Colossians 4:13

Friday, 9 June 2017

For I bear him witness that he has a great zeal for you, and those who are in Laodicea, and those in Hierapolis. Colossians 4:13

Paul, still speaking of Epaphras, says, “For I bear him witness.” He is testifying to the character of Epaphras, having personally come to know him and to learn of that which motivated him and consumed his thoughts. Paul’s witness was “that he has a great zeal for you.”

This is the only time that he uses this word in his letters. It gives the sense of labor, but it is a labor of pain, as if struggling to makes end’s meet in the fields, but ending up each day in poverty. The word is used by John three times in Revelation where it clearly signifies physical pain. Epaphras was willing to expend himself in concern for his beloved church in Colossae, “and those who are in Laodicea, and those in Heirapolis.”

Colossae and both of these other cities were in Phrygia. It is known that Laodicea had a church (Colossians 4:15, 16 & Revelation 1:11 & 3:14), but nothing more is said of Heirapolis in Scripture. Whether there was a church there, or just a group of believers who traveled to another church is not known. Vincent’s word studies gives a brief description of these locations –

“The cities are named in geographical order. Laodicaea and Hierapolis faced each other on the north and south sides of the Lycus valley, about six miles apart. Colossae was ten or twelve miles farther up the stream. Hierapolis owed its celebrity to its warm mineral springs, its baths, and its trade in dyed wools. It was a center of the worship of the Phrygian goddess Cybele, whose rites were administered by mutilated priests known as Galli, and of other rites representing different oriental cults. Hence the name Hierapolis or sacred city.”

Life application: Many people are willing to expend themselves in great labor for something. What is it that you would be willing to give your greatest exertions for? There are things which are temporary and futile, and there are things which have true meaning and which will earn eternal rewards. How shallow we can be when exerting our energies for that which has no true and lasting value. Let us redirect, and let us be willing to expend ourselves in a great way for others, and especially for the building of of the church.

Almighty and most wonderful Lord God! How good it is to be in your presence and to know that You are always with us in our times of need. Help us, in return, to be willing to expend ourselves for the things that are pleasing to You. May we bear in our hearts a desire to share Christ, help the church in its mission, and tirelessly work to bring Your glory to the hearts of others. May we not fritter away our few hours each day on that which is temporary and vain. Be with us in this, O Lord, Amen.

Colossians 4:12

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. Colossians 4:12

Paul now re-introduces Epaphras whom he calls “one of you.” He was a fellow of those at Colossae and obviously well known to them. He was an evangelist, having taught the word of the Lord to those at Colossae. This was seen in verse 1:7. He is also called “a bondservant of Christ.” It is a title which Paul uses of himself elsewhere, as do both James and Jude. One other person that Paul calls a bondservant is Timothy. It is true that all Christians are servants of the Lord, but this term is certainly being used in these five instances as a particular designation. What is possible is that the others, like Paul, would often refuse wages for the work they accomplished. This is speculation only, however.

This Epaphras “greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers.” The word “fervently” is agónizomai. It means “to struggle” as a person would in an athletic competition, reaching for a prize with all their might. One can see a hint of the word agonize in it. The prayers of Epaphras were as if in such a struggle. He so cared about those he was praying for that it was as if a struggle existed, and he was going to obtain the prize by making his petitions in a favorable manner. This was his intent so that, as Paul says, “you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.”

The idea which we obtain from these words is that those he was praying for would be found perfect in their doctrine, not mixing in false philosophies or other errors. In this, they would be able to be fully pleasing to God in all ways. The idea of one “standing” in the Bible is that of being firm and fixed. When a wind blows, a person can get toppled over. But the prayers of Epaphras were that they would be able to stand against every wind of doctrine, and not be tossed about by the trickery of false teachings. To stand in this perfect way would then show them complete in all the will of God, meaning every precept by which the Christian should live. This was his great hope for those he cherished at Colossae.

Life application: How fervently do you pray for others. There are true prayer warriors out there who literally weep over those they pray for. And then there are those who say they will pray and then never do. Between the two there are certainly many different levels. What we should each do is to attempt to move up the ladder of intensity until we are mature as people of prayer, able to pour out our hearts to God in sincere hope that He will hear and respond to our petitions.

Heavenly Father, help us to be people who are sincere in our prayers. If we say we will pray for someone, help us to follow through with that. And help us to remember that our prayers are never to be mixed with unbelievers or those who pray to false gods. You alone are God, and You alone are to be exalted through the offering of prayer. May we never implicitly condone a false religion by condoning the prayers of those who practice those false religions. Help us in our prayer life always. Amen.

Colossians 4:11

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

…and Jesus who is called Justus. These are my only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are of the circumcision; they have proved to be a comfort to me. Colossians 4:11

The name “Justus” is found in Acts 1:23 & 18:7, but it is a surname which is not necessarily speaking of the same person. The name “Jesus” is Jewish, meaning “Salvation.” It could also be a form of “Joshua,” meaning the Lord is Salvation. This Hebrew name was probably the name used among the Jews. “Justus” is Latin, and means “The Just One.” It would have been the name used among the Gentiles. This is not at all uncommon in the New Testament. He is not mentioned in the Epistle to Philemon, even though all the other names here are. Paul, however, includes his greeting of the brethren here.

After this, he says something rather important which is often overlooked, but which teaches us an essential point. He says, “These are my only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are of the circumcision.” Why is this important? It is because he will continue with other names of people who greet the congregation at Colossae, including Luke. This then signifies, without any doubt at all, that Luke was a Gentile. Thus, at least two books of the Bible, Luke and Acts, were in fact written by a Gentile.

Despite this being as obvious as the nose on one’s face, there are still people who will argue against this, demanding that Luke was a Jew. They base this on Romans 3:2 where Paul notes that it is to the Jews that “were committed the oracles of God.” This is what is known as a category mistake. Luke and Acts were not yet a part of the canon of Scripture. Paul was speaking of the Old Testament which pointed to Christ. It further means that they were entrusted with these oracles, not necessarily that they had all been written by Jews. Job was a Gentile, and he may (we do not know) have been the author of his book. Regardless of Job, the New Testament is not the Old, and Paul’s words do not apply to what is being referred to in Romans 3:2. And yet, despite Paul’s clear and obvious words here, people will still make up false analyses concerning Luke in order to justify their presuppositions. This is a very bad way of handling the word of God.

The people Paul has thus far mentioned are the only ones of the circumcision, or Jews, who were with him. He then says about them, “…they have proved to be a comfort to me.” The word “comfort” is parégoria. This is the only use of it in the Bible, and it is used in a medical sense of quieting or soothing. It is where the English word paregoric comes from. Whatever affliction Paul was facing – be it medical or mental – they were there to take away the unnecessary pain and discomfort which he faced. They were as if a soothing balm to him.

Life application: If the Bible teaches that Luke was a Gentile, which it does, but you are stuck with a presupposition that he was a Jew (or a proselyte to Judaism), get over it. Luke was a Gentile.

Lord God, help us to accept what Your word teaches, and then to be obedient to it. Our favorable agreement concerning a precept is irrelevant to our obedience to that precept. We may not agree to driving 40 mph on a certain road, but we are obligated to do so if that is the speed limit. How much more should we be willing to adhere to Your word, even if it isn’t what we want to do! Help us in this, Lord. Amen.

Colossians 4:10

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, with Mark the cousin of Barnabas (about whom you received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him), Colossians 4:10

Aristarchus is a fellow Jew who is listed three times in Acts (19:29, 20:4, and 27:2). He is mentioned one more time in Philemon. Though a Jew, he was a Macedonian from Thessalonica as well (just as Paul was from Tarsus of Cilicia). Curiously, he is called “my fellow prisoner) here, but in Philemon, he is called “my fellow laborer.” At the same time, Epaphras is called “my fellow prisoner” in Philemon.

There is much speculation about this, such as that they chose to be voluntarily imprisoned with Paul at times in order to help him. This is not impossible to suppose as Paul had an affliction which seems to have required much help (many believe it to be poor eyesight). However, what is just as possible is that terms such as “fellow prisoner,” “fellow servant,” and “fellow laborer” apply to both of them during each instance (all being equally true), but Paul chose to focus on one term or the other for each individual for his own reasons. Whatever the case, Aristarchus is, at this time, a fellow prisoner with Paul. In this capacity, he sends his greetings to those at Colossae.

Along with him is “Mark, the cousin of Barnabas.” He is also a Jew. This would be John Mark who went along with Paul and Barnabas on their missionary journey, but who left that task before it was finished. Because of this, on the next missionary journey, there was a sharp disagreement between Paul and Barnabas. Barnabas wanted to bring Mark along again. The disagreement was so severe that they split apart, each going their own way. Barnabas took Mark and Paul took Silas, and off they went in different directions.

Now, this long time later, it is noted that Paul has received Mark with an open hand once again. What appears to be the case is that at some point Paul had mentioned the strife between himself and Mark to those at Colossae, and he had given instructions that the rift was mended between them. This seems evident from the words “about whom you received instructions.” In telling them about Mark in a favorable manner, he now implores them that “if he comes to you, welcome him.” The old wounds were healed and Paul wanted those at Colossae to be sure to treat him with a warm welcome.

This Mark, also known as John Mark, is noted in 1 Peter 5:13. There Peter calls him “Mark my son.” This is then the same Mark who wrote the Gospel of Mark, and who, according to extra-biblical tradition, became both the bishop at Alexandria, and who was martyred there.

At the ending of Paul’s years, during the writing of 2 Timothy, Paul writes, “Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry.” The old wounds had healed, and Paul saw great value in Mark’s assistance in his ministry which he had once, long ago, abandoned. Paul had forgiven, and Mark had grown up. Together towards Paul’s end, they were a united force in the work of sharing the gospel to the world.

Life application: Forgiving old offenses can be a difficult thing to do, but it is also the right thing to do when there is a uniting in repentance and a willingness to move forward in a new direction. If this is the case, then let the past go, and strive to make a new start with the one you either offended or were offended by. Life is short, and eternity is forever. Which will you direct your actions towards? Look to the long term, be forgiving when it is right and proper, and do great things for the Lord in a united way when it is possible.

Lord God, it is You who created, and it is You who will also make all things new. As we walk in this fallen world, help us to remember this, and to not get bogged down in the mud of despair which surrounds us. There is wickedness, there is intolerance for that which is good, and there is real trouble awaiting those of us who want to be sincerely pleasing to You. But in Christ, there is that great hope of the day when we are swept out of here, and where we will be in the best place of all. Help us to keep our eyes on Jesus as we await that glorious day. Amen.

Colossians 4:9

Monday, 5 June 2017

…with Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will make known to you all things which are happening here. Colossians 4:9

Onesimus is the runaway slave for whom Paul makes a passionate appeal in the book of Philemon. Here, he is called “the faithful and beloved brother.” There is a definite article in front of faithful, and so it says “the” not “a.” Paul is carefully highlighting the high status of Philemon, who was once a slave on the run. He then says, “who is one of you.” This is more than probably a reference to his being from Colossae.

In the words selected, and with the emphasis on “faithful and beloved,” Paul is showing that this former slave is on an equal level with them in Christ, and that they should acknowledge him as such. Paul’s true love and concern for Onesimus is seen in this short verse, but it will literally pour out of him in his letter to Philemon. He had become a believer in Christ under Paul, and it was Paul’s highest desire for him to be treated as a fellow brother in Christ because of this.

Together with Tychicus, these two men would “make known to you all things which are happening to me.” These words signify everything that was of note concerning Paul and his interactions with the church there in Rome. The letter was for guidance, exhortation, and knowledge, being a prescriptive writing for those at Colossae (and eventually as an epistle for the entire church). On the other hand, the things that would be conveyed by these men would consist of matters not necessary for doctrine and teaching.

Life application: The person at church who works as a garbage man all week is to be considered as being on the same level as the millionaire who runs a large company, or the congressman who attends when he is in town. It is really not appropriate to exalt others over one another because of their position in life. Instead, those who are faithful to the word, who are productive in the church, and who give themselves for Christ are the truly exalted ones among their brethren.

Most gracious heavenly Father, You have determined that Your church is not built on worldly status, position, or wealth, but on a faithfulness to Your Son, and on a faithful devotion to Your word. Those who are productive in these ways are the truly exalted ones in the congregation, and they should be acknowledged as such. Help us not to fawn over the temporary, fading things of this world, but to exalt those things which are eternal. To Your glory we pray. Amen.