Greetings and prayer: Devotional Commentary for August 18-24
This is the Word of God. May the Spirit of Truth give us wisdom and insight to receive what has been conveyed through His Word by His Inspiration.
7As to all my affairs, Tychicus, our beloved brother and faithful servant and fellow bond-servant in the Lord, will bring you information.
8For I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts;
9and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of your number. They will inform you about the whole situation here.
10Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, sends you his greetings; and also Barnabas's cousin Mark (about whom you received instructions; if he comes to you, welcome him);
11and 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.
12Epaphras, 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.
13For I testify for him that he has a deep concern for you and for those who are in Laodicea and Hierapolis.
14Luke, the beloved physician, sends you his greetings, and also Demas.
15Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea and also Nympha and the church that is in her house.
16When 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.
17Say to Archippus, "Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it."
18I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand Remember my imprisonment Grace be with you.
Paul concludes his letter to the Colossians with his usual words of farewell and additional thoughts of encouragement and assurance. His words are not just ordinary expressions of goodbyes. He mentions ten individuals and says something about each one. Eight of these were his companions in ministry and partners with him in his sufferings for the Gospel. Some were actually in prison with him.
Perhaps thinking of his prayer request for safety and success in ministry, Paul dispatched Tychicus and Onesimus to inform the church at Colossae regarding his conditions in prison and his ministerial activities in the Lord's work. It is generally assumed that Tychicus and Onesimus were also tasked with delivering Paul's letter to the Colossians. Tychicus and Onesimus were very special to Paul.
Tychicus accompanied Paul in his missionary journeys and delivered Paul's letters to churches in the region. He introduced Tychicus to the Colossians as trustworthy and reliable, a faithful servant, and a fellow-bondslave of the Gospel in the Lord's work. He sent him to the church at Colossae as his representative, to make sure that they received accurate information about him and be encouraged by the news of God's mighty work in his ministry in spite of Paul's imprisonment.
Onesimus was a runaway slave from Colossae who came to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ under Paul's ministry in Rome. In his letter to Philemon—Onesimus's master, Paul appealed to Philemon's Christian sentiments and urged him to receive Onesimus back into his family not only as a servant but also as a brother in Christ. Thus, accompanied by a native Colossian, Tychicus delivered letter and words from Paul to the church at Colossae.
Aristarchus, who was also a prisoner like Paul, sent his greetings to the church at Colossae along with Mark and Jesus Justus. These were the only Jewish Christians who were partners with Paul in the Lord's work. Paul confessed that they proved to be a great encouragement to him. This was very important to Paul because some of the Jewish converts questioned his wisdom in taking the Gospel to the Gentiles.
Perhaps in an effort to ward off the slightest sense of dislike between Jewish and Gentile believers, Paul deliberately expressed his appreciation for his Jewish partners in ministry. He also reminded the Colossians to welcome Mark when he comes to visit them. Mark was known for abandoning Paul in Perga in the midst of his first missionary journey on the Mediterranean coast, causing a major rift between Paul and Barnabas. Later, they were all reconciled and Paul spoke of Mark with great fondness.
Paul also mentioned another native Colossian besides Onesimus. Epaphras was not only a native Colossian Christian, he was also credited with founding the church at Colossae. After conveying Epaphras's heartfelt greetings, Paul assured the Colossians that their Founder was always praying for them, interceding that they would continue to mature in faith and to stand firm in their commitment to the Lord. He affirmed that the welfare of the churches at Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis always preoccupied Epaphras's mind and heart.
Paul wrapped up his list by mentioning greetings from Luke and Demas. Certainly, Luke was the beloved Physician from Antioch who accompanied Paul in most of his ministerial activities in the Lord's work. He also wrote the investigative Gospel bearing his name and chronicled the work of the Holy Spirit in his narrative: The Acts Of The Apostles. The only thing we know about Demas was that he abandoned Paul in Rome because he was drawn away by his love for the world.
Finally, Paul sent his greetings to the brethren in Laodicea and to Nympha and the church at her house. He also instructed the churches in the region to exchange his letters addressed to each individual church, making sure that the precepts he taught are received by all the believers in the area. Because he cared so much for the welfare of the flock, Paul strongly encouraged Archippus to be responsible and accountable for the ministry he received from the Lord. Then Paul signed off with a benediction of Grace and a reminder of his imprisonment for the sake of the Gospel, hinting his desire for a continued prayer support.
Many times these passages at the end of Paul’s letters go unnoticed. There is no deep theology here. There is no instruction in righteousness. There is no rebuke or correction. There is only the passing of greetings from one saint to another. Many of them have names that we cannot even pronounce. So little is known about them that we can hardly get excited about Christians who lived so long ago.
Yet, there is a poignant message here. It is the day-to-day expression of Paul’s compassion for those who labor with him in proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. No one denies that Paul was a great thinker who was gifted by the Holy Spirit to express the meaning of Christ’s sacrifice to Jew and Gentile alike. He certainly could be very stern if he sees that believers are not living up to their calling in Christ Jesus. But these expressions of instruction and correction are not seen here.
Here we see the love, compassion, and prayerful hope of a man who has given his entire life to the declaration of the Gospel in a pagan world. In this passage we see men who feel vulnerable to the opposition they face. They ask for prayer—to be strong, to be faithful. And then they exchange their greetings and prayers for each other across the miles that separate them.
All covered in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, they underscore two elements that pervade the entire sentiment of Christian unity and relationships within the Body of Christ: Faith in God and the loving care of Christ we share. May our Lord give us the strength, courage, and confidence to be faithful to the message that has been written in His Word, and then in our own hearts. May our Lord also give us tender hearts which express that faith to each other in words of encouragement. May we be honest with each other, expressing our need for prayer and be held up in the strength of Christ to face the task that the Lord has given to us. May we, like Paul, do all these things in the Grace that has been given from the bounty of our Father's gracious gift of salvation in Jesus Christ. In the end, may saints and sinners alike see Jesus Christ in all that we say and do.