Be good to slaves
- 4:1 Slaveholders, treat your slaves right. Be fair and just with them. If you need motivation for that, remember that you have a Master in heaven.
- 4:2 Keep on praying. Commit yourself to it. And thank God when you do it.
- 4:3 Pray for us, too. Ask God to give us opportunities to tell the story of Jesus—the story that got me into these chains in the first place. Still, I want to reveal the mystery of Christ that has been kept secret.
- 4:4 I want to let the secret out, and to do it clearly.
Be charming to outsiders
- 4:5 Keep your head about you when you’re around people outside the faith. Act wisely and make the most of every opportunity.
- 4:6 When you talk, put some seasoning on your words: charm. Keep that in mind so you know how to answer someone when it’s your turn to talk.
Paul’s associates say hello
- 4:7 You’re going to get news about me. It’ll come from Tychicus, my dear brother in spirit, associate minister, and like me a devoted servant of the Lord.
- 4:8 I’m sending him to you for that very reason. I want you to know how we are, and I want him to encourage you.
- 4:9 I’m sending Onesimus,1 too. He’s a dearly loved and devoted brother—he’s one of you folks as well. These two men will tell you about everything that has happened here.
- 4:10 Aristarchus, a prisoner here with me, sends his greetings. So does Mark, cousin of Barnabas. You already got my instructions about welcoming Mark when he comes to see you.
- 4:11 Jesus, also known as Justus, sends his greetings as well. These are the only Jewish Christians who work with me here for God’s kingdom. It’s a comfort to have them here.
- 4:12 Epaphras sends his greetings, too. He is one of your own men, as well as a servant of Christ Jesus. I want you to know that he never stops praying for you and he continually asks God to help you stand firm in doing what you know God wants you to do. He prays also that you will grow in your confidence and spiritual maturity.
- 4:13 He puts every bit of his energy into working for you as well as for the folks in Laodicea and Hierapolis. I’ve seen this, and I testify to it.
- 4:14 Our dear friend Luke,2 the physician, says hello. So does Demas.
- 4:15 My greetings to our spiritual family in Laodicea and to Nympha, and the church that meets in her house.
- 4:16 After you folks read this letter, please see to it that the church at Laodicea reads it, too. Also, I want you to read the letter I sent to the church at Laodicea.
- 4:17 Pass along this message to Archippus: “The Lord gave you a ministry job to do. Make sure you finish it.”
- 4:18 I, Paul, am writing this closing note in my own handwriting. Remember the chains I wear. May God’s kindness3 be with you.
This may be the same runaway slave Paul wrote about in his letter to Philemon, Onesimus’ Christian owner. In the letter, Paul lobbied for Philemon to free Onesimus so the slave could help Paul, as a free man. He may also be the same Onesiums who became bishop of Ephesus, a coastal city about 120 miles (190 km) west of his slave home in Colossae, Turkey.
Luke is the man that early church leaders in the A.D. 100s said wrote the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. Those books together make up more than a fourth of the New Testament.
Grace. This phrase is shorter than the closing Paul often uses. But many Bible experts say the meaning is the same: “May God show his kindness to everyone who loves Jesus with a love that will outlast time” (Ephesians 6:24).
We don’t allow slavery in our culture today. What if Paul revised Colossians 4:1 to say, “Employers, treat your employees right. Be fair and just with them. You need motivation for that, remember that you have a Boss in heaven.” Do you think the Christian employers you know today would take that to heart if Paul had been talking directly to them?
Paul told the people of Colossae to do something that sounds pretty uncomfortable: “Ask God to give us opportunities to tell the story of Jesus—the story that got me into these chains in the first place” (4:30). It sounds as though he’s asking the people to pray for an opportunity that will get them in trouble, possibly arrested, and perhaps executed. What sense does that make?
This is a cool way to describe how a Christian should talk. “When you talk, put some seasoning on your words: charm. Keep that in mind so you know how to answer someone when it’s your turn to talk” (4:6). Normally when we think of putting some seasoning on our words, we’re not thinking of charm. We’re thinking of something with a bit more spice. When have you heard someone respond in a charming way in circumstances that didn’t sound like it would produce a charming response?
In what could sound like a pretty lousy way to end the letter, Paul seems to take a potshot at an associate minister there in Colossae or perhaps in Laodicea—it’s hard to tell which based on the context of 4:16-17. He tells the minister “The Lord gave you a ministry job to do. Make sure you finish it” (4:17). Perhaps Paul did not intend the note to sound as blunt as it does. But what do you read into this note?
LIFE APPLICATION. What makes it tough to do what Paul suggested, “Keep your head about you when you’re around people outside the faith” (4:5)?