Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Colossians 4:7–15

7 Tychicus, a beloved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant in the Lord, will tell you all the news about me. 8 I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that he may know your circumstances and comfort your hearts, 9 with Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will make known to you all things which are happening here. 10 Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, with Mark the cousin of Barnabas (about whom you received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him), 11 and Jesus who is called Justus. These are my only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are of the circumcision; they have proved to be a comfort to me. 12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. 13 For I bear him witness that he has a great zeal for you, and those who are in Laodicea, and those in Hierapolis. 14 Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you. 15 Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea, and Nymphas and the church that is in his house.  

Vs.7-9 Tychicus was as a disciple from the Province of Asia. By all accounts he was a faithful friend and trusted co-worker in the Gospel with the Apostle Paul. Mentioned five times in the N.T. by name (Acts 20:4; Eph. 6:21; Col 4:7; 2 Tim 4:12; Titus 3:12). Tychicus bears a rather unique distinction in the N.T. being twice commended by the Apostle Paul to the churches in both Ephesus and Colossae as "a beloved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant in the Lord" (see Eph. 6:21-22; Col 4:7-8). Tychicus origins with Paul though began rather humbly when he along with several other believers from Asia went ahead of the Apostle Paul to Troas to rendezvous with Paul there, while Paul was on his third missionary journey heading from Macedonia to Jerusalem (see Acts 20:1-6, vs. 4). It seems then Tychicus became a trusted friend and close compatriot of Paul's, as the Apostle Paul would later entrust him with delivering his letters (and news of his well-being) to the churches in both Ephesus and Colossae to encourage them there. It is in this very critical capacity that Tychicus primarily served as a "minister" (gr. diakonos) to the churches, as well as the Apostle Paul, by serving as his "envoy" to them, and they to Paul, through Tychicus, who delivered Paul's letters to the churches, as well as conveyed news about the brethren with Paul to them, and they to Paul, while Paul was imprisoned. Later Paul would send Tychicus to Titus in Crete (Titus 3:12) and once again to Ephesus before Paul's execution in Rome (2 Tim 4:12). And so Tychicus was a man who knowingly associated himself with Paul in some of the Apostle Paul's darkest hours, including at times sharing in Paul's imprisonment, persecutions and or hardships with him. That said Tychicus having received a charge from Paul to deliver his lifeline to the churches (i.e. his letters) would then have to tactfully make his way across the Roman empire to avoid conflict with both those Jews and Roman officials who were then growing in their hostility, or were actively hostile to the Gospel of Christ. And so along with Tychicus whom Paul is sending to encourage them, (which says much about Tychicus) is also dispatched a disciple named Onesimus, a man whom Paul begot to Christ while in his chains in Rome; a former runaway slave of Philemon a wealthy believer from Colossae (Philemon 10). Yet now Onesimus is one whom the Apostle Paul also calls a faithful and beloved brother (vs. 9). And so along with Tychicus, Onesimus is sent to the brethren in Colossae to make known to them there all things that are happening in Rome, with Paul and all the brethren with him there. Some of whom were personally known to the disciples in Colossae. It's incredible then to see both the intimacy of fellowship, as well as the diversity of people that early on came into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, whose lives being transformed by Him, would all in some way or another become active members in forwarding His churches (and each others) well being. And so these two men are sent by Paul (as his beloved brethren) to bring news and encouragement to the beloved churches in Colossae.

Vs. 10-15 Excluding Barnabas who is mentioned to indicate whom Mark is too the brethren at Colossae (i.e. the cousin of Barnabas), seven brethren are here mentioned: Aristarchus and Mark (vs. 10); Jesus who is called Justus (vs. 11); Epaphras (vs. 12-13); Luke and Demas (vs. 14);  Nymphas (vs. 15). Only Aristarchus, Mark and Jesus who is called Justus are referred to by Paul as being
"my only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are of the circumcision"...; meaning they were of Jewish origins, Paul then goes on to say of them that "...they have proved to be a comfort to me" (vs. 11).
Now Aristarchus is the first mentioned by the Apostle Paul, being referred to as his fellow prisoner, who also extended his well-wishes and greetings to the brethren in Colossae. Aristarchus name means "best ruler" which may be indicative of his having held a civil leadership position? Or it may be indicating a position that he held in the church? That said, Aristarchus was a Macedonian from Thessalonica, who along with Tychicus and Secundus; also from Thessalonica, along with Gaius of Derbe and Sopatar, also Macedonians (Acts 19:29; 20:4), traveled with the Apostle Paul on his third missionary journey to Jerusalem (Acts 20:4-6). Which may have included their bringing relief sent from the brethren in Macedonia and Achaia for the poor among the brethren in Jerusalem at that time (Acts 19:21; Rom 15:25-26). Now Aristarchus is first mentioned in the N.T. along with Gaius (a fellow Macedonian) as being seized by a mob of rioters during the uproar in Ephesus over the Ephesians pagan deity Diana (see Acts 19:23-20:6). It seems then from that point on, Aristarchus having suffered for his faith in Jesus never looked back. Instead he followed the Apostle Paul and Luke onto Rome (Acts 27:2) and shared in the Apostle's imprisonment (along with several others) there. Next mentioned is Mark the cousin of Barnabas, also referred to as John Mark, he is the author of the Gospel of Mark which he received verbally from the Apostle Peter, whom Peter affectionately calls his son (1 Peter 5:13). Mark's beginnings in the faith were with the early church which often met in his mother Mary's house in Jerusalem. It was during this time when the Apostle Peter was imprisoned that constant prayers being made for him, that Peter with the assistance of an angel found himself  miraculously released, and so the first place Peter sought out was Mary's home and the brethren assembled there (Acts 12:5-19). It was shortly after this that Mark having accompanied the Apostle's Paul and Barnabas on a relief mission to the churches in Antioch (Acts 12:25). From there Mark accompanied the Apostle's Paul and Barnabas (who being commissioned by the Holy Spirit through the church leadership) then headed out on their first missionary journey, with Mark serving as their assistant (Mark 13:1-5). Now it was at Perga that Mark (for an undisclosed reason) turned back from the journey and returned to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). And so when Paul and Barnabas were preparing to set out on their second missionary journey that the Apostle Paul was adamant that Mark should not accompany them, while Barnabas was equally adamant that Mark should. Now the rift over Mark became so severe that both men eventually departed from each other, with the Apostle Paul being commanded by the church to the grace of God, taking Silas with himself, and thus traveling through Syria and Cilicia strengthened the churches there, while Barnabas took Mark his cousin and headed to Cyprus his homeland (Acts 15:36-41; 4:36). Now Mark is not mentioned again in the N.T. until the Apostle Paul does so here in this epistle where he asks the Colossians to receive Mark (about whom he gave them instructions about) favorably, calling Mark along with Justus who is also called Jesus one of his fellow workers for the Kingdom of God , who are of the circumcision, i.e. that is Jews, saying that they have proved a comfort to me (vs. 10-11). Now we are not told what the instructions for Mark were. But it seems that Paul; like Peter before him has taken Mark "under his wing", and so unlike before, where Mark served as an assistant to Paul and Barnabas here and in the Apostle Paul's epistle to Philemon, Mark is described by Paul as a fellow worker in the Gospel (Philemon 24); though not as endearing as the Apostle Peters calling Mark my son (see 1 Peter 5:13), Paul's saying as much indicates not only a restoration of their relationship, but also growth by both of them in it. The Apostle Paul's last mention of Mark is in 2 Tim 4:11 where he requests Mark's presence, saying "he useful for me in ministry". The third man mentioned is Jesus who is called Justus. Nothing is known of this particular believer except that he was Jewish and that he sent his well wishes through Tychicus to the brethren at Colossae. Which brings us to Epaphras, (a shortened form of Epaphroditus*) Epaphras was a disciple of Christ from Colossae (vs. 12) who first preached the Gospel to the people of Colossae and likely helped to establish the church community there (Col 1:7), as well as getting them grounded in faith and love (Col 1:5). Epaphras is also noted for his ministering to the neighboring churches of Laodicea and Hierapolis (4:13). And so the Apostle Paul rightly calls Epaphras his dear fellow-servant (Col 1:7). A reference used by Paul of only Epaphras and later in this epistle Tychicus (Col 4:7) . But Epaphras alone bears the designation dear (agapetos) fellow servant. Which means the Apostle Paul considered Epaphras not only a fellow servant, but a dearly beloved brother. Something which Epaphras exemplifies towards the Apostle Paul by also sharing with him in Paul's Roman imprisonment (Philemon 23). And so it is that the Apostle Paul in his closing address to the Colossians makes mention of Epaphras as himself, as a bondservant of Christ, who greets his brethren back home. Who as the Apostle Paul says of Epaphras here in verse twelve is one who always labors fervently for you all in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. Thus Epaphras was a man who was zealous for his brethren and their spiritual growth (vs. 13). The finial greetings in verse 14-15 come from Luke whom the Apostle Paul here calls the beloved physician (vs. 15; Luke is the author of the Gospel that bears his name as well as the Book of Acts). As well Luke was arguably the most faithful to the Apostle Paul and the Gospel ministry through him, while Demas though also mentioned in vs. 15 as sending along his greetings here and in Philemon 24 would later go on to abandon the Apostle "loving this present world" as the Apostle Paul would later say of him, and so there we find in contrast to Demas, Luke again mentioned as remaining faithful with the Apostle Paul in the ministry of the Gospel through thick and thin as it were  (see 2 Timothy 4:10-11).  Finally the Apostle Paul say for the brethren in Colossae to greet their brethren who are in Laodicea as well as Nymphas (mentioned only here in the N.T.) and the church that is in his house. For even then it seems brethren were susceptible to dubious thoughts about this church community or that.

Additional Resources Consulted
Criswell, W. A., Paige Patterson, E. Ray Clendenen, Daniel L. Akin, Mallory Chamberlin, Dorothy Kelley Patterson, and Jack Pogue, eds. Believer’s Study Bible. electronic ed. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991.

Walvoord, John F., and Roy B. Zuck, Dallas Theological Seminary. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985.

Youngblood, Ronald F., F. F. Bruce, and R. K. Harrison, Thomas Nelson Publishers, eds. Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1995.

*Myers, Allen C. The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987.

Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains. New York: United Bible Societies, 1996.

Strong, James. Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2001.

Word Studies
1:7 Dear: STR 27; GK 28; TDNT 1.21; TDNTA 5; LN 25.45; 58.53 (Matt 3:17; 12:18) 67x
*Epaphras=Epaphroditus. Not the same Epaphroditus mentioned in (Phil. 2:25; 4:18), Eerdmans Bible Dictionary, pages 99-104


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