Take Heed to the Ministry

Col. 4:17-18.

And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it.

The salutation by the hand of me Paul. Remember my bonds. Grace be with you. Amen.

Archippus was apparently a Christian leader in Colosse. It is possible he was a pastor, though I could find no proof of that. In any case, he was known in the Colossian Christian community, and was most likely a lay leader or pastor in the congregation of believers.

So the question is, why did Paul single him out with a warning to pay attention to his calling, and fulfill it?

It is easy to jump to the conclusion that he was failing in some way, but that is only supposition. I believe Paul’s message to him was more by way of encouragement to stay strong in the battle. There was so much that easily distracted the Colossian believers–heresy, looming persecution, problems within the congregation–that Paul must have felt compelled to tell Archippus, through the Colossian letter, not to give up; not to falter, but to forge ahead with courage and strength.

Pastors and lay leaders need encouragement! They get more than their fair share of criticism and discouragement. I am a preacher’s kid, and I know the weight that a pastor carries. So often, the problems arise not from the outside, from unbelievers, but from within the church itself. Dissatisfaction among believers, who choose to speak among themselves; or who go to the pastor with criticism and no encouragement or support. I’m not saying that a pastor or lay leader is above reproach. There is, however a right way to handle it when reproach is necessary. Go to Galatians 6:1-10; Matthew 18:15-20; and I Timothy 5:1. Go in prayer. Go with the goal of reconciliation.

Finally, Paul makes his usual final salutation. His practice was to dictate his letters to an amenuensis, or secretary, and then to write the final salutation in his own hand. He asks that he be remembered in prayer as a prisoner of Rome, and prays for grace for the recipients of his letter.

Share God’s Word!

Col. 4:16. “And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.”

Paul’s letters were never meant to be read, kept, and held away from other churches or groups of believers. He may have addressed a particular issue, as he did in I Corinthians, but he also knew and understood that such issues would be common to all believers down through the centuries, as in his own time. His desire was that his letters be a blessing to all believers.

Apparently, he had written a letter to the Laodiceans that has not been retained, and is not part of the canon of the Bible. There is nothing shocking or mysterious about that. What we have in God’s Word is that which was specifically inspired of God through the Holy Spirit (II Tim. 3:16-17). Not every word that Paul ever wrote fell into the category of God-breathed inspiration. There is, in fact, a Latin letter written to the Laodiceans, but the earliest church “fathers,” such as Jerome, denied its authenticity on comparison with Paul’s other writings. The Latin letter differs in style and substance to the point that the question of including it in the canon has long been settled.

Remember that God is not the author of confusion (I Cor. 14:33). Satan loves to pour doubt all over the Word of God, but it has remained secure in spite of his efforts.


Col. 4:15. “Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house.”

My husband has taught me to have a keen interest in maps. I love knowing where places are in relation to places I know. This one pinpoints the churches mentioned in Revelation 2 & 3, which include Laodicea, a lukewarm church.

Laodicea means justice of the people, which I find interesting. In Revelation, it is considered a church that is neither hot nor cold, reprehensible to God. Perhaps at one time it was fervent, but had lost its zeal. It is in Phrygia, on the river Lycus, very close to Colosse. Destroyed by an earthquake in 66 A.D., it was rebuilt by Marcus Aurelius. It was considered the seat, or beginning, of the Christian church in that part of Asia.

There were no buildings designated as Christian churches until the third century A.D. Instead, believers met in private homes, each group led by a pastor or lay leader. Nymphas is translated as bridegroom. He was apparently a wealthy enough person to have a large home which, in his zeal, he was willing to open up as a place for believers to assemble. Doing so would likely lead to persecution later on, but the new believers were willing to face that danger while they met together for study, prayer, and worship.

Beloved Physician

Col. 4:14. “Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you.”

Again, we don’t know what these men looked like. I use these illustrations hoping that they will not be considered as facts; they are artist’s renderings based upon what we know of the characters they portray. Luke’s name is a contraction of the Latin Lucanus, which means Bringer of Light. And yes, it is related to the name Lucifer, Light Bearer, which that prideful fallen angel, Satan, was named before he fell from heaven because of his sin.

Luke was a Gentile believer. He accompanied Paul many times on his missionary journeys. He was the author of the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts, both books full of enlightening detail and description. I think he must have been near-genius in his intellect, and full of the love of God in his heart and soul. I like to think about meeting him someday!

Demas, along with Luke, sends his greetings to the Colossians in this letter of Paul’s. His name means governor of people. He had been Paul’s companion, but deserted him during his imprisonment in Rome and returned to Thessalonica (2 Timothy 4:10: “For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia”).

Demas apparently started out well, traveling with Paul as he planted new churches and carried the gospel everywhere he went. Very little is said about Demas until the passage above in

II Timothy 4:10. There was something about “this present world” that called his name. Maybe he was fearful of imprisonment and death. Maybe he just grew weary in well-doing. We don’t know. What we do know is that this can happen to any believer. There are many, even well-known and beloved by other believers, who have shrugged off the calling of God to live lives that did not honor Him. It is a warning to us. No one is above that sort of temptation.

Laboring. . .in Prayer

Col. 4:12-13.

Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.

For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis.

Epaphras: The name means charming or foamy. Foamy? Hmmmm. Well, maybe in the sense that he bubbled over with his love and concern for Paul and his fellow-believers back home. It seems he was able to be with Paul, whether as a prisoner or a visitor from outside is not made clear.

What IS clear is that he was a prayer warrior! Have you ever “labored fervently” in prayer? James 5:16 says that the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” To be fervent is to be very hot : glowing the fervent sun; exhibiting or marked by great intensity of feeling : zealous.

Also, notice that Paul refers to Epaphrus as a servant of Christ. The meaning here is that of being a bondservant, who was one who voluntarily worked without pay, and was cared for by the ones for whom he worked. It speaks to a warm and loving bond between the servant and his master, Who in this case was Jesus Christ.

Epaphras was “one of you,” that is, he was from the area of Colosse, and knew the people personally. He had a deep love for the people of Colosse, and Laodicea, and Hierapolis.

You can see from the map that these three cities are very close together, and though Paul himself had never been to Colosse, Epaphras was from that area, and knew the people well.

The one distinguishing description of Epaphras was his fervent zeal and prayer for his fellow-believers. That’s quite a distinction, isn’t it?

Jesus Christ, Priest and King

Co. 4:11. “And Jesus, which is called Justus, who are of the circumcision. These only are my fellow-workers unto the kingdom of God, which have been a comfort unto me.”

The text that accompanies this picture says just about everything I was going to say, so I’m going to focus on just one thing: The name Jesus.

In Hebrew, the Name of Jesus is Yeshua, which is short for yehōshu’a, in which the name Joshua is clearly seen. The name appears three other times in the Bible, usually pronounced as Iēsoûs, ee-ay-sooce.’

The meaning of the name is Jehovah is salvation.

Until I started to research this, I didn’t know that Barabbas, who was released from execution by Rome, was actually named Jesus Barabbas. Just as Jesus Justus was known by his surname, so was Barabbas. In my searching, I have found no other man in the Bible who was known simply as Jesus, and often Christ is added to His Name. Christ, (Christos from the Greek) means anointed, just as Messiah (Masiah in the Hebrew), is the anointed one. I could find no instance in which the other men who bore the name Jesus were also called Messiah.

So now we have Jesus Justus, and Jesus Barabbas.

In Acts 7:45 and Heb. 4:8, we hear of the Old Testament hero Joshua, the successor to Moses. His name in Hebrew is Yehoshua, but never Christ.

Finally, in Luke 3:29, which is part of the genealogy of Jesus through David (royal line), we see that Jose was a son of Eliezer, a Levite (priestly line). Jose is another derivative of Joshua.

In Luke’s genealogy of Jesus, He is proven to be of the House of David, the King; also of the House of Levi, the Priest.

Jesus Christ. Jehovah is salvation; the Chosen One, Priest and King!

Aristarchus, Marcus, and Barnabas

Col. 4:10. Aristarchus my fellowprisoner saluteth you, and Marcus, sister’s son to Barnabas, (touching whom ye received commandments: if he come unto you, receive him;)

Of course we don’t know what any of these men looked like. All we have is artist’s renderings, but I think having these pictures helps us to understand that the men who walked with Paul, or Jesus, or any other biblical character, were human. They had the same failures and weaknesses as you and I, but they all knew Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

As Paul continues his list of people who have helped him, he mentions Aristarchus, his fellow prisoner. His name means the best ruler. He was a Christian from Thessalonica, and accompanied Paul on his third missionary journey, and “was with Paul when the Ephesian mob seized Paul (Acts 19:29). He was also with Paul when he set sail for Rome under his Roman imprisonment (Acts 27:2). Here, Paul calls him my fellow prisoner. It seems that Aristarchus had an interesting habit of being with Paul in hard times. Some (such as William Ramsay) suggest that he actually made himself Paul’s slave so that he could travel with him on this journey to Rome” (Blue Letter Bible, Guzik). Whether or not that is true, it is clear that he was with Paul during his final imprisonment.

Marcus, sister’s son to Barnabas: I had thought “sister’s son” would mean nephew, but I am informed by several sources that in this case it means cousin. In either case, it helps us understand why Barnabas defended Marcus in an earlier confrontation in which Paul parted ways with both Barnabas and Marcus (also referred to as john Mark) in Acts 13:5 and 13; and 15:36-40. It is clear that by this time those differences had been resolved. Barnabas was known, apparently, by the Colossian believers, and was to be well-received, along with Mark, when he went to Colosse.


Col. 4:9. With Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They shall make known unto you all things which are done here.

Onesimus with Paul

Onesimus was to travel with Tychicus to take news of Paul to the churches in Colosse. He has quite a story of his own, which I’m considering making my next study. We’ll see.

Onesimus was an escaped slave. He belonged to a believer named Philemon. Paul had counseled him to return, and that’s the core of his story.

Paul calls Onesimus a faithful and beloved brother, one of you.

Clearly, Paul expected Onesimus to be received with the same hospitality as Tychicus would receive, and to be recognized as a fellow believer. Some believe that Paul condoned slavery. He did not. In Galatians 3:28 he wrote, There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

In God’s eyes, each person’s soul is of the same value as the next. Paul does tell us in Titus 3:1,”Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work.” There are several other New Testament passages that tell us we are to obey those who have the rule or authority over us.

This is a difficult concept for us, because most believers abhor the idea that one man can own another. It is certainly not a new idea, and it was accepted as normal in Bible times, although God never gives it His stamp of approval.

Paul wanted the believers in Colosse to NOT see Onesimus as “just a slave,” but as an equal in his status as a fellow believer.

Final Greetings

Col. 4:7-8.

All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you, who is a beloved brother, and a faithful minister and fellowservant in the Lord:

Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that he might know your estate, and comfort your hearts;

This passage is the beginning of Paul’s final farewell to the churches of Colosse. His greetings and salutations in all of his epistles are personal and heartfelt, but the Prison Epistles are especially touching, in my mind, because he knows he will soon go to be with the Lord he loved and served.

It seems that the people of Colosse did not know Tychicus, so Paul takes a few words in which to introduce him and validate him as his, Paul’s, messenger.

Tychicus in mentioned in Acts 20:4 as one who bore gifts from Asian Christians to the suffering believers in Jerusalem. Paul also mentions him in Ephesians 6:21-22, also as a messenger from Paul to the Ephesians. Today, these journeys would be a matter of hours. Back then, they were much longer, and much more dangerous. Tychicus must have been a seasoned traveler, and learned how to avoid trouble as he went back and forth to encourage believers.

Thychicus’ message was to inform the believers to whom Paul ministered about Paul’s physical, emotional and spiritual condition as he waited for his execution. So great had been Paul’s influence and communication with the people he had encountered in his missionary work that there were hundreds praying for him, shedding tears for him, hoping that somehow God would intervene, and Paul’s life would once again be saved. Paul wanted them all to take comfort in his own eagerness to meet the Lord.

Seasoned With Salt

Coo. 4:6. “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.”

This verse should go with us into every conversation.

I’ve made my living, for most of my life, with words; rearing kids, teaching, counseling. When you talk a lot, you will eventually say something you wish you hadn’t. It’s an occupational hazard. More than once, I’ve had to apologize for words that came tumbling out of my mouth without any grace, and seasoned with hot red pepper, not salt.

Our speech should always reflect God’s grace, as well as the human graciousness that comes with knowing the Lord, and with being in His Word. One time I had an angry student tell me he was “sick of hearing you speak Bible all the time!” What an interesting thing for him to say! We actually had a good conversation when he settled down, and through God’s grace, the young man went away with a smile on his face.

That’s the way it should be. We should be so full of God’s grace that it comes out in our words.

The use of the word salt is interesting. Some attribute the use of wit to be this salt. Sometimes, yes, but wit (humor) can be overdone. I like what Larry Pierce says in his Online Bible Outline of Biblical Usage:

Salt is a symbol of lasting concord, because it protects food from putrefaction and preserves it unchanged. Accordingly, in the solemn ratification of compacts, this is a practice that continues to this day in some cultures, partaking of salt together.

It is wisdom and grace exhibited in speech

Know how to answer every man: I learned, especially as a therapist, to watch carefully when I responded to what my client had said. Words that were effective with one person could leave a different person looking confused, or blank, or irritated. We need to be depending on God’s leading in our use of words.

As I frequently said to my students, “Words mean things.” We shouldn’t throw them around lightly. We should know what words mean before we use them. And our conversations should meet the needs of the people with whom we speak.