Thursday, September 04, 2008

Colossians 4:7-15

7Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. 8I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. 9He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here. 10My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.) 11Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me. 12Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. 13I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis. 14Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings. 15Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.

Paul wraps up with mention of a complex, yet fluid network of friends and leaders in the early Christian church, some of whom appear in Paul’s letter to Philemon 23-24. It is thought that Tychicus, also mentioned in 2 Timothy 4:12 and Titus 3:12, delivered the letter to Philemon along with Onesimus the runaway slave, whom Paul calls “a faithful and dear brother, one of you,” and the letter to the Colossians. He also delivered the letter to the Ephesians, though there is some question surrounding it. We’ll mention more of this on the comments on v16.

Notice first in these verses what we learn about the character of Paul, because his attributes are transferable characteristics that God expects of all fulfilled Christians. We see in this passage that Paul has a great capacity for people, a great capacity for shared ministry, a great capacity for supporting his co-workers, and a great capacity for single-mindedness. Each of those things ought to characterize our lives living in the grace of Christ.

First, Paul not only remembers the names of these folks, he is genuinely concerned about their well-being. They had to be wondering what was going on with him, but he doesn’t write about that. He sends more personal contact than a letter. In v9, we read that Tychicus and Onesimus will inform them about the proceedings in Rome and encourage them in the application of Paul’s teachings in their lives.

Second, Paul willingly shares his ministry, acknowledging those who work with him. Notice “fellow servant” in v7, “fellow prisoner” in v10, and “fellow workers” in v11. God has gifted Paul in an extraordinary way, but his ministry is a corporate ministry. He doesn’t work alone. He is willing to share his work for the gospel, for “the kingdom of God” (v11); other people play integral roles in Paul’s work, and he’s happy to acknowledge them. Do you think the false teachers would do the same?

Third, Paul is sincere in his compliments to his partners. First in v7 he speaks of Tychicus as his dear brother, a faithful minister, and a fellow servant. Notice his words in v11 about Mark and Jesus Justus, the only Jewish Christians who were serving with Paul. Paul upset the Jews everywhere he went, yet these two men have provided a comfort to him. We have no idea! What a blessing it must have been for Paul to have a couple of fellow Jews not only receiving the message of the gospel with gladness but also joining in with Paul and encouraging him in his work. He was thankful to God for them. (Calvin wonders where Peter was during this time. He was supposedly in Rome, yet not considered by Paul to be a fellow worker.) In v12, Paul calls Epaphras a servant of Christ and a prayer warrior. That simple title makes me think of the Lord’s words to His faithful conquerors in the end, “Well done good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21,23). In v14, Paul speaks of his dear friend and physician, Luke. Do we build up the saints by those types of words of encouragement?

Fourth, Paul never lets up on a theme. His single-mindedness has revolved around commitment, loyalty, and faithfulness to Christ; it’s the theme of the entire letter, and it continues to be mentioned in his epilogue. The things Paul says he appreciates about these various people are their commitment, loyalty, and faithfulness. When we exhibit those qualities toward Christ, we will inherently exhibit those qualities toward one another. There’s no better example of that than Paul. Tomorrow, Lord willing, we'll conclude our study of Colossians.

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