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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary for Schools and Colleges

Colossians 4

Verses 1-99

Ch. 4:1. The subject concluded

1. Masters ] Cp. Ephesians 6:9 .

give unto ] Provide for . The Greek verb suggests deliberate care.

that which is … equal ] In the Greek, equality, equity . The word in the classics often means “equality” in the political sense, as against arbitrary privilege; and the Gospel, by publishing for ever the spiritual equality of all men before God, secures all that is vital in that matter. But the meaning “ impartiality ,” “ equity ,” is more in place here; the master is not commanded to surrender his status, but to respect the interests of the slave as faithfully as his own, and to banish caprice and favouritism. This, consistently carried out, was a long and sure step towards the end of slavery; for nothing could be a more direct contradiction to the root-idea of ancient slavery. See pp. 156, etc. below. “Your slaves should find you fathers rather than masters” (Jerome).

knowing … heaven ] Nearly verbatim as Ephesians 6:9 . The Lord’s sovereignty is the true guarantee of human liberty.

2 6. Prayer: Intercourse with non-Christians

2. Continue in prayer ] Persevere at prayer . Cp. Ephesians 6:18 , where the like precept is prefaced by the elaborated thought of the spiritual combat and armour. Cp. for the phrase Romans 12:12 . Here as there he returns from the details of life to the great spiritual requisites to any true life for God.

Continue : it is implied that prayer is no mere spiritual luxury or interlude; it is sacred business, with its difficulties and its labour. Cp. Luke 21:36 ; Philippians 4:6 ; 1 Thessalonians 5:17 .

Prayer : “the Christian’s vital breath.” The word includes all the elements of adoring converse with God confession, petition, thanksgiving, ascription.

watch ] Cp. the Lord’s own “ watch and pray ”; Matthew 26:41 ; Mark 14:38 . And on spiritual watchfulness generally, as against the coma of the world, cp. Matthew 24:42 , Matthew 24:43 ; Mark 13:35-37 ; Luke 12:37 ; Acts 20:31 ; 1 Corinthians 16:13 ; 1 Thessalonians 5:6 ; 1 Peter 5:8 ; Revelation 3:2 , Revelation 3:3 , Revelation 3:16 :15.

in the same ] The watching was to be conditioned and maintained in the exercise of prayer. The believer was to be ready both for the tempter and for the Judge in the strength of spiritual contact with God.

with thanksgiving ] which, though a normal element in true prayer, tends to be forgotten, especially under trial, and so needs special mention. Cp. ch. 1:12, 2:7, 3:15, 17.

3. praying also for us ] Cp. Romans 15:30 ; Ephesians 6:19 ; 1 Thessalonians 5:25 ; 2 Thessalonians 3:1 ; Hebrews 13:18 . He wisely covets for his apostolic work, and the work of his friends, the prayers of the obscurest watchful believer.

open … a door of utterance ] Lit., a door of the word of the Gospel, i.e., an opportunity for the missionary. For the phrase cp. 1 Corinthians 16:9 ; 2 Corinthians 2:12 ; where, as here, the “ open door ” is not the emboldened mouth (which is chiefly in his thought Ephesians 6:19 , Ephesians 6:20 ) but the favourable circumstances. Cp. for a partial parallel Acts 14:27 , and perhaps Revelation 3:8 .

to speak ] Such was the use to which the “open door” of occasion would be put.

the mystery of Christ ] Cp. Ephesians 3:4 for the same phrase. The word mystery is frequent with St Paul; he uses it in some 21 places, of which 11 lie in this Epistle and Ephesians. On the word, see above on 1:26. “ Of Christ: ” with whose Person, Work, and Life, the great Secret was vitally bound up. See on 1:27.

for which ] On account of which . “St Paul might have been still at large if he had been content to preach a Judaic Gospel” (Lightfoot). Cp. Acts 21:13 , Acts 28:20 .

I am … in bonds ] Lit., I have been bound . Cp. Ephesians 6:19 and our notes. And see Ephesians 3:1 , Ephesians 3:4 :1; Philippians 1:7 , Philippians 1:13 , Philippians 1:14 , Philippians 1:16 ; Philemon 1:10 , Philemon 1:13 . It is easy to read, and to forget, this passing allusion. But what must have been the hourly trial to a sensitive spirit, of this attachment day and night to a (probably) pagan sentinel, perhaps wholly devoid of generous instincts!

4. That I may make it manifest ] Cp. Ephesians 6:20 . The request for prayer for opportunity glides into that for prayer for grace to use it.

Make manifest : the word is the same as that in e.g. 2 Corinthians 4:10 , 2 Corinthians 4:11 . It is used only here by St Paul in just this connexion, and here probably means more than merely exposition. The message, set in the light of the messenger’s life in God, was to be a “ revelation .”

I ought ] under the holy obligation of my commission. Cp. 1 Corinthians 9:16 ; and see Acts 20:24 ; Romans 1:14 , Romans 1:15 .

5. Walk ] See above, on 1:10.

in wisdom ] In the “sanctified good sense” of those who would avoid all needless repulsion of word or manner, and seize all good occasion. Such practical wisdom was quite another thing than the would-be philosophy which he repudiates in e.g. 1 Corinthians 1:2 . It was “the meekness of wisdom” (James 3:13 , James 3:17 ) which would commend the disciple’s witness in a life as practical in its goodness as it was divine in its secret. Cp. Ephesians 5:15 .

toward ] With regard to ; not (as some explain) in the sense of conciliation, as if “advancing to meet them”; though such action is of course implied in its place.

them that are without ] Outside the Christian circle, “the household of faith.” Cp. 1 Corinthians 5:12 , 1 Corinthians 5:13 ; 1 Thessalonians 4:12 (a close parallel); 1 Timothy 3:7 . They are “the Gentiles” of e.g. 1 Peter 2:12 . The parallel phrase occurs in the Rabbis hachîtsônîm; see Lightfoot’s note.

redeeming the time ] Buying out (from other ownership) the opportunity ; securing each successive occasion of witness and persuasive example at the expense of steady watchfulness. Cp. Ephesians 5:16 (and our notes) for the same phrase with a more general reference. The disciple, while ready to confess his Lord anywhere and at any time, is yet to use Christian “wisdom,” and not to despise laws of opportunity. The “ out of season ” of 2 Timothy 4:2 means, “irrespective of your own convenience.” St Paul himself, in the Acts, is a perfect instance of the union of holy courage with the truest tact and good sense.

6. your speech ] Talking, discourse . The precept here may well be applied to the Christian’s whole use of the tongue (see Ephesians 4:29 ). But the context gives it a special reference, surely, to his discourse about the Gospel with those “without .”

alway ] Observe the characteristic absoluteness of the Christian precept.

with grace ] Lit., in grace . See above, on 3:16. Lightfoot explains, “ with acceptance, pleasingness ”; and quotes from the Greek of Psalms 44:0 :(Heb. and Eng. 45)2; Ecclus. 21:16. But would not this be a unique, and so unlikely, use of the word in St Paul?

seasoned with salt ] which they were (Mark 9:50 ) to “have in themselves.” The reference of the metaphor is fixed by the practical parallel, Ephesians 4:29 ; “ corrupt, decayed, discourse .” The “ salt ” is the power of Christ’s grace, banishing all impurity of motive, and all uncleanness of allusion, and at the same time giving the pleasant “savour” of sound and nourishing “food for thought.” The classics, Latin and (less commonly) Greek, use the “salt” of speech as a metaphor; but almost always in the sense of wit, pleasantry, often of the very kind censured Ephesians 5:4 . Seneca speaks of “poisoned salt,” venenati sales , meaning malicious jests. “ Seasoned &c. ” here is constructed in the Greek with “ speech .”

that you may know ] As those will who, in the grace of God, remember this sound rule of discourse.

to answer every man ] “who asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15 ), in whatever spirit. The thought is, surely, not so much of cleverly adjusted repartee, as of the clear, kindly candour and good sense which would so state the truth of Christ, in the “answer,” as to meet any and every questioner with conciliation.

7 9. Personal Information

7. All my state ] Rather more lit., My circumstances generally . The same phrase occurs Philippians 1:12 . Latin Versions, Quœ circa me sunt omnia .

Tychicus ] Cp. Ephesians 6:21 ; and our note there. Tychicus is named also Acts 20:4 ; 2 Timothy 4:12 ; Titus 3:12 . He appears to have belonged to the province of Asia, and probably to Ephesus. He was, evidently, loved and honoured by the Apostle; was beside him, occasionally at least, in his first imprisonment; and was faithful to him to the end. His name, though not common, occurs in inscriptions and on coins belonging to Asia Minor. Wyclif, curiously, has “ titicus .”

See the art. Tychicus in Smith’s Dict. of the Bible; Ellicott on Ephesians 6:21 ; Lightfoot here, and p. 11 of his Philippians .

a beloved brother ] Lit., and better, the &c. So in Ephesians. The article indicates a certain speciality; almost as if it were “ that beloved brother, &c.”

faithful minister ] Greek, diaconos . So in Ephesians. On the word, see note above, on 1:7; and on Ephesians 6:21 . The word here (and in Eph.) points probably to Tychicus’ personal helping attendance on the Apostle.

and fellowservant ] A designation not given in Ephesians.

On the word see note above on 1:7, where Epaphras is similarly denoted. It is interesting to find these two Asiatic saints alike described by their discriminating father in God as eminently known for active unselfish service. Lightfoot gives the fact that the term fellowservant was a customary address, in the early Church, from a bishop to a deacon ( diaconos ) ; probably because of its use here and 1:7; an interesting instance of the birth and growth of formula.

in the Lord ] His life, and work, was conditioned and animated by his union with Christ and His Church.

8. I have sent ] Greek, “ I sent .” But the English is true to our idiom. He means that the letter and Tychicus are sent together; the aorist, the “epistolary past” of Greek, must be rendered as a perfect in English to convey this thought. So Ephesians 6:22 , where see our note.

for the same purpose ] For this very purpose , R.V. Word for word as in Ephesians 6:22 . The “ purpose ” is that just stated (ver. 8), and now more fully explained.

that he might know ] That ye might know , R.V. This is the more probable reading, though the text has considerable support, particularly in early Versions. Lightfoot urges for the change (besides manuscripts) that it is unlikely that St Paul should so emphasize (“ for this very purpose ”) Tychicus’ mission of information , and then suddenly give as its first object a work of enquiry . Further, that transcribers were more likely to assimilate the person and number of the verb to the “ he might comfort ” just below, than elaborately to assimilate a “ he might know ” here to the “ ye might know ” in Ephesians.

comfort ] See on 2:2.

9. Onesimus ] On his name and story see below, on Philemon 1:10 , and Introd . to the Ep. to Philemon, ch. 3.

a faithful and beloved brother ] Lit., and better, the , &c. See above on ver. 7. This rescued slave is raised, in Christ, to a brother’s place beside Tychicus, the Colossians, and Paul himself, and is at once welcomed into the family of God. St Paul implicitly assumes Philemon’s pardon and welcome for Onesimus.

is one of you ] Or, belongs to you , a fellow-Colossian. A beautiful euphemism for Onesimus’ legal connexion with Colossæ; and it was, for Christians, as true as it was beautiful.

all things which are done here ] Lit., more generally, all the things here ; circumstances and proceedings alike.

10 14. Salutations

10. Aristarchus my fellow-prisoner ] My fellow-captive (Latin Versions, concaptivus ), fellow-prisoner- of-war . So Epaphras is called, Philemon 1:23 (where see note). And so Andronicus and Junias, Romans 16:7 . The word indicates either that Aristarchus was, or had been, in prison with St Paul in the course of his missionary warfare , or that he was now in such close attendance on him that St Paul lovingly calls it an imprisonment.

The name Aristarchus occurs here, in Philemon, and Acts 19:29 , Acts 19:20 :4, Acts 19:27 :2; and it is morally certain that we have one man in all these places. He was a Thessalonian; he accompanied St Paul on his third journey, and was, with Gaius, seized at Ephesus, when the riot broke out. (Just possibly, the word fellow-captive may be a free allusion to that terrible hour.) He was with St Paul later when he returned from Greece to Asia, and either accompanied or followed him on to Syria, for he sails with him from Syria for Rome. We know no more of him; tradition makes him bishop of Apamea, in Asia Minor, east of Colossæ.

Marcus ] The name occurs also Acts 12:12 , Acts 12:25 , Acts 12:15 :37, 39; 2 Timothy 4:11 ; Philemon 1:24 ; 1 Peter 5:13 . We may assume the identity of the man in all the places, and that he is the “John” of Acts 13:5 , Acts 13:13 . We gather from these mentions that Marcus was also called Johannes; the latter, probably, as his Hebrew home-name, the former as his alternative name for Gentile intercourse. So Saul was Paul, and Jesus (ver. 11) was Justus; and so it is often now with Jews in Europe. (It is noticeable that the Jewish name drops away as the narrative proceeds; “ John Mark ,” or “ John ,” is only “ Mark ” in Acts 15:0 and in the Epistles.) His father is not mentioned; his mother was a Mary (Miriam), who lived at Jerusalem, whose house was a rendezvous of the disciples a.d. 44, to which Peter, released from prison, went as to a familiar place. He was cousin (see next note) to Barnabas. Peter calls him “ my son ”; spiritually, of course, assuming the identity of person in all the mentions of Marcus. Perhaps Peter, in the house of Mary, met her son and drew him to the Lord, thus “begetting him again.” With Paul and Barnabas, as their “helper,” he set out on their mission-journey (a.d. 45), but left them at Perga for Jerusalem, for a reason not known, but not approved of by Paul. Some seven years later he accompanied Barnabas on a second mission to Cyprus, after the “sharp contention” of the two Apostles. But that difference was not permanent (see 1 Corinthians 9:6 ); and now, nine or ten years later again, we find him with St Paul at Rome, and perhaps about to return (see this verse), with his blessing, to Asia. Later again, probably (but see Appendix B), he is with his spiritual father, Peter, at Babylon (probably the literal Chaldean Babylon, not the mystical, Rome). And then, again later, probably, he is with or near Timothy in Asia; and Paul, a second time imprisoned, sends for him, as “useful for him for personal service.” Here end our certain notices. In Scripture, he may be the “certain young man” of Mark 14:51 , Mark 14:52 . Tradition, from early cent. 2 onwards, makes him the writer of the Second Gospel, and to have compiled it as in some sense Peter’s exponent. (Cp. Eusebius, History , 111. 39; and see Salmon, Introd. to N. T . p. 110, etc.) Later tradition (first recorded cent. 4) makes him founder and first bishop of the Alexandrian church.

sister’s son ] Rather, cousin . Latin versions, consobrinus; Wyclif, “ cosyn .” The Greek, anepsios , bears the meaning “ sister’s son ” in later Greek, but its derivation and earlier usage fix it here to mean a cousin-german, the child of the other’s own aunt or uncle. Etymologically, it is remotely akin to our “ nephew ”; but that word also has varied its reference. In the A.V. of 1 Timothy 5:4 it means “ descendants ,” such as grandchildren; representing a different Greek word. This kinship explains no doubt, in part, the wish of the loving Barnabas to retain Marcus as his helper (Acts 15:0 ).

ye received commandments ] No doubt through some previous emissary from Rome to Asia.

if he come ] An intended visit of Marcus to Asia is implied. Perhaps he was on his way to the residence there which later brought him into connexion with Peter in Chaldea. See note on Marcus, just above.

receive him ] It is implied that some misgiving about Marcus lingered among the followers of St Paul. The “commandments” had announced Marcus’ full restoration to St Paul’s confidence, and so to that of his converts; now they were to act upon them.

11. And Jesus ] The Grecized form of Jehoshua (later, Jêshua ), “ Jehovah’s Help ”; a very common Jewish proper name. In the N.T., besides the countless places where it is the name of our Blessed Lord, and this place, it occurs Acts 7:45 ; Hebrews 4:8 ; (of Joshua); and (according to well-supported readings) Luke 3:29 , where A. V. has “ Jose ”; and (perhaps) Matthew 27:16 ; “ Jesus Barabbas.”

Legend gives Jesus Justus a bishopric, that of Eleutheropolis, in Judea.

called Justus ] A Latin name, like Marcus and Paulus; see note on ver. 10.

Lightfoot (see his note in full) shews that this name, “ Righteous ,” was in common use among Jews and proselytes, as “denoting obedience to the law.” We find it Acts 1:23 , Acts 18:7 . The third bishop of Jerusalem, according to Eusebius ( History , 111. 35) was “a Jew, named Justus”; and the eleventh ( ibid . iv. 5) bore the same name. The name occurs, slightly modified ( Youstî, Youstâ ), in the Rabbinical writings. The feminine, Justa, is the name of the Syrophenician in the Clementine Homilies , a Judaizing book of cent. 3, where she appears as a proselytess.

Called : implies that Jesus Justus was better known by his Latin than by his Hebrew name.

who ] Aristarchus, Marcus, Jesus.

are of the circumcision ] For the phrase cp. Acts 10:45 , Acts 10:11 :2; Romans 4:12 ; Galatians 2:12 ; Titus 1:10 . It appears to mean converts to Christianity of Jewish birth (or proselytism). In Acts 11:0 , Gal., Tit., cited above, “the men of circumcision,” shew a more or less partizan-like spirit towards the freedom of the Gospel. But this does not prove that the phrase bore necessarily a party colour, only that exclusives, Judaizers, would naturally appear, if anywhere, among the Hebrew Christians.

These only ] Probably he means, these only of all “the men of the circumcision” at Rome, while the large majority were acting as in Philippians 1:15 , Philippians 1:16 . Alford takes the whole passage to be practically one statement, in loose grammatical connexion, as if it ran “Of the men of the circumcision these alone are &c.” We must not press the word “ only ” too far; he probably speaks here of leaders, not of the mass. Cp. Philippians 2:20 ; 2 Timothy 4:16 .

my fellowworkers ] Cp. for the word in similar connexion, Romans 16:3 , Romans 16:9 , Romans 16:21 ; 2 Corinthians 8:23 ; Philippians 2:25 , Philippians 2:4 :3; 1 Thessalonians 3:2 (perhaps); Philemon 1:24 . He loves the thought of partnership in his work for his Lord, see e.g. Philippians 1:7 . The word “ my ” is not in the Greek, but it is evidently implied.

unto the kingdom of God ] See above 1:13, and note; and our notes on Ephesians 5:5 . The phrase here means, in effect, “so as to promote the reign of God, in Christ, over man and in him, here and hereafter.”

which have been ] The Greek might almost be paraphrased, “ proving ,” or “ as they have proved .” He means that their cooperation largely consisted in their proving “ a comfort ,” instead of acting in opposition. “ Have been : more exactly, “ were ,” or “ did prove .” But the English perfect well represents the Greek aorist here. See note on ver. 8.

a comfort ] The Greek noun, parêgoria , occurs here only in the Greek Bible; the cognate verb occurs Job 16:2 , in the Greek version of Symmachus. The English word, in its common use, exactly renders it. The Latin Versions have solatium; Wyclif, “ solace .” His heart, often wounded by Judaistic opposition, was specially consoled by the loving loyalty of these Jewish Christian friends.

12. Epaphras ] Cp. 1:7, and note.

who is one of you ] Cp. ver. 9, and note.

a servant of Christ ] A designation true of all Christians; see Ephesians 6:6 . Here it seems to denote a man in whom the holy “bondservice” was markedly illustrated; perhaps specially in his pastoral or missionary character. Cp. 2 Timothy 2:24 .

Of Christ : read, of Christ Jesus .

labouring ] Wrestling ; “as Jacob of old with the Angel.” See notes on 1:29, 2:2; and cp. Romans 15:30 . Epaphras prayed as one who grappled with trials to faith and perseverance in the work of prayer. The word “ fervently ” is inserted in the A.V. (as in older English Versions) to express the intensity of a wrestle. The Latin Versions, somewhat weakly, have semper sollicitus pro vobis; Wyclif, better (though rendering from them), “ euer bisie for you .”

in prayers ] Lit., “ in the prayers ,” almost as if, “ in his prayers .” Epaphras was Paul’s true scholar in the school of intercession. See 1:9.

stand ] Stand fast better represents the best-supported reading here.

perfect ] See note on the word, 1:28. And cp. Philippians 3:15 , and note.

complete ] I.e., “ filled full .” So Old Latin, adimpleti; Vulgate, pleni; all English Versions before A.V., “ full .” R.V., fully assured ; adopting another and better supported reading, which gives the verb used also in e.g. Romans 4:21 , Romans 4:14 :5; and cognate to the noun used ch. 2:2, where see note. The usage of this verb (see Lightfoot’s note) leaves the rendering “ filled ” still possible; but the parallels in St Paul are in favour of R.V. Epaphras prayed, in effect, that their Christian consistency might be mature (“ perfect ”) and consciously decided .

in all the will ] More lit., “ in every will ; in every part of the will . The thought is the attentive obedience which holds sacred each detail of the Master’s orders. Cp. Ephesians 5:15-17 ; and see above ch. 1:10.

13. zeal ] Labour , R.V. (so Latin Versions; Wyclif, “ traveil ”), adopting a somewhat better supported reading, of which that represented in A.V. is probably a transcriber’s explanation .

Laodicea ] See on 2:1; and Introd . p. 13.

Hierapolis ] The third mission-station in the valley of the Lycus, looking across the river, southward, a distance of about six miles, to Laodicea. See Introd ., ch. 1.

14. Luke ] Loucas , Lucas ; Lucanus abbreviated. It is interesting to find the Second and Third Evangelists (see ver. 8) in one small group around St Paul here. Cp. Philemon 1:24 ; 2 Timothy 4:11 . Lucas had accompanied St Paul to Rome; so the “ we ” “ us ” &c., of Acts 27:28 , implies. He is not named in Philippians, which is probably to be dated earlier than Colossians (see Philippians in this Series, pp. 14, 15, and above, p. 22); he may have left Rome and returned between St Paul’s arrival and the writing of this Epistle. He appears again in 2 Timothy 4:11 as the one personal attendant of the Apostle in his last imprisonment.

Tradition, vaguely supported at the best, says that he was born at Antioch in Syria; that he was one of the Seventy; that he was the anonymous disciple of the Walk to Emmaus; or, on the contrary, that he was a convert of St Paul’s; that after his master’s death he preached in Dalmatia, Gaul, Italy, and Macedonia; and that he died a martyr, in Achaia, or Bithynia, near the end of cent. 1. Lightfoot points out that he appears here as not “of the circumcision,” and therefore as a Gentile; and that this is “fatal” to the tradition that he was one of the Seventy. He surely indicates this himself in the exordium of his Gospel (1:2), implying that he was not an “eyewitness of the word.” See generally Smith’s Dict. of the Bible , art. Luke , and Dr F.W. Farrar’s edition of St Luke in this Series, Introduction , ch. 2.

the beloved ] The adjective suggests a loveable man, tender and true; a character profoundly welcome to the life-worn heart of the Apostle. He uses it elsewhere of individuals, Romans 16:5 , Romans 16:8 , Romans 16:9 , Romans 16:12 ; Ephesians 6:21 ; above, 1:7, 4:7, 9; 2 Timothy 1:2 ; Philemon 1:2 , Philemon 1:16 . Cp. 2 Peter 3:15 ; 3 John 1:2 , 3 John 1:5 , 3 John 1:11 .

physician ] “Indications of medical knowledge have been traced both in the third Gospel and in the Acts” (cp. Farrar, cited above, p. 21, note). “It has been observed also that St Luke’s first appearance in company with St Paul (Acts 16:10 ) nearly synchronizes with an attack of the Apostle’s constitutional malady (Galatians 4:13 , Galatians 4:14 ), so that he may have joined him partly in a professional capacity. There is no ground for questioning the ancient belief ( Irenæus iii. 14, 1 sq.) that the physician is also the Evangelist … St Paul’s motive in specifying him as the physician may … have been … to emphasize his own obligations to his medical knowledge. The tradition that St Luke was a painter is quite late.” (Lightfoot.)

It may be observed that, whatever were the laws of “ the Gift of Healing ,” they threw no discredit, in St Paul’s view, on the skill and knowledge of the trained physician.

“To [St Luke] to his allegiance, his ability, and his accurate preservation of facts we are alone indebted for the greater part of what we know of the Apostle of the Gentiles” (Farrar).

Demas ] Mentioned also Philemon 1:24 ; 2 Timothy 4:10 . In the latter place he is contrasted with the faithful Luke: “ Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world ”; i.e., probably, preferring escape and life to the perils of association with Paul in his last crisis. The colourless mention of him here, just after “ the beloved ” Luke, suggests that already Demas was not all a Christian should be. Probably he “was a Thessalonian (2 Timothy 4:10 ) and … [probably] his name was Demetrius” (Lightfoot. The Bishop refers for more detail to his, alas, never-accomplished Introduction to Thessalonians).

15 17. Laodicea; Archippus

15. Salute … Laodicea ] The places were only twelve miles apart.

Nymphas ] A Laodicean; his name in full was, probably, Nymphodorus. See Lightfoot’s full note here, on name-contractions in - as . In some Greek mss. this name is accented as if it were Nympha , a feminine name, and “ his house ” just below is read “ her house .” But this is very improbable, as it would assume that the name was written in a Doric form, Nymphâ not Nymphê . The Latin Versions, reading thus, have Nympham; and Wyclif, “ the womman nymfam .”

the church which is in his house ] R.V., their house ; following a better supported reading. The plural refers, probably, to Nymphas and his family.

The church … in their house : for the word “ Church ” used, as here, in its most limited sense, a Christian congregation of neighbours, see Romans 16:5 ; 1 Corinthians 16:19 ; Philemon 1:2 . (Cp. Romans 16:14 , Romans 16:15 .) The Nymphas family at Laodicea were perhaps the wealthy converts there, owning a large house; themselves numerous; and they offered their great room as a meeting place for worship and “the breaking of bread” to other converts. Very possibly this was the one meeting-place in Laodicea; and the greeting in this verse, if so, is to the Laodiceans first individually then in congregation. The Latin Versions have, domestica ejus ecclesia .

Bingham ( Antiquities , viii. 1) collects allusions to Christian places of worship in the first century. He shews that special chambers were set apart, but does not shew that whole buildings were, in those first days, consecrated to devotion. By the third century at latest this became common. See our note on Romans 16:5 .

16. this epistle ] Lit., the epistle ; as Romans 16:22 ; 2 Thessalonians 3:14 . “ The letter now before you .”

is read ] I.e., shall have been read .

in the church of the Laodiceans ] Hierapolis is not mentioned in this charge. Was Laodicea already beginning to grow “ lukewarm ” (Revelation 3:15 ) as the sister-church was not?

“A similar [and still more solemn] charge is given in 1 Thessalonians 5:27 . The precaution here is probably suggested by the distastefulness of the Apostle’s warnings” (Lightfoot).

the epistle from Laodicea ] I.e., which will reach you viâ Laodicea. On the question whether this was our “Epistle to the Ephesians” see Introd ., ch. 5.

17. say to Archippus ] Probably the son of Philemon (cp. Philemon 1:2 , and notes, and Lightfoot, Colossians &c., pp. 374, 5). He was apparently an ordained minister in the mission-church, either at Colossæ or (less probably, surely; see on Philemon 1:2 ) at Laodicea. St Paul, perhaps, had misgivings about his zeal and care, and, without saying as much, aims here at his conscience through his flock . Or, quite possibly, Archippus had been appointed to take the place of Epaphras when Epaphras left for Rome; and this warning bears only on the thought that his work was just beginning. See further below, p. 152. In those simple days such an appeal through the people to the pastor was easy; “lordship over God’s heritage” (1 Peter 5:3 ) was no part of the Apostles’ programme of the pastorate.

the ministry] Diaconia; Latin Versions, ministerium . The word in itself has no necessary reference to an ordained “ministry.” But the context here makes such a reference at least highly probable; Archippus evidently stood out as a “ worker ” in a sense quite special and deeply sacred. On the other hand, the reference is probably not to the “diaconate” (Philippians 1:2 ; 1 Timothy 3:8 , &c.) specially. In Laodicea, as in Philippi, there might well be more than one “deacon.” And the deacon’s office, while sacred and important, was scarcely such as to occasion this solemnity of appeal. Archippus, we believe, was (at least for the time) the chief “pastor and teacher” (Ephesians 4:12 ) of Colossæ.

which thou hast received ] Lit. and better, didst receive . Cp. Acts 14:23 ; Titus 1:5 . And for St Paul’s own “reception of ministry,” and his ideal of it, see Acts 20:24 .

in the Lord ] Pregnant words. It was only as a man in union with Christ that he had “ received ,” and could “ fulfil ,” his ministry.

fulfil it ] Lit., fill it full ; so that his “ works should be found filled before God ” (Revelation 3:2 ). No duty of his ministry was to be ignored; he was to “take heed to himself, his doctrine , and his flock” (Acts 20:28 ; 1 Timothy 4:16 ). “A minister of Christ is often in highest honour with men for the performance of one half of his work, while God is regarding him with displeasure for the neglect of the other half” (R. Cecil, quoted by Abp Trench, on Revelation 3:2 ).

18. Farewell

18. The salutation by the hand of me Paul ] Here he takes the pen from the amanuensis (see Romans 16:22 ), and writes the final words in autograph. In 2 Thessalonians 3:17 (“ so I write”) this is evidently done to warrant the authenticity of the letter. And see another reason, Philemon 1:19 . But obviously it might be done habitually at the close of Epistles, for reasons only of care and affection; they would always value “his own hand.” The “script” of St Paul seems to have been large and laboured; see Galatians 6:11 ; where render “in what large letters I have written.” (He seems to have written that Epistle all in autograph.)

Remember my bonds ] The chain would drag and rattle as he took the pen. See note on ver. 3 above.

Their “ remembrance ” would be shewn in love, in intercession, and above all in fidelity to the Gospel for which their Apostle rejoiced to suffer.

Grace be with you ] This short benediction occurs elsewhere only at the close of 1 Tim., 2 Tim. As Lightfoot suggests, the more definite and developed phraseology, “ The grace of our Lord Jesus Christy, &c. ,” might in these later days of St Paul’s ministry “pass without saying.”

On the meaning of “ grace ,” see note on 1:2 above.

Amen ] The evidence for omission here is considerable. See our note on Ephesians 6:24 .

The Subscription

Written &c.] Lit., To the Colossians it was written from Rome, by means of Tychicus and Onesimus . So in the Textus Receptus . Of other forms some omit “ To the Colossians ; some add, at the end, “ and Timotheus .” In our oldest mss. the form is the same as that of the Title (see note there): To (the) Colossians, or Colassians.

The Subscriptions (to St Paul’s Epistles), in their longer form (as in the A.V.) are ascribed to Euthalius, a bishop of the fifth century, and thus to a date later than the earliest extant mss. (See Scrivener, Introd. to the Criticism of the N.T ., ed. 1883, p. 62.)

The Subscription here is obviously true to fact, as are those appended to Rom., Eph., Phil., Philem., 2 Tim. Other Subscriptions are either (1 Cor., Gal., 1 Tim.) contradictory to the contents of the respective Epistles, or (Thess., Tit.) difficult to reconcile with them.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Colossians 4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cgt/colossians-4.html. 1896.