Colossians 3:18 - 4:18.

Responsible Christian Life

       November 30, 2003.                      © 2003, J.W. Carter              Scripture quotes from KJV

Paul, as he wrote this letter to the various house-churches in Colossae and Laodicea, was writing to a divided church.  The tenets of a diverse and ungodly world culture had infiltrated the churches through the demands of its leading personalities.  When the first church in the region had been established, perhaps by Epaphras, they were a small group with a consistent doctrine.  As the church grew, and incorporated more members, the ignorant and worldly viewpoints of those new members became to be slowly incorporated in the body.  Like a frog that does not recognize the slow warming in the pot that is about to scald him to death, we often do not recognize the subtle changes around us until things are so radically erroneous as to generate conflict.  Certainly these churches were at this point of conflict at this time.  Greek philosophy and Jewish law were merging with the gospel of grace to create a mosaic of error, and placing a variety of conflicting demands upon the membership from its very diverse leadership.

The culture of our world plays a large part in the culture within the church.  Some churches have compromised so much to the world culture that they are indistinguishable from it.  Those churches that take a stand against the ungodliness of the world culture are declared to be intolerant and unenlightened by it.  In this letter Paul reminded the church of the basic truths of the gospel and the inappropriateness of any conformation to the ungodly world culture.  When we get to Chapter 3, Paul presents some instruction on family and church relationships that stood firmly against the culture of the day.  As we enter these verses we might consider the last sentence that Paul wrote ...

And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. (Col. 3:17)

As he delivers the following paragraphs of instruction, it is instructive to remember the context of Paul's teaching.  As a defender of grace, Paul often argued firmly against the law as the motivation for Christian behavior.  He sees appropriate Christian behavior as the result, or the fruit, of grace.  Consequently, when we read Paul's instruction we can understand that he is not setting down a list of rules or laws, but is actually describing the characteristics of a life that demonstrates agape love.  We also need to understand the culture and circumstances into which Paul is writing.  

This passage from Colossians 3:17 through 4:3 is almost identical in content and sequence to his writing to the Ephesians (Eph. 5:21 ff.), but the latter is more developed and can help us understand better what is being stated here.

Colossians 3:18.

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. 

This same statement from the letter to the Ephesians contains more depth:

Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; 21Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. 22Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.  Eph. 5:20-22. 

Often, in the name of male domination, teachers will ignore Eph. 5:20-21 and jump directly to 5:22 motivated by an agenda of female suppression.  However, when the context and culture is understood, a far more meaningful truth is found.  Ancient Greek and Hebrew culture was heavily male dominated.   A command to women to be submissive to their husbands was entirely unnecessary, as the male dominance in their culture was unquestioned.  Paul is referring to a different type of submission here.  First, all that is do be done is to be done in the name of the Lord, which includes without question the motivation of all acts by agape love.  Agape love does not motivate one to dominate, but rather to serve.  Secondly, Paul introduces this teaching in the book of Ephesians with a very radical concept:  mutual submission.  His statement that both husband and wife should submit to one another, at face value, would be incredibly controversial in their ancient culture.  To ask a man to submit to any woman was contrary to their culture.

The truth of the passage is found in the word used for "submit."  The Greek word, hypotasso, refers specifically to the act of voluntarily placing one's self in service to another for the mutual benefit of both.  It arises from the formation of a military unit where its members take on voluntary ranks and submit themselves to one another for the benefit of all.  The ancient Greeks and Hebrews would understand this term in this manner, and would not consider it to be a command of domination or forced order.  When Paul speaks of submission, he is referring to the voluntary service of one to another, in the same way that Jesus taught that the greatest one of all is the one who serves another.  Husbands and wives are to mutually serve one another.  With this understood, the nature of that service is then outlined as Paul describes the results of the application of this agape-based service.

Little more is needed to understand Col. 3:18.  Wives are to voluntarily place themselves in a position to serve their husbands, a position motivated not by law, but by their love.  Such evidence of their love is an example of a behavior that is consistent with God's grace, and is God's plan for the family.  In the letter to the Ephesians, Paul goes on to illustrate the similarity of that voluntary service to one's husband as a Christian's voluntary service to Christ.  

There is no intent on Paul's part to establish a model of male dominance in these verses, and any attempt to use them in this manner is inconsistent with the gospel of grace, contrary to the context of Paul's ministry, and stands against Paul's repeated reminder to do all things in the name of the Lord.  Consequently, we might think that this statement of submission would not be controversial in a male-dominated world, but actually, it is quite a change from the culture.  These verses do not teach male domination, and present a meaning and purpose behind family relationships that is quite foreign to the male-dominated culture.  Women are not to submit to their husbands as a slave to a master, but as a loving wife who truly desires to serve the needs of her husband.  That is quite a novel concept, and one that is consistent with God's purpose.

Colossians 3:19.

Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them. 

As Paul turns to the husband, his message is the same.  Recall from the Ephesians passage, that hypotasso is mutual.  Just as a wife who loves her husband will voluntarily seek to serve his needs, the husband who loves his wife will do the same.  This statement is again a controversial stand against the male dominated culture.  Women in ancient Greece were considered little more than chattel, devalued to the point that they were considered a property in the same level as a productive, domesticated, animal.  Where our culture attempts to introduce the error of male domination into these verses, the response in ancient Greece would be quite the opposite.  They would see these verses as a radical move to destroy the male dominance that the world taught.  Wives were to be valued in love.  If the husband heeds these words, he would never think to act in an overbearing manner.  The word used for 'bitter' describes the nature of a despot husband, describing the more common situation in their culture.  The husband is not to be a despot, but one who, like his wife, voluntarily chooses to serve her needs because he loves her.

What wife would not want to serve the needs of a man who loves her in this way?  A marriage relationship is unique among all relationships in that the partners share all three forms of love:  phileo, eros, and agape.  A marriage that is based on phileo (brotherly love) is shallow, unproductive, and subject to destruction by any number of stressors.  A marriage that is based on eros (erotic love) is emotional and passionate, but is subject to destruction as soon as the passion wanes.  All marriages outside of the body of Christ are based upon some proportion of eros and phileo.  It is only in Christ that a marriage is completed by being based on agape love.   Agape love is expressed as hypotasso, and finds its application in both eros and phileo love.  This is a radical concept to the eyes of the world, and when we look at Paul's teaching on the relationships within the family we will find that there is no place for dominance or for the expression of worldly pride.

Colossians 3:20-21.

Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.  21Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged. 

Do not forget that Paul is herein providing a model of appropriate Christian relationships that are based upon mutual submission, a submission that is voluntary and based upon love. Consequently, it is necessary that fathers and mothers bring their children up in a home that is Christ-centered.  In such a home, where love and respect is openly shared will be characterized by parents who love their children, and children who love their parents.  When a child loves the parent, hypotasso is a natural response.  Such a child will choose to be obedient.  Adopted at the age of 4 by a loving couple, having been taken from a very difficult setting, I was old enough to know and appreciate what had been done for me.  As a child I chose to be obedient to my parents simply because of their demonstrated love for me and for what they had done by taking me into their family.  It is this same type of motivation that should lead all Christians to be obedient to the Lord.  

What does a child do when a father demands obedience in areas that obviously ungodly.  This is a complex question, but Paul immediately addresses it in verse 21.  "Provoke to anger" can also be translated "frustrate" or "exasperate."  Such provocation is engendered by a parent's inappropriate demands on a child.  Again, if the father's love for the child is based upon agape love, the submission of hypotasso is a normal response of that love, and a father would not be led to abuse his children.  Of course, the same truth applies to the mother who has already been instructed in the value of voluntary submission.  

Colossians 3:22-24.

Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: 23And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; 24Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. 25But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.

Ancient Greek culture was characterized by a significant stratification of society, similar to many places in the world today.  The institution of slavery was commonplace, and it might be interesting to note that in no teachings does Paul attempt to denigrate or destroy the practice.    Instead, Paul instructs how the principle of Christian submission, applies in servant-master relationships as well.  A Christian is a servant, and Christians who are employed in a servant role have an unusual opportunity to express the agape nature of their faith in the way they relate to their masters.  The service of a Christian is not done in order to establish the appearance of submission (eyeservice) or to placate the dominating nature of the master (menpleasers).  Instead, the service of a Christian is done from the heart a heart that is in communion with the Holy Spirit, one that expresses God's love in action.  The service done by a Christian servant is not done as much for the master as it is for the Lord.  Though our culture rarely engages in slave-master roles, it is characterized by -employee-employer roles, and the same instruction to the former set of relationships applies to the latter.  One can effectively replace "servants" with "employees" and replace "masters" with "employers" to see the same principal applied to modern culture.

Serving God in the workplace is a concept that is consistent with His purpose.  People often search for ways to "serve God", yet Jesus continually taught that we were serving God when we serve one another.  One place a Christian has an opportunity to serve God is in the workplace.  God is served by a Christian who works with an integrity to the task and to the relationships within the place of employment.

Finally, it is rather obvious that dishonesty in the workplace is inappropriate for the Christian.  A Christian is not insulated from the circumstances engendered by expressed sin; he/she is only redeemed from the penalty of death that sin requires.   A Christian who embezzles is still a criminal and is subject to the laws of the land.    

Colossians 4:1.

Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.

The first verse of Chapter 4 is a continuation of the discussion from Chapter 3.  Paul described the nature of the service of a Christian servant.  His instruction to the Master is less developed, but no less insightful.  In ancient culture, a slave was considered to be a piece of property, not dissimilar to any other tool in the workshop.  Their culture dehumanized slaves.  The Christian faith does not provide for any form of dehumanization, and as Paul just stated, God does not respect one individual above or below another based upon any social definition.  Likewise, Christians are to have an agape love for all people that provides no other choice but to honor and respect all people equally, to value all people as God does, with infinite value.  When this is done, the master-servant model becomes simply master-servant roles.  It is no surprise that in the following letter to Philemon, Paul begs Philemon to take back his runaway slave, Onesimus, as a valued brother in Christ.  Masters are to respect and honor their slaves with the same attitude of hypotasso, that Paul has describe throughout his teaching on relationships.   Jesus Christ is the ultimate master, and is the master of all Christians.  At the same time, Jesus' mastery was always characterized by his role as a servant to those whom he was master over.  Likewise, masters should take on a servant role, treating servants with justice, equality, and fairness, fully recognizing their role and the difficulty of serving in a slave's position. 

Colossians 4:2-4.

Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; 3Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds: 4That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.

At this point, Paul is preparing to close his letter to the Colossians (and to the Laodiceans.)  Before moving to the close, Paul admonishes the readers to be persistent in their prayer.  One thing that characterizes the nature of a church in conflict is the lack of prayer-led leadership in those who are imposing their own positions and desires on others.  It is inconsistent to sin and express sincere prayer at the same time.  When we fail to be persistent in our prayer we fail to listen to the Holy Spirit and will always tend to turn away from God and towards our own personal desires.  Spirit-led leadership is characterized by the ability to make the right choice even when that choice is neither popular, or the favorite choice of the one who has the responsibility of making that decision.  "Doing the right thing" against a popular position requires a knowledge of what that right thing is, and the Holy Spirit will always reveal His purpose in the heart of one who sincerely seeks Him.  It is this sincerity and persistence in prayer that Paul is referring to.  Such prayer will recognize who God is and by so doing, express a sincere humility and thanksgiving for what God has done and is doing in our lives.

Often, when Paul points to prayer, he then turns to a request for prayers of intercession on his own behalf.  Paul was serious about the power of prayer.  He had seen God work through prayer so many times in his experience that he was totally convinced, fully doubtless of its power.  Paul identifies what he feels is  his greatest prayer need:  that God would provide yet new opportunities for the sharing of the gospel, and give him the ability to fully share it.   Likewise as Christians are called to be people of prayer, it is certainly appropriate that they would share with one another their prayer needs.  When people do share, they usually ask for prayer for their aches, pains, and other issues of health, and rarely ask for prayer for any other purpose.  Paul, as beaten and ill as he often was, never focused his needs on his personal health, but rather on the needs of his ministry.  Christians can learn from his example and avoid focusing only on the self-centered issues of personal health, but also turn their attention to the spiritual needs of this lost world and the part that God has for them in their part in meeting those needs.

I have often recommended that Christians start each day with the prayer, "Lord, give me an opportunity to share your love today in a way that will make you known." Such a sincere prayer can open opportunities that would otherwise be missed.  It is a prayer very similar to the one that Paul asks for. 

Colossians 4:5.

Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.

Paul has spoken of the relationships within the home and within the workplace, and now turns to another area of relationship.  The life of a Christian is characterized by hypotasso, and by prayer.  It is also characterized by God's wisdom.  Wisdom is simply the godly application of the truths of the gospel in one's life.  All wisdom comes from this source.  A Christian walks in wisdom when his/her walk is done in sincere obedience to Jesus Christ.  Such a Christian is in a position to grow in their faith, and mature in the knowledge of the will of God.  

Paul specifically states here that this wisdom is to be demonstrated to those who are outside the faith.  Opportunities to share God's love with those who are outside the faith are important, and timely.   As a witness for Jesus Christ, Christians are always "on-call" to the ministry.  That is, as Christians interact with those outside of the faith, their attitudes and actions are closely observed.  One must appropriate some of God's wisdom in order to interact with the lost world in a way that glorifies God and opens up doors for both ministry and faith-sharing.  An unwise Christian can do a tremendous amount of damage to the gospel purpose in a few short moments.  A wise Christian can make wise use of the short period of time that we have to bring more people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Colossians 4:6.

Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.

Just as wisdom in attitudes and actions is important, one of the most important ways that one's true nature is exposed is through the words one says.  Rather than reacting verbally to surrounding stimulus, a wise Christian can respond to it wisely, always stating words that are full of love and grace, setting aside words that do not edify the work of Christ.  The "salt" to which Paul refers is the same salt and light that Jesus describes in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:13 ff.)  Salt specifically refers to the godly influence that a Christian has in the lost world.  Christians are called to be "salt" and "light," serving as a beacon of God's love in this evil and dark world.  Christians should always be ready to give an answer for questions pertaining to their faith and to the truths of the gospel.  All the salt and light that a Christian can show is without purpose if the end product of their efforts does not point to Christ.

Colossians 4:7-8.

All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you, who is a beloved brother, and a faithful minister and fellowservant in the Lord: 8Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that he might know your estate, and comfort your hearts; 

The remainder of this letter to the Colossians is a summary of his personal greetings and instructions on the reception of some of the other pastor-leaders who work with Paul.   Paul first mentions Tychicus and Onesimus, possibly the actual bearers of the letter to the Colossians and Laodiceans.  Tychicus was a native of the region of these churches, and accompanied Paul on a portion of his third missionary journey.  It appears that Tychicus served as Paul's messenger on several occasions, traveling to places where Paul could not go in order to bring messages and greetings, and then return to Paul with news about the visit.  Paul equated the value of this "faithful minister" with Epaphras, the pastor-leader of the churches in Colossae.  It is instructive to note that Paul practiced what he preached:  he treated all ministers of the gospel as his equal, never lording it over them or considering himself to be some level above them.  He saw all faithful ministers of the gospel as his peers, and himself as their servant.

Colossians 4:9.

With Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They shall make known unto you all things which are done here. 

At this point in our study, it would be useful to review the context of Paul's accompanying letter to Philemon.  Onesimus is Philemon's runaway slave who accepted Christ under the influence of Paul who had received him in his runaway state.  As a slave, Onesimus was considered at the bottom of the social spectra, and as a runaway, his status was even more debase.  Still, we see that Paul accepts Onesimus as a "beloved brother" because of his status as a member of the Body of Christ.  This is a very significant statement by Paul, who describes Onesimus as "one of you," one who otherwise would be summarily rejected by the congregation.  Churches today tend to summarily reject anyone, Christian or non-Christian who does not fit their narrow definition of value.  Such attitudes are sinful and are destructive to the work of Christ.  Paul heads off the likelihood that the church in Colossae would respond this way in a very positive commendation to, not only accept him as one of their own, but to inquire of him the details of what is taking place in Paul's imprisonment.  Arrival back home to his master can be a very dangerous situation for a runaway slave, but in the accompanying letter to Philemon, Paul begs his master for grace on the behalf of Onesimus.  Apparently, Paul was true to his statement in that letter that he was certain of Philemon's obedience to Paul's request when, in this letter, it is assumed that Onesimus is free to be received by the congregation.  In their culture, a runaway slave was particularly brutalized in order to discourage other slaves from attempting to flee.  This certainly affirms Paul's insistence that Christians are all equal with one another in the faith, not brought to a single level among social strata, but raised above the levels of social strata to become brothers and sisters of Christ, children of the very God of creation.  In such a state there is no reason for worldly prejudices.

Colossians 4:10-11.

Aristarchus my fellowprisoner saluteth you, and Marcus, sisterís son to Barnabas, (touching whom ye received commandments: if he come unto you, receive him;) 11And Jesus, which is called Justus, who are of the circumcision. These only are my fellowworkers unto the kingdom of God, which have been a comfort unto me. 

After giving the receivers instructions on the reception of the its two bearers, Paul brings greetings from six of his "fellow workers" and "fellow prisoners.   Aristarchus, Marcus, and Jesus Justus are the first mentioned, and they are of Jewish birth.  Epahras, Luke, and Demas are Gentiles.  Aristarchus is a native of Thessalonica, and was a frequent traveling companion of Paul who stayed with Paul from the time of his visit to Thessalonica through his imprisonment in Rome.   Though Aristarchus was not literally a prisoner in the form that Paul was as he was awaiting a hearing from Caesar, by his association with Paul was subject to all of the same limitations that Paul experienced.  Consequently, as far as Paul was concerned, he was his fellow "prisoner of war," as stated here.   Marcus was a cousin of Barnabas (the Greek term anephios was thought to mean "nephew" until only a few years ago.)  Marcus is the same John Mark, a native of Jerusalem, who abandoned Paul on his first missionary journey with Barnabas.  Barnabas and Paul had a parting of ways when Barnabas suggested that Marcus rejoin them on Paul's second journey, with John Mark accompanying Barnabas on a journey that complemented that of Paul and Silas.   Apparently, Barnabas was well-known to the Colossian Christians.  We know very little about Jesus Justice, since this is the only clear reference to him in Paul's letters.

Colossians 4:12-14.

Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. 13For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis. 14Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you. 

Paul's greeting from Epaphras is especially meaningful to the congregation, as he has served from their very beginning as their pastor-leader.  We must understand that the ancient church was not organized as the church of today.  We might think that the "church at Colossae" was a large building that housed this fragmented group of people under the capable pastorate of Epaphras.  Actually, the structure was far from this.  The church was organized as a cluster of house churches, with each group led by an individual who was often the owner of the house.  As the leader of the church in Colossae, Epaphras would serve like an elder to the individual groups, as he would visit with them and provide some continuity of doctrine and purpose.   This church, therefore, was fragmented both doctrinally and geographically, so it was important that they continue to look to Epaphras for leadership.  Those who disagreed with the doctrine of Epaphras were trying to turn their groups away from him and toward their own opinions of theology.  It was important that Paul reestablish Epaphras as the one who holds to the true doctrine of Christ.  Paul points to Epaphras' fervent labor on their behalf so that they would stand "perfect and complete", a reference to the accuracy of Epaphras' doctrine.  Paul further goes on to "bear him record," a legal term that binds the testimony of Paul to the truth of Epaphras' teaching.  Paul calls upon all of the church groups in Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis to stand by Epaphras.

Paul says little about Luke and Demas.  Luke, who accompanied Paul on many of his journeys is the author of the gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles.  Demas is a curious figure who is mentioned four times in descending order of commitment.  A zealot for the Lord in the first reference, he abandoned Paul to "follow the world" in his last appearance. 

Colossians 4:15.

Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house.

There are several references to the structure of the ancient Christian church as that of house churches, starting with the church in Jerusalem (Acts 4) and continuing through the years.  The concept of a central church location went unconsidered in Paul's day, and was probably an unwise way to meet in such a persecuted environment.  It was not until the third century that Christians started to purchase land and build places of worship.  If Paul were to have seen the large edifices of this day, and to hear the name "church" assigned to a building, he would probably not recognize that it had anything to do with Christianity.  Nymphas is one of the few house-church leaders who is specifically mentioned   Translations vary on the gender of the name, but the most reliable manuscripts utilize a feminine form of the name, Nympha, and refer to "her house," a form that is recognized in the newer translations.  Philemon was also the leader of a church that met in his house.  Likewise, Lydia's home in Philippi was such a gathering place.   As much as many conservative Christians today would reject the leadership of women in their congregations, the ancient Christian church drew no such distinctions.  This is a particularly notable fact when one considers that ancient culture was far more male-dominated than most modern cultures.  Again, appropriate Christian relationships elevate everyone to an equal level as brothers and sisters in Christ, a level that allows for no distinction of assigned values between Christians.

Colossians 4:16.

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.

Paul asked that the epistle be read aloud to the congregations both in Colossae and in Laodicea, presumably so that all would hear his positions against the false teaching that was going on in those locations.  This reading would necessitate going from house-church to house-church throughout the region.  Furthermore, Paul had also written an accompanying letter to the Laodiceans, a letter that was to be likewise read among the Colossian churches.  Much speculation has arisen over this missing letter, with some ancient historians ascribing varying sources and destinations of this document.  The parallelism in the statements by Paul lead most scholars to assume that this is an additional letter that Paul had written specifically to the Laodiceans, presumably addressing some specific issues for that congregation, and greeting individuals there.  Some have insisted that locating this letter is of grave importance since the Colossian letter became part of the New Testament canon.  However, Christians recognize that God's Word is complete, and though the reading of such a letter would be exciting and instructive, it would only duplicate what Paul had already written to others. 

Colossians 4:17.

And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it.

Before ending his letter, Paul makes a personal appeal to a specific individual in the congregation, Archippus.  Archippus is mentioned also in Philemon's letter and is thought to have served as an "overseer" to several of the churches, an argument based primarily on the context of the use of his name in the letter to Philemon.  Paul's instruction to Archippus is an appropriate one to all who are called to the ministry of the gospel, and all Christians are called to gospel ministry.  God has called Christians to a mission.  Each Christian has a unique skill set, and a unique set of talents and interests.  This gives each Christian an opportunity for a unique ministry that exercises those assets.  Paul instructs Archippus to be always vigilant to assure that he is fulfilling the ministry to which he has been called.  Likewise, all Christians should also be cognizant of the ways that they can be used of God in obedience to Jesus Christ.  All Christians are called to exercise their skills and talents for the furtherance of the gospel of Jesus Christ so that all of the work of the church can be completed.  Along this same argument, the church must always assure that the skills and abilities of its members can find expression within the fellowship.  To stifle such expression is to stifle the work of the Holy Spirit in the body.

Colossians 4:18.

The salutation by the hand of me Paul. Remember my bonds. Grace be with you. Amen.

Finally, Paul ends his letter, and he does so quite briefly.  Paul provides no long list of commendations or accolades.  This letter has been a hard-hitting summary of defenses of the truth of the gospel and instructions on its proper application in the Christian life.  It has been written to a church in tremendous division and conflict, so this letter is not as informal as one might prefer.  The first statement in this closing is simply a salutation written by Paul himself, intended to authenticate the letter.  This was not so much a tradition of Paul in his letters, but was common in ancient writings as the proof of authorship.  Paul's written salutation was unique and written in large letters (Gal. 6:11) in order to separate it from forgeries.

Paul then asks the readers to remember where he is and what he is dealing with.  Earlier Paul had asked for prayer that he would find opportunity to express the gospel.  Here he, for the first time, asks for prayers concerning his state in prison.  Stated in a very short phrase, he desires that the people would remember him while he is in bondage.  Likewise, Christians may ask one another to pray for God's blessing within the context of the situation they might experience.  Many Christians experience difficult and stressful settings from which they are called to be faithful to the gospel.

Paul closes this letter with a simple, "grace be with you...". the word, charis, in the Greek.  There is no gift of God that has done more for man than God's grace, and the application of that grace is salvation.  There is no more important decision in life than the acceptance of God's gift of grace, and once accepted, the Holy Spirit will indwell the believer, providing the seal of that decision, and leading the Christian to live a life of integrity.  This letter has outlined many of the characteristics of such integrity as one leaves the false doctrines of this world and embraces the truth of the gospel.  As this process takes place, the vices and sins of this world fall away and are replaced by the fruits of the Holy Spirit, and the Christian is empowered to live a life that honors God, a life that is centered on His agape love, a life that is submissive to God's will, and a life that is called to serve others as all Christians mutually submit to one another for the benefit of all who believe, and for all who have yet to hear the message of God's grace.

Colossians Bibliography.

Though no specific citations were made in this study, the explorations and exegeses used may be defended in the following references:

Bruce, F. F. (1969).  New Testament History.  Garden City, NY:  Doubleday and Company, Inc.

Bruce, F. F. (1977), Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free.  Grand Rapids, MI:  William. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Easley, Kendell H.  (Fall 2003)  The Prison Epistles.  Biblical Illustrator.  Nashville, TN:  Lifeway Christian Resources.  30(1). Pages 54-58.

O'Brien, Peter T. (1982.) Colossians, Philemon.  Word Biblical Commentary.  Vol. 44.  Waco Texas:  Word Books.  Pages 1-261.

Vaughn, Curtis. (1978).  Ephesians through Philemon.  The Expositor's Bible Commentary.  Vol. 11.  Grand Rapids, MI:  The Zondervan Corporation.  Pages 163-226.

Woodward, C. Alan..  (Fall 2003)  Heresies in the Colossian Church.  Biblical Illustrator.  Nashville, TN:  Lifeway Christian Resources.  30(1). Pages 18-19.

Young, R. Garland.  (Fall 2003)  Idolatry in Colossians.  Biblical Illustrator.  Nashville, TN:  Lifeway Christian Resources.  30(1). Pages 63-65.