6. Exhortations for Christian living. 3:1-4:6

iv] Pray and witness


Before getting into his final personal greetings 4:7-17, Paul gives some last minute advice to the Colossian believers. He has just given advice on how a believer should behave in their family life, and now he gives some general instructions on prayer, behavior in the world, and "seasoned" conversation.


i] Context: See 3:5-11.


ii] Background: See 1:1-2.


iii] Structure: Prayerful cooperation in ministry:

Prayer, v2-4;

Watchful prayer, v2;

Intercessory prayer, v3-4;

Witnessing, v5-6:

Wisdom, v5;

Careful communication, v6.


The passage is made up of three imperatival clauses , v2-4, 5, 6, although in v6 the imperative must be assumed. The imperatives come with attendant participles, read as imperatives. In v3 and 4 contain hina clauses, iJna + subj., both of which introduce dependents statements of indirect speech expressing the content of Paul's prayer request.


iv] Interpretation:

Moving to the conclusion of his letter, Paul now focuses on mission - his own, v2-4, and that of the Christian community, v5-6. Paul is concerned for the general Christian life of the congregation, and in the passage before us he calls for a positive interaction with, and outreach to, the wider pagan society. The focus of the passage is "Paul's evangelistic work and the community's relationship with non-Christians", Moo.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of the passage can be found in the pew-level sermon notes Watch and pray.

Text - 4:2

An exhortation to prayer and Christian witness, v2-6. i] Prayer: When the word "prayer" is used, it usually conveys the idea of a "request". Prayer involves making intercession (requests for others), or supplication (requests for ourselves). Yet, there are times when the word means something like "worship" - approaching God, addressing God, cf., 1:3.

proskartereite (proskarterew) pres. imp. "devote yourselves to" - persevere, persist in / adhere to, stay close to / be engaged in, devoted to. The exact sense is unclear, but probably "continue steadfastly in prayer", ESV, "steadfastness of action", Barth, "busy oneself with", Wilson, rather than in the sense of bending God's arm over a particular prayer point.

th/ proseuch/ (h) dat. "prayer" - Dative of direct object after a proV prefix verb "to adhere to."

grhgorounteV (grhgorew) pres. part. "being watchful" - staying awake, keeping watch [in it]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the imperative verb proskartereite, and therefore read as an imperative, but possibly adverbial, modal, expressing the manner in which the Colossians should busy themselves in prayer, or even instrumental expressing the means. "Being watchful en auth/ "in it" = "in prayer" = "when you pray", Barclay", ie., en is adverbial, temporal. Moo suggests an eschatological edge to this exhortation such that "the devotion to prayer that Paul calls for should be characterized by a strong sense of expectation about Christ's near return." "Be both alert and thankful as you pray", Phillips

en eucaristia/ (a) "and thankful" - in thanksgiving. The preposition en here is probably adverbial. Instrumental, expressing means seems unlikely, "by Thanksgiving", Moffatt, better manner / attendant circumstance, "with thanksgiving", NRSV.


In v3-4 Paul asks his readers to pray for him. His special task is to make known the gospel to the Gentiles, so he asks for evangelistic opportunities (open doors). Although he is in prison, he is looking for opportunities to communicate the "mystery of Christ", the hidden secret of God's mercy now revealed in Christ. Preaching the mystery means the same as preaching Christ, or preaching the gospel. The phrase "open door" is used elsewhere in the New Testament to describe access for the gospel, cf., 1Cor.16:9, 2Cor.2:12. As well as access, Paul asks for clarity. He desires that his proclamation be understandable, that it be "clear".

proseucomenoi (proseucomai) pres. part. "pray [for us also / too]" - praying [together also concerning us]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the imperative verb proskartereite, and therefore read as an imperative, as NIV, but also possibly adverbial, modal, or instrumental. So, the Colossians are to devote themselves to prayer, being watchful, and also presenting the needs of Paul's apostolic ministry to God; "At the same time pray for us as well", NRSV.

peri + gen. "for" - [praying together and = also] about [us]. Reference / respect; "concerning, about, with respect to."

iJna + subj. "that" - that [god may open]. Introducing a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing the content of the prayer request, so O'Brien.

hJmin dat. pro. "for our" - to us. Dative of interest, advantage.

tou logou (oV) gen. "message" - [a door] of the word. The genitive may be verbal, objective, expressing more particularly "an opportunity of preaching the gospel", Lightfoot, but it could also be subjective, cf., BDF#166, or adverbial, reference, "with respect to the message", so Campbell. "A door for preaching", Weymouth.

lalhsai (lalew) aor. inf. "so that we may proclaim" - to speak. The infinitive here introduces a final clause expressing purpose / hypothetical result, as NIV.

to musthrion (on) "the mystery" - God's secret plan of salvation realized in Christ = the gospel of God's grace, cf. 1:26, 27, 2:2, "mystery", Eph.1:9; "Christ in you, the hope of glory", 1:27, or simply "Christ", as here.

tou Cristou (oV) gen. "of Christ" - The genitive could be ablative, source / origin, "the mystery from Christ", or verbal: objective, "the mystery concerning Christ"; subjective, "the mystery Christ proclaims", or adverbial, reference, "the mystery relating to Christ", Campbell. Harris, also Moo, think it is adjectival, a genitive of definition (epexegetic / appositional), "the mystery which is Christ"; "the mystery, namely, Christ in you the hope of glory."

dia "for" - because of [which and = also i have been bound]. Causal, the gospel has caused Paul to be arrested. Not "because of whom (ie., Christ)", since the relative pronoun o} is neuter, so, "because of the mystery / gospel."


iJna + subj. "Pray that [I may proclaim]" - that [i may manifest it]. Introducing a dependent statement, indirect speech, expressing the content of the prayer request, v3; "pray for us too that ..... I may declare it (the mystery / gospel) openly ....", Cassirer.

wJV "as" - The comparative here may express a characteristic quality, "as I aught to speak", or it may be adverbial, expressing manner, "in the way I ought to speak", or possibly causal, "because I must speak", although divine compulsion is probably not the point Paul is making.

dei pres. "I should" - [me to speak] is necessary. Often used to express divine compulsion, but probably not here. The infinitive lalhsai "to speak" serves as the subject of the verb "it is necessary" = "to speak is necessary." The accusative pronoun me serves as the subject of the infinitive, forming an accusative infinitive construction. "Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should", O'Brien.


ii] Witnessing: The Christian church initially operated under the legal approval of the Jewish religion, although the authorities had no great love for it at the time. Increasingly, the Christian church came under suspicion, and as the bad press increased, so did persecution, as well as lost opportunities for the gospel. Paul therefore encourages his readers to act discreetly in their dealings with the wider secular community. They are to give no opportunity for bad press. Meanwhile, while peace prevails, they are to "redeem the time" - "make the most of every opportunity." While there is access for the gospel, use it!

peripateite (peripatew) pres. imp. "be" - walk. "Walk" as in "conduct oneself".

en + dat. "in" - in [wisdom]. Here adverbial, expressing the manner of the walking / living / behaving, so "live wisely"; "use your heads as you live and work with outsiders", Peterson.

proV + acc. "toward" - to, toward. Spacial; "toward", in relational terms, "be wise in the way you relate with outsiders."

touV "-" - the ones [outside]. The article serves as a nominalizer, turning the preposition "outside" in a substantive, "the outsiders"; "those outside the church", Barclay.

exagorazomenoi (exagorazw) pres. mid. part. "make the most of [every opportunity]" - buying out of, redeeming [the time]. The participle is possibly adverbial, modal, expressing the manner in which the action of "being wise" is accomplished, although possibly better as attendant circumstance expressing action accompanying the imperative verb "walk wisely"; "live wisely and redeem the time"; "live wisely; redeem the time", as NIV . Being middle, the action is possibly for oneself, "redeeming for myself". The prefix expresses "buying out of" = "redeeming", but most commentators think it is only functioning to intensify the verb rather than give direction, so "buy thoroughly / totally", Paul is "encouraging us to buy up all the time that is available to us", Moo. "Take advantage of the remaining time with all its possibilities", Barth.


"The final exhortation explicitly envisages a church in communication with those around it, not cut off in a holy huddle speaking only the language of Zion to insiders, but engaged in regular conversation with others, and in such a way as to allow plenty of opportunity to bear testimony to their faith", Dunn. As Peter puts it, "always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence", 1Pet.3:15. Paul encourages his readers to use words that are inspired, not insipid, "salted", sharp, true and to the point. "Let your speech always be gracious and so well reasoned out that you will know how to reply to each individual", Berkeley.

en cariti (iV ewV) "full of grace" - [let be the speech of you always be] in grace. The preposition en is probably functioning adverbially, expressing manner, the way the "conversation" is expressed, namely "by grace". "Grace" is without an article so "divine grace" may be intended, although something more down-to-earth is probably in Paul's mind; "gracious", Hendriksen, "friendly", Barth, even "attractiveness of speech", Wilson. "Christians should speak to other people with courtesy, kindness, sincerity and loving concern", Pfitzner.

hrtumenoV (artuw) perf. pas. part. "seasoned" - having been seasoned. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the assumed verb to-be; "let your conversation be gracious and seasoned with salt."

aJlati (aV atoV) dat. "with salt" - with, by, in salt. The dative is probably adverbial, modal, expressing manner; "being seasoned in a salty way" As such, the phrase describes a "second characteristic of the Colossian's speech", O'Brien. The sense of "salty speech" is somewhat unclear and prompts numerous suggestions, but speech that is "never insipid", REB, possibly "wholesome", Moule, may be what Paul intends, but see "so that you may know" below.

eidenai (oida) perf. inf. "so that you may know" - to know. Lightfoot, so also Wilson, argues that this infinitive introduces a consecutive clause, expressing result, "so as to know ..." (final, "in order to know", hypothetical result, "so that you may know"). Yet, read this way the infinitival clause seems a rather illogical qualification of the main clause. Quite a few translators opt for an imperatival infinitive. Such a construction is rare and would be a somewhat inappropriate construction here, yet it does make sense. So, the two clauses would be joined by "and", so Moffatt, a semicolon, so Cassirer, or full stop, so Barclay; "Your conversation must always have charm and wit. You must study the art of giving the right answer to everyone you talk to." Barth suggests an epexegetic infinitive. The infinitival clause would then serve to explain / clarify the phrase "by being seasoned with salt", "seasoned with salt in the sense that you have learned (know) how best to answer (how you must answer) each person [who questions you]." "Let your speech always be gracious and so well reasoned out that you will know how to reply to each individual", Berkeley.

pwV "how" - Interrogative particle, here an indirect question; not manner, "how one should / must answer", rather how it is necessary to answer, so "how best to answer."

apokrinesqai (apokrinomai) pres. inf. "to answer" - to answer [each one you is necessary]. The infinitive serves as the subject of the verb dei "it is necessary", so "to answer is necessary", and this with its accusative subject uJmaV "you", "how for you to answer is necessary."


Colossians Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]