Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.
Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;CHAPTER 4
1. Prayer and ministry (Colossians 4:2-4)
2. Walking in wisdom (Colossians 4:5-6)
3. The fellowship of the saints in their service (Colossians 4:7-17)
4. The conclusion (Colossians 4:18)
The first verse of this chapter belongs to the preceding one. Prayer is the most needed thing for those who are risen with Christ and know that they are complete in Him. Without continued prayer the full realization of the great truths unfolded in this Epistle is impossible. Communion with God makes it all real. “Continue steadfastly in prayer, and watch therein with thanksgiving.” The knowledge of our position in Christ, that we are in Him and have all in Him teaches us our dependence on Him. The more we enter into all these things the greater will be our sense of the need of prayer and real communion with God. The new man yearns for this. All the exhortations to seek the things which are above, to set the mind on those things and not on earthly things, to keep in the place of death the members which are on the earth, to put on the new man and manifest Christ, are impossible without prayer. (Those who boast of being complete in Christ and treat prayer slightingly show thereby how little they know of the real spiritual meaning of being dead with Christ and risen with Him.) Without continued prayer the reality and power of our position and blessing in Christ is on the wane and soon lost. It is through prayer that we lay hold of all; it is the means by which we enter deeper into His knowledge. Prayer is, therefore, the greatest need for those who are risen with Christ. And while we express in this way our utter dependence on Him, conscious of Himself and our union with Him, He also delights in our fellowship. We can bring all to Him, “nothing is too small to enlist His love; nothing too great for His strength, and nothing too difficult for His wisdom.” And there must be perseverance in it; a broken and interrupted communion soon tells in the life of the believer. No other way to know and enjoy our portion in Christ, to advance in it and be victorious in the conflict which is ours in a world of evil, than continued, steadfast prayer, communion with God. In prayer we are “to watch therein and be thankful”--”Watch and pray” our Lord said to His disciples in the garden, and while He prayed more earnestly they slept (Matthew 26:41). And again it is written, “Be ye therefore sober and watch unto prayer” (1Peter 4:7). Our thoughts wander and our infirmities often become very evident in the exercise of this blessed privilege. We must watch before we pray, watch while we pray and watch after we have prayed, and watch for the answer, not impatiently, but in child-like faith. The spirit of praise and thanksgiving is needed for this watching. The apostle next requests prayer for himself and the ministry of the mystery of Christ. “At the same time praying also for us, that God may open unto us a door of 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.” This blessed man of God was in the prison. From the Epistle to the Philippians we learned how unselfish he was. And here is another evidence. He might have requested united prayer for his deliverance, for divine interference in his behalf as it happened to Peter when he was imprisoned; he might have asked the prayers of the saints that his needs might all be supplied. As risen with Christ he is above these earthly circumstances. His request is for prayer for the gospel, the mystery of Christ, so preciously told out in the first part of this Epistle. God must open the door for this. How humble and dependent he was! What a contrast with present day professional evangelism! And for the open door to preach the gospel; to speak the mystery of Christ effectively, the saints of God must continue to pray and watch confidently for the answer. In praying for the Word that it may have free course and be glorified (2Thessalonians 3:1), we can have all boldness and expectation. Such prayers have God’s approval and answer.
Towards those who are without, the unsaved, believers with the profession of being risen with Christ, for whom Christ is all, must walk in wisdom. What we are in Christ, the grace which has saved us, the love of God which is shed abroad in our hearts must be made known in our intercourse with those who know not Christ. How great is our failure! And why? Because we are not constantly occupied with our Lord and our heavenly position in Him. Lack of real communion with God and prayer for the gospel, in behalf of the unsaved about us, strips us of the power to walk in wisdom. “Redeeming the opportunity.” It means to bear witness to those without when the proper time for it presents itself And when the opportunity comes the word spoken is to be “always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer each one.”
The words which follow these exhortations bring out the fellowship of saints and their different services. Tychicus is mentioned first. We find his name also in Acts 20:4; Ephesians 6:21; 2Timothy 4:12 and Titus 3:12. With Onesimus he was the bearer of this Epistle, as well as the Epistle to the Ephesians, while Onesimus carried also the letter to Philemon. Three things has Paul to say of Tychicus. He calls him the beloved brother, well known because he was a faithful minister, who preached faithfully the gospel and as such he was for the apostle a fellow-servant in the Lord. He sent him to the Colossians to tell them about his own state, and that he might know their state and comfort their hearts. “We see how Christian love delights to communicate and to hear. It was his confidence in their love; and this is shown not merely in his desire to hear about them, but in the conviction that they would like to hear about him. Can anything be sweeter than this genuine simplicity of affection and mutual interest? In a man it would be vain and curious; it is blessed in a Christian. No right-minded man, as such, could take for granted that others would care to know about his affairs any more than he theirs, unless indeed in case of a relation, or a friend, or a public and extraordinary personage. But here writes the lowly-minded apostle, in the full assurance that, though he had never seen them, or they him, it would be real and mutual gratification to know about one another from him who went between them. What a spring of power is the love of Christ! Truly charity is ‘the bond of perfectness.’ ‘And my state shall Tychicus declare unto you, who is a beloved brother, and a faithful minister and fellow-servant in the Lord; whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that he might know your state, and comfort your hearts; with Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They shall make known unto you all things which are done here”‘ (W. Kelly). Onesimus, the once good for nothing slave, the runaway also is called a faithful and beloved brother. The Epistle to Philemon will tell us more of this. Then there was Aristarchus (Acts 19:29; Acts 20:4) who was a fellow-prisoner of Paul and also a fellow-worker (Philemon 1:24). And how delightful to find Mark here, the sister’s own son to Barnabas. Twelve years before, he left the work (Acts 13:13) and was the occasion of the deplorable separation between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:26-40). But now he is seen restored. (See also 2Timothy 4:11.) The third fellow-worker for the kingdom of God, who was a comfort to the prisoner of the Lord, was Jesus Justus. These sent their greetings, as also did Epaphras. Him the Colossians knew well for this servant of Christ was one of them. He is an example of a praying saint. He continued steadfastly in prayer for them. He prayed, yea, he agonized (such is the Greek word) in prayer for the Colossians, that they might stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. He knew their danger; he had as a faithful minister communicated some of these things to the apostle. Knowing the Colossian condition, he prayed fervently. His ministry was the ministry of prayer. Paul adds his own word of commendation and approval. “For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis.” Though the Laodiceans were probably even then drifting into the lukewarm condition which the Lord from heaven so fully uncovered later (Revelation 3:1-22), this servant of Christ did not stand aside, but had a prayerful and loving interest in them. Luke and Demas sent their greetings. Luke, the beloved physician, is the inspired author of the Gospel which bears his name. He also was with Paul in Rome as he was for some time his travelling companion. What a comfort the beloved physician must have been to the prisoner of the Lord! Demas is mentioned, but not a word is said about him. Was even then the evil working in his heart, which later broke out? No doubt it was. A short time afterward we read his sad story. “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present age” (2Timothy 4:10). “Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas and the church which is in his house. And when this Epistle is read among you, cause that it be also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea “ (Colossians 4:15-16). (This must have been the Epistle to the Ephesians. See our introduction to Ephesians.) One more message is given. “And say to Archippus, take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfill it.” He probably had become in one of these cities the instrument for ministry. This he had received from the Lord. He alone can call into the ministry and bestow gifts. Whatever our ministry is, faithfulness in the exercise of it is the important thing.
“The salutation by the hand of me, Paul. Remember my bonds. Grace be with you.” Like other Epistles, except Galatians (Galatians 6:11) and Philemon 1:19), this letter was dictated to an amanuensis. But this closing verse was written with his own hand. (See also 1Corinthians 16:21; 2Thessalonians 3:17.) And when he added these words the chain was upon his hand. “Remember my bonds.” We may look upon it as a delicate excuse for not having written the whole letter to the Colossians, whom he knew not personally. At the same time the mentioning of his bonds were to remind them that he is the prisoner of the Lord for the Gentiles (Ephesians 3:1). Grace be with you. Blessed be God that His Grace will always be with His people.