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Bible Commentaries
Colossians 4

Gray's Concise Bible CommentaryGray's Concise Commentary

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Verses 1-18


The Christian being “dead with Christ,” is dead “from the rudiments of the world”; in other words, worldly methods of obtaining “perfection” are something with which he has nothing to do. Why then should he act to the contrary, “after the commandments and doctrines of men” (Colossians 2:20 ; Colossians 2:22 )? Why should he ascribe salvation or any part of it, to things which “perish with the using”? Why should he come under a law which says “touch not, taste not, handle not,” as though it possessed sanctifying grace? As one who is saved, there are many things he will not touch, nor taste, nor handle, as the next chapter indicates, but this is different from attaching a meritorious value to such things, as these false teachers did. Such things have “a show of wisdom” in men’s eyes perhaps, but are of the nature of “will worship,” self-imposed ordinances, and nothing more. No neglect of the body, no asceticism of this kind can extirpate evil appetites or get rid of sin (Colossians 2:23 ).

On the other hand, the Christian having “risen with Christ” as we have seen, let him seek, i.e., set his mind on things above (Colossians 3:1-2 ). For these things, compare Matthew 6:33 and Philippians 3:20 . To seek them means to inquire about and ask for them, as they are revealed in Holy Scripture. The encouragement to do this is found in Colossians 3:3-4 (compare 1 John 3:1-3 ).

The Christian who does this will soon be exhibiting the fruit of it in a life of real holiness as distinguished from the counterfeit recommended by the Gnostics. This holiness will show itself in two ways, by a putting off (Colossians 3:5-11 ) and a putting on (Colossians 3:12-17 ). The true Christian realizing his risen life with Christ will “mortify” put to death the members of his body, in the sense that he will eschew the things named in verses 5-9. He will do this through the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells within him, and by whom he is “renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created Him.” Colossians 3:11 means that this “new man” is not depending on the distinctions therein indicted, all of which are obliterated in Christ. But the true believer will not only put to death the things named, but clothe himself with a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering, forbearance, forgiveness, love, peace and thankfulness.

We have said that this would be done through the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in the believer, but the instrument He uses is the “Word of Christ” (Colossians 3:16 ), i.e., the Holy Scriptures. The believer in whose heart that dwells richly, will ever be acting on the principle of Colossians 3:17 .

The apostle now applies all this to the three classes of the social order (Colossians 3:18 to Colossians 4:1 ), as he did in Ephesians, to which lesson the student will turn.

The conclusion of the epistle is an appeal for prayer (Colossians 4:2-4 ); apostolic counsel in conduct toward the world (Colossians 4:5-6 ); personal matters including commendations of and salutations from fellow workers (Colossians 4:7-15 ); directions concerning the epistle (Colossians 4:16 ); a charge to one of the elders (Colossians 4:17 ), and the benediction (Colossians 4:18 ).

Note how aptly the subject of prayer is introduced, following as it does the opening up of the whole subject of practical holiness. How shall we obtain the power to practice such holiness without prayer for the Holy Spirit’s aid? Note that while the brotherhood of Christ is a world in itself, yet the Christian has responsibilities toward others (Colossians 4:5 ). To “walk in wisdom” with reference to the unconverted means Gospel knowledge applied in common sense. It means the “conscious blessedness of the life of the Christian as a visible fact,” but no “stage effects” no self-conceit and no more oddities. The Christian should evince a true sympathy with all genuine human interests while yet in earnest for the salvation of souls. He should “redeem the time,” or “buy up the opportunity,” in the sense of knowing just when and how to act in such cases with reference to the world around him. Speech “always with grace, seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6 ) means the right adaptation and point in our remarks in addressing the unsaved, as indicated in the last clause of the verse. The allusion to Laodicea (Colossians 4:13 ; Colossians 4:15-16 ) brings to mind that of Colossians 2:1 , and gives occasion to say that it, and Hierapolis and Colosse lay very near each other. It is interesting to note that an epistle had been sent there as well as to Colosse, though we have no further record to it. Moreover, the circumstance that the epistles were to be interchanged is a hint as to the way in which the church of the first century determined the canon of the New Testament. There was in other words, a circulation of the inspired teachings, and a searching into them by all the Christians in every place.


1. Interpret in your own words Colossians 2:20-23 .

2. In what two ways is true holiness exhibited?

3. What does Colossians 4:11 mean?

4. What connection in thought is there between verses 16 and 17?

5. What does “walk in wisdom” mean?

6. What is meant by speech “seasoned with salt”?

7. What hint have we here as to the determination of the canon of the New Testament?

Bibliographical Information
Gray, James. "Commentary on Colossians 4". Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jgc/colossians-4.html. 1897-1910.
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