I’m studying through the book of Colossians because I plan to teach through the book during the month of March (and the first Sunday in April). So far, I’ve written these posts in the series:
The beginning of the study
Salutation (author, recipients, greeting)
Prayer Part 1
Prayer Part 2
Jesus’ preeminence over creation
Jesus’ preeminence over the church
Paul’s service for the gospel
Contrasting Christ with human wisdom Part 1
Contrasting Christ with human wisdom Part 2
Contrasting Christ with human wisdom Part 3
Contrasting Christ with human wisdom Part 4
Exhortation to put off an earthly way of life
Exhortation to put on Christ as a new way of life
Exhortations about family relationships
Exhortations about prayer and outsiders
The final section of Colossians (Colossians 4:7-18) can be divided into three parts: 1) Travel plans – or introduction (Colossians 4:7-9), 2) greetings (Colossians 4:10-17), and 3) final exhortations/closing (Colossians 4:18).
Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts, and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you of everything that has taken place here. Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions- if he comes to you, welcome him), and Jesus who is called Justus. These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me. Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas. Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea. And say to Archippus, “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.” I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you. (Colossians 4:7-18)
Instead of relaying his own travel plans (which he does in many letters), Paul instead introduces those who are bringing his letter to the Colossians: Tychicus and Onesimus (Colossians 4:7-9). Paul expected Tychicus to deliver the letter and to tell the Colossians about Paul’s work. He describes Tychicus as a beloved brother, a faithful servant, and a fellow slave (co-slave). Furthermore, Paul expects that Tychicus will be an encouragement to the Colossians, and, when he returns, he will be able to tell Paul how things are going with the believers in Colossae.
Furthermore, Paul sends along Onesimus. He says that Onesimus is a faithful and beloved brother. The phrase “one of you” indicates that Onesimus resided in the Colossae. We learn more about Onesimus’ background – and the main reason that Paul sent him to Colossae – in Paul’s letter to Philemon.
In the next section, Paul sends greetings from several of the believers who were traveling with him (Colossians 4:10-14). There are a few Jewish Christians still with him (Aristarchus, Mark, and Jesus/Justus) and a few Gentiles (Epaphras, Luke, and Demas). There may be others. Perhaps these are some of the people who traveled to Colossae to proclaim the good news while Paul was in Ephesus. While we don’t personally know these individuals, we can learn alot about how these believers interacted with and related to one another by looking at Paul’s descriptions of his fellow servants.
Paul then asks the Colossians to send along his greetings to the believers who are in Laodicea, and specifically to Nympha and the church that meets in her house (Colossians 4:15). Paul expected there to be interaction and close relations between the believers in these neighboring cities. Furthermore, Paul had sent a letter to Laodicea, and he expected these two groups of believers to read each other’s letters (Colossians 4:16). (It is interesting that Paul expected the Colossians and Laodiceans to give the same attention to the letter he sent to believers sent to another city, even though 1) it was specifically sent to another group of believers, and 2) we do not currently have the letter to the Laodiceans.)
Paul sends specific greetings (and exhortations) to Archippus: “See to the service which you received in the Lord, in order that you fulfill it (the service)” (Colossians 4:17). (Paul also addresses the letter “to Philemon” to Archippus along with a few other people and the church that meets in Archippus’ house.) Paul doesn’t specify whether he is encouraging Archippus in a certain type of service, or a certain way of serving, or even a certain opportunity to serve. But, we can assume that Archippus understood (and the Colossians probably understood as well), and that we can use this as an example of encouraging others in service.
Finally, Paul closes the letter by writing a greeting himself, indicating that most of the letter was written by someone else – probably a secretary known as an amanuensis (Colossians 4:18). He asks them to remember (probably in prayer) that he is in prison, and he prays for God’s grace to be with them. While it is a common greeting and closing in Paul’s letter, a prayer for grace is especially fitting for this letter to the Colossians.
These final lines from Paul again show a care and concern for the Colossians, even though Paul had never met them. Among many other things, we can learn from Paul concern – a concern that led him to even write a letter, which was a long and expensive proposition at that time. Plus, he sent the letter along with two of his trusted co-servants. He would certainly miss them while they were gone. Paul obviously loved the Colossians very much.
What would you like to add this this study of Colossians 4:7-18?
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Alan Knox is a PhD student in biblical theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and a web developer. His interests include PHP and ecclesiology. His dissertation topic is the purpose of the gathering of the church in the New Testament. By God’s grace, he tries to live what he is learning about the church.
He writes about how our understanding of the church affects (or should affect) the way the we live our lives among other brothers and sisters in Christ. He's found that many aspects of our understanding of church (gathering, leading, teaching, etc.) are woven together such that it’s almost impossible to focus on only one aspect.
Find out more on his website, The Assembling of the Church.