CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Colossians 3:23. Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily.— Ephesians 6:7, “With good will doing service.” R.V. gives the distinction which is obliterated by “do, do” of A.V. Whatsoever ye do, work heartily (margin, from the soul).
Colossians 3:25. He that doeth wrong.—The participle of the original points to the habitual practice of wrong-doing. There is no respect of persons.—In the Ephesian letter this consideration is urged upon the masters as it is here upon the slaves. Both are amenable to the same authority.
Duties of Masters and Servants.
The jealous conflict between capital and labour threatens the good understanding that was wont to exist between employer and employed with a serious rupture. Such a rupture would benefit neither side and would inflict incalculable disaster on both. There are economic laws, which regulate the employment of capital and labour, which no number of combinations and unions among masters and servants can ever set aside. Though a temporary advantage may, in extraordinary times, be snatched by either party, the law of supply and demand inevitably tends to balance and equalise all interests. It would be well, therefore, for masters and servants to ponder the teaching of the New Testament regarding their reciprocal duties. It was Christianity that rescued the servant from a condition of abject civil slavery, and placed him in his just relation to his fellow-subjects in the commonwealth. The farther men drift away from the Christian spirit in seeking to adjust the questions between capital and labour, the more difficult and complicated they become. It is only as these questions are settled on a Christian basis, in harmony with the laws of a sound political economy, that party jealousies will subside, and the best understanding between masters and servants be established. Observe:—
I. That the duty of the servant is to obey his master in all things relating to his state of servitude.—“Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh” (Colossians 3:22). There is nothing degrading in service. It is the employment of angels. “They serve Him day and night.” It is ennobled by the example of Christ, who “came not to be ministered unto, but to minister.” To obey in all things is not always pleasant or easy; but the Christian servant will strive to accomplish the task. He consults the master’s will, not his own; he does the master’s way, not his own; he considers the master’s time, not his own. His obedience is universally binding in everything relating to his state of servitude, but is restricted to that. His employer is his master only according to the flesh, has control over his bodily powers, and over the time in which he has engaged to labour; but he has not power over the spirit. The master cannot demand obedience in any matter forbidden of God.
II. That the duty of the servant is to be done in a spirit of sincerity.—
1. It is to be free from duplicity. “Not with eye-service as men-pleasers; but in singleness of heart” (Colossians 3:22). The servants of whom the apostle writes were slaves, and treated merely as chattels. There are supposed to have been sixty millions of slaves in the Roman empire. From the treatment they usually received, they were greatly tempted to be merely eye-servants—diligent when their master was present, but indolent and reckless in his absence. Christianity has elevated man from slavery, and provided him with the highest motives to moral action. It teaches that service is to be rendered, not with a hypocritical deference and sham industriousness, but with a single, undivided heart, doing the best at all times for the master.
2. It is to be done in the fear of God.—“Fearing God”—the one Lord and Master, as contrasted with the master according to the flesh. The Christian servant has a conscience to satisfy and a heavenly Master to please. The fear of the Lord is the holiest motive-power in all acceptable service. He who serves his earthly master as he seeks to serve God will take care that the divine and human interests do not come into collision with each other.
III. That the duty of the servant is to be discharged from the loftiest religious principle.—
1. In every duty God is to be recognised. “And whatsoever ye do, do it as to the Lord, and not unto men” (Colossians 3:23). The Christian servant must look higher than his earthly master; that is a service that may be rendered mechanically, and by men who make no pretence to be Christian. The true servant will give Christ the chief place in his service—will so act that his obedience shall honour Christ and be acceptable to Him. His best efforts may fail to satisfy the exactions of an unreasonable master, and the faithful servant will find his consolation and recompense in the fact that he aims to secure the divine approval. This will give a moral dignity to the most menial employment, and exalt the common drudgery of toil into a means of religious refreshment and invigoration.
2. In every duty the best powers should be exercised.—“Do it heartily” (Colossians 3:23). If the heart be engaged, it will put into operation the best powers of the whole man. No work is well done when the heart is not in it. Whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well; and surely no power can move the springs of action so completely as the ever-present thought that, whatever we do, we “do it as to the Lord, and not unto men.” Our best efforts fall immeasurably below the lofty ideal of Christian service; but it is no small commendation when the divine Master can declare respecting the anxious and delighted worker, “He hath done what he could.” Acting on such a principle, the capacity for the highest kind of work is cultivated, the sphere of usefulness widened, and the most coveted honours and enjoyments of the faithful servant secured.
IV. That faithful service will meet with a glorious reward.—“Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance, for ye serve the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:24). Under the sinister judgment passed by Satan on the devotion of Job there lurks an encouraging truth—man does not serve God for nought. Though there is nothing meritorious in the best actions of the busiest life, yet it has pleased God, in the exuberance of His condescending bounty, to provide abundant recompense for all work done as unto Him. The reward of the inheritance is in generous disproportion to the service rendered; the service is marred and limited by the numberless imperfections of the human; the reward is amply freighted with the overflowing munificence and glittering splendours of the divine. It is the inheritance of imperishable happiness—of incorruptible and unfading glory—of heaven—of God. What an encouragement to work!
V. That every act of injustice will meet with impartial retribution.—“But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done, and there is no respect of persons” (Colossians 3:25). Some regard the wrong-doer referred to in this verse as the servant who defrauds the master of his service; others, as the master who defrauds the servant of his just recompense. But the words announce a general principle which is equally applicable to both. The philosophers of Greece taught, and the laws of Rome assumed, that the slave was a chattel, and that as a chattel he had no rights. The New Testament places the relation of master and servant in a wholly new light, and shows that between both there is a reciprocity of duties and of penalties. The injustice done in the world, whether by master or by servant, shall be impartially redressed, and the injured one vindicated at the day of final retribution.
VI. That the duty of the master is to deal righteously towards his servants.—
1. He is to act towards his servants according to the principles of justice and equity. “Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal” (Colossians 3:1). If the masters here addressed were exhorted to deal fairly and justly with those who were their slaves, not less fully is the modern master bound to act justly and equitably towards those who serve him. The position of the master is one of great power and authority; it is, at the same time, one of solemn responsibility. Capital has not only its cares and privileges, it has also its duties, and these cannot be abused with impunity. The communistic doctrine of equality has no countenance here. If all were socially and financially equal to-day, the inequality would be restored to-morrow. The duty of the master is to give to his servants that which is righteous and reciprocally fair. Treat them as human beings, with human rights, and as rational and religious beings, who, like yourselves, have an endless future to prepare for. Give them fair remuneration for work done. Be generous in prosperous times, and considerate when adversity comes. While acting commercially according to the laws of political economy, which no sane business man can disregard, yield in all justness and fairness to the impulse of the higher law of Christian charity and kindness. Interest yourselves in the physical, moral, and religious welfare of your work-people. Good masters make good servants.
2. He is to remember that he is responsible to a higher Master. “Knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven” (Colossians 3:1). The master is not less bound than the servant to do his duty as unto the Lord. They are both servants of the one great Lord and Master of all. “One is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren.” Do not impose impossible tasks upon your servants. Avoid an overbearing tyranny, and “forbear threatening.” Exercise your authority with humanity and gentleness. Use your wealth, reputation, and influence in promoting the best interest of your work-people, and in serving the Lord Christ. Remember that whatever you do to the poorest servant of your heavenly Master is reckoned and recompensed as done to Himself.
1. Social distinctions afford opportunities for personal discipline.
2. Every rank in life has its special perils.
3. The law of duty is binding in all ranks.
4. The dust of both masters and servants will soon mingle in a common grave.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Colossians 3:23. Do all for God.
I. The Christian’s practical life comprises working, acting, and suffering.
II. Abide with God in your calling.—Intention gives a moral character to actions.
III. Motives to duty.—
1. Mechanical activity.
2. Supernatural motive. “Do it heartily as to the Lord.”
3. Our good intention should be renewed at intervals.
4. Our lesser actions should be brought under the control of Christian principle.—E. M. Goulburn.
A Hearty Christianity.
I. The highest end of all work is work done for God and to God.—
1. Not work done for self.
2. Not work done for society.
II. The highest kind of work of which we are capable is that which engages all the powers of our spiritual nature.—“Do it heartily.”
1. The character of the work we do will be decided by the state of our heart.
2. By the predominating impulse of the heart.
3. The character of our work as a whole will be influenced by the heartiness we throw into every single duty. “Whatsoever ye do.”
1. A hearty Christianity is a happy Christianity.
2. Is not easily daunted by difficulties.
3. Is aggressive.
Colossians 3:23-25. Piety in the Household.
I. We are serving the Lord.—This will dignify the most insignificant duty.
II. We should seek to be actuated by the highest possible motive.—Out of the heart, or influenced by the affections. The highest motive will cover the lowest.
III. The Lord Himself will give us the highest reward.—With Him is no respect of persons.—Homiletic Monthly.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Colossians 4:2. Watch in the same.—“Being wakeful.” Here again the apostle changes his language from that used in enjoining the same precepts in Ephesians. Remaining sleepless (Ephesians 6:18) is the same thing as being wakeful.
Colossians 4:3. A door of utterance.—R.V. “a door for the word.” The word of God cannot be bound, though its messenger may; but St. Paul can scarcely think its being glorified comes so quickly as it would if he had liberty to preach it. “An open door” with “many adversaries” is more to St. Paul’s mind than the custodia libera. See Ephesians 6:19-20.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.— Colossians 4:2-4
The Efficacy of Prayer.
Prayer is a supreme necessity of the soul. It is the cry of conscious want, an outlet for the pent-up feelings, and a mighty engine of power in all spiritual enterprises. It is the holiest exercise of the believer, his solace in trouble, his support in weakness, the solver of his doubts and perplexities, his safety in peril, his unfailing resource in adversity, his balance in prosperity, his weapon in every conflict. It is the key which opens the door of the heavenly treasury, and places at his disposal the boundless wealth of the divine beneficence. The efficacy of prayer does not terminate in the individual petitioner, but extends to others on whose behalf supplication is made. God hears the cry of the believing suppliant, and in some way, not always explicable to us, but in harmony with His divine perfections and the fitness of things, answers and blesses. The apostle knew the value and power of prayer when earnestly and humbly exercised, and, after giving directions concerning the discharge of certain specific relative duties, he returns, in concluding this epistle, to some general admonitions in which this important duty holds a foremost place. Prayer, says Thomas Aquinas, should have three qualities: it should be assiduous, watchful, and grateful. The perseverance with which prayer uninterruptedly draws itself through all events, internal and external, like a thread, or encircles them like a chain, is its vital power; the watchfulness, the lively circumspection, the gratitude, are the quiet tone or firm basis of the same.
I. That prayer to be efficacious must be earnest and unceasing.—“Continue in prayer” (Colossians 4:2). The heart must be in the duty and all the best powers of the man put forth. That in which we have no interest will stir no feeling, will challenge no effort. To repeat a verbal formulary is not prayer. Alas! how many thousand prayers go no farther than the sound they make, and are as useless! Genuine prayer involves thought, diligent inquiry, passionate entreaty, unwearied perseverance. The highest blessings of the Christian life, the brightest visions of God, the deepest insight into truth, the most enravishing ecstasies of the soul, are obtained only by fervent and persistent wrestling. Prayer must be offered with close-cleaving constancy, as the word “continue” implies, and with daily frequency. Let prayer be the key of the morning and the bolt of the evening.
II. That prayer to be efficacious must be joined with vigilance.—“And watch in the same” (Colossians 4:2). Long, prosy, spiritless prayers lull the soul into a dangerous slumber; and without incessant watchfulness all prayers are apt to become long, prosy, and spiritless. It is not necessary we should rob ourselves of needful sleep in order to spend so many hours in formal devotion. The vigilance refers to the spirit and manner in which all prayer is to be offered. There may be times when, under the pressure of some great solicitude, the soul is drawn out in prayer so as to preclude sleep; but at these times the quality of watchfulness is often in most vigorous operation. Watch, as a sentinel suspecting the approach of an enemy; as a physician attending to all the symptoms of a disease; as the keeper of a prison watching an insidious and treacherous criminal. We have need to watch against the temptations arising from worldly associations, from the sinfulness of our own hearts, and from the vile insinuations of the enemy, all which mar the efficacy of our prayers. Chrysostom says, “The devil knoweth how great a good prayer is.” No wonder he should seek to distract the mind of the earnest suppliant. “Prayer,” said Bernard, “is a virtue that prevaileth against all temptations;” but this is so only when a sleepless vigilance is exercised.
III. That prayer to be efficacious must be mingled with gratitude.—“With thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2). The apostle has, throughout the epistle, repeatedly enforced the duty of thankfulness. He once more recurs to it in this place; and we cannot fail to note the vast importance he attached to the exercise of this grace, and how it ought to interpenetrate every Christian duty. We are ever more ready to grumble than to give thanks. Such is the deceitfulness of sin, or the vanity and purblindness of the human heart, that the very regularity and abundance of the divine mercies, instead of increasing, are apt to restrict our gratitude. We take, as a matter of course, what ought to be received with humblest thankfulness. An old writer has well said, Need will make us beggars, but grace only thanksgivers. Gratitude opens the hand of God to give, and the heart of the suppliant to receive aright. Thankfulness for past mercies is an important condition of success in pleading for additional blessings.
IV. That prayer is efficacious in promoting an efficient declaration of the gospel.—
1. Prayer should be offered on behalf of Christian ministers. “Withal praying also for us” (Colossians 4:3). The Colossians were exhorted to pray, not only for Paul, his fellow-labourer Timothy, and their own evangelist Epaphras, but for all teachers of the gospel. The preacher is engaged in a work of vast magnitude, environed with colossal difficulties, and is himself ferociously assailed by great and peculiar perils. The earnest intercessions of a devout and holy people are to him a safeguard and a tower of strength. A once popular minister gradually lost his influence and congregation. The blame was laid entirely upon him. Some of his Church officials went to talk with him on the subject. He replied: “I am quite sensible to all you say, for I feel it to be true; and the reason of it is, I have lost my prayer-book.” He explained: “Once my preaching was acceptable, many were edified by it, and numbers were added to the Church, which was then in a prosperous state. But we were then a praying people. Prayer was restrained, and the present condition of things followed. Let us return to the same means, and the same results may be expected.” They acted upon this suggestion, and in a short time the minister was as popular as he had ever been, and the Church was again in a flourishing state. The great apostle felt the necessity of co-operative sympathy and prayer (Romans 15:30; 2 Thessalonians 3:1).
2. Prayer should be offered that the most prominent features of the gospel may be declared.—“To speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds” (Colossians 4:3). It has before been explained in this epistle that the mystery of Christ is a grand summary of all the leading truths of the gospel: the mystery of the incarnation of Christ, the mystery of His sufferings and death as a sacrifice for sin, the mystery of admitting the Gentiles on equal terms with the Jews to all the privileges and blessings of the new covenant. It was the apostle’s intrepid advocacy of the rights of the despised Gentile—maugre the fierce bigotry of his own countrymen, the deep-seated prejudice of the times, and even the slavish indifference of the Gentiles themselves—which led to his imprisonment: “for which I am also in bonds.” The prayers of the good give the preacher courage to declare all the counsel of God, whether it be palatable or not, and to give special prominence to those truths which are of priceless importance to humanity.
3. Prayer should be offered, that opportunity may be afforded for the free declaration of the gospel.—“That God would open unto us a door of utterance” (Colossians 4:3). The door had been closed and barred to the apostle for four years by his imprisonment. He felt a holy impatience to be free, that he might resume the loved labour of former years, when “from Jerusalem and round about unto Illyricum he had fully preached the gospel of Christ.” But he waited till the door was opened by divine providence; and this he knew was often done in answer to believing prayer. So there are times, in all ages of the Church, when the door of opportunity for disseminating the gospel is shut by the opposition of the world, by the plottings of Satan, by the prevalence of a rabid infidelity, or by the removal of eminent champions for the truth; but, in response to the earnest intercessions of God’s people, a great and effectual door is opened, and the Church advances to fresh conquests.
4. Prayer should be offered that the gospel may be declared with fearless self-evidencing power.—“That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak” (Colossians 4:4). There are some who preach the gospel in a cold, lifeless, perfunctory manner, or with unmeaning feebleness and unmanly timidity. When the preacher sinks down into a condition so abject as this, he has lost sight of the true meaning of the gospel, he becomes the most pitiable object under the sun, and is exposed to the scathing vengeance of heaven. To preach the gospel with clearness, with intrepidity, and with irresistible persuasiveness, that he “may make it manifest, as he ought to speak,” demands the best energies of the soul, and, above all, the special endowments of the Holy Ghost. A minister is mightily aided in preaching by the wrestling intercessions of a holy and sympathetic people.
1. Prayer is an excellent training for efficiency in all other duties.
2. Prayer is a gigantic power in the propagation of the gospel.
3. The topics for prayer are vast in range and not far to seek.
4. When you can do nothing else you can pray.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Colossians 4:2. True Devotion.
I. Explain the meaning of the text.—It is:—
1. Not to be engaged without intermission in outward and formal acts of devotion.—This is inconsistent with our nature, with commanded duties, with the ends of prayer.
2. To be frequently engaged in formal acts of devotion.—
(1) No exercise more hallowing and soothing to the soul.
(2) None more profitable as procuring blessings.
(3) One to which those whose example is recorded gave a prominent place—Job, David, Daniel, Paul, Christ.
(4) Morning, evening, intervals, social.
3. To be persevering and importunate in asking particular blessings.—God does not always send sensibly the answer at once. A deeper sense of want may be necessary. A trial of faith, patience, and submissiveness may be expedient. The proper season may not have come. God’s sovereignty must be owned. We ought to assure ourselves that we pray according to God’s will.
II. Enforce the exhortation.—
1. Because you are commanded to do so.
2. Because Christ and the Spirit intercede for you. There is no duty for which there is more ample assistance provided.
3. Because of the number and greatness of your wants. It is by faith that we know our wants. Hence the necessity.
4. Because of the exhaustless provision that God has made for you. God acts as God in the provision and in the bestowal.
5. Because of the number of promises not yet fulfilled. To you individually, to the Church, to Christ.
6. Because the season for prayer is speedily hastening away.—Stewart.
Colossians 4:3-4. Praying and Preaching.
I. The sermon is powerful that is well prayed over (Colossians 4:4).
II. A praying preacher uses every available opportunity to proclaim the truth (Colossians 4:3).
III. The theme of the preacher becomes more definite and effective by prayer (Colossians 4:3).
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Colossians 4:5. Walk in wisdom.— Ephesians 5:15. Walk circumspectly. R.V. “carefully.” It would appear from this as if the adverb in Ephesians 5:15 should go with “walk” rather than with “look,” as in R.V. Toward them that are without.—Who do not participate in the benefits of the new kingdom. Redeeming the time.—As in Ephesians 5:16. Seizing for yourselves, like bargains in the market, each opportunity (see R.V. margin).
Colossians 4:6. Let your speech be alway with grace.—There is no excuse for a Christian’s conversation becoming rude and churlish. It may be necessary to speak plainly and boldly at times—the way of doing even that graciously ought to characterise Christians. Seasoned with salt.—The pungent flavour of wit and facetiousness was called salt by the Greeks, often with a spice of indecency. “Salt” in the New Testament is the opposite of corruption.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.— Colossians 4:5-6
The Wise Conduct of Life.
The Christian lives a dual life: one in spiritual communion with heaven, under the eye of God; the other in daily contact with the outer world, exposed to its observation and criticism. The aspects of the life patent to the world’s gaze do not always correspond with the best impulses of the life concealed; the actual falls short of the ideal. The world forms its judgment of the Christian from what it sees of his outer life, and makes no allowance for his unseen struggles after moral perfection and his bitter penitence over conscious failures. Nor can we blame the world for this; the outer life of the believer furnishes the only evidence on which the world can form its estimate, and it is incapable of apprehending and taking into account hidden spiritual causes. The living example of the believer presents the only ideas of Christianity that great numbers have any means of possessing; he is a Christ to them, until they are brought to a clearer knowledge of the true and only Christ. With what wisdom and circumspection should the believer walk toward them that are without!
I. That the conduct of life is to be regulated according to the dictates of the highest wisdom.—
1. Religion is a life. “Walk.” A walk implies motion, progression, continual approximation to destination. Our life is a walk; we are perpetually and actively advancing towards our destiny. Religion is not a sentiment, not a round of bewitching ceremonies, not a succession of pleasurable emotions; it is a life. It pervades the whole soul, thrills every nerve, participates in every joy and sorrow, and moulds and inspires the individual character.
2. Religion is a life shaped and controlled by the highest wisdom.—“Walk in wisdom” (Colossians 4:5). Christian conduct is governed by the spirit of that wisdom which is from above, and under the influence of the knowledge which maketh wise unto salvation (James 3:17). It is ruled, not by an erratic sentiment or by the wild impulse of a senseless fanaticism, but by a sound understanding and a wise discretion. Its experience and hopes rest upon a basis of truth transcending in certainty, wisdom, and majesty the most imposing speculations of the human mind.
3. Religion is a life that should be instructive to the irreligious.—“Toward them that are without” (Colossians 4:5)—without the pale of the Church, the unbelievers. An upright, holy, consistent example is often more eloquent than words, more practically effective than the most elaborate code of moral maxims. The follies and glaring inconsistencies of professing Christians have often inflicted serious damage upon the Church itself, and turned religion into ridicule among the thoughtless and irreligious outsiders. The world is to be largely trained into correct views of truth and a just appreciation of the Christian spirit by the humble, saintly lives of those who have experienced the transforming power of the gospel. Be more anxious to live religiously than to talk religiously.
4. Religion is a life that impels the soul to seize every opportunity for good doing.—“Redeeming the time” (Colossians 4:5)—buying up the opportunity for yourselves. Opportunity is the flower of time, which blooms but for a moment and is gone for ever. Evil is prevalent; it affects the great majority, it advances with ever accelerating momentum; every opportunity for checking its career and destroying its power should be snatched with eagerness, and used with promptitude and discretion. The wisdom that regulates the religious life will be the safest guide as to the way in which the passing moment may be turned to the best advantage. The children of Issachar were commended as men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do (1 Chronicles 12:32). Ill-timed and inconsiderate zeal will do more harm than good.
II. That the conduct of life is to be regulated by judicious speech.—
1. Christian speech should be gracious. “Let your speech be alway with grace” (Colossians 4:6). The mouth ought to be a treasury of benediction, out of which no corrupt communication should issue, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. Truth is the soul of grace; and infinite pains should be taken that every utterance of the tongue should at least be true. Idle gossip, slander, falsehood, should never fall from lips circumcised by the grace of God. Beware of the promiscuous use of the hackneyed phrases of pious cant. It is not so much a set religious phraseology that is wanted, as that all our speech should be baptised with the chrism of a religious spirit.
2. Christian speech should be piquant.—“Seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6). Salt is the emblem of what is quickening and preservative; and the conversation seasoned with it will be pure, agreeable, pointed—free from all taint and corrupting influence. The ancient teachers of rhetoric used to speak of “Attic salt,” with which they advised their pupils to flavour their speeches, that they might sparkle with jests and witticisms. But it is not this kind of condiment the apostle recommends. Wit is a dangerous gift to most men; but where it is joined with a well-balanced understanding, and sanctified by the grace of God, it may become a powerful weapon in the advocacy of truth and minister to the good of many. Speech, to be beneficial, must be thoughtful, choice, sharp, clear, forceful.
3. Christian speech should be practical.—“That ye may know how ye ought to answer every man” (Colossians 4:6). It requires much practical wisdom to be able to speak well and wisely about religion to both objectors and inquirers, and only the man accustomed to carefully weigh his words and guard his utterances can become an adept in this work. Every Christian may cultivate the wisdom which governs the tongue, and is bound to do so (1 Peter 3:15). Silence is sometimes the most conclusive answer. It is the triumph of wisdom to know when to speak and when to hold our peace.
1. The power of a blameless life.
2. The value of a well-chosen word.
3. The supreme control claimed by religion over actions and speech.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Colossians 4:5. The Worth of Time.
I. Time ought to be improved because its value is inexpressible.—
1. The worth of time may be argued from a survey of the great and momentous business to which it must be appropriated—to get ready for eternity.
2. From the astonishing price at which it has been purchased for us.
3. From the careful manner in which it is allotted to mankind.
II. Because of the brevity of its duration.
III. Because, short as our time is, much of it has already elapsed.
IV. Because what remains to us is uncertain.
V. Because nothing can ever compensate the loss of time.
VI. God has made eternity to depend on the issues and results of time.—Dr. Robt. Newton.
Colossians 4:6. Christian Conversation.—The apostle recommends a seasoning
1. Extravagant raillery poisons conversation.
2. A spirit of disputing is a vice of conversation.
3. Indiscreet questions are a pest of conversation.—Saurin.
Christ’s Truth in Relation to our Daily Conversation.
I. The large space which words occupy in human life.—
1. On account of their number.
2. On account of their consequences.
II. The importance of special self-examination in reference to our words.
III. Earnest listening to the divine voices the cure for vain speech and the source of gracious speech.
IV. Our words are not to be all about religion, but pervaded by the spirit of religion.
V. Our conversation being thus seasoned, we shall know how we ought to answer every man.—R. Abercrombie.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Colossians 4:11. A comfort to me.—The word for “comfort” is only found in this place in the New Testament. It is a medical term, and points to relief given in suffering—then, by way of ministering to a mind diseased or in trouble, is used of the speech which soothes and calms.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.— Colossians 4:7-11
Side-lights on Church-life in the Early Times.
A straw will indicate the direction of a current; a bit of glass will reveal a star; a kick of the foot may discover a treasure that will enrich successive generations; a word, a look, an involuntary movement will disclose the leading tendency of an individual character; so on the crowded stage of life it is not always the gigantic and public scenes that are most suggestive and instructive, but rather the trivial, undesigned incidents which are unnoticed by an ordinary observer. A reflective mind will pick up material for thought from the most unexpected and unpromising quarters. The apostle has finished the grand argument of the epistle, and shown the importance of certain duties which grow out of the reception of the truths enforced. In approaching the conclusion, he appears to be chiefly occupied with a mass of personal and miscellaneous matters. The few remaining verses contain little else but a series of names, with the briefest qualifying phrases attached. But here and there light is thrown on truths which, though familiar, are all the more strongly impressed on our minds because of their evident antiquity. In these verses there are sidelights thrown on Church-life in the early times with reference to Christian sympathy, commendations, courtesy, and co-operation. We learn:—
I. The value of Christian sympathy.—
1. As fostering mutual interest in tidings concerning the work of God. “All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you, … whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose; … shall make known unto you all things which are done here” (Colossians 4:7-9). The apostle, though in prison and separated by a long distance from the Colossians, does not abate anything of his interest in their welfare. He had received tidings of their condition as a Church; of their steadfastness, successes, and perils; and he was sure that intelligence from him would be eagerly welcomed by them. He therefore despatched Tychicus and Onesimus, who could furnish more details concerning the apostle, the exemplary spirit in which he bore his sufferings, his profound anxiety on behalf of the Churches and the progress of the gospel in Rome, than were contained in the epistle they carried. A heart, touched with a genuine Christian sympathy, rejoices in the extension of the work of God, in whatever part of the world, and by whatever Christian agency. The mutual interchange of intelligence tends to excite the interest, promote the union, and stimulate the enterprise of the Churches.
2. As a source of encouragement and strength in the Christian life.—“That he might know your estate and comfort your heart” (Colossians 4:8). Instead of “that he might know your estate,” another reading of the original, adopted by Lightfoot and other eminent critics, has “that ye might know our affairs.” “But,” as Bishop Wordsworth remarks, “the very purpose for which Paul sent Tychicus to the Colossians was not, it would seem, in order that they might know how St. Paul was faring, but that he might know whether they were standing steadfast in the faith against the attempts of the false teachers.” Whichever reading is adopted, the practical lesson is the same; both express the reality, strength, and beauty of a mutual sympathy. The presence of Tychicus and Onesimus, the character of the tidings they brought, and the fervour of their exhortations, would encourage and reassure the Colossians amid the perplexities and doubts occasioned by the false teachers. Mutual expression of sympathy and intercommunity of intelligence will do much to comfort and edify the Churches.
II. The appropriateness of Christian commendation (Colossians 4:7).—The apostle speaks highly of his two messengers—not in terms of extravagant flattery, but in a way calculated to ensure their favourable reception by the Colossians and a respectful attention to their message. Tychicus was a native of proconsular Asia, perhaps of Ephesus. He was well known as an authorised delegate of St. Paul, and is mentioned in other places as being with the apostle (Acts 20:4; 2 Timothy 4:12; Titus 3:12). He is spoken of in this verse as “a beloved brother, a faithful minister, a fellow-servant in the Lord.” The great apostle, far from taking advantage of his exalted calling and inspiration, humbled himself before the least of his brethren, spoke in the highest terms of their faithful labours, and associated them with his own. Onesimus, a Colossian, is commended as “a faithful and beloved brother.” It was the more needful he should be thus commended, because if he was known to the Colossians at all it would be as a worthless, runaway slave. Some time before, Onesimus had forsaken his master Philemon, and fled to Rome—the common sink of all nations—probably as a convenient hiding-place where he might escape detection among its crowds, and make a livelihood as best he could. In the metropolis—perhaps accidentally, perhaps through the intervention of Epaphras—he fell in with the apostle, his master’s old friend. St. Paul becomes interested in his case, instructs him in the gospel, and is the instrument of his conversion; and now he is commended to the Colossians, no more as a good-for-nothing slave, but as a brother; no more dishonest and faithless, but trustworthy; no more an object of contempt, but love. The apostle sent him back to his master Philemon, and it is generally thought, having been set at liberty by his owner, he became a faithful and laborious minister of Christ. Such is the transforming power of divine grace in changing and renewing the heart, in obliterating all former distinctions and degradations, and in elevating a poor slave to the dignity of “a faithful and beloved brother” of the greatest of apostles. Christian commendations are valuable according to the character of the persons from whom they issue, and as they are borne out in the subsequent conduct of the persons commended. Every care should be taken that the testimonial of recommendation is strictly true. It is putting a man in a false position and doing him an injury to exaggerate his qualifications by excessive eulogy.
III. Suggestive examples of Christian courtesy.—“Aristarchus my fellow-prisoner saluteth you, and Marcus, sister’s son to Barnabas, (touching whom ye received commandments: if he come unto you, receive him;) and Jesus, which is called Justus, who are of the circumcision” (Colossians 4:10-11). Aristarchus was a Jew, though a native of Thessalonica. He was with Paul during the riot at Ephesus, and was hurried with Gaius into the theatre by Demetrius and his craftsmen. He accompanied the apostle from Greece to Jerusalem with the collection for the saints. When Paul was imprisoned in Judea, he abode with him; and when he went into Italy, he also went and remained with him there during his confinement, till at length he became, it may be, obnoxious to the magistrates, and was cast into prison; or perhaps he became a voluntary prisoner, that he might share the apostle’s captivity. What a glimpse have we Here of heroic devotion, and of the irresistible charm there must have been in the apostle in attaching men to himself! Marcus was the John Mark frequently referred to in the Acts of the Apostles. He had been the occasion of a contention between Paul and Barnabas, which led to their separating from each other and following different scenes of labour. Mark had, from cowardice or some other motive, “departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them out to the work”; and when Barnabas, probably influenced by his affection as near kinsman, wished to take him with them, Paul resolutely refused thus to distinguish a young and unstable disciple. But from the reference here it appears that Mark had repented of his timid and selfish behaviour and returned to a better spirit. Perhaps the displeasure of the apostle weighed upon his mind, and, with Barnabas’ prayers and example, had brought him to a right view of his misconduct. He was now restored to the apostle’s confidence, and it appears Paul had already given directions to the Colossians concerning Mark to welcome him heartily if he paid them a visit—“touching whom ye received commandments: if he come to you, receive him.” The third Hebrew convert who united in sending salutations was Jesus, which was also called Justus—a common name or surname of Jews and proselytes, denoting obedience and devotion to the law. Nothing definite is known of this person; but the apostle held him in such esteem as to join his salutation with the rest. These three friends and companions of Paul were Jews—they were of the circumcision; and yet they send their salutations to a Church composed chiefly of Gentiles. The Christian spirit triumphed over their deep-rooted prejudices, and their greeting would be all the more valued as an expression of their personal esteem, their brotherly affection, and their oneness in Christ. That courtesy is the most refined, graceful, gentle, and acceptable that springs from the Christian spirit.
IV. The solace of Christian co-operation.—“These only are my fellow-workers unto the kingdom of God, which have been a comfort unto me” (Colossians 4:11). The tendency of the Jewish convert was to lean to the Mosaic ritual, and insist on its necessity in realising the efficacy of the gospel. They thus favoured the false philosophy of the Jewish Platonists, and fell into the errors against which the apostle so faithfully warns in this epistle. The action of the Judaizing teachers and their sympathisers was often a grief and hindrance to him. Of all the Jewish converts in Rome only three were a comfort to him. They thoroughly embraced and advocated the free and unconditional admission of the Gentiles into the Church of Christ, and were devoted and zealous fellow-workers with him in extending the kingdom of God. It is an evidence of the unpopularity among the Jews of the gospel as intended equally for the Gentiles, and of the formidable prejudices and difficulties with which the apostle had to contend in that early time, that there were only three Hebrew converts who were a comfort to him. And yet how consoling is the sympathy and co-operation of the faithful few! Sometimes the noblest men are deserted by timid and time-serving professors, and left to toil on alone in peril and sadness. History records the triumphs of those who have successfully braved the solitary struggle in some great crisis; but it is silent about the vanquished who, with broken hearts and shattered intellects, have sunk into unchronicled oblivion.
1. Christian experience is the same in all ages.
2. True courtesy costs little and accomplishes much. 3. Genuine sympathy is best shown by an active and self-denying co-operation.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Colossians 4:12. Always labouring fervently for you.—R.V. “always striving.” Lit. “agonising.” Like the mighty wrestler who held the Angel till daybreak, Epaphras intercedes for his Colossian brethren. Complete in all the will of God.—R.V. “fully assured.” “From the tenor of the letter it appears that the Colossians needed a deeper Christian insight and more intelligent and well-grounded convictions respecting the truth ‘as in Jesus’ ” (Findlay).
Colossians 4:13. Zeal … for them that are in Laodicea.—Here then is one who differs from the Laodicean spirit of St. John’s time.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.— Colossians 4:12-13
The Model Pastor.
Nothing is known of Epaphras beyond the few but significant notices which connect him with Colossæ, of which city he was a native. Acting under the direction of St. Paul, probably when the apostle was residing for three years at Ephesus, Epaphras was the honoured agent in introducing the gospel into Colossæ and the neighbouring cities of Laodicea and Hierapolis; and it is evident he regarded himself as responsible for the spiritual well-being of all these places. The dangerous condition of the Colossian and neighbouring Churches at this time filled the mind of Epaphras with a holy jealousy and alarm. A strange form of heresy had appeared among them—a mixture of Jewish formalism with the speculations of an Oriental philosophy—and was rapidly spreading. The distress of the faithful evangelist was extreme. He journeyed to Rome in order to lay this state of things before the apostle, and to seek his counsel and assistance. The apostle bears testimony to his profound anxiety for the spiritual condition of the newly founded Churches on the banks of the Lycus. He had much toil for them, and was ever fervently wrestling in prayer on their behalf, that they might stand fast and not lose the simplicity of their earlier faith, but might advance to a more perfect knowledge of the divine will. In the verses now under consideration we have Epaphras brought before us as the model pastor.
I. The model pastor is distinguished by a suggestive designation.—“A servant of Christ” (Colossians 4:12). This title, which the apostle uses several times for himself, is not elsewhere conferred on any other individual, except once on Timothy (Philippians 1:1), and probably points to exceptional services in the cause of the gospel on the part of Epaphras (Lightfoot). A true pastor is not the servant of the Church to echo its decisions and do its bidding; but he is the servant for the Church to influence its deliberations and decisions, to mould its character and direct its enterprises. He is a servant of Christ, receiving his commission from Him, ever anxious to ascertain His will, and ready to carry out that will at whatever sacrifice. Such a service involves no loss of self-respect or manliness, no degradation, but is free, honourable, and rich in blessing.
II. The model pastor is incessant in zealous labour.—“For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea and them in Hierapolis” (Colossians 4:13). The zeal of Epaphras urged him to extend his Christian labours beyond the limits of Colossæ: he visited the adjoining cities, which were much larger in population and wealthier in commerce. Laodicea, rising from obscurity, had become, two or three generations before the apostle wrote, a populous and thriving city, and was then the metropolis of the cities on the banks of the Lycus. Hierapolis was an important and growing city, and, in addition to its trade in dyed wools, had a reputation as a fashionable watering-place, where the seekers of pleasure and of health resorted to partake of its waters which possessed valuable medicinal qualities. The rare virtues of the city have been celebrated in song:
“Hail, fairest soil in all broad Asia’s realm;
Hail, golden city, nymph divine, bedeck’d
With flowing rills, thy jewels.”
Into the midst of these populations the fervent Epaphras introduced the gospel, and spared no pains in his endeavour to establish and confirm the believers. It was on their behalf he undertook the journey to Rome to confer with St. Paul as to their state; and the apostle testifies to the unceasing exercise of his great and holy zeal for his distant but ever-remembered flock. When the heart is interested and moved, labour is a delight; and it is the way in which the heart is affected towards any work that gives to it significance and worth. Canon Liddon writes: “Are we not very imperfectly alive to the moral meaning of work and the moral fruits of work as work?” The true pastor, with a heart overflowing with zeal for the glory of God and the good of men, cheerfully undertakes labour from which the ordinary worker would timidly shrink.
III. The model pastor is intensely exercised in prayer for the people of God.—“Always labouring fervently [wrestling, agonising] for you in prayers” (Colossians 4:12). The faithful minister has not only to teach his flock—a task which involves vigilant observation, extensive reading, and anxious study—but he has also to plead earnestly at the throne of grace on their behalf. In times of spiritual dearth, disappointment, embarrassment, and distress, prayer is the all-efficacious resource. There are circumstances in which the minister can do nothing but pray. Difficulties that defied all other means have vanished before the irresistible power of persistent and believing intercession. Prayer attains what the most conclusive reasoning, the most eloquent appeal, the most diligent personal attention, sometimes fail to accomplish. It sets in silent but stupendous operation the mightiest spiritual agencies of the universe. It opens the fountain of divine grace, and its streams flow in full-tide velocity through the hitherto arid wilderness of human hearts, and life, freshness, fertility, and beauty spring up in its reviving course. It is God only whoso help is omnipotent, and on this help faithful prayer lays hold and uses it in effecting its wondrous transformations.
IV. The model pastor is constantly solicitous that the people of God should be firmly established in the highest good.—“That ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God” (Colossians 4:12)—perfectly instructed and fully convinced in everything willed by God. The great aim of all ministerial anxiety is not only to instruct his people in the full and accurate knowledge of the divine will, but to produce such a persuasion of the supreme majesty and authority of that will as to induce steadfast continuance in practical obedience. The will of God and the highest good of man are always in harmony. Whatever threatens to disturb the stability of the believer, or to retard his development towards the highest moral excellence, whether it arises from his personal unwatchfulness and indifference or from the subtle attacks of error, is always a subject of keen solicitude to the faithful pastor. He knows that if his converts fall away they are lost and the truth itself is disgraced. To be established in an unswerving obedience it is necessary to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will. This blessedness is the grand scope and crowning glory of the Christian life.
1. The office of pastor is fraught with endless anxieties, great responsibilities, and rare opportunities.
2. The true pastor finds his purest inspirations, his most potent spiritual weapon, and his grandest successes in prayer.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Colossians 4:17. And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry.—He is again closely connected with Colossæ in the epistle to Philemon. A monition perhaps needed by Archippus. In the Lord.—The element in which every work of the Christian, and especially the Christian minister, is to be done.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.— Colossians 4:14-17
Christian Greetings and Counsels.
It is sometimes asked, with an indiscriminate flippancy, “What’s in a name?” There are some names which have no title to a lasting remembrance, and with reference to these the flippancy may be justified. But there are names whose reputation is imperishable, and which are written on the world’s history in indelible characters. The name of Paul, the great apostle of the Gentiles, will be venerated by the coming ages when the titles of the greatest sages and warriors shall have faded away in the darkness of oblivion; and, just as there are lesser lights in the firmament that share in the glory of the great luminary to which they are essentially related, so there are names of lesser note grouped around that of the great apostle that are immortalised by their association with him. Besides, names as they are quoted and used by St. Paul in this and other epistles often furnish evidence of the authenticity of Scripture and undesigned coincidences of the truth of the sacred history. In these verses there are some names preserved to us which were lifted into prominence by the connection of the persons they represented with the apostle, and by their own eminent piety and usefulness. They furnish another illustration of the truth of the sacred saying, “The memory of the just is blessed; but the name of the wicked shall rot.” We have here a series of kindly Christian greetings and important Christian counsels. Observe:—
I. The value of a Christian greeting is estimated by the moral character of those from whom it emanates.—“Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you” (Colossians 4:14). Two persons are here mentioned whose individual histories present a suggestive contrast; and it is observable, by the way in which their names are mentioned, that the two men stood very differently in the apostle’s estimation.
1. Luke is the beloved physician—the very dear and attached friend of Paul. He was his constant companion in travel, and stood faithfully by him in his greatest trials. He joined the apostle at Troas (Acts 16:10), accompanied him into Judea, remained with him during two years of his imprisonment at Jerusalem and Cæsarea, and was no doubt present at his trial before Festus and Felix; he went with him into Italy when Paul was sent there as a prisoner, and during his second and final imprisonment in Rome; while others deserted him, Luke continued his staunch and faithful friend. In the last epistle probably the apostle ever wrote is the simple but pathetic reference, “Only Luke is with me.” We can understand, therefore, the affectionate tenderness with which Luke is designated the beloved physician. As St. Paul was not a robust man, but was troubled with a “thorn in the flesh,” the presence of a medical friend must have been of immense service to him in his laborious missionary journeys and during his long imprisonment. The physicians of ancient times had a very questionable reputation for religiousness; but in these modern days there is an increasing number of medical men who are no less eminent for piety than for their professional skill, and many and important are the opportunities of such for doing good both to body and soul. The greetings of a man of superlative moral excellence is gratefully welcomed and respectfully treasured.
2. And Demas!—How suggestive is the laconic allusion! There is no explanation, no qualifying word of any special regard. Perhaps the apostle was already beginning to suspect him, to mark the increasing worldliness of his spirit, and his growing indifference to divine things. About three years after this greeting was despatched to the Colossians, we meet with the melancholy record: “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world” (2 Timothy 4:10). Alas! how seductive and how fatal are the allurements of the world! The highest and holiest are not invulnerable to its charms. The most promising career of usefulness and honour has often been blighted by its influence. Bitter indeed would be the disappointment of the apostle’s heart to witness one, whom he had acknowledged and trusted as a fellow-worker in the gospel, fall a victim to worldly avarice, and, like Achan, covet the golden wedge and Babylonish garment of secular things. There is a specially solemn significance in the warning of the beloved disciple: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world” (1 John 2:15).
II. Christian greeting recognises the universal brotherhood of the Church.—
1. We learn the early Christian Churches were composed of brethren. “Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea” (Colossians 4:15). This recognition of a common brotherhood was a great advance upon the eclecticism and sharp, prejudiced distinctions of the times. In the circle of the Christian Church the Jew surrendered his Judaism, and the Gentile his paganism, and became one in Christ; the slave and the freeman enjoyed the same spiritual liberty, and the barbarian was no longer dreaded as a monster, but hailed as a brother. The test of brotherhood and union is an individual faith in a common Saviour, the sharing of one common life in the Holy Spirit, and the assurance of possessing one common Father in God. It is only as we encourage the brotherly spirit that we can ensure union and permanency in the Churches. About thirty years after this salutation was sent to the Laodiceans, the Church in that city had degenerated into a state of lukewarmness and sterility (Revelation 3:15-16). There is need for united watchfulness and fidelity in order to continue “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.”
2. We learn further that a separate assembly of the brethren constituted a Church.—“And Nymphas, and the Church which is in his house” (Colossians 4:15). This was not the principal Church in Laodicea, nor was it simply a meeting together of the family, but an assembly of worshippers. Nymphas was probably a man of position and influence in the city, and being also a man of piety he afforded every opportunity for the gathering together of the brethren for Christian worship and communion. There is little said in the New Testament about Church polity, and there is no ecclesiastical organisation, whether Episcopal, Presbyterian, or Congregational, that can claim exclusive divine authority and sanction. Whether meeting in large numbers in the stately cathedral, the modern tabernacle, or a few in the private dwelling-house, a company of believers assembled for worship and mutual edification constitutes a Church. Thus the true brotherhood of Christianity is maintained, irrespective of locality, of ecclesiastical structures, or of sacerdotal claims and pretensions.
III. The reading of the Holy Scriptures in the Church an important subject of apostolic counsel.—“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” (Colossians 4:16). The epistle from Laodicea refers to a letter that St. Paul had sent to that city, and which was to be forwarded to Colossæ for perusal. Some think this was a letter specifically addressed to the Laodiceans, and which is now lost; but the best commentators now believe that the epistle to the Ephesians is meant, which was, in fact, a circular letter addressed to the principal Churches in proconsular Asia. Tychicus was obliged to pass through Laodicea on his way to Colossæ, and would leave a copy of the Ephesian epistle there before the Colossian letter was delivered. Here we learn that one important means of edification was the reading of the inspired letters of the apostle in the assemblies of the brethren. The public reading of the Scriptures has been an invaluable method of instruction to the Church in all ages and places, and it is a provision with which the Church will never be able to dispense. The Church which dares to prohibit the general perusal of the Scriptures, or reads only small portions, and those mumbled in a language not understood by the people, has thrown off all regard for apostolic counsel and inflicts an unutterable injury upon humanity. Shut up the Bible, and the Churches will instantly be invaded by the most enfeebling superstitions, the civilisation of the nations will be put centuries behind, and the widespread ignorance and moral and social degradation of the dark ages will reappear.
IV. An example of apostolic counsel concerning fidelity in the Christian ministry.—“And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it” (Colossians 4:17). It is probable that Archippus was a youthful pastor recently appointed to the Church at Laodicea. Already signs of slackened zeal began to appear, which afterwards culminated in the state of lukewarmness for which this Church was denounced (Revelation 3:19). The condition of preacher and people reacts upon each other; the Church takes its colour from and communicates its colour to its spiritual pastor. Hence the apostle, well knowing the perils surrounding the inexperienced Archippus, sends to him this timely warning to take heed to his ministry. He is reminded of:—
1. The direct authority of the ministry.—“The ministry which thou hast received in the Lord.” The commission to preach the gospel can come from no other than the Lord, and can be properly received only by one who is himself spiritually in the Lord; there must be not only gifts, but also grace. The minister must be in direct and constant communication with the Lord, depend on Him for help in doing his duty, remember he is accountable to Him, and strive to seek His glory in preference to all personal considerations. In times of difficulty and trial it will sustain the courage of the minister to feel that his commission is divine in its source and authority.
2. The implied dangers of the ministry.—“Take heed.” The special dangers that threatened the Colossian Church at that time have been distinctly pointed out in the epistle. The ministry is ever encompassed with perils, arising from the seductive forms of error, the flatteries and frowns of the world, the subtle workings of self-approbation, and the deceitfulness of sin. There is need for the exercise of a sleepless vigilance, a tireless zeal, and a faultless circumspection.
3. The imperative personal demands of the ministry.—“That thou fulfil it.” The whole truth must be made known, and that with the utmost clearness, faithfulness, kindness, and completeness. Every energy must be consecrated to the sacred work, and the aid of all the powers of heaven earnestly implored. No pains must be spared in prayer, study, and self-sacrifice to reach the highest efficiency and make “full proof” of the ministry. Failure here is lamentable and irremediable.
1. Salutations are valuable when imbued with the Christian spirit.
2. The true appreciation of the Holy Scriptures is shown in their constant and studious perusal.
3. The Christian ministry should be sustained by practical sympathy and intelligent co-operation.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Colossians 4:14. “Luke, the beloved physician.” Religion and the Medical Profession.
I. The deference shown to medical science.
II. Benevolence of the medical profession.
III. Religious drawbacks in assaults from materialism.—Mind is one thing, matter is another.
IV. Religious responsibilities.—Vast power for good. Co-operation with the minister.
V. The great Physician.—Doctor and patient need Him alike.—Homiletic Monthly.
Colossians 4:16. The Public Reading of the Holy Scriptures an Important Means of Church Edification.
I. It is in harmony with the usage of the ancient Church.
II. It is enforced by precept and example in the Scriptures themselves.
III. It familiarises the mind with the grandest truths.
IV. It is a mighty agency in advocating and moulding national character.
V. It keeps alive the enthusiasm of the Church for aggressive enterprise.
VI. It demands the most laborious study and practice to render it effective.
Colossians 4:17. The Christian Ministry a Solemn and Responsible Trust.
I. It is divine in its bestowal.—“Received in the Lord.”
II. It is personal in its responsibility.—“Which thou hast received.”
III. It involves the communication of good to others.—“Ministry.”
IV. It has a special aspect of importance to the individual minister.—“The ministry.”
“That thou fulfil it.” The Christian Ministry demands Unswerving Fidelity in accomplishing its Lofty Mission.
I. Divine truth must be clearly apprehended and profoundly realised.
II. The whole truth must be declared.
III. The declaration of the truth must be full and courageous.
“Take heed.” The Christian Ministry is surrounded by Peculiar Perils.—A shrewd and ever-wakeful vigilance is needed—
I. Against the stealthy encroachments of error.
II. Against the pernicious influences of the world.
III. Against the subtle temptations to unfaithfulness.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF Colossians 4:18
Words of Farewell.
Last words have in them a nameless touch of pathos. They linger in the memory as a loved familiar presence, they soothe life’s sorrows, and exert upon the soul a strange and irresistible fascination. As the years rush by, how rich in meaning do the words that have fallen from dying lips become, as when Cæsar said sadly, “And thou, Brutus!”; or when John Quincy Adams said, “This is the last of earth”; or Mirabeau’s frantic cry for music, after a life of discord; or George Washington’s calm statement, “It is well”; or Wesley’s triumphant utterance, “The best of all is, God is with us.” And these closing words of the high-souled apostle written from his Roman prison, in prospect of threatened death, carry with them a significance and tenderness which will be felt wherever this epistle is read. In these words we have a personally inscribed salutation, a touching reminder, and a brief benediction.
I. A personally inscribed salutation.—“The salutation by the hand of mo Paul.” The rest of the epistle was dictated by the apostle to an amanuensis, who, in this case, was probably Timothy. Paul adds his own personal salutation, not only as an expression of his anxious love, but also as a mark of the authenticity of the document, and of his unqualified approval of its contents. It would surely be a scene worthy of the pencil of genius to portray the noble prisoner, whose right hand was linked to the left of his military gaoler, tracing with tremulous fingers the final words to those for whose sake he was in bonds! How would the hand-writing of such a man be prized and venerated, and with what holy eagerness would his words be read and pondered!
II. A touching reminder.—“Remember my bonds.” The apostle was in prison, not for any offence against the laws of God or man, but for the sake of the gospel he loved to preach, and which had wrought so marvellous a change in the lives of those to whom he wrote. His bonds bore irrefragable testimony to the truth he was called to proclaim, and to his unalterable determination to insist upon the rights and privileges of the Gentiles, on whose behalf he suffered. He wished to be remembered in prayer, that he might be sustained in his imprisonment, and that he might be speedily delivered from it, so that he might preach the glorious news of spiritual liberty to the benighted and fettered sons of men. “Remember my bonds.” These words seem to indicate that the illustrious prisoner was more concerned to exhibit a spirit and deportment befitting the gospel than to be released from his incarceration. The Church of Christ in all ages has had abundant reason to remember with gratitude and praise the bonds of the great apostle, not only for the stimulating example of holy patience and dignified submission displayed under trying circumstances, but for the unspeakably precious literary treasures they enabled him to bequeath to the world. Bishop Wordsworth has well said: “The fact that this epistle was written by Paul in this state of durance and restraint, and yet designed to minister comfort to others, and that it has never ceased to cheer the Church of Christ, is certainly one which is worthy of everlasting remembrance.” In the prayer for “all prisoners and captives” special reference should be made to those who are now suffering for the truth. The offence of the cross has not yet ceased. We most practically remember the imprisoned when we supply their wants and assuage their sufferings.
III. A brief benediction.—“Grace be with you. Amen.” The epistle begins and ends with blessing; and between these two extremes lies a magnificent body of truth which has dispensed blessings to thousands and is destined to bless thousands more. The benediction is short, but it is instinct with fervent life and laden with the unutterable wealth of divine beneficence. Grace is inclusive of all the good God can bestow or man receive. Grace is what all need, what none can merit, and what God alone can give. To possess the grace of God is to be rich indeed; without it “ ’Tis misery all, and woe.” Grace kindles the lamp of hope amidst the darkest experiences of life, supplies the clue which unravels the most tangled mysteries, presses the nectar of consolation into the bitterest cup, implants in the soul its holiest motives and opens up its noblest career, strengthens the dying saint when he traverses the lonely borderland of the unknown, and tunes and perpetuates the celestial harmonies of the everlasting song.
1. Praise God for a well-authenticated Bible.
2. Praise God for the teachings of a suffering life.
3. Praise God for His boundless grace.