Chapter Four
Copyright ©1998, Charles Hess, Ridgefield, Washington
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In the previous chapter, Paul gave instructions about practical living (see Col 3:18). The present chapter[ 1 ] continues with obligations of masters and servants, prayer, use of time and sound speech (Col 4:1-6). As the letter nears a close, Paul mentions the sending of Tychicus and Onesimus with news from prison. Greetings are extended from Aristarchus, Mark, Jesus called Justus, Epaphras and Luke. Paul instructs the Colossians to exchange letters with Laodicea. A memorandum addressed to Archippus advises him to fulfill his ministry. Paul ends the letter by asking his readers to "Remember my imprisonment."


4:1 Masters, give your slaves what is just and fair, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.


    (Col 4:1)
  1. Render to all their dues; tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor (Ro 13:7).
  2. Masters, do the same things to them, and forbear threatening (Eph 6:9).
  3. Masters, give your slaves what is just and fair (Col 4:1).
  4. Observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing by partiality (1Ti 5:21).
  5. Do not make distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts (Jas 2:4).

Masters.[ 2 ] Philemon was one of the Christians at Colossae. He owned at least one slave named Onesimus (see note on verse 9; Phm 10).

Give your slaves [render unto your servants, treat your slaves].[ 3 ] Christian love is to be extended to the lowliest as well as to the most affluent people. "Listen, my beloved brethren, did not God choose those who are poor as to the world to be rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he promised to them that love him?" (Jas 2:5). It is against God's will to show partiality. "But if you have respect of persons, you commit sin" (Jas 2:9).

What is just and fair [that which is just and equal, justly and fairly].[ 4 ] One aspect of what is just and fair is explained in Ephesians 6:9, "And you masters, do the same things to them, and forbear threatening." What are the "same things"? They are good things. The servant who does "whatever good thing" will "receive again from the Lord" (Eph 6:8). In that passage, slave or freeman is said to KOMISETAI receive again or carry off to judgment whatever good he does (see paragraph below). Christian masters, in order to be just and fair, gave thought to providing for their slaves life's necessities, a wage and some form of retirement (see chart BEING JUST AND FAIR).

Knowing that you also have a Master in heaven [ye also have a Master in heaven].[ 5 ] A master is commanded to treat his slaves according to the golden rule (Mt 7:12; Lu 6:31). The reason is that he too will "receive again" or "carry off to judgment" what he has done. Every master desires right treatment from his own Master (Christ). In like manner, he ought to give fair and good treatment to his own servants. God is no respecter of persons. He will not overlook an "important" master's sins nor will he be lenient to a slave because of his humble position.


4:2-4 Constantly engage in prayer, being watchful in this with thanksgiving, 3 while you also pray for us, that God may open a door for the word so we may speak the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned, 4 so I may make it known, as I ought to speak.


    (Col 4:2)
  1. Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His face evermore (1Ch 16:11).
  2. Take with you words and return to the Lord; say to Him, "Take away all iniquity and accept that which is good" (Ho 14:2).
  3. Constantly engaging in prayer (Ro 12:12).
  4. With all prayer and supplication praying at all seasons in the Spirit (Eph 6:18).
  5. In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God (Php 4:6).
  6. Pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks (1Th 5:17).
  7. That the men pray in every place (1Ti 2:8).

Constantly engage in prayer [continue in prayer].[ 6 ] Since the days of Enos, people have been praying (Ge 4:26). The early church took full advantage of this exalted privilege. "They continued steadfastly in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers" (Ac 2:42; compare 4:23-31; 12:5). Paul admonishes his readers to hold on to prayer with strength and not let it drop (see footnote). He urges them to continue and not slacken, whether in public or private prayer.


    (Col 4:2)
  1. Breakup of marriages.
  2. Covetousness (cars, clothes, houses, money).
  3. Drifting from sound doctrine.
  4. Lying, cheating, stealing
  5. Abortion.
  6. Non-Christian and apostate religions.


    (Col 4:2)
  1. Lukewarmness.
  2. Materialism, houses, cars, clothes, boats.
  3. New age.
  4. Satanism
  5. Substance abuse.
  6. Unbelief.


    (Col 4:2)
  1. Watch therefore for you know not the day nor the hour (Mt 25:13).
  2. My soul is exceedingly sorrowful even to death; abide here and watch (Mk 14:33).
  3. Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when he comes shall find watching (Lu 12:37).
  4. So then let us not sleep as do the rest but let us watch and be sober (1Th 5:6).


    (Col 4:2)
  1. Watch for sin in self and in the church (implied by Eze 3:17, 18; Ac 20:26, 27, 28).
  2. Watch for the Lord's coming (Mt 25:13; Lu 12:37; Re 3:11; 16:15).
  3. Watch for danger (Mk 14:33; 1Th 5:6).
  4. Watch with a view to faithfulness and restoration (1Co 16:13; Re 3:2).
  5. Watching thereunto in all perseverance and supplication (Eph 6:18).


    (Col 4:2)
  1. Be alert to temptation (Mt 26:41; 1Co 10:12; Ac 20:31; 1Co 10:12).
  2. Be alert regarding thanksgiving (Col 4:2).
  3. Because the devil is seeking whom he may devour (1Pe 5:8).
  4. That no one take your crown (Re 3:11).

Being watchful in this with thanksgiving [and watch in the same, being watchful in it, with thanksgiving].[ 7 ] "Being watchful" means to be alert in something, in this case, prayer. One reason to watch is to avoid temptation and sin. Elders and others need to be watching for ways to strengthen churches. They need to be looking out for souls. They must be alert to dangers in the brotherhood, especially, in the local congregation (see charts DANGERS A and B). They (and we all) ought to give attention to effective evangelistic strategies, special efforts to reinforce the faith of the members and ways to strengthen families (compare Tit 3:1; Heb 13:17; see charts WATCHFULNESS; WATCHING WITH A PURPOSE A and B).


Christians are just as mindful of giving thanks as they are of asking God for favors. Thanksgiving is an expected response to God's providence. It naturally unfolds out of gratitude for everything God has done. He has provided salvation from sin, fellowship for His people, daily forgiveness, essentials and, for some, luxurious accommodations. By His providence, He arranges special circumstances recognizable as responses to particular prayers and supplications. There is no reason to grow careless or to neglect thanksgiving (see charts GIVE THANKS; PAUL GIVES THANKS at Col 1:12; THANKSGIVING STRESSED BY PAUL at Col 2:7).


    (Col 4:2)
  1. For the church, its elders, teachers and sweet fellowship.
  2. For God's love, mercy and grace.
  3. For God's power, truth and faithfulness.
  4. For God's special providence for His people.
  5. For what Jesus did for the salvation of man.
  6. For the revealed word.
  7. For opportunities to teach the truth.

While you also pray for us [withal praying, and pray, for us also]. Specifically, Paul urges his readers to be alert in prayer for great doors of opportunity to be opened for him.


    (Col 4:3)
  1. For utterance, opening mouth to teach.
  2. That hearers [such as Onesimus] would come (Phm 10).
  3. To preach before Nero and others at his trial.
  4. By his release, to go to the hearers [Spain, etc.].

That God may open a door for the word [would open unto us a door of utterance, may open to us a door for the word].[ 8 ] While chained to a guard, Paul requests prayer that a door for the word be opened (Eph 6:20). We know it was God's will that he "bear witness in Rome" (Ac 23:11). This he did to many Jews and others who came to see him (Ac 28:17, 22, 28, 30, 31). The door was opened for them to come to his rented house. For another thing, he had in mind being released and going to Spain (Ro 15:24, 28). His prayer could possibly have a four-fold answer (see chart DOORS OF OPPORTUNITY).

In some churches, worship has become formal and ritualistic. Sometimes prayers are actually read from a book![ 9 ] Acceptable prayers are offered for the sick and for those who are involved in catastrophes. It is not my purpose to be critical of these efforts but to suggest that more prayers be offered in behalf of teaching the precious word of God.

So we may speak the mystery of Christ [to speak, to declare, the mystery of Christ].[ 10 ] To "speak the mystery of Christ" is to preach the gospel. During Paul's final Roman imprisonment, in answer to prayer, the Lord strengthened him so that "all the Gentiles" might hear the gospel (see 2Ti 4:17).[ 11 ]

For which I have also been imprisoned [on account of which I am in prison].[ 12 ] The Greek perfect tense indicates that Paul was bound (imprisoned) at some point in the past and remained so. Apparently, he was secured to a guard with one chain (see verse 18; note on Eph 6:20). He was in prison not just because he preached the word of God but because he preached it to Gentiles. The Jews saw to it that he was jailed for that (see Ac 21:27-36; 22:21).

So I may make it known as I ought to speak [that I may make it manifest, clear, as I ought to speak].[ 13 ] Paul's aim was to preach the truth in spite of imprisonment or persecution. To speak as he ought involved not only inspiration but energy, ability and great courage.


4:5 Walk in wisdom in the presence of outsiders, making full use of the time.

Walk in wisdom [conduct yourselves wisely]. There are many optional and personal matters in which wisdom should play a major part. Other things are not optional. For example, God has set definite moral limits for His people. To some extent, He has prearranged aspects of their daily walk. Nonetheless, He allows free choice in details such as occupation, education and, to some degree, speech, dress and personality. The first and most important facet of wisdom is to honor God's will in everything. "Free choices" must always lie within Scriptural limits.

In the presence of outsiders [toward them that are without]. The words and actions of Christians are watched by outsiders. They are observed in restaurants, stores, in the work-place, in schools and the whole neighborhood. Non-christians have a right to expect them to practice self-control, to work diligently and/or supervise fairly. They are expected to be clean in speech, fair in sports and upright in morals. Christians realize they must never curse, cheat or lie. They show compassion and courtesy. They "walk becomingly," decently,[ 14 ] honestly and properly, especially when under stress (1Th 4:11-12).

The way a Christian conducts himself and the way he presents the truth has a great deal to do with his effectiveness. An arrogant, harsh manner may drive some people farther away from Christ. Adequate preparation is essential. A teacher who knows his lessons well is more engaging than he who serves up "stale spiritual hash."


    (Col 4:5)
  1. Accidents.
  2. Births.
  3. Grief.
  4. Illnesses.
  5. The Internet.
  6. New neighbors.
  7. Times of rejoicing.
  8. Weddings.

Making full use of the time [redeeming, making the most of, the time].[ 15 ] Christians look for opportunities to teach and to do deeds of kindness. They avoid doing or saying anything that might prejudice an outsider against the Bible or the church. They choose to do what best allows Christ to be seen in them (see Mt 5:16).

My wife is quite frugal. When a store runs a special sale, as a wise shopper, she makes sure to buy the limit, that is, if the items are needed. Before outsiders, the Christian's life is like that. In order to exemplify Christ and to teach effectively, advantage should be taken of all opportunities. Various special events may be used to make an impression for good (see chart OPPORTUNITIES; compare Eph 5:15, 16).

Here is a caution about behavior before outsiders. Christians as a whole may be ridiculed because of the inappropriate words and actions of an unworthy few. Be careful not to judge others too hastily or become fanatical or hateful. There is no need to stand so straight that one bends over backward. There is no reason to make matters worse by pointlessly antagonizing the enemy. However, one must be firm in upholding what is right. One must never compromise truth. One must be careful not to encourage sinful practices. In emergency situations such as during persecution, one's light shines brighter. It is vital not to succumb to temptation or deny the Lord.


4:6 Always let your speech be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.

Always let your speech be with grace [let your speech be always, alway, with grace, always be gracious]. Christians are forbidden to be cantankerous. Surly, cutting remarks, foul language and corrupt speech are not only inappropriate, they are sinful. Christians must avoid all detracting words while using wisdom as they speak with kindness and grace.

Seasoned with salt.[ 16 ] One must think before he speaks. The perfect tense[ 17 ] of "having been seasoned" suggests that thought ought to precede speech. Salt symbolizes wholesomeness, prudence and wisdom. Bible wisdom, purity and kindness are counterparts to the non-Christian's clever, cutting, and off-color remarks. The preserving power of salt keeps the Christian from using the rotten speech condemned in Ephesians 4:29 and 5:4. It is a good idea to pray[ 18 ] before speaking, especially when under duress.

That you may know how you ought to answer each one [that, so that, ye, you, may know, how ye ought to answer each one, every one, every man]. Christians are asked multitudinous questions by outsiders. Some questions are asked merely for ridicule but others are asked in sincerity. Wisdom dictates how to answer. It is a guide whether to answer a fool according to his folly or not (see Pr 26:4, 5).


4:7-9 All my affairs will be made known to you by Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow-slave in the Lord, 8 whom I have sent to you for this very purpose, that you may know our circumstances, and that he may encourage your hearts, 9 together with Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will make known to you everything that has happened here.

All my affairs [all my state, all about my affairs].[ 19 ] Tychicus and Onesimus had firsthand knowledge of conditions in the prison where Paul was incarcerated. They would report to the Colossians details of his circumstances, his faith and his outreach.

Will be made known to you by Tychicus [shall Tychicus make known unto you, declare unto you, Tychicus will tell you]. Like Timothy and Erastus, Tychicus "ministered to" Paul (compare Ac 19:22). He went as far as Asia on Paul's third journey (Ac 20:4). He was with him when he sent the Colossian letter. He and Onesimus delivered it. Since Ephesus was about 100 miles west and on their route to Colossae, no doubt they delivered the Ephesian letter first (Eph 6:21), assuming they came from Rome.[ 20 ]

A beloved brother [he is a, who is a, the, beloved brother]. To receive a compliment from the Apostle was a great honor. Let elders, preachers and teachers follow his example and compliment that which is good in worthy, mature saints, not forgetting children and weaker, growing members.

And faithful minister [and a faithful minister].[ 21 ] Tychicus was both a beloved brother and a faithful minister. With this recommendation, undoubtedly he would be well-received by the churches in Asia Minor (Turkey).

And fellow-slave in the Lord [and fellow-servant in the Lord].[ 22 ] It is interesting that Tychicus is called a slave while Onesimus (the runaway slave) is called a faithful brother. Tychicus had devoted his life to God's service. Paul and Timothy, having devoted their lives to God, were also called His DOULOI bondservants (Php 1:1).

[4:8] Whom I have sent to you for this very purpose [I have sent him to you for this very purpose, for the same purpose].[ 23 ]

That you may know our circumstances [that ye may know our state, that you may know how we are, that he might know your estate].[ 24 ] There is a minor Greek textual variation which accounts for the different wordings.

And that he may comfort your hearts [may encourage, and comfort, your hearts]. The news reported by Tychicus would comfort the hearts of Paul's readers and diminish their anxiety. Paul's courageous faith would be an encouragement to them.

[4:9] Together with Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother [with, and with him, Onesimus, the faithful and beloved brother]. Onesimus[ 25 ] was a run-away slave from Colossae. Inasmuch as he was being sent back to his master along with the letter introducing him as a new Christian, there is a suggestion that his master Philemon also lived in Colossae (see Phm 10-12). For a discussion of masters and slaves see notes on Colossians 3:22-4:1.

Who is one of you [who is one of yourselves]. Onesimus had run away from Philemon. He found his way to Rome where he was converted by Paul. There is a hint that he had stolen money from his master and used it to travel (see Phm 18). He was now one of them, that is, a brother in Christ, a member of the church in Colossae.

They will make known to you everything that has happened here [shall make known unto you, will tell you, all things that are done here, of everything that has taken place here]. Even though many Christians to whom Paul wrote were not personally acquainted with him, they all must have heard about his great work, his persecution and, especially, his imprisonment. The Colossians would naturally want news about his work, living conditions and approaching trial.


4:10, 11 The following send you greetings: Aristarchus, my fellow-prisoner, and Mark, the cousin of Barnabas (about whom you received instructions: welcome him if he comes to you), 11 and Jesus, called Justus. These are the only ones from among the circumcision who are my fellow-workers in the kingdom of God, men who have been a comfort to me.

The following send you greetings: Aristarchus. Aristarchus was a Thessalonian who had helped carry the collection from Gentile churches to Jerusalem (Ac 19:29; 20:4). He subsequently went to Rome with Paul (Ac 27:2).

My fellow-prisoner.[ 26 ] Aristarchus was a prisoner along with Paul. So was Epaphras who was a Colossian (see Col 4:12; Phm 23). Both were probably in actual confinement.[ 27 ] Two of Paul's kinsmen, Andronicus and Junias were also Paul's fellow-prisoners, literally, "fellow war-captives" (see note on Ro 16:7).

Christians ought to be capturing prisoners of their own but not actual people. They should bring "every thought into captivity[ 28 ] to the obedience of Christ" (2Co 10:5).

And Mark, the cousin of Barnabas [sister's son to Barnabas].[ 29 ] Mark is believed to be the writer of the gospel that bears his name. It may have been written with Peter's assistance (compare 1Pe 5:13). Mark traveled with Paul and Barnabas from Jerusalem to Antioch (Ac 12:25), and went with them as a helper on their first missionary journey (Ac 13:5). At Perga, however, he returned to Jerusalem and did not complete the journey (Ac 13:13). Because of this, Paul refused to take him along on his second journey. So Paul took Silas to visit churches where Mark had not gone. And Barnabas took Mark to visit churches on Cyprus (Ac 15:36-40). Mark was able to regain Paul's confidence, however. In his second letter to Timothy he asked him to bring Mark with him because he could be very useful in the ministry (2Ti 4:11).

About whom you received instructions [touching whom ye received commandments].[ 30 ] Apparently, Paul had previously given the Colossians "instructions" or "commandments" about Mark. What they were, I do not know.

Welcome him if he comes to you [if he come unto you, receive him]. There are a few hints in Scripture that Mark made the journey to Colossae. We know that Peter had an interest in the work in Asia Minor (implied by 1Pe 1:1). Mark sent greetings to the Christians there, suggesting an acquaintance with them (1Pe 5:13). Again, assuming that Timothy was at Ephesus when Paul asked him to "Take Mark and bring him with you" (to Rome), Mark may have been somewhere nearby, possibly at Colossae (see 2Ti 4:11). Based on these hints alone, whether Mark made the trip to Colossae remains only in the realm of probability.

[4:11] And Jesus, called Justus [that is called, who is called, Justus]. Justus (a Latin name) has to do with integrity. With Jesus Justice, the list of Jewish Christians with Paul at Rome is concluded. The three men, Aristarchus, Mark and Jesus Justice, were working with Paul and provided him a degree of comfort.

These are the only ones from among the circumcision [these are the only men, who are of the circumcision].[ 31 ] Since the list of men concluding with Jesus called Justice were Jews, we infer that Luke and Demas,[ 32 ] who were also with Paul, must have been Gentiles (see verse 14).

Who are my fellow-workers [these only are my, are among my, fellow workers]. It was a great honor to be a fellow-worker of the Apostle. Besides sharing household tasks, his fellow-workers assisted in getting the gospel out to the millions in and around Rome.

In the kingdom of God [unto, for, the kingdom of God]. The fact that the men in the list were in the kingdom of God (in the church) testified of their greatness (see Mt 11:11).

Men who have been a comfort to me [men that have been, and they have been, a comfort to, unto, me].[ 33 ] The Greek word for "comfort" is found only here in the NT. It originally meant "an address" but it came to mean more than the mere comfort of words. In the present verse, it means comfort in a general sense. The pain-reliever paregoric, a camphorated tincture of opium, derives from the same Greek word.


4:12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a slave of Christ Jesus, greets you, always striving for you in his prayers, that you may stand complete and fully assured in all the will of God.

Epaphras, who is one of you [who is one of yourselves]. Epaphras, a Gentile, founded the church in Colossae. He had reported to Paul information about the church there (Col 1:7, 8).

A slave of Christ Jesus [a servant of Christ Jesus, a servant of Christ Jesus].[ 34 ] Epaphras was so devoted to Christ that he was called His slave. In that sense, he was like Paul, Timothy and others.

Greets you [saluteth you]. Although Epaphras may have been a thousand miles away, he remembered to greet his brethren in the Lycus valley.

Always striving for you in his prayers [always remembering you earnestly in his prayers].[ 35 ] Toiling and straining like an athlete in the games, Epaphras, like Paul, agonized in his prayers (see Col 1:29; 2:1). He had "great concern" or "much labor" for them as well as for the two neighboring churches, Hierapolis and Laodicea. His prayers for the brethren back home were fervent, specific and consistent from day to day.

That you may stand complete [that ye, you, may stand perfect, mature].[ 36 ] Epaphras had brought Paul a disappointing report of the Judaizing and Gnostic teachers at Colossae. No doubt, he desired to return home with the Colossian letter but he could not do so. He remained in prison (Phm 23). His prayers were for the Christians in his home community that they would stand perfect, strong, and mature in Christ.

And fully assured in all the will of God.[ 37 ] In his prayers, Epaphras assumed that, in the past, his brothers and sisters in Christ at Colossae had been fully assured in what the will of God required. As he prayed, he was confident that they were continuing in the same conviction (Greek perfect tense).


4:13 For I bear him witness, that he has much concern for you, and for those in Laodicea, and for those in Hierapolis.

For I bear him witness.[ 38 ] Paul had conversed with Epaphras about the Lord's work and had heard him pray.

That he has much concern for you [that he hath much labor for you, that he has worked hard].[ 39 ] Epaphras was in prison and could not immediately return home. In the prison, he must have recounted to Paul how very much he cared[ 40 ] for every soul in the tri-city churches (see the following paragraph). He knew the danger presented to them by false teachers.

And for those in Laodicea [and for them in Laodicea]. Laodicea and Hierapolis were some ten to twelve miles away from Colossae.

And for those in Hierapolis [and for them in Hierapolis]. Some have suggested that Epaphras established all three congregations in the Lycus valley. This may or may not have been the case. Nevertheless, he cared deeply for them.


4:14 Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas send you greetings.

Luke, the beloved physician.[ 41 ] The list of faithful workers continues with Luke and Demas. Luke, a Gentile, had joined Paul's travels in Troas (Ac 16:10). He was with him much of the time from then on, especially during his imprisonments (compare the "we" passages in Acts 16:7-13 and others; 2Ti 4:11). He must have been a friendly, caring person to earn the title "beloved."

And Demas send you greetings [salute you, and Demas greet you].[ 42 ] Apparently, during Paul's first imprisonment, Demas was a faithful Christian who served Paul (see Phm 24). He may have been a citizen of Thessalonica. At least he went there after he forsook Paul. His downfall was that he "loved this present world" (see note on 2Ti 4:10).


4:15  Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church that is in their house.

Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea [salute the brethren that are in Laodicea, give my greetings to the brethren at Laodicea]. Laodicea became known as the "lukewarm" church (see notes on Col 4:18; Re 3:14).

And Nymphas [and to Nympha].[ 43 ] Nymphas probably resided at or near Laodicea. Some have speculated that he (or possibly, she) was a slave-owner. The church met in Nymphas' residence. Various Greek texts have masculine and feminine spellings of the name. The same confusion is seen in the pronouns. I make no argument one way or the other, except to say that the mental capabilities of anyone who relies on this passage alone to put women in the pulpit are seriously challenged.

And the church that is in their house [and the church in her house].[ 44 ] It is difficult to determine the precise meaning because, in various manuscripts, the pronoun is "their," "her" or "his." Did the entire Ladodicean church meet in "their" house?[ 45 ]


4:16  And when this letter has been read aloud among you, be sure that it is also read aloud in the church of the Laodiceans, and that you also read the one from Laodicea.

And when this letter has been read aloud among you [and when this epistle hath been read among you].[ 46 ] Public reading of Scripture is encouraged. A good teacher reads the word or has it read and "gives the sense" (see Ne 8:8).

Be sure that it is also read aloud in the church of the Laodiceans [cause that it be read also, have it read also, in the church of the Laodiceans].[ 47 ] Before the entire NT was compiled in one volume, churches copied and shared available Scriptures. In the region around Colossae, it should have been quite easy to obtain copies of the Gospel of John and his epistles, the letters to the Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, Timothy and others.

And that you also read the one from Laodicea [and that ye also read the epistle, and see that you read also the letter, from Laodicea].[ 48 ] There has been much discussion about the letter from Laodicea.

Tertullian reported that the heretic Marcion "said the epistle to the Ephesians was written to the Laodiceans." Basil said the first verse of Ephesians originally read: "To the saints who are, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus," omitting the phrase "at Ephesus." The Vatican manuscript omits "at Ephesus" in Ephesians 1:1.[ 49 ] Lardner observed that all the ancient manuscripts and versions of Ephesians now extant have the words "to Ephesus," particularly, the Syriac, Vulgate, Persic, and Arabic.[ 50 ]

Ignatius of Antioch, while on his way to martyrdom,[ 51 ] wrote a letter from Smyrna to the Ephesians in which he quotes from Ephesians 2:21, adding these words, "You are initiates of the same mysteries as our saintly and renowned Paul of blessed memory." [ 52 ]

Since it is called a letter EK from Loadicea, it would not have to be a letter that was originally addressed to the church there, but it could be a letter of which they had a copy.

Because the Vatican manuscript omits the words "at Ephesus" in Ephesians 1:1, some have suggested -- although it is pure speculation -- that Tychicus might have made a copy of the Ephesian letter for Laodicea without the phrase "at Ephesus" (see Eph 6:21). This could account for the omission of "at Ephesus" in the manuscript from which the Vatican manuscript was copied.

Although it is often concluded that Philemon was from Colossae because Onesimus is called 'one of you' (Col 4:9), could not Onesimus have originally come from Colossae although he was a slave of Philemon elsewhere? Might the letter from Laodicea be the letter to Philemon? Could Nympha(s) be a member of the household of Philemon (for example, mother or father)?

Some have felt obligated to find some explanation to avoid a letter of Paul's having been "lost". And there are several possible explanations which would allow it to be one of the letters we have in the NT. On the other hand, just because Paul or some other inspired man in the first century wrote a letter, does not mean that the Holy Spirit intended for it to be preserved for future generations.[ 53 ] It is significant that none of the ancients mention or quote from any missing epistle of Paul.

In conclusion we must say that we simply do not know what letter this is. We may be sure, however, that if it is not among the books of the New Testament, the Holy Spirit did not intend for it to be preserved. Jesus promised, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away" (Mt 24:35).


4:17 And say to Archippus: See that you fulfil the ministry which you have received in the Lord.

And say to Archippus. Archippus is called the "fellow-soldier" of Paul and Timothy. It is probable that he was a member of Philemon's household (see the greeting in Phm 1, 2). Because of the phrase about his ministry in the present verse, "See that you fulfill the ministry" or "that you may fill it up" some have postulated that he was an older man.[ 54 ]

See that you fulfil the ministry [take heed to the ministry that thou fulfil it].[ 55 ] With Epaphras in Rome as Paul's fellow-prisoner, the work-load of Archippus would be more demanding. Paul encouraged Archippus to keep on working for the Lord.

Some men get tired and want to retire when their faith, knowledge and ability can still be a blessing to the church. To all, the message is: Fulfill your ministry.

Which you have received in the Lord [which thou hast received in the Lord]. The Lord expects each Christian to serve according to his own ability (compare Mt 25:15). The lesson to young and old alike is to fulfill your work in the service of the Lord. When you became a Christian, you started to work for Him. Now finish it!


4:18 By my hand, the greeting of Paul. Remember my imprisonment. Grace be with you.

By my hand, the greeting of Paul [the salutation of me Paul, I, Paul, write this greeting, with my, mine, own hand]. Apparently, Paul used an amanuensis or secretary to pen most of the Colossian letter but he authenticated it by his own hand-written greeting.

Remember my imprisonment [my bonds, fetters].[ 56 ] Paul's imprisonment had lasted many months during which time his right wrist was fastened with a chain to the left arm of a soldier.[ 57 ] All of his persecutions served to confirm the gospel of Christ. Christians are asked to remember his bonds. Those at Colossae were to remember him in prayer (see verse 2; note on Heb 13:3). All Christians ought to remember his fetters as a motivation to serve God under difficult circumstances.

Grace be with you. It was always Paul's earnest desire that God's saving and providential grace be with his readers.

It is of some interest that the cities of Colossae, Laodicea and Heirapolis were destroyed by an earthquake about two years after the Colossian letter was written. They were later rebuilt. The church at Laodicea was still in existence when the book of Revelation was written (see Re 3:14).


[ 1 ] The basic text in this chapter is the Old Paths Version (OPV). Quotations from Colossians are from the OPV unless otherwise noted. Alternate phrases are from the ASV, KJ and RSV.

[ 2 ] HOI KURIOI, the lords (Marshall 799); those who exercise power, lords, masters (Vine 728).

[ 3 ] TOIS DOULOIS PARECHESTHE, to the (your) slaves supply ye (Marshall 799); servants, frequently bond-servants or slaves.

[ 4 ] TO DIKAION KAI TEEN ISOTEETA, the just thing and the equality (Marshall 799); what is right and square (Williams); what is right and equal (Lenski 186).

[ 5 ] EIDOTES HOTI KAI HUMEIS ECHETE KURION EN OURANOO, knowing that also ye have a Lord in heaven (Marshall 799).

[ 6 ] TEE PROSKARTEREITE, in the prayer continue ye (Marshall 799); PROSKARTEREITE is second person plural, present active imperative of PROSKARTEREOO (Han 372); literally, to be strong towards, to attend constantly to, to persevere in.

[ 7 ] GREEGOROUNTES EN AUTEE EN EUCHARISTIA, watching in it with thanksgiving (Marshall 799); GREEGOROUNTES is the present active participle, nominative plural masculine of GREEGOREOO (Han 372); to watch, used of spiritual alertness (Vine 1213); [from EGEIROO to arise], to watch, to refrain from sleep. . . . denotes attention (Mk 13:34) to God's revelation or to the knowledge of salvation (1Th 5:6); a mindfulness of threatening dangers which, with conscious earnestness and an alert mind, keeps it from all drowsiness and all slackening in the energy of faith and conduct (Mt 26:38; Mk 14; 34, 37, 38; 1Th 5:6; 1Pe 5:8). It denotes the caution needed against anxiety resulting from the fear of the loss of one's salvation (1Co 16:13; Col 4:2; Re 16:15); the worry over the salvation and preservation of others (Ac 20:31; Re 3:2, 3). The general attitude of alertness on the part of the Christian believer, in view of actual or imminent tests of his spiritual life, is inculcated through the verb GREEGOREOO (Mt 24:42, 43; 25:13; 26:38, 40, 41; Mk 13:35; 14:34, 37, 38; Lu 12:37, 39). This involves the duty of vigilance combined with prayer in regard either to a certain day or hour when the Son of man shall arrive, or to some actual crisis or trial (especially the agony of Gethsemane), or as a preparation for some impending temptation. In Acts 20:31 it is found in the exhortation by Paul to the elders at Miletus in view of the apostasy that has taken place or may be repeated under the influence of "fierce wolves" [author's translation] (Zodhiates 384, 385); keeping alert in it (spiritual alertness).

[ 8 ] HINA HO THEOS ANOIXEE HEEMIN THURAN TOU LOGOU, in order that God may open to us a door of the word (Marshall 799).

[ 9 ] The fact that prayers are read does not necessarily invalidate them anymore than reading songs from a songbook weakens the worship in song. However, I cannot imagine Jesus or the apostles reading a written prayer.

[ 10 ] LALEESAI TO MUSTEERION TOU CHRISTOU, to speak the mystery of Christ (Marshall 799); LALEESAI is the first active infinitive of LALEOO (Han 372); the mystery=spiritual truth generally, as revealed in the gospel (Vine 769); to utter the mystery of Christ (Lenski 190); so that I may tell the open secret about Christ (Williams).

[ 11 ] It is believed that Paul used the opportunity of his final trial before Nero to preach the gospel to hundreds of people gathered in a Roman Forum, possibly the great Forum of Augustus.

[ 12 ] DI' HO KAI DEDEMAI, because of which indeed I have been bound (Marshall 799); DEDEMAI is first person singular, perfect passive indicative of DEOO (Han 372); for the sake of which I am held a prisoner (Williams); Greek perfect tense denotes the present state resultant upon a past action (Machen 452).

[ 13 ] HINA PHANEROOSOO AUTO HOS DEI ME LALEESAI, in order that I may manifest it as it behooves me to speak (Marshall 799); that I may make it public as I ought to utter it (Lenski 190); the NIV with "as I should" fails to translate some of the Greek.

[ 14 ] See EUSCHEEMONOOS becomingly in 1Co 14:40, sometimes translated "decently" or "properly."

[ 15 ] TON KAIRON EXAGORAZOMENOI, the time redeeming (Marshall 799); in the middle voice, to buy up for oneself . . . of "buying up the opportunity" (Vine 935); making the most of your opportunities (Williams).

[ 16 ] HALATI EERTUMENOS, with salt having been seasoned (Marshall 799); EERTUMENOS is the perfect passive participle, nominative singular masculine of ARTUOO (Han 372); to arrange, to make ready [compare ARTIOS fitted], used of seasoning; HALITI has to do with wisdom exhibited in speech (Vine 1006); metaphorically of wisdom and prudence (Zodhiates 119).

[ 17 ] The Greek perfect tense denotes the present state resultant upon a past action (Machen 452).

[ 18 ] For an example of praying before speaking, see Nehemiah 2:4, 5.
[ 19 ] TA KAT' EME PANTA, the things about me all (Marshall 799).

[ 20 ] Some think Tychicus relieved Titus in Crete but if so he did not stay long (see Tit 3:12). Shortly before Paul's martyrdom in AD 67, he was sent to Ephesus (2Ti 4:12) (Hester 256).

[ 21 ] KAI PISTOS DIAKONOS, and faithful minister (Marshall 800); servant; although "deacon" is a possible translation, because of the context, all agree it should be "servant" or "minister" here.

[ 22 ] KAI SUNDOULOS EN KURIOO, and fellow-slave in [the] Lord (Marshall 800); should be rendered fellow-bondservant. There is little uncertainty that the translations "fellow-slave" and "fellow-bondservant" are correct. A question arises because Paul had just used DIAKONOS servant before SUNDOULOS fellow-slave undoubtedly with different connotations.

[ 23 ] HON EPEMPSA PROS HUMAS EIS AUTO TOUTO, whom I sent to you for this very thing (Marshall 800); HON is singular and refers to Tychicus.

[ 24 ] HINA GNOOTE TA PERI HEMOON, in order that ye might know the things concerning us (Marshall 800); in order that you may get to know the things about us (Lenski 195).

[ 25 ] Some have identified Onesimus as a later elder of the church. He has also been named as the collector of Paul's letters (see John Knox, Philemon Among the Letters of Paul, page 98 and following, via Harrison 1344).

[ 26 ] HO SUNAICHMALOOTOS MOU, the fellow-captive of me (Marshall 800); a fellow-prisoner, primarily one of fellow-captives in war [from AICHMEE a spear, and HALISKOMAI to be taken], used by Paul of Andronicus and Junias, Romans 16:7; of Epaphras, Philemon 23; of Aristarchus, Colossians 4:10, on which Lightfoot remarks that probably his relations with the Apostle in Rome excited suspicion and led to a temporary confinement, or that he voluntarily shared his captivity by living with him (Vine 886).

[ 27 ] Some think Aristarchus and Epaphras stayed near Paul in the prison and, in that sense only, were prisoners, merely taking turns being under guard with Paul or living voluntarily with him in the same rented house.

[ 28 ] AICHMALOTIZONTES, captivity. Paul used a similar Greek word for "fellow-prisoner" (see a previous footnote).

[ 29 ] KAI MARKOS HO ANEPSIOS BARNABA, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (Marshall 800); ANEPSIOS in Colossians 4:10 denotes a cousin rather than a nephew (AV, "sister's son"). "Cousin" is its meaning in various periods of Greek writers. . . . In later writings, it denotes a nephew; hence the AV rendering (Vine 242).

[ 30 ] PERI HOU ELABETE ENTOLAS, concerning whom ye received commandments (Marshall 800).

[ 31 ] HOI ONTES EK PERITOMEES HOUTOI MONOI, the [ones] being of [the] circumcision these only (Marshall 800); the NIV has an interpretation here rather than a translation: "These are the only Jews."

[ 32 ] Demas' identity as a Gentile is not certainly known.

[ 33 ] HOITINES EGENEETHEESAN MOU PAREEGORIA, who became to me a comfort (Marshall 800); PAREEGORIA is primarily an addressing, address, hence denotes a soothing, solace, Colossians 4:11. A verbal form of the word signifies medicines which allay irritation [English, paregoric] (Vine 200); to speak with, hence to exhort, console. Consolation, comfort, solace [using more than just words as PARAMUTHIA consolation implies] (Zodhiates 1119).

[ 34 ] DOULOS CHRISTOU 'IEESOU, a slave of Christ Jesus (Marshall 800).

[ 35 ] PANOTE AGOONIZOMENOS HUPER HUMOON EN TAIS PROSEUCHAIS, always struggling on behalf of you in the prayers (Marshall 800); AGOONIZOMENOS is the present middle participle, nominative singular masculine of AGOONIZOMAI (Han 372); to contend [English, agonize]; in Colossians 4:12, AV, AGOONIZOMAI, to strive, wrestle, is translated "laboring fervently" [RV and AV margin "striving"] (Vine 634, 1096).

[ 36 ] HINA STATHEETE TELEIOI, in order that ye may stand complete (Marshall 800); STATHEETE is second person plural, first aorist passive subjunctive of HISTEEMI (Han 372).

[ 37 ] KAI PEPLEEROPHOREEMENOI EN PANTI THELEEMATI TOU THEOU, and having been fully assured in all [the] will of God (Marshall 800); PEPLEEROPHOREEMENOI is the perfect middle participle, nominative plural masculine of PLEEROPHOREOO (Han 372); the perfect tense denotes the present state resultant upon a past action (Machen 452); to bring in full measure, to fulfil, also signifies to be fully assured, Romans 4:21, RV, of Abraham's faith. In 14:5 it is said of the apprehension of the will of God. So in Colossians 4:12 in the best manuscripts. In these three places it is used subjectively, with reference to an effect upon the mind (Vine 77); be brought to full measure of apprehending the will of God; literally, in every will. "Will" means the thing willed, [as Lu 12:47; Jas 5:3; 1Th 5:18] (Vincent 3.512, 513).

[ 38 ] MARTUROO GAR AUTOO, for I bear witness to him (Marshall 800).

[ 39 ] HOTI ECHEI POLUN PONON HUPER HUMOON, that he has much distress on behalf of you (Marshall 800); Received Text has ZEELON; ECHEI is third person singular, present active indicative of ECHOO (Han 372); read PONON labor, which occurs elsewhere only in Revelation 16:10, 11; 21:4, in the sense of pain. . . . PONOS has passed, in the NT, in every instance but this, into the meaning of pain (Vincent 3.513); that he has much concern about you; "labor" is not exact enough (Lenski 202, 203); [hard] labor, toil . . . . Theocritus [3rd century BC] has it in the sense of "take pains" with a participle . . . with difficulty, laboriously, painstakingly (Arndt 691); labor, toil, which is great trouble, intense desire (Thayer 531); how great his toiling for you is (Williams).

[ 40 ] Compare Paul's concern for the churches in the Lycus valley (Col 2:1).

[ 41 ] LOUKAS HO HIATROS HO AGAPEETOS, Luke the physician beloved (Marshall 801); the NIV explains rather than translates with "Our dear friend Luke, the doctor."

[ 42 ] ASPEZATAI HUMAS . . . KAI DEEMAS, greets you . . . and Demas (Marshall 801); contracted apparently from DEEMEETRIOS . . . a companion of Paul (Thayer 132).

[ 43 ] KAI NUMPHAN, and Nymphas (Marshall 801); Nymphas, a Christian inhabitant of Laodicea . . . marginal reading NUMPHAN, that is, Nympha, the name of a woman (Thayer 429); and to Nympha (Williams); member of a church in Laodicea, or Colossae, which met in his house (Zondervan 591).

[ 44 ] KAI TEEN KAT' OIKON AUTEES EKKLEESIAN, and the at [the] house of her church (Marshall 801); others AUTOON their . . . others, AUTEES her, regarding the name as female, Nympha. It is difficult, however, to know to whom the plural can refer. Some explain, Nymphas and his family. Meyer refers it to the brethren at Laodicea and Nymphas, and thinks that the allusion is to a foreign church in filial association with the church at Laodicea, and holding its meetings in the same place (Vincent 3.514); and the church that meets at her house (Williams); is the reading: "his"--"her"--or "their house"? (Lenski 205).

[ 45 ] Some have proposed that the church in "their house" was a foreign-language congregation that used the meeting place in Laodicea at an alternate hour. I find no convincing evidence for this view.

[ 46 ] KAI HOTAN ANAGNOOSTHEE PAR HUMIN HE EPISTOLEE, and whenever is read before you the (this) epistle (Marshall 801); ANAGNOOSTHEE is third person singular, first aorist passive subjunctive of ANAGINOOSKOO (Han 372); when this letter has been read to you (Williams).

[ 47 ] POIEESATE HINA KAI EN TEE LAODIKEOON EKKLEESIA ANAGNOOSTHEE, cause in order that also in the of [the] Laodiceans church it is read (Marshall 801); POIEESATE is second person plural, first aorist active imperative of POIEOO (Han 372); have it read to the church at Laodicea too (Williams).

[ 48 ] KAI TEEN EK LAODIKEIAS HINA KAI HUMEIS ANAGNOOTE, and the [one] of Laodicea in order that also ye read (Marshall 801); ANAGNOOTE is second person plural, second aorist active subjunctive of ANAGINOOSKOO (Han 372); and see to it that you too read the one that is coming from Laodicea (Williams).

[ 49 ] Conybeare 763. The words "at Ephesus" are bracketed in the New American Bible, a Roman Catholic Version, indicating the words are questioned. Goodspeed omits them entirely.

[ 50 ] Macknight 309.

[ 51 ] Ignatius was executed in Rome on December 19, AD 107.
[ 52 ] Staniforth 79. The careful reader should consult the Greek text of Ephesians 2:21 inasmuch as the English translation of Staniforth does not clearly express the precise meaning. The Greek of Ignatius' quotation is carried by Macknight, page 309.

[ 53 ] For instance, Paul himself mentions another letter to the Corinthians (1Co 5:9-12). Unquestionably, even without that particular letter, the Holy Spirit caused the preservation of every teaching that God intended to become a part of the NT (see 2Pe 1:3; Jude 3).

[ 54 ] Compare Bengelius.
[ 55 ] BLEPE TEEN DIAKONIAN HINA AUTEEN PLEEROIS, look [to] the ministry in order that it thou mayest fulfill (Marshall 801); "see to it that you continue until you fill full your ministry" (Williams); the NIV's "comment" is "See to it that you complete the work."

[ 56 ] MNEEMONEUETE MOU TOON DESMOON, remember ye of me the bonds (Marshall 801); the masculine plural [of DESMOS] stands frequently in a figurative sense for a condition of imprisonment (Vine 130); in bonds or imprisonment for the sake of the gospel (Zodhiates 1199).

[ 57 ] Macknight 345.

Copyright ©1998, Charles Hess, Ridgefield, Washington, U.S.A.
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