Colossians 4

Colossians 4  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 8
In the third case, that of the masters, the prominent thought is not that of love but of righteousness. Every Christian master should be continually asking himself in regard to his servants, “What is just? What is fair?” And further he is to remember that he himself is a servant with his Master in the heavens-a Master who has laid it down that, “With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matt. 7:22For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. (Matthew 7:2)).
Here, then, are six items of instruction which if obeyed would go far towards producing a heaven upon earth. Family discord and industrial discord would be a thing of the past! But the point here is that we, believers, should anticipate the blessedness of the millennial day, and carry out God’s will in our several relationships, while waiting for the day when God’s will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Verses 2 to 6 of chapter 4 bring us back to exhortations of a more general sort; first as regards prayer, then as regards the relations of the believer with the unconverted.
We are to pray, and not only so but to persevere in it, and to watch God’s dealings that we may not miss His answers to our requests, nor fail to render thanks to Him for grace received. Moreover our prayers are not to be mainly of a personal or even selfish nature. Paul urged the Colossians to intercession on his behalf, that he might make manifest that “mystery of Christ” (ch. 2:2) to which he had alluded in the epistle. He wanted them to be intercessors on behalf of the work of God, and thus taking a share in the conflict connected with it.
We are very, very weak today in this matter of prayer. Modern life is organized on the principle of rush, and prayer gets crowded out all too often. Again, what about persevering? When we deeply desire a thing we do persevere, but how often are we creatures of very shallow desires! Our sympathies are called forth on some point and we join in a prayer-but that is the end of it! We soon forget and there is no perseverance.
In verse 5 the unconverted are spoken of as “them that are without” (ch. 4:5). There are those within the Christian circle and those without it, and it is very important that we should be right in our relations with those without. We are set in a place of testimony in regard to them. First our general behavior towards them is to be marked by wisdom. That being so we are sure to have opportunities for witnessing which we are to redeem by seizing them as they present themselves.
It is one thing, however, to seize an opportunity, and another to use it to best advantage. Words not fitly spoken are often more to be deplored than no word being spoken at all. Our words are to be always with grace. Never are we to descend to the censorious, or the bitter, or the cutting remark. But then on the other hand our words, while full of grace, are not to aim at merely pleasing men. They are to be seasoned with that which salt represents-the pungent quality of truth. Grace and truth were found in our Lord and they should mark those who are His, even characterizing their words.
The standard here set is a very lofty one. We come far short of attaining to it. Yet let us not lower the standard in our minds. Let us maintain it at its full height as seen in Christ, and let us press on toward it.
With verse 7 the closing messages and salutations begin. They present many points of interest. Tychicus, of whom the Apostle writes so warmly, was evidently to be the bearer of this letter to the Colossians. Onesimus, who is called “a faithful and beloved brother,” (ch. 4:9) was the run-away slave, with whom the epistle to Philemon is concerned. What but the grace of God can turn a defaulting and absconding slave into a faithful and beloved brother in Christ? So Tychicus carried the letter to the Colossians and Onesimus the letter to Philemon when they traveled to Colosse together. Philemon does not appear in our chapter, as is natural, seeing there was the special letter for him. But Archippus appears in both letters.
At the time of writing Paul had with him Aristarchus, Mark and Justus. He was able to speak of each of them in high terms as workers for the Kingdom and as a comfort to himself. It is most encouraging to find Mark mentioned in this way since the glimpses we have of him in the Acts are so unpromising. It shows how one who was a failure at the beginning of his service was yet thoroughly recovered to complete usefulness. So much so that he eventually became the writer of the second Gospel which specially portrays the Lord as the perfect Servant. An illustration, this, of how the power of God can ultimately make us strongest in that very thing wherein at first we were weakest.
Epaphras also was with Paul but he was “one of you,” that is, a Colossian, and so not “of the circumcision” (ch. 2:11). Separated as he was from his own people he yet had a great zeal for them and he was fervently laboring on their behalf. This labor was accomplished in prayer.
Prayer, you see, is labor: or rather, it may be labor. Epaphras carried it to such a point that it was truly labor for him, and continued labor too, since Paul bears witness that it was always his practice. The word translated “laboring” really means striving or combatting. Epaphras though absent from his friends was engaged in a real prayer combat on their behalf, the object of which was that they might stand in the will of God, perfect and complete.
It is a great thing to have a full knowledge of the will of God; that the Apostle desired for the Colossians in verse 9 of chapter 1. It is a greater thing to stand perfect and complete in that will. Standing in it implies that we are subject to it and characterized by it, according to that which is said in verse 10 of chapter 1. It is evident that the desires and prayers of Epaphras, for the saints of Colosse and neighborhood, ran exactly parallel with the prayers of Paul for them.
Laodicea was in the neighborhood. It is mentioned in chapter 2:1, as well as three times in our chapter. The very name has a sad sound about it in view of what the Lord has to say to this church in Rev. 3:14-2214And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; 15I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 16So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. 17Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: 18I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. 19As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. 20Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. 21To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. 22He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. (Revelation 3:14‑22). In spite of the prayers and conflict on their behalf of a Paul and an Epaphras, in spite of the circulation of Apostolic epistles in their midst, it fell to the lowest depths. The “epistle from Laodicea,” (ch. 4:16) was no doubt an epistle which just at that time was being circulated from assembly to assembly.
This epistle to the Colossians and the Laodiceans sets forth exactly that truth which, had it been heeded by the Laodiceans, would have preserved them. It sets forth the glory of Christ, the Head of His church. It exhorts them to “hold the Head.” Alas! they heeded it not; and the epistle to them sent from Patmos reveals them as supremely self-satisfied, and Christ, their Head, entirely outside their door.
We are, as regards the flesh, no better than they. So let us take to heart the warning with which they furnish us.
Let us also accept the word of admonition given to Archippus as applicable to ourselves. Has the Lord given a service to you? Then take good heed to perform it, however insignificant it may appear to be. Non-fulfillment of the service means laziness, which at once opens the door to decline and spiritual disaster. Nothing can preserve us but that grace, which is the closing word of the epistle.