Thursday, February 17, 2022

2022.02.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ Colossians 4:16–18

Read Colossians 4:16–18

Questions from the Scripture text: What were the Colossians to do with the letter first (Colossians 4:16a)? Where else were they to do this (verse 16b)? What else were they to read (verse 16c)? To whom were they to speak (Colossians 4:17)? What were they to tell him to do? Who wrote out Colossians 4:18? What did he want them to remember? How did he greet them in closing?  

Having sent a number of greetings already, the epistle closes not with greetings but with reference to several components of public worship: the reading of Scripture, the ministering of the Word, prayer, and benediction.

Public (congregational) reading of Scripture. We’re familiar with 1 Timothy 4:13, which commands Timothy to “give attention to reading.” Many, probably rightly, think that he’s referring to reading in public worship. It’s even clearer in Colossians 4:16. First, this epistle was to be read among (“with”) the Colossians, not just by them. The preposition is even clearer once they send this letter on. It is to be read in the church of the Laodiceans. The Laodiceans already had a letter, possibly (probably?) what we now call Ephesians, and they were to pass it along for reading in worship as well. This is also evidence that the New Testament books were being recognized as Scripture as they were written (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:37; 2 Peter 3:15–16; 1 Timothy 5:18b with Luke 10:7).

Ministry of the Word. The congregation is to encourage Archippus to “see to the ministry which [he had] received in the Lord” (Colossians 4:17). Considering Colossians 4:12-13, though Archippus may have been a preacher already, it seems that he is currently filling Epaphras’s shoes in that faithful pastor’s absence. It is biblical and good for a congregation to encourage its minister to keep on in and focus upon his ministry.

Prayer. There is an assumption in Colossians 4:18 that this is a praying congregation. Paul, nearly blind now, is writing the greeting in his own hand (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:21; Galatians 6:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:17; Philemon 19). The difficulty for him to do so adds a personal intensity. But before the final blessing, he takes the opportunity to give a prayer request in his own hand. “Remember my chains.” It’s easy to forget the difficulty of others’ circumstances (hence the emphasis on giving and receiving of news in Colossians 4:7-9). Here, the Spirit emphasizes to us that we remember those who are imprisoned for the gospel, as well as those who preach the gospel. Paul is both.

Benediction. Although the apostle craves their intercession, the last word is a word of blessing. This, is a pattern throughout his epistles, sometimes shorter, sometimes longer. It is one final reminder that the Lord Jesus is Yahweh, Who blessed His people—most famously, perhaps, in Numbers 6:22–27. He came in order to secure our blessing, and having risen and ascended to glory, He now pronounces that blessing upon us. 

These four things being integral parts of the public worship, we can see how the apostle has closed his letter in a way that especially commends to them the public worship of God. To us, too, he has done so. Just as Colossians was to be passed onto the Laodiceans, and Ephesians was on its way to Colossae from Laodicea, so also now these letters have come to our own churches, where they are read and preached as holy Scripture. Where we remember others together in prayer. Where we have the Lord’s blessing pronounced upon us. What a glorious thing is the congregational worship of Christ’s church!

How does your life, and your household’s life, reflect the importance and blessedness of public worship?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we thank You for Your gift of the public worship in the congregation, and for prescribing to us in Your Word what we should do in that public worship. Truly, You have filled it with that which is good and glorious! Forgive us for how lightly we sometimes take it, and by Your Spirit make us to be diligent and zealous in it, we ask through Christ, AMEN!

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