Scriptures

Colossians 4

Introduction

‘Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.’ Colossians 4:1-6

Paul asks the Colossian Christians to ‘devote themselves to prayer.’ This is a request that Paul would often ask of the churches, Romans 12:12 / 1 Thessalonians 5:17 / Luke 18:1-8 / Psalm 55:16-17 / Daniel 6:10 / Luke 2:36-38 / Colossians 1:9 / Colossians 4:12.

We need prayer warriors today, saints who will pray for everything and anyone, they are the examples for those who only pray when things get tough.

But notice that Paul also says we should be ‘watchful’. This reminds us of what Jesus taught the disciples in Mark 13:32-33 ‘But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.’

But what are we watching out for?

We’re praying watchfully so that we won’t be caught out by Satan and temptation. We’re praying watchfully so that we remember that death is a reality and the judgement to follow. We’re praying watchfully so that we remember that heaven is our goal and our prize for our faithfulness.

Paul continues and reminds us that we should be ‘thankful’. Look at how many times Paul has mentioned this just in the Book of Colossians, Colossians 1:3 / Colossians 1:12 / Colossians 2:7 / Colossians 3:15 / Colossians 3:17 / Colossians 4:2. We have much to be thankful for as Christians which is why our prayers should reflect that thankfulness, Philippians 4:6.

But not only we be praying regularly whilst watching and giving thanks, we need to pray with a purpose in mind. Paul ask for the prayers of the saints, we need to get into the habit of asking people to pray for us, Romans 15:30-32.

Notice Paul asks the Colossians for three specific prayer requests. 1. Opportunity, which he calls an open door. We cannot do this by ourselves, we need God to open the doors to people’s hearts so that they can receive the Gospel and Lord willing respond to it, 2 Thessalonians 3:1 / Acts 16:14.

2. We need to pray that we can explain the mystery of Christ and the His message.

This takes wisdom as everyone we meet is different. Some people need to be approached different from others, some people know a little about the Gospel and others know nothing. We should take people from where they’re at and lead them to a fuller understanding of the Scriptures, Acts 8:30-35.

3. We need to pray that we can share that message clearly and with boldness, Ephesians 6:19-20.

Paul continues and reminds the Colossians that they need wisdom in the way they act towards others. Sometimes the best sermons ever preached, are preached without the use of words, 1 Peter 3:1-2 / 1 Peter 2:15.

Another reason we need wisdom is because time is precious, Paul says, ‘make the most of every opportunity.’ Sometimes in life we waste our God given time doing things which are irrelevant or arguing over things which are pointless, Ephesians 5:15-17.

Here are the lyrics to a song called ‘Life means so much’ by Chris Rice, I think they are very appropriate.

Every day is a bank account And time is our currency

So, no one’s rich, nobody’s poor We get twenty-four hours each

So how are you gonna spend Will you invest or squander

Try to get ahead Or help someone who’s under

Teach us to count the days

Teach us to make the days count

Lead us in better ways

Somehow our souls forgot

Life means so much Life means so much.

Paul continues to remind the Colossians that ‘our conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone’.

Whether we’re aware of it or not, our words can either help someone understand the Gospel or put them off the Gospel for life, James 3:2-12. And so, we all need to learn to speak with grace, Ephesians 5:29.

Paul says our speech should also be ‘seasoned with salt’. Anything which is seasoned with salt is appealing to the taste. The speech that comes from the Christian’s mouth should be of such a nature that it is appealing to those who hear. Gentile speech that comes from a meek heart draws people to our demeanour. Harsh speech repels people.

Christians should develop a manner of speech that is pleasant and inoffensive to all with whom they come into contact, Mark 9:50. Notice Paul says, ‘so that you may know how to answer everyone’.

We need to admit that we don’t know the answers to every single conceivable question we get asked. In some cases, the best way to answer someone is simply by being truthful, and if we don’t have the answer, go to someone whom does and then go back and share your answer with the person who asked the question in the first place.

We especially need to watch our language around those who aren’t Christians, 2 Timothy 2:23-26.

‘Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here.’ Colossians 4:7-9

If people are important to God, then they should be important to us. Here Paul introduces us to two men who are described as messengers, which tells us he had a special relationship with both. Tychicus is described as ‘a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord’.

We read of him, as one of those who accompanied Paul in Acts 20:4. Paul says he sent him with ‘the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts.’

This was something he did for Paul at Ephesus, 2 Timothy 4:12/ Ephesians 6:21-22. And for many years he continually served Paul as a messenger, Titus 3:12.

Onesimus is described as ‘our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you.’ He was from Colossae and we know from the letter to Philemon he was a runaway slave who was converted by Paul and sent back to Philemon. Let’s read the letter to Philemon, it’s heartwarming and full of love. He, too, was serving as a messenger for Paul, see Paul’s letter to Philemon.

‘My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.) Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my co-workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me.’ Colossians 4:10-11

Paul continues and reminds us of three more men who are described as comforters. Aristarchus is described as Paul’s ‘co-workers for the kingdom of God.’

He also had been a fellow traveller of Paul, Acts 20:4.  Aristarchus was the one who nearly lost his life to the riot in Ephesus, Acts 19:29. He continued with Paul and went on to Rome with him, Acts 27:2. And was now in Rome with Paul, he’s sending his greetings.

The next comforter mentioned in Mark. He is the writer of his Gospel and was the cousin of Barnabas. The church in Jerusalem met in his mother’s house, Acts 12:12.

Later he started out with Paul and Barnabas on their first journey, but then turned back, Acts 13:1-13. Later he became a problem between Paul and Barnabas. Maybe Paul thought he was too young and inexperienced, maybe Mark was a ‘mummy’s boy’, we simply don’t know what the problem Paul had with him, Acts 15:36-41.

But whatever the reason was Paul didn’t want him on that trip, he eventually proved helpful to Paul for service, 2 Timothy 4:11. Even now, he is included with those who Paul said, ‘have proved a comfort to me.’

The next comforter is Jesus, called Justus. We don’t know much about him, except that he was a ‘Jew and a co-worker for the kingdom’ and of course he, too, was a comfort to Paul.

These guys were all great encouragers and just as Barnabas, the son of encouragement, had been the one to encourage a young man who made a mistake, John Mark and made him helpful, so now that young man with two others were comforting the apostle Paul in his trials. With such comfort, Paul was able to continue his work while awaiting trial before Caesar.

‘Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis.’ Colossians 4:12-13

Paul continues to describe another man named Epaphras who was a prayer warrior. He was more than likely the man who planted and started the church in Colossae, Colossians 1:7-8.

He was from Colosse and cared deeply for them and those in Laodicea and Hierapolis. He too was a fellow prisoner of Paul, Philemon 23.

Now many of us stay miles away from other Christians, especially those who are abroad and so, to a degree our help is limited, but we can certainly pray for them, as prayer knows no length. This is what Epaphras did, he prayed for his brother and sisters in Christ, no matter where they were in the world.

‘Wrestling’ in Greek is the word, ‘agonizomai’ and it used to describe a woman in labor pains in giving birth. It’s also a word that was used to refer to a runner who was earnestly striving to finish a race under great determination. Our English word ‘agony’ comes from this word. With such striving, we should also offer our prayers to God, Luke 22:44.

Notice Epaphras’ prayer, it had meaning and purpose, he wants his brothers and sisters in Christ to ‘stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.’ Here is at least one thing that must be mentioned in our prayers for the brethren.

We must pray that brethren base their faith and life on the word of God. We must pray that disciples mature in the faith and maintain their assurance in the grace of God, 2 Peter 3:18.

Paul says that ‘he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis.’ This should be an encouragement for all evangelists today, our behaviour towards our brethren makes a difference. They should zealously labour on behalf of the church in order to do the desires of brethren who support and send them out into the world.

By saying this Paul is reassuring these three churches that Epaphras has been a zealous worker on behalf of the saints in Colosse, Laodicea and Hierapolis, who possibly joined together in sending him to Rome. Evangelists need encouragement too, 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2.

‘Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings.’ Colossians 4:14

Paul continues and describes two other men who send their greetings. Luke, who was Paul’s personal doctor and the beloved physician was a fellow traveller with Paul on a number of his journeys. The ‘we’ and ‘us’ are referring to Luke, Acts 16:10 / Acts 20:5 / Acts 27:1.

Luke was used by the Holy Spirit to write over half of the New Testament and he wrote both the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts, in total volume, they constitute the majority of the New Testament. He was faithful to Paul to the end, 2 Timothy 4:11.

And then Paul mentioned Demas who was later to desert him, 2 Timothy 4:10. However, during the time Paul wrote this letter he was a fellow worker, Philemon 1:24.

‘Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea. Tell Archippus: ‘See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.’ I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.’ Colossians 4:15-18

There was an assembly of saints that met in the house of Nympha as there were no church buildings in Laodicea, Hierapolis and Colossae. Christians assembled in the homes of the members as they did throughout the world at the time this letter was written, Acts 12:12 / Romans 16:3-5 / 1 Corinthians 1:11 / 1 Corinthians 16:19 / Philemon 1-2.

It was a natural environment for the assembly of the disciples, an environment in which close relationships could be established and maintained. Meeting in small groups in homes exemplified the nature of the fellowship that God intended should be maintained among His people when they encountered one another.

We must assume that the church in every city was larger than any single group of disciples who could meet in a single house.

We don’t have anything about ‘the letter from Laodicea’ and it’s difficult to determine what letter is here referred to by Paul. Some students believe that this letter was a specific letter that was written to the saints in Laodicea and was eventually lost.

There are other Bible students who believe that Paul refers to the Ephesian letter that was a general letter in the sense that it was written to saints in the area of western Asia Minor. This cannot be definitely confirmed though this was probably the case.

But we do know what the church in Laodicea was like, Revelation 3:14-22. Paul here encourages Archippus to complete the work of an evangelist to which he had committed himself to do, 1 Timothy 4:6. He was to do the work of evangelism, 2 Timothy 4:5.

Archippus may have become discouraged, and so, he needed this Spirit-inspired admonition to get on with the work that he had determined to do.

Paul concluded in the greeting of this letter that he personally wrote the letter. He also concluded by asking for their prayers since he was in prison on behalf of the Gospel and was facing possible death.

We’re assured that this prayer of the Colossian saints on behalf of Paul was answered, for it seems that he was released from prison in order to continue his ministry, Acts 28:30-31.

Let’s finish this study with Paul’s words, ‘grace be with you.’

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me"

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