(NIV) Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer…
Sometimes–not always, but sometimes–a word study is a fruitful way to dig meaning from a verse. I believe this to be the case with Colossians 4:2.
“Devote yourselves” to prayer is used by the NIV, NAU, and NET, as opposed to the “continue steadfastly” of the older KJV and newer ESV. The NKJV approaches the NIV and NET with “continue earnestly.”
Why do I prefer “devote yourselves” over “continue steadfastly”?
I believe this translation better captures the author Paul, a passionate, loving Christian who does nothing halfway.
1. Devotion speaks of passionate love.
- a lover for his or her mate
- an artist for their art
- an athlete who endures much suffering for their sport or skill (dancers, gymnasts, mountain bikers, long distance hikers and so on)
- a father or mother for their child
- some children for their parents
- a writer for their writing
- a photographer for their photography
- a pastor for his flock
- a missionary for his sheep
- Christ for His church
- Father God for the world
2. Grammar: “Devote yourselves” already implies the present active imperative (an ongoing command) form of the Greek verb.
- One cannot practice devotion without ongoing (steadfast) endurance.
- The ESV on the other hand must pack into “continue steadfastly” the full force of the main verb (for which see below), leaving out all the beautiful connotations of devotion.
3. While steadfastness is a virtue, the connotations of “continue steadfastly” do not capture Paul’s passionate intent of eager, energetic enthusiasm, but rather–
- an endurance of duty not necessarily accompanied by joy and faith of fulfillment
- it leaves out many of the positive connotations of “devote yourselves”
4. The meaning and other biblical uses of the Greek word itself.
A Look at the Greek Behind “devote yourselves”
The Greek form of the English “devote yourselves” is προσκαρτερεῖτε (pros-kar-te-ree-tay). Grammatically it is a command for ongoing action. There is a prefix προσ (pros), and the command form built from the base word καρτερέω (kar-te-ray-oh), which comes from an adjective meaning “strong,” which in turn comes from the noun κράτος (kra-tohss), meaning strength.
κράτος (kra-tohss) appears in Greek (the Septuagint translation) Old Testament verses which speak of strength or might.
Psalm 62:11 …power belongs to God…
(Septuagint) Job 12:16 With him are strength and power: he has knowledge and understanding.
(Septuagint) Isaiah 22:21 and I will put on him thy robe, and I will grant him thy crown with power…
We see this word κράτος (kra-tohss) in the New Testament in verses such as:
(ESV) Luke 1:51 He has shown strength with his arm…
(ESV) Colossians 1:11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,
(NET) 1 Timothy 6:16 He alone possesses immortality and lives in unapproachable light, whom no human has ever seen or is able to see. To him be honor and eternal power!
(NET) Revelation 5:13 Then I heard every creature– in heaven, on earth, under the earth, in the sea, and all that is in them– singing: “To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be praise, honor, glory, and ruling power forever and ever!”
The prefix προσ (pros) generally means a motion toward someone or something. It can also mean attachment to something in space or time. It can further mean a reference to something, where the thing is the verb that follows it. The concept of “continuing,” in some of the English translations (KJV, NKJV, and ESV), while certainly in agreement with the present imperative (ongoing command) form of the verb, derives more from the prefix προσ (pros) than the verb tense.
So, an expanded translation of Τῇ προσευχῇ προσκαρτερεῖτε (tee pros-ev-khee pros-kar-te-ree-tay), in addition to 1) devote yourselves to prayer (NIV) , 2) continue earnestly in prayer (NKJV), and 3) continue steadfastly in prayer (ESV), might be the following:
1) apply your strength fixedly in prayer, 2) always apply your full strength mightily and powerfully in prayer.
Paul says the Colossians should always stand ready to give themselves fully and powerfully to prayer. They should never hold any part of themselves back when they are praying. They should give prayer all they’ve got. He asks that while they are doing this to include himself and his ministry in their prayers, so that God would open doors for him and his friends to tell others the good news of Jesus Christ.
What about me? Do I pray for God’s Kingdom according to Paul’s command to the Colossians?
How does being subordinate to her husband in the context of his leadership within the family unit benefit a wife?
Colossians 3:18 Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
The Greek word used in (Colossians 3:18) for the ESV’s “submit” is a passive form of “ὑποτάσσω”, [ee-poe-tássoe, according to the modern Greek pronunciation as recorded in Bible.is] and is translated in the NIV as, “submit yourselves.” The NAU says, “be subject to”, and the NET “submit to.” The Message Bible, a newer paraphrase, translates the entire verse, “Wives, understand and support your husbands by submitting to them in ways that honor the Master.” My own translation would be, “Wives, yield your right of way to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” Yielding one’s right of way is a phrase which I think best captures Paul’s use of the Greek word “ὑποτάσσω”. Let’s take a closer look at the word.
First of all, the Greek word does not mean what our collective cultural dictionary says concerning our words “submit” and “submissive”. English vernacular has developed over the generations a negative connotation for these words, which includes the image of someone who is spineless, a wimp, passive, dependent, and possibly even cringing. I believe that much of this connotation has developed as a backlash to the Christian right’s interpretation of this very verse.
“‘Uποτάσσω” is built of two parts–the prefix “ὑπο” (hupo, as it is often pronounced) and the root “τάσσω” (tássoe). “τάσσω” alone means “to place or station a person or thing in a fixed spot,” (Greek-English Lexicon, Arndt and Gingrich) as, for example, in a business or governmental position or office. A second, similar meaning is to “order, fix, determine, appoint.” The Greek meaning and context carry no negative connotations. Order is the rule of society. In society, organizations, businesses, institutions of health, the military, the government, the court system, a classroom, a school, a district, states, the nation, and so on, must be ordered or they cease to function. Nearly everything one can think of carries the quality of order with it. We live in an ordered universe.
Next, “ὑπο” is a prefix that means “under.” “‘Uποτάσσω” (hupotάssoe) in the passive imperative (command) form found in Colossians 1:18 means to be “subordinated” under someone else in the hierarchy of order, just as a nurse is subordinate to a physician, a private to a sergeant, the vice president to the president, and Christ the Son to God the Father. Negative connotations in the context of Colossians, as in all of Paul, are not intended. Neither Christ nor Paul were against women; they highly favored them. (See the Conversation with the woman at the well, and Paul’s commendation of Euodia and Syntyche as “fellow workers”.)
Paul’s grammar says that women should submit themselves as an action of their own free will, not that men should force them to submit.
(NIV) Colossians 3:18 Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. [The NIV correctly catches Paul’s passive command to wives.]
Here are other verses which use the Greek word “ὑποτάσσω” (hupotάssoe).
1 Corinthians 16:15 Now I urge you, brothers–you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints– 16 be subject to such as these, and to every fellow worker and laborer.
1 Corinthians 15:27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.
There is a quote by Eric S. Gray that is making its rounds on the internet, “Whatever you give a woman, she will make greater. If you give her sperm, she’ll give you a baby. If you give her a house, she’ll give you a home. If you give her groceries, she’ll give you a meal. If you give her a smile, she’ll give you her heart. She multiplies and enlarges what is given to her. So, if you give her any crap, be ready to receive a ton of shit!”
In much the same vein Francis Frangipane in his book, This Day We Fight, speaks of God creating man to be the one who brings order and structure to the world. God himself is a God of order and structure, man having been created in his image. Frangipane continues by describing the woman as the life bearer, the one who makes new life. God himself makes life; in him there is life (John 1:4). Both man and woman were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), yet with different functions, or roles. They are a team, the one complimenting the other and the first providing for, loving, nurturing, and caring for the other as though she were his own flesh (Genesis 2:23).
Just as a team of horses or sled dogs has a single leader, or a sports team has but one captain, a nation has but one queen or king or only one president, a car only one steering wheel, an airplane one pilot and a copilot, so the team of man and woman has one leader, the one who interfaces with the world to provide order and structure for the family unit, which leads to nurture and safety for the woman, who brings life to the home and bears and raises the children. The human body has two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, two hands, two feet, and only one mouth. In an analogy to marriage, the husband is the mouth and the wife his breath.
Paul wasn’t writing legalistic, dictatorial law; he wasn’t saying, “One size fits all.” Paul was describing God’s blueprint, the way God designed the OS for humanity. God designed humans after his own nature. God is a triune God, three-in-one. The Father is head; the Son is the full expression of the Father and the bearer of life for the world. He carries out his Father’s will. Human marriage is God’s blueprint for the church and Christ, Christ the head in relation to the church and the church his bride. The church carries out her Savior’s will.
Applying the Above to This Verse
So how does being subordinate to her husband in the context of his leadership within the family unit benefit a wife? As shown above, the woman by creation, that is, the biology of the way things are, is the life-bearer and physical nurturer of the baby in the early months/years of life. The husband brings the external order and structure to the home–its sustenance (income) and protection. This frees up the woman from those concerns and gives her the security and restfulness necessary for her to provide for the family–her children, her spouse, and herself–in an atmosphere of peace and joy. It’s division of labor, just as in the human body.
Immediate Biblical Context
The immediate context of Colossians 3:18-4:1, in which Paul addresses the order that is to exist in the Colossian households regarding 1) the husband/wife relationship, 2) the children/parent relationship, and 3) the slave/master relationship, is–
L-O-V-E, Peace, and Joyful Thanksgiving.
Colossians 3:14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
Colossians 3:15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
And, it’s a two-way street:
Colossians 3:19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. (I.e., you must love your wives in such a way that you are willing to die for them– )
Colossians 3:21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.
Colossians 4:1 Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.
It is interesting to note that in this entire passage, Paul’s heart seems to be burdened most heavily with the plight of the slaves in his society. Whereas he devotes one sentence each to wives and husbands and one sentence each to children and parents, he devotes four sentences (verses) to his encouragement of slaves, and one sentence to their masters. Clearly, Paul has no chip on his shoulder against any of these six social groups, and his emphasis is NOT on wives. After his brief comments on household order, he switches immediately to prayer and Christian behavior toward outsiders.
Everyone is aware of how imperfectly the church has accomplished Christ’s commandment to spread the good news of his kingdom salvation to the whole world. The relation of wives and husbands is no different–it’s something that the church has botched over the years. Nevertheless, it is the Christian nations in which the movement for social equality for women has gained the most ground. I know of no other world religion that favors women as highly as biblical Christianity. And, the Bible teaches this without demeaning men.
Fear Sees What Fear Fears Fear fears what it hears Fear sees its end In the blowing wind What it can’t see It imagines seeing Fear makes its fear Come into being By its behavior attracting Wh…
Source: Vision Blinding
There is so much
to weep about in our world recently. Bad things happen as surely as night follows day. (John 16:33) It seems as though our country–along with most other parts of the world–has been experiencing one very long night. Will the violence and human pain never end? Yet for those who find their eternal hope in our great God and Savior (Titus 2:13), Scripture carries the promise of a bright day to follow each and every dark night: “For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” — (Psalm 30:5).”
Christians know this biblical promise of God is true, because Christ has already deposited within them the fountain of life and joy–his Holy Spirit (John 7:38; Ephesians 1:13). And this fountain of joy and life is eternal; it can never be quenched no matter how much external circumstances say otherwise. And so we sing–
” “Spring up, O well! — Sing to it!”