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Bible Commentaries

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament
Colossians 4

 

 

Verses 1-6

III. HORTATORY PART: LIVE AS THOSE SHOULD LIVE WHO WERE RAISED WITH CHRIST THE HEAD.

(1.) Fellowship with the Exalted Christ the motive for the new life; Colossians 3:1-4. (Transitive paragraph.)

(2.) General exhortations; Colossians 3:5-17. (Negative, Colossians 3:5-11; and positive, Colossians 3:12-17.)

(3.) Special precepts as to household relations; chaps. Colossians 3:18 to Colossians 4:1.

(a.) Wives and husbands (Colossians 3:18-19).

(b.) Children and parents (Colossians 3:20-21).

(c.) Servants and masters (chap. Colossians 3:22 to Colossians 4:1).

(4.) Concluding exhortation, in relation to prayer and conduct toward those without; Colossians 3:2-6.


Verse 18

3. Special Precepts as to Household Relations.

This section agrees, not only in outline, but in detail, with the corresponding passage in Ephesians. The arrangement is identical, the precepts and motives in the main the same. Here, however, the relation of wife and husband is not enlarged upon, as in Ephesians. The fundamental thought of that Epistle would suggest a fuller treatment. From this nothing can be inferred as to which was first written. The precepts are as follows: —

(a.) To wives (Colossians 3:18) and husbands (Colossians 3:19).

(b.) To children (Colossians 3:20) and parents (Colossians 3:21).

(c.) To servants (Colossians 3:22-25) and masters (chap. Colossians 4:1).

Nowhere is the division of chapters more infelicitous than here.


Verse 1

Colossians 4:1. Masters. See Ephesians 6:9.

Give (supply on your part) unto your servants that which is just and equal; lit, ‘the equality.’ The latter word may suggest the thought of equality as brethren in Christ, since Christian motives are advanced throughout. But associated with ‘just,’ the reference seems to be to ‘equity,’ to fair, impartial treatment. The other explanation would limit the application to Christian slaves. In any case the justice and equity are those of God’s law, not the narrower conceptions of human jurisprudence. Oppression is most severe, when it is legal.

A master in heaven; evidently ‘Christ,’ the ‘Lord.’ The recognition of Christ as Master is the fundamental principle in Christian social science.


Verse 2

Colossians 4:2. Persevere. The word is a strong one (see references), describing an earnest persistence.

Being watchful therein with (lit, ‘in’) thanksgiving, Comp. Ephesians 6:18, as well as the injunction: ‘watch and pray’ (Matthew 26:41, etc.). ‘In,’ repeated in the Greek, points in the first instance to the sphere of the watchfulness, and in the second to an accompaniment. Prayer should have three qualities: it should be assiduous, watchful, grateful (Thomas Aquinas). We can always be grateful for the privilege of prayer, whatever else we lack.


Verses 2-6

4. Concluding Exhortations.

This brief section contains special exhortations, but not addressed to special classes. The thoughts are familiar; Colossians 4:6 alone is without a parallel in the Epistle to the Ephesians. The connection, however, is not obvious. The precepts may have been suggested by the thought of Christian service in general, or they may be regarded as entirely supplementary. They are aphorisms in form, and have reference (a) to prayer (Colossians 4:2), especially supplication for the Apostle (Colossians 4:3-4), and (b) to conduct toward those who were not Christians (Colossians 4:5-6). The duties enjoined have not lost their importance.


Verse 3

Colossians 4:3. Withal praying for us also, for himself, but also for Timothy, Epaphras, and his other companions, since the singular is used immediately after. ‘Withal,’ at the same time, while thus persevering in prayer (Colossians 4:2).

That (indicating the purport and purpose of the petition) God would open onto us a door for the word. The figure is a natural one. In Ephesians 6:19, ‘utterance’ occurs; but here the reference is to the removal of the hindrances in the way of preaching the gospel, not to the opening of his mouth.

To speak (to this end that I may speak) the mystery of Christ; belonging to Christ, ‘the Divine mystery included in the appearing and redeeming act of Christ, since the Divine decree of Redemption, concealed before it was made known through the gospel, was accomplished in the mission and work of Christ’ (Meyer). On the word ‘mystery,’ comp. Ephesians 3:3-4.

In behalf of which I am also in bonds (have been and am bound). The imprisonment still continued, limiting, but not destroying his activity; comp. Ephesians 6:20 : ‘I am an ambassador in a chain.’ To his labors and trials in the gospel, this imprisonment was added, hence ‘also.’ He desired liberty, but not for its own sake. Freedom derives its value from the use made of it; it is not a sufficient end in itself.


Verse 4

Colossians 4:4. That I may make it manifest. This is the end of the speaking, or of the entire petition. They should pray that he might preach; but he should preach in order to make manifest the mystery of Christ.

As I ought to speak. Comp. Ephesians 6:20; but there the reference is to his labors, while still imprisoned. Here the meaning is: ‘as I ought to do it (namely, freely and unrestrainedly), so as best to advance and further the gospel’ (Ellicott).


Verse 5

Colossians 4:5. Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, i.e., unbelievers (see marg. references). The emphasis rests on the phrase ‘in wisdom,’ the element in which the Christian should move in his conduct toward ‘those without’

Buying up the opportunity. See on Ephesians 5:16, against the incorrect rendering of the E. V. The application here is more directly to opportunities of influencing unbelievers.


Verse 6

Colossians 4:6. Let your speech (lit, ‘word’) be always with grace. The first characteristic of Christian discourse, especially ‘toward them that are without,’ is here indicated: it should be ‘with (lit., ‘in’) grace,’ attractiveness, the result not of studying to please, but of Divine grace.

Seasoned with salt. The word ‘seasoned’ points to a permanent characteristic. ‘Salt’ preserves both from insipidity and corruption, and Christian speech should not be flat, but fresh and wholesome. The figure is a culinary one, not borrowed from sacrificial usage, still less from the notion of ‘Attic salt,’ which was corrupting enough. Stupid speech is wicked for Christians, since Christ’s grace should suffice to season well their utterances.

That ye may know (indicating the result) how ye ought to answer each one. ‘What’ is presupposed; ‘how’ refers to the form. It should be specially adapted to the hearer (‘each one’). The context shows that unbelievers are meant, although the rule holds good in all social intercourse. ‘Sweetness and point,’ adaptation to the hearer; these characteristics of Christian speech, when supported by a wise walk and watchfulness for proper opportunities, will give power to the words of the humblest believer. Alas, how much ‘pious talk’ is acrid and flat, inopportune and without tact.


Verse 7

Colossians 4:7. The things concerning me, etc. See Ephesians 6:21, with which this verse closely agrees (notice the emendations).

Tychicus; see Introduction to Ephesians, §§ 1,2, 5.

Fellow-servant. This is peculiar to this passage; it gives prominence to the fact that Tychicus had shared with the Apostle in the service of the same Master. Bishop Lightfoot calls attention to the word ‘fellow-servant,’ as a customary form of address in the early Church on the part of a bishop, when speaking of a deacon, suggesting that this usage is owing to the Apostle’s application of the term to persons whom he calls ‘ministers’ (Greek, diaconoi).

In the Lord qualifies both the preceding terms (‘brother’ needs no such qualification).


Verses 7-18

This division of the Epistle is brief. It may be divided into three paragraphs:—

(1.) Personal intelligence (Colossians 4:7-9).

(2.) Greetings from Paul’s companions (Colossians 4:10-14), and to the brethren at Laodicea, with other messages (Colossians 4:15-17).

(3.) Farewell greeting and benediction (Colossians 4:18). Only the first paragraph finds a parallel in the Epistle to the Ephesians.


Verse 8

Colossians 4:8. Whom I sent, etc. See Ephesians 6:22, which is verbally identical, if we accept here the reading of the earliest authorities: that ye may know the things respecting us. The received reading (in the Greek) differs from this in but three letters; moreover the variations are such as would readily arise. The best Greek manuscripts nearly all read as in Ephesians. The Vulgate is on the side of the received text. Since the discovery of Aleph, which in its corrections presents the entire history of the change, critical editors have usually accepted ‘ye’ and ‘our.’ The weight of authority overbears the probability of an alteration to conform with Ephesians 6:22.


Verse 9

Colossians 4:9. With Onesimus, the faithful and beloved brother. The runaway slave, converted by the Apostle, and sent back to his master, Philemon, with the touching letter included in the New Testament. He is now recognized as ‘the brother’ in an Epistle to be publicly read at Colossae and elsewhere (Colossians 4:16); he is commended as trustworthy (‘faithful’) and presented as an object of affection (‘beloved’). Such a return of fugitive slaves destroys slavery.

Who is one of you. This statement is of the greatest importance in determining questions respecting this group of Epistles, but its purpose was ‘to commend the tidings and the joint-bearer of them still more to their attention’ (Ellicott). ‘How much native truth, courage, and beauty is there in Christianity, which enabled the Apostle to speak thus of a runaway slave, to the inhabitants of that city from which he had fled! What other religion in the world could have done this?’ (Wordsworth.)

They shall make known, etc. Together they would give general intelligence respecting matters at Rome; Tychicus bore special tidings respecting the Apostle, which he was to tell to the readers of the Ephesian Epistle also (Ephesians 6:22). This clause is not a repetition of Colossians 4:8, but an extension of it. Notice, that from the first Christian fellowship has been strengthened by the interchange of news respecting the work of the gospel.


Verse 10

Colossians 4:10. Aristarchus my fellow-prisoner saluteth you. A Macedonian from Thessalonica (Acts 19:29; Acts 20:4; Acts 27:2), who was with Paul in Asia Minor, and probably not unknown at Colossæ. He afterwards accompanied the Apostle to Jerusalem, and sailed with him to Rome, where, according to Philemon 1:24, he was a ‘fellow-worker’ with the Apostle, Epaphras being there termed ‘fellow prisoner.’ As the word means a prisoner of war, it may have here a figurative sense. He might have voluntarily shared the Apostle’s captivity, or been temporarily confined in consequence of his intimacy with the latter.

And Mark. Doubtless the Evangelist; also named in Philemon 1:24. The name in all the New Testament passages seems to refer to the same person.

the cousin of Barnabas ‘Cousin’ is doubtless the proper rendering, referring to the relation between children of brothers or of sisters, or of brother and sister. ‘Barnabas was better known than Mark; hence the latter is named from the former’ (Bengel). Notice the affectionate reference of Paul to Barnabas, here and Galatians 2:13, after the collision and separation (Galatians 2:11; Acts 15:34).

Touching whom (i.e., Mark, not Barnabas) ye received commandments. Probably written commendations (but this can only be conjectured), in any case ‘received’ before this Epistle readied them.

If he come unto you, receive him. The Gentile churches may have regarded Mark with suspicion in view of the separation of Paul and Barnabas occasioned by him. This command, rendered the more forcible by the change of construction, bespeaks for him a friendly welcome. The past failure was forgiven by the Apostle, he would have it forgotten by the churches.


Verse 11

Colossians 4:11. And Jesus, who is called Justus. Otherwise unknown; not the person mentioned in Acts 18:7, since the latter was a proselyte, not a born Jew, and moreover was called ‘Titus Justus.’

who are of the circumcision. These three companions of Paul were Jews. Many disconnect this clause from what precedes, and render: ‘Of those who are of the circumcision, only these are my fellow-workers,’ etc. This is undoubtedly the correct sense, since others, who were not Jews, had labored with him and been a comfort. But this view makes the grammatical connection (in the Greek) very difficult

These only, etc. This indicates the general antagonism of the Jewish Christians; comp. Philippians 1:15.

Such as (of such a kind as) have been a comfort onto me; ‘have proved a comfort unto me.’ A touching allusion to the trials he encountered from the Judaizers. Others, not of the Jews, had been a comfort to him. The verse does not necessarily imply that others of the Jews had been ‘fellow-workers unto the kingdom of God,’ and yet not a comfort unto him. The use of the term ‘fellow-worker’ seems to oppose this view.


Verse 12

Colossians 4:12. Epaphras (see chap. Colossians 1:7), who is one of you (see Colossians 4:9), etc. His salutations could not be omitted. Evidently he was a Gentile by birth.

A servant of Christ Jesus. ‘This title, which the Apostle uses several times of himself, is not elsewhere conferred on any other individual, except once on Timothy (Philippians 1:1), and probably points to exceptional services in the cause of the gospel on the part of Epaphras’ (Lightfoot).

Always striving, etc. See chaps. Colossians 1:29; Colossians 2:1. The wrestling prayer was due to the zeal of Epaphras and to the danger of the Colossian Church.

That ye may stand, etc. The purpose and purport of the ‘prayers.’ ‘Stand’ points to firmness and constancy, and is further explained by the phrase: perfect and folly assured in all the will of God. (The rendering, ‘fully assured,’ is sustained by decisive external evidence.) ‘Perfect’ points to maturity, ‘fully assured,’ to a permanent state (Greek, perfect participle) of confident persuasion; ‘in all the will of God’ may be more exactly explained: ‘in every thing that is the will of God,’ and indicates the sphere of their completeness and confidence. (Others with less propriety join this phrase with the verb.) The petition of Epaphras takes its tone from the errors which endangered the Church he had founded.


Verse 13

Colossians 4:13. For I bear him witness. The Apostle confirms the message, as an attesting witness.

Hath much labor for you. ‘Zeal’ is poorly supported, but was substituted for ‘labor, since the latter is an unusual word in the New Testament. It is in keeping with the previous figure (‘striving’) and suggests the putting forth of energy, whether inward or outward. Here both are probably referred to. Some have thought that this verse was designed as an answer to those who might misinterpret the absence of Epaphras from his flock.

Them in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis. See Introduction, § 1. ‘Certainly Epaphras had labored also in these neighboring cities as founder of the churches, or at least as an eminent teacher’ (Meyer). The same danger threatened these churches: comp. chap. Colossians 2:1.


Verse 14

Colossians 4:14. Luke, the beloved physician; undoubtedly the Evangelist, not to be confounded with Lucius (Acts 13:1), this being a shorter form of Lucanus. He was a Gentile, being distinguished from those ‘of the circumcision’ (Colossians 4:11). As he accompanied Paul from Cæsarea to Rome (Acts 27), hence the mention of his name does not decide where the Epistle was written. He probably attended the Apostle as a ‘physician,’ at least the first hint of his personal presence is given (Acts 16:10) about the time Paul was suffering from his unknown malady (Galatians 4:13-14). He may have been known at Colossæ, but his gospel could scarcely have been known there, if indeed it was written so early. The word ‘beloved’ is emphatic (‘the physician, the beloved one’), giving prominence to his relation to Paul.

Demas; comp. Philemon 1:24; 2 Timothy 4:10. The latter notice tells of his desertion of the Apostle. ‘The absence of any honorable or endearing mention here may be owing to the commencement of this apostasy, or some unfavorable indication in his character’ (Alford).


Verse 15

Colossians 4:15. Salute the brethren that are at Laodicea. A natural message, owing to the proximity of the two places; see Introduction, § 1.

And Nymphas; evidently an inhabitant of Laodicea, thus singled out. It is most natural to regard the name as masculine, but it may be that of a woman. The Vatican manuscript favors the feminine form, and reads ‘her’ in the added clause. But the reading ‘their’ is the more probable one, ‘his’ and ‘her’ being corrections made to avoid the difficulty of the plural pronoun after a singular noun. Westcott and Hort, as usual, follow the Vatican manuscript

The church that is in their house; see above. On these household churches, see Romans 16:5, etc. ‘Their’ refers to Nymphas and his family, but ‘the Church’ does not include all the believers at Laodicea; nor may we suppose that this was a small community of Christians in the neighborhood of that city. A certain number of the Laodicean believers met for worship at the house of Nymphas, and for reasons, unknown to us, a special greeting is sent to them.


Verse 16

Colossians 4:16. And when this (lit. ‘the’) epistle hath been read among you. The tense used must be thus rendered in English; there is no necessary reference to public reading.

Cause, etc. This was a natural injunction, in view of the nearness of Laodicea, and the common danger threatening both churches.

Ye also read that from Laodicea. This phrase has occasioned a multitude of conjectures. All theories that do not refer it to a letter written by the Apostle Paul must be rejected. The language points to him as the author, not to the Laodiceans, nor to some other Apostle or teacher. Renewed investigations of the uncanonical Epistle to the Laodiceans make it even more certain that this cannot have been written by the Apostle, but is a stupid forgery. See especially the full Excursus of Bishop Lightfoot, Colossians, pp. 281-300.

The only theories which are tenable are, (1) that the Epistle to the Ephesians is referred to; (2) that the letter to Laodicea has not been preserved. No other of the known Pauline Epistles can be referred to.

(1.) The first theory is held in three forms: (a.) The Ephesian Epistle was an encyclical letter, and a copy was text by Tychicus at Laodicea, on his way to Colossæ. This is the view which is growing in favor, and especially since the weight of Aleph has been thrown against the words ‘in Ephesus’ in Ephesians 1:1. (See Introduction to Ephesians, § 1.) (b.) That a special copy of that Epistle was made for Laodicea, and to be left there by Tychicus. This is possible, but lacks any positive proof. (c.) That the Epistle to the Ephesians (so-called) was originally sent to Laodicea (so Conybeare and Howson, Lewin, etc.). This seems least probable.

(2.) The other view, that the Epistle to Laodicea has been lost exists in two forms: (a.) That the lost letter was wholly of a temporary and local nature, and hence not of a character to be preserved as canonical Scripture; (4.) that the letter was one ‘which possibly from its similarity to its sister Epistle, it has not pleased God to preserve to us’ (Ellicott). The Apostle might have written many letters, which have been not preserved, so that this theory is not inadmissible. But as three letters of such a high character were sent at this time, it is unlikely that an unimportant one was added. The fact that the Colossians were to read the other Epistle, is against the theory that it was not preserved on account of its similarity. If different enough to be read, it would have been deemed worthy of preservation. The most probable view is therefore that which accepts the limited encyclical character of the Epistle to the Ephesians, and regards it as here referred to.


Verse 17

Colossians 4:17. And say to Archippns; ‘our fellow-soldier’ (Philemon 1:2); possibly a son of Philemon. Bishop Lightfoot thinks it probable that he was

a resident of Laodicea, and hence singled out here. But Philemon 1:2 indicates a residence with Philemon, whatever relationship existed between them. Where he was associated with the Apostle can only be conjectured.

Take heed to the ministry, etc. As to the nature of this ministry, we know nothing whatever; and as little as to the reason for sending the exhortation in this public manner. Archippus might have been a ‘deacon,’ though the word does not necessarily suggest this; or he may have been the most prominent elder in the Colossian congregation. Some find a reproof here, but it is rather a caution. Whether it was occasioned by the danger threatening the Church, or by something in Archippus himself is uncertain. Meyer rightly calls attention to the anti-hierarchical tone of this verse; the New Testament Church was an evangelical Church of the people.

Didst receive in the Lord. At the time of his setting apart to his office. ‘In the Lord’ is not to be explained as ‘from the Lord,’ or, ‘through the Lord,’ but points to ‘the sphere of the reception of the ministry; in which the recipient lived and moved and promised at his ordination; not of the ministry itself’ (Alford). The whole phrase furnishes a motive for the exhortation.

That thou fulfil it; fully perform its duties. (Some render: ‘take heed that thou fulfil the ministry,’ etc., but this is harsh and unnecessary.) Official gifts bring responsibility, both to Christ and to His people. What we receive in the Lord, but increases the need of watchfulness on our part.


Verse 18

Colossians 4:18. The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand; comp. 1 Corinthians 16:21; 2 Thessalonians 3:17, which are in the same words, and Galatians 6:11, which resembles this. The rendering here given agrees with that of the E. V. in the first passage. These autograph salutations were to attest the genuineness of the document, as is shown in 2 Thessalonians 3:17; comp. the salutation of the amanuensis in Romans 16:22.

Remember my bonds. The connection between the autographic salutation and this clause is natural: the chain which bound him was probably on the right hand, hindering his use of the pen. These bonds were occasioned by his preaching the gospel to the Gentiles: ‘A touching exhortation, speaking vividly to the hearts of his readers, and breathing patience, love, and encouragement’ (Ellicott). It is not so much a request for sympathy as an appeal to be heard and obeyed, since he as ‘the prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles’ (Ephesians 3:1) should command a hearing for his message in behalf of Christ. For himself he is ‘more concerned about the preservation of his person in triumphant fellowship with the Lord, for His sake and that of His Church, than for release or for the alleviation of his imprisoned condition’ (Braune).

Grace be with you. (Here also the word Amen is poorly supported: comp. Ephesians 6:24. The subscription is not genuine, but was naturally added in conformity with Colossians 4:7-9.) See references for this brief form of the benediction; all the instances are in the later Epistles. Brief as it is, this blessing is all comprehensive: that the grace of God in Christ was all-sufficient need not be proved at the close of an Epistle whose theme is; Christ the Head of all things.

 


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Bibliography Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Colossians 4:4". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/colossians-4.html. 1879-90.

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