Colossians 4:1-18 Comments by Stephen Ricker
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Proclaim the Mystery of Christ
Comments for Study 4

Colossians 4:1-18
Memory Verse: 3


I. Prayer and Wisdom (2-6)

>1. What kind of prayer is described in verse 2.

* Colossians 4:2 "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful."

* "devote" -Devote indicated continually and earnestly. Jesus often when to a solitary place to pray.

* "yourselves" -Paul is saying all the believers.

* "prayer" -Communications and communion with God.

* Jesus gave his disciples and brothers a mission to share the good news, the mysteries of Christ. Thus, Paul speaks of the need for prayer, communication with my maker and commisioner.

Everyday I engage in conversations with others. Do I seek to always be conscious of opportunities to be kind, pay attention to their being, and share the good news? Do I make the most of every opportunity?

I admit the words "make the most of every opportunity" and "always full of grace" are daunting. Sometimes I want to create a cocoon and hibernate in it. Other times I judge otjers unworthy of the good news. And often I am afraid.

And so here-in lies the wise advice to "devote myself to prayer, being watchful and thankful (2)." The gene I inherited (or whatever it is) that is always there compelling me inward is overwhelmed by the power of God, the same power that rose Jesus from the grave. God enables me to overcome all that hinders good from being shared.

>What does this mean?

* "watchful" -We are to watch for Jesus' return. Aware and alert to what is happening around us in the light of his word. Jesus said, "Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back--whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: 'Watch!'" (Mark 13:35-3) Someone once said, "Pray with one eye on heaven and one eye on the sky."

* "thankful" -Paul was in prison and those he had witness to was being persecuted and tempted and yet he said we should be thankful in prayer. When praying do we thank God for things with a sincere heart?

* Prayer can become ritualistic or rudimentary. Prayer needs to pray in spirit and truth. Prayer needs to be verbalized from the heart.

* We can not hide anything. So should we hide behind a mask when praying?

* God is not some Santa Clause where we run down a list of wants when praying. God is our Father and Jesus is our brother. We pray to them.

* We should not be ashamed when we don't know how to pray. The disciples of Jesus asked Jesus, "Teach us to pray." (Luke 11:1) Romans 8:26-27 says, "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will."

>2. What personal prayer topic does Paul ask them to pray for? (3)

* Colossians 4:3 "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."

* "And pray for us" -Asking someone to pray for you is not wrong. In fact that is the kind of relationship Jesus wants us to have; helping and praying for one another.

* If someone asks us to pray for them we should do just that.

* "that God may open the door for our message" -We have a God given message of the gospel to deliver. This does not mean that it will be easy. This does not mean that everyone will receive the message. This does not mean that the Holy Spirit will move everyone's heart. We are to pray that God opens the door to those we witness the gospel of Jesus to. We are also to ask for other's prayer support.

* "So that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ" -A common theme in this letter.

* "for which I am in chains" -Paul was in a Roman prison as is recorded in the last chapters of Acts. See Introduction to this letter.

>What does this tell us about his life desire?

* 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 "Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures"

* Paul was given a mission to preach the gospel. Jesus had instructed him to give the good news to Jews and Gentiles.

* Jesus has given every believer in him the mission to preach the gospel. We are to be witnesses of Jesus. We are to tell of his love. We are to tell of his grace and truth. The message is to go out. We should not be afraid or hesitant. We must go. Pray that God may show you how you are to be a witness to others.

>What does the fact that he knew he needed help to proclaim it clearly show?

* Colossians 4:4 "Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should."

* "Pray that I may proclaim it" -The fact that Paul, an apostle asked for prayer support in his ministry shows us that all should ask for prayer support in their witness to others. Please pray for this web ministry, that God may use it to reach everyone, especially to people in areas where it is not socially acceptable.

* "proclaim it clearly" -Practice helps us to proclaim it clearly. Also, joining a ministry that helps us to proclaim in clearly, like Evangelism Explosion, is good. The greatest help is prayer and on-the-job training. Paul after years of proclaiming it still asked for prayer support so that he may proclaim it clearly.

* The false prophets said in Colosse claimed they had a secret message. The message was complicated to many. In contrast the message of the gospel is simple. Jesus came in the flesh as a baby and grew to become a man. After ministering to people for three years he was arrested, tried, crucified and died to take away sins and the effects of sin. Three days later he rose from the dead and showed himself to many people. He will come again soon to take believers home and to judge the living and the dead. Those who believe in this are saved from judgement and given eternal life.

>what can we learn from him? (Zech. 4:6b)

* Zechariah 4:6b "'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the Lord Almighty."

* Our mission is to preach the gospel. Our mission is not to convert and save people. The Holy Spirit changes the heart, converting them to a life of faith and obedience to God. We are called to teach the word, but are not responsible if someone refuses to believe. The Holy Spirit does all the work in a persons heart.

>3. What was his message? (2b) Review the three other times Paul brought this up. (1:26, 27; 2:2)

* Colossians 1:26 "the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints."

* Colossians 1:27 "To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory."

* Colossians 2:2 "My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ,"

* Refer to the first two studies for the meaning of "the mystery of Christ".

>4. Make the most to what outcome do you think Paul had in mind?

* Colossians 4:5 "Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity."

* Since our mission is to be a witness to the world we need to consider our actions. Have I always acted correctly? No I have have not to my shame. Have I made mistakes that non-believers had seen? Yet. Those who do not believe often watch believers closely because they desire to have a reason to accuse us and justify their disbelief and lifestyles. They want to say, "See, even that religious person does not live as he preaches other to." And, "See what they do and say, that way is not right, who wants to become like them? Not I." We need to be wise in our dealings, words, and actions.

* "outsiders" -Those who do not believe and/or have not heard the gospel are on the outside of God's grace.

* "making the most of every opportunity" -We need to do what we can so that they may come to believe. We don't always get opportunities to preach the gospel. Yet, when the opportunity comes we are to make the most of it.

>How can a conversation be full of grace?

* Colossians 4:6 "Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone."

* "Let your conversations" -Our witness is more than, "letting our lives be a witness," as some have said to me. We are to talk to people about Jesus.

* "grace" - The message we give does not need to be a jack hammer. It can be a rubber hammer. Often the best message is no hammer at all, but full of grace.

* "seasoned with salt" -Salt can be used for several purposes. The purpose mentioned here is to make food taste better; agreeable and pleasant to taste. The message of the gospel is best serve tasting good. Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament says, "The metaphor is from the office of salt in rendering palatable. Both in Greek and Latin authors, salt was used to express the pungency and wittiness of speech. Horace speaks of having praised a poet for rubbing the city with abundant salt, i.e., for having wittily satirized certain parties so as to make them smart as if rubbed with salt, and so as to excite the laughter of those who are not hit."

* Our conversations are not to be corrupt in nature.

II. What's Happening Here (7-9)

>5. Why was Paul sending Tychicus and Onesimus?

* Colossians 4:7-9 "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."

* "Tychicus" -Tychicus was from Asia Minor and went with Paul on his third mission trip through Macedonia and Greece. (20:4) Paul seems to use his as a messenger to the churches. (Eph. 6:21; and 2 Tim. 4:12; Titus 3:12)

* "He is a dear brother" -Paul saw all believers as brothers in Jesus. Tychicus was loved by Paul.

* "a faithful minister" -Minister here is also translated as deacon and servant.

* "fellow servant in the Lord" -Paul considered himself a servant to.

* "Onesimus... who is one of you" -Onesimus' situation is the reason for Paul's letter to Philemon. Please study that one chapter study for more information on him.

* "They will tell you everything that is happening here" -Communications are important among churches and believers.

* Paul ends his letter to the congregation in Colossea with greetings to individuals and from individuals who were with him.

Tychicus and Onesimus were to give an update on Paul's ministry. Paul was under house arrest awaiting trial before Ceasar's court (18). I see that there is nothing wrong with giving personal updates as long as it doesn't include boasting.

Mark was with Paul again (10). Paul had objected to bringing Mark on his previous mission because he had deserted Paul and Barnabas on their second mission trip. Paul had forgiven and accepted him. Mark was a squeamish young man. Paul made accommodations for him because of this and out of love for him.

Epaphras is a good example of praying for others (12-13). Paul wrote he wrestled in prayer. What does it mean to wrestle in prayer? Struggle till the request is pinned down

Nympha was a woman with means (15). Her house was large enough to host the congregation. The wealthy should be generous to others. I am far from being wealthy by American society. Yet at times I will host others in my loft. It is right and good.

>Why would that be important to them?

* "express purpose" -very specific and important

* " that you may know about our circumstances" -The circumstances that Paul mentioned most likely dealt with how and why he was now in chains in Rome. This is covered in the last few chapters of Acts.

* "he may encourage your hearts" -The message that Paul was sending was not discouraging. Paul wanted to make it clear that his hardships are not a source of discouragement. Rather, they can be encouraged by them. How? Because the gospel has been told to many people through his arrest in Jerusalem and trials in Rome.

>What was Paul's current condition? (4:3, 18)

* Colossians 4:3 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.

* Colossians 4:18 "I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you."

* As mentioned above Paul was in chains awaiting trial for accusations made by the Jewish religious leaders in Jerusalem when they almost killed him and he was arrested.

>What light does this shed on Paul's conversations with the guards? (Acts 28:30-31)

* Acts 28:30-31 "For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ."

* When Paul spoke the gospel to the guards he did just what he told the Colossians to do. We made us of every opportunity. His conversations were seasoned with salt.

III. Complete the Work You Have Received (10-18)

>6. Who was Mark and Barnabas?

* Colossians 4:10 "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.)"

* "Aristarchus" -Aristarchus was Paul's traveling companion and was beaten for the gospel in Ephesus. (Acts 19:29, 20:4, 27:2) He was a Macedonian from Thessalonica.

* "Mark" -Acts 2:12 states after Jesus' ascension the disciples had stayed in an upper room, the same on the Last Supper was in. (Luke 22:9-12) Most scholars believe that this was the home of Mark John's mother as mentioned in Acts 12:12 where Peter went after he was released from jail. Mark 14:51-52 mentions a young man in the Mount of Olives when Jesus was arrested, unique to Mark's gospel. This seems to have little to do with the account except that this young man was a witness. Mark was the cousin of Barnabas.

* "Barnabas" -Barnabas was the person who brought Paul to the apostles after Paul's conversion. Paul and Barnabas were teachers at the Antioch congregation for several years. They also traveled together on a mission journey, Paul's first.

* "you have received instructions" -Paul must have told them about Mark's disposition and how to deal with it. Mark was what we would call a "mommy's boy" and a "home boy" because in youth he had run away when life got ruff (Mount of Olives, first mission trip). Yet, God and Paul used him greatly. Mark wrote the gospel by his name.

>When was the last time we see Paul with Barnabas? (Acts 15:36-41)

* Acts 15:36-41 "Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing." Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches."

* Paul and Barnabas, friends and co-workers in Jesus for many years got in a heated argument about whether or not to take Mark on their second missionary journey. They parted ways after the disagreement.

>What does the fact that he mentions them tell us about their relationship now? (2 Tim. 4:11)

* 2 Timothy 4:11 "Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry."

* The differences between Paul and Barnabas must have been settled by Paul admitting that he was wrong about Mark.

* We do not know of Barnabas' thoughts. His actions are known by church history. He went to Northern Africa for a while, and the Lord Jesus blessed it.

* Paul's comments to Colossians seem to indicate that they knew Barnabas after the parting of ways because they did not go to the city on Paul and Barnabas' joint mission. Colosse was visited with the gospel after that missionary journey.

>7. What did Paul and those with him work for? (11)

* Colossians 4:11 "Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me."

* "Jesus... Justus" -Perhaps he changed his name out of humility and like many other Jews outside of Palestine he accepted a Greek name. Missionaries often have second names that those they minister to would be accustom to.

* "are the only Jews" -Paul pointed out that some with him were also Jews. Some of the false prophets seem to be Jews. So Paul is perhaps showing that he is not the only Jews who are true believers in their area.

* "workers for the kingdom of God" - The kingdom of God is what we work for. Jesus, the King is who we work for. All those who believe and submit to the King are the subjects of the kingdom of God. I love the dream that Daniel interpreted; the mountain that grew and crushed all the godless kingdoms of the world.

* "they have proven" -over time and through trials. Paul was no doubt the shepherd to these men.

>Why would they be a comfort to him?

* "a comfort to me" -Paul had been persecuted by Jews and Gentiles. However, most of the troubles he received were because of Jews who rejected the gospel. He was glad to have some people with his cultural background with him and supporting his ministry.

* We all long to have loving fellowship with other believers, especially with those who have our cultural backgrounds. Paul claimed we was all things to all men. Yet we find it hard to completely walk away from the culture of our youth.

>8. What kind of work did Epaphras conduct?

* Colossians 4:12-13 "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."

* "who is one of you" -Jesus' people are called and made up of people from all different races, cultures, nations, states, and cities. We do not mold to be like any one culture, though some have a hard time understanding the difference between their culture and the way God wants us to live. Paul understood that there are many cultures in Christ and many cultural practices are not bad. Sin is bad. Distinct cultures are not. Cults are bad. Ethnic backgrounds are not.

* "he is always wrestling in prayer" -Epaphras prayed for those he taught and preached to. Prayer can be like wrestling. When a person prays in the spirit at times there are spiritual battles to be fought. Battles against our sinful nature and battles against the fallen angles. Earnest prayer for others can be meet with opposition on the other side.

* "that you may stand firm in all the will of God" -God has a plan for us. He does not call us then leave us alone. He has a will for us. God has a corporate plan for his children and a specific plan for each one. To stand firm in God's will recalls back to 1:5 "the faith and love that spring from the hope...", and 1:6, "...gospel is bearing fruit and growing...", 1:10, "bearing fruit in every good work," and 1:23 "continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope...", and 2:7, "rooted and built up in him..."

* "mature and fully assured" -Envision a tall mature oak tree.

* An underline theme in this letter is Epaphras planting the seed of the gospel in their heart soil. A sapling spring to life and started to grow when they received the message. The new trees grew when they studied and practiced the word of God. Then they bore fruit of their own. Their fruit was scattered so that new saplings could start. Their roots grew deep and firm into Jesus, the Word of God. They became tall mature trees.

>For who?

* "for you" -The congregation at Colosse.

* "and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis" -By these words Paul seems to indicate that Epaphras was also the pastor (shepherd) for the neighboring towns. See introduction.

* "Laodicea" -A town discussed in chapter 2, study 2 and introduction.

* "Hierapolis" -Hierapolis was twelve miles north-west of Colosse and six miles north of Laodicea on the Lycus River a short way above its junction with the Meander River. It is now called Pambuck Kulasi, Turkey. Its fame rested on textile and cloth dyeing industries. It began as a center for worship of the Phrygian mother goddess. A large Jewish community is evidenced by grave inscriptions and other literary remains. (Holman Bible Dictionary)

>What was his relationship to them? (1:7-8; Phm. 1:23; Acts 19:9b-10)

* Colossians 1:7-8 "You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit."

* Philemon 1:23-24 "Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers."

* Acts 19:9b-10 "He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord."

* "Epaphras" -He was the shepherd (pastor) of the congregation. He originally brought them the gospel. (1:7) See the first study.

>What does this tell us about him?

* "I vouch for him" -Paul confirms that Epaphras was a believer who taught the truth of Jesus. He was not a false teacher.

* "he is working hard for you " -Even when Epaphras was away from the congregation he worked for them. He was learning from Paul, being prepared to teach the truth and make a rebuttal to the false teachers if needed.

* Epaphras' ministry was the same as Paul's, Peter's, the rest of the apostles, and I. Is your ministry similar to this? Do you plant seeds and/or help the saplings to grow and bearing fruit?

>10. What kind of work was Archippus doing? (17) Read Paul's very short letter to Philemon. What can we learn about the spread of the gospel from this?

* Colossians 4:17 "Tell Archippus: 'See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.'"

* Philemon 1:2 "to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier and to the church that meets in your home"

* Philemon, Apphia, and Archippus lived in the same house either a family, relatives, servants, or slaves. The first is the most likely. They used their house as a place where the congregation of the town could meet in. Congregations meeting together is someone's house was very common. Other religions had temples and synagogues. The early churches had each other.

* "Complete the work you have received" -Jesus has given you, I and all his people a job to do. Are you completing it. Jesus taught parables teaching that we are to work in his vineyard, each and every one of us.


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