Colossians 4:12, “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”
Our theme, “Christian friends’ help each other grow in Christ”
The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Colossians is about the effects of bad theology on God’s people, when they listen to men rather than God. We could say the same thing regarding the age in which we live. It’s a letter of instruction regarding what to believe, and what not to believe as believers in Christ. That is true of every book of the Bible, but this one was written for the specific purpose of addressing particular false teachings that were coming into the church of Colossae. We have looked at Paul’s joyful response to the news from his friend Epaphras that the Colossians had experienced the salvation that is in the Lord Jesus Christ. In the beginning of this book Paul gives thanks to God for them and tells them he has not ceased to pray for them, that they would grow in wisdom and understanding and the knowledge of God. He also reminded them of the nature of their salvation, and that it is all the result of the grace of God toward them. It is God who has qualified them to share in the inheritance of the saints in light (v12). He goes on to explain the greatness and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, and speaks of Him in the loftiest terms we can imagine. It is Jesus Christ who is preeminent over all things because He created all things. In the man Jesus Christ, Paul tells his readers that “in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” It is by means of Christ’s death that men are reconciled to God, His wrath against us is removed, our sins are forgiven, and we are made holy and blameless and above reproach before Him. (v22).
He tells how it is by the grace of God that the work of Christ has been made known to the Gentile world, and that salvation in Him has been extended to the nations beyond the borders and beyond the people of Israel. He reminds them that they were spiritually dead in sin, and God has taken the prerogative to make them alive in Christ Jesus (2:13). He also warns them of those who would seek to undo their salvation in Christ, if that were possible, by making their salvation dependent upon Jewish rituals and Jewish laws. In chapter 3, Paul warns them to live godly lives, and stop living like they did before they knew Christ. He tells them to put their old sinful behaviors to death. Now they belong to God as His chosen, holy, and beloved ones. Now, having had all their sins forgiven by faith in the Lord Jesus, they are to “Put on . . . compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love . . . .” This is how the true people of God live together as the church of God. He even tells them how they must live in their own homes if they are going to be pleasing to God. Church life and family life for the believer are inseparable. They are not two different categories of living, where we live one lifestyle at church among the brethren, and another kind of lifestyle at home or in the public arena. Salvation affects every part of the person, and consequently affects every part of their life. Therefore, in the home, Christian wives are to submit to their husbands. Christian husbands are to love their wives. Children must be obedient to their parents. Fathers are to encourage their children, not discourage them. Slaves are to do their work as unto the Lord, and masters are to treat their slaves well.
In other words, the Christian is to live every aspect of his or her life for the One who saved them. We are not our own, we do not have the right to live as we please; we are not free to follow wherever our hearts may lead us in the pursuit of happiness. Rather, we live for Him! He died for us. The Father delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the heavenly kingdom of His dear Son. We have been set free from the shackles and the condemnation of sin. In Christ Jesus we have no fear of condemnation on the great day when the nations stand before God and have to give an account for their lives. God has done for the Christian what he could never do for himself: Pay for his sins. So we live for the Savior. It is not a great thing for us to live for Him who has died for us, and who lives for us in Heaven, interceding to the Father on our behalf forever. Why would we not want to serve such a Master as the Lord Jesus? And one day, when He comes to take us home, we will serve Him perfectly, without sin, with all of our heart and soul and mind and strength. And we will do so forever! What a glorious day that will be!
What Friends Are For – (Colossians 4:7-18)
We certainly have a number of things we can be thankful for this week. I would certainly think at the top of our list would be our gratitude for the salvation which is extended to us through Jesus Christ; because without this great salvation we are left without hope, without forgiveness, without direction and guidance. But there are other blessings. We have a life to enjoy, a measure of health, and an abundance which makes complaints appear foolish. We should be thankful for family. This morning I will add yet another reason for gratitude: our friends. In these final verses in Colossians the apostle Paul lists a number of people he recognizes as blessings given by God. I think as we look at these often overlooked passages we will be stimulated to number our own friends among our richest blessings. Now, let’s look at the Apostle Paul’s closing words to this wonderful and encouraging book. Paul knew something about friends and the importance of making the right ones. Here in this last section of Colossians and as he nears what in all likelihood would be the end of his life, he talks about some of the friends that he had made along the course of his life and what they meant to him personally and for his ministry. Each friend that he mentions stands out because of some special ability or characteristic that they possessed. His friends were more than acquaintances; they were partners in ministry. God used Paul to accomplish tremendous spiritual victories throughout his life. But Paul did not accomplish these things as a soloist. He was the leader of a team of close friends who worked as a team under the leadership and empowerment of their heavenly Father. Together, they accomplished far more than Paul could have ever accomplished on his own. He did not take the credit but gladly included his team in recognition for what had been able to be accomplished.
I. THE MEN WHO WERE MESSENGERS
Colossians 4:7, “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”
A. Tychicus the first messenger – (4:7-8)
He is described as “a beloved brother, a faithful minister, and a fellow servant in the Lord. He was a native of the Roman province of Asia, may have been converted to Christ in Ephesus. He accompanied Paul to Jerusalem, where Paul was arrested (Acts 20:4-28:31). Apparently he traveled with prisoner Paul to Caesarea and then to Rome, where Paul was placed under house arrest (Ephesians 6:21); Colossians 4:7). Later, when Paul was released from house arrest, he sent Tychicus to Crete (Titus 3:12). Ultimately Paul was arrested again and put into a Roman prison to await execution. At that difficult time, too, Tychicus was with him (2 Timothy 4:12). His name means “fortunate,” and undoubtedly Paul felt that he was very fortunate to have such a loyal friend as Tychicus. We can read of him in Acts 20:4; Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7; Titus 3:12; 2 Timothy 4:14; and, He might have been one of the brethren referred to in 2 Corinthians 8:23.
B. Onesimus the second messengers (verse 9)
He is called “a faithful and beloved brother”; he was the servant (or slave) in whose behalf Paul wrote the Epistle to Philemon. He was a native, or certainly an inhabitant, of Colosse, since Paul, in writing to the Church there, speaks of him (Colossians 4:9), as “One of you.” Fleeing from his master Philemon to Rome, he was there led to embrace the Gospel through the instrumentality of the apostle (Philemon 10) After his conversion the most happy and friendly relations sprang up between the teacher and the disciple; and so useful had he made himself to Paul that he desired to have Onesimus remain with him. However, this he forbore in view of the relations of Onesimus and his master’s right to his services. Onesimus, accompanied by Tychicus, left Rome with not only this epistle, but with that to the Colossians (Colossians 4:9). It is because of men like these, the influence of the apostles was able to spread much farther than if they were by themselves.
II. THE MEN WHO WERE COMFORTERS (4:10-11)
Colossians 4:10-11, “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”
A. Aristarchus the first mentioned comforter (verse 10)
He was a native of Thessalonica and a faithful adherent of the apostle Paul in his labors. He became the companion of Paul on his third missionary tour, accompanying him to Ephesus, where he was seized and nearly killed in the tumult raised by the silversmiths under Demetrius (Acts 19:29). He left that city accompanying Paul to Greece, thence to Asia (Acts 20:4), and subsequently to Rome (Acts 27:2), whither he was sent as a prisoner, or became such while there (Philemon 24), for Paul calls him his “fellow-prisoner”.
B. Mark, the cousin of Barnabas (verse 10b)
Marcus (John Mark) had known Paul for a long time, but early in the relationship, during Paul’s first missionary journey, the two had had a falling out. Mark, who had accompanied Barnabas the Paul for a while, decided to leave the entourage and return home (Acts 13:5-13). Later, when Barnabas wanted Paul and him to take Mark with them on a second journey, Paul refused, and the men went their separate ways. Barnabas and Mark became a team and departed for Cyprus. Paul chose Silas, and they departed for Syria and Cilicia (Acts 15:39, 41). However, in time Paul and Mark reconciled. Mark had become a credit to the cause of Christ. So Paul asked the Colossians to put out the welcome mat for Mark if he should ever visit them.
C. Jesus, who is called Justus (verse 11)
Christian friends may not always see eye to eye. They may hold contrasting opinions or convictions and may even separate from each other, but they should be as quick to forgive as they were to separate. They ought to understand that people and situations do change. We are all imperfect, but the Lord is perfect. He can and does work patiently and perfectly in our lives to make us, like Mark, “profitable … for the ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11). Aristarchus and Mark, both Jews, were joined by another Jew in sending greetings to the Colossians. His name was Jesus, but he was called Justus. Perhaps his humility would not permit him to be addressed by the Savior’s name. This Christian worker, who anticipated Messiah’s Kingdom, had cheered Paul during his long confinement. Thus, the apostle Paul identified Aristarchus, Marcus, and Justus as his “fellow workers unto the kingdom of God, which have been a comfort unto me”. As devout saved Jews, these three men joined Paul in working for Christ in anticipation of His glorious messianic Kingdom. Those who work faithfully for Christ, knowing that someday He will set up His Kingdom on earth, provide one another with friendly encouragement just a Paul’s three friends encouraged him.
III. EPAPHRAS, LUKE, AND DEMAS; FRIENDS PRAY FOR ONE ANOTHER (12-16)
Colossians 4:12-16, “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.
After passing along greetings from Aristarchus, Marcus, and Justus, Paul sent a big hello from Epaphras, who probably was the Colossians’ pastor, and a servant of Christ (4:12) who voluntarily worked like a slave for the sake of Christ. As a faithful spiritual leader, he prayed fervently for the Colossians. According to verse 12, he requested that God would guide them to spiritual maturity. He wanted them to be so well armed with sound doctrine that they would repel error. Paul testified that Epaphras had “a great zeal” for the Colossian believers and also for those who lived close to Colosse, in Laodicea and Hierapolis (v. 13). Paul greeted the Colossians on behalf of “Luke, the beloved physician” (v. 14). Luke had joined Paul at Troas (Acts 16), and had traveled with Paul from Troas to Philippi and ultimately from Philippi to Rome. His medical knowledge and care must have helped Paul immensely. We can only wonder how often he soothed Paul’s bumps and bruises after a persecution or a different trial had taken a heavy toll on Paul’s body. Luke was still at Paul’s side in Rome, perhaps providing medical relief for the sores that chains and shackles had inflicted. Even later, when Paul’s execution was imminent, Luke was at his side. In contrast to Luke was Demas (4:14). Paul didn’t commend Demas nor did he describe him in any way. Perhaps he had begun to see in Demas indicators that he was falling in love with the evil world. Later he lamented to Timothy, “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world” (2Timothy 4:10). Paul asked the Colossians to convey his greeting to their believing neighbors at Laodicea, to Nymphas, and to the church that assembled in Nymphas’ letters (4:15-16).
V. ARCHIPPUS; FRIENDS ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER
Colossians 4:17-18, “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”
Do you feel discouraged or overwhelmed in a ministry the Lord has given you? Don’t quit! Don’t throw in the towel; use it to dry your tears, or kneel on it and pray! Paul instructed the Colossians to encourage Archippus to take heed to and fulfill the ministry that he had received in the Lord (v. 17). Archippus, apparently the son of Philemon and Aphis (Philemon 2), must have held an office in the Colossian church. Perhaps the spread of Gnosticism had discouraged him. At any rate, he needed to view his ministry as a gift from the Lord and to regard his obligation to fulfill it as a mandate from the Lord. Clank, clank! Scrape, scrape! We can almost hear Paul’s chains clatter and rub the table as he signed his name to the letter to the Colossians. His concern and love for the Colossians were so strong that he personally attached his signature to his letter. As he closed the letter, he urged the Colossians to remember his bonds (v. 18). Their prayers would help him cope with the chains and maintain a joyful attitude. They would also support him as he witnessed to his guards and other unbelievers who came into contact with him. The prayers of Christian friends can turn trials into triumphs and oppressive situations into opportunities for sharing the gospel. We must pray more for one another and depend upon divine grace to sustain us. Praying friends help equip us for life.
A friend is someone we would like to spend time with. Companionship is a well-suited synonym for friendship. Solomon wrote about a friend who is always there. A genuine friend sets us free to be whom and what we are. We can pour out our doubts and talk freely about the wolves howling at the door of our life. A faithful friend will also affirm our worth. Solomon described a faithful friend who stays loyal even in times of tribulation or intense trouble. When afflictions are severe and hope dims, the faithful friend stands close. This can be said of these individuals that Paul mentions in the last pages of this epistle. Moreover, the book of Colossians has focused our attention on and depicts Jesus Christ as Creator, the Image of God, the Preeminent One, Redeemer, Head of the Church, Reconciler, and risen Lord. Thus, Jesus Christ alone is sufficient for what we long for because He alone:
(1) Can save us from our sin and from ourselves;
(2) Stands as the only doorway to eternal life;
(3) Is the one who makes strained relationships new;
(4) Is the one who changes the hearts of sinful and self-centered people so their desire is to serve one another.
The book of Colossians also depicts every believer as completely forgiven, delivered from the power of darkness, fully at peace with God, risen with Christ, and enjoying full access to the grace of God. Simply put we are complete in Christ Jesus. Lastly, someone summed up the picture of the apostle Paul this way. He had a great capacity for people, for sharing his ministry and for supporting those who supported him in his ministry. Notice how he speaks of Tychicus, “a beloved brother, faithful minister, fellow servant in the Lord.” Of Onesimus he says, “A faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you.” And then in verse 11, he speaks of individuals, Jewish individuals, the three as being, “Fellow workers unto the kingdom of God which had been a comfort to me.” And of Epaphras of whom he has spoken already. He says, “He has a great zeal for you and them that are in Laodicea and them in Hierapolis.” The apostle Paul also had another thing that stands out. He had a great capacity for single mindedness in the service of the Lord. Paul never gave up and was an individual who had one goal in life, which was to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ through his Christian life and service, and never ceased in seeking to reach that goal. And at the end of his life, you’ll remember in 2 Timothy in chapter 4, he speaks about his life, and he says, “I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight. I have finished my course. I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous judge shall give me at that day, and not to me only, but to all them also that love his appearing.”
The story has been told of a young man who wished to marry the farmer’s beautiful daughter. He went to the farmer to ask his permission. The farmer looked him over and responded, “Son, go stand out in that field and I’m going to release three bulls, one at a time. If you can catch the tail of any one of the three bulls, you can marry my daughter.” The barn door opened and out ran the biggest, meanest-looking bull he had ever seen. He decided that one of the next bulls had to be a better choice than this one, so he ran over to the side and let the bull pass through the pasture. The barn door opened again. Unbelievable. He had never seen anything so big and fierce in his life. It stood — pawing the ground, grunting, slinging slobber — as it eyed him. Whatever the next bull was like, it had to be a better choice than this one. He ran to the fence and let the bull pass through the pasture out the back gate. The door opened a third time. A smile came across his face. This was the weakest, scrawniest little bull he had ever seen. This one was his bull. As the bull came running by, he positioned himself just right and jumped at just the exact moment. He grabbed … but the bull had no tail! My brethren, life is full of opportunities for us each day. Some will be easy to take advantage of, some will be difficult; however, once we let them pass, often in hopes of something better, those opportunities may never again be available. The same thing is also true of opportunities to serve and witness for Jesus Christ. God often opens doors of opportunities for us to:
(1) Speak up for Him,
(2) Minister in His name,
(3) Minister to someone in need,
(4) Be an influence on individuals.
However, if we allow them to pass by (perhaps because we are waiting for something easier to come along), we may miss out on them altogether. The Bible has a message of the good news about the Friend (Jesus Christ) who cared enough for you to die as your substitute on the cross at Calvary. Jesus Christ is the friend of the lonely, the friend of the unhappy, and the friend of the unloved. It’s about the Friend who loves each of us with a love that can never be alienated, who sticks closer than a brother, and who understands us completely. My friend, if you don’t know Him as Savior, He extends His nail-scarred hand and invites you to be His friend and Savior. Essentially we have two choices … keep to ourselves or open the door of our heart to a friendship of unlimited love, guidance and eternal life.
Though human friendships may sometimes fail, Christ’s friendship will always prevail.