Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical

Colossians 4

Verses 2-6

             4. Concluding exhortations

Respecting prayer, walk and speech

( Colossians 4:2-6)

2Continue [Persevere][FN1] in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; 3Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance [lit. of 4 the word], to speak the mystery of Christ, for which [FN2] I am also in bonds: That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak 5 Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time [χαιρόν, the opportunity].[FN3] 6Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.


The connection: These three exhortations do not apply to particular classes, but are of a general character. In fact they refer to that service in the gospel, which each member has to render; for they point to the ways in which the hindrances to that service may be removed. They are based upon the thought: if you do your duty as Christians in general and particular alike, you render service not merely as members of the congregation, but as servants of the Church, you are not merely to be regulated by the will and word of the Lord, but also do your part in helping others to do the same. This service is to be rendered by: Prayer, especially supplication for the Apostle, walk and speech. They are not therefore supplementary exhortations (Meyer), nor are they to be joined either to Colossians 3:17, or to Colossians 4:1—“ye have a Master in heaven” (Schenkel).

Prayer. Colossians 4:2-4. Persevere in prayer.—Like Acts 1:14; Romans 7:12. Καρτερέω, to be strong, πρός indicating the direction; it describes a strong persistence, an importuning of some one ( Mark 3:9; Acts 8:13; Acts 10:7). The meaning is the same as “pray without ceasing” ( 1 Thessalonians 5:17).—And watch in the same with thanksgiving.—[Lit, “being watchful in it.”—R.] The participle (γρηγοροῦντες) marks the modality of the perseverance in prayer; the verb enjoins lively circumspection according to the word of Christ: “watch and pray” ( Matthew 26:41; Mark 14:38). Comp. Ephesians 6:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:6; 1 Corinthians 16:13; 1 Peter 5:8. There should be watchfulness during the prayer (“in the same”), directed to God’s benefits, thus “thanksgiving” would be united with it, if not as a constituent part (Schenkel), yet in the consciousness as a motive and tone ( Colossians 2:7; Colossians 3:15; Colossians 3:17). [The first ἐν denotes the sphere, the second the accompaniment.—R.]. There is no warrant for joining “with thanksgiving” with “persevere” (Böhmer).

Colossians 4:3. Withal praying also for us.— Ephesians 6:19-20 is the parallel passage. “Withal” [ἄμα, at the same time—R.] denotes that this supplication should not be wanting as a constituted part of the prayer of the Colossians. “Us” ( Ephesians 6:19, “me”) includes not merely Timothy (Meyer and others), but other companions also, such as Epaphras. [The use of the singular in the immediate context forbids our limiting it to the Apostle himself.—R.]

That God would open unto us a door of the word.—[“That” (ἴνα) blends the purport and the purpose of the prayer, the latter being more prominent. Alford, Ellicott.—R.] Ephesians 6:19 speaks of “utterance” (στόμα), but this passage does not. “Door” according to 1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 2:12, means “free activity,” it is not = στόμα (Calvin, Bengel and others), and includes more than “boldly” (Chrysostom), which Colossians 4:4 sets forth. Paul thought of his freedom and his coming to Colosse ( Philemon 1:22). [“The Apostle longed for liberty, not for itself, but for the opportunity which it gave him of preaching the gospel. The opening of the door of his prison would be the opening of a door of discourse.” Eadie.—R.]

To speak the mystery of Christ.—The infinitive is epexegetical of λόγον, as ver, 6 (Winer’s, Gram. p298). See [Eadie: “An infinitive of result;” Meyer, Alford, Ellicott; “infinitive of purpose.” This is preferable, and is a form of the epexegetical infinitive. “Τοῦ Χριστοῦ is a genitive subject, the divine mystery included in the appearing and the redemptive act of Christ, since the divine decree of Redemption, concealed before it was made known through the gospel, was accomplished in the mission and work of Christ.” Meyer.—R.]

For which I am also in bonds, [“I have been and am bound.”—R.]—“For which” (διʼ ) refers to “mystery,” the preaching of which had brought him into bonds, and on account of which too he desired liberty. The perfect denotes that the imprisonment still continues; and “also,” that this is added to other afflictions; while his activity is not destroyed ( Ephesians 6:20, “I am an ambassador in bonds”), it is very much limited. [“Also” marks the extreme to which he had proceeded in his evangelical labors (Ellicott)—R.]

Colossians 4:4. That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.—“That” (ἴνα) marks “make it manifest” as the end, the purpose of the “speaking,” as the common object requires. “It” is “the mystery of Christ,” and the “speaking” will “make manifest” this. Hence the clause depends neither on “I am in bonds” (Bengel), nor “praying” (Beza). Paul wishes liberty (the opening “of a door of the word”), in order to be able to make it manifest. “As I ought to speak” refers to the apostolic activity in going from city to city, land to land ( Romans 1:13-14; Romans 15:16), with “boldness” presupposed. “Ought” refers then to the Divine call to the Apostolate among the Gentiles, which includes zeal and intrepid candor.

The walk. Colossians 4:5. Walk in wisdom toward them that are without.—After what was to take place in the supplication for the Apostle and to be done by him, follows what they had to do actually and immediately, and this is first of all “walk without word.” Hence this exhortation is not added without special connection (Meyer). The element in which the Christian is to move with his conduct is placed emphatically first; “in wisdom” (see Ephesians 5:15; Ephesians 1:8; Colossians 1:9; Colossians 1:28; Colossians 2:23. Comp. Matthew 10:16). The direction of the walk is denoted by “toward them that are without” ( 1 Corinthians 5:12-13; 1 Thessalonians 4:12; 1 Timothy 3:7); those who do not belong to the church, to the believers.—Redeeming the opportunity.—The participle gives a closer definition of the walk, inhering in the wise walk, as the present indicates. See Ephesians 5:16. Here τὸν καιρόν stands first, because each favorable point of time is to be made use of, for furthering the kingdom of God, and winning others by such use of it. Luther is inexact: accommodate yourselves to the time. It is incorrect to regard it as referring to the shortness of time (Chrysostom), to the evil time (Calvin and others), or to deny the reference to those without (Meyer), which is contrary to the context.

The speech. Colossians 4:6. Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt.—The next means of intercourse, “your speech,” is naturally in close connection; it is therefore to be regarded as directed toward “those without.” It should “always” (πάντοτε, i.e.—ἑκάστοτε), according to the context (“every man”), toward well and evil-disposed people, at opportune and inopportune times (not as Schenkel thinks, in good or ill humor), have two peculiarities: “with grace,” it should be invested with grace ( Luke 4:22; Ephesians 4:29) [Ellicott: χάρις was to be the habitus orationis. It does not mean Divine grace, but a result of it.—R.]; it should be “seasoned with salt.” “Salt” has Something sharp, energetic, but beneficial, which, as the perfect participle indicates, has been previously appropriated and continues to operate. According to the first peculiarity, the speech should not be repellant, but attractive; according to the second, not feeble and insipid, but apt, striking and interesting. The former has as its opposite, what is insolent and ugly, the latter, what is flat and powerless. The figurative expression is not therefore a strengthening or explanation of the literal one (Meyer). [The reference is not to the conservative power of salt, nor to wit, “Attic salt,” but as salt makes food agreeable to the palate, so their speech should be commended to the hearers by a wholesome point and pertinency. Ellicott.—R.]

That ye may know, εἰδέναι, epexegetical to “speech,” as λαλῆσαι ( Colossians 4:3). See Winer’s Gram. p298. [Ellicott: “expressive of consequence.”—R.]—How ye ought to answer every man.—“How” indicates that this respects the form; the correct substance is pre-supposed. “Ye ought to answer every man” refers to intercourse in conversation with heathen, unbelievers, as the context ( Colossians 4:5) demands. It is applicable to the questions of unprejudiced, inquiring or evil-disposed unbelievers about points of doctrine, moral principles, Christian things or persons, and ecclesiastical ordinances. Comp. Acts 17:18 sq.; Acts 24:24 sq.; Acts 28:21 sq.; 1 Peter 3:15.


Comp. on Eph 6:18-20; on Eph 5:15-16; on Eph 4:29.

1. Prayer should have, as Thomas Aquinas says, three qualities, it should be assiduous, watchful and grateful. The perseverance, with which prayer uninterruptedly draws itself through all events, internal and external, like a thread, or encircles them like a chain, is its vital power; the watchfulness, the lively circumspection, the gratitude, are the quiet tone or firm basis of the same.

2. Freedom has no absolute value; the use and application made of it, gives it its value; and that just to the extent that in it the task set before its possessor is served or satisfied.

3. Wisdom, and that too in the silent walk, is demanded of the believer, toward the unbeliever, the opponent of the gospel; not from fear before him, but from solicitous love to those who should be won, should become what they are not as yet, brethren; from fear of God, who will save them also.

4. In the speech of a Christian in social intercourse with those, who are not yet or no longer brethren, but who may become Song of Solomon, two things are of importance with respect to Christian or ecclesiastical things: suavity and sharpness. The former depends on the character, the heart, the disposition, and the piety, the latter on the mind, the understanding, the culture and experience of the world; the former reckons upon benefiting, winning, the latter upon conviction, clearness, instruction; the one guards against unsatisfactory brevity, dogmatic harshness, injurious sharpness in wit or sarcasm; the other against gossipping length without meaning, garrulous pleasure without aim or end, tedious, flat and offensive talk without truth or shape.


Starke:—Prayer is the most excellent means of becoming skilled in all the duties of Christianity.—Rieger:—Much depends not only upon what ? but how? one speaks.—The Scriptures attach much importance to speech and the guarding of the tongue; and this has much influence upon the pollution or the unpolluted preservation of the rest of the walk.

Gerlach:—Salt is sharp, yet it gives to all food that pleasant taste, which renders it palatable. So the sharpness of Christian earnestness, of the fear of God’s anger and punishment and of the desire for blessedness lends to all the words of the Christian their true grace and sweetness.—Schleiermacher:—Grace is that which attacks and befriends the soul: salt, the power of our words and life, that which penetrates the soul.

Passavant:—The more trustful the prayer, the more open will the heart become for thanksgiving and praise; and the more thankful the heart, the more trustfully and filially will it pour itself out in prayer to the Lord.—Strong and firm, kind and pure, quiet and secure as those may be in heart and conscience, who stand without, they yet stand without, hindered by all sorts of spirits and by their own as well, exposed or given up to all change, all humors, all winds and storms, to a vain and perishing world separated from God, by which they are sooner or later deceived, misled and robbed, driven hither and thither now by waves and now by flames, where there is no help, no Helper and no God; they stand without that tabernacle of God among men, where alone truth and peace are to be found.—We may deal too imprudently, impatiently and roughly, without taking into account old habits and the stiff prejudices of years, unconcerned, whether we do good or harm, anger or appease by our demeanor, without showing any forbearance or affection toward those who have remained behind us, thus forgetting that once we were and lived no better, aye worse perhaps.—Or we may go too far the other way and not discern the spirits, may conduct ourselves without any prudence and foresight toward those of different views, acting toward those who are strangers to our faith, even opponents of it, with the greatest friendliness and intimacy, as if there were no dissimilarity between those I without and those within: this is not the wisdom of the friends of the Lord.—A lazy weakness and leniency is not worthy of the truth, it brings scandal soon.

Heubner:—The more remiss in prayer, the more unfruitful is it.—The door of the heart is not to he broken through, the mind must open it.—Christianity recognizes some esoterics and exoterics.—What is Christian grace ? Something different from the Grecian. It is the expression which arouses a sacred pleasure in the person and makes it sacred love felt.—Nitzsch:—Continue in prayer! 1) We should strive to follow in their fulness the occasions thereto afforded us by God; 2) Seek in definite needs and desires to strengthen and perfect our prayer before God, or, in respect to our pilgrimage in general as well as in special states, continue in prayer.


Colossians 4:2. Need will make us beggars, but grace only thanksgivers.

Colossians 4:6. Our speech must be seasoned; 1) With the salt of truth; 2) with the salt of wisdom and prudence. The people wondered of old at the gracious words which came out of Christ’s mouth; and we may justly wonder at the graceless words which come out of the mouths of many that are called Christians.—Henry:

Colossians 4:2-3. The best and most eminent Christians need the prayers of meaner Christians, and are not above asking them.

Colossians 4:6. Though our speech be not always of grace, it must he always with grace.—R.]


Colossians 4:2. Pray, wait, be not discouraged. Beware of spiritual sleepiness in devotion. There are many reasons of thanksgiving and not the least of them is the privilege of prayer itself.

Colossians 4:3. The Apostle was no Stoic, he felt the need of these prayers and set a high value on them. He knew the power of prayer. “For us he suffered. How dear then should his memory ever be to us.”

Colossians 4:5. The world’s Bible is the daily life of the Church, every page of which its quick eye minutely scans.—Zeal without knowledge is as the thunder shower that drenches and injures, not the rain that with noiseless and gentle descent softens and fertilizes.

Colossians 4:6. One kind of answer will not suffice for all, but each one is to be answered as he should be. Therefore the necessity of the “grace” and of the “salt.”—Barnes:

Colossians 4:5. If you should have cheated a man out of never so small a sum, it is vain that you talk to him about the salvation of his soul. He wants no religion that will not make a man honest.—R.]


FN#1 - Colossians 4:2.—[Προσκαρτερεῖτε; the E.V. is scarcely strong enough—R.]

FN#2 - Colossians 4:3.—א. A. C. D. E. K. L. and others read διʼ ὅ; B. and a few other διʼ ὅν.

FN#3 - Colossians 4:5.—[See Exeg. Notes below and Ephesians 5:16.—R.]

Verses 7-9

             IV. THE CONCLUSION

Colossians 4:7-18.

1. Personal Intelligence


7All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you, who is a beloved brother, and a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord; 8whom I have sent unto you for the same [this very] purpose, that he might know[FN4] your estate, and comfort your hearts; 9With Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They shall make known unto you all things which are done here.


Colossians 4:7-8 are the same as Ephesians 6:21-22, except that here and fellow servant is added after “faithful minister,” having the same adjective and qualifying clause (in the Lord) as the latter. Thus Paul makes Tychicus prominent not, merely as brother, but also as colleague, not however, ascribing apostolic authority to him (Schenkel). [If the reading γνῶ–ἡμῶν be adopted, there is a further variation from Ephesians. Since the Colossian Church was in danger, it would seem more important that Paul should know their state, than that they should know his circumstances, and hence more probable that Tychicus was sent for the former purpose. This is a strong exegetical reason for preferring the reading followed in the E. V.; that he might know your estate. (See Alford and Wordsworth.)—R.]

Colossians 4:9. With Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother.—On Onesimus, See Lange’s Comm., Philemon [p4, et passim], Paul calls him “brother” on account of his faith, notes that he s faithful (can be relied upon), and is dear and valuable to him. To recommend him, he places him with Tychicus, who has only an official position in advance of him. Πιστός, as in Colossians 4:7, must mean “faithful,” not “believing,” (Baehr), which is implied in “brother.”

Who is one of you.—He is thus described and recommended as a Colossian, a townsman of the readers. [He who had been a fraudulent runaway slave is restored as “one of themselves,” commended thus in an Epistle to be read publicly in Colosse and elsewhere ( Colossians 4:16). “How much native truth, courage, and beauty is there in Christianity, which enabled the Apostle to speak thus of a runaway slave, to the inhabitants of that city from which he had fled! What other religion in the world could have done this?” (Wordsworth).—R.]

They shall make known unto you all things which are done here.—[Τὰ ὧδε, “things here.”—R.] In common and in agreement they will make known how it is here in general, as Tychicus will especially inform them of the personal circumstances, on account of which he was sent. This clause is thus readily reconcilable with the well attested reading. [According to the other reading, Tychicus was sent to learn officially concerning them, and to comfort them with his tidings, which Onesimus shared with him. Alford: “Is it likely with this re statement (of Colossians 4:7), that the same should be stated again in the middle of the sentence, which would be the case with the other reading (γνῶτε-ἡμῶν)?”—R.]


Comp. Ephesians 6:21-22. What was common in faith on the Lord, is much more than what was diverse in station and culture. Even the position of an Apostle was not so exalted, that a Christian was not Paul’s brother, and a servant of Christ his colleague.


Starke:—A Christian must not regard the former faults of his neighbor, occurring before his conversion, still less reproach him with them, rather praise and esteem the virtues, which God has granted him since.

[Burkitt:—Nothing endears persons so much to one another, as religion and the grace of God. These ties are stronger than those of nature. No such love as likeness occasions, especially likeness to God.—Happy it Isaiah, when the conversation of Christ’s ministers is such, both in public and private, that they need not be ashamed to have it known, or that the Church may understand it.—R.]


Colossians 4:7. It adds much to the beauty and strength of the gospel-ministry, when ministers are thus loving and condescending one to another, and by all just means support and advance one another’s reputation.

Colossians 4:9. The meanest circumstance of life, and greatest wickedness of former life, make no difference in the spiritual relation among sincere Christians: they partake of the same privileges, and are entitled to the same regards.—R.]


FN#4 - Colossians 4:8.—The reading γνῶτε-ἡμῶν, A. B. and others is better supported than γνῶ-ὑμῶν. In א. τε is erased by another hand and η placed over ὑμῶν, though afterwards cancelled. [The reading which Braune rejects, (followed E. V.) is best supported by versions and adopted by the following editors: Tischendorf, De wette, Alford, Ellicott, Wordsworth. Griesbach, Scholz, Lachmann and Meyer adopt γνῶτε-ἡμῶν. Alford thus accounts for the corrections in א. γνῶ-ὑμῶν was the original reading; א. 1inserted τε; א. 3erased it, altering ὑμῶν to ἡμῶν, but correcting it afterwards.—R.]

Verses 10-17

             2. Greetings and messages

( Colossians 4:10-17.)

10Aristarchus my fellow prisoner saluteth you, and Marcus, sister’s son [cousin][FN5] to Barnabas, touching whom ye received commandments: (if he come unto you, receive him;)[FN6] 11And Jesus, which [who] is called Justus, [.] who are of the circumcision. These only [Of those who are of the circumcision, only these] are my fellow workers unto the kingdom of God, which have been a comfort unto me 12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, [Christ Jesus][FN7] saluteth you, always labouring fervently [ἀγωνιζόμενος, striving] for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete [fully assured][FN8] in all the will of God 13 For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal [much labor][FN9] for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis 14 Luke, the beloved physician, [or the physician, the beloved], and Demas, greet you 15 Salute the brethren which [who] are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his[FN10] house 16 And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea 17 And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it.


The greetings, Colossians 4:10-14.

Colossians 4:10. Aristarchus my fellow-prisoner saluteth you.—According to Acts 19:29; Acts 20:4; Acts 27:2, he was a Macedonian from Thessalonica, who had not shared the imprisonment in Csesarea, but seems to have joined Paul on his departure for Italy, since when first mentioned again, according to Philemon 1:24, he was a “fellow-laborer” with the Apostle, hence not exactly in bonds (Chrysostom and others), but a voluntary companion of Paul in his imprisonment, as Epaphras is there called “fellow-prisoner,” but not here.—Both seemed to have shared alternately the imprisonment of Paul. The word is further applied to captives in war, and corresponds with “fellow soldier” ( Philippians 2:25; Philemon 1:2). “Nothing better than this encomium” (Chrysostom). [This conjecture of Meyer respecting voluntary imprisonment is the most probable one. They may have undergone actual trial and thus exchanged places, but the reference to a bygone imprisonment (Steiger) is unsatisfactory.—R.]

And Marcus, cousin to Barnabas.—This was the Evangelist; ἀνεψιος is Geschwisterkind [the relation between children of brothers and sisters], hence not cousin in the most extended sense, nor nephew (Luther). Bengel: “Barnabas was better known than Mark; hence the latter is named from the former.” [Perhaps better esteemed also.—R.] Theophylact: “he praises this one from his kindred; for Barnabas was great.” On Mark, See Lange’s Comm. Mark, [p4–7, Am. ed, where he is represented as the nephew of Barnabas, however.—R.]—Touching whom ye received commandments.—“Touching whom,” Mark, not Barnabas (Theophylact): “ye received commandments” refers to a fact of earlier date, of which they are reminded. What, from whom, when and how? is and remains undetermined. Bengel incorrectly takes ἐλάβετε as meaning accipetis after the manner of letter writing, and supposes it took place with this letter through Tychicus and Onesimus; ἐντολάς forbids our referring it to letters of commendation (Grotius) [from Paul (Davenant) or the church of Rome (Estius).—P]; the plural and the omission of the article forbid our finding the command in what follows (Calvin, Bengel, and others). It is possible that there is a reference to the collections for the church at Jerusalem. We cannot infer from this, that there was art Epistle of Paul, since lost (Reuss). [In all probability these “commandments” had been written, and were of a commendatory nature, yet this is only conjecture.—R.]

If he come unto you, receive him.—A parenthesis, referring to a journey of Mark from Rome to Asia [ἐὰνἤλθῃ implying that he would come.—R.], agreeable intelligence to the Colossians. We cannot accept the view of Wieseler, that Paul had anxiety lest Mark might not be well received on account of Acts 15:38-39, since all closer definition which would support this, is wanting. [Yet the thought is naturally suggested and is adopted by most English commentators. Wordsworth: “There would be something very graceful and affecting to their minds, on St. Paul’s part, to St. Barnabas and to St. Mark. It would seem to say, Barnabas was tender-hearted to St. Mark his kinsman; he did for him a kinsman’s part; and Mark, though he faltered for a time, has profited by his kinsman’s kindness, and by my severity; and he has now returned to me, and to the service which he quitted for a time; never to leave it more. You may have heard of the separation which took place between Barnabas and me; you may have heard of Mark’s dereliction of me. You will therefore rejoice to hear that now he is with me; I send you his greetings. I have given you commandments concerning him; and if he comes to you, I desire you to receive him.”—-R.]

Colossians 4:11. And Jesus, who is called Justus: unknown, not the one mentioned Acts 18:7 (Theophylact), who being described as “one that worshipped God” could not have belonged to the Jews.—Of those who are of the circumcision.—These three were Jews, who were attached to the Apostle to the Gentiles.—Only these are my fellow workers unto the kingdom of God.—He thus gives a motive for the last clause; Jewish Christian teachers were mostly anti-Pauline in their labors ( Philippians 1:15; Philippians 1:17), hence he adds as a result for himself, and to distinguish them from such as were indeed fellow laborers for the kingdom of God, but not such as he could find comfort in: which have been a comfort unto me.—[Alford and Ellicott render: “which have proved a comfort unto me.”—R.] Παραγορία, comfort, is found only here in the New Testament. He did not need a confirmation of the correctness of his doctrine; but comfort thus came to him. Bengel: παραμυθία is in private grief, παραγορία is in public danger. [Ellicott objects, intimating that the latter admits of physical references, while the former is more ethical. There is some difference of opinion as to the punctuation of this verse, whether the stop should come after “circumcision” as in E. V. or after “Justus” (Meyer, Lachmann, Alford). The meaning plainly is: that these three were Jews, and that these three alone of the Jewish Christians co-operated with him. Braune implies that others are here called “fellow-workers,” but these three, distinguished by the last clause as having been a comfort, while Eadie, Alford and others think that he means to distinguish these alone as “fellow-workers unto the kingdom of God,” i. e., in its wide sense, as including the bringing in of the Gentiles. The former is preferable. Wordsworth remarks: “Therefore it does not seem probable that St. Peter Was now at Rome.”—R.]

Colossians 4:12. Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, saluteth you.—See Colossians 1:7; also above, Colossians 4:9. Affection and sympathy were demanded by his place of nativity, recognition and regard by his office. Then follows the description of his devoted activity: always striving for you in prayers.—Comp. Romans 15:30. “For you” answers to “of you,” the external union is not without internal sympathy. The verb denotes the ardor and zeal of Epaphras, as well as the danger of the Church.

That ye may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God—“That” marks the purpose of the prayer; “stand” renders prominent the constancy and firmness ( Ephesians 6:11; Philippians 1:27). “Perfect,” more fully defined by “and fully assured” [perfect participle] as a fact of experience and continued efficiency, and by “in all the will of God” i.e., in all directions (Winer’s Gram. p105), as the vital sphere in which the “perfectness” and “fulness” were to move, limits. the standing fast to the ethical department of the Christian’s life. [On πε πληροφ., see Colossians 2:2, πληροφορία; also 1 Thessalonians 1:6.—R.] “In all” etc., is not to be joined with “stand” (Bengel, Meyer, Bleek); nor does ἐν mean “in virtue of,” and “will” the decree of God (Baehr).

Colossians 4:13. For I bear him record.—Attesting witness—That he hath much labor for you.—This refers to the trouble which he had in spirit, as “striving” ( Colossians 4:12), and also to the time and vital energy consumed for them. Hence not merely labor of the spirit (Bleek), though proceeding from this. [Ellicott: “labor, not such as attends a combat (Eadie) but such as implies a putting forth all one’s strength.” Wordsworth: The sentence is like a reply to those at Colosse who might have misinterpreted the absence of Epaphras from his flock, into a sign of indifference to their welfare. This absence was not voluntary. Philemon 1:23.—R.]—And them that are in Laodicea and them in Hierapolis—On Laodicea, see Introd. § 4, 1. Hierapolis, also a Phrygian city on the Meander, near to and east of Colosse, famous for its warm baths. The place is now called Pambuk Kulasi. The activity of Epaphras was wide-reaching. [Meyer: “Certainly Epaphras had labored also in these neighboring cities as founder of the churches, or at least as an eminent teacher.”—R.]

Colossians 4:14. Luke, the physician, the beloved.—This was the Evangelist; the first phrase defines his station, the second his relation to Paul and to the Church. He attended the Apostle from Cesarea to Rome ( Acts 27:1, Winer’s Realwörterbuch, II p34), but must not be confounded with Lucius ( Acts 13:1). Lucas from Lucanus (Winer’s Gram. p97). [Wordsworth: “It would seem that St. Luke was known to the Colossians as a Physician. The neighboring city of Laodicea was a great medical school (Strabo12. p580). It may have had professional attractions for him.” The suggestion that he may have been known through his Gospel implies that it had been already written, a point which cannot be discussed here. See Lange’s Commentary, Luke p6, where Schaff favors the view that it was written during Paul’s imprisonment at Cæsarea.—R.]

And Demas ( Philemon 1:24; 2 Timothy 4:10), who had not yet forsaken him. On account of the absence of any further description, Bengel groundlessly supposes that the Epistle was dictated to him, and Schenkel, that the Apostle had already some disagreement with him, although in the cotemporaneous Epistle to Philemon ( Philemon 1:24) he is reckoned before Luke as a fellow laborer. [Meyer also deems this probable.—R.]

Messages. Colossians 4:15-17.

Colossians 4:15. Salute the brethren who are in Laodicea.—This shows the proximity and close union of the two Churches.—And Nymphas, and the church which is in his house.—“And” joins one person of Laodicea, giving him prominence, viz., Nymhas, adding also, as the motive, this distinction: “and the church which is in his house.” Comp. Philemon 1:2; Romans 16:6; 1 Corinthians 16:19. Such churches included not only the members of the family and intimate acquaintances (Greek fathers, Erasmus and others), as if the reading were τῆς οἰκίας, but all those who assembled together there for worship. It is incorrect to understand by this the whole Church at Laodicea (Baehr)=“which are in Laodicea. Grotius improperly places Nymphas and his house in the neighborhood of Laodicea.

Colossians 4:16. And when this epistle is read among you.—Undoubtedly he means the Epistle to the Colossians lying before them (see Winer’s Gram. p102). The verb (ἀναγνωσθῇ) marks the reading as an understanding on the part of the readers answering to that of the author, referring to the meaning of what was written, while “legere” refers merely to the form, the letters taken together. “Reading it aloud to others” (vorlesen) is not implied in the word, but in the circumstances, as 1 Thessalonians 5:27, in the dative; 2 Corinthians 3:15; Acts 15:21, in the times and the object.—Cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans—“Cause that” gives prominence to the purpose as in John 11:27. This injunction grows out of the similar circumstances, explained and conditioned by the proximity and connection of the two Churches.

And that ye likewise read that from Laodicea.—“That from Laodicea” is placed first for emphasis to mark the antithesis. See Winer’s Gram. p511. “Ye likewise” places the Colossians beside the Laodiceans, after whom they also should read the Epistle. Evidently-then a letter written to the Laodiceans is meant, which the Colossians should cause to be forwarded to them from Laodicea. See Winer’s Gram. p584. The context indicates that Paul had written it, since otherwise he would not have known that the Laodiceans had one, and what its contents were. He had probably written and sent it at the same time, counting upon the oral information of Tychicus ( Colossians 4:9), and was certainly induced to do so by Epaphras ( Colossians 4:13). But nothing further is known save the admission that it is lost, as indeed the Canon of Muratori cites an Epistle to the Laodiceans (comp. Introd. to Ephesians, § 5, 1). [As usual, where nothing is known, conjectures are abundant.—R.] The following opinions are inadmissible: that it was a letter written from Laodicea to Paul (Erasmus, Calvin) [so A. Alexander, Canon, p296—R.]; or one written thence by Paul, as 1 Tim. (Theophylact); or the Epistles to Philemon (Wieseler, Thiersch); that it was a purely private letter without appropriate doctrinal contents, a mere note, though of great value for the social relations and personal apprehension of those receiving it; that it was 1 John (Lightfoot), or Hebrews (Stein), or even Ephesians (Baehr, Meyer, Bleek) [Conybeare and Howson, I, 394–8, where this view is advocated at length—R,.]. The Apocryphal Latin Epistle to the Laodiceans, first translated into Greek by Elias Huther (1699), and inserted in German Bibles before that of Luther, a poor bungling affair of twenty verses, cannot be the one referred to. [Macknight’s conjecture, deemed probable by Middleton, Blunt and Wordsworth, is “that the Apostle sent the Ephesians word by Tychicus, who carried their letter, to send a copy of it to the Laodiceans, with an order to them to communicate it to the Colossians.” Wordsworth remarks: that all St. Paul’s Epistles were designed for general circulation. Ellicott in loco, after a clear statement, inclines to the view “that an actual Epistle to the Laodiceans is here alluded to, which possibly, from its similarity to its sister Epistle, it has not pleased God to preserve to us.” Eadie: “Probably it was wholly of a temporary and local nature. An inspired writing is not necessarily a canonical one.” The two leading hypotheses are: a) That it was the Epistle to the Ephesians, 1) regarded as an encyclical letter; 2) or, as addressed to the Laodiceans originally; 3) or circulating as Macknight suggests; all of which are open to great objections[FN11]). b) An Epistle now lost, for on exegetical grounds we must believe that it was a letter which the Laodiceans had or would have received, to come to Colosse from them. The latter is most probable, and does not involve the loss of a canonical book. (So Barnes.)—R.]

[Alford: “The sphere of the reception of the ministry; in which the recipient lived and moved and promised at his ordination; not of the ministry itself.” This is more accurate.—R.]

The purpose of taking heed to the ministry that thou fulfil it.—It is not trajection: “that thou fulfil the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord” (Grotius and others). See 2 John 1:8. Comp. Acts 12:25; 2 Timothy 4:5. Nor is there any reproof here, only exhortation, the circumstances of the Church being a motive for it; the service must be fully rendered to guard the Church from corruption. It must be noticed that the Church should thus speak to Archippus, in the words of the Apostle, however. [Eadie: “It was an admonition of Paul to Archippus through the Church.” Theophylact finds in it also a command to the flock, to recognize and obey the Pastor. This may be implied, but this interpretation belongs to a later age. See Alford, Meyer. Also Wordsworth, who quotes Theophylact with approval.—R.]


1. Men may be against us, yet not against Christ. In the various apprehensions of the all-important matter, affecting and effecting the salvation of the soul, viz., Christianity and the Person of Christ, and amid all contrary and trying experiences, the clear view and impartial judgment should and will yet discover, that some are fellow-laborers, even if very few occupy precisely the same stand-point, and share the same views and methods. Only these three Jewish Christian teachers are comforting helpers and friends, yet he recognizes others still as his “fellow workers” unto the kingdom of God, and Paul does not regard anti-pauline Christians as anti-christian people. As little as anti-catholic is anti-christian, so little is all and every thing anti-Lutheran anti-christian also, or whatever and whoever is against you, against God and Christ.

2. Hospitality has now an entirely different form from that of earlier times, owing to the total change in circumstances. The character of this duty and custom remains unchanged in this respect, that to the poor and distressed as well as to friends and brethren, our house offers a place of friendly reception and hospitable help, according to the circumstances and needs of the case. Our house should not at times become a public house, but in the privacy of home we should still be good hosts for Christian sociality and Christian beneficence.

3. Firmness and constancy are, naturally, fundamental traits of the character of the Christian and the Christian Church, but their foundation and element must be the will of God in the various relations of life. The Christian should yield to no human opinion, to no thought of time, not to worldly wisdom or to the lust of his flesh and self-will. In God’s “Will” we find our “Ought,” and to this our “Can” must reach. [In Gottes Wollen liegt unser Sollen, und darauf muss unser Können gehen.]

4. Fervent supplication is a duty and important work, not without labor. In it not only is the heart elevated with its love, but it extends itself, it strengthens and nerves itself for skilful action. Epaphras, who approached God in supplication for his Colossians, journeyed also to Rome to see Paul, and was interested in the neighboring churches.

5. Every Church has its heads and leaders, as well as its members, those known and esteemed and of wide reputation, and those unknown, un thought of, hidden ones. The former are not without the latter, are for them, and these too are with the former and for them also.

6. What was then said to one Church was of value to another, is of value to all, to the whole Church. The “form of a servant” in which single writings of the Bible appear, as occasional letters, as shared by the whole Scripture; in this we perceive the glory of the Lord, for such means suffice for His work.

7. Independency. Paul does not address his words to an Independent congregation of Christians. He places three congregations: Colosse, Laodicea and Hierapolis, together in union with himself and with each other.

8. Nor does Paul foster the hierarchical spirit of the clergy: the latter constitute a member of the body of the Church, to which the whole should furnish the impulse. The Apostle points from the Romish or Jewish Church of the clergy, to the evangelical Church of the people.

9. The ministerial office has a great responsibility on account of Him who imparts it, on account of Him in whom it is to be accomplished and on account of those for whom it is to be fulfilled.


It is of great value to know that good men think kindly of us. A greeting has in it something very beneficent. Do not forget to deliver it; do not consider such negligence a small matter. Be as careful about it as the Apostle.—Delight especially in those who gather others about them and serve the Church.—Do your part in helping every one to the conscientious performance of their ministry; show them especially their responsibility; remember, it is not enough that thou hast received, thou must fulfil, what thou hast received.

Starke:—Every father should have and hold in his family a proper household church. That brings edification and blessing. Whoever tries it will find it so.—Reading the Word of God is not an especial privilege for this and that one alone, but for each and every Christian.—Rieger:—We have children, households, entangling connections; and we ever say: to these too we must take heed. But “to the ministry,” however, first and foremost.—Schleiermacher:—All associations of Christians in a society of personal friendship, which involve a dissimilarity to others, should end in such an understanding that each one, in his own place and in his own spirit, but joined in common love to the others, will forward the great work of blessing men through Christ.


Colossians 4:10. Mark had struggled through and out of the old nature, and become a faithful servant in the gospel; we never go further in God’s ways in vain.

Colossians 4:15. It was no slight evidence of the faith and love of this householder to Christ and His cause, that he received into his house the assembly of first Christians, these heathen converted out of darkness into light; such an one must assuredly anticipate many a pain and persecution.


Colossians 4:10. We must forget as well as forgive.

Colossians 4:12. They who would succeed in prayer, must take pains in prayer.

Colossians 4:14. Luke was both a physician and an evangelist. Christ Himself both taught and healed, and was the great Physician as well as Prophet of the Church.—R.]


Colossians 4:12. Love so pure and spiritual as that of Epaphras will produce an agony of earnestness.

Colossians 4:14. “Honor a physician with the honor due unto him for the uses which ye may have of him, for the Lord hath created him, for of the Most High cometh healing” ( Sirach 38:1-2). It was indeed a common saying,—ubi tres medici, duo athei. Luke might have been an example to the profession.—R.]


Colossians 4:14. This special mention (“the beloved”) may have been designed by St. Paul to impart a Christian dignity to the medical profession, which was not held in high repute by the polite nations of antiquity; and to remind its practitioners, particularly those of Laodicea, to whom this Epistle was to be sent ( Colossians 4:16), of the honor and holiness of the medical calling, as ministering to the human body, which had been ennobled and consecrated by the Incarnation of Christ. Though special and supernatural gifts of healing were vouchsafed to the Church in those days, even then the ordinary means were not superseded, which were provided and bestowed by Almighty God for alleviating the sufferings of humanity through the art and skill of the Physician.—R.]


FN#5 - Colossians 4:10.—[Ἀνεψιός, cousin. Edie and Ellicott suggest that the E. V. probably means this, i.e, Geschwisterkind. See Exeg. Notes.—R.]

FN#6 - Colossians 4:10.—[The clause immediately following “Barnabas” is included in the parenthesis of the E. V, this is unnecessary.—R.]

FN#7 - Colossians 4:12.—[א. A. B. C. L. insert Ἰησοῦ; Lachmann, Tischendorf, most modern editors.—R.]

FN#8 - So modern editors, Lachmann, Tischendorf and other. Braune renders it “erfüilt;” Eadie, Alford, Ellicott, Wordsworth: “fully assured” or “fully persuades.”—R.]

FN#9 - Others κόπον, πόθον, ἀγῶνα. Modern editors have generally adopted πόνον, multum laborem. The word is rare in New Testament. hence the variety of readings.—R.]

FN#10 - A. C.] have αὐτῶν. B. reads Νύμφαν—αὐτῆς. The context requires the first, since Νυμφᾶν, the masculine name, is to be retained, and the explanation that the plural refers to Nymphas and family, is unnatural. [Lachmann follows B.; Meyer, Alford adopt the plural; Rec. Tischendorf, Eadie, Ellicott, Wordsworth: Νυμφᾶν—αὐτοῦ. The variation is of little importance, has probably arisen from a desire to identify the whole church of Laodicea with that in the house of Nymphas (Ellicott).—R.]

FN#11 - Comp. Alford III. Prolegg. pp17, 18, against1) and2), and Ellicott in loco against3), which is by far the least improbable conjecture.—R.]

Verse 18

             3. Closing words

( Colossians 4:18)

18The salutation by the hand of me Paul. Remember my bonds. Grace be with you. Amen.[FN12]


Colossians 4:18. The salutation by the hand of me Paul.—Exactly like 1 Corinthians 16:21; 2 Thessalonians 3:17. Comp Galatians 6:11. Bengel: “This verse Paul adds with his own hand, acknowledging what precedes as his own.” The clause results rather from the Apostle’s wish to add a word with his own hand, than, as Bleek supposes, from the wish of the Church to receive at least a few autograph words, to which he has acceded.

Remember my bonds—especially in praying. [“Every limitation is unwarranted” (Meyer).—R.] “My” is emphatic; he is more concerned about the preservation of his person in triumphant fellowship with the Lord, for His sake and that of His Church, than for release or the alleviation of his imprisoned condition. It is a final exhortation, touching in its simplicity, not a request for assistance (Heinrich). [The connexion between the autographic salutation and the exhortation must not be overlooked. It was the chain itself, linking his right hand to the soldier, rendering it difficult for him to write to those for whose sake he was in bonds. How natural to add, especially to these Gentile converts: “Remember my bonds.” See Alford, Ellicott, Smith’s Dictionary Antiq, Catena.—R.]

Grace be with you.—“Grace,” simply as Ephesians 6:24; 1 Timothy 6:21; 2 Timothy 4:22; Titus 3:15; Hebrews 13:25. “With you” (μεθ’ ὑμῶν), also as 2 Timothy 4:22. The grace of God communicated in Christ is externally and internally with Christians.


1. More depends upon inner preservation of the person from fall and weakness than upon external deliverance from earthly distress.

2. From those who stake body, goods and life on the cause of the Kingdom of God, blessing in word and deed is to be experienced; they bless, having more than a benediction.

3. To such the Church not only owes gratitude and grateful thought, but can alford them joy and strength. So much depends on living communion with its reciprocal results.


[Wordsworth:—St. Paul’s bonds were providential. If he had been continually moving from place to place in missionary journeys, the Church might perhaps have never possessed this Epistle. She therefore has good cause to remember his bonds with thankfulness. The word of God here written is not bound. The fact that this Epistle was written by him in this state of durance and restraint, and yet designed to minister comfort to others, and that it has never ceased to cheer the Church of Christ, is certainly one which is worthy of everlasting remembrance.—R.]


FN#12 - Colossians 4:18.—Ἀμήν is wanting in א. A. B. C. F. G. and other. It was afterwards added in א.; and is found in D. E. K. L

The subscription in א. reads πρὸς Κολοσσαεῖς. others supplement it: ἀπὸ Ῥώμης (A.), ἐγράφη ἀπὸ Ῥώμης (B2), ἐπληρώθη, ἄρχεται πρὸς Φιλιππηνσίους (D. E.), ἐτελέσθη πρὸς Κολοσσαεῖς, ἄρχεται πρὸς Θεσσαλονικαίονς πρώτη (F. G.). [Rec.: πρὸς Κολοσσαεῖς ἐγράφη ἀπὸ Ῥώμης διὰ Τυχικοῦ καὶ Ὀνησίμο. The most accurate of all these spurious subscriptions.—R.]

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Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Colossians 4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.