IN THE THIRD case, that of the masters, the prominent thought is not that of love but of righteousness. Every Christian master should be continually asking himself in regard to his servants, “What is just? What is fair?” And further he is to remember that he himself is a servant with his Master in the heavens—a Master who has laid it down that, “With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”
Here, then, are six items of instruction which if obeyed would go far towards producing a heaven upon earth. Family discord and industrial discord would be a thing of the past! But the point here is that we, believers, should anticipate the blessedness of the millennial day, and carry out God’s will in our several relationships, while waiting for the day when God’s will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Verses Colossians 4:2-6 of chapter 4 bring us back to exhortations of a more general sort; first as regards prayer, then as regards the relations of the believer with the unconverted.
We are to pray, and not only so but to persevere in it, and to watch God’s dealings that we may not miss His answers to our requests, nor fail to render thanks to Him for grace received. Moreover our prayers are not to be mainly of a personal or even selfish nature. Paul urged the Colossians to intercession on his behalf, that he might make manifest that “mystery of Christ” to which he had alluded in the epistle. He wanted them to be intercessors on behalf of the work of God, and thus taking a share in the conflict connected with it.
We are very, very weak today in this matter of prayer. Modern life is organized on the principle of rush, and prayer gets crowded out all too often. Again, what about persevering? When we deeply desire a thing we do persevere, but how often are we creatures of very shallow desires! Our sympathies are called forth on some point and we join in a prayer—but that is the end of it! We soon forget and there is no perseverance.
In verse Colossians 4:5 the unconverted are spoken of as “them that are without.” There are those within the Christian circle and those without it, and it is very important that we should be right in our relations with those without. We are set in a place of testimony in regard to them. First our general behaviour towards them is to be marked by wisdom. That being so we are sure to have opportunities for witnessing which we are to redeem by seizing them as they present themselves.
It is one thing, however, to seize an opportunity, and another to use it to best advantage. Words not fitly spoken are often more to be deplored than no word being spoken at all. Our words are to be always with grace. Never are we to descend to the censorious, or the bitter, or the cutting remark. But then on the other hand our words, while full of grace, are not to aim at merely pleasing men. They are to be seasoned with that which salt represents—the pungent quality of truth. Grace and truth were found in our Lord and they should mark those who are His, even characterizing their words.
The standard here set is a very lofty one. We come far short of attaining to it. Yet let us not lower the standard in our minds. Let us maintain it at its full height as seen in Christ, and let us press on toward it.
With verse Colossians 4:7 the closing messages and salutations begin. They present many points of interest. Tychicus, of whom the Apostle writes so warmly, was evidently to be the bearer of this letter to the Colossians. Onesimus, who is called “a faithful and beloved brother,” was the run-away slave with whom the epistle to Philemon is concerned. What but the grace of God can turn a defaulting and absconding slave into a faithful and beloved brother in Christ? So Tychicus carried the letter to the Colossians and Onesimus the letter to Philemon when they travelled to Colosse together. Philemon does not appear in our chapter, as is natural, seeing there was the special letter for him. But Archippus appears in both letters.
At the time of writing Paul had with him Aristarchus, Mark and Justus. He was able to speak of each of them in high terms as workers for the Kingdom and as a comfort to himself. It is most encouraging to find Mark mentioned in this way since the glimpses we have of him in the Acts are so unpromising. It shows how one who was a failure at the beginning of his service was yet thoroughly recovered to complete usefulness. So much so that he eventually became the writer of the second Gospel which specially portrays the Lord as the perfect Servant. An illustration, this, of how the power of God can ultimately make us strongest in that very thing wherein at first we were weakest.
Epaphras also was with Paul but he was “one of you,” that is, a Colossian, and so not “of the circumcision.” Separated as he was from his own people he yet had a great zeal for them and he was fervently labouring on their behalf. This labour was accomplished in prayer.
Prayer, you see, is labour: or rather, it may be labour. Epaphras carried it to such a point that it was truly labour for him, and continued labour too, since Paul bears witness that it was always his practice. The word translated “labouring” really means striving or combatting. Epaphras though absent from his friends was engaged in a real prayer combat on their behalf, the object of which was that they might stand in the will of God, perfect and complete.
It is a great thing to have a full knowledge of the will of God; that the Apostle desired for the Colossians in Colossians 1:9. It is a greater thing to stand perfect and complete in that will. Standing in it implies that we are subject to it and characterized by it, according to that which is said in Colossians 1:10. It is evident that the desires and prayers of Epaphras, for the saints of Colosse and neighbourhood, ran exactly parallel with the prayers of Paul for them.
Laodicea was in the neighbourhood. It is mentioned in Colossians 2:1, as well as three times in our chapter. The very name has a sad sound about it in view of what the Lord has to say to this church in Revelation 3:14-22. In spite of the prayers and conflict on their behalf of a Paul and an Epaphras, in spite of the circulation of Apostolic epistles in their midst, it fell to the lowest depths. The “epistle from Laodicea,” was no doubt an epistle which just at that time was being circulated from assembly to assembly.
This epistle to the Colossians and the Laodiceans sets forth exactly that truth which, had it been heeded by the Laodiceans, would have preserved them. It sets forth the glory of Christ, the Head of His church. It exhorts them to “hold the Head.” Alas! they heeded it not; and the epistle to them sent from Patmos reveals them as supremely self-satisfied, and Christ, their Head, entirely outside their door.
We are, as regards the flesh, no better than they. So let us take to heart the warning with which they furnish us.
Let us also accept the word of admonition given to Archippus as applicable to ourselves. Has the Lord given a service to you? Then take good heed to perform it, however insignificant it may appear to be. Non-fulfilment of the service means laziness, which at once opens the door to decline and spiritual disaster. Nothing can preserve us but that grace, which is the closing word of the epistle.
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Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Colossians 4". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany