Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts, 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.
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), 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. 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. For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas. Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. 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. And say to Archippus, “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.”
I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.
Colossians 4:7–18 ESV
We now come to the conclusion of Paul’s letter to the Colossian church. Upon seeing the large list of names, one can be very tempted to pass over quickly this final section of Scripture. However, because we believe that all Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, we know that there are treasures to be found within this text (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Nevertheless, the nature of these verses is quite unlike the rest of the letter, so we must treat it differently. In his final words of the letter, Paul lists some of the men that have been important to his life and ministry. We must understand that there was nothing particularly special about these men, except that they loved Jesus more than anything. Some had well-known failures. Some would eventually desert the faith. But all of these men were used by God for His purposes. Thus, as we examine the lives of these men, let us consider our own place in God’s great story.
TYCHICUS & ONESIMUS // VERSES 7-9
Tychicus: the encouraging delivery man
Tychicus is the first of Paul companions that we meet. As with most of these men, few details are known regarding Tychicus. We do know that he is from Asia (Acts 20:4). Also, Tychicus is tasked with delivering the letters of Ephesians and Titus. Paul’s description of Tychicus is ultimately all we need to know of him. He was a beloved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant to Paul. The apostle, thus, explains that he sent Tychicus with the expressed purpose of encouraging and serving the Colossians with news from Paul.
I was chatting one day with a foreign mission executive about a mutual friend who had been forced to resign from his work on the field. “There was no problem with sin or anything like that,” my friend explained. “His whole difficulty is that he is a loner. He can’t work well with other people. On the mission field, it’s a team effort or it’s nothing.Wiersbe, 151.
Onesimus: the new believer
Onesimus is our second companion. Notice that Paul does not call Onesimus a minister or servant. This likely means that Onesimus was not actively apart of Paul’s missionary work. Instead, Onesimus was a runaway slave that met Paul and converted to Christianity. Because both Onesimus and his master Philemon lived in Colossae, Paul was likely sending Onesimus back to Philemon with the biblical letter that we call Philemon. Though Onesimus was likely still a new believer, Paul lovingly calls him a beloved and faithful brother. Paul already considered Onesimus a part of his Christian family.
ARISTARCHUS, MARK, & JUSTUS // VERSES 10-11
Aristarchus: the prisoner for Christ
Aristarchus, along with the other two men mentioned in these verses, was a Jewish Christian and a travel companion of Paul. He was a Macedonian from Thessalonica and was presently a prisoner alongside Paul (Acts 27:2). However, Aristarchus also shared in Paul’s trial outside of prison. In Acts 19, we read that Aristarchus was dragged before an unruly mob in Ephesus for being a Christian (Acts 19:29). Aristarchus was a truly faithful companion to Paul, one that shared all of the highs and lows of the journey.
Mark: the dropout
John Mark is best known as the writer of the Gospel of Mark in the Bible. Mark was a young man who accompanied Paul and his cousin Barnabas early on in their ministry (Acts 13:4). However, for some reason, Mark abandoned the missionary journey in Perga of Pamphylia after only a few stops (Acts 13:13). Mark returned to his home of Jersusalem, where his mother hosted a church in her home (Acts 12:12). Later, Mark wanted to travel with Paul and Barnabas a second time. Paul was adamantly against bringing Mark, while Barnabas was for it. This caused “a sharp disagreement” that separated Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:37-39). Fortunately, past failures do not disqualify us from walking with Christ. As long as there is repentance, no sin or failure is too great to be forgiven. Barnabas’ embracing of Mark turned out well because Mark ended up becoming a close disciple of Peter, which is where many believe Mark’s Gospel came from (1 Peter 5:13). Paul’s relationship with Mark was restored as well. At the end of his life, Paul requested that Timothy bring Mark to him because Mark was useful in the ministry (2 Tim. 4:11). At the time of this letter, Mark’s restoration was likely not fully known. Thus, he instructed the Colossians to fully welcome Mark, even though they might have heard of his desertion. John Mark is a testament to the faithfulness and grace of God. “If we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself” (2 Tim. 2:13).
Jesus (Justus): the unknown servant
Jesus Justus is only mentioned here in the entire Bible, so beside this one mention, nothing is known of him. Though we will likely never know anything about this man this side of heaven, we can rest assured that the Lord knows his deeds. The simple fact is that most Christians will not be Pauls, Calvins, or Spurgeons. Nearly all followers of Christ will earn little or no recognition in this lifetime. Fortunately, we do not work for fame or recognition. The greatest reward for the Christian is hearing our Lord and Savior say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:21, 23).
It is interesting to note that the name Jesus was quite common in the first century. In Hebrew, Jesus is Yeshua (or Joshua). Jesus, in English, came from the Greek version of Jesus.
EPAPHRUS // VERSES 12-13
Epaphrus: the church planter and prayer warrior
We have already somewhat discussed Epaphrus in the first chapter of Colossians. Epaphras was the one who reported to Paul about the formation of the church in Colossae. Now we learn why Epaphras decided to plant a church in Colossae: he was a Colossian himself. Though the church planter was currently with Paul, probably in prison along with Aristarchus (Philemon 23), Epaphras continues to labor for the Colossians. He work hard on their behalf through prayer. Note how he prayed.
First, he prayed without ceasing, always. I heard a man once say that he could not remember the last time that he prayed for one whole hour, but he also could not remember the last hour when he did not pray.
Second, he struggles in prayer. This literally means that he agonized in prayer. The word is used elsewhere to describe Jesus in the garden: “And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” “We get the impression that prayer was serious business with Epaphras! This Greek word was used to describe the athletes as they gave themselves fully to their sports. If church members today put as much concern and enthusiasm into their praying as they did into their baseball games or bowling, we would have revival” (Wiersbe, 151)!
Third, he prayed specifically for the Colossians. Though it is not wrong to pray for general or unspecific causes, there is something truly special about praying for individuals that we know. Epaphras knew the Colossians well, and even though he was away from them, he continued to pray to the Father on their behalf.
Finally, he prayed with purpose. Specifically, Epaphras prayed for the maturity and full assurance of the Colossians. Ultimately, God is the only one who is able to keep us faithful until the end; thus, Epaphras knew that he needed to come to the Father in pray for them in this regard.
LUKE & DEMAS // VERSE 14
Luke: the doctor for Christ
Luke is the author of two crucial books: the Gospel of Luke and Acts. He was a Gentile and like the only non-Jewish author in the Bible. Paul refers to him here as the beloved physician. Given all of Paul’s physical sufferings, many scholars believe that his body was in less than ideal shape. Luke was probably a tremendous comfort to him on his journeys. Nowhere is Luke’s comforting presence better seen than in 2 Timothy 2:11. There Paul informs Timothy that “Luke alone is with me.”
Demas: the one that fell away
In sharp contrast to Luke faithful presence, we now come to Demas. This is the only companion on the list that no one should seek to imitate. Demas is only mentioned two other times in the Bible: once in Philemon and then in 2 Timothy. Paul writes of Demas in 2 Timothy: “For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.” We do not know what caused Demas to abandon the faith. Perhaps, by being in love with the present world, Paul meant that Demas was too afraid for his own life to truly live for Christ. Or maybe, he became inticed with money, as many are prone to do. The only certainty that we have is that without proper monitoring of our own walks no one is above being another Demas. We need constent grace from God in order not to fall away from the faith. Ultimately, by rejecting the faith, Demas proved that he never truly knew Christ.
LAODICEA & NYMPHA // VERSES 15-16
As mentioned in the background on Colossians, Laodicea and Hierapolis were neighboring cities of Colossae. Thus, because of their proximity, Paul urges the Colossians and Laodiceans to share their respective letters with one another. Though Paul wrote each letter with a specific audience in mind, he understood that the content applied to all believers. Even if the Ephesians were not wrestling with grace and works, Galatians is still a marvelous letter to read in regards to our daily walk. Many also wonder at Paul’s mention of his letter to the Leodiceans. My thought is that if God wanted that letter preserved and placed in Scripture He would have. Therefore, there is no point in wondering what the letter said because obviously it was not important enough for the Holy Spirit to preserve it for us today. After all, we also suspect that Paul wrote no less than four letters to Corinthians (of which we only have two). Paul wrote many letters, but the Holy Spirit only preserved thirteen because they are the ones that we needed.
Nympha: the church host
The only woman in this list, Nympha, is mentioned nowhere else in the Bible. We only know that Nympha allowed the church to meet within her home. This was a very common practice for the first couple of centuries. Christianity was very unpopular with the Roman Empire; thus, church buildings would have been both unwise and unwanted. Fortunately, the place of worship matters little. The church is the people of God, not a building. Nympha, like many other woman of her day, served the church greatly by allowing the congregation to meet in her own home. Given that most services involved eating a meal together, Nympha certainly worked mightily for the gospel.
ARCHIPPUS // VERSES 17-18
Archippus: the ministry worker
The Bible records nothing more of Archippus than what is said here; therefore, we know nothing of who he was or what ministry he received from the Lord. Paul gave a similar command of fulling one’s ministry to Timothy, which for Timothy was the work of an evangelist (2 Tim. 4:5). In the end, Archippus’ line of ministry is of little importance to us today. However, Paul’s encouragement/command transcends Archippus himself and falls upon each of us. “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.” Every Christian is given a ministry. Every believer has a function within the body of Christ. Fulfill your ministry.
Paul then concludes his letter in verse 18 by writing this final portion with his own hand, meaning that Timothy probably scribed the rest of the letter. Grace is the great blessing upon all Christians.