Living For God’s Glory And The Growth Of His Church

In today’s blog, we come to the conclusion of Paul’s epistle to the Colossians.  It has been a wonderful of journey of 52 lessons that we began in mid-June.  I was reminded of the importance of Colossians recently when a question was asked at a pastor’s fellowship that I attended.  One of the pastor’s asked, “How would you lead a Bible Study of a group of professing Christians from diverse denominational backgrounds and make very clear the distinction between true Christians and everyone else?”  Because I was in Colossians at the time, I replied by saying, “By showing the preeminence of Jesus Christ as explained in the book of Colossians.”

The various heresies that Paul was addressing in Colossians and what is occurring in modern Christianity are essentially the same.  

They were developing beliefs and practices

That were pushing Jesus out of His proper

Position and the same continues today.

When this occurs, a separation will develop between true believers and those following false doctrine and heresy – for truth and error cannot walk in harmony with one another as 2 Corinthians 6 clearly explains.  In addition, the various forms of error will separate from each other as each strives to gain the position of prominence.  

Anything added to or taken away from Jesus

Makes Him someone or something else.

He is who He is and only He is sufficient

To completely redeem man from his sins

And make him complete before our holy Creator.

A different Jesus, like those of the various

Liberal denominations and cults, cannot

Accomplish that, which is why all of them

Claim additional revelations and add various

Rituals and works you must do in order to get to heaven.

Other heretical groups ignore, dismiss, or even

Disdain the revelation of God in the Bible

So they can avoid any obligation

To obey God’s commands.

They want to do what

They want to do when

They want to do it and

They don’t want God interfering

With anything they want to do.

True fellowship can only exist when

Jesus is given His proper place in being

Preeminent in all Creation and the church,

And when He is given that proper place

Then true fellowship can exist even when

There is diversity over a broad range of

Particular practices and secondary beliefs.

That is the reason that earlier generations of true Christians in various denominations were able to cooperate so well.  Their essential beliefs and practices were the same as is described in Ephesians 4:5-6, “One body, one Spirit, one calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God, and Father of all who is over all through all and in all.”  When there is unity in essential doctrine there can be peace, harmony, and true fellowship. Without that, any cooperation will have a shallow basis.  It is easily fractured and accomplishes nothing positive of eternal importance.

Review

The church at Colossae was facing several developing heresies.  Paul’s desire was to combat these false teachings and encourage the Colossian believers to continue to grow in their faith and walk with Christ.  He wanted to “present everyman complete in Christ” (Colossians 1:28).  These motives are evident throughout the letter beginning with opening remarks and prayer in Chapter 1.

The means of combating all of these

Developing heresies was to emphasize

The specific things God has done

And Jesus’ role in them

That makes Him supreme.

God “delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (verse 13).  It is in Jesus that “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (verse 14). Jesus is the “image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation” (verse 15), which I previously explained means that Jesus is both the physical expression and manifestation of the invisible God so that men can grasp the nature and character of God.  Jesus is preeminent over creation.  He existed from eternity past prior to creation and so is not a created being.  He is God in human flesh, and as Colossians 1;16 & 17 explains, He is the architect, builder, possessor, and sustainer of all creation.  Jesus is also the head of the church and so is to have first place in everything (verse 18).  He reconciled us to God through His physical bloody death on the cross by which we can be presented to the Father holy and blameless (verse 20-22).  Jesus has done all the work.  We simply need to continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast (verse 23).

In Chapter 2 Paul continues to correct the heresies by showing Jesus’ superiority over each one.  Jesus is superior to philosophy, legalism, mysticism, asceticism, and all religions.  In Jesus “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (verse 3) which makes Him infinitely superior to worldly philosophy and the traditions of men).  In Jesus we are made complete and He is the head over all rule and authority (verse 11) which makes Him superior to all religious systems.  The religious rituals of Mosaic Judaism were only shadows of what was to come in Him (verse 16-17).  Angelic revelation is inferior to the revelation of the Son (Hebrews 1) and all forms of asceticism are at best just the teachings of men and can only deal with things that are going to perish.  They give a false appearance of wisdom, but they actually have no true value in battling fleshly indulgence (verse 21-23).  Jesus took upon Himself all our sin and paid for it on the cross, granting forgiveness, removing all the charges against us, and making us alive together with Him (verse 12-14).

In Chapter 3 Paul battled the heresies and promoted maturity by pointing out the consequences of being raised up with Christ and contrasting the previous manner of life with its sinful vices with the new way of life in walking in godliness.  The result is that we strive to do all we do or say in the name of the Lord Jesus (verse 17) and encouraging one other to do the same (verse 16).  These truths come out in our various relationships fulfilling our roles within the family whether that be wife, husband, child or parent and in society regardless of whether we are a slave/worker or the master/employer (3:22-4:1).

In Chapter 4 Paul continued his exhortation to live godly lives by encouraging proper prayer by giving himself as an example of what we should be praying for concerning one another (verses 2-4).  Our conduct and speech are to be guided by wisdom that seeks to make the most of every opportunity God grants to us (verse 5-6).  

Paul also introduced us to men who are examples of such godly living.  We examined two of these in yesterday’s blog – Tychicus and Onesimus – and this today we are going to see several more.  The first six are men that send their personal greetings to those in Colossae.  These include the faithful man, the restored man, the encouraging man, the laboring man, the beloved man, and the noted man.  Paul then gives instructions to a hospitable woman and a gifted man before concluding with a final salutation.

Personal Greetings – Colossians 4:10-14.

We discussed Tychicus and Onesimus in yesterday, so today I am only going quickly mention a few things.  Paul considered both of them to be beloved brothers.  Tychicus had traveled a lot with Paul and experienced many dangerous situations with him so that Paul considered him a “fellow servant and bond slave in the Lord.”  Paul entrusted him to carry the letters to Ephesians and to the Colossians.  Onesimus was a new convert to Christianity, but he had quickly matured and become dear to Paul.  He was actually an escaped slave that was voluntarily returning to his master in Colossae.  We will learn even more about him in our upcoming study of Philemon.

Let’s now take a look at the six men that also send their personal greetings to those in Colossae.  The fact that each of these men do so indicates that each one had some connection already to those in Colossae.

Aristarchus: The Faithful Man.

Our text simply says concerning him, “Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, sends you his greetings.”  We find out much more about this man from various passages in Acts.  He is first mentioned in Acts 19:29.  Paul is in Ephesus at that point, but Paul would have met him much earlier.  Acts 20:4 states that Aristarchus is from Thessalonica.  Paul first visited that city on his second missionary journey after he had crossed the Aegean Sea into Macedonia.  Acts 17 records that after that Paul left Philippi he traveled to Thessalonica where there was a synagogue.  Paul reasoned with the Jews there for three Sabbaths explaining that Jesus was the promised Messiah. Some of them were persuaded along with a great multitude of the God-fearing Greeks.  It is probable that Aristarchus came to faith at that time or soon after from the witnessing of those that did believe at that time.  1 Thessalonians reveals they had quickly embraced and proclaimed the gospel to others.  In either case, his faith was born in the midst of adversity, for Acts 17 continues on to record the strong opposition among the unbelieving Jews.  They formed a mob and caused an uproar and were seeking to do harm to Paul and his companions saying they were men “who have upset the world” claiming they were acting “contrary to the decrees of the Caesar saying that there is another King, Jesus.”  The believers there sent Paul to Berea.  However, it was not long before the same unbelieving Jews arrived in Berea and caused more trouble resulting in Paul sailing for Athens.  Aristarchus grew in his new faith in the midst of such opposition from his fellow, but unbelieving, Jewish neighbors.

Paul spent two years in Ephesus during his third missionary journey and that is where we next find Aristarchus.  Toward the end of that time an Ephesian silversmith name Demetrius gathered together the other tradesmen that made their living related to selling shrines of Artemis, the Greek goddess of fertility.  The response to Paul’s proclaiming of the gospel was so great that their businesses had been very adversely affected.  They incited a riot, and while the believers had prevented Paul from getting caught up in it, the mob had dragged both Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Madeconia, into the theater (Acts 19:29).  There was much confusion there since most of the crowd did not even know what was going on, but they were incited to be very upset and shouted for about two hours, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”  This was a very dangerous situation, which in God’s merciful providence was eventually quieted down by the town clerk.  Aristarchus was no stranger to danger related to proclaiming the gospel.

After this Aristarchus traveled with Paul throughout the rest of his third missionary, journey going up into Macedonia, over and down into Greece, then back to Asia Minor and finally to Jerusalem.  He was one of the men that represented the church in Macedonia to the church in Jerusalem and ministered to the poor there.

Paul was arrested in Jerusalem and spent two years in prison.  While nothing states exactly where Aristarchus was during this entire period, we do know he is with Paul when he is sent to Rome for trial.  Luke records in Acts 27:2, “And embarking in an Adramyttian ship, which was about to sail to the regions along the coast of Asia, we put out to sea, accompanied by Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica.”  Speculation is made about whether Aristarchus went all the way to Rome with Paul, but here in Colossians we find that he is with Paul during his Roman imprisonment.  It seems reasonable that Aristarchus had been with Paul through it all and so gained the title from Paul as a “fellow prisoner.”  The actual Greek word here, has the meaning of ‘one taken captive in war.’  This is a figurative usage since there is no indication Aristarchus had been charged with anything and the war they were in was a spiritual one.  By his own desire Aristarchus continued to serve the Lord alongside Paul wherever Paul might be including prison.  This meant much to Paul and so he gave him this additional title. Aristarchus includes his greetings because it is very probable that he would have known some of the Colossian believers from his time spent in Ephesus.

Aristarchus is the faithful man –

A man worth emulating.

Mark: The Restored Man.

Our text states a greeting was also given from “Barnabas’ cousin Mark (about whom you received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him).  This is John Mark who is first mentioned in Acts 12:12 when the angel had released Peter from prison, “And when he [Peter] realized [this,] he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was also called Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.”  His mother’s home was one of the meeting places for the early church in Jerusalem and they had gathered there that night to pray for Peter who had been thrown into prison by Herod.

Mark was a cousin to Joseph of Cyprus who was nicknamed Barnabas which means “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4:36-37).  When the church in Jerusalem heard that a church had been established there among the Gentiles in Antioch they sent Barnabas to minister to them.  Barnabas then went and found Saul of Tarsus, the Apostle Paul, to help out with the ministry in that church (Acts 11:19-26).  Acts 13 records that some years later the church in Antioch sent out Paul and Barnabas on a missionary journey to Cyprus and beyond.  Barnabas had been born in Cyprus so this was a natural place to go, and Barnabas takes along his cousin, John Mark, on the journey.

Things began well.  Acts 13:5 records, “And when they reached Salamis, they [began] to proclaim the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews; and they also had John as their helper.”  He continued to be useful throughout their ministry on Cyprus, but something changed soon after that.  Acts 13:13 states, “Now Paul and his companions put out to sea from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John left them and returned to Jerusalem.”  We do not know what caused John Mark to abandon the trip, but it later became a cause of division between Barnabas and Paul.

They returned to Antioch to report on their mission’s work and then began planning a return trip to check on and encourage the churches they had planted.  Acts 15:37-39 then records, “And Barnabas was desirous of taking John, called Mark, along with them also.  But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work.  And there arose such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus.

Whatever the cause of Mark deserting them on the first trip, it was serious enough that Paul absolutely refused to take him along on a second trip.  Barnabas, who by nature was an encourager and probably even more so toward his cousin, insisted that he go with them.  This caused a rift between Paul and Barnabas resulting in Barnabas taking Mark and going back to Cyprus and Paul taking Silas and going north through Cilicia and over to Lycaonia.  Happily, this is not the end of the story.

In 1 Corinthians 9:6 we find that Paul and Barnabas are working together again and here in Colossians, an additional 6 or 7 years later, we find that Mark is with Paul in Rome.  Barnabas had been effective in encouraging this man so that he had matured to the point that Paul was now glad to have him there.  With as much traveling as Mark had done with Barnabas, it is not surprising that he would be known to the church in Colossae and so he sends his greetings.  Paul also remarks that Mark may be coming to them and they were to follow the instructions they had received concerning him.  The origin and particulars of these additional instructions is not known to us, but they were aware of them.

A few years later Paul mentions Mark again.  In 2 Timothy 4:11 Paul remarks about his situation, “Only Luke is with me.  Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service.”  The man Paul had opposed many years before was now important to him and useful for service.  The apostle Peter makes the last mention of Mark in the Scriptures saying in 1 Peter 5:13, “She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings, and [so does] my son, Mark.”  Mark continued on to serve alongside Peter, and it is from Peter that Mark writes his account of Jesus’ life and ministry which we know as the Gospel of Mark.

Mark is the restored man.  

He is an example of God’s

Great mercy in using people for

Great things even after they have failed earlier.

God can use you to do great things for Him regardless of your past history.  Regardless of your history, you continue to do your best to serve the Lord and let Him write your future.

Jesus Justus: The Encouraging Man.

He is only mentioned here and our text says of him, “and [also] Jesus who is called Justus; these are the only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are from the circumcision; and they have proved to be an encouragement to me” (Colossians 4:11). “Jesus” is the Greek derivative of “Joshua” and a common name at that time.  His Latin surname, “Justus,” means “righteous.”  Though we know little about him personally, he is included with Aristarchus and Mark as one of the Jewish believers who were fellow workers for the kingdom of God and who had proved to be an encouragement to him. That in itself is a high recommendation of Jesus Justus.

Paul had been in prison in Rome at this time for about two years.  Acts 28:11ff records he had met with the Jews in Rome very soon after he had arrived, but sadly, they also rejected the message that Jesus was the Messiah.  Paul continued to preach and teach  to all that came to him, but the effect of the ministry was largely confined to the Gentiles including the Praetorian guard and even Caesar’s own household (Philippians 1:13; 4:22).  When Paul penned this letter there were only three Jewish believers with him, and Aristarchus and Mark came from somewhere else.  Only Jesus Justus may have been a believing Jew from Rome.  Paul had a great heart and desire for his fellow Jews (Romans 9:1-5), and perhaps that is why this man was such a great encouragement to him in addition to whatever personal ministry he was doing along with Aristarchus and Mark as fellow workers for the kingdom of God.

Jesus Justus is an encouraging man

And so is a reminder to us that

We need to do the same to whomever

And by whatever means God gives us opportunity.

Epaphras: The Laboring Man.

We met Epaphras in Colossians 12:7-8 where Paul states regarding him, “just as you learned [it] from Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf, and he also informed us of your love in the Spirit.”  Epaphras had brought the gospel to the Colossians and had gone to Rome to inform Paul of the dangers that the church was facing resulting in Paul’s letter to them.  Here in Colossians 4:12-13 we read, “Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God.  For I bear him witness that he has a deep concern for you and for those who are in Laodicea and Hierapolis.”

We have examined Epaphras life in a previous study so today I only want to point out Paul’s emphasis here that he was a man very concerned for the people in his hometown and for Laodicea, 10 miles to the west, and Hierapolis, 12 miles to the northwest.  For whatever reason he had remained with Paul for the present time and could not be there physically, but his concern and work for them had not diminished for it was now being expressed in his prayers.  His “laboring earnestly” comes from the word from which we get our word “agonize.”  Epaphras’ prayers for them were not generic generalized platitudes but intense intercession.

Epaphras was a man marked by this labor,

And a good model for us to follow in

Our own prayer lives as we intercede for others.

Luke: The Beloved Man.

Paul simply references him here as “Luke, the beloved physician, sends you his greetings.”  Amazingly, Luke is only mentioned by name three times (Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 1:24), yet he is one of Paul’s most faithful traveling companions and the writer of both a Gospel account and the book of Acts.  The references to himself in Acts are only noted by the pronoun “we” which begins in Acts 16:10.  He traveled with Paul during part of his second and third missionary journeys as well as the trip to Rome. Extra Biblical literature (anti-Marcionite prologue) tells us that Luke was a Syrian physician from Antioch that became a Christian and then accompanied Paul until his martyrdom.  He then continued to serve the Lord “without distraction, without a wife, without children, and at the age of eighty-four he fell asleep in Boeotia, full of the Holy Spirit.”  No wonder Paul calls him “beloved.”

Such faithfulness and devotion is

A good model and inspiration for us.

Demas: The Noted Man.

Colossians 4:14 simply joins him with Luke’s greeting saying, “and [also] Demas.”  He is also mentioned in Philemon 1:24 as a “fellow worker.”  If this was all that was said of him, he would have passed into history as a man blessed to be a fellow worker with Paul and important enough to be included in the greetings in this letter.  A man worthy of emulation since ministry to a prisoner brought plenty of dangers and sacrifice and Demas was willing to face those dangers and make that sacrifice.

Tragically, this is not the last mention of Demas for 2 Timothy 4:10 notes concerning him, “for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.”  Demas becomes noted because he does not stay faithful.  The charge is serious.  While this is a statement of great disappointment, it is because of the reason he is not with Paul and not the personal loss.  Demas loved this present world.  He fell to the temptation Jesus expressed in the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13 that the “deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.”

Demas is a warning.  

True Christianity is not

A flash in the pan,

Nor does it rest

On past accomplishments.  

True Christianity perseveres

Because the life is converted

By a fundamental change

Of beliefs concerning the

Identity, nature, and work

Of the Lord Jesus Christ.

A person who is raised up

With Christ will continue to be

Changed by Him throughout life

As those beliefs change

Every area of life.

General Greetings.

Paul gives a general greeting in verse 15. “Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea and also Nympha and the church that is in her house.“  Paul had given a greeting to the Colossians in his introductory salutation.  He now extends that to the church in Laodicea and a church that is meeting in the house of Nympha.  This is a proper and good thing and something that continues to this day.  Because Christians have a common bond of fellowship in the Lord Jesus we can send greetings to one other even if we have not personally met.

We are not told anything else about Nympha or even what city the home was in, but the early church commonly met in the houses of believers.  It would not be until the fourth century after Constantine made Christianity the religion of the empire that congregations would purchase buildings.  When we get to Philemon we will find that there is a church meeting in his home as well.

Final Instructions.

In verse 16 Paul gives instructions concerning his letters, “And when this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter [that is coming] from Laodicea.”  Paul’s letter was specifically to the Colossians, but he understood that its content would be important to other churches for they would face the same or similar heresies, and the goal of presenting every man complete in Christ would be met by the same method of emphasizing the preeminence of Christ in everything.

The letter that was to come from Laodicea remains a mystery.  It is not the fabricated apocryphal Latin “Epistle of Paul to the Laodiceans” made up of sentences gleaned from Paul’s writings and strung together without definite connection or object.  There is much speculation concerning it including that it refers to Ephesians since many early manuscripts do not include a title for that letter.  Ephesians was written at the same time and would have been copied and sent from church to church up the Lycus valley, but how would Paul have known writing so many months beforehand that it would arrive at Colossae from Laodicea instead of directly from Ephesus?  It seems more likely this is a specific letter that has by God’s providence been lost for it did not belong in the cannon of Scripture.  We do not believe that everything Paul wrote after becoming an apostle was meant to be Scripture, but only those writings in which the Holy Spirit spoke through the writer (2 Peter 1:21).  

What is important to note here

Is the close relationship that

The churches were to have with

One another in sharing the teachings

They had received.

We do well to remember

That the body of Christ

Is much larger than

Any particular local church

And we need to work with

Ad encourage each other.

Paul’s final instruction is to Archippus, “And say to Archippus, ‘Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.’”

We are not told what specific ministry Archippus had received from the Lord though in Philemon 1:2 Paul calls him a “fellow soldier” and he had some relationship to Philemon and the church that met in his house.  Those things would indicate either some sort of evangelistic or teaching ministry or both.  1 Corinthians 12:4-11 makes it clear that our spiritual gifts, the ministries they are used in and the power of them are all distributed by the Lord as He wills for the common good of the church.  Regardless of Archippus’ particular ministry, Paul reminds him here that it came from the Lord and that he needed to take heed to fulfill it.  This is not a rebuke, but rather an encouragement to continued action.  He may well have had an important leadership role in the church there and so would have to be particularly diligent to consider all that Paul had written and implement it within the congregation in its battle with the false teachers that had arisen.

That is not an easy task,

But one in which all

Members share a role

With the church leaders

Having particular responsibility

As shepherds of the flock.

Salutation.

Paul concludes in verse 18 with a final salutation, “I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my imprisonment. Grace be with you.”  The reference to writing the salutation with his own hand is authentication of it being genuine.  The body of the letter would have been written by a secretary that wrote out what Paul said.  In order to ensure the readers that it really did come from him the author would append his personal salutation at the end much like we sign typed letters in our own time.

He adds a request that they remember his imprisonment.  Paul had a good attitude while being in prison, but it was not easy and it was not where he wanted to be.  He desired their prayers even as he had specifically requested earlier in the chapter, and he desired their support and encouragement even as he had received from other churches and individuals such as Ephaproditus and those in Philippi that had sent him to minister.

Though Paul is in prison

He still understood clearly

God’s grace upon himself

(Philippians 4:1-20)

And so he concludes with

His customary wish that

God’s grace would be with them.

We also desire God’s grace upon all of God’s people.  In the Lord Jesus Christ, God has given to us everything we need to be complete, holy, and blameless before Him. May He grant us His protection from the many false teachings and heresies that abound in our own time, and may we be faithful to live as those raised up with Jesus to walk in newness of life.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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