Setting

In this passage, Paul continues with his exhortations on Christian living before ending the epistle. The many names at the end of this epistle reveal that the message is all about people and the salvation of their souls. The Christian writers cared very much for individual members and individual churches even as they fought for the truth. This is so because the gospel is about the salvation of people.

Key Verse

(4:18)

Did You Know...?

1. Seasoned with salt (4:6): Salt was used for preserving foods and for making them pleasant to the taste.

Outline

  • Commands to Specific Groups
    (3:18-4:1)
  • Exhortation to Prayer and Thanksgiving
    (4:2-4)
  • Towards Those Who Are Outside
    (4:5-6)
  • Greetings
    (4:7-18)

Segment Analysis

  • 3:18-4:1

    1.

    What are the commands to each of these groups? a. Wives b. Husbands c. Children d. Fathers e. Bondservants f. Masters

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  • 2.

    What is an important underlying principle in these commands?

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    Paul repeatedly stresses our accountability to the Lord in obeying these commands. This principle is especially clear in the command to the bondservants. Whatever we do must be done for the Lord’s sake with all sincerity.

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  • 4:2-6

    3a.

    What does it mean to be “vigilant in prayer” (4:2; cf. Mt 26:41; Lk 12:35-40; 21:34-36; 1Thess 5:1-8; 1Pet 4:7)?

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    Being vigilant in prayer means leading a life of earnest prayer, being constantly aware of our spiritual state and examining ourselves in light of God’s word. Those who are spiritually alert do not indulge in pleasures and are not weighed down by the cares of this life. Like trained soldiers, they guard themselves against the attack of the evil one. Like faithful servants, they remain true to the Master’s commands and serve the needs of everyone in the house. Such preparations and service entail continual prayer and intercessions. This is why Paul exhorts us to “pray without ceasing” (1Thess 5:17).

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  • 3b.

    What should be the content and attitude of our prayer?

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    We need to pray for our own spirituality (“being vigilant” in verse 2) and for the ministry (“praying also for us” in verse 3). In terms of our attitude, we need to be watchful and thankful in our prayers.

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  • 4a.

    Who are those who are outside (4:5; 1Thess 4:12)?

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    Those who are not of the church. By 2:12, this will mean those who are not baptized into Christ (see also Gal 3:26-29). In other places, they are those who are not named brother (1Cor 5:11-13) and are called unbelievers (1Cor 6:6; 7:15) and Gentiles (1Cor 5:1; 3Jn 6,7), which is to be understood as spiritual Gentiles in relation to those in Christ as spiritual descendants of Abraham (Col 2:11; Gal 3:27-29) and as different from Gentiles in the flesh (Eph 2:11).

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  • 4b.

    What is our most important responsibility towards those who are outside?

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    To preach the gospel to them so that they too can be ‘in the Lord’. To this end, Paul exhorts the Colossians to pray that ‘God would open … a door of utterance’ to speak about Christ (4:2-4).
    1. Walk in wisdom (4:5): This means that we ought to use the wisdom of God to discern what we ought or ought not to do when with unbelievers for the purposes of trying to save the unbelievers. Jesus taught us to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves because we are as sheep among wolves (Mt 10:16). This means that while we should be sincere in our speech and actions toward unbelievers, we also need to have the discernment to know how to answer or react to those who are hostile to the gospel message.
    2. Redeeming the time (4:5): We ought to manage our time wisely when we are with unbelievers. Our objective is not just to have a good time with them, but, more importantly, to care for them, help meet their needs, and lead them to Christ. At the same time, we should not neglect spending time with fellow believers to encourage one another and to do the work of God (Heb 10:25).
    3. Good speech (4:6): gracious and beneficial (seasoned with salt—see
    Mt 5:13); able to give a good answer to every man regarding the truth (cf. 1Pet 3:15; 1Thess 2:2-5; Mt 10:19).

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  • 4c.

    How should we behave towards those who are outside (4:5,6)?

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  • 4:7-18

    5.

    Here is a list of all the names mentioned in this section. Look up references in the NT on these characters and record briefly what the Bible says about each of them. a. Tychicus (4:7-8; cf. Acts 20:4; Eph 6:21; 2Tim 4:12; Tit 3:12) b. Onesimus (4:9; cf. Phm 10-20) c. Aristarchus (4:10; cf. Acts 19:29; 20:4; 27:2; Phm 1:24) d. Mark (4:10; cf. Acts 12:12; 12:25; 13:13; 15:36-40; 2Tim 4:11) e. Barnabas (4:10; cf. Acts 4:36-37; 9:26-27; 11:24-30; 13:1ff; Gal 2:1- 13). f. Jesus who is called Justus (4:11) g. Epaphras (4:12); See lesson 26, question 4. h. Luke (4:14; cf. Lk 1:3; Acts 1:1; 2Tim 4:11; Phm 24) i. Demas (4:14; cf. Phm 24; 2Tim 4:10) j. Nymphas (4:15) k. Archippus (4:17; Phm 2)

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    a. Tychicus (4:7,8): of Asia and a travelling companion of Paul (Acts 20:4), apparently Paul’s letter bearer and messenger —to the Colossians (4:7,8), the Ephesians (Eph 6:21; 2Tim 4:12) and perhaps to Titus (Tit 3:12).
    b. Onesimus (4:9): a runaway slave of Philemon who later converted to Christianity and who was very dear to Paul (4:9; Phm 10-20), also apparently Paul’s letter bearer and messenger (4:8,9).
    c. Aristarchus (4:10): fellow prisoner with Paul (4:10), a Macedonian of Thessalonica and one of Paul’s travelling companions on Paul’s second missionary journey (Acts 19:29; 20:4; 27:2), fellow laborer (Phm 24).
    d. Mark (4:10): cousin of Barnabas (4:10), family home used as prayer house (Acts 12:12), deserted Paul and Barnabas at Pamphylia on first missionary journey (Acts 12:25; 13:13), cause of Paul’s dissension with Barnabas (Acts 15:36-40), Paul’s change of heart apparently because of Mark’s change of character (4:10), reconciliation and found to be useful to the ministry (2Tim 4:11), believed to be the author of the gospel of Mark.
    e. Barnabas (4:10): an apostle (1Cor 9:5,6), a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith (Acts 11:24), received and recruited Paul (Acts 9:26-27; 11:25-26), fellow worker with Paul on first missionary journey (Acts 13:2ff), probably sold all that he had to work full-time for the Lord (Acts 4:36,37), a man who encouraged the weak and would not give up on them easily (Acts 4:36; Acts 15:37-40), a moment of weakness (Gal 2:11-13).
    f. Jesus who is called Justus (4:11): a Jew and fellow worker of Paul (4:11), two other references but probably not the same person (Acts 1:23; 18:7). Since Jesus or Joshua or Yahshua was a common Jewish name, it is an interesting conjecture that this man changed his name to Justus to avoid the embarrassment of having the same name as God.
    g. Epaphras (4:12): a Colossian himself, was one of the early workers in the church there. He was with Paul at that time and kept him informed on the situation of the church at Colosse.
    h. Luke (4:14): author of the gospel of Luke and Acts (compare Lk 1:3 and Acts 1:1), beloved physician (4:14), fellow laborer (Phm 24), friend to the end (2Tim 4:11).
    i. Demas (4:14): a sad example of a worker of God who fell in the end because he loved the world (Phm 24, 2Tim 4:10).
    j. Nymphas (4:15): home used as a church (4:15).
    k. Archippus (4:17): apparently a worker of God (Phm 2) who was slackening and needed to be reproved and reminded to fulfill the ministry which he had received in the Lord (4:17).

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