Christ in You
peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one
body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all
wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and
spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you
do in word or deed, do all in the name
of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.
Peace of Christ
Readers of old detective novels will know the phrase, “breach
of the peace.” It is a crime; it means to disturb the general tranquility of
the neighborhood in some manner or another. The concept descends from medieval
times. In those days each member of the nobility was considered to have his own
“peace.” To disturb him in that peace was a crime. The higher the nobility, the
greater the crime. In short, the boss liked things tranquil — and intended to
keep things that way. Generally speaking, this conduces to the betterment of
society. We may consider that the King of Kings has his peace as well — and he
likes things tranquil too. So if you accept the concept that Christ has his own
peace, and as a member of his kingdom you must accept the idea that you need to
get along tranquilly with the other members of his kingdom — right?
Why is this so? Because we are one body. Argument in
dissension tends to tear the church apart; it is the prayer of Christ that we
should all be one. The unity of the church is something which is extremely
important to him, and therefore should be extremely important to us. We should
then behave in such a way as to preserve the peace, and therefore the unity, of
It is interesting to see how Paul prescribes a method for us
doing: “be thankful.” Perhaps you’ve never made the connection between
gratitude and peace, but it’s really hard to be mad at someone, scream at them
and then say thank you. Try it sometime; it’s downright humorous. If you live
your life in gratitude for the things that Christ has done for you — not just
at the Cross, but in your own day to day living — it’s difficult for you to be
angry with those who are members of his body. Often enough, anger comes from
the sense of being entitled to something. We feel offended when somebody takes
something that belongs to us; we also feel offended when somebody, for example,
takes over a job in the church that we thought was ours. It’s normal in an
organization that little fiefdoms develop. People will be possessive about a
broom closet. We need to remember that this should not be so; the preventative
is for us to be thankful for what we have, and what we are given. We are not
entitled to a position; but we are given a work.
Word Dwell Richly
For most of us, this will initially be somewhat difficult.
Christ understands that we need help; therefore we are commanded to let the
word of Christ richly dwell within us. So just how do we do that?
The first method is in wisdom and teaching. It’s perfectly normal
for human beings to have to be instructed in something which is new to them.
You went to school; your parents, at least, thought there was good reason for
this. Clearly, you want to get to the point where you can go it on your own in
reading, for example — but you must start somewhere. The same is true for the
Christian; we need that instruction in wisdom to get us started. Most Christians
find that they need it throughout their lives. Some get to the point where they
find it so necessary that they become teachers, for the teacher always learns
more than the student in any given lesson.
The second method is familiar to many Christians who are not
particularly intellectually astute. The truth is that most Christians are not
going to pick up a PhD level commentary and use it for casual, light reading.
Older Christians will remember that the classic hymns of the church were
designed to be easy to memorize (they rhymed) and full of wisdom and
instruction. This type of hymn bases itself upon the Psalms, which rhyme in
thought. Rhyme, of whatever form, is an aid to memorization. So it is that we
get the memorization aid and as well get the emotional strength that a human
can bring. The transition to the newer style of music, we must assume, has the
same effect for the younger Christian. At least we hope so.
We notice also that we are to sing with thankfulness in our
hearts. There’s that word “thankful” again. Thankfulness makes singing hymns
very personal. Older Christians will remember the opening line of the classic
doxology, “praise God from whom all blessings flow.” It’s not just praise; it’s
thankfulness for our blessings. Our thankfulness breeds our humility; our
humility breeds our harmony; our harmony breeds our peace.
Dorothy Sayers tells us that “we can do all things in the
name of Christ — we have the apostle’s word for it.” It seems a little
ridiculous it first; but perhaps an example will make it clearer.
Can you go grocery shopping in the name of Christ? Well, yes
First, you can conduct yourself at the grocery store as a
Christian might. A gentle politeness in an environment in which people loved
bump each other with carts, cut in front of each other in lines, and generally
scream at their kids at the same time will at least at some sort of an example.
Particularly if you have to take small children with you, this can be a trying
time. Do so in the name of Christ, with his peace in your heart.
Since you’re at the grocery store, give thought to those who are
less fortunate than you. Is there someone for whom a meal or two might be very
welcome? Perhaps you could pick up something for them and drop it by on your
way home. Do so in the name of Christ, who gave his life for you.
You probably are going to drive to and from the grocery store.
Have you ever been in traffic with a maniac driver who has a bumper sticker that
says something like, “follow me to First Self-Righteous Church”?
If you go through life with the idea that you’re entitled,
that you have your rights and you must demand, you’re going to experience a lot
of anger. If you go through life seeking to occupy the place in which Christ
would have you perform, life is a lot more tranquil. That acceptance of
Christ’s tasks for you is called submission. It’s gotten a lot of bad press
lately in the Christian church, but our Lord hasn’t changed his mind on the
be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your
wives and do not be embittered against them. Children, be obedient to your
parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not
exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart. 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.
Let’s begin by tackling the question of submission directly.
We define submission as “the right response to righteous authority.” Virtually
all Christians in America are in submission to a multitude of authorities. You
are in submission to the police department, the fire department, the sewer
department, the water department, the trash pickup people, the building
inspectors, and any number of other civic authorities. As long as their
authority is exercised righteously — and we will tell you about that in a
minute — it is your duty as a Christian to obey what you are told; that is, to
submit. When the policeman turns on his red flashing lights, you move over.
When the sewer inspector says that you need to change out the pipe, you’re in
for a bill. It’s really pretty simple.
The truth is: you want authority over you. You like to have
your sewers to work; you want the police to clear maniac drivers off the road;
it would be really nice of the fire department responded to your 911 call;
building inspectors may seem to be a pain, but having the building fall down an
earthquake is even more so — and so on. The problem with this comes in the
abuse of authority. Paul, in this passage, is not dealing with abuse but rather
the correct use of authority. If we take this step by step I believe you will
be able to see the why and the wherefore of authority and submission.
The key to understanding this is the relationship between
authority and submission: responsibility. If the authority you’re dealing with
is one in which authority matches responsibility, then you are dealing with
righteous authority. Let me give you an example that may seem a bit humorous
when we get done. Let’s suppose that you are young ardent feminist, living
alone in an apartment, with your cat. It’s three o’clock in the morning. You’re
sound asleep and awaken to what appears to be the sound of someone breaking
down your front door with an ax. You’re sleeping in the nude and have just
achieved enough consciousness to wonder whether or not you need to get your
bathrobe before you call 911 when your bedroom door breaks open. In runs a
Neanderthal with an ax. He scoops you up and throws you over his shoulder then
picks up the cat in the crook of the ax. He carries the both of you out the
front door, down the stairs and dumps you rather unceremoniously on the nearest
green lawn. My question is this: what’s the first thing you say to him?
The correct answer is: “thank you very much.” Why is this
the correct answer? Because he’s a fireman, and your apartment building was on
fire. In any other circumstances he’s a criminal, but a fireman’s
responsibilities include breaking down your front door and dragging you out of
a burning building. He’s done an even better job by rescuing the cat.
You see the secret: his authority matches his
responsibility. His authority is also righteous in the sense that it is given
to him by the local government. All righteous authority descends from Christ, and we are
explicitly told that the government is an agent of God for our benefit. Net
result: the fireman is a hero, not a weirdo.
This concept — that authority and responsibility must match
— is the key to understanding submission. The fear we have of submission comes
from those cases in which the authority exceeds the responsibility. That’s
called tyranny. It also happens that the responsibility exceeds the authority
sometimes — who among us has not worked for a boss who told us that we have all
the responsibility but check everything with him? But in what follows we shall
assume that authority and responsibility do match, and therefore we are dealing
with righteous authority.
By the way, this implies that we very often have mutual
submission to each other. For example, in the matter of the use of my body, I
am in submission to my wife. It is her body; she has authority over my body;
I’m not allowed to have sex with anyone without her permission. She has made it
very clear that permission to have sex with anyone else is not forthcoming any
time soon. We are in mutual submission in this regard, as I have authority over
her body in the same manner. Submission is not an absolute; it is a response to
Notice please that submission is voluntary. Nobody put a gun
to your head to make you become a Christian. Our governments are, at least in
theory, subject to the will of the people. Ultimately, as Gandhi found out, if
you don’t cooperate with the authority it soon ceases to be an authority. So
the question is, why would you do a thing like that? Why would you submit to
such an authority?
The answer is really simple: it’s for your benefit. You want
your sewers to work; you want the cops to keep the people of the road who
shouldn’t be there and so on. It may be that in one particular instance you are
not to thankful for this (as in when you get a ticket) but generally speaking,
authority is there to benefit you. The ultimate and supreme authority as Christ
— and look at the benefit he has brought to you!
Therefore, it is the Christian’s duty to provide the right
response to righteous authority — that is to say; submission is a requirement of
the Christian. Now you see why thankfulness is such an important virtue. It
very much makes a difference in dealing with the police department whether or
not you are grateful that we have such a thing versus being ungrateful for the
fact that they managed to you this time. The attitude of thankfulness is
extremely important. To take the most controversial use of the word submission,
consider the wife’s submission to the husband. Does it make a difference if she
is thankful for the fact that God has been kind enough to grant her a husband
like this? Or should she take that for granted, and complain about his many
faults? Which do you think makes for a happier marriage?
Paul gives us three examples of submission.
He tells wives to be in submission to their husbands, because
this is “fitting.” One more time, let’s look at it in detail. If you want to
know what her submission consists of, you need to know his authority. If you
want to know his authority, you must know his responsibility. Paul tells you
his responsibility; “love your wives and do not be embittered against them.”
This, according to feminists, is an absolutely high reaching outrage. You mean
my husband has the authority he needs to love me, and to keep him from being
bitter against me? That’s what I’m objecting to? Please be assured the husband
wasn’t put in charge because he’s better at it. As in much of the Old
Testament, God picked somebody that doesn’t necessarily seem to be the most
qualified. But he does have the responsibility, given by God. When the wife
refuses to submit to that, she’s telling God that he made a mistake. She’s
telling God that her husband should not be responsible for loving her. When you
get to an absurdity, the assumptions or the logic must be wrong.
He then speaks to fathers dealing with their children. The child
is commanded to be obedient — to submit. The father’s responsibilities are
easily seen: he’s warned against exasperating his kids so that they will not
“lose heart.” Dad is supposed to encourage the kids, and Paul simply warning
him against screwing it up. Any of you who had a father who constantly picked at
your mistakes and never encouraged you will understand Paul’s warning. The
solution is not to take dad out of the family, but rather have him live up to
In what seems today to be something that’s obsolete, he talks
also about slaves and masters. The principle he gives here is that you should
not consider your service — let’s say we’re talking about your employer — as
being dedicated to the person in charge but rather to Christ.
In the Name
That last item may need some amplification. When you do
something in the name of Christ, you are doing it under the authority of
Christ. Don’t take that as meaning that you have to put on some sort of
ecclesiastical role and marched solemnly about doing whatever it is you’re
doing; rather consider that it means that you’re supposed to do it Christ’s
way. In short, be obedient. Let people know that you’re doing it the way Christ
wants you to.
My wife and I are occasionally asked how we have managed to
survive so many years of marriage together. The question is often asked by
feminists who assume that her submission to her husband cannot possibly bring
her any happiness; she must be miserable all the time; and they’re extremely
puzzled by the smile on her face. The response that we’ve developed over the
years is simply this: “we did it God’s way the first time.” Trust me; doing it
God’s way the first time works. And it’s pretty good witness too.
you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing
that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the
Lord Christ whom you serve. For he who does wrong will receive the consequences
of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality. Masters, grant to
your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven.
Unfairness of Man’s Rewards
At some point in a man’s career he has to make a decision:
just who is he working for? There are three basic options:
He could be working for himself. He is working to gratify his own
ego, to maintain his own pride — and look out coworkers!
He could be working for the company, for the boss. It won’t take
long to find out that the boss is not very good at recognizing outstanding
effort or rewarding it. Often times the immediate manager has virtually no
power to reward good behavior.
Or, if he’s a Christian, he can work for Christ. In general, he
will not climb the corporate ladder nearly so high he does this. But then
again, the corporate ladder doesn’t go on for eternity.
Christ always sees the effort that you make; Christ knows
how to judge it correctly. Therefore it is wisdom to be single hearted in your
devotion to Christ. You should be warned, however, that this will puzzle your
It does solve one immediate puzzle that most workers have.
How often have you heard someone complain that there is absolutely no way that
he can make his boss happy? It is always possible to please Christ. When you
do, the usual reaction you get is that things go rather well — even if they
don’t go vertically.
Hezekiah did throughout all Judah; and he did what was
good, right and true before the LORD his God. Every work which he began in the
service of the house of God in law and in commandment, seeking his God, he did
with all his heart and prospered.
(2 Chronicles 31:20-21)
Look at it this way: why wouldn’t Jesus Christ reward
you for doing what is good, right and true?
Paul here mentions that you will receive the “reward of the
inheritance.” It seems rather contradictory. A reward is something you learn
for your hard work. An inheritance is something you get because somebody else
worked hard and gave it to you — like grace, for example. But that’s typical of
the kingdom of God. You work out your own salvation, but it is God working
within you. I cannot explain how this actually works; I just know that it does.
Perhaps the fact that Paul constantly refers to himself as a
bondslave will help us explain this. The essence of the matter is that a slave
has a master, not a manager. A manager may not feel himself responsible for the
care of the people who work for him; the slaves master is totally responsible
for the slave. In particular, the slaves master is responsible for the
direction in which all the work will be going. So there is no sense in which
the boss (the slave master) has any right complain the slave for picking a
particular direction. The slave is supposed to be obedient, not omniscient. In
that sense, the slave is relieved of a great responsibility. Pleasing your
master is relatively easy: do what you’re told, do it wholeheartedly. It begins
with obedience and merges into discipleship.
The truth is, as Christ told us, you cannot serve two
masters. Either you’re going to be your own master, you’re going to enslave
yourself to someone or something other than yourself, or you going to be a
bondslave to Christ. Nothing else works. So pick the one that works. You can
please Christ; you may not be too happy with your own results, and trying to
please the boss is pretty well known to be very difficult.
Consequences of Wrong
We must admit that the concept that God is righteous,
wrathful and likely to render judgment is not at all popular in the church
today. But please remember that “popular” is not the same thing as “true.” We
think of God as being love; we forget that he is also righteous and just.
Ultimately, is righteous and justice require that he pass judgment on those who
will not repent. To give you a simple example, do you think that Adolf Hitler
got everything he deserved in this life? I don’t either.
But if he didn’t, where is the justice? Either God is not
capable of delivering justice, or he isn’t righteous, or is not finished with
us yet. Paul, as is certainly prudent for one who is admonishing the followers
of Christ, reminds them of the fact that there is to be a judgment. Therefore,
we should conduct ourselves in such a manner that Christ, at his return, brings
to us the reward of the inheritance rather than the punishment of hell.