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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

Colossians 4

Verses 1-18

The Claim of the Outsider

Colossians 4:5

I. Note the distinction here assumed, 'them that are without,' which necessarily implies them that are within. This distinction is assumed throughout the New Testament. (1) The reality of this division. We serve one master: on the best of authority we affirm this. We obey one law; the higher law of the mind, or the lower of the flesh. We develop one character. Our character is the outcome of one dominant idea, one reigning purpose, one master-passion. We are within or without. (2) The determination of this distinction. Who are the within, who the without? In the New Testament this momentous question is decided by our relation to Christ. To be within is to be in Him. (3) The infinite significance of this distinction. The glory of Christianity must be seen from within. We do not know the glory of a garden by a glimpse through the hedge, the glory of a cathedral by walking about it, and looking up at its dark windows, or the glory of a country by sailing round its shores; the garden, shrine, or country must be judged from within, and from within must we judge the Lord Jesus and all that pertains to His faith and service. It is from the standpoint of personal trust, sympathy, and experience that we realise the reality and preciousness of all that is comprehended by the Church of God.

II. The duty of the within to the without. Christians must act judiciously toward all men. To this end (1) We must maintain high character. 'Walk in wisdom.' That is, when you possess the essential elements of the Christian character be on your guard against technical defects which hide or diminish the full effect of that character. Oh! let us take care of character. So long as the Church stands out in the beauty of holiness, in acts of love, in ministries of blessing, it attracts, grows, triumphs; but all is over on the day that there are finer characters out of it than there are in it. (2) We must cherish a gracious spirit. (a) The without may be alienated by rigidness. (b) We alienate by roughness. (c) We repel by hardness. (d) We alienate by gloominess. As Robert Louis Stevenson protests to a correspondent: 'I do not call that by the name of religion which fills a man with bile'. Yet how many of us are habitually austere and sad! Let us be filled with Christ's spirit and emulate His example.

W. L. Watkinson, Themes for Hours of Media tion, p. 96.

References. IV. 5. H. Woodcock, Sermon Outlines (1st Series), p. 261. Expositor (6th Series), vol. viii. p. 421. IV. 7-9. Ibid. vol. iii. p. 235. I. 9. R. W. Riley, A Year's Sermons, vol. iii. p. 305. IV. 10. Expositor (4th Series), vol. iii. p. 229; ibid. (5th Series), vol. vi. p. 81; ibid. vol. x. p. 319. IV. 2. T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. iii. p. 226. IV. 13. Expositor (5th Series), vol. ix. p. 437; ibid. (6th Series), vol. ix. p. 22.

St. Luke the Evangelist (for St. Luke's Day)

Colossians 4:14

St. Luke is said to have been born at Antioch; the probability, therefore, is that he was, as Jerome says, a Syrian, and thus a Gentile. If so, then he was a proselyte to the Jewish religion. According to his Gospel and the Acts, he was well acquainted with Jewish rites, customs, opinions, and prejudices. The date of his conversion to Christianity is unknown; but of his conversion, as a blessed reality, there is not the shadow of a doubt Epiphanius and others have supposed him to have been one of the Seventy commissioned by our Lord. It has been said that ultimately he suffered martyrdom when eighty-four years of age.

I. He is described in the text as 'the beloved physician,' and the tradition that he was a skilful painter is due probably to a confusion of names, for there was an early Greek painter of the same name. As a physician he was of essential service to St. Paul, not only in his own personal needs, but in his missionary enterprises, as the healing art was then, as it is now, of great advantage to the furtherance of the Gospel among the heathen. Through attending to the body the modern medical missionary may reach the soul, and by saving the one may, under the Divine blessing, save the other.

II. St. Paul and he were great friends, as the text clearly shows. The appellation of 'the beloved physician' signifies that St. Luke, apart from his professional services, possessed certain amiable and holy characteristics which had won St Paul's admiration and affection. He loved his physician; and his physician reciprocated his love. 'Only Luke is with me,' he says. There is a tone of deep sadness in this avowal, but it magnifies the friendship of both of them.

III. St. Luke was evidently a well-educated man. His learning is proved by his Gospel to have been great; for it stands out from the others in its evidences of a higher education, its peculiar beauty and pathos, its didactic style and graphic descriptiveness. Universality is its predominant feature. The author presents Jesus not only as the Messiah of Israel and the Incarnate Son of God, but as the Divine Son of Man; and he principally records those sayings and deeds of our Lord by which the Divine mercy was shown to the Gentile world. The Acts of the Apostles, which St. Luke also wrote, is a supplementary composition. It begins where the Gospel ends, so that united, the two form one history anent the life of Christ on earth, and the establishment of His Church in the world. In no part of the Bible have we such models of preaching, such tender, eloquent, and powerful appeals to the understanding and the heart.

Luke, the Beloved Physician (for St. Luke's Day)

Colossians 4:14

I. It is as the author of the Gospel that the Church is most interested in St. Luke. That book is one of the four golden columns on which rests the Christian history. It is one of the four golden trumpets which have sent forth the summons of Christ to the sons of men. It has, moreover, its own peculiar character. It was not so Jewish as the others; there is a peculiar human breadth and richness in it It gives the fullest account of our Lord's Nativity, and relates the parable of the 'Prodigal Son'. But it is not only as the writer of the Gospel that we know St. Luke. He was also the author of 'The Acts of the Apostles,' and was the fellow-labourer of St. Paul, who is the central figure of the larger portion of the book. St. Paul, in his Epistles, thrice mentions him, and twice he styles him 'the beloved physician'. That is almost all. By early tradition, and from some incidental indications, we gather that Lucanus was a Gentile and a citizen of Antioch, that he was a physician by profession, that he travelled with St Paul, and that before he died he wrote, at St. Paul's suggestion, the Gospel which bears his name. And yet there is something more. It seems clear that St. Luke's character as a physician remained an influential fact, even after he became a missionary. His style, the events of our Lord's life which he selects for his narration, bear marks of the physician's habits of thought and speech. St. Paul's allusion to him as 'the beloved physician,' and the fact that Luke appears to have joined Paul on several occasions when that Apostle's strength broke down under one of those recurrent attacks of prostration, all seem to imply that he continued to practise the art of healing, and that it was as a physician also that he travelled with St Paul from place to place. In St Luke, then, we see, what since his time has been the natural and normal type of Christian life, the inspiration by a new spiritual power of an earthly vocation, so that it continued to be exercised, and, moreover, fulfilled its true ideal. This suggests certain thoughts with reference to

II. The general relation of the Christian life to men's occupations and professions.

The disposition to find the simplicity of motive under the variety of action is familiar enough now, and it is right in its aim. The world of human action, like the world of Nature, is a scene of endless superficial variety which, by and by, we learn to gather into unity under some common force, under the power of some central inspiration. To the shallow observer each profession and calling is a life by itself; it will have its own thoughts, standards, principles, and passions; nothing in common with others. But that is only the superficial aspect Very soon he who lives begins to discover some deeper forces working underneath, and giving a real unity to all this seemingly incoherent life. How will it be, then, if you can reach one point which is the genuine centre of the whole mass one supreme force, of which they are all only modifications and manifestations, issuing from the very heart of all and this one central fountain of force, the soul's love for God as its Father; so that everything which a man had a right to do at all upon earth might be ideally done as an expression of this central force the love of man for God? Consider what effects the warm fire of the love of God must have upon the life, in certain arts and professions, of which the world must necessarily be full. It must

(1) Purify all the professions. It melts away the dross and leaves the gold. It makes the man purely the thing he means to be, without any admixture of baseness or corruption.

(2) It makes the professions to be no longer means of separation but of sympathy and union between men. If you and I feel always beating through our diverse callings and methods of activity the common purpose of the love of God, then the harder we work in different ways the more our lives are one.

(3) It will sanctify the secular work of your life. No thoughtful man has failed to feel that the division of labour represented by the many and various occupations of life has its dangers corruption, narrowness, loss of human sympathy, and such like. Where is the safeguard against these things? Not by deserting your profession, but by deepening it; by seeking a new life under it; by praying for, and never resting until you find regeneration, the new life lived by the faith of the Son of God. So only can your life of trade, or art, or profession be redeemed; so only can it become for you and for the world a blessed thing.

This is the lesson taught us by the lives and comradeship of St Paul and St Luke. We see the figures of Paul and Luke walking together as ministers of Christ theology and medicine labouring in harmony for the redemption of man, for the saving of body, soul, and spirit and the picture is very sacred and impressive Thus may these two professions, and every other 'calling' in life, in fellowship with religion, working together as if they were one, grow to be more and more a worthy channel through which the helpfulness of God may flow forth to the neediness of man.

The late Bishop Phillips Brooks, The Light of the World.

References. IV. 14. W. G. Horder, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlii. p. 245. F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. ii. p. 270. S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for Saints' Days, p. 190. IV. 16. Expositor (6th Series), vol. v. p. 95. IV. 17. I. E. Page, Preacher's Magazine, vol. xviii. p. 308. J. Bunting, Sermons, vol. ii. p. 368. IV. 18. Expositor (5th Series), vol. x. p. 199.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Colossians 4". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/colossians-4.html. 1910.