By Graeme Tearle
One of the most practical areas of life Paul now gives instructions for is the area of common human relations: husband and wife, parents and children, masters and slaves.
Paul gives almost identical instructions in the parallel passage in Ephesians ch.5v21-6v9.
For the background to this passage it is essential to understand the situations prevalent in those times.
The man, be he husband, father, or master, was essentially the owner of all his subordinates.
He had absolute authority and control over wife, children, and slaves, as if they were personal property, and assets. As the man, he could please himself in his own life, even to the extent of getting rid of all of these people on his own whims; but they all had to submit absolutely to his control.
For Paul to write these instructions was to introduce a whole new era and focus of Christianity into these areas of life.
Essentially he was placing greater responsibility of love, care, and consideration on the male, and greater freedom, responsibilities of respect and compliance on the subordinates.
Wives are to submit, or be subject. The English word here conveys the sense of abandonment of the wife’s will. This is overstating the case.
The Greek word is ‘hupotasso,’ with a slightly different emphasis. It literally means to ‘arrange oneself under the love and guidance of another.’ This is a positive attitude of respect and honour, as is fitting in the Lord.
The husband in turn is to love his wife – that ‘agape’ love which Paul mentions in ch.3v14; this to be the same sacrificial and serving attitude that Jesus Himself demonstrated; Paul enlarges on this in Eph.5v25-33, (note the extent of these instructions there.)
The point about not being harsh is in direct contrast to the normal attitude of the husbands of that day.
A fairly simple two-sided encouragement here for fathers and children.
As mentioned above, the father had absolute control over the child, even to the extent of banishing or selling them away.
Again, Paul’s instructions are in direct contrast to the prevalent attitude of that day.
In this passage Paul devotes the greatest amount of material to instructing the slave about their duties to their masters.
The over-ruling principle of these relationships is the Lordship of Christ.
The master must treat the slave with justice and fairness.
Paul’s language is emphatic and wide ranging here for the attitudes of the day.
They are to treat their slaves; the Greek word is ‘parecho,’ which has the underlying meaning of giving or supplying something to someone else.
The slave must obey his master as if he is obeying the Lord Christ.
Controversially Paul says that slaves will receive an inheritance from the Lord as reward. It was unheard of for a slave to have anything of value, let alone an inheritance.
Tasks are to be undertaken with obedience, whole-heartedness, and without the attitude of being men-pleasers.
In ch.2v11 here, plus Galatians ch.3v28, Paul emphasizes the unity and equality of all Christ’s body, and the principles of this passage govern those relationships in the most common of daily life.
Colossians : Points to Ponder.
Pause, and look around you, at the people who are closest to you, and look upon them as equal and loved in the Lord.