Colossians 4:7-18

Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here.

10 My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.) 11 Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my co-workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me. 12 Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. 13 I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis.14 Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings. 15 Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.

16 After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.

17 Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.”

18 I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.
(Colossians 4:7-18 NIV)

Paul wraps up his letter to the Colossian church by extending some comments to individuals within the church, and from those who are with Paul.

Paul chose Tychicus to carry the letter to the Colossian church.  Tychicus was a traveling companion and fellow minister with Paul (Acts 20:4).  Paul also sent Tychicus to Ephesus (2 Timothy 4:12, Ephesians 6:21).  Rather than record his specific situation on paper, Paul chose to let Tychicus tell the Colossian believers what was going on and how he was doing as a political prisoner in Rome.

Also accompanying Paul was Onesimus, the runaway slave from Colossae that ended up in Rome and whom Paul had led to the Lord (Philemon 1:10).  Paul also wrote and sent a letter with Tychicus to Philemon (Philemon), as Onesimus’ slave owner, pleading with him to take back Onesimus not only as a slave but now as a brother in Christ.

Paul next mentions Aristarchus, another one of Paul’s traveling companions and fellow ministers of the Gospel (Acts 19:29, Acts 20:4, Acts 27:2).

Paul also extends greetings on behalf of John Mark, Barnabas’ cousin  (verse 10).  This is significant, because Paul and Barnabas had taken John Mark on a previous journey and John Mark had left them and returned home.  This was a major point of contention between Paul and Barnabas, to the point of casuing them to break friendship and part ways for a while (Acts 15:36-38).  Thankfully we have this passage as well as 2 Timothy 4:11 and Philemon 1:24 to show us that Paul had reconciled with John Mark and Paul had included him in his ministry again.

Staying behind with Paul was Epaphras, the pastor of the Colossian church.  Epaphras was likely headed out to the two other local city churches in Hieropolis and Laodicea before returning home to Colossae.

Paul also mentions Doctor Luke (the writer of the Gospel of Luke as well as the Book of Acts) who is with Paul, and Demas, another one of Paul’s traveling companions (verse 14).  Demas would later desert Paul and leave the Gospel (2 Timothy 4:10).

Paul’s closure in mentioning all those associated with him here is a great reminder that we must minister in community.  None of us is a “lone cowboy” to take on a ministry or work on our own.

May we serve the Lord in community, encouraging one another and carrying the Gospel message together to those around us, demonstrating God’s grace to all we encounter.

Blessings,
~kevin

Colossians 4:2-6

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace,seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
(Colossians 4:2-6 NIV)

Paul provides final instructions to the Colossian church (and to us) before offering a few personal closing remarks to end his letter.

Paul covers two topics as he wraps up his notes:  prayer and proclamation of the Gospel.

Note that Paul starts with prayer, then talks about the proclamation of the Gospel.  We must focus on “being” before we can engage in “doing”.  We must be “Mary” before we can be “Martha” (Luke 10:38-42). Devotion to the Lord must always precede our duty for the Lord.

So what does Paul say about prayer?  First of all, Paul tells us to devote ourselves to prayer.  The word Paul uses for “devote” means to put our strength, our power into our prayers, to persevere when we pray.  Prayer is not a reciting of words, but a pouring out of our heart before God.  When we pray, we are coming before the Lord and asking His help with life.  We are admitting our helplessness and inviting Him to have His way in our life, knowing that His way is better than our way.

As we learn to pray with devotion, we develop a deeper desire for the Lord.  Our longing is for Him and Him alone.  The desires of this world fade into the background as we seek His face and companionship.

David gives us a tremendous word picture of what it means to have a deep desire for the Lord:

You, God, are my God,
    earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
    my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
    where there is no water.
(Psalm 63:1 NIV)

Paul also tells us to be watchful and thankful as we pray.

What does Paul mean by being “watchful”?  It means to be awake and engaged as we pray.  Have you ever fallen asleep during your prayer time?  The disciples did (Matthew 26:41) even after Jesus instructed them otherwise.

Paul adds the repeating theme of thankfulness during prayer time to all the other reminders he gave previously.  Without thankfulness, our prayer life gravitates toward selfish wish-fulfillment rather than gratitude for all God has done in us and for us.

Paul then moves on to request prayer for himself and his companions.  Notice that Paul does not pray for release from captivity.  Instead, he prays for opportunities to minister where he is, regardless of his circumstances – even if his circumstances include being a political prisoner in chains.

Paul believed in blooming wherever God planted him.  Do we have that same resolve and spirit for the Lord?  What is holding us back from doing the same?

In verses 5 and 6, Paul moves on to remind us about our proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ.  Paul focuses on our conduct and our conversations as the key factors in engaging others with the Gospel.

Paul reminds us to be wise in our conduct before others, as the Lord provides us many opportunities to interact with those who don’t know the Lord.  May our conduct never be a deterrent to someone seeing Christ in us and desiring what the Lord has done in our lives in theirs also.

Paul assumes that our conduct provides opportunities to have conversations with others.  He then proceeds to remind us that our words, as well as our conduct, must reflect Christ.  How do we do this?  Paul says our words must always be full of grace, as if seasoned by salt, to bring out the full flavor of Christ.  We are not to beat others over the head with our Bibles; instead, we must use God’s Word for healing, for comfort, for gentle transformation to be more Christ-like.  This begins with using Scripture as our own mirror to see our brokenness and His perfect healing and reconciliation that we can humbly share with others.

Lord, may we live out Paul’s final reminders to us to pray, and to proclaim what You have done for us as we walk with You the rest of our days.

Blessings,
~kevin

Colossians 3:22-4:1

22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.

Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.
(Colossians 3:22-4:1 NIV)

Paul continues with his instructions for the family in today’s passage.  Paul includes domestic servants as well as family members because they were such a prevalent part of society.  You either had servants or you were a servant.  There were not a lot of “family only” households in Paul’s day.  Based on the amount of instructions given, we can conclude that there were more servants than masters in the Colossian church.

Paul uses the word “Slaves” to begin this instruction.  The Greek word “Doulos” (meaning servant) can mean either one who is forced into slavery, or one who willingly submits themselves in servitude to another.  The context of this passage leans towards those in forced conscription or servitude.

It is important to point out that Paul is neither approving or condemning human slavery in this passage.  Just as Jesus did not make it his ministry to force social or political reform, Paul was not pushing a social or political reform message.  Like Jesus, Paul sought to bring Christ followers in concert with God’s Word and Christ’s example via changed hearts.

Remember from our earlier studies of chapter 3 (particularly verse 11) that Paul says there is neither slave nor free.  It’s not our life situations that make us who we are, even if we find ourselves in forced servitude (slavery).  It’s who we are in Christ and Christ living in us that makes us who we are.  Paul does not make this claim lightheartedly since he wrote these words as a political prisoner, not as a free man.

Thankfully, we do not have slavery or conscripted servants in our society.  The relationships that Paul talks about in this section can be applied to employee / employer relations that we do experience in our society.  It is to this end we will focus our thoughts.

Paul gives a general command for us to obey our earthly masters (bosses) in everything.  We don’t get to pick and choose what we will and won’t obey.  Paul also reminds us to work with diligence whether our boss is looking or not.  Our goal is to please the Lord, not just our boss.  Paul reminds us that we are ultimately serving the Lord through our work.

Paul knew that God ordained mankind to work before the fall of mankind into sin.  So work is honorable and pleasing to the Lord.  Yes, because of the fall, work is much harder (Genesis 3:17-19).  The fall did not end God’s mandate to work, nor did it end God’s blessing of it.   Work with the right attitude and focus on the Lord is to be our worship of God.

Paul reminds us that to work with the wrong attitude or motive (to please our bosses only) does not please God, and we will receive discipline because of our disobedience to God.  We don’t get a special “pass” because we are followers of Christ.

Lastly, Paul reminds us that those of us who are bosses have a responsibility to be Christ-like in our actions and attitudes toward our employees.  We are not God to our employees – we are also under God’s authority and will be held accountable for how we treat those who work for us.

May we honor the Lord in our work as either employees or employers, remembering that He is our ultimate “boss” that we are to please.  Relationships in the workplace show our love of Christ equally as much as our relationships at home.

Blessings,
~kevin

Colossians 3:18-21

18 Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.

21 Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.
(Colossians 3:18-21 NIV)

Yesterday we looked at the peace of Christ, the message of Christ, and the name of the Lord Jesus in verses 15-17.  Today Paul takes those truths and applies them to the most basic and fundamental of all social constructs – the family.

Paul addresses each part of the family – wives, husbands, children, and fathers.  Paul also continues his address of employer-employee relationships in 3:22 – 4:1.  Since most of these employees were part of the household, they are related to the same family unit and included in Paul’s discussion.  We will take a look at this section on a subsequent day.

Focusing on today’s passage, we see Paul addressing each group of the family.  Needless to say, there have been endless debates over what Paul meant in these verses and the parallel passage in Ephesians 5:21-33.

As I look at this passage, I can take numerous approaches – to either back up and take a larger macro view of what Paul is teaching or to dive in and take a micro view of the words and phrases Paul uses.  In this case, I think the wiser approach is to back up and take the macro view.  I do this not to avoid controversy, but to see the passage in its proper context.

Remember that Paul has been talking about living differently than the world in Colossians chapter 3.  In yesterday’s passage, he specifically talked about the peace of Christ that changes us, transforms us from the inside out.  Families living in harmony is certainly a change from what the world experiences.

So we must ask ourselves, where does the family dysfunction originate?  To answer that question, we must go all the way back to Genesis chapter 3:

16 To the woman he said,

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
    with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
    and he will rule over you.”
(Genesis 3:16 NIV)

Remember that the fall of mankind was caused by Adam and Eve thinking that God had held out on them – that God did not give them something that they thought they needed or deserved.  In fact, God was protecting Adam and Eve but they failed to recognize that as such, and saw it as withholding instead.

So God said to Eve that the peace in the family was broken because of sin.  She (Eve) would want to control her husband, and he (Adam) would respond unkindly to her desire to control him.

Sounds like the beginning of family strife to me.

Fast forwarding back to Colossians, Paul is reminding us that everything changes because of Christ.  The relationship that was broken between God and mankind has been restored through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.  And likewise, we can experience restored relationships with one another through the common bond of Christ.  And that includes the most fundamental of all societal building blocks that God created – the family.

May we see our relationships as children, wives, husbands, mothers, and fathers to be glorifying to God and healing toward one another.  As we let Christ rule in our hearts, our relationships change for the better.  May we take Paul’s words to heart and honor one another and so in turn honor Christ who made reconciliation possible in the first place.

Blessings,
~kevin

Colossians 3:15-17 (corrected)

(Sorry about the previous post, folks – I hit the wrong button and posted too soon!)

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
(Colossians 3:15-17 NIV)

Paul finished up his description of our “clothes” of Christ in the last section.  Today, Paul talks about the practical outworkings of our walk with Christ in three areas:  the peace of Christ, the message of Christ, and the name of the Lord Jesus.

Paul begins with the peace of Christ and tells us to let it rule in our hearts.  Let’s unpack a few of these words to help set the context for what Paul is saying.

The word Paul uses for “peace” means the absence of war; it means harmony among two people.  Paul gently reminds us that before we came to Christ, we were enemies with God.  Only when we surrender to Christ do we have peace with God.

Paul also tells us to let that peace that God gives us must rule in our hearts.  The word “rule” mean to officiate or umpire.  Rather than having a restless heart, the Lord gives us peace that passes all understanding.  In Paul’s letter to the Philippian church, he says, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7 NIV)  Paul says that our calling in the body of Christ (how we relate to one another) is to peace, not strife or other selfish dysfunctions.  Again, that peace can only come from God.

Paul also reminds us to be thankful for that peace that comes from God.

Next, Paul tells us to let the message (words) of Christ dwell richly among us.  Paul gives us some hints on how the message of Christ is to be used – for teaching, admonishing (gentle instruction and correction), and for worship (through singing and reading God’s Word in group gatherings).

Notice that Paul lists the peace of Christ first, before the message of Christ.  We must have that peace with God first and peace with others before we can effectively worship the Lord on our own or with others.  Paul tacked on thankfulness when he talked about peace; Paul now adds gratitude as the underlying attitude to have as Christ’s message dwells among us.

Last but not least, Paul tells us that the name of the Lord Jesus must be forefront in everything we think, say, and do.    Remember, this life is not about us – it’s all about Him.  Once again, Paul tells us that our words and deeds are to be offered in a spirit of thankfulness.

God loves us unconditionally – He even likes us and wants to spend time with us.  Our lives are not to be spent trying to earn His favor, but rather, given back to Him in gratitude for all He has done for us.  It’s the least we can do.

Blessings,
~kevin

Colossians 3:12-14

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
(Colossians 3:12-14 NIV)

From our last time together, Paul gave us a list of things to “put off”, addressing sexual sins and speech-related sins.  Today, Paul tells us what to “put on”, to clothe ourselves with.

Using verses 9-11 as his backdrop, Paul begins verse 12 with “therefore”.  Having removed the old soiled garments of our sinful, selfish nature, Paul describes our new “wardrobe”.

Before we look at Paul’s wardrobe list, notice how Paul addresses the Colossian church (and us):

  • God’s chosen people
  • Holy
  • Dearly loved

Paul begins by reminding us that God loves us as we are, where we are.  God’s love is not conditional based on having the new “wardrobe” that he is about to describe.  Nor is God’s love based on our behavior, what we say, do, or think.  As followers of Christ, God loves us unconditionally.  And He not only loves us, He actually likes us as well, and wants to spend time with us.

Paul goes on to describe the new “wardrobe” that we are given as followers of Christ.  What is our outfit?

  • Compassion
  • Kindness
  • Humility
  • Gentleness
  • Patience

These character qualities are given to us; they are also attributes of God Himself.  Notice that these are both internal attributes (towards ourselves) as well as external attributes (toward others).   These character qualities are both “being” as well as “doing”.  The “being” happens first, in our inner life; the “doing” is then an outflowing or extension of our inner life to our outer (external) life.

Do these character qualities sound familiar?  Paul shares a similar list in his letter to the Ephesian church:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
(Ephesians 5:22-23 NIV)

While Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, does not specifically call out these attributes as coming from the Holy Spirit as he does in his letter to the Ephesians, he implies that these attributes are gifts that come from God to us.

So what are we to do with these new “garments”?  Paul says as we wear them, it changes how we interact with one another.  Verse 13 reminds us to use these new garments to treat others as God has treated us – with forbearance, patience, and forgiveness.  It’s easy to judge others when we lose sight of how much God has forgiven us.  Paul makes it a point to keep our own past front of mind.  He does not beat us over the head or judge us but shows us how much God loves us.

Last but not least, Paul reminds us to put on love, which ties all these other virtues together.  God’s love provides unity through the Holy Spirit; our diverse interests and skills and abilities make us unique and specifically called into His service.

May we live out our calling, doing so with the love and character attributes that God gives us to do so.  We cannot do it on our own power, nor does God expect us to.  He provides everything we need; our part is our willingness to follow Him.

Blessings,
~kevin

Colossians 3:9-11

Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
(Colossians 3:9-11 NIV)

In verses 5 – 8, Paul instructed us to put to death any sex-related sin in our life – both actions and thoughts that are outside God’s design for sex.  Paul also instructed us to get rid of speech-related sins where we use our words to hurt or express emotions inappropriately.

In verse 9 Paul adds one more item to his list of things to put off, to remove from ourselves – lying.

And why does Paul tell us to rid ourselves of all these things (sexual sins and speech-related sins)?  Because they are part of our old nature, who we were before we gave ourselves to Christ.  Paul tells us to take off our old self, our old sin nature, including any practices associated with that old sin nature.

Paul goes on to tell us that God does not leave our hearts and minds naked and exposed after we take off our old sin nature.  Without skipping a beat, Paul tells us to put on our new selves, which is in the likeness of Christ.  Starting in verse 12 (which we will study next time), Paul goes into great detail about what the “new self” looks like, how it behaves, etc.

The second half of verse 10 says, “… which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”  What is Paul saying here?

First of all, Paul tells us that this putting on of the new self is a process, not an event.  There will be significant milestones of personal changes in our walk with Christ, but it is not a single point in time.  Our walk with Christ takes our entire lifetime to develop and mature.  The phrase “is being renewed” means that it has happened in the past, it is happening now, and will continue happening in the future, with no expiration date.

So how does this renewal take place?  Paul says it happens with knowledge.  As we learn about Christ, study His life, and become His follower, we take on His attributes.  In short, we become more like Him in every aspect of our lives – our thoughts, our speech, our actions, our attitudes, our character.

Notice that Paul got in one more little point to refute the heretics in the Colossian church, when he said it was through knowledge of Christ that we are changed, in the image of our Creator.  It’s not through following a list of do’s and don’t’s that the heretics were pushing.  It is true knowledge of Christ our Creator that we are to follow, not the created rules of mankind.  We were never designed by God to carry that heavy load of human rules.

In verse 11, Paul paints a picture of what this new life in Christ looks like.  Paul says that we only have one identification, one association, and that is to Christ.  All other human identifications – race, culture, gender, socioeconomic status, national affiliation, education, or any other thing is meaningless.  The only thing that matters is our association with Christ.

Is Paul suggesting a life of anarchy here?  Not at all.  We all have these associations – race, gender, what country we live in, etc.  Paul is not trying to make those identifications go away.  In fact, he cannot make them disappear.  What Paul is saying is that all these identifications and associations are secondary to our identification and association with Christ.

As we put off our old sin nature and put on the nature of Christ, may we not use our identifications to divide or separate us, but instead, use our association with Christ to unite us in Him.  The ground is level at the foot of the cross.  May we humbly remember for Whom we live for.  The rest of the world is watching to see if Christ really makes a difference (or not).  May our lives be a testimony for the positive, that others will see Christ in us.

Blessings,
~kevin