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Engaging with Outsiders: Insights into Sharing the Gospel from Colossians 4:5–6

Mark J. Keown —

An ongoing debate in Pauline studies is whether Paul wished his congregations to share the gospel proactively.

One group of scholars argues that Paul’s vision did not include proactive congregational evangelisation, contending that Paul expected specialist proclaimers (apostles, evangelists, and coworkers) to preach the gospel. At the same time, the church supported them with prayer, finance, and hospitality. The church’s other involvement in evangelisation is primarily passive, giving witness through its worship, the ethical witness and the quality of the church’s corporate life, good works, and responding inquiries concerning the faith (apologetic witness). They reject any idea that Paul wanted the church to proactively share the gospel, aside from coworkers, evangelists, apostles, and other specialists. Evangelism is the work of a few, not the whole church.

Another group of scholars wholeheartedly agree with all dimensions of missional engagement supported by the first group. However, they also believe Paul visualised local churches proactively evangelising their contexts. Indeed, this endeavour will be led by specialists with a specific call and gifting. However, they contend that mission is the work of the whole body of Christ. The debate comes down to nuanced exegetical decisions concerning various texts and themes.

In this short article, I will not go into the ins and outs of the debate, as these can be read elsewhere.[1] I will focus on one crucial passage that I think gives us a good insight into Paul’s desire for his congregations where engagement with unbelievers is concerned: Colossians 4:5–6. Understood within its context, this passage gives a vision of both apologetic witness and thoughtful, proactive conversation in situations where believers engage with unbelievers.

For this analysis, I aver that Paul is the author of Colossians.[2] Some believe Colossians was written during Paul’s supposed imprisonment in Ephesus and thus date it between AD 52–55. [3] However, this is unlikely, as there is no explicit evidence Paul was ever incarcerated in Ephesus.[4] As such, it is likely written from Rome in AD 60 before the earthquake that destroyed Colossae sometime in the early 60s. Tychicus probably delivered the letter on the same trip in which he carried the letters from Rome to the Ephesians and Philemon (Col 4:7, cf. Eph 6:21).[5]

Evangelisation Elsewhere in Colossians

Before discussing Colossians 4:5–6, a rich array of evangelistic principles can be deduced from the letter.

1. Christ is the Content of the Gospel

Lurking in the background of the letter to the Colossians is false teaching, one feature of which is the demeaning of Christ (esp. 2:18).[6] Paul responds by launching the body of the letter with a glorious hymnic piece elevating Christ over all creation (1:15–20). Christ has been proclaimed to all creation in 1:23. In my view, this does not mean that every creature has heard the gospel,[7] that the gospel has been proclaimed throughout the whole creation,[8] that sufficient gospel centres exist from which the gospel can spread,[9] that Paul was using hyperbole,[10] or that the gospel mission is underway.[11] Instead, I contend it means that Christ has come and God has declared the good news that Christ is Saviour and Lord over all creation.[12]

This Christ is the “hope of glory” (1:27). It is “him” that Paul proclaims (1:28). In him are “hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (2:3). It is he the Colossians have received (2:6). They are in him (2:11), having died, been buried, and raised in him (2:12, 20; 3:1–4). He is their life, and they will appear in glory with him (3:4). Thus, whenever the gospel is shared, the pre-eminence and centrality of Christ lies at the heart of the message lived and spoken. Those who preach a false gospel are to be rejected and the gospel repudiated (cf. Galatians; 2 Cor 10–13; Phil 3).

2. Evangelising Specialists Are Important in the Mission

The importance of Paul and other specialists involved in evangelisation is endorsed. He calls himself an apostle (1:1). In Colossians 1:23–2:5, he outlines his mission of suffering and struggle by God’s power to “make the word of God fully known” (1:25) and of proclaiming Christ to present everyone mature in Christ (1:28).

Other gospel workers are mentioned, including Epaphras (further below); the beloved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant Tychicus (4:7); Onesimus (further below); three Jewish coworkers, including Aristarchus, who is imprisoned with Paul (Col 4:10), John Mark, and Jesus/Justus (4:10–11); Luke the physician (4:14); Demas (4:14); a female church hostess and likely leader Nympha (4:15);[13] and Archippus (further below). Leaders are essential in Paul’s mission vision – both in leading through doing the work of the gospel and equipping others (Eph 4:11–12).[14]

3. There is a Desperate Need for Evangelism

i. The Plight of Humanity

The desperate need for evangelisation is emphasised with graphic descriptions of the state of Christians (“us”) before their conversion. Paul, the Colossians, along with all people outside of Christ, are trapped in “the domain (exousia) of darkness” (1:13), alienated and hostile in mind and evil deeds (1:21), dead in sin (2:13), in debt to God (2:14), subject to principalities and powers (2:15),[15] enslaved to a wide range of earthly works (3:5–10), and subject to God’s wrath (3:6).

ii. The Glorious Benefits of Conversion and So the Desperate Need Evangelisation

The benefits of salvation further emphasise the need to share Christ so that people can join Paul, his team, and the Colossians in experiencing the wonders of salvation. In Colossians, these include inclusion in God’s family (1:2), receiving love (1:4; 3:12), heavenly hope (1:4), existence in Christ’s kingdom (1:13), redemption and forgiveness (1:14; 2:13), reconciliation to God (1:20), holiness before God (1:22; 3:12), heart circumcision (2:12), spiritual resurrection (2:13), debt cancellation (2:14), the defeat of God’s enemies (2:15), lives hidden in Christ (3:3), eternal resurrection glory (3:4), a unified inclusive community (3:11), and election (3:12).

4. Hearing the Gospel is the Means of Inclusion in Christ

The means of inclusion into Christ is evident in Paul’s description of the Colossians’ salvation – through hearing the gospel. The connection of hearing and faith is evident in 1:4–7: “because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of this, you heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which to has come you . . . you learned it from Epaphras” (emphasis mine). This verse implies the need to verbally share the gospel so that people can hear it, understand it, respond to it by faith, and be saved (cf. Rom 10:14–17; Eph 1:13–14).

5. Hints at Colossian Involvement in Evangelisation

i. Local Coworkers

I have mentioned above how important it is that there are individuals who are set apart for the gospel. Significantly, three of those named are locals indicating that Paul worked with people from the local churches to continue the evangelistic enterprise in their local contexts (cf. Phil 4:2–3). Some travelled with Paul, while others stayed at home. Both groups are seen in Colossians.

First, Epaphras, who planted the church in Colossae (1:7). He is described in the letter as a “beloved fellow slave,” a “faithful minister,” and in Col 4:12, a “servant of Christ Jesus” who engages in intense intercession for the Colossians while with Paul in Rome. He is undoubtedly a Colossian local being ho ex hymōn (“who is from you”). He may also have planted the churches in Laodicea and Hierapolis on behalf of the Pauline mission (4:13, cf. 2:1–2). This likely occurred during the two-year mission from Ephesus into Asia Minor, which was generated by Paul’s teaching in the hall of Tyrannus (Acts 19:10).[16]

The second is Archippus, who must complete his ministry (Col 4:17). In Philemon, Archippus is one of the recipients of the letter indicating that he is a significant leader in the church that meets at Philemon’s house (Phlm 1). He is also described as a “fellow soldier,” indicating he was a gospel worker.[17]

Onesimus is also a local; Philemon’s returning slave likely travelled with Tychicus delivering the letters to Ephesus, Colossae, and Philemon. Tychicus is an Asian (Acts 20:4) and may be from Colossae, or as is more likely, Ephesus (2 Tim 4:12). Other locals named in the letter to Philemon in Colossae are Philemon, who hosts a church, and Apphia, who is a woman and probably his wife (Phlm 1). The involvement of locals confirms that local congregations engaged in the mission after Paul left the city.

ii. Ethical Witness

Hints at the involvement of the Colossians in the mission are found in his prayer that the Colossians please God “bearing fruit in every good work” in Col 1:10. “Bearing fruit” is karpophereō, used in Col 1:6 of the gospel that is “bearing fruit and increasing” among the Colossians and the world. The use in v. 10 focuses on ethical witness whereby the Colossians share Christ with good works.[18]

Chapter 3 of Colossians focuses on the ethical life Paul wants from the Colossians; they are to leave behind their sinful ways and live out of the virtues of the gospel. Whatever they do “in word (logos) or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (3:17). There is no limit on who is to do this or the context in which this is meant to be done. Everything they do and say to one another in church or wider society as they engage with unbelievers should flow from their relationship with Christ.[19] “In word” uses logos which Paul uses in 4:3 of his proclamation. As such, Paul may specifically have in mind their sharing of the gospel, the same logos of God. Their families should also reflect the grace of the gospel (3:18–4:1).

In the broader context of Colossians, Paul has painted a rich picture of engagement in the gospel from individuals and all the Colossians with Christ as the centre of their gospel lived and shared, their witness flowing out of lives clothed in the virtues of Christ (ethical witness), witness through good deeds and the word (logos), through the quality of community life, within homes, and in all spheres of life.

iii. Support for Paul in Prayer

Colossians 4:2–6 begins with Paul calling the Colossians to prayer. The appeal shows that mission must begin with people yielding before the throne of God in prayer. Such mentions of his churches praying for the Pauline team punctuate Paul’s letters.[20] He leads by example in this, filling his letters with prayers of his own (e.g., Col 1:3, 9) and statements of his confidence in prayer (e.g., Phil 1:19). The Colossians are to “continue steadfastly in prayer.” The term proskartereō with the dative suggests to “busy oneself with,” “be busily engaged in,” or “be devoted to” something.[21] It speaks then of devoted discipleship. Often it is used for the devout prayer life of the early Jerusalem church (Acts 1:14; 2:42; 6:4). Paul, in Rom 12:12, similarly urges the Romans to “be devoted to prayer.”

The Colossians are to do this with alertness, watchfulness, and gratitude. The term translated as “watchfulness,” grēgareō, is used regularly for believers being watchful, awake, or alert.[22] It is used in Jesus’ injunction to Peter, John, and James in the Garden of Gethsemane to be watchful and pray (Mark 14:38). The Colossians are also to pray with an attitude of gratitude. In Paul’s writings in particular, thanksgiving to God is the starting point and bedrock of all prayer.[23] The Colossians are also to be “abounding in thanksgiving” (Col 2:7).

In vv. 3–4, Paul specifies a particular prayer request regarding his mission. Specific requests are a regular feature of Paul’s prayer requests. These texts refer to prayer for his mission plans and his desire that his ministry and the gospel be powerful and effective. These confirm that mission support through prayer from his congregations for his mission is a central element of his strategy.

Here he asks that they pray for the Pauline team (us). Specifically, they are to ask that God will open a door for the logos, the word. Logos is a synonym for the gospel (euangelion) across Paul’s letters and used in this way in Colossians 1:5, 25, and 3:16.[24] Twice elsewhere in the Corinthian correspondence, Paul speaks of doors (thyra) for the gospel. These are opportunities God creates in which a believer can share Christ (1 Cor 16:9; 2 Cor 2:12). He prays, here, that not only will such an opportunity be granted at his point of incarceration but that he may have the wherewithal to take it and “declare the mystery of Christ.”

Paul often associates the idea of mystery, or something hidden with the gospel. Christ, and particularly a crucified Messiah and Lord, has been unveiled in the gospel (Col 1:26–27; 2:2).[25] Now, a recipient of this knowledge wants to play his part in unveiling Christ to a world that did not anticipate God’s redeemer coming to die on a cross for the world (esp. Eph 3:1–13). Paul’s use of “Christ” here calls to mind the importance of Jesus in the letter, especially the initial hymn, as opposed to the heresy that diminishes him (1:15–20; also 2:9–15). Christ is the gospel proclaimed to the world at his death and resurrection, and now when Christians share God’s word. It is for proclaiming this gospel, this Christ, that Paul is in prison. Yet, not thwarted by the apparent danger to his being, in v. 4, he prays that he may continue to disclose this gospel as he ought.

Engaging in Gospel Conversation (Colossians 4:5–6)

We come then to vv. 5–6. There is no connective (asyndeton) indicating some change of focus. What follows shows that Paul is shifting from his prayer appeal of vv. 3–4 to an appeal to the Colossians. There are also indications of continuity of theme, including a concern for others who have not heard the gospel (outsiders), making the most of opportunities that call to mind “open doors” for the gospel in v. 3, the repeated use of logos used in v. 3 in v. 6, and the requirements of speech to others. It is thus a very missional passage directed to the Colossians. It is one of the most direct injunctions to his churches concerning engagement with outsiders (cf. Phil 2:16a).

As Bird puts it,

Paul turns to the community’s responsibility to further this mission in their own midst. Notably, he does not call upon them to emulate strictly in a local context the task that he has to herald the gospel. Not everyone is called to be an apostle or evangelist. They are to be wise in the world, gracious in speech, and ready to answer about their faith.[26]

“Outsiders” translates the Greek phrase pros tous exō, literally, “to those outside.” It refers to unbelievers who, at the time of Paul, had not yet received the gospel with faith and were not part of the believing community.[27] Paul uses it elsewhere of those outside the Corinthian community (1 Cor 5:12–13) and in 1 Thessalonians 4:12 in his appeal to the Thessalonians to “walk properly before outsiders.” It is parallel to the idiotēs in 1 Cor 14:16, 23, 24, although the term there may mean the uninitiated who attend the church and so may have a different sense.[28] Here Paul focuses on how the Colossians should relate to those outside the faith and church. Dunn puts it nicely, “The final exhortation is directed to the Colossian believers’ relations with their non-Christian neighbours and those they encountered at work and in the marketplace.”[29]

1. Walk in Wisdom toward Outsiders

They are to “walk in wisdom” toward them. Sophia, “wisdom,” is used elsewhere in Colossians first in Paul’s prayer for the Colossians that they are “filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (1:9). Paul uses it for his gospel commission, which is to proclaim Christ, “warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom” that he may “present everyone mature in Christ” (1:28). In 2:3, it is used of Christ, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” He uses it of the heretics who teach ascetic behaviour, which has the “appearance of wisdom” but is, in fact, “of no value” (2:23). In 3:16, he urges the Colossians to let Christ’s word dwell in them deeply as they “teach and admonish one another in all wisdom.” “In wisdom” here, then, speaks of engaging with outsiders in a manner consistent with Christ, Paul’s example, the gospel, with spiritual wisdom and understanding.[30]

2. Make the Most of Every Opportunity

They are to “make the” best use of the time.” The Greek term here is exagorazō, which is employed for purchasing something (e.g., Polybius, Hist. 3.42.2; 3.31.6; Diodorus Siculus, Hist. 15.7.1). It thus reads literally, “buying up [or purchasing] the time.” A similar construct is used in the LXX of Daniel negatively in the sense of buying time or “stalling for time” (Dan 2:8). Paul also uses exagorazō of Christ “buying back” or redeeming Christians from the curse of the law (Gal 3:13; 4:5). Here in Colossians, it can have two senses. It can either relate to the eschatological urgency of the situation, i.e. “make the most of the time” since it is “severely limited because of the proximity of the Parousia.”[31] However, it is most likely here a reference to “snapping up every opportunity that comes” or exploit or use the time to the fullest.[32] It links to the earlier prayer request for “doors for the gospel” – when these doors are open to you, make the most of them and do what Paul ought to do and disclose the mystery of Christ as opportunity avails (cf. vv. 3–4). Taking the opportunities presented will sometimes mean responding to the inquiries of outsiders. At other times, it will involve defending the gospel when challenged. On other occasions, it will be proactively seizing the initiative and seeking to share the gospel more proactively. Conversation and relationality are fluid, and drawing tight lines between responding to queries, defending the faith, and proactively sharing the gospel does not allow for interpersonal relationships and conversation dynamics.

3. Share the Gospel of Grace Graciously

Verse 6 continues the theme of engagement with outsiders. The Colossians are to let their “logos always be in grace.” The use of logos here causes debate. Some take it in the general sense of “speech,” which is certainly appropriate to the semantic range of the term.[33] However, considering its immediately previous use in this passage in v. 3 as a parallel term for “the gospel” and elsewhere through Colossians (e.g., 1:5, 25; 3:16), and due to the concern here for outsiders, some scholars consider that the term here indicates a more specific association with conversing with outsiders.[34] “Your word” then does not merely imply “speech,” as so many translations and scholars contend.[35] “your gospel conversation,” or “your conversations with outsiders,”[36] or even “your witness.” Such translations seem appropriate to the context.

The Colossians are to converse with outsiders en chariti, “in grace,” which can be rendered “with grace.” The phrase can have the sense of “with concern for the gospel of grace” rather than a gospel of works. Alternatively, it can speak of gracious communication, i.e., communication that is laden with the virtues of the gospel outlined in Col 3:12–14—holiness, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forbearance, forgiveness, and, above all, love.[37] Both dimensions are likely in mind – offering the gospel of grace with grace. It is speaking to outsiders with the kind of speech that embodies the grace of the gospel and articulates it.

4. Share the Gospel Winsomely

The type of gospel communication is further explained – it is to be “seasoned with salt.” Salt was used in a range of ways in Jewish writings. It could be used negatively as a symbol of judgment (Deut 29:23), death,[38] or to render barren (Ps 107:34; Judg 9:45; Josephus, Ant. 5.248). However, here it is intended positively in line with the use of salt to flavour food (Job 6:6), to preserve food (Philo, Opif. 66; Spec. 1.175) and bodies (Philo, Spec. 1.289), to season offerings,[39] to clean (Ezek 16:4), to heal and cast out demons (T. Sol. 18.34), to purify (Exod 30:35; 2 Kings 2:20–21), or as a symbol of hospitality and table fellowship (Philo, Somn. 2.210; Ios. 196). It thus speaks of gospel speech that is flavoursome, winsome, attractive, witty, and engaging.[40] Paul envisages his Christian brothers and sisters in Colossians engaging with unbelievers as they go through their daily lives with attractive and aromatic conversation so they will want more. As Wright puts it,

Christians are to work at making their witness interesting, lively and colourful; and, at the same time, to ensure that they have thoroughly mastered the rudiments of their faith so that you may know how to answer everyone.[41]

5. Knowing How to Respond to Enquiries

Finally, Paul adds a final clause launched by the infinitive eidenai, “to know.” The anarthrous infinitive has a range of possible meanings.[42] can be a purposive infinitive, giving the reason for acting wisely and speaking graciously “in order to know how to answer each person.” It can indicate the result, “with the result that you will know how to answer each person.” The latter is likely in mind. As the Colossians make the most of every opportunity given, act wisely toward outsiders, and share the gospel with gracious and winsome gospel conversation, they will know how to answer each person they encounter. Hence, they do not need to know the answer to every inquiry, but as they respond rightly, they will know the proper response.[43]

“Answer” is the common Greek word apokrinomai, which, according to Kretzer, has a range of meanings, including “answer, reply, being speaking, continue speaking.”[44] The term is a compound of krinō which implies critical judgment, and the preposition apo, which speaks of something “suitable, based upon (an evaluation).”[45] The middle form implies a “dialogical character of conversation and debate” and here means “to have words, exchange words with each other.”[46] It thus speaks of engaging in thoughtful conversation or, as Paul said earlier (“with wisdom”). Colossians 4:6 is not to be understood to limit proactive conversation, but when one engages in it, it is thoughtfully responsive to the situation. Thus, it comes from an attitude of deep engagement and active listening. It is thus not forced or stereotypical evangelism, but witness that flows out of a genuine relationship.

“Each one” cannot go without some comment. The Greek heni hekastō speaks of a response governed by the situation of the individual in question. Paul, then, is not advocating one-approach evangelism, as is common among evangelists and their methods. Instead, believers should engage with each person intimately, graciously, and thoughtfully. It is being deeply present with the person and responding appropriately.

Concluding Thoughts

In conclusion, I find Colossians 4:5–6 to be a beneficial text to Christians who engage in the realities of a society that, for many complex reasons, is resistant to the gospel. The broader context of Colossians reinforces a range of things concerning evangelism. These include an implicit imperative to share the gospel, the centrality of Christ to the message, the uniqueness of the gospel, that God sets apart specialists to evangelise others, and that sharing the gospel begins with a robust faith and the embodiment of the gospel with its virtues of holiness, humility, and love. This passage urges all the Colossians to make the most of every opportunity to engage in gracious conversation with those outside the faith. To be effective, people must be well-equipped with the gospel, build relationships with unbelievers, act wisely, and engage in salty conversation concerning the grace of the gospel. I wonder if traditional evangelistic methods need increasingly to give way to teaching people to relate and converse genuinely with wisdom, grace, and flavour. Perhaps then, those in our society who are thoroughly turned off the Christian faith may have reason again to listen.

Mark Keown is currently a New Testament lecturer at Laidlaw College and a Presbyterian Minister. His academic interests include anything New Testament, Paul, and evangelistic theology. Aside from his passionate faith and love of the Scriptures, he is a keen family man and lover of all things sport. He is married to wife Rev Dr Emma Keown and has three daughters, Gracie, Annie, and Esther. His publications can be accessed at https://www.laidlaw.ac.nz/staff/dr-mark-keown/ and his blog at http://drmarkk.blogspot.co.nz/). 

[1] E.g. Peter T. O’Brien, Gospel and Mission in the Writings of St. Paul: An Exegetical and Theological Analysis (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1995); Robert L. Plummer, Paul’s Understanding of the Church’s Mission: Did the Apostle Paul Expect the Early Christian Communities to Evangelize? PBM (Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2006); Mark J. Keown, Congregational Evangelism in Philippians, PBM (Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2008).

[2] Bruce, F. F. The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians (NICNT; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1984), 28–32; N. T. Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God 4; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2013), 59–60.

[3] E.g., N. T. Wright, Colossians and Philemon: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 12 of Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 37–42.

[4]On the background to Philippians, see Mark J. Keown, Philippians, EEC (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2017), 1:28–29. For another perspective, Paul A. Holloway, Philippians: A Commentary, Hermeneia—A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2017), 1–58.

[5] See also on the background of Colossians, see Douglas J. Moo, The Letters to the Colossians and to Philemon, PNTC (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008), 25–72. See also Mark J. Keown, Discovering the New Testament: An Introduction to Its Background, Theology, and Themes: The Pauline Letters, Vol. II (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2021), 266–88.

[6] For an excellent analysis of the false teaching, see Douglas J. Moo, The Letters to the Colossians and to Philemon, PNTC (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008), 46–61. One aspect may be seeing Jesus as an angel (2:18).

[7] Murry J. Harris, Colossians and Philemon, EGNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), 61. It is then proclaimed to every creature, but that is patently not correct as the gospel is still spreading through the world (1:7). So Moo, The Letters, 146: “For it is obvious that the gospel in Paul’s day had not been proclaimed to every creature under heaven.”

[8] Moo, The Letters, 146.

[9] Peter T. O’Brien, Colossians, Philemon, WBC 44 (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1982), 13, 70.

[10] Moo, The Letters, 146; Michael F. Bird, Colossians and Philemon, NCCS (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2009), 61.

[11] Wright, Colossians, 88.

[12] For Paul, Christ is the gospel; hence, he can speak of preaching Christ (1 Cor 1:23, 28; 2:2; 2 Cor 4:5; Eph 2:8; Phil 1:15, 17). God has sent Christ (Gal 4:6), and in so doing, declared him to all creation.

[13] On the variants that call into question whether Nympha is male or female and the likelihood that she is a female church hostess, see Bruce Manning Metzger, United Bible Societies, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Second Edition a Companion Volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (4th Rev. Ed.) (London; New York: United Bible Societies, 1994), 560. David W. Pao, Colossians and Philemon, ZECNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 319.

[14] See also the list in Phlm 23–24 and mention of Onesimus in Phlm 10. The only ones Paul does not mention in Philemon are Tychicus and Jesus (Justus).

[15] With Arnold, I take these as spiritual forces of darkness rather than secular authorities, angels, or demythologised descriptions of the interior of collectives. See Clinton E. Arnold, Ephesians Power and Magic: The Concept of Power in Light of its Historical Setting (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1992), 41–69.

[16] Ben Witherington III, The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Captivity Epistles (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007), 123.

[17] The term systratiōtēs is used of Epaphroditus in Phil 2:25 and is likely evangelistic. See Keown, Congregational Evangelism, 168–70.

[18] Scot McKnight, The Letter to the Colossians, NICNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2018), 117. He contends that bearing fruit in every good work is “expression that refers to good deeds done by followers of Jesus in the public sector that bring glory to God” (emphasis original) and “public manifestations of walking in a manner worthy of a cruciform Lord.”

[19] Similarly, O’Brien, Colossians, 211. He writes, “the injunction ought not to be limited to the context of worship (there is no intention in this comprehensive injunction to restrict the meaning of ‘word’ and ‘deed’ to the liturgical practices of ‘preaching’ and the Lord’s Supper). In all his activities the believer ought to render ‘spiritual worship.’”

[20] E.g., Rom 15:30–32; 2 Cor 1:11; Phil 1:19; 1 Thess 5:25; 2 Thess 3:1–2; Eph 6:18–20.

[21] BDAG 881.

[22] e.g., Matt 24:42–43; 25:13; Mark 13:34–37; 14:34–38; 1 Cor 16:13; 1 Thess 5:6, 10; 1 Pet 5:8; Rev 3:2–3. See BDAG 207.

[23] E.g. 2 Cor 4:15; 9:11; Eph 5:4; Phil 4:6; 1 Thess 3:9; Rev 7:12.

[24] In Colossians 1:5, it is “the word of truth” which is then clarified to be “the gospel.” Colossians 1:25 it is “the word of Christ” and in 3:16 “the word of Christ.” See also Rom 9:6; 10:8, 17; 1 Cor 1:18; 14:36; 15:2; Gal 6:6; Eph 1:13; 5:26; 6:17; Phil 1:14; 2:16; 1 Thess 1:6, 8; 2:13; 2 Thess 3:1; 1 Tim 4:5; 2 Tim 2:9, 15; 4:2 Tit 2:5.

[25] See also Rom 16:25; 1 Cor 2:1; Eph 3:3, 4, 6, 9; 6:19.

[26] Bird, Colossians, 122.

[27] See 1 Cor 5:12–13; 1 Thess 4:12.

[28] See the options in BDAG 468.

[29] James D. G. The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon: A Commentary on the Greek Text, NIGTC (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996), 264.

[30] See Wright, Colossians, 156. “Be wise in the way you act is literally ‘walk in wisdom’, that is, follow Christ as God’s pattern for full and authentic human living” (emphasis original). See also Bird, Colossians, 122: “To walk wisely requires giving no reason for insult, doing good to win the favor of others, and living in such a way as to attract praise and positive curiosity” (emphasis original).

[31] J. A. Robinson, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians (London: Macmillan, 1904), 202.

[32] O’Brien, Colossians, 242.

[33] Dunn, Colossians, 266; William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker, Exposition of Colossians and Philemon. NTC 6 (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 2001), 183; Moo, Colossians, 330.

[34] See Pao, Colossians, 297. He notes that in 1:2 and 1:6, charis refers to God’s grace and Paul links grace with the word in 1:5–6. He astutely states, “Now Paul is urging believers to extend the work of this “word” through the power of the same “grace” as they witness to ‘outsiders.’” He also considers there is a nuance of “thanksgiving” here in the term charis.

[35] See, e.g., ESV, LEB, NIV.

[36] Wright, Colossians, 157 translates logos “conversation”

[37] “Here Paul is indicating that not only the content but also the manner of speaking is important when it comes to the influence the believer exerts on outsiders” O’Brien, Colossians, 242.

[38] As in the Salt Sea (Dead Sea), Deut 3:17, and Lot’s wife in Gen 19:26.

[39] See Lev 2:13; T. Levi 9.14; Josephus, Ant. 3.227; Philo, Spec. 1.289).


[41] Wright, Colossians, 157 (emphasis original).

[42] See the eleven options in Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics - Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House and Galaxie Software, 1996), 609. The only two serious options are purpose and result.

[43] This passage recalls 1 Pet 3:15 which is a direct appeal to be ready to answer inquiries, and to answer with gentleness and respect. Here, adopting the right posture enables the believer to know how to answer inquiries.

[44] A. Kretzer, “ἀποκρίνομαι,” in EDNT, 1:133.

[45] A. Kretzer, “ἀποκρίνομαι,”133.

[46] A. Kretzer, “ἀποκρίνομαι,”133.