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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible
Colossians 4

 

 

Verses 1-18

There is no reason for a chapter division at this point, for the responsibility of masters is closely linked with that of servants, which we have seen would include the relationship between employers and employees or teachers and students. A believing master is called upon to be totally impartial in caring for the needs of his servants, giving to his servants what is just and fair (v.1). What is just is what is right as before God. What is fair is what does not favor one above another. This is important in business as well as in a teacher-student relationship. If the servant is to act in a manner pleasing to God, the master is to do no less, for he himself is only a servant to the Lord: his Master is in Heaven. Every believing employer, foreman, supervisor or teacher must remember this.

Verses 2 to 4 show how to maintain a proper relationship with God, which is the basis of every other relationship. Consistent, earnest prayer is a vital matter, expressing dependence on the living God, and drawing down His help and blessing in practical circumstances. Being vigilant in prayer is attentiveness and exercise in contrast to the ease with which our prayers become simply a pleasant habit, good as that habit is.

Paul enlists the prayers of the Colossians for himself and his fellow-laborers, especially that God will open the door for him to declare the full truth of the mystery of Christ. This mystery of Christ involves both Christ and His body, the Church, which is no longer a mystery now that God has revealed it through the apostle Paul. In Ephesians 3:4-6 Paul speaks of "The mystery of Christ which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets; that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel." Because of Paul's faithfulness in proclaiming this marvelous truth, he was in chains, a prisoner (v.3). For, sad to say, people in the flesh, whether Jews or Gentiles, oppose this wonderful message of the grace of God. But far from being intimidated, Paul recognized his imprisonment as another field for his service, dependent only on God's opening the door for it. In fact, he had the conviction that he ought to speak the truth of God wherever an opportunity presented itself (v.4), yet he felt himself in real need of prayer.

Verses 5 and 6 now refer to our relationship with unbelievers. Wisdom for this is a very real necessity. Spiritual wisdom is far higher than fleshly diplomacy, however, and is beautifully seen in the way in which the Lord Jesus handled every incident that involved him with unbelievers. For instance, in the case of the young ruler who asked Him what he should do to inherit eternal life, the Lord Jesus asked him what he had read in Scripture. The young man answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself" (Luke 10:27). This led to the man's hearing the parable of the Good Samaritan, and he would never forget that encounter. But many other cases in the Lord's history are recorded for our meditation, and as we consider Him we shall learn what true wisdom is.

Our conduct toward others is to be wise, and we should be wise in taking advantage of occasions that may arise to "redeem the time," that is, make use of every opportunity to present Christ in some way. In doing so, our words should be "with grace seasoned with salt" (v.6). Salt crystallizes at right angles, and speaks of righteousness. Grace is to be predominant in our speaking, but always seasoned with righteousness. The Lord Jesus graciously spoke to the woman at the well, but he also told her that she had had five husbands and the man she now had was not her husband (John 4:13-18). This was seasoning His words with salt, so that both the woman's heart and her conscience were reached. How good if we have wisdom to deal with souls in such a way! -- knowing thus how to answer each individual according to his need. True balance in this is a delicate matter that requires wisdom from God. But we ought always to be ready with an answer for every inquirer. To do so will require both a knowledge of the Word of God and practice in gracious, honorable speech.

PARTING GREETINGS

(vs.7-15)

From verse 7 the direct references to ten saints and three other local assemblies show that the truth of Colossians is to be applied to both individuals and assemblies. The epistle was not only for Colosse.

Counting on their interest in all his circumstances, Paul sends Tychicus to them with this information. Paul's commendation of this beloved brother is lovely. Evidently the spiritual character of Tychicus was such as to draw the love of saints, and also his ministry expressed faithfulness to God. Besides this, his evident unity with other servants of the Lord earned him the character of "fellow servant in the Lord." Let every servant of the Lord of whatever capacity or degree seek to follow such well-balanced character. And Tychicus was also to learn the state of the Colossians (which Paul surely desired to know), and to encourage them all.

Onesimus, the slave of Philemon, was accompanying Tychicus. Paul was at this time sending Onesimus back to his master, probably sending his epistle to Philemon at the same time. Onesimus had only become "one of" the Colossian brethren when he had been converted through Paul in the Roman prison; and Paul commends him as a faithful and beloved brother. Compare also Philemon 1:10-16.

Not much is said about Aristarchus, but this and two other occasions find him sharing the apostle's sufferings. Mark, the writer of the Gospel of Mark, is seen here in a better light than in Acts 13:13; Acts 15:37-39. Whether in prison or not, John Mark was at least close enough to Paul to send greetings, and later Mark's full recovery is indicated beautifully in 2 Timothy 4:11.

It is not certain whether "Jesus who is called Justus" is the same person mentioned in Acts 18:7, but he and others before mentioned were the only Jewish helpers with Paul in the work, an encouragement to the tried apostle. Others later spoken of apparently are Gentiles.

Epaphras (referred to in Chapter 1:7) was also present with Paul, away from his home in Colosse, yet always in fervent prayer for saints there. This is true labor, with desire for his brethren's maturity and completeness in all the will of God. The apostle bears witness to the great concern of Epaphras for the welfare of the assemblies at Colosse, Laodicea and Hierapolis. Likely Epaphras had personally labored in these places, which would account for his special concern for them.

Luke is called "the beloved physician" (v.14), earning this title through a character of kind concern for the needs of others, which prompted a loving response. Demas is mentioned only by name. If there had been something positively good to say about him, it seems Paul would have said it, but later, in 2 Timothy 4:10 Paul writes, "Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world." Does this not tell us that, if we have no positive testimony for Christ, our testimony will soon become negative?

Paul sends greetings to the brethren in Laodicea, to Nymphas and the local assembly which met in his house. This seem to infer two distinct gatherings, the latter possibly also in the vicinity of Laodicea, but distance requiring their meeting separately.

CLOSING WORDS

(vs.16-18)

After the reading of this epistle by the Colosse assembly, they are charged to see that it is read in the assembly at Laodicea: its message was important for both. If it had been taken to heart in Laodicea, it might have prevented the lukewarm, self-complacent state that later developed so seriously as to call for the Lord's solemn rebuke of Revelation 3:14-17.

Achippus, though gifted with a ministry from the Lord, was evidently inclined to neglect its exercise, and he is to be told personally to fulfill it. Does it not seem today that too many gifts lie dormant through disuse?

Paul closes his epistle with a tender appeal to remember his bonds. Let us too remember that his bonds were just as truly for us as for the Colossians. For them he wishes grace, the favor of God practically enjoyed.

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Colossians 4:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/colossians-4.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, August 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
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