Let Every Heart
Colossians 4:7-18- Let Every Heart
We come to our last week of studying the letter to the Colossians. Today we look at the final greetings that Paul has in his letter to the saints in Colossae. Generally speaking, we tend to overlook greetings in the Bible because we don’t usually see a benefit to us today. We read, “When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments,” from 2 Timothy 4:13; then we gloss over it because it doesn’t matter to us today. However, one chapter earlier, we are told that “all scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16). Even greetings are profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. Before we study the particular greetings that we find at the end of Colossians, let me give four reasons why greetings are good for us to study.
a. The church is a body with members
Greetings give us a bigger picture of the church. We find lists of people who served God faithfully and even placed their lives on the line for the gospel. We know about the ministry of Peter and Paul; however, they were not lone rangers, but they served with other saints who served Christ and his church with their personal giftings. Most of Church ministry is not seen by others. This does not mean ministry is pointless, but even from the beginning of the church, ministry has happened by faithful men and women who served God faithfully.
b. The church is connected
We can see churches listed in the greetings, and they did not see each other as competition but working together to advance the gospel. In the greetings in Colossians, we see four churches mentioned. There is no such thing as an autonomous church, but we are all united under the same mediator, Jesus Christ.
c. The church is historically rooted
The Bible was not written in a vacuum but was written by real men writing to real men, women, and children in history. Every name has a story, every name has a family, and every person lived within history. We may glance over names that are hard to pronounce, but we need to understand that they are brothers and sisters in Christ who served Christ with their life.
d. The church is diverse
Even in this short greeting in Colossians, we see eleven people from different backgrounds that served in various ways in the church. We see men and women. We see ministers and servants. We see prisoners and physicians. We see Jews and Gentiles. We see prayers and encouragers. We see teachers and hosts. Even the small church in Colossae was filled with diversity, all united under Jesus Christ. We genuinely see Colossians 3:11 in action, “Here there is not Greek, and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.”
II. The Greetings
Knowing how to look at this greeting is a challenge. Do we look at the various roles people have within the church, or maybe look at the theological implications of the greetings, or do we look at each person individually? For this study, I will be taking the personal approach for a couple of reasons. Firstly the Bible gives us a significant amount of information that we might not connect, and secondly, we have been told their names. Usually, using the broad approach with the greetings can be helpful, but one day in heaven, you might meet Aristarchus, and it would be good to know about him.
Tychicus is the man who will deliver the letter to the Colossian church and read the letter as well. Paul sent Tychicus to deliver the letter and tell the church in Colossae about Paul’s activities. He is called three different things in this letter. I cannot spend a lot of time on these, but Tychicus is called a beloved brother, faithful minister, and a fellow servant. Tychicus is from Asia Minor, near where the Church in Colossae is located (Acts 20:4). Tychicus is a companion of Paul and served with Paul until his last days (2 Tim 4:12). Paul often sends Tychicus to deliver letters (Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon) and assist in ministry, he is one of Paul’s faithful ministers he relied on (Eph 6:21-22, Col 4:7-8, 2 Tim 4:12, Tit 3:2). Although this is speculation, Tychicus might be the famous preacher Paul sends to the Church in Corinthians (2 Cor 8:12). We see Tychicus as a loyal minister who is reliable in delivering the letter (we have the letter, don’t we). He faithfully severed Christ’s church for many years.
Onesimus is with Tychicus, who is called a faithful and beloved brother. Onesimus is actually from Colossae. Onesimus (which means ‘useful’) was a slave to Philemon, who lives in Colossae. Paul writes a letter to Philemon, which explains what had happened to Onesimus. Onesimus had stolen from his master, Philemon, and then ran away. After running away, Onesimus met Paul when he was under arrest. Through the ministry of Paul, Onesimus became a Christian. Paul had sent Onesimus back with Tychicus to Philemon. Paul appealed to Philemon to accept Onesimus back as a brother and not as a slave. He was formally useless, but now he is useful, not only to Philemon but also to Paul (Phm 11). Paul sends Onesimus back but explains he is sending his heart (Phm 12). So even with the first two people, we see the diversity, faithful minister, and a run-away criminal who was a slave. Paul calls both of these men beloved brothers. We see the great hope of the Gospel in Onesimus. No matter our past, we can still be ‘useful.’
Like Tychicus, Aristarchus is also mentioned in Acts chapter 20. Aristarchus is a Macedonian from Thessalonica (Acts 27:2), also a fellow Jew. Aristarchus was taken captive at the riot of Ephesus. And was on board the ship with Paul that shipwrecked on Malta (Acts 29). Even in Colossians, Paul refers to Aristarchus as a fellow prisoner. Aristarchus was heavily persecuted for the gospel. Paul calls him a fellow worker in Philemon 24. Aristarchus shows us the tremendous cost of ministry, even if we are not known by many. He risked his life on multiple occasions for the sake of Christ’s name.
Mark is the cousin of Barnabas. Mark is known for causing the split between Barnabas and Saul/Paul. The elders sent Barnabas and Saul to give relief to the Judaean brothers because of a famine about to take place (Acts 11:27-30). During the ministry of Barnabas and Paul, John Mark disserted them in Pamphylia and did not go with them to work (Acts 15:38). Barnabas wanted to take John Mark with them, but Paul did not want to take him. This sharp disagreement caused the two to go their separate ways. Barnabas took John Mark with him to Cyprus, where Barnabas was from (Acts 4:36). Paul took Silas, and they went through Syria and Cilicia. After this event, Mark is still in ministry, and Paul finds him helpful in ministry (2 Tim 4:11). John Mark is suspected to be the author of the Gospel of Mark, with his connections to Peter (1 Pet 5:13). We see a great story of Christians having a ‘sharp disagreement’ yet working it out and still doing ministry. We do not get any details of how (if any) reconciliation takes place. However, neither Paul nor Mark hold a grudge against one another. Paul even instructs the church in Colossae to welcome him (Col 4:10).
Justus, who is called Jesus. Often people would have two names, Jewish and Greek. Jesus would have been his Jewish name (Joshua translated to Greek), and then Justus would be his Greek name. He might also have been called Justus to avoid confusion with his name as Jesus. We do not know much about Justus. This is the only time that he is mentioned. However, we see that he, along with Aristarchus and Mark, were the only men of circumcision among Paul’s fellow workers. But we also see that Justus had been a comfort to Paul along with the other two. The Greek word for comfort is only used this one time and can mean comfort and consolation. Amazing to think that Paul, the author of thirteen books of the New Testament, was comforted by others. We see the importance of comforting and encouraging one another.
We had looked at Epaphras earlier when he was mentioned in the letter previously (Col 1:7). Epaphras is the missing link between Paul, who never went to Colossae and now is writing the letter. Epaphras is the minister who taught the gospel to the saints in Colossae (Col 1:7). He greets his fellow Colossians but also is in earnest prayer for them. The Greek word translated ‘struggling,’ is also translated ‘fight’ in 1 Timothy 6:12, “fight the good fight of the faith.” Even being sent to prison, his prayers continued for his church to “stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.” He worked hard while he was in Laodicea and Hierapolis. Paul commends Epaphras’ past work but also his present prayers. We tend to overlook prayer as an important aspect of ministry; however, Paul explains that Epaphras fights in prayer for them. In one way, the letter is an answer to prayer because Paul’s ministry is that they might present every member mature (Col 1:28). We see that even if we cannot do the same ministry as we have in the past, we can still do ministry. Prayer is an important ministry in the church, and we see prayer as the great engine room in the church, not as a last resort.
We know Luke from his authorship of the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. Luke is only named three times in the Bible (Col 4:14, Phm 24 and 2 Tim 4:11). However, because we believe Luke wrote Acts, we can note the ‘we’ references to Luke, who is with Paul. After everyone has deserted him in prison in his final stage of his life, Luke alone is with him (2 Tim 4:11). I have also heard some people suggest that Luke is the author of Hebrews, who complied the book based on Paul’s sermons he preached while Luke traveled with him on his missionary journeys. Luke is the only Gentile author in the New Testament. However, the greeting in the letter to the Colossians is where we learn that Luke is a physician. This explains his orderly account found in the Gospel of Luke and Acts. We see from this greeting the importance of each inspired book of the Bible. We learn a great deal about Luke from his occupation, which is found in the letter to the Colossians. We also learn that the church is not only for the poor and weak who might be ‘easily’ tricked, but even intellectuals can believe the gospel.
Demas gets a small mention here in the letter to the Colossians. In Philemon, he is mentioned as one of Paul’s fellow workers (Phm 24). However, we learn something depressing about Demas in Paul’s second letter to Timothy at the end of his life. Paul explains to Timothy that “For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.” Many people had deserted Paul in his first defense (2 Tim 4:16). However, Paul explains that Demas is in love with the present world/age. Demas seemingly has not deserted Paul but also the faith. We do not know much about this abandoning the ministry going to Thessalonica. Maybe Demas would have a similar story to John Mark. We can learn that just because someone might be in the visible church does not mean that they are in the invisible church. Even someone who is called a fellow worker (Phm 24) might abandon the faith. An excellent reminder for us to place Jesus as our love and not the present world.
i. Church at Laodicea
We see more of the Churches’ interconnections; Epaphras worked hard in Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis (Col 4:13). Even after his absence, they still are connected. Paul also has written a letter to the Laodiceans that the two churches should read each other’s letters. Laodicea also has a warning like Demas. In the Book of Revelation, Laodicea is the seventh church that is written a letter, out of seven churches. The church in Laodicea is known as the lukewarm church. They are neither hot nor cold. The lukewarm Laodiceans are told to repent, even that Jesus is outside their doors, knocking. We see a great warning about the Laodiceans, which is still true to us today. Not only can visible Christians abandon the faith, but a Church can wander from the word and become lukewarm. The Westminster Confession of Faith explains that “The purest Churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error…” (WCF 25.5). However, when some slide towards error. They cease to be a Church of Christ under his Lordship and Headship and they become ‘Synagogues of Satan.’ In the past century, we have seen leaders in the church, churches, and denominations sliding to embrace error. We should be aware and alert.
We turn to a more positive note—the humble service of a woman who opened her home to host a house church. Most likely, Nympha lived near Laodicea. We see Nympha utilize the gifts that God has given, her house, to advance the kingdom. However, Nympha does not merely have a rental agreement with the house church but opens her doors and lets the church enter into her mess and chaos (if her house is anything like ours). We hear of the great stories of Paul, Peter, and even Luke, with his writing of the Gospel of Luke. However, in this letter to the Colossians, we see a woman how serves the church with a great blessing, her hospitality. More than that, it is recorded in the Scriptures. Serving Christ does not have to be done on a stage or a soapbox, but hospitality is a means of serving Christ and his Church. We are commanded in scripture to “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Pet 4:9). One of the qualifications of being an elder is that they are hospitable (1 Tim 3:2, Tit 1:8). We see a great need, especially after two thousand and twenty, for Christians to be hospitable. Many times, great ministry happens around a table with food. Who is someone you can invite into your mess and chaos?
Archippus is a native of Colossae whom Paul exhorts to ‘fulfill the ministry you have received in the Lord.” In Philemon, he is called a fellow soldier (Phm 2). Again, we do not know the detail about this comment, whether it is an encouragement to Archippus to continue in his ministry, or more of a stern exhortation to put back on the armor he has laid aside. Either way, Paul encourages (graciously or more sternly) Archippus to do what God has called him to. Ministry can be difficult and challenging. Even during difficult and challenging seasons, we are called to carry out what God has called us to do. We see this in our next and last example.
Unlike some of the people listed above, you could easily write a whole book on Paul (and people have). I want to draw attention to one aspect of Paul’s ministry that he has not discussed at length in this letter. We would raise this point again and again. Paul was in prison when he wrote this letter. We think about the great Christological poem written in Colossians 1:15-20, or the great command for us to walk in Christ (Col 2:6-7). Over fourteen times in the Letter, Paul writes to be thankful, but only on two occasions does he directly mention he is in prison (Col 4:3, 18). He mentions his struggles and sufferings (Col 1:24, 29, 2:1) previously. Paul not only wrote about Christ being supreme and sufficient, but he truly believed it and lived it. Even when he is in prison for his proclamation of Christ, he continued to fight the good fight. Even at the end of his ministry, he can write, “But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed, and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him, be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (Col 4:17-18). We learn the hardships of ministry in Paul’s life, but we also see his eyes fixed on eternity.
From the list of 12 above, we learn a great deal about the church and the church family. Christ brings all of these people from different backgrounds, from prisoners to physicians. He united them under his church. Throughout his life, Christ ministered to men and women from diverse backgrounds. Even in the first years of his life, Jesus Christ got the attention of King Herod, lowly shepherds, star gazing magi, and a priest. Christ came down with a family tree filled with kings, adulterers, murderers, and other sinners. Christ ministered to people who would betray him, desert him, and murder him. He ate at tables with prostitutes, Pharisees, fishermen, and tax collectors. Even from these greetings in Colossians, we see that a mixed group of people are united under Christ. As we sing at this time of year, Joy to the World. Not Joy to the wealthy, the elite, the poor, the weak, the ministers, the prisoners, but Joy to the World.
“Joy to the world! The Lord is come
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing.”
We are also reminded that no matter our past, however dark it may be, we are called to come to Christ, all those who are weary and heavy laden, and he will give you rest. We are called to come to him, the one who invites people from different backgrounds and cultures, pasts, and families are invited to come and adore him. Christ, the LORD.