Today: [Colossians 4:] Equity, Prayer and Persecution: In concluding the letter to the Colossians Paul instructs those who rule over others to do so with fairness in the sight of God. He further admonishes the people to continue in prayer and to pray for him as well. Persecution is on the rise in the ancient world, and the people are cautioned to conduct themselves with wisdom and grace in the face of growing social hostility.
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[Col 4:1-18 KJV] 1 Masters, give unto [your] servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven. 2 Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; 3 Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds: 4 That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. 5 Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. 6 Let your speech [be] alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man. 7 All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you, [who is] a beloved brother, and a faithful minister and fellowservant in the Lord: 8 Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that he might know your estate, and comfort your hearts; 9 With Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is [one] of you. They shall make known unto you all things which [are done] here. 10 Aristarchus my fellowprisoner saluteth you, and Marcus, sister’s son to Barnabas, (touching whom ye received commandments: if he come unto you, receive him;) 11 And Jesus, which is called Justus, who are of the circumcision. These only [are my] fellowworkers unto the kingdom of God, which have been a comfort unto me. 12 Epaphras, who is [one] of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. 13 For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you, and them [that are] in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis. 14 Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you. 15 Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house. 16 And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the [epistle] from Laodicea. 17 And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it. 18 The salutation by the hand of me Paul. Remember my bonds. Grace [be] with you. Amen.
Chapter 4 concludes Paul’s letter to the Colossians with encouragements to prayer and personal integrity regarding the social contracts that govern our lives. In v. 1 Paul warns masters to treat their servants equitably given the fact that though they are masters on the earth, they also have a master in heaven. While slavery was ubiquitous in the ancient world, we may also apply this statement to employers and those who govern over others as business owners and managers. If you are in charge of others in this way the reminder of Paul to you is to act with justice and fair dealing, knowing that you live out your life and carry out those responsibilities in the sight of God who will repay every man and woman for their actions.
This verse brings up an important point that we as Christians would do well to consider. Remember that Paul is addressing Christian masters, not those who are without God in the world. The understanding given is that believers are not exempt from divine consequences for their actions just because they have accepted Christ as savior. In today’s church culture the implied teaching is that accepting Christ negates personal responsibility because all is forgiven. That is not the thought conveyed in this verse. Forgiveness of sin is a core belief found in the gospels, but the fact of forgiveness does not gloss over ongoing misbehavior without consequences. In Luke 12:47 Jesus speaks of the judgment seat of Christ where believers will receive their rewards, and in that passage makes an enigmatic statement that “some will be beaten with many stripes and some with few,” giving a clear indication that though we are forgiven, there is still accountability for our ongoing behaviors and treatment of one another as believers.
Paul goes on in v. 2 to encourage the Colossian believers to be continual in prayer and watchfulness with thanksgiving. Why must we pray? Doesn’t God already know what we need? Prayer is not necessary because God is not aware of our need. Prayer is essential because God’s posture toward you is that He declines to act outside the context of heartfelt prayer. John Wesley is said to have remarked that God will do nothing except in answer to faith-filled prayer. Paul’s letters are filled with exhortations to prayer and requests that prayers would be offered up in his behalf.
Paul asks the people to pray for him that God would open a door of utterance for him to bring forth the mystery of Christ with boldness and to make the message (v. 4) manifest as he ought to do in his speaking. What an amazing thing that this man who wrote the preponderance of the New Testament yet he felt such a keen and anxious need for the prayers of anonymous saints. His ministry and his message then is not so much a solitary testimony to his own life as it is to the prayers of those who continually lifted him up before the Lord. Do you pray for your pastors and spiritual leaders? We might complain that our leaders are weak and ineffective but do we pray for them and do we pray for ourselves? Many go through trials and ask “where is God in all of this?” but their prayers lives are non-existent. Watchman Nee makes the following observations about prayer in his book Let Us Pray:
“Prayer consists of four elements.
1. God determines His will in His sovereignty over His creation.
2. He communicates His will to us by His Spirit and through His word.
3. We return perceived will to Him in prayer.
4. He fulfills His will in our lives according to our heartfelt faith-filled prayers.
Prayer is like breathing. Without it, we suffocate, incapable of receiving those things that are necessary for our survival.
Paul goes on to caution the people (v. 5) to walk in wisdom toward those that are without (those not in their ranks as believers). He tells them to redeem the time. This isn’t speaking about time management, but rather Paul is saying they should make the best of their testimony in the season that they find themselves in. In that day persecution was on the rise, and soon the streets of every major city in the ancient world would run red with the blood of the saints. Paul’s exhortation is that the believers (v. 6) would let their speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt that they might know how to answer those that challenged them.
There are tremendous challenges to the faith community in our culture today. Social influencers think they are merely assailing the superstitions of a backward people when they attack our beliefs and mock the Savior. We are not allowed to rail upon them in return. We are not permitted to render back enmity for enmity. In the ancient world, thousands of converts came to Christ when they witnessed the piety and humility with which believers answered their persecutors even in the throes of brutal torture and death. Make no mistake about it – the hostility to faith that exists in our culture can only lead to greater persecution and pressure against the faith community. We must be prepared to follow Paul’s apostolic charge not to respond in kind but to answer the charges and accusations against us with love and dignity as ambassadors of Christ and not spoiled children whining because others aren’t treating us fairly.
Paul goes on (v. 7-15) to mention several of his fellow workers including Luke, the beloved physician who was with him at the time. Remember that Paul was not in a resort on the Dead Sea at the time. He was in prison, and those that he mentions were those who were hazarding their lives and their freedom to minister to Paul’s needs. Paul concludes his letter at this point with a command to one Archippus, urging him to take heed to the ministry or calling upon his life that it be fulfilled. This admonition may rightly be applied to our own lives as Paul says elsewhere that we are to take heed that we as well make our calling and election sure that we are found worthy of the price that was paid for our salvation.
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