Reactions to the Knowledge of Christ in Associations
Tim Temple


Our text today is Colossians, chapter 3, beginning with verse 18:

Colossians 3

18Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.
19Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.
20Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.
21Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.
22Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God;
23And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;
24Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.
25But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.

Colossians 4

1Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.

We will stop our reading there with the first verse of chapter 4. The first institution that God established after creation was the institution of marriage and the home. Throughout history—both secular history and Biblical history—societies have disintegrated as the home has deteriorated and as the institution of marriage has been de-emphasized. It is very significant that again and again in the Scripture, when application of doctrinal truth is made, it's in the area of putting the truth into practice in the home.

As we mentioned in our last study, as we began to look at these verses which deal with the family and the home and the application of truth in that area, it's fairly easy to give the appearance of a Christian when we are in public. It's fairly easy to claim that we stand by the principles of the Word of God when we're with people who don't really know us very well. It's a little more difficult to do it in our office or on our campus or when we are with the people that are with us day by day, because they are the ones who see us on a more detailed personal basis. The significant thing is that it is almost impossible to live the Christian life consistently in the home, because that is where we are really known for what we are. That's where we're really ourselves. I think it is partly for that reason that God, when He tells us examples of where to put doctrine into practice, uses the illustration of the home. That is exactly what we have here in the book of Colossians, from the standpoint of the overall structure of the book.

You will remember that the first two chapters dealt with the very basic truth of “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” In those first two chapters, Paul established the doctrinal basis for the truth of Jesus Christ, Who He is and what He has done, all that we can expect of Him.

The second two chapters make application of that truth, and chapter 3 deals with the reactions to the knowledge of Christ. Having established what the knowledge of Christ is in the first two chapters, Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, gives us several areas of reactions or several ways in which we should react to the knowledge of Christ.

By way of review, we notice in the first four verses that he told us what our reactions should be in our attitudes. There are certain attitudes that should be affected as we understand who Jesus Christ is and what He has done. Then in verses 5-17, there are some specific actions that should be affected in reaction to the knowledge of Christ. Finally, in verses 18 through the first verse of chapter 4, we have reactions to the knowledge of Christ in the area of our associations.

We have been looking at this area of our associations in our last few lessons. This is where the rubber hits the road. This is where we really put into practice these things that we have been talking about on a theoretical basis, the reactions to the knowledge of Christ in the area of our associations. In the area of these associations, the associations which are described here are all family relationships. You will notice servants are included here, and that may seem a little out of step with the instructions concerning the family, but if you will remember in the Greek culture in which the Colossians lived and in which Paul wrote, the servant was really in a sense a part of the family. The servant was so closely connected with the family that he was included in the instruction to the family. Even though servants are not a part of the family of most of us in our culture today, there is valuable instruction about the way we should treat our employer, the kind of workers we should be, and the kind of employers those of you who are in that position should be. So this is perhaps a little broader than the family. Although originally intended as a discussion of the roles of the family, this is very practical information about the way our lives should be affected by the knowledge of Christ.

Instructions for Children

We have looked at the associations between husbands and wives and so today we want to look at the instructions that have to do with children in verse 20 and with fathers in verse 21. So if you will notice again in verse 20, the instruction for children:

Colossians 3

20Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.

This verse would seem to be so familiar that we might not even take the time to think about it, but as we analyze this verse again, I think we are going to see that there is very important truth here that is well worth reviewing. So we want to think first about the requirement of obedience. Will you remember that even though this verse is so well known and familiar to all of us as parents and children who have known the Lord any length of time, we need to remember that it is a requirement of God. It is a command from God: “Children obey your parents.”

It is good for us to recognize right at the outset that this is something that God requires, but it goes without saying that this is a requirement that is easier said than done. First, let me point out that the word obey is a translation of the Greek word hupakouo , a word which means “to look up” or “pay attention.” And so when the Scriptures instruct us as children—even in situations of being obedient to one in authority over us as adults—it is interesting to know that one of the basic concepts of obedience is of paying attention, looking up from what we are doing and paying attention.

Responsibility of Parents In Obedience

This implies, if you are thinking, that the responsibility for obedience is partly the responsibility of the parent. Sometimes, you know, parents say, “I just can't get Johnny or Hortense, or whoever, to respond to me. They just don't even seem to hear what I am saying.” It might be well for you to ask yourself the question, and ask it sincerely, “Is it possible that Johnny or Hortense doesn't hear what I'm saying?” Now, there could be several reasons for that. It could be Johnny isn't hearing what you're saying because you are not saying it clearly. How many times are we as parents guilty—I can answer in the affirmative for myself, and I'm sure that most of us can as parents—but how many times are we guilty of shouting out orders, or even speaking orders, while we are in the midst of something else, while our mind is on something else? All we know is that a child is doing something that is distracting us, and without ever stopping what we are doing, we just yell, “Now, cut that out!” The child knows that we are not really paying attention to what we are saying. We just want to be left alone. We just want a little less disturbance in the room, and we are not sincerely giving an order. The child can perceive that kind of an attitude.

How many times do you answer a question from behind the newspaper? The child can see that you really didn't hear the question and that you really aren't giving instructions sincerely and wholeheartedly. Again, even when we give an order, realistically when our mind is on what we are saying, it is a good practice to see to it that the child understands. From a practical standpoint, particularly with younger children, perhaps we need to say, “Now Johnny, listen to me. Look at me, and let me tell you what you need to do.” This is some very practical information, but the point is that obedience involves paying attention. It means, in fact as I said, literally to “look up and pay attention to what is being done.”

The Scope of Obedience

Then notice also that this verse speaks of obedience in all things.

Colossians 3

20Children, obey your parents in all things…

This little phrase should remind us of the importance of consistency in our discipline and in our requirements. Again notice that I am speaking to parents, because I am afraid as I observe what I can in my own family and in the families of those around me, and as I read the results of research that has been done, that many times disobedience is largely because parents are not what they should be as instruction-givers and disciplinarians. One of the problems in the area of obedience is that we don't require our children to be obedient in all things. Too many times we require their obedience when we're right there in the room. Too many times we require their obedience when we are alert and aware of what they are doing, but the children have the realization that as long as we don't know about it, perhaps it will be all right. Or as long as we are busy and thinking about our own things, then they can get by with it. Parents, we need to be very careful that our standards are such that the children understand that these are standards that can be obeyed at all times and that must be obeyed at all times.

From a practical standpoint, one way of doing that is to be sure that our standards are God's standards. How many times are you able to say to your children—I know it is not possible to do this in every case—“Johnny, God says, 'Children obey your parents.' Johnny, God says 'Be ye kind one to another.' God says, 'Do not tell lies'.” The instructions that we give, the requirements that we have for our families, for our children, as often as possible we should be able to back up with the Word of God, so that the child will understand that obedience is not just a matter of pleasing Mother and Dad. That is part of it, but it is much more than that. It is a matter of being in fellowship with God. It is a matter of being obedient to God. And so we need, as parents, to be sure that our standards are such that our children can be obedient in all things. Besides that, we need to be sure that they are being obedient in all things. Be very careful, Parents, and of course you realize today that I am speaking as much to myself as to anyone, that our attitude, that our attention span, is such that we not let our children be obedient in only some things. Too many times, I am afraid, we are just a little too tired or a little too upset or have our minds a little too much on another thing to see that our children are consistently obedient, that they are being obedient in all things. Yet it is our responsibility as parents to see to it that they obey the Word of God in the area of obedience—obedience in all things.

The Nature of Disobedience

In spite of all of our training in the art of child-rearing and our good attentions, we need to remember that in spite of all of that, obedience doesn't come naturally. There has been a real surge in the past decade or so of interest in the matter of child training. That is a wonderful thing. Books concerning the training of children have sold at a rapid pace. People who lecture and teach on that subject are in great demand, and it's a wonderful thing to know that Christian parents are paying attention in a way that perhaps they never did before to the rearing of their children. That's as it should be. We should thank God for that, and we should encourage that. We try to make available, as a church, things that would encourage and help parents. But we need to keep in mind, in spite of all that, that obedience on the part of children does not come naturally, and one of the things that we need to keep in mind in our training and in our day-by-day instruction is that obedience is something that is not a natural trait.

A number of passages tell us this. Turn with me to Romans, chapter 1, and notice with me verses 28-30. You will recognize that these verses come at the end of a section in which Paul has traced the development of rebellion against God:

Romans 1

28And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
29Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
30Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, [notice] disobedient to parents,

“Disobedient to parents.” You see, after having traced the development of rebellion in the human race historically, Paul gives in these verses a general description of the human race without God, a human race rebellious against God. It is very interesting to notice that among those characteristics is included disobedience to parents. Incidentally, these verses are a good description of the humanism that is rampant in our world today. Verses 28-30 of Romans, chapter 1, provide a good description of our society in general. That's not to overlook the fact that there is some good mingled in, but the total depravity of man indicates that man is unable to do good. Even though there may be good mingled here and there, they are unable to have a relationship to God which would enable them to please Him. We can see among those who have no desire to please God the very kinds of things described in these verses.

For our purposes, notice especially there in verse 30, specifically included in the list is disobedience. Parents, we can expect our children to have a tendency to disobey. Don't be surprised, and don't fail to make plans for it. Don't fail to be prepared, because it is something that is characteristic of human beings, something that God instructs us about.

Increase In Disobedience

A parallel passage similar to this, is in II Timothy, chapter 3. Let's turn there for just a moment, and notice that chapter 3 deals with the conditions that will take place at the end of the age. Notice with me verses 1-5:

II Timothy 3

1This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
2For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, [notice] disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
3Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
4Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
5Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

In this list of terrible sins that will characterize the last days, notice in the middle of the passage, “disobedient to parents.” So not only is this disobedience a natural part of human nature, as we saw in Romans, it's also something that we can expect to be increasing as the end of the age approaches. We see indications on every hand that the end of the age is approaching. So parents we need to be aware that no matter how sweet little Johnny and Hortense are, no matter how much you may love them, no matter how much better they are than your neighbor's children, you can expect them to be disobedient. It's a part of their makeup. In fact, if you haven't discovered that by now, if they are more than about four weeks old, we might need to have a conversation after the service. It's something that we need to expect, something that God has warned us about, something that God has instructed us about.

The Reason for Obedience

Going back to Colossians, chapter 3, let's notice another aspect of obedience, and that is the reason for obedience listed there. In Colossians, chapter 3, verse 20, notice what God says is the reason for obedience:

Colossians 3

20…for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.

“For this is well pleasing unto the Lord.” In addition to all that can be said about obedience and all that has been said about obedience, a basic fact is that it is a spiritual matter. Obedience is simply a matter of pleasing the Lord or it is a matter of pleasing the parents. It is a matter of keeping the peace in the home. It is a matter of a lot of good will on the part of the children, but when all is said and done, it is basically a matter of pleasing the Lord.

For children who are old enough to understand this concept for themselves, this means a recognition of the fact that when you are out of fellowship, obedience is going to be a problem. You children who are still living at home but you're old enough to make some of the decisions for yourself, if you haven't learned this already, you need to be alert to it; and I think if you give it a little bit of thought, you will realize that it is true that when you are out of fellowship with the Lord, one of the things that automatically happens is a difficulty in being obedient to your parents. Things that you might not ordinarily have any trouble being obedient about, you will have trouble with when you are out of fellowship with the Lord. Maybe you're out of fellowship over some other matter, some other reason, some other sin that has come into your life; but when you're out of fellowship, obedience also becomes a problem, because obedience is very largely a matter of pleasing the Lord. It is well-pleasing to the Lord.

Parents, we need to make our children understand as early as possible that obedience is a matter of pleasing the Lord, that when they are not pleasing the Lord in some other area, they're also going to have difficulty pleasing the Lord in the area of obedience. Of course, we as parents need to be alert to that, particularly in the lives of our children who are still young enough to need our daily guidance and direction in things like this.

This is also similar to the instructions that we saw in the passages that we looked at last week concerning the wives. Remember that in those passages that deal with the submission of the wife, those verses tell us in Colossians and Ephesians that wives should submit to their own husbands as unto the Lord. Now it is very conceivable that in a group this size, there could be children listening who have parents who are not worthy of their obedience. Your parents have unfair standards or have demanded that you do something that you really don't think is worthwhile or they are demanding that you do something that they're not doing themselves, something of that nature. Children, if you are in that situation, you need to recognize that obedience is not primarily a matter of pleasing your parents. Obedience is a matter of pleasing the Lord. So even if you cannot obey for your parents' sake, or even though you do not feel that you can, you must remember obedience is for the Lord's sake. If you feel that you can't obey for your parents' sake, obey for the Lord's sake. The instruction is the same as we saw in our last lesson.

Parents Worthy of Honor

Parents must think about the other side of that coin for just a minute. Let me ask you the question, “Can your children honor your instructions?” Ephesians, chapter 6, which is the parallel passage to this, has instructions for the family go right alongside Colossians, chapter 3. In Ephesians, chapter 6, verses 2 and 3, obedience is tied in with honor. “Children obey your parents.” In Ephesians, chapter 6, we are also told, “Children honor your father and mother, that it may be well with thee.” Parents, remember that obedience is much easier for a child who is able to honor his parents. As you give instructions to your children, and as you demand their obedience, what do they see in your life? Can they honor what they see in your life? Can they be expected to be obeyed, in the light of the way your life is? I have already said to the children that obedience is to the Lord and obedience is for the Lord's sake, but Parents, remember you may be casting a real stumblingblock in the lives of your children by the way that you live, by the demands that you make upon them, that you are not willing to make upon yourself. Remember that honoring parents is tied in with obedience to parents.

Results of Obedience

We also need to notice as we discuss the subject of obedience, the results of obedience that are mentioned in this verse. And they are found in the same phrase that we have just been talking about. “This is well pleasing unto the Lord.” That phrase not only tells us the reason for obedience, but it also tells us the results of obedience.

The results of obedience are that your life will be pleasing to the Lord. Those who have had any experience in walking with the Lord will be able to tell you that it's a wonderful thing to know that you are being obedient to the Lord. It is a wonderful feeling to know that just in your day-to-day activities, just for today perhaps, you have been obedient to the Lord, your life has been pleasing to the Lord, that within the extent of your knowledge, there is nothing in your life this day or this hour that displeases the Lord. That is a wonderful feeling. Children, the Scripture says if you will be obedient to your parents, you will have the wonderful knowledge and the feeling that goes with it—the feeling of peace and assurance that your life is pleasing to the Lord.

Again, Parents, we should point that out to our children. We should help them realize the result of obedience when we are praising them for being obedient. Include that in the praise. “It's pleasing to the Lord, Johnny. You have done something that not only pleases me, something that keeps peace in our home, something that not only helps in the area of the real concerns, but you have pleased the Lord in this. And it is a wonderful blessing when we know that we have pleased the Lord.”

Ephesians, chapter 6, verse 3,touches on this also. It specifically says, “Children, be obedient that it may be well with thee and thou might be long upon the earth.”

In recent years psychiatrists and psychologists have discovered, as you know, that many adult emotional problems go back to unresolved conflicts that took place in childhood. Certainly one conflict of that nature is a disobedient spirit. Children, you need to be alert to the fact that if you are disobedient to your parents on a consistent basis, you can expect problems in your adult life.

Here is another illustration of the fact that we don't need to make the Scriptures up-to-date. We need to bring our lives up-to-date with the Scriptures. We don't need to try to make the Scriptures more relevant to our lives. We need to make our lives more relevant to the Scriptures. Because the Scripture in this instance has been saying something for centuries that men of wisdom of our day are just now beginning to analyze and discover. Be obedient to your parents, Children, for it is well-pleasing to the Lord. That is the results of obedience, as well as the reason for the obedience.

Perhaps I should include a little verse that I came across some years ago, Proverbs, chapter 30, verse 17. Parents, if you cannot get obedience by any other means, you might memorize this verse or have your children memorize it:

Proverbs 30

17The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it.

Try that one out on the kids if they seem a little reluctant to obey.

Instructions for Fathers

Go back to Colossians, chapter 3. Another association that is mentioned is that of fathers and certainly it would not be fair to talk about the matter of children without looking at what the Scripture has to say in this same passage concerning fathers. There is a sense in which this is the other side of the coin. In Colossians, chapter 3, verse 21, notice the instructions for fathers:

Colossians 3

21Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.

As in the situation with the wives that we talked about in our last lesson, men have a tremendous responsibility here in the area of training and raising the children also. The basic instruction in this verse has to do with provocation. Notice: “Provoke not your children to anger.” This is indicated very clearly, so we want to think first about the danger of provocation.

If we read the verse in the sense in which it is written in the original language, we'll realize that the danger of provocation is all around us. I say that because in the Greek this verse is written in a tense that could be translated, “Fathers stop provoking your children to wrath.” There are many of us as fathers who need that instruction: “Stop provoking your children to wrath.” It is indicative of the fact that provocation of children goes on all the time, more than many of us perhaps are aware.

The word provoke here in Colossians, chapter 3, verse 21, is a translation of the Greek word erethizo , which means literally “to exasperate, to frustrate, to be on the child's case continually to the point he doesn't know where to turn.” “Fathers, do not exasperate your children.” In fact, the Amplified translation of the New Testament, I think, captures the spirit of the meaning of the verse, when it translates it this way. “Do not be hard on them or harass them, lest they become sullen, morose, and feel inferior and frustrated.” Do not break their spirit. Do not harass them. Do not become hard on them. Do not break their spirit.

The Damage of Provocation

That particular translation is also good because it alludes to the damage of provocation, and I would like for us, very quickly, to think about that. Notice the last phrase of verse 21:

Colossians 3

21Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.

The word discouraged is a transtlation of a Greek word that means “to break the spirit.” That's why the Amplified Version translates it that way. You see, what that verse implies is that if a child is provoked often enough, he will eventually decide that it is impossible to please his father, or his parents as the case may be, and he will simply stop trying. Sometimes parents say, “I just can't understand it. He doesn't even seem to want to obey. He doesn't even seem to want to please us. He is just not with us at all.” Could it be, Fathers and Mothers, that you have provoked that child to the point that the Scripture warns you against and you have exasperated him to the point that you have broken his spirit. If that is the case, you can expect that he is not going to be with you, and that he is not even going to try to obey. Such a child may not ever reach his full potential, because you have frustrated him. You have exasperated him.

Dr. James Dobson, in his film series Focus on the Family , which was shown here a few weeks ago, tells of an experiment. Some of you who saw those films will remember the experiment that was done with a large fish in an aquarium. In the beginning of the experiment, in the aquarium with that large fish was placed a large number of smaller fish—guppies. The guppies were that particular large fish's favorite kind of food. When the experiment first began, the large fish was in heaven. He had all the guppies he could eat.

After a few days of providing that fish with all the guppies he could eat, a glass partition was placed in the middle of the aquarium, and after that the guppies were only placed on the other side of the partition. When the fish began to eat on that particular day, he saw the guppies swimming just like he had the other days, but when he reached out to get one he smashed into the glass. Dr. Dobson told how, in the course of that whole day, the fish would ram into that glass and ram into that glass, trying to get those guppies, and finally he realized those guppies were not available to him. There was no way he could have them.

After leaving the glass partition there with the guppies and the large fish for a number of hours, researchers took the glass partition out, and do you know what they discovered? They discovered then that those guppies would swim all around that large fish, and some of them would even bump into him in various places, and the big fish would not even try to eat a guppy. That fish had been trained, you see, that it was impossible for him to get to those guppies.

That reminds me of some parents. Some fathers provoke their children. Sooner or later they train that child that he just can't please his father and so, even when there are things that he might be able to please his father in, he won't even try. That is what the Scripture is warning us about. “Fathers, provoke not your children.” Do not exasperate them. Do not break their spirit.

The Deeds of Provocation

Finally, let's notice the deeds of provocation. This is such a serious situation. If the Scripture warns us so carefully about it, we need to know what it is. How do you go about provoking your children? As I mentioned a few minutes ago, the word provoke is a translation of the Greek word erethizo , which is a form of the Greek word eris . It is interesting and informative to notice the ways the word eris is translated in other places in the Scripture. We do not have the time to turn to all of these places, but let me just give you a list of these references, and you look at them when you have the time. Most of them are familiar verses that I am sure you will recognize, but they give us an idea of what it means to provoke, because it is the very same word translated with other words in these passages.

First, the word eris , from which the word provoke comes, is translated with the word contention , in I Corinthians, chapter 1, verse 11. Fathers, you can provoke your children by being contentious with them. The word contention is a word that means “to take a different opinion than the other person.” How many times does your child say something, and you again and again, situation after situation, say, “Ah, I'm not sure that's right,” or “Did you ever consider this, did you…” Many times we feel that way, but Fathers, do you realize you can exasperate your children by continually taking a different opinion than they have? Do you realize, Fathers, that there are some things that are a matter of opinion and that it may be perfectly legitimate for your children to have a different opinion about something than you do? Don't be contentious. Don't be constantly taking the other side.

Obviously we need to have standards of obedience, and obviously we need to insist on that obedience, as we were talking about earlier in our study, but we need to be very careful, Fathers, that we are not constantly taking a different opinion than our child does.

In Romans, chapter 1, verse 29, the word eris , which is used for the word provoke in Colossians, is translated debate in Romans, chapter 1, verse 29. Obviously we know that debate means “to try to prove the opposite point.” Perhaps it is a step further than being contentious. It is a matter of constantly arguing and debating with our children, constantly trying to prove the point that we hold.

In I Timothy, chapter 6, verse 4, it's translated with the word strife . Several other places it is translated with the word strife . Strife is a continual disagreement, that sometimes may even become physical. Strife is an atmosphere of disagreement. Does your child have the feeling that you are going to disagree with him no matter what? That may be provocation on your part.

Finally in Galatians, chapter 5, verse 20, the word eris , a form of the word erethizo , is translated variance , which means “difference in type.” Are you constantly pointing out to your child, “You know when I was a child, I wasn't like that. When I was a child, I was interested in this; I wasn't interested in these things that you are interested in. When I was a child I did this, but you never seem to do that.”? Are you constantly pointing out differences? You know, there may be a difference in type. It may be that your child is not as athletic as you were or not as studious as you were, but is that inherently wrong? Be very careful that you are not constantly pointing out to your child the differences between you. It is important to know those differences. It is a part of knowing your child, but you don't need to constantly be harping on that fact. You can very easily give the child the idea that just because he is not exactly like you were when you were his age, he is not as good as you were. That's variance, and that is a possibility of provocation.

Parents who allow any of these attitudes to be characteristic of their relationship with the child are in great danger of provoking that child. In Matthew, chapter 18, the disciples asked Jesus, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” And the record says that Jesus called a little child over to Him, and He said, “Except you be as little children, ye can not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” A child with his complete trust of those who are in authority over him and with his potential for development is a perfect example of what God wants every Christian to be spiritually.


What a precious heritage we parents have! The potential for development. The potential for producing godliness in our child. The potential for producing an individual that honors God in his life. And what a tremendous responsibility we have! The Scriptures speak to it specifically. “Fathers, provoke not your children.” “Children, obey your parents.”

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