Paul includes various instructions (4:7-9, 16-17) and personal greetings (4:10-15) in the letter's benediction to guide the church's response toward his coworkers. In one sense, these concluding words show the practical authority of Paul's apostleship: virtually everyone he mentions is given identity within the congregation by relationship to him. This is clearest in the instructions he gives for receiving Tychicus (see below, commentary on 4:7-9). Paul defines the congregation's vocation by his own. Therefore, while some continue to inspect this passage for clues to help reconstruct the chronology of Paul's life, its principal value remains theological: Paul's primary interest is to gird up his apostolic authority to strengthen the prospect for a successful evangelistic campaign, in keeping, then, with his preceding exhortation.
It is a prospect that seems imperiled. Paul refers to his imprisonment three times in this benediction (4:3, 10, 18) and says that he is sending Tychicus in order to tell the Colossians about our circumstances (4:8), presumably difficult. His cryptic aside about Mark (4:10) may suggest some internal strife within the mission's leadership (compare Acts 15:36-41); even Archippus's instructions (4:17) seem odd unless it is necessary for Paul to exhort him to complete the work. Further, Paul's strong and extraordinary endorsement of Epaphras (4:13) is unnecessary, given his previous association with this congregation (1:7-8), unless there is some trouble in his relationship with the Colossian believers (see introduction, and also my comments on 1:7-8). Lastly, Paul's admission that only a few Jews participated with him in the Gentile mission (4:11) may reflect the growing rift between the church and synagogue as well as between Gentiles and Jews within the church (Acts 15:1-4; 21:17-26; Gal 2:1—3:5).
Against this backdrop, then, Paul uses this letter's benediction to bolster support for his mission within a troubled community so that their prayers (4:2-6) and his (1:8-9) will not be in vain.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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