Colossians Chapter 4
Col. 4:1 Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.
“Masters” were slave owners in the days of the early Church. Today’s equivalent would be employers. “Servants” were literal slaves formerly and are employees currently.
What is the difference between that which is “just” and that which is “equal”? There can be many interpretations and examples. People should be paid according to their qualifications; that is, they should be paid justly for the type of work they are performing. “Equality” pertains to a given level of work or performance. All employees should not be paid the same wage when there are differences of service. For example, one person might do the work of two or three people—and should be paid accordingly. However, even here, there can be extenuating circumstances. For example, a handicapped person could be paid the standard wage even with a below-standard output if his attitude was proper and if he was performing up to capacity.
Employees and servants should be treated justly, respectfully, and fairly, not like animals. If a person’s work productivity is clearly above average, he should be equivalently compensated. Other employees, even if jealous, should respect the superior employee. Unfortunately, an unqualified employee is sometimes rewarded because of personality or personal favor. That is unjust and unfair to the others, for there should be equal pay for equal productivity.
“Fair play” should be exercised by the “master” on the part of those under his employ. Employees should be given their due. Not only should promotions be deserved, but conversely, reprimands, punishments, and demotions should be administered as deserved and not in excess of what is merited. For example, the jailer observed that Joseph was beneficial not only to himself but also to the other prisoners, and favored him accordingly (Gen. 39:21-23).
Knowing that they have a “Master in heaven” should keep the employer and the slave owner from getting heady with power and authority. All have to answer to Jesus sooner or later. Paul used the same tactic with husbands and wives. The husband is the head of the wife, but Christ is the Head of the husband. As bondservants or slaves of Christ, we should keep the proper perspective.
Col. 4:2 Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;
After giving counsel to husbands, wives, children, fathers, servants, and masters, Paul now gave general advice to all. Some translations have the thought “Continue the habit of prayer, and watch and be thankful.”
When we pray, we should watch for the answer. When the answer comes—whether yes or no—we should be thankful. It is a privilege to be able to go to the Lord in prayer.
Col. 4:3 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:
Col. 4:4 That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.
Paul was “in bonds” because of his faithfulness to the truth. He was preaching all the time, yet he asked the Colossian brethren to remember him in their prayers that a door of opportunity would be opened to him. He wanted to be able to speak as effectively as possible, to be fluent and discreet according to the situation. One might have the talent yet be tongue-tied under certain circumstances, so prayer is important. “That I may make it [the mystery of Christ] manifest, as I ought to speak.”
Col. 4:5 Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.
“Them that are without” would be the world, the unconsecrated. Why is “redeeming the time” coupled with the thought of walking in wisdom toward the unconsecrated? We should be careful in our associations with others (in business, with neighbors, etc.) that we do not spend more time in fellowship with them at the expense of the truth. Courtesies are to be extended to those in the world, but we should not cultivate worldly friendships to the extent that they limit our serving the truth. Instead we should be using the opportunity to preach the Word and share Jesus with those whom we have contact.
Knowing this in advance, we should be on guard lest we become ensnared with obligations, appointments, socializing, etc. We should walk wisely, realizing that the time is short and ever keeping this precaution in mind.
The injunction is one that requires us to act with prudence and propriety toward them; and there is perhaps not a more important direction in the New Testament than this. Among the reasons for this are the following:
(1) People of the world judge of religion, not from the profession, but from the life of its friends.
(2) They judge of religion, not from preaching, or from books, or from the conduct of its Founder and his apostles, but from what they see in the daily walk and conversation of the members of the Church.
(3) They understand the nature of religion so well as to know when its friends are or are not consistent with their profession.
(4) They set a much higher value on honesty and integrity than they do on the doctrines and duties of religion; and if the professed friends of religion are destitute of the principles of truth and honesty, they think they have nothing of any value. They may be very devout on the Sabbath; very regular at prayer-meetings; very strict in the observance of rites and ceremonies - but all these are of little worth in the estimation of the world, unless attended with an upright life.
(5) No professing Christian can possibly do good to others who does not live an upright life. If you have cheated a man out of never so small a sum, it is vain that you talk to him about the salvation of his soul; if you have failed to pay him a debt when it was due, or to finish a piece of work when you promised it, or to tell him the exact truth in conversation, it is vain for you to endeavor to induce him to be a Christian. He will feel, if he does not say - and he might very properly say - that he wants no religion which will not make a man honest.
(6) No person will attempt to do much good to others whose own life is not upright. He will be sensible of the inconsistency, and will feel that he cannot do it with any sense of propriety; and the honor of religion, therefore, and the salvation of our fellow-men, demand that in all our intercourse with others, we should lead lives of the strictest integrity.
Col. 4:6 Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.
Grace is to characterize our speech—grace seasoned with salt. We have a responsibility to see that our words are gracious and appealing, and not offensive or rude. Some people are good conversationalists for long periods of time, but the sum and substance is entertainment—nothing is learned. To the contrary, our speech is to have “salt” with the graciousness.
Salt has a little bite to it. Hence our words should be wholesome, purifying, practical, and beneficial, especially along spiritual lines. When having a conversation, many brethren think, “How can I introduce the truth?” and they try all kinds of techniques. No doubt the Lord appreciates such effort, even if the results are not great. The intention is significant, and practice makes one more adept. We should try to develop this habit—even if by nature we are timid and not good conversationalists.
We should think on these things so “that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” “Answer,” as used here in the sense of teaching and explaining, does not mean a question has to precede. It can simply mean to declare or state.
Col. 4:7 All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you, who is a beloved brother, and a faithful minister and fellowservant in the Lord:
Tychicus was the messenger who delivered this letter to the Colossians and to the brethren in Hierapolis and Laodicea. He not only bore the message but could additionally tell the brethren tidbits of information about Paul and Paul’s circumstances, that is, details not in the letter.
Col. 4:8 Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that he might know your estate, and comfort your hearts;
After telling the brethren there about Paul and his circumstances, Tychicus would return to Paul and report the circumstances and welfare of the churches at Colosse, Hierapolis, and Laodicea. Having known Paul personally, Tychicus would be able to respond to various kinds of questions—for example, how Paul handled a particular situation (Acts 20:4). Therefore, not only did Tychicus bring news from Paul and learn of the condition of the brethren in this area he was visiting with the epistle, but he could help them and “comfort” their hearts, perhaps solving some of their problems thereby.
Tychicus was also sent to the Church in Ephesus for the same purpose:
Eph 6:21-22 I'm sending Tychicus to you. He is our dear brother and a faithful deacon in the Lord's work. He will tell you everything that is happening to me so that you will know how I'm getting along. (22) That's why I'm sending him to you so that you may know how we're doing and that he may encourage you.
Barnes has this comment on him: Tychicus - Tychicus was of the province of Asia, in Asia Minor, of which Ephesus was the capital; see Act_20:4. It is not improbable that he was of Ephesus, and that he was well known to the church there. He also carried the letter to the Colossians Col_4:7, and probably the Second Epistle to Timothy; 2Ti_4:12. Paul also proposed to send him to Crete to succeed Titus; Tit_3:12. He was high in the confidence of: Paul, but it is not known when he was converted, or why he was now at Rome. The Greeks speak of him as one of the seventy disciples, and make him bishop of Colophon, in the province of Asia.
Col. 4:9 With Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They shall make known unto you all things which are done here.
Tychicus had the priority, for Paul said he could help in many ways. However, Onesimus, who accompanied Tychicus, was commended for serving well, as were the others who stayed in Rome.
Onesimus was Onesiphorus, the former slave of Philemon. Philemon lived in Colosse, and Paul had given Onesimus a letter (the Epistle to Philemon) to deliver unto him. In other words, Tychicus was bearing the letter to the Colossians, and Onesimus was carrying the letter to Philemon.
Col. 4:10 Aristarchus my fellowprisoner saluteth you, and Marcus, sister’s son to Barnabas, (touching whom ye received commandments: if he come unto you, receive him;)
Aristarchus and Marcus remained in Rome but sent greetings to the Colossians. They did not accompany Tychicus. “Marcus” was John Mark, a nephew (“sister’s son”) of Barnabas. The fact John Mark was in Rome at this time shows that he and Paul were reconciled. Paul had been quite upset with Mark (and Barnabas) with regard to the first missionary tour (Acts 15:37-39).
Aristarchus was a “fellowprisoner,” that is, a literal prisoner of the Romans (Acts 27:1,2). He was from Macedonia, an area that included Thessalonica, Philippi, and Berea (Acts 19:29). He was in close communication with Paul while both were prisoners in Rome. Otherwise, he could not have been included in the greeting in this way.
In Philemon 24, Paul called Aristarchus his fellow laborer. Perhaps Paul requested and was granted a sharing of house arrest with Aristarchus. Apparently, Paul received a large sum of money that enabled him to be under house arrest rather than in the dungeon or in the common prison. The money was probably left to him when his parents or someone else died. Money would then be the reason Paul was treated with respect, for Christianity was not popular, and neither were Jews.
“Marcus, ... (touching whom ye received commandments: if he come unto you, receive him;).” Evidently, Paul gave John Mark some sort of ministry or missionary tour. Paul was telling the Colossians to welcome him; that is, Paul was recommending him. If John Mark should visit the Colossians, they were to receive him.
Marcus is a Roman name, another example being Mark Anthony. Some Jews had adopted Gentile names to avoid unnecessary problems while living in the Gentile world.
Col. 4:11 And Jesus, which is called Justus, who are of the circumcision. These only are my fellowworkers unto the kingdom of God, which have been a comfort unto me.
Jesus (Justus) also sent greetings to the Colossians. The clause “who are of the circumcision” suggests that the others (Col. 4:9-11) were all Jews, even though some had Gentile names due to varied circumstances (such as a mixed marriage).
Col. 4:12 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.
Col. 4:13 For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis.
Epaphras is the same personality who was called Epaphroditus in Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians (Phil. 2:25; 4:18). Originally from Colosse, he established the class there, and he continually remembered the brethren from Colosse, Laodicea, and Hierapolis in prayer.
Col. 4:14 Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you.
Luke and Demas did not come from this area. Luke studied under Galen, the famous doctor at Pergamos, where the false god Aesculapius was worshipped. Of Greek mythology, Aesculapius was related to the healing arts.
Pergamos was a great center of learning with the world’s largest library, although Alexandria, Egypt, gets the credit. Mark Anthony gave Cleopatra a gift of books from the Pergamon library, and she, in turn, donated the books to Alexandria. The Pergamon library was subsequently destroyed. Parchment was invented at Pergamos. Egyptian papyrus came later.
Luke, Demas, Epaphras, and Nymphas (verse 15) were Greek, although some or all of them may have had a Jewish parent. Demas later departed the faith. “For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica” (2 Tim. 4:10). Only two years later Paul wrote this information to Timothy. What a change occurred in two years!
Barnes adds some interesting thoughts on both Luke and Demas:
Luke, the beloved physician - This was undoubtedly the author of the Gospel which bears his name, and of the Acts of the Apostles. He is mentioned as the traveling companion of Paul in Act_17:10, and appears to have accompanied him afterward until his imprisonment at Rome see 2Ti_4:11. From Col_4:11, it is evident that he was not by birth a Jew, but was probably a proselyte. He is supposed to have been a native of Cyrene, and to have died in Achaia, soon after the martyrdom of Paul, at the advanced age of 84.
And Demas - Demas is mentioned in two other places, Phm_1:24, and 2Ti_4:10. He is here spoken of with commendation as one in whom the apostle had confidence. Afterwards, when troubles thickened, he was not found proof to the trials which threatened him in Rome, and forsook the apostle and went to Thessalonica. He did this under the influence of the “love of this present world,” or of life, evidently unwilling to lay down his life in the cause for which Paul suffered; see the notes at 2Ti_4:10. His departure, and that of the others on whom Paul relied in Rome, was one of the severest trials which he was called there to endure.
Col. 4:15 Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house.
Several translations render the name as “Nympha” (female) and read, “The church which is in her house.” However, the name was Nymphas (male) as in the Diaglott. Those in the early Church frequently met in private homes in simplicity. Ornate churches, choirs, special vestments, etc., are not necessary. Jesus will be where “two or three are gathered together” in his name (Matt. 18:20).
Russell makes these beneficial comments:
Let us not forget that in the Primitive Church the congregations were small, and usually met in private houses. (Acts 1:13; 5:42; 12:12; Rom. 16:5; Col. 4:15; Philem. 2.) It was not until the apostles fell asleep in death, and errors came in and attracted the unconsecrated--by false threats and false promises--that the numbers became large, and costly edifices were erected. And yet, the apostles dealt chiefly with Jews, who for centuries had been under the Law Covenant, whose mission was to guide them to Christ. Out of all the millions of Jews in Palestine only a few thousand "received the word;"--so few that Josephus did not even mention them in his histories of that time.
That the result of the Apostle Paul's renowned missionary journeys was only small congregations, as a rule, seems evident from the records;--because he set forth the gospel so clearly, so uncompromisingly; --showing the narrowness of the way, as well as the glories of the reward;--not shunning to declare the whole counsel of God. Yes, it was afterward --after the apostles fell asleep--that the mixed and misrepresenting preaching drew and drove multitudes into an apostate system;--"tares" to choke the "wheat."
Col. 4:16 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.
Col. 4:17 And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it.
The King James Version gives the impression that another letter was written to the Laodicean brethren, and so do many other translations. Although there is no hard evidence of such a letter, the Laodiceans may have written a letter to Paul, and he felt the Colossians should be made aware of it.
Tychicus and Onesimus brought two letters from Rome. Tychicus was especially responsible for the letter to the Colossians (Col. 4:7,8), whereas Onesimus carried the letter to Philemon, who also lived in Colosse. Onesimus (Onesiphorus), the runaway slave, was particularly concerned about returning to his owner, Philemon. In the letter, Paul urged Philemon to receive Onesimus back not as a slave but as a real brother in Christ.
In addition to bringing the letter to the Colossians, Tychicus probably read it to them. Having come all the way from Rome, and having seen Paul in person in Rome, Tychicus would logically be given this honor. The letter would have been read and reread because its contents could not be absorbed in one hearing. In this way, the brethren could examine the letter to note certain points. In other words, “When this epistle is read and reread among you, cause that it be read also in the church of Laodicea.”
Notice that Hierapolis is not mentioned. The Laodiceans, who were from the city of Laodicea, met as a church in Hierapolis. Thus the Epistle to the Colossians was read to the church at Colosse and also to the church of the Laodiceans in Hierapolis.
Archippus was to “take heed to the ministry,” so he may have been very zealous at one time and then cooled off a little. Paul was telling him to take heed to the responsibility he had and the talents he possessed. Archippus was probably the son of Philemon (Philem. 2).
Paul thought very highly of Onesimus because Onesimus had been a great help to him at Ephesus and Rome. Now, when returning him to his rightful owner according to the custom of that day, Paul movingly pleaded to Philemon on behalf of Onesimus. Subsequently, Onesimus diligently searched for Paul and found him in the dungeon at Rome.
Col. 4:18 The salutation by the hand of me Paul. Remember my bonds. Grace be with you. Amen.
By personally writing the salutation, Paul put his seal of approval on the epistle. Because of poor eyesight, he had to write in large letters. Seeing Paul’s own handwriting would have touched the hearts of those who received the letter, for it called to mind that this one, who was so talented, had to live with a handicap. Luke often assisted Paul by doing much of the writing; that is, Paul dictated as Luke wrote.
“Remember my bonds.” Hebrews 13:3 amplifies this thought. “Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.” Paul was saying to remember the brethren who are in bonds as if being bound with them. In other words, they were not just to sympathize but were to enter into the experience.
The JFB adds this interesting comment:
Remember my bonds — Already in this chapter he had mentioned his “bonds” (Col_4:3), and again Col_4:10, an incentive why they should love and pray (Col_4:3) for him; and still more, that they should, in reverential obedience to his monitions in this Epistle, shrink from the false teaching herein stigmatized, remembering what a conflict (Col_2:1) he had in their behalf amidst his bonds. “When we read of his chains, we should not forget that they moved over the paper as he wrote; his [right] hand was chained to the [left hand of the] soldier who kept him” [Alford].