John T. Willis

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Paul and Timothy's Concluding Greeting to Colossae--Colossians 4:7-18

Like all Paul's letters, the end of the Book of Colossians primarily contains various kinds of greetings and explanations. One may conveniently divide Colossians 4:7-18 into three parts: verses 7-9, 10-15, 16-18.

I. The Impending Arrival of Tychicus and Onesimus. Colossians 4:7-9.
a. Paul and Timothy tell the community of faith at Colossae that they are "sending" Tychicus from Rome to Colossae to "tell" the Colossian Christians "how Paul (I) am doing, how Paul and Timothy (we) are, and how everything is here [at Rome]. Verses 7, 8, 9.
b. Along with Colossians 4:7, Acts 20:4; Ephesians 6:21; 2 Timothy 4:12; Titus 3:12 refer to Tychicus as an Asian Christian, described as "the belover brother," "faithful minister," and "fellow servant in the Lord." Verse 7.
c. Tychicus' purpose is to tell the Colossian Christians how Paul and Timothy have been doing in Rome and to "comfort" and encourage the community of faith there. One way that Tychicus and Onesimus will do is by reading orally the Book of Colossians to the church, and then forward this epistle to Laodicea. Verse 8.
d. Onesimus himself was a member of the church at Colossae. He had been a slave of Philemon, but now is a full-fledged brother in the Lord. See the Book of Philemon. Paul and Timothy describe Onesimus as "the faithful and beloved brother." Onesimus will tell the church at Colossae what had happened at Rome. Verse 9.

II. Greetings. Colossians 4:10-15.
a. Paul first gives greetings from six individuals to the community of the faith at Colossae. (1) Aristarchus. Paul calls him "my fellow prisoner." See Acts 19:29; 20:4; 27:2; Philemon 24. A "fellow prisoner" is a person who shares one's imprisonment. See Romans 16:7; Philemon 23. (2) [John] Mark, the cousin of Barnabas, from Jerusalem. See Acts 12:12, 25. Mark traveled with Paul and Barnabas, then separated from Paul. See Acts 13:13; 15:37, 39. Later, Mark again became Paul's fellow worker. See Philemon 24; 2 Timothy 4:11. Mark also became a fellow worker of Peter. 1 Peter 5:13. Galatians 2:1, 9, 13; 1 Corinthians 9:6; Acts 4:36; 9:27;
11:22, 30 mention Barnabas. (3) Jesus, called Justus. Paul remarks that among Jewish Christians, only Aristarchus, John Mark, and Jesus, called Justus are faithful to the Lord. (4) Epaphras. Epaphras sends a special greeting, because he founded the church at Colossae--See Colossians 1:7-8, and worked tirelessly at Laodicea and Hierapolis. Epaphras had often prayed constantly for the community of faith in these towns. See Colossians 2:1. This prayer "that you [plural--the community of faith] may stand forth perfect and be filled with everything that is God's will." This statement seems to be a polemic against the "philosophy" troubling the church at Colossae (see Colossians 2:8). Paul encourages Christians to stand firmly as "perfect" if they have been fully and completely filled with everything in God's will. (5) Luke, the beloved physician. See also Philemon 24; 2 Timothy 4:11. (6) Demas. See Philemon 24. 4:10-14.
b. Finally, Paul asks the community of faith at Colossae to greet the brothers and sisters in Laodicea and Nympha and the community in her house. Since the early church had no buildings like we do on modern times, Christians met for worship, teaching, and partaking of the Lord's Supper in the houses of individual members of the community. See 1 Corinthians 16:15; Romans 16:5; Philemon 2. 4:15.

III. Paul's Concluding Instructions. Colossians 4:16-18.
a. Paul sends another letter or epistle to Laodicea to be forwarded to Colossae, and in return send the letter to Colossae to be forwarded to Laodicea. When the letter arrives at these destinations, the messengers [here Tychicus and Onesimus] are to "read" these epistles aloud to the whole church. Obviously, there were no copies of the original epistles at this early time. 4:16.
b. Next, Paul tells the church at Colossae to say to Archippus [see Philemon 2] to fulfill the ministry the church had received in the Lord. 4:17.
c. To make certain, Paul writes the final words of this epistle in his own hand, as he did in Galatians 6:11; Romans 16:22; 1 Corinthians 16:21; 2 Thessalonians 3:17. This indicates that someone else actually wrote almost the whole letter under Paul's guidance. These writers were probably Timothy or other associates of Paul. Paul asks that Christians at Colossae remember his bonds in prison--see Colossians 4:3. The assurance: "Grace be with you," sustains the community of faith.

Our journey through the Book of Colossians has come to an end. I hope these thoughts have blessed your heart and your life. Next, we will turn to Ephesians, because apparentely Paul wrote Philemon, Colossians, and Ephesians while he was a prisoner in Rome.

Share YOUR thoughts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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