The remaining verses in this chapter where written to bring the church at Colossae up-to-date on Paul’s ministry. There are both Jewish and Gentile believers who had accompanied Paul on his missionary journey. Some of these believers were imprisoned with Paul as a result of their association with him. The most interesting part of Paul’s writings in these verses is how he refers to these men and others (who did not accompany him), such as a lady named Nymphas.
“As to all my affairs, Tychicus, our beloved brother, and faithful servant and bond-servant in the Lord, will bring you information. For I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts; and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of your number. They will inform you about the whole situation here.”
Paul begins with Tychicus who he called a beloved brother, a faithful servant and a fellow bond-servant. He is a person who is not very well known in Scriptures, but one who was having an important part of Paul’s ministry. Tychicus was already a mature believer. We know this from how Paul refers to him and the fact that he was trusted to bring a message to the church at Colossae, and that he was able to minister to them. Tychicus was loved by Paul as the Lord’s faithful servant and he was faithful in ministering to believers where he was sent, under the authority of the apostle Paul. The Greek word for beloved is “agaphtos”and means that Tychicus was a person who was respected by Paul and others. Note that the Bible emphasizes the character of Tychicus, not his personality.
Onesimus was a slave to Philemon, a very wealthy believer in the church at Colossae. In fact, the Colossian church met in Philemon’s home. The subject of the epistle of Philemon is the possibility of Philemon not embracing grace regarding Onesimus. Onesimus’ voluntary return created a possible grace crisis for Philemon. Why? Onesimus ran away from Philemon as an unbeliever. He returned as a believer, in fact he returned as a spiritually mature believer (faithful and beloved brother). However, he was still a slave to Philemon. If Philemon received Onesimus as a fellow believer, forgave him, and released him from slavery, then Philemon would demonstrate the grace of God in his life. On the other hand if Philemon functioned within his legal rights by punishing Onesimus under Roman law, he would void the grace of God in his life although he would be within his human legal rights. If Philemon failed to pass the test, he would enter into reversionism and the whole church might have gone down with him.
“Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, sends you his greetings; and also Barnabas’s cousin Mark (about whom you received instructions; if he comes to you , welcome him); and also Jesus who is called Justus; these are the only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are from the circumcision, and they have proved to be an encouragement to me.”
Aristarchus apparently took this name when he became a Roman citizen. (The Romans rewarded some of their citizens who were non-Roman by race by giving them a new name). Paul called him, “my fellow prisoner.” Aristarchus was a native of Thessalonica and joined Paul’s missionary team on its third missionary journey. Aristarchus was a strong believer. He had great capacity for love as manifested by the way he stands by the apostle Paul. He was a true friend of Paul.
Mark was the cousin of Barnabas and the son of Mary of Jerusalem. Her home was the place where the original local church met in Jerusalem, according to Acts 12:12, 25. Mark trusted Christ as Savior under the ministry of Peter according to I Peter 5:13. The Gospel of Mark actually presents Peter’s account of Christ’s life. Mark accompanied his cousin Barnabas on Paul’s first missionary journey, but left before its completion. Paul refused to take Mark on the next missionary journey because Mark had left before the completion of the first missionary journey and it caused a split between Paul and Barnabas. So Barnabas took Mark and Paul took Silas as their traveling companions. Eventually relationships were mended between all of them.
Jesus, who was called Justus,was sending his greetings to the Colossian church. The name “Jesus” is taken from the Hebrew “Joshua.” Jesus (Joshua) was a lawyer who defended Paul in the Roman court before Nero. He was a lawyer in Rome and he had the courage to stand up and defend the apostle Paul when no one else would. To be associated with Paul (who was hated by the Jewish religious establishment) meant the possibility of persecution and/or execution.
Now we have a roster of the Gentile believers in Rome who are standing by the apostle Paul.
“Ephapras, who is one of your number, a bond slave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God. For I testify for him that he has a deep concern for you and for those who are in Laodicea and Hierapolis. Luke, the beloved physician, sends you his greetings and also Demas.”
Epaphras was the pastor of the Colossian church. In Philemon 23 it is indicated that Epaphras was in Rome sharing Paul’s imprisonment. Epaphras, pastor of the Colossian church, having come to Rome, now finds himself also caught up in Paul’s problems as a prisoner. This is why Epaphras had not come back to his pastorate. Apparently the Romans were seizing quite a few people associated with Paul because they were afraid that he was going to start a revolution. Eventually Epaphras would be released with Paul and return to Colossae.
We first hear of Epaphras in Colossians 1:7 where it says, “As you have been taught from the source of Epaphras, our beloved fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on behalf of you.” Nothing greater could ever be said for a pastor than this. God has not called any pastor to be brilliant, to be scintillating, to be celebrities in the human sense, to be successful by human standards, to be some kind of an unusual person in some aspect of life. God has called every pastor to be steady, and to be faithful in his study and teaching of Bible doctrine. Epaphras was said to be a faithful minister.
Luke was a physician and demonstrated the fact that a man can be great in his profession and also a great believer. He was a historian and one of the closest companions that Paul had. Luke was a well-educated Gentile from Antioch. He joined Paul’s team at Troy on the second missionary journey according to Acts 16:10-11. When Paul left Philippi he had to leave Luke behind, but Luke rejoined Paul on the third missionary journey.
“Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea and also Nympha and the church that is in her house. When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea. Say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.” I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my imprisonment. Grace be with you.”
Demas was the shortened form of Demetrius. Like Luke, Demas was a Gentile believer. Later he became a reversionist according to Paul in II Timothy 4:10, “Demas having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.” “Loved this present world” means Demas loved some detail of life more than God. However, the story of Demas doesn’t end with him in reversionism. There is one more passage on Demas in III John 12. John was explaining that Demas (Demetrius) was no longer a reversionist, but a recovered believer. The reversion recovery of Demas was noted by John, “He had received a good testimony from everyone, and from doctrine itself.” He made a complete recovery. So great believers are not those who have never failed, but those who never let their failures keep them down. That was Demas.
Nympha(Nymphas in Greek) was a faithful woman in whose home the Laodicean church met. The fact that churches met in homes is found in Acts 12:12; 20:8; Romans 16:3-5; I Corinthians 16:19; Philemon 2. She is “the elect lady” mentioned in II John 1. So we have a group of faithful believers including a faithful woman listed as companions and fellow-workers of the apostle Paul.
Paul commanded that the epistle of Colossians be taught throughout the region to all the churches. The Greek word for read means to exegete, to gather exact knowledge, to discern, to distinguish the content of a passage, to know accurately what is taught and then to communicate it. It is a reference to exegetical, expository teaching. In the absence of their pastor in Colossae (Epaphras), the apostolic command to teach this epistle would be accomplished by the person who brings it to them, Tychicus.
The epistle was then to be sent to Archipus, the pastor of Laodicea. Archipus appears to be the son of Philemon and Apphia according to the first few verses in the book of Philemon. The Laodiceans were to be taught Paul’s epistle to the Colossians and the Colossians were to be taught Paul’s epistle to the Laodiceans, which was the epistle to the Ephesians which had been sent to and was being taught in the church at Laodicea.
Grace be with you was Paul’s signature salutation for all his epistles. In the Christian life, when allowed to do so, God the Holy Spirit does all the work of producing the character of Jesus Christ in a believer, which is grace. (Romans 8:29, Galatians 5:22-23) We should be truly thankful that God’s plan does not depend upon us, but upon Him. If you have your eyes on what you are doing for God, or even what someone else is doing for God (even the pastor), you will never be grace-oriented. Our focus should always be on what God is doing. God treats us in grace because of His character. Therefore, we are able to treat others with grace by using Divine Viewpoint Thinking.
God has a perfect plan for each one of us, but it is up to us to discover that plan. The filling of the Holy Spirit, which means we are being controlled and guided by Him, is a grace provision from God. This gives every believer the potential to understand His Word, regardless of education or IQ. Therefore, we are commanded to be strong in grace. (II Timothy 2:1) We are to grow in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ. (II Peter 3:8) We find grace in our prayer life. (Hebrews 4:16) There is stability in grace. (I Peter 5:2) God gives us grace to become the person He wants us to be. (I Corinthians 15:10).