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Colossians 4

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Verses 1-5

Masters, Prayer, Walk

Colossians 4:1. The previous verses were addressed to the slaves. Now the word is for the masters. Paul has no intention to negotiate in order to set the slaves free, but calls upon the masters to pay them a reasonable salary. The emphasis is not on favors but on justice.

The payment must be just means that an equal pay should be given to all-in case of equal performance. This excludes favoritism. Fairness means the amount of reward must be based on a correct appreciation of the service provided. Every Christian employer must always ask what is appropriate. He must be conscious of the fact that he too has a Master in heaven Who will mete out to him according as he measured.

All previous instructions can be followed only by God’s children. Marital problems and family disputes must not arise in the families of believers. As Christian employees you should not seek the redress of grievances from a labor union. A Christian employer need not be pressurized to give his workers what they demand. In all these relationships a Christian must show that he is related to Christ. Thus he is in a position to unfold the hallmark of the new man in an old creation. Thus he walks worthy of the Lord (Colossians 1:10). And is this not the reason why we have received this letter?

Colossians 4:2. After addressing these groups in a special way the apostle now turns again to all Christians. He speaks to them about topics that apply to every member of God’s people, whether male or female, parent or child, slave or master.

He begins with prayer in which he encourages to persevere. To continue in prayer does not mean that you pray now and then or when you have a hard time. Anyone can call out to God when he is in distress. Whoever continues steadfastly in prayer remains in communion with God and is always conscious of his dependence on Him. You stay close to Him in prayer and trust in His willingness to listen to you.

When something goes wrong in your life you discover that it is very often because you did not persevere in prayer. Or you have indeed prayed but you were not watchful (Matthew 26:41). This means that you ensure that you do not fall asleep during prayer time and do not allow your thoughts to wander in all directions. Your prayer would then no longer be effective and when you say ‘amen’ you do not know what you prayed for.

When you persevere in prayer, being vigilant, you are conscious that God is at work and that He will never leave you. Therefore your prayer can always be with thanksgiving. Prayer and thanksgiving go together. Thanksgiving is not just for answered prayers. You can thank the Lord because everything you speak to Him about is in good hands with Him.

Colossians 4:3. If you pray and are also watchful you will be totally devoted to the Lord’s work. This is what Paul means when he asks that people pray for him and for his co-workers. Exactly like Paul, anyone who serves God needs the prayer support of others. Paul asks the Colossians to pray for an open door. By this he means not the door of the prison, but an open door for the Word. Open doors are opportunities God gives to preach (1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 2:12). How grateful the Colossians will be that the Word of God came to them (Colossians 1:5-Joshua :). Surely the call for prayer will have found an echo in them.

Just think about what you have received because someone brought you the Word. This should encourage you to pray that others will hear this liberating and rich Word. You will pray that God gives His slaves opportunities to preach His Word.

People are not waiting to hear a sermon on the content of Paul’s preaching on this mystery. This is about Paul’s experience. Talking about the mystery brought him to imprisonment. This makes it clear that the mystery was not revealed just during his captivity. Some proclaim this error; but let it not mislead you. This is not the place to deal with it, although it is good for you to know about this. By now you have well understood from the letter to the Ephesians and this letter what the mystery is.

Colossians 4:4. Paul lived and suffered to proclaim this mystery and asked for intercession. He asks for prayer not only for the free flow of the message but also for clarity and boldness. He did not want to draw attention to himself with a profound sermon which would go over their heads. He sought no human gratification. The Word of God is clear and simple. Let us pray that all those who minister through preaching the Word of God do it in plain and simple language which can be understood easily by all. Only then hearts and consciences can be reached and they will open themselves to the riches of the Word.

Colossians 4:5. After encouraging them to pray and intercede, Paul now talks about the walk of the Colossians. It is important to know, that after what you ask for in prayer, should not be negated by your repulsive behavior. The unbelievers around you stand outside the circle of Christians. They are the ones who are called outsiders (1 Corinthians 5:12-1 Chronicles :; 1 Thessalonians 4:12; 1 Timothy 3:7). They belong to the world and they are not connected to the Lord Jesus, but they are still keen observers.

Added to that, the world is hostile to Christians, so do not let the often seemingly friendly face of the world cheat you. In fact it so quickly takes offence at what you do, even though you do not have any intention to hurt. So make sure that you avoid any occasion that the unbeliever could use against you as a Christian. Wisdom is to fear the Lord and depart from evil (Proverbs 9:10; Proverbs 14:16) and even from every form of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22).

Colossians 4:5. In the first part of Colossians 4:5 you saw that your walk as a Christian in the world must be tempered with wisdom. Then you escape from all kinds of pitfalls and avoid wrong impressions. But that is not the only thing where we can see wisdom. If that were so, wisdom would cause a negative attitude. You escape from this by doing the second part of this verse.

There it is said that you can make positive use of wisdom by “making the most of the opportunity”. That means that you make the maximum profit out of every opportunity the Lord gives. This has to do with the highest market value of a thing; in this case the opportunity. This is in contrast to the fact that you fritter away, misapply and waste your time, thereby doing very little for God.

You come into contact with people every day. These are generally people who are preoccupied with their own affairs and evade serious issues of life. Such an attitude gives the Christian little opportunity to introduce them to the grace and truth of the gospel. He will however take the opportunities God gives to speak the gospel.

Sometimes an unbeliever reveals something of himself, and if we are good listeners, we will know by experience that God has spoken to the conscience in that unbeliever‘s life. That can happen by a certain event or by something that he had read. Satan can mislead a man but he cannot prevent that God speaks to his heart. It is nice to know that God wants to use you as His voice to speak to lost sinners.

You do not have wisdom yourself. You must ask for it (James 1:5). In the context of this letter it is nice to see that you can find all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge in Christ (Colossians 2:3). If you keep occupied with Him you will see what wisdom is and you will know how to apply it. Wisdom is already dealt with in connection with your handling of fellow believers (Colossians 3:16). Here your wisdom is directed with regard to the unbelievers. So you can see that God wants to equip you with all wisdom in all circumstances and for each contact.

Now read Colossians 4:1-5 again.

Reflection: What believers who bring the Word of God you are praying for? Do you pray also that they really bring the Word of God?

Verses 6-9

Word, Comfort, Encouragement

Colossians 4:6. Walk in wisdom is about your behavior. “Let your speech always be with grace, [as though] seasoned with salt”, is about what you speak. The kind of words and the content of your speech should express that you yourself have received grace. The grace in you will resonate with your words. Your listeners will hear an invitation to accept the grace in order to be among those who are inside, and no longer to those who are outside.

Full of grace means that your speech is friendly and gentle. It must be seasoned with salt. This guards you from babbling, and being irritating with your popular speech expressions to attract those who are outside. This takes you down to the level of the world but it will not attract unbelievers. They will regard you as one of their own, rather than your words inviting them to say good-bye to the world and become a Christian.

Salt is an agent that counteracts decay. Where salt is, there is no decomposition. This is what your words should be. On the one side your words must be an invitation in an expression of grace and on the other side they must be inaccessible to the corruption of the world.

Your words can be seen here as a response to what others say and do. This is what is referred to by the term answer. The point is not to react to everything. Do not think that you are obliged to give your opinion on everything. Silence can be a very wise answer. Also, you do not have the right answer for all things. Sometimes it is very wise to say that you do not know the answer for something. This is also an answer. Often it is very wise to say that you do not have the right words for a particular situation because you have not gone through similar situations.

Therefore it is not said here ‘that you will know what you should respond’, but how. This means a proper language by which the questioner gets the answer (1 Peter 3:15). Everyone is different; likewise the right answer is different for everyone. No pattern answer can be used for all people in all circumstances (1 Corinthians 9:22).

Colossians 4:7. After this general admonition Paul begins the final words of his letter. They contain some information about his own circumstances, and then he refers to certain individuals by name. He wants to let them know how he was doing and would also like to know how they were doing. Tychicus carries Paul’s wishes. What he says of Tychicus should be able to be said of every believer.

“Beloved brother and faithful servant and fellow bond-servant in the Lord” are titles more valuable than all sorts of theological and scientific titles people can give or get. Those titles say something about someone’s intellect but they say nothing about one’s love, spiritual attitude, willingness to serve or ability.

Colossians 4:8. The fact that these titles are used in conjunction “in the Lord” means that Tychicus shows the Lord Jesus in his dealings with the fellow believers. The Colossians must acknowledge this to their joy when he goes to them. He will tell them of the circumstances of Paul and Timothy. Paul’s intention is not to evoke more of their compassion. He shares information not for his own sake but for the benefit of the Colossians. They in fact were worried about Paul. But now the information passed on by Tychicus will relieve them of their anxiety and they will be encouraged.

Colossians 4:9. One more person will go with Tychicus and that is Onesimus. Thus the information about Paul’s situation will remove all anxieties and encourage them. Onesimus was also a Colossian (“one of your [number]”). Paul’s warm recommendation of this runaway slave (see the letter to Philemon) shows his faith in him. At the same time the apostle thought that he would be helpful to the Colossians.

Onesimus by the way must be on his way back to Philemon carrying Paul’s letter to him. However Paul does not mention anything about it here. The sin of Onesimus is a private matter between him and Philemon. Paul knows how to separate things that should be handled differently.

Onesimus was converted through the ministry of Paul during his imprisonment. He became his son while he was in chains (Philemon 1:10). He therefore had first-hand knowledge of Paul’s circumstances. With his testimony, therefore, he could speak for Tychicus when he shared the information. Thus he is appointed directly for the service of the Lord.

Now read Colossians 4:6-9 again.

Reflection: How can you be a witness in accordance with this passage?

Verses 10-18


Paul asked Tychicus to let the Colossians know how he was doing. Now he greets the Colossians on behalf of the believers who asked to him to do so. There are six in total. Three of them are of Jewish descent (“of the circumcision”) and the other three are non-Jewish. The conveying of greetings shows that these brothers are connected to the Colossians, just as Paul is, and that they also shared his concern for them. That Paul conveys their greetings is proof that they supported his work. Greetings therefore are much more than just a formality. Whoever sends greetings shows that there is a connection between him and the ones to whom he sends the greetings. This also shows the appreciation of the connection.

Colossians 4:10. Paul appreciates each servant who worked with him. He calls Aristarchus “my fellow prisoner”. He was with Paul on the ship that brought him as a prisoner to Rome (Acts 27:2). It was a great comfort for Paul to have this man as his companion in his difficult circumstances (Colossians 4:11). It is really a comfort when someone comes to you when you are in trouble, just to be with you.

Paul also has a special relationship with Mark. This Mark is “Barnabas’s cousin”. Paul does not say this simply in pretense. Mark, in fact, was once the cause of separation between Paul and Barnabas. When you read the passages wherever Mark appears in the Acts, you can reconstruct the story (Acts 12:12; Acts 12:25Acts 13:13; Acts 15:37-Malachi :).

Paul was not willing to take Mark on the journey he wanted to make with Barnabas. Mark travelled with him on a previous occasion, but gave up at a certain point. Sometimes fellow workers can abandon us. Barnabas felt the earlier failure of Mark was no reason to leave him behind this time. Mark was his nephew and that could possibly be the reason why Barnabas chose him.

In the meantime a change must have taken place in Mark, perhaps because of the pastoral care of Barnabas. Now Paul regarded Mark helpful in his ministry (2 Timothy 4:11). He already informed the Colossians about Mark and instructed them to accept him.

Colossians 4:11. In all the letters of Paul, it is only here that we come across the name Jesus, Justus. Jesus was a common name in those days. Even today this name is common in some countries. People rather called him Justus as he and his fellow Christians probably thought that it was not right to have the same name as the Son of God.

It is quite possible that these three men, before they came to faith in the Lord Jesus, had a different expectation of the kingdom of God. If they were devout Jews they would have expected that the Messiah established His kingdom in glory. Now after their conversion they would have understood that the kingdom of God was not yet publicly visible, and what the kingdom in its present form meant (Romans 14:17). Their fellowship for the kingdom of God meant consolation (a minimization of pain which is the literal meaning of the Greek word) for Paul.

Colossians 4:12. Epaphras also greets the Colossians. Paul calls Epaphras “a bondslave of Jesus Christ”, a term he usually used only for himself and Timothy. This tells us something about the spiritual attitude of this faithful servant. He is a preacher of the Word (Colossians 1:7), but Paul also knows him as a praying man and knows how this man prays. Paul must have heard more often how insistently Epaphras brought his prayer before the throne of grace. Whenever he heard Epaphras pray he sensed a struggle, a wrestling, in that prayer. Paul is so impressed that he mentions it to the Colossians.

Epaphras prayed for three things. The first one is that they “may stand”. This letter teaches that only if they stand firm in the truth they can face any kind of false teaching. Further he prayed that they might be “perfect” which again means spiritual maturity. Then they should walk in the truth they had come to know. Finally they should be “fully assured in all the will of God” showing at the same time how foolish and worthless are the promises of false teachers. Paul heard these elements in his prayers.

Colossians 4:13. To all his appreciation for Epaphras Paul adds a further testimony. He says: “I testify for him.” Even if the Colossians were not aware of it Paul knew about all the hard work that Epaphras took upon himself. The words “deep concern” denote a work one does with dedication and with all his strength. Besides the believers in Colossae, Epaphras also had the believers in Laodicea and Hierapolis close to his heart.

Colossians 4:14. The Colossians also received greetings from Luke. The additional word “beloved physician” refers to the loving medical care Paul received from him. The Lord had not taken away the thorn from his flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-1 Samuel :). However God gave him Luke who could ease his pain and who remained with him till the end (2 Timothy 4:11). This is also a caution that you should not be unduly influenced by all the extravagant claims made with respect to prayer healing.

Demas closes the list. They receive greetings from him also. Here Paul mentions only his name. In the letter to Philemon he is placed in the band of fellow workers (Philemon 1:23-Jeremiah :). Unfortunately Demas later swapped the companionship of Paul for the world (2 Timothy 4:10).

Colossians 4:15. Then Paul asks the Colossians to relay his greetings to the “brethren who are in Laodicea”. Even the believers who gather as a church in the house of Nympha were greeted. As the church in Laodicea had already received the greetings, it is not inconceivable that this church is the house of Nympha is that of Hierapolis (Colossians 4:13). Neither of these places received any letter from Paul, or else he would not have asked the Colossians to greet them. His greetings to them prove that he has not forgotten them. Moreover we find here a proof of the fellowship that existed between these two churches which were so close together.

Colossians 4:16. Another proof of the connection that existed between these two local churches is the reason for the instruction of Paul to have this letter to the Colossians also read in the church in Laodicea. The Colossians also should read another letter that Paul had written, which was in Laodicea (this letter could be the letter to the Ephesians circulating among all the churches and it was now in Laodicea). Paul wrote more letters than the ones we have in the Bible. Anyway, by the reading of these various letters, in faith they could edify each other and help them enjoy with one another the spiritual benefits graciously given to them.

Colossians 4:17. Paul addressed the entire church in Colossae, but he did not forget the individual. The church receives the instruction to motivate Archippus not to neglect the ministry which he had received in the Lord, but to fulfill it (2 Timothy 4:5). With the words “take heed to” Paul points to the dangers the church would face if the brother is negligent to the responsibilities given him by the Lord. If that happens, then that is to the detriment of the whole church. Therefore all those who form the church should motivate one another to perform the tasks entrusted to them.

This fully applies to you in every respect. You have also received a ministry; something that you must do for the Lord. To do something for the Lord also means that you should do something for your fellow believers or to take the gospel to the unbelievers. “In the Lord” means that it is about your walk with the Lord and about the recognition of His authority in your service. A good start is not necessarily a good end. “Fulfill” means that you bring your work to completion and do not give up halfway.

Colossians 4:18. Paul ends with his own greeting. He adds a request for himself and closes with a wish for the Colossians. He writes his greeting with his own hand. He seems to have dictated this letter himself (Romans 16:22). With this handwritten greeting, the apostle confirms that the letter is really from him (2 Thessalonians 3:17; 1 Corinthians 16:21).

By his request to remember his chains he not only expresses that he is in need of their intercession, but it is also an additional motivation to obey and to listen to what he has written about – the causes of his imprisonment. If they had to suffer for the confession of the truth, his example would serve to encourage them. He suffered for the same cause. He wishes them grace to live according to the content of this letter. This wish applies to you also.

Now read Colossians 4:10-18 again.

Reflection: Examine what you can learn from the people mentioned here and what you can apply to your life of faith.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Colossians 4". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/colossians-4.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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