Colossians 4 Continued

New King James Version 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),

The Resultant Version 10. Aristarchus my fellow captive is greeting you; and Mark cousin to Barnabas (concerning whom you have received directions; if he comes unto you, give him welcome);

Having introduced them to the two messengers who were carrying them this epistle of Colossians, Paul now moves on to sending them greetings from his fellow workers. First he mentions Aristarchus, whose name means “The Best Ruler.” He was from Macedonia, and was one of Paul’s traveling companions during his third apostolic journey while he was ministering in Ephesus, as we learn in Acts 19:29.

29. So the whole city was filled with confusion, and rushed into the theater with one accord, having seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians, Paul’s travel companions.

He was specifically from the city of Thessalonica in Macedonia, as we learn from Acts 20:4.

4. And Sopater of Berea accompanied him to Asia—also Aristarchus and Secundus of the Thessalonians, and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy, and Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia.

Aristarchus also accompanied Paul during his journey while he was a prisoner headed for Rome, as we learn from Acts 27:2.

2. So, entering a ship of Adramyttium, we put to sea, meaning to sail along the coasts of Asia. Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, was with us.

Aristarchus also greets Philemon and his household in Philemon 1:24, which makes sense if these two letters were delivered together. Aristarchus sends his greetings to the Colossians in general in this letter, and to the household of Philemon in particular in that letter.

Philemon 1:23. Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, 24. as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow laborers.

In Philemon 1:24, Paul calls Aristarchus a “fellow laborer,” which is the Greek sunergos; and here he calls him a “fellow captive,” Greek sunaichmalotos. This is really all that we can learn of Aristarchus’ character: that Paul considered him a companion both in work and in captivity to the cause of Jesus Christ.

Next, Paul mentions Mark, Barnabas’ cousin. Mark is most famous to us, of course, in that he wrote the gospel that bears his name. Most of what we learn of him comes from the book of Acts. First, we learn that his given name was John, and that his mother’s name was Mary, from Acts 12:12.

12. So, when he had considered this, he came to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together praying.

Apparently, this Mary was of some prominence among the believers, since they chose her house to gather in to pray for Peter’s deliverance. Later, after Paul and Barnabas visited Jerusalem and delivered the gift of relief sent by the believers in Antioch to their poor brothers, they returned to Antioch, bringing John Mark with them in Acts 12:25.

25. And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their ministry, and they also took with them John whose surname was Mark.

When Paul and Barnabas were called to their first apostolic journey by the Lord, they took John Mark with them as their servant, as we learn in Acts 13:5.

5. And when they arrived in Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. They also had John as their assistant.

However, Mark later abandoned them, as we learn in Acts 13:13.

13. Now when Paul and his party set sail from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John, departing from them, returned to Jerusalem.

After Paul and Barnabas completed their journey and returned to Antioch, they later determined to return for a second apostolic journey. Barnabas wanted to take Mark with them, but Paul disagreed with taking one who had abandoned them the first time. Their argument was so severe that it caused the two apostles to part, as we read in Acts 15:37-40.

37. Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. 38. But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. 39. Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; 40. but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God.

This brings us up to the point we are at in Colossians. Apparently, a change has taken place in the relationship between Paul and Mark. Mark has become one of Paul’s company, and is serving him once again in his work. Perhaps, Mark realized that Paul was right to condemn him for his unfaithful conduct, and had apologized to Paul and worked to prove to Paul that he was now dedicated and faithful. However it came about, Paul has clearly accepted Mark into his company, and Mark is now serving him as one of his entourage. We can see this in Philemon as well, where Paul counts Mark as one of his fellow workers in Philemon 1:23-24.

23. Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, 24. as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow laborers.

The last we see of Mark is in Paul’s last letter, wherein Paul clearly states his new attitude towards Mark in II Timothy 4:11.

11. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry.

Paul had once thought it not good to take Mark with them due to his abandoning them, but now he views Mark as useful for ministry. Clearly, Mark has grown up and learned some lessons by this point!

Apparently, those carrying the letter to the Colossians also carried with them some verbal instructions for the Colossians about Mark. Paul assumes they will receive these instructions, and speaks of them to confirm them and to urge them to carry them out. It seems that Paul is unsure as to whether or not he will send Mark to them or not, but if he does, he urges them to welcome him.

New King James Version 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.

The Resultant Version 11. And Jesus who is called Justus; who are of the circumcision. These are my only fellow workers unto the kingdom of God, who have been unto me a comfort.

Next, Paul sends greetings from a man named Jesus, who is called Justus. In English we traditionally do not name boys “Jesus,” reserving that name for our Lord and Savior. However, the name “Jesus” is really the same name as “Joshua,” just coming down to us from the Greek rather than the Hebrew. We commonly name people “Joshua,” so there are really plenty of people who have this same name. This man Jesus was a man with the same given name as our Lord. “Jesus” or “Joshua” means “Jehovah is the Savior.” Jesus had the surname Justus, which is a Latin name meaning “just.” Aristarchus, Mark, and Jesus are all of the circumcision, those who came to Christ as circumcised, law-keeping Jews.

These are the only ones like this who are currently with Paul and being to him a comfort. Why were these especially a comfort to Paul? I suppose that perhaps it was because these men were like Paul, men who had come to Christ as law-keeping Jews, and who had been through and seen all the changes that had taken place since they first believed. They could sympathize with Paul in the mixed feelings they must have had regarding the fact that circumcision was now not the way of life for any of Christ’s followers, but rather now were all to equally serve God without religion in the dispensation of grace. This must have been a hard thing for men who had been good, law-keeping Jews to accept. Yet these men had accepted it, along with Paul, and were eagerly embracing God’s current work and the equality He had made among men of all nations in a dispensation of complete grace. Their similar experience and their positive attitude about the whole thing must have been a great comfort to Paul.

What happened to the rest of Paul’s company who had been law-keeping Jews? This we cannot say for certain. It could be that there were others, but that they were not with Paul at this time. Yet the truths he was now teaching, so different from the truths of the Acts period, may also have been very upsetting to some of his own followers. We know by the time he wrote II Timothy, even some of those who were with him here had abandoned him. Perhaps his other helpers who were of the circumcision had not been willing to accept the truths of the mystery and the dispensation of grace, and had already abandoned him. This could well be, but of course we cannot say for sure. All we know for certain is that Paul makes note of the fact here that these three men are the only ones “of the circumcision” who are currently with him.

New King James Version 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.

The Resultant Version 12. Epaphras, who is one of you, a slave of Christ Jesus, he is greeting you. At all times he was contending on your behalf in prayers, that you may stand mature and complete, fully assured in all the will of God.

Now Epaphras sends them greetings. Apparently, he is not one of the circumcision. This does not mean he is not Jewish, however, or an ancestral Israelite. Remember that to be circumcised really was the sign that one was going to keep the law, since it was the initiatory rite into the law and the covenant Israel had with God. The Israelites in the land generally all went through this rite, and many of them kept their promise to keep all the law. Many ancestral Israelites who were scattered outside the land went through this rite as well, though few could actually keep their promise to keep all the law. Yet there were ancestral Israelites outside the land who had given up on trying to circumcise their children or keep the law, and had instead adopted the Greek culture of the nations around them. These are often called “Greeks” in the book of Acts and in the other books of the New Testament. This later list of Paul’s helpers could include this kind of people, ancestral Israelite Greeks, and not just Gentiles. Since God was treating all nations equally, however, there may have been some Gentiles among Paul’s company. It is very hard to tell for sure. My point is simply that we do not know that this later group of followers were Gentiles, just because they were not among the circumcision.

Epaphras was already mentioned in Colossians 1:7, where we learned that he was the one who carried the gospel to the Colossians to whom this book is written. He also is the one who reported to Paul the faith these Colossians had, which made him want to write to them. In Colossians 1:7, Paul calls Epaphras a fellow servant. In Philemon 23, Paul calls him a fellow prisoner. Here, he calls him one of the Colossians, and a slave of Christ. This is the Greek word doulos, which means a slave, not a servant.

Paul reveals to the Colossians that at all times Epaphras has been contending on behalf of these Colossians in prayers. The word for “contending” indicates the zeal with which Epaphras went about his prayer for these people. Clearly, he felt for them, and wanted very much to see them stand before God in maturity and completeness, and prayed fervently to God for this. He wanted them to stand fully assured in all the will of God. The word for “will” here is thelema, which indicates a wish. God has many wishes for His people. He does not wish them to remain as they were when they first believed, or to qualify only as babes in Christ. He wants them to come to maturity and completeness. He wants them to be fully assured of what His every wish is. As John says in III John 1:4, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” God wants his people to believe consistent with the truth, and to live a lifestyle in harmony with that truth. This is what God wishes to see, and there is nothing that brings Him greater joy than this. This is what Epaphras wanted for the Colossians, as well.

New King James Version 13. For I bear him witness that he has a great zeal for you, and those who are in Laodicea, and those in Hierapolis.

The Resultant Version 13. For I bare him witness that he has a great zeal for you, and the ones in Laodicea, and the ones in Hierapolis.

Paul now bears witness to the Colossians regarding Epaphras. He assures them that he has a great zeal for them. This was why he prayed for them as he did in the previous verse. Moreover, his zeal was not just for them, but also for those believers in the cities around them, Laodicea and Hierapolis.

Laodicea means “Justice of the People.” It was a city in Phrygia, like Colossae. Paul mentioned Laodicea back in Colossians 2:1, and will mention it again two times in this chapter. Other than in Colossians, it is mentioned only in the book of Revelation, where it is the seventh and last of the seven ekklesias in Asia whom the Lord mentions in chapter 1 and writes to in chapters 2 and 3. It appears that they too had heard the gospel and believed it without seeing in the new secret dispensation of God. Paul considers them a similar group to that in Colossae, and Epaphras has the same zeal for them as he does for the Colossians.

Hierapolis means “Holy City.” It was located in Phrygia near Colossae and Laodicea. It seems there was a group of new believers there too, and Epaphras has a similar zeal for them as he does for the groups from the other two cities.

New King James Version 14. Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you.

The Resultant Version 14. Luke, the beloved physician, greets you, and Demas greets you.

Next, Paul sends them greetings from Luke and Demas. Luke, or Lucas, is the first companion Paul mentions in this verse. Paul calls Luke “beloved” or agapetos, and a physician. He is mentioned by name only in two other places. The first is Philemon 24.

23. Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, 24. as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow laborers.

Here, Luke is called a fellow laborer with Paul. The other time Luke is mentioned is in II Timothy 4:11.

11. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry.

Here, we learn that only Luke remained with Paul as he was writing his final, inspired letter at the end of his official ministry. This tells us that Luke was a faithful man, and one who stuck with Paul and the truth to the end, which is indeed a high recommendation of him.

The fact that Luke is only mentioned in these three passages would make him seem like a rather minor character in the New Testament, less important than most of the other men listed in this chapter. Yet this fact by itself is deceiving, for he would seem in fact to be a very significant Biblical character. The reason is that, though he is never mentioned in the book, the gospel of Luke is thought to be written by this man. The fact that Paul calls him a “physician” here and that the gospel of Luke contains many technical medical terms would seem to strongly confirm this. An examination of the book of Acts reveals that it is clearly by the same author as Luke, and the technical, medical terms continue. Therefore, we can follow out more of Luke’s career by examining the book of Acts and seeing when the narrative switches from using pronouns like “they” to pronouns like “we,” which would seem to signal that Luke had joined Paul and his company. The first time this happens is in Acts 16:8-10.

8. So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. 9. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10. Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.

We can see here how “they” in verse 8 switches to “we” in verse 10. This points to the fact that Luke must have joined Paul at this time. It appears he continued with Paul in Philippi, but he does not seem to have followed Paul to Thessalonica. The next time we see him with Paul is in Acts 20:5, as Paul has started to make his way back to Jerusalem.

5. These men, going ahead, waited for us at Troas.

Luke remains with Paul until he arrives at Jerusalem and is arrested. Of course, he cannot accompany Paul into prison, but he is there with Paul when he sets sail for Rome, as we can see in Acts 27:1.

1. And when it was decided that we should sail to Italy, they delivered Paul and some other prisoners to one named Julius, a centurion of the Augustan Regiment.

He remained with Paul until he arrived in Rome, as we can see from Acts 28:16.

16. Now when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard; but Paul was permitted to dwell by himself with the soldier who guarded him.

So Luke was a companion to Paul during some of his most important and difficult times as an apostle. Clearly, he was still with Paul at this time, during the two years he spent in his own, hired house in Rome and wrote the four letters of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. We do not know if he was ever away from Paul after this or not, but from II Timothy we do know that he remained loyal to Paul and was with him faithfully to the end.

Demas is listed with Luke and also sends his greetings. Demas means “Governor of the People.” Like Luke, he is also listed in Philemon 1:24.

23. Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, 24. as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow laborers.

Demas is listed next to Luke, which would seem to indicate that he was a fellow laborer of Paul with equal standing with Luke at the time. However, Demas did not end well, as Luke did. Instead, he abandoned Paul, as we read in the last and only other mention of him in II Timothy 4:10. Right before saying that only Luke was still with him in verse 11, Paul says of Demas:

10. for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica—Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia.

Here Demas abandoned Paul. The word is the same word Christ used on the cross when He said, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” The word for “loved” is, interestingly, the word for agape, self-sacrificing type love, agapao. Demas self-sacrificingly loved this present world! The idea would seem to be that he actually sacrificed all he had from God, all he should have earned as a fellow laborer with Paul, and gave it up for the sake of this present eon. This was a bad choice indeed! Yet Demas was willing to sacrifice God’s reward for the sake of this world. A sad end to this follower of Christ! May we never do as he did, but remain faithful to the end.

Yet at the time Colossians was written, Demas was still with Paul, and so sends his greetings to the Colossians.

New King James Version 15. Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea, and Nymphas and the church that is in his house.

The Resultant Version 15. Greet the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nympha, and the out-called which is in his house.

Having given these greetings to the Colossians, Paul now urges them to pass on these greetings to the brethren who are in Laodicea, of whom we have already spoken. He names one of them specifically, one called Nympha. The name means “Bridegroom.” Yet the texts differ, some making Nympha to be a woman. Either is possible, for Paul certainly does mention prominent women at times.

Most would probably take the “church that is in his (or her) house” to be speaking of what we call a “home-church” that met in Nympha’s house. This sort of verse leads to the claim that the early church always met in homes, or had house-churches. Yet the idea here is not of house-churches, as we would think of them. Remember that the idea of ekklesia is of an out-positioned person. What Paul is telling us here is that Nympha was part of the ekklesia in Colossae, and that there were other people who likewise were ekklesia who were part of his household. There need have been no religious meetings or services in Nympha’s house in order for there to be ekklesia in his household. This is speaking of people, not a meeting.

New King James Version 16. Now when this epistle is read among you, see that it is read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that you likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.

The Resultant Version 16. And when this epistle has been read among you, cause that it be read also in the out-called of Laodicea, and that you may also read the epistle from Laodicea.

Paul speaks of this epistle being read among them. This doubtless means that it would be read aloud. This would be quite necessary, as the skill of reading was one that was rare among men at that time, and was almost non-existent among women. For most of the people who believed to hear God’s words to them, they would have to be read aloud. This is why Scripture speaks little of personal Bible study and reading: since few could do it. Those who could do it and who did counted it as a great privilege, such as David and Hezekiah in the Psalms, and the apostles of the Lord. This is a privilege that is much more accessible to us the common believers in Christ in our day, and so we should study and count ourselves blessed to be able to do so. Let us not neglect the great opportunity that is before us!

After it is read among them, Paul commands, they should see to it that it also be read among the ekklesia of Laodicea. Likewise, there is an epistle that he has sent the Laodiceans which should be read among them as well. What epistle was this? For of course we have no book of “Laodiceans” in the Bible. Most scholars agree that this was probably the book of Ephesians, which is now believed to have been a more general epistle to all believers of that time, shortly after the dispensational change, and not so much a letter specifically to the Ephesians. If Laodicea received a copy of Ephesians, which deals with many of the same issues as Colossians, it makes sense that he would want the Colossians and the Laodiceans to share these letters with each other. Certainly when taken together, Ephesians and Colossians help to explain each other and to confirm the truths that they are both teaching.

New King James Version 17. And say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.”

The Resultant Version 17. And say to Archippus: “Look to the service that you accepted in the Lord, in order to fulfill it.”

Paul now speaks to the man Archippus. This name means “Master of the Horse,” horse being hippos in Greek. This believer is only mentioned here and in Philemon 1:2.

2. to the beloved Apphia, Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house:

It appears in the context of Philemon that Apphia is Philemon’s wife, and Archippus appears to be his son. Some have wondered why Paul would have saved a more personal note to Archippus for this letter, rather than stating it in the letter he wrote directly to Philemon, Archippus’ father. Yet this is easily explained by the fact that Philemon was a letter written to Philemon specifically to deal with the matter of his runaway slave Onesimus, who had now become a believer and was returning to him. For Paul to get sidetracked from that theme in order to speak a personal message to Archippus in what was really a personal letter to Philemon would not have been appropriate. A greeting to Philemon’s wife and son was in order, but not a personal message to his son when the letter was meant as a personal appeal to Philemon himself.

So in Colossians Paul makes this appeal to Archippus. We do not know what the service Archippus had accepted in the Lord was, but of course Archippus himself did. The important message the Lord had for him now was that he must complete it. This is a good lesson for all of us. We all have services we have been given by the Lord to do. These services are the things outlined in the books he has written to us as believers living in the dispensation of grace. For example, we are to proclaim the word, as God urges through Paul in II Timothy 4:2. We are to study to show ourselves approved to God, workmen who have no need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth, as Paul tells Timothy in II Timothy 2:15. These sorts of things are the service God desires of us in this day. When we accept such service and take upon ourselves to do these things, we should see to it that we look diligently to that service and see to it that we complete the work by fulfilling that service as long as we are alive in this world and able to do so.

Therefore these instructions to Archippus, though we do not know exactly what they were about, can teach us as well. Whatever the service the Lord has given us to do, let us not fail to carry it out. This is advice we can all heed and learn from.

New King James Version 18. This salutation by my own hand—Paul. Remember my chains. Grace be with you. Amen.

The Resultant Version 18. The salutation is by my hand—Paul. Keep my bonds in mind. Grace be with you. Amen.

In writing this, the last verse of his letter, Paul finishes off by giving a salutation with his own hand. We would say that he signs his name to this letter. This probably means that the letter was written by a scribe, and not by Paul himself. From the first verse, it seems quite possible that Timothy was the scribe, since his name is attached to the letter along with Paul’s. Paul explains why he signs his letters this way in II Thessalonians 3:17.

17. The salutation of Paul with my own hand, which is a sign in every epistle; so I write.

This personal salutation was a sign to prove that Paul had indeed written the letter. The need for such a sign we can gather from II Thessalonians 2:1-2.

1. Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, 2. not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come.

It seems that some false apostle had written a letter to the Thessalonians claiming to be Paul, and telling them falsely that the day of the Lord had already come (the “day of Christ” in the New King James here appears to be a textual error, and the original reading was “day of the Lord.”) To counteract such counterfeits, Paul writes his salutation at the end of every letter with his own hand, proving by his handwriting that it is indeed Paul writing to them. He does not always point this out in every epistle, but he does in this one, assuring the Colossians that this was really him writing to them, since he signed the salutation in his own hand.

Next, he urges them to keep his bonds in mind. No doubt remembering his bonds that he suffered from the sake of Christ would be an encouragement and help to them all. Certainly Paul’s courage in proclaiming the truth and his willingness to perform whatever task the Lord had for him, even if that meant being bound to his own house in Rome, should be an inspiration and an encouragement to us to act as he did and be faithful as he was. For this reason, it is good to keep Paul’s example in mind.

Finally, the Lord ends this letter through Paul with grace. This is the way Paul ends all his epistles: with the grace of God. Grace is God’s love and favor freely given with no regard for whether or not the one receiving it deserves it. We all enjoy the riches of God’s grace today, in the dispensation when God acts totally and completely in grace. Therefore, to wish grace to each other when we salute each other is to wish the very thing upon each other that God is so richly pouring out today. There is nothing we need more today than the grace of God, and that grace is with us in an abundant way, pouring out on us the love and favor of God. Thanks be to God for this gift!

The epistle finishes with an “Amen,” or “so be it.” And thus we come to the end of the great book of Colossians. May we learn the lessons God has for us here in this great epistle. I pray that we all know more about His words and work from our studies together.