#18 Colossians 4:7-18 "God Knows Names"

7 Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. 8 I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts, 9 and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you of everything that has taken place here.

10 Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, welcome him), 11 and Jesus who is called Justus. These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me. 12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. 13 For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. 14 Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas. 15 Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. 16 And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea. 17 And say to Archippus, “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.”

18 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.  ESV

Why should you spend time reading about these people with weird names who lived almost 2,000 years ago? How can it help you to know that Nympha hosted a church in her home or that Jesus (Paul’s team member) was also called Justus? The reason these people are mentioned by name is because each one of them mattered to God. They were all uniquely chosen by the Father, adopted into his family and given abilities, Spiritual giftedness and uniquely specific responsibilities in his kingdom. These names are to remind you that they were the first members of Christ’s Church worldwide and that just as God called and equipped them, he has been calling and equipping his saints since that time, all over the world and from all walks of life. These names are a vivid reminder that he called you and is equipping you to do the Kingdom work he has uniquely created you to do (Eph 2:8-10).

Think about the diverse team that worked with Paul to spread the fantastic news about Jesus throughout that region of the world.

·       Tychicus was one of Paul’s most trusted emissaries who delivered his letters to the churches in Colossae and Ephesus. He was with Paul until his death (2 Tim 4:12).

·       Onesimus was a runaway slave who apparently came to faith in Christ through Paul’s ministry in Rome. Philemon was his owner and was a member of the church in Colossae. On his trip to Colossae, Tychicus delivered Paul’s letter to the church and his letter to Philemon. He urged Philemon to forgive Onesimus and to receive him as a brother in Christ rather than as a runaway slave (Philemon 1:1-25).

·       Aristarchus had been traveling with Paul since joining him in Ephesus (Acts 19:29) and was now a prisoner with him. Just because Paul wrote little about him, doesn’t mean he was less valuable. Are you in the spot light or back stage? Can you picture how Aristarchus may have encouraged Paul as he wrote the Prison Epistles?

·       Mark traveled with Paul and Barnabas on the first missionary journey. But Mark left them during the trip and Paul was so upset that he would not allow Mark to rejoin him on the second journey. That is when Paul and Barnabas separated (Acts 15:37-40) and went their separate ways, with Mark joining Barnabas. But the power of Christ’s agapé love reconciled Paul and Mark and 10 years later Paul wrote about how very useful Mark was for ministry (2 Tim 4:11). Mark, also called John Mark, was the author of the Gospel of Mark. Never doubt the power of Jesus to reconcile believers. Do you need to be reconciled to another follower?

·       Jesus, which was a common name in the first century, was also called Justus. Think about this man. The Spirit did not inspire Paul to say anything more about him, except to include him as a Jewish team member who, like the others listed, was a fellow worker for the kingdom of God and a comfort  to Paul (v11). He was a backstage hand who faithfully served as God enabled him, but was never in man's spot light.

·       Epaphras was the founding pastor of the church in Colossae who met with Paul to share how the church was doing and the challenges it was facing. We learn of his heart for his home town people (v12) as well as his love for his fellow believers in the neighboring cities of Laodicea and Hierapolis. Why don’t more parents name their sons “Epaphras”? He must have had a special calling by God to pray for fellow believers. You may not be branded as a “prayer warrior” like Epaphras apparently was, but you can also struggle on behalf of those you pray for, that they may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.

·       Luke was Paul’s especially faithful companion and chronicler. He recorded most of Paul’s letters, excluding some of the salutations (v18), and also wrote the Gospel of Luke and Acts. He was exceptionally literate but being a physician does not mean he was a man of high social standing. In those days, many physicians were slaves.

·       Demas is a warning to you. He was apparently faithful during the writing of this letter but later abandoned Paul because of his love with this present world (2 Tim 4:10). Paul no doubt saw this happen to many believers as he urged the saints in Romans 12:1-2 to be a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God and to not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of their minds. Don’t be a Demas! And yes, it is a play on words!!

·       Nympha was a woman in Laodicea who hosted the church in her home. Since her husband isn’t mentioned, she was probably a widow. There is no evidence of churches owning buildings until the middle of the third century. The early churches typically met in homes.

·       Archippus is a bit of a mystery. We don’t know if he was dodging his God-given ministry responsibilities or if Paul took this opportunity to encourage him in his role as co-pastor with Epaphras. Either way, here was a man who had been given a specific ministry from the Lord that was important to the health of the entire church. Pastors and leaders need special prayer and encouragement because their ministry is influential to so many. Pray continually for your pastor(s) and leaders according to 1:9-12. Encourage them every chance you get. They definitely need it!

The veracity of the Bible is proven once again in v16. The letter Paul wrote to the church in Laodicea was not inspired by God. The Lord did not protect and preserve that letter like he did Paul’s letters to the churches in Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossae and Thessalonica. We have no copies of a letter from Paul to the church in Laodicea because it was not God’s divinely inspired Word. The letter was no doubt helpful to the church and true to the faith, but not God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16). Be encouraged that your Bible is indeed God’s divinely inspired Word. Jesus said that you will remain (menó) in him as his words remain (menó) in you (John 15:1-11). The old apostle John wrote that you will remain (menó) in the Son and the Father if the truth remains (menó) in you (1 John 2:24-25). Continue reading his holy Word. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly (3:16) so that you can apply it to every situation you face. As you continue (menó) in his words, you will grow in your devotion to your heavenly Father who loves you with an everlasting love.

Take Action:

- Spend time reviewing your favorite passages in Colossians. How have these readings helped you to stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God (v12)? How will you continue?

- Epaphras prayed earnestly for his fellow believers to be mature and faithful to follow the whole will of God. Own the prayer of 1:9-12 and pray that way for yourself and others. 

May the God of hope, fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that through the power of the Holy Spirit, you will abound in hope. Romans 15:13