The apostle now turns from the slave to address his master – this is a
continuation of ch. 3.
1 “Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal:”
[bondmen] (Ephesians 6:8, 9; Matthew 18:23-35; Luke 6:31). The verb “show”
(παρέχεσθε – parechesthe- afford, render) is middle in voice, and, as in Luke 7:4
and Titus 2:7, implies spontaneity — “show on your part,” “of yourselves.”
Τὸ δίκαιον – to dikaion – “thejust - a concrete expression, denotes the justice
of the master’s dealing (compare τὸ χρηστόν – to chraeston - “the kind dealing
of God” - Romans 2:4) - Τὴν ἰσότητα – taen isotaeta- equity, fairness - gives the
principle by which he is to be guided. The context suggests family and social
relationships of master and servant. “Equity” is a well established
sense of the Greek word. The law of equity bearing on all
human relations Christ has laid down in Luke 6:31. Here is the
germinal principle of the abolition of slavery. Moral equity, as realized by
the Christian consciousness, was sure in course of time to bring about legal
equality. Knowing that ye also have a Lord in heaven (ch. 2:6;
Ephesians 6:9; I Corinthians 7:22; Philippians 2:11; Romans 14:9; Revelation
17:14; 19:16). (On “knowing,” see v. 24a.) “Ye also,” for Christ is “both their
Lord and yours” (Ephesians 6:9, Revised Text). The lordship of Christ
dominates the whole Epistle - (ch.1:15, 18; 2:6, 10, 19). The assertion that
the proud master who deemed his fellow man his chattel is himself a mere slave of
Christ, sets Christ’s authority in a vivid and striking light. This
consideration makes the Christian master apprehensive as to his treatment
of his dependents. He is “in heaven” (ch. 3:1; Ephesians 1:21; 6:9; 4:10; Philippians
3:20; I Thessalonians 1:10; II Thessalonians 1:7; Acts 3:21; John 3:13; 8:23;
Hebrews 9:24), the seat of Divine authority and glory, whence he shall soon return
to judgment (compare Psalms 76:8; Romans 1:18).
PRAYER AND SOCIAL CONVERSE (vs. 2-6)
There are added some brief exhortations of a more general tenor, the
contents of which are summed up in the heading given to this section.
2 “Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;” –
(Ephesians 6:18; Romans 12:12; Philippians 4:6; I Thessalonians 5:17-18;
I Timothy 2:1; Luke 11:5-10; 18:1-8; 21:36; Acts 1:14; 20:31; 1 Corinthians
16:13; 1 Peter 5:8; Matthew 26:41; Mark 14:38). “Steadfast continuance” in
prayer is specially illustrated in our Lord’s sayings on the subject in Luke (compare
Acts 1:14, where the same peculiar verb is used). In Philippians 4:6; 1 Thessalonians
5:17-18; I Timothy 2:l, again “thanksgiving” is associated with “prayer.”
Wakefulness in prayer is enjoined by Christ in Matthew 26:41 and Mark 14:38:
compare the synonymous ἀγρυπνοῦντες – agrupnountes - awake; watching;
vigilant; to be sleepless, used in Ephesians 6:18; Mark 13:33; Luke 21:36;
Hebrews 13:17. “To be awake” is to be alive in the fullest sense, to have all the
powers of perception and action in readiness. The activity of the soul in prayer is to
be both energetic and incessant. “With [literally in, ἐν - en, not μετὰ - meta - as in
Ephesians 6:18] thanksgiving gives the pervading element or influence, in or under
which the prayers of the Colossians were to be offered (compare ch. 1:12; 2:7; 3:15,17).
3 Praying at the same time also for us (Ephesians 6:19;
Romans 15:30-32; 1 Thessalonians 5:25; 2 Thessalonians 3:1,
2; 13:18). In Ephesians and Romans the apostle implores
prayer for himself alone, and dwells on his personal circumstances. Here
and in the Thessalonian letters he unites his fellow labourers with him in
the request. That God may open to us a door for the word (1
Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 2:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:9; 2:1).
“The word” is the Word of God which the apostle preaches
(Colossians 1:5, 25; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; Galatians 6:6; 2
Timothy 4:2; Acts 16:6); and “a debt” is wanted, in his present
difficulties, through which that Word may freely pass, such as he speaks of
in 1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 2:12 (compare Acts 14:27;
Revelation 3:8). It is fanciful to give “door” here the sense of
“mouth.” The “opening of my mouth,” in Ephesians 6:19, expresses
the subjective freedom (corresponding to “as I ought to speak,” ver. 4);
“the door for the word,” the objective liberty desired by
imprisonment. To speak the mystery of Christ, because of which also I
am bound (ch. 1:23-29; Ephesians 6:19; 3:1-13; 4:1;
Philippians 1:12-14; Philemon 1:9; II Timothy 2:8-10;
Acts 20:22-24). Were his prison door once opened, the apostle would
be able freely to preach the gospel to the Gentiles — for this “the mystery
of Christ” chiefly signifies ( ch. 1:25-29; Ephesians 3:1-8;
I Timothy 2:3-7.) (On “mystery,” see note, ch. 1:26.) It is
this very mission which makes him long for freedom, that keeps him a
prisoner (Ibid. v.23; Ephesians 3:13). He is in the strange
position of an “ambassador in chains” (Ephesians 6:19; Philemon
1:9-10: compare II Timothy 2:9). This “I am bound” (singular) shows
that the “for us” of the former clause designedly includes others with
4 “That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.” (Ephesians 6:20;
II Corinthians 2:17; 4:1-6; 5:11, 5:20-6:10; Romans 12:6; II Timothy 2:24-26;
3:10; Acts 20:18-21, 27, 33-35). This clause qualifies the last; the “open door”
is to be asked for the apostle, that he may make effective use of it. The mystery
has been made manifest by God in the mission of Christ (ch. 1:27; 2:15, note;
II Corinthians 5:19); but that manifestation has to be made known to the
Gentile world (Ephesians 3:9; II Corinthians 2:14; Romans 10:14). To this end
he had received a special manifestation of “the mystery of Christ”
(II Corinthians 4:6; 5:19; Galatians 1:15-16; Acts 9:15-16; 22:14-15, 21;
26:16-18). How the apostle conceives that he “ought to speak” appears from
the parallel passages (see especially II Corinthians – chapters 5 and 6; and
5 “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without,” - (Ephesians 5:15-17;
I Thessalonians 4:12; 5:15; I Corinthians 10:32; II Corinthians 4:2; Titus 2:8;
I Peter 2:12,15; 3:16; Matthew 10:16). (On “wisdom,” see ch.1:9, note; 1:28;
2:3; 3:16; this was a chief need of the
as opposed to Christians — “those within the pale;” a Jewish mode of
expression: compare I Thessalonians 4:12; I Corinthians 5:12-13; I Timothy 3:7.
From a different point of view, they are designated “as others” in Ephesians 2:3;
I Thessalonians 4:13; 5:6. This injunction appears in a different form and
position in Ephesians. Standing at the close of the writer’s exhortations, and
followed up by the direction of the next verse, it is more pointed and emphatic
here – “redeeming the time.” – or “buying up each (literally, the) opportunity
(Ephesians 5:16; I Corinthians 7:29; Galatians 6:10; John 9:4; 11:9-10; Luke 13:32;
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). In Ephesians 5:16 the reason is added, “because the days are
evil.” In Daniel 2:8 (Septuagint) the verb ἐξαγοραζόμενοι – exagorazomenoi - to buy
out or up, a word of the market) has precisely this sense and connection, and the
idiom occurs in classical writers. The verb is middle in voice: “buying up for
yourselves,” “for your own advantage.” In Galatians 3:13 the compound verb is
somewhat differently used. The opportunity is the fit time for each step of a
well-conducted walk, the precise juncture of circumstances which must be
seized at once or it is gone. (I would like to recommend The Preciousness of Time
by Jonathan Edwards - # 6 – this web site – CY – 2011) This wary promptitude is
always needful in dealing with men of the world, both to avoid harm from them and
in seeking to do them good. The latter thought, it may be, connects this verse and
6 “Let your speech (literally, word) be alway with grace, seasoned with salt,”
(Ephesians 4:29, 31; 5:3-4; Titus 2:8; Matthew 12:34-37; Luke 4:22; Psalm 45:2).
- λόγος - logos -“Word” - has its common acceptation, as in ch. 3:17; 2:23;
Titus 2:8; II Timothy 2:17; James 3:2. (ἐν χάριτι – en charati - “With grace” )
Gives the pervading element of Christian speech; as “in wisdom,” of Christian
behavior (v. 5). “Grace,” here without the article, is not, as in ch. 3:16, where
the article should probably be read, “the (Divine) grace,” but a property of
speech itself, “gracefulness” the kindly, winning pleasantness which makes
the talk of a good and thoughtful man attractive: compare Psalm 45:2;
(44:3, Septuagint); Ecclesiastes 10:12 (Septuagint) - “Salt” is the “wholesome point
and pertinency” seasoning conversation, while grace sweetens it. The clause
which follows indicates that “salt” denotes here, as commonly in Greek
(instance the phrase, “Attic salt”), an intellectual rather than a moral quality
of speech. In Ephesians 4:29 the connection is different, and the application
more general (compare Matthew 5:13; Mark 9:49-50) - “that ye may know how
ye ought to answer every man.” (v. 4; I Peter 3:15; Philippians 1:27-28;
II Thessalonians 2:17). The Colossians were to pray for the apostle that he might
“speak the mystery of Christ... as he ought to speak;” and he bids them seek for
themselves the same gift of παρρησία –parraesia – frankness; blunt; open;
plain; confident - liberty of speech and readiness to “every good word.” For their
faith was assailed by persuasive sophistry (ch. 2:4, 8, 23) and by brow-beating
dogmatism (ch. 2:16, 18, 20-21). They were, like Paul, “set for the defense of the
gospel,” placed in the van of the conflict against heresy. They needed, therefore,
“to have all their wits about them,” so as to be able, as occasion required,
to make answer to each of their opponents and questioners, that they might
“contend” wisely as well as “earnestly for the faith.” 1 Peter. 3:15 is a commentary
on this verse: the parallelism is the closer because that Epistle was addressed to
beginning to be rife; and because, likewise, “the hope that was in them” was a chief
object of the attack made on the Colossian believers (ch.1:5, 23, 27; 2:18; 3:15).
With this exhortation the Christian teaching of the Epistle is concluded. In
its third and practical part (ch. 3:1-4:6) the apostle has built up, on the
foundation of the doctrine laid down in the first chapter, and in place of the
attractive but false and pernicious system denounced in the second, a lofty
and complete ideal of the Christian life. He has led us from the contemplation
of its “life of life” in the innermost mystery of union with Christ and of its
glorious destiny in Him (ch. 3:1-4), through the soul’s interior death-struggle
with its old corruptions (vs. 5-11) and its investment with the graces of its
new life (vs. 12-15), to the expression and outward acting of that life in the
mutual edification of the Church (vs. 16-17), in the obedience and devotion
of the family circle (v. 18- ch. 4:1), in constant prayerfulness and sympathy
with the ministers and suffering witnesses of Christ (vs. 2-4), and, lastly,
in such converse with men of the world, and in the midst of the distracting
debate by which faith is assailed, as shall fittingly commend the Christian
PERSONAL MESSAGES AND GREETINGS (vs. 7-18)
Paul concludes his letter, first, by introducing to the Colossians its bearer,
Tychicus, along with whom he commends to them their own Onesimus,
returning to his master (vs. 7-9); then, according to his custom, he conveys
greetings from his various friends and helpers present with him at the time,
in particular from Mark, who was likely to visit them, and from Epaphras
their own devoted minister (vs. 10-14); thirdly, he sends greeting to the
neighboring and important
with directions to exchange letters with the Laodiceans, and with a pointed
warning to Archippus, probably a Colossian, having some charge over that
Church (vs. 15-17). Finally, he appends, with his own hand, his apostolic
greeting and benediction (v. 18). The personal references of this section,
though slight and cursory, are of peculiar value, bearing themselves the
strongest marks of genuineness, and decisively attesting the Pauline
authorship of the Epistle. At the same time, we gather from them several
independent facts throwing light on Paul’s position during his imprisonment,
and on his relations to other leading personages of the Church.
7 “All my state shall (literally, the things concerning me) Tychicus declare
unto you, who is a beloved brother and a faithful minister and fellow
servant (bondman), in the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:21-22; Titus 3:12; I Timothy
6:12;; II Timothy 1:8; I Thessalonians 3:2; Philippians 2:25). Tychicus appears
first in Acts 20:4, where he is called an “Asian” (of the
Roman province of
styled “the Ephesian.” He
accompanied the apostle on his voyage to
(A.D. 58), with a number of others representing different Churches, and
probably deputed, in conformity with the directions of I Corinthians 16:3-4,
to convey the contributions raised for “the poor saints at
Trophimus was with Paul in
colleague (the words, “as far as
20:4, are of very doubtful authority), he is now with the apostle in his
(compare Ephesians 6:21-22), and in charge of Onesimus, on whose
account the apostle sends a private letter to Philemon. In the interval
between the first (present) and second imprisonment (II Timothy), the
apostle revisited the Asiatic Churches (so we infer from I Timothy
1:3), and Tychicus rejoined him; for we find Paul proposing to send him
to Titus in Crete (Titus 3:12), and finally sending him
which he is here spoken of. “In the Lord” belongs both to “minister” and
“fellow servant.” This language is almost identical with that used of
Epaphras in ch. 1:7 (see notes). Tychicus is (διάκονος – diakonos - “minister”),
not to Paul himself (Acts 13:5; 19:22, ὑπηρέτην – hupaeretaen – technically,
an under rower, as distinguished from a seaman; a subordinate; attendant;
minister), nor in the official sense of Philippians 1:1, but “of Christ,” “of the
gospel,” or “the Church” (I Thessalonians 3:2), as Paul himself (ch. 1:23, 25).
He is “a beloved brother” to his fellow.believers, “a faithful minister” of the
Lord Christ, and “a fellow servant” with the apostle (ch. 1:7; here – v.10;
8 “Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that he
might know your estate, (literally, the things about us), and comfort your
hearts;” - (Ephesians 6:22). The Received Text reads, by a slight confusion
of similar Greek letters, that he may know the things about you..
This is the only clause exactly identical in Colossians and Ephesians. There
would be great anxiety on Paul’s account amongst the Gentile
Christians everywhere, and especially in the Asiatic Churches, after the
ominous words of his address to the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:22-25:
compare vs. 37-38). The Colossians had sent through Epaphras messages
of love to him (ch. 1:8). To know that he was of good courage, and even in
hope of a speedy release (Philemon 1:22), would “comfort their hearts.”
9 “With Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you.” (v. 7;
ch. 1:2; Philemon 1:10,16; I Peter 5:12). “In Christ there is no slave” (ch. 3:11).
Onesimus, like Epaphras and Tychicus, is a brother, to be trusted and loved (comp.
Philemon 1:10-17). This language strongly supports the appeal of v.1, and would
further the purpose of the apostle’s intercession to Onesimus’ master. And Onesimus
even shares with the honoured Tychicus in the privilege of being the apostle’s
messenger! “They shall make known unto you all things which are done here.”
(v. 7; Ephesians 6:21). There is, therefore, no need for any detailed account of the
writer’s circumstances. The solicitude which he assumes that these stranger Colossians
(ch. 1:8; 2:1) feel on his behalf shows how commanding his ascendancy over the
Gentile Churches had become.
10 “Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, saluteth you,” - (Philemon 2, 23;
Philippians 2:25; Romans 16:7). Aristarchus, as a Thessalonian, accompanied the
companion at least during the first part of his voyage to
In Philemon 1:23-24 his name follows that of Mark as a “fellow worker”
(compare v. 11) and of Epaphras “my fellow prisoner” (compare Romans 16:7).
“Fellow prisoner” (αἰχμαλωτός – aichmalotos - captive, prisoner of war)
differs from the “prisoner” (δέσμιος – desmios - one in bonds) of Ephesians 3:1;
(4:1; Philemon 1:9; II Timothy 1:8. The supposition that these men were permitted
as friends to share Paul’s captivity in turn, is conjectural. Possibly the incident
recorded in Acts 19:29 was attended by some temporary joint imprisonment of Paul
and Aristarchus. As “a soldier of Christ Jesus,” the apostle was himself now “a
prisoner of war” (II Timothy 2:3-b4; II Corinthians 10:3-6); and
therefore those who shared his sufferings were his “fellow prisoners,” as
they were his “fellow soldiers” (Philemon 2; Philippians 1:30) and his
“fellow servants” (ch1:7; 4:7). And Marcus (Mark), sister’s son of
Barnabas (cousin), touching whom ye received commandments — if he
come to you, receive him;” - (Philemon 24; II Timothy 4:11; I
Peter 5:13). It is pleasant to find John Mark, who deserted the apostle in
his first missionary journey (Acts 13:13), and on whose account he
separated from Barnabas (Acts 15:37-40) ten years before, now taken
again into his confidence and friendship (compare I Timothy 4:11). And
indeed it is evident that there was no permanent estrangement between the
two great Gentile missionaries; for Mark is called “cousin of Barnabas” by
way of recommendation (compare I Corinthians 9:6; Galatians 2:1,
9, 13). Mary, the mother of John Mark, was a person of some
consideration in the Church at
her he may have been related to Barnabas, who, though a Cypriot Jew, had
by the mother Church (Acts 9:27; 11:22-24; 15:25-26). Mark is,
moreover, a link between the Apostles Paul and Peter. It is to the house of
his mother that the latter betakes himself on his escape from Herod’s
prison (Acts 12:12). In I Peter. 5:13 he appears, along with Silvanus
(Silas), Paul’s old comrade, in Peter’s company, who calls him “my
son.” Peter was then at
end of the journey eastwards which Paul here contemplates his
undertaking. The striking correspondence of language and thought
between Peter’s First Epistle (addressed, moreover, to Churches of
an equal degree, that to the Romans) suggests the existence of some
special connection at this time between the two writers, such as may well
afforded by Mark, if, leaving
he travelled in their track by way of
four years later, Mark is again in
Timothy, and the apostle desires his services at
4:11). When or how the Colossians had received already directions
concerning Mark, we have no means of knowing. His journey appears to
have been postponed. The apostle must before this have communicated
with the Colossians. The visit of Epaphras
some communication from him. “If he should come to you, give him a
welcome,” is the request the apostle now makes.
11 “And Jesus, which is called Justus,” - the only name of this list wanting
in Philemon. Nor is this person mentioned elsewhere. “Jesus” (“Joshua,”
Acts 7:45; Hebrews 4:8) was a common Jewish name. “Justus”
(“just,” “righteous”) was frequently adopted by individual Jews, or
conferred on them, as a Gentile (Latin) surname (compare Acts 1:23;
18:7); it implied devotion to the Law, and was the equivalent of the
Hebrew Zadok. Its Greek equivalent, δίκαιος – dikaios – righteous –
is the standing epithet of James, the brother of the Lord, and the head of the
(Acts 3:14; 7:52; 22:14; I Peter. 3:18; I John 2:1) - “who are of
the circumcision. These only are my fellow workers unto the kingdom
of God, which have been a comfort unto me.” (Philemon 1:1, 24;
I Thessalonians 3:2; Romans 16:3, 9, 21; II Corinthians 8:23;
Philippians 2:25; 4:3). Aristarchus, therefore, was a Jew, as well as
Mark and Jesus Justus. “These only,” must be read as in close
apposition to the previous clause. This statement accords with the apostle’s
complaint in Philippians 1:15-17; 2:19-24; but the still stronger
language of the latter passages seems to point to a later time when he was
yet more solitary, having lost Tychicus and Mark, and perhaps Aristarchus
also, and when he had a more definite prospect of release. The title “fellow
worker” he frequently confers on his associates (see references). In
Philemon 24 it is applied, to Luke and Demas
was, in ch. 1:13, “the
ch. 8:12; 14:22; 19:8; I Thessalonians 2:12; II Thessalonians 1:5). On the force of
οἵτινες – hoitines – these - (“men who,” “such as”), see ch. 2:23; and for
ἐγενήθησαν – egenaethaesan – have been - (“proved,” “became in point
of fact”) - compare ch. 3:15. Παρηγορία – paraegoria - comfort, a word found
only here in the Greek Testament, is a medical term (compare “paregoric”), implying
12 “Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant (bondman) of Christ Jesus -
(Jesus – in the Greek) Romans 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Titus 1:1; Galatians 1:10;
II Corinthians 4:5; I Corinthians 7:22; I Thessalonians 1:9; II Timothy 2:24;
Acts 4:29; James 1:1; II Peter 1:1; Jude 1; Revelation 1:1; 22:3, 6). “Of you,” like
Onesimus (v. 9). He was a native of
the Church there (ch. 1:7-8). “Jesus Bondman of Christ” is the title the apostle so
often claims for himself (see references), only here put by him on any one else. Is
there an implied reference to Onesimus (v. 9), who was “a bondman after the
flesh,” but “the Lord’s freedman” (Philemon 16), while Epaphras, “the
freeman,” is “Christ’s bondman” (compare I Corinthians 7:22)? We are
reminded again of ch.2:6 (see note) – “saluteth you, always laboring (striving)
fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in
all the will of God.” (ch. 1:9, 23, 29; 2:1-2, 5; Romans 15:30; Ephesians
6:11-14; Philippians 1:27; 4:1; I Corinthians 16:13; I Thessalonians 3:8;
II Thessalonians 2:15). Epaphras “strives” (“wrestles”) for his spiritual charge,
like the apostle himself (ch. 1:29, see note on ἀγωνιζόμενος – agonizomenos –
striving - ch. 2:1; Romans 15:30; Luke 22:44). προσκαρτερεῖτε –
proskartereite – endure; persevere - in v. 2 denotes the patient persistence, this
word the intense energy, of prevailing prayer. Some read the stronger σταθῆτε –
stathaete - stand - for στῆτε – staete - ), compare ch. 1:23; 2:7; it is four times
repeated in the stirring appeal of Ephesians 6:11-14. For Churches threatened by
the attacks of heresy it was above all things needful “that they should stand
fast.” On “perfect,” see ch. 1:28; 3:14; the word bears a primary reference
to “knowledge,” and implies a fully instructed and enlightened condition
(Philippians 3:15; I Corinthians 14:20; Hebrews 5:14; 6:1), attended with
corresponding spiritual advancement (Ephesians 4:13). (πεπληροφορημένοι -
peplaerophoraemenoi - Fully assured; translated here perfect and complete) –
carries us back to ch. 2:2 (see notes; on this verb). It bears the same sense in
Romans 4:21 and 14:5; a slightly different one in Luke 1:1. From the tenor of the
letter it appears that the Colossians needed a deeper Christian insight and more
intelligent and well-grounded convictions respecting the truth “as in Jesus.” is
strictly distributive (every will); θέλημα' - thelaema – will - (ch. 1:9) differs from
our will in having a concrete rather than abstract sense, denoting an act or
expression of will.
13 “For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal (πὸνον – ponon –
pain for ζῆλον - zaelon - zeal) for you,” - (ch. 1:29; 2:1; Philippians 2:19-23;
I Thessalonians 5:12-13; I Timothy 5:17; I Corinthians 16:15-16). πὸνον occurs
in the New Testament besides only in Revelation 16:10-11 and 21:4, where it
means “pain;”in classical Greek it implies “painful, distressful exertion”
(compare κοπιῶ - kopio – toiling; laboring; working; ch. 1:29). It indicates the
deep anxiety of Epaphras for this beloved and endangered Church. The apostle
loves to commend his fellow labourers (ch. 1:7; Philippians 2:20-22, 25-26;
II Corinthians 8:16-23) – “and them that are in
cities, see Introduction, § 1). Whether Epaphras was the official head of these
Churches or not, he could not but be deeply concerned in their welfare. V. 17
indicates the existence of a personal link between the Churches of Colossae and
14 “Luke the beloved physician, the beloved, and Demas, greet you.” –
(Philemon 24; II Timothy 4:11). This reference to Luke’s profession is extremely
interesting. We gather from the use of the first person plural in Acts
16:10-17, and again from 20:5 to the end of the narrative, that he joined
Paul on his first voyage to Europe and was left behind at
rejoined him six years after on the journey to
his third missionary circuit, continuing with him during
his voyage to
and his imprisonment. This faithful friend attended him in his second
captivity, and solaced his last hours; “Only Luke is with me” (II Timothy 4:11).
His being called “the physician” suggests that he ministered
to the apostle in this capacity, especially as “his first appearance in
Paul’s company synchronizes with an attack of Paul’s constitutional
malady” (Compare Acts 16:10 and Galatians 4:13-15; the
illness referred to in II Corinthians 1:8-10 and 4:7-5:8 may partly have
led to Luke’s rejoining Paul in
both to his medical knowledge and to his Pauline sympathies. His
companionship probably gave a special coloring to the phraseology and
cast of thought of Paul’s later Epistles. “The beloved” is a distinct appellation, due
partly to Luke’s services to the apostle, but chiefly, one would suppose, to
the amiable and gentle disposition of the writer of the third Gospel. It is not
unlikely that he is “the brother” referred to in II Corinthians 8:18-19.
He was probably, like many physicians of that period, a freedman; and,
since freedmen took the name of the house to which they had belonged, may
have been, as Plumptre conjectures, connected with the family of the Roman
philosopher Seneca and the poet Lucan – “and Demas” - (Philemon 24;
II Timothy 4:10), who alone receives no word of commendation — a fact
significant in view of the melancholy sentence pronounced upon him there. His
name is probably short for Demetrius.
15 “Salute the
brethren which are in
1:11; 3:14-22). Perhaps the brethren in
distinct Church as yet (compare ch.
2:1). The Church in
flourishing and wealthy community (Revelation 3:17) – “and Nymphas, and the
Church (literally, assembly) which is in his house.” Νύμφαν – Nymphan –
Nymphas - may be either masculine or feminine accusative. This person was
apparently a leading member of the
meetings were held (compare Acts 12:12; Philemon 2; Romans 16:5; I Corinthians
16:19). “The Church at her house” can scarcely have been an assembly distinct
“from the brethren that are in
same body of persons, referred first individually, then collectively as a meeting
gathered at this place. Others suppose a more private gathering to be
meant, as e.g. of Colossians living at
this Church with the household of Nymphas. If “their” be the true reading, the
expression must include Nympha and her family. Nympha (or Nymphas), like
Philemon and his family, Paul had doubtless met in
16 And when this epistle (letter) is read among you, cause that it be read
also in the Church of the Laodiceans; (I Thessalonians 5:27). For these two
Churches were closely allied in origin and condition, as well as by situation and
acquaintanceship (ch. 2:1-5; 4:13). The leaven of the Colossian error was
doubtless beginning to work in
apparently to the language of this Epistle (ch.1:15-18). The phrase, “Church
of Laodiceans,” corresponds to that used in the salutation of I and II Thessalonians,
but is not found elsewhere in Paul’s writings - “and that ye likewise read the
would be received at
The connection of this sentence with the foregoing, and the absence of any other
definition of the words, “the letter (from
further can be affirmed with certainty. But several considerations point to the probability
that this missing Epistle is none other than our (so-called) Epistle to the Ephesians. For:
(Ephesians 6:21; ch. 4:7).
other of Paul’s writings; they are twins, the birth of the same crisis in
the condition of the Church and in the apostle’s own mind. Each serves as
a commentary on the other. And there are several important topics, lightly
touched upon in this letter, on which the writer dilates at length in the
other (compare ch.1:9b and Ephesians 1:17-18; ch. 1:23b-25 and Ephesians
3:1-13; ch. 1:18a, 24b, 2:19 and Ephesians 4:4-16, 5:23-32; ch. 1:21, 27,
2:11-13, 3:11 and Ephesians 2.; ch. 1:18 (“Firstborn out of the dead”),
2:12b and Ephesians 1:19-23; ch. 3:12; (“God’s elect”) and Ephesians
1:3-14; ch. 3:18-19 and Ephesians 5:22-33). On the other hand, the main
arguments of the Colossian letter are, as it seems, assumed and presupposed
in the Ephesian (compare Ephesians 1:10, 20b-23, 2:20b, 3:8b-11, 19b,
4:13b with ch. 1:15-20, 2:9-10; Ephesians 4:14 with ch. 2:4, 8, 16-23).
doubtful authenticity; (in my Greek New Testament “in
in brackets – CY – 2011) and there is much in the internal character of that
Epistle to favor the hypothesis, proposed by Archbishop Usher, that it was
letter, destined for a number of Churches in
order of Revelation 2 and 3). In that case a copy of the Ephesian Epistle
would be left at
Marcion,’ 5:11, 17), entitled the Epistle to the Ephesians, “To the
Laodiceans.” It does not appear that his heretical views could have been
furthered by this change. Probably his statement contains a fragment of
ancient tradition, identifying the Epistle in question with that referred to by
Paul in this passage.
a letter addressed simply to the Laodiceans and belonging properly to
them; but would be quite appropriate to a more general Epistle transmitted
from one place to another.
17 “And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received
in the Lord, that thou fulfillbvde it.” (Acts 20:28; I Timothy 1:18-19; 4:6, 11-16;
6:13-14, 20-21; II Timothy 2:15; 4:5). From the connection of this verse with the two
preceding, it seems likely that “the ministry” of Archippus related to
Church. Hence he is not addressed directly. If he was, as we gather from Philemon
1:1-2, the son of Philemon, whose house formed a center for the Colossian
Church (Ibid. v. 2), the warning would be suitably conveyed through this channel. In
the letter to Philemon, the apostle calls him his “fellow soldier” (compare ch. 4:10;
Philippians 1:29-30). Both from this fact, and from the emphasis of the words before
us, it would appear that his office was an important one, probably that of chief
pastor. This warning addressed so early to the minister of the Laodicean
Church is premonitory of the lapsed condition in which it is afterwards
found (Revelation 3:14-22). (For (διακονία – diakonia - ministry, compare
ch. 1:7, 23; I Corinthians 4:1. For “received,” compare note, ch. 2:6.) “In the
Lord;“ for every office in the Church is grounded in Him as Head and Lord
(ch. 1:18; 2:6; 3:17, 24; 4:7; Ephesians 1:22; 4:5; I Corinthians 8:6; 12:5), and must
be administered according to His direction and as subject to His judgment (see
I Corinthians 3:5; 4:1-5; II Corinthians 10:17-18; 13:10; Galatians 1:1;
I Timothy 1:12; II Timothy 4:1-2). “Fulfill” (compare ch. 1:26; II Timothy 4:5;
Acts 12:25). This admonition resembles those addressed to Timothy in the
18 “The salutation by the hand of me Paul.” (II Thessalonians 3:17-18;
I Corinthians 16:21-24; Galatians 6:11-18). So the apostle appends his
authenticating signature to the letter, written, as usual, by his amanuensis, himself
inscribing these last words (see parallel passages). The Epistle to Philemon he
appears to have penned himself throughout (Philemon 1:19). “Remember my
bonds.” (ch.1:24; Philemon 1:9,13; Ephesians 3:l,13; 4.l; 6:20; II Timothy 2:9).
This pathetic postscript is thoroughly characteristic (compare Galatians 6:17).
“Grace be with you. Amen.” - literally, the grace (compare ch. 3:16). The
apostle’s final benediction in all his Epistles; here in its briefest form, as in
I and II Timothy. In the Ephesian benediction “grace” is also used absolutely.
II Corinthians 13:14 gives the formula in its full liturgical amplitude.
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Vers. 2-6. — Sect. 9.
Prayer and social converse.
I. PRAYER. (Vers. 2-4.)
1. Prayer must be habitual and persistent. “Continue steadfast in prayer —
keeping awake therein” (ver. 2); “Ask .... seek,… knock” (<400707>Matthew
7:7). It is not an occasional exercise of the soul, called forth by special
emergencies, but the necessity of its daily life. For that life is a fellowship
with God in Christ (<510301>Colossians 3:1-3; <620103>1 John 1:3; <431423>John
14:23), maintained on his part by the continual communication of his Spirit
(<421113>Luke 11:13; <490113>Ephesians 1:13; 2:22; <450814>Romans 8:14-17, 23, 26,
27; <461204>1 Corinthians 12:4-11; <471314>2 Corinthians 13:14), and on ours by
the constant responsive utterances of praise and prayer.
(1) Wherever two persons are associated in a mutual life, there must be
converse — interchange of thought and feeling and service; so (reverently
be it said) it must needs be where the soul is “alive unto God.” God and the
soul, the all-wise, almighty Father and the human child, all want and
ignorance, having speech with each other — that is the life of religion.
“The soul is a stupendous want, having its supplies in God” (comp.
<500419>Philippians 4:19). Prayer is the expression and the index of the soul’s
vital appetite. The necessity of prayer, therefore, must be daily and regular
in its recurrence. It will have its “set times” and stated seasons, its chronic
demands for satisfaction. “Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray,
and cry aloud: and thou shalt hear my voice” (<195517>Psalm 55:17; <270610>Daniel
6:10; <441030>Acts 10:30); “Seven times a day do I praise thee” (<19B9164>Psalm
119:164). It will have its appointed place of privacy. “Enter into thy closet
and shut thy door, and pray to thy Father which is in secret” (<400606>Matthew
6:6; <410135>Mark 1:35).
(2) Prayer being a social as much as a private necessity, concerned with the
common as truly as with the individual wants and interests of men, the
prayerful Christian will observe, as far as possible, all public occasions for
its exercise, whether found in the family, the social circle, the community,
the church (the “house of prayer”), or in the events of national life
(<235607>Isaiah 56:7; <440301>Acts 3:1; 6:6; 12:12; 16:13; 20:36; 21:5; 22:17;
<540208>1 Timothy 2:8; <431701>John 17:1).
(3) But prayer, while it fills, should overflow these limits, and may not be
confined within the framework of mechanical habit and fixed order. It
should find its way into all the interstices of life, seizing upon its vacant
moments and leisure thoughts. Under pressing need, and in the hurry and
tumult of business, the soul may send up a short, swift cry for help, as a
winged arrow that finds its way to the heart of God. This is ejaculatory
prayer. And in the quiet ongoing of ordinary work the mind may the more
easily maintain its secret converse with him in whom it “lives and moves
and is,” making the common incidents of life and the familiar sights and
sounds of nature reminders of his presence, and the experience of every
hour occasion for some brief act of adoration, or confession, or
supplication, or intercession. This is to “pray without ceasing” (<520517>1
Thessalonians 5:17); “to let our requests be made known unto God in all
things” (<500406>Philippians 4:6). The soul’s hidden life in God is maintained
by this activity, even as the life blood of the body is vivified and cleansed
from moment to moment by the ceaseless play of the breathing lungs.
2. Prayer must be attended with thanksgiving. The one must be habitual
and constant as the other. They are two elements of the same state, two
parts of the same act (<490529>Ephesians 5:29; <520517>1 Thessalonians 5:17, 18).
(See homiletics, sect. 1, III. 2 (3).) How unseemly it is to come to God
with urgent petitions for new blessings, when we have made no due
acknowledgment of those already bestowed! We dare not act thus towards
any earthly benefactor. And this thoughtless ingratitude deprives us of
those strong arguments and cheering encouragements which are afforded
by the remembrance of past mercies. “The Lord hath been mindful of us;”
then surely “he will bless us (<19B512>Psalm 115:12), he “began a good work
in you,” and you may be “confident,” therefore, that it is his will to “perfect
it” (<500106>Philippians 1:6). God requires and expects that by “offering
praise” we should “glorify him” (<195023>Psalm 50:23), “abundantly uttering
the memory of his great goodness” (<19E507>Psalm 145:7). To this end every
Christian is ordained a “priest unto God,” that he may “offer up a sacrifice
of praise continually, the fruit of lips which make confession to his name”
(<600209>1 Peter 2:9; <581315>Hebrews 13:15). And to do this is in itself “pleasant
and comely” (<19E701>Psalm 147:1); “Yea, a joyful and pleasant thing it is to
3. And intercession must be joined to supplication and thanksgiving.
(<540201>1 Timothy 2:1.) “Withal praying for us also,” says the apostle. And in
so saying he embodies the appeal which our Christian brethren everywhere
make to us, especially the ministers of Christ “set for the defence of the
gospel” (<500117>Philippians 1:17); and yet more especially our fathers and
teachers in Christ, through whom we have received the word of our
salvation, and on whose fidelity and efficiency our spiritual life so largely
depends. The interests of our own Church in its special circumstances as
known to us; the larger necessities of associated Churches, of the Church
in our own land, in its colonies and dependencies abroad, in other Christian
nations; the necessities of missionary Churches amongst the heathen, and
of the sheep of Christ that are “scattered abroad” unshepherded; the great
cause of the
everything that concerns the progress and welfare of mankind; the claims
of “kings, and all that are in authority;” of those in “sorrow, trouble, need,
sickness, or any other adversity;” the wants of “all sorts and conditions of
men,” and especially of our kinsfolk, friends, and neighbours; — all these
demand our intercession and seem to say unitedly, “Withal praying for us
also!” In particular, and on behalf of the gospel, the apostle desires the
Colossians to pray
(1) that he may have “an open door to speak the mystery of Christ” (ver.
3). The world will not willingly open its door to Christ. It will leave him to
“stand at the door and knock” (<660320>Revelation 3:20). It has “no room for
him” (<420207>Luke 2:7) when he comes to be its guest. Much has yet to be
done to “prepare the way of the Lord.” But “the prayer of faith” can
“remove mountains,” and open doors that are fast shut. Obstructions and
prejudices are to be broken down; hindrances political and material,
intellectual and sentimental, to the progress of Christian truth, are to be
overcome. “Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be
brought low; and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough ways
smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God” (<420304>Luke 3:4-6). And
this is to be effected, in great measure, by the prayers of “God’s elect”
(<421807>Luke 18:7), even as the walls of
(2) But the open door is of little use unless the Church is prepared to enter
it. Never, perhaps, were there in the world so many “open doors set
before” the Church as there are now, with so few comparatively who are
able and willing to enter them. Favouring circumstances — liberty to
preach and teach, a waiting people, a willing audience, — all is vain
without some one to “speak the word,” and to speak it fitly. “How shall
they hear without a preacher?” (<451014>Romans 10:14). And how shall they
hear unto salvation if the preacher speaks feebly, or coldly, or confusedly,
without “the demonstration of the Spirit and of power”?
(3) The apostle had laboured long and with extraordinary success, “more
abundantly than they all” (<461510>1 Corinthians 15:10); and yet felt his need of
the constant renewal of the Divine anointing. Again and again he
acknowledges his dependence on the prayers of the Church (<451530>Romans
15:30-32; <530301>2 Thessalonians 3:1, 2, etc.). Nay, even Christ himself
sustained his human strength of soul by the constant refreshment of prayer,
and sought, in the crisis of his anguish, the watchful sympathy of his
disciples (<420516>Luke 5:16; <431141>John 11:41; <402638>Matthew 26:38). How
much more is this needful for us! That ministry alone can be spiritually pure
and strong which is drawn from secret fountains of prayer, and which
commands the sympathetic intercession of all prayerful hearers.
II. THE CHRISTIAN’S BEHAVIOUR TOWARDS MEN OF THE
WORLD. (vers. 5, 6.)
1. “Walk in wisdom,” says the apostle, “towards those without” (ver. 5).
Nowhere is Christian wisdom more needed, and nowhere is it seen to
greater advantage, than in dealing with worldly men. “Be ye therefore wise
as serpents,” says the Saviour, in sending his disciples on their mission to
the world (<401016>Matthew 10:16). It is not necessary that “the sons of this
world should be wiser for their own generation than the sons of light”
(<421608>Luke 16:8). This wisdom, while resting on a knowledge of God and
of Christian truth (<510109>Colossians 1:9; 2:2, 3), and furnished out of his
Word (<510316>Colossians 3:16; <401352>Matthew 13:52), requires a practical
knowledge of men and things. It “cometh down from above,” being “asked
of God” (<590105>James 1:5, 17; 3:13-18), and is “pure, peaceable, and
gentle;” but it has to be practised in a human world and in the service of
men as they are; and therefore it must be discerning, well-informed, and
practical. The Christian should not be inferior to any man in his own walk
of life in the knowledge of his business and of the duties of his secular
position. Indeed, his earnestness and diligence, his calmness of temper, and
fairness of judgment, and soundness of conscience, and finer sympathies,
will usually give him an advantage amongst his fellows: “Godliness is
profitable unto all things” (<540408>1 Timothy 4:8). How often earnest
attempts to do good miscarry for want of judgment, and the Christian
cause is damaged in the eyes of the world by those most anxious to
promote it through their unwisdom and narrow mindedness! “I am become
all things to all men,” said
(<460920>1 Corinthians 9:20-22). And his bearing towards men of so many
different ranks and classes in the strangely mixed society in which he
moved, shows that this was no vain boast.
(1) The first condition of success in seeking to influence others for their
highest good, next to an earnest desire to do so, is that one should
understated them. And this is impossible without pains and study and a
large-hearted Christian sympathy. So with the missionary amongst the
heathen; so with the minister at home; so with the private Christian seeking
to win to Christ his worldly friends or business associates; if he is to
persuade men (<470511>2 Corinthians 5:11), he must understand the truth in its
persuasive power, and he must understand men and how they are to be
(2) Bat the Christian must be wise for himself as well as for others. His
wisdom must be circumspect. It is his first business to “keep himself
unspotted from the world” (<590127>James 1:27); to take care that, being “in
the world,” he be not “of the world” (<431714>John 17:14-18). He should have
“good testimony from them that are without,” especially if he hold any
office in the Church (<540307>1 Timothy 3:7) — such a repute as will “adorn
his Saviour’s doctrine;” and yet he must rejoice if “men say all manner of
evil against him falsely for Christ’s sake” (<400511>Matthew 5:11). The wisest
and most careful behaviour cannot always avoid suspicion, where malice
and slander are busy.
2. To wisdom must be added promptness and alert activity. There must be
a quick eye for each opportunity as it arises, and an instant, vigorous effort
to take advantage of it. The right occasion makes the right action. A thing
well done or well said at one time may be malapropos if timed a little
sooner or later.
(1) We must cherish a keen sense of the value and the shortness of time
itself — of our own personal lifetime, the single opportunity granted us for
doing God’s work on earth, the seed time for an eternal harvest, “the day”
with its “twelve hours” when the day’s work must be done, or left undone
for ever (<430904>John 9:4; <193904>Psalm 39:4; 90:12; <460729>1 Corinthians 7:29;
<580307>Hebrews 3:7, 13).
(2) At the same time, we must have a proper understanding of the work
assigned us, a sense of our individual calling in life, a recognition of the
particular “will of God” respecting ourselves as from time to time it may be
indicated. We must acquaint ourselves with the conditions of our time and
of our work, so that each may be fitted to the other, and that we may not
waste our strength by misdirection or “fight as one that beateth the air,”
but may be able to “serve the counsel of God for our own generation”
(3) And, finally, we must be animated by a vigorous, earnest spirit —
unhasting, unresting — neither dulled by sloth nor fretted by impatience.
So, “as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (<600410>1 Peter 4:10),
we shall turn every moment and every opportunity and every endowment
of our nature to the best account, and shall be able “at his coming” to
render back to our heavenly Master “his own with usury” (<402527>Matthew
25:27). And this is “redeeming the time” (ver. 5).
3. Where a wise, and wisely energetic, Christian man has the gift of apt
and winning speech (ver. 6), his Christian usefulness is largely multiplied.
Indeed, the ordinary talk of an ordinary Christian, who cannot shine in the
brilliant gifts of eloquence or wit, will at least be free from everything
foolish and inept, from everything gross and ill-mannered. Though he be
but a plain and unlettered man, his conversation will manifest a thoughtful,
observant mind, and a pure and chastened disposition. Living a life of
prayerful communion with God and with eternal things, “meditating in his
Law day and night” (<190102>Psalm 1:2), he will be “taught of God;” and when
he speaks, “the opening of his lips will be right words.” It is astonishing
how much shrewdness and kindly good sense and helpfulness, how much
of the highest and homeliest moral wisdom, drawn from the everyday
experience of life and the lessons of nature, is found sometimes in men who
know scarcely any book but their English Bible, and have had little culture
but that which is given by prayer (<590105>James 1:5). A simple Christian man
of this kind will often know better than the practised scholar “how to
answer” concerning his hope, and will baffle the questionings of a clever
scepticism. And when fine culture has been employed upon good abilities
under the teaching of the Spirit of truth, and large knowledge has been
gathered from books and men, the outcome in the man’s conversation
ought to be something rich and valuable in a high degree.
(1) Attractive speech is one of God’s “greater gifts” (<461231>1 Corinthians
12:31), to be humbly sought and diligently improved and wisely and
seriously used. There is none more commonly and lamentably abused. How
much that is said in Christian circles would be left unsaid if only that which
is “good unto edifying” (<490429>Ephesians 4:29) were allowed to pass the
(2) But this rule by no means forbids kindly humour and the play of wit.
The “salt” that “seasons” conversation (ver. 6) contains these wholesome
ingredients. A dull, uniform gravity is not the most edifying style of
discourse. But the purpose and the effect of a Christian man’s speech
should always be serious, however light and graceful the form which on
proper occasions it may assume. The conversation of the social circle is
one of the greatest “opportunities” to be “redeemed” for Christ; and is
afforded to us all. And especially when we meet those who are not
Christians, the prejudiced, the sceptical, the wavering, much may depend
on our being “ready” with “the meekness of wisdom” to “give an answer to
every man that asketh a reason of the hope that is in us” (<600315>1 Peter
3:15). The private conversation of the Church in its daily intercourse with
the world should be a powerful ally to the public ministry of the Word
(vers. 4, 6).
Vers. 7-18. — Sect. 10.
Personal messages and greetings.
The last section of this letter is of a more purely epistolary character, and is
not, therefore, so directly available as the foregoing sections for public
instruction, belonging to its framework or setting as a piece of Christian
teaching. Nevertheless, these closing verses have their own peculiar
interest and value — great value for historical and critical purposes,
connecting the Epistle as they do by the most authentic notes of
circumstantial association with the narrative of the Acts of the Apostles,
and bracing it firmly into the whole coherent structure of the history of the
apostolic Church. Moreover, in the brief but pointed and striking notices
here given us, aided by what we know from other sources of the persons
mentioned, we may find not a little of indirect and incidental profit “for
teaching, for reproof, for correction, for discipline in righteousness” (<550316>2
1. Tychicus, the faithful messenger. (Vers. 7, 8: comp. <490621>Ephesians
6:21; <442004>Acts 20:4; <560312>Titus 3:12; <550412>2 Timothy 4:12.) His association
with the apostle in his last journey to
affecting circumstances and terminating in his long imprisonment, seems to
have led to a devoted attachment on the part of Tychicus to
returning home, as we may suppose, from
assist and comfort the imprisoned apostle and to bring back news of him.
And he returns with these three priceless letters in his charge (Ephesians,
Colossians, and Philemon), with Onesimus whom he is to accompany as far
some years later, when the apostle’s friends were fewer and devotion to his
cause still more hazardous, we find Tychicus employed on similar
(1) The apostle has found him to be, what every Christian should be to his
fellow Christians, “a brother beloved;” what every officer of the Church,
whether in higher or lower capacity, must strive to be — “a faithful
minister and fellow servant in the Lord,” faithful to the Lord and faithful in
all brotherly love and “good fidelity” to his fellow servants. So Tychicus is
a blessing both to the apostle and to the distant Asiatic Churches.
(2) While the Christian depends for strength and consolation in the first
place on the fellowship of Christ in the Spirit (<470103>2 Corinthians 1:3-7;
<530216>2 Thessalonians 2:16, 17; <431633>John 16:33), yet how precious and
helpful is such communion as this with Christian friends at a distance
(<520306>1 Thessalonians 3:6-10; <500410>Philippians 4:10; <470706>2 Corinthians 7:6),
with faithful sufferers in Christ’s cause, with those who bring tidings and
words of cheer from brethren far off in other lands!
(3) They are, indeed, “brethren beloved” who, like Tychicus, pass from
land to land, from Church to sister Church, in honourable ambassage, as
“the messengers of the Churches and the glory of Christ” (<470823>2
2. Onesimus, the converted slave. (Ver. 9.) His position and character will
be more fully discussed under the Epistle to Philemon.
(1) He is commended
to the Christian circle at
character — “a faithful and beloved brother.” The apostle had learned to
love and trust him, as “the child of his bonds,” as “his very heart,” for his
goodness and proved fidelity and helpful service to himself (Philemon 10-
13). Greatly had he wished to retain him, but it was the servant’s duty to
return to his master. The qualities the apostle marks in him deserve equal
respect from us in whatever grade of life they appear. The master who fails
to recognize in his loyal and humble Christian servant “a brother beloved in
the Lord,” is wanting in the simplicity and elevation of the Christian
character, and has yet to learn that “in Christ Jesus there is neither bond
nor free” (<510311>Colossians 3:11; <480328>Galatians 3:28). It was, however, for
Philemon and his Colossian friends a severe test of Christian conviction and
of their confidence in
slave as “a faithful and beloved brother.”
(2) He is commended to them by his Colossian origin. “Who is one of
you.” It is a natural and kindly feeling that prompts this reference. Ties of
neighbourhood and early association, as well as those of kindred, are
providentially formed, and belong to the divinely constituted framework of
human life (<441726>Acts 17:26). This claim of Onesimus is not destroyed by
his being a slave, at the very bottom of the social scale; nor was it forfeited
by his misconduct. Now that he repents and returns, he is to be received by
his Christian fellow townsmen as one of themselves.
3. Aristarchus, the devoted comrade. (Ver. 10.) He was a representative of
the Macedonian Churches (<442004>Acts 20:4), who were dearest to the
apostle of his children in the faith (<520219>1 Thessalonians 2:19;
<500105>Philippians 1:5), in writing to whom he laid aside his official title and
was simply Paul, whom alone he allowed to minister to his personal needs
(<500410>Philippians 4:10-18; <471108>2 Corinthians 11:8-10). And he, along with
Luke, shared the hardships of the apostle’s perilous winter voyage to
there, being evidently a person of some note and distinction. We know
nothing more of his services to the cause of Christ, beyond this record of
his assiduous and self-sacrificing attendance on
apostle, with his physical infirmities and his sensitive nature, owed to such
friendship, and how much the Church owes on his account, we cannot tell.
Those who may not have great gifts for public usefulness may serve Christ
most effectually oftentimes by serving his servants, by their private
friendship and aid cheering the hearts and strengthening the hands of those
on whom fall the heavier responsibilities of the Church’s care and strife,
and who but for such timely help might haply sink beneath their burdens.
Little as we know of this man, with what a bright distinction his name is
marked, and what a place of honour will be his in the book of life, whom
the apostle designates, “Aristarchus, my fellow captive, who has been a
comfort to me”!
4. Mark, the recovered friend. (Ver. 10.) He, like Onesimus to his master,
had been “aforetime unprofitable” to
and his unprofitableness had caused a serious breach between the two great
Gentile missionaries. But now, and again at a later time, he is marked out
as “useful for ministry” (<550411>2 Timothy
fidelity in refusing, at whatever cost, to take with him an untrustworthy
man, had, we may presume, helped to rouse in Mark a better spirit.
(1) At any rate, the position in which he now appears and the honour
which belong to his name in the
or unworthy act in a Christian life need not be absolutely fatal
(<480601>Galatians 6:1). The immediate result of any lapse must be evil; and it
may be followed throughout life by painful consequences. Yet Mark, like
Peter, rashly generous and apt to overestimate his strength at first, when
chastened and corrected by experience, becomes the trusted and honoured
friend of the two chief apostles, as well as of his only less illustrious
kinsman Barnabas. And to him it was given to write the priceless second
Gospel, which, in its freshness and simplicity of tone, and in its vivacity and
dramatic energy of style, indicates those qualities in John Mark which, in
spite of his early failure, made him so much valued and beloved.
own character. With all his uncompromising sternness and the intensity of
his passionate nature, there was no bitterness or suspiciousness, no
cherishing of personal resentment in his heart. Some men will never trust
again a friend or servant who once, under any circumstances, has failed
them. But the apostle shows a more Christian and a wiser disposition. As
he bids others, so he acts himself, “forbearing and forgiving if he have
blame against any” (<510313>Colossians 3:13): compare the crucial instance of
<470205>2 Corinthians 2:5-11. As “the Lord forgave” Peter who denied him, so
the apostle forgives Mark who had deserted him. And by the way in which
he commends him to the regard of this distant Church, he shows how
entirely Mark has his approval and confidence. We note also how once
more he takes the opportunity of a kindly reference to Barnabas.
5. Jesus Justus, a Catholic-minded Jew. (Ver. 11.) He is known to us here
only; but as one of the three (with Aristarchus and Marcus) who alone “of
the circumcision” were the apostle’s “fellow workers unto the kingdom of
God,” and “a comfort unto him.” Aristarchus and Mark were old friends
and associates of
are inclined to think, was a Christian Jew of
appears, the only member of that community — a tolerably large one, as
we should gather from the Epistle to the Romans — who heartily
supported the apostle in this hour of his need and danger. Many of the
Jewish brethren at
others regarded him with a cold and suspicious indifference. At a later
period he has sorrowfully to say of his friends at
(<550416>2 Timothy 4:16). But, whether Jesus Justus belonged to
the fact that he was found at this time by
for his courage, as well as for his largeness of heart and enlightened views.
The three pillar apostles at
principles and the policy he had pursued than actively supported them
(Galatians 5.); and their professed followers in the Jewish Churches
denounced them and set up a counter agitation. If for no other reason,
then, it was fitting that the name of this Jesus should be honourably
recorded. To the apostle who had been in so many “perils from his own
countrymen” and “from false brethren” (<471126>2 Corinthians 11:26), every
“fellow labourer of the circumcision” was an especial “comfort.” His
cognomen Justus attests his reputation amongst his compatriots for legal
strictness and uprightness; and this high character would make his
6. Epaphras, the earnest minister. (Vers. 12, 13.) With the name of
Epaphras we are familiar already (see homiletics, sect. 1, II. 2). Though
absent from his people, he is none the less concerned for their welfare.
When he can do nothing less, he can pray for them all the more. We note:
(1) The intensity of his ministerial solicitude; “always striving [wrestling]
for you in his prayers” (ver. 12); “he hath much [painful] labour for you”
(ver. 13). The critical state in
which he had left his charge at
insidious and ominous character of the errors introduced amongst them and
with which he had found it so difficult to cope, were constantly weighing
upon his mind, and kept him unceasingly active in earnest wrestlings of
prayer for his people’s souls.
(2) The extent of
his care. “For you, and for them in
flocks, exposed, or likely to be exposed, to the same perils that threatened
Colossus, share his solicitude. And the responsibility of the Christian
minister cannot at any time be strictly confined to his own immediate
charge. Each member shares in the joys and griefs, the dangers and trials,
which belong to the whole body of Christ. And Churches bordering on his
own and connected with his people by ties of acquaintanceship and
frequent intercourse must especially attract his pastoral sympathies and
(3) The aim of his ministry. “That ye may stand perfect and fully assured in
all the will of God” (ver. 13). This is the end of Christ’s redemption and of
his whole administration of the Church (<510122>Colossians 1:22). This was the
end of the apostle’s labours (<510128>Colossians 1:28, 29). Every true
Christian minister will set the same mark before him, namely, the individual
and collective perfection of his people in all that goes to make up a
complete Christian manhood (<490413>Ephesians 4:13). And, partly as resulting
from, partly as contributing to, their moral perfection, he must seek that
their Christian convictions may be deepened and confirmed, may be more
intelligently as well as more heartily and practically, and so in every way
more surely, held (<490413>Ephesians 4:13-16). (See homiletics, sects. 1, III. 1;
3, I.; and 4,
7. Luke, the beloved physician. (Ver. 14.) Of all the apostle’s friends, none
was dearer to him or more serviceable than St. Luke. He was with him to
the very last (<550411>2 Timothy 4:11). His writings, while they keep the
writer’s personality modestly out of sight, betray in him a man of a careful
and diligent habit of mind, of considerable breadth of culture, and of a
tender and sympathetic heart. The Acts of the Apostles show him to have
been a warm and admiring, yet impartial, friend of
is penetrated with that Pauline universalism which both he and his master
first found in Christ. The apostle probably owed not a little to Luke’s
medical care. And we are all indebted to this quiet and skilful physician,
who understood so well
his life to the Church, and whose intelligence and special training made his
companionship so pleasant and so useful to the apostle. The medical
profession is that which stands nearest to the ministry of Christ in the
honours of self sacrifice and devotion to humanity. There is no vocation
that demands a higher combination of intellectual and moral powers, or
that puts a greater strain upon a man’s best qualities. It may bring, and
often does bring, the physician into a sympathy with the mind and with the
mission of Christ closer and more real in some respects than any other
work can do. Its best services are beyond all material and earthly reward.
Exercised by a wise and faithful Christian man, it becomes a ministry of
unspeakable blessing to soul as well as body, reaching, as did Christ’s
miracles of healing, the soul oftentimes through the body. Medical men
Christ, “the good Physician,” claims above other men for his followers and
8. Demas, the backslider. (Ver. 14; <550409>2 Timothy 4:9, 10.) This man
must have been valued greatly by the apostle, to be mentioned in such
company. In his second imprisonment he urgently requires Timothy’s
presence, “because Demas had forsaken him.” He appears to have
depended hitherto upon Demas, and to have prized his aid. Demas had
chosen his lot with the persecuted apostle, and for some time served him
steadily and well; and then at the last, when the need was greatest, he
deserted him, not through fear of danger, it appears, but for the sake of
worldly gain — “having loved this present world.” Whether he was ever
restored to Christian fidelity or not, we cannot tell. His case is so much
worse than Mark’s, in that the latter gave way to fear under sudden
impulse, and in the unexpected hardships and dangers of his first probation;
while Demas seems to have forsaken the apostle deliberately and
heartlessly, and when he was no mere novice in the service of Christ. He is
an example of those in whom the good seed takes root and grows through
the frosts of spring to a fair summer promise, and then “the cares of the
world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering
in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful” (<410419>Mark 4:19).
assumes a peculiar interest in connection with the after history of the
<660314>Revelation 3:14-22. It is the only instance in which the apostle salutes
one Church in writing to another. If the letter received from him by the
Laodiceans was our (so called) Epistle to the Ephesians, inasmuch as there
is no particular greeting to any Church appended to it, we can understand
why he should add this kindly salutation here. The Churches of the Lycus
valley were so closely linked together that the state of one was to a large
extent the state of all. We are not surprised, therefore, that the contagion
of the Colossian evil spread to
it bore disastrous fruit, in the corruption that Christ himself through St.
John afterwards denounced in his Apocalyptic message.
(1) The Colossians and Laodiceans are bidden to exchange Epistles (ver.
16), as they share the apostle’s greetings and alike excited his anxiety
(<510201>Colossians 2:1). Their similar condition and common dangers called
for the same warnings and instructions, and the two Epistles largely explain
and supplement each other. And indeed, wherever local circumstances
permit, as in the freedom and ease of communication amongst ourselves it
is so largely possible, Christian intercourse should be promoted, concerted
measures should be taken, the forces of the Church should be combined in
resistance to the spread of error and the contagion of vice. “Union is
(2) Nympha (or Nymphas) is greeted by name (ver. 15), according to the
apostle’s custom, who loves to single out for honour those who serve the
Church by the readiness by which they place their house and means at her
service (<461615>1 Corinthians 16:15, 16; <451603>Romans 16:3-5, 23).
(3) The most significant sentence of this passage is the warning addressed
to Archippus (ver. 17), whom we suppose to have held an office of trust in
the Church at
Philemon, and had been on some former occasion (probably at
closely associated with the apostle in circumstances of labour and danger
that, in writing to his father, he calls him “my fellow soldier.” And yet
symptoms of negligence have appeared in his conduct of affairs at
the ministry that thou receivedst in the Lord, that thou fulfil it.” How grave
his responsibility if this warning failed to take effect, and if the all but
apostate state of the
degree due to the unfaithfulness of its first pastor!
III. THE APOSTLE’S FAREWELL. (Ver. 18.) These brief, affecting
words proceed from the author’s own hand, the large and difficult
characters themselves a reminder of his afflictions in the gospel.
1. He bids the Colossians remember his bonds (comp. <570110>Philemon 1:10,
13; <500107>Philippians 1:7,17; <490301>Ephesians 3:1, 13; 6:20; <550209>2 Timothy
2:9,10; see homiletics, sect. 3,
advantage and glory to them, calling for their tender and prayerful
sympathy, and for their most regardful heed to all that he had written.
2. He wishes them grace — grace first and last (comp. <510102>Colossians 1:2,
and homiletics); the grace they had received already (<510106>Colossians 1:6,
12, 21, 27; 2:6; 3:12, 13; <490103>Ephesians 1:3) being the pledge and the
earnest of all the fulness of that “superabounding grace” which reigns
“through righteousness unto eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”
(<450520>Romans 5:20, 21; <470908>2 Corinthians 9:8; <490103>Ephesians 1:3;
HOMILIES BY T. CROSKERY.
Ver. 1. —
The duties of masters.
“Masters, render unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing
that ye also have a Master in heaven.”
I. THE DUTY OF MASTERS. It is here enforced only on its positive
1. Justice. Masters must give their servants what is according to contract,
or according to what is just in itself, as to work, wages, food, correction,
2. Equality. Masters sometimes treat servants unequally in demanding
inconvenient service, an unreasonable amount of work, in withholding
wages. They ought to treat them so that they may serve them cheerfully
II. THE REASON TO ENFORCE THIS DUTY. “Knowing that ye also
have a Master in heaven.” God’s majesty and man’s authority stand
together. The Lord in heaven is the Master of masters, and will avenge the
wrongs they may inflict on their servants. — T. C.
Ver. 2. —
Exhortation to constant prayer.
The apostle then gives some special concluding exhortations: “Continue
steadfastly in prayer, watching therein with thanksgiving.”
I. THE DUTY OF PERSEVERANCE IN PRAYER.
1. This does not imply that we are to devote all our time to prayer; for it
would be inconsistent
(1) with other duties;
(2) with man’s mental and moral nature;
(3) with the design of prayer itself.
2. It implies that we are to be often engaged in prayer.
(1) There is nothing more sanctifying and refreshing and strengthening to
(2) Continuance in prayer brings larger blessings from on high.
(3) The Scripture contains many examples of continuance in prayer (David,
Daniel, Paul, our Lord himself).
(4) The delay in the answers to prayer ought to lead us to persevere
(a) it may lead to a deeper sense of want;
(b) our faith and patience need to be tiled;
(c) the time for the answers may not have come.
II. THE DUTY OF WATCHFULNESS IS PRAYER.
1. We must be watchful as to the spirit of prayer, not indolent and
2. We must watch for arguments in prayer.
3. We must watch or suitable praying seasons.
4. We must watch against watchlessness.
5. We must watch for the answers to prayer.
6. Remember Christ’s example as he watched in prayer.
(<401423>Matthew 14:23, 25.)
III. THE DUTY OF JOINING THANKSGIVING WITH OUR
SUPPLICATIONS AND OUR WATCHING,
1. We must always in prayer give thanks for mercies received.
(<500406>Philippians 4:6; <520516>1 Thessalonians 5:16, 17.)
2. We must thank him in praises.
3. God answers according to our gratitude for mercies received.
Vers. 3, 4. —
Prayer for the apostle and his companions.
“Withal praying for us also, that God may open unto us a door for the
word, to speak the mystery of Christ for which I am also in bonds; that I
may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.”
I. EVEN THE GREATEST IN THE CHURCH NEEDS THE PRAYERS
OF THE LEAST.
1. It is the duty of the people to pray for their ministers.
2. It makes prayer profitable to interest ourselves in the welfare of others
by intercessions for them at a throne of grace.
3. The progress of the gospel depends much upon the prayers of the
saints. (<530301>2 Thessalonians 3:1.)
II. THE SUBJECT OF THE PRAYER. It was that the apostle and
Timothy and Epaphras might have abundant opportunity of preaching the
gospel, as well as liberty, power, and success. The prayer implies:
1. That God can open a way for the gospel among the hearts of men. It
was the Lord who opened
door of faith to the Gentiles” (<441427>Acts 14:27).
2. That God could liberate the apostle from prison as a condition of
carrying on his apostolic work.
3. That the apostle’s imprisonment was caused by his devotion to the
“mystery of Christ,” which was the admission of the Gentiles to salvation
on equal terms with the Jews, or, in other words, “Christ in them the Hope
of glory” (<510127>Colossians 1:27). He would not have been in prison if he
had been preaching a gospel with Judaic restrictions. His bonds were due
to the strength of Jewish prejudices. But “the truth of the gospel” was so
dear to him that he was content to suffer for it, and even to forego the
opportunities of enlarged usefulness out of prison.
4. That he might be able to use his opportunities with boldness and
success. People ought to pray that their ministers may be able to preach the
Word with power (<520505>1 Thessalonians 5:5); with urgency (<550402>2 Timothy
4:2, 3, 5); with patience, constancy, and fear (<460409>1 Corinthians 4:9; <470604>2
Corinthians 6:4; 4:8); with faithfulness (<460402>1 Corinthians 4:2); with zeal
(<470511>2 Corinthians 5:11; I Thessalonians 2:12), — approving themselves in
the sight of God to their hearers’ consciences (<470217>2 Corinthians 2:17). —
Ver. 5. —
The behaviour of Christians in the world.
“Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.”
I. THE PERSONS WHO ARE TO BE INFLUENCED BY OUR WALK,
“Them that are without.” Christians are those who are within (<460512>1
Corinthians 5:12). Unbelievers arc “without” — outside the Church,
without God, without Christ, without hope in the world. They are those
whom “God judgeth” (<460513>1 Corinthians 5:13). Believers ought to have
regard to such persons, not only in their prayers, but in the wisdom of their
II. THE NATURE AND IMPORTANCE OF THE BELIEVER’S WALK
BEFORE THE WORLD. “Walk in wisdom,.., redeeming the time.”
1. It is a wise walk. “Be ye wise as serpents” (<401016>Matthew 10:16). Zeal is
not enough. Love is not enough. Walk circumspectly, so as to give no
offence or put occasions of reproach in the way of sinners. This is done by
(1) walking in the light of God’s Word (<19B901>Psalm 119:1);
(2) walking in all faithfulness of their calling (<520411>1 Thessalonians 4:11, 12;
<540601>1 Timothy 6:1);
(3) walking in love to one another, without murmurings or disputings
(<504415>Philippians 2:15, 19);
(4) walking in meekness toward all men (<560301>Titus 3:1, 2; <590313>James
(5) walking in all patience and constancy under rebuke or injury (<600313>1
2. Such a walk is influential toward unbelievers.
(1) A believer ought to be more careful of his walk before them than before
(2) Such a walk has a winning effect upon the world, which thus sees the
reality of true religion. Believers are to be” living epistles of Christ, known
and read of all men” (<470303>2 Corinthians 3:3).
(3) A foolish walk will cause the enemy to blaspheme.
3. Believers ought to seek constant opportunities of obeying this
command. “Redeeming the time.” External opportunities are to be sought
for, and never to be neglected. Ministers must preach while the door is
open; people must pray at every opportunity (<490618>Ephesians 6:18;
<422136>Luke 21:36). They must walk in the light before the night comes. The
times may not always be favourable. — T.C.
Ver. 6. —
The importance of seasonable speech.
“Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may
know how to answer each one.” The conversation of believers is to have
reference to “those without” as well as their personal behaviour.
I. THE NATURE OF SEASONABLE SPEECH.
1. It is to be “always with grace.”
(1) It is to spring out of some grace of God in the heart, such as
knowledge, joy, love, fear; to be seasoned with the recollection of God’s
grace to us in Christ (<194011>Psalm 40:11); and to minister grace to the
hearers (<490429>Ephesians 4:29).
2. It is to consist of gracious words.
(1) Not words of railing, or blasphemy, or corruption;
(2) but words that are
(a) seasonable (<201523>Proverbs 15:23),
(b) wholesome (<490429>Ephesians 4:29),
(c) kindly (<203126>Proverbs 31:26),
3. The conversation of believers is to be uniformly with grace. The precept
is always in force. Much depends upon the continuity of a gracious habit of
talk. It is to be exercised in all places, at all times, yet with due regard to
what is seasonable or timely.
4. It is to be seasoned with salt. It is not to be insipid and without point, so
as to be incapable of edifying man’s spirit. It must have penetrative force,
either for the purpose of directing the inquirer or answering the scoffer.
“The tongue of the wise is as choice silver;” “The heart of the wise
teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips” (<201020>Proverbs 10:20;
16:23). Our Lord said,” Every one must be salted with fire, every sacrifice
must be salted with salt” (<410949>Mark 9:49). The person is salted first; the
salt is found in his words and deeds afterwards.
II. THE END OF SEASONABLE SPEECH. “That ye may know how to
answer each one.” This implies:
1. That the truth will be spoken against.
(1) It is the heritage of “the sect everywhere spoken against” (<442822>Acts
(2) It is hard for carnally minded men to understand it, and therefore they
(3) There are men who “hold down the truth in unrighteousness”
2. That believers are to learn how to give a right answer to objectors. We
are to “give a reason of the hope that is in us with meekness and fear”
(<600315>1 Peter 3:15). It must be done
(1) prayerfully; for “the answer of the tongue,” as well as “the preparation
of the heart,” “is from the Lord” (<201601>Proverbs 16:1).
(2) With faith in God’s promise and hope (<19B942>Psalm 119:42;
(3) With a good conscience (<600316>1 Peter 3:16). Thus objectors will be put
to shame who “falsely accuse our good conversation in Christ.”
(4) With a due consideration for the circumstances of each objector,
whether he be sincere or insincere, ignorant or malicious. We are “to
answer each one” according to the necessities of each case (<202511>Proverbs
25:11; 26:4, 6). — T.C.
Vers. 7-9. —
The bearers of the Epistle to the Colossians.
Though the apostle had but few friends at this time in Rome to comfort
him in his “bonds,” he spares two of them to comfort the Colossians.
I. THE PERSONS WHO CARRY THE EPISTLE TO COLOSSAE.
Tychicus and Onesimus.
(1) His history. He was a native of Asia Minor (<442004>Acts 20:4), and
probably of Ephesus (<550412>2 Timothy 4:12). He accompanied the apostle at
the close of his third missionary journey (<442004>Acts 20:4). He was now
again with the apostle at Rome, near the end of the first Roman captivity;
and he appears again with him at the very end of the apostle’s life, when
the apostle is sending him to Crete and to Ephesus (<560312>Titus 3:12; <550412>2
Timothy 4:12). The name Tychicus appears on Roman inscriptions as well
as on inscriptions in Asia Minor.
(2) His character and work. He receives three titles of distinction and
(a) A beloved brother, in relation to the whole Christian Church;
(b) a faithful minister, in relation to his evangelistic services to the
apostle (<442004>Acts 20:4);
(c) a fellow servant in the Lord, a cooperator with the apostle in
2. Onesimus. This was doubtless the runaway slave of Philemon, whose
conversion is recorded in the Epistle to that Colossian brother.
(1) He was a native of Colossae — “who is one of you.”
(2) His changed character — “the faithful and beloved brother.”
(a) He was lately unfaithful, now he is faithful; he was lately an object of
contempt and dislike, he is now an object of love.
(b) The repentance of a sinner is a fact to be gratefully recorded. His
former sins ought to be no disparagement to his present standing and
repute. “Where God forgives, men should not impute.”
(c) The apostle is not ashamed of a poor slave, and commends him to the
love of the Church.
II. THE DESIGN OF THE SENDING OF TYCHICUS AND
ONESIMUS TO COLOSSAE. “Whom I have sent unto you for this very
purpose, that ye may know our estate, and that he may comfort your
hearts.” There are two objects.
1. To make known the affairs of the apostle and of the Roman Church. It
was not necessary, therefore, that he should give them any information
about himself or the cause of Christ in Rome. The Colossians would hear
all by word of mouth.
2. To comfort the hearts of the Colossians. They would comfort them
(1) by their very presence;
(2) by bringing the Epistles from Rome;
(3) by their news concerning the apostle;
(4) by their practical exhortations, enforcing the doctrine of the
Epistle and the duty of perseverance in faith and grace to the end.
Vers. 10, 11. —
Greetings from three loyal friends of the apostle.
The Epistle ends with salutations, first from three Jews, and then from
I. THE THREE JEWISH FRIENDS OF THE APOSTLE.
1. Aristarchus. “Aristarchus my fellow prisoner saluteth you.” He was a
native of Thessalonica (<442004>Acts 20:4), who accompanied the apostle in
his third missionary journey. He was seized along with the apostle at
Ephesus (<441929>Acts 19:29), and accompanied him in his voyage to Rome
(<442702>Acts 27:2). He now shared the apostle’s imprisonment at Rome.
Adversity does not lessen his affection for the apostle.
2. Marcus. “And Mark, the cousin of Barnabas (touching whom ye
received commandments; if he come unto you, receive him).” This was the
author of the second Gospel, who was associated with the apostle in his
earlier missionary labours, and afterwards forsook him at Pamphylia, under
circumstances that led to a rupture between Paul and Barnabas (<441539>Acts
15:39). He is now affectionately commended to the Colossians — for he
had evidently recovered the confidence and love of the apostle — as “one
useful to him for the ministry” (<550411>2 Timothy 4:11). Mark was now
resident in Rome. It is not possible to know what were the commands
which the apostle had sent to the Colossians concerning him; probably they
were to bespeak a hospitable reception for him, as the Pauline Churches
may have suspected his fidelity.
3. Jesus. “And Jesus, which is called Justus.” He is only mentioned in this
place. He is not probably the same as Justus of Corinth (<441807>Acts 18:7).
He was attached to the apostle. It is curious that a disciple who bore the
name of our Lord should have also borne his title of “the just one.”
II. THE APOSTLE’S HIGH COMMENDATION OF THE THREE
FRIENDS, “These only are my fellow workers unto the kingdom of God,
men that have been a comfort unto me.”
1. They were Jews. “Who are of the circumcision.”
2. They were exceptions to the rule of anti-Pauline animosity on the part
of Christian Jews. The exception is limited, probably, to those Jews in
Rome, who preached Christ “through strife and envy,” hoping thus to “add
affliction to his bonds” (<505920>Philippians 2:20). But these three comforted
him by hearty cooperation and their kindly sympathies. The best and
greatest men need the comfort of the very humblest, who in their turn
rebuke the conduct of those who grieve God’s servants and are thorns in
their sides. — T.C.
Vers. 12-14. —
Greetings from three Gentile friends of the apostle.
1. His relation to the Colossians. “Who is one of you.” A native of their
city, like Onesimus.
2. His office. “A servant of Jesus Christ” — a title often applied to the
apostle by himself, and once applied to Timothy (<500101>Philippians 1:1) — to
indicate his considerable services in the cause of Christ’s gospel. He was
the founder of the Church at Colossae.
3. His love to them. “Always wrestling for you in prayers that ye may stand
fast, perfect and fully assured in all the will of God.” His love was manifest
in his constant and anxious prayers for his flock. Consider:
(1) The manner of his prayers. “Always wrestling for you in prayers.”
(a) He was in an agony of prayer for them
(a) because of the greatness of the dangers that encompassed them;
(b) because of the fear of his prayers being lost;
(g) because of the tenderness of his love for them. He was truly
“fervent in spirit.”
(b) He was always wrestling in prayer for them,
(a) We must be constant in prayer (<520516>1 Thessalonians 5:16).
(b) It maintains fervency of spirit.
(g) It has the greater prospect of a favourable answer.
(2) The matter of his prayers. “That ye may stand fast, perfect and fully
assured in all the will of God.” It is a prayer for the stability of the
Colossians, in view of the possible dangers of apostasy. “Let him that
thinketh he standeth take heed lest he felt” (<461012>1 Corinthians 10:12).
“God is able to establish us” (<461501>1 Corinthians 15:1). This stability is
manifest in two things.
(a) Maturity. “Perfect.” Epaphras prays that the flock may stand fast in a
complete and universal obedience. This they cannot do without labouring
for much knowledge (<461420>1 Corinthians 14:20), exercising themselves in
the Word of righteousness (<580514>Hebrews 5:14), allowing patience to have
her perfect work (<590301>James 3:1; 1:5).
(b) Firm persuasion. “Fully assured in all the will of God.” There was to be
no vacillation or falling away, but a sure conviction of the truth of God’s
will. The Judaeo-Gnostics made a pretension to a perfection of wisdom,
and found its sphere in the secrets of heavenly existence. Believers find it in
the sphere of God’s will.
4. His zealous labours for the welfare of all the Churches in the Lycus
valley. “For I bear him witness, that he hath much labour for you, and for
them in Laodicea, and for them in Hierapolis.” He was probably the
founder of all three Churches, which were within a short distance of each
other. The apostle commends him to the Colossians that he may increase
their respect and love for him on his return from Rome.
II. LUKE. “The beloved physician.” This was the evangelist, who had
travelled with the apostle on his last journey to Jerusalem (<442101>Acts 21:1),
and then from Jerusalem to Rome two years later (<442702>Acts 27:2), and
now again was in his company. He was apparently the apostle’s only
companion at the end of his second imprisonment (<550411>2 Timothy 4:11):
“Only Luke is with me.” He was doubly beloved, both as physician and
evangelist, for the weak health of the apostle, both in prison and out of it,
needed his professional care.
1. He was probably a Thessalonian. (<550410>2 Timothy 4:10.) Twice again
his name occurs in company with that of Luke (Philemon 24; <550410>2
2. There is here a bare mention of his name, without a word of
commendation. Perhaps the apostle had an insight into his real character.
His name occurs significantly last of all among the six who greet the
3. He deserts the apostle in the near prospect of his end. “Demas hath
forsaken me, having loved this present world” (<550410>2 Timothy 4:10). Yet,
at present, he keeps his standing among the companions of the apostle and
receives a due recognition. — T.C.
Vers. 15-17. —
Salutations and parting counsels to friends.
“Salute the brethren that are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the Church
that is in their house.”
I. THE SALUTATION
1. To the brethren of Laodicea, who are called also “the Church in
Laodicea.” The apostle had a deep interest in them, because they were
exposed to the same spiritual dangers as the Colossians. They dwelt in a
rich, commercial city, and seem to have degenerated spiritually many yearn
afterwards (<660314>Revelation 3:14-16),
2. To Nymphas and the Church in their house. This was an eminent
Christian of Laodicea, probably a rich man, and certainly full of zeal for the
cause of God, for his house was the meeting place of a Church. He was
evidently a centre of religious life in this important locality.
II. HIS COUNSEL TO THE COLOSSIANS. “And when this Epistle hath
been read among you, cause that it be read also in the Church of the
Laodiceans; and that ye also read that from Laodicea.”
1. The nearness of these Churches to each other, as well as their exposure
to the risks of the same heretical teaching, explains this counsel. The letter
from Laodicea was probably the Epistle to the Ephesians, which was of an
encyclical character, and was now carried by Tychicus to the Churches of
2. It is the privilege as well as the duty of private Christians to read the
Scriptures. (<430539>John 5:39.)
3. This is a plain proof that the Scriptures are to be read publicly in the
Church. (<441315>Acts 13:15.)
III. HIS INDIVIDUAL COUNSEL TO ARCHIPPUS. “And say to
Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord,
that thou fulfil it.”
1. The position of Archippus. He was a member of the household of
Philemon, and probably his son (Philemon 2). He held some office in the
Church, for he is called “a fellow soldier” of the apostle. If he was a
minister at Laodicea, as some suppose, the counsel addressed to him
throws a significant light upon the condemnation of the Laodiceans many
years afterwards for their lukewarmness. If, however, he was a minister at
Colossal, as is more natural, the apostle’s counsel recognizes the right of
the Colossian Christians to exercise discipline or reproof in the case of their
2. The admonition to Archippus. He was to fulfil his ministry.
(1) It was a ministry received by him.
(a) He was not self appointed.
(b) He received it, not only from the Lord, but in the Lord, whose grace
prepared him for it and kept him in it. Therefore his responsibility was all
the more serious.
(2) It was a ministry to be fulfilled. He was “to make full proof of his
ministry” like Timothy (<550405>2 Timothy 4:5). He was to “stir up the gift of
God” (<550206>2 Timothy 2:6). He was to hold on till the end, shaking off
lethargy and listlessness, showing the people the whole counsel of God,
refuting all sorts of sins and errors, and being “instant in season, out of
season” (<550402>2 Timothy 4:2) in all labours for Christ.
(3) There was need for the apostle’s warning counsel. “Take heed.” This
individual warning would not have been sent in an Epistle designed for the
whole Church if there had not been some failure of effort or duty on the
part of Archippus. There is always need for ministers to “take heed to their
(a) the dignity of their office;
(b) the value of immortal souls;
(c) the risks to which the flock are exposed from errors, sin, and
(d) the account that is to be given to God. — T.C.
Ver. 18. —
“The salutation of me, Paul, with mine own hand. Remember my bonds.
Grace be with you.”
I. THE AUTOGRAPH WAS TO ATTEST THE AUTHENTICITY OF
II. THE REFERENCE TO HIS IMPRISONMENT WAS TO BESPEAK,
NOT ONLY THEIR SYMPATHY, BUT THEIR INCREASED
INTEREST IN THE GOSPEL. “He who is suffering for Christ has a right
to speak on behalf of Christ.”
III. HIS PARTING WORD IS, “GRACE BE WITH YOU.” He has
exalted God’s grace. He prays that the Colossians should not lose the
grace they had received, that it should abide with them for ever, as the
spring of power, holiness, and fidelity to truth. — T.C.
HOMILIES BY R.M.EDGAR
Vers. 2-6. —
The life of prayer and sympathy.
Having shown how Christianity elevates the household, Paul next
encourages the Colossians to prayerful and sympathetic lives. They shall
find themselves in contact with others in the walks of public service, and
they are to go forth to meet others prayerfully, sympathetically, graciously.
Public life can only be properly, utilized when based upon constant
I. CONSIDER WHAT CONSTANT PRAYER IS. (Ver. 2.) It is lingering
at the source of inspiration that our souls may be fitted for their public
work. It is the attitude of felt dependence upon God — the confession that
without his grace we can do nothing. It is the abnegation of self confidence
and the prostration of the soul before the Lord. It is the secret of public
power. Hence Paul exhorts the Colossians to be always prayerful, and to
be grateful as they prayed. If they have the sense of obligation implied by
thanksgiving and a sense of need expressed by prayer, they shall be fitted
for public work. Prayerless and thankless souls only miss and mar the
opportunities of usefulness afforded them.
II. THEY MUST PRAY FOR OTHERS AS WELL AS THEMSELVES,
ESPECIALLY FOR THE IMPRISONED PREACHER. (Vers. 3, 4.)
Intercession will be a large part of enlightened prayer. It is so in the Lord’s
Prayer. For prayer makes us unselfish. We only seek the supply of personal
need that we may be public benefactors. Hence we recognize at once the
privilege and duty of intercession. All men need our prayers. Kings and
those in authority, as well as those in more private stations, need our
intercession. But among all the subjects of our intercession, none deserve
better from their fellows than the preachers of the gospel. They are the
most important and influential persons in the world. And their utterance is
of more moment than that of statesmen or of kings. Hence, when Paul asks
an interest in the intercessions of the Colossians, it is that he may be
enabled to speak the mystery of Christ with increasing boldness, and may
have a door of utterance opened widely to him. The most important
message for mankind is the gospel. The intercessions of saints should
largely be that preachers may be delivered from all limitations in the
utterance of their message, and may issue from every “imprisonment” into
the large liberty and impassioned utterance of the gospel.
III. THEY ARE TO EMBRACE THEIR OPPORTUNITY OF
USEFULNESS WISELY. (Ver. 5.) Prayer and intercession will greatly
help in this respect. It is when we enter upon our opportunity with the
sense of the overshadowing presence; it is when we believe that God is
with us and with all our fellow workers, for whom we have interceded, that
we can hopefully embrace the opportunity. How many chances, to use the
world’s term, have we lost just through deficiency in prayer I We have
been like the disciples in the valley, helpless before the lunatic child
because prayerless before the opportunity came; whereas, had we been
transfigured with our Master on the mount, we should have had no
difficulty in improving our opportunity and being most helpful unto others.
IV. ABOVE ALL THINGS THEY ARE TO CULTIVATE A
GRACIOUS CONVERSATION. (Ver. 6.) The filthiness of the
conversation in heathen lands is beyond conception. The ear is more rudely
assailed than even the eye. Hence the necessity of rousing converts to a
gracious conversation. When the oaths and impurity and maledictions, not
to speak of the idle words of heathenism, are given up, and in their stead
considerate, kindly, gracious words always spoken, then the world
wonders at the change and is impressed and improved by it. In other
words, the Colossians are to speak out of hearts steeped in prayer and
filled with the Spirit. If we would take up and practise this idea, that we
ought to speak and live as inspired men, the world would soon surrender
to the claim of Christianity. Alas! the saints are often anything but inspired
in their conversation, and it is no wonder that the world is not much moved
by them. Until we realize our responsibility in this matter more, the
kingdom of God cannot be much hastened. — R.M.E.
Vers. 7-18. —
The apostle’s entourage.
At the time when this Epistle was written Paul had a considerable band
about him. Though a prisoner in Borne, he has gathered round him a troop
of friends. The time has not come when he has to say, “Only Luke is with
me” (<550410>2 Timothy 4:10). It is interesting to notice these he has at this
time around him.
I. THE LETTER CARRIERS. (Vers. 7-9.) These are Tychicus and
Onesimus. They carry each a letter — Tychicus this letter to the Church,
Onesimus the letter for Philemon. The freeman and the slave are to journey
together as brothers in the Lord, carrying tidings of the imprisoned
preacher and the love tokens in his Epistles. What beautiful harmony has
Paul summoned forth! Christianity recognizes not the distinctions of the
world, but bond and free realize their unity in Christ.
II. THE JEWS. (Vers. 10, 11.) He has with him as “fellow prisoner”
Aristarchus, the faithful companion who had risked himself in the theatre at
Ephesus, and. who seems to have voluntarily shared the imprisonment with
the apostle. Mark also, the cousin of Barnabas, is with him, not very
reliable or certain in his movements, but with whom Paul has long ago
made up his quarrel and can dwell in peace. Jesus also, another Jew, a loyal
citizen as his additional name Justus implies, is with Paul, and they are such
genuine converts from Judaism as to be most comforting “fellow workers
unto the kingdom of God.” The large-hearted Jewish apostle has attracted
to his side magnanimous, large-souled Jews also to cooperate in the
III. THE GENTILES. (Vers. 12-15.) We have three Gentiles as a set-off
to the three Jewish companions. These are Epaphras, who has come from
Colossae to aid. the work, and who seems to have been a specially
prayerful man, making his native district the burden of his constant
intercessions. Next there is “Luke, the beloved physician,” the medical
attendant and fast friend for many years of the great apostle. It was he who
lingered with him during his second imprisonment, when all the rest had
forsaken him, and who saw his end. His writings, the Gospel according to
Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, constitute him the “Josephus of the
Christian Church,” and form the natural and indispensable introduction to
the Pauline Epistles. And, lastly, we have Demas, whose loyalty had not
been tested at this time fully, but whose sad history is written by Paul later
on in the brief words, “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present
world” (<550410>2 Timothy 4:10). It would thus appear that just as Jesus had a
Judas in his band of disciples, so Paul had a Demas in those attracted to his
side. The best of men cannot exclude the insincere from the work in which
they need. “fellow workers.” And it is best, for the hostile at heart are
admirable witnesses of the private life of the Christian leaders, Neither
Judas nor Demas ever bore bad witness about their masters!
IV. THE PUBLIC USE TO BE MADE OF THIS EPISTLE. (Vers. 15,
16.) It was to be handed about to neighbouring Churches, and other letters
sought in exchange. Paul was writing, not for Colossae alone, but for all
Churches to which his Epistle would crone. It was therefore a public
Epistle. The letter Onesimus had in his pocket was private. It was intended
for Philemon alone, and yet, blessed be God, it too has become public
property. But the other Pauline Epistles were meant by their author to be
public documents. We may well rejoice that such precious literary remains
have come down to us.
V. THE SPECIAL SALUTATION TO ARCHIPPUS, THE MINISTER
IN CHARGE. (Ver. 17.) This must have been a solemn and yet a salutary
word. The ministry had been received “from the Lord,” as some put it.
Archippus looked past apostle and all terrestrial officials to Jesus as his
Master, and it was a ministry in the Lord he had received. But at the same
time he will receive cordially such an exhortation, and his responsibilities
shall in consequence be more carefully discharged. It is in increased
ministerial conscientiousness that the progress of a Church is to be
realized. And thus it is with pathetic warning the interesting Epistle ends.
As the apostle puts his bold signature to the document and asks to have his
bonds remembered, this Epistle of the captivity goes forth complete to the
world wide mission intended by the Spirit. — R.M.E.
HOMILIES BY R. FINDLAYSON
Vers. 2-6. —
Prayer and prudence.
(1) Steadfastness in prayer, “Continue steadfastly in prayer.” There is the
same direction in <451212>Romans 12:12, “Continuing steadfastly in prayer.”
We shall not be able to carry out the direction unless we pray from
principle. And that implies, not only that we have a deep conviction of the
obligation of prayer, but also that we have a distinct conception of the form
which the obligation is to take, as to our times of prayer and our subjects
of prayer. Having an intelligent conviction of the duty, we are to hold to it
steadfastly, in the face of all temptations to interrupt it. It is said of the
disciples after the Ascension, that they continued steadfastly in prayer.
They had a special subject of prayer, and they held to it uninterruptedly for
ten days, until it was answered in the descent of the Holy Ghost.
(2) Wakefulness in prayer. “Watching therein.” This is brought in as an
element without which steadfastness would be of no use. Prayer is a duty
in which our whole being is to be awake. There is to be the absence of all
sleepiness whatsoever. Especially are we to be wakeful, spiritually. We are
to be wakeful to the truth and promises of God. We are to be wakeful to
our own wants. We are to be wakeful to the wants of others. And not only
are we to be wakened up in the directions noted, but wakened up so that
our powers have full play. We have in Jacob one whose wakefulness was
kept up to the highest point through the hours of night till he obtained the
blessing. “With thanksgiving.” Thus again is the subordinate feature in the
Epistle introduced. The thought is, that we are to be wakeful toward God
for benefits obtained. Wakefulness toward God for past benefits is the best
state of preparation for the reception of future benefits.
2. Particular. “Withal praying for us also.” They were not only to pray for
themselves, for others, about other affairs, but specially for Paul and his
coadjutors, and as he here directs.
(1) Immediate object. “That God may open unto us a door for the Word,
to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds.” Next to
having the Word is having a door opened for the Word, i.e. an unhindered
opportunity for its going forth. By the Word was meant more particularly
the mystery of Christ, i.e. the gospel with reference to the Gentiles. The
mystery was to go forth in it being spoken. In regard to that he was
hindered at present. For not only was he called to speak the mystery of
Christ, but also (so much had he entered into it) to be in bonds for it. And
others were detained with him. And he prayed, and wished them to pray,
for his liberation from captivity, that he and the others might go forth with
(2) Ulterior object. “That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.”
The situation of the apostle here has been described as tragic. He was
possessed with a burning desire that the Gentiles might have the gospel. He
had exalted ideas of the requirements of his apostolate. He was conscious,
too, of the apostolic energy stirring within him. There was a certain outlet
for that energy. For he was allowed to speak the Word to all that came
unto him. And he was enabled to write this Epistle and other Epistles,
which have laid the Church under lasting obligation. But he wanted to
make the mystery manifest on a far wider scale. He wanted to have
freedom in moving from place to place, in combating error on the spot, in
forming Churches. And it was in this his restrained position that he asked
to be assisted by their prayers.
II. DUTY TO THEM THAT ARE WITHOUT. How is a Christian
society to advance its ends with them that are outside? That is a question
which has not lost its importance.
1. Walk. “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the
time.” It is said in Ephesians, “Look therefore carefully how ye walk, not
as unwise, but as wise; redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” It is
the same precept here, with special application to them that are outside.
(1) Wisdom. One end for which a Christian society exists is self
preservation. It was very important for them to act so that they did not
unnecessarily bring persecution upon themselves. Another and higher end
for which a Christian society exists is extension. For this end zeal is
necessary, but at the same time it must be zeal tempered with discretion.
Christian wives would naturally be deeply interested in the conversion of
their heathen husbands, but how did the Apostle Peter enjoin them to act?
“In like manner, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that,
even if any obey not the Word, they may without the Word be gained by
the behaviour of their wives; beholding your chaste conversation coupled
with fear.” The position of the members of a Christian society is similar.
We have to win over them that are outside. Where the Word by itself fails
(men obeying not the Word), we may do this without the Word, viz. by our
Christian behaviour, by quietly and steadily showing what our religion is,
especially in the production in us of those elements which those outside can
more readily appreciate — purity, honour, charitableness, unselfishness,
gentleness. There is action of a more direct kind toward them that are
outside, for which wisdom is needed. The apostles supply a remarkable
instance of failure in this respect. Not sure of their action, they referred it
to Christ. “Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy Name, and he
followed not us, and we forbade him, because he followeth not us.” This
man was certainly at an outside, but, as on the way to higher things, Christ
said, “Forbid him not: for there is no man, that shall do a miracle in my
Name, that shall lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is for
us.” This saying of our Lord throws great light on what should be the
manner of our procedure toward them that are without. We are to accept
of the slightest acknowledgment of Christianity. We are to turn back no
one whose face seems turned in the right direction, though he does not yet
join himself to us or work by our methods. This, and not the mistaken “
We forbid you,” is the way to encourage men toward our position.
(2) Urgency. For the end of self preservation, the moment was to be well
thought of by the Colossians. For the unwise use of one moment they
might have to suffer for years. So for the end of winning over them that are
outside, the moment is to be well thought of by us. We are not to contract
debt in connection with it. We are to make it our own for our end. We are
to leave nothing undone to persuade, to entice, them that are without to
come within the pale of the Christian Church. We are ever to be acting as
on a motion of urgency, viz. the salvation of our fellow travellers to
eternity, during their brief time of probation.
2. Speech. There are given three qualities of good speech, with primary
reference to them that are outside.
(1) Pleasingness. “Let your speech be always with grace.” There is a
pleasing and an unpleasing way of saying a thing. We are to study to have
always a pleasing mode of speech. It is said of Jesus that they wondered at
the words of grace which proceeded out of his mouth. The reference was
not merely to the contents of the words, but also to the winning form in
which they were put.
(2) Healthfulness. “Seasoned with salt.” The language proceeds upon the
conception of speech as an article of food, or as having nutriment in it to
be communicated. The idea of pleasingness is carried forward in the
flavouring. It is to he flavoured, so as not to be insipid. But the salt, with
which the flavouring is to be effected, adds the idea of healthfulness. By
salt in speech, we may understand seriousness of aim. Even in our
moments of rest and of social enjoyment we are to have a feeling of the
solemnity of life. We are to occupy our conversation with things according
to their relative importance. We are to show a preference for the useful.
We are not to use speech to communicate poison, but to communicate
right sentiments. We are to show that we attach supreme importance to the
gospel of Christ. Thus is healthfulness to be combined with pleasingness.
(3) Aptness. “That ye may know how ye ought to answer each one.” The
idea of pleasingness is still carried forward, and is further to be combined
with aptness. In those days questions were often put to the Christians
about their religion. They were expected to be able to give an account of
the articles of their faith, of the facts of Christianity, of its institutions, of
benefits derived, of losses entailed. These questions were not always put by
sincere inquirers. They were often put from curiosity or with evil intention.
In no case were they to show resentment. They were always, with all
pleasingness, to give the answer which the question demanded, in the hope
that it might commend itself to the inquirer. In these days questions are not
so often put to Christians. It would be well if they were oftener put, and if
we could put the right answer in pleasing form. — R.F.
Vers. 7-18. —
I. AFFAIRS OF THE APOSTLE. He gives his reason for not entering on
these in his letter. The paragraph is similar in construction to
<490621>Ephesians 6:21, 22. The difference is confined to two points.
1. The designation of Tychicus as fellow servant. “All my affairs shall
Tychicus make known unto you, the beloved brother and faithful minister
and fellow servant in the Lord: whom I have sent unto you for this very
purpose, that ye may know our estate, and that he may comfort your
hearts.” He characterizes what Tychicus was in the Lord, i.e. within the
sphere where Christ appoints and animates. Within that sphere he had the
qualities which made him beloved as a brother (an important point in a
mission). He had also the qualities which, as they made him fit to be
entrusted with the gospel, also made him fit to be entrusted with a mission
from the apostle. He was, besides, a fellow servant on an equality with the
apostle in being at the call of the Master in services to Churches, and they
were to receive him at Colossae in the Lord’s name. His mission extended
beyond the mere bearing of the letter (which is not mentioned), to
conveying intelligence regarding the circumstances, spirit, work, prospects
of the apostle and others with him, as would be fitted to cheer their hearts.
2. The association of Onesimus with Tychicus. “Together with Onesimus,
the faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They shall make
known unto you all things that are done here.” Onesimus is mentioned as
affectionately as Tychicus. The only difference is the absence of any official
designation. His being called “brother” illustrates the principle laid down by
the apostle in this Epistle, that there is not bondman nor freeman. The
renewal after the image of God had commenced, and was going on, in this
slave. And therefore he acknowledges him as a brother. Prominence is
given to his being a faithful brother. He had formerly been unfaithful, in
the service rendered to his master Philemon, and in running away from that
service, lie had been so effectually transformed that already (and much time
cannot have elapsed) Paul can vouch for his trustworthiness. His being
called “beloved brother” shows that he had exhibited singular qualities of
heart, which is very touchingly brought out in the Epistle to Philemon. The
interesting circumstance is mentioned, that Onesimus was one of them, a
native of Colossae (we may understand), one whose name was to be added
to their roll of membership, and who would be no mere nominal addition,
but an addition to their working strength. Paul trusted him in much, after
having trusted him in littles, when he associated him with Tychicus, not
only in bearing the letter, but in declaring to the Church at Colossae all
things which were done at Rome.
II. SALUTATIONS FOR THE COLOSSIANS.
1. From three Jewish Christians.
(1) Aristarchus. “Aristarchus my fellow prisoner saluteth you.” That he
was an active helper of the apostle, may be gathered from his being classed
in the Epistle to Philemon among his fellow workers. The beautiful thing
regarding him is, that he is so near to the apostle in seasons of danger. For
his connection with him, he was subjected to the violence of the multitude
in Ephesus. Then a plot of the Jews brings him into connection with the
apostle. Then he appears as a companion of the apostle on his journey as a
prisoner to Rome. And here he is styled “fellow prisoner.” He was not
ashamed of the apostle’s chains. He was not afraid to endanger his own life
for his sake. From the fact of his being styled “fellow worker” and
Epaphras “fellow prisoner” in the Epistle to Philemon, which was
transmitted along with the Epistle to Colossae, it has not unreasonably
been concluded that Paul’s friends voluntarily shared his imprisonment by
(2) Mark. “And Mark, the cousin of Barnabas (touching whom ye received
commandments; if he come unto you, receive him).” It was an honourable
circumstance, which Paul with good feeling notes, that Mark was
connected with Barnabas. He seems to have been included within the
apostolic circle. He began his Christian career by divesting himself (in no
monastic spirit) of the embarrassment of riches. “He was a good man, and
full of the Holy Ghost and of faith.” He had the advance of Paul in
Christian service, and generously introduced him to the Church at
Jerusalem, and afterward, when the work could not be overtaken at
Antioch, knowing the fitness of Paul, he went forth to Tarsus to seek for
him, and when he had found him, brought him on to Antioch. For a long
time they laboured conjointly, and for a time we read of Barnabas and Paul
as though the older in service exercised an influence over the younger, not
yet fully conscious of his powers. But their plans diverged with regard to
the kinsman of Barnabas who is mentioned here; and so sharp was the
contention between these good men that they parted asunder, one from the
other. It may be assumed that Mark was blameworthy in not going with
them to the work. He was apparently swayed at the time by some reason of
personal convenience. Whether Paul or Barnabas was right in regard to his
again being associated with them in service, is a different question. It
appears from this notice that Mark had won his way back into the apostle’s
confidence. Already commandments touching him had been sent on, and
now there is bespoken for him a favourable reception, should it fall in with
his plans to pay a visit to Colossae.
(3) Jesus Justus. “And Jesus, which is called Justus.” He lived a life upon
which light shall one day be cast. All that we know of him is from the
notice here. He commended himself to the apostle, as interested in the
health of the Colossian community. And he comes in for his share of
commendation in the language which follows. The three commended.
“Who are of the circumcision: these only are my fellow workers unto the
kingdom of God, men that have been a comfort unto me.” There would be
unbelieving Jews at Rome who would not be sorry for his chains. But there
were others (apparently) who had advanced from Judaism to Christianity.
It might have been expected, on common Christian grounds, that these
would have shown sympathy with him. It is against them (by implication)
that he makes complaint. He does not deny altogether that they were
helpers, but they were not his fellow helpers; they were not his fellow
helpers toward the kingdom of God in the wide sense in which he
understood it. They stood aloof from him because of his estimate of the
Law. All the more honour, then, to the three in Rome who, free from
prejudice, had stood by him, and been a comfort to him when he needed it.
2. From three Gentile Christians.
(1) Epaphras. “Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus,
saluteth you.” This Epaphras, who (probably after he had come under the
influence of Paul at the Asiatic centre, Ephesus) founded the Colossian
Church, was himself a Colossian. He was formerly styled “fellow servant;”
here, without relation to others, he is styled “a servant of Christ Jesus.” It
would be absurd to translate it “bond servant,” though it holds that Christ
is absolute Disposer of his servants. Epaphras was a servant in an official
sense, at the call of Christ for special service in the Churches. As their
minister, he is naturally the first of the Gentile three who sent their
salutations to the Colossian Church. The character in which he appears
here is float of a minister absent for a time from his flock.
(a) His prayerfulness. “Always striving for you in his prayers, that ye may
stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God.” A minister is
sometimes necessitated, by the state of his health, to be absent from the
sphere of his work proper. In these circumstances his great resort is prayer.
Paul had difficulty in telling how greatly he strove for as many as had not
seen his face in the flesh. Here he tells how Epaphras was always striving
for the Colossians in his prayers. How much they must have been in his
thoughts, that they came so much into his prayers, and, when they did
come, occasioned so much wrestling! It was a comprehensive object for
which he wrestled. It was that they might stand perfect and fully assured in
every separate will of God. If we think of a single division of time or single
set of circumstances, the prime necessity is to know the will of God
regarding it. If we think of our relation to that will, it implies three things.
We must not only know, but must stand without wavering in the will of
God. Then we must stand, not in part, but in the whole of the will of God,
relative to time and circumstances. Lastly, we must not only stand in the
whole of the will, but have the full assurance that we are standing. This last
is the climax of our relation to it. Beyond all knowledge and rightness of
disposition, it is to be desired, for our own comfort, that, before and in the
doing of the Divine will, we have an unwavering persuasion that it is really
the Divine will, and no ignis fatuus of our own imagination, that we are
following. This, indeed, is contained in promise: “And thine ears shall hear
a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to
the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.”
(b) His labour. “For I bear him witness, that he hath much labour for you,
and for them in Laodicea, and for them in Hierapolis.” There is a very
beautiful association with the name Mizpah: “The Lord watch between me
and thee, when we are absent one from another.” The Lord’s servant, Paul,
was witness between Epaphras and the Colossians, and he vouches for
their minister’s labour in his absence. It is a word which approaches in
meaning to “anguish.” It comprehended much more than his prayers. He
was often engaged, by himself and in consultation with Paul, on the
Colossian problem. He was often seen (when not sharing the apostle’s
confinement) about the city after business affecting the Colossian Church.
Nor was his burdensome labour confined to the one Church. It extended to
the Church of Laodicea, and to the Church of Hierapolis. These were
Churches in the neighbourhood. The three towns were situated in the
valley of the Lycus. Colossae was the least important of the three, but it
was there, probably, that by means of Epaphras the gospel had been first
received, and from which, by his means also, the gospel had been extended
to Laodicea and to Hierapolis. If we understand his having had an equal
interest in the formation of the three Churches, it was only natural that his
anxious labour extended to the three.
(2) Luke. “Luke, the beloved physician.” What is the ideal of a physician?
He is, in the first place, one who enters thoroughly into the duties of his
profession. He is one who keeps abreast of medical knowledge, and may be
able at some sacrifice to make contributions to it. He is one who has skill in
the practice of his profession, and does not grudge labour, fatigue, even
exposure to danger, in seeking to remove disease and alleviate pain. Such a
physician has in his hands the means of powerfully attaching men to him,
by services rendered to them. He is also one who has Christian sympathies,
who enters into the spirit and follows the example of him who, while
ministering to men’s bodies, ministered also to men’s souls. He is one who
embraces the opportunities which his profession presents of speaking
words of warning and of comfort. He, who thus attaches men to him by a
double bond, may well be called the beloved physician. The third Gospel,
and the Acts of the Apostles, bear evidence to the general culture of Luke.
It has been made out that the first of these bears evidence of special
medical knowledge. It may be inferred that Luke rendered to Paul valuable
professional assistance. He may have been, under God, the means of saving
his life. From his being called, in the Epistle to Philemon, a “fellow helper,”
it may be inferred that his help to the Christian cause was not confined to
his professional services nor to his literary services, but that he directly
took part in the proclamation of the gospel.
(3) Demas. “And Demas salute you.” From the honourable mention of him
here, and from his being numbered among the fellow helpers in the Epistle
to Philemon, it is evident that at this time he stood in the confidence of the
apostle. When we remember his subsequent desertion of the apostle
(“Demas forsook me, having loved this present world”), it is remarkable
how he is mentioned here without any epithet such as “beloved” or
III. SALUTATIONS FORT THE LAODICEANS TO BE
COMMUNICATED BY THE COLOSSIANS. “Salute the brethren that
are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the Church that is in their house.” It is
not to be wondered at that there should be a Church gathering connected
with a private house. Where there was a place of general gathering for a
Church at that time, it would be very unimportant. We can understand that,
as a rule, there would be little gatherings from evening to evening, in
private houses, of Christians in the immediate neighbourhood. These at
times would grow into large gatherings. The apostle had never been at
Laodicea, but he may have seen Nymphas. He had at least heard of him,
and he had pleasant associations with him and the little gathering in his
house. And, among the brethren in Laodicea, he singles them out for his
salutations. The medium of the apostle’s salutations to the Laodicean
Church was to be the Colossian Church. They were as a Church to say,
“We in Paul’s name salute you.” It was an act fitted to promote good
fellowship between the two Churches.
IV. READING. “And when this Epistle hath been read among you, cause
that it be read also in the Church of the Laodiceans and that ye also read
the Epistle from Laodicea.” This letter was to be read at a general
gathering of the Church in Colossae. There was another letter, which had
been addressed at a previous period to the Church at Laodicea (salutations
only are sent at this time). It was not the will of the Head of the Church
that the letter should be preserved. The apocryphal letter to the Laodiceans
is only a cento made out of Paul’s writings. There would be what was
peculiar in each of these letters, but, being addressed to neighbouring
Churches, there would be much that was adapted to them both. And so he
instructs that both should be read in both places.
V. INSTRUCTIONS FOR ARCHIPPUS BY THE CHURCH. And say to
Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord,
that thou fulfil it.” We are not told what the ministry was, but the
probability is that he ministered in the gospel in the absence of Epaphras. It
cannot with certainty be inferred that he had shown remissness in his
duties. It is an injunction which may be laid on a minister in any
circumstances. It is specially to be laid on a minister, in view of a more
critical condition of the Church to which he ministers. There are
advantages and incitements, but there are also difficulties and temptations
connected with a sacred position. The interests involved are very great, and
it is fitting that we should seek to fulfil that service which we have received
in the Lord, with a deep feeling of our responsibility to the Lord. In the
fact of the injunction being laid on Archippus by the Church, there is an
implied rebuke of the hierarchical spirit.
VI. CONCLUSION. “The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand.
Remember my bonds. Grace be with you.” The apostle has, from necessity
of his position, employed an amanuensis. When the amanuensis has done
his work, Paul takes the pen in hand, and adds, “The salutation of me Paul
with mine own hand.” And feeling the difficulty of using the pen in
consequence of his bonds, he adds, very naturally and very affectingly,
“Remember my bonds.” This bore evidence to the depth of his interest in
them and in the truth. He had not the paths of dalliance trod. He had gone
the length of bonds. It is principally to be regarded as a powerful
enforcement, of all that he has said, including his request that they should
pray for his liberation. There is added the briefest form of benediction:
“Grace be with you.” Never, however pressed for space or inconvenienced,
can he leave out the thought of the Divine bestowal on us in our
unworthiness. — R. F.
HOMILIES BY U.R. THOMAS
Vers. 2-4. —
An exhortation to prayer.
Paul had been, as we have seen, describing noble and difficult duties of
husbands, children, etc. He evidently felt they were so noble that they
ought to be attained, and yet so difficult that he must at once suggest one
way to their attainment. He has shown the goal, now he shows the path.
That path is prayer. Husbands, wives, all who would become what I have
described, “continue in prayer.” In his exhortation to prayer we may notice
I. SOME ELEMENTS IN ALL TRUE PRAYER. And of these elements
there is in the very front:
1. Constancy. “Continue steadfastly,” as the Revised Version has it. Not
fitfully, occasionally, irregularly, but with steady constancy, pray.
(1) There, ought to be constancy because of the need there is. The need is
perpetual, for the duties to be discharged to which prayer alone can help,
and the dangers to be avoided from which prayer alone can deliver, are
ever with us.
(2) There can be constancy, because the opportunity is always granted.
There are avenues of religious help a man may close against his brother,
but not this. Excommunicated, exiled, tortured, imprisoned, he can still
pray. Wherever God is and a human soul is, there prayer can be. So Daniel,
Jonah, Stephen, found.
2. Wakefulness. “Watching.” Not as a sleeper, but as a sentry, must the
man be who prays. Understanding, emotion, will, must be awake, as he
who guards the city is awake to hear the first footfall of a foe, to catch the
first shadow of a danger. Not in dreamy lethargy can men pray. “No arrow
of prayer can reach the sky that does not fly from a heart strongly bent as
some elastic bow?
3. Gratitude. “With thanksgiving.” Thus the conception of prayer is
widened, beyond that of mere petition, to that of intercourse. Prayer
becomes a Eucharist. Indeed, thanksgiving is the crown and goal of prayer.
Elsewhere the apostle similarly exhorts, “In everything by prayer and
supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known unto God.”
II. A SPECIAL SUBJECT FOR INTERCESSION. Paul thus bespeaks
prayer for himself and his fellow workers both, to link himself in
humbleness of heart to the Colossians. It is as though he said, “I need
prayer as well as you.” And doubtless he also asks their prayers because he
is conscious of necessity for such help as prayer can bring. For himself and
his fellow workers he asks:
1. Prayer that they may have opportunity for work. “That God may open
unto us a door.” To the mystery of the gospel there is the great obstacle of
minds closed by prejudice, hearts closed by antipathy. The preacher, like
his Lord, has to stand at the door and knock.
2. Prayer that shall be sympathetic with their sorrows. For he reminds
them that he is “in bonds.” In every one of the Epistles of his captivity the
apostle mentions this coupling chain which he felt to be thwarting, galling,
humiliating. And their prayers must seek either that the chain be broken or
the prisoner strengthened to endure.
3. Prayer that they may have fitness for their work. The one pressing want
of their condition was “boldness.” Sometimes the main want is wisdom,
sometimes patience, sometimes gentleness. Here, because of all that was
around him and before him, he felt the supreme want was courage. And
indeed, when is this not wanted by those who have to proclaim such a
message as the gospel, to such souls as proud, selfish, self-willed men, for
such a Master as the Christ who travails till victory is won? — U.R.T.
Vers. 5, 6. —
The Christian and the world.
We have here some suggestions as to —
1. THE CHRISTIAN’S RELATIONSHIP TO THE WORLD. It is
1. That he is to be distinct from the world. To him all “men of the world”
are, in character, aims, pursuits, to be as “them that are without.” There is
to be a contrast between him and them as between those who are “within”
and those who are “without” the assembly of the righteous, the Church of
the loving and the pure. But it is taught:
2. That he is to have intercourse with the world. This is in contradiction to
the Colossian heresy of asceticism, and in contradiction, too, to the pietism
that some sects affect in England today. “Walk in wisdom toward them
that are without.” This is the very opposite of walking away from them, in
separation, into seclusion. Indeed, on this point we notice that seclusion
from the world is:
(1) Impossible. Even those who shun the social and political life of the
world are drawn into its commerce very willingly, and in their best moods
into its philanthropy also.
(2) Undesirable. It leads either to bigotry, as of the Pharisees, or to fragile
life, as of hot house plants.
(3) Unlike Jesus Christ. The streets, the cities, the houses of men, and of
sinful men, their feasts, and their funerals, were frequented by the Holiest,
who has left us an example that we should follow in his steps.
3. What is to mark the intercourse of the Christian with the world. Two
directions are given:
(1) “Walk in wisdom.” This is more than knowledge, more than discretion.
It is a right use of knowledge, of the knowledge of God and of man. In that
element of godly thoughtfulness a Christian man is to move.
(2) “Redeeming the time.” In the time you spend with men, buy up the time
and make the best use of it for themselves and for you. No squandering of
anything so precious as their time and yours is to be permitted in your
intercourse with men. Thus it is taught the Christian must have to do with
II. THE CHRISTIAN’S CONVERSATION WITH THE WORLD. It is
to be distinguished by “grace,” pleasantness of the highest sort — “salt,”
pungency of the truest kind. In a sentence, we may say the influence of his
conversation is to be good.
1. Because it is to be persuasive. The higher form of “grace,” Divine
acceptableness, may be implied here. The other form of it, human
convincingness, is certainly indicated. For this it must be appropriate,
(1) as to topic,
(2) as to time,
(3) as to manner.
2. Because it is to be distinctive. Not talk of tasteless insipidity, making no
impression, but conversation as clear and definite in purifying influence as
Christ meant the disciples themselves were to be when he said, “Ye are the
salt of the earth.” “Certain it is,” says Jeremy Taylor, “that as nothing
better can do it, so there is nothing greater for which God made our
tongues, next to reciting his praises, than to minister comfort to weary
souls. And what greater pleasure can we have than that we should bring
joy to our brother, who with his weary eye looks to heaven and round
about, and cannot find so much rest as to lay his eyelids together? Then thy
tongue should be tuned with heavenly accents, and make the weary soul to
listen for light and ease. This is glory to thy voice, and employment fit for
the brightest angel. I have seen the sun kiss the frozen earth, which was
bound up with the images of death and the cold breath of the north, and
then the waters break from their enclosures, and melt with joy, and run in
useful channels. So is the heart of a sorrowful man under the discourses of
a wise comforter. He breaks from the despairs of the grave; he blesses
God, and he feels his life returning. God is pleased with no music below so
much as in the thanksgiving songs of rejoicing, comforted persons.” —
Vers. 7-18. —
As we read this last paragraph of our Epistle, we are struck:
1. With the humanity of our holy religion. There is a natural tone about the
ending of every one of Paul’s letters; there is the naming of men, the
greeting of friends, the talk about personal affairs. If the Bible were
concerned only with systems, institutions, theories, doctrines, arguments, it
would never be, as it surely is, the great heart book of the world. Its charm
is its humanness. And it is so of Christianity because its Founder and its
Theme, its Alpha and its Omega, is the Son of man.
2. With the mutual fellowship of the early Churches. Between the
Christians at Rome and at Colossae, though the waters of the
Mediterranean rolled between them, there was, as these greetings indicate,
intimate and intelligent personal fellowship. Passing from these
introductory considerations of the great principles to be found here, let us
notice three things about Christian greetings.
I. TRUE CHRISTIAN GREETING RECKONS VERY LITTLE OF
SOCIAL POSITION. Who would know, from the form of the greeting,
how vastly different were the social positions of Epaphras the Colossian
citizen, Luke the cultured Jewish physician, and Onesimus the runaway
slave? It has been well said, “Men are not united to the Church of Christ by
reason of similarity of calling, of knowledge, or of position; not as rich or
poor, learned or ignorant, but as possessors of a common human nature, of
common feelings, sorrows, joys, and hopes. Once within its pale, his riches
drop from the rich man, and his poverty from the poor, and each beholds a
II. TRUE CHRISTIAN GREETING RECOGNIZES FULLY THE
INDIVIDUALISM OF MEN. There is here no dealing with the mere mass,
the group; no speaking of all with the same tones of unctuous endearment
as is common in some Churches today. No; each has a separate niche in the
esteem and affection of the apostle. In the light of this greeting we see the
Church is not a huge piece of mechanism, but a family of dissimilar though
III. TRUE CHRISTIAN GREETING HONOURS GREATLY
CHRISTIAN SERVICE. The only letter of introduction to a Church Paul
ever wrote is to commend not some wealthy or famous man, but a
converted runaway slave. His epithets of praise are not those that describe
rank or riches, or even culture, but usefulness. That he honours, and that
the Church of Christ ought above all else to honour: come the day when it
will. Amen. — U.R.T.
HOMILIES BY E.S. PROUT
Vers. 2-4 —
Conditions of success in prayer.
St. Paul draws the attention of the Colossians to two things.
I. GENERAL CONDITIONS OF SUCCESS IN PRAYER.
1. Perseverance. “Continue steadfastly in prayer.” It is part of our spiritual
education, teaching us dependence, trust, and patience. No “stock” of
blessings given, but daily grace, bread, etc. Blessings may be withheld for a
time because, in our present spiritual state, we cannot receive the full
supply we shall be capable of after the discipline of persevering prayer. The
gift will be in proportion to our faith (cf. <400929>Matthew 9:29; <410822>Mark
8:22-25). Hence the many exhortations to perseverance by parables
(<421105>Luke 11:5-9; 18:1-8), precepts (<451212>Romans 12:12; <490618>Ephesians
6:18; <520517>1 Thessalonians 5:17, etc.), and recorded examples (<013224>Genesis
32:24; <023209>Exodus 32:9-13; <401521>Matthew 15:21-28; <440114>Acts 1:14; 2:1-4.
Paul’s prayers (<500104>Philippians 1:4; <550103>2 Timothy 1:3, etc.;
<510412>Colossians 4:12). Story of James the Just (Eusebius, bk. 2:23). If time
forbids long continuance, there may be energy in brevity and steadfastness
in persistent renewal of prayers (<195517>Psalm 55:17; 119:164, etc.).
2. Watchfulness. Be watchful during prayer, for the constant enjoyment of
the inestimable privilege tends to routine, and our spiritual foes are ever
ready to distract our minds and spoil our prayers. Chrysostom saith, “The
devil knoweth how great a good prayer is.” The messenger prayer is too
often despatched without any definite message. “Ye know not what ye
ask;” “Ye have not because ye ask not.” Contrast our Lord’s prayers and
St. Paul’s with the vague, sleepy supplications we know too much about, if
we thus watch in prayer we may watch after it, expecting the blessings
which are on their way to us (cf. <270923>Daniel 9:23; 10:12).
3. Thanksgiving. (<500406>Philippians 4:6.) Our thanksgiving will include that
Divine system of mediation and intercession by which we sinners have
access to God; all the past answers to prayer we have received through
Christ (<196307>Psalm 63:7; 116:1, 2), and all the promises he has given. In this
spirit we shall also be able to thank him for what he has deferred
(Illustrations: Job and “the end of the Lord,” <590511>James 5:11) and what he
denies. For if we pray with submission for temporal blessings, we lay upon
God the responsibility of choosing for us. Plato (‘Alcibiades,’ bk. 2) praises
one of the ancient poets for prescribing this form of prayer: “Grant to us
thy blessings whether we pray for them or withhold our prayers, and repel
from us all evils even though we pray for them.” With fuller knowledge we
may offer the same prayer for temporal blessings “with thanksgiving”
(<198411>Psalm 84:11; <400632>Matthew 6:32), while in regard to spiritual
blessings there need be no such conditional uncertainty (<400709>Matthew 7:9-
11; <431413>John 14:13, 14).
II. SPECIAL SUBJECTS FOR PRAYER. (Vers. 3, 4.) The requests are
very personal, for Paul, Timothy, Epaphras, etc. The apostle’s condition
imposed limitations which he desired might be removed “for the gospel’s
sake.” These prayers were answered (<570122>Philemon 1:22). By prayer doors
were opened in the first century (<451519>Romans 15:19, etc.), and still are
(China, Africa, Madagascar, etc.). This spread of the gospel may still be
used as an argument for the divinity of the gospel, as it was by Clement of
Alexandria: “The Grecian philosophy, if any magistrate forbade it,
immediately died away; but our doctrine, even from the first preaching of
it, kings, generals, and magistrates prohibited it; nevertheless, it does not
droop like human doctrine, but flourishes the more.” Similar prayers for
pastors and missionaries are still needed, and may be enforced by various
1. Our necessity; for the work is too great for us apart from the help given
2. Our trials. Illustrate from Paul’s ordinary sources of anxiety (<471101>2
Corinthians 11:1-3, 28, 29; <480419>Galatians 4:19, etc.).
3. Our dangers. For we are the mark of many of the fiery darts of the
wicked one, and if we fall it is “as when a standard bearer fainteth.”
4. Our responsibilities. (<581317>Hebrews 13:17.) We have to speak “the
mystery of Christ,” and desire “to make it manifest as we ought to speak.”
How much this implies (<490619>Ephesians 6:19, 20)! We aim at the sublimest
results (<510128>Colossians 1:28, 29).
5. Our equitable claims. A plea especially appropriate to pastors, called by
a Church to their post of duty and of trust. To restrain prayer is the most
lamentable meanness, for it impoverishes the pastor’s or missionary’s soul
(<530301>2 Thessalonians 3:1, 2, etc.). — E.S.P.
Vers. 5, 6. —
The Christians conduct and conversation in the world.
In these closing exhortations we are taught —
I. THE PRINCIPLES WHICH SHOULD GUIDE US IN OUR
INTERCOURSE WITH THE WORLD. (Ver. 5.) In no Pharisaic spirit we
have to speak of “them that are without” (needlessly, guiltily outside the
family of God), but are in close contact with us “within;” who are not
called to judge them or to “have no company” with them, but to live in
such a way as to bless and save them (<460509>1 Corinthians 5:9-13; 9:19-22).
The wisdom demanded includes:
1. Consistency, as its most essential element. Life for others is a law
running through God’s universe, and finding its highest illustration in the
life and cross of Christ and of Christians “in him” (<431224>John 12:24, 25;
<451407>Romans 14:7). To benefit others spiritually, the chief qualification is
not gifts, but character. The lives of Christians are the world’s Bible (<470302>2
Corinthians 3:2, 3). See that the text is not corrupted or illegible. Live so
that the more you are known the more you will be esteemed (let not
“distance lend enchantment to the view”), so that the anxious or the dying
would naturally send to you for guidance, and your judgment or reproof
would carry with it the weight of a holy character. Beware of the “dead
flies” which mar this wisdom (<211001>Ecclesiastes 10:1; <490515>Ephesians 5:15-
17; <504114>Philippians 2:14, 15; 1 Peter. 2:11, 12). But while the whole of our
“walk” must be consistent, the wisdom which is to mark it includes more
than this (<401016>Matthew 10:16; <451619>Romans 16:19). Some may remember
what were their chief hindrances caused by the characters of Christians
while they were still “without;” let them guard against these.
2. Christian cheerfulness. So as to refute the libels of Satan and his
satellites (<182114>Job 21:14, 15; <390314>Malachi 3:14, 15), and prove the
sincerity of our avowed belief (<193408>Psalm 34:8; 84:11, 12).
3. Christian charitableness. Be very strict in judging yourselves, but do
not set up your own consciences as an infallible test for others (cf. <461131>1
Corinthians 11:31 with <400702>Matthew 7:2). Seek to purify and enlighten the
heart, rather than to denounce acts that may not seem wrong to the half
enlightened doer (<401233>Matthew 12:33). Illustrate from Elisha’s treatment
of Naaman (<120515>2 Kings 5:15-19).
4. Well-regulated zeal. Zeal is implied in “redeeming the time,” letting no
opportunity slip you of seeking to do good in these evil days
(<490516>Ephesians 5:16), even though at times it might appear to some to be
“out of season” (<550402>2 Timothy 4:2; <480610>Galatians 6:10). But wisdom is
needed here, or our efforts may be like random shots in a battle, injuring
friends more than foes (e.g. <410938>Mark 9:38; <420954>Luke 9:54). Silence may
at times be more “golden” than speech. <400706>Matthew 7:6 must be
combined with <411615>Mark 16:15.
II. THE SPECIAL WISDOM NEEDED FOR PROFITABLE
CONVERSATION. (Ver. 6; <201821>Proverbs 18:21.) By “always with grace”
is not meant always religious, but always consistent with “this grace
wherein we stand,” and calculated to win the favour and promote the
highest good of those who hear us (<490429>Ephesians 4:29). Therefore we
must seek that it be “seasoned with salt,” which preserves from corruption
and gives relish to our food. Both senses are probably included. Vital
religion being distasteful to the natural heart, care is needed that in our
conversation we neither degrade the religion we profess nor increase
aversion to it by the insipidity of our talk (cf. <180606>Job 6:6; 26:3). Let our
rule be Elihu’s (<183303>Job 33:3; cf. <193730>Psalm 37:30, 31; <201504>Proverbs
15:4). One object of this care is “that ye may know,” etc. We must be
prepared to be questioned and cross questioned on our holy faith.
<202004>Proverbs 20:4, 5 may both need to be observed (as by our Lord,
<402127>Matthew 21:27; 22:21, 29). When questioned as to “the hope that is in
us” (<600315>1 Peter 3:15) a weak answer may confirm doubts. Take as models
the various answers and vindications of his faith given by
the pagans of
Agrippa. But if our tongues are to speak aright, our hearts must be kept
full of the fire of the love of God tempered by “the wisdom that is from
above” (<401234>Matthew 12:34; <590317>James 3:17). — E.S.P.
Vers. 7-18. —
Personal salutations and pastoral cares.
The personal references in Paul’s Epistles are valuable in several ways.
“Proper names, although they be recited alone in the Scriptures, are not to
be despised” (<550316>2 Timothy 3:16). “For like as if any one should find dry
herbs, having neither fragrance nor colour that was pleasing, arranged in
the surgery of a doctor, however mean may be their appearance, will yet
guess that some virtue or remedy is concealed in them; so in the
pharmacopoeia of the Scriptures, if anything occurs that at first sight may
seem to be despised by us, yet may we determine of a certainty that there is
some spiritual utility to be found in it; because Christ, the Physician of
souls, we may suppose, would place nothing insignificant or useless in his
pharmacopoeia” (Origen). These personal references are useful:
1. As supplying “undesigned coincidences” (Paley’s ‘Horae Paulinae,’
Colossians 6., 8., and 14.; and Birks’ ‘Horae Apostolicae,’ Colossians 6.).
2. As correcting
errors; e.g. the alleged episcopacy of St. Peter at
from A.D. 42-68 is rendered incredible by the silence of
3. As helping us to form a vivid idea of the apostle’s circumstances at
different periods, and their bearing on his life’s work and teaching. From
these twelve verses we gather such facts as these, each of which may
suggest some useful lessons. He was a prisoner, adding his autograph
message “in a chain” (<490620>Ephesians 6:20); enjoying for the present
considerable indulgence (<442830>Acts 28:30, 31), and hoping for a speedy
release (<570122>Philemon 1:22). He enjoyed the company of friends both old
and new. Here is Tychicus,
toil and peril (<442004>Acts 20:4; <490621>Ephesians 6:21); and Onesimus (a trophy
of Divine grace, a jewel rescued as from the common sewer of the corrupt
metropolis; teaching us to despair of no one). These two are being sent to
tighten the bonds between the Churches in Asia and the
(vers. 7-10; <490622>Ephesians 6:22). Others remain to aid and cheer him.
Aristarchus of Thessalonica, one
of the firstfruits of
voluntary prisoner (<441929>Acts 19:29; 20:4; 27:2). Mark, now enjoying the
fullest confidence of
illustration of how ‘patient continuance in well doing’ may cast early errors
into oblivion and win back confidence once withdrawn; and a caution even
to an apostle against too stern a judgment on a young brother. Jesus
Justus, the only other Hebrew Christian mentioned, otherwise unknown,
yet worthy of honour in all ages, because “a comfort” to the apostle: an
encouragement to workers little known in the annals of the Church
(<401040>Matthew 10:40-42). Epaphras, probably the founder of the Colossian
Church, who had often preached to them and. now prayed much for them.
Luke, the first medical missionary, a minister to the soul as well as to the
body of the sorely tried apostle. Last comes Demas, mentioned without
any commendation; still a fellow labourer (<570124>Philemon 1:24), but in
which led him afterwards to withdraw from duty and danger, if not
altogether to make shipwreck of faith (<550410>2 Timothy 4:10) — a caution
against backsliding in heart (<201414>Proverbs 14:14; <620215>1 John 2:15). The
salutations to brethren at
limited conditions of the primitive Christians (“Nymphas, and the Church
that is in their house”), of the value of an earnest ministry to the Church
(ver. 17), and of the duty of cherishing fraternal sympathy with other
Churches (vers. 15, 16). This
reference to the Epistle to
to us that, though a letter may be lost and a Church may languish or die
(<660314>Revelation 3:14-22), the Word of the Lord in the letter and to the
Church endureth for ever. Many of these references group themselves
around the names of those who were pastors or evangelists, and suggest
final thoughts respecting a minister’s responsibilities, anxieties, and
1. Responsibilities. (Ver. 17.) The ministry was “in the Lord.” In union
with and in subordination to him he was to exercise it; and only by the
utmost vigilance and energy could he fulfil it. To every minister such a
charge is given as <550401>2 Timothy 4:1, 2, 5, and such promises as <540416>1
Timothy 4:16. Responsibility inspires zeal (<470401>2 Corinthians 4:1, 2; 5:9;
6:3-10), and fosters that spirit of dependence which ensures the blessing
(<460307>1 Corinthians 3:7).
2. Anxieties. (Vers. 12, 13.) A faithful minister can aim at nothing less. He
cannot adapt the standard of the gospel to the maxims of the day. He has
to educate the mind and the conscience, that his flock may be “perfect and
fully assured in all the will of God.” He must teach and warn, applying
general principles to practical details, being himself an example to the flock
(<540412>1 Timothy 4:12) in labours and in prayers, so that those who know
him best may bear such witness to him as Paul does to Epaphras.
3. Encouragements from three sources: sympathy, such as Paul enjoyed
from friends at Rome and at Colossae; cooperation from “fellow workers
unto the kingdom of God;” affection, such as love to the one Lord and
labours for him promote in men of different temperaments, so that we find
Paul speaking of many of his colleagues, not only as honoured fellowsoldiers,
but beloved friends (vers. 7, 9, 14; <451612>Romans 16:12). For all
such the apostle breathes the concluding prayer in one comprehensive
term, “Grace be with you.” — E.S.P.
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADNENEY
Ver. 2. —
Steadfastness in prayer.
I. IT IS GREATLY NEEDED. The seven deacons were chosen partly in
order that the apostles might not be hindered by temporal affairs from
continuing steadfastly in prayer (<440604>Acts 6:4). St. Paul exhorts the Roman
Christians to this same steadfastness (<451212>Romans 12:12). It is requisite on
1. There are never wanting subjects that claim our prayers.
2. When we are least inclined to pray we are in most need of prayer.
3. Only constant prayer can be profoundly spiritual. It is the ever-flowing
stream that wears the deep water course. The bird that soars high must be
much on the wing.
4. Steadfastness in prayer is rewarded by Divine responses; e.g. Abraham’s
II. IT IS A SIGN OF SPIRITUAL HEALTH. After the ascension of their
Lord the early Christians continued steadfastly in prayer (<440114>Acts 1:14);
so did the converts of the day of Pentecost (<440242>Acts 2:42).
1. It shows a spiritual tone of mind. We may pray in special need without
this, and we may pray at set seasons of devotion without it. But to live in
an atmosphere of prayer, to pray because it is natural to us to talk with
God, because we love communion with him, because prayer is our vital
breath, and so to pray without ceasing from inward devotion rather than
from external prompting, — all this is a sign of true spirituality.
2. It shows spiritual vigour. Such prayer is no mere listless droning of
empty phrases, no sudden burst of temporary ejaculations. It implies a
strong, deep energy of devotion.
III. IT IS DIFFICULT TO MAINTAIN. It is easy to cry out to God in
great extremities. Prayerless men pray under such circumstances. It is easy,
too, to pray when we are in a mood of devotion. The difficulty is to
continue steadfastly in prayer. The hindrances are numerous.
1. Lack of interesting subjects of prayer. There may be nothing that
touches us as a great want or strongly appeals to our sympathies at some
seasons like the dire needs and touching claims that inspire our petitions at
2. External distractions. The pressure of business, the din of the world’s
affairs, uncongenial society, even too absorbing Church work, especially in
this age of rich activity and meagre contemplation, check prayer.
3. Internal hindrances. We are not always in the mood for prayer.
“Hosannas languish on our lips.
And our devotion dies.”
This may result from physical weariness. The spirit may be willing though
the flesh is weak. We should then turn aside and rest awhile from the tiring
work of the world. But it may result from sin. Sin is the greatest hindrance
IV. IT MAY BE MAINTAINED BY THE GRACE OF GOD.
1. It is not to be revived in weakness by greater assiduity in formal
devotion. It is a fatal mistake to confound long prayers with steadfast
prayers, and to suppose that spending more time in saying prayers will
strengthen our enfeebled spirit of prayer. It will have the opposite effect.
Nothing hinders true prayer so much as continuing the form of devotion
without the power.
2. The secret is to seek the reviving Spirit of God. If prayer is growing
faint, there may still be energy for uttering the petition, “My soul cleaveth
unto the dust: quicken thou me according to thy Word” (<19B925>Psalm
119:25). All true prayer is an inspiration. The deepest prayer comes from
the striving of God’s Spirit within us. “The Spirit also helpeth our
infirmities… the Spirit himself maketh intercession for us with groanings
which cannot be uttered” (<450826>Romans 8:26). — W.F.A.
Ver. 5 (first clause). — The wisdom of the Church in its relations to the
I. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS WISDOM. The Church needs
wisdom. Christians must be wise as serpents as well as harmless as doves.
We are to blame for lack of wisdom as well as for lack of other graces, for
this is a gift of God (<590105>James 1:5).
1. This wisdom is practical. It concerns itself with behaviour rather than
2. It must be pure. There must not be the slightest unfaithfulness to Christ,
tampering with truth, or casuistic deviation from the highest principles.
II. THE OCCASIONS FOR THIS WISDOM. It was most necessary in
the apostolic age, when the Christians existed only as small communities
scattered about among adverse populations. But it is always more or less
1. For lawful self protection. If persecuted in one city the servant of Christ
was to flee to another, lie was not to court opposition. Martyrdom is only a
glory when it comes in the path of duty, and never when men go out of
that path to seek it. Then it degenerates into little better than suicide.
2. To conquer opponents. The Church has a mission to the world, and she
will fail in this mission if she cannot win her enemies over to her own side.
For Christ’s sake, and for the good of men who need his gospel, this
wisdom must be observed in conciliating foes that they may themselves be
brought into the Church.
III. THE MANNER OF EXERCISING THIS WISDOM.
1. In understanding those who are without. We often provoke opposition
because we do not study the weaknesses and prejudices of others. On the
other hand, Christians have shown a needless scorn for the good in others.
True charity will take note of all that is admirable, and think of whatsoever
things are worthy in the world outside the Church.
2. In an attractive exhibition of the blessings of Christianity. Souls are not
saved by rating and scolding men. The world must be drawn, not driven, to
Christ. A morose Church will only repel an unsympathetic world. Wisdom
towards them that are without will forbid the scandal of quarrelling among
Christians. — W.F.A.
Ver. 6. —
Our speech is to be “seasoned with salt.” The context shows that this
advice is given especially in regard to the conversation of Christian people
with men of the world. It is part of the “wisdom towards them that are
without.” Instead of offensive fault finding, haughty self assertion, or
morose indifference, our speech is to be courteous — “with grace;” and
pleasant — “seasoned” Salt stands for wit in Greek references to it as
seasoning speech. But with St. Paul it seems rather to mean a pleasant,
kindly, interesting characteristic of speech.
I. SPEECH SHOULD BE COURTEOUS. “Be courteous” is advice that
comes to us from the sturdy fisherman (<600308>1 Peter 3:8). If we cannot
agree with another there is no reason why we should treat him unkindly. If
we must even oppose him, still we can do it with consideration and
gentleness of manner. In general intercourse it is well that an affability of
behaviour should characterize the Christian. How courteous Christ was
with all classes! St. Paul is a model of the true Christian gentleman. The
essence of courtesy is sympathy for others in small things. It is hollow if we
manifest hostility or selfishness in large things. The courtesy of a
Chesterfield has a flavour of hypocrisy about it because it is based on
selfishness. Still, if we are sympathetic in serious matters we may be much
misunderstood, and we may really give much pain by a needless
brusqueness of manner.
II. SPEECH SHOULD BE INTERESTING. Salt is seasoning. It gives
pungency. Something similar should be found in our conversation. Dulness
is an offence. It is an infliction of intolerable weariness on the listener. On
the part of the speaker it shows either want of interest in his subject (in
which case he should let it alone), or want of interest in his hearer (which is
a direct result of lack of sympathy). Moreover, the Christian is called to be
frequently bearing testimony for his Master. He weakens that testimony by
giving it in an uninteresting manner, lie should study his words. But, better
than that, he should have his theme so much at heart as to speak with the
eloquence of enthusiasm.
III. SPEECH SHOULD BE PURE. Salt is antiseptic. The Christian
should not only avoid unwholesome topics and styles of speech; he should
bring into conversation a positive, purifying influence. This does not mean
that he should be always quoting texts and set religious phrases, or always
dragging in religious subjects out of place and season. He degrades them,
provokes his hearers, and stultifies himself by so doing. But he should seek
to elevate the tone of conversation, to guide it from unworthy subjects and
to infuse into it a pure tone. There are Christ-like men whose very presence
in a room seems to rebuke evil talk and to breathe a higher atmosphere into
the conversation. How purifying was the conversation of Christ! —
Ver. 16. —
A friendly exchange.
I. SCRIPTURE IS INTENDED FOR GENERAL READING. The two
Epistles are to be read in the Churches. They are not to be reserved for the
bishops, the more initiated or the more advanced Christians. All members
of the two Churches, young and old, slaves and freemen, illiterate and
cultured, imperfect and spiritual minded, are to hear the two Epistles.
Now, these Epistles contain about the most advanced doctrine of all
writings of the Bible. They approach nearest to what is analogous to the
inner Gnostic doctrines of all Scripture teaching. If, therefore, any portions
of Revelation should be reserved for the few, it would be these. If these are
for public perusal, surely the simpler Gospels and psalms must be also
public property. The Bible is a book for the people. It is free to all. No man
has a right to bar access to the tree of life on the plea that the ignorant do
not know how to help themselves from it and must have its knits doled out
by official guardians. The greatest philosopher may find unfathomable
depths in Scripture; but a little child may also read clear truths therein. If it
be said that the ignorant will misunderstand, the reply is — They will gain
more truth on the whole, in spite of misunderstanding, by free access to the
Bible than when only led to it by others. God can take care of his own
truth; the Bible was written for the people, and the people have a right to
their own. No guardians of Scripture who are to measure it out to others at
their discretion were ever appointed by Christ or by his apostles.
II. THE SCRIPTURE THAT IS USEFUL TO ONE CHURCH WILL BE
USEFUL TO ANOTHER. The two letters were written with special
regard to the peculiar circumstances of the two Churches. Yet they were to
be exchanged, Much more, then, should Christians who have not had any
private Epistle of their own benefit by the public Scriptures. Special wants
are not primary wants. The great need of revelation is common to all. The
fundamental truths of the gospel are needed by and offered to all. The
highest glories of revelation are for all.
III. OUR READING OF SCRIPTURE SHOULD NOT BE CONFINED
TO ISOLATED FRAGMENTS. A Church which had been honoured by
receiving an apostolic Epistle written expressly for itself would be tempted
to depreciate other apostolic writings, or at least to consider that for its
own use its own Epistle was of paramount if not of exclusive importance.
It would be in danger of making its one Epistle its own New Testament, to
the disregard of all the rest. But the advice of St. Paul shows that such an
action would be a mistake.
1. Our reading of Scripture should be wide and varied. We must beware
of confining our attention to favourite portions. By doing so we get onesided
views of truth, and probably, even if unconsciously, select what
seems to support our own notions to the neglect of what would modify
them. We may most need to read those Scriptures in which we feel least
2. Scripture balances and interprets Scripture. The doctrine of the Christ
which is the leading theme of the Epistle to the Colossians is closely related
to the doctrine of the Church which is the central subject of the so-called
Epistle to the Ephesians (that, probably, referred to by St. Paul as the
Epistle to the Laodiceans).
IV. THERE SHOULD BE INTERCOMMUNION BETWEEN
CHRISTIAN CONGREGATIONS. There is too much corporate
selfishness in the Church. We should be the better for more ecclesiastical
altruism, or rather communism.
1. This is most to be looked for between neighbours. Laodicea was near to
2. And it should be cultivated between the prominent and the obscure.
Laodicea was an important city, Colossae a small town. Yet the Churches
in the two places were to show brotherly sympathy on equal terms and to
be mutually helpful to one another. While the strong should help the weak,
the weak should beware of selfishness and do their best to serve the strong.
Ver. 18. —
“Remember my bonds.”
St. Paul’s occasional references to his bonds are never thrust forward in the
spirit of the histrionic martyr and never expressed in a murmuring tone, but
they evince the irksome restraints under which he laboured, and they give a
certain pathos to his entreaties. To be always chained to a soldier, possibly
one of rude and coarse manners, must have been peculiarly distressing to a
man of sensitive, refined disposition like St. Paul. Feeling the burden of his
bonds, the apostle prays his readers to remember them.
I. REMEMBER THEM IN SYMPATHY. It is something to know that
friends are feeling with us, when they can do nothing directly to remove the
cause of trouble. The lowliest may help the greatest by his sympathy. An
apostle seeks the sympathy of obscure Christians. Christ looked for the
support of his disciples’ sympathy in the hour of his greatest agony, and
had the last drop of his bitter cup in the failing of that sympathy
II. REMEMBER THEM IN PRAYER. When we cannot work for our
brother’s release from trouble, we may pray. With all the power of Rome
at his back, Nero cannot prevent the feeble Christians from having recourse
to the mighty weapon of prayer. Let us beware of a selfish narrowness of
sympathy in prayer. There are always many calls for prayers of
intercession. Very touching is the ancient prayer that has come down to us
from the dark ages of persecution, and is presented in the so-called ‘Divine
Liturgy of St. James:’ “Remember, O Lord, Christians sailing, travelling,
sojourning in strange lauds; our fathers and brethren, who are in bonds,
prison, captivity, and exile; who are m mines, and under torture, and m
THEM IN GRATITUDE.
the gospel. The real cause of his imprisonment was the persecution of the
Jews, who were more bitter to his liberal version of Christianity than to the
more Judaistic Christianity of the other apostles. Thus he described himself,
“I Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus in behalf of you Gentiles”
(<490301>Ephesians 3:1). Therefore his bonds merit our grateful memory; and
the sufferings of the champions of Christian liberty merit similar reverent
and grateful recollections. It is well that these memories should be handed
down from father to son, that the stories of the heroes of Christendom
through whose toils and sufferings we now enjoy so many privileges should
be taught to our children.
IV. REMEMBER THEM IN REVERENCE FOR ST. PAUL’S
AUTHORITY. His bonds lend weight to his words. They prove his
sincerity. They are a reason for listening to his entreaties. By his sufferings
he entreats us to walk worthily of our Christian calling. So the greater
sufferings of a greater Friend give force to his persuasion when he bids us
follow him. — W.F.A.