The Fullness: Colossians 4:7-18
Paul’s Friends – 4:7-18
7 Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. 8 I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. 9 He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here.
10 My 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.) 11 Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my co-workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me. 12 Epaphras, 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. 13 I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis. 14 Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings. 15 Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.
16 After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.
17 Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.”
18 I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.
Paul was not alone in ministry. Though different people accompanied him at different times, he always seemed to have a group of men by his side. Paul’s friends were faithful ministers of the Gospel who supported him in every way.
Tychicus is the first person mentioned, most likely because he was the carrier of this letter. It would have been his responsibility to read the letter aloud to the congregation, explaining anything that needed clarification or further comment. He is also mentioned in Ephesians. In fact, he is the only one mentioned there, which stands in stark contrast with the ending to Colossians. Paul’s language regarding Tychicus is similar in Ephesians and Colossians, indicating the possibility that he wrote both letters at the same time, entrusting both to Tychicus. Tychicus is also mentioned in Acts 20, Titus, and 2 Timothy.
Tychicus had a travelling companion, the famous Onesimus. Paul refers to him as “one of you,” indicating that he was the same Onesimus who belonged to Philemon. Could he have been a runaway slave? Possibly. Regardless of his previous situation, he is now a “faithful and dear brother.” Onesimus is a Christian, and a reliable witness to all that is going on with Paul’s ministry.
Ministry is not a solo activity.
Perhaps the most remarkable man mentioned among Paul’s friends is Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. Also known as John Mark, he is best known as the author of the Gospel of Mark. That he would be with Paul at this point in the apostle’s life is a wonderful testimony to the power of the Gospel to bring forgiveness and reconciliation.
Mark was a member of Paul and Barnabas’ first missionary journey, but he did not last long in the field. He quickly abandoned the mission and went home to Jerusalem. When Paul and Barnabas were set to go on a second journey, Barnabas wanted to take Mark along, but Paul refused. Their disagreement was so sharp that they parted ways permanently! But here we see that Mark and Paul have been reconciled to the point of, once again, teaming up for the sake of the Gospel.
Epaphras was the man who started the church in Colossae, but it seems that by the time of this writing, he has rejoined Paul’s apostolic team. However, it is clear that he has not abandoned the young church, but still takes pastoral responsibility for the flock. He is “always wrestling in prayer” for the Colossians. Specifically, Epaphras’ prayer for the church is that they would stand firm in the will of God, become mature in their faith, and be fully assured in Christ. Not only is he working on behalf of the Colossian church, but now also for believers in Laodicea and Hierapolis.
Another Gospel writer, Luke, is also mentioned by name. What a collection of early church leaders Paul had with him! This group was comprised of men who wrote the vast majority of the New Testament.
The epistle to the Laodiceans has long been a mystery. While some have argued that it is what we now call Ephesians, most scholars believe that it has been lost to history. Whatever was in the letter, it seems likely that its content was in the same vein as both Colossians and Ephesians. Perhaps we will be able to read this letter in heaven!
The last person mentioned in the epistle is Archippus. Paul instructs the Colossians, or perhaps Tychicus, who would be reading the letter, to tell Archippus, “See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.” While we don’t know the specifics of his ministry or role, this is a good word for all who have been called to the ministry of the Gospel. Do not give up! No matter how hard it gets, no matter how much opposition you face, do not quit. Complete the ministry the Lord has given you with courage, faith, and perseverance.
Paul concludes the epistle in a way that was typical for him, by signing off in his own handwriting. Most of his epistles were written with the help of an amanuensis, who would write the letter down while Paul dictated. At the end of a letter, the apostle would often take the pen in his own hand and write the final greeting.
Many modern pastors experience the loneliness of leadership, but it is clear that Paul had a team of coworkers upon whom he depended to accomplish the ministry to which God had called him.
Paul’s friends aided his ministry in profound ways. We often think of Paul as a lone traveler, or even as a lone author. But several of his letters, including Colossians, were written with a co-author (in this case, Timothy). He was always surrounded by men and women who supported and encouraged his ministry. Many modern pastors experience the loneliness of leadership, but it is clear that Paul had a team of coworkers upon whom he depended to accomplish the ministry to which God had called him.
Ministry is not a solo activity. Paul does not fit the mold of the American celebrity pastor. He is not the lone man under the bright lights. Instead, he has just one part, albeit a significant one, of an ensemble cast. He could not have done what he did without Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, Titus, Luke, Mark, Epaphras, Apollos, Priscilla & Aquilla – the list could go on and on. Pastor, who are the people that surround you in ministry? Honor them. Appreciate them. Name them. Most importantly, work with them in such a way that their gifts are maximized and their callings are realized. We all have a role to play in the ministry of the Gospel. How much better will all of us be when we work as teams of friends?