In Colossians chapter 1 Paul emphasized the supremacy of Christ. In chapter 2 he told the Colossians what not to do and whose example not to follow. Chapter 3 is full of practical instructions on how to follow and serve Christ. Let’s let the format of Colossians sink in, teachers and preachers. There is great wisdom in leading the church this way – especially in a culture where everyone has their own opinion and instruction on what being a Christian looks like. Here’s how Paul demonstrates:
1. Preach the gospel; magnify Christ
2. Debunk heresy, false teachers, and misinformation that is plaguing the church within your culture. Be specific.
3. Give practical, specific instructions for the persons you are ministering to. I cannot stress this point enough. Be practical. Be practical. Be practical. Do not stop teaching at #1. Do not stop teaching at #2. Be practical.
Since I have come to the second portion of Paul’s practical instruction, I have to stress the dire importance of not only these particular instructions, but equally importantly, these kind of instructions. They are invaluable to those listening.
Today I will talk about why practical teaching is so important and tomorrow I will deal with the specifics of this text.
Many men have amazing theological minds. They are well read and can answer almost any Bible question one might have. They preach the gospel in its entirety and do so very systematically and extremely well. They tell you who Christ is, what he did, and urge repentance. They refute false ideas. They tell you what Christianity is as well as what it is not.
Consider yourself unduly blessed if you can find a preacher or teacher like this in our culture of confusion and misinformation in the church today. Still, if door #3 – specific, practical application – is left unopened by that good man or woman, the sheep are still left meandering for their own food on many occasions. When we are told what to do but not how to do it, nine times out of ten we do not “get it.” If I do not know how you apply the text in your life, I often do not know how to apply the text in my life. Tell me. In so doing, you teach me.
Sheep need stories, parables, personal accounts of when and how these truths were learned and understood by our teachers. Otherwise, as my very practical, straight-shooting mechanic husband says, it feels a lot like someone is trying to tell us how to build a shelf. We have step by step codified instructions, but we do not have a model. There is no hammer in our hands. No nails or screws with which to build. All we have is a how to lecture and Mr. Vila and all his tools and example models have left the building.
Sheep need practical application. Sheep need for instances. Sheep need not only a picture of the finished framework of what the end result is supposed to look like, but also a picture of all the half built stages in between. When we set out to put this thing called Christianity together, we need a lot of help – especially if there have been no close master builders in our lives.
Therefore, I cannot stress Paul’s example enough. After preaching the gospel, what it is and what it is not, we must tell others how to apply it. We must tell about when we fail. We must tell about what overcoming has looked like in our own lives. We must be specific and practical in preaching and teaching.
Colossians 3:17-25 is practical application of that which Paul has just painted with a broad brush. He told his readers to set their minds on the things above and to forsake sin. He told them to be compassionate, humble, forgiving, loving, and unified. He said to do everything for Christ.
Now, he puts some practical flesh on the bones of his outline of spiritual disciplines. Here’s what he says:
Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. 22 Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters,not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.
4 Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.
Here are some real life situations, guys. Here are the most common and important relationships you are all in. Here’s how to act in those relationships. Here’s how not to act. Here’s why.
Wives, submit. Husbands, love. Children, obey. Fathers, be patient. Slaves, obey. All of you, work hard, always. Masters, be fair. God will bless. God will repay. Trust him.
I will go further into what these instructions look like in our lives in my next article…practically. I believe Paul did not go further because his words needed to be timeless.
That’s our job. That’s our job. That’s our job.
It is the job of a good teacher to apply the Biblical text to their cultural situations and problems. The reason we have so many knowledge infused non-action taking Christians is because we often fail to give practical instructions. We go through the text and we stop. We cannot afford to do that. Christians need challenged in very specific ways. We need very clear pictures of what a submitting wife and a loving husband looks like. We need very clear pictures of what a rebellious wife and a loveless husband looks like. We must use every means available. Yes, we are the very pictures ourselves. We are witnesses. But we must also open our mouths and share our lives lest we live them in obscurity and fail to bring glory to Christ clenching tightly to our illegitimate right to privacy.