The Supremacy Demonstrated: In your Home and Work Part 1 (Col. 3:18-19)
How many of you have ever seen the reality show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition? I haven’t watched that show in a while, but the essence of it is about totally making over a struggling family’s house, including all rooms, exterior and landscaping, by a team of builders and designers in 7 days while the family goes off on vacation.
While the family is off to Disneyland or wherever, they are given a laptop to watch video messages and to see their current home be demolished. At this point, the family watches in amazement as a huge monster truck comes through and totally destroys their current home. Now my favorite part, without a doubt, is definitely when they bring the family back with the whole town waiting for them and a bus is covering the view of their new home. At this point, everyone says, “BUS DRIVER, MOVE THAT BUS!” The family then runs into their new house screaming and crying with joy.
I have always wondered though, how are these families doing after the fact, like a year or 5 years or 10 years later? Because you and I both know very well, you can give somebody a house, but it is a different story to build a home right? Once the show is over and cameras are gone, how are they going to live?
With the early church at Colossae, Paul wanted the believers to see that the Supremacy of Jesus Christ is not just a Sunday thing or something abstract and out there, but something that pervades every area of their lives; something very real that funnels into even your home. Jesus is about doing an extreme makeover of your entire life and relationships. When you become a believer, He bulldozes through and destroys everything not of him and then doesn’t just leave you to figure out what to do, but takes residence and precedence in your home and life.
Christianity in that culture was so radical. William Barclay in his commentary, says that,
“Under Jewish law a woman was a thing, the possession of her husband, just as much as his house or his flocks or his material goods. She had no legal rights 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; and the only grounds on which a divorce might be awarded her were if her husband developed leprosy, became an apostate or ravished a virgin. 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 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 without incurring any stigma. Under both Jewish and Greek laws and custom all the privileges belonged to the husband and all the duties to the wife.
In the ancient world children were very much under the domination of their parents. The supreme example was the Roman Patria Potestas, the law of the father’s power. Under it a parent could do anything he liked with his child. He could sell him into slavery; he could make him work like a laborer on his farm; he had even the right to condemn his child to death and to carry out the execution. All the privileges and rights belonged to the parent and all the duties to the child.
Most of all this was the case in slavery. The slave was a thing in the eyes of the law. There was no such thing as a code of working conditions. When the slave was past his work, he could be thrown out to die. He had not even the right to marry, and if he cohabited and there was a child, the child belonged to the master, just as the lambs of the flock belonged to the shepherd. Once again all the rights belonged to the master and all the duties to the slave.
When Christianity showed up, it was so radical. No more, “what do others owe me?” but “what do I owe others?” Everyone had responsibilities. Not just wives, children and slaves, but husbands, parents and masters as well. Jesus was not just Savior, but Lord and Ruler, even subduing and taking over the life of the home as well.
For a long time at my parent’s house in NY, we had a sign up saying, “Jesus is the head of this house. He is the unseen guest at every meal and the silent listener to every conversation.” But for 17 years of life there, this was just a sign. Jesus was just a Sunday thing. But then the greatest thing happened. The Creator of the Universe came into our house. He made that sign a reality and turned our small hell into a small heaven. Jesus is still transforming homes and households!
Today I want to talk to you about “the Supremacy Demonstrated: In your home and work. What does it mean to have Jesus Christ as Supreme, the number one thing in your family, in the closest of relationships? What does it mean as a husband? A wife? A child? As your work in the marketplace? Notice in Colossians 3:18ff, how many times “the Lord” is mentioned? Jesus is interested in everything about you! Even your closest relationships! Three sets of relationships are before us today: husband/wife, parent/child and slave/master, of which the modern parallel is that of the employee/employer. Paul does not go into great detail here. He is just hitting the main issues. We will also be looking at Ephesians 5:22- 6:9 to give us some commentary as well on these verses in Colossians. So much is packed into these verses before us that in order to do justice to the text, I had to divide up this section into two weeks. So this week is part one.
Let’s start with this, (Paul begins with the closest of relationships), The Supremacy of Jesus Christ is demonstrated:
I. In the marriage through submissive wives and loving husbands (Col. 3:18-19).
I understand some of you are a long way from thinking about marriage and some are probably fewer years away, but it would be good for you to file this away and hear from God’s Word about what He desires for you, if and when it comes up in your own life down the road.
Col. 3:18 is one of those controversial verses. Submission in marriage is a touchy topic
and this verse has been misconstrued and used by domineering authoritative men to treat women like property. So I want to start by saying what submission is not:
a) Inferiority. The same word is used of Christ submitting to God in 1 Cor. 15:27-28 and obviously Jesus Christ is in no way inferior to God. Paul just said in Col. 3:11 that the ground is level at the cross. In Gal. 3:28, Paul says in regards to salvation, we are all one in Christ Jesus, whether male or female.
b) Absolute. The Bible never asks the wife to obey, as children and slaves are asked. And wives should never submit to anything that violates God’s Word.
c) General. Ephesians 5:22 makes it clear that the submission is only to their own husbands and not other men. It is only in a marriage relationship. It is very specific.
d) Suppression. It does not mean sitting quietly around your house, making no eye contact, head down, only talking when asked and going about doing your duties, without any opinions or thoughts. When you read Proverbs 31, you don’t find that. You find a woman with a lot of creative energy, with a lot of spunk and someone who is industrious. The Bible does not say only introverts are truly submissive. A woman can be an extrovert and yet submissive. Just as much as an introverted husband can lead a family as much as an extroverted husband.
e) Silence. It does not mean you never criticize your husband. In fact, constructive criticism that is motivated by love and corrective in nature does not contradict biblical submission. It does not mean you cannot make any requests of him. It does not mean you cannot teach your husband (Prov. 31:26; Acts 18:26). I have learned a lot of things from my wife!
But what is submission? I would say this for you wives:
a) It is for the Lord. Notice the text, “as is fitting the Lord.” Like a hand to a glove and foot to a slipper, so submission is appropriate and right to the Lord. I use His strength, I follow His pattern and I live for His glory.
b) It is an attitude, a disposition. The word submit means “to willingly place yourself under another.” It is an attitude as John Piper notes when a woman says, “I delight for you to take the initiative in our family. I am glad when you take responsibility for things and lead with love. I don’t flourish when you are passive and I have to make sure the family works.” But the attitude of Christian submission also says, “It grieves me when you venture into sinful acts and want to take me with you. You know I can’t do that. I have no desire to resist you. On the contrary, I flourish most when I can respond creatively and joyfully to your lead; but I can’t follow you into sin, as much as I love to honor your leadership in our marriage. Christ is my King.”
c) Loving motivation. The last thing husbands need are nagging wives constantly pointing out their flaws and disrespecting them. “Well, if you know my husband, you can see why I’m like that. If he loved me like he should, I wouldn’t be like this.” Yes, I understand. Husbands are up next in the list, but some wives are not exactly always loveable. The times I felt Jenny coming alongside and building confidence within me and encouraging and affirming me are the times I felt energized to love her and lead our family in the Lord. We husbands need a lot of help ladies to reach the full potential as a man of God! We need your loving motivation. We need you to be our # 1 fan and supporter.
d) Showing confidence in his decisions. Husbands do not always make the wisest of decisions, but when we do, take notice of it and affirm it. That will empower us to take more ownership in the family and responsibility.
e) Building loyalty to him in the children. This means if you have disagreements, discuss it alone and not in front of the children. You do not want your children to be taking sides with you. This destroys the unity in the home.
Enough picking on the wives! Let’s move to husbands. Husbands demonstrate the Supremacy of Jesus Christ in the home through love. Interestingly, Paul does not elaborate as his does with the responsibilities of the husband as he does in Ephesians 5. But nevertheless, the call for husbands to love was revolutionary in that day! Here, Paul uses the word “agape” meaning selfless, sacrificial kind of love. This is significant because he could have used “eros” for sexual love, which the men could have understood easily, but he calls instead for Christ-like love.
This is especially hard for husbands in our day. In the media, most of the husbands are seen as buffoons, totally inept, irresponsible, dumb and self-centered. What ever happened to Bill Cosby kind of husbands on tv? Nowadays we are inundated with these horrible examples of what a husband and what a man should be.
So I guess more and more what the Lord is asking us in Scripture as husbands is becoming more and more revolutionary. The call here is to love. The wife’s submission operates within the context of the husband’s love. In that way, she is protected because a man who truly loves his wife will never do anything to her that will hurt her.
Illus: A pastor once asked me, “Have you ever found it difficult to submit to a warm, bubbling sauna on a cold winter day?” He said similarly, may your love for your bride create a whirpool of safety and comfort around her that she will not hesitate to follow your servant leadership.”
Paul adds a negative command: “Do not be harsh with them.” Other translations say, “Do not be embittered against them.” The word “harsh” or “embittered” refers to something bitter to the taste and can be translated as,” Do not have the habit of being bitter.”
Or as one commentator put it, “Paul tells husbands not to call their wives ‘honey,’ and then act like vinegar.”  This could be referring to a bad tempter or irritation, harboring ill will or resentment in your heart, attitude and actions toward your wife.
I’m going to use Ephesians 5:25-33 to share with some ways to love your wives. By the way, “love” here is in the present tense, meaning, “continue to love.” It doesn’t stop at the altar. It is a commitment not mere sentiment. Single guys, take note of these things as well if the Lord would ever lead you to marriage.
a) Sacrifice for your wife (Eph. 5:25). Romance comes from sacrifice. Self-disclosure/opening up and sharing your heart takes sacrifice for us guys who love one word answers and communicating as few words as possible. Wives long to know you! Taking the kids for a while and allowing her to take some time for herself comes from sacrifice.
b) Serve your wife (Eph. 5:29). Paul says “nourish and cherish your wives.” Serve your wives by praying for her and with her. Serve her by being generous with sincere compliments. Those are never wasted! Serve her by spending time with her and having regular 1-on-1 times.
c) Study your wife (1 Pet. 3:7). You are ever in school in this regard. Be a student of your wife. Know what pushes her buttons. Learn what encourages her and discourages her.
Illus: This past Friday in the men’s group we heard the story of Dr. Robertson McQuilkin, the beloved former president of Columbia Bible College, and his wife, Muriel, who suffers from the advanced ravages of Alzheimer’s disease. In March 1990 Dr. McQuilkin announced his resignation in a letter with these words:
My dear wife, Muriel, has been in failing mental health for about eight years. So far I have been able to carry both her ever-growing needs and my leadership responsibilities at CBC. But recently it has become apparent that Muriel is contented most of the time she is with me and almost none of the time I am away from her. It is not just “discontent.” She is filled with fear — even terror — that she has lost me and always goes in search of me when I leave home. Then she may be full of anger when she cannot get to me. So it is clear to me that she needs me now, full-time.
Perhaps it would help you to understand if I shared with you what I shared at the time of the announcement of my resignation in chapel. The decision was made, in a way, 42 years ago when I promised to care for Muriel “in sickness and in health … till death do us part.” So, as I told the students and faculty, as a man of my word, integrity has something to do with it. But so does fairness. She has cared for me fully and sacrificially all these years; if I cared for her for the next 40 years I would not be out of debt. Duty, however, can be grim and stoic. But there is more; I love Muriel. She is a delight to me — her childlike dependence and confidence in me, her warm love, occasional flashes of that wit I used to relish so, her happy spirit and tough resilience in the face of her continual distressing frustration. I do not have to care for her, I get to! It is a high honor to care for so wonderful a person.” 
I once heard about a man who right before his wedding day, went and bought two plots of land. When asked why he did that, he responded, “This is for when we die. I’m going to be a one-woman man as long as I live and we will be buried right next to each other.” That’s a committed love!
Do you want to see Jesus Christ reigning supreme in your marriage? Love and submission is the key and pleasing to the Lord.
Next time, we will look at two other key relationships: parents and children and then employees and employers. But I want to end today with an observation John Ortberg made from visiting a vineyard. He is going to apply Prov. 24:30-34 and turn there with me. Ortberg writes:
A little while ago, my wife kidnapped me and took me to Napa Valley for a romantic, overnight getaway for just the two of us. I had never been to Napa Valley before. It’s lovely. What struck me as I was going past the vineyards was all of the thought and action that went into the rows of vines. A fruitful, productive vineyard is a thing of beauty. But here’s the thing about vineyards: they don’t just happen by themselves. Vineyards don’t just spring up by accident. Someone is behind them.
The writer of Proverbs 24:30–34 says: I was going past a vineyard, and it was a mess. There were thorns all over the place, the grounds were covered with weeds, and the walls were falling down.
To understand the angst behind this proverb … you have to understand that in the ancient Middle East, a piece of land capable of growing crops was one of the most valuable things in the world. To be the owner of a vineyard was to be blessed with the opportunity of a lifetime. …
Everybody gets a vineyard. When you were born, you got a vineyard. You got your body, your mind, your will, and some relationships. You got financial resources and the chance to do some good work. You got a soul. Everybody gets a vineyard, and that vineyard is your one and only shot on this planet. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime, and you don’t even have to care for it on your own. God will partner with you.
Nonetheless, God never forces anybody to take action and care for their vineyard. The writer of this Proverb says, “I was walking past a vineyard, and I thought of what it might have been.” He sees that the vineyard could have been a thing of beauty. It could have been a source of pride, joy, and income to the owner. It could have been a blessing to everybody around it, because in ancient cultures, a place that grew things that people could eat or drink from was a blessing to everybody. But the vineyard the writer observed wasn’t any of those things. It fell tragically short of what it might have been. The writer wonders why: Was there some catastrophe? Was there a drought, flood, fire, or some other disaster? No. It was just sheer negligence on the part of the owner of the vineyard. He had no idea what he had. He was throwing away the opportunity of a lifetime. That’s the strange power of entropy. It’s not even a thing. It’s sheer neglect, and people throw their lives away because of it every day.
People have these fantasies: I want the perfect marriage, I want the perfect circle of friends, I want the perfect career and the perfect education; if I can’t have that, then I won’t do anything. The writer of Proverbs says we must start with reality. Work the land that is your land—your body, your life, your relationships, your work—because that vineyard is all you have. If it’s ever going to be different, it won’t be because the vineyard fairy comes and sprinkles fairy dust on it. It will be because you asked God to help you. It will be because you’ve asked him, “What’s the next step that you want me to take?”
Our marriages are a vineyard given to us. God wants to shower down His hand of blessing upon it. He wants the fruit of it to bless others. However, the number one enemy to our marriage is neglect. Vineyards do not become vineyards on their own. Neglect in our marriage will create isolation, thus eroding the oneness God intended. This vineyard of life is all we have. We must instead cultivate it. Instead of neglect, we must nurture it. Even if you are single, remember God has given you a body to keep pure and prepare for everything God has for you.
What I want for us to do today is for us to pray for one another. Get around someone near you. If you can pray with your spouse, that would be great. Whether you are married or single, let’s pray for marriages in our church. Pray back anything the Lord has spoken to you about. After a few minutes, Anthony and the worship team will come and lead us in a closing song.
The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians. 2000, c1975 (W. Barclay, lecturer in the University of Glasgow, Ed.) (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; The Daily study Bible series, Rev. ed. (161). Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.
Piper, J. (2007). Sermons from John Piper (1990-1999). Minneapolis: Desiring God.
MacArthur, J. (1996, c1992). Colossians (168). Chicago: Moody Press.
Hughes, R. K. (2001). Disciplines of a Godly man (10th anniversary ed.; rev. ed.) (33). Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books.