Devotional # 164. Colossians 4:12-18

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.

I hope that as we transition into the blog format you will continue to receive these Devotionals and tell your friends, families and enemies (haha) about them. Again, it’s at: https://godsheartblog.wordpress.com , which is the main page where all devotionals will be posted.

 

References.

Source 1: David Guzik, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_Col/Col_4.cfm?a=1111001

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Devotional # 163. Colossians 4:1-11

Devotional # 163. 11/16/15. Colossians 4:1-11.

Intro. As we begin Colossians chapter 4 I want to tell you that I’ll be changing the format of this devotional in the coming weeks. I’m going to transfer over to a blog and I hope that you’ll continue reading on there. The plan is that I can do mini devotionals more often. Stay tuned for more info in the coming weeks.

Regarding Colossians 4: Paul finishes off talking to bosses and then he helps us understand the importance of prayer, witnessing to others about Jesus, how vital working with trusted brothers and sisters is and what it means to forgive someone for the betterment of the kingdom of God.

v. 1. Paul is finishing his thought from the last part of chapter 3. As I mentioned last week we hear about “masters“, nowadays we would call them managers or supervisors or bosses. So for those of us who are not bosses this tells us what Christian bosses should be like. For those of you who are bosses God is pretty clear that you are to be “just and fair.” But to what standard are you to be “just and fair“? As always, to the Bible’s standard. I’ve been a team leader before and I’ve been told to do things that are not ethical. Standing up for what is biblically right is much more important than doing what your boss tells you is “right.” Why is that? Doesn’t obeying your boss mean that you get further in the company? Maybe. It could also mean that if you’re doing something illegal you could be fined or imprisoned. But even if that doesn’t happen as a Christian you have an obligation to the Lord. Why is that? Because God has put you in a position to be a “master” on earth but ultimately He is the “Master in heaven.” In other words be “just and fair” to everyone because you have to answer to God for how you’ve acted. But beyond that God is always interested in the heart. You shouldn’t be fair to your employees out of fear of what God will do to you, you should be fair to them because it’s right because your heart has been changed to desire justice and the love of Christ that all people would be saved. One last thought before we move on, make sure you note that this is for Christian bosses – this doesn’t apply to people who have not accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. It would be nice if they acted this way but we cannot expect them to if they have not had Christ transform their life.

vv. 2-6. Paul transitions here having talked about what mothers and fathers and children and workers and bosses should live like to Christian prayer and sharing Jesus with others. By context, of course this ties to how we should live as families and workers and bosses: in prayer. But Paul isn’t just talking about our roles in those things but also in general as Christians. He tells us to “continue earnestly in prayer.” This tells us at least two things: 1. the Colossians had been praying (in order to “continue“) and 2, it was to be “earnest” prayer. This means to be serious and recognize the importance of prayer. You are talking to the God of the universe and He has the power to answer your prayers, do not be flippant or condescending or disrespectful when you pray. And, as is often the case with Paul, he reminds us that we are to pray with “thanksgiving.” When I read this I can’t help but think of the American holiday of Thanksgiving coming up next week. The whole point of the holiday, and what Paul is saying here, is that we recognize it is God who provides for us and takes care of us and blesses us. Regardless of what we are praying for we must recognize and give thanks for what He has already done and given us. Paul reminds the Colossians, and us also, that we are to be praying for other Christians that God would give them the boldness and the power to preach Jesus to those who don’t know Him. But how can we do this if we haven’t recognized our “thankfulness” for the abundant life that God has given us and the sinful life that He pulled us out of? When we talk about Jesus to others it is “as [we] ought to speak.” It’s not something that we should dread it’s not something that were forced into it just goes with the Christian life.

In verse 5 Paul gives us a short but very helpful set of instructions on how to witness to people about Jesus. In Ephesians 5:1-14 (Devotional # 106–107) we talked about three “walk” commands. They were “walk in love” (5:2), “walk as children of light” (5:8) and “walk circumspectly” or carefully (5:15). Now we’re told by Paul to “walk in wisdom” but what does that mean? Matthew Henry says this basically means to be smart in the way you approach non-Christians, don’t allow their customs to influence you and don’t do them any wrong (Source 3) so that they will not curse you but instead bless the Lord. This is to those “who are outside” which means not Christians. Personally I think of it as meaning outside the gates of heaven, because that puts it in perspective for me. If you’re not going to heaven then you’re going to hell. And every Christian is called to share Jesus with those who are going to hell, just as we who were going to hell were shared with. And how are we supposed to share Jesus with others? 1. Having our “speech always be with grace” which means “To speak what is spiritually, wholesome, fitting, kind, sensitive, purposeful, complementary, gentle, truthful, loving, and thoughtful” (Source 1, p. 1839). 2. Our speech is supposed to be “seasoned with salt“, we’re reminded that “just as salt not only flavors, but prevents corruption, the Christians speech should act not only as a blessing to others, but as a purifying influence within the decaying society of the world” (Source 1, p. 1839). And when these two things are done then we will know how we ought to answer each person who doesn’t know Jesus.

vv. 7-9. Now we come to a point which is fairly typical for Paul’s writings where he mentions specific people and their role within the church as a whole. A lot of times when we’re reading we discount people’s names because we don’t really know them and we think what can an old dead person really teach me about the Lord? But a lot can be learned! For example listen to my sermon on Romans 16 here: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=83115034446 .

The first person mentioned here is Tychicus and what he does and that he’s traveling to Colossae is talked about in verse 7 which you can read and meditate on, on your own. But I found it interesting that along with him being “a beloved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant in the Lord” he was one of the Gentiles who was saved through Paul’s preaching and then Paul took him to Jerusalem as a representative of what God had done in Acts 20:4 (Devotional # 60). We also spent a good amount of time talking about him when we were studying Ephesians 6:21-22, Devotional # 120, if you care to re-read that. He’s also talked about in 2 Timothy 4:12 and Titus 3:12.

The second person mentioned here is Onesimus who is also talked about in Philemon 1:10. I really like Onesimus. He was “the runaway slave who’s return to his master was the basis for Paul’s letter to Philemon” (Source 1, p. 1839). In his introduction to the book of Philemon, MacArthur does a great job of explaining some more key information. The thing that I want you to know is that when the slave Onesimus became a Christian he recognized that he needed to go back to his master but it wasn’t safe for him to return because of slave traders. So Paul had Tychicus (who we just talked about) accompany Onesimus and they were the ones who took this letter that we’re reading to the Colossians! (Source 1, p. 1890).

vv. 10-11. We continue on, hearing about Aristarchus, Mark and Justus. These guys were Jewish, we know this because they were “of the circumcision” (v. 11).

Aristarchus was Paul’s “fellow prisoner.” It is possible that this is referring to when Aristarchus was imprisoned along with Paul in Acts 19:29 (Devotional # 59) or how he accompanied Paul when Paul was a prisoner in Acts 27:2 (Devotional # 71). It could also be that at the time Paul was writing this very letter, Aristarchus was in prison with him. Isn’t it interesting that Aristarchus had a habit of being alongside Paul, getting imprisoned whenever Paul did (Source 2)? You can tell that Paul appreciates it and calls them his “fellow workers for the kingdom of God.” I challenge you, if you’re not called to lead a group of people working for the “kingdom of God”, that you find someone who is and become a “fellow worker” with them. You can’t believe what it means to someone who is sharing Jesus with others and praying (as Paul’s been telling us here) to have others come alongside and help with the burden. You can see Aristarchus again in Philemon 1:24.

This is the Mark who wrote the gospel of Mark. Remember that the story was re-counted by Peter and transcribed by young John Mark (as he is also called). I love that the Bible tells us the difficulties that have always existed between imperfect people doing the Lord’s work, and yet this is a section that shows us what reconciliation looks like. Do you remember when we went through Acts 13:13-38 (Devotionals # 53) we saw that Mark didn’t finish out the trip he was supposed to take and Paul didn’t accept it? In fact Barnabas forgave Mark and continued to work with him although Paul split off and went with Silas in Acts 15:36-40 (Devotional # 55)? But here in Colossians this shows us that Paul and Mark did patch up their differences (as well as 2 Timothy 4:11) and that they worked together. A couple weeks ago when we were going through “bearing with one another, and forgiving one another” in Colossians 3:13 (Devotional # 161) I mentioned that I’ve thought about leaving churches before because people hurt my feelings or made me angry but that too many times I’ve read in my Bible how much Jesus wants the church to have unity and not division. Now to be honest, I see where Paul is coming from in not feeling like he can trust Mark for ditching them, but I also have to understand that Mark was young and may not have had the perseverance to commit to doing what he was supposed to do. And I think the reasons I just mentioned were understood by the separate parties of Paul and Mark and that’s what helped them come to an understanding. And that’s what we need. Understanding to come to an understanding. If it’s up to you don’t allow yourself to never reconcile with another Christian, they might be able to be become a close, “fellow worker” with you. Notice that Paul had given the Colossians an open-ended “command” to accept Mark if he ever came through Colossae. A personal recommendation from Paul was no small thing.

And lastly is Jesus, which is the English translation of the Hebrew name Yeshua (which in English is Joshua). Obviously this isn’t Jesus Christ but another man who was born with the name Jesus. But now he went by the name Justus, which Matthew Henry thinks might have been out of respect for our Lord Jesus (Source 3). We don’t know anything more about him but that he was one of the three men in Rome at this time, who were of Hebrew decent that were of great comfort to Paul. It’s no small thing to be a comfort to a great man of God!

Conclusion. I think this is a great section of Scripture. There is so much here. We’re taught about general praying and praying for other Christians. We’re taught about “walking in wisdom” when it comes to sharing Jesus with others. We’re also given insight into what some of the guys who helped out Paul were like. I love the real people that we hear about in the Bible! What great stories so many Christians have, and how they are used by God. Next week we’ll go over some more people who were instrumental in the growth of the early church.

 

References.

Source 1: John MacArthur, The John MacArthur Study Bible.

Source 2: David Guzik, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_Col/Col_4.cfm?a=1111001 .

Source 3: Matthew Henry, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/mhc/Col/Col_004.cfm?a=1111001 .