The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Colossians 4

Col 4:2

DEVOTE YOURSELF TO PRAYER: In one area of Africa where Christianity began to spread, converts were zealous about daily devotions. They would find their own spot within the wild thickets and pour their hearts out to God. After some time the spots became well-worn, and paths were created. Soon, one's prayer life was made public. If someone began to neglect his or her devotional life, it would soon be noticed by others. Believers would then gently and lovingly remind those in neglect, "The grass grows on your path."' How many of us have grass growing on our paths? Do you even remember where your path is any more? Remember, Jesus told us that "we should always pray and not lose heart" (Luk 18:1), and Paul told us to "always rejoice, constantly pray, and in everything give thanks" (1Th 5:16-18). Wherever you are, whoever you are, stop, pause, find your path, clear the grass away, walk down it, and pray!

Col 4:5

MAKE THE MOST OF EVERY OPPORTUNITY: "Redeem the time" (KJV). "Exagorazo" = to buy out of the marketplace: see Lesson, Redemption. What is being "bought"? If we are prudent, we are using the minutes and hours and days we have been given to "buy up the opportunities" in daily life to serve and glorify our Heavenly Father.

"Love, thankfulness, and knowledge of God: we never have enough. We never begin to have enough. The amount God will judge us by is the amount we could have developed in the time, opportunity, and ability He has given each one. Are we, as commanded, 'redeeming the time' -- every moment? Or are we wasting it in folly and self-pleasing? What a tragedy to appear at the judgment seat of Christ in our cute little play-suit, full of jokes and games, but with our lamps and minds dark and empty! Who dares contemplate the shame and the hopeless remorse?" (GVG).

If we had to buy time, would there be any difference in how we would spend it? Would the days of our lives be used more wisely? What if we had to pay in advance $100 an hour for the time allotted to us? Would we waste it?

Of course, we can't put a price tag on the minutes and hours we possess. They are given to us freely. But that doesn't excuse us from using them conscientiously, carefully, and wisely. The giver of time is God Himself, and that places a far greater value upon it than any monetary figure could suggest. We must therefore use our time intelligently, taking advantage of opportunities it provides for us to serve the Lord and to do His will.

"Those who make the worst use of their time are the first to complain of its brevity" (Jean de la Bruyere, 1645-1696). "Make each day useful and cheerful and prove that you know the worth of time by employing it well. Then youth will be happy, elders will be without regret, and life will be a beautiful success" (Louisa May Alcott).

Col 4:6

LET YOUR CONVERSATION BE ALWAYS FULL OF GRACE, SEASONED WITH SALT: // Eph 4:29: "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths." Our ordinary speech, as a sacrifice (Lev 2:13) and a prayer (Exo 20:35).

Col 4:9

ONESIMUS: Philemon's runaway slave on whose behalf Paul wrote the letter to Philemon. Col 4:9 connects him with Colosse. Escaping from his master, perhaps having also robbed him, Onesimus fled to Rome, hoping to escape detection amid its teeming population. He there somehow met Paul, through him was converted, and proved himself "profitable" and dear to Paul. Refusing to retain his services without his master's knowledge and consent, Paul returned Onesimus under the protection of Tychicus (Col 4:7-9), sending along also his masterful plea for his spiritual child. That Philemon granted Paul's plea need not be doubted.

OUR FAITHFUL... BROTHER: Examples of faithfulness in service: Samuel (1Sa 3:20); David (1Sa 22:14); the temple overseers (2Ki 12:15); the workers (2Ch 34:12); Hananiah (Neh 7:2); Abraham (Neh 9:8); the treasurers (Neh 13:13); Daniel (Dan 6:4); Timothy (1Co 4:17); Epaphras (Col 1:7); Tychicus (Col 4:7); Onesimus (Col 4:9); Paul (1Ti 1:12); Moses (Heb 3:2,5); Gaius (3Jo 1:5); Jesus Christ (Rev 1:5); Antipas (Rev 2:13).

Cp Luk 16:10; 2Ch 31:12.

Col 4:10

Vv. 10-15: The way in which individuals are able to send greetings, and that Paul is willing to include these greetings in such "important" letters, shows how highly the Father views the fellowship between His sons and daughters.

COUSIN: Gr "anepsios" was understood in the sense of "nephew" by the KJV translators, but the word did not take on this meaning until after the NT age (EBC).

Col 4:11

The aspects of fellowship: fellow-heirs (Eph 3:6); fellow-soldiers (Phi 2:25); fellow-helpers (3Jo 1:8); fellow-workers (Col 4:11); fellow-servants (Rev 6:11); fellow-prisoners (Rom 16:7); fellow-laborers (Phi 4:3); fellow-citizens (Eph 2:19).

Col 4:12

EPAPHRAS: A "beloved fellow servant" and a "faithful minister of Christ," held in high esteem by Paul (Col 1:7-8; 4:12-13). In Phm 1:23 he is referred to as "my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus." While the name is a contracted form of Epaphroditus, most do not connect him with the Philippian man of that name in Phi 2:25-30.

From Col 1:6-7 it appears that Colosse has received "the grace of God in truth" not from Paul himself but from Epaphras. On the basis of Col 4:13, he had been Paul's representative in evangelizing not only Colosse, but also Laodicea and Hierapolis. Later he shared Paul's imprisonment and sent greetings to Philemon.

HE IS ALWAYS WRESTLING IN PRAYER FOR YOU: This is a very beautiful epitaph on a good man's life. Amid all the crowding interests of Epaphras' visit to Rome, his heart was with his friends. He strove for them in prayer. It was no passing thought that he voiced; no light breathing of desire; no formal mention of their names. It seemed as though he were a wrestler, whose muscles strained as he agonized for the prize. He labored. We shall never know, till we stand in the clear light of God's kingdom, how much has been achieved in the world by prayer.

Here, at least, there is mention of a man's labors. Probably the work on the results of which we are inclined to pride ourselves is due less to us than we suppose, and more to unrecognized fellow laborers. Let us be careful to mingle much intercession with all our prayers, especially on behalf of other workers, that they may realize we are actually working and laboring beside them.

Col 4:13

HIERAPOLIS: A city built on a high terrace overlooking the valley of the Lycus River in the western part of the Roman province of Asia, about six miles north of Laodicea. It was famous for its hot springs, which made it a health resort, and for the Plutonium, a crevasse in the rock which emitted poisonous gases, supposedly the domain of the Phrygian fertility goddess Leto. The ecclesia in Hierapolis was probably founded by converts of Paul, and was associated closely with the ecclesia in Colosse (Col 4:13).

Col 4:14

LUKE, THE DOCTOR: The author of the third Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles is mentioned by name in three passages of the NT (Col 4:14; Phm 1:24; 2Ti 4:11). It may be inferred from these verses that Luke was a physician and a fellow worker of Paul. He accompanied the apostle in his first imprisonment in Rome and was Paul's sole companion during the second and final imprisonment. In Col 4:11,14 Luke is distinguished from the men of the circumcision.

From the 2nd century on the early church attributed both the third Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles to Luke. He is probably the only Greek to whom a book of the NT is traced. Luk 1:2 makes it unlikely that he was an eyewitness of the Gospel events. Some scholars believe that he collected the data for his Gospel, and perhaps wrote it, while Paul was imprisoned in Caesarea for two years.

DEMAS: Mentioned three times in the NT (Col 4:14; 2Ti 4:10; Phm 1:24). He was a believer, and was evidently with Paul when he wrote Col and Phm. Later, when writing 2Ti, Paul pens the dismal fact that Demas had forsaken him, "having loved this present world."

Col 4:15

NYMPHAS: "A prominent believer at either Colosse or Laodicea, whose house was used for worship, to whom Paul sent greetings (Col 4:15). The name occurs in the accusative form Nymphan, so that it is not certain whether it represents the male name Nymphas (KJV, ASV) or the female name Nympha (RSV, NEB, NASB). The pronoun 'his' occurs in Codex D and other Gr mss, while 'her' is found in Codex B, in the phrase 'and the church which is in his [her] house' " (WyE).

Col 4:16

THE LETTER FROM LAODICEA: Poss the same letter sent to Ephesus; a circular letter to the ecclesias of Asia Minor.

Col 4:17

ARCHIPPUS: Mentioned twice in the NT (Col 4:17; Phm 1:2). In Col 4:17, Archippus is urged to take heed to his ministry. Paul is here perhaps commending Archippus for past service and encouraging him for future tasks, with no thought of a rebuke. In Phm 1:2, Paul greets Archippus after Philemon and Apphia in a manner suggesting he may have been their son, and calls him a "fellow soldier," likely because Archippus had shared with Paul in some experience of service or suffering for the sake of Christ (cf Phi 2:25).

Col 4:18

REMEMBER MY CHAINS: As Paul wrote this final salutation, it is probable that the chains bound about his wrists moved across the page.

GRACE: "The first and the last word in the story of redemption" (BCol 189).
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