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‘Lord, I thank you today for the people in my life; for their love, friendship and care. I name them before you and ask that they might know your blessing.’

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Bible passage Colossians 3:18 – 4:1

Rules for Christian Households
 18Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

 19Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

 20Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.

 21Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

 22Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.

Colossians 4

 1Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Audio Bible passage

The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).

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Practical advice
Paul is nothing if not practical in his exhortation. Having focused on relationships within the church, particularly those which are under strain, he turns his attention to households.

There is nothing new in this; we see a similar approach in Ephesians 5:22 – 6:9. This passage starts with a general verse (3:17) which is just outside the beginning of the section and it controls everything that follows.

Relationships under Jesus
Paul encourages everyone in the church to do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus before drilling down into specific relationships. He addresses wives, husbands, children, slaves and masters as equals. Each group has a mutual responsibility to each other as co-members within the church family. And there’s a beautiful symmetry at work. As each one serves the other they in turn will receive the same grace.

And it’s all for Jesus; in the Lord (vs 18,20); fearing the Lord (v 22) and for the Lord (v 23). Having exhorted his readers to do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus (v 17), he shows them how. There’s no pulling rank or hiding behind status. We are to serve the Lord in the way we relate to each other.


Think of the people you prayed for earlier. How can you best show them Jesus through the way you engage with them?

Gethin Russell-Jones

Deeper Bible study

Am I willing to submit every part of my life to Christ’s Lordship?

Paul is concerned that true spirituality should impact all areas of life and he now speaks about the key relationships of wives and husbands, children and parents, and slaves and masters. There is much wisdom here but also much that has caused controversy, so it is important to remember the context, because Paul’s culture was very different from the individualism of today’s Western culture. The people of his day found their identity in relation to others and their meaning in fulfilling their social and family obligations. Paul’s teaching was truly revolutionary in that context, not least in the way he expressed worth and respect for the marginalised – women, children and slaves. That needs to be heard today.

The foundations for right relationships begin with our relationship to Christ. The words ‘the Lord’ appear six times in the passage (vs 18,20,22,23,24), because Christ’s Lordship relates to all aspects of life. By submitting to his rule our true humanity is restored. We treat people as made in God’s image, people for whom Jesus gave his life. Paul then stresses mutual responsibility and mutuality. He doesn’t focus on the power of men or of bosses, but underlines the responsibilities of each partner – of wives as well as husbands, of children as well as parents, of slaves as well as masters. It is a matter of responsibilities rather than rights, and the passage demonstrates how true mutuality encourages respect and worth.

Finally, Paul calls for wholehearted commitment (vs 22–24). All of our work, however insignificant it might appear, is service for the Lord Jesus Christ. We are to engage in all of life energetically, not reluctantly (v 23). Such foundations are as radical today as they were in the first century, as the church models wholesome relationships founded on respect and mutuality.

Jonathan Lamb

Background: Slavery in NT

Slavery in the first century
The practice of owning and using men and women as slaves was taken for granted by all ancient teachers. By the first century, slavery was extremely widespread with perhaps a third of the population being slaves in Rome and other large cities.

People became slaves through birth, the exposing of unwanted children, being sold by parents, voluntarily becoming a slave (eg to escape debt), penal slavery, kidnapping and piracy, or traffic across the Roman frontiers. Often slaves had a better lifestyle and prospects than poor free people.

Living as a slave
A slave’s social status depended on the social status of their owners. Normally it would be impossible to distinguish slaves, freedmen, or free persons by their dress or even their occupation. Household slaves were the best treated, and might work as tutors, physicians, nurses, close companions and managers as well as in more menial positions.

Slaves had no legal rights, but often they could eventually gain their freedom through manumission and live as ‘clients’ of their former master. In Rome they automatically became citizens on gaining their freedom.

Paul’s attitude to slavery
The New Testament writers regarded one’s social and legal status as fundamentally irrelevant to one’s spiritual status and prospects (Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11). Paul is revolutionary in insisting that masters have duties to slaves, as well as vice versa (Ephesians 6:5–9; see Colossians 3:2 – 4:1).

He recommends slaves to be content with their state, but to make the most of their manumission if they can obtain it (1 Corinthians 7:21,22). In his letter to Philemon he hints strongly that Philemon should give Onesimus, who has become a Christian through Paul, his freedom.

In a memorable phrase, Revelation 18:13 condemns Rome for, among other things, its trade in ‘the bodies and souls of men’ (AV). 


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God in my living (Everything)
Tim Hughes
Copyright © 2005 Thankyou Music
Buy this and other great worship songs at www.kingswayshop.com

Because of your love
Brenton Brown/Paul Baloche Copyright © 2006 Thankyou Music & Integrity's Hosanna! Music/Sovereign Music UK
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  • Rachael Hampton | Monday, 13 November 2017

    So true Jack. Paul was revolutionary indeed, and is speaking to Christians. I hope no one reads 'submit' as a requirement to put up with bullying, injustice or sexual harassment, from Christians or others, without calling it out. Prayers today for the many who have been harmed, or who are suffering in this way.

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Tuesday, 14 November 2017

    v18 Paul said women are to submit to their own husbands. Paul was specifically speaking of a wife submitting to her own husband, not that women in general are to submit to men in general This has been one of the misinterpretations of scripture on submission that has caused many problems. v23 'with all your heart' The reason Christians can perform their tasks from their hearts, even when serving ungodly people, is because the service is performed for their heavenly Master, Christ, and not just their human masters.

  • Angela Munday | Tuesday, 14 November 2017

    It is so difficult to stand alone against a bully; a persecuter. Those who look on could offer support but so often desert you. It is a lonely place to be, as Jesus experienced too as he accepted his cross at Calvary. May we, as loving Christians, notice the behaviour of those around us and offer support as we take care of each other; we belong to God's heavenly family where each individual is of great value......."God has no favourites."

  • David Forbes | Tuesday, 14 November 2017

    interesting to see how Paul speaks of the society of his day . often scoffers today bring up slavery in the bible to siscredit the bible snd by default the christian message and faith. No doubt some slavrs were mistreated but judging from the WL commentary of this passage Paul at least elevated their position.

  • David Forbes | Tuesday, 14 November 2017

    one difference from us is that power positions/relationships seem tp be leveled out and the commentator suggests that relationships and responsibilities one to another instead of rights. This indeed does't sit well with our 21 centuary. individualism. how therefore should we react to out fellow Christians and the world with the minder that we have a duty and responsibility to them. How often are we inclined to judge and defend our rights. there's a passage that says "we should not be like the heathen... devouring one another.".As i think of my heckles rising when confronted with for example the "rights" of some LGBT activists demands for Christian marriage does the manner in which I respond exhibit respect and graciousness. Not that i have to acquiesce to all thier "rights" but refusing to engage in the power game.

  • Roger Hall | Tuesday, 14 November 2017

    A comment from John Stott when discussing Wives and Husbands, what does it mean that husbands Love their wives? In fact Paul's own description of Love in 1 Corinthians 13 makes abundantly clear the position of the husband. I don't need to write it all down, husbands and wives could always check up on their position by substituting the word "Love," with firstly the word "Jesus," then again, but putting their own name. I never get far myself! Is Roger really patient?

  • Lynda Spencer | Tuesday, 14 November 2017

    As I see it, problems in any relationship develop when one or other (or even both) people, whatever their relationship to one another, demand their rights while ignoring their responsibilities. Paul makes it so clear that the Lord is the most important element in any relationship, whether family or business or other, and that each person is responsible before God for how they fulfil their responsibilities in that relationship. Getting personal, I have no problem at all in 'submitting' to my dear husband. I totally respect him, trust his judgements, and I love him with all my heart. Why? Because he loves me 'as Christ loved the church'. He respects me and honours me, treats me as his equal in all matters, and puts me before himself. I could go on, although if he were to read this he would be highly embarassed! I am now proud to see both my sons treating their wives in the way that was modelled to them as they grew up. I am therefore able, by God's grace, to testify that, if applied, the model we are given in the Bible does truly work, and it is by far the best way to live.

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Tuesday, 14 November 2017

    That is a wonderful testimony LYNDA. Praise the LORD I am blessed with a devoted husband too

  • Angela Munday | Tuesday, 14 November 2017

    I can agree with what you write Lynda and Gilvin and go on to say that many of my non - Christian friends have this wonderful relationship too.

  • Jack Russell | Tuesday, 14 November 2017

    Thank you Rachael, Paul indeed was revolutionary, speaking to Christians and if there were not issues with Christians and Christians communities he would not have been needed to give direction. On the issue of submission it's natural to react out of fear and aversion to bullying. But courage is about facing fear and the perfect love of God cast out all fear. There was no excuse for Christian women not to be submitting to their husbands just and Christ submitted to humanity and came as servant, not to Lord it over everyone (which by the way would have been his right if he so chose). So just as he cam for release of the oppressed, he also came as am exemplar of humility. This is a challenge to the finger pointing "me" individualistic culture. Just as there was no excuse for women not be submitting to husbands there was no excuse for husbands treating wives harshly or not being loving to wives, in mutual equal submission. God did create a helper for Adam with Eve it is true, but he did so because Adam needed help!

  • Ruth Lewis | Tuesday, 14 November 2017

    I give thanks to my God for giving me a Godly Husband. I often wonder why he loves me. I can be mean sometimes & Bossy. But I love him, And I know he loves me which is only by the Grace of God!!!

  • Ruth Lewis | Tuesday, 14 November 2017

    I miss DEREK. I am praying for him.

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