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(See Colossians 3:1-25.)
SECTION IX. PRAYER AND SOCIAL CONVERSE. There are added some brief exhortations of a more general tenor, the contents of which are summed up in the heading given to this section.
Continue steadfast in prayer, being watchful (or, wakeful) therein, with thanksgiving. "Steadfast continuance" in prayer is specially illustrated in our Lord's sayings on the subject in St. Luke (comp. Acts 1:14, where the same peculiar verb is used). In Philippians 4:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:17, 1Th 5:18; 1 Timothy 2:1-15 :l, again "thanksgiving" is associated with "prayer." Wakefulness in prayer is enjoined by Christ in Matthew 26:41 and Mark 14:38 : compare the synonymous ἀγρυπνέω, to be sleepless, used in Ephesians 6:1,Ephesians 6:2; Mark 13:33; Luke 21:36; Hebrews 13:17. "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 [literally in, ἐν, not μετὰ, as in Ephesians 6:18] thanksgiving gives the pervading element or influence, in or under which the prayers of the Colossians were to be offered (comp. Colossians 1:12; Colossians 2:7; Colossians 3:15, Colossians 3:17).
Praying at the same time also for us (Ephesians 6:19; Rom 15:30-32; 1 Thessalonians 5:25; 2 Thessalonians 3:1, 2 Thessalonians 3:2; Hebrews 13:18). In Ephesians and Romans the apostle implores prayer for himself alone, and dwells on his personal circumstances. Here and in the Thessalonian letters he unites his fellow labourers with him in the request. That God may open to us a door for the word (1Co 16:9; 2 Corinthians 2:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 2:1). "The word" is the Word of God which the apostle preaches (Colossians 1:5, Colossians 1:25; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; Galatians 6:6; 2 Timothy 4:2; Acts 16:6); and "a debt" is wanted, in his present difficulties, through which that Word may freely pass, such as he speaks of in 1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 2:12 (comp. Acts 14:27; Revelation 3:8). It is fanciful to give "door" here the sense of "mouth." The "opening of my mouth," in Ephesians 6:19, expresses the subjective freedom (corresponding to "as I ought to speak," Ephesians 6:4); "the door for the word," the objective liberty desired by St. Paul in his imprisonment. To speak the mystery of Christ, because of which also I am bound (Colossians 1:23-29; Ephesians 6:19; Ephesians 3:1-13; Ephesians 4:1; Philippians 1:12-14; Philemon 1:9; 2 Timothy 2:8-10; Acts 20:22-24). Were his prison door once opened, the apostle would be able freely to preach the gospel to the Gentiles—for this "the mystery of Christ" chiefly signifies (Colossians 1:25-29; Ephesians 3:1-8; 1 Timothy 2:3-7.) (On "mystery," see note, Colossians 1:26.) It is this very mission which makes him long for freedom, that keeps him a prisoner (Colossians 1:23; Ephesians 3:13). He is in the strange position of an "ambassador in chains". This "I am bound" (singular) shows that the "for us" of the former clause designedly includes others with himself.
That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak (Ephesians 6:20; 2 Corinthians 2:17; 2Co 4:1-6; 2 Corinthians 5:11, 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:10; Rom 12:6; 2 Timothy 2:24-26; 2 Timothy 3:10; Acts 20:18-21, Acts 20:27, Acts 20:33-35). This clause qualifies the last; the "open door" is to be asked for the apostle, that he may make effective use of it. The mystery has been made manifest by God in the mission of Christ (Colossians 1:27; Colossians 2:15, note; 2 Corinthians 5:19, etc.); but that manifestation has to be made known to the Gentile world (Eph 3:9; 2 Corinthians 2:14; Romans 10:14). To this end he had received a special manifestation of "the mystery of Christ" (2Co 4:6; 2 Corinthians 5:19; Galatians 1:15, Galatians 1:16; Acts 9:15, Acts 9:16; Acts 22:14, Acts 22:15, Acts 22:21; Acts 26:16-18). How the apostle conceives that he "ought to speak" appears from the parallel passages (see especially 2 Corinthians 5:1-21.; 2 Corinthians 6:0.; and Acts 20:1-38.).
Walk in wisdom towards those without (Ephesians 5:15-17; 1 Thessalonians 4:12; 1Th 5:15; 1 Corinthians 10:32; 2 Corinthians 4:2; Titus 2:8; 1 Peter 2:12, 1Pe 2:15; 1 Peter 3:16; Matthew 10:16). (On "wisdom," see Colossians 1:9, note; Colossians 1:28; Colossians 2:3; Colossians 3:16; this was a chief need of the Colossian Church.) "Those without," as opposed to Christians—"those within the pale;" a Jewish mode of expression (Lightfoot): comp. 1Th 4:12; 1 Corinthians 5:12, 1 Corinthians 5:13; 1 Timothy 3:7. From a different point of view, they are designated" the rest" in Ephesians 2:3; 1Th 4:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:6. This injunction appears in a different form and position in Ephesians. Standing at the close of the writer's exhortations, and followed up by the direction of the next verse, it is more pointed and emphatic here. Buying up each (literally, the) opportunity (Ephesians 5:16; 1 Corinthians 7:29; Galatians 6:10; John 11:9, John 11:10; Luke 13:32; Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). In Ephesians 5:16 the reason is added, "because the days are evil." In Daniel 2:8 (LXX) the verb ἐξαγοράζω has precisely this sense and connection, and the idiom occurs in classical writers. The verb is middle in voice: "buying up for yourselves," "for your own advantage." In Galatians 3:13 the compound verb is somewhat differently used. The opportunity is the fit time for each step of a well-conducted walk, the precise juncture of circumstances which must be seized at once or it is gone. This wary promptitude is always needful in dealing with men of the world, both to avoid harm from them and in seeking to do them good. The latter thought, it may be, connects this verse and the next.
(Let) your speech (literally, word) (be) always with grace, seasoned with salt (Ephesians 4:29, Ephesians 4:31; Ephesians 5:3, Ephesians 5:4; Titus 2:8; Matthew 12:34-37; Luke 4:22; Psalms 45:2). "Word" (λόγος) has its common acceptation, as in Colossians 3:17; Colossians 2:23; Titus 2:8; 2 Timothy 2:17; James 3:2. "With grace" (ἐν χάριτι) gives the pervading element of Christian speech; as "in wisdom," of Christian behaviour (James 3:5). "Grace," here without the article, is not, as in Colossians 3:16, where the article should probably be read, "the (Divine) grace," but a property of speech itself, "gracefulness" the kindly, winning pleasantness which makes the talk of a good and thoughtful man attractive: comp. Psalms 45:2 (Psalms 44:3, LXX); Ecclesiastes 10:12 (LXX); Sir. 21:16. "Salt" is the "wholesome point and pertinency" (Ellicott) seasoning conversation, while grace sweetens it. The clause which follows indicates that "salt" denotes here, as commonly in Greek (instance the phrase, "Attic salt"), an intellectual rather than a moral quality of speech. In Ephesians 4:29 the connection is different, and the application more general. That you may know how you ought to answer each one (Ephesians 4:4; 1 Peter 3:15; Philippians 1:27, Philippians 1:28; 2 Thessalonians 2:17). The Colossians were to pray for the apostle that he might "speak the mystery of Christ... as he ought to speak;" and he bids them seek for themselves the same gift of παρρησία, liberty of speech and readiness to "every good word." For their faith was assailed by persuasive sophistry (Colossians 2:4, Colossians 2:8, Colossians 2:23) and by brew-beating dogmatism (Colossians 2:16, Colossians 2:18, Colossians 2:20, Colossians 2:21). They were, like St. Paul, "set for the defence of the gospel," placed in the van of the conflict against heresy. They needed, therefore, "to have all their wits about them," so as to be able, as occasion required, to make answer to each of their opponents and questioners, that they might "contend" wisely as well as "earnestly for the faith." 1 Peter 3:15 is a commentary on this verse: the parallelism is the closer because that Epistle was addressed to Churches in Asia Minor, where the debates out of which Gnosticism arose were beginning to be rife; and because, likewise, "the hope that was in them" was a chief object of the attack made on the Colossian believers (Colossians 1:5, Colossians 1:23, Colossians 1:27; Colossians 2:18; Colossians 3:15).
With this exhortation the Christian teaching of the Epistle is concluded. In its third and practical part (Colossians 3:1-4:6) the apostle has built up, on the foundation of the doctrine laid down in the first chapter, and in place of the attractive but false and pernicious system denounced in the second, a lofty and complete ideal of the Christian life. He has led us from the contemplation of its "life of life" in the innermost mystery of union with Christ and of its glorious destiny in him (Colossians 3:1-4), through the soul's interior death-struggle with its old corruptions (1 Peter 3:5-11) and its investment with the graces of its new life (1 Peter 3:12-15), to the expression and outward acting of that life in the mutual edification of the Church (1 Peter 3:16, 1 Peter 3:17), in the obedience and devotion of the family circle (1 Peter 3:18), in constant prayerfulness and sympathy with the ministers and suffering witnesses of Christ (1 Peter 3:2-4), and, lastly, in such converse with men of the world, and in the midst of the distracting debate by which faith is assailed, as shall fittingly commend the Christian cause.
SECTION X. PERSONAL MESSAGES AND GREETINGS. St. Paul concludes his letter, first, by introducing to the Colossians its bearer, Tychicus, along with whom he commends to them their own Onesimus, returning to his master (verses 7-9); then, according to his custom, he conveys greetings from his various friends and helpers present with him at the time, in particular from Mark, who was likely to visit them, and from Epaphras their own devoted minister (verses 10-14); thirdly, he sends greeting to the neighbouring and important Church of Laodicea, specially mentioning Nympha, with directions to exchange letters with the Laodiceans, and with a pointed warning to Archippus, probably a Colossian, having some charge over that Church (verses 15-17). Finally, he appends, with his own hand, his apostolic greeting and benediction (verse 18). The personal references of this section, though slight and cursory, are of peculiar value, bearing themselves the strongest marks of genuineness, and decisively attesting the Pauline authorship of the Epistle. At the same time, we gather from them several independent facts throwing light on St. Paul's position during his imprisonment, and on his relations to other leading personages of the Church.
All that relates to me (literally, the things concerning me) Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant (bondman), will make known to you (Ephesians 6:21, Ephesians 6:22; Titus 3:12; Titus 2:0 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 1:8; 1 Thessalonians 3:2; Philippians 2:25). Tychicus appears first in Acts 20:4, where he is called an "Asian" (of the Roman province of Asia, of which Ephesus was capital), along with Trophimus, who, in Acts 21:29, is styled "the Ephesian." He accompanied the apostle on his voyage to Jerusalem (A.D. 58), with a number of others representing different Churches, and deputed, as Lightfoot thinks, in conformity with the directions of 1 Corinthians 16:3, 1 Corinthians 16:4, to convey the contributions raised for "the poor saints at Jerusalem." Trophimus was with St. Paul in Jerusalem (Acts 21:29), and so, probably, his colleague (the words, "as far as Asia," in Acts 20:4, are of very doubtful authority), he is now with the apostle in his imprisonment at Rome, about to be sent home with these two letters (comp. Ephesians 6:21, Ephesians 6:22), and in charge of Onesimus, on whose account the apostle sends a private letter to Philemon. In the interval between the first (present) and second imprisonment (2 Timothy), the apostle revisited the Asiatic Churches (so we infer from 1 Timothy 1:3), and Tychicus rejoined him; for we find St. Paul proposing to send him to Titus in Crete (Titus 3:12), and finally sending him from Rome once more to Ephesus (2 Timothy 6:12). These facts sustain the high terms in which he is here spoken of. "In the Lord" belongs both to "minister" and "fellow servant." This language is almost identical with that used of Epaphras in Colossians 1:7 (see notes). Tychicus is "minister" (διάκονος), not to Paul himself (Acts 19:22; Acts 13:5, ὑπηρέτης), nor in the official sense of Philippians 1:1, but "of Christ," "of the gospel," or "the Church" (1 Thessalonians 3:2), as St. Paul himself (Colossians 1:23, Colossians 1:25). He is "a beloved brother" to his fellow.believers, "a faithful minister" of the Lord Christ, and "a fellow servant" with the apostle (Colossians 1:7; Colossians 4:10; Philippians 2:25).
Whom I have sent unto you for this very purpose, that ye may know how it is with us (literally, the things about us), and that he may comfort your hearts (Ephesians 6:22). The Received Text reads, by a slight confusion of similar Greek letters, that he may know the things about you (see Lightfoot's 'Notes on some Various Readings'). This is the only clause exactly identical in Colossians and Ephesians. There would be great anxiety on St. Paul's account amongst the Gentile Christians everywhere, and especially in the Asiatic Churches, after the ominous words of his address to the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:22-25 : comp. Acts 20:37, Acts 20:38). The Colossians had sent through Epaphras messages of love to him (Colossians 1:8). To know that he was of good courage, and even in hope of a speedy release (Philemon 1:22), would "comfort their hearts."
With Onesimus, the faithful and beloved brother, who is (one) of you (Colossians 4:7; Philemon 1:10, Philemon 1:16; Colossians 1:2; 1 Peter 5:12). "In Christ there is no slave" (Colossians 3:11). Onesimus, like Epaphras and Tychicus, is a brother, to be trusted and loved (comp. Philemon 1:10-17). This language strongly supports the appeal of Colossians 4:1, and would further the purpose of the apostle's intercession to Onesimus' master. And Onesimus even shares with the honoured Tychicus in the privilege of being the apostle's messenger! All things that are happening here they will make known to you (Colossians 4:7; Ephesians 6:21). There is, therefore, no need for any detailed account of the writer's circumstances. The solicitude which he assumes that these stranger Colossians (Colossians 1:8; Colossians 2:1) feel on his behalf shows how commanding his ascendancy over the Gentile Churches had become.
Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, saluteth you (Philemon 1:2, Philemon 1:23; Philippians 2:25; Romans 16:7). Aristarchus, as a Thessalonian, accompanied the apostle to Jerusalem, along with Tychicus the Asian (Acts 20:4), and was his companion at least during the first part of his voyage to Rome (Acts 27:2). In Philemon 1:23, Philemon 1:24 his name follows that of Mark as a "fellow worker" (comp. verse 11) and of Epaphras "my fellow prisoner" (comp. Romans 16:7). "Fellow prisoner" (αἰχμαλωτός, captive, prisoner of war) differs from the "prisoner" (δέσμιος, one in bonds) of Ephesians 3:1; Ephesians 4:1; Philemon 1:9; 2 Timothy 1:8. The supposition that these men were permitted as friends to share St. Paul's captivity in turn, is conjectural (see Meyer). Possibly the incident recorded in Acts 19:29 was attended by some temporary joint imprisonment of St. Paul and Aristarchus. As "a soldier of Christ Jesus," the apostle was himself now "a prisoner of war" (2 Timothy 2:3, 2 Timothy 2:4; 2 Corinthians 10:3-6); and therefore those who shared his sufferings were his "fellow prisoners," as they were his" fellow soldiers" (Philemon 1:2; Philippians 1:30) and his "fellow servants" (Colossians 1:7; Colossians 4:7). And Mark, the cousin of Barnabas, about whom you received commandments—if he should come to you, welcome him (Philemon 1:24; 2 Timothy 4:11; 1 Peter 5:13). It is pleasant to find John Mark, who deserted the apostle in his first missionary journey (Acts 13:13), and on whose account he separated from Barnabas (Acts 15:37-40) ten years before, now taken again into his confidence and friendship. And indeed it is evident that there was no permanent estrangement between the two great Gentile missionaries; for Mark is called "cousin of Barnabas" by way of recommendation. Mary, the mother of John Mark, was a person of some consideration in the Church at Jerusalem (Acts 12:12), and through her he may have been related to Barnabas, who, though a Cypriot Jew, had property near Jerusalem (Acts 4:36, Acts 4:37), and was also highly honoured by the mother Church (Acts 9:27; Acts 11:22-24; Acts 15:25, Acts 15:26). Mark is, moreover, a link between the Apostles Paul and Peter. It is to the house of his mother that the latter betakes himself on his escape from Herod's prison (Acts 12:12). In 1 Peter 5:13 he appears, along with Silvanus (Silos), St. Paul's old comrade, in St. Peter's company, who calls him "my son." St. Peter was then at Babylon, where Mark may have arrived at the end of the journey eastwards which St. Paul here contemplates his undertaking. The striking correspondence of language and thought between St. Peter's First Epistle (addressed, moreover, to Churches of Asia Minor) and those of St. Paul to the Ephesians and Colossians (and, in an equal degree, that to the Romans) suggests the existence of some special connection at this time between the two writers, such as may well have been afforded by Mark, if, leaving Rome soon after the despatch of these letters, he travelled in their track by way of Asia Minor to join St. Peter at Babylon. At the time of St. Paul's second imprisonment, about four years later, Mark is again in Asia Minor in the neighbourhood of Timothy, and the apostle desires his services at Rome (2 Timothy 4:11). When or how the Colossians had received already directions concerning Mark, we have no means of knowing. His journey appears to have been postponed. The apostle must before this have communicated with the Colossians. The visit of Epaphras to Rome may have been due to some communication from him. "If he should come to you, give him a welcome," is the request the apostle now makes.
And Jesus, called Justus—the only name of this list wanting in Philemon. Nor is this person mentioned elsewhere. "Jesus" ("Joshua," Acts 7:45; Hebrews 4:8) was a common Jewish name. "Justus" ("just," "righteous") was frequently adopted by individual Jews, or conferred on them, as a Gentile (Latin) surname (comp. Acts 1:23; Acts 18:7); it implied devotion to the Law, and was the equivalent of the Hebrew Zadok (see Lightfoot). Its Greek equivalent, δίκαιος, is the standing epithet of James, the brother of the Lord, and the head of the Church at Jerusalem; and is emphatically applied to Christ himself (Acts 3:14; Acts 7:52; Acts 22:14; 1 Peter 3:18; 1 John 2:1). Who are of the circumcision,—these only (my) fellow workers unto the kingdom of God, (men) who have been a comfort to me (Philemon 1:1, Philemon 1:24; 1 Thessalonians 3:2; Romans 16:3, Romans 16:9, Romans 16:21; 2 Corinthians 8:23; Philippians 2:25; Philippians 4:3). Aristarchus, therefore, was a Jew, as well as Mark and Jesus Justus. "These only," etc., must be read as in close apposition to the previous clause. This statement accords with the apostle's complaint in Philippians 1:15-17; Philippians 2:19-24; but the still stronger language of the latter passages seems to point to a later time when he was yet more solitary, having lost Tychicus and Mark, and perhaps Aristarchus also, and when he had a more definite prospect of release. The title "fellow worker" he frequently confers on his associates (see references). In Philemon 1:24 it is applied, to Luke and Demas also. "The kingdom of God" was, in Colossians 1:13, "the kingdom of his Son;" as in Ephesians 5:5 it is "the kingdom of Christ and God." On his arrival at Rome, St. Paul is described as "testifying, and preaching the kingdom of God" (Acts 28:23, Acts 28:31 : comp. Acts 8:12; Acts 14:22; Acts 19:8; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; 2 Thessalonians 1:5). On the force of οἵτινες ("men who," "such as"), see Colossians 2:23; and for ἐγενήθησαν ("proved," "became in point of fact"), comp. Colossians 3:15. Παρηγορία comfort, a word found only here in the Greek Testament, is a medical term (compare "paregoric"), implying "soothing relief."
Epaphras, who is (one) of you, saluteth you, a servant (bondman) of Christ Jesus (Romans 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Titus 1:1; Galatians 1:10; 2Corinthians Galatians 4:5; 1Co 7:22; 1 Thessalonians 1:9; 2 Timothy 2:24; Acts 4:29; Jas 1:1; 2 Peter 1:1; Jude 1:1; Revelation 1:1; Revelation 22:3, Revelation 22:6). "Of you," like Onesimus (Colossians 4:9). He was a native of Colossae, as well as evangelist and minister of the Church there (Colossians 1:7, Colossians 1:8). "Bondman of Christ Jesus" is the title the apostle so often claims for himself (see references), only here put by him on any one else. Is there an implied reference to Onesimus (Colossians 4:9), who was "a bondman after the flesh," but "the Lord's freedman" (Philemon 1:16), while Epaphras, "the freeman," is "Christ's bondman"? We are reminded again of Colossians 2:6 (see note). Always striving on your behalf in his prayers, that ye may stand fast, (being) perfect and fully assured in all the will of God (Colossians 1:9, Colossians 1:23, Colossians 1:29; Colossians 2:1, Colossians 2:2, Colossians 2:5; Romans 15:30; Ephesians 6:11-14; Philippians 1:27; Php 4:1; 1 Corinthians 16:13; 1 Thessalonians 3:8; 2 Thessalonians 2:15). Epaphras "strives" ("wrestles") for his spiritual charge, like the apostle himself (Colossians 1:29, see note on ἀγωνίζομαι; Colossians 2:1; Romans 15:30; Luke 22:44). Προσκαρτερέω in Colossians 2:2 denotes the patient persistence, this word the intense energy, of prevailing prayer. For "stand" (where Lightfoot, Westcott and Hort, and other critical editors read the stronger σταθῆτε for στῆτε), comp. Colossians 1:23; Colossians 2:7; it is four times repeated in the stirring appeal of Ephesians 6:11-14. For Churches threatened by the attacks of heresy it was above all things needful "that they should stand fast." On "perfect," see Colossians 1:28; also Colossians 3:14; the word bears a primary reference to "knowledge," and implies a fully instructed and enlightened condition (Philippians 3:15; 1 Corinthians 14:20; Hebrews 5:14; Hebrews 6:1), attended with corresponding spiritual advancement (Ephesians 4:13). "Fully assured" (πεπληροφορημένοι, Revised Text) carries us back to Colossians 2:2 (see notes; on this verb, compare Lightfoot's exhaustive note). It bears the same sense in Romans 4:21 and Romans 14:5; a slightly different one in Luke 1:1. From the tenor of the letter it appears that the Colossians needed a deeper Christian insight and more intelligent and well-grounded convictions respecting the truth "as in Jesus." "All (the) will" is strictly distributive (every will); θέλημα (Colossians 1:9) differs from our will in having a concrete rather than abstract sense, denoting an act or expression of will.
For I hear witness to him that he hath much labour (πὸνον for ζῆλον, Revised Text) for you (Colossians 1:29; Colossians 2:1; Philippians 2:19-23; 1 Thessalonians 5:12, 1Th 5:13; 1 Timothy 5:17; 1 Corinthians 16:15, 1 Corinthians 16:16). Πόνος occurs in the New Testament besides only in Revelation 16:10, Revelation 16:11 and Revelation 21:4, where it means "pain;" in classical Greek it implies "painful, distressful exertion" (comp. κοπιῶ, Colossians 1:29). It indicates the deep anxiety of Epaphras for this beloved and endangered Church. There is nothing here to point to "outward toil" (Lightfoot), any more than in Colossians 2:1. The apostle loves to commend his fellow labourers (Colossians 1:7; Philippians 2:20-22, Philippians 2:25, Philippians 2:26; 2 Corinthians 8:16-23). And for those in Laodicea and those in Hierapolis (Colossians 2:15-17; Colossians 2:1). The Church in Hierapolis is added to that of Laodicea, singled out in Colossians 2:1 as a special object of the apostle's concern (on these cities, see Introduction, § 1). Whether Epaphras were the official head of these Churches or not, he could not but be deeply concerned in their welfare. Colossians 2:17 indicates the existence of a personal link between the Churches of Colossus and of Laodicea.
Luke the physician, the beloved, saluteth you (Philemon 1:24; 2 Timothy 4:11). This reference to Luke's profession is extremely interesting. We gather from the use of the first person plural in Acts 16:10-17, and again from Acts 20:5 to the end of the narrative, that he joined St. Paul on his first voyage to Europe and was left behind at Philippi; and rejoined him six years after on the journey to Jerusalem which completed his third missionary circuit, continuing with him during his voyage to Rome and his imprisonment. This faithful friend attended him in his second captivity, and solaced his last hours; "Only Luke is with me" (2 Timothy 4:11). His being called "the physician" suggests that he ministered to the apostle in this capacity, especially as "his first appearance in St. Paul's company synchronizes with an attack of St. Paul's constitutional malady". St Luke's writings testify both to his medical knowledge and to his Pauline sympathies. His companionship probably gave a special colouring to the phraseology and cast of thought of St. Paul's later Epistles. "The beloved" is a distinct appellation, due partly to Luke's services to the apostle, but chiefly, one would suppose, to the amiable and gentle disposition of the writer of the third Gospel. It is not unlikely that he is "the brother" referred to in 2 Corinthians 8:18, 2 Corinthians 8:19. Lucas is a contraction for Lucanus; so that he was not the "Lucius" of Acts 13:1, nor, certainly, the "Lucius my kinsman" of Romans 16:21, who was a Jew. He was probably, like many physicians of that period, a freedman; and, since freedmen took the name of the house to which they had belonged, may have been, as Plumptre conjectures, connected with the family of the Roman philosopher Seneca and the poet Lucan. And Demas (Philemon 1:24; 2 Timothy 4:10), who alone receives no word of commendation—a fact significant in view of the melancholy sentence pronounced upon him in 2 Timothy 4:10. His name is probably short for Demetrius.
Salute the brethren that are in Laodicea (Colossians 4:13; Colossians 2:1; Revelation 1:11; Revelation 3:14-22). Perhaps the brethren in Hierapolis (Colossians 4:13) were not formed into a distinct Church as yet (comp. Colossians 2:1). The Church in Laodicea early became a flourishing and wealthy community (Revelation 3:17). And Nympha (or, Nymphas), and the Church (literally, assembly) at her (or, their) house. Νύμφαν may be either masculine or feminine accusative. The reading "her" (αὐτῆς) is adopted by Westcott and Hort without alternative, and seems on the whole the most probable. The Revised Text follows Tischendorf, Tregelles, Meyer, Alford, Lightfoot, who read "their" (αὐτῶν). "His" (αὐτοῦ) is evidently a later correction. Lightfoot says, indeed, that "a Doric form of the Greek name (sc. Νύμφαν for Νύμφην) seems in the highest degree improbable;" but he allows, on the other hand, that Νυμφᾶς as a contracted masculine form (for Νυμφόδωρος) "is very rare." This person was apparently a leading member of the Laodicean Church, at whose house Church meetings were held (comp. Acts 12:12; Philemon 1:2; Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:19). "The Church at her house" can scarcely have been an assembly distinct "from the brethren that are in Laodicea." Both expressions may relate to the same body of persons, referred first individually, then collectively as a meeting gathered at this place. Others suppose a more private gathering to be meant, as e.g. of Colossians living at Laodicea (Meyer). Many older interpreters identified this Church with the household of Nymphas. If "their" be the true reading, the expression must include Nympha and her family. Nympha (or Nymphas), like Philemon and his family, St. Paul had doubtless met in Ephesus.
And when this letter has been read among you, see to it (literally, cause) that it be read also in the Church of (the) Laodiceans (1 Thessalonians 5:27). For these two Churches were closely allied in origin and condition, as well as by situation and acquaintanceship (Colossians 2:1-5; Colossians 4:13). The leaven of the Colossian error was doubtless beginning to work in Laodicea also. The words addressed to Laodicea in the Apocalypse (Revelation 3:14-22) bear reference apparently to the language of this Epistle (Colossians 1:15-18); see Lightfoot, pp. 41, etc. The phrase, "Church of Laodiceans," corresponds to that used in the salutation of 1 and 2 Thessalonians, but is not found elsewhere in St. Paul. And that ye also read the letter from Laodicea. What was this letter? Clearly a letter from St. Paul which would be received at Laodicea, and which the Colossians were to obtain from there. The connection of this sentence with the foregoing, and the absence of any other definition of the words, "the letter (from Laodicea)," make this evident. Nothing further can be affirmed with certainty. But several considerations point to the probability that this missing Epistle is none other than our (so-called) Epistle to the Ephesians. For:
(1) Both letters were sent at the same time, and by the same messenger (Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7).
(2) The relation between the two is more intimate than exists between any other of St. Paul's writings; they are twins, the birth of the same crisis in the condition of the Church and in the apostle's own mind. Each serves as a commentary on the other. And there are several important topics, lightly touched upon in this letter, on which the writer dilates at length in the other, Colossians 2:12 b and Ephesians 1:19-23; Colossians 3:12 ("God's elect") and Ephesians 1:3-14; Colossians 3:18, Colossians 3:19 and Ephesians 5:22-33). On the other hand, the main arguments of the Colossian letter are, as it seems, assumed and presupposed in the Ephesian (comp. Ephesians 1:10, Ephesians 1:20-23Ephesians 1:20-23Ephesians 1:20-23, Ephesians 2:20 b, Ephesians 3:8-11, Ephesians 3:19 b, Ephesians 4:13 b with Colossians 1:15-20, Colossians 2:9, Colossians 2:10; Ephesians 4:14 with Colossians 2:4, Colossians 2:8, Colossians 2:16-23).
(3) The words ἐν Εφέδῳ in Ephesians 1:1 are of doubtful authenticity; and there is much in the internal character of that Epistle to favour the hypothesis, proposed by Archbishop Usher, that it was a circular letter, destined for a number of Churches in Asia Minor, of which Ephesus may have been the first and Laodicea the last (compare the order of Revelation 2:3.). In that case a copy of the Ephesian Epistle would be left at Laodicea by Tychicus on his way to Colossae. (See Introduction, § 6; compare that to Ephesians.)
(4) Marcion, in the middle of tile second century, entitled the Epistle to the Ephesians, "To the Laodiceans." It does not appear that his heretical views could have been furthered by this change. Probably his statement contains a fragment of ancient tradition, identifying the Epistle in question with that referred to by St. Paul in this passage.
(5) The expression, "the letter from Laodicea," would scarcely be used of a letter addressed simply to the Laodiceans and belonging properly to them; but would be quite appropriate to a more general Epistle transmitted from one place to another. There is extant in Latin a spurious epistle 'Ad Laodicenses,' which is traced back to the fourth century, and was widely accepted in the Middle Ages; but it is "a mere cento of Pauline phrases, strung together without any definite connection or any clear object" (Lightfoot). Meyer, on the other hand, in his 'Introduction to Ephesians,' pronounces strongly against "the circular hypothesis."
And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou receivedst in (the) Lord, that thou fulfil it (Acts 20:28; 1 Timothy 1:18, 1Ti 1:19; 1 Timothy 4:6, 1 Timothy 4:11-16; 1 Timothy 6:13, 1 Timothy 6:14, 1 Timothy 6:20,1 Timothy 6:21; 2 Timothy 2:15; 2 Timothy 4:5). From the connection of this verse with the two preceding, it seems likely that "the ministry" of Archippus related to the Laodicean Church. Hence he is not addressed directly. If he was, as we gather from Philemon 1:1, Philemon 1:2, the son of Philemon, whose house formed a centre for the Colossian Church (Philemon 1:2), the warning would be suitably conveyed through this channel. In the letter to Philemon, the apostle calls him his" fellow soldier" (comp. Colossians 4:10; Philippians 1:29, Philippians 1:30). Both from this fact, and from the emphasis of the words before us, it would appear that his office was an important one, probably that of chief pastor. This warning addressed so early to the minister of the Laodicean Church is premonitory of the lapsed condition in which it is afterwards found (Revelation 3:14-22); see Lightfoot, pp. 42, 43. (For "ministry" (διακονία), comp. Colossians 1:7, Colossians 1:23; 1 Corinthians 4:1, etc. For "received," comp. note, Colossians 2:6.) "In the Lord; "for every office in the Church is grounded in him as Head and Lord (Colossians 1:18; Colossians 2:6; Colossians 3:17, Colossians 3:24; Colossians 4:7; Ephesians 1:22; Ephesians 4:5; 1 Corinthians 8:6; 1 Corinthians 12:5, etc.), and must be administered according to his direction and as subject to his judgment (see 1 Corinthians 3:5; 1 Corinthians 4:1-5; 2 Corinthians 10:17, 2 Corinthians 10:18; 2 Corinthians 13:10; Gal 1:1; 1 Timothy 1:12; 2 Timothy 4:1, 2 Timothy 4:2). "Fulfil" (comp. Colossians 1:26; 2 Timothy 4:5; Acts 12:25). This admonition resembles those addressed to Timothy in the Pastoral Epistles.
The salutation with mine own hand—of Paul (2 Thessalonians 3:17, 2 Thessalonians 3:18; 1 Corinthians 16:21-24; Galatians 6:11-18). So the apostle appends his authenticating signature to the letter, written, as usual, by his amanuensis, himself inscribing these last words (see parallel passages). The Epistle to Philemon he appears to have penned himself throughout (Philemon 1:19). Remember my bonds (Colossians 1:24; Philemon 1:9, Philemon 1:13; Ephesians 3:1-21 :l, 13; 4.l; Ephesians 6:20; 2 Timothy 2:9). This pathetic postscript is thoroughly characteristic (comp. Galatians 6:17). Grace be with you; literally, the grace (comp. Colossians 3:16). The apostle's final benediction in all his Epistles; here in its briefest form, as in 1 and 2 Timothy. In the Ephesian benediction "grace" is also used absolutely. 2 Corinthians 13:14 gives the formula in its full liturgical amplitude.
Sect. 9.Prayer and social converse.
I. PRAYER. (Colossians 4:2-4.)
1. Prayer must be habitual and persistent. "Continue steadfast in prayer—keeping awake therein" (Colossians 4:2); "Ask ... seek … knock" (Matthew 7:7). It is not an occasional exercise of the soul, called forth by special emergencies, but the necessity of its daily life. For that life is a fellowship with God in Christ (Colossians 3:1-3; 1 John 1:3; John 14:23), maintained on his part by the continual communication of his Spirit (Luke 11:13; Ephesians 1:13; Ephesians 2:22; Romans 8:14-17, Romans 8:23, Romans 8:26, Romans 8:27; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; 2 Corinthians 13:14), and on ours by the constant responsive utterances of praise and prayer.
(1) Wherever two persons are associated in a mutual life, there must be converse—interchange of thought and feeling and service; so (reverently be it said) it must needs be where the soul is "alive unto God." God and the soul, the all-wise, almighty Father and the human child, all want and ignorance, having speech with each other—that is the life of religion. "The soul is a stupendous want, having its supplies in God" (comp. Philippians 4:19). Prayer is the expression and the index of the soul's vital appetite. The necessity of prayer, therefore, must be daily and regular in its recurrence. It will have its "set times" and stated seasons, its chronic demands for satisfaction. "Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and thou shalt hear my voice" (Psalms 55:17; Daniel 6:10; Acts 10:30); "Seven times a day do I praise thee" (Psalms 119:164). It will have its appointed place of privacy. "Enter into thy closet and shut thy door, and pray to thy Father which is in secret".
(2) Prayer being a social as much as a private necessity, concerned with the common as truly as with the individual wants and interests of men, the prayerful Christian will observe, as far as possible, all public occasions for its exercise, whether found in the family, the social circle, the community, the church (the "house of prayer"), or in the events of national life (Isaiah 56:7; Acts 3:1; Acts 6:6; Acts 12:12; Acts 16:13; Acts 20:36; Acts 21:5; Act 22:17; 1 Timothy 2:8; John 17:1).
(3) But prayer, while it fills, should overflow these limits, and may not be confined within the framework of mechanical habit and fixed order. It should find its way into all the interstices of life, seizing upon its vacant moments and leisure thoughts. Under pressing need, and in the hurry and tumult of business, the soul may send up a short, swift cry for help, as a winged arrow that finds its way to the heart of God. This is ejaculatory prayer. And in the quiet ongoing of ordinary work the mind may the more easily maintain its secret converse with him in whom it "lives and moves and is," making the common incidents of life and the familiar sights and sounds of nature reminders of his presence, and the experience of every hour occasion for some brief act of adoration, or confession, or supplication, or intercession. This is to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17); "to let our requests be made known unto God in all things" (Philippians 4:6). The soul's hidden life in God is maintained by this activity, even as the life blood of the body is vivified and cleansed from moment to moment by the ceaseless play of the breathing lungs.
2. Prayer must be attended with thanksgiving. The one must be habitual and constant as the other. They are two elements of the same state, two parts of the same act (Ephesians 5:29; 1 Thessalonians 5:17, 1 Thessalonians 5:18). (See homiletics, sect. 1, III. 2 (3).) How unseemly it is to come to God with urgent petitions for new blessings, when we have made no due acknowledgment of those already bestowed! We dare not act thus towards any earthly benefactor. And this thoughtless ingratitude deprives us of those strong arguments and cheering encouragements which are afforded by the remembrance of past mercies. "The Lord hath been mindful of us;" then surely "he will bless us (Psalms 115:12), he "began a good work in you," and you may be "confident," therefore, that it is his will to "perfect it" (Philippians 1:6). God requires and expects that by "offering praise" we should "glorify him" (Psalms 50:23), "abundantly uttering the memory of his great goodness" (Psalms 145:7). To this end every Christian is ordained a "priest unto God," that he may "offer up a sacrifice of praise continually, the fruit of lips which make confession to his name" (1 Peter 2:9; Hebrews 13:15). And to do this is in itself "pleasant and comely" (Psalms 147:1); "Yea, a joyful and pleasant thing it is to be thankful."
3. And intercession must be joined to supplication and thanksgiving. (1 Timothy 2:1.) "Withal praying for us also," says the apostle. And in so saying he embodies the appeal which our Christian brethren everywhere make to us, especially the ministers of Christ "set for the defence of the gospel" (Philippians 1:17); and yet more especially our fathers and teachers in Christ, through whom we have received the word of our salvation, and on whose fidelity and efficiency our spiritual life so largely depends. The interests of our own Church in its special circumstances as known to us; the larger necessities of associated Churches, of the Church in our own land, in its colonies and dependencies abroad, in other Christian nations; the necessities of missionary Churches amongst the heathen, and of the sheep of Christ that are "scattered abroad" unshepherded; the great cause of the kingdom of Christ in the earth, connected as it is with everything that concerns the progress and welfare of mankind; the claims of "kings, and all that are in authority;" of those in "sorrow, trouble, need, sickness, or any other adversity;" the wants of "all sorts and conditions of men," and especially of our kinsfolk, friends, and neighbours;—all these demand our intercession and seem to say unitedly, "Withal praying for us also!" In particular, and on behalf of the gospel, the apostle desires the Colossians to pray
(1) that he may have "an open door to speak the mystery of Christ" (verse 3). The world will not willingly open its door to Christ. It will leave him to "stand at the door and knock" (Revelation 3:20). It has "no room for him" (Luke 2:7) when he comes to be its guest. Much has yet to be done to "prepare the way of the Lord." But "the prayer of faith" can "remove mountains," and open doors that are fast shut. Obstructions and prejudices are to be broken down; hindrances political and material, intellectual and sentimental, to the progress of Christian truth, are to be overcome. "Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough ways smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God" (Luke 3:4-6). And this is to be effected, in great measure, by the prayers of "God's elect" (Luke 18:7), even as the walls of Jericho fell at the shout of Israel (Joshua 6:1-20).
(2) But the open door is of little use unless the Church is prepared to enter it. Never, perhaps, were there in the world so many "open doors set before" the Church as there are now, with so few comparatively who are able and willing to enter them. Favouring circumstances—liberty to preach and teach, a waiting people, a willing audience,—all is vain without some one to "speak the word," and to speak it fitly. "How shall they hear without a preacher?" (Romans 10:14). And how shall they hear unto salvation if the preacher speaks feebly, or coldly, or confusedly, without "the demonstration of the Spirit and of power"?
(3) The apostle had laboured long and with extraordinary success, "more abundantly than they all" (1 Corinthians 15:10); and yet felt his need of the constant renewal of the Divine anointing. Again and again he acknowledges his dependence on the prayers of the Church (Romans 15:30-32; 2 Thessalonians 3:1, 2 Thessalonians 3:2, etc.). Nay, even Christ himself sustained his human strength of soul by the constant refreshment of prayer, and sought, in the crisis of his anguish, the watchful sympathy of his disciples (Luke 5:16; John 11:41; Matthew 26:38). How much more is this needful for us! That ministry alone can be spiritually pure and strong which is drawn from secret fountains of prayer, and which commands the sympathetic intercession of all prayerful hearers.
II. THE CHRISTIAN'S BEHAVIOUR TOWARDS MEN OF THE WORLD. (verses 5, 6.)
1. "Walk in wisdom," says the apostle, "towards those without" (verse 5). Nowhere is Christian wisdom more needed, and nowhere is it seen to greater advantage, than in dealing with worldly men. "Be ye therefore wise as serpents," says the Saviour, in sending his disciples on their mission to the world (Matthew 10:16). It is not necessary that "the sons of this world should be wiser for their own generation than the sons of light" (Luke 16:8). This wisdom, while resting on a knowledge of God and of Christian truth (Colossians 1:9; Colossians 2:2, Colossians 2:3), and furnished out of his Word (Colossians 3:16; Matthew 13:52), requires a practical knowledge of men and things. It "cometh down from above," being "asked of God" (James 1:5, James 1:17; James 3:13-18), and is "pure, peaceable, and gentle;" but it has to be practised in a human world and in the service of men as they are; and therefore it must be discerning, well-informed, and practical. The Christian should not be inferior to any man in his own walk of life in the knowledge of his business and of the duties of his secular position. Indeed, his earnestness and diligence, his calmness of temper, and fairness of judgment, and soundness of conscience, and finer sympathies, will usually give him an advantage amongst his fellows: "Godliness is profitable unto all things" (1 Timothy 4:8). How often earnest attempts to do good miscarry for want of judgment, and the Christian cause is damaged in the eyes of the world by those most anxious to promote it through their unwisdom and narrow mindedness! "I am become all things to all men," said St. Paul, "that I might by all means save some" (1 Corinthians 9:20-22). And his bearing towards men of so many different ranks and classes in the strangely mixed society in which he moved, shows that this was no vain boast.
(1) The first condition of success in seeking to influence others for their highest good, next to an earnest desire to do so, is that one should understated them. And this is impossible without pains and study and a large-hearted Christian sympathy. So with the missionary amongst the heathen; so with the minister at home; so with the private Christian seeking to win to Christ his worldly friends or business associates; if he is to persuade men (2 Corinthians 5:11), he must understand the truth in its persuasive power, and he must understand men and how they are to be persuaded.
(2) Bat the Christian must be wise for himself as well as for others. His wisdom must be circumspect. It is his first business to "keep himself unspotted from the world" (James 1:27); to take care that, being "in the world," he be not "of the world" (John 17:14-18). He should have "good testimony from them that are without," especially if he hold any office in the Church (1 Timothy 3:7)—such a repute as will "adorn his Saviour's doctrine;" and yet he must rejoice if "men say all manner of evil against him falsely for Christ's sake" (Matthew 5:11). The wisest and most careful behaviour cannot always avoid suspicion, where malice and slander are busy.
2. To wisdom must be added promptness and alert activity. There must be a quick eye for each opportunity as it arises, and an instant, vigorous effort to take advantage of it. The right occasion makes the right action. A thing well done or well said at one time may be malapropos if timed a little sooner or later.
(1) We must cherish a keen sense of the value and the shortness of time itself—of our own personal lifetime, the single opportunity granted us for doing God's work on earth, the seed time for an eternal harvest, "the day" with its "twelve hours" when the day's work must be done, or left undone for ever (John 9:4; Psalms 39:4; Psa 90:12; 1 Corinthians 7:29; Hebrews 3:7, Hebrews 3:13).
(2) At the same time, we must have a proper understanding of the work assigned us, a sense of our individual calling in life, a recognition of the particular "will of God" respecting ourselves as from time to time it may be indicated. We must acquaint ourselves with the conditions of our time and of our work, so that each may be fitted to the other, and that we may not waste our strength by misdirection or "fight as one that beateth the air," but may be able to "serve the counsel of God for our own generation" (Acts 13:36).
(3) And, finally, we must be animated by a vigorous, earnest spirit—unhasting, unresting—neither dulled by sloth nor fretted by impatience. So, "as good stewards of the manifold grace of God" (1 Peter 4:10), we shall turn every moment and every opportunity and every endowment of our nature to the best account, and shall be able "at his coming" to render back to our heavenly Master "his own with usury" (Matthew 25:27). And this is "redeeming the time" (verse 5).
3. Where a wise, and wisely energetic, Christian man has the gift of apt and winning speech (verse 6), his Christian usefulness is largely multiplied. Indeed, the ordinary talk of an ordinary Christian, who cannot shine in the brilliant gifts of eloquence or wit, will at least be free from everything foolish and inept, from everything gross and ill-mannered. Though he be but a plain and unlettered man, his conversation will manifest a thoughtful, observant mind, and a pure and chastened disposition. Living a life of prayerful communion with God and with eternal things, "meditating in his Law day and night" (Psalms 1:2), he will be "taught of God;" and when he speaks, "the opening of his lips will be right words." It is astonishing how much shrewdness and kindly good sense and helpfulness, how much of the highest and homeliest moral wisdom, drawn from the everyday experience of life and the lessons of nature, is found sometimes in men who know scarcely any book but their English Bible, and have had little culture but that which is given by prayer (James 1:5). A simple Christian man of this kind will often know better than the practised scholar "how to answer" concerning his hope, and will baffle the questionings of a clever scepticism. And when fine culture has been employed upon good abilities under the teaching of the Spirit of truth, and large knowledge has been gathered from books and men, the outcome in the man's conversation ought to be something rich and valuable in a high degree.
(1) Attractive speech is one of God's "greater gifts" (1 Corinthians 12:31), to be humbly sought and diligently improved and wisely and seriously used. There is none more commonly and lamentably abused. How much that is said in Christian circles would be left unsaid if only that which is "good unto edifying" (Ephesians 4:29) were allowed to pass the lips!
(2) But this rule by no means forbids kindly humour and the play of wit. The "salt" that "seasons" conversation (verse 6) contains these wholesome ingredients. A dull, uniform gravity is not the most edifying style of discourse. But the purpose and the effect of a Christian man's speech should always be serious, however light and graceful the form which on proper occasions it may assume. The conversation of the social circle is one of the greatest "opportunities" to be "redeemed" for Christ; and is afforded to us all. And especially when we meet those who are not Christians, the prejudiced, the sceptical, the wavering, much may depend on our being "ready" with "the meekness of wisdom" to "give an answer to every man that asketh a reason of the hope that is in us" (1 Peter 3:15). The private conversation of the Church in its daily intercourse with the world should be a powerful ally to the public ministry of the Word (verses 4, 6).
Sect. 10. Personal messages and greetings.
The last section of this letter is of a more purely epistolary character, and is not, therefore, so directly available as the foregoing sections for public instruction, belonging to its framework or setting as a piece of Christian teaching. Nevertheless, these closing verses have their own peculiar interest and value—great value for historical and critical purposes, connecting the Epistle as they do by the most authentic notes of circumstantial association with the narrative of the Acts of the Apostles, and bracing it firmly into the whole coherent structure of the history of the apostolic Church. Moreover, in the brief but pointed and striking notices here given us, aided by what we know from other sources of the persons mentioned, we may find not a little of indirect and incidental profit "for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for discipline in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16).
I. ST. PAUL'S ASSOCIATES.
1. Tychicus, the faithful messenger. (Verses 7, 8: comp. Ephesians 6:21; Acts 20:4; Titus 3:12; 2 Timothy 4:12.) His association with the apostle in his last journey to Jerusalem, attended with so many affecting circumstances and terminating in his long imprisonment, seems to have led to a devoted attachment on the part of Tychicus to St. Paul. After returning home, as we may suppose, from Jerusalem, he had journeyed again to Rome, very possibly at the request of the Ephesian Church, to assist and comfort the imprisoned apostle and to bring back news of him. And he returns with these three priceless letters in his charge (Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon), with Onesimus whom he is to accompany as far as Colossae, and as the bearer of reassuring tidings from St. Paul. Again, some years later, when the apostle's friends were fewer and devotion to his cause still more hazardous, we find Tychicus employed on similar commissions.
(1) The apostle has found him to be, what every Christian should be to his fellow Christians, "a brother beloved;" what every officer of the Church, whether in higher or lower capacity, must strive to be—"a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord," faithful to the Lord and faithful in all brotherly love and "good fidelity" to his fellow servants. So Tychicus is a blessing both to the apostle and to the distant Asiatic Churches.
(2) While the Christian depends for strength and consolation in the first place on the fellowship of Christ in the Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:3-7; 2 Thessalonians 2:16, 2 Thessalonians 2:17; John 16:33), yet how precious and helpful is such communion as this with Christian friends at a distance (1 Thessalonians 3:6-10; Philippians 4:10; 2 Corinthians 7:6), with faithful sufferers in Christ's cause, with those who bring tidings and words of cheer from brethren far off in other lands!
(3) They are, indeed, "brethren beloved" who, like Tychicus, pass from land to land, from Church to sister Church, in honourable ambassage, as "the messengers of the Churches and the glory of Christ" (2 Corinthians 8:23).
2. Onesimus, the converted slave. (Verse 9.) His position and character will be more fully discussed under the Epistle to Philemon.
(1) He is commended to the Christian circle at Colossae on account of his character—"a faithful and beloved brother." The apostle had learned to love and trust him, as "the child of his bonds," as "his very heart," for his goodness and 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. The qualities the apostle marks in him deserve equal respect from us in whatever grade of life they appear. The master who fails to recognize in his loyal and humble Christian servant "a brother beloved in the Lord," is wanting in the simplicity and elevation of the Christian character, and has yet to learn that "in Christ Jesus there is neither bond nor free" (Colossians 3:11; Galatians 3:28). It was, however, for Philemon and his Colossian friends a severe test of Christian conviction and of their confidence in St. Paul to be required to take back this runaway slave as "a faithful and beloved brother."
(2) He is commended to them by his Colossian origin. "Who is one of you." It is a natural and kindly feeling that prompts this reference. Ties of neighbourhood and early association, as well as those of kindred, are providentially formed, and belong to the divinely 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 misconduct. Now that he repents and returns, he is to be received by his Christian fellow townsmen as one of themselves.
3. Aristarchus, the devoted comrade. (Philemon 1:10.) He was a representative of the Macedonian Churches (Acts 20:4), who were dearest to the apostle of his children in the faith (1 Thessalonians 2:19; Philippians 1:5), in writing to whom he laid aside his official title and was simply Paul, whom alone he allowed to minister to his personal needs (Philippians 4:10-18; 2 Corinthians 11:8-10). And he, along with Luke, shared the hardships of the apostle's perilous winter voyage to Rome (Acts 27:2). Indeed, he had been with him before he set out from Ephesus, and was seized by the Ephesian mob at the time of the riot there, being evidently a person of some note and distinction. We know nothing more of his services to the cause of Christ, beyond this record of his assiduous and self-sacrificing attendance on St. Paul. How much the apostle, with his physical infirmities and his sensitive nature, 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 usefulness may serve Christ most effectually oftentimes 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 Church's care and strife, and who but for such timely help might haply sink beneath their burdens. Little as we know of this man, with what a bright distinction his name is marked, and what a place of honour will be his in the book of life, whom the apostle designates, "Aristarchus, my fellow captive, who has been a comfort to me"!
4. Mark, the recovered friend. (Verse 10.) He, like Onesimus to his master, had been "aforetime unprofitable" to St. Paul (Acts 13:13; Acts 15:36-41); and his unprofitableness had caused a serious breach between the two great Gentile missionaries. But now, and again at a later time, he is marked out as "useful for ministry" (2 Timothy 4:11). St. Paul's firmness and fidelity in refusing, at whatever cost, to take with him an untrustworthy man, had, we may presume, helped to rouse in Mark a better spirit.
(1) At any rate, the position in which he now appears and the honour which belong to his name in the Church of Christ, shows that one false step or unworthy act in a Christian life need not be absolutely fatal (Galatians 6:1). The immediate result of any lapse must be evil; and it may be followed throughout life by painful consequences. Yet Mark, like Peter, rashly generous and apt to overestimate his strength at first, when chastened and corrected by experience, becomes the trusted and honoured friend of the two chief apostles, as well as of his only less illustrious kinsman Barnabas. And to him it was given to write the priceless second Gospel, which, in its freshness and simplicity of tone, and in its vivacity and dramatic energy of style, indicates those qualities in John Mark which, in spite of his early failure, made him so much valued and beloved.
(2) And St. Paul's treatment of Mark throws an interesting light on his own character. With all his uncompromising sternness and the intensity of his passionate nature, there was no bitterness or suspiciousness, no cherishing of personal resentment in his heart. Some men will never trust again a friend or servant who once, under any circumstances, has failed them. But the apostle shows a more Christian and a wiser disposition. As he bids others, so he acts himself, "forbearing and forgiving if he have blame against any" (Colossians 3:13): compare the crucial instance of 2 Corinthians 2:5-11. As "the Lord forgave" Peter who denied him, so the apostle forgives Mark who had deserted him. And by the way in which he commends him to the regard of this distant Church, he shows how entirely Mark has his approval and confidence. We note also how once more he takes the opportunity of a kindly reference to Barnabas.
5. Jesus Justus, a Catholic-minded Jew. (Verse 11.) He is known to us here only; but as one of the three who alone "of the circumcision" were the apostle's "fellow workers unto the kingdom of God," and "a comfort unto him." Aristarchus and Mark were old friends and associates of St. Paul, attached to him by many ties. Jesus Justus, we are inclined to think, was a Christian Jew of Rome, and in that case was, it appears, the only member of that community—a tolerably large one, as we should gather from the Epistle to the Romans—who heartily supported the apostle in this hour of his need and danger. Many of the Jewish brethren at Rome openly opposed him (Philippians 1:16); others regarded him with a cold and suspicious indifference. At a later period he has sorrowfully to say of his friends at Rome, "All forsook me" (2 Timothy 4:16). But, whether Jesus Justus belonged to Rome or not, the fact that he was found at this time by St. Paul's tide says a great deal for his courage, as well as for his largeness of heart and enlightened views. The three pillar apostles at Jerusalem rather acquiesced in St. Paul's principles and the policy he had pursued than actively supported them (Galatians 5:1-26.); and their professed followers in the Jewish Churches denounced them and set up a counter agitation. If for no other reason, then, it was fitting that the name of this Jesus should be honourably recorded. To the apostle who had been in so many "perils from his own countrymen" and "from false brethren" (2 Corinthians 11:26), every "fellow labourer of the circumcision" was an especial "comfort." His cognomen Justus attests his reputation amongst his compatriots for legal strictness and uprightness; and this high character would make his attachment to St. Paul the more valuable.
6. Epaphras, the earnest minister. (Verses 12, 13.) With the name of Epaphras we are familiar already (see homiletics, sect. 1, II. 2). Though absent from his people, he is none the less concerned for their welfare. When he can do nothing less, he can pray for them all the more. We note:
(1) The intensity of his ministerial solicitude; "always striving [wrestling] for you in his prayers" (verse 12); "he hath much [painful] labour for you" (verse 13). The critical state in which he had left his charge at Colossae, the insidious and ominous character of the errors introduced amongst them and with which he had found it so difficult to cope, were constantly weighing upon his mind, and kept him unceasingly active in earnest wrestlings of prayer for his people's souls.
(2) The extent of his care. "For you, and for them in Laodicea, and for them in Hierapolis." The neighbouring cities with their little Christian flocks, exposed, or likely to be exposed, to the same perils that threatened Colossus, share his solicitude. And the responsibility of the Christian minister cannot at any time be strictly confined to his own immediate charge. Each member shares in the joys and griefs, the dangers and trials, which belong to the whole body of Christ. And Churches bordering on his own and connected with his people by ties of acquaintanceship and frequent intercourse must especially attract his pastoral sympathies and intercession.
(3) The aim of his ministry. "That ye may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God" (verse 13). This is the end of Christ's redemption and of his whole administration of the Church (Colossians 1:22). This was the end of the apostle's labours (Colossians 1:28, Colossians 1:29). Every true Christian minister will set the same mark before him, namely, the individual and collective perfection of his people in all that goes to make up a complete Christian manhood (Ephesians 4:13). And, partly as resulting from, partly as contributing to, their moral perfection, he must seek that their Christian convictions may be deepened and confirmed, may be more intelligently as well as more heartily and practically, and so in every way more surely, held (Ephesians 4:13-16). (See homiletics, sects. 1, III. 1; 3, I.; and 4, I. 2).
7. Luke, the beloved physician. (Verse 14.) Of all the apostle's friends, none was dearer to him or more serviceable than St. Luke. He was with him to the very last (2 Timothy 4:11). His writings, while they keep the writer's personality modestly out of sight, betray in him a man of a careful and diligent habit of mind, of considerable breadth of culture, and of a tender and sympathetic heart. The Acts of the Apostles show him to have been a warm and admiring, yet impartial, friend of St. Paul And his Gospel is penetrated with that Pauline universalism which both he and his master first found in Christ. The apostle probably owed not a little to Luke's medical care. And we are all indebted to this quiet and skilful physician, who understood so well St. Paul's peculiar temperament and the value of his life to the Church, and whose intelligence and special training made his companionship so pleasant and so useful to the apostle. The medical profession is that which stands nearest to the ministry of Christ in the honours of self sacrifice and devotion to humanity. There is no vocation that demands a higher combination of intellectual and moral powers, or that puts a greater strain upon a man's best qualities. It may bring, and often does bring, the physician into a sympathy with the mind and with the mission of Christ closer and more real in some respects than any other work can do. Its best services are beyond all material and earthly reward. Exercised by a wise and faithful Christian man, it becomes a ministry of unspeakable blessing to soul as well as body, reaching, as did Christ's miracles of healing, the soul oftentimes through the body. Medical men Christ, "the good Physician," claims above other men for his followers and fellow workers.
8. Demas, the backslider. (Verse 14; 2 Timothy 4:9, 2 Timothy 4:10.) This man must have been valued greatly by the apostle, to be mentioned in such company. In his second imprisonment he urgently requires Timothy's presence, "because Demas had forsaken him." He appears to have depended hitherto upon Demas, and to have prized his aid. Demas had chosen his lot with the persecuted apostle, and for some time served him steadily and well; and then at the last, when the need was greatest, he deserted him, not through fear of danger, it appears, but for the sake of worldly gain—"having loved this present world." Whether he was ever restored to Christian fidelity or not, we cannot tell. His case is so much worse than Mark's, in that the latter gave way to fear under sudden impulse, and in the unexpected hardships and dangers of his first probation; while Demas seems to have forsaken the apostle deliberately and heartlessly, and when he was no mere novice in the service of Christ. He is an example of those in whom the good seed takes root and grows through the frosts of spring to a fair summer promise, and then "the cares of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful" (Mark 4:19).
II. THE MESSAGE TO LAODICEA. (Verses 15-17.) This passage assumes a peculiar interest in connection with the after history of the Laodicean Church, and the terrible rebuke addressed to it by Christ in Revelation 3:14-22. It is the only instance in which the apostle salutes one Church in writing to another. If the letter received from him by the Laodiceans was our (so called) Epistle to the Ephesians, inasmuch as there is no particular greeting to any Church appended to it, we can understand why he should add this kindly salutation here. The Churches of the Lycus valley were so closely linked together that the state of one was to a large extent the state of all. We are not surprised, therefore, that the contagion of the Colossian evil spread to Laodicea. In that wealthy and luxurious city it bore disastrous fruit, in the corruption that Christ himself through St. John afterwards denounced in his Apocalyptic message.
(1) The Colossians and Laodiceans are bidden to exchange Epistles (verse 16), as they share the apostle's greetings and alike excited his anxiety (Colossians 2:1). Their similar condition and common dangers called for the same warnings and instructions, and the two Epistles largely explain and supplement each other. And indeed, wherever local circumstances permit, as in the freedom and ease of communication amongst ourselves it is so largely possible, Christian intercourse should be promoted, concerted measures should be taken, the forces of the Church should be combined in resistance to the spread of error and the contagion of vice. "Union is strength."
(2) Nympha (or Nymphas) is greeted by name (verse 15), according to the apostle's custom, who loves to single out for honour those who serve the Church by the readiness by which they place their house and means at her service (1 Corinthians 16:15, 1 Corinthians 16:16; Romans 16:3-5, Romans 16:23).
(3) The most significant sentence of this passage is the warning addressed to Archippus (verse 17), whom we suppose to have held an office of trust in the Church at Laodicea. He is the son of St. Paul's honoured friend Philemon, and had been on some former occasion (probably at Ephesus) so closely associated with the apostle in circumstances of labour and danger that, in writing to his father, he calls him "my fellow soldier." And yet symptoms of negligence have appeared in his conduct of affairs at Laodicea, that call forth the gentle yet serious admonition, "Take heed to the ministry that thou receivedst in the Lord, that thou fulfil it." How grave his responsibility if this warning failed to take effect, and if the all but apostate state of the Laodicean Church some years afterwards was in any degree due to the unfaithfulness of its first pastor!
III. THE APOSTLE'S FAREWELL. (Philemon 1:18.) These brief, affecting words proceed from the author's own hand, the large and difficult characters themselves a reminder of his afflictions in the gospel.
1. He bids the Colossians remember his bonds (comp. Philemon 1:10, Philemon 1:13; Philippians 1:7,Philippians 1:17; Ephesians 3:1, Ephesians 3:13; Eph 6:20; 2 Timothy 2:9,2 Timothy 2:10; see homiletics, sect. 3, I. 4)—so sore a trial to him, so great an advantage and glory to them, calling for their tender and prayerful sympathy, and for their most regardful heed to all that he had written.
2. He wishes them grace—grace first and last (comp. Colossians 1:2, and homiletics); the grace they had received already (Colossians 1:6, Colossians 1:12, Colossians 1:21, Colossians 1:27; Colossians 2:6; Colossians 3:12, Colossians 3:13; Ephesians 1:3) being the pledge and the earnest of all the fulness of that "superabounding grace" which reigns "through righteousness unto eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 5:20, Romans 5:21; 2 Corinthians 9:8; Ephesians 1:3; John 1:16).
HOMILIES BY T. CROSKERY
The duties of masters.
"Masters, render unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven."
I. THE DUTY OF MASTERS. It is here enforced only on its positive side.
1. Justice. Masters must give their servants what is according to contract, or according to what is just in itself, as to work, wages, food, correction, and example.
2. Equality. Masters sometimes treat servants unequally in demanding inconvenient service, an unreasonable amount of work, in withholding wages. They ought to treat them so that they may serve them cheerfully and efficiently.
II. THE REASON TO ENFORCE THIS DUTY. "Knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven." God's majesty and man's authority stand together. The Lord in heaven is the Master of masters, and will avenge the wrongs they may inflict on their servants.—T. C.
Exhortation to constant prayer.
The apostle then gives some special concluding exhortations: "Continue steadfastly in prayer, watching therein with thanksgiving."
I. THE DUTY OF PERSEVERANCE IN PRAYER.
1. This does not imply that we are to devote all our time to prayer; for it would be inconsistent
(1) with other duties;
(2) with man's mental and moral nature;
(3) with the design of prayer itself.
2. It implies that we are to be often engaged in prayer.
(1) There is nothing more sanctifying and refreshing and strengthening to the soul.
(2) Continuance in prayer brings larger blessings from on high.
(3) The Scripture contains many examples of continuance in prayer (David, Daniel, Paul, our Lord himself).
(4) The delay in the answers to prayer ought to lead us to persevere therein, because
(a) it may lead to a deeper sense of want;
(b) our faith and patience need to be tiled;
(c) the time for the answers may not have come.
II. THE DUTY OF WATCHFULNESS IS PRAYER.
1. We must be watchful as to the spirit of prayer, not indolent and remiss.
2. We must watch for arguments in prayer.
3. We must watch or suitable praying seasons.
4. We must watch against watchlessness.
5. We must watch for the answers to prayer.
6. Remember Christ's example as he watched in prayer. (Matthew 14:23, Matthew 14:25.)
III. THE DUTY OF JOINING THANKSGIVING WITH OUR SUPPLICATIONS AND OUR WATCHING,
1. We must always in prayer give thanks for mercies received. (Philippians 4:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:16, 1 Thessalonians 5:17.)
2. We must thank him in praises.
3. God answers according to our gratitude for mercies received.—T.C.
Colossians 4:3, Colossians 4:4
Prayer for the apostle and his companions.
"Withal praying for us also, that God may open unto us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ for which I am also in bonds; that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak."
I. EVEN THE GREATEST IN THE CHURCH NEEDS THE PRAYERS OF THE LEAST.
1. It is the duty of the people to pray for their ministers.
2. It makes prayer profitable to interest ourselves in the welfare of others by intercessions for them at a throne of grace.
3. The progress of the gospel depends much upon the prayers of the saints. (2 Thessalonians 3:1.)
II. THE SUBJECT OF THE PRAYER. It was that the apostle and Timothy and Epaphras might have abundant opportunity of preaching the gospel, as well as liberty, power, and success. The prayer implies:
1. That God can open a way for the gospel among the hearts of men. It was the Lord who opened Lydia's heart (Acts 16:14), and "opened the door of faith to the Gentiles" (Acts 14:27).
2. That God could liberate the apostle from prison as a condition of carrying on his apostolic work.
3. That the apostle's imprisonment was caused by his devotion to the "mystery of Christ," which was the admission of the Gentiles to salvation on equal terms with the Jews, or, in other words, "Christ in them the Hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27). He would not have been in prison if he had been preaching a gospel with Judaic restrictions. His bonds were due to the strength of Jewish prejudices. But "the truth of the gospel" was so dear to him that he was content to suffer for it, and even to forego the opportunities of enlarged usefulness out of prison.
4. That he might be able to use his opportunities with boldness and success. People ought to pray that their ministers may be able to preach the Word with power (1 Thessalonians 5:5); with urgency (2Ti 4:2, 2 Timothy 4:3, 2 Timothy 4:5); with patience, constancy, and fear (1 Corinthians 4:9; 2 Corinthians 6:4; 2 Corinthians 4:8); with faithfulness (1 Corinthians 4:2); with zeal (2 Corinthians 5:11; I Thessalonians 2 Corinthians 2:12),—approving themselves in the sight of God to their hearers' consciences (2 Corinthians 2:17).—T.C.
The behaviour of Christians in the world.
"Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time." Consider—
I. THE PERSONS WHO ARE TO BE INFLUENCED BY OUR WALK, "Them that are without." Christians are those who are within (1 Corinthians 5:12). Unbelievers arc "without"—outside the Church, without God, without Christ, without hope in the world. They are those whom "God judgeth" (1 Corinthians 5:13). Believers ought to have regard to such persons, not only in their prayers, but in the wisdom of their personal walk.
II. THE NATURE AND IMPORTANCE OF THE BELIEVER'S WALK BEFORE THE WORLD. "Walk in wisdom,.., redeeming the time."
1. It is a wise walk. "Be ye wise as serpents" (Matthew 10:16). Zeal is not enough. Love is not enough. Walk circumspectly, so as to give no offence or put occasions of reproach in the way of sinners. This is done by believers
(1) walking in the light of God's Word (Psalms 119:1);
(2) walking in all faithfulness of their calling (1 Thessalonians 4:11, 1 Thessalonians 4:12; 1 Timothy 6:1);
(3) walking in love to one another, without murmurings or disputings (Philippians 2:15, Philippians 2:19);
(4) walking in meekness toward all men (Titus 3:1, Titus 3:2; James 3:13);
(5) walking in all patience and constancy under rebuke or injury (1 Peter 3:13-16).
2. Such a walk is influential toward unbelievers.
(1) A believer ought to be more careful of his walk before them than before believers.
(2) Such a walk has a winning effect upon the world, which thus sees the reality of true religion. Believers are to be" living epistles of Christ, known and read of all men" (2 Corinthians 3:3).
(3) A foolish walk will cause the enemy to blaspheme.
3. Believers ought to seek constant opportunities of obeying this command. "Redeeming the time." External opportunities are to be sought for, and never to be neglected. Ministers must preach while the door is open; people must pray at every opportunity (Ephesians 6:18; Luke 21:36). They must walk in the light before the night comes. The times may not always be favourable.—T.C.
The importance of seasonable speech.
"Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how to answer each one." The conversation of believers is to have reference to "those without" as well as their personal behaviour.
I. THE NATURE OF SEASONABLE SPEECH.
1. It is to be "always with grace."
(1) It is to spring out of some grace of God in the heart, such as knowledge, joy, love, fear; to be seasoned with the recollection of God's grace to us in Christ (Psalms 40:11); and to minister grace to the hearers (Ephesians 4:29).
2. It is to consist of gracious words.
(1) Not words of railing, or blasphemy, or corruption;
(2) but words that are
(a) seasonable (Proverbs 15:23),
(b) wholesome (Ephesians 4:29),
(c) kindly (Proverbs 31:26),
3. The conversation of believers is to be uniformly with grace. The precept is always in force. Much depends upon the continuity of a gracious habit of talk. It is to be exercised in all places, at all times, yet with due regard to what is seasonable or timely.
4. It is to be seasoned with salt. It is not to be insipid and without point, so as to be incapable of edifying man's spirit. It must have penetrative force, either for the purpose of directing the inquirer or answering the scoffer. "The tongue of the wise is as choice silver;" "The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips" (Proverbs 10:20; Proverbs 16:23). Our Lord said," Every one must be salted with fire, every sacrifice must be salted with salt" (Mark 9:49). The person is salted first; the salt is found in his words and deeds afterwards.
II. THE END OF SEASONABLE SPEECH. "That ye may know how to answer each one." This implies:
1. That the truth will be spoken against.
(1) It is the heritage of "the sect everywhere spoken against" (Acts 28:22).
(2) It is hard for carnally minded men to understand it, and therefore they gainsay it.
(3) There are men who "hold down the truth in unrighteousness" (Romans 1:18).
2. That believers are to learn how to give a right answer to objectors. We are to "give a reason of the hope that is in us with meekness and fear" (1 Peter 3:15). It must be done
(1) prayerfully; for "the answer of the tongue," as well as "the preparation of the heart," "is from the Lord" (Proverbs 16:1).
(2) With faith in God's promise and hope (Psalms 119:42; Matthew 10:19).
(3) With a good conscience (1 Peter 3:16). Thus objectors will be put to shame who "falsely accuse our good conversation in Christ."
(4) With a due consideration for the circumstances of each objector, whether he be sincere or insincere, ignorant or malicious. We are "to answer each one" according to the necessities of each case (Proverbs 25:11; Proverbs 26:4, Proverbs 26:6).—T.C.
The bearers of the Epistle to the Colossians.
Though the apostle had but few friends at this time in Rome to comfort him in his "bonds," he spares two of them to comfort the Colossians.
I. THE PERSONS WHO CARRY THE EPISTLE TO COLOSSAE. Tychicus and Onesimus.
(1) His history. He was a native of Asia Minor (Acts 20:4), and probably of Ephesus (2 Timothy 4:12). He accompanied the apostle at the close of his third missionary journey (Acts 20:4). He was now again with the apostle at Rome, near the end of the first Roman captivity; and he appears again with him at the very end of the apostle's life, when the apostle is sending him to Crete and to Ephesus (Titus 3:12; 2 Timothy 4:12). The name Tychicus appears on Roman inscriptions as well as on inscriptions in Asia Minor.
(2) His character and work. He receives three titles of distinction and praise.
(a) A beloved brother, in relation to the whole Christian Church;
(b) a faithful minister, in relation to his evangelistic services to the apostle (Acts 20:4);
(c) a fellow servant in the Lord, a cooperator with the apostle in Christian labours.
2. Onesimus. This was doubtless the runaway slave of Philemon, whose conversion is recorded in the Epistle to that Colossian brother.
(1) He was a native of Colossae—"who is one of you."
(2) His changed character—"the faithful and beloved brother."
(a) He was lately unfaithful, now he is faithful; he was lately an object of contempt and dislike, he is now an object of love.
(b) The repentance of a sinner is a fact to be gratefully recorded. His former sins ought to be no disparagement to his present standing and repute. "Where God forgives, men should not impute."
(c) The apostle is not ashamed of a poor slave, and commends him to the love of the Church.
II. THE DESIGN OF THE SENDING OF TYCHICUS AND ONESIMUS TO COLOSSAE. "Whom I have sent unto you for this very purpose, that ye may know our estate, and that he may comfort your hearts." There are two objects.
1. To make known the affairs of the apostle and of the Roman Church. It was not necessary, therefore, that he should give them any information about himself or the cause of Christ in Rome. The Colossians would hear all by word of mouth.
2. To comfort the hearts of the Colossians. They would comfort them
(1) by their very presence;
(2) by bringing the Epistles from Rome;
(3) by their news concerning the apostle;
(4) by their practical exhortations, enforcing the doctrine of the Epistle and the duty of perseverance in faith and grace to the end.—T.C.
Colossians 4:10, Colossians 4:11
Greetings from three loyal friends of the apostle.
The Epistle ends with salutations, first from three Jews, and then from three Gentiles.
I. THE THREE JEWISH FRIENDS OF THE APOSTLE.
1. Aristarchus. "Aristarchus my fellow prisoner saluteth you." He was a native of Thessalonica (Acts 20:4), who accompanied the apostle in his third missionary journey. He was seized along with the apostle at Ephesus (Acts 19:29), and accompanied him in his voyage to Rome (Acts 27:2). He now shared the apostle's imprisonment at Rome. Adversity does not lessen his affection for the apostle.
2. Marcus. "And Mark, the cousin of Barnabas (touching whom ye received commandments; if he come unto you, receive him)." This was the author of the second Gospel, who was associated with the apostle in his earlier missionary labours, and afterwards forsook him at Pamphylia, under circumstances that led to a rupture between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:39). He is now affectionately commended to the Colossians—for he had evidently recovered the confidence and love of the apostle—as "one useful to him for the ministry" (2 Timothy 4:11). Mark was now resident in Rome. It is not possible to know what were the commands which the apostle had sent to the Colossians concerning him; probably they were to bespeak a hospitable reception for him, as the Pauline Churches may have suspected his fidelity.
3. Jesus. "And Jesus, which is called Justus." He is only mentioned in this place. He is not probably the same as Justus of Corinth (Acts 18:7). He was attached to the apostle. It is curious that a disciple who bore the name of our Lord should have also borne his title of "the just one."
II. THE APOSTLE'S HIGH COMMENDATION OF THE THREE FRIENDS, "These only are my fellow workers unto the kingdom of God, men that have been a comfort unto me."
1. They were Jews. "Who are of the circumcision."
2. They were exceptions to the rule of anti-Pauline animosity on the part of Christian Jews. The exception is limited, probably, to those Jews in Rome, who preached Christ "through strife and envy," hoping thus to "add affliction to his bonds" (Philippians 2:20). But these three comforted him by hearty cooperation and their kindly sympathies. The best and greatest men need the comfort of the very humblest, who in their turn rebuke the conduct of those who grieve God's servants and are thorns in their sides.—T.C.
Greetings from three Gentile friends of the apostle.
1. His relation to the Colossians. "Who is one of you." A native of their city, like Onesimus.
2. His office. "A servant of Jesus Christ"—a title often applied to the apostle by himself, and once applied to Timothy (Philippians 1:1)—to indicate his considerable services in the cause of Christ's gospel. He was the founder of the Church at Colossae.
3. His love to them. "Always wrestling for you in prayers that ye may stand fast, perfect and fully assured in all the will of God." His love was manifest in his constant and anxious prayers for his flock. Consider:
(1) The manner of his prayers. "Always wrestling for you in prayers."
(a) He was in an agony of prayer for them
(α) because of the greatness of the dangers that encompassed them;
(β) because of the fear of his prayers being lost;
(γ) because of the tenderness of his love for them. He was truly "fervent in spirit."
(b) He was always wrestling in prayer for them,
(α) We must be constant in prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:16).
(β) It maintains fervency of spirit.
(γ) It has the greater prospect of a favourable answer.
(2) The matter of his prayers. "That ye may stand fast, perfect and fully assured in all the will of God." It is a prayer for the stability of the Colossians, in view of the possible dangers of apostasy. "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he felt" (1 Corinthians 10:12). "God is able to establish us" (1 Corinthians 15:1). This stability is manifest in two things.
(a) Maturity. "Perfect." Epaphras prays that the flock may stand fast in a complete and universal obedience. This they cannot do without labouring for much knowledge (1 Corinthians 14:20), exercising themselves in the Word of righteousness (Hebrews 5:14), allowing patience to have her perfect work (James 3:1; James 1:5).
(b) Firm persuasion. "Fully assured in all the will of God." There was to be no vacillation or falling away, but a sure conviction of the truth of God's will. The Judaeo-Gnostics made a pretension to a perfection of wisdom, and found its sphere in the secrets of heavenly existence. Believers find it in the sphere of God's will.
4. His zealous labours for the welfare of all the Churches in the Lycus valley. "For I bear him witness, that he hath much labour for you, and for them in Laodicea, and for them in Hierapolis." He was probably the founder of all three Churches, which were within a short distance of each other. The apostle commends him to the Colossians that he may increase their respect and love for him on his return from Rome.
II. LUKE. "The beloved physician." This was the evangelist, who had travelled with the apostle on his last journey to Jerusalem (Acts 21:1), and then from Jerusalem to Rome two years later (Acts 27:2), and now again was in his company. He was apparently the apostle's only companion at the end of his second imprisonment (2 Timothy 4:11): "Only Luke is with me." He was doubly beloved, both as physician and evangelist, for the weak health of the apostle, both in prison and out of it, needed his professional care.
1. He was probably a Thessalonian. (2 Timothy 4:10.) Twice again his name occurs in company with that of Luke (Philemon 1:24; 2 Timothy 4:10).
2. There is here a bare mention of his name, without a word of commendation. Perhaps the apostle had an insight into his real character. His name occurs significantly last of all among the six who greet the Colossians.
3. He deserts the apostle in the near prospect of his end. "Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world" (2 Timothy 4:10). Yet, at present, he keeps his standing among the companions of the apostle and receives a due recognition.—T.C.
Salutations and parting counsels to friends.
"Salute the brethren that are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the Church that is in their house."
I. THE SALUTATION
1. To the brethren of Laodicea, who are called also "the Church in Laodicea." The apostle had a deep interest in them, because they were exposed to the same spiritual dangers as the Colossians. They dwelt in a rich, commercial city, and seem to have degenerated spiritually many yearn afterwards (Revelation 3:14-16),
2. To Nymphas and the Church in their house. This was an eminent Christian of Laodicea, probably a rich man, and certainly full of zeal for the cause of God, for his house was the meeting place of a Church. He was evidently a centre of religious life in this important locality.
II. HIS COUNSEL TO THE COLOSSIANS. "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 that from Laodicea."
1. The nearness of these Churches to each other, as well as their exposure to the risks of the same heretical teaching, explains this counsel. The letter from Laodicea was probably the Epistle to the Ephesians, which was of an encyclical character, and was now carried by Tychicus to the Churches of Proconsular Asia.
2. It is the privilege as well as the duty of private Christians to read the Scriptures. (John 5:39.)
3. This is a plain proof that the Scriptures are to be read publicly in the Church. (Acts 13:15.)
III. HIS INDIVIDUAL COUNSEL TO ARCHIPPUS. "And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it."
1. The position of Archippus. He was a member of the household of Philemon, and probably his son (Philemon 1:2). He held some office in the Church, for he is called "a fellow soldier" of the apostle. If he was a minister at Laodicea, as some suppose, the counsel addressed to him throws a significant light upon the condemnation of the Laodiceans many years afterwards for their lukewarmness. If, however, he was a minister at Colossal, as is more natural, the apostle's counsel recognizes the right of the Colossian Christians to exercise discipline or reproof in the case of their teachers.
2. The admonition to Archippus. He was to fulfil his ministry.
(1) It was a ministry received by him.
(a) He was not self appointed.
(b) He received it, not only from the Lord, but in the Lord, whose grace prepared him for it and kept him in it. Therefore his responsibility was all the more serious.
(2) It was a ministry to be fulfilled. He was "to make full proof of his ministry" like Timothy (2 Timothy 4:5). He was to "stir up the gift of God" (2 Timothy 2:6). He was to hold on till the end, shaking off lethargy and listlessness, showing the people the whole counsel of God, refuting all sorts of sins and errors, and being "instant in season, out of season" (2 Timothy 4:2) in all labours for Christ.
(3) There was need for the apostle's warning counsel. "Take heed." This individual warning would not have been sent in an Epistle designed for the whole Church if there had not been some failure of effort or duty on the part of Archippus. There is always need for ministers to "take heed to their ministry," considering
(a) the dignity of their office;
(b) the value of immortal souls;
(c) the risks to which the flock are exposed from errors, sin, and worldliness;
(d) the account that is to be given to God.—T.C.
"The salutation of me, Paul, with mine own hand. Remember my bonds. Grace be with you."
I. THE AUTOGRAPH WAS TO ATTEST THE AUTHENTICITY OF THE EPISTLE.
II. THE REFERENCE TO HIS IMPRISONMENT WAS TO BESPEAK, NOT ONLY THEIR SYMPATHY, BUT THEIR INCREASED INTEREST IN THE GOSPEL. "He who is suffering for Christ has a right to speak on behalf of Christ."
III. HIS PARTING WORD IS, "GRACE BE WITH YOU." He has exalted God's grace. He prays that the Colossians should not lose the grace they had received, that it should abide with them for ever, as the spring of power, holiness, and fidelity to truth.—T.C.
HOMILIES BY R.M.E
The life of prayer and sympathy.
Having shown how Christianity elevates the household, Paul next encourages the Colossians to prayerful and sympathetic lives. They shall find themselves in contact with others in the walks of public service, and they are to go forth to meet others prayerfully, sympathetically, graciously. Public life can only be properly, utilized when based upon constant prayerfulness.
I. CONSIDER WHAT CONSTANT PRAYER IS. (Verse 2.) It is lingering at the source of inspiration that our souls may be fitted for their public work. It is the attitude of felt dependence upon God—the confession that without his grace we can do nothing. It is the abnegation of self confidence and the prostration of the soul before the Lord. It is the secret of public power. Hence Paul exhorts the Colossians to be always prayerful, and to be grateful as they prayed. If they have the sense of obligation implied by thanksgiving and a sense of need expressed by prayer, they shall be fitted for public work. Prayerless and thankless souls only miss and mar the opportunities of usefulness afforded them.
II. THEY MUST PRAY FOR OTHERS AS WELL AS THEMSELVES, ESPECIALLY FOR THE IMPRISONED PREACHER. (Verses 3, 4.) Intercession will be a large part of enlightened prayer. It is so in the Lord's Prayer. For prayer makes us unselfish. We only seek the supply of personal need that we may be public benefactors. Hence we recognize at once the privilege and duty of intercession. All men need our prayers. Kings and those in authority, as well as those in more private stations, need our intercession. But among all the subjects of our intercession, none deserve better from their fellows than the preachers of the gospel. They are the most important and influential persons in the world. And their utterance is of more moment than that of statesmen or of kings. Hence, when Paul asks an interest in the intercessions of the Colossians, it is that he may be enabled to speak the mystery of Christ with increasing boldness, and may have a door of utterance opened widely to him. The most important message for mankind is the gospel. The intercessions of saints should largely be that preachers may be delivered from all limitations in the utterance of their message, and may issue from every "imprisonment" into the large liberty and impassioned utterance of the gospel.
III. THEY ARE TO EMBRACE THEIR OPPORTUNITY OF USEFULNESS WISELY. (Verse 5.) Prayer and intercession will greatly help in this respect. It is when we enter upon our opportunity with the sense of the overshadowing presence; it is when we believe that God is with us and with all our fellow workers, for whom we have interceded, that we can hopefully embrace the opportunity. How many chances, to use the world's term, have we lost just through deficiency in prayer I We have been like the disciples in the valley, helpless before the lunatic child because prayerless before the opportunity came; whereas, had we been transfigured with our Master on the mount, we should have had no difficulty in improving our opportunity and being most helpful unto others.
IV. ABOVE ALL THINGS THEY ARE TO CULTIVATE A GRACIOUS CONVERSATION. (Verse 6.) The filthiness of the conversation in heathen lands is beyond conception. The ear is more rudely assailed than even the eye. Hence the necessity of rousing converts to a gracious conversation. When the oaths and impurity and maledictions, not to speak of the idle words of heathenism, are given up, and in their stead considerate, kindly, gracious words always spoken, then the world wonders at the change and is impressed and improved by it. In other words, the Colossians are to speak out of hearts steeped in prayer and filled with the Spirit. If we would take up and practise this idea, that we ought to speak and live as inspired men, the world would soon surrender to the claim of Christianity. Alas! the saints are often anything but inspired in their conversation, and it is no wonder that the world is not much moved by them. Until we realize our responsibility in this matter more, the kingdom of God cannot be much hastened.—R.M.E.
The apostle's entourage.
At the time when this Epistle was written Paul had a considerable band about him. Though a prisoner in Borne, he has gathered round him a troop of friends. The time has not come when he has to say, "Only Luke is with me" (2 Timothy 4:10). It is interesting to notice these he has at this time around him.
I. THE LETTER CARRIERS. (Verses 7-9.) These are Tychicus and Onesimus. They carry each a letter—Tychicus this letter to the Church, Onesimus the letter for Philemon. The freeman and the slave are to journey together as brothers in the Lord, carrying tidings of the imprisoned preacher and the love tokens in his Epistles. What beautiful harmony has Paul summoned forth! Christianity recognizes not the distinctions of the world, but bond and free realize their unity in Christ.
II. THE JEWS. (Philemon 1:10, Philemon 1:11.) He has with him as "fellow prisoner" Aristarchus, the faithful companion who had risked himself in the theatre at Ephesus, and. who seems to have voluntarily shared the imprisonment with the apostle. Mark also, the cousin of Barnabas, is with him, not very reliable or certain in his movements, but with whom Paul has long ago made up his quarrel and can dwell in peace. Jesus also, another Jew, a loyal citizen as his additional name Justus implies, is with Paul, and they are such genuine converts from Judaism as to be most comforting "fellow workers unto the kingdom of God." The large-hearted Jewish apostle has attracted to his side magnanimous, large-souled Jews also to cooperate in the missionary enterprise.
III. THE GENTILES. (Verses 12-15.) We have three Gentiles as a set-off to the three Jewish companions. These are Epaphras, who has come from Colossae to aid. the work, and who seems to have been a specially prayerful man, making his native district the burden of his constant intercessions. Next there is "Luke, the beloved physician," the medical attendant and fast friend for many years of the great apostle. It was he who lingered with him during his second imprisonment, when all the rest had forsaken him, and who saw his end. His writings, the Gospel according to Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, constitute him the "Josephus of the Christian Church," and form the natural and indispensable introduction to the Pauline Epistles. And, lastly, we have Demas, whose loyalty had not been tested at this time fully, but whose sad history is written by Paul later on in the brief words, "Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world" (2 Timothy 4:10). It would thus appear that just as Jesus had a Judas in his band of disciples, so Paul had a Demas in those attracted to his side. The best of men cannot exclude the insincere from the work in which they need. "fellow workers." And it is best, for the hostile at heart are admirable witnesses of the private life of the Christian leaders, Neither Judas nor Demas ever bore bad witness about their masters!
IV. THE PUBLIC USE TO BE MADE OF THIS EPISTLE. (Verses 15, 16.) It was to be handed about to neighbouring Churches, and other letters sought in exchange. Paul was writing, not for Colossae alone, but for all Churches to which his Epistle would crone. It was therefore a public Epistle. The letter Onesimus had in his pocket was private. It was intended for Philemon alone, and yet, blessed be God, it too has become public property. But the other Pauline Epistles were meant by their author to be public documents. We may well rejoice that such precious literary remains have come down to us.
V. THE SPECIAL SALUTATION TO ARCHIPPUS, THE MINISTER IN CHARGE. (Philemon 1:17.) This must have been a solemn and yet a salutary word. The ministry had been received "from the Lord," as some put it. Archippus looked past apostle and all terrestrial officials to Jesus as his Master, and it was a ministry in the Lord he had received. But at the same time he will receive cordially such an exhortation, and his responsibilities shall in consequence be more carefully discharged. It is in increased ministerial conscientiousness that the progress of a Church is to be realized. And thus it is with pathetic warning the interesting Epistle ends. As the apostle puts his bold signature to the document and asks to have his bonds remembered, this Epistle of the captivity goes forth complete to the world wide mission intended by the Spirit.—R.M.E.
HOMILIES BY R. FINDLAYSON
Prayer and prudence.
(1) Steadfastness in prayer, "Continue steadfastly in prayer." There is the same direction in Romans 12:12, "Continuing steadfastly in prayer." We shall not be able to carry out the direction unless we pray from principle. And that implies, not only that we have a deep conviction of the obligation of prayer, but also that we have a distinct conception of the form which the obligation is to take, as to our times of prayer and our subjects of prayer. Having an intelligent conviction of the duty, we are to hold to it steadfastly, in the face of all temptations to interrupt it. It is said of the disciples after the Ascension, that they continued steadfastly in prayer. They had a special subject of prayer, and they held to it uninterruptedly for ten days, until it was answered in the descent of the Holy Ghost.
(2) Wakefulness in prayer. "Watching therein." This is brought in as an element without which steadfastness would be of no use. Prayer is a duty in which our whole being is to be awake. There is to be the absence of all sleepiness whatsoever. Especially are we to be wakeful, spiritually. We are to be wakeful to the truth and promises of God. We are to be wakeful to our own wants. We are to be wakeful to the wants of others. And not only are we to be wakened up in the directions noted, but wakened up so that our powers have full play. We have in Jacob one whose wakefulness was kept up to the highest point through the hours of night till he obtained the blessing. "With thanksgiving." Thus again is the subordinate feature in the Epistle introduced. The thought is, that we are to be wakeful toward God for benefits obtained. Wakefulness toward God for past benefits is the best state of preparation for the reception of future benefits.
2. Particular. "Withal praying for us also." They were not only to pray for themselves, for others, about other affairs, but specially for Paul and his coadjutors, and as he here directs.
(1) Immediate object. "That God may open unto us a door for the Word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds." Next to having the Word is having a door opened for the Word, i.e. an unhindered opportunity for its going forth. By the Word was meant more particularly the mystery of Christ, i.e. the gospel with reference to the Gentiles. The mystery was to go forth in it being spoken. In regard to that he was hindered at present. For not only was he called to speak the mystery of Christ, but also (so much had he entered into it) to be in bonds for it. And others were detained with him. And he prayed, and wished them to pray, for his liberation from captivity, that he and the others might go forth with the mystery.
(2) Ulterior object. "That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak." The situation of the apostle here has been described as tragic. He was possessed with a burning desire that the Gentiles might have the gospel. He had exalted ideas of the requirements of his apostolate. He was conscious, too, of the apostolic energy stirring within him. There was a certain outlet for that energy. For he was allowed to speak the Word to all that came unto him. And he was enabled to write this Epistle and other Epistles, which have laid the Church under lasting obligation. But he wanted to make the mystery manifest on a far wider scale. He wanted to have freedom in moving from place to place, in combating error on the spot, in forming Churches. And it was in this his restrained position that he asked to be assisted by their prayers.
II. DUTY TO THEM THAT ARE WITHOUT. How is a Christian society to advance its ends with them that are outside? That is a question which has not lost its importance.
1. Walk. "Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time." It is said in Ephesians, "Look therefore carefully how ye walk, not as unwise, but as wise; redeeming the time, because the days are evil." It is the same precept here, with special application to them that are outside.
(1) Wisdom. One end for which a Christian society exists is self preservation. It was very important for them to act so that they did not unnecessarily bring persecution upon themselves. Another and higher end for which a Christian society exists is extension. For this end zeal is necessary, but at the same time it must be zeal tempered with discretion. Christian wives would naturally be deeply interested in the conversion of their heathen husbands, but how did the Apostle Peter enjoin them to act? "In like manner, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, even if any obey not the Word, they may without the Word be gained by the behaviour of their wives; beholding your chaste conversation coupled with fear." The position of the members of a Christian society is similar. We have to win over them that are outside. Where the Word by itself fails (men obeying not the Word), we may do this without the Word, viz. by our Christian behaviour, by quietly and steadily showing what our religion is, especially in the production in us of those elements which those outside can more readily appreciate—purity, honour, charitableness, unselfishness, gentleness. There is action of a more direct kind toward them that are outside, for which wisdom is needed. The apostles supply a remarkable instance of failure in this respect. Not sure of their action, they referred it to Christ. "Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy Name, and he followed not us, and we forbade him, because he followeth not us." This man was certainly at an outside, but, as on the way to higher things, Christ said, "Forbid him not: for there is no man, that shall do a miracle in my Name, that shall lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is for us." This saying of our Lord throws great light on what should be the manner of our procedure toward them that are without. We are to accept of the slightest acknowledgment of Christianity. We are to turn back no one whose face seems turned in the right direction, though he does not yet join himself to us or work by our methods. This, and not the mistaken " We forbid you," is the way to encourage men toward our position.
(2) Urgency. For the end of self preservation, the moment was to be well thought of by the Colossians. For the unwise use of one moment they might have to suffer for years. So for the end of winning over them that are outside, the moment is to be well thought of by us. We are not to contract debt in connection with it. We are to make it our own for our end. We are to leave nothing undone to persuade, to entice, them that are without to come within the pale of the Christian Church. We are ever to be acting as on a motion of urgency, viz. the salvation of our fellow travellers to eternity, during their brief time of probation.
2. Speech. There are given three qualities of good speech, with primary reference to them that are outside.
(1) Pleasingness. "Let your speech be always with grace." There is a pleasing and an unpleasing way of saying a thing. We are to study to have always a pleasing mode of speech. It is said of Jesus that they wondered at the words of grace which proceeded out of his mouth. The reference was not merely to the contents of the words, but also to the winning form in which they were put.
(2) Healthfulness. "Seasoned with salt." The language proceeds upon the conception of speech as an article of food, or as having nutriment in it to be communicated. The idea of pleasingness is carried forward in the flavouring. It is to he flavoured, so as not to be insipid. But the salt, with which the flavouring is to be effected, adds the idea of healthfulness. By salt in speech, we may understand seriousness of aim. Even in our moments of rest and of social enjoyment we are to have a feeling of the solemnity of life. We are to occupy our conversation with things according to their relative importance. We are to show a preference for the useful. We are not to use speech to communicate poison, but to communicate right sentiments. We are to show that we attach supreme importance to the gospel of Christ. Thus is healthfulness to be combined with pleasingness.
(3) Aptness. "That ye may know how ye ought to answer each one." The idea of pleasingness is still carried forward, and is further to be combined with aptness. In those days questions were often put to the Christians about their religion. They were expected to be able to give an account of the articles of their faith, of the facts of Christianity, of its institutions, of benefits derived, of losses entailed. These questions were not always put by sincere inquirers. They were often put from curiosity or with evil intention. In no case were they to show resentment. They were always, with all pleasingness, to give the answer which the question demanded, in the hope that it might commend itself to the inquirer. In these days questions are not so often put to Christians. It would be well if they were oftener put, and if we could put the right answer in pleasing form.—R.F.
I. AFFAIRS OF THE APOSTLE. He gives his reason for not entering on these in his letter. The paragraph is similar in construction to Ephesians 6:21, Ephesians 6:22. The difference is confined to two points.
1. The designation of Tychicus as fellow servant. "All my affairs shall Tychicus make known unto you, the beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord: whom I have sent unto you for this very purpose, that ye may know our estate, and that he may comfort your hearts." He characterizes what Tychicus was in the Lord, i.e. within the sphere where Christ appoints and animates. Within that sphere he had the qualities which made him beloved as a brother (an important point in a mission). He had also the qualities which, as they made him fit to be entrusted with the gospel, also made him fit to be entrusted with a mission from the apostle. He was, besides, a fellow servant on an equality with the apostle in being at the call of the Master in services to Churches, and they were to receive him at Colossae in the Lord's name. His mission extended beyond the mere bearing of the letter (which is not mentioned), to conveying intelligence regarding the circumstances, spirit, work, prospects of the apostle and others with him, as would be fitted to cheer their hearts.
2. The association of Onesimus with Tychicus. "Together with Onesimus, the faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They shall make known unto you all things that are done here." Onesimus is mentioned as affectionately as Tychicus. The only difference is the absence of any official designation. His being called "brother" illustrates the principle laid down by the apostle in this Epistle, that there is not bondman nor freeman. The renewal after the image of God had commenced, and was going on, in this slave. And therefore he acknowledges him as a brother. Prominence is given to his being a faithful brother. He had formerly been unfaithful, in the service rendered to his master Philemon, and in running away from that service, lie had been so effectually transformed that already (and much time cannot have elapsed) Paul can vouch for his trustworthiness. His being called "beloved brother" shows that he had exhibited singular qualities of heart, which is very touchingly brought out in the Epistle to Philemon. The interesting circumstance is mentioned, that Onesimus was one of them, a native of Colossae, one whose name was to be added to their roll of membership, and who would be no mere nominal addition, but an addition to their working strength. Paul trusted him in much, after having trusted him in littles, when he associated him with Tychicus, not only in bearing the letter, but in declaring to the Church at Colossae all things which were done at Rome.
II. SALUTATIONS FOR THE COLOSSIANS.
1. From three Jewish Christians.
(1) Aristarchus. "Aristarchus my fellow prisoner saluteth you." That he was an active helper of the apostle, may be gathered from his being classed in the Epistle to Philemon among his fellow workers. The beautiful thing regarding him is, that he is so near to the apostle in seasons of danger. For his connection with him, he was subjected to the violence of the multitude in Ephesus. Then a plot of the Jews brings him into connection with the apostle. Then he appears as a companion of the apostle on his journey as a prisoner to Rome. And here he is styled "fellow prisoner." He was not ashamed of the apostle's chains. He was not afraid to endanger his own life for his sake. From the fact of his being styled "fellow worker" and Epaphras "fellow prisoner" in the Epistle to Philemon, which was transmitted along with the Epistle to Colossae, it has not unreasonably been concluded that Paul's friends voluntarily shared his imprisonment by turns.
(2) Mark. "And Mark, the cousin of Barnabas (touching whom ye received commandments; if he come unto you, receive him)." It was an honourable circumstance, which Paul with good feeling notes, that Mark was connected with Barnabas. He seems to have been included within the apostolic circle. He began his Christian career by divesting himself (in no monastic spirit) of the embarrassment of riches. "He was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith." He had the advance of Paul in Christian service, and generously introduced him to the Church at Jerusalem, and afterward, when the work could not be overtaken at Antioch, knowing the fitness of Paul, he went forth to Tarsus to seek for him, and when he had found him, brought him on to Antioch. For a long time they laboured conjointly, and for a time we read of Barnabas and Paul as though the older in service exercised an influence over the younger, not yet fully conscious of his powers. But their plans diverged with regard to the kinsman of Barnabas who is mentioned here; and so sharp was the contention between these good men that they parted asunder, one from the other. It may be assumed that Mark was blameworthy in not going with them to the work. He was apparently swayed at the time by some reason of personal convenience. Whether Paul or Barnabas was right in regard to his again being associated with them in service, is a different question. It appears from this notice that Mark had won his way back into the apostle's confidence. Already commandments touching him had been sent on, and now there is bespoken for him a favourable reception, should it fall in with his plans to pay a visit to Colossae.
(3) Jesus Justus. "And Jesus, which is called Justus." He lived a life upon which light shall one day be cast. All that we know of him is from the notice here. He commended himself to the apostle, as interested in the health of the Colossian community. And he comes in for his share of commendation in the language which follows. The three commended. "Who are of the circumcision: these only are my fellow workers unto the kingdom of God, men that have been a comfort unto me." There would be unbelieving Jews at Rome who would not be sorry for his chains. But there were others (apparently) who had advanced from Judaism to Christianity. It might have been expected, on common Christian grounds, that these would have shown sympathy with him. It is against them (by implication) that he makes complaint. He does not deny altogether that they were helpers, but they were not his fellow helpers; they were not his fellow helpers toward the kingdom of God in the wide sense in which he understood it. They stood aloof from him because of his estimate of the Law. All the more honour, then, to the three in Rome who, free from prejudice, had stood by him, and been a comfort to him when he needed it.
2. From three Gentile Christians.
(1) Epaphras. "Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, saluteth you." This Epaphras, who (probably after he had come under the influence of Paul at the Asiatic centre, Ephesus) founded the Colossian Church, was himself a Colossian. He was formerly styled "fellow servant;" here, without relation to others, he is styled "a servant of Christ Jesus." It would be absurd to translate it "bond servant," though it holds that Christ is absolute Disposer of his servants. Epaphras was a servant in an official sense, at the call of Christ for special service in the Churches. As their minister, he is naturally the first of the Gentile three who sent their salutations to the Colossian Church. The character in which he appears here is float of a minister absent for a time from his flock.
(a) His prayerfulness. "Always striving for you in his prayers, that ye may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God." A minister is sometimes necessitated, by the state of his health, to be absent from the sphere of his work proper. In these circumstances his great resort is prayer. Paul had difficulty in telling how greatly he strove for as many as had not seen his face in the flesh. Here he tells how Epaphras was always striving for the Colossians in his prayers. How much they must have been in his thoughts, that they came so much into his prayers, and, when they did come, occasioned so much wrestling! It was a comprehensive object for which he wrestled. It was that they might stand perfect and fully assured in every separate will of God. If we think of a single division of time or single set of circumstances, the prime necessity is to know the will of God regarding it. If we think of our relation to that will, it implies three things. We must not only know, but must stand without wavering in the will of God. Then we must stand, not in part, but in the whole of the will of God, relative to time and circumstances. Lastly, we must not only stand in the whole of the will, but have the full assurance that we are standing. This last is the climax of our relation to it. Beyond all knowledge and rightness of disposition, it is to be desired, for our own comfort, that, before and in the doing of the Divine will, we have an unwavering persuasion that it is really the Divine will, and no ignis fatuus of our own imagination, that we are following. This, indeed, is contained in promise: "And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left."
(b) His labour. "For I bear him witness, that he hath much labour for you, and for them in Laodicea, and for them in Hierapolis." There is a very beautiful association with the name Mizpah: "The Lord watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another." The Lord's servant, Paul, was witness between Epaphras and the Colossians, and he vouches for their minister's labour in his absence. It is a word which approaches in meaning to "anguish." It comprehended much more than his prayers. He was often engaged, by himself and in consultation with Paul, on the Colossian problem. He was often seen (when not sharing the apostle's confinement) about the city after business affecting the Colossian Church. Nor was his burdensome labour confined to the one Church. It extended to the Church of Laodicea, and to the Church of Hierapolis. These were Churches in the neighbourhood. The three towns were situated in the valley of the Lycus. Colossae was the least important of the three, but it was there, probably, that by means of Epaphras the gospel had been first received, and from which, by his means also, the gospel had been extended to Laodicea and to Hierapolis. If we understand his having had an equal interest in the formation of the three Churches, it was only natural that his anxious labour extended to the three.
(2) Luke. "Luke, the beloved physician." What is the ideal of a physician? He is, in the first place, one who enters thoroughly into the duties of his profession. He is one who keeps abreast of medical knowledge, and may be able at some sacrifice to make contributions to it. He is one who has skill in the practice of his profession, and does not grudge labour, fatigue, even exposure to danger, in seeking to remove disease and alleviate pain. Such a physician has in his hands the means of powerfully attaching men to him, by services rendered to them. He is also one who has Christian sympathies, who enters into the spirit and follows the example of him who, while ministering to men's bodies, ministered also to men's souls. He is one who embraces the opportunities which his profession presents of speaking words of warning and of comfort. He, who thus attaches men to him by a double bond, may well be called the beloved physician. The third Gospel, and the Acts of the Apostles, bear evidence to the general culture of Luke. It has been made out that the first of these bears evidence of special medical knowledge. It may be inferred that Luke rendered to Paul valuable professional assistance. He may have been, under God, the means of saving his life. From his being called, in the Epistle to Philemon, a "fellow helper," it may be inferred that his help to the Christian cause was not confined to his professional services nor to his literary services, but that he directly took part in the proclamation of the gospel.
(3) Demas. "And Demas salute you." From the honourable mention of him here, and from his being numbered among the fellow helpers in the Epistle to Philemon, it is evident that at this time he stood in the confidence of the apostle. When we remember his subsequent desertion of the apostle ("Demas forsook me, having loved this present world"), it is remarkable how he is mentioned here without any epithet such as "beloved" or "faithful."
III. SALUTATIONS FORT THE LAODICEANS TO BE COMMUNICATED BY THE COLOSSIANS. "Salute the brethren that are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the Church that is in their house." It is not to be wondered at that there should be a Church gathering connected with a private house. Where there was a place of general gathering for a Church at that time, it would be very unimportant. We can understand that, as a rule, there would be little gatherings from evening to evening, in private houses, of Christians in the immediate neighbourhood. These at times would grow into large gatherings. The apostle had never been at Laodicea, but he may have seen Nymphas. He had at least heard of him, and he had pleasant associations with him and the little gathering in his house. And, among the brethren in Laodicea, he singles them out for his salutations. The medium of the apostle's salutations to the Laodicean Church was to be the Colossian Church. They were as a Church to say, "We in Paul's name salute you." It was an act fitted to promote good fellowship between the two Churches.
IV. READING. "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." This letter was to be read at a general gathering of the Church in Colossae. There was another letter, which had been addressed at a previous period to the Church at Laodicea (salutations only are sent at this time). It was not the will of the Head of the Church that the letter should be preserved. The apocryphal letter to the Laodiceans is only a cento made out of Paul's writings. There would be what was peculiar in each of these letters, but, being addressed to neighbouring Churches, there would be much that was adapted to them both. And so he instructs that both should be read in both places.
V. INSTRUCTIONS FOR ARCHIPPUS BY THE CHURCH. And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it." We are not told what the ministry was, but the probability is that he ministered in the gospel in the absence of Epaphras. It cannot with certainty be inferred that he had shown remissness in his duties. It is an injunction which may be laid on a minister in any circumstances. It is specially to be laid on a minister, in view of a more critical condition of the Church to which he ministers. There are advantages and incitements, but there are also difficulties and temptations connected with a sacred position. The interests involved are very great, and it is fitting that we should seek to fulfil that service which we have received in the Lord, with a deep feeling of our responsibility to the Lord. In the fact of the injunction being laid on Archippus by the Church, there is an implied rebuke of the hierarchical spirit.
VI. CONCLUSION. "The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand. Remember my bonds. Grace be with you." The apostle has, from necessity of his position, employed an amanuensis. When the amanuensis has done his work, Paul takes the pen in hand, and adds, "The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand." And feeling the difficulty of using the pen in consequence of his bonds, he adds, very naturally and very affectingly, "Remember my bonds." This bore evidence to the depth of his interest in them and in the truth. He had not the paths of dalliance trod. He had gone the length of bonds. It is principally to be regarded as a powerful enforcement, of all that he has said, including his request that they should pray for his liberation. There is added the briefest form of benediction: "Grace be with you." Never, however pressed for space or inconvenienced, can he leave out the thought of the Divine bestowal on us in our unworthiness.—R. F.
HOMILIES BY U.R. THOMAS
An exhortation to prayer.
Paul had been, as we have seen, describing noble and difficult duties of husbands, children, etc. He evidently felt they were so noble that they ought to be attained, and yet so difficult that he must at once suggest one way to their attainment. He has shown the goal, now he shows the path. That path is prayer. Husbands, wives, all who would become what I have described, "continue in prayer." In his exhortation to prayer we may notice—
I. SOME ELEMENTS IN ALL TRUE PRAYER. And of these elements there is in the very front:
1. Constancy. "Continue steadfastly," as the Revised Version has it. Not fitfully, occasionally, irregularly, but with steady constancy, pray.
(1) There, ought to be constancy because of the need there is. The need is perpetual, for the duties to be discharged to which prayer alone can help, and the dangers to be avoided from which prayer alone can deliver, are ever with us.
(2) There can be constancy, because the opportunity is always granted. There are avenues of religious help a man may close against his brother, but not this. Excommunicated, exiled, tortured, imprisoned, he can still pray. Wherever God is and a human soul is, there prayer can be. So Daniel, Jonah, Stephen, found.
2. Wakefulness. "Watching." Not as a sleeper, but as a sentry, must the man be who prays. Understanding, emotion, will, must be awake, as he who guards the city is awake to hear the first footfall of a foe, to catch the first shadow of a danger. Not in dreamy lethargy can men pray. "No arrow of prayer can reach the sky that does not fly from a heart strongly bent as some elastic bow?
3. Gratitude. "With thanksgiving." Thus the conception of prayer is widened, beyond that of mere petition, to that of intercourse. Prayer becomes a Eucharist. Indeed, thanksgiving is the crown and goal of prayer. Elsewhere the apostle similarly exhorts, "In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known unto God."
II. A SPECIAL SUBJECT FOR INTERCESSION. Paul thus bespeaks prayer for himself and his fellow workers both, to link himself in humbleness of heart to the Colossians. It is as though he said, "I need prayer as well as you." And doubtless he also asks their prayers because he is conscious of necessity for such help as prayer can bring. For himself and his fellow workers he asks:
1. Prayer that they may have opportunity for work. "That God may open unto us a door." To the mystery of the gospel there is the great obstacle of minds closed by prejudice, hearts closed by antipathy. The preacher, like his Lord, has to stand at the door and knock.
2. Prayer that shall be sympathetic with their sorrows. For he reminds them that he is "in bonds." In every one of the Epistles of his captivity the apostle mentions this coupling chain which he felt to be thwarting, galling, humiliating. And their prayers must seek either that the chain be broken or the prisoner strengthened to endure.
3. Prayer that they may have fitness for their work. The one pressing want of their condition was "boldness." Sometimes the main want is wisdom, sometimes patience, sometimes gentleness. Here, because of all that was around him and before him, he felt the supreme want was courage. And indeed, when is this not wanted by those who have to proclaim such a message as the gospel, to such souls as proud, selfish, self-willed men, for such a Master as the Christ who travails till victory is won?—U.R.T.
Colossians 4:5, Colossians 4:6
The Christian and the world.
We have here some suggestions as to—
1. THE CHRISTIAN'S RELATIONSHIP TO THE WORLD. It is implied:
1. That he is to be distinct from the world. To him all "men of the world" are, in character, aims, pursuits, to be as "them that are without." There is to be a contrast between him and them as between those who are "within" and those who are "without" the assembly of the righteous, the Church of the loving and the pure. But it is taught:
2. That he is to have intercourse with the world. This is in contradiction to the Colossian heresy of asceticism, and in contradiction, too, to the pietism that some sects affect in England today. "Walk in wisdom toward them that are without." This is the very opposite of walking away from them, in separation, into seclusion. Indeed, on this point we notice that seclusion from the world is:
(1) Impossible. Even those who shun the social and political life of the world are drawn into its commerce very willingly, and in their best moods into its philanthropy also.
(2) Undesirable. It leads either to bigotry, as of the Pharisees, or to fragile life, as of hot house plants.
(3) Unlike Jesus Christ. The streets, the cities, the houses of men, and of sinful men, their feasts, and their funerals, were frequented by the Holiest, who has left us an example that we should follow in his steps.
3. What is to mark the intercourse of the Christian with the world. Two directions are given:
(1) "Walk in wisdom." This is more than knowledge, more than discretion. It is a right use of knowledge, of the knowledge of God and of man. In that element of godly thoughtfulness a Christian man is to move.
(2) "Redeeming the time." In the time you spend with men, buy up the time and make the best use of it for themselves and for you. No squandering of anything so precious as their time and yours is to be permitted in your intercourse with men. Thus it is taught the Christian must have to do with the world.
II. THE CHRISTIAN'S CONVERSATION WITH THE WORLD. It is to be distinguished by "grace," pleasantness of the highest sort—"salt," pungency of the truest kind. In a sentence, we may say the influence of his conversation is to be good.
1. Because it is to be persuasive. The higher form of "grace," Divine acceptableness, may be implied here. The other form of it, human convincingness, is certainly indicated. For this it must be appropriate,
(1) as to topic,
(2) as to time,
(3) as to manner.
2. Because it is to be distinctive. Not talk of tasteless insipidity, making no impression, but conversation as clear and definite in purifying influence as Christ meant the disciples themselves were to be when he said, "Ye are the salt of the earth." "Certain it is," says Jeremy Taylor, "that as nothing better can do it, so there is nothing greater for which God made our tongues, next to reciting his praises, than to minister comfort to weary souls. And what greater pleasure can we have than that we should bring joy to our brother, who with his weary eye looks to heaven and round about, and cannot find so much rest as to lay his eyelids together? Then thy tongue should be tuned with heavenly accents, and make the weary soul to listen for light and ease. This is glory to thy voice, and employment fit for the brightest angel. I have seen the sun kiss the frozen earth, which was bound up with the images of death and the cold breath of the north, and then the waters break from their enclosures, and melt with joy, and run in useful channels. So is the heart of a sorrowful man under the discourses of a wise comforter. He breaks from the despairs of the grave; he blesses God, and he feels his life returning. God is pleased with no music below so much as in the thanksgiving songs of rejoicing, comforted persons."—U.R.T.
As we read this last paragraph of our Epistle, we are struck:
1. With the humanity of our holy religion. There is a natural tone about the ending of every one of Paul's letters; there is the naming of men, the greeting of friends, the talk about personal affairs. If the Bible were concerned only with systems, institutions, theories, doctrines, arguments, it would never be, as it surely is, the great heart book of the world. Its charm is its humanness. And it is so of Christianity because its Founder and its Theme, its Alpha and its Omega, is the Son of man.
2. With the mutual fellowship of the early Churches. Between the Christians at Rome and at Colossae, though the waters of the Mediterranean rolled between them, there was, as these greetings indicate, intimate and intelligent personal fellowship. Passing from these introductory considerations of the great principles to be found here, let us notice three things about Christian greetings.
I. TRUE CHRISTIAN GREETING RECKONS VERY LITTLE OF SOCIAL POSITION. Who would know, from the form of the greeting, how vastly different were the social positions of Epaphras the Colossian citizen, Luke the cultured Jewish physician, and Onesimus the runaway slave? It has been well said, "Men are not united to the Church of Christ by reason of similarity of calling, of knowledge, or of position; not as rich or poor, learned or ignorant, but as possessors of a common human nature, of common feelings, sorrows, joys, and hopes. Once within its pale, his riches drop from the rich man, and his poverty from the poor, and each beholds a brother soul."
II. TRUE CHRISTIAN GREETING RECOGNIZES FULLY THE INDIVIDUALISM OF MEN. There is here no dealing with the mere mass, the group; no speaking of all with the same tones of unctuous endearment as is common in some Churches today. No; each has a separate niche in the esteem and affection of the apostle. In the light of this greeting we see the Church is not a huge piece of mechanism, but a family of dissimilar though related souls.
III. TRUE CHRISTIAN GREETING HONOURS GREATLY CHRISTIAN SERVICE. The only letter of introduction to a Church Paul ever wrote is to commend not some wealthy or famous man, but a converted runaway slave. His epithets of praise are not those that describe rank or riches, or even culture, but usefulness. That he honours, and that the Church of Christ ought above all else to honour: come the day when it will. Amen.—U.R.T.
HOMILIES BY E.S. PROUT
Conditions of success in prayer.
St. Paul draws the attention of the Colossians to two things.
I. GENERAL CONDITIONS OF SUCCESS IN PRAYER.
1. Perseverance. "Continue steadfastly in prayer." It is part of our spiritual education, teaching us dependence, trust, and patience. No "stock" of blessings given, but daily grace, bread, etc. Blessings may be withheld for a time because, in our present spiritual state, we cannot receive the full supply we shall be capable of after the discipline of persevering prayer. The gift will be in proportion to our faith. Hence the many exhortations to perseverance by parables (Luke 11:5-9; Luke 18:1-8), precepts (Romans 12:12; Eph 6:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:17, etc.), and recorded examples (Genesis 32:24; Exodus 32:9-13; Matthew 15:21-28; Acts 1:14; Acts 2:1-4. Paul's prayers (Philippians 1:4; 2 Timothy 1:3, etc.; Colossians 4:12). Story of James the Just (Eusebius, bk. James 2:23). If time forbids long continuance, there may be energy in brevity and steadfastness in persistent renewal of prayers (Psalms 55:17; Psalms 119:164, etc.).
2. Watchfulness. Be watchful during prayer, for the constant enjoyment of the inestimable privilege tends to routine, and our spiritual foes are ever ready to distract our minds and spoil our prayers. Chrysostom saith, "The devil knoweth how great a good prayer is." The messenger prayer is too often despatched without any definite message. "Ye know not what ye ask;" "Ye have not because ye ask not." Contrast our Lord's prayers and St. Paul's with the vague, sleepy supplications we know too much about, if we thus watch in prayer we may watch after it, expecting the blessings which are on their way to us (cf. Daniel 9:23; Daniel 10:12).
3. Thanksgiving. (Philippians 4:6.) Our thanksgiving will include that Divine system of mediation and intercession by which we sinners have access to God; all the past answers to prayer we have received through Christ (Psalms 63:7; Psalms 116:1, Psalms 116:2), and all the promises he has given. In this spirit we shall also be able to thank him for what he has deferred (Illustrations: Job and "the end of the Lord," James 5:11) and what he denies. For if we pray with submission for temporal blessings, we lay upon God the responsibility of choosing for us. Plato ('Alcibiades,' bk. 2) praises one of the ancient poets for prescribing this form of prayer: "Grant to us thy blessings whether we pray for them or withhold our prayers, and repel from us all evils even though we pray for them." With fuller knowledge we may offer the same prayer for temporal blessings "with thanksgiving" (Psalms 84:11; Matthew 6:32), while in regard to spiritual blessings there need be no such conditional uncertainty (Matthew 7:9-11; John 14:13, John 14:14).
II. SPECIAL SUBJECTS FOR PRAYER. (Verses 3, 4.) The requests are very personal, for Paul, Timothy, Epaphras, etc. The apostle's condition imposed limitations which he desired might be removed "for the gospel's sake." These prayers were answered (Philemon 1:22). By prayer doors were opened in the first century (Romans 15:19, etc.), and still are (China, Africa, Madagascar, etc.). This spread of the gospel may still be used as an argument for the divinity of the gospel, as it was by Clement of Alexandria: "The Grecian philosophy, if any magistrate forbade it, immediately died away; but our doctrine, even from the first preaching of it, kings, generals, and magistrates prohibited it; nevertheless, it does not droop like human doctrine, but flourishes the more." Similar prayers for pastors and missionaries are still needed, and may be enforced by various motives; e.g.:
1. Our necessity; for the work is too great for us apart from the help given through prayer.
2. Our trials. Illustrate from Paul's ordinary sources of anxiety (2 Corinthians 11:1-3, 2 Corinthians 11:28, 2 Corinthians 11:29; Galatians 4:19, etc.).
3. Our dangers. For we are the mark of many of the fiery darts of the wicked one, and if we fall it is "as when a standard bearer fainteth."
4. Our responsibilities. (Hebrews 13:17.) We have to speak "the mystery of Christ," and desire "to make it manifest as we ought to speak." How much this implies (Ephesians 6:19, Ephesians 6:20)! We aim at the sublimest results (Colossians 1:28, Colossians 1:29).
5. Our equitable claims. A plea especially appropriate to pastors, called by a Church to their post of duty and of trust. To restrain prayer is the most lamentable meanness, for it impoverishes the pastor's or missionary's soul (2 Thessalonians 3:1, 2 Thessalonians 3:2, etc.).—E.S.P.
Colossians 4:5, Colossians 4:6
The Christians conduct and conversation in the world.
In these closing exhortations we are taught—
I. THE PRINCIPLES WHICH SHOULD GUIDE US IN OUR INTERCOURSE WITH THE WORLD. (Colossians 4:5.) In no Pharisaic spirit we have to speak of "them that are without" (needlessly, guiltily outside the family of God), but are in close contact with us "within;" who are not called to judge them or to "have no company" with them, but to live in such a way as to bless and save them (1 Corinthians 5:9-13; 1 Corinthians 9:19-22). The wisdom demanded includes:
1. Consistency, as its most essential element. Life for others is a law running through God's universe, and finding its highest illustration in the life and cross of Christ and of Christians "in him" (John 12:24, John 12:25; Romans 14:7). To benefit others spiritually, the chief qualification is not gifts, but character. The lives of Christians are the world's Bible (2 Corinthians 3:2, 2 Corinthians 3:3). See that the text is not corrupted or illegible. Live so that the more you are known the more you will be esteemed (let not "distance lend enchantment to the view"), so that the anxious or the dying would naturally send to you for guidance, and your judgment or reproof would carry with it the weight of a holy character. Beware of the "dead flies" which mar this wisdom (Ecclesiastes 10:1; Ephesians 5:15-17; Philippians 2:14, Philippians 2:15; 1 Peter 2:11, 1 Peter 2:12). But while the whole of our "walk" must be consistent, the wisdom which is to mark it includes more than this (Matthew 10:16; Romans 16:19). Some may remember what were their chief hindrances caused by the characters of Christians while they were still "without;" let them guard against these.
2. Christian cheerfulness. So as to refute the libels of Satan and his satellites (Job 21:14, Job 21:15; Ma Job 3:14, Job 3:15), and prove the sincerity of our avowed belief (Psalms 34:8; Psalms 84:11, Psalms 84:12).
3. Christian charitableness. Be very strict in judging yourselves, but do not set up your own consciences as an infallible test for others (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:31 with Matthew 7:2). Seek to purify and enlighten the heart, rather than to denounce acts that may not seem wrong to the half enlightened doer (Matthew 12:33). Illustrate from Elisha's treatment of Naaman (2 Kings 5:15-19).
4. Well-regulated zeal. Zeal is implied in "redeeming the time," letting no opportunity slip you of seeking to do good in these evil days (Ephesians 5:16), even though at times it might appear to some to be "out of season" (2 Timothy 4:2; Galatians 6:10). But wisdom is needed here, or our efforts may be like random shots in a battle, injuring friends more than foes (e.g. Ma 9:38; Luke 9:54). Silence may at times be more "golden" than speech. Matthew 7:6 must be combined with Mark 16:15.
II. THE SPECIAL WISDOM NEEDED FOR PROFITABLE CONVERSATION. (Mark 16:6; Proverbs 18:21.) By "always with grace" is not meant always religious, but always consistent with "this grace wherein we stand," and calculated to win the favour and promote the highest good of those who hear us (Ephesians 4:29). Therefore we must seek that it be "seasoned with salt," which preserves from corruption and gives relish to our food. Both senses are probably included. Vital religion being distasteful to the natural heart, care is needed that in our conversation we neither degrade the religion we profess nor increase aversion to it by the insipidity of our talk (cf. Job 6:6; Job 26:3). Let our rule be Elihu's (Job 33:3; cf. Psalms 37:30, Psalms 37:31; Proverbs 15:4). One object of this care is "that ye may know," etc. We must be prepared to be questioned and cross questioned on our holy faith. Proverbs 20:4, Proverbs 20:5 may both need to be observed (as by our Lord, Matthew 21:27; Matthew 22:21, Matthew 22:29). When questioned as to "the hope that is in us" (1 Peter 3:15) a weak answer may confirm doubts. Take as models the various answers and vindications of his faith given by St. Paul before the pagans of Athens, the Jews of Jerusalem and of Rome, Felix and Agrippa. But if our tongues are to speak aright, our hearts must be kept full of the fire of the love of God tempered by "the wisdom that is from above" (Matthew 12:34; James 3:17).—E.S.P.
Personal salutations and pastoral cares.
The personal references in Paul's Epistles are valuable in several ways. "Proper names, although they be recited alone in the Scriptures, are not to be despised" (2 Timothy 3:16). "For like as if any one should find dry herbs, having neither fragrance nor colour that was pleasing, arranged in the surgery of a doctor, however mean may be their appearance, will yet guess that some virtue or remedy is concealed in them; so in the pharmacopoeia of the Scriptures, if anything occurs that at first sight may seem to be despised by us, yet may we determine of a certainty that there is some spiritual utility to be found in it; because Christ, the Physician of souls, we may suppose, would place nothing insignificant or useless in his pharmacopoeia" (Origen). These personal references are useful:
1. As supplying "undesigned coincidences" (Paley's 'Horae Paulinae,' Colossians 6., 8., and 14.; and Birks' 'Horae Apostolicae,' Colossians 6.).
2. As correcting errors; e.g. the alleged episcopacy of St. Peter at Rome from A.D. 42-68 is rendered incredible by the silence of St. Paul in all his Epistles from Rome (Colossians 4:10, Colossians 4:11).
3. As helping us to form a vivid idea of the apostle's circumstances at different periods, and their bearing on his life's work and teaching. From these twelve verses we gather such facts as these, each of which may suggest some useful lessons. He was a prisoner, adding his autograph message "in a chain" (Ephesians 6:20); enjoying for the present considerable indulgence (Acts 28:30, Acts 28:31), and hoping for a speedy release (Philemon 1:22). He enjoyed the company of friends both old and new. Here is Tychicus, probably from Ephesus, a tried companion in toil and peril (Acts 20:4; Ephesians 6:21); and Onesimus (a trophy of Divine grace, a jewel rescued as from the common sewer of the corrupt metropolis; teaching us to despair of no one). These two are being sent to tighten the bonds between the Churches in Asia and the apostle at Rome (Colossians 4:7-10; Ephesians 6:22). Others remain to aid and cheer him. Aristarchus of Thessalonica, one of the firstfruits of Europe, now a voluntary prisoner (Acts 19:29; Acts 20:4; Acts 27:2). Mark, now enjoying the fullest confidence of St. Paul (2 Timothy 4:11): an encouraging illustration of how 'patient continuance in well doing' may cast early errors into oblivion and win back confidence once withdrawn; and a caution even to an apostle against too stern a judgment on a young brother. Jesus Justus, the only other Hebrew Christian mentioned, otherwise unknown, yet worthy of honour in all ages, because "a comfort" to the apostle: an encouragement to workers little known in the annals of the Church (Matthew 10:40-42). Epaphras, probably the founder of the Colossian Church, who had often preached to them and. now prayed much for them. Luke, the first medical missionary, a minister to the soul as well as to the body of the sorely tried apostle. Last comes Demas, mentioned without any commendation; still a fellow labourer (Philemon 1:24), but in whom St. Paul may have already detected signs of that worldly mindedness which led him afterwards to withdraw from duty and danger, if not altogether to make shipwreck of faith (2 Timothy 4:10)—a caution against backsliding in heart (Proverbs 14:14; 1 John 2:15). The salutations to brethren at Colossae further remind us of the social life and limited conditions of the primitive Christians ("Nymphas, and the Church that is in their house"), of the value of an earnest ministry to the Church (verse 17), and of the duty of cherishing fraternal sympathy with other Churches (verses 15, 16). This reference to the Epistle to Laodicea suggests to us that, though a letter may be lost and a Church may languish or die (Re Luke 3:14-22), the Word of the Lord in the letter and to the Church endureth for ever. Many of these references group themselves around the names of those who were pastors or evangelists, and suggest final thoughts respecting a minister's responsibilities, anxieties, and encouragements.
1. Responsibilities. (Verse 17.) The ministry was "in the Lord." In union with and in subordination to him he was to exercise it; and only by the utmost vigilance and energy could he fulfil it. To every minister such a charge is given as 2Ti 4:1, 2 Timothy 4:2, 2 Timothy 4:5, and such promises as 1 Timothy 4:16. Responsibility inspires zeal (2 Corinthians 4:1, 2 Corinthians 4:2; 2 Corinthians 5:9; 2 Corinthians 6:3-10), and fosters that spirit of dependence which ensures the blessing (1 Corinthians 3:7).
2. Anxieties. (1 Timothy 4:12, 1 Timothy 4:13.) A faithful minister can aim at nothing less. He cannot adapt the standard of the gospel to the maxims of the day. He has to educate the mind and the conscience, that his flock may be "perfect and fully assured in all the will of God." He must teach and warn, applying general principles to practical details, being himself an example to the flock (1 Timothy 4:12) in labours and in prayers, so that those who know him best may bear such witness to him as Paul does to Epaphras.
3. Encouragements from three sources: sympathy, such as Paul enjoyed from friends at Rome and at Colossae; cooperation from "fellow workers unto the kingdom of God;" affection, such as love to the one Lord and labours for him promote in men of different temperaments, so that we find Paul speaking of many of his colleagues, not only as honoured fellow-soldiers, but beloved friends (1 Timothy 4:7, 1Ti 4:9, 1 Timothy 4:14; Romans 16:12). For all such the apostle breathes the concluding prayer in one comprehensive term, "Grace be with you."—E.S.P.
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADNENEY
Steadfastness in prayer.
I. IT IS GREATLY NEEDED. The seven deacons were chosen partly in order that the apostles might not be hindered by temporal affairs from continuing steadfastly in prayer (Acts 6:4). St. Paul exhorts the Roman Christians to this same steadfastness (Romans 12:12). It is requisite on many accounts.
1. There are never wanting subjects that claim our prayers.
2. When we are least inclined to pray we are in most need of prayer.
3. Only constant prayer can be profoundly spiritual. It is the ever-flowing stream that wears the deep water course. The bird that soars high must be much on the wing.
4. Steadfastness in prayer is rewarded by Divine responses; e.g. Abraham's intercession for Sodom, the parable of the importunate widow, etc.
II. IT IS A SIGN OF SPIRITUAL HEALTH. After the ascension of their Lord the early Christians continued steadfastly in prayer (Acts 1:14); so did the converts of the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:42).
1. It shows a spiritual tone of mind. We may pray in special need without this, and we may pray at set seasons of devotion without it. But to live in an atmosphere of prayer, to pray because it is natural to us to talk with God, because we love communion with him, because prayer is our vital breath, and so to pray without ceasing from inward devotion rather than from external prompting,—all this is a sign of true spirituality.
2. It shows spiritual vigour. Such prayer is no mere listless droning of empty phrases, no sudden burst of temporary ejaculations. It implies a strong, deep energy of devotion.
III. IT IS DIFFICULT TO MAINTAIN. It is easy to cry out to God in great extremities. Prayerless men pray under such circumstances. It is easy, too, to pray when we are in a mood of devotion. The difficulty is to continue steadfastly in prayer. The hindrances are numerous.
1. Lack of interesting subjects of prayer. There may be nothing that touches us as a great want or strongly appeals to our sympathies at some seasons like the dire needs and touching claims that inspire our petitions at other times.
2. External distractions. The pressure of business, the din of the world's affairs, uncongenial society, even too absorbing Church work, especially in this age of rich activity and meagre contemplation, check prayer.
3. Internal hindrances. We are not always in the mood for prayer. Sometimes --
"Hosannas languish on our lips.
And our devotion dies."
This may result from physical weariness. The spirit may be willing though the flesh is weak. We should then turn aside and rest awhile from the tiring work of the world. But it may result from sin. Sin is the greatest hindrance to prayer.
IV. IT MAY BE MAINTAINED BY THE GRACE OF GOD.
1. It is not to be revived in weakness by greater assiduity in formal devotion. It is a fatal mistake to confound long prayers with steadfast prayers, and to suppose that spending more time in saying prayers will strengthen our enfeebled spirit of prayer. It will have the opposite effect. Nothing hinders true prayer so much as continuing the form of devotion without the power.
2. The secret is to seek the reviving Spirit of God. If prayer is growing faint, there may still be energy for uttering the petition, "My soul cleaveth unto the dust: quicken thou me according to thy Word" (Psalms 119:25). All true prayer is an inspiration. The deepest prayer comes from the striving of God's Spirit within us. "The Spirit also helpeth our infirmities … the Spirit himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered" (Romans 8:26).—W.F.A.
Colossians 4:5(first clause)
The wisdom of the Church in its relations to the world.
I. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS WISDOM. The Church needs wisdom. Christians must be wise as serpents as well as harmless as doves. We are to blame for lack of wisdom as well as for lack of other graces, for this is a gift of God (James 1:5).
1. This wisdom is practical. It concerns itself with behaviour rather than with speculation.
2. It must be pure. There must not be the slightest unfaithfulness to Christ, tampering with truth, or casuistic deviation from the highest principles.
II. THE OCCASIONS FOR THIS WISDOM. It was most necessary in the apostolic age, when the Christians existed only as small communities scattered about among adverse populations. But it is always more or less called for.
1. For lawful self protection. If persecuted in one city the servant of Christ was to flee to another, lie was not to court opposition. Martyrdom is only a glory when it comes in the path of duty, and never when men go out of that path to seek it. Then it degenerates into little better than suicide.
2. To conquer opponents. The Church has a mission to the world, and she will fail in this mission if she cannot win her enemies over to her own side. For Christ's sake, and for the good of men who need his gospel, this wisdom must be observed in conciliating foes that they may themselves be brought into the Church.
III. THE MANNER OF EXERCISING THIS WISDOM.
1. In understanding those who are without. We often provoke opposition because we do not study the weaknesses and prejudices of others. On the other hand, Christians have shown a needless scorn for the good in others. True charity will take note of all that is admirable, and think of whatsoever things are worthy in the world outside the Church.
2. In an attractive exhibition of the blessings of Christianity. Souls are not saved by rating and scolding men. The world must be drawn, not driven, to Christ. A morose Church will only repel an unsympathetic world. Wisdom towards them that are without will forbid the scandal of quarrelling among Christians.—W.F.A.
Our speech is to be "seasoned with salt." The context shows that this advice is given especially in regard to the conversation of Christian people with men of the world. It is part of the "wisdom towards them that are without." Instead of offensive fault finding, haughty self assertion, or morose indifference, our speech is to be courteous—"with grace;" and pleasant—"seasoned" Salt stands for wit in Greek references to it as seasoning speech. But with St. Paul it seems rather to mean a pleasant, kindly, interesting characteristic of speech.
I. SPEECH SHOULD BE COURTEOUS. "Be courteous" is advice that comes to us from the sturdy fisherman (1 Peter 3:8). If we cannot agree with another there is no reason why we should treat him unkindly. If we must even oppose him, still we can do it with consideration and gentleness of manner. In general intercourse it is well that an affability of behaviour should characterize the Christian. How courteous Christ was with all classes! St. Paul is a model of the true Christian gentleman. The essence of courtesy is sympathy for others in small things. It is hollow if we manifest hostility or selfishness in large things. The courtesy of a Chesterfield has a flavour of hypocrisy about it because it is based on selfishness. Still, if we are sympathetic in serious matters we may be much misunderstood, and we may really give much pain by a needless brusqueness of manner.
II. SPEECH SHOULD BE INTERESTING. Salt is seasoning. It gives pungency. Something similar should be found in our conversation. Dulness is an offence. It is an infliction of intolerable weariness on the listener. On the part of the speaker it shows either want of interest in his subject (in which case he should let it alone), or want of interest in his hearer (which is a direct result of lack of sympathy). Moreover, the Christian is called to be frequently bearing testimony for his Master. He weakens that testimony by giving it in an uninteresting manner, lie should study his words. But, better than that, he should have his theme so much at heart as to speak with the eloquence of enthusiasm.
III. SPEECH SHOULD BE PURE. Salt is antiseptic. The Christian should not only avoid unwholesome topics and styles of speech; he should bring into conversation a positive, purifying influence. This does not mean that he should be always quoting texts and set religious phrases, or always dragging in religious subjects out of place and season. He degrades them, provokes his hearers, and stultifies himself by so doing. But he should seek to elevate the tone of conversation, to guide it from unworthy subjects and to infuse into it a pure tone. There are Christ-like men whose very presence in a room seems to rebuke evil talk and to breathe a higher atmosphere into the conversation. How purifying was the conversation of Christ!—W.F.A.
A friendly exchange.
I. SCRIPTURE IS INTENDED FOR GENERAL READING. The two Epistles are to be read in the Churches. They are not to be reserved for the bishops, the more initiated or the more advanced Christians. All members of the two Churches, young and old, slaves and freemen, illiterate and cultured, imperfect and spiritual minded, are to hear the two Epistles. Now, these Epistles contain about the most advanced doctrine of all writings of the Bible. They approach nearest to what is analogous to the inner Gnostic doctrines of all Scripture teaching. If, therefore, any portions of Revelation should be reserved for the few, it would be these. If these are for public perusal, surely the simpler Gospels and psalms must be also public property. The Bible is a book for the people. It is free to all. No man has a right to bar access to the tree of life on the plea that the ignorant do not know how to help themselves from it and must have its knits doled out by official guardians. The greatest philosopher may find unfathomable depths in Scripture; but a little child may also read clear truths therein. If it be said that the ignorant will misunderstand, the reply is—They will gain more truth on the whole, in spite of misunderstanding, by free access to the Bible than when only led to it by others. God can take care of his own truth; the Bible was written for the people, and the people have a right to their own. No guardians of Scripture who are to measure it out to others at their discretion were ever appointed by Christ or by his apostles.
II. THE SCRIPTURE THAT IS USEFUL TO ONE CHURCH WILL BE USEFUL TO ANOTHER. The two letters were written with special regard to the peculiar circumstances of the two Churches. Yet they were to be exchanged, Much more, then, should Christians who have not had any private Epistle of their own benefit by the public Scriptures. Special wants are not primary wants. The great need of revelation is common to all. The fundamental truths of the gospel are needed by and offered to all. The highest glories of revelation are for all.
III. OUR READING OF SCRIPTURE SHOULD NOT BE CONFINED TO ISOLATED FRAGMENTS. A Church which had been honoured by receiving an apostolic Epistle written expressly for itself would be tempted to depreciate other apostolic writings, or at least to consider that for its own use its own Epistle was of paramount if not of exclusive importance. It would be in danger of making its one Epistle its own New Testament, to the disregard of all the rest. But the advice of St. Paul shows that such an action would be a mistake.
1. Our reading of Scripture should be wide and varied. We must beware of confining our attention to favourite portions. By doing so we get one-sided views of truth, and probably, even if unconsciously, select what seems to support our own notions to the neglect of what would modify them. We may most need to read those Scriptures in which we feel least interest.
2. Scripture balances and interprets Scripture. The doctrine of the Christ which is the leading theme of the Epistle to the Colossians is closely related to the doctrine of the Church which is the central subject of the so-called Epistle to the Ephesians (that, probably, referred to by St. Paul as the Epistle to the Laodiceans).
IV. THERE SHOULD BE INTERCOMMUNION BETWEEN CHRISTIAN CONGREGATIONS. There is too much corporate selfishness in the Church. We should be the better for more ecclesiastical altruism, or rather communism.
1. This is most to be looked for between neighbours. Laodicea was near to Colossae.
2. And it should be cultivated between the prominent and the obscure. Laodicea was an important city, Colossae a small town. Yet the Churches in the two places were to show brotherly sympathy on equal terms and to be mutually helpful to one another. While the strong should help the weak, the weak should beware of selfishness and do their best to serve the strong.—W.F.A.
"Remember my bonds."
St. Paul's occasional references to his bonds are never thrust forward in the spirit of the histrionic martyr and never expressed in a murmuring tone, but they evince the irksome restraints under which he laboured, and they give a certain pathos to his entreaties. To be always chained to a soldier, possibly one of rude and coarse manners, must have been peculiarly distressing to a man of sensitive, refined disposition like St. Paul. Feeling the burden of his bonds, the apostle prays his readers to remember them.
I. REMEMBER THEM IN SYMPATHY. It is something to know that friends are feeling with us, when they can do nothing directly to remove the cause of trouble. The lowliest may help the greatest by his sympathy. An apostle seeks the sympathy of obscure Christians. Christ looked for the support of his disciples' sympathy in the hour of his greatest agony, and had the last drop of his bitter cup in the failing of that sympathy (Matthew 26:40).
II. REMEMBER THEM IN PRAYER. When we cannot work for our brother's release from trouble, we may pray. With all the power of Rome at his back, Nero cannot prevent the feeble Christians from having recourse to the mighty weapon of prayer. Let us beware of a selfish narrowness of sympathy in prayer. There are always many calls for prayers of intercession. Very touching is the ancient prayer that has come down to us from the dark ages of persecution, and is presented in the so-called 'Divine Liturgy of St. James:' "Remember, O Lord, Christians sailing, travelling, sojourning in strange lauds; our fathers and brethren, who are in bonds, prison, captivity, and exile; who are m mines, and under torture, and m bitter slavery.
III. REMEMBER THEM IN GRATITUDE. St. Paul was suffering for the gospel. The real cause of his imprisonment was the persecution of the Jews, who were more bitter to his liberal version of Christianity than to the more Judaistic Christianity of the other apostles. Thus he described himself, "I Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus in behalf of you Gentiles" (Ephesians 3:1). Therefore his bonds merit our grateful memory; and the sufferings of the champions of Christian liberty merit similar reverent and grateful recollections. It is well that these memories should be handed down from father to son, that the stories of the heroes of Christendom through whose toils and sufferings we now enjoy so many privileges should be taught to our children.
IV. REMEMBER THEM IN REVERENCE FOR ST. PAUL'S AUTHORITY. His bonds lend weight to his words. They prove his sincerity. They are a reason for listening to his entreaties. By his sufferings he entreats us to walk worthily of our Christian calling. So the greater sufferings of a greater Friend give force to his persuasion when he bids us follow him.—W.F.A.
1. THE AUTHORSHIP OF THE EPISTLE.
THERE is no doubt that the author of this First Epistle to the Thessalonians is the Apostle Paul. This is one of those scriptural writings the genuineness of which has been almost universally acknowledged. It has been called in question only by theologians of the most extreme school of criticism, £ and has even been admitted by some belonging to that school. £ The external evidence in its favor is strong. It is indirectly alluded to by the apostolic Fathers; it is directly referred to by such early Fathers as Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian; it is contained in the Muratorian Canon, and in the early Syriac and Latin versions belonging to the second century; and its genuineness has never been challenged until recent times. To quote only one of these Fathers; Irenaeus thus writes: "And on account of this the apostle, explaining himself, has set forth the perfect man of salvation, saying thus in the First Epistle to the Thessalonians: 'And may the God of peace sanctify you wholly, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved without complaint until the advent of the Lord Jesus Christ" ('Adv. Haeres.,' 5.6, 1). Nor is the internal evidence less strong than the external. The character of Paul is distinctly impressed upon this Epistle; his intense love for his converts, his anxiety about their spiritual welfare, his joy when he receives a favorable account of their faith and charity, his zeal for the cause of the Lord for which he is ready to sacrifice everything, his noble independence of spirit,—all these characteristics of the apostle are seen in this Epistle. So also the style and mode of expression are Paul's. We have the same employment of emphatic terms, the same rich use of synonyms, the same accumulation of ideas, the same digressions suggested by a word, the same preference for participial constructions as are elsewhere found in Paul's other Epistles. In short, as Professor Jowett observes, "It has been objected against the genuineness of this Epistle that it contains only a single statement of doctrine. But liveliness, personality, similar traits of disposition, are more difficult to invent than statements of doctrine. A later age might have supplied these, but it could hardly have caught the very likeness and portrait of the apostle.... Such intricate similarities of language, such lively traits of character, it is not within the power of any forger to invent, and, least of all, a forger of the second century." £ Nor is there anything in the contents of the Epistle at variance with the opinion that it was written by Paul. It has, indeed, been asserted that it is devoid of individuality and doctrinal statements. Its perusal will show that it is at once lively and specially adapted to the wants of the Thessalonians. And that it is devoid of doctrinal statements is an assertion which may also well he disputed; but even admitting that there is a partial truth in the remark, yet this is easily accounted for by the circumstances under which the Epistle was written.
The coincidences between the Epistle and the incidents in the life of Paul, as recorded in the Acts, is another striking proof of its authenticity. £ In the Acts we read of the persecution to which Paul and Silas were subjected at Philippi, when, in violation of their rights as Roman citizens, they were publicly scourged and cast into prison. In the Epistle, written in the name of Paul and Silas, there is reference to this shameful treatment: "Even after we had suffered before and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention" (1 Thessalonians 2:2). In the Acts we are informed that Paul and Silas encountered a similar persecution at Thessalonica. "The Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people" (Acts 17:5). In the Epistle Paul appeals to the knowledge of the Thessalonians concerning this treatment: "For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know" (1 Thessalonians 3:4). In the Acts we are informed that Paul parted from his companions, Silas and Timothy, at Beraea, and was rejoined by them at Corinth: "And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia (to Corinth), Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ" (Acts 18:5). And the Epistle, written, as we shall afterwards see, from Corinth, is in the joint names of Paul and Silvanus and Timotheus. Not only are there these coincidences, but also additional statements in the Epistle supplementing the history, thus proving that the one record could not have been copied from the other. Thus in the Acts we are informed that Silas and Timothy did not join Paul until after his arrival at Corinth (Acts 18:5); whereas in the Epistle there is a statement which has led many £ to affirm that Timothy joined Paul at Athens, and was sent by him from that city to Thessalonica: "Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone; and sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellow-laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith" (1 Thessalonians 3:1, 1 Thessalonians 3:2). In the Acts we are informed that Paul preached in the synagogue for three sabbaths, reasoning with the Jews (Acts 17:2); whereas there are references in the Epistle which have induced some to think that his residence in Thessalonica was more protracted. In the Acts we are only informed that Paul preached in the synagogue to the Jews and devout Greeks, that is, the religious proselytes; whereas it is evident from the whole character of the Epistle that the Church was composed of Gentile converts. These differences are not contradictions, and may easily be adjusted; but they are apparent enough to demonstrate the independence both of the history and the Epistle.
2. THE CHURCH OF THESSALONICA.
Thessalonica was a large seaport of Macedonia, situated in the form of an amphitheatre on the slope of a hill at the north-east end of the Thermaic Gulf, now called the Gulf of Salonica. It had in antiquity various names. Thus it was called Emathia and Italia. In ancient history it appears under the name Therma, so called from the hot springs in the neighborhood. Under this name it is mentioned in the account of the invasion of Xerxes, and in the history of the Peloponnesian War. We are informed that Cassander, the son of Antipater, King of Macedonia, rebuilt Therma, and called it Thessalonica, after the name of his wife, the half-sister of Alexander the Great (Strabo, 7. Frag. 24). According to another account, less trustworthy, it was so called by Philip, the father of Alexander, to commemorate his victory over the Thessalonians. In the Middle Ages it appears under the contracted form Salneck; and is now known under the name Salonica. Under the Romans Thessalonica became a city of great importance. During the temporary division of Macedonia into four districts, it was the capital of the second district; and afterwards, when the Roman province of Macedonia was formed, it became the metropolis of the country, and the residence of the Roman governor. In the civil wars it sided with Augustus and Antony, and was rewarded by receiving the privileges of a free city. Strabo, who lived shortly before the Christian era, observes that "it has at present the largest population of any town in the district" (Strabo 7.7, 4). In the time of Paul, then, Thessalonica was a populous and flourishing town; it was chiefly inhabited by Greeks, with a mixture of Romans. The Jews also were attracted to it in great numbers for the sake of commerce, and here was the synagogue of the district (Acts 17:1). It has always been a city of great importance. It long continued to be a bulwark against the assaults of the northern barbarians, and afterwards of the Saracens. When the Greek empire became enfeebled, Thessalonica was attached to the Venetian Republic, and remained so until the year 1430, when it was captured by the Turks, in whose possession it continues to this day. It is considered as the second city of European Turkey, having a population of about seventy thousand, of whom at least thirty thousand are Jews. Thessalonica has many remains of antiquity, one of which deserves special mention, a triumphal arch, erected to commemorate the victory of Philippi, and which must have been standing when Paul visited that city.
We have an account of the origin of the Church of Thessalonica in the Acts of the Apostles. In his second great missionary journey, Paul and his fellow-laborers, Silas and Timothy, had arrived at Alexandria Tress, when he was directed by a vision to cross over the AEgean Sea and repair to Europe. In obedience to this Divine direction, we are informed that loosing from Tress, they came with a straight course to the island of Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis, and from that they journeyed inland to Philippi (Acts 16:11, Acts 16:12). Here they remained for some time, preaching the gospel with great success, until they were driven from it by a severe persecution. From Philippi Paul and his companions proceeded, by way of Amphipolis and Apollonia, to Thessalonica. Here was the chief synagogue of the district, and into it Paul, according to his custom, entered and preached the gospel. He proved to the Jews from their Scriptures that the Messiah was to suffer and rise from the dead; and he showed them that Jesus did thus suffer and rise again, and was consequently the Messiah (Acts 17:3). It would also appear that at Thessalonica he dwelt much on the kingdom and second advent of the Lord Jesus Christ; he laid great stress on the resurrection of Christ, and on his exaltation to the throne of eternal majesty. Hence the accusation brought against him that he proclaimed another King, one Jesus (Acts 17:7); and, in his Epistle, he observes, "Ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, that you would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory" (1 Thessalonians 2:11, 1 Thessalonians 2:12). For three sabbaths Paul continued his efforts in the Jewish synagogue with considerable success; some of the Jews believed, but his converts were especially numerous among the devout Greeks (Acts 17:1-4). At length the unbelieving Jews, moved with envy, raised a tumult against Paul and his companions; they stirred up the rabble, and assaulted the house of Jason, with whom the Christian preachers lodged; and when they failed to capture them, they dragged Jason and certain of the converts before the magistrates of the city, accusing them of disturbing the public peace and of harboring traitors to the emperor. In consequence of this, to avoid further disturbance, Paul and Silas left the city by night, and repaired to the neighboring town of Bercea (Acts 17:10).
In the Acts of the Apostles a residence in Thessalonica of only three weeks is mentioned (Acts 17:2). There are, however, statements in the Epistle which would lead us to infer that his residence was for a somewhat longer period. A flourishing Church was formed in Thessalonica; the gospel spread from it as a center throughout Macedonia; its fame was everywhere diffused; and for this success a longer space of time than three weeks would appear requisite. Besides, at Thessalonica Paul supported himself by manual labor. "Ye remember," he writes, "our labor and travail: for laboring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God" (1 Thessalonians 2:9). And it was his custom to do so only when his residence in any city was prolonged. And we are informed in the Epistle to the Philippians that his converts in Philippi "sent to Thessalonica once and again to his necessities;" and that this was on the occasion of this visit to Thessalonica is evident, for the apostle tells us that it was "in the beginning of the gospel" (Philippians 4:15, Philippians 4:16). Now, the distance between these two cities was a hundred miles; and therefore more than three weeks appear to be necessary for the transmission of this twofold supply for his wants. Still, however, his residence could not have been long, and his departure from the city was compulsory. Probably Paul preached for three successive sabbaths in the synagogue, but, finding the Jews obstinate and the synagogue closed against him, he turned, as his manner was, to the Gentiles; and it was his success among the Gentiles that stirred up the wrath of the Jews, and excited that disturbance which was the occasion of his leaving Thessalonica.
The result of Paul's ministry during the three sabbaths he preached in the synagogue is thus given by the author of the Acts: "And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few" (Acts 17:4). From this it appears that his success was small among the Jews, but great among the devout Greeks, that is, those Greeks who had previously detached themselves from idolatry and were seeking after God, and were thus in a manner prepared for the reception of Christianity. Afterwards it is probable that Paul preached to the Gentiles, and made numerous converts among them. Although the Jews were numerous in Thessalonica, yet it is evident from the two Epistles that the Church there was chiefly composed of Gentile converts. They are described as those who turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God (1 Thessalonians 1:9)—a description applicable to converted Gentiles, but not to converted Jews and Jewish proselytes; and in neither Epistle is there a direct quotation from the Old Testament, the only probable allusion being to the prophecies of Daniel in the description of the man of sin contained in the Second Epistle (2 Thessalonians 2:4).
3 THE OCCASION OF THE EPISTLE.
Paul, driven from Thessalonica, had repaired to Beraea, but from this also he had been compelled to depart by the machinations of the Jews of Thessalonica (Acts 17:13, Acts 17:14). He had learned that the persecution which had arisen during his presence was continued in his absence (1 Thessalonians 2:14). And hence he was filled with anxiety about his Thessalonian converts. He knew that by reason of the shortness of his residence they were only partially instructed in Christianity, and he naturally feared that they might fall from the faith. Twice he had planned to visit them; but circumstances had prevented him (1 Thessalonians 2:18). Accordingly, no longer able to master his anxiety, he sent his fellow-laborer Timothy, either from Beraea or Athens, to ascertain their state (1 Thessalonians 3:1, 1 Thessalonians 3:2). Paul, meanwhile, had repaired from Beraea to Athens, and thence to Corinth; and there Timothy joined him, and the information which he brought was the occasion of this Epistle. That information was upon the whole consolatory and satisfactory. Timothy brought good tidings of the faith and charity of the Thessalonians, of their affectionate regard for the apostle, and of their earnest desire to see him. The Thessalonians, in spite of the persecution which they endured, continued steadfast to the faith; they were examples to all that believed in Thessalonica and Achaia (1Th 1:7; 1 Thessalonians 3:6, 1 Thessalonians 3:7). But, however favorable this report of Timothy, there were still many defects to supply, many errors to correct, and many evil practices to reform. The religious knowledge of the Thessalonians was defective; their religion had partially degenerated into fanaticism; and especially they were filled with excitement under the persuasion of the immediate coming of Christ. Some of them had neglected their worldly duties and had sunk into an indolent inactivity (1 Thessalonians 4:11, 1 Thessalonians 4:12). It would appear that some of the converts had died, and their friends were distressed on their account, lest they should forfeit the blessings to be bestowed at the advent of Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Nor had the Thessalonians entirely detached themselves from the vices of their former heathen state. The apostle had to warn them against sensuality, that vice so prevalent among the Gentiles; and he had to rebuke the covetousness of some as well as the indolence of others (1 Thessalonians 4:1-7).
With regard to its contents, the Epistle is divided into two parts: the first, comprehending the first three chapters, may be termed historical; the second, including the two last chapters, is practical. The apostle, after saluting the Thessalonians, renders thanks to God for the entrance of the gospel among them, for the mighty efficacy with which it was accompanied, and for the steadfastness of their faith (1 Thessalonians 1:1-10.). He alludes to his demeanor when in Thessalonica; how, notwithstanding his shameful treatment at Philippi, he had preached the gospel among them amid much contention; how he had sought neither their money nor their applause, but, actuated by the purest motives, had labored incessantly for their spiritual welfare, and was ready to sacrifice himself for them (1 Thessalonians 2:1-20.). He mentions the extreme anxiety he had on their account, the mission of Timothy to them, and the great satisfaction he experienced at the information which Timothy brought of the steadfastness of their faith and the abundance of their charity (1 Thessalonians 3:1-13.). He then exhorts them to continue in holiness, carefully to avoid the lusts of the Gentiles who knew not God, and, instead of being led away by excitement as if the advent of Christ was at hand, to be diligent in the, performance of their earthly duties. He comforts them concerning the fate of their departed friends, and exhorts them to be watchful and prepared for the coming of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:1-18.). Then follow a series of detached exhortations to cultivate the virtues of Christianity, and the Epistle concludes with the apostolic benediction (1 Thessalonians 5:1-28.).
4. THE DATE OF THE EPISTLE.
When Paul and Silas left Thessalonica, they came to Beraea; Timothy probably remained behind, but he also soon joined them. Paul left them both at Beraea, and proceeded alone to Athens. Timothy was probably sent from Beraea back to Thessalonica to confirm the Church there, though some suppose that this mission took place from Athens. At Athens Paul intended to remain until his companions joined him; he sent a message to Silas and Timothy to come to him with all speed (Acts 17:14, Acts 17:15). It would, however, appear that he left Athens without them; unforeseen circumstances had prevented them complying with his request, and they did not rejoin him until his arrival at Corinth. Now, as the Epistle is written in the joint names of Paul, Silvanus, and Timotheus, it is evident that it was not composed until all three met together at Corinth. Some time also must have elapsed between the planting of Christianity in Thessalonica and the writing of this Epistle. Paul had twice attempted to visit them; Timothy had been sent by the apostle and had returned from his mission; and the faith of the Thessalonians had been spread abroad throughout Macedonia and Achaia (1 Thessalonians 1:7, 1 Thessalonians 1:8). The interval, however, could not have been long. Timothy returned at the commencement of Paul's residence at Corinth; and the apostle's anxiety for the Thessalonians would induce him to write the Epistle immediately on his receiving the information. He speaks of his absence from them as having as yet lasted only a short time. "We, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored the more abundantly to see your face with great desire" (1 Thessalonians 2:17). We may, therefore, safely fix the time of the composition of the Epistle toward the close of the year 52 or the beginning of the year 53, and during the early part of Paul's residence at Corinth, about six months after the planting of Christianity in Thessalonica.
Accordingly the place of writing was Corinth. In our New Testament, at the end of the Epistle, there is appended the note: "The First Epistle to the Thessalonians was written from Athens." Though such a note is found in the most ancient manuscripts, it is evidently a mistake. The Epistle could not have been written from Athens, for Silas and Timothy were not both there with the apostle; and it was not written until the return of Timothy from Thessalonica, which occurred at Corinth; nor is there any ground for the supposition that Paul and his companions, during his residence at Corinth, made a short excursion to Athens. The mistake appears to have arisen from a careless inference drawn from the words, "We thought it good to be left at Athens alone" (1 Thessalonians 3:1); whereas the reference there is evidently to a past event, and indirectly implies that the apostle was not at Athens when he wrote these words. These subscriptions at the end of the Epistles have no authority; and although in general correct, yet occasionally, as in the present instance, they are erroneous.
5. THE PECULIARITIES OF THE EPISTLE.
The special peculiarity of this Epistle is that it is undoubtedly the first of Paul's extant Epistles. Whether it is the first Epistle that Paul ever wrote is an entirely different question; but it is the first that has come down to us. This is a point on which almost all commentators are agreed. In all probability it is the earliest of the books of the New Testament, with the possible exception of the Epistle of James.
It is erroneous to affirm that this First Epistle to the Thessalonians is devoid of doctrinal statements. The supreme dignity of the Lord Jesus Christ, the spiritual kingdom which he has established in this world, the deliverance from the wrath to come effected by him, the necessity of holiness for salvation, the reign of Christ in heaven, the resurrection of the just, the second advent of Christ, the blessedness of a future state to the righteous and the wrath which awaits the wicked, are all clearly deduced from this Epistle. The great plan of redemption through the sufferings of Christ was clear to the apostle from the beginning. We can hardly even affirm that there was a development in the views of the apostle—a progress made in spiritual knowledge and insight into the ways of God. No doubt different doctrines are insisted on in the different Epistles; but this arose from the circumstances of the Churches to whom the apostle wrote. Thus in this Epistle to the Thessalonians there is no mention of the great Pauline doctrine of justification, because in that Church there was no controversy with the Judaistic Christians, and therefore no necessity of defending the doctrine of justification against erroneous notions; whereas the errors of the Galatian Church caused the apostle to dwell specially on that doctrine. So also at a still later period the incipient Gnostic errors were the occasion which induced the apostle to insist more fully on the nature of Christ's Person in the Epistles to the Colossians and Ephesians than in his earlier Epistles. Bishop Lightfoot, in his able article on the "Epistles to the Thessalonians," in Smith's 'Biblical Dictionary,' notices three points of difference between these and Paul's later Epistles. First, in the general style of these earlier letters there is greater simplicity and less exuberance of language. Secondly, the antagonism is different. Here the opposition comes from the unconverted Jews; afterwards Paul's opponents are Judaizing Christians. Thirdly, the doctrinal teaching of the apostle does not bear quite the same aspect as in the later Epistles. Many of the distinctive doctrines of Christianity which are inseparably connected with Paul's name were not evolved and distinctly enunciated until the needs of the Church drew them out into prominence at a later date. So far, then, it may be true that this First Epistle to the Thessalonians is not so doctrinal as the Epistles to the Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians. The circumstances of the Church determined the contents of the Epistle. The doctrine most insisted on and explained is the second advent, because erroneous views prevailed concerning it among the Thessalonians, giving rise to many disorders.
Paul, in writing to the Thessalonians, lays bare his heart; he speaks of his gentleness among them, even as a nursing mother cherisheth her children, and of his readiness to impart unto them, not the gospel of God only, but his own soul by reason of the affection which he bore to them. The Epistle which it most closely resembles is that to the Philippians. The Macedonian Churches were peculiarly attached to the apostle, and he to them; he writes to them in the fullness of his affection; and exhorts them, not so much with the authority of a spiritual teacher, as with the love and tenderness of parental affection, even as a father doth his children.
List of works consulted in the following Exposition:
Alexander, Bishop of Derry, "Epistles to Thessalonians," in 'Speaker's Commentary,' 1881
Alford, H., 'The Greek Testament,' vol. 3., 3rd. edit., 1866
Auberlen, C. A., '1 Thessalonians 1:0; 1 Thessalonians 2:0,' in Lange's 'Bibelwerk,' 1869
Bleek, J. F., 'Introduction to the New Testament,' translation 1870; 'Lectures on the Apocalypse,' translation 1875
Calvin, J., 'Commentary on the Thessalonians,' translation 1851
Conybeare and Howson, 'Life and Epistles of St. Paul,' 2nd edit., 1862
Davidson, S., 'Introduction to the New Testament,' 1st edit., 3 vols., 1851; 'Introduction to the Study of the New Testament,' 2 vols., 1868
De Wette, W. M. L., 'Exegetisches Handbuch: Thessalonicher,' 1864
Diedrich, J., 'Die Briefe St. Pauli,' Leipzig, 1858
Doddridge, P., 'Family Expositor;'
Dusterdieck, F., 'Offenbarung Johannis: ' dritte Aufiage, 1877
Eadie, John, 'Commentary on Thesalonians,' 1877
Ellicott, Bishop, 'St. Paul's Epistles to the Thessalonians,' 3rd edit., 1866
Elliott, E. B., 'Horae Apocalyptical,' 5th edit., 1862
Farrar, F. W., 'Articles in the Expositor,' vols. 1. and 2., 2nd series
Gloag, P. J., 'Pauline Epistles,' 1874
Hofmann, J. C. K., 'Die heilige Schrift N.T.: Th. 1., Thessalonicher,' 1869; 'Schriftbeweis,' 1854
Hurd, Bishop, 'On the Prophecies,' vol. 2., 4th edit., 1776
Jowett, B., 'St. Paul's Epistles to the Thessalonians,' etc., 1st edit., 1855; 2nd edit., 1859
Kirchhofer, J., 'Quellensammlung,' 1842
Koch, A., 'Commentar fiber d. 1 Thessalonicher,' 1855
Lardner, N., 'Credibility of the Gospel History,' 1815
Lee, W., "Revelations," in 'Speaker's Commentary,' 1881
Lightfoot. Bishop, article "Thessalonians," in Smith's 'Dictionary;'
Lillie, J., 'Lectures on the Epistles to the Thessalonians,' 1863
Lunemman, G., "Briefe and. Thessalonians," in Meyer's 'Kommentar,' dritte Aufiage, 1867; Translation of the same, 1880
Macknight, J., 'Translation of the Epistles;'
Meyrick, F., article on "Antichrist," in Smith's 'Dictionary;'
Newton, Bishop, 'Dissertations on the Prophecies;'
Olshausen, H., 'On the Thessalonians,' translation 1851
Paley, W., 'Horae Paulinae;'
Paterson, A., 'Commentary on 1 Thessalonians,' 1857
Renan, E., 'L'Antichrist,' 3rd edit., 1873
Reuss, E., 'Geschichte d. heiligen Schriften,' vierte Aufiage, 1864
Riggenbach, C. J., "Commentary on Thessalonians," in Lange's 'Bibelwerk,' 1869
Vaughan, C. J., 'First Epistle to the Thessalonians,' 1864
Whitby, D., 'Commentary on the New Testament;'
Wieseler, Karl, 'Chronologie d. Apost. Zeitalters,' 1848
Wordsworth, Bishop, 'Greek Testament,' 6th edit., 1851.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Colossians 4". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30