Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE DUTY OF MASTERS. It is here enforced only on its positive side.
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, and example.
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 and efficiently.
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.
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 the soul.
(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 therein, because
(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 remiss.
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. (Matthew 14:23, 25.)
III. THE DUTY OF JOINING THANKSGIVING WITH OUR SUPPLICATIONS AND OUR WATCHING,
2. We must thank him in praises.
3. God answers according to our gratitude for mercies received. - T.C.
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.
(1) Steadfastness in prayer, "Continue steadfastly in prayer." There is the same direction in 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 the mystery.
(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.
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.
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. Matthew 9:29; Mark 8:22-25). Hence the many exhortations to perseverance by parables (Luke 11:5-9; Luke 18:1-8), precepts (Romans 12:12; Ephesians 6:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:17, etc.), and recorded examples (Genesis 32:24; Exodus 32:9-13; Matthew 15:21-28; Acts 1:14; Acts 2:1-4. Paul's prayers (Philippians 1:4; 2 Timothy 1:3, etc.; 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 (Psalm 55:17; Psalm 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. Daniel 9:23; Daniel 10:12).
3. Thanksgiving. (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 (Psalm 63:7; Psalm 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," 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" (Psalm 84:11; Matthew 6:32), while in regard to spiritual blessings there need be no such conditional uncertainty (Matthew 7:9-11; 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 (Philemon 1:22). By prayer doors were opened in the first century (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 motives; e.g.:
1. Our necessity; for the work is too great for us apart from the help given through prayer.
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. (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 (Ephesians 6:19, 20)! We aim at the sublimest results (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 (2 Thessalonians 3:1, 2, etc.). - E.S.P.
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 (Acts 6:4). St. Paul exhorts the Roman Christians to this same steadfastness (Romans 12:12). It is requisite on many accounts.
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 intercession for Sodom, the parable of the importunate widow, etc.
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 other times.
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. Sometimes —
"Hosannas languish on our lips. 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" (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" (Romans 8:26). - W.F.A.
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" (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" (Romans 8:26). - W.F.A.
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. (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:
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" (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 (1 Thessalonians 5:5); with urgency (2 Timothy 4:2, 3, 5); with patience, constancy, and fear (1 Corinthians 4:9; 2 Corinthians 6:4; 2 Corinthians 4:8); with faithfulness (1 Corinthians 4:2); with zeal (2 Corinthians 5:11; 1 Thessalonians 2:12), - approving themselves in the sight of God to their hearers' consciences (2 Corinthians 2:17). - T.C.
I. THE PERSONS WHO ARE TO BE INFLUENCED BY OUR WALK, "Them that are without." Christians are those who are within (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" (1 Corinthians 5:13). Believers ought to have regard to such persons, not only in their prayers, but in the wisdom of their personal walk.
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" (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 believers
(1) walking in the light of God's Word (Psalm 119:1);
(3) walking in love to one another, without murmurings or disputings (Philippians 2:15, 19);
(5) walking in all patience and constancy under rebuke or injury (1 Peter 3:13-16).
2. Such a walk is influential toward unbelievers.
(1) A believer ought to be more careful of his walk before them than before believers.
(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" (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 (Ephesians 6:18; Luke 21:36). They must walk in the light before the night comes. The times may not always be favourable. - T.C.
1. THE CHRISTIAN'S RELATIONSHIP TO THE WORLD. It is implied:
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 the world.
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." - U.R.T.
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 (1 Corinthians 5:9-13; 1 Corinthians 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" (John 12:24, 25; Romans 14:7). To benefit others spiritually, the chief qualification is not gifts, but character. The lives of Christians are the world's Bible (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 (Ecclesiastes 10:1; Ephesians 5:15-17; 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 (Matthew 10:16; 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.
3. Christian charitableness. Be very strict in judging yourselves, but do not set up your own consciences as an infallible test for others (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:31 with 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 (Matthew 12:33). Illustrate from Elisha's treatment of Naaman (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 (Ephesians 5:16), even though at times it might appear to some to be "out of season" (2 Timothy 4:2; 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. Mark 9:38; Luke 9:54). Silence may at times be more "golden" than speech. Matthew 7:6 must be combined with Mark 16:15.
II. THE SPECIAL WISDOM NEEDED FOR PROFITABLE CONVERSATION. (Ver. 6; 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 (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. Job 6:6; Job 26:3). Let our rule be Elihu's (Job 33:3; cf. Psalm 37:30, 31; 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. Proverbs 20:4, 5 may both need to be observed (as by our Lord, Matthew 21:27; Matthew 22:21, 29). When questioned as to "the hope that is in us" (1 Peter 3:15) a weak answer may confirm doubts. Take as models the various answers and vindications of his faith given by St. Paul before the pagans of Athens, the Jews of Jerusalem and of Rome, Felix and 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" (Matthew 12:34; James 3:17). - E.S.P.
Colossians 4:5 (first clause)
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 (James 1:5).
1. This wisdom is practical. It concerns itself with behaviour rather than with speculation.
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 called for.
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.
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 (Psalm 40:11); and to minister grace to the hearers (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 (Proverbs 15:23),
(b) wholesome (Ephesians 4:29),
(c) kindly (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" (Proverbs 10:20; Proverbs 16:23). Our Lord said," Every one must be salted with fire, every sacrifice must be salted with salt" (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" (Acts 28:22).
(2) It is hard for carnally minded men to understand it, and therefore they gainsay it.
(3) There are men who "hold down the truth in unrighteousness" (Romans 1:18).
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" (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" (Proverbs 16:1).
(3) With a good conscience (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 (Proverbs 25:11; Proverbs 26:4, 6). - T.C.
I. SPEECH SHOULD BE COURTEOUS. "Be courteous" is advice that comes to us from the sturdy fisherman (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! - W.F.A.
I. THE PERSONS WHO CARRY THE EPISTLE TO COLOSSAE. Tychicus and Onesimus.
(1) His history. He was a native of Asia Minor (Acts 20:4), and probably of Ephesus (2 Timothy 4:12). He accompanied the apostle at the close of his third missionary journey (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 (Titus 3:12; 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 praise.
(a) A beloved brother, in relation to the whole Christian Church;
(b) a faithful minister, in relation to his evangelistic services to the apostle (Acts 20:4);
(c) a fellow servant in the Lord, a cooperator with the apostle in Christian labours.
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. - T.C.
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 missionary enterprise.
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" (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.
I. AFFAIRS OF THE APOSTLE. He gives his reason for not entering on these in his letter. The paragraph is similar in construction to 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 turns.
(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 "faithful."
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.
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 brother soul."
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 related souls.
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.
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 Rome from A.D. -68 is rendered incredible by the silence of St. Paul in all his Epistles from Rome (vers. 10, 11).
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" (Ephesians 6:20); enjoying for the present considerable indulgence (Acts 28:30, 31), and hoping for a speedy release (Philemon 1:22). He enjoyed the company of friends both old and new. Here is Tychicus, probably from Ephesus, a tried companion in toil and peril (Acts 20:4; 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 apostle at Rome (vers. 7-10; Ephesians 6:22). Others remain to aid and cheer him. Aristarchus of Thessalonica, one of the firstfruits of Europe, now a voluntary prisoner (Acts 19:29; Acts 20:4; Acts 27:2). Mark, now enjoying the fullest confidence of St. Paul (2 Timothy 4:11): an encouraging 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 (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 (Philemon 1:24), but in whom St. Paul may have already detected signs of that worldly mindedness which led him afterwards to withdraw from duty and danger, if not altogether to make shipwreck of faith (2 Timothy 4:10) - a caution against backsliding in heart (Proverbs 14:14; 1 John 2:15). The salutations to brethren at Colossae further remind us of the social life and 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 Laodicea suggests to us that, though a letter may be lost and a Church may languish or die (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 encouragements.
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 2 Timothy 4:1, 2, 5, and such promises as 1 Timothy 4:16. Responsibility inspires zeal (2 Corinthians 4:1, 2; 2 Corinthians 5:9; 2 Corinthians 6:3-10), and fosters that spirit of dependence which ensures the blessing (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 (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 fellow-soldiers, but beloved friends (vers. 7, 9, 14; Romans 16:12). For all such the apostle breathes the concluding prayer in one comprehensive term, "Grace be with you." - E.S.P.
I. THE THREE JEWISH FRIENDS OF THE APOSTLE.
1. Aristarchus. "Aristarchus my fellow prisoner saluteth you." He was a native of Thessalonica (Acts 20:4), who accompanied the apostle in his third missionary journey. He was seized along with the apostle at Ephesus (Acts 19:29), and accompanied him in his voyage to Rome (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 (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" (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 (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" (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.
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 (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
) because of the greatness of the dangers that encompassed them;
) because of the fear of his prayers being lost;
) because of the tenderness of his love for them. He was truly "fervent in spirit."
(b) He was always wrestling in prayer for them,
) We must be constant in prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:16).
) It maintains fervency of spirit.
) 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" (1 Corinthians 10:12). "God is able to establish us" (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 (1 Corinthians 14:20), exercising themselves in the Word of righteousness (Hebrews 5:14), allowing patience to have her perfect work (James 3:1; James 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 (Acts 21:1), and then from Jerusalem to Rome two years later (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 (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.
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 Colossians.
3. He deserts the apostle in the near prospect of his end. "Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world" (2 Timothy 4:10). Yet, at present, he keeps his standing among the companions of the apostle and receives a due recognition. - T.C.
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 (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 Proconsular Asia.
2. It is the privilege as well as the duty of private Christians to read the Scriptures. (John 5:39.)
3. This is a plain proof that the Scriptures are to be read publicly in the Church. (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 1:2). 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 teachers.
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 (2 Timothy 4:5). He was to "stir up the gift of God" (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" (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 ministry," considering
(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 worldliness;
(d) the account that is to be given to God. - T.C.
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 one-sided 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 interest.
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 Colossae.
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. - W.F.A.
I. THE AUTOGRAPH WAS TO ATTEST THE AUTHENTICITY OF THE EPISTLE.
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.
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 (Matthew 26:40).
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 bitter slavery.
III. REMEMBER THEM IN GRATITUDE. St. Paul was suffering for 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" (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.