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Bible Commentaries
Colossians 4

The Expositor's Greek TestamentExpositor's Greek Testament

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Verse 1

Colossians 3:18 to Colossians 4:1 . ENFORCEMENT OF THE RECIPROCAL DUTIES OF WIVES AND HUSBANDS, CHILDREN AND PARENTS, SLAVES AND MASTERS, WITH FREQUENT REFERENCE TO THESE DUTIES AS INVOLVED IN THEIR DUTY TO CHRIST. In this section the reference to the subject precedes that to the ruling parties, and the duty of obedience is emphasised to prevent false inferences from the doctrine that natural distinctions are done away in Christ. Holtzmann, Oltramare and Weiss think these precepts are added in protest against the false teachers’ asceticism. The fact that we have similar, and fuller, injunctions in Ephesians tells against this. Ephesians 5:22 sq. and 1 Peter 3:6 may be compared.

Verse 2

Colossians 4:2 . προσκαρτερεῖτε : cf. Romans 12:12 , Acts 1:14 . Steadfastness in prayer is opposed to “fainting” in it, the best illustration being the importunate widow and the importunate friend. γρηγοροῦντες may mean that they are to watch against growing weary so that the prayer becomes mechanical, or, as Soden takes it, against confused thought. But perhaps it is not so much alertness in prayer that is meant as the watchfulness which manifests itself in the form of prayer (so Hofm., Haupt). In favour of this is the use of γρηγ . in the religious sense for watchfulness against temptation. ἐν εὐχαριστίᾳ : thanksgiving is added, because it springs from the heart thankful for God’s gifts, and therefore watchful against losing them.

Verses 2-4

Colossians 4:2-4 partially parallel to Ephesians 6:18-20 .

Verses 2-6


Verse 3

Colossians 4:3 . ἡμῶν : perhaps including all his fellow-workers, probably not Paul alone, on account of the singular ( δέδεμαι ). θύραν τοῦ λόγου : i.e. , a removal of whatever obstructs its progress, possibly liberation from prison, to which he was looking forward (Philemon 1:22 ). For the metaphor, cf. 1 Corinthians 16:9 , 2 Corinthians 2:12 . λαλῆσαι : “so as to speak,” infinitive of the consequence. τὸ μυστήριον τοῦ Χριστοῦ : the mystery which has Christ for its content. On account of his proclamation of it, and especially of the truth that the Gentiles were admitted freely to its blessings, he is now a prisoner.

Verse 4

Colossians 4:4 . ἵνα is variously connected. The usual way is best which connects it with ἀνοίξῃ . This is better than going back to προσευχ ., while the connexion with λαλ . is strained. It may be taken (as Beng., Hofm., Sod.) with δέδεμαι , “bound in order that I may manifest,” but if so why should Paul have desired liberty? Soden gives a peculiar turn to the thought. He thinks Paul is bound in order that he may manifest to his judges how he can do no other ( δεῖ emphatic) than preach. This seems to be met by Haupt’s criticism that for this we must have had φανερώσω ὅτι δεῖ με λαλῆσαι αὐτό . φανερώσω . Soden urges in favour of his interpretation that φαν . is never used of Paul’s preaching, but there seems to be no reason why it should not be. It is a stronger word than λαλ ., he wants to “make it clear”. ὡς δεῖ με λαλῆσαι refers to the mode of preaching, but the precise sense is uncertain. Some think it means boldly, others in a way suited to the peculiar circumstances, others in a way that shall be equal to the greatness of the message. Or, again, a reference is assumed by many to the Judaising opposition. But probably the feeling that prompts the words is that in prison his activity was curbed, and he wished to be free that he might preach the Gospel without restriction.

Verse 5

Colossians 4:5 . Cf. Ephesians 5:15 . An exhortation to wise conduct in relation to non-Christians. τοὺς ἔξω : those outside the Church; the reference is suggested by the mention of θύραν τ . λόγου . They must be wise in their relations with them so as not to give them an unfavourable impression of the Gospel. τὸν καιρὸν ἐξαγοραζόμενοι : “making your market fully from the occasion” (Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller , p. 149). They are to seize the fitting opportunity when it occurs to do good to “those without,” and thus promote the spread of the Gospel.

Verse 6

Colossians 4:6 . ἐν χάριτι : probably “gracious,” “pleasant” is the meaning; by the sweetness and courtesy of their conversation they are to impress favourably the heathen. Some (most recently Haupt) think Divine grace is meant, but this does not suit ἅλατι so well. ἅλατι ἠρτυμένος . In classical writers “salt” expressed the wit with which conversation was flavoured. Here wisdom is probably meant on account of εἰδέναι . There may be the secondary meaning of wholesome, derived from the function of salt to preserve from corruption. εἰδέναι : “so as to know”. πῶς κ . τ . λ .: they must strive to cultivate the gift of pleasant and wise conversation, so that they may be able to speak appropriately to each individual (with his peculiar needs) with whom they come in contact.

Verse 7

Colossians 4:7 . Τυχικός is mentioned in Acts 20:4 , Ephesians 6:21 , Titus 3:12 , 2 Timothy 4:12 . He belonged to the province of Asia, and was sent at this time not only with this letter but with the Epistle to the Ephesians. ἀδελφὸς is usually taken to express his relation to the members of the Church, though Haupt thinks it means Paul’s brother. πιστὸς διάκονος : “faithful minister,” probably to Paul, not to Christ. πις . goes also with σύνδουλος , and since this expresses a relation to Paul it is probable that διάκ . does so too. ἐν Κυρίῳ : to be taken with all three nouns on account of the single article.

Verses 7-8

Colossians 4:7-8 parallel to Ephesians 6:21-22 .

Verses 7-18


Verse 8

Colossians 4:8 . ἔπεμψα : “I am sending” (epistolary aorist). γνῶτε τὰ περὶ ἡμῶν . This is not only the better attested reading but yields the better sense, because both before (Colossians 4:7 ) and after (Colossians 4:9 ) Paul says that Tychicus will acquaint them with matters at Rome. He wishes to relieve the anxiety of the Colossians as to his welfare. παρακαλέσῃ : see on Colossians 2:2 . This function is not ascribed to Onesimus, who was not a σύνδουλος .

Verse 9

Colossians 4:9 . Ὀνησίμῳ . Philemon’s runaway slave, who was rescued by Paul and converted to Christianity. Paul sent him back to his master, with the exquisite Epistle to Philemon despatched at the same time as this letter. He speaks of him in the most affectionate terms, to secure a welcome for him at Colossæ. He seems from this passage to have belonged to Colossæ, and we may infer that this was the home of Philemon. If the author of Colossians learnt his name from the Epistle to Philemon, it is strange that he should have contented himself with this bald reference, and made no allusion to his desertion, conversion and return to his master. Such omission here is characteristic of Paul’s delicacy. τὰ ὧδε is wider than τὰ κατʼ ἐμὲ (Colossians 4:7 ). It means all that is happening to the Church in Rome.

Verse 10

Colossians 4:10 . Ἀρίσταρχος : a native of Thessalonica, mentioned in Acts 19:29 ; Acts 20:4 ; Acts 27:2 , Philemon 1:24 . In Philm. Epaphras is mentioned as Paul’s fellow-prisoner. Fritzsche suggested that his friends took turns in voluntarily sharing his captivity, and explained the difference between the two Epistles in this way. The divergence between the two Epistles testifies to authenticity, for an imitator would not have created a difficulty of this kind. Μᾶρκος (so accented by Blass and Haupt, who refers to Dittenberger in confirmation), the cousin ( ἀνεψιὸς ) of Barnabas, who may by this time have been dead. He is no doubt the John Mark of the Acts and the evangelist. ἐλάβετε ἐντολάς . We do not know what these commands were. ἐλάβ . cannot be an epistolary aorist (2nd person), therefore the commands must have been sent previously. ἐὰν ἔλθῃ κ . τ . λ . may express the substance of them. δέξασθε . Paul may have feared that Mark’s defection from him, which led to the sharp quarrel between him and Barnabas, might prejudice the Colossians against him. The mention of his relationship to Barnabas was probably intended as a recommendation to their kindness. He seems to have been unknown to the Colossians.

Verse 11

Colossians 4:11 . Ἰησοῦς : otherwise unknown to us. Zahn has well pointed out that the mention of this name, in addition to those mentioned in Philemon, creates difficulties for the impugners of the authenticity. If Philemon was authentic why should an imitator venture to add an unknown person, and especially to give him the name Jesus, that so soon became sacred among Christians? If not authentic, why should he not have copied himself? οἱ ὄντες ἐκ περιτομῆς : to be taken with the following words, in spite of the awkwardness of the construction. What is meant is that these are the only ones of the circumcision who have been a help to him. If a stop is placed at περ ., we get the sense that these who have just been mentioned are his only fellow-workers, which is not true. Aristarchus is probably not included, for he went as one of the deputation sent by the Gentile Christians with the collection for the Church at Jerusalem. οὗτοι μόνοι : for the attitude of Jewish Christians in Rome towards Paul cf. Philippians 1:15-17 ; Philippians 2:19-24 . This is more natural in a letter from Rome than from Cæsarea. βασιλείαν τοῦ Θεοῦ . The phrase is intentionally chosen; the Jews were devoted to the kingdom; Paul should have found in the Jewish Christians his best helpers. ἐγενήθησαν : the aorist seems to point to some special incident.

Verse 12

Colossians 4:12 . Ἐπαφρᾶς : see on Colossians 1:7 . He was either a native of Colossæ or had settled there. δοῦλος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ . Paul uses this term often of himself, but of no one else except here and Philippians 1:1 , where he calls himself and Timothy δοῦλοι Χ . Ἰ . Meyer and Alford connect with ὁ ἐξ ὑμ ., but it is better to place a comma after ὑμῶν . πεπληροφορημένοι : see on Colossians 2:2 . Usually it is translated here “fully assured”. Haupt thinks that after τέλειοι this is unsuitable. But if we translate “complete” or “filled,” this is tautological, and it is not clear that τέλ . covers full assurance. ἐν παντὶ θελήματι Θεοῦ : “in everything that God wills”. Meyer and Alford connect with σταθῆτε (or as they read στῆτε ), but it is better to connect with the two participles.

Verse 13

Colossians 4:13 . The anxiety of Epaphras for these Churches was probably due to his connexion with them, either as founder or teacher.

Verse 14

Colossians 4:14 . Λουκᾶς ὁ ἰατρὸς ὁ ἀγαπητὸς : “Luke the physician, the beloved,” no doubt to be identified with the evangelist Luke. His writings have been shown to exhibit a considerable use of medical terms. The name was originally Lucanus. He was clearly not one “of the circumcision” (Colossians 4:11 ), and this, as often pointed out, seems to exclude the possibility that he wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews. Δημᾶς : mentioned last and without commendation. This is commonly explained as due to a foreboding of Paul that he would turn out badly, suggested by the reference to him in 2 Timothy 4:10 as having left him. But in Philemon 1:24 he is placed before Luke and numbered among Paul’s fellow-workers. Possibly he wrote the Epistle, and is thus mentioned last and without praise.

Verse 15

Colossians 4:15 . Νυμφαν may be masculine ( Νυμφᾶν ) or feminine ( Νύμφαν ). The Doric form, Νύμφαν , is improbable; on the other hand the contracted form, Νυμφᾶν , is rare. If αὐτῶν is read, either is possible. Otherwise the decision is made by the choice between αὐτοῦ and αὐτῆς . It seems probable that αὐτῶν was due to change by a scribe who included ἀδελφ . in the reference. And a scribe might alter the feminine, assuming that a woman could not have been mentioned in this way. The attestation of αὐτῆς is very strong, though numerically slight. The Church in her house was a Laodicean Church, distinct apparently from the chief Church of the town.

Verse 16

Colossians 4:16 . τὴν ἐκ Λαοδικίας : clearly a letter sent by Paul to Laodicea, which the Colossians are instructed to procure and read. It may be a lost letter, or it may be our so-called Epistle to the Ephesians, to which Marcion refers as the Epistle to the Laodiceans, and which was probably a circular letter. Weiss argues that it cannot be the Epistle to the Ephesians, for that was sent at the same time as this, and therefore Paul could not have sent salutations to Laodicea in this letter. But this is really natural, if Ephesians was a circular letter (and the absence of salutations is difficult to explain otherwise), and if this letter was to be passed on to Laodicea.

Verse 17

Colossians 4:17 . Archippus may have been at Laodicea, but more probably not, for we should have expected the reference to him in Colossians 4:15 . The Church is entrusted with the duty of exhorting one of its ministers. There is no need to infer any slackness on his part. ἐν Κυρίῳ is added to emphasise its importance, and the need that it should be zealously fulfilled.

Verse 18

Colossians 4:18 . τῇ ἐμῇ χειρὶ : the rest of the letter would be written by an amanuensis. As he writes, his chain, fastened on his left hand, would impress itself on his notice. Hence the touching request “Remember my bonds,” which may bear the special sense “remember in your prayers”. ἡ χάρις μεθʼ ὑμῶν : so without any defining addition in Ephesians , 1 and 2 Tim. It is not so in the earlier letters, but neither is it so in Phil. (or Titus).

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Colossians 4". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/egt/colossians-4.html. 1897-1910.
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