“Co-workers and friends in Christ”. That’s what I would title this section of scripture. It is a fitting end to the book of Colossians. We have read Paul’s commands for family, for work relationships, and for prayer to cover both these relationships and for evangelism. One can think of prayer as part of our relationship to others. Not only to build but to also strengthen those relationships.
We end with a list of people that were not only friends of Paul, but who were also co-workers of the gospel of Jesus Christ. These were the men and women who faithfully (except for one whom I’ll mention later) stood by Paul and the church.
As we study these people, who do you identify most with? I would imagine that you and I will identify with many of these people, both in their devotion and in their failures.
7 As to all my affairs, Tychicus, our beloved brother and faithful servant and fellow bond-servant in the Lord, will bring you information. 8 For I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts;
Tychicus is mentioned first. Tychicus was a trusted companion to Paul and served as a messenger not only for this letter to the Colossians but also for the letter to the Ephesians Ephesians 6:21:
21 But that you also may know about my circumstances, how I am doing, Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make everything known to you.
and also for the letter to Philemon.
Paul trusted Tychicus implicitly to bring news to the other churches of his situation and the furtherance of the Gospel through Paul’s imprisonment. As we know from verse 4:16 this letter, like the others, was read amongst the churches. For this letter to the Colossians, Paul’s instructions were to also have the Laodiceans read it too. So it would seem that Paul trusted Tychicus to inform not only these two churches of his circumstances, but also other churches.
Seeing as how Paul had many enemies outside of the church as well as a few naysayers from within the church I would imagine that this trust would not have been given lightly. Tychicus would have had to be above reproach in his relationships to both Paul and Christ. Paul gives some clues as to why he trusted Tychicus so much. First, he was a “beloved brother”. There were no broken relationships here. Tychicus had endured alongside Paul in his persecutions. With one who is beloved, there is a strong relationship.
Second, Tychicus was a “faithful servant”. Essentially, he was one who was responsible, trustworthy, and worked in the service of another (i.e., Paul). If Tychicus had not been faithful in serving Paul’s needs there is no reason that Paul would have described him in this manner or trusted him with such an important task. Indeed, Tychicus would have been at Paul’s side serving him in all things at every opportunity.
Third, Tychicus was a “fellow bond-servant”. That is, he served the same master as Paul…the Lord Jesus Christ. Knowing that he and Paul spent so much time together, it would have been easy for Paul to determine whether or not Tychicus had truly given his life over to Christ. Tychicus’ work, day in and day out, would have given evidence that he was truly a child of God.
As a final note, Paul says that he (Tychicus) might encourage the readers of this letter. Tychicus must have had the gift of encouragement to others. It is possible that just the sight of Tychicus to the church body at that time would have lifted their hearts.
Who here is a Tychicus? Would the leaders of our church and others call you a “beloved brother, a “faithful servant”, and a “fellow bond-servant”? Understand that this is no simple thing. Tychicus was with Paul in prison and out of prison. He was faithful in all ways and he was loved by Paul and others. We may be able to say that we are beloved and a fellow bond-servant of Christ, but how faithful as a servant are we to others? How faithful of a servant to our pastor and the elders are we? I believe strongly that there is no greater need of a pastor than to have faithful servants by his side! A pastor’s job is hard and never-ending. We should come alongside him and bear his burden with him. Trev needs his Tychicuses.
9 and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of your number. They will inform you about the whole situation here.
Onesimus is important to notice since he is the runaway slave that we will talk about in Philemon later. At this point in time Onesimus was described by Paul as a “faithful and beloved brother”. Paul also describes him as “one of your [the Colossians] number”. Onesimus was not only a believer but a member of the church as Colossae and a faithful and beloved brother in the faith.
We will discuss Onesimus more when we study Philemon. But for now, he was to accompany Tychicus to deliver these letters and to encourage the believers. Understand that this was not an easy thing for Onesimus to do. He was considered a runaway slave. His willingness to return to his master speaks volumes as to his faith in Christ.
Onesimus is a new believer who seems to have a great deal of faith, as he is willingly returning to his master (who probably wasn’t too happy that he ran away in the first place). Yet Onesimus is going back humbly and faithfully no matter the cost to him. While a lot of us are not new believers, we can look at Onesimus’ humility and faith in doing the right thing and ask ourselves, are we acting like Onesimus?
When faced with doing the right thing will we shrink back or will we, in humbleness and faithfulness, have the courage to do what is needed?
10 Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, sends you his greetings; and also Barnabas’s cousin Mark (about whom you received instructions; if he comes to you, welcome him);
Aristarchus was a man committed to Christ, Paul, and his ministry. We can read more about Aristarchus in these verses:
29 The city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed with one accord into the theater, dragging along Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia.
4 And he was accompanied by Sopater of Berea, the son of Pyrrhus, and by Aristarchus and Secundus of the Thessalonians, and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy, and Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia.
2 And embarking in an Adramyttian ship, which was about to sail to the regions along the coast of Asia, we put out to sea accompanied by Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica.
Reading the full chapters in Acts 19, 20, and 27 will give you more context around who Aristarchus was as well as his level of commitment to ministry with Paul.
Not riot, nor shipwreck, nor prison were enough to deter Aristarchus from his work. Are we that committed? Am I a person who’s commitment to Christ and our church is equal to Aristarchus? After all, my faith has not been tested through riots, shipwrecks, and prison. Granted, having a commitment such as Aristarchus’ to Christ and His church is not something that just appears overnight. Commitment such as this is cultivated. It is planted, watered, and nurtured to fullness. This commitment grows as we are being sanctified in Christ.
Now Mark is also mentioned in this same verse. This was John Mark the writer of the Gospel of Mark. Mark had a moment of crisis we can read about in Acts 13:5–13:
5 When they reached Salamis, they began to proclaim the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews; and they also had John as their helper. 6 When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they found a magician, a Jewish false prophet whose name was Bar-Jesus, 7 who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence. This man summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. 8 But Elymas the magician (for so his name is translated) was opposing them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. 9 But Saul, who was also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fixed his gaze on him, 10 and said, “You who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord? 11 “Now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and not see the sun for a time.” And immediately a mist and a darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking those who would lead him by the hand. 12 Then the proconsul believed when he saw what had happened, being amazed at the teaching of the Lord. 13 Now Paul and his companions put out to sea from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia; but John left them and returned to Jerusalem.
Notice that John (i.e., John Mark) left Paul and company and returned to Jerusalem. This caused some problems we can see as Paul later did not want to take Mark on a ministry journey since he had deserted them before. We read this in Acts 15:36–40:
36 After some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” 37 Barnabas wanted to take John, called Mark, along with them also. 38 But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. 40 But Paul chose Silas and left, being committed by the brethren to the grace of the Lord.
So Mark’s commitment waned, but he did eventually repent and turn back to ministry for Christ. I would view myself more as a Mark. My commitment can wane, but I always hope and strive to repent and return to the ministry.
11 and also Jesus who is called Justus; these are the only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are from the circumcision, and they have proved to be an encouragement to me.
Not much is known of Justus, but Paul’s mention of him speaks volumes. Justus was a Jew that became a believer in Christ. There are two main things I see here with Justus. First, he does not need the limelight. Justus is not mentioned much in the Bible. It seems that he was only mentioned in this letter and in passing in Philemon 23:
23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you,
Workers in the ministry do not work to gain accolades and “likes” from others. Ministry is a sacrificial offering to God. By looking for attention through our works we are essentially holding back some of that sacrificial offering to God.
Secondly, Justus was a Jew and most likely held some firm beliefs stemming from Old Testament traditions. These strongly held beliefs would have been hard to set aside. But from how Paul describes Justus, it seems that Justus had truly embraced the grace held out for him by Christ. In fact, a lot of this letter was designed to rebuke the Jewish people who were bringing back traditions and other things, saying that they were required for salvation. Essentially, requiring the adding of traditions etc. to Christ rather than trusting that Christ is all that we need.
Of course, I don’t see others looking to take the limelight in our church. I do see humble people who are content to work in the background. Letting their work be a sacrificial offering to the Lord.
12 Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God. 13 For I testify for him that he has a deep concern for you and for those who are in Laodicea and Hierapolis.
Epaphras was a man of prayer with concern for those he prayed for. Paul said that Epaphras was “one of your number” meaning that he was a member of the Colossian church. Epaphras “labored earnestly” for his church in his prayers. Paul also said that Epaphras had a “deep concern” for his church body, including those in Laodicea and Hierapolis.
This is something that we should all be doing…praying for our church. I do pray for our church but I have to really examine myself and ask, “Am I laboring in prayer earnestly?” and “Does my prayer show a deep concern for the church?” I think I need to do better. I believe we do have Epaphrases in our church who do pray earnestly and with deep concern for our church. Are you one of them?
14 Luke, the beloved physician, sends you his greetings, and also Demas.
Luke and Demas. This is the great contrast. Luke was a beloved physician to Paul and also the one who wrote the Gospel of Luke and also Acts (which can be read as a single book, by the way). We know much about Luke and his faith and commitment towards Christ and His ministry. In fact, Luke was with Paul til the end as we read in 2 Timothy 4:11, Paul’s last known letter that he wrote:
11 Only Luke is with me. Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service.
But Demas is another story. Demas is usually described as the fair weather disciple. Here in Colossians Demas is mentioned in a good light. In Philemon 24 he is even mentioned as a fellow worker:
24 as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow workers.
However, the last news we have of Demas is in 2 Timothy 4:10:
10 for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia.
Nothing more is said of Demas. It is likely that he apostatized and fully left the faith, showing that he was never a believer in the first place. I hope this is not true but the message from Paul is that Demas never returned to the ministry. Look at the wording here in 2 Timothy 4:10. Demas “loved this present world”. Demas wilfully loved (note this is the agape type of love) this present evil world as opposed to what he should have been doing which is loving the kingdom of God, which is here now and is also what we look forward to.
Next, Demas deserted Paul. This Greek word for “deserted” is defined as: “to totally abandon”. Demas fully left his ministry with Paul and abandoned him. Maybe the threat of imprisonment was too great for Demas and he desired an easier life over all. But whatever the reason, the wording implies a full and complete abandonment of the ministry.
Finally, John Mark (who we just discussed) had his entire story arc clearly written out for us. He was faithful, he stumbled, he repented, and he was restored to the ministry, eventually writing the Gospel of Mark. Demas’ story ends with his leaving the ministry. Nothing more is said. Maybe nothing more needs to be said.
Deciding who we are more like is easy here. Always be a Luke and not a Demas. But we all have weaknesses that we have to battle in order to please Jesus. Nothing is easy in this life, especially if you are a believer. However, as we know, the main idea of this letter is that Jesus is supreme and sufficient in all. Demas did not believe that…Luke did. What do you believe?
15 Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea and also Nympha and the church that is in her house. 16 When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea. 17 Say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.”18 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my imprisonment. Grace be with you.
As we end this letter from Paul, he specifically calls out a fellow believer, Archippus encouraging him to fulfill his ministry that was given him by the Lord. We don’t know much more that this about Archippus and to be sure there has been much speculation about this verse. However, if we apply the overarching message of this letter, that Christ is superior and sufficient for all our needs, then this becomes more of an encouragement for Archippus as well as for us.
Consider if someone were to say to you today, “Take care to fulfill your ministry that the Lord has given you.” That wouldn’t seem like much of an encouragement. It would seem more like work or a command (technically, it is a command as this verb is in the imperative in verse 17). However, once we apply the overarching message of Colossians we can see that in this context it becomes an encouragement. Think of it this way. Our Lord who is preeminent over all has gifted us our various ministries. Since our all powerful, all knowing Lord has gifted us with our ministries, we know that not only has He given us the perfect ministry but He also is sufficient to meet all of our needs in that ministry. All we need to do is keep watch over our ministry so that nothing extra Biblical sneaks in and we also need to continue (persevere) in our ministry. What a feeling of relief Archippus must have felt after hearing Paul give him this encouragement at the end of this letter. Do we all feel that same sense of security, peace, and encouragement after studying Colossians?