Contextual Notes: The third section and end of the letter of the Colossians is a list of greetings from Paul to the believers in Colossae (common in Paul’s letters – 1 Cor 16:19-24; Rom 16:1-23; Phlmn 23-25; Phil 4:21-23; Eph 6:21-24). This hearty fellowship of believers seems at first like a personal listing of ancient church names that has no bearing on us as believers whatsoever.
But we believe in the full inerrancy of Scripture which includes the belief that all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, correcting, rebuking, and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. There is no part of Scripture that is more important than another, more inspired than another. It is all equally inspired.
Paul is writing from house arrest in Rome, guarded by Caesar’s Imperial Guard, receiving guests, and preaching the gospel (Acts 28:30-31).
Key Truth: Paul wrote Colossians 4:7-18 to encourage the Colossian Christians by the lives of those they knew to focus on encouragement, community, intercession, and edification.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about the disciple-making principle of impartation and its outworking in our lives.
- Impart encouragement in Christ (Col 4:7-9)
- Impart fellowship in Christ (Col 4:10-11)
- Impart intercession in Christ (Col 4:12-13)
- Impart edification in Christ (Col 4:14-18)
Exposition: Note well,
1. IMPART ENCOURAGEMENT IN CHRIST (Col 4:7-9).
a. Tychicus: The letter carrier. The wording here is almost identical to Eph 6:21-22, and it is possible that Tychicus also bore the letter to Ephesus since it was on the way and the one to Laodecia as well. Called faithful (Acts 20:4; Eph 6:21). He was a native of Asia Minor and was with Paul in Greece and went with him to Troas at the end of the third missionary journey. He helped Paul carry the Relief to Jerusalem and served as Paul’s emissary here. Paul sent him on a mission to Ephesus (2 Tim 4:12) and planned to send him or Artemas to Crete to take Titus’ place (Titus 3:12). Tychicus seemed to be an important member of Paul’s team later in Paul’s ministry, especially dear to the apostle.
b. Onesimus: name means “Useful.” (Phlm 11) Called faithful. A runaway slave native to Colossae (4:9). . Met Paul in Rome (Phlm 10). Coming back with letter to Philemon.
c. APPLICATION: How did these people become encouraging and useful? They spent time around an encouraging and useful mentor. They spent time with Paul. The most important things we learn in the Christian life are caught rather than taught. Things like being encouraging and useful. Paul had modeled it for these believers, and now they are operating in these ways. Whom are you modeling your life after? Figure that out, and you will see what you will be in a few years. For whom are you being a model? Figure that out and you will see the impact of your life in a few years.
d. One of the most important things we can do in the church is to be encouraging. Tychicus was an encouraging news carrier. Too often in the church we have news carriers, but they are carrying tales of gossip, news that defiles, with innuendo or lies. Christ calls us to be carriers of encouragement, not tale-bearers. He calls us to build one another up, not tear one another down. He calls us, like Mr. Useful, to be useful in the hand of the Lord to build his House, not to tear it down. So what about you? Are you a tale-bearer? Do you shred people or build them up? Are you critical about things going on in your family or are you the encourager people like to see coming? Do you tear down the leadership of the church or do you seek to respect them even when you disagree with them? Are you an encourager? Are you useful in the Kingdom?
2. IMPART FELLOWSHIP IN CHRIST (Col 4:10-11).
a. Aristarchus: Called a faithful companion, literally “my fellow prisoner of war” (Philemon 23), perhaps voluntarily a prisoner with Paul. He could have passed for Paul’s servant/slave. Native of Thessalonica and became a Christian under Paul’s short three week ministry there (Acts 17:1-9). He was at the Ephesus Riot (Acts 19:29; 20:40). He later went with Paul to Jerusalem as one of the two delegates from the Thessalonican church (Acts 20:4) and accompanied Paul and Luke when they sailed from Caesarea to Rome (Acts 27:2).
b. Mark: From unfaithful to faithful (Acts 13:13; 15:36ff; 1 Peter 5:13). Jewish, cousin of Barnabas, not nephew. Native of Jerusalem (Acts 12:12, 25) who traveled with Paul and Barnabas to Cyprus on the first missionary journey. When they arrived in Perga on the mainland of Asia, Mark defected and returned to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). Paul, judging this to be a weakness in Mark, refused him on the next journey. There was a sharp disagreement between Paul and Barnabas resulting in Barnabas’ taking his younger cousin back to Cyprus while Paul set off with Silas (Acts 15:36-41). Under Barnabas’ careful guidance, John Mark regained his reputation to that he and Paul were reconciled, for Mark was with Paul in prison in Rome (4:10; Phlmn 24; 2 Tim 4:11). Became a writer of one of the four gospels from Peter’s point of view. Another form of impartation.
c. Jesus/Justus: He has a Jewish/Greek name. Jewish church planter – tough job, must be faithful. A violent and dangerous life because you have enemies on both ends. Jewish workers with Paul were important in going into the synagogues in Rome (Acts 28:17, 22, 30-31).
d. APPLICATION: There is not many better ways to describe someone’s character than faithful. Faithfulness, dependability, one who will stick with you even in the tough times, those are the ones you know are your friends. Want to find out who your friends are? Go through a tough, dark time. The ones who stick with you are your true friends. Are you dependable, or can no one trust any promise you make? What would your kids or your grandchildren say about you if I were to ask them if you were dependable to what you promised them? What would your spouse say about your faithfulness and dependability day in and day out? Are you faithful in church attendance? Are you dependable on your job, or do talk Christ and consistently come into work late, miss work, fail to make your team deadlines regularly? Christ calls us to be faithful in our families, on our jobs, and before Him. How do you fix things if you have been unfaithful? Ask the Lord to help you learn consistency. Ask your spouse or children to point out and help you become more dependable. Grow up. Do what you say you will do. Stop making promises you can’t or won’t keep. Respect yourself and your Lord’s Name by following through on your commitments.
3. IMPART INTERCESSION IN CHRIST (Col 4:12-13)
a. Three Jews followed by three Gentiles
b. Epaphras: pastor, church planter of the Colossian church (1:7). An intercessor, elder, faithful. He brought news to Paul of Colossae and was put in jail (Phlm 23).
c. ILLUSTRATION: My friend Tom Wright is a prayer warrior. He spent many years walking his own way, but after some down time with back surgery, he walked with a limp (like Jacob after Peniel), but he walked with God, and that is when he became a prayer warrior. He wrestled with the Lord in prayer, and when he went to prayer, he didn’t come out of it until the Lord released him. And he saw great answers to prayer including one time when the Lord led him to pray for an unreached people group in China, that they would receive the Jesus Film in their language. He prayed fervently for months about this, not understanding why. Several years later, a missionary came to our church and told us that a couple of years earlier, the Lord suddenly laid it on the heart of a Campus Crusade worker to translate the Jesus Film into the heart language of this unreached group. He was driven to it, and completed the translation and began to show the film, seeing many come to Christ. That translation work happened during the same months that Tom was in such travail in prayer over that issue. I’ll never forget seeing the tears roll down Tom’s face when he realized what he was hearing and how he had prayed fervently for those months without understanding why. He thanked the Lord profusely in tears for the opportunity he had to be involved in Kingdom work in an area he will never see, but the people he will meet on the other side. The Lord knows what he is doing, and if we will pay attention, we can be involved with him in what he is doing.
d. APPLICATION: Where did Epaphras learn how to pray? Perhaps from the one who led him to Christ and taught him to plant a church? Perhaps from Paul himself? Paul imparted to Epaphras a deep love of prayer and knowledge of prayer. How do we learn to pray? By praying with others who know how to pray themselves.
e. Prayer here is a deterrent to false teaching and backward discipleship. Every time I have found crippled believers I have found a lack of prayer. Every time I have found well-formed, strong believers I have found a wealth of prayer. Every time I have found those who wrestled in prayer, I have found a deep and profound work of God and incredible answers to prayer. Are you listening and praying? Are you wrestling in prayer?
4. IMPART EDIFICATION IN CHRIST (Col 4:14-18)
a. Luke: physician. Sat with Paul in Rome (Phlmn 24). Also found (2 Tim 4:11). Wrote Luke/Acts – Impartation.
b. Demas: (Phlmn 24). NOT faithful. – Ruinous life, back to the world. Nothing more is heard of him in church history after 2 Tim 4:10.
c. Nympha/s: a man? Woman? in whose house a church met.
d. Laodicean Church: nearby, exchange of letters begins which leads to the Pauline corpus and other corpora.
e. Archippus: Prophetic Word – Be faithful! Perhaps son of Philemon and Apphia. Pastor of church at Colossae now (Phlmn 2)
f. Paul’s own hand: All the letter was written by a secretary, probably Luke in this case. Paul adds his signature to prove it is genuinely from him. This verse strengthens the genuineness of the letter and the doctrine of inerrancy.
g. APPLICATION: Paul’s purpose in life was to build up the Body of Christ and extend it to the nations. The faithfulness of Paul’s life built up the lives of those around him. One, Demas, was unfaithful. Archippus needed the encouragement to be faithful, but Paul taught them and built them, edified all those on his team toward faithfulness. Paul imparted faithfulness to those he trained. Do you build up, or do you tear down? Do you find ways to help people grow in Christ, do you find things to encourage and promote growth in their lives and build morale? Or are you a critic, always nit-picking, always looking for something else that is wrong? Be faithful in building others up, and they will build you up in encouragement one day when you need it. Be a constant critic, especially to your children, and it will come back in your face one day. Build up others. Edify your brothers and sisters. It is the Jesus way.
O’Brien, WBC: 44, Colossians, Philemon, 245ff.