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Bible Commentaries
Colossians 4

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

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Verses 1-18

Colossians 4:1 . Masters, give to your servants that which is just and equal. Paul doubles the precept here, reminding them that one is their master, who is Lord of heaven and earth. He well knew that some were severe in the treatment of their slaves and dependents, contrary to the mild and benignant spirit of the gospel.

Colossians 4:2-4 . Continue in prayer. Paul prayed on the sea-shore with the elders of Ephesus. Secret and family prayer are duties constantly devolving on christians, and social prayer when opportunity offers. He solicits their prayers in particular, that utterance might be given him, the eloquence of the Holy Spirit, that he might make manifest the gospel, and speak for God as he ought to speak. Let the preacher be aware that unless, like Moses, he go from speaking with the Lord to deliver his message to the people, he cannot speak as he ought. Devotion warms the heart, and inspires the tongue with unutterable sweetness and confidence of address. Then it is that a good man has a fountain of eloquence in his own breast, and feels within himself the sentiments he would communicate to others.

Colossians 4:5 . Redeeming the time. This exhortation has before occurred in other places, and cannot be too oft repeated, time being the most important talent committed to our trust, every minute of which is more valuable than grains of gold. A great work is to be performed, and but little time is allotted for us; soon we must either be saved or lost to all eternity. Much of our time has already been wasted, and requires to be redeemed by encreased diligence and care. All the time we have lived without God in the world, in a state of impenitence and unbelief, is lost and worse than lost; we have done no good, but much evil, of which an account must be rendered to the eternal Judge. And since we have known the Lord, all the time in which we have not lived to his glory has been lost. How much wiser, happier, and more useful might we have been, had we been more diligent in the means of grace, more watchful and more prayerful, instead of having indulged in carnal ease, in idle amusements, and in fruitless cares. Let us henceforth endeavour to regain the ground we have lost, by a renewed devotedness of ourselves to the Lord, by more vigorous exertions in his service, and a life wholly consecrated to his glory.

Colossians 4:6 . Let your speech be always seasoned with salt. The covenant of God is twice called a covenant of salt. I can suggest no better comment here than what I have found during the fifty years of my public labours, in venerable men and women whose minds were stored with wisdom, and whose hearts were replenished with grace. They speak of good things with ease and engaging accents, their hearts being at home in them. Their manner, their aspect, their voice charm the ear, because they know and enjoy religion. They preserve the simplicity of Christ, and in their turns of thought and improvement of incidents, they follow nature and common sense.

Colossians 4:7-9 . All my state shall Tychicus declare to you. He was now a venerable man, and one of the seventy disciples, as those of Asia say; but frequently he was a companion and fellow-labourer of Paul. He was the bearer of three of Paul’s epistles, one to Ephesus, this to Colosse, and the second epistle to Timothy. He is named in Acts 20:4, and four times by St. Paul. Of Onesimus, see the epistle to Philemon 1:10.

Colossians 4:10 . Aristarchus, my fellow-prisoner. We have an account of Aristarchus in Acts 27:2; Acts 20:4. He had been sent a prisoner with Paul to Rome, and was still bound with a chain. Marcus or Mark is often named in sacred history. Acts 12:12; Acts 12:25; Acts 15:37. Honourable mention is made of him in 2 Timothy 4:11, and the apostle joins his name in greeting the saints.

Colossians 4:11 . Jesus or Justus, a jew by birth; and being, like Mark, a fellow- workman with Paul, it would seem that he is named here as the Justus already known to the churches. Acts 1:23; Acts 18:7.

Colossians 4:15 . Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea. See the introduction to this epistle.

Colossians 4:16 . Read the epistle from Laodicea. The Latin has, Et eam, quæ Laodicensium est, vos legatis. This is quite erroneous. Why should the Laodiceans write to Paul, except privately for advice? Few readings have excited more conjectures and variations of opinion, than this text. Though the Greek reads, τεν εκ Λαοδικειας , that from or of the Laodiceans, yet nothing hinders our belief that the epistle was first sent from Paul to them, and then from them to Colosse. The epistle itself is brief, and seems rather a supplement to the epistle to the Colossians than a full canonical work. This idea is suggested by its internal characters; it contains many expressions nearly the same as in other epistles, and slightly so from this to Colosse. Jerome rejected it from the canon, and Du Pin has followed his opinion.

Be that as it may, it is extant in the works of our Anselm, archbishop of Canterbury, anno 1109, and in the first German bibles. Philaster, an eminent father of the fourth age, a pillar against Arianism, has also defended it. St. Thomas has done the same; and Sixtus of Sienna has put it in his learned works, from the copy in the Sorbonne of Paris. Nicholas Gorranus has given it in his commentaries of St. Paul’s epistles; and I feel disposed to follow the example, and give below the best version I am able, not having the aid of professors in a seat of letters.

Colossians 4:17 . Say to Archippus, take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord. Philemon 1:2. Archippus was perhaps a brother of noble descent. If some of his family had not held military rank, they would scarcely have given their son a name equivalent to “master of the horse.” This distinguished individual had received his ministry of the Lord, and the king’s work must be well done. Archippus was now a senior minister, and a minister divinely called; yet a word of admonition was seasonable. Our young men are the hope of the church, and ultimately the glory of Christ; but cautions are requisite to watch, to give themselves to their work, to labour and not to faint. “They should be modest and diffident, and desire their friends to remind them of their faults,” as Ostervald observes, in his treatise on the ministry.

Colossians 4:18 . The salutation by the hand of me Paul. Remember my bonds. Let my sufferings give eloquence to my words. Amen.


On a calm review of what is said in this and the preseding epistles on relative duties, we cannot but perceive how much the apostle’s mind was impressed with their importance, and how much the Holy Ghost required them to be discharged with fidelity. This fidelity brings peace to the mind, concord to the family, and confidence to society. It is the glory and boast of the church, and a grand cause of her prosperity; for men become united in the bonds of faith and love, that they may taste on earth the pleasures and earnests of celestial society. Virtues of this kind must become permanent habits; and they often meet with great rewards on earth. To filial piety, long life is promised, and he who sows to the poor the seeds of charity, shall reap a harvest of joy; for God will repay.

Epaphras, a holy minister, is eulogized here as being eminent for religious services. “While he was at Rome, and far from Colosse,” says Mr. Orton, “he was not only praying for them, but as the word signifies, wrestling with God in his prayers on their account; an important evidence of his christian affection for them. And how well were his petitions chosen! That they might not only be sincerely good, as they already were, but perfect and complete in all the will of God; that there might be in their hearts and actions a more entire conformity to it. May that be our character and happiness, to have respect to all God’s commandments, and to carry our regards to them as far as we possibly can.

Laudable and perfectly consistent with the strictest modesty, was the concern which the apostle expresses that the epistles might be diffused as far as possible, and that christians in different societies might receive the benefit of them. And indeed they turn so much upon matters of universal importance, that they are admirably calculated for the edification of those who may live in the most distant countries and ages. Surely there cannot be a more sacrilegious attempt upon christian liberty and piety than to take them away from the common people, to whom Paul expressly ordered they should be publicly read: nor can there be greater madness than to pretend to guard men from error and heresy, by concealing from them writings which the Holy Spirit himself suggested, to lead them to truth and holiness.

We know not what there might be so particular in the character or circumstances of Archippus as to require the solemn admonition with which the epistle closes. But whatever the occasion of it were, it certainly suggests a most useful and important thought to all the ministers of the gospel. It is of the Lord Jesus Christ that they receive their ministry, to him they are quickly to render a strict account. May they all therefore take heed to it! May they be sensible of the importance of the trust, and have grace to be faithful in it; that they may give up their account with the joy of that steward, who having approved his fidelity on earth, shall receive his reward in heaven.”

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Colossians 4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/colossians-4.html. 1835.
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