Colossians Chapter 4: Some Advice and Brethren

Nov 10th, 2009 | By | Category: Colossians, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Colossians Chapter 4: Some Advice and Brethren

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 dumb 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. For example, women should not expect pay equal to that of men in jobs where they cannot perform equivalently (such as firemen).

“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.

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.

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.

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 labouring 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!

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).

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. Ty chicus 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.

Second Century Alexandrian Philosophy (AD 100-200)

The Apostle John lived up to the beginning of the Alexandrian philosophy. Right after John’s death, it blossomed forth and then burned out by the year 200.

This philosophy advocated the literal crucifixion of the flesh, for “keeping the body under” was thought to be a physical mortification (1 Cor. 9:27). Literal punishment of the flesh was regarded as a mark of spirituality. Instead of persecution occurring because of faithfulness to the truth, punishment was self-inflicted to impress others how holy one was.

This practice was, and is, followed by many Asian religions. For example, advocates will sit motionless, doing no work, and people bring food to them lest they starve to death. Hindus and maharajahs pursue this course. At Baalbek, an individual lived on a large pillar for 20 years, summer and winter. Food was raised up to him with a rope arrangement. Supposedly, this lifestyle was to praise God, but such self-mortification served no real purpose.

That was one aspect of the Alexandrian philosophy. Then there was another aspect with regard to the Old Testament. It was thought that Jehovah was not the God of the universe but a God.

Not only was Jehovah given a secondary rank, but so was Jesus. Other ways of serving God were stressed, in addition to recognizing Jesus, so right away Jesus was vitiated as “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Anyone who tries to approach God other than through Jesus is a thief and a robber (John 10:1). Someone who regards Jesus as only a leader does not really appreciate him. How can one truly believe Jesus is the Messiah if several of his statements are considered erroneous?

A third aspect was also from Asia. According to this thinking, there were seven different ways of receiving information. Instead of a Christian having the Holy Spirit to enlighten him with regard to God’s plan and purposes when he reads the Bible, it was considered that there were various sources and various degrees of elevation and standing as a teacher. In fact, Paul’s teaching was considered to be on a kindergarten or first-grade level. In other words, Paul’s teaching was regarded as the ABC’s, and then one could go higher with other teaching. This standpoint magnified self in a way the Bible does not encourage in the least. By putting down

God, Christ, and the Apostle Paul, these teachers were wolves in sheep’s clothing—a form of antichrist. This thinking was cleverly introduced, for its adherents said, “Yes, we believe in the Bible.” However, they considered the Bible to be educational and not the final word. In other words, the Bible was considered helpful on a lower level.

The teachers felt they were in a higher category, and they analyzed others—their value and their merit—not from the scriptural standpoint but from their philosophical viewpoint. This opened the door for Grecian philosophy, as well as Hindu and other Asian philosophies, to creep into the Church. The result was that they began to look down on the brotherhood. True brotherly love was considered effeminate and weak, for the flesh had to be literally crucified or punished. Widows were not provided for, Christians in prison were not visited, etc. John’s epistle warned against this element, who did not have the spirit of Christ.

The problem was that when these people came into the Christian Church, they brought their previous training and prejudices with them. They liked to look upon Christ as a way of hope of a resurrection, of a kingdom of blessings, of a better day coming, etc., because the heathen philosophies all taught forms of punishment and “torture.” Their gods were gods of retribution only, with no mercy, love, or hope. The wrath of their gods had to be continually appeased. Consequently, the Christian religion appealed to some because they realized their lack, but unfortunately, in accepting Christianity, they did not discard their previous beliefs and views. Later on, some of the church fathers exposed this error.

The self-inflicted persecution of the flesh was an artificial and fallacious way of keeping the body under. Paul’s letters and the Bible were viewed as historical documents. Some of the false teachers even thought they were apostles and Paul was not.


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