Sermon Notes: Family Maturity: Colossians 3:18-21

Family Maturity: Colossians 3:18-21

Paul’s stated aim for these Christians is that they all be presented mature in Christ through the proclaiming, warning, and teaching ministry of the church. 

This is also our goal.

We have covered so much in our study, and we are just scratching the surface of Christian maturity. 

Paul has been teaching us how to get to maturity, and now he takes us to the place where this instruction has to be cultivated in order for the whole church to be growing together toward maturity. The home. 

Why? Because the home is how God wired the relational world to work, and from it will come the health of the whole.  

All the way back to Genesis 1-2, the family unit is where maturity grows and spreads OR where life can be dramatically altered for bad and infect everyone negatively. 


Getting home right is the hardest work we’ll do.  

God provides us with some instruction to help us have the fullness he has available for the family and help us get to maturity in the family unit so that the church can be mature. 

The church is only as relationally strong as the bonds of its families and our commitment together to keep those families strong, so Paul gives some instruction to help families get to maturity so the church can get to maturity.

What are the commands the Lord gives us to have a life of fullness leading to maturity? He gives us 5 commands. Three of the commands are positive. Two of the commands are in the negative.

Command 1: Wives, submit to your husbands in a fitting way. 3:18

It is vital to note that Paul addressing women is an elevation to complementary equality. 

For Paul to command wives to submit to husbands is to elevate them to equal status, and this is a seditious affirmation in the world at the time Paul is writing, just like it was for Jesus to have the first witness and preacher of his resurrection be Mary. 

Under Jewish law a woman was a thing; she was the possession of her husband, just as much as his house or his flocks or his material goods were. She had no legal right whatever. For instance, under Jewish law, a husband could divorce his wife for any cause, while a wife had no rights whatever in the initiation of divorce. In Greek society a respectable woman lived a life of entire seclusion. She never appeared on the streets alone, not even to go marketing. She lived in the women’s apartments and did not join her menfolk even for meals. From her there was demanded a complete servitude and chastity; but her husband could go out as much as he chose, and could enter into as many relationships outside marriage as he liked and incur no stigma. Both under Jewish and under Greek laws and custom, all the privileges belonged to the husband, and all the duties to the wife. – William Barclay, The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1959), pp. 192, 193.

So, what is this elevated and equal role of submission, and how is it an equal role in the home?

It is not as though the husband gets to bypass submission. Men submit to God by loving their wives like Jesus loves this church in self-sacrifice. 

In that way, godly husbands earn a wife’s trust. 

In Ephesians 5 Paul will make clear the nucleus of the home is the husband/wife relationship, and the husband/wife relationship plays a role in the living drama of home life in the world by displaying the inter-Trinitarian glory of equal and complementary roles between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Husband and wife put gospel glory on display when they get this right. 

Women are to submit to husbands as the husbands love their wives like Jesus loves his church. 

This is the fitting way for equals who have complementary roles to work together in marriage. 

Both of these actions of submitting and loving in a self-sacrificing manner are ways Jesus modeled life in his earthly mission. This is how these functions are equal, and this is how Paul is elevating the women to the status of equal, just like God designed it in the garden. 

So, both husband and wife are imitating Jesus, and there is no inferior division in the person of Jesus and likewise no inferior division in the home. 

(Permission sought and given to leave names in the text from Graham and Anna Rose) From Ephesians 5:22-33 in the Jolly wedding sermon, we say it like this: “The key is mutual submission. Graham, your 1st priority is submission to God. You cannot lead your family in any other position. You are to show Anna Rose that she can trust your leadership by her witnessing your relationship with God.

Anna Rose, you are to acknowledge Graham’s role as leader, trust his leadership, and manifest that by having a gracious and submissive spirit. Knowing that Graham is in submission to God will make it easier for you to listen to his guidance, to encourage him, and stand by him.

Graham, you have the higher responsibility here, for you are called to LOVE Anna Rose as Christ loves the church, in a self-sacrificing manner.

Anna Rose, in turn, you are called to see to it that you give Graham what he needs to fulfill his role, trust and respect.”

This is the way of fitting Christian submission in marriage for the wife and the husband. 

Command 2: Husbands, love your wives. 3:19a

Husbands are to love (agape), that is to direct our will and effort toward and find our joy in our wives. 

  1. Husbands, spend your effort and will on your wives.
  2. Husbands, grow in your work of leading your family as being someone worth following.
  3. Husbands, learn to communicate with your wives.
  4. Husbands, learn how your wife receives love, and make effort to meet that need.

Command 3: Husbands, don’t make your wives bitter through actions and attitudes that reflect poor leadership in the home and relationship. 3:19b

This is passive command grammatically, and it’s given in the negative. 

This means that the husband is NOT to cause his wife to become embittered through his actions and attitudes toward her. This means that we can not intend to do harm, and can yet do harm by not taking our role as husbands seriously. 

The word “bitter” is a root word that means something making water “bitter” or poisonous.

So, literally, it can read, “don’t poison your wives or embitter them with how you relate to them”.  

It sounds like, without being careful, Paul is saying for the husband to not let himself get bitter toward his wife like she’s doing something to him. That’s not what he is saying. 

That is not what is happening here. 

How Paul uses the phrase carries the idea of husbands not acting in a way that poisons their wives so as to make them not want to follow the husband’s leading. 

  1. Don’t make bad decisions as a general rule of your character. 
    1. We are going to make bad decisions, and we must own them, learn from them, and not repeat the same mistakes. 
  2. Learn how God wired your wife and be patient and learn to adapt your ways to work together with her, not against her.
  3. Be a nurturer in every way that nurturing needs to be done. 

Command 4: Children, obey your parents in everything. 3:20

Clearly, the caveat here is if parents are being abusive, of course, don’t allow that to go on. 

In the normal course of being trained for adulting, children, obey your parents.

There is promised reward for children who obey and honor their parents.

  1. Ephesians 6:1-3 (CSB) 1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, because this is right. 2 Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise, 3 so that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life in the land.
  2. Ephesians 6:1-3 comes from Exodus 20:12 (CSB) 12 Honor your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
    1. This is the first commandment with a promise. 
    2. We honor our parents by obeying them while we are under their training for being sent on mission. 
    3. The honoring of our parents is not only a duty early in life, but all through life. 
    4. 1 Timothy 5:8 (CSB) 8 But if anyone does not provide for his own family, especially for his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
      1. The principle here is that children are to support their parents just like they supported them when they were being trained for adulthood. 
  3. So, children, honor your parents through obedience. 
  4. Parents, be honorable so as to be worth having kids want to be around.
  5. Parents who train well, children who learn well and act, build families that grow legacies that can last for centuries. 

Command 5: Fathers (parents), don’t provoke/irritate your children in their training. 3:21

Just like husbands don’t get to escape the command of submission, wives don’t get to escape the command to not provoke or irritate the children in our training.

The fathers are addressed because they are given the responsibility of the home and called to account by God first. 

The word used here means to excite, irritate, or anger. 

We are NOT to train in a way that irritates or provokes our children. 

  1. We should evaluate how we do what we do, our kid’s response to it, and adapt for their good and ours.
  2. We need to know our children’s wiring and don’t put them in activities or situations where they are not wired to do well or enjoy the experience. 
    1. Don’t live vicariously through your children.
  3. Don’t sacrifice the spiritual, emotional, and mental vitality of your children by cultivating lives that have no room for the kingdom of God. 

Conclusion (big picture application)

Growing into maturity in our families by obeying these commands takes work. 

How can we obey these commands in a consistent manner?

Jennifer identified three very important operating systems that produce mental, emotional, and thus spiritual regulation for the family in some training we were part of recently: rhythm, repetition, and relationship. 

  1. Rhythm – the ongoing rhythm of familiar healthy spiritual, emotional, and social habits.
    1. Bible reading
    2. Prayer
    3. Church attendance
    4. Life group
    5. Public square work (healing and proclamation)
  2. Repetition – repeating the healthy rhythms of life that work for your family. 
  3. Relationship – doing these rhythms in covenant relationship.

Set these commands in the operating system of a life rhythm. Repeat that rhythm daily, weekly, and monthly. Do this in relationship, and we will be well on our way to maturity as families on mission together in the local church.

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