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Bible Commentaries
Colossians 4

Hampton's Commentary on Selected BooksHampton's Commentary

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Verse 1

Instructions for Servants and Masters

Paul has been criticized by some for not openly condemning slavery. However, the instructions he gave to slave and master must have hastened that terrible system's end. If a servant wanted to please the Lord, he would obey his master and do his work so as to be acceptable in God's sight. Pleasing God can only be accomplished by doing things right through and through and not merely on the surface. Such service would quickly attract the master's attention and might cause him to ask what was different about the slave.

Because Christians wear the name of Christ, they should give their very best in service. Everything believers do should first be done to please the Lord. Men might fail to give a proper reward for things one does but God will always reward appropriately. In Paul's day, slaves could not receive an inheritance. In Christ, one is not a slave but a son and is thus eligible for an inheritance in heaven ( Gal_4:7 ). God’s children serve Christ Jesus and He will not have them go unrewarded.

Whether slave or master, the one who violates Christ's law will be rewarded with punishment. God is impartial and will reward each according to his deeds ( Gal_6:7-8 ). Masters of slaves needed to remember that they had a Master in heaven. That Master will judge them in the same manner they have judged their slaves ( Col_3:22-25 ; Col_4:1 ; Mat_7:1-2 ; Eph_6:8-9 ).

Verses 2-6

Prayer Matters

Christians cannot afford to cut the lines of communication with their Master, thus they should never stop praying ( Luk_18:1-8 ; Luk_11:5-8 ; 1Th_5:17 ). Watchfulness in prayer is readiness and alertness. It may particularly refer to Christians being ready for the Lord to come again ( Mat_25:13 ). If Christians are always thankful in their continuous prayer life, it will help them yield to the One who gave His life for the church.

Paul kept the Colossian brethren constantly in his prayers (1:9), and he desired a place in their prayers. Though he was a prisoner, Paul did not ask them to pray for his own freedom but for opportunities to preach the word. Whenever opportunities presented themselves, he was going to preach of the mystery of salvation as it is revealed in Christ. It was just such preaching which led to his imprisonment because of the Jews and gave him further opportunities to preach.

He specifically wanted them to pray that he would clearly preach the truth so others might understand. This may refer especially to his defense at Rome.

The first truth some people see is that which shines in the lives of Christians ( Mat_5:14-16 ; 2Co_3:2-3 ). So, in addition to the earlier reference Paul made to the change that should take place for those risen with Christ, the Lord’s followers need to carefully consider their example and its influence upon unbelievers. Every opportunity to influence them for good should be seized immediately. This means disciples of Christ must pay particular attention to their speech to make sure it is acceptable. The things one says often leave the longest lasting first impression. Coffman tells us the classical Greek writers used the word salt to describe wit used to flavor conversation. It would certainly be far better to use appropriate humor in the place of suggestive stories ( Col_4:2-6 ).

Verses 7-8

Closing Greetings

Tychicus was one of those who accompanied the gift bound for the needy saints in Jerusalem ( Act_20:4 ). Paul apparently sent this letter by him to Colossae. He also sent him to Ephesus ( 2Ti_4:12 ) and proposed sending him to Titus ( Tit_3:12 ). The apostle may have sent him to Ephesus twice as it appears he carried the Ephesian letter ( Eph_6:21-22 ). Paul often used the word beloved as an endearing term for his brethren ( Rom_1:7 ; Rom_12:19 ; Rom_16:8-9 ; Rom_16:12 ; 1Co_4:14 ; 1Co_4:17 ; 1Co_10:14 ; 1Co_15:58 ; 2Co_7:1 ; 2Co_12:19 ). He urged the Colossians to consider Tychicus as they would him. They had surely heard of Paul's imprisonment and would want to know of his condition. Paul told them he had sent Tychicus to learn of their spiritual welfare and to encourage them in their fight with the false teachers. The apostle always tried to help young churches in their growth by such visits ( Col_4:7-8 ; Act_15:36 ).

Verse 9

Onesimus, a runaway slave, would be accompanying Tychicus on this journey to Colossae. They also may have carried the letter to Philemon at this time. Like Tychicus, Onesimus is described by the apostle as trustworthy and beloved. They would know him since Colossae was his home town. The brethren were urged to accept these two messengers as spokesmen for Paul and his condition at the time of writing. He may have expected to be released soon ( Phm_1:22 ).

Verse 10

Aristarchus was from Macedonia and had traveled with Paul as he went to take the collection to Jerusalem for the needy saints ( Act_19:29 ; Act_20:4 ; Act_27:2 ). He was also with the apostle as he journeyed toward his Roman imprisonment. It is impossible to know if he voluntarily joined Paul in that imprisonment or was also bound involuntarily. Certainly, Paul counted him as a friend. Paul's directions for a hospitable reception for John Mark appear to show that he has now realized his value in service ( Act_15:36-41 ; 2Ti_4:11 ; 1Pe_5:13 )

Verse 11

This Jesus, or Joshua, called Justus, is only mentioned here. He, Aristarchus and Mark are Jewish converts who are faithful in the kingdom. This may be especially significant to Paul because conflict with the Jews had led to his imprisonment. Also, it appears Paul's great desire for the Jews had been thwarted in Rome ( Rom_9:1-5 ; Rom_10:1 ). Both these men had given the apostle some comfort, which means soothing relief and comes from the word out of which we got the word paregoric. Coffman suggests Paul may have picked the word up from Luke, the physician ( Col_4:9-11 ).

Verses 12-13

It should be remembered that Epaphras was likely the one who converted many of these brethren (1:6-8). He was from that area and was a slave of the Lord. He sent greetings to them and agonized regularly in prayers in their behalf. He wanted them to grow up in Christ and be complete in their understanding of and practicing God's truth. He had worked hard (R. S. V) for all the brethren in the Lycus valley. That labor had continued, despite his absence, in the form of his prayer life ( Col_4:12-13 ).

Verses 14-15

Luke was often Paul's traveling companion and wrote thorough accounts of his works in the book of Acts. Demas later turned from Paul and the Lord's work ( 2Ti_4:10 ). His love of the world was greater than his love of the truth. Paul also greeted the church at Laodicea. Special greetings went to Nymphas and the church that met in his/her house. We do not know any more about this good soul ( Col_4:14-15 ).

Verses 16-18

Closing Exhortations and Blessings

Paul urged the circulation of this letter and another which was written to the Laodiceans. Not only might some of the problems be the same, but the truth is always able to build up any who will listen ( Act_20:32 ). He also instructed the brethren to encourage Archippus in the faithful fulfillment of the work he was performing in the Lord’s service. Archippus may have been the son of Philemon. ( Phm_1:2 ) He apparently had worked with Paul before and certainly was a proclaimer of God's word.

This letter was probable written by a secretary (amanuensis) as dictated by Paul. In the last verse, the apostle added a closing in his own writing. He asked them to pray for him in his imprisonment and expressed his prayer for God's grace to be upon them ( Col_4:16-18 ).

Bibliographical Information
Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on Colossians 4". "Hampton's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghc/colossians-4.html. 2014.
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