An Open Door For Our Message
Key Verse 4:3
“And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.”
This passage is the conclusion of the book of Colossians. In a short letter such as this lies all the wisdom of heaven. Paul had taught them many things. But he also taught them something very crucial to the wellbeing of their church. They were a church. But they were also families of faith joined together to be the church God had called them to be. And as families of faith, Paul reminded them of their responsibilities towards one another, in order to maintain the health and effectiveness of their church. Paul taught the husbands to love their wives, and the wives to submit to their husbands. Paul also taught that the children have a serious role to play in the health of a godly home and the church they belong to. He taught that children obey their parents absolutely. When husbands and wives and children fulfill their God given responsibility before God, the home is peaceful and the church is then healthy. Paul taught the Colossian Christians many things. But in the end he gives them advice to maintain a healthy home and church. Above all else, he teaches them the importance of prayer and of coworking.
First, devote yourselves to prayer (2a). Read verse 2. “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” To “devote” yourself to something is to give it your all— or to give a large part of your time and or resources or love or such. The RSV Bible translates “devote” to “continue steadfastly”. In other words, persist at it and give it your best. “devote” also means “to pay all of your attention to”. And so Paul advised them to devote themselves to prayer. Paul knew how difficult it is to pray, let alone to devote oneself to prayer. He understood that prayer does not come naturally to the natural man or woman. He knew that even after they had embraced Christ and became Christians, they would have to struggle hard to develop a prayer life. He knew that without a payer life, no Christian, no Christian family, no Christian community can possibly survive. Prayer is the expression of a Christian’s faith. In other words, a man or woman pray according to their faith. If they have faith, they pray because they understand that prayer is the means of fulfilling the work of God, the means to solving any and all problems, the avenue to the very heart of God. Even so, not many pray. And not many pray with devotion. But Paul urged that we devote ourselves to prayer. To give prayer our all.
Second, Prayer requires being watchful (2b). Read verse 2 again. “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Watchful and thankful are the two pillars through which prayer can stand mighty in a man or woman’s life. Jesus warned his disciples in the garden of Gethsemane to watch and pray. Jesus knew that if they were not watchful, they would become easy prey to the devil who would do anything to hinder them from prayer. Watchfulness is the act of being alert and vigilant. It is that quality in a man or woman’s heart that does not easily gets discouraged nor disappointed nor tired. It does not give up, because watchfulness stands on faith— the faith that God Almighty listens to prayer and is eager to answer the prayers of his people.
Third, prayer requires being thankful (2b). Read verse 2 again. “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Paul had mentioned this so many times in his letters to the churches. To the Philippians (4:6-7) he said: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” With thanksgiving. There is nothing as beautiful as a heart that is thankful before God. And nothing as ugly as a heart that is never content, always greedy and full of complaints about everything. When the Christian comes before God in prayer, he or she must always remember that it is by grace that they are even allowed into the presence of God. That God owes me nothing. That God has lavished all that he has given me purely out of his mercy and goodness of heart. That I deserve nothing. And that whatever I have I have because God’s grace has so made it possible for me to have. It is a remarkable thing when a Christian approaches God thinking that God is unfair and that God owes that man or woman something. There are many stories in the Bible about such men whose hearts are full of complaining before God. Yet what God wants to hear in the devoted man or woman is a measure of thankfulness, for we have so many things to be thankful for. Paul knew that the Colossians needed to learn the essence of prayer, devoted prayer, if they were to be effective in their mission to bring the Gospel to others. So he taught them two things. Be watchful. Be thankful.
Prayer is an essential part of Christian life. The Bible is a story of payer servants who accomplished the work of God through prayer. Wherever we read, we encounter prayer servants whose devotion to prayer is amazing. The book of Psalms is a book of prayer. In it the Psalmist David and others like David recorded their prayers to God. From them we learn that prayer is the breathing of the soul. When David struggled he prayed. When he was sad he prayed. When he was needy he prayed. When he was happy he prayed. When he was on the run from enemies he prayed. When his son betrayed him, David did not fight against him, rather he went to God in prayer. Jesus the Son of God also prayed. He prayed so much that his disciples were inspired to ask him to teach them how to pray. He taught them and us the “Lord’s Prayer”.
If we are Christians, then we must learn to pray in all circumstances, with watchfulness and a thankful heart. We must learn to be devoted in prayer— giving it our all, our best.
Fourth, Prayer For Others (3-4). Read verses 3-4. “And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.” The seemingly indestructible Apostle Paul asked the Colossian Christians to pray for him. He was not on a cruise. He was rather in prison writing to the Colossians to help them mature in the faith and to avoid false teachers who were wolves in shepherds’ clothing. He was in prison being mistreated and denied the basic comforts of life. He could ask them for anything that he might need, and for the love they held for him, they would sell their own possessions in order to supply him with whatever he needed. But Paul does not ask them for any amenities. He asks them to pray for him. How precious was this servant of God who did not take advantage of their love, but urged them to pray for him. He believed that God hears prayers. He believed that God would hear their prayer for him, and fulfill his purpose in Paul’s life. What was God’s purpose?
Look at verses 3-4 again. “Pray for us too, that God may open a door for our message.” Even then Paul’s request for prayer was not that God alleviate his suffering in prison, nor to get him out of prison. Paul’s request was that a door be opened for the message he was carrying to go forth into the whole world. Paul recognized that God was sovereign in all things, especially in opening and closing doors for his own message to go out. So Paul asked them to pray that a door be opened, that God open a door for the message to be preached. He believed that the world needs the Gospel message to bring healing to men’s hearts, and salvation for their souls. The world may look like it needs many things to patch it up. But in reality the world needs only the Gospel message to bring life to a dying world. We too need to pray for an open door for the message to go to the surrounding campuses and to our nation.
He also said: “Pray that I may proclaim the message clearly.” Paul’s knowledge of the Scripture was beyond our comprehension. He had been an expert on the old testament before he became a Christian. Then when he became a Christian, his understanding of the Old Testament expanded to see Christ in the Scriptures. If anyone had a clear message to deliver to the world, it was Paul because his grasp on the Christian faith was unmatched. Yet Paul was a humble man who knew that man’s heart, and lips and mouth are faulty and prone to making mistakes. He wanted them to pray that he might proclaim the Gospel clearly. He wanted to depend on God in brining the message to the Gentiles rather than on his own memory or ability to bring the message to others. We must learn from him how to pray, and what to pray for. Often we pray for this or that, but it seems that we must also pray for doors to open that the Gospel message may go out to the campus, and to the world.
“To proclaim it clearly as I should”. Paul’s words never cease to amaze us. “As I should” tells us so much about Paul’s conviction when it comes to the Gospel message. He believed that his proclaiming the Gospel message was not an option, but an imperative and a commission from God. “As I should” tells us that he believed that it was his divine duty to proclaim the Gospel. He did not make excuses about proclaiming the Gospel message. Rather he accepted it as his God given responsibility.
Fifth, be wise! (5-6). Read verses 5-6. “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders. Make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be full of grace. What a glorious advice to give to a struggling church! Christians before they become Christians were also outsiders and nonbelievers. But it is often easy to forget what we once were, that we were as debauched and sinful as the rest of the world, if it were not for the grace of God. “Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders” exhorts the Christian to have the right attitude towards outsiders or nonbelievers. A Christian must act towards them as Christ Jesus did towards all of us. Jesus came to us in gentleness and in love, in understanding and in patience and such. He loved those who could not be loved. He served the helpless. He befriended the friendless. Jesus acted wisely towards sinners not judging them but inviting them to taste the grace of God’s forgiveness. Likewise we must do the same.
“Make the best of every opportunity.” This advice was also for the Colossian Christians who needed to learn how to grab every opportunity and make it serve the Lord. Jesus was the best example in understanding the value of the opportunities God gives to glorify God. Jesus made the best of every opportunity. One time Jesus met a man born blind. Everyone including his own disciples asked a very interesting question. Was this man born blind because of his own sin or the sin of his parents. It was a serious question that was probably the heart of a long ongoing theological debate. While the disciples and all around him saw the man’s blindness as a tragedy and a misfortune or even a punishment for sin, Jesus saw it as an opportunity to glorify God. And so he said! Jesus knew when to take a dark circumstance and turn it into an opportunity to glorify God. Jesus saw the man’s blindness as a perfect opportunity to reveal the grace and mercy of God. So he healed him and everyone gave glory to God. Once, they brought Jesus a woman caught in adultery and they wanted to stone her. But even in this terrible situation, Jesus grabbed the opportunity to teach even the self righteous Pharisees that everyone is a sinner who needs the mercy of God. So he forgave the woman her sins and restored her as a beautiful child of God. Opportunities are always before us. But not everyone can see the opportunity and use it to honor God. Unless we set our hearts on things above, where Christ is seated, we only see tragedies, unfortunate events, sad endings, problems that are impossible to solve. But if we can but learn to set our hearts on Christ, then there is no situation or circumstance that we cannot see as an opportunity to honor and glorify God. “Make the best of every opportunity” means open your eyes and look at things with God’s point of view, you may see opportunities that can bless others and bless God as well.
“Let your conversation be full of grace” encourages us to remember the grace of God in our lives from moment to moment. For even if we ignore or neglect the grace of God in our lives even for a moment, we might find ourselves graceless and belligerent with others. And when we forget the grace of God, we also forget that we are sinners who have nothing to boast in except the cross of our Lord Jesus. Some people are quick to condemn others are quick to judge. Some are quick to get angry, while others are quick to find fault in someone else. But for the Christian Paul commands us to temper our conversations with the grace of God. When we treat one another with the full knowledge that I a man or woman under the grace of God, then we are likely to forgive the unforgivable, to be kind to those who are rude, to love those who cannot love us back, to pray for those who mistreat us. In any case, the word of God to us is to season our conversations with grace. The Apostle Peter said the same thing when he said: “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15)
Look at verses 7-18. Tychicus served Paul with his whole heart in a time of trial. He was a dear brother, and a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. (7) Paul had sent him to let the Colossians know about Paul’s circumstances and that he might encourage their hearts. (8) Paul said that Onesimus was his faithful and dear brother. Onesimus had once stolen his master’s money and had run away. But by the grace of Jesus he was changed into a new and different person. Both Tychicus and Onesimus were dearly loved. They were dearly loved because they had loved with the love of Christ, and because Christ lived in their hearts. They may not have gotten along well with some church members, but it did not change the fact that they were beloved of the Lord and of Paul. They were once sinners. But now they were Paul’s precious coworkers.
Verses 10-18 are greetings. Aristarchus of Thessalonica was with Paul during Paul’s most severe trial. (Acts 19:29; 20:4; 27:2; Phm 24) He did not need to stay in prison, but he did only for the purpose of serving Paul. Aristarchus was a good friend. He was also a fellow coworker. The Evangelist Mark was once a coward and a useless man. But when Christ touched his heart and changed him, he became a useful man in Christ. (2Ti 4:11) He later also worked with Paul as a dear coworker.
Verses 12-13 are about Epaphras. He pioneered the churches at Colosse, Laodicea and Hierapolis, and he worked hard for them (13). He was always wrestling in prayer for them, that they might stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured (12). Luke was a doctor but he stayed with Paul and took care of Paul’s health. (14a) Paul also talks about Demas (14b) who later loved the world and deserted Paul. (2Ti 4:10) In life, to desert one’s faith is tragic because faith alone raises us from animal men to the children of God. Paul also greeted the brothers at Laodicea, to Nympha and the church in her house. (15) Nympha’s house was the church of Laodicea. Paul asked Colossians believers and Laodicea believers to read his letters in turn to be encouraged. Archippus could have served the church of Colosse and took care of the church while Epaphras was absent. Paul encouraged him to complete the work he had received in the Lord. (17). Verse 18 shows that Paul signed the letter by his own hands, and he asked them to remember his chains. This was not to ask for their compassion but for them to remember that Paul was in chains for the gospel. Paul concluded his letter by saying “Grace be with you.”
Grace be with you is a fitting greeting and conclusion for the study of Colossians and any book for that matter. We can see what was on Paul’s heart and mind all the time. God’s grace. Because of that, he was able to command them not to be lazy but prayerful devoting themselves to prayer. We to need to do that. We also need to be watchful and thankful in prayer. It is a sign of maturity when Christian brothers pray for one another and for others. God bless you.