Grace For The Journey
The technological changes that have occurred in less than 200 years are mind boggling. Prior to the invention of the telegraph in 1844, if you wanted to get a message to someone in another location out of hearing range or line of sight, you had to physically send the message. Whether it was written or spoken, someone had to physically take the message from you and deliver it. The telegraph allowed for electronic signals to transmit code for written messages over long distances. The first transcontinental line was completed in the United States in 1861. The International Telegraph Union was formed in 1865 and the first transatlantic cable was laid in 1866. These were amazing developments, but even with the continuing expansion of telegraph lines, communication was limited to one message at a time which had to be coded, sent, then decoded and then physically given to the intended recipient.
Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876. For the first time a voice could be transmitted electronically. There were 3,000 phones in 1877 and 10,000 in 1878. Improvements in circuitry, components, and transmission allowed for rapid expansion with 1.4 million phones in service by 1900. A transcontinental phone line was completed in 1915 and the push was to develop “universal service” which would enable anyone that wanted a telephone to get one. There would be 15 million phones in the U.S. by 1940, 30 million in 1948, and over 100 million by 1971.
Long distance technologies continued to advance as well with microwave transmitters being introduced in 1946 and the first mobile phones were made available in St. Louis that same year. Telecommunications satellites began to be launched in the 1960’s and long-distance communication made another huge leap forward. What was once an impossible dream, which then became an expensive reality, is now so inexpensive little thought is given to it.
Experimental cell phone service began in Chicago in 1977. There are now hundreds of millions of cell phone users around the world with cell phones dominating in some countries. The blending of computer technologies into the cell phone now allows not only voice, but text, pictures, video, and connection to the internet.
All of this simply to say that what we now think as routine is so radically different from even a relatively short time ago that the people back then could not have even imagined it. Families separated by thousands of miles can communicate in a wide variety of ways. Sometimes they might send physical items by mail which can take one to two weeks or longer, but most of the time they can now use methods that allow them to communicate in or near real time. They can email, send instant messages, send files of pictures, video, and documents that need to be signed and sent back. We they have talked on the phone and by computer now can both talk and see their loved ones in real time. All with just the punching of some buttons on the phone, tablet, or computer.
All of that to make these two simple points: 1) It is important for people to communicate to one another. Our technological changes have made that easy, in fact, perhaps too easy since we have also had to devise ways from being overwhelmed by all of it; and 2) Communication has not always been so easy and the importance of it is seen in all that one has to go through in order to accomplish it.
Paul is in prison in Rome and he is informed by Ephaphras about a concerning situation that was developing in Colossae. Paul wants to respond to the dangers that were rising and help them by giving them instruction, encouragement, and warnings. He is also aware that they will want to know about him and what is happening in Rome, but Paul cannot pick up a phone and call them. He cannot email them or send a telegram. He cannot even write a letter and have it put into the Roman mail system. None of those things existed. If he wants to communicate with them, he will have to compose a letter and find someone who will hand carry it to them. That is exactly what Paul does which we learn about in Colossians 4:7-9 in his recommendation to them of the men that carried his letters, “As to all my affairs, Tychicus, [our] beloved brother and faithful servant and fellow bond-servant in the Lord, will bring you information. 8 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; 9 and with him Onesimus, [our] faithful and beloved brother, who is one of your [number.] They will inform you about the whole situation here.”
In these three verses are three statements concerning Tychicus and Onesimus telling the Colossians the news from Paul and Rome. Paul did not write those matters down for they were not as critical as his instructions, encouragements, and warnings to them about the heresies that were arising in Colossae. Tychicus and Onesimus could verbally tell them the news when they arrived. The major responsibility for this fell on Tychicus for he is specifically mentioned as the one that would tell them about Paul and his affairs. Both men together would inform them about the situation in Rome.
There are several aspects to what these men would be telling the Colossians. First, verse 7 tells us that Tychicus would make known to them Paul’s affairs. This would be the personal news about Paul and his situation. Paul emphasizes this in verse 8 by stating that part of the reason he had sent Tychicus to them was so that they might know his circumstances. That in itself says something about Paul’s own sensitivity toward others.
It is not uncommon to find men who seem to want to remain reclusive and hidden even from those that care about them. Paul was not that way. He was not a braggart or in any way fixated on himself as so many media stars are in our own time, but neither did he hide himself away. Remember from yesterday’s blog that Paul desired for them to pray for him. Paul desired God to open a door for him to proclaim the gospel and be clear in the way he ought to speak in his preaching. He wanted the Colossians to be part of that by prayer. Making sure they knew about his situation and circumstances would make those prayers possible and more effective since they could pray specifically for them.
There is a balance that all Christians need to maintain in their ministries . . .
You need to be vulnerable and open enough
So that others can join into that ministry
Through effective and specific prayers
And then also join in praise to God for His answers.
At the same time, you must be
Careful not to say so much that you
Become self-centered and self-serving.
Paul maintained that balance.
Paul’s emphasis was actually on the Colossians since that is the second but more important reason that he had sent Tychicus to them. Paul wanted them to be encouraged by the letter and the personal ministry Tychicus would have among them. Certainly they would be encouraged when Tychicus would tell them personally about how God was using Paul among the Praetorian guard and among Caesar’s household as is mentioned in Philippians; but more importantly, Paul wanted them to be encouraged by what he had written in his letter to them. Tychicus would be able to personally minister to them in regards to all that was written in the letter. He could both explain what they might not understand and help them make personal application of its truths.
In verse 9 we find that both Tychicus and Onesimus would be able to make known to them everything about what was taking place in the ministry that was occurring in Rome. This would certainly include a lot more than just matters concerning Paul since five more specific people are mentioned in Colossians 4:10-14 as sending their personal greetings to those in Colossae. The two men would be able to inform them about all of these people and more.
It is important that believers keep each other informed, but not for the purpose of just curiosity and gossip. You must avoid bragging and self-centeredness and yet reveal enough about yourself so that other believers can pray for you properly, specifically, and effectively. In that way they can enter into your life and what God is doing through you. This increases the praise to God as He performs that work. This also makes you properly vulnerable so that you can be encouraged where you are weak or struggling and corrected where you are wrong. The goal is for all of us to become conformed to the image of Christ. Keeping each other informed about our lives is part of that.
An Arduous Journey
Now before we go on to examine the character of these two men, I want to explain what they would have gone through to physically deliver Paul’s message to the Colossians. Paul was in prison in Rome and Colossae is in what is now western Turkey. They could not get on a plane and fly there. They could not get in a car and drive there. They would have to walk and take ships. It would be a major undertaking. Because of that, Paul would make the most of the effort that would be put forth.
Paul is also concerned about the other churches with which he has had contact. We know that Tychicus also carried the letter to the Ephesians (Ephesus 6:21) and that either he or Onesiums carried the letter to Philemon. It is also possible if not probable that the letter to the Philippians was sent at the same time. It appears that Epaphroditus carried that letter (Philippians 2:25-30) and he may have traveled with the others as far as Philippi. There may have even been additional letters. In Colossians 4:16 Paul refers to a letter to Laodicea that he wanted read among the Colossians and they in turn were to have their letter read in the church of the Laodiceans. Some of these circular letters to various churches became part of the New Testament.
There were three major ways possible for someone to travel from Rome to Colossae with some variation in each: 1) The easiest way physically would be to take a ship from Rome to Ephesus and then walk to Colossae. However, that would have been expensive and dangerous due to storms and pirates on the Mediterranean Sea. The danger of this is seen in Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians 11;25 that three times he had been shipwrecked and having to spend a night and a day in the deep in one of them; 2) A variation of this would be to have walked via Appia to Brundisium (348 miles) and then taken a ship. If Paul’s letter to Philippians was also being carried, which is highly probable, then they would have had to also go north in the Aegean Sea to Neapolis and Philippi and then returned south to Ephesus; and 3) The most difficult way physically would be to walk via Flaminia to Ariminium (204 miles), then via Gemina to Aquileia (205 miles), then via Flavia to Dalmatia & Dyrrachium (392 miles), then via Egnatia to Philippi and on to Byzantium (430 miles), and then to Colossae (407 miles). A journey of over 1,600 miles by foot and then they still had to go Ephesus an additional 120 miles.
The most probable route from Rome for this journey was to walk via Appia to Brundisium (348 miles) and then take a ship across the Adriatic Sea to Dyrrachium (100 miles), then walk the via Egnatia to Phillipi (410 miles) and deliver the letter there, and then to Neapolis (36 miles) to take a ship to Ephesus (260 miles) and deliver the letter there, then overland to Colossae (120 miles). A total of just over a 1,000 miles by foot and about 360 miles by sea.
No matter which route was taken, it would have been an arduous journey that would have been accompanied by many dangers – weather, supplies, injury, robbers. The importance of communication between Paul and these churches is seen in all that it took to deliver the letters. It also makes us realize that these letters would have been crafted with great thoughtfulness. They would not have been just his immediate reaction to news or thoughts for the moment as are so many of the blogs and posting on social network sites today.
Easy and instant communication has driven down careful thought in communication so that the vast majority of it – even in the news media – is a waste of time being thoughtless, inaccurate, incongruent, and sometimes just plain incomprehensible. We need to take to heart the warning in Proverbs 10:19-20, “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, But he who restrains his lips is wise. The tongue of the righteous is [as] choice silver, The heart of the wicked is [worth] little.” Take the time to think through things before you speak or post something you write and do not be like the foolish or wicked.
Paul’s commendation of Tychicus is not just in the words he says about him in this passage, but perhaps even more so in the responsibilities he entrusts to this man. The name “Tychicus” comes from a word that means “to hit the mark” or to “happen / obtain by chance” and so “fortunate.” He proved by God’s providence to be a fortunate find as a co-worker with Paul. By the time this letter was written about 61 AD, these men had already known each other several years and experienced quite a few things together.
We first meet Tychicus in Acts 20:4. He is included in the list of those that were traveling with Paul toward the end of his third missionary journey from Greece back to Jerusalem. Tychicus and Trophimus are specifically noted in that text as being from Asia. Trophimus is later specifically identified as being an Ephesian (Acts 21:29), so Tychicus may have been from another place in Asia.
While we tend to think of Asia as the oriental countries of the Far East or even of Turkey as “Asia Minor,” the term in Roman times referred to Proconsular Asia which is what is now western Turkey. There were various regions of Proconsular Asia and Luke’s usage of Asia is distinguished from the lands of Phrygia (Acts 2:9), Mysia (Acts 16:6), and Caria since he states that Miletus was not in Asia (Acts 20:16-17). Luke’s usage then of Asia was more in keeping with a reference to the area of Lydia with Ephesus being its major city.
Now it is possible that Paul could have met Tychicus in any number of places that he had traveled or even during Paul’s very brief visit to Ephesus at the end of his second missionary journey. It is more likely they met when Paul spent three years in Ephesus during his third missionary journey. Paul was preaching and teaching both Jews and Gentiles with Acts 19:10 recording that from Ephesus that, “all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord.” There was very good communication up the Lycus valley to Laodicea, Hieropolis, and Colossae since a major trade road extended east from Ephesus through that area. It is possible that some of those in Colossae may have previously met Tychicus.
When Paul left Ephesus to go to Macedonian and Greece, it appears that Tychicus went with him, or at least he joined Paul somewhere in Greece for that is where he is in the first reference to him in Acts 20:4. He then goes with Paul to Jerusalem. Paul’s desire was to help build and strengthen the relationship between the Jewish and Gentile churches. Paul had even taken up a collection from among the Gentile churches to take with him to Jerusalem for the poor Jewish believers there. Tychicus & Trophimus came as representatives of the Gentile church in Asia. It was Trophimus that was seen by “certain Jews from Asia” that became their excuse to cause the riot in the temple that led to Paul being arrested (Acts 21:28-29; 24:18).
Acts does not tell us what Tychicus did after Paul was arrested. Paul was in jail for two years before being sent to Rome (Acts 24:27ff). Tychicus may have returned to Asia for all or part of that period, or he may have traveled with Paul to Rome as well. It is apparent in Acts 27-28 that Paul has one or more people traveling with him (at minimum, Luke is with Paul). After Paul arrives in Rome he is there at least two years (Acts 28:30). Whether Tychicus was with Paul during this entire period or only a portion of it, he is in Rome while Paul is in prison. Paul learned to trust Tychicus over the time and travels they spent together, so he sends him as his messenger to Ephesus and Colossae to bring them the letters and make known to them his affairs and the situation in Rome. He is accompanied by Onesimus who is going back to Colossae and possibly Epaphroditus as well who is carrying Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
Paul commends Tychicus with three different but related descriptions in verse 7, “Tychicus, our beloved brother and faithful servant and fellow bond-servant in the Lord.”
Beloved Brother – This description reveals that Tychicus was not only a believer and therefore a member of the family of God and a brother in the Lord, but that his character was such that he had also gained the designation of beloved. This is a term of deep friendship. If you are part of God’s family, then you have many brothers and sisters in the Lord, but the reality is that only a few of them will become beloved to you. That will be due to both character and proximity in time and place.
There are many mature and wonderful Christians in the world, but we are finite creatures and only have the time and capacity to know and become true friends with a few of them. In fact, it will only be a very small portion of them that we will even meet this side of heaven, for the paths of our lives will not cross either physically or in time period. I have read about so many people I would have loved to have known, but they lived in a different time period or place. I find that one of the frustrations of this life is that there are also many people who are in proximity that I would like to spend more time with and know and serve better, but there simply is not enough time to do so. There are other obligations, responsibilities, and priorities that must be kept first. I suspect that many of you feel the same way. By God’s gracious providence, Tychicus and Paul met and became friends.
There is also an issue of maturity in becoming a beloved friend. There are a lot of immature Christians, and though we love them in the Lord, at present they can still be difficult to be around. Tychicus had demonstrated enough of a mature character that he became beloved to Paul. I think that puts us on safe ground in surmising that Tychicus was a living example of the character qualities Paul told the Colossians that he wanted them to put on – compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, patient, forgiving, and loving. When these qualities characterize your life then it is easy for others to consider you beloved to them.
Faithful Servant – This description commends his character trait of being faithful and his commitment to minister. The term “servant” is the common term for a person who serves another. The stress is on the work being done and not the condition of relationship to the one being served. It could be voluntary service or forced service as that of a slave. It was a common term for table waiters and came to be used for anyone who ministers to others. This term has been applied to many specific people mentioned in the New Testament including Phoebe (Romans 16:1), Apollos (1 Corinthian 3:5), Paul (Ephesians 3:7), Tychicus (Ephesians 6:21), Epaphras (Colossiasn 1:7), and Timothy (2 Corinthians 1:1; cf 6:4). It became a title for those meeting particular qualifications and holding responsibility in local churches (Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:8-10). However, God equips every Christian to serve Him in ministry (1 Corinthians 12:4-11) and your part is to be faithful in fulfilling it.
In the case of Tychicus, he was faithful in giving voluntary service to Paul and others. The word “faithful” here is referring to his reliability, not his belief or trust, though certainly the two elements are always connected. Tychicus was reliable because he believed the gospel and trusted the Lord for his life. Paul knew that he could count on Tychicus to not only safely deliver the letters, but also properly speak on his behalf. This is another element demonstrating both Tychicus’ maturity and value to Paul.
Fellow Bond-Servant – Paul only uses this particular term for two men – Epaphras and Tychicus – both of which are mentioned in Colossians. The term itself is used to refer to those who are also slaves. Jesus uses it four times in Matthew 18 that way and it is used three times in Revelation for those who are slaves of God.
The root term here, “doulo” / “doulos,” is often translated as “servant,” but it is better translated as “slave” because it refers to those who are in a servile relationship to their master, that is, the master owns them. Such is the actual case for all true Christians. We are not our own, but have been bought with price of Jesus’ blood shed on the cross so that we are transferred out of the domain of darkness and into the kingdom of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 6:20; Colossians 1:13.)
It was common for the apostles to refer to themselves as a “doulo” / “doulos” – “slave.” Paul did (Titus 1:1) as also did James (James 1:1), Peter (2 Peter 1:1) and Jude (Jude 1:1). In 2 Timothy 2:24 Paul referred to all who serve the Lord as slaves, and Peter challenged all Christians to make sure they did not use their freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as slaves of God (1 Peter 2:16). The book of Revelation was given to the Lord’s “doulo” / “doulos” – “slaves.”
While there is usage of the term in a general sense for all Christians, Paul used it rarely for other specific people. Paul referred to Timothy along with himself as slaves of Christ Jesus, but Paul only used the term “fellow-slave” of Epaphras and Tychicus. This may be because both were willing to minister to Paul while he was being held prisoner. There is always some risk in identifying yourself with someone in jail, but perhaps more so in ancient Rome. Guilt by association could get you thrown in jail or killed, yet both of these men did so without hesitation.
The term throws one more additional light upon Tychicus’ character and why he was such a good choice to take the letter to the Colossians. For Paul to call him “a fellow slave in the Lord,” Tychicus would have had to have understood and believed the preeminence of Jesus Christ just as Paul explains in Colossians 2 and 3. Therefore, he made a good choice to help them understand and put into practice Paul’s instructions, encouragements, and warnings.
Tychicus’ character continued to be proved after he delivered the letter to the Colossians and ministered to them. He is mentioned two more times after this and both times it as Paul’s emissary. In 2 Timothy 4:12 we find that Paul sent him to Ephesus to help with the ministry there, and in Titus 3:12 we find that Paul may send him to Crete to help with the work there and allow Titus to meet Paul in Nicopolis. Tychicus continued to be a fellow slave of Christ.
Paul also commends Onesiums. He is a very interesting man. He is a run-away slave who is going back to Colossae to make things right with his master, Philemon. Onesimus had run away and made it to Rome where in God’s providence he met Paul and was converted to become a Christian. He could not have been with Paul for a very long period – two years at the extreme maximum – yet he had already become close enough to Paul for him to call him a “beloved brother.” He also had demonstrated enough character for Paul to describe him as “faithful.” The greatest proof of his character was that he was going back to his master by his own will in striving to do what is right. Onesimus, though young in the faith, had already proven to be a man raised up with Christ with a mind set on the things above instead of the things of this earth. He was living for Christ and was actively setting aside the old man and putting on the new man. He was already an example of the kind of man that Paul wanted the Colossians to be.
The commendations that Paul makes of these two men are characteristics I want to be known by as well – a beloved brother, a faithful servant, and a fellow slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. I trust you also desire the same, and together, as we minister to one another with the gifts God has given to each of us, we will help one another become the mature people in Christ that God wants us to be (Ephesians 4:11-16).
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!