Colossians 4

New King James Version 1. Masters, give your bondservants what is just and fair, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.

The Resultant Version 1. Masters, be rendering that which is just and equitable to your slaves, being aware that you also have a Master in heaven.

Now God speaks to the masters, giving them instructions corresponding to His instructions to slaves. This again is similar to a passage in Ephesians 6:9.

The Resultant Version 9. And the masters, be doing the same toward them, refraining from threats, knowing that their Master, as well as yours, is in the heavens; and there is no respect of persons with Him.

The Lord here calls upon those masters who have slaves to treat them justly and equitably. Some masters of slaves seem to enjoy treating them unjustly and with capricious inequality, perhaps just because they can. Yet this is not the way for a Godly master to act. Rather, a human master who is a believer must remember that he, too, has a Master in heaven, and that Master is always just and equitable. If he mistreats his slaves, his heavenly Master will not overlook such sin just because he was the master. Therefore, he should treat them fairly, just as he hopes to be treated fairly by his Lord.

New King James Version 2. Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving;

The Resultant Version 2. Be persevering in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving.

Next, God urges us through Paul to continue or persevere in prayer. This can seem like a frustrating enterprise at times. It is not that we would not wish to talk with God, but that ideally we would like to have a two-way conversation. We would prefer to ask Him questions and then be able to listen to His answers. Prayer, on the other hand, since we receive no response to anything we say, can seem like a casting our words into the wind. It takes perseverance to continue praying, then, and this perseverance is necessary for us, for we need to continue praying.

We are also urged to watch in prayer with thanksgiving. The idea of “watch” is to give strict attention to a thing, as if the lack of such attention could result in calamity. It is clear that God wants to hear from us in prayer, and that an attitude of lack of attention toward prayer could result in a lack of attention towards the things of God and therefore a serious lack of proper relationship with God. It is not necessarily that we need to keep praying in order to get what we want. Whether or not we get what we want is really immaterial to whether or not we need to pray. We need the mindset of dependence on God that prayer gives.

However, we must not ignore the fact that we are to pray with thanksgiving. Even when we are talking to God and requesting things from Him, we should not neglect the realization that He has already done so much for us, and that we should be thankful. As we have already seen in Colossians, it is very important to God that we have a spirit of thankfulness.

Ephesians again speaks of the need for prayer in our lives and perseverance in it in Ephesians 6:18.

The Resultant Version 18. With all prayer and supplication, praying in every season, in Spirit, and thereunto watching with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints,

Here, we get the same idea that prayer is part of the worthy walk we are to live for God, and that we are to persevere in it. It adds the idea of praying in every season, an important thing to remember…we must not think that this season of life is too busy for prayer, but we will get more into praying later. No, now is the time to pray! We are to pray in Spirit, keeping our prayers in line with what we know the will of God is from the Scriptures. We also are to make supplication not only for ourselves, but also for all our fellow believers as well. These are all good lessons to learn about the valuable practice of prayer.

New King James Version 3. meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains,

The Resultant Version 3. I want you to pray for us, that God would open unto us a door of expression, to speak the secret of Christ, for which I am also in bonds,

Paul also urges the Colossians to pray for him and Timothy. This shows us that it is perfectly acceptable for us to request that others pray for us, and even to mention the specific needs we have that they need to pray for. Yet notice how very instructive Paul’s request for prayer is. He does not ask them to pray for his illnesses to be healed, or for his relatives who are looking for work to get a nice job, or anything along those lines. Instead, he wants them to ask God that He would open a door of utterance for them to speak the mystery of Christ. How often in our prayers for others do we pray along these lines? Yet what a Godly prayer this is!

Many people make a big deal out of “open and closed doors.” They think that God is up there wanting to let us know what His will is, and yet He is rather befuddled as to how to do that, for some reason. We, then, can help Him out by urging Him, if He wants us to do something, to open a door for us to be able to do it, and if He does not want us to do that, that He should close the door so we cannot do it. Then, if He allows us to do a thing we want to do, we figure it must have His approval. Yet this is no way to determine the will of God! No doubt there are people who would marry me if I put in the effort to get to know them and then asked them to do so, and yet they would not be Godly choices for me. No doubt there are jobs I would be able to get that would not be good and honest work. Just because I can do a thing does not mean that I should do it. God is not obligated to slam a door in my face to let me know that something foolish or sinful should not be done. We need to rely on the wisdom He has given us and advice from Godly people to help us make decisions, not just walking through a door because it is open. Moreover, the Bible talks about open doors to do God’s work, not to let us know what His will is. Notice that speaking the secret of Christ would always be a good and wise thing, whether or not God opened a door to allow us to do it. Yet it might be we have no opportunity. Therefore, let us pray that God would open doors for us to be able to do what we know He wants us to do, not that He would open doors or close them to mysteriously communicate to us His will.

What is the secret of Christ that Paul speaks of here? I believe it can be nothing but the secret he had already spoken of in Colossians 1:27, “which is Christ among you, the expectation of the glory.” The secret of Christ that Paul was now proclaiming was the secret now revealed that Christ had shifted His work from being executed among the Israelites around the world to Christ now being among all nations, working with all equally and jointly, as Ephesians 3:6 reveals. This secret would have been a most welcome one to any Gentiles who believed in Christ or who wished to, but it might not have made many Israelites very happy. Yet Paul knows that this is God’s current truth, and so he wants them to pray that God will give him a door to speak it. He wants to let as many people as he can know this truth. This was especially key with the Gentiles, for they now needed to know that this matter of believing in Christ was no longer just an Israelite thing, as one might expect from the fact that Christ is the long-promised King of the Jews. They needed to know that the salvation-bringing message was now open to them, in fact was now open to all, so that they could hear it and believe it. Moreover, they needed to know what that good message was, learning Who Christ is and what He has done to save them.

It was for the secret of Christ that Paul was in bonds also. Formerly, Paul had been God’s chosen apostle to carry His word to the nations around the world, especially to the ancestral Israelites living in those nations. Now, however, Christ is no longer working among His Israelite apostles and prophets as He once did. Now, He is working in secret among all nations. Paul no longer has the position he once had. This has tied Paul down greatly. He has no God-given commission to speak, as he once had. He has no mandate from God to leave his own, hired house in Rome. He is bound because of this newly-revealed secret and what it meant for the proclaiming of the gospel. He was not bound by Rome, for when he arrived in Rome, it was found that the people there who could have accused him had no charges to bring against him. He still must appear before Caesar, but he is not a prisoner anymore, instead dwelling in his own, hired house, as we learn from Acts 28:30-31. It is not Rome that binds him, but the new secret of Christ. This binds him and holds him back. He is waiting for God to open a new door for him to speak the truth, and not until God does that will he be unbound. The government of Rome has nothing to do with it.

New King James Version 4. that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.

The Resultant Version 4. That I may make it manifest, as I must speak.

The word for “manifest” here is phaneroo, which means that Paul wants to reveal this truth or shine it forth for all to hear. This is what Paul acknowledges he ought to do, and this is what he wants to do, if God will give him the door of utterance to do it. As we said, this was a crucial thing for all people among all nations now to hear, so that they could realize God’s offer of blessings held out to them, and so that they could find a Savior in the Lord Jesus Christ.

New King James Version 5. Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time.

The Resultant Version 5. Walk in wisdom toward those outside, buying up the opportune time.

Remember that the “walk” has to do with the lifestyle. Everywhere we go in life we tend to walk. We get out of bed and walk to the bathroom. We walk to the kitchen to make breakfast. We walk to our cars. Okay, maybe we drive to work, but then we walk into work, and walk around our workplaces. You get the idea. Everywhere we go, we are walking. So it is that the “walk” is put for the everyday activities of life, or the lifestyle.

So Paul urges us, when we are living our lives among those who are outside the community of those who believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, that we should be wise in the way we live before them. A life well lived can be a powerful witness to the reality of the Lord Jesus in our lives to those who are outside who are watching us. On the other hand, a life lived in sin and compromise with worldliness can be a great deterrent to an outsider coming to faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Yet it is not just the faithfulness or lack of it that can affect others. If we act unwisely before those outside, even if we do act righteously, it can drive them away. I think my readers are probably aware of the very negative portrayal there is in the world’s entertainment and media of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. They are depicted as a bunch of opinionated, loud, stubborn, bigoted, pig-headed fools who act horribly towards anyone who disagrees with them. This gets into the minds of people and affects their expectations of what a believer will be like when they meet one. I almost find that people are surprised when they learn I am a believer and yet find that I do not act this way. Yet there is also the danger that believers will see this same portrayal in the media and think that they are supposed to act that way. We have a tendency, sometimes unfortunate, to strive to live up to the expectations people have of us. Sometimes believers, particularly young or immature ones, can get the idea that they are supposed to act how Christians are portrayed on TV. This would not at all be wise behavior. While believers do need to tell the truth, they need to tell it in love, or else they had better not tell it at all. Let the ridiculous picture of brash and boorish Christians stay inside the TV, and not get out into our lives and actions. We need to act wisely in our dealings with unbelievers, and part of that is showing them that we are good, reasonable, caring people. It does the cause of Christ no good for His people to act like jerks, even if the movies tell us we should.

Paul also urges us to redeem or buy up the time. This refers to taking the opportunities that come to us. We should view the opportunities we have to share and model Christ to the outsiders among us as precious things that need to be bought and considered as valuable. Sadly do I regret opportunities I had to share Christ with people I knew that I did not take at the time, and those people have now passed out of my life and beyond my reach. Why did I not buy up the opportunity when I had it? It is not that we are to charge up to people we just met and shove Christ at them like a gun. This will seldom if ever do any good. But as we get to know people and they get to like and respect us, opportunities to share our faith will arise when we can do so quite naturally. These opportunities should be precious. If we rather devalue them and pass them by, we may find that the time for such opportunities comes to an end. We might have opportunities again with another person, but with that person, our chances may be over. Therefore, let us buy up these opportunities as valuable. This is an important part of our wise walk with those outside.

6. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.

6. Let your word be always with grace, seasoned with salt, perceiving how to give everyone a fitting answer.

Paul goes on to describe how our interactions with those outside should be. First of all, our word should always be with grace. God has displayed His undeserved love and favor toward us, and so we should display such love towards those outside, even when they have not treated us in a way that they at all deserve it. Moreover, our words should be seasoned with salt. Salt, as you know, makes just about everything taste better, and so seasoned words are easier for a person to hear. The loud, obnoxious Christian shouting down anyone who disagrees with him is not the picture the Bible would have us to emulate. Instead, even when we have to speak hard truths, we should speak them graciously, seasoned with salt as much as we can while still speaking them faithfully, so that men will have no excuse from any uncouth behavior on our part for rejecting the precious truths we offer them.

Moreover, we need to know, to perceive how to give every man a fitting answer. When people question us about our faith, we should be ready to answer them. It is not that they will always want or appreciate our answers, but we should be ready to give them nevertheless. It does the cause of Christ no good for His people to appear to be foolish and ignorant, little considering the real questions of life, and the questions that our faith may raise. A wise, kind, and informed believer will be most impressive to those who seek to learn of his faith. We need to know fitting answers for the questions we may be asked. Those answers need to be ones we have found in God’s Word, for only such answers are right, proper, and fitting.

New King James Version 7. Tychicus, a beloved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant in the Lord, will tell you all the news about me.

The Resultant Version 7. All my affairs shall be made known unto you by Tychicus. He is a beloved brother and a believing servant and a fellow-servant in the Lord.

Paul knows that the Colossians will want to know more of the personal details about what is going on in his life and ministry. These details will be told them by Tychicus. Tychicus means “Fateful.” He has been a companion of Paul at least since Acts 20:4, when Tychicus accompanied Paul when he left Achaia to head back through Macedonia into Asia.

4. And Sopater of Berea accompanied him to Asia—also Aristarchus and Secundus of the Thessalonians, and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy, and Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia.

Tychicus was sent to deliver the letter to the Ephesians, as we read in Ephesians 6:21.

21. But that you also may know my affairs and how I am doing, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make all things known to you;

We find it likely that the book we call “Ephesians” was actually the epistle to the Laodiceans which we will read about in verse 15. The Roman province of Asia seems to have covered Phrygia, where Colossae was located. Since Laodicea was in Phrygia as well as Colossae, and since Tychicus was sent with Colossians as well, we might well judge that both books were written at about the same time and sent at about the same time.

Paul also apparently debated in himself either sending Tychicus or Artemas to Crete to deliver his epistle to Titus, as we read in Titus 3:12. No conclusion as to which he sent is given anywhere, however, so we do not know if Tychicus was actually sent with the book of Titus or not.

12. When I send Artemas to you, or Tychicus, be diligent to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there.

The last we hear of Tychicus is in II Timothy, Paul’s last book, when he is sent to Timothy with the epistle of II Timothy, and is instructed to relieve him in his duties representing Paul in Ephesus. Since Timothy and Paul had apparently been utterly rejected by the believers in Ephesus and Timothy appears to have been about to leave the city in utter defeat, it was no small trouble that Paul was sending the poor man into! Yet we can pray that Tychicus stood up well to the difficulties.

12. And Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus.

At any rate, we learn something about Tychicus’ character here in Colossians, more than we do anywhere else. First of all, Paul calls him a “beloved brother.” The word for “beloved” is agapetos, related to the Greek agape, which is the highest, self-sacrificing form of love. Apparently Tychicus was a man beloved by his fellow believers so that they would be willing to sacrifice for him because of his love and service.

Tychicus is described also as a believing servant. The word for “servant” is diakonos, from which we get our English word “deacon.” The word means “one who serves.” Tychicus is spoken of as a faithful or “believing” servant. The Greek word pistos could be translated “faithful” if it is passive, but when it is active, it should be translated as “believing,” as it should be here. To be a true servant for Christ, two things must be true: one must be willing to serve, and one must believe. Both these criteria were true of Tychicus. The word for “fellow servant” is sundoulos, which means “joint slave.” We know that Paul often speaks of himself as a slave of Jesus Christ, and here he includes Tychicus along with himself, saying that they are both joint slaves in the Lord.

New King James Version 8. I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that he may know your circumstances and comfort your hearts,

The Resultant Version 8. I have sent him unto you for this very thing, that you might know what concerns you and that you should encourage your hearts,

It was for the very purpose of revealing Paul’s affairs to them that he had sent Tychicus to them. No doubt the Colossians, though they had never met Paul, had heard much about him, and had much care and concern for him. Now, they wanted to know what was happening to him, and Paul was anxious that they should be informed of these things.

The word for “sending” here is related to pempo, which means Paul simply sent Tychicus, as opposed to apostello, which would have meant Paul sent him with authority. He was sent to make known things to the Colossians, but this was not an official task, just something Paul wanted him to do.

There is some difference in the manuscripts here as to whether Paul wanted Tychicus to know what was going on with the Colossians so he could bring word back to Paul, or whether he is again saying that he wanted the Colossians to know the things that concerned them about the circumstances of Paul. Either way, he wanted ultimately that the hearts of the Colossians should be encouraged. The word here is parakaleo, which is related to the idea of the paraclete, the one who comes alongside to help or encourage. He wants the news they receive from Tychicus about what God is currently doing in Paul’s ministry to encourage and help them in their inner selves, their hearts.

New King James Version 9. with Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will make known to you all things which are happening here.

The Resultant Version 9. With Onesimus, a believing and beloved brother, who is one of you. They shall make known unto you all things that are done here.

Along with Tychicus, Paul is sending Onesimus. His name means “Profitable” or “Useful.” We know from Philemon 1:10 that Onesimus had formerly been a slave of Philemon who had run away.

10. I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains,

Onesimus is described, like Tychicus, as believing. Again, this is the word pistos, and is active, so that it should be “believing” here, not “faithful.” Onesimus is also described as “beloved,” that same Greek word agapetos that Paul used to describe Tychicus. Paul indeed loved Onesimus in a way that meant he was willing to sacrifice for him, as we can clearly see from his words regarding Onesimus in the book of Philemon.

It would appear from Paul’s comment that Onesimus “is one of you” that he was from Colossae. Assuming he was also a slave in Colossae, his hometown, it seems likely that Philemon was from Colossae as well. Therefore, most who have studied the two epistles of Colossians and Philemon have concluded that they were written and sent at the same time. Both Tychicus and Onesimus probably carried these letters, and Tychicus probably accompanied Onesimus to deliver Paul’s letter to his master in which Paul begs for clemency for Onesimus, who is now a believer.

Paul assures the Colossians that Tychicus and Onesimus both know of all the things that Paul and his entourage are doing in Rome, and so they can fill them in on current events relating to Paul. Again, Paul realizes that their affection for him, in spite of having never met him in the flesh, means they will be anxious to know about his affairs.