Notes on the Epistle to the Colossians - Fulness Resplendent

W. Fraser Naismith, Kilmarnock

Part 4 of 4 of the series Notes on the Epistle to the Colossians

Chapter 4

The key phrase of this chapter occurs at the close of verse 12, "that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God". An analysis of the chapter is as follows:

3.   18-25, Introduction.

4.  1-6, Exhortation.
4. 7-16, Salutation.
4. 17, Postscript.

Note that the section actually begins at 3. 18.

The distinctive character of each relationship is emphasized. Relationships ordained by God are the shadow of higher and spiritual ones. New birth does not annul human relationships of time; yet there is a cult to-day which runs perilously near such repudiation, even to forbid eating meals with the family if such know not Christ as Saviour: of such beware!

Wives - submission (affection is naturally the feminine quality which sparkles in the weaker vessel). Husbands -affection and kindness should be demonstrated toward their partners, as they remember they are "heirs together of the grace of life". Children - obedience and submission to the parents (Christ was subject to His "parents", Luke 2. 51). Fathers - gentleness, Christ is introduced in verses 18, 20 and 23 so that obedience suited to the appropriate position maybe sanctified. On each occasion when Christ as Lord is intro­duced it is in connection with the weaker party. When address­ing the wives in verse 18, we note the words "as it is fit in the Lord". In verse 20, alluding to children and their obedience to their parents, the apostle reminds us that such obedience to their parents is "well pleasing unto the Lord". Referring to servants we learn in verse 23 that whatsoever is done should be done "as to the Lord, and not unto men".

Exhortation. The first verse of chapter 4 brings counsel to the masters. They are expected to give that which is just and equal; in other words they are expected to be righteous in their dealings. James, in referring to unrighteous masters, said, "Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth", James 5. 4.

The features alluded to in the different relationships can be seen in practice in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is fulness resplendent:

Submission - Psa. 16. 1; 40. 6-8. Affection - Eph. 5. 25; Gal. 2. 20. Obedience - Phil. 2. 8; Heb. 5. 8. Gentleness - Matt. 12. 19. Singleheartedness - Gal. 2. 20. Righteousness - Psa. 45. 6-7; Zech. 9. 9. Prayer - Mark 1. 35; Heb. 5. 7. Discretion ~ Prov. 8. 20. Redeeming time - Isa. 50. 4. Gracious speech - John 1. 18; 7. 46.

Our speech should always be with grace seasoned with salt. Men marvelled at the gracious words that proceeded out of His mouth, Luke 4. 22. Speech seasoned with salt would induce holiness. Salt is a preservative and the words spoken in grace seasoned with the truth of true holiness will not be readily forgotten. The words and acts of Christ were ever in grace and truth; for these two principles form the basis of His moral excellencies. May we, too, blend these great principles in our manner of life in this world.

Salutation. Tychicus was the bearer of the letter, and he had three outstanding qualifications:

r. A Beloved Brother - this emphasizes True Affection.

2.   A Faithful Minister - this incorporates True Devotion.

3. A Fellow Servant - this indicates Real Communion.

He was conversant with Paul's condition. He was in a position to communicate the facts to the saints in Colosse; and he could bring back tidings of their state.

Onesimus was a runaway slave from the employment of Philemon; he had been converted through the instrumentality of the apostle Paul. His fidelity is emphasized in the words, "a faithful and beloved brother", v. 9.

Aristarchus and Mark are next mentioned, the former being a fellow-prisoner. Paul had numerous companions who shared incarceration with him, and Aristarchus was one of them. Mark was the failing servant who left the work, Acts 15. 38. He was restored, for Paul refers to him as one who is profitable to him for the ministry, 2 Tim. 4. n. The Holy Spirit took him up as the instrument to record the history of the Perfect Servant, and we are charmed with the precious unfolding of the service of Jehovah's Servant which he records.

Justus was a converted Hebrew, as also were the others named by the apostle here. Those men mentioned by name were Hebrews who had been found of Christ and blessed with eternal salvation. They were fellow-workers unto the kingdom of God, and had been a comfort to the apostle.

Those names which follow were Gentiles.

Epaphras - "one of you" - and Paul was writing to converted Gentiles at Colosse who had been brought to know Christ as Saviour. This man sent his greetings to the saints and laboured fervently for them in his prayers. He had this desire for them that they might stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. How blessed it is to be perfect, and filled full in all the will of God! His prayers were not confined to the local gather­ing at Colosse, but were extended to embrace those at Laodicea and Hierapolis.'Tychicus was the bearer of this Epistle and also of that to the Ephesians; and it is possible that it was to this latter document that the apostle refers in verse 16, "the epistle from Laodicea". It could have been a circular letter which had been forwarded to Laodicea prior to its being taken to Ephesus. It could, of course, be a separate message which the Laodiceans required, but it is not said "the epistle to Laodicea" but "the epistle from Laodicea". In the inaugural period of Church history when the canon of Scripture was not yet complete, truth was communicated by letters from the pens of the apostles. It would seem that there were not many saints in Laodicea. The names of the brethren are withheld and only one person is alluded to.

Luke here is designated "the beloved physician". He was the writer of two New Testament books - the Gospel which bears his name and the book of Acts. He accompanied the apostle in much of his journeyings; in fact, in Acts the usage of the pronoun "we" indicates when Luke was in the company. At other times the word "they" is used of the party with Paul.

Demas is mentioned in the same verse as Luke. It is possible that Paul sensed, even at this juncture, the defection which ultimately would lead him back to the world. The tragic note of 2 Timothy 4. 10 reveals that this man who was "my fellow-labourer" in Philemon 24, and who here sends greetings to the saints at Colosse, found the teaching and deportment of the apostle too irksome and sought an easier path.

Postscript. Archippus gets this postscript all to himself. How important postscripts are at the close of letters! There are four thoughts here worthy of note:

1.    "Take heed", the Command.

2.   "to the ministry", the Commission.

3.    "which thou hast received", the Communication.

4.    "that thou fulfil it", the Completion.

Most people read the postscript on a letter first; and often­times it is an important part of the communication. The command of the apostle to this man was to "Take heed". There is no occasion when the saints of God can afford to be negligent. We must ever be on the alert. There had been committed to the trust of Archippus a ministry, and he was exhorted to be diligent about it. Since we know that all true ministry comes from a Risen Christ, we dare not neglect it. This brother had been equipped in view of a ministry which he had received, and the divinely given gift must not be abused but used to the glory of God. How many sit back and let others do the work! As one has stated, "This world is full of willing people: some willing to work, and many willing to let them". Archippus had a responsibility to the Lord to fulfil the ministry which he had received: he had also a responsibility towards the saints that he should engage in this heaven-sent ministry for their edifying. If anyone has received a ministry from the Risen Christ, do not shirk the responsibility attaching to such a service, but get into harness right away - the Lord hath need of thee!