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Colossians 1-4 Listen
What you need to know about Colosse (Colossae)
The following is taken from the Expositor's Bible Commentary:
Colosse was a small town situated on the south bank of the Lycus River in the interior of the Roman province of Asia (an area included in modern Turkey). Located about a hundred miles east of Ephesus, its nearest neighbors were Laodicea (ten miles away) and Hierapolis (thirteen miles away). Both of these cities, the more important of which was Laodicea, are named in the Epistle as having communities of Believers (cf. 2:1; 4:13). Colosse and Laodicea were probably evangelized during the time of Pauls extended ministry in Ephesus (Acts 19:10).
Colossians was written by Paul from prison around 62 A.D. We also see mention of a man named Epaphras (Colossians 1:7; 4:12), who apparently was with Paul in Rome when he wrote this book. He is also mentioned in the Epistle to Philemon (Philemon 23), where he is called by Paul his "fellow-prisoner." You will notice in verse 1 that Timothy was there as well.
1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timotheus our brother,
2 To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,
4 Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints,
5 For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel;
6 Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth:
7 As ye also learned of Epaphras our dear fellowservant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ;
8 Who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit.
9 For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
10 That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;
11 Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;
12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:
13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:
14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:
We see Paul's standard greeting in verses 1-4. He declares his apostleship in verse 1 as he almost always does at the beginning of his letters (except Philippians). When Paul speaks of being an apostle, he is claiming that twelfth spot vacated by Judas Iscariot. In I Corinthians 9 (see notes), he gives a complete defense of his apostleship.
Paul consistently uses the word "saints" (verse 2) to describe those who have trusted Christ as Savior. The Greek word used there is actually an adjective ("hagios" means "holy" or "set apart"), but when used alone is rendered a noun. In other words, those who have been set apart for Heaven, having trusted Christ as their personal savior, are called "saints" i.e. "set apart ones."
The subject matter Paul deals with in Colossians specifically attacks the tenets of a first-century heresy known as "gnosticism." These gnostic teachers were perverters of established Christian doctrine by mixing a little truth with oriental mysticism and Judaism. After his greeting in verses 1-4, verses 5-14 are stocked with doctrine and expectations. Here he deals with salvation, Heaven, Holy Spirit guidance, Godly Christian living, and deliverance from evil - just to name a few. Pay particular attention to verse 5, "For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel;" The Greek word for "hope" in every occurrence in the New Testament (KJV) is "elpis." The Greek definition for "elpis" is a little different in expression from our English word "hope." While we use the word "hope" to sometimes express a good bit of uncertainty about a future event, "elpis" is a Greek expression meaning "confident expectation" with no uncertainty with regard to the future event. Now, read verse 5 again substituting "confident expectation" for "hope." Some of the cults try to maintain that the Bible nowhere says that Believers go to Heaven when they die. Verse 5 says they do! Incidentally, II Corinthians 5:1 (see notes) and I Peter 1:4 (see notes) also plainly say that a Believer goes to Heaven at death.
You will notice in verses 4-8 that Paul seems pleased with the spiritual health of the church there at Colosse - a report he had received regarding them from Epaphras (verses 7-8). He comments in verses 5-6 regarding the presence and influence of the "word of the truth of the gospel," to the extent that it has, at this point, permeated the entire world. The question arises from Paul's declaration in verse 6: Does Paul mean the Roman Empire or the whole face of the globe? The Greek word for "world" used here is "kosmos." That word is used in a number of contexts from simply referring to the "world order of things" to a reference to the globe. For example, Jesus said in John 15:18 (see notes), "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you." Was Jesus talking about the whole globe there when John uses the Greek word "kosmos" to frame his comments? Well...no; John is conveying that Jesus is talking about the "world order." So you see, one must be careful not to read more into the usage of a word than was intended by the writer. It seems likely that Paul is referring to the extent that the "word of the truth of the gospel" has reached every region of the Roman Empire, a comment that he reinforces in verse 23 (see below).
Notice the emphasis on Godly Christian living in Paul's prayer for them beginning in verse 9. That prayer goes down at least through verse 12, but Paul segues into some doctrinal issues regarding Christ in the process of detailing his prayer for them.
Here are the components of the prayer Paul lifts up to God for these Colossians - that they might:
Here's where Paul's prayer does the doctrinal segue - between verses 12 and 13. Speaking of God (verse 12), here's what he does (verse 13), "Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son." Let's not sugar coat the life of unregenerate people. They need to be "delivered" from "the power of darkness" and moved into the kingdom of Jesus Christ. And what makes that move possible? There's your answer in verse 14, "In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins." Redemption (from the "power of darkness") is made possible through the "blood" (sacrifice of Jesus on the cross) resulting in the "forgiveness of [our] sins." In other words, "redemption" (forgiveness of sins) is made possible only because Jesus cleansed us through his sacrificial blood.
15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:
16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
19 For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;
20 And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.
21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled
22 In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:
23 If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;
24 Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church:
Paul uses these verses to firmly establish the deity and preeminence of Christ. These 9 verses solidly identify Christ as God among us and without question, the head of each Believer and of the church.
Notice how plainly Paul expresses the exact identity of Jesus Christ:
For those gnostic teachers who sought to weaken the authority of Jesus, Paul plainly establishes that Jesus is God in the flesh. Incidentally, liberal scholars today still question the deity of our Savior.
Only Paul uses this Greek word "apokatallasso" for "reconcile" in verse 20 - twice here (verses 20 and 21) and again in Ephesians 2:16 (see notes). The word holds the connotation of patching up a previous rift - in Ephesians 2:16 (see notes) between Jews and Gentiles. Here in verses 20-21 we see that man left God, but the sacrifice of Christ on the cross made it possible for man to be reconciled back to God. Paul uses the same word without the "apo" prefix (making it "katalasso") in Romans 5:10 (see notes); I Corinthians 7:11 (see notes) and II Corinthians 5:18-20 (see notes), a word which has the same meaning. In each context (except I Corinthians 7:11) it is used to describe the reparation in relations between man and God by Jesus Christ through his sacrificial death because the Colossians (and us) before salvation were "alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works" (verse 21). Having already stated the method by which we were reconciled in verse 20 ("through the blood of his cross"), Paul restates it in slightly different words here in verse 22 ("In the body of his flesh through death").
Verse 22 continues with the goal of this reconciliation - not only redemption, but a lifestyle in this world that reflects that redemption. If you don't understand this, you'll misunderstand verse 23. So...let's frame verse 23 by looking at their lifestyle before salvation up in verse 21, "alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works." The unregenerate mind fostered "wicked works." Therefore, the goal of this reconciliation is "to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight." Understand this: We are made "righteous" before God by trusting Jesus Christ as personal savior. Paul calls this "imputed" righteousness in Romans 4:24-25 (see notes). However, in this passage Paul has made clear with his reference to "wicked works" that he is talking, not about "imputed" righteousness, but righteous-looking lifestyles - lifestyles that are "holy and unblameable and unreproveable." Verse 23 then goes on to explain how that lifestyle is maintained - by continuing "in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel." Believers need to stay focused on the main thing!
Now let's revisit an issue that we saw up in verse 6 (see above) as we look at the remainder of verse 23, "...the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister." Paul didn't use the word "world" (Greek: "kosmos") here as he did in verse 6 to describe this domain. The three words "to every creature" come from the Greek phrase ("en pase te ktisei"). The words "en pase" are commonly translated "in all," while "ktisei" can be translated "creature" or "creation." With the definite article ("te") preceding it, "in all the creation" perhaps lends a clearer understanding of what is meant here. Again, as in verse 6, Paul is likely conveying the thoroughness of the gospel penetration throughout the Roman Empire. If Paul were making a prophetic statement that every single person on the face of the globe had heard the gospel, one would think that Paul would have offered more explanation regarding this feat to his Colossian recipients. It would not appear that Paul is revealing a mystery here; if he were, I believe he would have said so.
In verse 24, Paul says that he rejoices in his sufferings for the Colossians. He expands that to include the "body" (of Christ) which he defines as the "church" (Greek: "ekklesia"). The "body of Christ" is interchangeably referred to in the New Testament as the "church."
25 Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God;
26 Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:
27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:
28 Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus:
29 Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.
Paul discusses his calling from God - what he's preaching and doing among the Gentiles. The Greek word for "mystery" in verse 26 is "musterion." As you can see "mystery" is a near transliteration of the Greek word which literally means, "that which cannot be known by the natural mind." So what is this mystery message Paul is so diligently preaching to the Gentiles? It's found in verse 27, "...Christ in you, the hope of glory:" That was a foreign concept (a mystery) to the Old Testament Jews, but was revealed to Paul and shared with us. In a general sense, the word means "that which was hidden previously."
Notice verse 25, "Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God;" There's that word "dispensation" (Greek: "oikonomia" means "management") again, used by Paul to describe his revelation of the gospel of grace (previously a mystery) which has been extended to all Believers. He says that in verse 26, "Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:" He also used the word "dispensation" in Ephesians 3:2 (see notes). In light of his plain speaking on the matter, it's difficult to reject the notion that Paul was clearly dispensational in his view of God's economy through the ages.
In verses 27-29 Paul commits himself fully to the ministration of the preaching of this dispensational truth, "Christ in you, the hope of glory." Paul's goal is "that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus." The Greek word for "perfect" here is "teleios," which means mature.
There are a lot of logical but wrong philosophies about Christ (Colossians 2:1-6)
1 For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh;
2 That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;
3 In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
4 And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words.
5 For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ.
6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:
We see the distress Paul senses in verse 1 regarding the spreading of false teaching, in Colosse as well as other places, including Laodicea. His reference in verse 2 to "the acknowledgement of the mystery of God" was defined back in 1:26 (see above). In that mystery "are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (verse 3). Then comes the treachery in verse 4; he's been laying the groundwork up to this point for dealing with this treachery, and here it is, those who would "beguile you with enticing words." After commending their stedfastness and faith in verse 5, he digs right in. The Judaizers and Gnostics of Paul's day are undoubtedly the target for these remarks as we will see later in this chapter. Verse 6 is particularly meaningful here, "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:" In other words: you're saved by faith AND kept by faith.
7 Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.
8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
10 And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:
11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:
12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
These heretics (then and now) would add a level of law keeping to one's faith, were they allowed to do so. Verse 7 says in essence, "Hang on to the principles of your faith. Don't allow them to redefine it!" I particularly like verse 8, "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ." The Greek word for "spoil" ("sulagogeo") is used only once in the New Testament. In other literature it is used in the context of the "spoil" taken in battle. In this context Paul is warning them to protect their minds against becoming the "spoil" of non-scriptural philosophies and vain (Greek: "kenos" means "empty") deceptive teachings. The world is saturated with philosophies (then and now) that attack one's faith in Christ. It is vital that you, as a Believer, fully understand your relationship to Christ so that the modern-day philosophers won't be able to make you feel insufficient in your faith for lack of meeting their man-made expectations for you.
Verse 9 absolutely sets the record straight that Jesus Christ is fully God in the flesh, "For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." That verse leads me to embrace the scriptural term "Godhead" to describe the relationship of Jesus to God and the Holy Spirit rather than the oft-used term "trinity." When you use Paul's words to describe it, you are less likely to be misunderstood. Verse 10 goes on to say "And ye are complete in him..." That's great news! However, there were those who did not see that as the complete package; that's also the problem today. Paul then deals with a couple of the unscriptural addenda added to one's faith back then, the first being circumcision. Notice how Paul expresses it in verse 11, "In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands..." No physical ritual of circumcision is necessary, as was established at the Jerusalem Council back in Acts 15 (see notes). Spiritual circumcision consists of trusting Jesus Christ as one's savior. That's all that is necessary. The picture (only a picture) represented by water baptism is presented in verse 12 with the final result in verse 13, "And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses." That baptismal picture is beautifully outlined in Romans 6:1-14 (see notes).
Verse 14 is very important to understand, "Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;" It is clear that Paul is talking about the Law of Moses here. What does he mean when he refers to the Law of Moses? What exactly is the Believer's responsibility regarding the Law? This is an important foundational lesson. Paul declares in II Corinthians 3:7-11 (see notes) that the "Law of Moses" had been "done away" (not my words, but Paul's). It is important to understand that this was the mission of Jesus Christ as seen in Matthew 5:17-18 (see notes) when he said, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." If you're still fuzzy about what is meant here, click here to read what the New Testament teaches regarding the Believer's responsibility with regard to the Mosaic Law.
The precise meaning of verse 15 is disputed among scholars. The foes here are "principalities and powers." The Greek words are "arche" (also translated "rulers") and "exousia" (also translated "authorities"). Are these human or supernatural foes? Does it matter? Christ "spoiled" them and triumphed over them. However, based upon context before and after this verse, I'm inclined to prefer the notion that Jesus Christ by his death, burial and resurrection, triumphed over those who would put artificial requirements on spirituality. Those are the people he's warning against in verses 1-14 and continues to do so in verse 16-23. Therefore, I'm going with "people in authority" here for the foes of verse 15.
What about those rituals and traditions (Colossians 2:16-23)
16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:
17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
18 Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,
19 And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.
20 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances,
21 (Touch not; taste not; handle not;
22 Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?
23 Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.
The Jews were way into doing, doing, doing. It was what defined an observant Jew. Understandably, they had a difficult time shaking the habit that had characterized their lives. To them, this was the way to honor God. They could not abide with the concept that Gentiles could honor God any other way. Therefore, these Judaizers would insist that the believing Gentiles comply with their "doings." A hybrid religion of Judaism/Christianity was being taught to the Gentiles, which did no justice to Judaism or Christianity. Paul warns against this.
Perhaps this is a good time to point out that a hybrid doctrine of Christian living is still being taught today in many fundamental churches. Carefully-selected portions of the Old Testament law (the ones they like) are extracted and applied as standards of Christian living. The Judaizers of the New Testament did so because they were in a transitional period between law and grace; they were Jews who believed and were still wrestling with the place of the Mosaic Law in their Christian lives. Today there really is no excuse. Few of us were practicing Orthodox Jews prior to salvation. This chapter particularly points out that legalism counteracts grace. The Law of Moses equals Judaism, and Judaism equals the Law of Moses. Paul takes great care in separating the two in his writings to the churches. Today, our law is from within because we have an indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Thus, Romans 8:2 (see notes) says, "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." I literally have God's law written on my heart. That's the law that I am to obey - not the Old Testament Law of Moses. It's a simple concept, but very difficult for many Believers to grasp. Now...make no mistake about it; that's exactly what Paul is saying in verse 16, "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:" This verse is a direct reference to the unscriptural mandate that Believers be required to keep the Old Testament law. It's ironic; with all the clarity contained in these verses (16-23), many fundamental preachers today still seem confused about Law keeping. They obviously don't keep the mandates of the Law of Moses including the Sabbath specifications, but they continue to promote it as an addendum to faith in Christ. As a matter of fact, look at the outcome of the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 (see notes). You will notice that these Jewish Christian leaders did not set forth a requirement that the newly-saved Gentiles be subjected to the Law of Moses. Yet, of the top ten (commandments) virtually none of those who preach the importance of keeping the Mosaic Law actually take any measures to keep #4, Sabbath keeping. Under Moses, it was a death sentence to violate that one. If you want to know more, click here to read the details regarding Sabbath keeping.
Here's the fear that many have. They are afraid that, without the hammer of the Old Testament Mosaic Law, people will feel they can get away with sin. Every mandate the Believer needs concerning life in Christ is found in the New Testament. As a matter of fact, let's take a look at chapter 3 and see that Paul is careful to point out the attributes of Godly Christian living.
So...what about those practices of verse 16; what are they good for? Paul says the same thing here in verse 17 that he says in Hebrews 10:1 (see notes); they served as shadows leading up to their fulfillment in Christ.
We are not given any details about the heresy being practiced in verse 18. It would appear that Paul is critical of those who have developed a doctrine that Believers are not worthy to appeal directly to God and must, therefore, worship angels instead. That heresy came from "his fleshly mind." To practice such cuts one off from the "Head" (verse 19) of the body of Christ, thus missing out on "the increase of God."
Paul then asks this question in verse 20, "Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances?" He lists a few in verse 21 and categorizes them in verse 22 as "after the commandments and doctrines of men." It would appear that here we see this hybrid doctrine of the Gnostics...with a little Law of Moses mixed in. He sums up this ritualistic worship in verse 23, "Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh." Notice the "shew of wisdom" - not real wisdom. The "will worship" comes from a single Greek word, "ethelothreskeia" meaning "religion thought up by oneself." This addresses the practice of self deprivation in the course of practicing a man-made religion - but they looked very pious doing so.
1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.
5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:
6 For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:
7 In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.
8 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.
9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;
10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:
11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.
12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;
13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
14 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.
15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
Notice how Paul frames this next discussion in verse 1, "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand [see notes on Psalm 110] of God." That's a natural transition from the erroneous practices seen in verses 16-23. Immediately we are reminded of Paul's words in Philippians 4:8 (see notes), "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." It could not be any clearer. The Believer should be controlled by the Holy Spirit of God as stated in verses 1-4. In doing so, our thinking will be managed according to Philippians 4:8 (see notes). Let's briefly look at Paul's emphases in verses 1-4. Believers are pictured in verse 1 as having been resurrected in Christ, a picture of our relationship with Christ typified by water baptism, referenced in 2:12 (see above) and fully developed in Romans 6:1-14 (see notes). Verse 2 emphasizes that Believers should set their affections toward eternal rewards. Then, as also pictured in water baptism, Believers are shown to be dead to the world and now in Christ's care in verse 3...and looking for the rapture in verse 4 (see I Thessalonians 4:13-18 and I Corinthians 15:51-58 for details on the rapture). Then we find lists in verses 5-14; everybody loves a list.
Paul gives us three lists as guides for Christian conduct in this passage.
Mortify (put to death) therefore your members which are upon the earth (verse 5):
These are actions - mostly of a sexual nature.
In verse 6 we are told, "For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience." We see Paul deal with this concept exhaustively in Romans 1:18-32 (see notes). Even among lost people, God has demonstrated that he has no tolerance for depraved conduct. In Leviticus 18:19-30 (see notes) we are told that the nations which had previously occupied Canaan were "spued out" of the land because of these wicked practices, primarily with regard to sexual perversion. He refers to their unregenerate lifestyle in this context in verse 7, a reference to their before-salvation practices.
Put off all these (verses 8-9):
These are words and one's outward expressions. It would appear that Paul means to differentiate these "put off" actions from the "put to death" actions of verse 5.
Put on these (verses 12-14):
These positive responses come as a result of Holy Spirit leadership. In one's relationship with others, these qualities are those that manifest themselves in Believers as they are led by the Holy Spirit. These are similar to the "fruit of the Spirit" found in Galatians 5:22-23 (see notes).
Paul then adds in verse 15 that Believers should let the "peace of God rule in your hearts." I'd say that's a pretty comprehensive list; wouldn't you? As a matter of fact, in essence, it exceeds the mandates of the Old Testament Mosaic Law.
And here's the primary reason we should gather as Believers, found in Colossians 3:16, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." Look! I need your fellowship and you need mine. You can't get that from television or radio.
18 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.
19 Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.
20 Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.
21 Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.
22 Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God:
23 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;
24 Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.
25 But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.
4:1 Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.
These admonitions are similar to those found in Ephesians 5:22-6:9 (see notes). Believers should be ever conscious of how they relate to others as a matter of testimony.
These relationships are specified as follows:
Slavery during the first century was a legal reality and had been for centuries in the Roman empire and the empires that preceded it. These slaves under Roman rule were not entire races, but rather certain people from within each race who were in bondage as slaves. So, how might one end up being a slave during that era? Derived form extra-biblical historical documents, here are a few ways: If you were born to a slave, you were born a slave and remained such unless your master gave you your freedom. Promiscuity was rampant during that era. It was common that unwanted babies would be left out on the side of the road to suffer death by exposure - especially girls. Slave traders would harvest these unwanted babies and hire someone to raise them until they could be sold as slaves. Even though most of these babies were unwanted females, they would be raised to become productive in supplying male and female slaves to their owners. It is also true that a debtor could lose his freedom and be forced into slavery as a result. Additionally, sometimes slaves were formerly prisoners of war. The first two scenarios listed were probably the primary sources for the greatest number of slaves in Roman society during that era.
Paul deals with the proper relationship between slaves and their owners. He had no power to change laws governing slavery, so he simply dealt in this chapter with how slaves should properly respond to their masters and how masters should relate to their slaves. Some have questioned why Paul did not condemn slavery altogether in this passage. Keep in mind two issues at hand: First, when raised as a slave from birth, Roman society would have been economically intolerant of one who had acquired his freedom in most circumstances. This was the lifestyle to which they were accustomed. The security of a benevolent slave owner was preferred by many over freedom. Second of all, Paul's ministry was not one of government reform. His was a ministry of reconciliation to God. Here was a man writing to people from prison, enduring his own version of false imprisonment. So, understand that these verses represent Paul's instructions to Believers who were slaves and to slave owners.
Paul also deals with the subject of the proper treatment of slaves in Ephesians 6:5-9 (see notes).
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.
Paul encourages us to continually be in communication with God in prayer and thanksgiving to God (verse 2). The Greek verb for "continue" in that verse is "proskartereo." It's the same word used in Acts 6:4 (see notes) with regard to the Apostles when they tell the folks in Jerusalem, "But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word." Paul uses the same word to describe a Believer's proper attitude toward prayer in Romans 12:12 (see notes), "Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer." Paul could not say it more simply than he does in I Thessalonians 5:17 (see notes), "Pray without ceasing."
He lists three action items for these Believers:
To put it simply, verses 5 and 6 emphasize the importance of continually being conscious of how we are viewed by non Believers.
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.
These are the final words of greeting to Believers that Paul usually includes at the end of his letters. The "Tychicus" mentioned in verse 7 was one of the disciples that accompanied Paul on a portion of his third missionary journey. He appears in Acts 20:4 (see notes). The "Marcus" of verse 10 is likely the "John Mark" of Acts 12 (see notes), listed here as a cousin to Barnabas, Paul's one-time fellow traveler in the ministry first seen in Acts 4 (see notes). We see in verse 14 that Luke is with Paul at the time of this writing. Some think the Laodicean letter of verse 16 is the Ephesian epistle.
We are left with the impression that those mentioned through verse 11 are of the "circumcision" i.e. Jews, while those mentioned from verse 12 on are Gentiles. That suggests that Luke, the writer of the Gospel of Luke and Acts, was a Gentile. Demas is mentioned here as present with Paul, but seems to have abandoned Paul when he is mentioned in II Timothy 4:10 (see notes).
We see in verse 18 that Paul used a transcriber for this letter, with the exception of the salutation.