Colossians 4:2-18 | Pray for Opportunities and Each Other
2Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.
- Continue steadfastly = proskartereó, which means to attend constantly, enduring and persevering in prayer. It means always seeking to pray, even when we don’t feel motivated. The greatest faithfulness of the church should be prayer, we should attend to it constantly.
- watchful = grégoreó, meaning to stay awake/be vigilant. We should not slumber in our prayers and just ‘go through the motions’ of reciting empty words, but always praying in the spirit (Eph 6:18). Our prayers should be ‘watchful’ to how the Holy Spirit is prompting us, and alert to how we might be sliding into slumber or temptation.
- thanksgiving – our prayers should be characterised by a spirit of thankfulness, whenever we come to the Lord, for this pleases him. One of the ways in which we can please God and obey his will is simply by giving thanks (Col 1:12).
- Paul requests prayer for himself next, implying that this instruction is simply for the church to continue in personal prayer for themselves, out of thankfulness for Jesus. We may be motivated to persevere in intercessory prayer, but are we just as motivated to persevere in personal prayer of thankfulness?
3At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— 4that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.
- door for the word – salvation is by his Spirit, through his word. It is God who creates opportunities for us to declare the word to unbelievers, as he ‘prepares [good works] in advance for us to do’ (Eph 2:10). We faithfully minister underneath his sovereign plan.
- Why do these open doors/opportunities depend on prayer? Why does God not simply open every door/opportunity for us, if he desires all to be saved? – God has invited us to be co-workers with him in the gospel, and seeing the fruit of our labour in souls won to Jesus gives us a deeper joy, love and wonder in the gospel.
- Paul is in prison on account of preaching the gospel, and yet he asks for prayer for more opportunity to do so! Such is his obligation and desire to preach the gospel that he disregards suffering on account of it. As Paul says elsewhere “…I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16).
- make it clear – i.e. to make known/manifest. It is necessary that Paul should make the mystery of Christ clear/known to the Gentiles.
5Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. 6Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
- ‘Making the best use of time’ is better translated as ‘redeeming the time’. The same word (exagorazó) is used in Eph 5:16 where Paul adds “…because the days are evil”. Satan is working to blind the hearts of man, turning them away from God, therefore we should redeem what time we have available to make known the mystery of Christ.
- Our gospel conversations should be gracious, which build ‘favour and credit’ with outsiders. Even though the gospel starts with bad news about our sin, even though we may incur opposition because of the gospel, our attitude should never be to ‘make enemies’.
- seasoned with salt – this is the only reference to saltiness in scripture, except for where Jesus describes us as the ‘salt of the earth’. Salt can either be for preservation or seasoning, and the sentiment here is clearly to season our conversations, that outsiders may taste the goodness, grace and wisdom of God.
- This then is how we should know how to answer each person, when in conversation about our faith. Our question should always be “How can I respond with wisdom and grace?”
7Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. 8I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts, 9and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you of everything that has taken place here.
- Tychicus had been part of Paul’s missionary journey (Acts 20) and It is Tychicus who brought Paul’s letters to the Colossians, Timothy (2 Tim 4:12) and the Ephesians (Eph 6:21), and to Titus in Crete (Titus 3:12).
- There is no sense of hierarchy between Paul the Apostle and Tychicus his postman, for he is described as a beloved brother, faithful minister/deacon and fellow servant. Truly in Christ we are all brothers, ministers and servants, regardless of position or authority in the established church.
- Paul is sending Tychicus to the Colossians, not just as the messenger of his letter, but that they might know how Paul and his fellow prisoners are, and that they might be encouraged. This shows that Paul is not just concerned with the contents of his writings, but in fellowship and mutual encouragement. It could be supposed that his letter was a secondary thought, after deciding to send Tychicus for their encouragement. This reveals further Paul’s deep concern for fellowship and mutual edification. As it says in Heb 10:25 “Let us not neglect meeting together, as some have made a habit, but let us encourage one another”
10Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, welcome him), 11and Jesus who is called Justus. These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me.
- Mark, the cousin of Barnabas, is likely the same Mark who in Acts 15 causes the disagreement and separation between Paul and Barnabas. The reason given is that Paul thought it unwise as Mark had deserted them earlier. But here we see a grateful plea for the Colossians to welcome him and likely a separate commendation.
- What a comfort and joy it is to see; that men who were formally Jews and part of the circumcision had laid their religious background down to take up the cross of Christ. How we pray for more of this amongst Jews today, that they too would become workers for the kingdom of God.
12Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. 13For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis.
- Epaphras, mentioned in Col 1:7, is likely the one who introduced Christ to the Colossians. He continues to be a blessing to them by struggling in prayer for them, that they might stand mature and assured. This is how we should pray for each other, wrestling in prayer for maturity and assurance in each other!
- worked hard = this is better translated as ‘great concern’ and refers to Epaphras’ painful anguish for the Colossians and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. Truly the sign of deep and holy intercession is wrestling in prayer with great anguish for the blessing of others.
14Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas. 15Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. 16And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea.
- It is unclear whether Nympha was a woman or man (Nymphas) and so it’s uncertain whether they were a leader of the church or whether the church simply met in their house.
- If ‘brothers’ principally included the leaders of the church then it is probable that Nympha was just the host.
- Colossae and Laodicea were in close proximity to each other (along with Hierapolis). Paul’s encouragement for the letters to be exchanged and read by each other gives us encouragement that his writings were not strictly locked within local context. Whilst some epistles are more contextual by nature, we must be wary of limiting the scriptures to time bound context, when the authors may have intended a timeless application.
17And say to Archippus, “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.”
- We have all received different gifts and callings to discharge the grace of God, we all have our race to run, battle to fight, and ministry to fulfil. We all need encouragement from time to time to persevere with our ministry, for we can easily ‘grow weary in doing good’.
18I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.
- Paul likely dictated to someone else for them to write, and then added his own greeting at the end. Potentially because he had trouble with eyesight, he points out the ‘large letters’ he writes in his epistle to the Galatians.
- Remember my chains – a plea for the Colossians to remember him in prayer and provide mutual encouragement during his time in prison.