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Colossians 4:2-18 by Robert Dean
Prayer has high priority in scripture. It is good to interrupt and reevaluate a routine filled with responses to small crises. Prayer deserves focused attention, reflection, and concentration, which require time. God communicates with us through His Word. Our response is to communicate with Him through continual prayer and obedience in application of scripture. Since God’s revelation in scripture is sufficient, there is no need for Him to grant us new revelation in His answer. What are the categories of prayer? What specific prayer is Paul asking for as he continues to spread the gospel? How does the request to walk in wisdom apply when we try to communicate the gospel message? Find out to whom Paul gives his final greetings in Colossi and the roles they have had in Paul’s life.

Note: Due to technical difficulties the audio and video may be out of sync on the video of this class.
Series:Colossians (2011)
Duration:58 mins 45 secs

Prayer, Wisdom, Final Greetings. Colossians 4:2-18

 

Too often, rather than giving ourselves to that which is important on a regular basis, we are reacting to circumstances and situations that arise at the last minute and we spend all of our time handling urgent demands rather than that which we know we should do on a regular basis. As believers ion the Lord Jesus Christ we should be doing on a regular basis. We should be reading the Scriptures every single day—a chapter, two chapters, three chapters, we should read through Proverbs, the Psalms on a regular basis. This is how God speaks to us today. This is the only way that God speaks to us today—through His Word—and so if we are going to be reminded of God's Word and be reminded of the various teachings or doctrines that are in the Word then we need to be reading the Scriptures on a daily basis.  We should be memorising Scripture and making it part of our life. We need to make His Word a part of out thinking—not just abstract doctrinal principles but the Word itself. We need to pray on a regular basis. Prayer is a foundation for the Christian  life, it is not something that we do just in the morning or just in the evening but it is something that we should be doing continually throughout the day; it is one of the highest priorities in Scripture. 

Yet so often we find ourselves running through life today and spe3nding too much time being distracted by too many technological things, by entertainment, by the demands of our profession, our occupation, and not spending time which has eternal significant value.

This is why the apostle Paul comes to a conclusion in the epistle to the Colossians by focusing on two things that he has addressed earlier in the epistle. He emphasises two things that sort of summarize most of what he has already said in the epistle before he comes to some final greetings.

The first command: Colossians 4:2 NASB "Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with {an attitude of} thanksgiving"; the second: Verse 5 "Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity." So two commands: prayer and a lifestyle that is founded on wisdom.

Verse 2, "Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with {an attitude of} thanksgiving [3] praying at the same time for us as …" He makes a distinction between prayer in general and intercessory prayer of the believers in the church for the apostles themselves in their ministry – for the purpose of effective evangelism . "… well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; [4] that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak."

Colossians 4:5 NASB "Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity." Notice the focal point in both of these has to do with the witness to those who are unbelievers. [6] Let your speech always be with grace, {as though} seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person."

This is his final instruction to the congregation in Colosse. It is wrapped around these two commands, first of all to continue earnestly in prayer. This is a command that we find stated several times in Scripture. Prayer is a priority for any believers, and yet we find that there are too many times when we just don't find time to pray. That doesn't mean the kinds of bullet prayers that are often characteristic of our lives, dealing with issues on the fly, but time when we can sit and focus our attention, keeping a prayer list or record of what we are praying for, who we are praying for, and then recording the answers to those prayers; a time of Bible reading and reflection on what God has said in the passages that we are reading in Scripture, a time of communication. Prayer is above all things a communication with God.

There are two ways in which this communication takes place. We pray either verbally or with our thoughts to God, and that is how we speak to God. But God doesn't speak to us that way; God speaks to us only through His Word in this dispensation. There are many people today—and it is becoming more and more a popular thing—who focus on some sort of internal communication from God. Unfortunately there are too many pastors and too many Christians who have picked up very sloppy terminology and will say things like God told me to do X, or God spoke to me when I did this or that or the other things. And yet any kind of terminology where we state something about God speaking to us apart from His Word we are in fact—even though we are not saying that what God spoke to them should be in Scripture, that is indeed the reality—claiming to be recipients of the same kind of revelation that God gave to the prophets in the Old Testament and the apostles in the New Testament. All of the revelation that God gave to the writers of Scripture was enscripturated.

There were many times in the Old Testament when God gave information to some of the key leaders in the Old Testament where it wasn't His purpose to have it recorded for the ages. There was also revelation given, for example to Daniel, related to the end time where God prohibited him from writing it down. So any time we claim that God has spoken to us we are claiming the same level of revelation that God gave to the prophets ands to the apostles. So that revelation would be subject to the same criteria that God established in the Old Testament. And in Deuteronomy 13 and 18 God established certain criteria for evaluating claims that "Thus says the Lord." If it was not consistent with what was already revealed in Scripture, or if it was prophetic and did not come true one hundred per cent of the time, then the penalty for the false claim of divine revelation was to be death.   

To claim divine revelation when there was no divine revelation is as horrid a sin as committing murder. That is not something that we normally compare it to but it is such an egregious violation of God's standard because it can mislead people away from the truth and consequently destroy an entire life because of false claims of divine revelation. So this is extremely serious. God has closed the canon of Scripture. With the death of the apostle John the giving of divine revelation ceased, and the reason it ceased was because God had completed His revelation to us. Now we believe in the sufficiency of God's Word so that we don't need to add to God's Word.

Prayer is not the same kind of communication between the believer and God. We speak to God verbally and with our thoughts and God speaks to us through His Word. The Holy Spirit may bring back to our consciousness promises or principles from God's Word. He may communicate in that manner but nothing new is given. God is not going to tell you what your decision should be or what you should do tomorrow, He has already spoken to that and given you everything you need in order to address the issues of life in His Word. The issue now is, do you trust His Word or do you need God to do something else? This is really the foundation for all apostasies that we see down through history: they reject the sufficiency of God's Word and seek additional revelation in order to face the issues of life.

Paul emphasizes prayer as foundational in the believer's life. He says, "Devote yourselves to prayer." It is the Greek verb proskartereo [proskarterew], used a number of different ways throughout the New Testament. It has the idea of always being ready and prepared for something. It is used in an every-day sense in two verses in Mark 3:9. Jesus told His disciples to keep a small boat ready for Him because of the multitude as it was pressing in upon Him. The boat was always available so that at any moment He could get in it and get away from the pressing crowds.

In Acts 10:7 when the apostle Peter was directed by God to go to the household of Cornelius where Peter would give them the gospel. In reference to this there was also a revelation given to Cornelius to send some messengers down to Joppa where Peter was staying and these messengers would bring Peter back to Caesarea. "When the angel who was speaking to him had left, he summoned two of his servants and a devout soldier of those who were his personal attendants." Cornelius has this group of soldiers and servants who are constantly available to take care of various needs and responsibilities that he has at a moments notice. So the one thing we see in common between Mark 3 and Acts 10 is something that is constantly ready and available so that at a moments notice it is ready to be utilized.

This word is applied to prayer in several passages. In Acts 2:42 there is a description of that first group of believers in the early church. After they had heard Peter's gospel presentation and sermon in Acts 2 at the temple there were 3000 who responded in belief, and we are told about them that they "continued steadfastly." That is the idea. It is perseverance and continued readiness, and it describes continued action.

In Acts 6:4 as the apostles realized that there needed to be some administrative changes in the way they handled things because some of the Hellenized Jewish widows were being overlooked in the distribution of financial aid. The apostles recognized that they couldn't do it all so they selected a group of men to help distribute that financial aid in order that the apostles could focus on their priority, which was prayer and the ministry of the Word. Romans 12:2 NASB "rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer." This is a priority in the Christian life. 

Colossians 4:2 NASB "… keeping alert…" This is in the participial form here and it is describing the manner or the means by which we continue earnestly in prayer. Scripture often uses this term with the sense of being watchful in light of the presence of an enemy or someone who is about to attack us. It is often used in light of the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, that we are to be watchful. Every context has that in its presence but there is always that hint there that we need to be watchful. There is as time coming when the Lord is going to come back at which time there will be a judgment to follow—the judgment seat of Christ for believers—and there will be an evaluation. So everything that we do in life is to be thought of in terms of our preparation for the judgment seat of Christ.

So we have passages which emphasize this watchfulness and preparation, being alert against an enemy such as in passages related to the Second Coming in Matthew 24:42,43 NASB "Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into." So it is the idea of alertness and preparation in light of the future coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Matthew 25:13 is a similar use.

The idea of watching in terms of a hostile force or enemy in Mark 14:34-37. This was when the Lord Jesus Christ was in the garden of Gethsemane with His disciples and He is expecting the Roman soldiers to come and arrest Him. He wants to make sure that when He is arrested it is done in an appropriate manner. He was not to be taken captive or killed on that spot. He told the disciples to take swords with them. They went armed so that they could protect Him. He took Peter and John with Him off to the side while He prayed, and they were to watch. "And He said to them, 'My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch.'" After a few minutes He came back and found them sleeping and said to Peter: "Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." The focal point here is the word "watch."

1 Corinthians 16:13 NASB "Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong." Always be alert because there is an enemy out there. 1 Peter 5:8 NASB "Be of sober {spirit,} be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." We are engaged in an ever-ongoing warfare against Satan and we need to be constantly on the alert. One way in which we do that is through prayer.

"in it with {an attitude of} thanksgiving" – thanksgiving is often seen as a vital component in  prayer. There are four areas that should be present in most prayer. They are not going to be there all the time but these are the major categories of prayer. They are based on the acronym CATS. First there is confession to make sure we are in fellowship with God. Psalm 66:18 NASB "If I regard wickedness in my heart, The Lord will not hear." If there is sin in our life we are out of fellowship, we are walking according to the sin nature, and there has to be a cleansing of sin before our prayers can gain a hearing. 1 John 1:9.  

The A is for adoration. That is worship. As we read through the Psalms we see how many times the psalmist focuses on simply praising God, rehearsing His attributes. When we rehearse God's attributes it is a reminder to us of all that God can do for us and all that He has promised. It focuses our attention on Him and it gets our attention off our problems and who we are. An exercise is to mark out the psalms where the psalmist is in some sort of horrible situation and he is being slandered, abused, vilified and attacked; whatever the circumstances may be the psalmist is in trouble. So he goes to God for aid. As he does that he starts off expressing his circumstances and situation as he is bemoaning them. Then he begins to focus on God's character. The technical term for this kind of a psalm is a lament psalm. And as he shifts his focus away from his problems to the character of God, suddenly we see the tone shift. As he focuses more upon God his problems begin to minimize. He realizes that God is greater than any and all of his problems.

Then after he focuses on God he begins to declare his thankfulness to God for delivering him from this particular problem—even though that hasn't happened yet. He realizes that because is who He is that the certainty of His provision is so great that even though it hasn't happened yet it is spoken of as if it has already come to pass. So the gratitude is based on an understanding of God's grace and His provision for us. Gratitude is frequently associated with prayer. We are vigilant in the prayer with thanksgiving. We see this is passages in the New Testament. Philippians 4:6 NASB "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." Gratitude for even the circumstances that we are in that aren't pleasant. Addressing corporate prayer, Paul writes: 1 Timothy 2:1 NASB "First of all, then, I urge that entreaties {and} prayers, petitions {and} thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men."

Supplications can be further sub-divided into intercessory prayer for others and petitions for one's self.

1 Thessalonians 5:17, 18 NASB "pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." The Greek word here is not the one we have in Colossians 4:2, it is adialeiptos [a)dialeiptwj] which means something that is continuous—not without a break, but like when one has a hacking cough, something which goes on and on and on. Life should always be focused on being ready to pray to God, to have that ongoing communication with God.

Then Paul moves from the broader command to be vigilant in prayer to a more narrow type of prayer—intercession for the apostle himself and for his ministry. Colossians 4:3 NASB "praying at the same time for us …" That includes Paul and his associates. Paul had several men with him. He understood that part of the role that he had—and it is also part of the responsibility of every pastor—was to be training men who could teach the Word of God for the next generation. It is critical for anybody who is a pastor and who is focused on promoting the teaching of God's Word to be involved in the training of future generations of pastors. "…  as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word …" This is the idea of giving them opportunity in order to teach the Word and to proclaim the gospel. An open door is a typical metaphor in the ancient world emphasizing opportunity and ready access to proclaiming the message. So we should pray for an open door. "… so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ …" This isn't some sort of mystery doctrine related to the mystery religions, it has to do with previously unrevealed truth related to Jesus Christ. "… for which I have also been imprisoned." This is Paul's first imprisonment in Rome when he wrote this. Colossians and Ephesians were two of four so-called prison epistles. He really was just under house arrest, he uses (in some translations) "in chains" in a metaphorical sense. He had a certain degree of freedom. He was there because of the gospel and it took him a couple of years to get to Rome and then he was in Rome for a couple of years before his case was finally dismissed. Colossians 4:4 NASB "that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak."

Then he came to his second command. Colossians 4:5 NASB "Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity." The command is to walk in wisdom. Wisdom is a major theme in Colossians. It has to do not with the abstract wisdom of Greek thought but more the Hebrew idea of skillful application of the Word—skillful living so that you life counts for the plan of God. "Outsiders" are the unbelievers. We live our life in the midst of a community of unbelievers. It takes a little bit of maturity to have that wisdom. Paul says that there is a time factor here and the time can easily be wasted, so we need to redeem the time (make the most of the opportunity). This was an idiom for using the time wisely and effectively in terms of our life. Don't waste time on that which has no eternal value or significance. 

Colossians 4:6 NASB "Let your speech always be with grace, {as though} seasoned with salt…" This was an idiom and it is not emphasizing grace as much as is another term that was often used as a synonym for speaking and talking wisely. So let your speech always be wise. Be careful what you say, think about what you say, how you approach various issues and communicate this to unbelievers. "… so that you will know how you should respond to each person." There are general principles in giving the gospel to people. They need to understand that they are a sinner and all need to understand their need of salvation because we are all under condemnation (John 3:18). But the one who believes in Christ is no longer condemned.

As we get into this final part of Colossians Paul is giving final greetings from some of his associates to the people in Colosse. Paul had never been to Colosse but some of his associates had and so there were clearly some connections. One of these was Tychicus. Colossians 4:7 NASB "As to all my affairs, Tychicus, {our} beloved brother and faithful servant and fellow bond-servant in the Lord, will bring you information." Paul was sending this epstle to Colosse in the hands of Tychicus who was a faithful servant with him. Notice the way Paul talks about his associates. Tychicus is a "beloved brother," emphasizing his dependability. Paul could depend on him no matter what. Tychicus travelled with him and stayed with him even though he was imprisoned in Rome, and Paul calls him a fellow servant in the Lord. This is the highest of praise for anyone associated with the apostle Paul.

Colossians 4:8 NASB "{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"—by communicating the Word of God to them. Tychicus would return to Paul with news of their condition.

Colossians 4:9 NASB "and with him Onesimus, {our} faithful and beloved brother, who is one of your {number.} They will inform you about the whole situation here." Onesimus was a former slave and was the one about whom the epistle to Philemon was written. He was an escaped slave who had found his way to Rome and heard the gospel from the apostle Paul. But he had violated the law and so Paul sent him back to his master Philemon. In that epistle he requests Philemon that he graciously forgive Onesimus, and he asks that he release Onesimus from Paul his bondage. Paul calls Onesimus a faithful and beloved brother. Notice he doesn't refer to him as a fellow slave. That would have been a confusing term in light of Onesimus's circumstances and situation.

Colossians 4:10 NASB "Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, sends you his greetings …" Aristarchus was from Thessalonica and had come to understand the gospel there, as indicated in Acts. In Acts 19:29; 20:4 we see that he travelled with Paul to Jerusalem, was with Paul in Jerusalem and stayed with him even in his time of imprisonment in Caesarea, and travelled to Rome with him. We don't know if it was voluntary or involuntary but he was called a "fellow prisoner" with Paul. So he stuck with Paul and was often involved with Paul's Bible classes and was always there to help Paul with whatever he needed help with.  "… and {also} Barnabas's cousin Mark (about whom you received instructions; if he comes to you, welcome him)"—John Mark, mentioned in the book of Acts. He is the cousin of Barnabas who was instrumental in Paul's life in bringing Paul back to the church in Antioch from which Paul and Barnabas were first commissioned to go out on their first missionary journey. Mark was a very young man at that time and really couldn't hang in there with Paul, and at the end of the journey Paul didn't want to have anything more to do with John Mark who was a quitter. When they were preparing for their second missionary journey Barnabas wanted to take Mark along and Paul said no. That caused a split between Paul and Barnabas. Paul went off with Silas on the second missionary journey. Eventually John Mark grew up and there was a reconciliation between him and Paul, and Mark was often seen as associate of Paul and someone who helped him out. 

Colossians 4:11 NASB "and {also} Jesus…" a common name based on the Aramaic or Hebrew word "Joshua." He was usually referred to by his surname, Justus. "… who is called Justus; these are the only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are from the circumcision, and they have proved to be an encouragement to me." These were all Jewish.

Colossians 4:12 NASB "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." He was the pastor of the group in Colosse who had brought news from them to Paul in Rome. He was referred to earlier as a faithful communicator of the Word; here he is referred to as a bondslave of Christ. The purpose for his prayer was that they might stand perfect, mature and complete in all the will of God. This has been the thrust of this epistle: training and teaching the Colossian believers in how they can reach spiritual maturity. This is the goal of all pastoral ministry. This is what Paul had prayed for in Colossians 1:9 NASB "For this reason also, since the day we heard {of it,} we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, [10] so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please {Him} in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God." So this is the focal point of prayer and we should be praying similarly for those around us.

Colossians 4:13 NASB "For I testify for him that he [Epaphras] has a deep concern for you and for those who are in Laodicea and Hierapolis." Notice how personal Paul is. This isn't abstract doctrine, it just shows how much he cares for the recipients of the letter and how much he prays for them on a regular basis that they might grow to spiritual maturity. 

He is also associated with Luke. Colossians 4:14 NASB "Luke, the beloved physician, sends you his greetings, and {also} Demas."

Colossians 4:15 NASB "Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea and also Nympha and the church that is in her house." Reference to another church which meets in the home of Nympha.

Colossians 4:16 NASB "When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter {that is coming} from Laodicea." This was a letter that was designed to be a cyclical epistle that was to be read among various churches, not just the one to whom it was initially addressed.

Colossians 4:17 NASB "Say to Archippus, 'Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.'" Apparently Archippus was on the verge of quitting and he is being encouraged to hang in there and fulfill the role that God had called him to. 

Colossians 4:18 NASB "I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my imprisonment. Grace be with you."

So this is the epistle to the Colossians. The focal point has been on the sufficiency of Christ and all that we have in Him. Once we understand that we are challenged to go on and apply all of these principles in our life so that we may fully glorify God.