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Read Colossians 3.22-4:1


This deceptively simple, short passage presents us with several profound challenges. Its interpretation is not simple. It envisions a social and vocational situation (household slavery in the Greco-Roman era, see 3:18-21) far removed from our own. Yet, it also contains valuable principles that transcend its setting and inform our view of life in the marketplace under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Quiet Time:

1. Read the paragraph slowly and thoughtfully. What are the repeated words, phrases or ideas?

2. Who is the ultimate "boss" in this passage? Why?

3. To explore this basic concept further, look at Paul's understanding of "the Lord" in Colossians 1:15-20.

a. The central thrust of this section stated in v. 18b "that in everything he might have the supremacy." What does supremacy mean?

b. Christ is the "firstborn" which means the one who is first (or Lord) over all creation (v.15). In what ways is this Lordship and supremacy indicated in verses 16-20?

c. According to Paul, what are "all things?" (v. 16) Identify some of the "thrones or powers or rulers or authorities" in our world. Are these only visible?

d. Do you think the marketplace, the social world of vocation, work employment is included in "all things?" Why or why not?

e. What is our most basic calling in this dimension of life?

4. With this important background, return to 3:22-4:1. What groups of people are addressed? To whom, in particular, is v. 25 addressed? Consider the instructions to slaves in 3:22-24.

a. What qualities does Paul expect to be characteristic of the work of Christian slaves?

b. Does "obey your earthly masters in everything" mean that slaves are called to do evil when the master gave commands? Why not, in terms of this passage?

c. What does Paul say should motivate this kind of work?

d. In the light of these verses what can we conclude about the value of or dignity of work? How does God view work?

6. Consider the instructions to masters in 3:25-4:1.

a. How are the masters to treat their slaves?

1. What does "right" (NIV) mean? (it is a legal word translated as " just" in other places. i.e. "right" means " just according to the law"').

2. What does "fair" mean? (It is the word that appears only in 2nd Cor. 8:13, 14 where it is translated "equality").

b. Why should they treat them in this fashion?

c. Again, think of your work experiences. How would they be different if these instructions were taken seriously?

d. What "rights" should be extended to workers in the workplace in light of this passage?

7. Consider the institution or social structure of slavery as it appears in this passage. Some Christians have held that this passage teaches that slave-holding is acceptable. Others have come to the conclusion that Paul simply accepts slavery because issues of social justice are unimportant compared to personal salvation.

a. Does this passage support or simply accept the evil institution of slavery? If not, why not?

1. What perspective does Colossians 3:11 give us for viewing 3:22-4:1?

2. What becomes of slavery when masters treat slaves in the way this passage commands?

3. What is the implication of responsibility being placed both on slaves and on masters, especially in the context of first century culture?

4. Why is there no call for the abolition of slavery?

b. As we have looked at this passage and Colossians 1:16-20, what can we learn about our approach to aspects of the marketplace that involved injustice and evil?

8. Jesus' call to the marketplace is a call to acknowledge his Lordship and to strive to express the supremacy in this vital sphere of our lives.

a. What difference will your understanding of this call, to acknowledge Christ's lordship in the marketplace, make in your life? Write down a specific application.

Worship and Reflection:

Spend a few minutes in prayer giving these commitments to the Lord. Confess to the Lord the times in the past when you failed to live up to his commands and ways. Ask the Lord to continue to show you some specific opportunities to obey his commands and his truth."Calling" in the marketplace is the conviction that you are set apart to serve God's purposes through your role or through a task. A called person is aware that he or she has been gifted to fulfill that role or profession with God's strength and guidance. Thank the Lord for specific gifts He has given to you, acknowledging your dependence on our omnipotent, omniscient God.