When a person is in Christ Jesus, they are bound together with the blood of Christ with a bond that is stronger than the blood of family that do not yet know Christ. It is in Christ Jesus that:
- We share a common confession: we are sinners in need of grace.
- We share a common confidence: that the blood of Christ cleanses us from sin and sets us free from our just condemnation.
- We share a common hope: that we will live forever in God’s kingdom as children of God
- We share a common passion: to share the gospel with all who are lost and perishing
- We share a common desire: to serve the Lord and one another.
Many of the last chapters of Paul’s epistles are filled with personal references and salutations and greetings to fellow Christians with whom he has this precious bond. These are the brother and sisters in Christ who have been supportive of him and the ministry that God called him to. Even though Paul was gloriously apprehended by Christ and divinely empowered by The Spirit of God, God knew that Paul couldn’t bear the load or responsibility of ministry by himself. Nobody ever can.
Let’s look at Paul’s “appreciation” of these precious saints as we close Colossians.
- 4.7 All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you, who is a beloved brother, and a faithful minister and fellow-servant in the Lord: 8 Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that he might know your estate (some translations say, that you might know about our circumstances), and comfort your hearts.
Tychicus is mentioned as being with Paul on four different occasions: (1) on the way to Jerusalem toward the close of the third missionary journey (Acts 20:4); (2) in Rome at the time Colossians was written; (3) when Paul wrote to Titus in Crete before Tychicus was sent to Crete (Titus 3:12); and (4) in Rome for the last time before being sent to Ephesus (2 Tim. 4:12).
The Colossian Christians were naturally eager for authentic information concerning the welfare of Paul and others, and therefore he makes arrangements to supply that. But Paul was equally concerned about the things that they were dealing with, thus he sends a letter with his trusted friend Tychicus to comfort and encourage them.
Paul calls him a beloved brother and a faithful minister and fellow-servant in Christ. Tychicus was a dear brother and faithful servant of Jesus who served Paul in whatever practical ways he could. He was one of those 1 Cor. 4 kind of stewards that was found faithful in whatever God called him to do. There’s no other way to get the work done, and Paul knew it. If the local church is to fulfill the great commission and minister to one another from the nursery to the senior citizen, there needs to be saints like Tychicus. People who love Jesus Christ and have a servant’s heart and love to serve people.
- 9 With Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They shall make known unto you all things which are done here.
This recommendation was so necessary because Onesimus had left Colossae as a heathen fugitive, having escaped from his master Philemon. Having been converted in Rome through the Gospel as preached by Paul, he was now returning to Colossae as a member of the Church, as a brother who now truly belonged in their midst.
Onesimus is not described as a runaway slave; he is described as a faithful and beloved brother. John MacArthur writes: “it’s exciting to know that in Christ, people with a past have a past that’s passed.”
His name means, “Profitable.” Only Jesus can make our lives profitable. Here is a portion of a letter that was written from Ignatius to the church at Colosse: “Since then in the name of God I received your entire congregation in the person of Onesimus, a man of inexpressible love and your pastor, I beseech you in Christ Jesus to love him and all who are like him.”
Only the transforming power of the gospel of the grace of God can turn a runaway slave into a pastor of the flock of God!
- 10 Aristarchus my fellow prisoner saluteth you, and Marcus, sister’s son to Barnabas, (touching whom ye received commandments: if he come unto you, receive him;
Aristarchus of Thessalonica (Acts 20:4) was with Paul during the riot of Ephesus (Acts 19:29). Being Paul’s fellow prisoner meant either that Aristarchus attended Paul, or more likely, that he was incarcerated with Paul (probably also for preaching the gospel). Paul also called him a fellow worker (Phile. 24). He chose to identify with Paul and stand by his side in prison for the truth of the gospel, regardless of the price.
There are very few saints who are willing to give up “the good American Christian life” in order to be a prisoner and servant of The Lord Jesus Christ. It is easy to serve when things are going well, and you are feeling well. It is not so easy to serve The Lord when you are in the prisons of life, when the proverbial dung is hitting the fan, and the enemy is after you day and night. But when the going gets tough, the Aristarchus get on their knees and keep going.
I have on my desk a little plaque that a dear saint in the fellowship gave me. It is a quote from Winston Churchill: “if you are going through hell, keep going!” Every life will include prisons and persecutions; God grants you the grace to serve through it, not speed or excuses to run from it.
Mark, the cousin of Barnabas, was a companion on Paul’s first missionary journey (Acts 12:25). He was later Peter’s associate (“my son,” 1 Peter 5:13; cf. Acts 12:12-13). Though Mark deserted Paul on the first missionary journey (Acts 15:37-39), Paul here commended him (cf. Phile. 24), as he did later (2 Tim 4:11).
Jon Courson writes: “Maybe some of you here today can relate to John Mark. God opened up a door for you and you bailed out early or just failed completely. Take heart, He that began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it. Let us not miss that fact that God used Barnabas as an instrument of restoration. Do you know somebody that has really blown a task given to them by The Lord? If so, don’t be a bulldog, be a Barnabas. Don’t be critical, be Christlike.”
- 11 And Jesus, which is called Justus, who are of the circumcision. These only are my fellow workers unto the kingdom of God, which have been a comfort unto me.
Jesus was a translation for a common Jewish name, “Yeshua”. This companion of Paul’s was also called Justus (“righteous”), also a common name (Acts 1:23; 18:7). These three—Aristarchus, Mark, and Justus—were Jews (lit. “of the circumcision”) by either birth or conversion (proselytism). These three fellow workers for the kingdom of God comforted or consoled Paul by their loving loyalty to him. Comfort is the unusual word pareôgoria (“relief, consolation”).
- 12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. 13 For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis.
Epaphras, like Onesimus, was a Colossian (one of you). Many scholars believe that he was probably the founder and perhaps Pastor of the church in Colosse.
Why was he in Rome? Because he had come to Rome to tell Paul the trouble that the false teachers had brought to the Colossians and to see how he could minister to Paul.
Paul described Epaphras as a servant of Christ Jesus who was laboring fervently in prayer (as Jacob did with the angel; Gen. 32) for the Colossians. In his physical absence from them he continued to labor fervently for them in his prayers.
The effectual, fervent prayer is the prevailing prayer; it is the prayer that labors until there is a breakthrough of revival, repentance. This is the idea behind the effectual fervent prayer that availeth much.
Epaphras intercessory prayers were rising without ceasing to the Throne of Mercy, and his one thought was that God might give to the Colossian Christians the power to be perfected in their faith and sanctification.
Epaphras’ prayer for the church reveals the overall theme of the rest of the New Testament as well; that believers would be mature and perfected in all the will of God. In other words, he did not want their faith to be stagnant or stale; but continually growing in grace and in the knowledge of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
He has great zeal for you. The word zeal could also be translated pain. He hurts for them. That is a shepherd’s heart beloved.
- 14 Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you.
Luke is called the beloved physician. He is the human author of the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. Consider this; here is Paul, empowered by God to do powerful miracles in the Book of Acts, acknowledging the ministry of Dr. Luke who traveled with him on his missionary journeys. There are some religious groups that forbid the use of doctors or medicine. There are others in the body of Christ that say that your faith is undeveloped or inferior to theirs if you need to go to a doctor. That is heresy, plain and simple.
Demas – In Paul’s final letter, 2 Timothy, one reads that Demas had forsaken Paul and fled to Thessalonica, having loved the things of this present world more than the things of Christ (cf. 3:1, 2; 2 Tim. 4:10). From being fellow laborer in Philemon, to Demas sends his greetings here in Colosse, to Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world in 2 Timothy, it is easy to see that Demas’ backsliding was a slow, but gradual one.
Our Christian life is like a locomotive. When we get saved, we are on fire for Jesus. We are in His Word daily, we come to church faithfully; we tell others about what Jesus has done in our lives. Then [and it happens to all of us], we get beyond that initial “honeymoon” phase of our walks. You do not feel that initial overwhelming hunger and thirst for the things of The Lord. You do not feel like reading, praying, coming to church or sharing your faith. But, on the basis of the “spiritual steam” that you invested in your life in days past, you continue to “roll down the track of life.” Since you are still rolling down the tracks, you think that everything is okay. But inevitably, the steam runs out ands the engine shuts down, and you find that your desires and interests are heading in a different direction. The moral of the story? If we do not daily set our affections on things above, the only alternative is to love the things of the world. It is only by a daily pursuit of the things of The Lord that we guard against the constant smiles, flatteries, and seductive spirit of this world system. Some ask, “Was Demas saved?” All I can say is that I would not want it to be written of me, he is in love with this present world.
- 15 Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house.
The church in Laodicea met in the house of Nymphas and his family. In the first century no church building existed, and the Christians met in private houses. (Rom. 16:5; 1 Cor. 16:19; Phile. 2).
- 16 And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.
Although this apostolic epistle was addressed to the Christians at Colossae, its doctrines and admonitions were not intended for the Colossians alone. Paul expressly tells them that, after they have finished reading the letter, they should read the epistle from Laodicea.
Paul’s letters became regarded as authoritative Scripture soon after they were written. (see comment that Peter makes in 2 Pet 3). The letter to Laodicea has not been preserved.
- 17 And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it.
There are times when each of us in ministry needs to be exhorted to be diligent in whatever God calls us to do. We can draw back in ministry due to fear, laziness, preoccupation with other things or plain old weary in well doing. Paul wrote to Timothy these words:
- 1 Tim 4.16 Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.
“To have charge of any Christian congregation involves great responsibility, and the work should therefore be done at all times with the full realization of this solemn dignity. It is an office that requires zealous, untiring commitment.” Paul Kretzman Commentary
Whatever Aristarchus’ problem was, he was not fulfilling (completing) the work that God had called him to do. In a practical sense, God has given to every believer spiritual and natural talents and gifts that are to be used for the building up of the body of Christ. Every believer is called upon to evangelize the lost. And all that we do is to be done to the glory of God. Are you using your God given talents and gifts for the glory of God?
- 18 The salutation by the hand of me Paul. Remember my bonds. Grace be with you. Amen
Paul doesn’t remind them of his imprisonment to draw sympathy from them, but as a basis of his apostolic authority for which he was incarcerated. He mentions his imprisonment to encourage them in their walk with Christ, as he did when he wrote to the saints in Philippi.
Grace be with you – Paul closes the book of Colossians with a heartfelt prayer that the unmerited favor of God would be with them in the form not only of mercy and forgiveness but of empowerment and gifting for life and ministry.
Once again we are reminded of the fact that it is by grace we begin and finish our walk with Jesus Christ.