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Bible Commentaries
Colossians 4

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

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Introduction

Colossians 4:0

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4NRSVNRSVTEVNJB
ExhortationsChristian GracesThe Christian's DutiesInstructionsApostolic Spirit
(Colossians 3:18-6)
Colossians 4:2-6Colossians 4:2-6Colossians 4:2-4Colossians 4:2-4Colossians 4:2-4
Colossians 4:5-6Colossians 4:5-6Colossians 4:5-6
Final GreetingsFinal GreetingsEpilogueFinal GreetingsPersonal News
Colossians 4:7-9Colossians 4:7-15Colossians 4:7-9Colossians 4:7-9Colossians 4:7-9
Greeting and Final Wishes
4:10-27Colossians 4:10-17Colossians 4:10-11Colossians 4:10-14
Colossians 4:12-14
Closing Exhortations and BlessingColossians 4:15-17Colossians 4:15-17
Colossians 4:16-18
Colossians 4:18Colossians 4:18Colossians 4:18aColossians 4:18
Colossians 4:18b

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five modern translations. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one main subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. List the three aspects of prayer in Colossians 4:2-3.

2. List the four aspects of the Christian life in Colossians 4:5-6.

3. Discuss the individuals mentioned in Colossians 4:7-14.

Verse 1

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Colossians 3:22-1 22Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, 24knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. 25For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality. 4:1Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven.

Colossians 3:22 "Slaves, in all things obey" There should be no paragraph break at Colossians 3:22. This is a present active imperative, "keep on obeying." This is the third example from the Christian home (cf. Ephesians 6:5-9). In our day this might relate (i.e., apply to) to Christian employers and employees. In Ephesians, and probably also here in Colossians, it refers to both saved and lost masters.

I personally do not believe this "in all things" refers to evil or sin (cf. Acts 5:29). This is a general statement admonishing obedience, not a license for believers to participate in things which are excluded by Scripture. This is also true of wives (cf. Colossians 3:18; Ephesians 5:22). See Special Topic: Paul's Admonitions to Slaves at Ephesians 6:5.

"sincerity of heart" See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: GENEROUS/SINCERE (HAPLOTES)

Colossians 3:23 Serving the Lord is the motive for all Christians in all their activities (cf. Colossians 3:17; Ephesians 6:7; 1 Corinthians 10:31)! Believers should be daily, living witnesses of the redeeming power of God!

Colossians 3:24 In the ancient world slaves had no inheritance rights. But now, in Christ, they do! God is going to reward those who love, worship, and serve Him (cf. Colossians 3:23; Ephesians 6:8).

Colossians 3:25 Divine judgment is dispensed without partiality (cf. Deuteronomy 10:17; Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11; Ephesians 2:9; Ephesians 6:9; 1 Peter 1:17). This principle is expressed clearly in Galatians 6:7. Even believers will give an account unto God, not for sin, but for stewardship (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:10). Sin has consequences in time and in eternity!

Colossians 4:1 This shows the reciprocal responsibility (cf. Colossians 3:19, Colossians 3:21). Unlike Ephesians, this text speaks to Christian slave owners (cf. Philemon). The NIV Study Bible (p. 1817) adds an interesting comment: "The reason Paul writes more about slaves and masters than about wives, husbands, children, and fathers may be that the slave Onesimus (cf. Colossians 4:9) is going along with Tychicus to deliver this Colossean letter and the letter to Philemon, Onesimus' master, who also lived at Colossae."

This verse contextually should go with chapter 3. It concludes Paul's domestic example of Christlike living. See Special Topic: Paul's Admonitions to Slaves at Ephesians 6:5.

Verses 2-4

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Colossians 4:2-4 2Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; 3praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; 4that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak.

Colossians 4:2

NASB, NRSV"devote yourselves to prayer" NKJV"continue earnestly in prayer" TEV"be persistent in prayer" NJB"be persevering in your prayers"

This is a present active imperative, "continue to devote yourselves to prayer." Prayer is not optional. Prayer is crucial for effective Christian living and ministry (cf. Ephesians 6:18-19; Romans 12:2; Philippians 4:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:17). If Jesus, being God incarnate, was characterized by both public and private prayer, how much more do believers need to pray for the gospel, for themselves, and for one another? See Special Topic: Effective Prayer at Ephesians 6:19.

NASB, NRSV, TEV"keeping alert" NKJV"being vigilant" NJB"stay awake"

This is a present active participle functioning as an imperative. Prayer takes planning, persistence, and vigilance. It needs to become a lifestyle, not an event.

"thanksgiving" Notice the three aspects of prayer in Colossians 4:2. Also, remember Paul was imprisoned, yet this letter emphasizes "thanksgiving" (cf. Colossians 1:3, Colossians 1:12; Colossians 2:7; Colossians 3:15-17; Colossians 4:2). Biblical truth (worldview) radically change ones perspective on life (cf. Romans 8:31-39). Thanksgiving is a characteristic of a Spirit-filled life (cf. Ephesians 5:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:18).

SPECIAL TOPIC: THANKSGIVING

Colossians 4:3 "praying at the same time for us" Paul needed intercessory prayer. In Colossians 4:3, Colossians 4:4 (cf. Ephesians 6:19-20), he prays for three things related to his preaching the gospel.

1. an open door to preach (cf. Acts 14:27; 1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 2:12; Revelation 3:8)

2. an ability to explain the mystery of the gospel

3. the ability to speak the gospel clearly

SPECIAL TOPIC: INTERCESSORY PRAYER

"that God will open up to us a door for the word" See Special Topic following.

SPECIAL TOPIC: USE OF THE WORD "DOOR" IN THE NT

"the mystery of Christ" See note at Colossians 2:2 and Special Topic at Ephesians 3:3.

"for which I have also been imprisoned" If current scholarship is correct Paul was imprisoned in Rome in the early A.D. 60's (cf. Colossians 4:18). Paul was not in Rome nor on trial before Caesar by accident! This was predicted at his conversion (cf. Acts 9:15-16; Philippians 1:13).

Verses 5-6

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Colossians 4:5-6 5Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. 6Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.

Colossians 4:5-6 These two verses relate to evangelism. Believers are to live in such a way that non-believers are (1) not turned off, but (2) attracted. Every believer is to be a verbal witness and a lifestyle witness (cf. 1 Peter 3:15)!

Colossians 4:5

NASB "Conduct yourselves with wisdom" NKJV"walk in wisdom" NRSV"conduct yourselves wisely" TEV"Be wise in the way you act" NJB"Act wisely"

This is another present active imperative, "always conduct yourselves with wisdom." Believers are to be intentional evangelists. Evangelism is God's will for the church (cf. Matthew 28:19-20). Every believer is a full time minister of the gospel (cf. Ephesians 4:11-12).

NASB "making the most of the opportunity' NKJV"redeeming the time" NRSV"making the most of the time" TEV"making good use of every opportunity you have" NJB"making the best of the present time"

This is a present middle participle. This was the term (exagorazô) used to describe redemption (cf. Galatians 3:13; Galatians 4:5). It had an OT connotation of buying someone back from slavery, even sometimes the personal agency of a near relative (go'el). It was used metaphorically of making the most of an opportunity by buying something at a good price or at an appropriate time (cf. Ephesians 5:16).

Believers must live godly lives and use godly wisdom so that when evangelistic and spiritual opportunities come they can take full advantage of them!

Colossians 4:6 "speech. . .seasoned. . .with salt" Believers must watch their speech (cf. Ephesians 4:29). They are known by their words (cf. Matthew 15:1-20; Mark 7:2-23) and judged by their words (cf. Matthew 12:33-37; Luke 6:39-45). Our speech and our lives will open opportunities for witnessing! Intention, not which evangelistic methodology one chooses to use, is the key. Prayer, not perfect presentation, is crucial. Wisdom is helpful but the Spirit is the determinative factor! See Special Topic: Human Speech at Colossians 3:10.

Verses 7-9

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Colossians 4:7-9 7As to all my affairs, Tychicus, our beloved brother and faithful servant and fellow bond-servant in the Lord, will bring you information. 8For I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts; 9and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of your number. They will inform you about the whole situation here.

Colossians 4:7-8 "Tychicus" Paul mentions Tychicus several times (cf. Acts 20:4; Ephesians 6:21; 2 Timothy 4:12 and Titus 3:12). He was the bearer of this letter, and also of Ephesians and Philemon. Paul sent him to explain his circumstances to the churches of Asia Minor so that they might know how better to pray for him and rejoice with him (cf. Colossians 4:8 and introduction).

Colossians 4:8 "hearts" See Special Topic at Colossians 2:2.

Colossians 4:9 "Onesimus" Onesimus was a runaway slave converted in prison by Paul. Paul sent him back to his Christian master, Philemon, who lived in Colossae and was well known to Paul (cf. Philemon). In many ways this tension between slave and free was an effective test of genuine Christian love.

Verses 10-17

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Colossians 4:10-17 10Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, sends you his greetings; and also Barnabas' cousin Mark (about whom you received instructions; if he comes to you, welcome him); 11and also Jesus who is called Justus; these are the only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are from the circumcision, and they have proved to be an encouragement to me. 12Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bond slave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God. 13For I testify for him that he has a deep concern for you and for those who are in Laodicea and Hierapolis. 14Luke, the beloved physician, sends you his greetings, and also Demas. 15Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea and also Nympha and the church that is in her house. 16When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea. 17Say to Archippus, "Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it."

Colossians 4:10-14 Timothy and six other co-workers sent their personal greetings to the church. Six of these seven co-workers are also mentioned in Philemon. Tychicus was probably the bearer of the letters of Colossians, Ephesians, and Philemon to Asia Minor.

Colossians 4:10 "Aristarchus" A Jewish Christian about whom we know little (cf. Acts 19:29; Acts 20:4; Acts 27:2).

"my fellow prisoner" This refers either metaphorically to Christian service or literally to imprisonment (cf. Romans 16:7; Philemon 1:23).

"Mark, the cousin of Barnabas" John Mark's home may have been the site of the Lord's Supper and Upper Room post-resurrection appearances of Jesus (cf. Acts 12:12). He was the writer of the Gospel of Mark and the friend and scribe of Peter (cf. 1 Peter 5:13). He was the cause of a great disagreement between Barnabas and Paul after their first missionary journey (cf. Acts 12:25; Acts 13:5; Acts 15:36-39).

"if he comes to you, welcome him" This is a third class conditional sentence. Paul was very angry with John Mark for leaving the first mission team. However, they apparently reconciled (cf. 2 Timothy 4:11).

Colossians 4:11 "Jesus who is called Justus" The TEV has "Joshua." "Jesus" and "Joshua" are derived from the Hebrew terms "YHWH" and "salvation" and are the same in Hebrew (cf. Matthew 1:21). This Justus is known to God, but unknown to us.

"the kingdom of God" This is such a key phrase in the Synoptic Gospels (see Special Topic at Ephesians 5:5). Jesus' first and last sermons, and most of His parables, dealt with this topic. It refers to the reign of God in human hearts now. It is surprising that John uses this phrase only twice (and never in Jesus' parables). In John's Gospel "eternal life" is a key term and metaphor.

The phrase relates to the eschatological (end-time) thrust of Jesus' teachings. This "already, but not yet" theological paradox relates to the Jewish concept of two ages, the current evil age and the righteous age to come, which will be inaugurated by the Messiah. The Jews expected only one coming of a Spirit-empowered military leader (like the Judges in the OT). The two comings of Jesus caused an overlapping of the two ages. The Kingdom of God has broken into human history with the incarnation at Bethlehem. However, Jesus came, not as the military conqueror of Revelation 19:0, but as the Suffering Servant (cf. Isaiah 53:0) and humble leader (cf. Zechariah 9:9). The Kingdom, therefore, is inaugurated (cf. Matthew 3:2; Matthew 4:17; Matthew 10:7; Matthew 11:12; Matthew 12:28; Mark 1:15; Luke 9:9, Luke 9:11; Luke 11:20; Luke 21:31-32), but not consummated (cf. Matthew 6:10; Matthew 16:28; Matthew 26:64).

Believers live in the tension between these two ages. They have resurrection life, but they still are dying physically. They are freed from the power of sin, yet they still sin. They live in the eschatological tension of the already and the not yet!

"from the circumcision" The men listed in Colossians 4:7-11 were all Jewish believers (according to their names).

"they have proved to be an encouragement to me" The term literally means "relief of pain." This Greek word is the source of the English medicine "paregoric."

Colossians 4:12 "Epaphras" He was founder of the church at Colossae (cf. Colossians 1:7 and introduction).

"always laboring earnestly for you" This is a strong athletic term which comes into English as "agony." Epaphras was a prayer warrior (cf. Colossians 4:13). His prayer for these believers was that they (1) stand, (2) mature, and (3) be assured in all the will of God.

Colossians 4:13 "Laodicea and Hierapolis" These were the other two towns (along with Colossae) of the Lycus valley in which Epaphras had started three churches.

Colossians 4:14 "Luke" He was Paul's close missionary companion and physician. He was a Gentile and the author of the Gospel of Luke and Acts.

"Demas" Later he would desert Paul (cf. 2 Timothy 4:10).

Colossians 4:15 "Nympha" This can be either masculine or feminine. Notice the early church met in private homes (cf. Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:19; Philemon 1:2).

Colossians 4:16 "when this letter is read among you" All of Paul's letters, not just Ephesians (a circular letter), were passed around from church to church and read aloud to the whole congregation. The churches believed that the Apostles had a unique, inspired word from God. Their desire to hear all of Paul's letters written to other churches, and on other occasions, shows how the Bible relates to everyone and every age.

"read my letter that is coming from Laodicea" This letter was probably "Ephesians" which was a circular letter. In Marcion's Canon, Ephesians was called "the letter to the Laodiceans." No early church father ever quotes from a letter known as the letter to the Laodiceans.

Colossians 4:17 "Archippas" Archippas was the pastor of the house-church (Philemon 1:2). The early leadership positions were functions performed by local gifted believers, not vocations or offices.

Verse 18

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Colossians 4:18 18I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my imprisonment. Grace be with you.

Colossians 4:18 "in my own hand" This was Paul's way of assuring the genuineness of his writings (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Thessalonians 3:17). This also implies that he regularly employed a scribe (cf. Romans 16:22), probably because of his eye problems (cf. Acts 9:8-9, Acts 9:12, Acts 9:18; Galatians 4:15; Galatians 6:11), which I believe was his "thorn in the flesh."

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Colossians 4". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/colossians-4.html. 2021.
 
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