Salutations. In the closing messages and salutations at the end of the epistle to Colossians, we see not only the personal affections of Paul and his companions, but certain characteristics of Christian conduct that are suitable to the new man that we have put on. It would be a happy thing if these commendations could be given to us.
Commendation of Tychicus and Onesimus (4:7-9)
7 Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow-bondman in the Lord, will make known to you all that concerns me; 8 whom I have sent to you for this very purpose, that he might know your state, and that he might encourage your hearts: vv.7-8 Tychicus. It would appear from this passage that Tychicus carried both the letter to the Ephesians (Eph. 6:21) as well as that to the Colossians. Three characteristics are noted about Tychicus: he was loved dearly by Paul, a “beloved brother”, he was faithful in the work the Lord had given him, a “faithful minister”, and he was totally devoted to the Lord as his master, along with Paul, a “fellow-bondman in the Lord”. Paul could rely on Tychicus, not only to carry epistles, but to relay news, encourage the saints, and strengthen assemblies (2 Tim. 4:12). As one who had spent time and had served with Paul, Tychicus was well suited to inform the Colossians of Paul’s affairs in Rome in his imprisonment. No doubt the saints would be concerned for him. If we love our brethren, we are interested in how they are doing.1 Tychicus appears to have been the type of brother who had a way of getting to know the saints wherever he visited, and not merely in a shallow way. Paul had specifically chosen to send Tychicus “for this very purpose”; so he could relate Paul’s state to the Colossians, and also “that he might know your state”. But Tychicus was not a gossip or a busybody. He was an encouraging brother, and Paul had confidence that the hearts of the saints in Colosse would be “encouraged” as a result of Tychicus’ visit.
9 with Onesimus, the faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They shall make known to you everything here. v.9 Onesimus. Accompanying Tychicus was a younger Christians whom the Colossians knew of because he was from Colosse, and yet they would get to know him in a totally new way – as a Christian! He was “one of” the Colossians in two ways now: as a local, and as a brother in Christ! We will read much more of Onesimus in the epistle to Philemon, a letter that Onesimus was carrying at this same time (although Colossians may have been written earlier, v.12). We know Onesimus was newly converted by the content of the epistle to Philemon. Onesimus had been a slave of a wealthy brother in Colosse named Philemon. Onesimus had robbed his master and run away to Rome, where he met Paul (perhaps in prison for bad reasons), and was converted. Through previously an unfaithful and troublesome slave, Onesimus had since proved himself “faithful and beloved”, and was of great usefulness to Paul in Rome. However, as the epistle to Philemon describes, Onesimus needed to sort things out with Philemon before more time passed, and so he was sent with Tychicus to Colosse. It is wonderful that Paul could include Onesimus with Tychicus as one who would inform the saints of the apostle’s state.
Greetings from Paul’s Friends (4:10-14)
10 Aristarchus my fellow-captive salutes you, and Mark, Barnabas’s cousin, concerning whom ye have received orders, (if he come to you, receive him,) 11 and Jesus called Justus, who are of the circumcision. These are the only fellow-workers for the kingdom of God who have been a consolation to me. vv.10-11 Aristarchus, Mark, and Justus. Next, Paul relays the salutations of three brothers who were of Jewish descent; “who are of the circumcision”. The first is Aristarchus, who was a “fellow-captive” with Paul, who evidently had also been imprisoned. We read somewhat about Aristarchus in the book of Acts. We find that he was from the region of Macedonia, and specifically from Thessalonica. He was with Paul in the uproar in Ephesus, and accompanied him from that time onward (Acts 19:29; 20:4; 27:2). The second was Mark, or “John, whose surname was Mark”, as he is called in Acts 12:12; 12:25; 15:37. When we first read of John Mark, we find that his mother, Mary, opened her home up for a prayer meeting. Later in the same chapter, we find that Paul and Barnabas took John Mark with them on the first missionary journey. However, part way along the journey (when they reached the coast of Asia Minor), John Mark abandoned Paul and Barnabas. On account of this, Paul refused to take John Mark on the second missionary journey; “But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work” (Acts 15:38). Barnabas disagreed with Paul, and the two servants were separated over the issue. Barnabas took Mark with him, and Paul took Silas. Evidently Mark was restored from his previous failures, and he was later used to write the gospel of Mark, which presents Christ as the Perfect Servant. In his second epistle to Timothy, Paul could say, “Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry” (2 Tim. 4:11). Mark is a testament to the fact that failures don’t necessarily mean the end of our usefulness for Christ. Perhaps Mark was timid (like Timothy), but more likely his failure was publicly known, and so Paul “ordered” the Colossians to receive Mark if he visited Colosse. The third was a man named “Jesus” by birth (the same name as our Lord was given), but he was known by another name; “Justus”. It is possible that he, as well as the brethren around him, used a different name because the name of Jesus is a “above every name” (Phil. 2:10), and reserved for One alone. These three brothers of Jewish descent were not only “fellow-workers for the kingdom of God”, but they were the only ones that had been a special “consolation” to Paul in prison. Why would he say this? Wasn’t Epaphras also a consolation to Paul, and Luke? Yes, but these were a special consolation, perhaps because they were of the circumcision. Paul loved the Jewish people, and it was because of his love for them that he was in prison. Therefore, it was a special consolation that these three had been saved, and were willing to stand by him during his imprisonment.
12 Epaphras, who is one of you, the bondman of Christ Jesus, salutes you, always combating earnestly for you in prayers, to the end that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. 13 For I bear him witness that he labours much for you, and them in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis. vv.12-13 Epaphras. Epaphras was mentioned in ch.1 as a local in the assembly. Paul had gotten to know Epaphras in his travels, and he had told Paul how much the saints in Colosse cared for him. It may be that the Colossians were saved through Epaphras (Col. 1:7-8). But Epaphras had not forgotten his dear brethren at home. He was steadfastly praying for the saints in Colosse, as well as those in the nearby cities of Laodicea and Hierapolis. Epaphras is what we could call a ‘prayer warrior’; “always combating earnestly for you in prayers”. This conflict of prayer was something Paul also was engaged in (Col. 2:1). Evidently the state of the assemblies in Colosse and Laodicea was concerning to the Apostle Paul, as well as Epaphras. They were facing grave dangers, because Satan was opposing the spread of Paul’s doctrine. The danger is Colosse (and perhaps in the surrounding cities) was the false doctrine that the believer needs something in addition to Christ. But Paul has shown in this epistle that nothing can be added to what we have in Christ. Epaphras’ prayer therefore was “to the end that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God”. This is the same thing Paul was praying for (Col. 1:9). Notice that the spiritual needs of the saints were highlighted in his prayers. It is a wonderful thing to be known for; as one who labors much in prayer. From Philemon 1:23 we learn that Epaphras was also taken prisoner in Rome. This could indicate that Colossians was written a little earlier than Philemon, although both were sent at the same time.
14 Luke, the beloved physician, salutes you, and Demas. v.14 Luke and Demas. Luke was one who travelled with Paul as early as the second missionary journey, and perhaps even earlier. We is referred to as “the beloved physician”, meaning that Luke was a trained physician. No doubt his talents were very useful to Paul on his many journeys. We see Luke’s personality coming out in the gospel he wrote, and in the book of Acts which he also wrote, in which he pays close attention to detail in certain medical cases. We see his doctorly attention to detail in writing (Luke 1:3), his noting that a fever was “bad” (Luke 4:38), or that a man was “full” of leprosy (Luke 5:12), or that the bleeding woman “had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any” (Luke 8:43-44). Yet Luke was “beloved” for another reason; his tender care of Paul and those who traveled with them. Another brother is mentioned, Demas, whose name is not attached to any commendation. He saluted the saints in Colosse, but that is all Paul could say at this time. It was very unusual for Paul to mention a brother or sister without a word of commendation.2 By the time we come to 2 Timothy, Demas had been fully swept along with the tide that had turned against Paul (2 Tim. 1:15), and at that time Paul had to say “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica” (2 Tim. 4:10).
Three individuals mentioned in Colossians 4 and 2 Timothy 4:
- Luke: began well, and finished well.
- Mark: had an early failure, but was restored, and finished well.
- Demas: began well, but drifted away, and forsook Paul in the end.
Paul’s Personal Farewell (4:15-18)
15 Salute the brethren in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the assembly which is in his house. 16 And when the letter has been read among you, cause that it be read also in the assembly of Laodiceans, and that “ye” also read that from Laodicea. vv.15-16 The brethren in Laodicea. The city of Colosse was located not far (15 km) from the prosperous Laodicea. Paul speaks of “the assembly of Laodiceans”, which is the same assembly notoriously rebuked in Revelation 3 some 25 to 30 years later. Paul saluted the brethren there, and a brother (or sister, according to some manuscripts) Nymphas, who had the assembly in his (her) house. Paul wanted the epistle to the Colossians to be read in Laodicea. The apostles intended their inspired writings to be shared. We can learn from this that the doctrinal roots that later developed into Laodicean error are corrected in the epistle to the Colossians. Adding something to Christ (Colossians) will results in leaving Christ outside the door (Laodicea). There was also a letter from Paul in Laodicea; but whether it was an epistle addressed to that assembly, or a circular letter like Ephesians simply in Laodicea at that time, we are not told. This shows us the preciousness of written ministry, inspired or otherwise, in the first century.
17 And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, to the end that thou fulfil it. v.17 Archippus. The last individual mentioned was a brother named Archippus, who may very well have been the son of Philemon and his wife Apphia, whose home the Colossian assembly met in. In Philemon this young brother is referred to as “our fellowsoldier”, showing that he was a devoted servant of Christ. Yet here, at the end of Colossians, he is specifically exhorted to “fulfill” a certain “ministry” that was given especially to him “in the Lord”. We do not know what this service was. It may have been public, or perhaps very private. But it belonged to him, and it was his duty to fulfil it. It might have been quite a shock for Archippus to hear this as the letter was read aloud to the saints in Colosse. We can apply this to ourselves. Each believer has been given a specific service, as well as the gift (2 Tim. 1:6) and means to carry it out. Often discouragement, or perhaps other interests intrude into our lives and overshadow the work that the Lord has given us to do. We need to be stirred up, and prodded, as Archippus was here personally by Paul, to “take heed” or pay attention, to the ministry we have received, and fulfill it.
18 The salutation by the hand of me Paul. Remember my bonds. Grace be with you. v.18 Paul’s Salutation. Paul signed the letter by hand with his own special signature to validate it (2 Thess. 3:17). He desired that the saints would not forget his imprisonment. It would also be a help to them to remember why he was in prison. Finally, he prayed for grace among the saints. Surely, they would need grace. Grace to practically display Christ here in this world, grace to resist the evil doctrine spreading around them, and grace to put on the character of the new man.
- “…love counts on the interest of others in our affairs quite as much as it feels a real concern in hearing of theirs.” Kelly, W. The Epistle to the Colossians.
- Demas, I should gather, was even now distrusted by the Apostle, who mentions his name with an ominous silence and without an endearing word — a thing unusual with the Apostle. Even to Philemon, about the same time, he is “my fellow-labourer.” – Kelly, William. The Epistle to the Colossians.