The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Colossians Chapter 4

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 9, 2019

ANALYSIS OF COLOSSIANS CHAPTER 4
Scripture links are to the Douay Rheims translation

After pointing out in the first verse of this chapter, to masters, the treatment which they were to give their slaves (Col 4:1), the Apostle, in the next place, points out some duties common to all Christians; and first, he exhorts them to the duty of prayer in general, the conditions of which he marks out (Col 4:2), and of prayer for himself in particular, in order that he might be enabled to preach the word of God with success (Col 4:3-4). He enjoins upon them to observe circumspection and wise discretion in their intercourse with the Pagans (Col 4:5-6).

He refers them for information regarding the state of his affairs to Tychicus, the bearer of this Epistle, and to Onesimus, whom he sent to bear him company (Col 4:7-9). He conveys the salutations of several parties who were with him at Rome (Col 4:10-14). He conveys his own salutation also to the Church of Laodicea, and enjoins on them to have the Epistle, which he sent to the Laodiceans, read in their Church at Colossæ: and to have this read in the Church of the Laodiceans (Col 4:15-16). He admonishes Archippus to attend to the ministry entrusted to him, and concludes by subscribing his own salutation with his own hand, and by wishing them to be mindful of his chains (Col 4:17-18).

COMMENTARY ON COLOSSIANS CHAPTER 4
Text in purple indicates Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrase of the scripture he is commenting on

Col 4:1. Masters, treat your slaves with justice and humanity; knowing that you also have a master in heaven.

“Masters,” &c. Several Commentators say, this verse should be joined to the preceding chapter, with which it is immediately connected in sense, and these make verse 2 the commencement of this chapter. “That which is just,” by supplying them with clothes, food, and other necessaries. “And equal,” by treating them with feelings of kindness and humanity, neither overburdening them with labour, but assigning to each one the duties he can perform; nor exacting the performance of the tasks assigned them with too much rigour, which is expressed—(Ephesians 6:9)—by these words, “forbearing threatenings.” Others, by “equal,” understand showing equal regard for all, so as to give occasion of jealousy to none.

“Knowing that you also have a master in heaven,” a master, too, with whom there is no exception of persons, and who will treat them, as they treat their slaves, whom they should regard as fellows in servitude, and as having the same master in heaven.

Col 4:2. Persevere in prayer, and be vigilant in exercising it with thanksgiving.

In this verse, the Apostle points out a duty common to all Christians, the duty of prayer, the conditions of which he enumerates:—first, it should be persevering and urgent—“be instant,” &c.; secondly, it should be performed with vigilance, attention, and devotion, “watching in it;” thirdly, offered in a spirit of humility and grateful remembrance of past favours, “with thanksgiving.” Gratitude for the past, and confidence of obtaining future favours, are the surest means of rendering our prayers efficacious.

Col 4:3. Pray also for us, that God, removing every obstacle, may enable us to announce boldly and intrepidly the mystery of man’s redemption through Christ (for the preaching of which mystery I am now in chains).

“Would open to us a door of speech,” by which some understand: Would remove all obstructions and impediments to our opening our mouth, and afford us an opportunity “to speak the mystery of Christ,” &c. “By a door of speech,” some understand simply, the mouth; that he would open my mouth to speak and announce openly the mystery of human redemption. (“For which,” &c.), some understand to mean: for which mystery. Others more probably, for announcing which mystery, &c., I am now in chains.

Col 4:4. And that I may announce it in due and proper circumstances, so as to produce the full effect.

Two things are required for a true preacher of the word, to announce wholesome truths, and to do so in proper circumstances, as regards the time, the manner of announcing them, &c., both of which he should beg of God’s Holy Spirit, who alone can open the hearts of the audience, and the mouth of the preacher, with effect.

Col 4:5. Behave with prudence and circumspection in your intercourse with the infidels, who are outside the Church, making good use of the opportunity which the present time affords you.

“Redeeming the time,” by which some understand, making good use of the present opportunity, which you have, of giving the infidels good example to the glory and edification of the church. Others understand them to mean: purchasing an exemption from persecution, by making good use of the present opportunity, which you have, of acting prudently in regard to the unbelievers. The Greek word for “time” καιρὸν will likewise mean, opportunity. The words may also mean: by redoubled exertions, redeeming and making up for the past time, which was squandered so foolishly, and even employed in offending God (see Ephesians 5:16), where the same words are used.

Col 4:6. Let your language be agreeable, calculated to conciliate the good will of those who hear you, but let it be, at the same time, seasoned with wisdom and sound discretion, so that you may be able to accost and answer each person as may be fit and proper.

He tells them that their language should be pleasing and agreeable, not too austere, as it might be otherwise repulsive, and might deter the infidels from embracing the faith. This, however, should not degenerate into levity or dissoluteness, but it should be seasoned with wisdom, of which “salt” is the emblem, so that in their discourse would be accommodated to the dispositions, circumstances, and inclinations of their hearers—a different mode of speaking is to be employed towards different persons.

Col 4:7. Tychicus, my dearest brother, who serves the Lord with me, and is his faithful minister, will inform you of the state of my affairs.
Col 4:8. I have sent him for the purpose of knowing all about you (and of bringing me an account), and also for the purpose of consoling you.

No commentary is offered on these verses beyond the paraphrase

Col 4:9. I have sent him, with Onesimus, a most beloved and faithful brother, who is also a Colossian; they will make known to you all things regarding myself and the faithful, and the progress of the gospel here.

Commentators here admire the prudence of St. Paul: he sends Tychicus to console and teach them; but Onesimus who, from being a fugitive slave, became a Christian, receives no other commission except that of giving them all the necessary information regarding St. Paul. They also admire the humility of the Apostle, this great vessel of election, snatched up to the third heavens, calling slaves by the name of “most beloved and faithful brethren.”

Col 4:10. Aristarchus, who is in prison with me, salutes you; so does Mark, the cousin-german of Barnabas, concerning whom you have received commendatory letters; receive him with kindness, should he come to you.

Aristarchus was a Macedonian of Thessalonica. He suffered much in Asia with the Apostle, and he set out with him, when taken captive, to Rome (Acts 19:21–27). “And Mark, the cousin-german of Barnabas.” This is the John Mark, referred to (Acts 12) on whose account St. Paul and Barnabas separated (Acts 15:39). “Touching whom,” i.e., John Mark, “you received commandments,” or commandatory letters. Barnabas was too well known all over the church to require such: probably it was from Barnabas he received those letters, and St. Paul now adds his own recommendation, to show that he held him in esteem.

Col 4:11. So does Jesus, who is called Justus. These three are Jews, and they alone are wont to assist me in preaching the kingdom of God, and they have been a great source of comfort to me.

No commentary is offered on this verse beyond the paraphrase.

Col 4:12. Epaphras, a Colossian, a servant of Jesus Christ salutes you; he, also, assiduously and anxiously offers up his prayers for you, that you may fully and perfectly fulfil in everything the will of God.

“A servant of Christ Jesus.” The word, “Jesus,” is omitted in the Greek. “Solicitous,” in Greek, αγωνιζομενος, suffering agony.

Col 4:13. For, I bear testimony regarding him, that he has much zeal for you, and for those who are of Laodicea and Hierapolis.

“Much labour.” In Greek, much zeal. “Hieropolis,” a city of Phrygia.

Col 4:14. Luke, the most dear physician, salutes you, and so does Demas.

No commentary is offered on this verse beyond the commentary.

Col 4:15. Salute the brethren who are at Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the Church, which is in his house.

“And Nymphas.” This word is of the masculine gender, as appears from the Greek.

Col 4:16. And when this Epistle shall have been read amongst you, see that it be also read in the Church of the Laodiceans, and see that the Epistle to be sent to you from the Laodiceans be read in your church in turn.

“And when this Epistle shall have been read with you, cause that it be read also in the Church of the Laodiceans, and that you read that which is of the Laodiceans,” or (as in the Greek, τὴν ἐκ Λαοδικείας), which is of Laodicea.

It is a subject of much controversy, whether the Apostle, in the latter words of this verse, refers to an Epistle addressed to him by the Laodiceans, which he wishes to be read at Colossæ, or, to an Epistle written by him to the Laodiceans, but now lost. St. Chrysostom and others are of the former opinion: St. Gregory the Great, St. Thomas of Aquin, St. Anselm, and others, are of the latter. Before we embrace or reject either opinion, it is to be observed, that there is no doubt whatever entertained of the spuriousness of the Epistle published by Sixtus Senensis, under the title of “the Epistle to the Laodiceans,” as it is agreed on all hands, that it is not the Epistle here referred to, supposing the opinion of St. Thomas to be the correct one. This Epistle is given by A’Lapide, in his commentary on this verse. It bears evident internal marks of spuriousness. It is shorter than the Epistle to Philemon, and is nothing more than a collection of expressions used by the Apostle in his several Epistles, particularly in his Epistles to the Ephesians and Philippians, strung together by some impostor. Nor, is there question of an “Epistle to the Laodiceans” in circulation in the days of St. Jerome, which he, as well as Theodoret, assures us, was exploded by all, “ab omnibus exploditur” (Hieron. in Catalog.), and of which the seventh General Council says, Epistolam ad Laodicenses Apostolo adscriptam, patres nostri, tanquam alienam, reprobaverunt. Whether this latter Epistle be the same with the one now in circulation, published by Sixtus Senensis, is a matter of doubt; it is quite certain, however, that the latter is, like the former, spurious and supposititious.

The question, therefore, is: Did the Apostle write an Epistle to the Laodiceans, which must consequently have been lost? The opinion of St. Thomas, who maintains that he did, and that reference is made to the same in this verse, seems the more probable. This is inferred in the first place, from the absence of all probability, that the Laodiceans, who had never seen St. Paul, would have written to him; and even supposing them to have done so, what reason can there be why St. Paul would call on the Colossians to have that letter read in their own church in the same way as this letter of his own to the Colossians was to be read in the Church of Laodicea? The reason given by Estius, viz., that the Epistle of the Laodiceans to St. Paul had contained an illustrious testimony of their faith and charity, which, being made known at Colossæ by the reading of this letter, would stimulate the Colossians to the practice of the same virtues, cannot be considered as having any weight; because, Colossæ and Laodicea being scarcely three leagues asunder, the Colossians needed not to be informed from Italy, whence St. Paul wrote this Epistle, from his prison at Rome, of what was going on in their vicinity among the brethren in the faith.

Again, is it to be supposed, that St. Paul, who expressed so much anxiety for the Laodiceans, in common with the other churches which were never favoured with his personal presence, would omit sending them an Epistle in reply to the one which they are supposed in the other opinion to have sent him, particularly when he had written to so many churches, from which he received no previous communication at all?

Moreover, unless St. Paul had written to the Laodiceans in some form or other, telling them to send their Epistle to be read at Colossæ, as is here enjoined on the Colossians regarding them, they, surely, would not have sent it of their own accord, or, if they had already sent it, of their own accord, what necessity was there for the Apostle to admonish the Colossians to read an Epistle which had been already sent for that purpose. Hence, in any supposition, the Apostle must have written an Epistle to the Laodiceans. The Greek text, then, upon which the advocates of the opposite opinion chiefly rely, that from Laodicea, must mean, “the Epistle (to be sent you) from Laodicea.” The evident motive of the Apostle’s injunction was this: Laodicea and Colossæ were neighbouring cities, troubled by the same false teachers. It is likely, that in his Epistle to the Laodiceans, the Apostle treated of matters of which he made no mention in that addressed to the Colossians, or, at least, that he had treated of the same matter differently in both. Hence, by having the two Epistles read in both churches, the faithful of each would have a more complete exposition of faith and morals, and stronger motives for perseverance in the faith, and in the performance of good works. And the fact of the Apostle telling the Colossians to have the Epistle of the Laodiceans read in their church, in the same way as this was to be read in the church of the Laodiceans, would evidently imply that the reading of both would be attended with results equally beneficial, which could hardly be said, if there were question in one case, of an Epistle, written by the Laodiceans to him. These are the reasons for the opinion of St. Thomas, as given by Mauduit. It must, however, be admitted, that the opinion of St. Chrysostom is the more common with both ancient and modern Expositors of SS. Scripture.

Col 4:17. And say to Archippus, attend to the ministry, which thou hast received from the Lord, that thou mayest diligently fulfil it.
Col 4:18. I subscribe my own salutation with my own hand. Be mindful of my chains, so as to pray for me, and receive strength and courage after my example. Grace be with you. Amen.

No commentary is offered on these verses beyond the paraphrase.

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