Devotional # 163. 11/16/15. Colossians 4:1-11.
Intro. As we begin Colossians chapter 4 I want to tell you that I’ll be changing the format of this devotional in the coming weeks. I’m going to transfer over to a blog and I hope that you’ll continue reading on there. The plan is that I can do mini devotionals more often. Stay tuned for more info in the coming weeks.
Regarding Colossians 4: Paul finishes off talking to bosses and then he helps us understand the importance of prayer, witnessing to others about Jesus, how vital working with trusted brothers and sisters is and what it means to forgive someone for the betterment of the kingdom of God.
v. 1. Paul is finishing his thought from the last part of chapter 3. As I mentioned last week we hear about “masters“, nowadays we would call them managers or supervisors or bosses. So for those of us who are not bosses this tells us what Christian bosses should be like. For those of you who are bosses God is pretty clear that you are to be “just and fair.” But to what standard are you to be “just and fair“? As always, to the Bible’s standard. I’ve been a team leader before and I’ve been told to do things that are not ethical. Standing up for what is biblically right is much more important than doing what your boss tells you is “right.” Why is that? Doesn’t obeying your boss mean that you get further in the company? Maybe. It could also mean that if you’re doing something illegal you could be fined or imprisoned. But even if that doesn’t happen as a Christian you have an obligation to the Lord. Why is that? Because God has put you in a position to be a “master” on earth but ultimately He is the “Master in heaven.” In other words be “just and fair” to everyone because you have to answer to God for how you’ve acted. But beyond that God is always interested in the heart. You shouldn’t be fair to your employees out of fear of what God will do to you, you should be fair to them because it’s right because your heart has been changed to desire justice and the love of Christ that all people would be saved. One last thought before we move on, make sure you note that this is for Christian bosses – this doesn’t apply to people who have not accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. It would be nice if they acted this way but we cannot expect them to if they have not had Christ transform their life.
vv. 2-6. Paul transitions here having talked about what mothers and fathers and children and workers and bosses should live like to Christian prayer and sharing Jesus with others. By context, of course this ties to how we should live as families and workers and bosses: in prayer. But Paul isn’t just talking about our roles in those things but also in general as Christians. He tells us to “continue earnestly in prayer.” This tells us at least two things: 1. the Colossians had been praying (in order to “continue“) and 2, it was to be “earnest” prayer. This means to be serious and recognize the importance of prayer. You are talking to the God of the universe and He has the power to answer your prayers, do not be flippant or condescending or disrespectful when you pray. And, as is often the case with Paul, he reminds us that we are to pray with “thanksgiving.” When I read this I can’t help but think of the American holiday of Thanksgiving coming up next week. The whole point of the holiday, and what Paul is saying here, is that we recognize it is God who provides for us and takes care of us and blesses us. Regardless of what we are praying for we must recognize and give thanks for what He has already done and given us. Paul reminds the Colossians, and us also, that we are to be praying for other Christians that God would give them the boldness and the power to preach Jesus to those who don’t know Him. But how can we do this if we haven’t recognized our “thankfulness” for the abundant life that God has given us and the sinful life that He pulled us out of? When we talk about Jesus to others it is “as [we] ought to speak.” It’s not something that we should dread it’s not something that were forced into it just goes with the Christian life.
In verse 5 Paul gives us a short but very helpful set of instructions on how to witness to people about Jesus. In Ephesians 5:1-14 (Devotional # 106–107) we talked about three “walk” commands. They were “walk in love” (5:2), “walk as children of light” (5:8) and “walk circumspectly” or carefully (5:15). Now we’re told by Paul to “walk in wisdom” but what does that mean? Matthew Henry says this basically means to be smart in the way you approach non-Christians, don’t allow their customs to influence you and don’t do them any wrong (Source 3) so that they will not curse you but instead bless the Lord. This is to those “who are outside” which means not Christians. Personally I think of it as meaning outside the gates of heaven, because that puts it in perspective for me. If you’re not going to heaven then you’re going to hell. And every Christian is called to share Jesus with those who are going to hell, just as we who were going to hell were shared with. And how are we supposed to share Jesus with others? 1. Having our “speech always be with grace” which means “To speak what is spiritually, wholesome, fitting, kind, sensitive, purposeful, complementary, gentle, truthful, loving, and thoughtful” (Source 1, p. 1839). 2. Our speech is supposed to be “seasoned with salt“, we’re reminded that “just as salt not only flavors, but prevents corruption, the Christians speech should act not only as a blessing to others, but as a purifying influence within the decaying society of the world” (Source 1, p. 1839). And when these two things are done then we will know how we ought to answer each person who doesn’t know Jesus.
vv. 7-9. Now we come to a point which is fairly typical for Paul’s writings where he mentions specific people and their role within the church as a whole. A lot of times when we’re reading we discount people’s names because we don’t really know them and we think what can an old dead person really teach me about the Lord? But a lot can be learned! For example listen to my sermon on Romans 16 here: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=83115034446 .
The first person mentioned here is Tychicus and what he does and that he’s traveling to Colossae is talked about in verse 7 which you can read and meditate on, on your own. But I found it interesting that along with him being “a beloved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant in the Lord” he was one of the Gentiles who was saved through Paul’s preaching and then Paul took him to Jerusalem as a representative of what God had done in Acts 20:4 (Devotional # 60). We also spent a good amount of time talking about him when we were studying Ephesians 6:21-22, Devotional # 120, if you care to re-read that. He’s also talked about in 2 Timothy 4:12 and Titus 3:12.
The second person mentioned here is Onesimus who is also talked about in Philemon 1:10. I really like Onesimus. He was “the runaway slave who’s return to his master was the basis for Paul’s letter to Philemon” (Source 1, p. 1839). In his introduction to the book of Philemon, MacArthur does a great job of explaining some more key information. The thing that I want you to know is that when the slave Onesimus became a Christian he recognized that he needed to go back to his master but it wasn’t safe for him to return because of slave traders. So Paul had Tychicus (who we just talked about) accompany Onesimus and they were the ones who took this letter that we’re reading to the Colossians! (Source 1, p. 1890).
vv. 10-11. We continue on, hearing about Aristarchus, Mark and Justus. These guys were Jewish, we know this because they were “of the circumcision” (v. 11).
Aristarchus was Paul’s “fellow prisoner.” It is possible that this is referring to when Aristarchus was imprisoned along with Paul in Acts 19:29 (Devotional # 59) or how he accompanied Paul when Paul was a prisoner in Acts 27:2 (Devotional # 71). It could also be that at the time Paul was writing this very letter, Aristarchus was in prison with him. Isn’t it interesting that Aristarchus had a habit of being alongside Paul, getting imprisoned whenever Paul did (Source 2)? You can tell that Paul appreciates it and calls them his “fellow workers for the kingdom of God.” I challenge you, if you’re not called to lead a group of people working for the “kingdom of God”, that you find someone who is and become a “fellow worker” with them. You can’t believe what it means to someone who is sharing Jesus with others and praying (as Paul’s been telling us here) to have others come alongside and help with the burden. You can see Aristarchus again in Philemon 1:24.
This is the Mark who wrote the gospel of Mark. Remember that the story was re-counted by Peter and transcribed by young John Mark (as he is also called). I love that the Bible tells us the difficulties that have always existed between imperfect people doing the Lord’s work, and yet this is a section that shows us what reconciliation looks like. Do you remember when we went through Acts 13:13-38 (Devotionals # 53) we saw that Mark didn’t finish out the trip he was supposed to take and Paul didn’t accept it? In fact Barnabas forgave Mark and continued to work with him although Paul split off and went with Silas in Acts 15:36-40 (Devotional # 55)? But here in Colossians this shows us that Paul and Mark did patch up their differences (as well as 2 Timothy 4:11) and that they worked together. A couple weeks ago when we were going through “bearing with one another, and forgiving one another” in Colossians 3:13 (Devotional # 161) I mentioned that I’ve thought about leaving churches before because people hurt my feelings or made me angry but that too many times I’ve read in my Bible how much Jesus wants the church to have unity and not division. Now to be honest, I see where Paul is coming from in not feeling like he can trust Mark for ditching them, but I also have to understand that Mark was young and may not have had the perseverance to commit to doing what he was supposed to do. And I think the reasons I just mentioned were understood by the separate parties of Paul and Mark and that’s what helped them come to an understanding. And that’s what we need. Understanding to come to an understanding. If it’s up to you don’t allow yourself to never reconcile with another Christian, they might be able to be become a close, “fellow worker” with you. Notice that Paul had given the Colossians an open-ended “command” to accept Mark if he ever came through Colossae. A personal recommendation from Paul was no small thing.
And lastly is Jesus, which is the English translation of the Hebrew name Yeshua (which in English is Joshua). Obviously this isn’t Jesus Christ but another man who was born with the name Jesus. But now he went by the name Justus, which Matthew Henry thinks might have been out of respect for our Lord Jesus (Source 3). We don’t know anything more about him but that he was one of the three men in Rome at this time, who were of Hebrew decent that were of great comfort to Paul. It’s no small thing to be a comfort to a great man of God!
Conclusion. I think this is a great section of Scripture. There is so much here. We’re taught about general praying and praying for other Christians. We’re taught about “walking in wisdom” when it comes to sharing Jesus with others. We’re also given insight into what some of the guys who helped out Paul were like. I love the real people that we hear about in the Bible! What great stories so many Christians have, and how they are used by God. Next week we’ll go over some more people who were instrumental in the growth of the early church.
Source 1: John MacArthur, The John MacArthur Study Bible.
Source 2: David Guzik, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_Col/Col_4.cfm?a=1111001 .
Source 3: Matthew Henry, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/mhc/Col/Col_004.cfm?a=1111001 .