Workers Together for the King
Study #29 Colossians 4:7-18
by Bob Burridge ©2023
In 1835 Henry Smart wrote a tune called “Lancanshire“. It was named for the town where he was an organist. It marked the 300th anniversary of the Reformation in England. The tune was for the song, “From Greenland’s Icy Mountains”
In 1887 Ernest Shurtleff used that tune when he wrote the song, “Lead On, O King Eternal“. It was for his seminary class graduating from Andover Theological Seminary.
Graduation marked the end of their seminary preparation for the Christian minstry. They were about to march forth to lead the battle for the God, the King of Glory. Ahead were fields of conquest for which they had been strengthened by God’s grace. Their battle wouldn’t be fought with swords and loud beating drums. but by humble deeds of love and mercy performed in the name of Jesus Christ. They would go forth in joy, not in fear, for the cross is lifted over them, and the God of might would be their leader.
Here are the lyrics by Ernest Shurtleff:
“Lead on, O King Eternal, The day of march has come;
Henceforth in fields of conquest Thy tents shall be our home.
Through days of preparation Thy grace has made us strong;
And now, O King Eternal, We lift our battle song.
Lead on, O King Eternal, Till sin’s fierce war shall cease,
And holiness shall whisper The sweet amen of peace.
For not with swords’ loud clashing, Nor roll of stirring drums;
With deeds of love and mercy The heav’nly kingdom comes.
Lead on, O King Eternal, We follow, not with fears,
For gladness breaks like morning Where’er Thy face appears.
Thy cross is lifted o’er us, We journey in its light;
The crown awaits the conquest; Lead on, O God of might”
This is a fitting hymn for ending our study of Paul’s letter to the Colossians. The lessons had been taught, now there was work to be done for the King. As the message of God’s Sovereign Lordship is declared and humbly demonstrated in his people, the Kingdom would expand into the region of Colossae and throughout the Lycus valley.
There’s a lot about God’s kingdom in Scripture. It was a central theme of Jesus’ teachings, the main part of Paul’s ministry in Rome, and the central issue of this Epistle.
But the message of God’s Kingship is more than learning correct theology.
– It’s how we grow spiritually to show his kingship in every area of our lives.
– It’s how we show the fruit of the Spirit in our hearts as true citizens of heaven.
– It’s how we keep in communication with our King through prayer.
– It’s how our marriages work, how we raise our children, and how we earn our money.
– It’s all to be done in ways that please our Lord, in ways he promises to bless.
He taught, warned, and encouraged the Colossians to beware of false teachings. He corrected the dualistic outlook on life that disjoined the spiritual and material. He showed them how to live to please God through the workings of his grace in Christ, Now he sends greetings that give us a deep insight into the personal side of the early church.
A special mission had been given to Tychicus who delivered this letter to Colossae:
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,
Tychicus had been a close friend to Paul for many years. He was one of the Asian delegates who brought help for the Jerusalem church on Paul’s 3rd missionary Journey. Paul now trusted him to deliver his encouraging message to the Colossians, to the Ephesians (6:21) and to Titus (3:12). Paul sent him to update them about his opportunities during his Roman imprisonment. Paul wanted believers in every church to be encouraged together in the work of the Lord.
One of their own people was with Onesimus:
Colossians 4:9, “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.”
Onesimus was evidently from the town of Colossae. When he was there he was a bonded servant of Philemon who hosted their church meetings in his home. But Onesimus had run away from Philemon his master. Onesimus looked up Paul when he got to Rome where he became a faithful believer in Jesus Christ. He was now ready to return home to face his master.
One of the other letters Tychicus was delivering was Paul’s letter to Philemon. It explained what had happened with Onesimus in Rome. He asked Philemon to receive him back as a faithful and beloved brother in Christ. Tychicus, a delegate of the Asian churches, and this runaway slave, were both serving the Kingdom together!
This is the amazing unity we ought to have in Christ, a brotherhood in God’s family. What a dramatic illustration of the Kingdom principle at work!
Then Paul conveyed special greetings from six of his co-workers at Rome:
Colossians 4:10a, “Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you,”
Aristarchus had been with Paul at Ephesus as he started out on his 3rd journey. He was with Paul again on the return trip along with Tychicus and others. They brought financial relief to the needy believers in Jerusalem. When Paul was threatened by arrest he appealed to Caesar. Aristarchus voyaged to Roman with him (Acts 27:2). There in Rome Paul wrote this letter and sent greetings back to Colossae, Ephesus and to Philemon.
Paul called Aristarchus his “fellow prisoner”. The Greek word here was used more for a prisoner of war, not of someone under arrest. Here he probably meant that he, like Paul, is a captive of the battle for Christ’s Kingdom. Any who suffer persecution in their work for the Heavenly King are fellow prisoners of war.
Then Paul mentions Mark.
Colossians 4:10b, “and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions– if he comes to you, welcome him),”
This is the same Mark who wrote the “Gospel of Mark”. He traveled some with Paul during his ministry, then separated to minister with Barnabas. Now, while Paul was in prison, Mark came to be with him. Later when Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy, he said in 4:11 that, Mark was specially helpful to him in the work of the ministry.
Paul encouraged the Colossians to welcome Mark when he comes to them. Evidently there were some instructions sent to them about Mark. We don’t know what these instructions were. The important thing was they they should give him a proper welcome as a faithful brother in Christ.
Next, there is a greeting from a man named Jesus Justus.
Colossians 4:11, “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.”
The name “Jesus”, “Iaesous” (Ιησους), is the Greek form of the Jewish name Joshua or “Yeshua”. It was a common name then among the Jews. There were others with the last name of “Justus” mentioned in Acts 1:23, and 18:7. This is why our Lord Jesus was distinguished by calling him Jesus of Nazareth, and Jesus the Christ.
These men were the only Jewish believers who helped Paul in Rome. There were certainly more Jews who became believers in Jesus Christ, but these came to Paul in prison to help him in promoting God’s Kingdom work, Paul calls them, “fellow workers for the kingdom of God.” They were proclaiming the Kingdom in it’s new and greater form in Christ. In Acts 28:31 Paul’s ministry at Rome is summarized saying that he was “proclaiming the kingdom of God, and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.”
Next Paul conveyed greetings from Epaphras:
Colossians 4:12-13, “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.”
Epaphras helped bring the gospel to the churches in Lycos. That included Laodicea, Heiropolis and Colossae. His report to Paul in Rome was the cause of this letter to the Colossians (1:7-8). He told Paul about their love for Christ, and their struggles from the false teachers. Paul wanted them to know that Epaphras continued to pray for them. He prayed that they would mature as believers, and be confident in what God intended for them.
The next one to send his greetings was Luke:
Colossians 4:14, “Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas.”
This was the author of the third gospel and the book of Acts. In those writings he explains that he carefully gathered sources to organize his life of Christ. Evidently he had been with gospel writer Mark, and learned from Paul on his 2nd and 3rd missionary journeys, and was with him at his arrest in Jerusalem and on his dangerous sea voyage. He was again with Paul during his second and final Roman imprisonment.
Paul’s last epistle during his 2nd Roman imprisonment was 2 Timothy. There in 4:11-13 Paul said, ” Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments.”
It’s amazing to see how close these Kingdom workers had become.
Finally greetings were send from Demas.
Colossians 4:14 Paul adds, “… as does Demas.”
Only his name is mentioned here. In the companion letter of “Philemon” Paul includes him in the list of his fellow workers.
Demas later disappointed Paul. In his last letter of 2 Timothy 4:10 Paul said, “For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.”
The leaders of the church in Scripture weren’t perfect ideal heroes. They were redeemed sinners still struggling with a yet incomplete sanctification. We have frailties too and the need to always rely upon God’s restoring grace.
Paul wanted the Colossians to convey his greetings to the other believers in their area:
Colossians 4:15, “Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.”
Most synagogues excommunicated the Jews believed Jesus was the promised Messiah. The churches met in homes or other buildings owned by their members. They were led by ordained Elders. They worshiped and were governed as set up by the Apostles. Philemon was the host of the church in Colossae (Philemon 2), so likely the church meeting at Nympha’s home was in Heiropolis. It’s important that sound churches work together as like-minded congregations to encourage one another and promote the glory of Christ.
This letter to the Colossians was important — it was God’s message for them.
Colossians 4:16, “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.
The Apostle Paul was aware of the divine authority behind his own inspired writings,
and those of the other New Testament writers. He wrote …
1 Thessalonians 5:27 “I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.”
2 Thessalonians 3:14 “If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed.”
In 1 Timothy 5:18 Paul makes two quotations and identifies both as Scripture. “For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,’ and, ‘The laborer deserves his wages.'” The first Scripture reference quotes from Deuteronomy 25:4, the second is from the New Testament, Luke 10:7. Both are equally and clearly referred to as authoritative Scripture. Paul saw the writing by Moses and Luke were both the inspired word of God.
Peter understood that Paul’s writings were on the same authoritative plane as the rest of the Scriptures. 2 Peter 3:15-16 “And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.”
Here in Colossians 4:16 Paul wanted them to exchange letters with the Laodicean church. We don’t know what Laodicean letter Paul is referring to. Some think it was a copy of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians which was passed on to the Laodeceans.
Paul then gives a word of advice to a man named Archippus:
Colossians 4:17, “And say to Archippus, ‘See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.'”
He was a member of Philemon’s family at whose house the church met. It’s believed he was likely the son of Philemon and his wife Apphia.
Had Archippus neglected a call to some ministry and needed admonition? Probably not. Paul calls Archippus a fellow soldier in Philemon verse 2. That seems to show he wasn’t being unfaithful to a ministry he had been called to fulfill. Paul said a similar thing to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:5, “As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” There is no reason to think Timothy was neglecting his duties at that time. Probably these are just meant as encouraging words, as Paul meant in his comment to Timothy. Many believe that Archippus was their acting Pastor or chief Elder while Epaphras was in Rome.
With all that said, Paul finishes the letter with his own hand writing.
Colossians 4:18, “I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.”
Paul dictated most of his letters to an amanuensis, a scribe. Romans 16:22, “I Tertius, who wrote this letter, greet you in the Lord. ” Paul wrote some part of his letters with his own hand: 2 Thessalonians 3:17, “I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the sign of genuineness in every letter of mine; it is the way I write.” He said similar things at the end of 1 Corinthians, Galatians and Philemon. By adding his own writing, it authenticated his letters and discouraged counterfeits. It assured the readers that what was in the letter was truly what Paul said.
He asked them to remember his imprisonment. He appreciated their prayers in his present situation. And he wanted them to remember his example to them as he suffered in his stand for Christ, as he and others battled for the expanding glory of God’s Kingdom.
He closes with a simple benediction: “Grace be with you”.
This is the root of all the blessings and promises of the Kingdom message. God’s favor toward us is an undeserved work of Grace, His unmerited choice of each of His spiritual children. We are made fit to serve God only because Jesus died in our place satisfying divine justice.
God is building his kingdom as his Sovereign Lordship is displayed in the lives of his redeemed people. As we study God’s word our days of preparation are done. We need to march forth into battle under the banner of our King. Not with swords or drums, but in deeds of love and mercy, strengthened by grace alone. We’re to spread the news of the Heavenly Kingdom for the glory of our King.
Note: Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.