Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.
Col 4:1-18. Exhortations Continued. To Prayer: Wisdom in Relation to the Unconverted: As to the Bearers of the Epistle, Tychicus and Onesimus: Closing Salutations.
1. give—Greek "render": literally, "afford."
equal—that is, as the slaves owe their duties to you, so you equally owe to them your duties as masters. Compare "ye masters do the same things" (see on Eph 6:9). Alford translates, "fairness," "equity," which gives a large and liberal interpretation of justice in common matters (Phm 16).
ye also—as well as they.
Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;
2. Continue—Greek, "Continue perseveringly," "persevere" (Eph 6:18), "watching thereunto"; here, "watch in the same," or "in it," that is, in prayer: watching against the indolence as to prayer, and in prayer, of our corrupt wills.
with thanksgiving—for everything, whether joyful, or sorrowful, mercies temporal and spiritual, national, family, and individual (1Co 14:17; Php 4:6; 1Th 5:18).
Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds:
3. for us—myself and Timothy (Col 1:1).
a door of utterance—Translate, "a door for the word." Not as in Eph 6:19, where power of "utterance" is his petition. Here it is an opportunity for preaching the word, which would be best afforded by his release from prison (1Co 16:9; 2Co 2:12; Phm 22; Re 3:8).
to speak—so that we may speak.
the mystery of Christ—(Col 1:27).
for which … also—on account of which I am (not only "an ambassador," Eph 6:20, but) ALSO in bonds.
That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.
4. Alford thinks that Paul asks their prayers for his release as if it were the "only" way by which he could "make it (the Gospel) manifest" as he ought. But while this is included in their subject of prayer, Php 1:12, 13, written somewhat later in his imprisonment, clearly shows that "a door for the word" could be opened, and was opened, for its manifestation, even while he remained imprisoned (compare 2Ti 2:9).
Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.
5. (See on Eph 5:15, 16.)
in wisdom—practical Christian prudence.
them … without—Those not in the Christian brotherhood (1Co 5:12; 1Th 4:12). The brethren, through love, will make allowances for an indiscreet act or word of a brother; the world will make none. Therefore be the more on your guard in your intercourse with the latter, lest you be a stumbling-block to their conversion.
redeeming the time—The Greek expresses, buying up for yourselves, and buying off from worldly vanities the opportunity, whenever it is afforded you, of good to yourselves and others. "Forestall the opportunity, that is, to buy up an article out of the market, so as to make the largest profit from it" [Conybeare and Howson].
Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.
6. with grace—Greek, "IN grace" as its element (Col 3:16; Eph 4:29). Contrast the case of those "of the world" who "therefore speak of the world" (1Jo 4:5). Even the smallest leaf of the believer should be full of the sap of the Holy Spirit (Jer 17:7, 8). His conversation should be cheerful without levity, serious without gloom. Compare Lu 4:22; Joh 7:46, as to Jesus' speech.
seasoned with salt—that is, the savor of fresh and lively spiritual wisdom and earnestness, excluding all "corrupt communication," and also tasteless insipidity (Mt 5:13; Mr 9:50; Eph 4:29). Compare all the sacrifices seasoned with salt (Le 2:13). Not far from Colosse, in Phrygia, there was a salt lake, which gives to the image here the more appropriateness.
how ye ought to answer every man—(1Pe 3:15).
All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you, who is a beloved brother, and a faithful minister and fellowservant in the Lord:
7. Tychicus—(See on Eph 6:2).
who is a beloved brother—rather, "the beloved brother"; the article "the" marks him as well known to them.
Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that he might know your estate, and comfort your hearts;
8. for the same purpose—Greek, "for this very purpose."
that he might know your estate—Translate, "that he may know your state": answering to Col 4:7. So one very old manuscript and Vulgate read. But the oldest manuscripts and the old Latin versions, "that YE may know OUR state." However, the latter reading seems likely to have crept in from Eph 6:22. Paul was the more anxious to know the state of the Colossians, on account of the seductions to which they were exposed from false teachers; owing to which he had "great conflict for" them (Col 2:1).
comfort your hearts—distressed as ye are by my imprisonment, as well as by your own trials.
With Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They shall make known unto you all things which are done here.
9. Onesimus—the slave mentioned in the Epistle to Philemon (Phm 10, 16), "a brother beloved."
a faithful … brother—rather, "the faithful brother," he being known to the Colossians as the slave of Philemon, their fellow townsman and fellow Christian.
one of you—belonging to your city.
They shall make known unto you all things—Greek, "all the things here." This substantial repetition of "all my state shall Tychicus declare unto you," strongly favors the reading of English Version in Col 4:8, "that he might (may) know your state," as it is unlikely the same thing should be stated thrice.
Aristarchus my fellowprisoner saluteth you, and Marcus, sister's son to Barnabas, (touching whom ye received commandments: if he come unto you, receive him;)
10. Aristarchus—a Macedonian of Thessalonica (Ac 27:2), who was dragged into the theater at Ephesus, during the tumult with Gaius, they being "Paul's companions in travel." He accompanied Paul to Asia (Ac 20:4), and subsequently (Ac 27:2) to Rome. He was now at Rome with Paul (compare Phm 23, 24). As he is here spoken of as Paul's "fellow prisoner," but in Phm 24 as Paul's "fellow laborer"; and vice versa, Epaphras in Phm 23, as his "fellow prisoner," but here (Col 1:7) "fellow servant," Meyer in Alford, conjectures that Paul's friends voluntarily shared his imprisonment by turns, Aristarchus being his fellow prisoner when he wrote to the Colossians, Epaphras when he wrote to Philemon. The Greek for "fellow prisoner" is literally, fellow captive, an image from prisoners taken in warfare, Christians being "fellow soldiers" (Php 2:25; Phm 2), whose warfare is "the good fight of faith."
Mark—John Mark (Ac 12:12, 25); the Evangelist according to tradition.
sister's son—rather, "cousin," or "kinsman to Barnabas"; the latter being the better known is introduced to designate Mark. The relationship naturally accounts for Barnabas' selection of Mark as his companion when otherwise qualified; and also for Mark's mother's house at Jerusalem being the place of resort of Christians there (Ac 12:12). The family belonged to Cyprus (Ac 4:36); this accounts for Barnabas' choice of Cyprus as the first station on their journey (Ac 13:4), and for Mark's accompanying them readily so far, it being the country of his family; and for Paul's rejecting him at the second journey for not having gone further than Perga, in Pamphylia, but having gone thence home to his mother at Jerusalem (Mt 10:37) on the first journey (Ac 13:13).
touching whom—namely, Mark.
ye received commandments—possibly before the writing of this Epistle; or the "commandments" were verbal by Tychicus, and accompanying this letter, since the past tense was used by the ancients (where we use the present) in relation to the time which it would be when the letter was read by the Colossians. Thus (Phm 19), "I have written," for "I write." The substance of them was, "If he come unto you, receive him." Paul's rejection of him on his second missionary journey, because he had turned back at Perga on the first journey (Ac 13:13; 15:37-39), had caused an alienation between himself and Barnabas. Christian love soon healed the breach; for here he implies his restored confidence in Mark, makes honorable allusion to Barnabas, and desires that those at Colosse who had regarded Mark in consequence of that past error with suspicion, should now "receive" him with kindness. Colosse is only about one hundred ten miles from Perga, and less than twenty from the confines of Pisidia, through which province Paul and Barnabas preached on their return during the same journey. Hence, though Paul had not personally visited the Colossian Church, they knew of the past unfaithfulness of Mark; and needed this recommendation of him, after the temporary cloud on him, so as to receive him, now that he was about to visit them as an evangelist. Again, in Paul's last imprisonment, he, for the last time, speaks of Mark (2Ti 4:11).
And Jesus, which is called Justus, who are of the circumcision. These only are my fellowworkers unto the kingdom of God, which have been a comfort unto me.
11. Justus—that is, righteous; a common name among the Jews; Hebrew, "tzadik" (Ac 1:23).
of the circumcision—This implies that Epaphras, Luke, and Demas (Col 4:12, 14) were not of the circumcision. This agrees with Luke's Gentile name (the same as Lucanus), and the Gentile aspect of his Gospel.
These only, &c.—namely, of the Jews. For the Jewish teachers were generally opposed to the apostle of the Gentiles (Php 1:15). Epaphras, &c., were also fellow laborers, but Gentiles.
unto—that is, in promoting the Gospel kingdom.
which have been—Greek, "which have been made," or "have become," that is, inasmuch as they have become a comfort to me. The Greek implies comfort in forensic dangers; a different Greek word expresses comfort in domestic affliction [Bengel].
Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.
12. Christ—The oldest manuscripts add "Jesus."
labouring fervently—As the Greek, is the same, translate, "striving earnestly" (see on Col 1:29 and Col 2:1), literally, "striving as in the agony of a contest."
in prayers—Translate as Greek, "in his prayers."
complete—The oldest manuscripts read, "fully assured." It is translated, "fully persuaded," Ro 4:21; 14:5. In the expression "perfect," he refers to what he has already said, Col 1:28; 2:2; 3:14. "Perfect" implies the attainment of the full maturity of a Christian. Bengel joins "in all the will of God" with "stand."
For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis.
13. a great zeal—The oldest manuscripts and Vulgate have "much labor."
for you—lest you should be seduced (Col 2:4); a motive why you should be anxious for yourselves.
them that are in Laodicea … Hierapolis—churches probably founded by Epaphras, as the Church in Colosse was. Laodicea, called from Laodice, queen of Antiochus II, on the river Lycus, was, according to the subscription to First Timothy, "the chiefest city of Phrygia Pacatiana" (1Ti 6:21). All the three cities were destroyed by an earthquake in A.D. 62 [Tacitus, Annals, 14.27]. Hierapolis was six Roman miles north of Laodicea.
Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you.
14. It is conjectured that Luke "the beloved physician" (the same as the Evangelist), may have first become connected with Paul in professionally attending on him in the sickness under which he labored in Phrygia and Galatia (in which latter place he was detained by sickness), in the early part of that journey wherein Luke first is found in his company (Ac 16:10; compare Note, see on Ga 4:13). Thus the allusion to his medical profession is appropriate in writing to men of Phrygia. Luke ministered to Paul in his last imprisonment (2Ti 4:11).
Demas—included among his "fellow laborers" (Phm 24), but afterwards a deserter from him through love of this world (2Ti 4:10). He alone has here no honorable or descriptive epithet attached to his name. Perhaps, already, his real character was betraying itself.
Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house.
15. Nymphas—of Laodicea.
church … in his house—So old manuscripts and Vulgate read. The oldest read, "THEIR house"; and one manuscript, "HER house," which makes Nymphas a woman.
And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.
16. the epistle from Laodicea—namely, the Epistle which I wrote to the Laodiceans, and which you will get from them on applying to them. Not the Epistle to the Ephesians. See Introduction to Ephesians and Introduction to Colossians. The Epistles from the apostles were publicly read in the church assemblies. Ignatius [Epistle to the Ephesians, 12], Polycarp [Epistle to the Philippians, 3.11,12], Clement [Epistle to the Corinthians, 1. 47], 1Th 5:27; Re 1:3, "Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear." Thus, they and the Gospels were put on a level with the Old Testament, which was similarly read (De 31:11). The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write, besides those extant, other Epistles which He saw necessary for that day, and for particular churches; and which were not so for the Church of all ages and places. It is possible that as the Epistle to the Colossians was to be read for the edification of other churches besides that of Colosse; so the Epistle to the Ephesians was to be read in various churches besides Ephesus, and that Laodicea was the last of such churches before Colosse, whence he might designate the Epistle to the Ephesians here as "the Epistle from Laodicea." But it is equally possible that the Epistle meant was one to the Laodiceans themselves.
And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it.
17. say to Archippus—The Colossians (not merely the clergy, but the laymen) are directed, "Speak ye to Archippus." This proves that Scripture belongs to the laity as well as the clergy; and that laymen may profitably admonish the clergy in particular cases when they do so in meekness. Bengel suggests that Archippus was perhaps prevented from going to the Church assembly by weak health or age. The word, "fulfil," accords with his ministry being near its close (Col 1:25; compare Phm 2). However, "fulfil" may mean, as in 2Ti 4:5, "make full proof of thy ministry." "Give all diligence to follow it out fully"; a monition perhaps needed by Archippus.
in the Lord—The element in which every work of the Christian, and especially the Christian minister, is to be done (Col 4:7; 1Co 7:39; Php 4:2).
The salutation by the hand of me Paul. Remember my bonds. Grace be with you. Amen.
18. Paul's autograph salutation (so 1Co 16:21; 2Th 3:17), attesting that the preceding letter, though written by an amanuensis, is from himself.
Remember my bonds—Already in this chapter he had mentioned his "bonds" (Col 4:3), and again Col 4:10, an incentive why they should love and pray (Col 4:3) for him; and still more, that they should, in reverential obedience to his monitions in this Epistle, shrink from the false teaching herein stigmatized, remembering what a conflict (Col 2:1) he had in their behalf amidst his bonds. "When we read of his chains, we should not forget that they moved over the paper as he wrote; his [right] hand was chained to the [left hand of the] soldier who kept him" [Alford].
Grace be with you—Greek, "THE grace" which every Christian enjoys in some degree, and which flows from God in Christ by the Holy Ghost (Tit 3:15; Heb 13:25)