Devotional # 164. 11/23/15. Colossians 4:12-18.
Intro. Today we finish out the book of Colossians: we’ll be learning about more men of faith. As it seems with the world we know today, there were people in the early church that stuck with Jesus and the faith as well as some who fell away. What can we learn from Paul’s final words and goodbye?
vv. 12-13. Just like Onesimus (4:9), Epaphras was from Colossae (“one of you“). And as such Epaphras’ heart was with his hometown. Notice that Paul says he was “laboring fervently for you in prayers” (v. 12) and “great zeal for you” (v. 13). So even if we have moved out of our hometown it’s a good thing to keep the ministry there in prayer. If God has called you to another place other than where you grew up be faithful in that place, praying for it and acting in His will but don’t forget your roots. It will be such an encouragement for your brothers and sisters in your hometown to hear how you battle for them in prayer! And another thing we see about Epaphras, aside from the great compliment by Paul about him being a “bondservant of Christ“, is that he also kept Laodicea and Hierapolis in mind.
Sadly, what we know from Scripture about Laodicea, things didn’t go so well. According to Revelation 3:14-22 the Church of Laodicea was one of the “very bad” Churches. The city of Laodicea lay on one of the great Asian trade routes, was a leading banking center and manufactured black wool. There are references to the emetic qualities of the soda-laden warm water from nearby Hierapolis, whose thermal springs ran into the Maeander. So we see that Hieropolis was close to Laodicea. It is believed that Hierapolis is where Phillip (the Apostle) was stoned to death.
v. 14. “Luke” and “Demas” are mentioned here. This is the Luke that wrote the Gospel of Luke, which was named for him. He was not an eye-witness of Jesus but he went around as a reporter and talked to eye-witnesses and as moved by the Holy Spirit wrote down the story of Jesus. He then worked with Paul, as more than an eye-witness, laboring with Paul and Timothy and Demas and the others who are mentioned here and in other epistles and gospels. He makes me think of our present day Lee Strobel who was a journalist for the Chicago Tribune and strong atheist who started investigating claims about Jesus and then became a Christian. He has written books like The Case for Christ (documenting his attempt to prove Christianity false, multiple interviews with evangelical Christian scholars and ultimately his conversion) as well as The Case for Faith, The Case for Christianity and The Case for the Real Jesus, among others. I would encourage you to read any and all of these. What we can learn from men like Luke who are educated (Paul was a doctor) is that Christians can be educated and still serve the Lord greatly. Obviously there are still men like Lee Strobel (and J.P. Moreland and Ravi Zacharias and R.C. Sproul and on and on) who carry on the tradition of telling others about Jesus with scholarship. Go ahead and look at this link of 20 apologists (and other cultural commentators): http://crossexamined.org/top-20-apologists . I suggest you look into how these people share their biblical worldview.
Notice Paul doesn’t give any positive mention of “Demas” and it seems like maybe that is for good reason. Although he is mentioned in Philemon 1:24 as a “fellow laborer” with Paul, the last mention of him in 2 Timothy 4:10 shows that Demas actually forsook Paul “having loved this present world” and that he went to Thessalonica (Source 1). It seems like Demas degenerated in his walk over time. We can learn a lot from this. It seems that the writers of the Bible are wise in reminding us that we can fall away from the Lord and our walk with Him. We may not plan it, or even think it would ever happen and yet it does. The longer we spend time in churches and fellowship with Christians the more chances we have to see this happen. Be warned do not lose your love for the Lord, do not allow your walk to become boring and uninspired. As soon as you settle in to monotony you will drift away from the Lord instead of sailing alongside Him.
v. 15. Here we’re told of “Laodicea” and “Nymphas.” We just talked about the area of “Laodicea” but now we’re introduced to “Nymphas.” Paul tells us that Nymphas’ had a church in his house and Paul greets Nymphas and all who are in that house church. Not much else is known about Nymphas himself but the house-church is an important part of church history. It wasn’t until some time in the third century that Christian churches were in there own large buildings. But knowing that Nymphas was a faithful man is encouraging especially in light of what we just learned about with Demas.
vv. 16-17. When a church got a letter from an apostle such as Paul or Peter they would read it in their church usually multiple times. They would often have people copy it and then pass it around to other churches. Paul gives specific instructions that the Colossians are to read the letter among themselves but then they are also supposed to pass it on to the Laodiceans and make sure that it’s read to them also. Paul is doing more than just reminding them, he’s making sure to call out the importance of the church in Laodicea. In just the seven verses Paul has mentioned the Laodiceans four times. He’s actually killing two birds with one stone: he’s making sure that the Colossians recognize the importance of the Laodiceans and other churches and that the Laodiceans both feel that they are important and recognize the importance of other churches like the one in Colossae.
Paul then says something interesting. He specifically tells the Colossians what to say to a man named “Archippus“. Archippus may have been Philemon’s son “since he is mentioned in the context of the wife of Philemon” (Philemon 1:1) (Source 1). We see Paul’s appreciated view of Archippus when he calls him “our fellow soldier.”
But it’s really interesting Paul doesn’t just say ‘hey, just remind him about this thing.’ Instead Paul specifically tells them the words that he wants used. God had a very specific message specifically directed at Archippus. I love that our Lord knows us by name, and that he has specific messages for us throughout our lives. Sure this message may speak to many other people who feel convicted that the Lord is speaking to them that’s one of the reasons God uses the Bible. But sometimes we can be so interested in applying it to our own lives that we forget about the person that it was initially intended for. Archippus was a real guy and really needed to be reminded by God to, “‘take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it’“. So it would seem that Archippus was not doing all he should with the ministry he had been given. I love the wording here, it was not “his ministry” it was a ministry that he had “received.” Every ministry that we have has been given by God to us it is owned by Him and He has hired us to do His work.
v. 18. Paul signs off on his letter to his friends in Colossae. He signs it by his “own hand” so that they will know that it is a credible letter and that they can believe it. As we’ve seen this was common for Paul and others of his age, to sign off on the letter whether they dictated it to someone else or wrote it with their own hand. Paul remind them of his “chains” – not to get sympathy out of them but because he wanted to remind them of his commitment level and what theirs should be. Not just was he able to give them encouraging words but he lived out his convictions. It also served to remind them to pray for him since it was a difficult place to be in. Paul then says, “grace be with you.” This is an appropriate reminder that God has extended kindness to us even though we didn’t deserve it. I think it’s really cool that even though Paul was in prison he still recognized God’s grace to him. Paul’s proper mindset on grace is then passed on to his friends there in Colossae. We can learn from this when we’re going through difficulties it is the mature Christian that can still encourage other Christians with words like “grace be with you” instead of “poor me”. Paul concludes with “amen” which means “may it be” or “so be it.” The use of “amen” is always the perfect bookend to a spiritual thought, prayer or letter. God is speaking through Paul saying, ‘everything that I’ve said here is righteous and true and will come to pass.’
Conclusion. As we close up the book of Colossians we should look back over some of the things we’ve learned. We talked about praying for others (1:9, 4:12) to be fruitful (1: 10) so that we can share Jesus’ salvation with others (1:14). We learned about Jesus’ nature and authority (1:15-18). We talked about how philosophy and legalism weren’t worth anything when compared with knowing Jesus (chapter 2). We spent some good time on the character of the believer and what our family relationships should look like (chapter 3). And here in chapter 4 we talked about walking in wisdom and redeeming the time (4:5). We then heard about some great men of the faith and how they can impact our lives nowadays (4:7-17). Again, all of these awesome and comforting thoughts were sealed with “amen” by God Himself, so we can take courage in knowing they are true and will come to pass.
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Source 1: David Guzik, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_Col/Col_4.cfm?a=1111001