This article concludes a series looking at Colossians 3:12-17 and how it applies to marriages. So far I have addressed the foundational marriage principle of loving God more than your spouse, which is rooted in being chosen and loved by God, long before our spouse ever chose us or loved us. Out of this reality, Paul gives us four commands. Each command is directed at drawing us into relationship and creating intimacy. So far we have looked at “putting on” certain characteristics, “letting the peace of Christ rule” in your marriage, “being thankful,” and “letting the word of Christ dwell” in your marriage. This final article will focus on an overarching, guiding principle for your marriage.
Paul ends this passage saying, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17, ESV). Up to this point in the passage, Paul has been pretty specific. He has spoken about specific characteristics to intentionally pursue in our relationships. He has spoken about specific actions to take in our relationships. Now, at the end of this passage, he uses broad language--"whatever you do." This means that underneath every action we take and every decision we make, whatever follows must be our guiding principle. It also means that it must be the guiding principle of all the specific things he spoke about in the previous verses. And that overarching principle is to do all to the glory of God.
We may not notice this connection right away, but to do something “in the name of the Lord Jesus,” is to give him credit for what you are doing. To give him credit is to give Him glory. Paul uses the same language in 1 Corinthians which helps make this passage clearer. He says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31, ESV). Ultimately, that’s our purpose in life and, as a result, the purpose of our marriage--to bring glory to God.
It’s important to remember that we are to do everything for the glory of God--even the things mentioned in previous articles. If we don’t do these things for the glory of God, we are missing the point. If we try to “put on” certain characteristics each morning for our own glory or for the glory of our family, we have not fulfilled our purpose. If we attempt to foster a thankful attitude without the thankfulness bringing glory to God, again, we have missed the point. The reason we work on building up our marriages, creating intimacy, and loving our spouse is that God would receive the glory--not us.
That means the driving question in your marriage should be, “How can we bring the most glory to God?” This question should guide all your actions and all of your decisions. When you are thinking about what house to buy or what job to choose, which one will bring the most glory to God? When things are tough and you’re struggling to make ends meet, ask, “How can we glorify God in this tough situation?” When things are great and you feel like you are on the top of the world, ask, “How can we glorify God in this great time?” When you're not sure what to do, or struggling with a decision as a couple, ask, “What will bring the most glory and honor to the God we both love?” When you and your spouse are fighting, ask, “How can we settle this disagreement in a way that brings glory to God?”
It’s an overarching concept, but it is extremely practical. Asking this question will change that way you make decisions. It will change the focus of your marriage. It may mean that you choose a small house so that you can free up money to use for God’s kingdom. It may mean that you continue working a job you don’t enjoy because God is using you in the lives of other people who work there. It will mean that you will live differently and make different decisions than couples who are not following Christ. You will sacrifice differently. You will spend your time differently. You will be generous differently. You will do all these things, not because you are trying to bring glory to your family, but because you want to bring glory to God.
This also means that you will live your life, and foster your marriage, so that people will look at your marriage and see Christ as beautiful. That doesn't mean pretending you’re perfect, or pretending that your marriage is perfect. It does mean you handle your imperfections as forgiven sinners. It means showing people the forgiveness and restoration of Christ and what that looks like in a marriage relationship. It also means that you will not allow people to glorify you in your marriage. If people see your marriage and comment on how beautiful it is, you will point them toward the One who is much more beautiful than your marriage--the One who makes your marriage beautiful.
These are the bookends of this passage. The foundation of this passage is that God chose us and loved us before the foundations of the earth. As a result we give every aspect of our lives to Him and wish to see Him represented as beautiful and glorious in the world--because He is. We do this in our personal life and in our marriage. We continue to follow the principle that whatever we do, we "do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31, ESV).