6. Exhortations for Christian living. 3:1-4:6

iii] Maintain loving relationships in the home


Paul now gives practical advice on behaving in a way that aligns with a believer's profession. In particular, Paul looks at family life. The family was the center of ancient society and many literary treatments on household ethics, duties and administration, were produced for general consumption. In fact, their form is very similar to Paul's summary of behavior which is fitting for a Christian home. As can be seen from Paul's list, the family is wider than our Western nuclear family in that it includes servants / slaves. Paul's advice is "whatever you do .... do it all in the name of the Lord", 3:17.


i] Context: See 3:5-11.


ii] Background: See 1:1-2.


iii] Structure: Household rules:

Wives, v18;

Husbands, v19;

Children, v20;

Parents, v21;

Servants, 22-25;

Masters, 4:1.


As Martin Luther noted, Paul presents the house tables in three sets of correlative pairs presented in order of intimacy. There is a repeated structure evident throughout. First the subject is addressed; possibly the vocative case is intended. Then follows an imperative expressing an exhortation. This exhortation is then supported, sometimes explicitly in the form of a reason, gar, "for", v30. The reasoning is often Christological, en kuriw, "in [the sphere of] the Lord", ie. "Christian conduct is motivated and determined by Christ", Harris.


iv] Interpretation:

As in Ephesians, Paul devotes a good part of his letter to the issue of building a Christian home, of accepting and applying the responsibilities and duties of marriage and parenting, of building relationships within the family unit. Believers are to strive to keep their family together, bound in love, and to do this as if to the Lord, while they await the eschaton together.

Roman society was family focused, but as today, the influence of varied belief systems constantly eroded family structure. We know from Paul's first letter to the Corinthians that a failure to properly understand Christian doctrine, whether in terms of free grace or millennialism, can lead to either asceticism or hedonism, both of which are destructive of family relationships. It is unclear whether a particular problem has developed in Colossae, but the issue of family solidarity is important enough in itself for Paul to devote his attention to it.


Gender roles in marriage. This issue has been worked over infinitum in recent years and everything that needs to be said has probably been said. When it comes to the instruction that a wife must "submit" to her husband, it is possible to argue that the submission required is only whatever is appropriate in society at any particular time, although to argue that God's word is subject to secular culture can be somewhat fraught. It can be argued that the word is not often used of marriage in secular society and that here it is likely to reflect the particular Christian meaning of "humility", a humility which, "in Christ", finds its expression in mutual submission, Eph.5:21. So, in marriage, the notion of submission is not intended to promote male domination / female subjugation, but a willing submission in love to the other. It may be useful to note that in ancient society it was not unusual for a woman to be the head of a family, cf., Act.16:15, 1Cor.1:11, Col.4:15. For a further comment on the issue of gender roles in marriage, see Ephesian 5:21-33.

It is with some sadness that we witness, in Western civilization, the undermining of traditional Christian family values, and even of sexual differentiation itself. A society that sows to the wind will reap the whirlwind.


The issues of Slavery and Eternal reward for good done on earth, see "Interpretation", Ephesians 6:5-9


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of the passage can be found in the pew-level sermon notes Be subject to one another.

Text - 3:18

Family / household relationships: i] Wives and husbands, v18-19. In Christ there is neither male nor female; the principle of oneness in Christ will humanize the relationship between a husband and a wife, moving it toward a partnership of mutual submission rather than subjection.

uJpotassesqe (uJpotassw) pres. mid/pas. imp. "submit to" - [the wives] submit yourselves. The present tense, being durative / imperfective, probably indicates a general command, rather than ongoing action, ie., not "continue to submit." "Voluntarily 'put yourself under' the authority or direction of someone or something else", Moo.

toiV andrasin (hr droV) dat. "your husbands" - to the = your husbands. Dative of direct object after the uJpo prefix verb "be subject to", which takes a dative of persons to whom respect is due.

wJV "as" - in such a way as. Comparative; the wife is to submit to her husband in like manner to what is fitting as a believer under the Lord's instruction; "This is her duty as a follower of the Lord", CEV.

anhken (anhkw) imperf. "is fitting" - is proper, due, fitting. The imperfect may here express a past action indicating that Paul is referring to a person's conversion; "it has been proper, ever since our conversion, for wives to submit." Most commentators align with our old friend Lightfoot who argues that the imperfect here expresses a present action, the origin of which lies in the past, ie., aspect is the issue here, not time. This origin may be the notion of divine hierarchy, the order of creation, cf. 1Cor.11:3, 7-9 (a contentious issue!). Yet, the origin of what is "proper" in the present is more likely the truth revealed by Christ in the past, a truth which sets believers apart from secular society. One such foundational truth would be the principle of mutual submission shaped by love, cf., Eph.5:21. So, "as is fitting" probably "designates the proper attitude and behavior" (O'Brien) of a believer / someone "in the Lord."

en + dat. "in" - in [the lord]. Local, expressing sphere; a wife's humble acceptance of her husband is shaped by Biblical principles which are common "for those who belong to the Lord", ie. believers.


In the ancient world, a wife had little redress under the law. A husband could mistreat his wife with impunity. Yet, such behavior is not acceptable in the Christian fellowship. A husband, because of his position of power, is not to harm his wife, rather, he is to love his wife. The word "love" is used here in the sense of compassion, not sexual affection. So, Paul's words here, given the cultural context of the time, are really quite radical, and serve to humanize the institution of marriage.

agapate (agapaw) pres. imp. "love" - [the husbands] love, show compassion to [the = your wives]. The present tense, being durative / imperfective, may give the sense "maintain the habit of loving", but better just used for a general command. Given the use of this word in the New Testament, "love" here does not mean friendship love, or sexual love. Other words would be employed if these meanings were intended. Paul is referring to Christian love, Christ-like love, compassion. A relationship based on self-giving within the context of mutual submission, could never oppress a female partner. It is worth noting that the husband has not been commanded to rule his wife gently. Too often in the past, v18 was used by males to garner submission from their marriage partner, without properly addressing the divine word for husbands in v19. God's word for the husband is that he loves his wife and that he not be harsh in his dealings with her. The issue of submission, whatever that may entail, is not his to dictate; he has his own responsibilities under the Lord.

mh pikrainesqe (pikrainw) pres. pas. imp. "do not be harsh" - [and] do not be bitter toward, harsh, embittered (leaning toward aggression). The negative command is a "don't do" rather than a "stop doing."

proV + acc. "with" - to, toward [them]. Spacial; here obviously expressing opposition, so "against".


ii] Children and parents, v20-21. Ancient household rules required children to obey their parents, and Paul affirms that this rule also stands in a Christian home. It is assumed, of course, that believing parents will only ask their children to act in a way that is in accord with God's revealed will.

uJpakouete (uJpakouw) pres. imp. "obey" - [the children] obey. Again, the present imperative may have durative force, so "continue to obey", or just used for a general command.

toiV goneusin (euV ewV) dat. "your parents" - the parents. Dative of direct object after the uJpo prefix verb "to obey".

kata + acc. "in [everything]" - according to [all things]. Idiomatic phrase expressing reference / respect; "in all respects, at every point...." Of course, it is assumed that the parents would not ask a child to do something against the Lord, although even here, a child that is not of age should obey their parents, even if the command is against the Lord. In this situation, the parents are responsible for the child's actions.

gar "for" - for [this is]. Introducing a causal clause explaining why children should obey their parents.

euareston adj. "pleasing / pleases" - acceptable, well pleasing. Predicate adjective. Conduct which is proper, acceptable to God. When translated as "pleasing", we imply that God emotionally responds to our mere righteousness in a positive way, when in fact, "our righteousness is but filthy rags." The only behavior pleasing to God is Christ's righteousness and our reliance on it through repentance and faith. For our part, we remain unworthy sinners. So, "acceptable" is a better translation

en kuriw dat. "to the Lord / the Lord" - in [lord]. Again we have this interesting phrase, see v18. The NIV has read the preposition with the dative as a simple dative, ie. what is pleasing "to the Lord". As in v18, it possibly means those who belong to the Lord, "in the Lord", ie. Christians, believers. Obeying our parents is the proper duty of those "who own Christ as Lord", O'Brien. The clause "for this ....." may possibly be conditional; "provided that the children's obedience is intended to honour the Lord/God."


Parents are not to be harsh; they must not be unreasonable in their demands such that their children loose heart. Such discipline makes sense, for as the saying goes, "a father who is always threatening does not receive much reverence." In Ephesians, Paul gives the positive side when he writes, "bring them up in the nurture and instruction of the Lord", Eph.6:4.

mh ereqizete (ereqizw) imp. "do not embitter" - [the fathers] do not embitter, provoke, exasperate, make angry [the children of you]. "Father's must not make life intolerable for their children", Barclay.

iJna mh + subj. "or" - lest. Expressing a negated purpose; "so that they may not lose heart", Cassirer.

aqumwsin (aqumew) subj. "they will become discouraged" - they be discouraged, despondent, morose, lose heart. Possibly, "become timid."


Servants / slaves and their masters, v22-4:1. Note the flow of the argument: employees are to serve employers not in eye-service as men-pleasers, but sincerely, v22. They are to work heartily as if working for the Lord, v23. The reason / motivation / ground of the exhortation is a) eidonteV, "because we know" that we have an eternal reward awaiting us from the master of all slaves who is Christ, v24 (ie. submission may be an inconvenience, but compared to what is awaiting us, it is a mere trifle), and b) gar, "because" improper behavior has its consequences, v25. Employers, on the other hand, are to act justly and fairly, and this under their heavenly master, 4:1. See above on the issue of slavery.

uJpakouete (uJpakouw) pres. imp. "obey" - [the slaves] obey [in all things]. The present imperative is again imperfective / durative, possibly "continue to obey", although better as a general command. Here taking a dative of direct object, dative of persons, toiV ... kurioiV, "be subject to masters".

kata + acc. "[earthly]" - [the masters] according to [flesh]. Expressing a standard; "in accordance with, corresponding to." Here the prepositional phrase "according to flesh" serves as an adjective, attributive, limiting "masters". Possibly "human masters", as opposed to heavenly.

en + dat. "not only when" - [not] in = with. Here adverbial, expressing manner / attendant circumstance, "not with eye-service", but possibly temporal, as NIV.

ofqalmadoulia/ (a) dat. "their eye is on you" - eye-service. Service that is an external performance, service that is only performed when the master is watching, or service that is performed to gain kudos.

wJV "-" - as, like. Comparative, possibly a real comparison, or a hypothetical comparison, "as if", Zerwick.

anqrwpareskoi adj. "to win their favor / to curry their favor" - men-pleasers. The adjective is used as a substantive, "as someone who wants to please others" ("others", a possible ellipsis), so the NIV; "to" or "in order to please others".

all (alla) "but" - but. Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction; "not ....., but ...."

en + dat. "with" - in, on, by, with [sincerity, simplicity, uprightness]. The preposition is again adverbial, modal / attendant circumstance. The servant is to serve "with sincerity / singleness of heart."

kardiaV (a) gen. "of heart" - The genitive may be adjectival, attributive, limiting "sincerity", "heartfelt sincerity", or better attributed, "a sincere heart." Possibly a genitive of reference, a sincerity in relation to the heart, so NIV. A genuine conscious sincerity that stems from an inward motivation.

foboumenoi (fobew) pres. pas. part. "[and] reverence for" - fearing, reverencing. The NIV treats this participle as attendant circumstance; a slave's service is offered to their master "with sincerity of heart, and with reverence for the Lord." The participle can also be treated as adverbial, causal, "because you fear the Lord", or modal, expressing manner. The word "fear" is best understood as "reverential fear" - awe, wander, reverence, respect...

ton kurion "the Lord" - Accusative direct object of the participle "fearing". Obviously, "Christ" is intended. The motivation for our sincerity toward our employer stems from our relationship with the Lord of the universe.


o} ean + subj. "Whatever" - whatever [you do]. The use of ean with a relative pronoun creates an indefinite relative pronoun; "what" = "whatever", possibly here with a temporal edge, "whenever". The relative clause it introduces is somewhat conditional; "whatever, as the case may be, you do, then do heartily ...." "Whatever you are doing ....."

ek "with [all your heart]" - [work] from [soul]. The prepositional phrase "from soul" is adverbial; "work heartily / gladly / enthusiastically."

wJV "as" - as, like. Comparative. Probably as above, "as / as if working for the Lord." Harris suggests that a subjective motivation is being expressed here; "working with the thought that you are actually doing it for Jesus and not just your employer", in which case the situation is not hypothetical, not "as if", but expressing a characteristic quality, "as".

tw/ kuriw/ (oV) dat. "for the Lord" - to the lord. Dative of interest, advantage; done "out of respect for the Lord."

anqrwpoiV (oV) dat. "[not] for human masters" - [and not] to men. Dative of interest, advantage; "not as working for people."


eidonteV (oida) perf. part. "because / since you know" - knowing. The participle is adverbial, probably causal, as NIV.

oJti "that" - that. Here introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what the Colossians "know".

apo + gen. "from [the Lord]" - [you will receive a reward, recompense] from [lord]. Expressing source / origin. Lightfoot stresses the lack of a definite article with kuriou, "Lord"; "however you may be treated by your earthly masters, you still have a Master who will recompense you." The sense of the word antapodosin, "reward", is given in the context of a slave who receives no reward, as opposed to an inheritance that is already promised to those in Christ. It is likely that there is no idea here of a heavenly reward for faithful service to a master. The reward is already promised; an inheritance that no one can take from us. See Eternal reward for good done on earth above.

thV klhronomiaV gen. "as a reward" - of the inheritance. The genitive is adjectival, epexegetic, specifying what is received; "the recompense that consists of the inheritance." The presence of the article may indicate that it is a particular inheritance well known to the readers, ie., eternity.

tw/ kuriw/ (oV) dat. "it is the Lord [Christ]" - the lord [christ]. Dative of direct object after the verb douleuete, "serve". "Christ" is also dative, standing in apposition to "the Lord"; "the Lord who is Christ."

douleuete (douleuw) pres. ind/imp. + dat. "you are serving" - you serve. The verb may be indicative, as in the NIV, or imperative, "serve the Lord Christ"; "Christ is the master whose slaves you must be", NEB.


This warning is directed particularly to the Christian slaves at Colossae. They are reminded that just because they are believers, even possibly working for a Christian master, they are not immune from a master's punishment. This, in itself, is a good reason to be obedient, but let their obedience come from the heart.

gar "-" - for. More reason than cause, providing a second reason / basis for the exhortation that slaves obey their masters. It is interesting to note that if Paul intended a negative contrast to the eternal reward of v24, he would have used the adversative "but", instead he says "for the one doing wrong will be repaid." So, the clause is not necessarily a counter to the eternal reward of v24, but is possibly a reminder of the present implications facing a slave who does not "obey" their earthly master. This in turn, deals with the problem of identifying the "anyone". Are these words to slaves or to masters? Commentators are divided, but the problem stems from the widespread view that believers will face punishment for deeds done in the day of judgment, a view that flies in the face of the perfect and eternal reward we possess in Christ. It is true that "we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each may receive what is due to him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad", but as long as we are in Christ, we are judged on the basis of what Christ has done, and therefore receive what is due Christ, not what is due us - the notion of punishment for failings during our Christian life is an anathema. So, it is likely that Paul's warning here is for disobedient slaves who will inevitably face due punishment from their earthly masters. "For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong they have done; there is no partiality."

oJ ... adikwn (adikew) part. "anyone who does wrong" - the one doing wrong. The participle serves as a substantive; "the wrongdoer."

komisetai (komizw) fut. "will be repaid" - will get back, reap the reward, be repaid. The wrongdoer will reap the reward for the wrong things they have done.

hdikhsen (adikew) aor. "for his wrong / for their wrongs" - [for what] he did wrong. The aorist verb is probably gnomic as in the NEB; "the wrong things he does / they do."

proswpolhmyia (a) "favoritism" - [and there is no] favoritism, partiality, respect of persons. Predicate nominative. Commentators add either "with God" or "with the Lord", but it is also possibly "with a master." A Christian slave cannot expect preferential treatment. Where there is wrongdoing, all slaves face punishment. So, obedience is encouraged, but it should be an obedience that comes from the heart.


As slaves have duties, so also do masters. Masters should treat their slaves with the same consideration they desire from their Master in heaven. In writing to Philemon, Paul suggests that he should actually consider freeing his slave Onesimus, v12-14.

parecesqe (parecw) pres. imp. "provide" - [the masters] grant, provide, give. "Give your slaves just and equitable treatment", Cassirer.

toiV douloiV (oV) "your slaves" - to the = your slaves, servants. Dative of indirect object / interest, advantage; "give to the slaves."

to dikaion "right" - just, justice.Accusative direct object of the verb "to grant." Possibly "kindness".

thn isothta "fair" - [and] equality, fairness. With "just", accusative direct object of the verb "to grant." Masters should treat their slaves with evenhandedness.

eidonteV (eidon) perf. part. "because you know" - knowing. The participle is adverbial, probably causal, as NIV; "for you too are under a master's control."

oJti "that" - Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what the readers know.

kai "also" - [you] and = also. Adjunctive, "also"; "you too."

en + dat. "in [heaven]" - [have a lord] in [heaven]. Local, expressing space. "Don't forget for a minute that you, too, serve a master - God in heaven", Peterson.


Colossians Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]