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Bible Commentaries

Matthew Poole's English Annotations
on the Holy Bible
Colossians 4

 

 

Verse 1

COLOSSIANS CHAPTER 4

Colossians 4:1 The duty of masters towards their servants.

Colossians 4:2-4 A general exhortation to perseverance in prayer,

Colossians 4:5 discreet conduct,

Colossians 4:6 and well-ordered speech.

Colossians 4:7-9 The apostle commendeth Tychicus and Onesimus, by whom

he sent this Epistle,

Colossians 4:10-18 and concludeth with divers salutations, and a blessing.

That this verse doth refer to the foregoing chapter, and that it was unadvisedly divided from it, is generally agreed.

Masters: having put servants upon their duty, he doth here engage all those who have a just right over servants to mind their own duty toward those under their command.

Give unto your servants that which is just; though your extract or estate hath advanced you above them in human society, yet yoa have the same nature and infirmities that they have, and (as in the foregoing verse) must appear with them before the same Judge and rewarder at the same tribunal. And the apostle doth elsewhere, Ephesians 6:9, require of masters in their superior relation, what he doth of servants in their inferior one, to do the same things, i.e. not the particular offices of their servants, but, according to general rules of right reason, that which, by the law of God, nature, and nations, is common to and incumbent on all relatives, Romans 13:7,8 Ga 5:13 Ephesians 6:9. As he doth here require masters to do their servants right, give to them that which is their due for soul and body, Genesis 18:19 Exodus 12:44; with respect to work, that it be neither too much nor too little, Proverbs 12:10 29:21; to food, that it be convenient for nourishment, not luxury, Proverbs 27:27 31:15 Luke 12:42 15:17; wages, Exodus 2:21 James 5:4; and recompence, Deuteronomy 15:13.

And equal; ye are likewise to give them that which is equal, or equitable, as well as just, which implies you should not be cruel to them, or discourage them; as you expect they should serve you with good will, so you should govern them wisely, and be good and gentle to them, Psalms 101:2 1 Peter 2:18, who are faithful, allowing them seasonable rest and refreshment, Deuteronomy 15:14, not despising their prudent answers, Job 31:13,14, but showing them favour in sickness as well as in health, 2 Kings 5:5,6 Pr 14:35 Matthew 8:6.

Knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven; and that upon this weighty reason, intimated before, that he above, whom you serve, will treat you as you do them; this you may be assured of, Ephesians 6:8,9. If you expect favour at his hands, when he comes to distribute rewards and punishments, show it now to your inferiors, who will then appear as your fellow servants, when you must give an account of your stewardship, Matthew 24:49-51, with Luke 16:2.


Verse 2

Continue in prayer; persevere or hold on strongly in prayer with fervency: we are apt to grow sluggish and indisposed, and therefore have need of quickening to this duty, Luke 18:1 Ephesians 6:18.

And watch in the same; endeavouring to keep the heart in all fit seasons unto this, as a help to the precedent and subsequent duties, Psalms 5:3 Mark 13:33, &c.; Acts 12:12 Romans 12:12 1 Thessalonians 5:17 James 5:16 Revelation 3:2.

With thanksgiving; with acknowledgment of thanks for what we have already received, Psalms 116:12,13 1 Thessalonians 5:18.


Verse 3

Withal praying also for us; not only putting up petitions for themselves, but also interceding for Paul, and others with him, especially Timothy, mentioned in the salutation, Colossians 1:1,7 Ro 15:30 2 Corinthians 1:11 Philippians 1:19 2 Thessalonians 3:1 Philemon 1:22.

That God would open unto us a door of utterance; that God would vouchsafe to us freedom of speech: See Poole on "Ephesians 6:19".

To speak the mystery of Christ; effectually to preach the mystery of Christ: see Colossians 1:26,27 2:2 Matthew 13:11 1 Corinthians 16:9 Ephesians 1:9.

For which I am also in bonds: for which I am an ambassador in bonds, or, in a chain, Ephesians 6:20; i.e. with the soldier that kept him in his own hired dwelling, Acts 28:16,20,30,31.


Verse 4

That I may manifest, or open and clear, it in due circumstances, as becomes an able minister of Christ, Romans 1:15 1 Corinthians 2:4 1 Corinthians 9:16 with 2 Timothy 2:15 4:2.


Verse 5

Walk in wisdom; let your course of life be managed with all Christian prudence, that you may not any way disparage the Christian institution, 2 Samuel 12:14 Romans 2:23,24, with 1 Timothy 6:4; with your innocency be wise as serpents, Matthew 10:16; see Ephesians 5:15: yet, while you become all things to all to gain some, 1 Corinthians 9:20-23, you must take heed of such a compliance, whereby you may wound your consciences, Exodus 34:15 Ephesians 5:11; and, on the other side, of such a contempt of them without just cause as may provoke them to persecute you. Paul was wary in his reasoning with those who were not Christians, and would have others to be so, Acts 17:24,25, &c., with 1 Corinthians 5:12,13; not denying any of them what is due to them by Divine and human rights, Matthew 22:21 Romans 13:7 1 Peter 2:13.

Toward them that are without; considering they are not of the household of faith, Galatians 6:10, as you profess to be, you should be more circumspect, that you do not give occasion of offence to them, 1 Timothy 5:14, as well as take care you be not infected with their practices, 1 Corinthians 5:6, but endeavour to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things, Titus 2:10.

Redeeming the time; showing your prudence, say some learned men, in gaining time by honest craft, to secure you from spiritual dangers to your souls, or divert those who have power from persecutions: taking the expression proverbially. And for that purpose cite a passage in the prophet from the Septuagint, Daniel 2:8. Others, and the most, import of the original words, take time for opportunity, or the fitness it hath for some good; and the participle we render redeeming, to import either morally, (not physically, which is impossible), a recalling or recovery of time past that is lost, by a double diligence in employing what remains; or a buying up the present time, i.e. parting with any thing for the improvement of it to our spiritual advantage; or a buying it out, i.e. a rescuing it, as it were, out of the hands of Satan and the world, which by distracting cares and tempting pleasures do occasion often the misspending of it: see Ephesians 6:16.


Verse 6

Let your speech be alway with grace: because discourse is the tenderest part of our converse with men, especially those without, and ought to be managed with the greatest circumspection, upon occasions in every fit season, in imitation of Christ, who entertained those that did converse with him with gracious words, Luke 4:22, you should endeavour so to speak when called, that the hearers may conceive your discourse doth proceed from a gracious spirit, or grace in the heart, Colossians 3:16, teaching your mouth, Proverbs 15:23,24, with meekness of wisdom, James 3:13, using knowledge aright, Proverbs 15:2, being in its tendency gracious, Ecclesiastes 10:12; not ungrateful, (as tinctured with gall or venom), but ministering grace to the hearers, Ephesians 4:29.

Seasoned with salt; even as meat duly powdered with salt {Matthew 5:13} becomes acceptable to the discerning palate, so to the ear that trieth speech, fitly spoken words {Proverbs 25:11} are of a grateful savour, cleansed from corruption, Job 33:3 Mark 9:50.

That ye may know how ye ought to answer every man; to this purpose chiefly in the main points of Christianity, that in a gospel becoming manner, you may be able to give a reason of the hope that is in you (to those that ask you) with meekness and fear, Matthew 7:6 1 Peter 3:15, courteousness and sincerity, Ephesians 4:25, free from those evils of speech he had before enjoined them in this Epistle to put away, Colossians 3:8.


Verse 7

All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you: the apostle drawing to a conclusion, that he at so great distance might certify them of his love to them, and care for them, doth here acquaint them that with this Epistle he was sending two persons of integrity, for their satisfaction and his, viz. Tychicus, an Asiatic, their countryman and his fellow traveller, Acts 20:4, whom he sometimes sent to others, 2 Timothy 4:12 Titus 3:12, who would give them to understand what circumstances he was in, and all his affairs: see Ephesians 6:21,22.

Who is a beloved brother; whom he recommends to them as being a good man, a brother, as Timothy, Colossians 1:1, and Epaphroditus, Philippians 2:25, beloved of the people.

And a faithful minister; and whom he had experimentally found to be a faithful deacon, in the larger acceptation, or minister, i.e. of Jesus Christ, and his messenger.

And fellow servant in the Lord; and owned as his colleague, or

fellow servant in the Lord, that they might more kindly receive him.


Verse 8

Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose; who was Paul’s messenger to them, as to let them know how it was with Paul, so to this end:

1. That he might know your estate; that he might clearly understand, how their matters stood, {as Ephesians 6:22} especially with respect to spirituals, Colossians 2:1,5.

2. And comfort your hearts; and cheer up their spirits, {as Ephesians 6:22} that under the temptations of Satan, and tyranny of persecutors abroad or at home, they might not be discouraged, 2 Corinthians 4:17.


Verse 9

With Onesimus, whom he adjoins to Tychicus. Some, because of his following commendation, think him to be another person different from the fugitive servant of Philemon; but the most, comparing the description here with the circumstances in the Epistle to Philemon, Colossians 4:10,16, &c., conclude him to be the very same, taking Philemon for a Colossian.

A faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you; there, as here, being expressly called a beloved brother, yea, and, which may answer to faithful, Paul’s spiritual son, who (whatever he had been) would be profitable and a benefit to Philemon, whom Paul would have to receive him as his own bowels. And that which might commend him to the Colossians was, that he was one of that city, or the same birth with themselves.

They shall make known unto you all things which are done here; these two persons of credit (upon the apostle’s testimony) in their different circumstances, might, as joint witnesses, give them a full and certain account how things went with the church, and particularly with Paul, now a prisoner at Rome.


Verse 10

Aristarchus my fellow prisoner saluteth you: here he doth wish prosperity to them, Luke 10:5, in the name of others, beginning with those of the circumcision, viz.

Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, who had been his fellow traveller, Acts 19:29 20:4 27:2; yea, and now his fellow prisoner, and fellow labourer, Philemon 1:24.

And Marcus, sister’s son to Barnabas; and John Mark, who was nephew to Barnabas, Acts 12:12 13:13; and having sometime displeased Paul by his departure and accompanying his uncle Barnabas, Acts 15:37,39, yet afterwards repented, and was reconciled to Paul, 2 Timothy 4:11 Philemon 1:24; being profitable to him for the ministry as an evangelist.

Touching whom ye received commandments: if he come unto you, receive him: concerning this same Mark, Paul had given orders to them, as well as to other churches, (who otherwise, likely, might be prejudiced against him for leaving Paul and his company in Pamphylia, Acts 13:13), that if he came amongst them, they should entertain him kindly, who as Peter’s spiritual son, 1 Peter 5:13, did elsewhere also salute those who were scattered. Some conceive from the commandments here they had received, that Barnabas had written to the Colossians in commendation of his cousin Mark.


Verse 11

And Jesus, which is called Justus, who are of the circumcision; a third person of those who had been Jews mentioned in this salutation, is Jesus, surnamed Justus, (probably from his just conversation), whether the same with him mentioned in Luke’s history of the Acts, Acts 28:7, is not evident. The Greeks use Jesus for the Hebrew Joshua, Hebrews 4:8, it being common with them to more than one. However, the Christians, since the resurrection of Christ, out of reverence to their Lord and Master, (who is God as well as man), have forborne to call their children by the name of Jesus.

These only are my fellow workers unto the kingdom of God; these three alone, i.e. of the Jews, (as for Timothy, his father was a Greek or Gentile, Acts 16:1,3, and others were Gentiles, Acts 28:28), were assistant to hint at Rome (where it seems Peter was not) in expounding and preaching the gospel, enlarging the kingdom of grace in converting of souls, Matthew 4:23 Mark 4:11.

Which have been a comfort unto me; the carrying on of which work did administer matter of great consolation to him in his bonds.


Verse 12

Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you: after he had given them the good wishes of some of the Jews, he doth here give the like from some of the Gentiles, beginning with Epaphras, whom he had before commended, Colossians 1:7,8, and doth here recommend him as born and bred amongst them, devoted to their service, in being the servant of Christ, as Paul, separated to the preaching of the gospel, Romans 1:1, yea, a fellow prisoner with the apostle upon that account, Philemon 1:23.

Always labouring fervently for you in prayers; and, as it became such a one, faithful in his office, not diverted by distance of place or length of time, was night and day contending zealously with prayers to God for their spiritual, temporal, and eternal welfare, as Romans 15:30.

That ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God; that they might attain a sufficient perfection in all that which God would have them reach to: See Poole on "Colossians 1:28,29". See Poole on "Philippians 3:15". The distance between Colosse and Philippi, &c. render it improbable, whatever a learned man conceits, that Epaphras should be the same with Epaphroditus.


Verse 13

For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you; for, saith the apostle, though I am not privy to his secret prayers, yet I can bear him witness, and do give him mine own testimony, that he hath a most ardent and special affection for you Christians at Colosse.

And them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis; yea, and for those also in your neighbour cities; see the argumeut, and Colossians 2:1; viz. Laodicea, the last of the seven churches, to whom excellent epistles were written, recorded by John the divine, Revelation 1:11 3:14; and Hierapolis, or the holy city, about six miles distant from the former, say geographers.


Verse 14

Luke, the beloved physician; whether this Luke was the same with him that penned the Gospel and the Acts, because the apostle here gives him no higher a commendation, some doubt. But others, and the most, conclude that as Matthew from a publican became an apostle, and others from fishers of fishes, fishers of men, so Luke from a physician of the body became a physician of souls, and that this was the very person who was Paul’s perpetual and individual companion in his travels, 2 Timothy 4:11 Philemon 1:24; considering from his style he was an excellent Grecian, (very fit for a physician), and made use of proper medical terms, Acts 15:39 17:16: and here the apostle calls him beloved, as he had done Tychicus, Colossians 4:7, and elsewhere his fellow labourer, who only of those that were not prisoners stuck to him, 2 Timothy 4:11. Some think it to be Luke whose praises are celebrated in the gospel, or evangelical churches, 2 Corinthians 8:18; others would have that to be Barnabas, or some other: his practising of physic was no more inconsistent with being an evangelist than Paul’s tent-making with being an apostle, 2 Thessalonians 3:8.

And Demas, greet you; he adds a third in this salutation from others, and that is Demas, who hitherto did persevere, and that as one of his fellow labourers, Philemon 1:24; though it should seem, afterwards, when the persecution grew hotter, he did for some worldly respect leave Paul, and depart unto Thessalonica, 2 Timothy 4:10.


Verse 15

Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea; having saluted the Colossians, in the names of others, circumcised and uncircumcised, he desires them in his own name to salute the Christians in the church at Laodicea.

And Nymphas; and some pious man called Nymphas, probably living either in the country near the city of Laodicea, or some eminent Christian of chief note in the city. The masculine article adjoined shows this person to be a male, and not a female, as some have inconsiderately reckoned.

And the church which is in his house; and the company of believers, either of his own family or neighbourhood, who did, under his protection or inspection, meet to worship God according to his appointment, Romans 16:1,5 1 Corinthians 16:15,19.


Verse 16

And when this epistle is read among you: the apostle takes it for granted, that, when this Epistle came to their hands, it would be publicly read in a solemn assembly of the church, or brethren, convened to that purpose, as elsewhere usual. For indeed he doth strictly enjoin and adjure the Thessalonians, under the penalty of the Lord’s displeasure, that the Epistle or letter which he wrote unto them should be read unto all the brethren, 1 Thessalonians 5:27: it being an indispensable duty of Christ’s disciples, to search the Scriptures, John 5:39, and there solemnly to read them in the assembly for the edification of all ministers and people, old and young, Deuteronomy 17:19 Psalms 1:2 119:9 Mark 13:37 Acts 13:15 17:11,12 18:26-28 Romans 15:4 1 Timothy 4:13,15.

Cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans: hence (as it follows) the apostle (who it is likely had not an opportunity at Rome to have a copy of it transcribed) chargeth them at Colosse, to see or take care after the reading of this same Epistle amongst themselves, that, a copy of it being prepared for that purpose, it might, as from him, be also solemnly read or rehearsed in a public assembly of the Christians at Laodicea.

And that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea; and he further chargeth those to whom he wrote at Colosse, that they should take care that the Epistle (as we rightly with the generality of ancients and moderns render it) from Laodicea, be read amongst them. The Ethiopic version (as we have it thence in the Latin) reads, send it to Laodicea, that the Laodiceans also may read it, in the house or congregation of Christians there. The Vulgar Latin, that ye likewise may read the Laodicean Epistle, or the Epistle of the Laodiceans. Whence some of old and of late would have it thought, that St. Paul wrote a distinct Epistle to the Laodiceans. In favour of this opinion, some bad man, out of this Epistle to the Colossians, and that to the Ephesians, patched up and forged a short, but gross and trifling, Epistle, and fathered it on the apostle, though very dissonant from his character and style; whereupon it hath been rejected as spurious and apocryphal by the learned fathers, and the second council of Nice; and since by the learned on all hands, except some few of the papists, and except quakers, who printed a translation of it, and plead for it. Some papists urge this, to argue that the church gives the Scripture authority amongst Christians. But though she is bound to preserve the books of Divine authority, it doth not belong to her to authenticate them, or prescribe them as the rule of faith; that were no less than to outrage the majesty of the Author. Others allege it, as being lost, and thereupon would infer the canon of Holy Scriptures to be defective. But supposing, yet not granting, that Paul had written an Epistle to the Laodiceans, which had not come down to us, it were altogether inconsequent that the canon of Scriptures we have doth not contain all things necessary to salvation. Some, still harping on the Vulgar translation of the Laodicean Epistle, (though that in common speech might argue they wrote it rather than received it), would fancy that it was the Epistle Paul wrote to the Ephesians; but Tertullian did brand the impostor Marctan for changing the title of Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians. Others conceit it may be understood of Paul’s Epistle to Philemon, whom Paul calls his fellow labourer, likely exercising his ministry in the neighbour city of Laodicea, which was sent by Onesimus, and for the sake of Onesimus, who was a Colossian, was to be read at Colosse. Others, because Luke is mentioned, Colossians 4:14, that it was an Epistle of his to the Laodiceans; but of that there is no evidence. Neither is it probable that Paul would in this Epistle to the Colossians have saluted the Laodiceans, had he written a distinct Epistle to them. Wherefore it is most rational to understand it, not of an Epistle of Paul written to the Laodiceans, but as our Bibles, according to an authentic copy, have, with the Greek fathers, faithfully translated and represented it, written from Laodicea. Some conjecture it to be the First Epistle of John, which they conceive was written from the city of Laodicea. Others think it was the First Epistle to Timothy, from the inscription or subscription of a long time put at the end of it, as if written from Laodicea. But against that it may be excepted, there is no mention of Pacatiana, in the writers of the first age, but only in after-times, dividing the Roman empire into provinces; and some say this was first mentioned in the ecclesiastical records in the fifth synod at Constantinople. Further, there be several passages in the Epistle itself do intimate that it was written from some place in Macedonia, if we consult Colossians 1:3, with Colossians 3:14 4:13, not from Laodicea. Some think it to be meant of the Epistle from Laodicea, wherein they would answer the Colossians; how probably I determine not. Wherefore it is most probable, that the Epistle was written from Laodicea, to Paul at Rome; either by the church there, or some of her officers, which (likely he in straits of time enclosed, and) he would have read, as helpful to the edification of the Colossians, for the better clearing of some passages in this Epistle to them, wherein he had obviated such errors as he might hear seducers were attempting to disseminate amongst them.


Verse 17

He also enjoins them to advise or advertise Archippus, whom he doth elsewhere call his fellow soldier, i.e. minister in the gospel, Philemon 1:2, on his and Timothy’s behalf, to see to, or be mindful of, the nature of that excellent ministry he had undertaken, Romans 11:13 Ephesians 3:7 1 Timothy 4:6; yea, and to be more heedful, Acts 20:28,29 1 Peter 5:1,2, considering the authority of the Lord Jesus, in whose name he had been called to it, and intrusted with it, Matthew 9:38 Philippians 1:17 1 Timothy 5:1,21; having been colleague to Epaphras, or in his absence newly received into this sacred charge, to encourage him to a faithful discharge of his duty therein, to fill up all the parts of his office, and leave none of them unperformed: see Colossians 1:25 1 Corinthians 9:16,17 1 Timothy 4:16, with 2 Timothy 4:5.


Verse 18

The salutation by the hand of me Paul: the apostle having them on his heart, and here (as elsewhere) likely having used an amanuensis to pen the body of his Epistle, to prevent fraud and forgery he doth subscribe his salutation and apostolical benediction with his own hand, which was well known, Romans 16:22 1 Corinthians 16:21 Galatians 6:11 2 Thessalonians 2:2 3:17 Philemon 1:19.

Remember my bonds; importuning them to be very mindful of his imprisonment in their prayers, Colossians 4:3 Hebrews 13:3, imitating his constancy and patience if called to suffer; see Philippians 1:14; his sufferings being an excellent seal to the truth of his gospel, and his ardent affection to them and other Gentiles, for whose sake he was in bonds.

Grace be with you; then earnestly praying that the special grace and favour of God the Father in the Lord Jesus Christ might be ever present with them: see Romans 16:24 1 Corinthians 16:23,24 Php 4:23. In testimony of the reality of his desire, and assurance to be heard, he concludes (as elsewhere) with

Amen.

(Written from Rome to the Colossians by Tychicus and Onesimus.)

 


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Bibliography Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Colossians 4:4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/colossians-4.html. 1685.

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Monday, August 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
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