Guidelines on Christian Witness in Colossians 4:5-6 -- By: James P. Sweeney

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 159:636 (Oct 2002)
Article: Guidelines on Christian Witness in Colossians 4:5-6
Author: James P. Sweeney


Guidelines on Christian
Witness in Colossians 4:5-6

James P. Sweeney

James P. Sweeney is Interim Pastoral Assistant, Immanuel Church, Chelmsford, Massachusetts.

Aprevious article “The Priority of Prayer in Colossians 4:2–41 examined Paul’s injunctions on prayer to a church he did not establish (2:1) and that was embroiled in doctrinal problems of a Christological nature (vv. 16–23). The present article investigates Paul’s follow-up injunctions about Christian witness in 4:5–6.

The Structure of Colossians 4:5-6

In these two verses Paul moved from the subject of prayer in verses 2–4 to the complementary topic of Christian witness. He stressed two related aspects of Christian witness, both of which imply communication. The first is behavioral, and the second is verbal. Paul began this segment with the imperative περιπατεῖτε, an imperative he used earlier in 2:6.2 The prepositional phrase ἐν σοφία that precedes the imperative is most likely adverbial, and English versions typically render it as an adverb either of manner or of attendant circumstance.3 Paul’s statements in Colossians 4:5 are grammati-

cally independent of verses 2–4.4 The following participle (ἐξαγοραζόμενοι) has been taken as an imperative5 or as a circumstantial (adverbial) participle of means.6 As in the previous discussion of γρηγοροῦντες (“keeping alert”) and προσευχόμενοι (“praying”) in verse 2, a circumstantial (or an adverbial) participle of means is more likely than an imperatival sense,7 particularly in view of the infrequent use of the latter in the New Testament.8

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