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Colossians

Final Instructions

Colossians  4:2-18

In this last section of the Letter to the Colossians, it seemed good to take the last first. Accordingly, we shall look at the personal greetings that Paul sends to his friends:

The Holy Bible, New International Version

7Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. 8I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our£ circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. 9He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here.

10My 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.) 11Jesus, 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. 12Epaphras, 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. 13I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis. 14Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings. 15Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.

16After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.

17Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.”

18I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.

Colossians 4:7 through Colossians 4:18 (NIV)

Many lesson writers skip this section. It seems to be nothing but personal notes; they wave their hands over it and wish it well. But sometimes in the personal section of these letters Paul reveals facets of his character – and instruction from the Lord – which otherwise might be missed.

For example, he is sending Tychicus and Onesimus back to them. They know these men, and would not hesitate to ask questions of them that a total stranger might avoid, out of the sake of politeness. They would also be assured of getting the truth. It’s likely as well that Paul is sending them home so that they might be with their friends and family; everyone gets homesick now and then.

He mentions Aristarchus. The man traveled extensively with Paul, and now is in chains with him. He’s from Thessalonica. Paul mentions these chains as a badge of honor for him.

Mark we know as the writer of the Gospel of that name. You might not remember this, but Paul and Barnabas parted company over Mark. Barnabas wanted to take the kid along; Paul said no. But later on Paul saw that Mark had grown; he’s now treated with respect. (Which shows you that God takes your measure more than once).

Then there is Epaphras. He evidently was the evangelist at the First Christian Church of Colosse; Paul starts by giving him a good report card. And why? Because he is “wrestling in prayer” for them. We can picture the man at prayer, pouring his heart out and pleading with the Lord. Pleading for what? That the hearers of this letter might stand firm in Christ.

Archippus has been introduced to us briefly in Philemon. What do we know about him? He’s a young man (Philemon is his father). He comes from a rich family (Philemon had the church meeting in his house). And somewhere along the line he has been given something in sacred trust. The man has a mission. Paul warns him about this; from this we can conclude that the matter is in some doubt. What that assignment was, we do not know. But evidently the Colossians did; Paul puts it into a letter which he knows will be read aloud to the church.

Finally, there is a minor mystery here. You can see that Paul tells them to read the letter he sent to the Laodiceans. The problem is, we know of no letter to the Laodiceans. Some have suggested this must be another letter under a different name; others think there is some long lost Scripture out there. Who can say?

Prayer

We now can look at Paul’s last instruction.

The Holy Bible, New International Version

2Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3And 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. 4Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Colossians 4:2 through Colossians 4:6 (NIV)

Paul speaks here of prayer. He gives them two instructions concerning it before he comes to specifics.

  • He tells them to be thankful. This seems rather ordinary, and well commended elsewhere.
  • He tells them to watch. Watch for what? In so general a command, from a man in chains, I submit he is instructing us to watch for that which all Christians have been commanded to watch: the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. Not just his return, but also the signs of the times.

What interests me here is that he tells them to watch in prayer. The phrase is not much used any more, but our ancestors were very familiar with “watch and pray.” Do we include the signs of the times in our prayers? Do we pray that those days may be shortened? Do we really think he’s coming back?

Prayer for Paul personally

Paul brings his request for prayer to them in a specific order.

  • First, He asks them to pray that God would open a door for his speaking. This comes first, because it has to do with God. It also should be first because we should ask God to open doors for us before we attempt to go through them.
  • Next, he asks them to pray for the success of the local team. Always, he puts the church ahead of himself.
  • Next, he asks them to pray that he will boldly proclaim the Gospel. He is in prisoner’s chains – and asks that he speak boldly!

Walking with outsiders

Paul cares deeply for the lost. That’s why he makes these four requests:

Wise in the way

He starts with wisdom. Why?

  • First, because for some of those with whom we speak, we may be the only Jesus they’ll ever see.
  • We want all outsiders to think well of us, and especially of Christ. Therefore we must be wise in what we say and do, not becoming hypocrites but rather those who care for the lost.
  • And – as the original phrase might be translated “walk in wisdom” – we need to realize that this takes practice. And practice we should.
Redeeming the time

That’s how the King James put it. The concept is essentially that of stewardship. God grants that you have so much money; he also grants you so much time. More than that, however, you may have only a short time with the non-believer. Should you not use it to be a witness to Jesus Christ? And – here it is again – how can we do this, except by practice?

Full of grace

The grace we are full of should be the grace of God. We are like an aqueduct in the desert, carrying the water of life to a thirsty world.

How? By being the ambassadors of reconciliation. God desires hell for no man. Rather, he has commanded us to bring his grace, his reconciliation, to the world.

But how, you ask, can I do that? Be the aqueduct that overflows its banks. Capture the grace of Christ – by prayer, by fellowship, by study – that the grace just naturally oozes out and floods those around you. If you live in the acknowledgment of his grace, people will soon know what you are.

Seasoned with salt

Is there anything more annoying than the practice of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in coming to the door? It’s one thing to be zealous for Christ. It’s another to be pig-headed about it. So what are we to do, if we are to season our conversation with salt?

  • If your message is grace, grace and more grace, some may misunderstand and use the Gospel as a license to sin. Present the truth in love, not just the parts they’ll like.
  • Salt, even to this day, is used for its antiseptic properties. Did you ever gargle with salt water? So remember that seasoned with salt means that you do not condone sin.
  • Salt, yet to this day (think of cured ham) is used as a preservative. You are to preserve the truth of the Gospel – nothing more, nothing less.
  • Finally, salt is for flavoring. It makes the bland appealing. We should not be dull people, but those who interest their unsaved brothers and sisters.

A final pat on the head; a final word of warning. That’s Paul, writing to his brothers.

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