Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | January 14, 2007

Colossians – Part 19

What would you like to accomplish this year?

Colossians – Part 19: Work Life 

1.  Who was the fullness of God in bodily form?

2.  What did Paul say had been nailed to the cross?

Holiness in Work Life (Ch 3:22 – 4:1): Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.  23 Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance.  It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.  25 For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality.  1 Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven.  (Verse in Greek attached for reference).   

After giving instruction to the family, Paul now turns to slaves and masters to advise them how their conduct should be in light putting on the new self.  Although, here in Western society slavery is no longer practiced this passage still applies to those of us who work or have employees.  Rather than starve to death on the street, a person would become a slave to render services to a master in exchange for shelter and food.  Similarly, in our day in order to provide food and shelter we “enslave” ourselves to an employer to perform a duty in exchange for compensation.  And as long as our employers direct us to perform duties that do not conflict with biblical standards, we should perform them as if we are doing them for our Lord.  In light of this, the Christian should strive to be the best employee not just going through the motions, but performing our work out of the seat and center of our inner self, our hearts (hence the term psuche in the Greek, which means soul).  Typically, employees turn it up a notch when their employer is audience to their work, which is not continuous.  However, Paul informs the Christian that they have a continuous audience to their work in the Lord.  It is for His glory and in His name that we should perform our tasks (Col 3:17).  Likewise, Christians who are employers (masters) are not to abuse or exploit their employees, but treat them with justice and fairness.  This justice and fairness not only should be rendered when authorities are observing, but with the understanding that their Master in heaven is observing.  The Apostle continues to affirm the sanctity of Christian’s engagement within the physical world.  Although Paul previously instructed the believers to set their mind on things above (Col 3:2), this does not exclude the reality that work is a part of the Christian life.  This section also appears to be directed against the Colossian false teachers who would have denied engagement in any “worldly” affairs (marriage, family, work), which would have had no spiritual value.  This seems reasonable to assume since the Apostle literally says to be obedient to your masters according to the flesh (Greek term kata sarka kuriois, which can also be rendered masters on earth), which would have been repugnant to the Colossian false teachers.  Work and vocations are a gift from God not only to be endured, but to be gratifying or fulfilling in their performance.  Again Paul returns to the central character of this letter, Christ, who is the reason why our labor should be performed unbegrudginly.  It is Christ whom we are serving in our labor, in whom have already received all the blessings of God’s inheritance. An inheritance that He purchased, which will never perish, spoil nor fade. 

3.  Why did Paul include this section in the letter to the Colossians?

4.  Does this passage apply only to slaves and masters?

5.  Does a Christian’s calling to a vocation only include working in a Christian work place (Christian school, Church or Missionary)? – See attached articles

6.  Are we only to be obedient to masters (employers) who treat us well? 

Servants, be obedient:  “In the second clause he again comforts servants, by saying that, if they are oppressed by the unjust cruelty of their masters, God himself will take vengeance, and will not, on the ground that they are servants, overlook the injuries inflicted upon them, inasmuch as there is no respect of persons with him…Besides, it often happens that servants themselves endeavor to avenge injurious and cruel treatment.  He obviates, accordingly, this evil, by admonishing them to wait patiently the judgment of God.”  John Calvin, Commentary on Colossians 

7.  Was work only a result of the fall and thus a curse?  Gen 3:17-19, Gen 2:15 & 20

8.  How do people work only to please me?

9.  Who are we truly working for when we perform our work?

10. How should we perform our work?

11. Have you noticed how Christ central to this entire letter?

12. How does much of the media portray people’s vocations?

13. What is our inheritance? 

14. How does this inheritance relate to our vocations? 

Good works are those that help our neighbor.  They are performed primarily in our callings.  Our relationship to God is based wholly on His works, not our own; on His grace; our redemption in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  He, in turn, calls us to love and serve our neighbors.  And yet, we learn from Christ that “as you did it to the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).  So it turns out that when we love and serve our neighbor, we are serving Christ after all.  Gene Edward Veith, The Protestant Work Ethic 

15. What is the instruction to masters (employers)?  How should they treat their employees?

16. How does an employer treat their employees with justice and fairness?

17. Why should masters (employers) do this?

18. Has this study changed your view of work or affirmed it? 

Answers to Colossians Part 19: 

  1. Christ is the fullness of deity (God) in bodily form.  (Colossians 2:9). 
  2. The certificate of debt, which stood against us.  (Colossians 2:14)  This signifies all of our transgressions (violations) against God’s Law.  Christ has fully paid for this debt through His sacrifice on the cross.
  3. Paul included this section in the letter to the Colossians to provide instructions on how Christian should conduct themselves as servants and as masters. It also appears to be included to make it clear to the false teachers that vocations in this world are not unholy.  This is especially apparent in the Greek, which literally says obey your masters according to the flesh.  The flesh as we’ve learned was seen as repugnant to the Colossian false teachers.
  4. No, this passage is also applicable to our modern relationships between employers and employees.  Employees are people rendering there services for compensation.  Slaves in the first century were people rendering services for food and shelter in return.
  5. All Christians are called to work in some type of vocation.  As the articles included with the study indicate Christian vocations are not just limited to working in a “Christian” ministry.
  6. No, we are to obey our employers even if they treat us wrongly.  As long as they instruct us to perform tasks that are not contrary to God’s Law, we should willfully complete it as if we are doing it for the Lord Himself.
  7. No, as is indicated in Genesis 2:15 and 20 Adam was given a job to tend the garden.  This was prior to the fall, thus work in and of itself is not a result of the fall.
  8. Many people work only as much as they have to.  However, when the boss is looking they will appear as if they are working hard.  However, some people may work hard and be driven to make more money, obtain promotions or just for their own ego.  There work is performed to further there own desires and not the Lord’s.
  9. As Paul says in the letter, our work is not only to be done for our employers, but to be done as if we are doing it for the Lord.  If He is our Lord then we will seek to work hard and do our best for Him.
  10. Our work should be performed from the soul with sincerity and in the fear of the Lord.  If our work was performed in this matter we will be the best employees we could possibly be.
  11. Our work should be performed in the name of and in service to Christ.  Christ is the central theme of this letter.  This is not done unintentionally by the Apostle.  The Colossian false teachers had attempted to lower the status and importance of Christ.  Paul in response to these heretics seeks to lift up Christ in every aspect of life.  We have seen the centrality of Christ being stressed in creation, redemption, the Church, our baptism, our sanctification, and now our work.
  12. The media portrays work much of the time as a drag.  It may also be portrayed as a status symbol for our lives, “you are what you do”. 
  13. Our inheritance is our salvation from eternal death and gift of eternal life.  We who were once against God through our sin and rebellion have now become His children through the atoning work of Christ.  Although, we have sinned and rebelled against God our inheritance is that we will be with Him some day in paradise for eternity.  This was not achieved by anything we could do, but was solely earned by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  He fulfilled all the demands of God’s Law in our place.  He bore the full extent of our penalty for our sin and rebellion against God in our place.  Now our sins are transferred to Christ and His righteousness is transferred to us.
  14. As Paul states in versus 23 and 24, we are to do our work from the depth of our souls “knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance.”  Our inheritance or the proclamation of the Gospel (good news- see #13) should be the motivating factor in doing our vocations well.  In addition, as was stated in the attached articles, our response to God is to love Him with all our soul, mind and strength and our neighbor as ourselves in gratitude.  Our vocations give us the realm where we can perform good works.  God does not need our good works, but our neighbor does.
  15. Employers should treat their employees with justice and fairness.
  16. Employers can do this by not exploiting their employees.  They can pay them a fair wage and provide fair benefits.  They can provide a safe working environment.  Provide good supervision and communicate their expectations to their workers clearly.
  17. Employers should do this, because they to have a Master in heaven


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