Monday, February 11, 2019

The Apostle Paul's Letter To The Colossians. Day 12, The Example Of Paul's Friends/Closing Remarks

Today we will be concluding our look at Paul's letter to the Colossians. In closing he will mention several friends who are standing by him in Rome. We can learn a lot from the example they set for us.

"Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts." (Colossians 4:7-8) Tychicus is a man Paul mentions in several of his letters. We first met him in the book of Acts, when Luke told us that Tychicus is one of the men who accompanied Paul to Macedonia when he had to change his travel plans because of a plot against his life. (Acts 20:2-4) In joining in Christian fellowship with a man who was hated for his faith, Tychicus was endangering his own life, but he was willing to take the risk. He was willing to take the risk in support of Paul, and he was willing to give his life for the gospel message because he judged the gospel message more important than his own life.

Paul considers this man a brother in Christ. He also provides the information that Tychicus himself is a minister of the gospel. By calling Tychicus a servant in the Lord, we know that Paul admires his hard work and dedication. In addition to all this, Tychicus is an encourager. He's been a source of encouragement to Paul, so Paul expects him to be a source of encouragement to the believers of Colossae. This man is willing to travel to and from Rome to carry Paul's communications to the churches, for in Ephesus 6:21 and in 2 Timothy 4:12 we see that he was Paul's messenger to the church at Ephesus as well as his messenger to the church at Colossae. So Tychicus is not only a dear friend to Paul, but a dear friend to other believers as well. We could learn a lot from the character of this selfless man and the love he had in his heart for the Lord's people.

Next Paul mentions another character. "He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here." (Colossians 4:9) When we get to the book of Philemon we will learn that Onesimus is a runaway slave who left his master and fled to Rome. While in Rome, he converted to Christianity apparently under the preaching of the Apostle Paul, for in Philemon 1:10 Paul will say Onesimus became his son while he (Paul) was in chains in Rome. Paul also refers to his convert Timothy as his son, so we gather by this that Onesimus is a younger man who came to faith in Christ after he met Paul in Rome. Now Onesimus is returning to his master. His master, Philemon, is a Christian also. We know this because in his letter to him Paul calls him his brother and calls Philemon and Onesimus brothers. So Onesimus is doing what he knows is right in the Lord; he is returning to his master. In his letter to Philemon, Paul tells Philemon to do what is right in the Lord, which is to treat Onesimus as an equal and as his brother in Christ. Onesimus is going to cheerfully fulfill his work duties for his master; Philemon is going to treat Onesimus with fairness and respect.

"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.)" (Colossians 4:10) Aristarchus is another man who is willing to risk his life for the gospel and to protect his friend Paul. Aristarchus was arrested during the riot at Ephesus because he was a friend of Paul's. (Acts 19:29) He was also one of the men, along with Tychicus, who accompanied Paul to Macedonia when Paul's life was threatened. (Acts 20:4) He was with Paul on the voyage to Rome, where they endured many days of stormy seas and eventual shipwreck. (See entire chapter of Acts 27.) How exactly the status of Aristarchus changed from that of a supporter of Paul to a prisoner in Rome is not told to us, but we can safely assume it has to do with the stand he took for the gospel. Early church tradition says that he was martyred during the reign of Nero. This man Aristarchus sets an example for us with his strength of faith, which appears to equal Paul's strength of faith since they endured the same troubles and met the same fate. Aristarchus considered no price too high to pay for the gospel of Christ.

Paul mentions Mark (otherwise known as John Mark) with whom he once had a falling-out. On one of Paul's missionary journeys, the young Mark turned back and went home to his mother's house in Jerusalem, causing Paul not to want to give Mark a second chance when he wanted to accompany Paul and Barnabas on another journey. But since then, Mark has proved his worth as a soldier of the Lord. This is why Paul highly recommends him to the church at Colossae. Mark sets an example for us because he didn't let a mistake from his past hinder his future. He repented of the fear and lack of faith that caused him to leave the group when he was a young and inexperienced man. He devoted the rest of his life to the gospel of Christ and to the service of the Lord's people. Don't let the devil, other people, or your own mind tell you that you can't do anything for the Lord because of mistakes in your past. If the Lord couldn't use people who have made mistakes, then He couldn't use anyone.

"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 been a comfort to me." (Colossians 4:11) This is the only place in the Bible where Justus is mentioned. We have no idea what work he did for the Lord. But we know he was a humble man because he refused to go by the same name as the Lord. He chose instead to go by another name. Justus may have been his middle or last name, a nickname, a name he picked out for himself, or a name that was given to him by his friends and fellow believers. It is believed the name meant "upright". The only other things we know about him is that he is a Jewish Christian and that he has been a comfort to Paul. We often underestimate the value of being able to comfort someone who is hurting. Justus had this gift, along with the gifts of a humble spirit and the faith to remain loyal to a friend who is going to lose his life for the gospel.

"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. I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis." (Colossians 4:12-13) Epaphras is likely a citizen of Colossae and he is Paul's messenger to the tri-cities region of Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis. Earlier in our study we discussed his bravery in traveling back and forth from Rome with messages between Paul and the churches. Today we learn he is a fierce prayer warrior as well.

"Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings." (Colossians 4:14) Luke, after his conversion, spent the rest of his life ministering to his friend Paul and to the other believers with Paul. He was judged so faithful by the Lord that the Lord allowed him to write two books of the Holy Bible. When Paul nears the end of his life, he will say, "Only Luke is with me." (2 Timothy 4:11) At that time Paul had sent some of his friends to other regions to minister to the believers there. At least one of his friends, Demas, had forsaken him. (Demas is an example of what not to do. Paul will tell Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:10 that Demas has deserted him because he loves the world. This indicates Demas turned away from serving the Lord and the Lord's people.) But Luke remains with Paul til the end.

"Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. 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." (Colossians 4:15-16) The letter to the Laodiceans has been lost in history. A partial letter surfaced several centuries later, but most reputable scholars of that time and of every era since have concluded it was a forgery. It consists of about nineteen verses that are a collection of Paul's words from other letters, so it sounds like Paul, but experts say that it is not written in the fine Greek that Paul and his scribes used in his other letters. That, plus the fact that the real letter appears to have been lost early in the first century, indicates that it is something someone put together much later on and tried to pass off as Paul's letter.

"Tell Archippus: 'See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.'" (Colossians 4:17) Archippus is mentioned in Paul's letter to Philemon as a fellow soldier in the Lord. We know nothing else about him, but Paul encourages him not to give up on his calling in the Lord. We don't know whether this means Archippus was struggling or whether Paul just wants to tell him to "keep on keeping on".

"I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you." (Colossians 4:18)

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