Colossians 3:18-21





1.                  Never has so much been said about so important a task with so few words as these brief sentences on how to live in a family.


2.                  These instructions are fairly typical of what the New Testament says when it addresses family life, but they are of a different nature from the guidance people commonly receive on the subject.

a.                   One difference is the source of the advice.  We may seek help from a current book or a popular counselor or a TV personality or a political leader or a peer going through similar problems, but these are the directions of an apostle of Christ.

b.                  And those directions are another difference.  We hear about doing things like communicating, dividing up the work, expressing appreciation to and affection for one another, developing common interests, and doing things together, but these instructions run deeper than any of that.

c.                   The big difference is that, instead of offering rules to keep around the edges of family life, scriptures like this one speak of relating.


3.                  That is the value of a spiritual family.  No matter what practical counsel may be provided, one thing we all need is a structure for relating to one another in a way that is healthy for the whole family.  That is what our text is about.





1.                  A necessary part of handling it properly is the clear focus that comes from a few observations about passages that speak to family matters like this one does.


a.                   They address the family we are going to have because we are in Christ, not the one we were brought up in, or have been hurt by, or are dissatisfied with.

i.                    That is very much the question here in Colossians 3: when a person is a Christian, how is he expected to function in his various family connections?

ii.                  The point is that doing so is not only what the Lord requires, but that it is also what will give that family the best chance of being more whole and well as the days come and go than it has been before.


b.                  New Testament passages like ours instruct the individual reader to contribute to the transformation of that family by appropriately filling his own place within it.

i.                    In other words, they talk to the reader about himself, not to him about the responsibilities of the other members of his family.


ii.                  That makes sense, because that person’s own part is all he can do anything about anyhow!


c.                   Another thing that strikes us is that when instructions like these are offered they seem to start with the one who might have been thought to have been in the least empowered position to affect the transformation of the family.

i.                    For example, our text addresses wives first and then husbands, children first and then fathers.

ii.                  Why?  Is it to say that there is always a place to start? Does it imply something about family dynamics?  Or is this one demonstration of the unique power of service?


d.                  Either way, it leads to the most important observation about passages like this: they assume a spiritual approach on the part of the family members who are doing these things.

i.                    Why else would instructions like these be taken seriously to start with, but for the fact that they are written to people who are seeking the things that are above?

ii.                  How else could teachings like these be taken up with a balance that would never use them for selfish ends, unless they are meant for people who have the mind of Christ?


2.                  Spiritual wholeness in Christ is the part of family life that is most essential for this reason: it is the oxygen which every family task breathes.


a.                   Unfortunately, it is also the easiest family matter to let slide–in fact, it is hardly ever even thought of as a family matter at all.

i.                    It is easier, and more common, for us to think doing things for our family than of being something within it.

ii.                  To us, marriage and family life may be just a matter of avoiding loneliness, or meeting physical needs, or accommodating social convention for raising children, or making economic sense.

iii.                What has to dawn on us is that the design of the biblical family is also about meeting the spiritual needs of human beings as well–maybe even most!


b.                  Something of what I mean by “spiritual” may be observed fairly vividly from the context here in Colossians3, one of my favorite chapters in all the Bible.

i.                    It’s where the word of Christ is taken as the last word, the authoritative word, on all matters, but especially in how the Lord himself is to be worshiped and served (v.16,17).

ii.                  It’s where there is, in the hearts of people, a tone of grateful contentment and harmony (v.14,15).

iii.                And it’s where the moral and temperamental culture among people is wholesome (v.5, 8-9a, 12-13).


3.                  A spiritual family–one characterized by the three conditions we have just mentioned–is “the nearest thing to the heavenly relationship we can experience while still in the flesh” (M. Lyon).


a.                   A spiritual family is where a child first experiences the virtues that are the raw material of responsible and rewarding living, and where those same virtues are nourished and maintained throughout a person’s life.

i.                    By “virtues” I mean qualities like the ones mentioned in Gal. 5:22,23–the ones described as “the fruit of the Spirit.”

ii.                  The alternative is “the works of the flesh,” summarized in verses 19-21....No family could possibly thrive on such things!

iii.                You can see that the choice to “walk by the Spirit” or to “gratify the lusts of the flesh” will have huge implications for a family.


b.                  It is also a spiritual family that blesses a person with his first sense of belonging–with which also comes his first realization that others are counting on him, and that he is responsible.

i.                    Having any part in the roles we have read about here in Colossians 3, either as a wife or a husband or a child or a parent or as extended family, means being accountable to other people.

ii.                  There is no other way to “belong”–it means caring and sharing alike.

iii.                A family is where none of us can behave as if “it’s all about me.”


c.                   In a spiritual family we get our first and most important lessons in truthfulness and honesty, with which we also begin to experience the rewards of integrity.

i.                    That’s how trust and loyalty become possible for us.

ii.                  We learn at home how, both by instruction and example, to be honest and sincere and genuine–to keep our word and to make our selves known–even when it’s not easy.

iii.                By doing so, we not only come to the place where we can look ourselves in they eye in the mirror, but also become persons to whom other people, even our own family members, can relate.





1.                  Any other thing that might be said about family life will only have the meaning or the usefulness it should within this context: a spiritual family.


2.                  A spiritual family will not just happen.  It will take time a good choices.  With the highest priority will have to be placed on a meaningful relationship with God.  And that will never happen unless there are spiritual people in the family.


3.                  How is it with you?  Is “with Christ...like Christ..of Christ...for Christ” the way of your life?  For you, is it the case that “Christ is all, and in all”?