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Bible Commentaries

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Colossians 4

Verse 1

Colossians 4:1. . The literal meaning is “equality,” and Meyer takes it so here (so Ol., Haupt), explaining not of equality conferred by emancipation, but of the treatment of the slave by his master as a brother in Christ. It may, in spite of Oltramare’s denial, mean “equity,” and the combination with . suggests this meaning here. The master should regulate his treatment of his slave not by caprice, but by equity.— : “supply on your part,” a dynamic middle.



Verse 2

Colossians 4:2. : 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.— 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 . in the religious sense for watchfulness against temptation.— : 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. : perhaps including all his fellow-workers, probably not Paul alone, on account of the singular ( ).— : i.e., a removal of whatever obstructs its progress, possibly liberation from prison, to which he was looking forward (Philm. 22). For the metaphor, cf.1 Corinthians 16:9, 2 Corinthians 2:12.— : “so as to speak,” infinitive of the consequence.— : 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. is variously connected. The usual way is best which connects it with . This is better than going back to ., while the connexion with . is strained. It may be taken (as Beng., Hofm., Sod.) with , “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 ( emphatic) than preach. This seems to be met by Haupt’s criticism that for this we must have had .— . Soden urges in favour of his interpretation that . 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 ., he wants to “make it clear”.— 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.— : those outside the Church; the reference is suggested by the mention of . . They must be wise in their relations with them so as not to give them an unfavourable impression of the Gospel.— : “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. : 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 so well.— . In classical writers “salt” expressed the wit with which conversation was flavoured. Here wisdom is probably meant on account of . There may be the secondary meaning of wholesome, derived from the function of salt to preserve from corruption.— : “so as to know”.— . . .: 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. 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.— is usually taken to express his relation to the members of the Church, though Haupt thinks it means Paul’s brother.— : “faithful minister,” probably to Paul, not to Christ. . goes also with , and since this expresses a relation to Paul it is probable that . does so too.— : 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. : “I am sending” (epistolary aorist).— . 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.— : see on Colossians 2:2. This function is not ascribed to Onesimus, who was not a .



Verse 9

Colossians 4:9. . 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.— is wider than (Colossians 4:7). It means all that is happening to the Church in Rome.



Verse 10

Colossians 4:10. : a native of Thessalonica, mentioned in Acts 19:29; Acts 20:4; Acts 27:2, Philm. 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. (so accented by Blass and Haupt, who refers to Dittenberger in confirmation), the cousin ( ) of Barnabas, who may by this time have been dead. He is no doubt the John Mark of the Acts and the evangelist.— . We do not know what these commands were. . cannot be an epistolary aorist (2nd person), therefore the commands must have been sent previously. . . . may express the substance of them.— . 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. : 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?— : 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 ., 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.— : 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.— . The phrase is intentionally chosen; the Jews were devoted to the kingdom; Paul should have found in the Jewish Christians his best helpers.— : the aorist seems to point to some special incident.



Verse 12

Colossians 4:12. : see on Colossians 1:7. He was either a native of Colossæ or had settled there.— . Paul uses this term often of himself, but of no one else except here and Philippians 1:1, where he calls himself and Timothy . . Meyer and Alford connect with ., but it is better to place a comma after .— : see on Colossians 2:2. Usually it is translated here “fully assured”. Haupt thinks that after this is unsuitable. But if we translate “complete” or “filled,” this is tautological, and it is not clear that . covers full assurance.— : “in everything that God wills”. Meyer and Alford connect with (or as they read ), 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. : “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.— : 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 Philm. 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. may be masculine ( ) or feminine ( ). The Doric form, , is improbable; on the other hand the contracted form, , is rare. If is read, either is possible. Otherwise the decision is made by the choice between and . It seems probable that was due to change by a scribe who included . 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 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. : 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.— is added to emphasise its importance, and the need that it should be zealously fulfilled.



Verse 18

Colossians 4:18. : 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”.— : 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).




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Bibliographical Information
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Colossians 4". The Expositor's Greek Testament. 1897-1910.