Read the Passage: Colossians 4
Listen to The Redeemed Mind Podcast: Colossians 4
Prayer and Wisdom (4:1–6)
Col. 4:1 reads, “Masters, give your bondservants what is just and fair, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.” While this verse is best viewed as a continuation of Paul’s discussion about the master/bondservant relationship that he started in Col. 3:22, it is also tied to the admonitions concerning the Christian graces that Paul will begin to discuss in Col. 4:2. The connection here is that just as Paul appeals to the example of Christ (e.g., the divine “Master”) as he instructs human masters, so it is the example of Jesus that should motivate the spiritual disciplines of prayer and wisdom mentioned in Col. 4:2–6. Recall that Paul had expressed his own thanksgiving and prayers for the church at Col. 1:3. Given this milieu of prayer and thanksgiving, which ought to pervade the church, Paul exhorted the church, “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving” (Col. 4:2).
While Paul does not give a lot of detailed information about prayer in Col. 4:2–4, he does mention that prayer ought to be continuous (cf. Eph. 6:18; 1 Thess. 5:17), it ought to be vigilant (cf. Matt. 26:41; Luke 18:1), and it ought to be done with thanksgiving (cf. Phil. 4:6; 1 Tim. 2:1). In the dozens of his own prayers that Paul records in Scripture, he rarely prays for himself or asks for specific prayer for himself; yet, here in Col. 4:3–4 Paul does ask for prayer. Curiously, Paul does not ask for prayers for his release; rather, he asks for prayers for an opportunity to share the gospel, as well as for his own boldness to do so. In Col. 4:5–6 Paul exhorts the church to be wise as they interact with unbelievers in the world, which is no small task (cf. Matt. 10:16; Eph. 5:15–16). While it can be a challenge for Christians to speak winsomely in culture, Paul notes that believers should speak graceful words that purify their context.
Visitors and Greeting (4:7–15)
In Col. 4:7–15 Paul moves toward concluding this epistle as he writes about the ones who would carry this letter (cf. Col. 4:7–9), and he also sends greeting from his colleagues (cf. Col. 4:10–15). The two whom would deliver this letter to Colossae were Tychicus and Onesimus. Although he was not as well-known as some others, Tychicus was a long-time, faithful traveling companion of Paul who is mentioned in four of Paul’s letters, as well as in the book of Acts. Tychicus was with Paul on his third missionary journey (cf. Acts 20:4) and was also the bearer of Paul’s letters to Ephesus (cf. Eph. 6:21) and to Colossae (cf. Col. 4:7). Tychicus was also sent as a interim leader both for Timothy (cf. 2 Tim. 4:12) and for Titus (cf. Titus 3:12). Onesimus, who is mentioned by name apart from this passage only in Plm. 1:10, was a slave who had run away from Paul’s friend Philemon, had providentially met Paul in Rome, and had accepted Christ.
In Col. 4:10–15 Paul mentions six of his traveling companions who joyfully sent their greetings to the Colossian church. In Col. 4:10–11 Paul noted three of his close Jewish colleagues: Aristarchus, Mark, and Justus. Aristarchus was a Thessalonian believer who was seized by a mob in Ephesus (cf. Acts 19:29; 20:4; 27:2; Phm. 1:24). John Mark, the cousin of Barnabas, had a difficult start to ministry, but later proved quite valuable to Paul (cf. Acts 13:13; 2 Tim. 4:11). Jesus, who was also called Justus, is only mentioned here in Scripture. Observe that Paul may have described these men as his “only fellow workers . . . of the circumcision” (Col. 4:11) in order to prevent the Judaizers from deceitfully claiming their own affiliation with himself. In Col. 4:12–15 Paul cites Epaphras, Luke, and Demas. Epaphras was likely the founder of the Colossian church, Luke was Paul’s friend and physician, and Demas would later desert Paul.
Exhortation and Blessing (4:16–18)
In Col. 4:16 Paul directs the Colossian church to share this epistle with the church of the Laodiceans (cf. Rev. 3:14–22). Likewise, Paul exhorts the Colossian church to read the letter that he wrote to the Laodicean church. Although it is impossible to identify the letter to the church in Laodicea with certainly, many scholars believe that the epistle in question is actually the book of Ephesians. In Col. 4:17 Paul exhorts Archippus, who was likely the son of Philemon (cf. Plm. 1:2), writing, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.” Note that this advice, which is helpful to all those whom God has called to ministry, is similar to Paul’s later exhortation to Timothy (cf. 2 Tim. 4:5). In closing, as he oftentimes did as a security measure (cf. 1 Cor. 16:21; Gal. 6:11; 2 Thess. 3:17; Plm. 1:19), Paul ends this epistle noting that he wrote the conclusion to this letter with his own hand, not via an amanuensis.
- How important is the example of Christ for your sanctification? How helpful is the example of other believers for your Christ-likeness?
- What does it mean for believers to “walk in wisdom” (Col. 4:5)? What does it mean for Christians to redeem the time?
- Like Paul’s friend Tychicus, are you content to faithfully serve in ministry apart from the recognition of others?
- Are the affections and greetings that are part of all of Paul’s letters characteristic of the church that you attend?
- What types of things tempt you to ignore, disobey, or otherwise not fulfill your ministerial calling by God?