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Colossians 4:1-18 | Werner Bible Commentary

Colossians 4:1-18

Submitted by admin on Sun, 2007-04-15 09:47.

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The apostle reminded Christian masters or slave owners that they had an Owner, Master, or Lord in the heavens. They were accountable to the Lord Jesus Christ, requiring that they treat their slaves justly and fairly. (4:1)

Paul admonished the Colossians to “devote” themselves to prayer. The Greek term for “devote” (proskarteréo) signifies to have a firm attachment to something or to hold fast to it. In relation to prayer, proskarteréo could include the thought of persevering or persisting in and highly appreciating the value and importance of prayer. “Remaining awake in it in thanksgiving” would mean remaining alert and truly heartfelt in prayer, guarding against becoming mechanical and merely repeating words without having the mind and emotions fully engaged. The addition of “in thanksgiving” suggests that a spirit of gratitude for all divine gifts and blessings should accompany prayer. (4:2)

Paul requested the Colossians to pray that God would open to him a “door of the word” or provide him with an opportunity to declare the message about the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul wanted to continue declaring “the mystery of Christ,” and found himself in bonds because of having done so. The way in which non-Jewish peoples would become children of God had remained secret or hidden in past generations. The good news about Jesus Christ, however, revealed this mystery. It is the “mystery of Christ,” as it is a disclosed secret that is exclusively bound up with him. Paul wanted to be sure to be able to speak about the “mystery of Christ” in the manner that he should, making it clear to others. Therefore, he requested the Colossians also to include this aspect in their prayers for him. (4:3, 4)

Although enjoying a newness of life as children of God, the Colossians still lived among those who did not share their faith and needed to interact with them on a daily basis. With reference to those outside the community of believers, they needed to “walk in wisdom” or conduct themselves wisely. This would have included being exemplary in all aspects of life and not giving offense, choosing to refrain from activities that may not have been wrong in themselves but were unacceptable in the existing culture. (Compare 1 Corinthians 10:31-33; Titus 2:2-5.) At the same time, Paul encouraged the Colossians to make the best use of the time or opportunity. It would appear that this included using opportunities that might present themselves to share the message about God’s Son. (4:5) A number of translations paraphrase his words to convey this meaning in conjunction with the next verse. “When you are with unbelievers, always make good use of the time. Be pleasant and hold their interest when you speak the message. Choose your words carefully and be ready to give answers to anyone who asks questions.” (CEV) “Be wise in the way you act with people who are not believers, making the most of every opportunity. When you talk, you should always be kind and pleasant so you will be able to answer everyone in the way you should.” (NCV) “Be wise in the way you live around those who are not Christians. Make good use of your time. Speak with them in such a way they will want to listen to you. Do not let your talk sound foolish. Know how to give the right answer to anyone.” (NLB)

A more literal reading of verse 6 would be, “[Let] your word always [be] gracious, seasoned with salt, that you might know how you ought to respond to each one.” Believers should speak in a kindly and considerate manner to others or in a way that invites a favorable response. The objective would be to present the message about Christ in a manner that would appeal to the conscience of others. For expressions to be “seasoned with salt” suggests that the well-chosen words would be palatable to the hearers and not give rise to disputing. Moreover, the response given would be appropriate for the person who might raise a question.

Paul planned to send Tychicus to Colossae. He would provide the community of believers there with news about Paul. The apostle described Tychicus as a “beloved brother,” “faithful servant,” and “fellow slave in the Lord.” These expressions reflected Paul’s affection for and trust in Tychicus as one serving with him in the interests of Christ. (For other references to Tychicus, see Acts 20:4; Ephesians 6:21; 2 Timothy 4:12; Titus 3:12.) Besides informing the Colossians about all things concerning Paul, the visit of Tychicus would serve to “comfort [their] hearts,” which could have included his allaying any troubling concerns they may have had about Paul’s imprisonment. (4:7, 8)

The apostle informed the Colossians that Onesimus would be accompanying Tychicus. Paul referred to Onesimus as a “faithful and beloved brother” from among them. The apostle’s letter to Philemon reveals that Onesimus had been a useless slave to his owner Philemon, may even have been guilty of theft, and, finally, ran away from his master in Colossae. Through contact with Paul, Onesimus became a believer and demonstrated himself to be a dependable brother in Christ, one for whom the apostle had deep affection. Although Paul would have greatly benefited from the continued assistance Onesimus would have been able to provide, he sent him back to Philemon. From Onesimus, the Colossians would also have been able to gain firsthand knowledge about everything pertaining to Paul in his imprisonment. (4:9)

The apostle included greetings from his fellow workers, Aristarchus, Mark, Jesus (also known as Justus), Epaphras, Luke and Demas.

The reference to Aristarchus as a “fellow prisoner” does not necessarily mean that Aristarchus was an actual prisoner. He may have chosen to share Paul’s confinement in order to assist him. This is suggested by the fact that, in his letter to Philemon (verse 23), the apostle referred to Epaphras as “my fellow prisoner” and included Aristarchus among his fellow workers. (4:10)

Mark, the cousin of Barnabas, had greatly disappointed Paul in earlier years by returning to Jerusalem and not continuing to assist him and Barnabas in declaring the glad tidings about Christ in Asia Minor. (Acts 13:13; 15:37, 38) By the time Paul wrote this letter, he had come to have high regard for Mark, requesting that the Colossians welcome him whenever he might visit them. (4:10)

Paul specifically identified Aristarchus, Jesus (Justus), and Mark as the only Jewish believers working with him for the kingdom of God or in advancing the cause of Christ, God’s appointed King. All three of these Jewish brothers had been a source of comfort to him. (4:11)

At the beginning of this letter, Paul had mentioned Epaphras from Colossae (1:7) and here included his greetings, calling him a “slave of Christ.” Epaphras showed his deep concern and love for Colossian brothers in the intensity of his prayers for them. With reference to this brother’s supplications, Paul used the Greek word agonízomai, meaning to “struggle,” “exert oneself,” or “wrestle,” suggesting great earnestness. He prayed that they would stand firm as mature or full-grown believers and “fully assured in all the will of God.” This could mean that they would be solidly grounded in their faith and know for a certainty God’s will for them. Paul solemnly confirmed that Epaphras labored hard for the believers in Colossae and also in the nearby cities of Laodicea and Hierapolis. (4:12, 13)

When extending Luke’s greetings, Paul identified him as the “beloved physician.” (4:14) The fact that the apostle did not include Luke among the Jewish brothers reveals that he was one of Paul’s loyal non-Jewish companions. It is noteworthy that, with the distinction between Jew and non-Jew having been abolished through the Son of God, Luke and Paul (the apostle to the nations) wrote the major portion of the collection of writings that became part of the Scriptures in the first century. Previously, the “sayings of God” had been entrusted exclusively to the Jews. (Romans 3:2)

Paul concluded with mentioning the greetings of Demas, another non-Jewish brother. (4:14) Toward the end of the apostle’s life, Demas, on account of his love for the existing “age,” forsook Paul. Possibly the dangers believers faced prompted Demas to cease being supportive of Paul and seek to shield himself from persecution, or he may actually have abandoned the faith. (2 Timothy 4:10)

Paul requested that the Colossians greet the brothers in Laodicea, Nympha, and the congregation meeting in the house of Nympha. Manuscripts vary in identifying the residence as “her” or “his” house. (4:15)

After the reading of his letter to them, Paul requested that the Colossians make it available for reading to the community of believers in Laodicea. As for the letter directed to believers in Laodicea (which has not been preserved or is conjectured to be the letter to the Ephesians [as the words “in Ephesus” are missing in certain ancient manuscripts]), Paul asked that it be read to the Colossians. (4:16)

Regarding Archippus, Paul wrote, “Say to Archippus, ‘See that you fulfill the service which you have received in the Lord.’” The community of believers and Archippus himself would have known the nature of this special service or ministry. Having received it “in the Lord,” Archippus would be discharging his duty in a way that would advance the cause of Christ. (4:17)

Paul had dictated the letter to the Colossians. To identify its being from him, he wrote the greeting with his own hand and asked them to remember his bonds, implying that they continue to pray for him. He concluded with the prayerful expression that the Colossians be the recipients of favor, grace, or unmerited kindness—all the privileges and blessings associated with their being God’s beloved children. (4:18)


In 4:8, manuscripts either present Tychicus as letting the Colossians know about Paul (“the things concerning us,” the “us” evidently being an editorial plural) or as coming to know how the Colossians were faring (“the things concerning you”).

See http://bibleplaces.com/laodicia.htm for pictures of and comments about Laodicea.

See http://bibleplaces.com/hierapolis.htm for pictures of and comments about Hierapolis.