Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;
(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.
Parallel VersesKJV: Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;