those on the outside: That is, those who are outside the spiritual brotherhood that unites all of Christ’s true followers. (Mt 23:8; compare 1Co 5:12.) Paul urges Christians to act wisely because such outsiders would tend to scrutinize this spiritual family to see whether its members lived up to the standards they claimed to uphold.
making the best use of your time: Lit., “buying out the appointed time.” Paul uses the same expression at Eph 5:16 (see study note). Paul appears to be making a similar point in both instances, for he wrote this letter and the one to the Ephesians about the same time.—Eph 6:21, 22; Col 4:7-9.
gracious: The Greek word khaʹris, generally used in the Scriptures to describe God’s undeserved kindness, has a broad range of meanings. Here Paul uses it to convey the idea of speech that is beneficial, kind, appealing, even charming. (Compare Eph 4:29, where khaʹris is rendered “beneficial.”) The same word is rendered “gracious” at Lu 4:22 regarding Jesus’ speech in his hometown of Nazareth. (Compare Ps 45:2 [44:3, LXX], where the Septuagint uses khaʹris to describe the gracious speech of the Messianic King.) A Christian’s words should always be beneficial, kind, appealing, even charming. Paul thus suggests that gracious speech is not to be reserved for selected individuals or special occasions; rather, it is to be a Christian’s habit.
seasoned with salt: Salt is mentioned several times in the Christian Greek Scriptures, in both a literal and a figurative sense. These occurrences help to explain what Paul means. (See study notes on Mt 5:13; Mr 9:50.) Paul seems to be referring to the ability of salt to enhance the taste of food, add flavor, and act as a preservative. So he is urging Christians to use speech that is “seasoned” to make it palatable as they convey a message that can help to preserve the life of the hearer.
Tychicus: A Christian minister from the province of Asia, whose service Paul greatly valued. (Ac 20:2-4) Paul entrusted Tychicus with delivering letters to the Colossians, to Philemon of the Colossian congregation, and to the Ephesians. Tychicus was more than a courier. His assignment included relating to the congregations “all the news about” Paul himself, likely including details about Paul’s imprisonment, his condition, and his needs. Paul knew that this “beloved brother and faithful minister” would do so in a way that would comfort the hearts of his hearers and would reinforce the vital teachings in Paul’s inspired message. (Col 4:8, 9; see also Eph 6:21, 22.) After Paul was released from prison, he contemplated sending Tychicus to Crete. (Tit 3:12) And when Paul was imprisoned in Rome for the second time, he sent Tychicus to Ephesus.—2Ti 4:12.
Onesimus: This is the same Onesimus who is the principal subject of Paul’s letter to Philemon. Onesimus was a runaway slave who had served Philemon, a Christian in Colossae. Onesimus may have stolen from his master before fleeing to Rome. (Phm 18) While in Rome, he became a Christian, a beloved spiritual child of the apostle Paul. (Phm 10) Paul encouraged Onesimus to return to his master in Colossae, accompanying Tychicus, who delivered Paul’s letters to the Ephesians and the Colossians. (Eph 6:21, 22; Col 4:7, 8) Perhaps Onesimus delivered the letter to Philemon. Onesimus may have made the long journey to Colossae together with Tychicus so as not to be seized by the Roman authorities, who were on the lookout for runaway slaves. Paul asks the congregation to receive Onesimus, a “faithful and beloved brother.”
Mark: Also called John at Ac 12:12, 25; 13:5, 13. (See study note on Mr Title; Ac 12:12.) A disagreement about bringing Mark on Paul’s second missionary tour (c. 49-52 C.E.) led to “a sharp burst of anger” between Paul and Barnabas, who then went their separate ways. (Ac 15:37-39) However, Paul mentions Barnabas in a positive light at 1Co 9:6, which suggests that the two men had already reconciled by the time Paul wrote to the Colossians. That Mark was with Paul in Rome during this first imprisonment helps to show Paul’s increased regard for him. Paul even calls Mark “a source of great comfort to me.” (See study note on Col 4:11.) Perhaps while visiting Paul in Rome, Mark wrote the Gospel account that bears his name.—See also “Introduction to Mark.”
the cousin of Barnabas: Paul here mentions that Mark is “the cousin of Barnabas,” a family relationship that may have intensified the disagreement mentioned at Ac 15:37-39. (See study note on Mark in this verse.) This is the only occurrence of the word “cousin” (a·ne·psi·osʹ) in the Christian Greek Scriptures. Its primary meaning is “first cousin,” but in a broader sense, it could refer to any cousin.
those circumcised: That is, circumcised Jewish Christians. The brothers whom Paul here mentions by name had come to his aid. (See study note on a source of great comfort in this verse.) They likely did not hesitate to associate with Christians of a non-Jewish background, and they must gladly have shared with Paul in preaching to non-Jews.—Ro 11:13; Ga 1:16; 2:11-14.
a source of great comfort: Or “a strengthening aid.” In the preceding verses, Paul mentions a number of brothers who had helped him during his imprisonment in Rome. (Col 4:7-11) He describes them as “a source of great comfort,” which renders a Greek word that is frequently used in ancient literature and inscriptions but that appears only here in the Christian Greek Scriptures. One reference work explains that this word and various forms of it were especially used as medical terms, in the sense of alleviating symptoms of an illness. The same reference adds: “Perhaps owing to this usage, the idea of consolation, comfort, is on the whole predominant in the word.” In the case of Paul, the brothers mentioned earlier apparently gave him verbal solace and encouragement as well as assistance in basic, practical matters.—Pr 17:17.
He is always exerting himself: The Greek verb a·go·niʹzo·mai, here rendered “exerting himself,” is related to the Greek noun a·gonʹ, which was often used to refer to athletic contests. (See study notes on Lu 13:24; 1Co 9:25.) Just as an athlete in the ancient games exerted himself to reach a goal or a finish line, Epaphras was earnestly and intensely praying for his brothers and sisters in Colossae. Apparently, Epaphras had helped to establish the congregation there and thus knew well the specific needs of his fellow believers in the area. (Col 1:7; 4:13) Both he and Paul wanted them to stand complete, or remain mature, full-grown Christians, and keep their hope firm.—Col 1:5; 2:6-10.
Luke: Luke is mentioned by name three times in the Christian Greek Scriptures, in each case by the apostle Paul. (2Ti 4:11; Phm 24) Luke was probably a Greek-speaking Jew who became a Christian likely sometime after Pentecost 33 C.E. He wrote the Gospel bearing his name and then the book of Acts. (See study note on Lu Title.) He accompanied Paul during the apostle’s second and third missionary journeys. And he was with him when the apostle was imprisoned for two years in Caesarea. He traveled with Paul to Rome when Paul was first imprisoned there. That is when Paul wrote the letter to the Colossians. Luke was again with Paul during the apostle’s final imprisonment, which apparently led to Paul’s martyrdom.—2Ti 4:11.
the beloved physician: This is the only verse that directly mentions Luke’s profession. Dynamic though Paul was, he was not immune to physical illness (Ga 4:13); thus, it may have been an added comfort to have Luke as his companion. Christians in Colossae were likely familiar with professional physicians, as there were several medical schools in the area.
Demas: Paul mentions this fellow worker in his letter to Philemon as well. (Phm 24) Only a few years later, however, Paul was imprisoned in Rome for the second time. From there, he wrote: “Demas has forsaken me because he loved the present system of things”; Demas had returned to Thessalonica, perhaps his hometown.—2Ti 4:10.
to the congregation at her house: See study note on 1Co 16:19.
read the one from Laodicea: Paul here refers to a letter he wrote to the Laodicean congregation, a letter that we do not possess today. (Compare study note on 1Co 5:9.) Reference to this letter indicates that Paul wrote letters in addition to those that became part of the inspired Bible text. The letter mentioned here may have repeated points adequately covered in canonical letters. At any rate, Paul’s statement here reveals that important letters, such as Paul’s, were circulated among the first-century congregations for public reading. (1Th 5:27) There is in existence an apocryphal letter purporting to be from Paul to the Laodiceans that was likely written about the fourth century C.E. However, it was never considered canonical by the ancient congregations.—See Glossary, “Canon (Bible canon).”
Archippus: This appears to be the same Archippus whom Paul calls “our fellow soldier” in his letter to Philemon. Paul addresses that short letter “to Philemon . . . , to Apphia our sister, and to Archippus,” as well as to the congregation in Philemon’s house. (Phm 1, 2) Many Bible scholars suggest that those three Christians may have been family members in the same household. This conclusion seems reasonable, although it cannot be proved. Other than the fact that Archippus accepted a ministry, the Bible reveals little about him. Paul was not necessarily correcting him when he told him to “pay attention to the ministry.” Paul wanted all Christians to cherish and fulfill their ministry.—Compare study note on 2Co 4:7.
Here is my greeting . . . in my own hand: Paul writes the concluding greeting in his own hand, apparently to confirm the authenticity of the letter. He included similar greetings at the end of some of his other letters, which likely indicates that he often used a secretary to write his letters.—1Co 16:21; 2Th 3:17.