Concluding Admonitions. Col 4:2-6.
V.2. Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving, v.3. withal praying also for us that God would open unto us a door of utterance to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds; v.4. that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. v.5. Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. v.6. Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.
The apostle is here addressing the last exhortations to the Phrygian Christians, and they are impressive by reason of their forcible brevity. His first thought is for proper prayer: in prayer persevere, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. Cp. Eph 6:16-20. Christians should be steadfast in prayer, they should make use of the strongest persistence in bringing their petitions to the attention of the Lord, 1 Thess 5:17. Being conscious of the fact that every good and every perfect gift comes down from above, and that without their Father’s help they can do nothing, they should turn to their heavenly Father at all times in full trust and confidence. Incidentally, however, they are watchful in their prayer, Matt. 26, 41; Mark 14:38. They guard both against a mere mechanical babbling and against confused thought in presenting their petitions. Above all, we should steadfastly direct our thoughts to the saving truth of God against every attack on the part of Satan, the world, and our own flesh, lest doubts become manifest within us and take the trusting watchfulness out of our hearts. It is self-evident, finally, that we combine thanksgiving with our prayer, even in advance, for we know that God hears every cry of His children, in His own way and at His own time, but always for our benefit. We may learn much from the confidence of Jesus in His prayer to His Father, John 11:41- 42.
Right prayer will be accompanied also by fervent intercession: Praying at the same time also for us that God would open to us a door of the Word to speak the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am also in bonds, that I may make it manifest as I should speak. In their prayer the Christians of Colossae were to remember also the apostle and his coworkers, first of all that God would open to them the door of the Word, that He would remove all hindrances that obstructed the progress of the Gospel. With all the privileges which Paul enjoyed in his Roman imprisonment, it remained true nevertheless that he was hindered in his free activity in behalf of the Gospel. The opening of the door of his imprisonment, therefore, would be the opening of a door of discourse, that the Gospel might again have free course in the world, so far as he was concerned. With the termination of his imprisonment Paul would again be at liberty so as to speak and preach the mystery whose content is Jesus Christ, which was hidden from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest, Col 1:26. On account of this Gospel he was bound as a prisoner, he was the ambassador of Christ in bonds, Eph 6:20. At the same time all his thoughts were directed with anxiety toward the end that he might again make manifest the Gospel-message, that his preaching might again make it clear, that he might again be enabled to make men see its glory. For that he considered his duty by reason of his apostolic call. He was almost impatient for the opportunity of doing the work of his calling once more with the fullness of zealous frankness. Note: This word is addressed also to the Christians of our day, who will do well to include their pastors in their daily prayers, asking for them just those blessings which the apostle here craves for himself.
The apostle now adds a word concerning the behavior of Christians toward those that are without, toward the unbelievers and the children of the world: in wisdom comport yourselves toward those outside, making the best use of the occasion. It takes a great deal of tact and wisdom on the part of the Christians to live so that their entire behavior toward the non-members of the Church will redound to the benefit of the Gospel and to the praise of God. Their conduct at all times must be of a nature to advertise the Church and its blessings. One thing is sure, namely, that the children of the world are watching the Christians a t all times for any evidence of a behavior at variance with Scriptural injunctions. Therefore the Christians should make the best use of every opportunity, when they are thrown together with unbelievers, to forestall and quiet unjust criticism, and thus to promote the spread of the Gospel by removing some of the commonest obstructions. Cp. 1 Tim 6:1; 2 Sam 12:14.
To this end also the apostle warns: Your speech be always in pleasantness, seasoned with salt, that you may know how to answer every man. At all times and under all circumstances the intercourse of Christians with unbelievers should be characterized by pleasant courtesy, kindly, simple, straightforward, without affectation. That does not exclude its being seasoned with the salt of energetic, but beneficial confession; it should be apt, striking, interesting, with a wholesome point and pertinency. Particularly if some enemy of the Church intends to strike at some doctrine or custom, all Christians should be ready with the proper defense, not, as a rule, with biting irony and harshness, but with engaging frankness and a convincing willingness to give an answer to every man that asks them a reason of the hope that is in them, 1 Pet 3:15. That belongs to the wisdom of serpents and to the harmlessness of doves which should characterize all Christians.
Personal Matters, Greetings, and Concluding Salutation. Col 4:7-18.
The apostle gives a commendation to the bearers of the letter:
V.7. All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you, who is a beloved brother and a faithful minister and fellow-servant in the Lord; v.8. whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that he might know your estate and comfort your hearts; v.9. with Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They shall make known unto you all things which are done here.
The Colossian Christians were naturally eager for authentic information concerning the welfare of the great apostle, and therefore he makes arrangements to supply that. As bearer of this letter he was sending Tychicus, whom he calls a beloved brother and a faithful minister and fellow-servant in Christ. Tychicus received his faithfulness from, and performed his service for, the Lord, and it is the highest form of praise for a pastor or any worker in the Lord’s vineyard if these designations can be applied to him. Tychicus was to supply the Colossians with all the information which they might desire concerning the apostle, all the circumstances of his imprisonment, all the comfort and consolation which he himself clung to and was dispensing to others, in brief, all the news which interests Christians with regard to the work and activity of their fellow-Christians. At the same time Tychicus was to get information concerning the state of affairs in Colossae; for since the Colossian congregation was in danger, Paul was naturally solicitous for their spiritual welfare. Tychicus could address words of comfort and entreaty to them in the name of the apostle. Paul names also Onesimus, describing him as a faithful and beloved brother. This recommendation was so necessary because Onesimus had left Colossae as a heathen fugitive, having escaped from his master Philemon. Having been converted in Rome through the Gospel as preached by Paul, he was now returning to Colossae as a member of the Church, as a brother who now truly belonged in their midst. Both of these men could make known to the Colossians all the things that were happening in Rome, as they concerned the apostle and the course of the Gospel. Note: The lively interest which was shown regarding the welfare of the several churches in the early days of Christianity may well stimulate the Christians of our days to show a greater activity in this respect.
Greetings from various persons in Rome:
V.10. Aristarchus, my fellow-prisoner, saluteth you, and Marcus, sister’s son to Barnabas, (touching whom ye received commandments: if he come unto you, receive him,) v.11. and Jesus, which is called Justus, who are of the circumcision. These only are my fellow-workers unto the kingdom of God, which have been a comfort unto me. V.12. Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. V.13. For I bear him record that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis. V.14. Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you. V.15. Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house.
The greetings of the Pauline epistles are most interesting, affording, as they do, an insight into the cordiality and intimacy which obtained among the Christians in the early days. Timothy had been mentioned in the superscription of the letter. The first greeting recorded by Paul is that from Aristarchus, whom he calls a fellow-captive. He hailed from Thessalonica, Acts19:29; Acts 20:4; Acts 27:2; Philemon v.24, and was brought to Rome at the same time that Paul was brought there to stand trial before the emperor. The apostle names next Mark, the nephew of Barnabas, Acts 12:12-25; Acts 15:37-39; 2 Tim 4:11. Evidently Mark had redeemed himself in the eyes of the apostle since his defection in Perga, Acts 13:13, for he was now again a companion of the apostle. Mark had been recommended to the congregation at Colossae by others, and Paul here adds his own commendation to show that he had full confidence in his young assistant. He next names Jesus, with the surname Justus, who is otherwise unknown. These two men, Mark and Jesus Justus, were the only companions of Paul that were Jews by birth. Paul speaks very highly of them, saying that they were his fellow-workers in the interest of the kingdom of God, the Church, and that they had been a comfort to him, brought solace to him upon some special occasion.
A very important greeting was that of Epaphras, who indeed was one of the Colossians, a disciple of the apostle and the founder, not only of the congregation at Colossae, but probably also of the congregations at Hierapolis and Laodicea. Paul calls him a minister of Christ Jesus, who is spending all his time in striving for his Colossian Christians in prayers that they might stand perfected and fully assured in all the will of God. Herein Epaphras proved himself a true pastor, for his intercessory prayers were rising without ceasing to the Throne of Mercy, and his one thought was that God might give to the Colossian Christians the power to be perfected in their faith and sanctification. Only through the fullness of the assurance from on high are Christians enabled to stand perfected in the will of God, in everything that God wills. The will of God finds its expression in the life of the Christians, and that the more and more perfectly as they grow in its knowledge and in the willingness to perform such things as are well-pleasing to their heavenly Father. Paul testifies also of Epaphras that he was still most anxiously solicitous for their welfare, and not only for theirs, but also for that of the congregations at Laodicea and Hierapolis in the neighborhood, probably originally preaching-stations that were established from Colossae.
The apostle sends greetings also from Luke, whom he terms the beloved physician. Luke, or Lucanus, the author of the third gospel, had joined Paul on his second missionary journey and had since accompanied him as often as he could. At this time he was his companion in the imprisonment at Rome, a beloved brother in the Lord. Demas was at this time still a brother in Christ, but later, unfortunately, left the Church and denied the faith, 2 Tim 4:10. Paul finally asks the Colossians to send greetings to the congregation at Laodicea, with which that of Colossae was united in intimate fellowship. He singles out one Nymphas for a special greeting, since he was the host of a house-congregation as found so frequently in the early days. Note: The early Christians were not only distinguished for the soundness of their faith and for the fervor of their brotherly love, but they were also willing to offer themselves and all they had in the interest of the Gospel.
V.16. And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea. V.17. And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfill it. V.18. The salutation by the hand of me, Paul. Remember my bonds. Grace be with you! Amen.
Although this apostolic epistle was addressed to the Christians at Colossae, its doctrines and admonitions were not intended for the Colossians alone. Paul expressly tells them that, after they have finished reading the letter, they should cause it to be read also in the congregation at Laodicea, whose interest in their affairs might be expected to be greater than that of any other congregation. In turn, they should take steps to read the epistle from Laodicea. This was either the epistle to the Ephesians, which was forwarded to other congregations from Ephesus, or it is a letter which was lost, probably in the earthquake which destroyed many cities of that region the next year.
Paul includes a message to one Archippus, the man who probably had succeeded Epaphras as bishop, or pastor, of the Colossian congregation: Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfill it. To have charge of any Christian congregation involves great responsibility, and the work should therefore be done at all times with the full realization of this solemn dignity. It is an office which requires zealous, untiring fulfillment, for even today it is given into the hands of the pastor by the action of the congregation in calling him. Both congregations and pastors should at all times remain conscious of this fact.
In concluding, Paul adds his personal greeting with his own hand, as in other letters, 1 Cor. 16, 21; 2 Thess 3:17. Once more he reminds the Colossians to keep his bonds in mind, to remember him, the captive for the sake of the Gospel, in their prayers. As for him, all his love for them is expressed in the one sentence: Grace be with you! The grace of God, which the Savior has earned for all men, is the basis of the faith and the power of the life of the Christians. This grace is not ours by our own reason or strength, it is the free gift of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.