus it would be a whole lot easier to submit to him! I must admit that last one is true… but I digress!
But these excuses are not godly excuses. Where else in Scripture are we given an out to disobey God because of someone else’s sin? Wives who are mothers - you should understand this as much as anyone. How many times does your child sin against their sibling and you accept the response that their sibling did such and such and that is why they sinned against them. Little Johnny pinched me so I broke his toy. Of course you don’t accept that excuse! You understand that we are called to obedience to Christ no matter what anyone else does.
So practically speaking, what does godly submission to your husband look like?
Before teaching on what Biblical submission of wives is, I think it is important to understand what it is not. This concept of submission has gotten a bad reputation from those inside and outside of the church because of misunderstandings of what submission is.
Most importantly, here is what it doesn’t look like - abuse. Wives are not called to go along with the sins of their husbands. A wife’s first responsibility and allegiance is to Christ. Anything that a husband asks of a wife that is against the Word of God should be actively resisted. The church should support a wife who is resisting the sins of a husband and in cases of overt abuse, the local authorities should be involved as well. If you are ever in an abusive situation, feel free to contact Lauren and me. We will do our best to get the help that you need. There is no place for abuse in the Lord’s church.
I know that is an uncomfortable aside, but it is important to be sure that we do not encourage the women of our church to submit to sin or sinful leaders in such a way that they compromise their Biblical commands.
But how do we practically apply this idea of submission in the husband wife relationship?
Submission practically looks like this:
1. Honoring and respecting your husband (Ephesians 5:33)
2. Understanding the headship of the husband and supporting him in leadership of the family (Genesis 2, 1 Corinthians 11:3, 1 Timothy 3:4, Colossians 3:18)
As an aside - Genesis 2 shows that man was made to be the head of the family and woman was created to be his helper. The Fall in Genesis 3 did not make man the head of the family. It, instead, led to the woman having a desire to rule over her husband and created enmity between the married couple.
And to further clarify this headship and leadership of the husband - this means that a wife respects the final decisions made by the husband. This does not mean that a wife never shares her opinion or takes active discussions involving decisions. A husband should be willing to hear his wife’s opinion on decisions and be willing to talk things through. There should be much dialogue between a husband and a wife. A wife oftentimes sees things that a husband may not see. However, the final big decisions of the home fall on the husband.
Some may balk at this understanding. It sounds so patriarchal. Our culture screams at the sound of that word! Although this word can be used out of context with made up definitions of domination and abuse, the most accurate definition of patriarchy is that families are arranged by male leadership. So the answer of the whether the Bible is patriarchal or not would be yes - it is patriarchal by that definition as it commands male headship of the family. And yes, this is incredibly offensive to the movement of feminism! But it is the Word of God and we must obey it.
This view of marriage is referred to as complementarianism. It is based on Scripture and understands the different roles men and women have in marriage. We are equal but not the same. As we move forward and talk about husbands, we will see how husbands are not to be a dominating selfish force of leadership - instead they are to be humble servant-leaders. Which brings us to our second point...
Scripture References: Malachi 2:15-16; Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 5:22-24, 33; Genesis 2; 1 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Timothy 3:4; Colossians 3:18; Genesis 3

II. Christ is Glorified by Godly Husbands (Colossians 3:19)

Colossians 3:19 ESV
Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.
Thus far, I’m sure the men have been a pretty big fan of this message. Before you get too comfortable, Paul has something to say to you as well.
Love your wives. At first glance, most husbands here might respond - that is easy! Check. I’m good. Thanks for the advice Paul. Appreciate your input. Really appreciated verse 18 about my wife. We are good to go in this thing now!
Yet, a closer look at this word and a closer look at Ephesians 5 also written by Paul shows that this is quite a charge.
Ephesians 5:25 ESV
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,
It is actually a harder charge than submission because this word for love is agape. As we have discussed before, the word agape is a sacrificial love. In this context, it is a self-sacrificial love. It is a sacrificial love and compared to how Christ gave His life for the church.
How does this sacrificial love practically look in marriage?
It is dying to your own wants and desires for your wife. Yes, as we discussed in our first point, it is your job husbands to make the final decision in big decisions in the family life. Yet, as you make this decision, your own wants and desires must fall to the side and your wife and family’s needs must be first priority.
Some practical examples that may help put some flesh on this would be as follows:
It’s Saturday and you really want to go golfing. Yet, your wife and children have really been needing some time with you because of your work schedule that has been busy. But you really want some time with the guys to veg out some. Husband, it is time to sacrifice your own wants and desires for the needs of your family.
I understand that there is a time and a place for rest and hobbies, men. But this should be more of an exception and not the rule. Men today on average do much more playing outside the home than working in the home. Yes, Jesus took time to rest and spend time with His Father - but this was after completing the work that God had given Him to do.
Another example of sacrificial love is - you are looking to purchase a new home. There are two options - one has a very nice kitchen and your wife loves to cook and provide for your family in this way. The other has a man cave that rivals all man caves or the garage of your dreams. I think we know which decision is the sacrificial decision here fellas. We must put the needs of our wife above our own. Not to mention the man cave doesn’t meet the need criteria!
As husbands, God calls us to sacrificially love our wives. We are to look after her interests before our own. I am sad to say there aren’t a ton of men out there doing this. Many men today seem to fall into three common pitfalls although there are others.
Feminine men
Domineering men
Distant men
The first group seems attractive to dominating women. They let the woman make all the decisions. They just do what they are told. Yet when things get hard and the wife really wants help in making a decision, she is all alone and no hero is to be found. If this is you my friend - step up and be the man God created you to be. Your wife might think she likes a husband that lets her run the marriage and home - but deep down inside, she knows it isn’t the way it is supposed to be. Sadly, many divorces occur in this situation. The wife thinks she wants to rule over her husband yet when she does - she loses all respect for him and the relationship is tarnished. Step up and listen to Paul’s admonition in 1 Corinthians 16:13:
1 Corinthians 16:13 ESV
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.
What does it mean to act like a man? See the other three statements said along with this and you’ll find out. Be watchful - protect your wife and family. Stand firm in the faith - be in the Word and lead your family in attending church and in prayer. And be strong. Be strong through the strength of the Lord.
The second group is domineering men. These are men who take their leadership ultra seriously and out of bounds. They think their job is to make their wife submit to them. Yes, wives are commanded to submit to their husbands. But Scripture never commands a husband to force submission. We will address this group of men further in a moment.
The third group is the distant men. These are men who are checked out. They aren’t dominating and they aren’t necessarily feminine. They just aren’t there. They do their thing and ignore the needs of their wife. This is one of the most difficult because they aren’t overtly confrontational and seem to be fairly benign. But the number one need of most women is companionship and communication and these men destroy their wives by their deafening silence. If this is you my friend - repent and engage. We are not called to sit on the sidelines but to play in the game. I am reminded of Paul’s admonition to love in 1 Corinthians 13. The entire chapter is beautiful but listen to Paul’s charge at the end:
1 Corinthians 13:11 ESV
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.
Distant men need to man up and give up childish ways. Be a man and lead and love actively.
Finally we come to the end of verse 19:
Colossians 3:19 ESV
Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.
Do not be harsh with them. This Greek word also means to embitter. We are not make our wives become bitter or be harsh with them.
This can be active harshness as we saw in the second group of dysfunctional men - those who are domineering. These men exert their lower booming voice and physical size and strength to intimidate and get their way. They ignore the Scriptural mandate to be gentle with their wives:
1 Peter 3:7 ESV
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
Men, we are to be kind and gentle to our wives. We should never raise our voices at our wives or make any movements that can be construed as intimidating. It has become abundantly more clear, even to our confused culture today, that the average man is larger and stronger than the average woman.
Just take a look at swimmer Lia Thomas - most accurately William Thomas - and we see that there is a difference when the 462nd ranked male swimmer switched to women’s swimming and even with testosterone blockers won the NCAA Women’s Swimming Title. This very fact has been crushing toward the feminist movement that denied there was a difference between the genders.
Men, we are on average stronger and bigger. And we must treat our wives as the weaker vessel. This means handling them as fine china. We don’t speak to them harshly or ever exert ourselves physically to harm them or intimidate them. We are to be their protector and lover. We are to be the sacrificial servant to them as Christ has been for us.
But I would argue that distant and feminine men are harsh with their wives as well when we look at this Greek word which can mean embitter. Distant and weak men who don’t lead and protect cause their wives to become embittered. I would argue that this weak and/or absent man can do a similar amount of damage to their wife as one who is domineering.
Men - I have a charge for you - step up. Act like men. Be strong. Protect your home. Stand firm in the faith. But be gentle and sacrificial. Be present. And love your wives as Christ loves the church.
Scripture References: Ephesians 5:25, 1 Corinthians 16:13, 1 Corinthians 13:11, 1 Peter 3:7, Ephesians 5:32
As we come to a close I want to give a quote from Gary Thomas regarding marriage:
What if God designed marriage to make you holy instead of happy?
- Gary Thomas
Chew on that quote for a moment as we revisit Paul’s words in his letter to Ephesus:
Ephesians 5:32 ESV
This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
Marriage is not about you first and foremost. Marriage is about bringing God glory. And God uses marriage to bring Himself glory by using this covenantal relationship to sanctify you. Your marriages will never start to improve until you realize that Christ must be the center and focal point of the marriage. Not you our your spouse - but Christ alone needs to be the focal point.
Our marriages must be Gospel centered and based upon the saving work of Jesus Christ who gave His life for us on the cross. Salvation is found in none other than Him. And in order to be the husband or wife that God has called you to be, you must first be born again. If you haven’t put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, please do so today. Put your trust in the Risen Savior and repent of your sins and turn to Him. If you haven’t done that, I’d love to talk with you about how you can do that after the service.
If you are having marital problems, feel free to reach out to Lauren and me. We would love to come alongside you in this difficult journey. The enemy of our souls wants nothing more than to destroy our marriages and families.
Let us pray.
If you would like to learn more about salvation through Jesus Christ or want to obey Jesus by obeying the first commandment of a believer in going through the waters of baptism - please let me know.
Have a blessed week.
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