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COLOSSIANS 4

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NOTES ON COLOSSIANS CHAPTER 4

Setting of the passage
In chapters 2:20 to 4:6 the apostle gives three ways in which we may express the life we have in Christ.  Then in the remaining verses he gives examples of believers who did this.

2:20-3:17 In connection with ourselves personally.
3:18-4:1 In connection with natural relationships, socially.
4:2-6 In connection with both believers and the unsaved generally.
4:7-18 Individual believers as those who express life in Christ.

 Structure of the passage

4:1 Life in Christ expressed by masters to their servants.
4:2-6 Life in Christ expressed to both saved and unsaved generally.
4:7-18 Life in Christ expressed by named individuals.

 

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE COLOSSIANS CHAPTER 4, VERSES 1 TO 6:

4:1  Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.

4:2  Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;

4:3  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:

4:4  That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.

4:5  Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.

4:6  Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.

4:1    Life in Christ expressed by masters to their servants.

4:1  Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.

Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal- whilst slaves could not expect to be paid, they were entitled to food and shelter, and the Christian slave-owner will see to it that this is provided, and that without partiality.  There are certain basic human rights that man may expect from the one he works for; it is only righteous that they be provided.  The Christian master, by being diligent about this, will show that he is governed by higher principles than the men of the world.  Justice and fairness can be appreciated even by the unsaved, and this would speak of Christ to them in a way they could understand.
Knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven- the Christian master is to deal with his slaves as the Lord deals with him.  And is also to remember that the way he treats his slaves will be reviewed at the judgement seat of Christ. It was not the purpose of the gospel to directly bring about social reform, but certainly, if the principles set out here and in other similar passages were carried out, it would be a powerful protest against slavery, and meanwhile would mean that Christian slaves were properly treated.  After all, it is in the best interests of the master that his slaves be cared for; how can a weak or unhealthy slave be a good investment?

4:2-6    Life in Christ expressed to both saved and unsaved generally.

4:2  Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;

Continue in prayer- the apostle assumes that they pray already.  Epaphras, one of their number, had been a good example to them in this, as verse 12 will tell us.  The exhortation is not just “Don’t stop praying”, but, “Continue steadfastly in earnest prayer”.  Prayer is a sign of dependence on God and faith in what He is able to do.  In this, Christ was the supreme example.

Luke in his gospel gives seven instances of the Lord praying:

1.  At His baptism, 3:21.  He is dependent on His Father for strength and help in His public ministry.
2.  In times of popularity, 5:16.  He retires to the wilderness, for He made Himself of no reputation, and sought only the glory of His Father.  No doubt He prayed the sort of prayer we read of in John 12:28, “Father, glorify Thy name”.
3.  Before important decisions, 6:12.  His pathway was directed in accordance with the Divine conversation that takes place in heaven.  He heard as the learned one, not as the ignorant one.  Being privy to the mind of His Father, He acts in harmony with what He knows the will of His Father to be.
4.  Before the announcement of the church, 9:18.  No doubt He prayed that His disciples would accept what He said.  No doubt, also, He prayed that His people would be maintained in faithfulness down through the years of the church age.  It would be the subject of Satanic attack, but the Lord could confidently predict that it would not be prevailed against, Matthew 16:18.
5.  On the mount of transfiguration, showing His kingdom will be in dependence too, 9:29.  He knew full well that he must gain the throne via Calvary, and no doubt He is praying to be saved out of that death in resurrection, Hebrews 5:7.
6.  Example in prayer, 11:1, “teach us to pray”.  If He, the Son, was found praying in dependence on His Father, how much more should the Father’s children be found praying.  The disciples realised this and sought help to pray intelligently.  Just as He is the example when faced with temptation, so in the matter of prayer.
7.  In Gethsemane, 22:41,44.  This is prayer special to Christ, and we cannot enter into the depths of the mystery expressed in His words to His Father.  He took Peter, James and John so that they could be eye-witnesses of His agony, as they had been eye-witnesses of His majesty on the mount of transfiguration.  He left them and went further, however, for even the chosen three could not enter into or share His agonies in the Garden.

And watch in the same with thanksgiving- the disciples were rebuked for not watching with the Lord in the Garden.  Why should we think we will be exempt from that rebuke if we fail to watch?  We should watch lest earthly things intrude; lest we ask amiss; lest we fail to persevere. Thanksgiving should not be forgotten, whether it be thanksgiving for past answers, or thanksgiving for expected answers.

4:3  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:

Withal praying also for us- the apostle does not proudly presume that they pray for him, but does solicit their prayers.  Even as an apostle he was dependent on the prayers of the Lord’s people, as we all are.  He is not above asking for, and needing, prayer, and this is true of Timothy too.
That God would open unto us a door of utterance- he does not ask for the prison doors to be opened, but that, even when he was confined, the word of God might “have free course”, as he says in 2 Thessalonians 3:1.
To speak the mystery of Christ- a general term for all the truth about Christ that is now revealed.
For which I am also in bonds- he is in bonds for the mystery in the sense that being in prison gives him opportunity to write this epistle and that to the Ephesians in which he sets out mysteries connected with Christ.  There is also the sense that he became a prisoner because he was the apostle to the Gentiles, and this caused the Jews to be angry, Acts 22:21,22.  Thereafter he was “Paul the prisoner”, and “the prisoner of the Lord”, Ephesians 3:1.  What are we prepared to go through for the sake of the truth?

4:4  That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.

That I may make it manifest- this would not only include the making known of truths about Christ, but also the manifestation of them in his life and character.  We should make known the gospel by life and lip, and ensure that what we say with our lips is demonstrated in our lives.  Unbelievers are very quick to see through hypocrisy, and this is very damaging to the testimony.
As I ought to speak- the apostle was concerned to manifest the mystery in a becoming way.  It is possible to say the right thing in the wrong way.

4:5  Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.

Walk in wisdom toward them that are without- knowledge of the mystery of Christ gives us wisdom to handle matters and circumstances in a wise way.  For wisdom is insight into the true nature of things, and if we have this insight, we shall respond aright to those in the world.  Paul calls them “them that are without”, for they are outside of the assembly, and also outside of the realm where wisdom is known, being in ignorance and acting in foolishness.  It takes wisdom to move for God amongst such people.  Yet move amongst them we must, for we should not confuse isolation with sanctification and separation.  Christ was the most separate person that ever lived, yet He was not isolated from men.  Peter said he was “a man approved of God among you”, Acts 2:22. Wisdom enables us to relate to every kind of person appropriately.
Redeeming the time- selling the hours of the day to the highest bidder.  God will always be the highest bidder, for he has the greatest claim on our time, and can use our time to His glory, but we can refuse His offer and live for self.

4:6  Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.

Let your speech be alway with grace- the grace or free favour of God to us in the gospel enables us to develop in Christian graces.  The word grace was originally used of that which is beautiful and pleasing, and Christian graces and virtues are beautiful to God.  It is in the context of these graces that the believer is to speak to others.  Not just when telling out the gospel, whether publicly or privately, but in everyday conversation too. God’s grace to us in the gospel should characterise our speech to others.
Seasoned with salt- salt was not to be lacking from the meal offering, for it represented that which preserved from corruption, and maintained health and vitality, Leviticus 2:13.  The meal offering primarily speaks of Christ, and His life was marked by freedom from corruption.  But in Mark 9:49 the Lord Himself applied the meal offering to believers, saying, “every sacrifice shall be salted with salt”.  Then He said, “Have salt in yourselves”.  Now what is the perfect complement of grace, if it is not truth?  Truth fights corruption, and imparts spiritual vitality and health.  This combination of grace and truth, seen perfectly in Christ, is available to us, for “of His fulness have all we received, and grace for grace”, John 1:16.  The balance between grace and truth was seen in Him perfectly. Grace and truth came in Him personally, and are sustained by Him in His people.  We sometimes replace grace with sentiment, and truth with compromise, and we are exhorted here not to let that happen.
That ye may know how ye ought to answer every man- the presence of truth in our hearts and minds will enable us to answer every man intelligently and wisely, in a gracious manner becoming to the gospel.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE COLOSSIANS CHAPTER 4, VERSES 7 TO 18:

4:7  All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you, who is a beloved brother, and a faithful minister and fellowservant in the Lord:

4:8  Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that he might know your estate, and comfort your hearts;

4:9  With Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They shall make known unto you all things which are done here.

4:10  Aristarchus my fellowprisoner saluteth you, and Marcus, sister’s son to Barnabas, (touching whom ye received commandments: if he come unto you, receive him;)

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.

4:12  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.

4:13  For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis.

4:14  Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you.

4:15  Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house.

4:16  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.

4:17  And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it.

4:18  The salutation by the hand of me Paul. Remember my bonds. Grace be with you. Amen.

4:7-18     Life in Christ expressed by named individuals.

Structure of the passage

(a) Verses 7-9 Those entrusted with messages.
(b) Verses 10-11 Those Jews who were a comfort to the apostle.
(c) Verses 12-13 The labours of Epaphras.
(d) Verse 14 Luke and Demas.
(e) Verses 15-16 Instructions regarding epistles.
(f) Verse 17 Special word to Archippus.
(g) Verse 18 Closing remarks.

 (a)     Verses 7-9    Those entrusted with messages.

4:7  All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you, who is a beloved brother, and a faithful minister and fellow-servant in the Lord:

All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you- the Colossians were clearly concerned for the welfare of the apostle, even though they had not seen him.  Do we care about believers we have never met?  There are many saints in lands where persecution is rife who are relying on believers in other lands for help.  Are we prepared to give it, or will we close our eyes to their plight?
Who is a beloved brother- he was clearly especially dear to the apostle in his imprisonment.  He did not forsake him when he was in prison, and also unpopular.  All believers should be loved, but some endear themselves to us more because of their Christ-likeness.
And a faithful minister- probably his service was towards the apostle in his need.  Prisoners relied on others for food and other necessities in Roman times.  Whilst the words apply as to interpretation to the time of Great Tribulation in the future, nevertheless the words of the Lord Jesus are relevant, “I was an hungred, and ye gave Me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink…I was in prison, and ye came unto Me…Inasmuch as ye have done it to the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me”, Matthew 25:35,36,40.
And fellow-servant in the Lord- he was serving the same interests as Paul, and was in subjection to the same Lord.  We might well ask ourselves whether the apostle’s interests are the same as ours.

4:8  Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that he might know your estate, and comfort your hearts;

Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose- just as Tychicus was sent to Colosse so that they might know about the apostle, he was also sent to enquire of their spiritual welfare.
That he might know your estate, and comfort your hearts- there was clearly a mutual interest between the Colossian believers and Paul and those with him.  The members of the same body are showing mutual sympathy and concern, 1 Corinthians 12:25,26.

4:9  With Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you.  They shall make known unto you all things which are done here.

With Onesimus- the runaway slave, now converted, as the epistle to Philemon explains, (which Tychicus would probably carry with him as he went to Colosse).  The gospel reaches out and transforms the lives of those from every class of society, not just the “respectable”.
A faithful and beloved brother- he had probably been unfaithful to Philemon before he was saved, for it seems he had stolen from him, (see Philemon 11).  He had probably began to hate his master, for some reason; perhaps Philemon had rebuked him for stealing.  Now he is faithful, and knows and shows Christian love.  That he can be described now as a faithful and beloved brother of the apostle is testimony to the reality of his conversion.
Who is one of you- Paul’s tactful way of identifying him without embarrassment.  The epistle to Philemon is likewise full of tact, paving the way for Onesimus to return to his master.
These shall make known unto you all things that are done here- so the apostle and his companions were engaged in much spiritual activity despite being in prison.  They did not make the imprisonment an excuse to “take it easy”.  They are redeeming the time, using the circumstances to further Christ’s interests.

We could look on the remaining verses as a preview of the Judgement Seat of Christ, where character, labours and relationships will be assessed.

(b)  10-11    Those Jews who were a comfort to the apostle.

4:10  Aristarchus my fellow-prisoner saluteth you, and Marcus, sister’s son to Barnabas, (touching whom ye received commandments: if he come unto you, receive him;)

Aristarchus my fellow-prisoner saluteth you- are we prepared to suffer for the gospel, even to prison?  Even if we are called to that pathway, we should remember those who are.  “Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them”, Hebrews 13:3.
And Marcus, sister’s son to Barnabas- Mark is identified by his relationship to Barnabas, which was the reason for the friction between Paul and Barnabas in Acts 15:36-40.  Relationship in the work of Lord is spiritual, and we should not favour our relatives. Mark recovered from his lapse, and is found here with Paul, who describes him as “profitable to me for the ministry”, 2 Timothy 4:11.  It is interesting that the last word about Mark is concerning “ministry”, which is the theme of his gospel about the Perfect Servant.  The first view he gives of the Lord is of Him preaching, Mark 1:14.  The last view he gives of the Lord is Him “working with them”; Mark 16:20, but unlike Mark, He did not lapse in the middle.
(touching whom ye received commandments: if he come unto you, receive him;)- it is good to see that Mark has recovered from his failure, and now Paul can write a letter of commendation for him as he goes to Colosse.  The apostle does not tell us what the commandments he mentions were, perhaps because they had to do with Mark’s former lapse, and therefore, since he had recovered, they were did not need to be made public.  When believers fail in some way, those who handle their case should be very circumspect and sensitive in the situation.  Too often, distorted views of cases are spread abroad with consequent hurt and bad feeling.  In that situation, restoration can be complicated, or even prevented.  The apostle guards against that here by his tactful approach.

4:11  And Jesus, which is called Justus, who are of the circumcision. These only are my fellow-workers unto the kingdom of God, which have been a comfort unto me.

And Jesus, which is called Justus- the name Jesus is Hebrew, whereas Justus is Latin, meaning righteous.  We can understand this man wishing to be known by a name other than Jesus.  Not that he was ashamed of being associated with the Lord Jesus, but he wanted the uniqueness of that name to be preserved.
Who are of the circumcision- that is, Aristarchus, Marcus and Justus.  Many of the Jews were hostile to Paul.  In fact, this was why he was in prison.  These, however, were loyal to him, and the apostle values that. These only are my fellow-workers unto the kingdom of God, which have been a comfort unto me- clearly he does not mean these are the only ones who have been a comfort to him, since he lists others in this very chapter.  He means that as far as those of the circumcision are concerned, they are the only ones who have taken the trouble to visit him and refresh his spirit.  There is a great need for a ministry of comfort and encouragement in the often dreary days in which we live.

(c)     Verses 12-13    The labours of Epaphras.

4:12  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.

Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you- it seems that Epaphras, a Colossian, was not going back to Colosse with Tychicus and Onesimus, hence the salutations in this epistle.  The apostle recognises with approval the service that Epaphras had done, not only when with him, but also in the assembly at Colosse.  He alludes to this in 1:7, where he again calls him the servant of Christ.
Always labouring fervently for you in prayers- Paul now knew by personal experience that Epaphras prayed much for the Colossian believers, for no doubt they had knelt together in prayer.  Although absent from them, and not able to have personal dealings with them, nonetheless he could pray for them, so that the Lord would make up for his absence in this way.  Note that prayer is labour; the word is literally wrestling, telling of energy and persistence, with determination to achieve the object desired.
That ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God- he asks for two things.  First, that they might be complete in the will of God, aware of what the totality of the will of God is, not just for themselves personally, but in a general sense as regards the church.  Second, that they, having come to know the will of God, may stand in it, and not be toppled by the false teachers about whom the apostle has been warning them.  He is not interested in their material prosperity, nor does he ask for good health for them, but rather that they might prosper in the things of God.

4:13  For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis.

For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis- it had become very evident to the apostle that Epaphras had a deep concern for the believers at Colosse; he manifest a true pastor’s heart.  It was not limited to them, however, for he had a concern for neighbouring assemblies.  Laodicea and Colosse were both on the river Meander.  As its name suggests, it was a slow-moving and winding river.  Over the years it began to silt up, so that Colosse was no longer accessible by ships bringing trade to the city.  Laodicea flourished however.  Sadly, the increased material prosperity that Laodicea began to know affected the believers, so that they prided themselves on their material prosperity, as Revelation 3:17 shows.  Colosse, however, had the riches that he speaks of in 1:27; 2:2,3, at heart, and despite being the poorer of the two cities, the believers prospered spiritually.  There is a great danger in material prosperity, as a reading of 1 Timothy 6 will show.

(d)     Verses 14    Luke and Demas.

4:14  Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you.

Luke, the beloved physician- no doubt the presence of Luke as a believer was welcomed by the apostle, but he was the Lord’s provision for him as a medical man, for the apostle did not have the best of health.  It is interesting to find that both Luke and Mark are in the same room as the apostle as he writes this epistle.  The epistle that emphasises Christ’s heavenly ministry is not in any way incompatible with the gospels of Mark and Luke.  In fact, they complement the apostle’s writings, for he emphasises the idea of the second man, about whom Luke writes, and he underlines the need for faithful service, and this is Mark’s presentation of Christ, Jehovah’s faithful servant.  Some say that paul did not believe in the virgin birth because he does not mention it specifically.  But Luke would not have had fellowship with a man who denied the truths he set out in his gospel.  Nor would Mark, (who likewise does not mention the virgin birth), have fellowship with Luke, if he disagreed with him about this vital matter. And Demas, greet you- if it is the case that this Demas is the same one mentioned in 2 Timothy 4:10, then this is a solemn reminder that those who run well can so easily decline.  There are only two years between the writing of Colossians and 2 Timothy, yet in that epistle the apostle writes, “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world”.  Perhaps the apostle saw signs of this, and therefore was restrained in his description of Demas, simply calling him by his name.  No “faithful”, or “beloved”, or “servant of Christ”.  Even contact with the apostle was not enough to prevent his lapse.  How watchful wee need to be at all times, lest Satan get an advantage over us, for he is the ruler of this present world that Demas began to love.

(e)     Verses 15-16    Instructions regarding epistles.

4:15  Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house.

Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea- at this point in time the Laodicean assembly seems not to have warranted any reserve on the part of the apostle in his greeting.  Later, they seemed to have lapsed, and were censured by the Lord through the apostle John.  It seems that by that time the Lord Jesus was outside of the main body of professed believers, and He could only have fellowship with the few overcomers that were found there.  This is a solemn warning to any assembly.  There is no room for complacency in spiritual matters, and if elders are not watchful, the assembly can slip into indifference to Divine things, even while carrying on meetings.
And Nymphas, and the church which is in his house- Nymphas receives special mention because he has devoted a room of his house to the meetings of the assembly.  Needless to say, this in itself did not give him any special status in the assembly.  That could only come as a result of the exercise of gift. It was not until the Christian profession began to settle down in the world in the time of the Emperor Constantine that Christians began to meet in buildings devoted to the purpose.  It was a further downward step when they started to call these building churches.  A church is indeed a building, but not a material one, for it consists of believers. There are advantages for an assembly of believers to have a building of their own, but as in everything else, moderation and economy should be exercised, lest the building become an idol, with more time and finance spent on it than on the Lord’s work.  The lavish buildings that are constructed in these times are not necessary, and the money saved could be put to much better use, to further the spiritual work of the Lord.  Unbelievers rightly criticise professed Christians for their lavish spending on buildings and other projects, when their fellow-believers in other parts of the world are destitute.  May the Lord give us wisdom in these things, and the courage to carry them out.  That is not to say that if believers do have their own building that there is any merit in it being shabby.  The world does not equate shabbiness with spirituality, and nor should we.

4:16  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.

And when this epistle is read among you- this expression highlights the importance of the written testimony of the apostle.  The Gnostic false teachers who were troubling the Colossians had no interest in written revelation.  Their religion was based on personal impressions, dreams and the like.  To have a standard authority in written form to which appeal could be made would be fatal to their system.  It is vital that the written words of the apostle should be valued, for it is all scripture that is given by inspiration of God. Since it is so important that the writings of the apostle be available, we may be sure that godly men ensured that they were kept safe.  In fact, many involved in this were devout Jews with the ingrained reverence and care that they had also for the Old Testament.  The apostles warned against false teachers in Acts 20:29; Galatians 1:8,9; 2 Peter 2:1, so the believers were put on their guard.  And Peter speaks of those who twist Paul’s words, and so warns believers to be watchful, 2 Peter 3:15-18.  Moreover, Rev 22:18,19 gives a solemn warning from God to those who add or take away from the scriptures.

If it is not known what the scriptures really are, how can this warning have any meaning?  No-one would know what it is they must not add to or take from.

Faithful saints recognised the authority of New Testament writings from the start, or they would have rejected the authority of the apostles and not been believers.  Basic honesty, plus reverence for text, plus vigilance because of heretics, ensured that the truth was preserved. Tertullian said in 208AD, ” I hold sure title deeds from the original owners themselves”.  He also wrote, “apostolic churches…in which their own authentic writings are read, uttering the voice and representing the face of each of them severally”.  So in the year 200 the original wording was available. Irenaus, who died in 202AD, declared, “the doctrine of the apostles has been handed down by the succession of bishops, being guarded and preserved without any forging of the Scriptures, allowing neither addition nor curtailment, involving public reading without falsification”.  Irenaus took great care to ensure the faithful transmission of his own writings, how much more the Holy Scriptures. Note that the scriptures are to be read publicly, for they are to be “read among you”.  This is an important exercise, and not just because in those days only one copy was available.  The believers could not sit round, each reading from their own scroll.  In those times people had much sharper memories, and so the reading of the Scriptures out loud served to impress the words on their minds so they call recall them at a later date.  Many Jews could recite the whole of the Old Testament, and no doubt there were those who could do this with the New Testament, once it was all written.
Cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans- this gives authority for the application of epistles not specifically written to one assembly, to other assemblies.  So the Epistle to the Colossians, even though it has greetings to people that are not alive today, is inspired by the Spirit so that it can be relevant to assemblies of any period of this age.  Believers who are not in fellowship in a New Testament assembly may benefit also, but they will not gain the whole benefit, since the environment in which they find themselves is not conducive to full obedience.  We all need to examine our associations from time to time.
And that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea- this was not an epistle written by the Laodiceans to either Paul or the assembly at Colosse, for that would put an uninspired epistle alongside an inspired one, and make them of equal authority.  In 2 Peter 3:16 the writings of Paul are put alongside the “other scriptures”, that is, the inspired Scriptures.  This is rightly seen as a testimony to the fact that the apostle Peter, (who had the gift of discerning of spirits), accepted the writings of Paul as inspired Scripture.  To say that an epistle written by the Laodiceans can be spoken of on the same level as an inspired letter from the apostle undermines the latter’s authority. It is most probable that this is a reference to the Epistle to the Ephesians, and serves to show what privileges the Laodiceans had in terms of apostolic writings, but still they became self-sufficient, and needed to repent, Revelation 3:17-19.  “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall”, 1 Corinthians 10:12.

(f)      Verse 17    Special word to Archippus.

4:17  And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it.

And say to Archippus- it is probable that Archippus was Philemon’s son, given the way he is mentioned in the Epistle to Philemon verse 2, with Apphia being his mother.  They are mentioned as a family not only to emphasise the personal nature of the letter, but also because Onesimus had been a slave in their household, and they all needed to welcome him back. Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it- the apostle began the epistle by mentioning that believers are made meet or fit to become partakers of a spiritual inheritance, just as Israel under Joshua were enabled to enjoy a material inheritance.  But it was sadly the case that the Lord had to say to Joshua, when he was an old man, “there remaineth yet very much land to be possessed”, Joshua 13:1. What was true of Israel seems to have been true of Archippus.  Much privilege had been given to him, but he was failing to fully engage in the ministry allotted to him.  How embarrassing to hear one’s name mentioned in an inspired epistle as it is read out publicly in the assembly!  But far better to hear it this way, and respond positively to the exhortation, than to ignore it and suffer loss at the Judgement Seat of Christ. We are not told what Archippus’ ministry was, so that the lesson may be applied by each one of us to our individual situation.

(g)     Verse 18        Closing remarks.

4:18  The salutation by the hand of me Paul. Remember my bonds. Grace be with you. Amen.

The salutation by the hand of me Paul- there were those who sought to foist forgeries on the believers, claiming they were Paul’s letters.  He tells the Thessalonians of this in 2 Thessalonians 2:2.  Because of this he always put his signature at the end of his letters, 3:17.  He seems to have suffered from bad eyesight, and when he did write, it was with large letters, Galatians 6:11.  Textus Receptus reads “See in how large letters I wrote with my own hand to you”.  Because of this, he used a writer, called an amanuensis, but signed the letters himself.  We are assured here, therefore, of the genuineness of the epistle we have been studying.
Remember my bonds- it is quite possible that the apostle was in his own hired house by this time, as he waited for his second trial before Caesar, Acts 28:30.  Nonetheless he would be shackled to a Roman soldier, and this would forcibly come to his mind as he took the pen to sign the epistle.  He appeals to the Colossians to remember that is how it is with him, and to take encouragement from the fact that despite his privations, he continued steadfastly in Divine things, and so should they, and we.  He is also appealing to them to not forget him in their prayers.
Grace be with you. Amen- so the epistle ends where it began, with the desire that the grace of God, His unmerited favour, might be known and appreciated by all who have believed the gospel, for it is there that the grace of God in truth is found, 1:6. In the opening salutation of the epistle, however, the apostle spoke of grace as coming in their direction, even as Gentiles.  Now he speaks of grace as being their companion, individually, and in the midst of them, collectively.  They have come into the good of God’s grace, and are seeking to live in harmony with it.  The apostle has given them, and us, the wherewithal in his epistle so that this might happen.  May it be so, to God’s glory.