Chapter 4 Vs. 1 “Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven Vs. 2 Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; Vs. 3 praying at the same time for us as well, that God may open up to us a door for the word, so that we many speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; Vs. 4 in order that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak.”
Paul has appealed to the slaves. Now he makes a heartfelt plea to the masters who own the lives and futures of other men and women. What does he ask of them? He simply asks that they be just and fair while devoting themselves to prayer. He does so because he knows that it is impossible to spend time with God in prayer and not be aware that we do not want justice. It is those moments of prayer and meditation in our own lives that remind us that we want mercy and grace, not justice. Paul is appealing to Christian slave owners to go to the mercy seat so that God can deal with their souls about their slaves. It would be a safe bet to believe that many slaves found their freedom because their master spent time praying to our benevolent Father. At the very least, many exchanged the harshness of their hearts for attitudes of being just and fair, yet Paul also employs them to pray for himself as well. The mystery of the ages is the (Christ crucified, risen) Church. Paul alludes now to heavenly knowledge concerning how he should preach and what he should preach. It is not because he was without knowledge for Paul was full of revelation knowledge. His concern is that his every word will bring increase to the Kingdom as he shares the saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Vs. 5 “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, (unsaved) making the most of the opportunity. Vs.6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned as it were with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person.”
Wisdom is a much needed commodity in the world we live in. There are a lot of intellects who have varying degrees attached to their names, but intellect is not always the same as wisdom and in fact, rarely is. God wants us to learn that our words paint pictures that are either productive or unproductive. In short, we all need to allow the Holy Spirit to impart words of knowledge into our minds so that we are not fleshly in our speech. It is the reason that Paul asked others to pray for himself concerning his words. If Paul needed the help of the Holy Spirit to control the words he spoke, then we all the more. Unseasoned food does not bring a lot of pleasure to our pallet, but well seasoned food causes us to ask for more. No one wants or needs a piece of our mind, but everyone needs the mind of Christ.
Vs. 7 “As to my affairs, Tychicus, our beloved brother and faithful servant and fellow bond servant in the Lord, will bring you information. Vs. 8 for I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. ”
Those we allow to become our inner circle of friends are of vital importance as they will greatly influence our future. We will also find that the higher God’s calling, the smaller our inner circle of friends will be. Paul now mentions eight different men who he has mentored and invested his life into. Tychicus is mentioned first. His name also appears in four other letters. Paul calls him a beloved brother, a faithful servant, and a bond servant. All of us know good people that are not all that easy to love, but Tychicus is called a beloved brother. Obviously, Tychicus was lovable because he had learned to unconditionally love others. He also loved to serve others and for his attitude of service, Paul also calls him a bond servant. Bond servants were men and women who had served the required years of service under Jewish Law (usually because of debt) and had chosen to remain with their masters even though they could have gone free.
Vs. 9 “and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of our number. They will inform you about the whole situation here.”
Onesimus was a run away slave owned by a man called Philemon. Paul wrote to Philemon on behalf of Onesimus and called him his faithful and beloved son. That was not the way Philemon remembered him, as it appears based on the letter to Philemon that Onesimus may have stolen from him before running away. Paul offered to repay Philemon for whatever he had taken, but more than that, asked that he would no longer consider him as a slave only, but as a beloved brother. In Onesimus we see the power of the Holy Spirit to change a person’s life. He could have refused to return, yet he chose to do Paul’s bidding and return to his master. There is a valuable lesson here. We need to be slow in judging others whose lives appear to be upside down and not living as we think they should.
Vs. 10 “Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, sends you his greetings; and also Barnabas’ cousin Mark” Vs. 11 “And also Jesus who is called Justus; these are the only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are from the circumcision (Jews) and they have proven to be an encouragement to me.”
Aristichus, a native of Thessalonica, was severely beaten for befriending Paul while at Ephesus. Never the less, he would not be dissuaded from furthering his relationship with Paul,. Being steadfast in the Faith, Aristarchus continued on with Paul to Rome. Tradition has it that he was martyred during the reign of Nero.
Next, we see the familiar name of Mark who is credited with writing one of the four gospels. Yes, he is the same Mark that went with Paul on his first missionary journey. We are unsure of the reason, (perhaps homesick) but he chose to leave Barnabas and Paul and return home. To be sure, this event left the apostle Paul more than a little angry as he refused to take him with them on their second missionary journey. Paul obviously repented of his attitude and came to love Mark as a father loves a son. In chapter 14:51-52 of The Gospel According to Mark, the writer refers to a young man who was in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus was betrayed by Judas. His garment was seized by one of those seeking Jesus, but he managed to pull away from the captor, escaping naked. That was most likely the same Mark who was but a young boy when that event took place. It is no wonder that Paul wrote in Philippians 1:6: “We are all a work in progress” (paraphrased). Though Mark started slowly, what a wonderfully strong finish!
Paul also gives us the name of Jesus (Justus). Jesus was not an uncommon name during the time that Jesus Christ lived, but it appears that he preferred to be called Justus by his Christian friends. Paul preached at the home of a man named Justus while at Corinth. It is very possible that this is the same Justus named here.
Vs. 12 “Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God, Vs. 13 For I bear him witness that he has a deep concern for you and for those who are in Laodicea and Hierapolis.”
Paul spoke highly of Epaphras in the beginning of his letter and takes the opportunity to speak of him again. Epaphras was a citizen of Colossae who went to Rome on behalf of the Church that had been established there. As we have seen, the local fellowship had people who were trying to dilute the gospel message. If we were in Epaphras shoes, it is entirely possible that we would have delivered more agony and despair than encouragement. May it be said of us that we too are encouragers and prayer warriors who have a deep concern for our brothers and sisters in the Faith.
Vs. 14 “Luke, the beloved physician, sends you his greetings, and also Demas.”
We could spend volumes of time concerning Luke, but suffice to say, he like Mark, was used mightily of God. He not only wrote the Gospel According to Luke, but the book of Acts of the Apostles as well. Luke was always in the middle of the battle, not looking to retreat, but moving forward for the gospel’s sake. It also appears that Luke was a gentile as he was not named in the group of those who were Jewish. If that is the case, and it certainly seems to be true, then God chose a gentile to write two of the most important books of the bible. All of the other books of the bible were written by Jews.
Demas is mentioned in three different letters. In both this letter and in Paul’s letter to Philemon, he is mentioned as a fellow worker. However, in Paul’s second letter to Timothy, Paul writes that Demas left him because he loved the world more than his service to Christ. Remember that Timothy was with Paul when this letter was penned, so we would do well to let this be a warning sign to us! How easy it is to drift away from the Lord and suddenly find ourselves back in the world. Many marriages have been left in ruin because someone thought that they were an exception to God’s warning. Relationship difficulties don’t spring up overnight. As our relationship with Christ erodes, so do our personal relationships with others.
Vs. 15 “Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea and also Nympha and the church that is in her house. Vs. 16 “And when this letter is read among you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea. Vs. 17 And say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.”
Paul could not have known that his letters that were filled with instructions and doctrine, would be read in homes and churches around the entire world for the next two thousand years. The doctrine contained in this letter alone is powerful beyond description, and is still bearing fruit that is helping Christians of all nations to anchor their lives. Like Archippus, we need to be very careful with the ministry we have received from the Lord. Without exception, God has assigned a ministry to each of us.
Vs. 18 “I Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my imprisonment. Grace be with you.”
Writing a letter during the day of Paul was no easy matter, but it was a job he was educated for before he came to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. It is easy to see that God was working behind the scenes in Paul’s life long before his Damascus encounter. He is doing the same in our lives as well. Today, technology has made it very easy for us to write words of encouragement to others, and encouragers we should strive to be. This was Paul’s first imprisonment, so we know that prayer works as he was eventually set free to continue his work of building God’s Church. Paul finishes his letter as he began, with a message of Grace. Again, Jesus Christ and grace are wed together and are impossible to separate. The more we allow grace to work in our lives, the more we allow Jesus to work in our lives. It is by grace we have been saved, not of works that any man should boast. When we receive grace, we receive more and more of Jesus. Amen and Amen