Colossians 4:7-18 (Week 12)
“Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you of everything that has taken place here. Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, welcome him), and Jesus who is called Justus. These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me. Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. Luke, the beloved physician, greets you, as does Demas. Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea. And say to Archippus, “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord. I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.“
We finally made it to the end of the letter, and we come across this list of people that Paul is commending, greeting, or challenging. It would be easy to skip over this as if it doesn’t apply to you, but again we have to reiterate that every word of the Bible exists because the Holy Spirit of God inspired it to be written. So let’s say that this is important for us, how do we figure it out? To be honest, it’s not like there is some secret to it; we just need to stop and think. Look at what Paul is saying to or about these people and discern if this is something commendable or not. Either way, there will be something we can learn about the Christian life. It will expose actions or attitudes to either incorporate into our lives or cut away from it.
In this section, Paul mentions the two people who are carrying the letter for him: Tychicus and Onesimus; then three Jewish coworkers: Aristarchus, Mark, and Justus; then three of his Gentile coworkers: Epaphras, Luke, and Demas. After that, he has personal greetings for Nympha and a challenge for Archippus. Plus, we have the added bonus of seeing the whole Bible from a zoomed-out perspective, and there are a couple more observations we need to make. As you read the text, some of these names might stick out to you, specifically Mark and Demas. These two men give us two opposing testimonies of faithfulness that we will need to learn from as we go.
WHAT IS THE TEXT SAYING?
Paul uses three different terms to apply to Tychicus: beloved brother, faithful servant, and fellow-slave. As a beloved brother, he is a part of God’s family. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ and need to treat each other with the same degree of love and honor that should be apparent in a household. More than that, actually, because our relationship to our biological family is by nature temporary, but our relationship in the family of God is eternal.
The word translated servant here is the same word from which we get the word “deacon.” This is the fourth use of it in Colossians being used previously to refer to both Paul and Epaphras. As we have already mentioned, he doesn’t have the church office of a deacon, but that of being a servant. And Tychicus has proven himself to be faithful to God in his service.
Last, the word “fellow slave” has to do with being a bondservant of Christ. Paul also used this word to refer previously to Epaphras. In doing so, Paul is calling both himself and Tychicus slaves that have committed their entire lives to the Lord.
You may be familiar with Onesimus if you have read the little book of Philemon. Onesimus was from Colossae but left under the shadow of scandal. He was a slave to Philemon and then escaped. Now, remember that this means that he probably owed a debt to Philemon and entered into the bondservant role voluntarily to pay off his debt. Then he escaped. Then sometime after he ran away, God saved him. Now Paul is sending him back to Colossae with another letter to Philemon (you’ll have to read that later). This time he is sending him back to Philemon and Colossae as a brother, and he calls him “faithful” and “beloved.” This is a totally different Onesimus than the one who left from there.
Paul is sending these two guys to the Colossians for two purposes. First, he wants them to be updated on everything that is happening with Paul and his coworkers. Second, he wants the Colossians to have their hearts encouraged. How ironic? Paul is in prison and writing letters of encouragement to his friends.
ARISTARCHUS AND JUSTUS
We don’t know much about either of these guys. Aristarchus has probably been with Paul for a while, we see him three times in Acts, and then he’s mentioned in Philemon. What is interesting about Aristarchus is that it looks like he might actually be in prison with Paul. He calls him his “fellow-prisoner” a word only used three times in the NT, ironically once of Epaphras. All we know of Justus is that his real name is Jesus, but he’s called Justus (it’s less confusing that way).
Now Mark is a really cool story. To really do it justice, it would take more time than we have, but let’s follow it just far enough so we can see a biblical example of restoration. Mark is identified here as a cousin of Barnabas. This means he is the same Mark that we see in Acts 12, who accompanied Paul on his first mission. However, somewhere along the way, Mark turns back, and Paul sees this as an abandonment (Acts 15:37-39), so he refuses to take him on another mission. Well, if all we had was the book of Acts, it would look like it was over between the two of them, but that isn’t the end of the story. Look at what Paul says about him here.
First, we see that Mark, Aristarchus, and Justus are the only Jewish members of his team. He calls them his coworkers (the singular of this word is Sunergos… which just happens to be the best coffee shop on the planet). But not just that, they are coworkers in the Kingdom of God. That’s high praise.
Second, he isn’t just sending his greetings from these guys. Apparently, he has already sent them additional instruction concerning Mark, personally. If Mark happens to come to them, they have been told to welcome him. This would make sense if he was previously known to shrink back.
So here we have a wonderful example of restoration in the Body of Christ. Yes, there will be times when we have conflict, even to the point of breaking off relationships in ministry. But that never needs to be the end. Between believers, reconciliation is always an option. To see the end of this happy story, look at what Paul says to Timothy at the end of his letter to him. “Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:11) Oh yeah, and he wrote the Gospel of Mark.
Epaphras is only mentioned three times in the New Testament (the two occasions in Colossians, and then in Philemon), and Paul only has good things to say about him. He is a native of Colossae and most likely the one who started the church there. He is the one that told Paul all about their faith and is the main reason that Paul is writing to them now. It is also possible that at the time of this writing, he is in prison with Paul, but his commitment to the Colossians has not ended. Even though he cannot be with them in person, he is laboring for them in prayer.
Paul calls him a bondservant of Christ, who is always laboring (the same word we get for agonizing) in prayer for the Colossians. We also get to see the purpose behind these prayers. He is praying for the Colossians that they would be established in their faith, mature and complete. Ultimately his prayer is that they will be fully assured and confident in all the will of God. Paul finishes up by saying that he is a witness to the commitment that Epaphras has for the Colossians. He says that he is working hard for them, not just them but also the believers in Laodicea and in Hierapolis.
LUKE AND DEMAS
Luke, we know and love. Paul calls him the beloved physician. He was a faithful companion to Paul and wrote the Gospel of Luke and Acts.
DEMAS IS A DIFFERENT STORY
At this point in time, Demas is a traveling companion of Paul and is sending his greetings to the believers in Colossae. However, just like Paul’s second letter to Timothy tells us about Mark, it also tells us about Demas. In 2 Timothy 4:10, we see that Demas has deserted Paul because he fell in love with the present world. What a sad, sad end. This should be a warning to us all. You cannot get the strength of your faith from others. Never, ever stop personally pursuing the Lord.
Paul shifts to send his greeting to Nympha and the church in her house, and also to the Christians in Laodicea. He follows this up by giving instructions to make sure that they read this letter and then send it on to Laodicea. What is really interesting is that at the same time, he has apparently sent a letter to the church at Laodicea that he wants the Colossians to read.
Side note: just because the Apostle Paul wrote something, it doesn’t mean that it was Scripture. Sure we’d love to have the letter of Paul to the Laodiceans or the other letters that he wrote the church at Corinth, but that doesn’t mean we are missing part of the Bible. God inspired and preserved His Word for us. We aren’t missing anything that He wanted us to have.
I always find these kinds of addresses a bit awkward in the pages of Scripture. It’s not as awkward as Philippians 4:2, where he calls out two ladies who are in a fight (but you’ll have to read that later). Here the church (or at least the church leaders) has been given a charge to give to Archippus. He is giving them the instruction to tell him to pay close attention to the service that God has called him to and to fulfill it. We don’t know what it is, but it was apparently important enough for us all to learn from it. This is a good challenge, especially in light of the way Demas ended up.
This is the last command in the letter. Paul wants them to remember his chains. Along with this is the reminder that he is in prison for the sake of the Gospel. He has been faithful, and God has been faithful to him. No matter how difficult our current situation may seem, there are others who are experiencing far worse, and it is worth it for all of us in light of eternity.
He leaves them the same way he opened – with the grace of God. All of this is about God’s grace extended to us. Paul’s ministry, and ours, should be focused on the proclamation of this grace to everyone that God brings into our path.
What Does This Mean for Me?
- As we think of all of these people Paul mentioned, we need to be thinking about how we are going to finish the race. Are you looking ahead? Are you focused on that which God has called you? Where is your hope? Where are you drawing your confidence?
- From where are you drawing your identity? It cannot be your church or ministry, it must be your union with Jesus. If being on Paul’s ministry team couldn’t sustain Demas, then whatever ministry you are a part of isn’t big enough either.
Are you personally pursuing the Lord daily through His Word and prayer? If not, get a plan and accountability.
- What kind of reputation do you have? Would people refer to you as “faithful minister,” “beloved brother/sister,” “servant of Jesus”?
Do you realize that even today, there are Christians all over the world being persecuted for the exact same things that you believe? If they can remain faithful during persecution, then you can remain faithful in prosperity?
- How much time are you spending in prayer for others? Remember, God is the one that is working, and He has called us into that with Him.
What about reconciliation? Have you had a conflict with another believer that you need to resolve? There is always a hope of reconciliation among believers. After all, we are brothers and sisters for eternity.
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