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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Colossians 4

 

 

Verse 1

1. Masters—St. Paul directs Christian masters to render to their slaves what is just and equal—doubtless in their condition as slaves. What the latter might justly require was justly due. The equality is best interpreted by the Golden Rule, which requires the same spirit in the master that is here enjoined upon the slave.

A Master in heaven—Whose law of love is binding upon both, and who will punish all injustice and unkindness.


Verse 2

4. Duty of prayer, Colossians 4:2-4.

2. Prayer—Keep the constant practice of it.

Watch—Be earnestly active in the duty, with a wakefulness of soul, always accompanying it with thanksgiving.


Verse 3

3. A door of utterance—The intercession desired is for the removal of any and all hinderances to the free preaching of the gospel, and the furnishing an opportunity to its extension. Was not their prayer really answered, though in a different way, as indeed God often answers, when the apostle’s closer imprisonment resulted in “the furtherance of the gospel?” Philippians 1:12.

The mystery—Namely, of which Christ is the sum. See on Colossians 2:2.


Verse 4

4. Ought to speak—Doubtless the apostle is thinking of that untrammelled speech which comported both with his high calling and his heart’s desire, but which his imprisonment hindered. Whether the answer shall come through his release or in some other way, he will be content if the cause of the gospel be advanced.


Verse 5

5. Intercourse with persons outside the Church, Colossians 4:5-6.

5. Walk in wisdom—The social relations of Christians with non-Christians, and the proper manner of life in respect to them, constitute one of the most important topics of the epistle. Heathens then, as worldly men do now, largely judged Christianity from the lives of its adherents, rather than from their professions or its doctrines. The counsel looks beyond the avoidance of all cause of reproach to a persuasion of the unconverted that the gospel is true and divine. It means that practical wisdom in social intercourse—that sound common sense—which would plan, live, work, and talk for that result.

Redeeming the time—Better, buying up for yourselves the opportunity. Olshausen remarks (from Beza) that “the phrase is taken from the figure of a provident merchant who uses everything for his ends.” We are to watch for the opportunity to commend the gospel and win a soul, seizing the right time to speak, in order that we may advance the Master’s cause.


Verse 6

6. With graceIn grace, as its element or dress. Our conversation should be in a religious spirit, of course, but calculated to win favour as well.

Seasoned with salt—Not pointless and profitless, but penetrative and purifying, through the presence of the Spirit, whose action salt symbolizes. Thus an earnest, wide-awake Christian might always be ready to make an appropriate answer to any inquiry or objection to the gospel from a non-Christian with whom he might be conversing.


Verse 7

IV. CONCLUSION, Colossians 4:7-18.

1. Personal communications, Colossians 4:7-14.

7. Tychicus—With this and the following verses, Ephesians 6:21-22, is almost word for word. Our only knowledge of Tychicus before this time is that he was an Asiatic, and he appears in Acts 20:4, as one of Paul’s companions from Corinth into Asia. He is now his special messenger to the two Churches, bearing a letter to each, and also is charged with verbal communications respecting the apostle’s condition.


Verse 8

8. The same purpose—Better, this very purpose, applying to what follows, especially if we retain the next clause. Whether we should read as in the text, or, that ye might know our affairs, as in Ephesians 6:22, is as yet doubtful. Tregelles adopts the latter, which certainly best agrees with the following verse.


Verse 9

9. Onesimus—A native of Colosse, and runaway slave of Philemon, converted at Rome through the labours of the apostle, and now returning in company with Tychicus to his master. He is legally a slave, but nevertheless a “beloved brother” in the Church of Christ, and joint-bearer of the present epistle.

All things… here—Many things respecting matters transacted at Rome could now be properly narrated which might not, in the times of Nero, be safely committed to writing.


Verse 10

10. Aristarchus—A Thessalonian, first mentioned in Acts 19:29, as a companion of the apostle on his third missionary tour, and seized by the mob at Ephesus. He seems to have continued with him until the decision of the present appeal to Nero.

Marcus—John Mark, the author of the second gospel, who had been the occasion of the difference between Paul and Barnabas, and their separation. (Acts 12:12.) He afterward recovered the good opinion of the apostle, and is now warmly commended by him to the kind hospitality of the Colossian brethren.

Sister’s son—’ ανεψιος, a name given to the sons and daughters of brothers and sisters. Barnabas and Mark were, therefore, cousins.

Commandments—What these were, and who sent them, we cannot know, though presumably they proceeded from St. Paul.


Verse 11

11. Jesus—The Greek form of the Hebrew Joshua. Note, Matthew 1:21. It was not an uncommon name among the Jews, but Christians at an early day came to disuse it through reverence for it as the name of the Redeemer. The surname Justus, given to the person here mentioned, was also frequent with the Jews. Nothing is known of him except as stated in the text, unless we receive the tradition that he was afterward bishop of Eleutheropolis.

Of the circumcision—Born Jews, or proselytes, but now Christian preachers. There were doubtless other Jewish Christians at Rome, but only the three named, Aristarchus, Mark, and Jesus Justus, assisted the apostle in his work. The rest opposed and thwarted him, becoming a sorrow rather than a comfort to him. The persons named below, who laboured in full sympathy with him, were Gentiles.


Verse 12

12. Epaphras—See on Colossians 1:7. He bore them in his heart, not only at home, but in distant Rome, as is attested by his anxious prayers in their behalf. He agonized in prayer.

Stand—They were in a warfare with the heathenism around them, and especially in danger from the errors which called out this epistle. While Paul argued, Epaphras prayed; the aim of both was that the Colossians might stand firm in the gospel which they had received, rejecting every admixture of error.

Perfect—In knowledge of the truth.

Complete—We ought unquestionably to read πεπληροφορημενοι, fully assured.


Verse 13

13. Record—This testimony of the apostle was calculated to tenderly touch their hearts and move them to fidelity.

Laodicea—See on Colossians 2:1.

HierapolisSacred city—so called from the multitude of its temples. It is a city of Phrygia, about six miles north of Laodicea, and about twenty northwest of Colosse. The three were all in the basin of the Maeander. The Church there was probably founded by Epaphras, and exposed to about the same influences with that at Colosse. The place was destroyed by an earthquake A.D. 62, at the same time with Laodicea, and afterward restored. Its modern name is Pambouk-Kalessi, “Cotton Castle,” so called from its beautiful calcareous deposits, that have the appearance of frozen cascades. Mr. Riggs, an American missionary, describes them as consisting of a “deposit of carbonate of lime, white as the driven snow, assuming, when closely examined, various forms, and covering nearly the whole southern and western declivities of the elevation on which Pambouk-Kalessi is built.”


Verse 14

14. Luke—Undoubtedly the author of the third Gospel and The Acts. The honourable mention of his profession may have been necessary for accurate identification, though it accords with the apostle’s delight in bestowing epithets of affection and praise. It has been conjectured that his first acquaintance with St. Paul was in a professional capacity.

Demas—No word of commendation for him. Was he even then betraying tokens of the worldly spirit which at a later day became his master? See 2 Timothy 4:10.


Verse 15

2. Salutations and closing words, Colossians 4:15-18.

15. Salute… Nymphas—To the general salutation to the body of Christians in the neighbouring city is added a special one to Nymphas, one of its members, together with those Christians whose place of assembly was at his house. There seem to have been several of these smaller Churches in the city. The era of separate houses of worship had not then come. See on Romans 16:5.


Verse 16

16. Cause that it be read—This public reading of an epistle is also enjoined in 1 Thessalonians 5:27. The exchange of epistles, as in the present case, would require a copy to be made, and gives us a glimpse of the multiplication of copies of the gospels and epistles whereby they rapidly spread through the entire early Church. This epistle having been read to the brethren at Colosse, a copy was to be sent to Laodicea, but what was to be received in return is not so clear. It has been supposed to be, (1) An epistle written by the Laodiceans to St. Paul; (2) An epistle written at Laodicea by St. Paul, possibly the first to Timothy; (3) An epistle by Paul to the Laodiceans, as a circular letter, which we now have in our Epistle to the Ephesians; and (4) An epistle of Paul to the Laodiceans, which is now lost. The first and second suppositions need only be mentioned. The third, which originated with Grotius, and has a considerable basis of argument, is considered in the Introduction to Ephesians. We agree with those who hold that a letter is meant, no copy of which is now known to exist. It would be hazardous to say what treasures some future explorer, like Tischendorf, in Oriental monasteries may discover. There is extant in Latin an “Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Laodiceans;” but it is a mere rhapsodical collection of passages from the apostle’s other epistles, and is on all hands admitted to be a clumsy forgery.


Verse 17

17. Say to Archippus—An office-bearer in the Colossian Church, whose duties are not easy to be defined, because of the wide scope of the word ministry. Quite likely he was a deacon. From the association of him with Philemon and Apphia in the inscription to the Epistle to Philemon, we very naturally infer that Archippus was a member of their family. It has been suggested that he may have been their son. The apostle there calls him his “fellow-soldier.” The two epistles being written at the same time, the epithet there given is inconsistent with the reprehension for negligence, which some suppose intended in the present passage. It seems rather a hearty word of encouragement and stimulation from a soul full of fire to a young minister to do his best.


Verse 18

18. The hand of me Paul—Thus far an amanuensis had written at his dictation. The apostle undertakes to affix his own autograph, and as the chain on his right hand moves over the parchment as he writes, the thought seems to occur that his chain and his imprisonment are for the sake of that precious gospel which is so grandly set forth in the epistle. A sentence more pregnant with meaning than remember my bonds, he could hardly have found. It is a touching appeal to the deepest sympathy of his brethren for himself, and to their undying fidelity to the gospel for which he was joyfully suffering so much.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Colossians 4:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/colossians-4.html. 1874-1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, August 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19
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