Living in Job’s House

Living in Job’s House

By Paul David Tripp

My dad was a hard-working man but he never saw much for his work. He didn’t make a lot of money and we didn’t live in a great neighborhood. We never had a big house. Despite all of this, he managed to save enough money for his first, brand-new car. He was such an excited man. He bought a two-toned, 1959 Plymouth Belvedere, peach-colored, with pearl white trim. Two-toned cars were cool. This car had those big fins. It looked like a plane with an identity complex. It was a funny-looking car, but he was proud of it. It had push button automatic. You just press a button on the dash, and it would go. They don’t make cars like that anymore.

He brought that car home on a Friday afternoon. Our whole family walked around that car, admiring its beauty. He let me, a nine-year old boy, sit in the driver’s seat and hold that great big white steering wheel. I thought, “It doesn’t get any better than this!” He said, “Saturday morning, we’re going for a ride, and I’m going to sign us up for AAA.” He had dreams of driving that car around the country on family road trips using marked maps from AAA. When we got up Saturday morning, he was in a celebratory mood, so he took us out for some good, old-fashioned, handmade donuts. He beamed as he looked out the window of that donut shop at his shiny new car parked alongside the curb. This car had power! It had push-button automatic! You could see the look of pride on his face. Fifty-nine Plymouth Belvedere. I made it! Finally, there’s something I can see for all my years of hard work.

We were proud of Dad and we were proud of that car. We got back in the car and headed toward the AAA building in downtown Toledo, Ohio. He wheeled that brand new, 1959, peach-colored and pearl-trimmed, big-finned Plymouth Belvedere into the AAA lot, got blinded by the morning sun … and totaled that car on a lamppost in the middle of the parking lot. You have never seen such a slump-shouldered man. He slogged to the front door of AAA to call for help, only to discover that it was closed on Saturdays. My dad stood in front of his one-day old car that he had just destroyed. With fists clenched, he said, “What in the world is going on? This doesn’t make any sense!”

His comment wasn’t just about that car. It was about years of hard work, and thinking he would finally get something for all that he had done. It was about how life doesn’t work out. And, yes, it was about a brand new car, destroyed before he ever got a chance to take that first trip with a AAA marker map.

I sat in my office on a Tuesday afternoon talking with Jack, and thinking, There’s something terribly wrong here. Jack was angry, confused, and lost. I dipped into Jack’s life and tried to get his story out spoonful by spoonful. He just couldn’t take more than a spoonful at a time. I’ve never had an experience quite like that. His story wrenched my heart and I wept.

Jack was blind and crippled. But Jack wasn’t born blind and he wasn’t born crippled. When he was born, Jack was a healthy baby boy. But his twin sister came out of the womb tragically deformed. Something snapped in Jack’s mom’s mind; some twisted thing that we’ll never understand or be able to wrap words around. Somehow, some way, she was convinced that this deformity was Jack’s fault. She assaulted him from Day One. He spent most of his early years locked in a closet—yes, even as an infant. Once, as he tried to crawl out of the closet, she slammed the door on his leg, and maimed him for life. Many nights, she lashed him to the foot of her bed—she just didn’t want to take the time to get up and take care of him. She beat him about the head over and over again. By seven or eight years old, Jack began to lose his sight. By nine years old, he wasn’t able to see enough to go to a normal school. His mother sent him off to school one day, then packed his bags. He went to school thinking it would just be another day. But it wasn’t. People from a school for the blind picked up Jack that afternoon after school. He never went home again. Jack did the rest of his growing up by himself at that school.

As you hear Jack’s story, you realize right away, yes, his eyes were broken; and yes, his leg had been broken; yes, he is physically disabled. But there was something else, something much deeper. Jack was a broken man. In a combination of deep discouragement, confusion, and rage, Jack essentially said of life, “This just doesn’t make any sense. What is going on here?”

There is a Latin word that says it all. Anomie. This word captures those moments in life where you feel detached from meaning, detached from purpose, detached from your identity, detached from your values. Literally, if you translate this word, it means this: “There’s no name for this.” My dad stood in front of that car and screamed into the cosmos, “There’s no name for what I’m going through!” Jack looks at his life and says, “There’s no name for this!” Parents stand at the bed of their newly lifeless child. “Children aren’t supposed to die first!” They watch the life seep out of that body and cry, “Anomie! There’s no name for this!” A once vibrant person slides down that mud tube of depression and fear without any handholds. “Anomie! There’s no name for what I’m going through!” A man works all his life on his career and then because of the greed and avarice of his CEO he loses everything—his job, his life savings, his retirement benefits. He screams, “Anomie! There’s no name for this!” A man lives with the marching progress of progressive disease, knowing that an enemy in his cells is stealing his vitality and he can’t do a thing about it. Watching and feeling his body change dramatically, he cries, “Anomie! There’s no name for what I’m going through!” A wife learns that the man she gave her heart to, the man she planned her future with, the man she dearly loved from her youth, this man has turned his back on her for twenty minutes of sexual satisfaction with someone else. She weeps, “Anomie! There’s no name for what I’m going through! Anomie! Anomie! Anomie!” That’s life in a fallen and falling down world. We all live in Job’s house. I might wish to live down the block in another housing development! But somehow, I must live in Job’s house, too. We all live in Job’s house.

Anomie in Our Fallen World

Paul describes Job’s house in Romans 8:20–22. Three remarkable phrases describe this world in which we live, a world of brutally personal anomie. First, he says that our world is subjected to frustration. What a phrase! Nothing in this world works the way it’s supposed to. It is, in fact, a tragically broken cosmos. Brokenness is everywhere. Why would a young tough steal the purse of an old lady? Why do silent toxins rob the vitality of an entire community of innocent citizens? Why do politicians do evil things? Why can’t siblings get along? This world is a broken place. The Fall has frustrated the cosmos.

Then Paul says that the world is in bondage to decay. What a scary phrase! A world in bondage to decay. Every thing that exists is in the process of dying. Whatever power, beauty, or goodness we now see, things are still not liberated from the shackles of destruction and death.

Finally Paul says, “The world is groaning as in the pains childbirth.” There are moments of mind-numbing, focus-getting, acute pain in childbirth. You don’t walk around doing your housecleaning or sipping coffee saying, “I’m only having a baby. I’m just going to live around this birth.” No, it grabs your attention. It forces you to focus. It engages your whole body. There are moments in the fallen world of dramatically acute pain, pain that grabs the mind, grabs the body, grabs the soul. You just can’t live around this pain. It gets you. It focuses you. It’s like childbirth. It grabs you and leads you around. It controls you.

I run from room to room in Job’s house, and I can’t find one I like. I’ve been upstairs, downstairs, and in the basement. I tried the garage. Job’s house is just Job’s house. It’s not only that we all live in Job’s house, we also live next to people who are in Job’s house. We counsel people who live in Job’s house. That makes us uncomfortable, too.

The church of Jesus Christ often has a rather uncomfortable relationship with suffering. We’re not sure what to do with it. And we do a lot of uncomfortable things. We greet people with theological platitudes, often lobbing mortars of truth from afar. We make promises to people that we shouldn’t make and can’t keep. We even make promises for God. Sometimes we are so uncomfortable around people who are suffering that we cut a wide path to avoid them. How many people have said to me, as they’ve gone through suffering, “It was bad enough to lose my husband (wife, child, health …) but I lost my friends, too. They felt so uncomfortable around me. They just didn’t know what to do and what to say.”

Sometimes, even in prayer, that discomfort comes to the fore. We’re good at praying that God would heal a person’s body—and that’s not a bad thing to pray for. We’re good at praying for God to change bad situations—and that’s good. But often our prayers actually miss that person in the middle of suffering. We forget that suffering is always a vat of temptation. A chorus of anomie, anomie, anomie is all around us, the sad song of humanity. The person in the middle needs more than a situation fix. It was a great thing that Job’s health, wealth, family, and social status were eventually restored. But it was a greater thing that Job was restored while still in the midst of suffering.

First Corinthians gives a stunning answer. The church in Corinth should be called, “The First Church of Job’s House.” It’s not the kind of church you want to attend. It was riddled with division, broken by immorality, ravaged by messed up marriages, and totally confused in its relationship to the surrounding culture. Worship services were chaotic. First Corinthians reaches crescendo in chapter 15. Paul turns from difficulty to talk about the only thing that speaks with lasting power in order to reverse anomie. He begins to talk about the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. He says that Jesus is alive, not because he’s interested in looking at the past. He talks about it because he’s intently interested in talking about the future.

In the middle of 1 Corinthians 15, Paul makes a foundational statement: “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” Life cannot just be about this. If all you have is this, you can’t make any sense out of anything. If all you do is try to rearrange this, you are a pitiable person. If Jesus is just for fixing this, our faith is pitiful. Ministry and theology are not about rearranging the chairs in Job’s house. Everything in Job’s house screams for more than this. If there is not more, there is no hope. We need to learn that when we begin to bring eternity into now, we are not changing the subject. We are addressing the subject in the only way it can be addressed.

How can I say to Jack, my blind and battered friend, “Let’s just pick apart your life and understand it a little more.” How cruel would that be? There has to be more. Paul says that if you understand the resurrection, you have broken the code. You find that there is more.

Do you read novels? I like to read novels because I love the craft of writing. But writing is not something I naturally do. I speak. But there are people who understand the writing process. They get you right into the middle of the complex plot. You become the character in the drama. You live with those other characters. You join the conversation. You enter the struggles. You wish that you could jump to the end of the book, that the novelist would tell you the secret early in the story. When you finally do get to the ending, you think back over everything you’ve read. The pieces fall into place. One of the sweet functions of the Word of God is that God lets us in on the secret early in the story. He allows us to eavesdrop on eternity, to listen in, to look in, to stand in with saints on the other side, and then to look back at the drama in which we now struggle. Read the following words slowly, sentence by sentence. Envision, and listen.

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”

Then one of the elders asked me, “How did these people get here?” Who are these people in white robes? Who are they, and where did they come from?”

I answered, “Sir, you know.”

And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, they are before the throne of God and serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd. He will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Rev. 7:9–17)

Eavesdrop on Eternity

A countless multitude has passed through great sufferings, through the tears of anomie. Now they cry out with joy. What do they celebrate? These people are not saying, “I stayed handsome till the day I died.” “I had the greatest house—you wouldn’t have believed my house! Why our family room had a family room!” “I had three Plymouth Belvederes!” “I had phenomenal career! I was one of those fast trackers. I retired at forty!” “We had the coolest vacations! We saw the world.” “You wouldn’t have believed my wardrobe! You think clothes? I had clothes.” “My kids—I had trophy kids! We should have bronzed them and put them on the mantle!” “Food? We ate food gourmet meals every day.” “People liked me. It was great. I was a popular guy. I was so cool. Everywhere I went I was a people-magnet!”

No.

None of that. Here’s what they say: “You did it! You did it! You did it! Salvation belongs to our God.” What does that mean? The celebration of the awesome saving grace of God is not a celebration of a theology of salvation. It’s a celebration of the Person who saves. They’re saying, “Salvation belongs to God.” They recognize, “In all of those moments of anomie, You were with us. You were with us in all the places where we couldn’t hear You, in all the places where we couldn’t see You, in all the places where we couldn’t find You. You were there. If we’re on this side now, You had to be with us every moment then, because You save. We finally see You!” As people look back on their lives—suffering, sin, hunger, thirst, heat, tears—now every room of Job’s house is filled with the glory of the Lamb. The house looks different now.

They also recognize something else: “You kept us in Job’s house because You wanted to display Your personal glory through the broken lives of human beings. You kept us in Job’s house because You wanted that salvation to be displayed, and then declared. The world is about anomie, and the Lamb is what the world needs. You, Savior, called us to live in Job’s house so those who couldn’t see the Savior might glimpse His glory in the very rooms where they didn’t want to be.”

It’s a great scene. The saints celebrate. The angels can’t keep quiet. A cascade of celebration: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God forever and ever. It was You! It was You! It was You! You were with us all along. We were never alone. We were never by ourselves. Every moment was guarded and guided by You. If we are now on this side, it’s only because in every moment then You were in us, near us, with us. You, O Savior, are Emmanuel.”

Every cry of anomie is a deep personal cry for meaning. Meaning isn’t found in abstractions or achievements or experiences. Meaning is found in a Person. And the deep personal cry of meaning is worship. And there’s one thing more in this scene. God’s people course their way to eternity still weeping, because they’re still living in Job’s house. They carry the scars, pain, and loss with them. They cry their way into eternity. As a final act of redemption, God rises from His throne, walks among His people, puts His hands up to their eyes, and says, “Don’t cry anymore. It’s over. It’s over. It really is over.” Every cry of those who live in Job’s house is a cry for release and resolution. On the other side, there will not be any more reason to cry.

Go back to your place to live in Job’s house. Live with people who live in Job’s house. If we are going to offer meaning and resolution, then we must become a community of eternity. We need to eavesdrop on eternity. We need to see the presence of the risen Lord Jesus who will never ever leave us or forsake us. “I will be with you always.” In the tough moments, He delivers us from our deepest difficulty. We need to present the bright hope to people. There will be a life much longer, much fuller, much more glorious life. Anomie will be no more.

Eavesdrop on eternity. Suffering must be seen in light of eternity. This, right here and now, cannot be all there is. By the grandeur of His grace, Jesus has let us in on a secret. We have gotten the ending while we’re still in the middle of the story so that we see, and hear, and hope, and rest. Praise Him!

 

Originally published in the Journal of Biblical Counseling (subscription information here) 

Check out www.PaulTripp.com for more books, article and teaching from Paul Tripp. 

Not for Nothing: Remembering the Spirit

Not for Nothing: Remembering the Spirit

To forget is to lack. God helps in real ways when we need him the most. Here’s how. 

Sermon Notes:

Genesis 1:2 (NIV) — 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

Isaiah 32:14-18 For the palace will be forsaken, the populous city deserted … until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest. Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field. And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust for ever. My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places. (Isa. 32:14–18)

John 3:6–15 (NIV) — 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” 9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. 10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

Acts 2:1–21 (NIV) — 1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them….14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 17 “ ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. 19 I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. 21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

Although the first people God created, Adam and Eve, had complete freedom to live in friendship and trust with him, they chose to rebel (Gen. 3:1–7). Because God designed that Adam would represent the entire human race, his sin was catastrophic not only for him but for us: “one trespass led to condemnation for all men” (Rom. 5:18). Our fellowship with God was broken. Instead of enjoying his holy pleasure, we instead face his righteous wrath. Through this sin, we all died spiritually (see Rom. 3:1–20; Eph. 2:1–10) and the entire world was affected. God also cursed the world over which humanity had been set to reign as his lieutenants (see Gen. 3:17–19). “The creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it” (Rom. 8:20). And we all individually sin against God in our own lives: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). –
ESV Study Bible

Holy Spirit’s activity of giving spiritual gifts to equip Christians for ministry. After listing a variety of spiritual gifts, Paul says, “But one and the same Spirit works all these things distributing to each one individually just as He wills” (1 Cor. 12:11 NASB). Since the Holy Spirit is the one who shows or manifests God’s presence in the world, it is not surprising that Paul can call spiritual gifts “manifestations” of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:7). When spiritual gifts are active, it is another indication of the presence of God the Holy Spirit in the church.
In the prayer lives of individual believers, we find that the Holy Spirit empowers prayer and makes it effective. “We do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words” (Rom. 8:26). And Paul says that we “have access in one Spirit to the Father” (Eph. 2:18). One specific kind of prayer that the New Testament says is empowered by the Holy Spirit is the gift of prayer in tongues (1 Cor. 12:10–11; 14:2, 14–17).
Yet another aspect of the Holy Spirit’s work in empowering Christians for service is empowering people to overcome spiritual opposition to the preaching of the gospel and to God’s work in people’s lives. This power in spiritual warfare was first seen in the life of Jesus, who said, “If it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matt. 12:28). When Paul came to Cyprus he encountered opposition from Elymas the magician, but he, “filled with the Holy Spirit looked intently at him and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you shall be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.’ Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand” (Acts 13:9–11). The gift of “distinguishing between spirits” (1 Cor. 12:10), given by the Holy Spirit, is also to be a tool in this warfare against the forces of darkness, as is the Word of God, which functions as the “sword of the Spirit” (Eph. 6:17) in spiritual conflict.
– Wayne Grudem

The Colossians Comission – Col 4:2ff

The Colossians Comission – Col 4:2ff

Jesus gives us a way of starting to influence people… but most people give up too quickly…. will you?

Sermon Notes:

Colossians 4:2-6ff (NIV)
2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
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Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 45
Q. Why do Christians need to pray?
A. Because prayer is the most important part of the thankfulness God requires of us.1 And also because God gives his grace and Holy Spirit only to those who pray continually and groan inwardly, asking God for these gifts and thanking God for them.2 1 Ps. 50:14-15; 116:12-19; 1 Thess. 5:16-18 2 Matt. 7:7-8; Luke 11:9-13

Q. What is the kind of prayer that pleases God and that he listens to?
A. First, we must pray from the heart to no other than the one true God, revealed to us in his Word, asking for everything God has commanded us to ask for.1 Second, we must fully recognize our need and misery, so that we humble ourselves in God’s majestic presence.2 Third, we must rest on this unshakable foundation: even though we do not deserve it, God will surely listen to our prayer because of Christ our Lord. That is what God promised us in his Word.3 1 Ps. 145:18-20; John 4:22-24; Rom. 8:26-27; James 1:5; 1 John 5:14-15 2 2 Chron. 7:14; Ps. 2:11; 34:18; 62:8; Isa. 66:2; Rev. 4 3 Dan. 9:17-19; Matt. 7:8; John 14:13-14; 16:23; Rom. 10:13; James 1:6

Q. What did God command us to pray for?
A. Everything we need, spiritually and physically,1 as embraced in the prayer
Christ our Lord himself taught us. 1 James 1:17; Matt. 6:33

Q. What is this prayer?
A. Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.* For the kingdom and the power and the glory are yours forever. Amen. 1** 1 Matt. 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4 *This text of the Lord’s Prayer is from the New Revised Standard Version in keeping with the use of the NRSV throughout this edition of the catechism. Most biblical scholars will agree that it is an accurate translation of the Greek text and carries virtually the same meaning as the more traditional text of the Lord’s Prayer **Earlier and better manuscripts of Matthew 6 omit the words “For the kingdom and … Amen.”

“Where Christ is Lord” Col 3:18-4:1

“Where Christ is Lord” Col 3:18-4:1

Who you are at HOME and at WORK matters to God. Find out why.

Sermon Notes

Colossians 3:18-4:1 (NIV)

18 Wives, submit yourselves 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 embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. 22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism. 1 Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.

_________________________________________________
THE BOOK OF Proverbs assumes that the household, not the temple, is “the primary place of moral formation and social duty.” The home becomes even more important as the center of Christian nurture and education when surrounding society becomes so wicked that it accepts and even promotes immorality. These texts are not about who gets the power and authority to run the family but affirm that the family is the primary context for faith formation and for living out one’s faith. How we live in our family says a great deal about our faith.
Paul’s advice in this section is rather sparse, which makes it clear that he has no intention of providing an advice manual on family relationships. He is affirming the family as the place where we first live out our newness as “God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved” (3:12). In the previous section, he reeled off a list of virtues (3:12–15), but such virtues are empty talk unless they are lived out in the structures and relationships of everyday life.
New life begins in the home. Schweizer observes that Christian wisdom and instruction are not always put to the test in times of suffering, which requires a heroic response, but in the everyday situations of life—like in the home. “The real world is, according to our letter, first of all our husband or wife, our children or parents, our employees or chiefs. Only if and when we take this world seriously may we, perhaps, be called to serve our Lord on a greater scale.” One can do heroic battle in the public arena but lose the war in the privacy of the home.
The family is where, under the lordship of Christ, we learn to control our anger, rage, abusive language, and lying so that peace might reign. The family is where we first learn to work out the values of “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (3:12). There is no more difficult a place to exercise these virtues day in and day out than in the home. The new life enables submissiveness that puts others first, love that refuses to grow bitter, obedience, supportive and encouraging parenting, devotion to doing work well, and fairness and justice in our dealing with others. – David W. Pao

THE INSTRUCTION THAT the wife submit to her husband fits the norm of what was regarded as becoming conduct for a wife in Paul’s [ancient] culture. Paul does not overtly dispute this cultural assumption. The change in women’s status in our age and modern sensibilities lead many today to wish that he had. The command for wives to submit, however, was not inappropriate in his context. (1) It reflects the legal state of affairs. The husband as the paterfamilias (the head of the household) was the only fully legal person in the family and had power over all property and almost absolute authority over every member in it. They were all obligated to obey him, and Paul does not challenge the existing legal order.
(2) The verb “submit” (hypotasso) does not convey some innate inferiority but is used for a modest, cooperative demeanor that puts others first. It was something expected of all Christians regardless of their rank or gender (Mark 10:41–45; 1 Cor. 16:16; Eph. 5:21, 24; Phil. 2:3–4; 1 Peter 5:5).
(3) The command addresses wives directly as “ethically responsible partners.”7
(4) The directive is not one-sided; demands are also made of the husband. Some nuances may also help to mitigate the command’s harshness to modern ears. Paul does not tell wives to “obey” their husbands. In the commands to children and slaves, he uses the active imperative. The verb “submit” (hypotassesthe), however, is in the middle voice and can imply a voluntary submission. It makes the wife’s submission her willing choice, not some universal law that ordains masculine dominance. Paul also qualifies this submission further with the phrase, “as is fitting in the Lord.”… This qualification recasts the wife’s submission to her husband by turning it into allegiance shown to Christ (cf. Eph. 5:22–24). – David Garland

 

The Path to Blessing – Colossians 3:16-17

The Path to Blessing – Colossians 3:16-17

What if changing your life for the better was as simple as God makes it sound? Would you take the first step?

Sermon Helps

Colossians 3:15-17 (NIV)
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

2 Corinthians 9:8: (GEMS theme verse) And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

Both “teaching and admonishing” and “singing” should be considered as means though which one can allow the word of Christ to dwell in our hearts and in our midst. As in 1:28, Christ is again the focus of “teaching and admonishing,” as highlighted by instrumental datives, “with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.” In the OT, songs were means through which God’s people remembered his mighty deeds, and through such deeds God made himself known. For Paul, believers also need to be educated through such confessions of God’s mighty acts through his Son. It is uncertain if clear distinctions should be made among “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs,” although they should not be considered as synonyms. “Psalms” (???????) often refer to OT psalms (Luke 20:42, 44; Acts 1:20), but Paul also uses it for hymns sung in a Christian worship setting (1 Cor 14:26). “Hymns” (??????), a word that appears only here and in Eph 5:19 in the NT, often refers to praises offered to deities or heroes. In the early church, it could refer specifically to hymns sung to Christ as God (Pliny, Ep. Tra. 10.96), a category for which the christological hymn of 1:15–20 comfortably qualifies. “Spiritual songs” (????? ????????????) can refer to “Spirit-inspired, and therefore often spontaneous, songs” sung in Christian worship settings (cf. 1 Cor 14:15–16), although the word “spiritual” can be taken as modifying “psalms” and “hymns” as well. Regardless of how the terms are to be understood, they all aim at confessing God’s acts that climax in the life and ministry of Christ.
– David W. Pao

Does Paul’s rhetoric soar a bit here in an effort to speak of comprehensiveness (whatever you do, in word and deed, do everything), or does he have something more specific in mind? The question arises because of the location of the verse. The preceding verse spoke of worship and admonition, and the verses prior to that of the proper conduct in the one body. So does name of the Lord Jesus conclude a series with “peace of Christ” (Col. 3:15) and “word of Christ” (3:16), indicating that all conduct and speech as set forth in 3:12–16 is to be done in the one body in the one name of the Lord Jesus? Word and deed would therefore encapsulate all that Paul has mentioned in the foregoing, in the territory of compassion, forbearance, forgiveness, thankfulness, teaching, and worship. But equally, the verse can point ahead to 3:18–4:1, where the duties of the new Adam are set out, the first one being predicated “as is fitting in the Lord” (3:18). “Fitting” gives way to “pleasing the Lord” (3:20), which passes on to “fearing the Lord” and “serving the Lord” (3:22–23) and concludes by returning to service of “the Lord Christ” (t? kyri? christ?). Modern commentary has focused on the illuminating parallels between Paul’s admonitions in 3:18–4:1 and what are called “household codes” from the Greco-Roman milieu. Both Aristotle and Plato discuss the household unit and its critical place within a stable society. The Roman household was the cornerstone of society and the means by which peace and stability were to be effectively maintained. The paterfamilias had specific responsibilities for upholding the “chain of command” in the family (wife, children, slaves) and rights and privileges accrued to them in the light of that. What is immediately clear, in view of 3:18–4:1, is how thoroughly distinctive is Paul’s own understanding. The sixfold reference to kyrios in the space of nine verses can hardly be accidental. Moreover, Paul concludes by telling the master of the slave, and presumptive head of the Christian household, that a master in heaven is over him. The point is clear enough, but the Greek is even clearer given the repetition noted. The kyrioi (“masters”) have a kyrios in heaven. As we leave the present section with its emphasis on doing everything in the name of kyrios i?sous (3:17) and enter the space Paul sets aside to describe the new Adam household—with its sevenfold reference to kyrios (including the finale in 4:1)—the difference between the contemporaneous household and the one familiar to the Colossians in the old Adam could not be more striking. Doing everything in the name of the Lord Jesus includes what is fitting, pleasing, and reverent to the Lord, within the family of his new designing. Proper service and proper justice are within the single domain of the Lord Christ (3:24). The final verse at 3:17 serves to link the “word” of 3:12–16 with the “deeds” to follow in 3:18–4:1. – Christopher R. Seitz