Open Your Bible
Colossians 4:7-18, Romans 15:30-33, Philippians 1:3-7
Text: Colossians 4:7-18, Romans 15:30-33, Philippians 1:3-7
I like to think of the final greetings in Paul’s letters as the “say hello to your mother for me” section. He opens with his typical “grace and peace,” follows with some thanksgiving and prayer, then gets down to business. By the end, he often zeroes in on some very specific housekeeping matters before he closes.
Have you noticed this pattern, too?
- Grace & peace.
- I’m thankful for you. I pray for you.
- Do not forsake the true-true-true gospel.
- But really, don’t forget what being a Christ follower means and what it doesn’t mean.
- Be good to each other.
- Say hi to so-and-so for me. (Or, put more accurately: When you bump into these people, listen to what they say and take care of them. Oh, and this person says hello!)
- Also, this really is me sending this note. (Paul often dictated his letters, then signed them with his own hand at the end.)
It’s the housekeeping piece at the end that, though often overlooked, contains some of the most interesting little details of Paul’s letters. He’s naming names. Arranging meetings. Making sure people are looking out for each other. He’s caring for the church as a whole—the body of Christ.
For fun (and because there is always something to learn!), let’s take a closer look at the people Paul mentions. What is so important about these folks, anyway?
Tychicus was a native of Asia Minor who delivered this letter to Colossae, as well as the letter to the church in Ephesus and Paul’s personal letter to Philemon. (Isn’t it so cool that God used Tychicus as a courier for some of the most important mail in Christendom?)
Onesimus may be my personal favorite. He was Philemon’s slave, but when he escaped to Rome he met Paul and then Jesus. (The book of Philemon is a super-quick, super-compelling letter from Paul to Philemon, calling in a big favor: he asks Philemon to take Onesimus back, not as a slave, but as a brother in Christ.)
Aristarchus was from Thessalonica. He joined Paul on his journey and gave his life and freedom so that others may know Christ.
Mark actually had a bit of a reputation because he bailed on Paul early on, which caused a falling out between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:13, 15:39). As Mark matured spiritually, he returned to work alongside Paul, who instructed the church to welcome Mark back.
Epaphras was from Colossae, too. Colossians 4:12 says he “contended” for the Church in his prayers. The Greek word for “contend” here means “to fight for.” (Isn’t it good to remember that one of the best ways we can fight for Christ’s church is by praying for her?)
Luke was, of course, the author of the Gospel that bears his name, as well as the book of Acts. It seems Luke stayed with Paul throughout his imprisonment, aiding in the ministry of the gospel.
Demas has sort of a bummer of a story. He deserted Paul because “he loved this present world” (2 Timothy 4:10). (Man, I hate how painfully close-to-home Demas’ two-second story feels.)
Nympha was a Christian woman who had a lot of money and hosted the church in her home. She gave what she had for the gospel.
Finally, Paul charges Archippus (possibly the son of Philemon) to pay attention to the ministry he has received in the Lord, so that he may accomplish it (Colossians 4:17).
You guys. That is a lot of people. None of them were perfect, yet Paul intentionally and affectionately included them by name in his letter. Among this web of individuals and cities, there was a lot of brokenness, disappointment, and even betrayal.
Does it help you to see that the church then looked a lot like the church does today? It was full of flawed people who needed to forgive and be forgiven. They forgot the true gospel was for them and for each other. There was real hurt and genuine restoration.
As we close out this series of letters from Paul to the early church, let’s pay attention to how wildly relevant even his final greetings are to us as the church today.
Restoration among believers is still possible.
Fighting for the church sometimes just means praying for her.
The temptation to love this present world isn’t a new one.
And best of all? The truth of the gospel hasn’t budged one bit.
It was true for Paul and his friends then. And it is true for you and for me today. Thanks be to God!