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Thursday, July 18th, 2024
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Bible Commentaries
Colossians 4

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary

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Verse 1

Col 4:1

Colossians 4:1

Masters, render unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.—He reminds them that the Master had said: “All things therefore whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do ye also unto them: for this is the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12). If masters treated their servants with severity, so would God deal with them. The condition of slaves among the Greeks and Romans was indeed wretched in the extreme. They could expect neither justice nor equity. They could not appeal to the civil courts. The Holy Spirit gave them, through Paul, a law of justice and equity to govern Christian masters.

Verse 2

Col 4:2

Colossians 4:2

Continue steadfastly in prayer,—Paul takes it for granted that they do pray and he tells them that “with prayer and supplication praying at all seasons in the Spirit, and watching thereunto in all perseverance and supplication for all saints." Ephesians 6:18). “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). He was not urging long prayers, but the continuance of the habit of prayer.

watching therein—In our persistent prayers our spiritual faculties must be in active exercise. We must, while we pray, be keenly alive to our own needs and dangers and the promises of God. [To be awake is to be alive in the fullest sense, to have all the powers of perception and action in readiness. The activity of the soul in prayer is to be both energetic and incessant]

with thanksgiving;—[This is a most appropriate accompani­ment, or surrounding element, of these watchful prayers. Ceaseless prayers combined with ceaseless praise was the atmosphere of Paul’s spiritual life, and should be ours]

Verse 3

Col 4:3

Colossians 4:3

withal praying for us also,-—He craved a place in their prayers as he had expressed his in their behalf. (Colossians 1:9). He had been a prisoner for years. He had hopes of ultimate freedom, and he believed in prayer for that object. (Philippians 1:19).

that God may open unto us a door for the word,—“The word” is the word of God which Paul preached; and a door was wanted, in his present difficulties, through which that word may freely pass. (1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 2:12). With compas­sionate eagerness did he desire an open door, and even if it was for a tune barred and bolted in his face, he never despaired. He desired not prayer for his personal benefit or comfort, but for the removal of all external impediments to his preaching.

to speak the mystery of Christ,—Were the door once opened, he would be able freely to preach the gospel to the Gentiles.

for which I am also in bonds;—His preaching to the Gen­tiles was the real cause which led to his imprisonment. He was now in the strange position of an “ambassador in chains.” (Ephesians 6:19-20; Philemon 1:9-10).

Verse 4

Col 4:4

Colossians 4:4

that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.—Some­times Paul felt that he might be affrighted so that he would not faithfully declare the truth in the way that he should. [The needs of the world and the grandeur of the gospel were to Paul an imperative necessity, leaving him no choice but compelling him as if by main force to preach the word wherever he could and at all cost. This felt necessity forced him to make this appeal for the help of their prayers.]

Verse 5

Col 4:5

Colossians 4:5

Walk in wisdom toward them that are without,—Walk with wisdom and prudence towards those who are not believers. [These not members of the church keenly watch the conduct of those claiming to be Christians. It has always been so, and is true today. They watch our walk more than our talk, and judge and measure our talk by our walk. To benefit others spiritually, the chief qualification is not gifts, but character. The lives of Christians are the Bible the world reads. (2 Corinthians 3:2-3). We should see that the text is not corrupted or illegible. Live so that the more you are known the more you will be esteemed, so that those who are without and anxious would naturally seek you for help and guidance, and your judgment or reproof would carry with it the weight of a consecrated character.]

redeeming the time.—Every Christian should seize and use well every opportunity to do good and promote the glory of Christ.

Verse 6

Col 4:6

Colossians 4:6

Let your speech be always with grace,—In conversation and discourse, be absolutely, at all times, and under all circum­stances, kind and gracious. Evil, vicious conversation, that excites the lusts, passions, evil desires, often does more harm than many sinful deeds, and God forewarns that for all this men will be held to strict account.

seasoned with salt,—Having force and character; not insipid, but pointed. There may be reference also to the preservative and purifying power of salt. Let your speech be wholesome, not cor­ruptive. [As food is seasoned with salt and made pleasant and palatable, so let your speech, especially to those who are without, be not insipid nor coarse, but pleasant, pure, wholesome, and salutary.]

that ye may know how ye ought to answer each one.—Paul wished the Colossians to know how to answer the false teachers in their disputes as well as how to win people to Christ by means of grace. It is a rare gift, but a needful one. Not only must our con­versation be opportune as regards the time; it must also be appro­priate as regards the person. The context shows that unbelievers are meant, although the rule holds good in all social intercourse. Kindness and point, and adaptation to the hearers—these char­acteristics of Christian speech—when supported by a wise walk and watchfulness for proper opportunities, will give power to the humblest believer.

Verse 7

Col 4:7

Colossians 4:7

All my affairs shall Tychicus make known unto you,—Paul was a prisoner in Rome, dependent upon the churches to render assistance unto him to live. They sent relief by mes­sengers, each church sending its own messenger. Paul sent in turn messengers to the churches to let them know his condition, how the word of truth prospered, and to instruct the churches in the truth, and bring him word as to their condition. [The asso­ciation of Tychicus with Paul in his last journey to Jerusalem, attended with so many affecting circumstances and terminating in his long imprisonment, led to a devoted attachment on the part of Tychicus to Paul. At the time this epistle was written he was with Paul in his imprisonment at Rome, about to be sent home, in charge of Onesimus, on whose account the apostle sends a letter to Philemon. In the interval between the first imprisonment in Rome and the second (2 Timothy), Paul revisits the Astatic churches—so it is inferred from 1 Timothy 1:3—and Tychicus rejoins him; for we find Paul proposing to send him to Titus in Crete (Titus 3:12), and finally sending him from Rome once more to Ephesus (1 Timothy 6:12).]

the beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow-servant in the Lord:—It is evident that he was one in whom Paul had implicit confidence. He speaks of him here and in Ephesians 6:22-23 as a faithful brother and minister. Tychicus is “minister” not to Paul himself (Acts 19:22; Acts 13:5), but of Christ (1 Thessalonians 3:2), as Paul himself (Colossians 1:23; Colossians 1:25). He was the beloved and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. [He was undoubtedly a lovable man because of his gracious demeanor and his tender solicitude for the welfare of the saints, and at the same time he was faithful in ministering the word of God, rebuking iniquity and comforting the penitent. Such men are rare. In them we see the delightful combination of loyalty to the word of God and seeking the comfort and blessing of the people of God.]

Verse 8

Col 4:8

Colossians 4:8

whom I have sent unto you for this very purpose, that ye may know our state,—Paul sent them, not only to tell them of his condition and of the success of the gospel in Rome, but to learn all about their fidelity, their knowledge of the truth, and their condition.

and that he may comfort your hearts;—He would comfort their hearts by teaching them the word of God, as well as favor­ably reporting Paul’s condition. [The Colossians did not need consolation, but courage to stand against the wiles of the false teachers and be faithful to Christ and the gospel message.]

Verse 9

Col 4:9

Colossians 4:9

together with Onesimus,—Onesimus was a slave of Phile­mon, of Colossae. He had run away from his master. Paul met him in Rome, converted him to Christ, and returned him to Phi­lemon in company with Tychicus.

the faithful and beloved brother,—Paul had learned to love and trust him, as “my child, whom I have begotten in my bonds" as his “very heart” for his goodness and his proved fidelity and helpful service to himself. (Philemon 1:10-13). Greatly had he wished to retain him, but it was the servant’s duty to return to his master.

who is one of you.—It was a natural and kindly feeling that prompted this reference. Ties of neighborhood and early associa­tion, as well as those of kindred, are formed, and belong to the constituted framework of human life. (Acts 17:26). This claim of Onesimus is not destroyed by his being a slave at the very bottom of the social scale; nor was it forfeited by his conduct. Now that he has repented and returned, he was to be received by his fellow Christians as one of themselves.

They shall make known unto you all things that are done here.—They would make known the work done by Paul and his companions in Rome, as well as what was done to him, and what was his condition and need. [There was, therefore, no need for any detailed account of Paul’s circumstances. The solicitude of which he assumes these Colossian Christians (Colossians 1:8; Colossians 2:1) feel in his behalf shows how commanding and how great his influence over the Gentile churches had become.]

Verse 10

Col 4:10

Colossians 4:10

Aristarchus my fellow-prisoner saluteth you,—Aristar­chus was a Macedonian, had accompanied Paul in his return from Macedonia, (Acts 19:29). He accompanied Paul on his return to Jerusalem, as one chosen to go with him to carry the bounty of the Macedonian churches to the poor saints in Judea. (Acts 20:4). He was with Paul when taken prisoner, and was either himself sent as a prisoner, or voluntarily accompanied him to Rome and remained with him during his imprisonment. (Acts 27:2). He was with Paul in his imprisonment, and sent saluta­tions and expressions of good will to the Colossian brethren. [We know nothing more of his services in behalf of the cause of Christ beyond this record of his assiduous and self-sacrificing attendance on Paul. How much Paul, with his physical infirmi­ties, owed to such friendship, and how much the church owes on his account, we cannot tell. Those who may not have great gifts for public service may serve Christ most effectually often-time by serving his servants, by their private friendship and aid cheering the hearts and strengthening the hands of those on whom fall the heavier responsibilities of the churches’ care and strife, and who but for such timely assistance might haply sink beneath their burdens.]

and Mark,—Mark, like Onesimus, “who once was unprofitable” to his master (Philemon 1:11), had been aforetime unfaithful to Paul (Acts 13:13; Acts 15:36-41); which caused a serious breach between Paul and Barnabas. But now, and again at a later time, he is marked out by Paul as useful “for ministering” (2 Timothy 4:11). Paul’s firmness and fidelity in refusing, at whatever cost, to take with him an untrustworthy man, had, we may presume, helped to arouse Mark to a better spirit. [Notwithstanding all Paul’s uncompromising sternness and the intenseness of his pas­sionate nature, there was no bitterness or suspiciousness, no cher­ishing resentment in his heart. Some men will never trust again a friend or servant who once, under any circumstances had failed them. But Paul shows a more Christian and wiser disposition. As he bids others do, so he acts himself, “forbearing one another, and forgiving each other.” (Colossians 3:13). As “the Lord forgave” Peter who denied him, so Paul forgave Mark who had deserted him. And by the way in which he commends him to the Colossian church, he shows how entirely Mark now has his approval and confidence.]

the cousin of Barnabas—[Mark is called the cousin of Barna­bas by way of commendation. (1 Corinthians 9:6; Galatians 2:1; Galatians 2:9; Galatians 2:13). Mary the mother of John Mark was highly esteemed in the church at Jerusalem (Acts 12:12), and through her he may have been related to Barnabas.]

(touching whom, ye received commandments; if he come unto you, receive him),—[The formal charge to the Colossian church to “receive him”—a kind of letter of commendation (2 Corinthians 3:1)—evidently shows that they had known of him as under Paul’s displeasure, and were now to learn that he had seen reason to restore him to his confidence. In the epistle to Philemon, Mark is named, as of course, among his “fellow-workers.” (Verse 24). In Paul’s last epistle, written just a short while before his death, there is a touch of peculiar pathos in the charge to Timothy: “Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee; for he is useful to me for ministering” (2 Timothy 4:11), from which he had once rejected him.]

Verse 11

Col 4:11

Colossians 4:11

and Jesus that is called Justus,—This is the only mention of him. He was most likely a Jew of Rome, who had become a Christian, and the fact that he was found at this time by Paul’s side says a great deal for his courage and faith, as well as for his largeness of heart. [If for no other reason, then, it was fitting that his name should be honorably mentioned. His cognomen Justus attests his reputation among his fellow citizens for legal strictness and uprightness would make his attachment for Paul the more valuable. The surname Justus is found in Acts 1:23; Acts 18:7; and we learn from tradition that by it James the Lord’s brother was known.]

who are of the circumcision: these only are my fellow-workers unto the kingdom of God, men that have been a com­fort unto me.—The juxtaposition of the two notices seems to indicate—what is itself likely—that the brethren who held aloof from Paul in “envy and strife” (Philippians 1:15-20) were of the circumcision. Out of them only Aristarchus, Mark, and Justus, as converts from Judaism, and as the only Jewish Christians in Rome of any prominence who stood by him as fellow workers and rendered him much encouragement and comfort in the Lord’s work.

Verse 12

Col 4:12

Colossians 4:12

Epaphras,—All we know of Epaphras, we learn from the brief notices in this epistle. He had first preached the gospel to the Colossians, and perhaps to Laodicea and Hierapolis. He had come to Paul, apparently, to consult with him about the false teaching which threatened the peace of the church. He had in­formed him, too, of their love. It was his report which led to the writing of the epistle.

who is one of you,—He was a native of Colossae. a servant of Christ Jesus, saluteth you,—[This title, which Paul uses several times of himself, is not elsewhere conferred on any other individual, except once on Timothy (Colossians 1:1), and probably points to exceptional service in the cause of Christ on the part of Epaphras.]

always striving for you in his prayers,—[The striving in prayer was due to the zeal of Epaphras and the danger of the Colossians. The appropriateness of this phrase is felt by all to whom prayer is a reality, and to Epaphras this intense effort was ceaseless.]

that ye may stand—This was the purpose and purport of the prayers. Stand points to maturity fully assured. It appears that they needed a deeper spiritual insight and well-grounded conviction respecting the truth "as in Jesus.”

perfect and fully assured—Perfect points to maturity; fully assured to permanent state of confident persuasion.

in all the will of God.—[In everything that is the will of God, and indicates the sphere of completeness and confidence. The tone of Epaphras’ prayer takes the tone from the errors which endangered the church he had founded.]

Verse 13

Col 4:13

Colossians 4:13

For I bear him witness, that he hath much labor for you, and for them in Laodicea, and for them in Hierapolis.—Paul testifies that Epaphras had great zeal in behalf of the disciples at Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis. These cities were of the Lycus Valley. Laodicea and Hierapolis were on opposite sides of the valley about twelve miles from Colossae. At all these places Epaphras had most likely preached, and was acquainted with them. His zeal for them was shown in the constant, earnest prayer he offered continually in their behalf. We ought to strive in prayer in behalf of those we would help. “The supplication of a right­eous man availeth much in its working.” (James 5:16). The rationalism of this age, that has permeated the church, has well- nigh destroyed faith in prayer. But it is the effective instrumen­tality to which Christians must come before they convert the world, or be fully blessed themselves.

Verse 14

Col 4:14

Colossians 4:14

Luke,— [This name occurs three times in the New Testa­ment. (Here; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 1:24). As there is every reason to believe that the man of these passages is the author of the Gospel of Luke and of Acts of Apostles, it is natural to seek the evidence in the book itself some traces of the connection with Paul, which these passages assume to exist; and although the name Luke does not occur in Acts, there is reason to believe that under the pronoun we, several references to Luke are to be added to the three already mentioned. Combining the traditional with the scriptural, we are able to trace the following outline of his life. He was born at Antioch in Syria, not of Jewish parents, for he is not reckoned among those “who are of the circumcision” by Paul. (Colossians 4:11). The date of his conversion to Christ is uncertain. He was not among those “who from the beginning were eyewit­nesses and ministers of the word” (Luke 1:1-2), or he would have rested his claim upon that ground. The ray of historical light falls on him as a follower of Jesus Christ when he joined Paul at Troas and shared his journey into Macedonia. The sud­den transition to the first person plural (we) in Acts 16:10 is most naturally explained that the writer of Acts formed one of the company from this point. His conversion had taken place before, since he silently assumes his place in Paul’s company with­out any hint that this was his first admission to the knowledge of the ministry of Christ. As far as Philippi he journeyed with Paul and his company. The resumption of the third person (they) on Paul’s departure from Philippi (Acts 17:1) shows that Luke was left behind. During the remainder of Paul’s second missionary journey no further mention of Luke is made. But on the third journey the same indication reminds us that Luke is again in the company (Acts 20:5), having joined it at Philippi, where he had been left. With Paul he passed on to Jerusalem (Acts 20:5-6; Acts 21:18). Between the two visits to Philippi, seven years elapsed (A.D. 51 to 58), which Luke may have spent in Philippi, preaching the gospel. There is one passage which, if it refers to Luke, must belong to this period: “And we have sent together with him (Titus) the brother whose praise in the gospel is spread through all the churches.” (2 Corinthians 8:18). It is an opinion among some expositors that Luke was the companion of Titus on this mission. If this be so, we are to suppose that during the three months of Paul’s sojourn at Philippi (Acts 20:6). Luke was sent from that place on this mission; and the words whose praise is in all the churches enable us to form an estimate of his activity during the interval in which he has not been otherwise mentioned. The praise lay in the activity with which he preached the gospel. He again appears in the company of Paul in the journey to Rome. (Acts 27:1). He remained at his side during his first imprisonment (Colossians 4:14; Philemon 1:24); then during his second Roman imprisonment, the Second Epistle to Timothy (2 Timothy 4:11) shows that he continued faithful to Paul, and remained with him to the end of his affliction. After the death of Paul the acts of Luke are hopelessly obscure. It is perhaps as Luke wished it to be. We only know while he stood faithfully by the side of his beloved Paul; when he departed the history of his faithful companion becomes hopelessly confused. It is enough for us, so far as regards the Gospel of Luke, to know that the writer was the tried and constant friend of Paul, who shared his labors, and was not driven from his side by danger.]

the beloved physician,—Of all Paul’s friends none was dearer to him or more serviceable than Luke. [This suggests a lovable man, tender and true; a character profoundly welcome to the aching heart of the apostle.]

and Demas salute you.—From the fact that Demas is men­tioned here without a word of praise while the others received commendations in various ways, many interpreters have concluded that already his true character was beginning to appear, and that Paul did not have full confidence in him. [During Paul’s second Roman imprisonment, when troubles multiplied, and danger was imminent, Paul says: “Demas forsook me, having loved this present world, and went to Thessalonica.” (2 Timothy 4:10). His departure and that of the others on whom Paul relied while in prison was one of the severest trials which he was called upon to endure.]

Verse 15

Col 4:15

Colossians 4:15

Salute the brethren that are in Laodicea,—Laodicea was the capital of Phrygia, in Asia Minor, and a little south of Colossae. Being near Colossae, the church would be exposed to the same perils.

and Nymphas,—Of Nymphas we know nothing, except from this passage. He was obviously a man of influence in the com­munity and a worthy servant of the Lord.

and the church that is in their house.—“Their” evidently refers to Nymphas and his family. It was common enough for the church to meet in a private house since there were as yet no separate houses of worship. It is said that Priscilla and Aquila had such both in their house in Rome (Romans 16:5) and in Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:19), and that Philemon had such in his house at Colossae (Philemon 1:2). It was customary for the brethren who had large and convenient houses to gather portions of the whole community in these.

Verse 16

Col 4:16

Colossians 4:16

And when this epistle hath been read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye also read the epistle from Laodicea.—The present epistle was to be read in the assembly of the church at Colossae and a copy sent to Laodicea and similarly read there. Compare the instruction to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 1:1), which implies the sending of copies to neighboring churches. [It is generally be­lieved among Biblical scholars that Ephesians was designed also for the other churches in the same province. This conclusion is based on the belief that, although it is addressed “to the saints that are at Ephesus,” the metropolis of the Roman province of Asia which included Laodicea and Colossae, it was probably de­signed for other churches in the same province—“the faithful in Christ Jesus.” If so, it is quite conceivable that Paul gave orders to Tychicus to leave at Laodicea for the church there a copy of the epistle to the Ephesians. And this copy would be “the epistle from Laodicea" which Paul desired the Colossians to read. This desire grew out of the fact that the two epistles, though closely related in thought and phraseology, are quite distinct. Each sup­ports the other. The one to the Ephesians deals chiefly with the church; that to the Colossians expounds the dignity and work of Christ, and rebuts certain special errors. This suggestion is so free from objection, and meets so well all the facts of the case, that with our scanty information we may accept it as probable.]

Verse 17

Col 4:17

Colossians 4:17

And say to Archippus,—Archippus is mentioned else­where only in Philemon. (2). The words “say to” suggest that he was close at hand to hear what was said; and was therefore probably a member of the church at Colossae. And this agrees with his relation to Philemon, who also seems to have been a Colossian. Archippus was called a “fellow-soldier” (Philemon 1:2) of Paul, which suggests that he had shared with Paul the perils of Christian work. And this agrees with the work “in the Lord” mentioned here.

Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it.—He sends this caution to Archippus, who seems to have been sent on a mission to them, and warns him to be careful that he fulfil it. Do faithfully and well what the Lord had sent him to do.

Verse 18

Col 4:18

Colossians 4:18

The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand.—It was customary for Paul to have an amanuensis to write for him. He placed the signature himself and thereby conveyed a salutation written by his own hand. This appears to have been his usual practice, for of it he says: “which is the token in every epistle; so I write.” (2 Thessalonians 3:17). It was the evidence that each was the expression of his mind as guided by the Holy Spirit. The endorsement with his name is followed by a request singularly pathetic in its abrupt brevity.

Remember my bonds.—To remember his bonds was to pray for him in his bonds. [The petition helps us to conceive how heavy a trial Paul felt in his imprisonment, to be as little as he said about it, and bravely as he bore it. He wished their remem­brance, too, because his bonds added weight to his words. His sufferings gave him a right to speak. He wished their remem­brance because his bonds might encourage them to steadfast en­durance if need for it should arise. He points to his own suffer­ings, and would have them take heart to bear their lighter crosses and fight their easier battles.]

Grace be with you.—There is no richer word than grace, for it carries in it all of God’s love as seen in the gift of his Son for us. [We began with grace, we are kept by grace, and it is grace that will bring us home at last.]

[The personal details of 4: 7-17 link the doctrinal and practical teaching of this epistle with the actual life of Paul. They remind us that the gospel is not a mere abstract truth, but touches the everyday life of actual men. This historic setting of the gospel, which we find in many casual notices in Paul’s epistles and in the narrative of the book of Acts, furnishes proof of the historic truth of the statements on which the gospel rests. It also helps us, by reproducing surroundings and the inner and outer life of Paul, to understand and better appreciate the thought embodied in the doctrinal parts of his epistles. Time spent in bringing together, and endeavoring to interpret, these scanty notices will bear abun­dant fruit in a clearer conception of his inner thought and of the gospel which permeated and moulded and ennobled his entire inner and outer life.]

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Colossians 4". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/colossians-4.html.
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