Study Notes on Colossians 4
Here's my notes and a video on our study in the last chapter of Colossians. I hope you enjoy!
1 Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.
So this verse could really go at the end of chapter 3 as it continues the same line of thought from that chapter. Remember that the chapters and verse designations came much later, the chapters were put in place in 1227, and the verses for the whole Bible were added in 1555. Sometimes it’s helpful to read books of the Bible—especially shorter ones like Colossians—without those divisions to absorb it without the artificial, yet helpful, breaks in the letter or epistle.
So this is saying, for our modern condition that employees should be paid fairly and treated fairly. Also, for example, employers forcing employees to take a toxic injection that has killed tens of thousands of people (at a minimum) would be a clear violation of this verse. They should not forget that God notices everything.
2 Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;
Prayer is emphasized so much in this letter to the Colossians starting with the 3rd verse in the first chapter to verse 12 in this chapter that we’ll get to.
We are told to continue in prayer which we read so many times in the New Testament. “Pray without ceasing.” And in the Old Testament when Samuel is speaking to Israel he said, “Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way: Only fear the Lord, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you.”
I think that goes perfectly with this verse here in Colossians; keep praying and be grateful for all God has done for us.
William Burkitt, who died in 1703 said, “God is offended, when we are loud and clamorous in asking favours, but dumb and tongue-tied in returning thanks.”
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:
4 That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.
So while Paul is in prison for the specific reason of preaching the gospel, he asks for prayers that he may have opportunity to preach the gospel. He doesn’t even ask for prayers to be free or anything else but just that he can do the work of God.
His boldness in illegally preaching the gospel landed him in prison; and we should pray for faithful leaders to boldly preach God’s Word.
5 Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.
By those “that are without” he means outsiders, those outside of the faith, unbelievers. The word for “redeeming" means to buy back or purchase out of. In other words, make good use of your time!
Look at Titus 3:10-11 “A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.” If someone rejects your message once, then twice, move on because the next person might be interested. Make good use of your time.
6 Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.
So this is a pretty simple verse (easy to understand, harder to apply) but what does “seasoned with salt” mean? It means that our general speech, and our manner of preaching the gospel to those that are without should be savory. We must speak the truth with wisdom and grace having the goal of salvation not condemnation.
1 Peter 3:15 has a similar statement on “answering every man”: But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.
7 All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you, who is a beloved brother, and a faithful minister and fellowservant in the Lord:
8 Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that he might know your estate, and comfort your hearts;
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.
So now we come to the closing statements of this letter that deal with individuals and some personal matters but it’s very interesting.
Paul had more concern for this church at Colossae than he did for himself. He sent Tychicus and Onesimus to THEM to comfort THEM. Amazing! This is great love.
Now these two guys have rather interesting stories. Tychicus is mentioned several times in the New Testament as beloved and faithful minister of the Lord. Onesimus was the guy in the short book of Philemon who was apparently a recent convert and resident of Colossae.
Look at Philemon 1:10 “I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds.” Paul brought a lot of people to Christ while he was in prison for the name of Christ. He calls Onesimus his son, as in his son in the faith just like with Timothy and Titus.
Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon and now says, look down in Philemon to verses 15 through 18: For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever;16 Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord? 17 If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself. 18 If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account.”
So Onesimus likely wronged Philemon in some way and Paul says he’s a brother in the Lord now, so whatever he owes you, I’ll pay it. Beautiful forgiveness.
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;)
We see other names here and Barnabas who was with Paul for much of the book of Acts.
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.
Obviously this is a different Jesus, or Joshua as we might say, who is called Justus perhaps after his Christian conversion.
12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.
Great verse here, this is that Epaphras that was mentioned back in chapter 1 of this letter that was a Colossian but currently with Paul in the ministry. And I love this, it says he was “always labouring fervently for you in prayers.”
We don’t often think of prayer of fervent labor but it is or can be or should be! Laboring fervently means to strive or fight for. It can be easy to be distracted during prayer but we need to dedicate time for it and be consistent about it. Prayer can be work!
13 For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis.
14 Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you.
Luke, who was of course the gentile physician and author of the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. And Demas, mentioned as a fellow laborer in Philemon, but in the last words of Paul in 2 Timothy 4 we read this: “For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica.” Not a great way to be remembered for all time. We need to stay focused on Christ and what we do for Him.
15 Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house.
Some very interesting things here. First of all there’s some debate about whether Nymphas was a man or a woman because the NT manuscripts vary on this point but the majority of them agree that Nymphas was a male and the local church met at his house.
Home churches are biblical! In fact, specific church buildings didn’t even exist until sometime in the 3rd century. It is perfectly fine to meet for church in a home and in many ways I think it’s the better model. There’s closer fellowship, more time for intimate study of God’s Word, you aren’t having to pay for an additional building and on and on. The American model of “going to church” certainly has a lot of flaws.
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.
17 And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it.
This Archippus is also mentioned in Philemon verse 2 and a home church is mentioned there as well. Here Paul is asking the Colossians to encourage Archippus to stay on course, so maybe he was drifting a little bit or getting distracted by the things of this world like Demas. We all need that encouragement sometimes, and you and I need to be reminded to take heed to the ministry!
18 The salutation by the hand of me Paul. Remember my bonds. Grace be with you. Amen.
Paul saying “remember my bonds” could be that he’s reminding them to pray for him, OR he’s saying that it’s the mark of his authority as an apostle of Christ, AND a proof of the truth and power of the gospel that it’s something he would be imprisoned for.
Adam Clarke says, “That such a man should be in bonds for the Gospel, was the fullest proof of the truth of the Gospel. A cunningly devised fable could not have imposed on Saul of Tarsus; he was fully satisfied of the truth of the doctrines of Christianity; he proclaimed them as truths from heaven; and for their sake cheerfully suffered the loss of all things. The bonds of such a man are a plenary proof of the truth of the doctrines for which he was bound.”