Updated date:

The Friends Who Make Ministry Possible Colossians 4:7-18

I am a Christian pastor who wishes to bring glory to God in all that I do, and to help people through my writing to know Him better.

the-friends-that-make-ministry-possible-colossians-47-18

Introduction: No Ministry is Done Alone

On the website 'Sermon Central' I found this illustration contributed by pastor Wade Martin Hughes Sr. He writes:

TEAM: Together Everyone Accomplishes More!

I was a college student in the early ’70’s.

There was a required course called Music Appreciation.

We had to spend hours in the music library listening to Masterpieces from the music greats.

One day while digging through some old albums, I ran across this title that caught my eye, THE UNASHAMED ACCOMPANIMENT.

I stopped and read the small print. Seems this pianist played for the great opera singers.

He often played for the famed tenor singer, Luciano Pavarotti in Italy, at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, London, and Paris.

He also played for many other great and famous singers.

But people never knew him, he was just an accompaniment.

The marquee never had this man’s name, and if it did, it was in very small letters. And 31 years later I don’t remember his name?

I just remember THE UNASHAMED ACCOMPANIMENT.

His talent was used to support and complement and bring completeness to great vocal masters. This musician was a master of his art but he was

always in a subordinate part, A SUPPORTIVE PART.

It was John Donne who wrote that "No man is an Island, entire of itself." In other words a person requires the accompaniment and support of others, as well as society as a whole in order to thrive. Nowhere is that true more than in the ministry. And the Apostle Paul knew that fact very well.

In Colossians 4:7-18 we are coming to the end of this great book by the Apostle on the supremacy and all-sufficiency of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul is writing from Rome under house arrest to these dear saints that he has never met in person but he has, nonetheless, been a vast influence upon them.

The church had been started under the ministry of Epaphras, which is a shortened version of the name Epaphroditus. This godly man was a disciple of the Apostle Paul from Ephesus. So already we see how Paul's ministry has expanded by way of friends and fellow members of the Body of Christ. They were his unashamed accompaniment.

And now that heretics had entered the church who were denying the deity and true humanity of Jesus Christ, Paul is personally getting involved with these dear saints at Colossae by this letter.

Obviously, he still can't do it alone. Being under house arrest for preaching the gospel, he is in no position to go to see the Colossians himself. So he sends this letter by the hands of two friends.

I. Paul's Introduction of Tychicus and Onesimus (7-9)

Paul begins this final section by introducing the persons he sent to them with the letter, Tychicus and his companion Onesimus. It is they also who will tell the Colossians what is going on with Paul and his imprisonment.

In verses 7-9 we see what he relays to the church in his letter. He states:

"As to all my affairs, Tychichus, our beloved brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will bring you information. 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; and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of your number. They will inform you about the whole situation here."

It was Epaphras who brought the news from Colossae to Paul. However, apparently he wouldn't be able to return soon, for some reason, so Paul sent Tychicus and Onesimus.

It seems, from the way Paul introduced Tychicus that the Colossians didn't know who he was either. However, the Apostle knew him well. His name means 'fortuitous or fortunate.' He was a Gentile convert of Paul mentioned in Acts 20:4 who was among the men who came from the Roman province of Asia to Jerusalem in order to deliver an offering to the needy Christians at Jerusalem and Judea.

Tychicus was indeed a reliable companion of the Apostle and seemed to be a capable leader as well. We read in II Timothy 4:12 and Titus 3:12 that, on two separate occasions, he was considered as a replacement for Titus and Timothy.

It is interesting to see that, if you look at Ephesians 6:21,22 the reference to Tychicus is almost identical word for word. Because of this many scholars conclude that he is, more than likely, the bearer of the letter to the Ephesians as well. He also had the responsibility to deliver the book of Philemon that Paul also wrote from his prison cell in Rome.

Also, there is Onesimus. For anyone familiar with the book of Philemon, Onesimus is someone you already know about. He was once the run-away slave owned by Philemon, who lived in Colossae. Onesimus met Paul and was converted to Christ. He then became a dedicated helper of the Apostle. Paul wrote the short letter to Philemon asking him to accept Onesimus back, no longer as a slave, but as a brother.

The Apostle Paul could have referred to Onesimus by telling everyone he was a run-away slave. However, he chose to call him "a faithful and beloved brother." And he also pointed out that he was now one of them (9). We need to note this is in keeping with Paul's teaching in Galatians 3:28 where he states that when you come to know Jesus as Savior:

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

In ancient society where racism, sexism and slavery were rampant and ingrained in the very culture, this was absolutely revolutionary. Is it any wonder that Christianity , with it's concept of all mankind being created in the image of God, went on to turn the ancient world upside down and, after many centuries, has created some of most free societies in the history of the world.

Paul concludes this introduction of these two men by saying that both of them would inform the Colossians about what is going on in Rome. Once again he doesn't distinguish between slave and free man here. They are on equal footing.

II. Greetings From Paul's Jewish Friends (10-11)

The next few sections are full of several greetings of various saints along with some admonitions by the Apostle Paul. To us these people may be just a list of names from 2000 years ago and most of the time we pass right over them. However, to Paul and to others who lived then, they were trusted confidants, companions and friends. And they were ministry partners that helped Paul complete his task of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ wherever the Lord lead him.

Verses 10 and 11 have greetings from Paul's 3 faithful Jewish friends. The first is Aristarchus. This is the Greek name of a Jewish man from Thessalonica. He was Paul's travel companion. And he had a habit of being with the Apostle during the hard times. Which makes him a good friend.

For example, he was with Paul when the Ephesian mob seized him in Acts 19:29. In Acts 27:2 we find Aristarchus with Paul again when he set sail under Roman imprisonment. Here in this book, the Apostle calls this man his fellow prisoner. Some have even suggested that Aristarchus made himself Paul's prisoner in order to be able to journey with him to Rome. Now how's that for companionship?

Paul's next Jewish friend to send greetings is Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. The Colossians were given the instructions:

"If he comes, welcome him."

If you recall, Paul had had a falling out with both Barnabas and Mark because Mark had deserted Paul while on his first missionary journey. Barnabas wanted to take Mark with them again later but Paul didn't want him to go. This lead to a major argument between Barnabas and Paul and them splitting up.

Now Paul is understanding why Barnabas saw all the potential in Mark. And he became one of Paul's trusted friends. Little did either one of them know that this scared young man would go on to write one of the four gospels. And he'd later travel across the Mediterranean to found the Coptic Church in Egypt, which is the oldest Christian body of believers in the world today.

The third Jewish friend that Paul mentions is Jesus who is called Justus. We know very little about this man except for his name. However Paul does number him among the others who were comforters while he was in custody before his Roman trial before Caesar.

We see that these men were Paul's only fellow-workers for the Kingdom of God who were of the circumcision. In other words they were the only Jews at this time. However, they did more than their fair share by being a major comfort to the Apostle.

III. Greetings from Epaphras (12-13)

Paul moves on to offer greetings from Epaphras in verses 12 and 13. This man was doing a great thing for the church. He was a fervent prayer warrior. The Apostle called him a bondservant of Jesus Christ, which is a title he often gave to himself. He labored fervently or earnestly for them in prayer. He worked hard at it because of the false teaching that was going on in Colossae. He prayed that they would stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God.

His deep prayer life came from a great zeal or deep concern for the Colossians and for those in Laodicea and Hierapolis. Obviously, if he had no concern for them he wouldn't have been praying in the first place, let alone in the fervent way he was praying for these cities. The truth is that we all need an Epaphras in our lives to talk to God on our behalf like this man did.

IV. Greetings from Luke and Demas (14)

The next greetings come from Luke and Demas. This is one of the passages that informs us that Luke, the writer of the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts, was a physician. He traveled often with Paul on his missionary journeys. Some have suggested that Luke was in Rome because he had recently finished his gospel along with the book of Acts. They think that these two documents together formed a kind of 'friend of the court' report which would explain to the Romans why Paul stood before Caesar's court.

Demas, who is talked about here, is mentioned more than once by Paul in his various writings. In Colossians nothing is said except that he greeted the church there. In Philemon, which has only one chapter, we see in verse 24 that Paul groups Demas among his fellow laborers. However, we find in II Timothy 4:10 that Demas had abandoned Paul and the ministry because "he loved this present world" and went to Thessalonica. Unfortunately, things like this still happen today. We see people start out well but who don't finish well. And they end up hurting the cause of Christ.

V. Greetings to Those in Laodicea, Nympha and the Church in Her House (15)

Paul winds down his book by asking the Colossians to greet the brothers who are in Laodicea. This is a neighboring city to Colossae, along with Hieropolis.

Laodicea, later in history, is mentioned in the book of Revelation by the Apostle John who gave a scathing rebuke of them about being lukewarm rather than hot or cold (Revelation 3:14-22). But at this time that Paul is writing all is fine and they are considered a sister church with whom Colossae has fellowship.

The Apostle also tells the Colossians to greet Nympha and the church that meets in her house. During this time of persecution there were no church buildings to meet in, so people often met in the homes of fellow Christians.

There is some manuscript discrepancy here so it is not clear whether the name Nympha should be translated as a masculine or feminine.. The King James uses the masculine Nymphas and translates it as 'his' house as opposed to her house. But these are minor details which don't affect our theological understanding. They are just worth noting as you read different versions of the Bible.

VI. Final Instructions, Admonitions and Greetings (16-18)

The Apostle ends this great book with some instructions and an admonition to another colleague. He then gives a final greeting by his own hand, since he probably had dictated the rest of the letter.

He instructed that the Colossian letter be given to the Laodiceans after the Colossians had read it, and also that they should read a letter that had been sent to the Laodiceans. Many believe that this was the book that has now come to be known as the book of Ephesians. Ephesians is believed to be a circular letter that went to various church's rather than to just one.

Paul then admonishes Archippus by telling the Colossians to relate the following words to him. He told him to:

"Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it."

Archippus is also mentioned in the book of Philemon where Paul calls him: "our fellow soldier." And it was further revealed that there was a church that had been meeting in his house.

Because of this mention in the book of Philemon some believe that Archippus was actually the son of Philemon.

The final admonition from the Apostle asks that the Colossians remember his imprisonment. This is a personal appeal to his friends and beloved companions in the ministry to think of him as he serves the Lord in Rome while in prison. He doesn't say it in this passage but he is probably implying that he wanted to have them pray for him while he was in bondage whenever they happened to remember the trials he was facing.

And with that we come to the conclusion of this wonderful letter by the pen of Paul.

Conclusion

As we sum up the book of Colossians it is so easy to just pass over these final words and never really think about them. However, the Holy Spirit has preserved this section. But, more importantly, He has preserved the names of these people for all of these centuries for a reason.

They were actual people with real lives. And these lives touched the life of the Apostle Paul as his did theirs. When we think of how the Apostle was able to spread the gospel all over the world, it was not just him alone that did it. It was he and these people as well as a host of many others that the Lord used to turn the world upside down with the good news that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died on the cross for our sins, was buried, was raised again so that all who believe in Him can have life through His name.

This life, and especially the ministry, was never intended to be a solo act. The people who lead as well as all those behind the scenes are what it takes to change the world with the gospel.

None of us should ever think that we aren't important in our church or in the world in which the Lord has placed us. We might not get our names put in the Bible for others to read about 2000 years later. However, all that we do is being noted by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself and we will one day be rewarded for our faithfulness.

Someone once said:

"I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will."

The bottom line is that you matter to God. And you matter to the church that you attend. Further, God can use you and your little world to impact the whole world with the good news of Jesus Christ. We are in this together. And together, by God's power, we are strong. May He move us in the direction He wants us to go and empower us for His service.

© 2021 Jeff Shirley

Related Articles