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Paul's Partners Colossians 4b

Notes & Transcripts

Colossians 4:7-14

Stephen Caswell © 1999

Introduction

When we last looked at Colossians three weeks ago we saw the ministry of the mouth. I called the message serving sentences. We saw how to make our words work for us. Paul emphasized the importance of prayer and gracious speech. It is easy to speak without thinking and hurt those around us. Christians ought to use their tongues to minister grace to the hearers. Today Paul talks about his partners or fellow ministers. He lists a number of men who served with him. Every Church and ministry needs workers who help the leaders. Often these tasks are done behind the scenes and no one knows what is done. But God knows such labors and He will reward all faithful servants. Here is a definition of ministry by Warren Weirsbe. Ministry takes place when divine resources meet human needs through loving channels to the glory of God.

The Definition of Ministry

Ministry is giving when you feel like keeping, praying for others when you need to be prayed for, feeding others when your own soul is hungry, living truth before people even when you can't see results, hurting with other people even when your own hurt can't be spoken, keeping your word even when it is not convenient, it is being faithful when your flesh wants to run away.

--John A. Holt

 

What is involved in ministry? And Who is to be involved in it? The word diakono" is translated serve or servant over one hundred times in the New Testament. In the majority of cases it is used of everyday Christians serving the Lord. On about three occasions it is translated deacon. Paul had men assisting him with the Gospel and many of these were not preachers, pastors or deacons. They were simply servants of the Lord exercising ministry. Today we will see:

I.   The Ministers That Served Away

II.  The Ministers That Stayed

III. The Minister That Prayed

IV. The Minister That Strayed

I.   The Ministers That Served Away

Colossians 4:7-9 Tychicus, a beloved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant in the Lord, will tell you all the news about me. I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that he may know your circumstances and comfort your hearts, with Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will make known to you all things which are happening here.

Firstly we see two men that Paul sent to Ephesus, Colossae, Laodicea and Hierapolis. Tychicus and Onesimus carried letters from Paul to the Churches at Ephesus, Colossae and Laodicea. They also took a letter to Philemon and carried greetings to the Laodicean Church. Paul has much to say about them.

 

a. Tychicus

Tychicus was a Christian from Asia, perhaps from the Church at Ephesus. He often traveled with Paul and assisted him. His name means fortuitous or fortunate. Paul was able to send him to Ephesus to relieve Timothy as pastor so he could come to Paul prior to his execution. Even though we don't know much about Tychicus Paul speaks of him in glowing terms. Listen to how Paul describes him. A beloved brother. This indicates that he was in God's family for he was not from Paul's human family. Paul calls him beloved because he stayed with him during difficult circumstances. He didn't quit when the going got tough. Many deserted Paul during his final trial but Tychicus remained faithful. No wonder Paul loved him appreciating his ministry.

Secondly, Paul calls Tychicus a faithful minister. The word minister is diakono" and means servant. Paul is not describing a position of rule as much as he is describing a worker in God's service. This word is also translated deacon in Philippians 1:1 and 1 Timothy 3. It literally means to wait on tables. Seven deacons were appointed in Acts 6 to care for the needy widows. Paul commends Tychicus for his faithful service. One cannot be a servant without serving. All believers are encouraged to serve one another. Deacons cannot hold the office without serving.

Thirdly Paul calls Tychicus a fellow servant. The word servant is doulo" meaning bond servant or voluntary slave. Tychicus served the Lord with the apostle Paul. He was a team man. He didn't mind that Paul called the shots. He didn't resent being asked to go on Paul's errands. When Paul asked him to deliver these letters he willingly obeyed. He comforted the Colossians by bringing them word of Paul's situation. He then took word back to Paul on how the Churches were going. He realized that by assisting Paul in this way he was really serving the Lord. A church can never have too many people like Tychicus. People who comfort others are very valuable.

Two weeks ago I asked for people to help with some of the rosters such as cleaning, mowing and morning teas. A number of folk have said they will help and that's great. But as yet no one has volunteered to drive folk home after the service so that we don't have to use the bus. This is a practical way in which we can serve others. I realize that some folk may have full cars with family and folk already. But if you can assist here I would greatly appreciate it. You might think that this is insignificant, but God knows and He will reward each one for their service. A cup of cold water given in the Lord's name will bring a reward. Are you helping the ministry here at West Orange Baptist Church? Or is it beneath you to serve others? All service rendered.... is really done for Christ. Are you willing to be like Tychicus and assist the minister in God's work?

b. Onesimus

 

The second person Paul mentions here is Onesimus. Paul calls him a faithful and beloved brother. His name means profitable. Previously he had been a runaway slave who stole from his master Philemon. He wasn't living up to his name. Then he met Paul in Rome and was converted. Onesimus served Paul in Rome and told him what he had previously done. Paul sent him back to his master with Tychicus to make restitution. Paul also sent a letter to Philemon to encourage this. Paul shared how Onesimus was now a brother in Christ.

He said that he was now profitable to himself and the Lord. He asked Philemon to forgive him and take him back. Paul had led Philemon to the Lord when he was in Asia probably at Ephesus. All of us here were at one time like Onesimus. Not fulfilling the purpose that God had for us. Then the Lord saved us and called us into His service. Are you being faithful to God's call? Could you be described as a faithful and beloved brother? Are you living up to your name as a Christian? Or are you all talk?

II.  The Ministers That Stayed

Colossians 4:10-11, 14 Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, with Mark the cousin of Barnabas (about whom you received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him), 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. Luke the beloved physician greets you.

 

Paul now talks about the ministers who are with him. These men assisted Paul in the Lord's service. At times Paul sent them to minister to other churches too. We don't know much about many of them. The little we are told about them indicates that they were faithful workers who greatly assisted Paul.

a. Aristarchus

 

The first minister Paul mentions is Aristarchus. His name means best ruling. And he certainly was an able minister in God's service. Acts 20:4 tells us that he came from Thessalonica. Aristarchus traveled with Paul on some of his missionary journeys. He risked his life for Paul at Ephesus when the city broke into a riot because of the silversmiths. He journeyed with Paul to Rome from Caesarea risking his own life on the dangerous Mediterranean Sea. Paul calls Aristarchus his fellow prisoner.

Aristarchus was not under arrest or being charged by the authorities. But he chose to serve Paul and stayed with him during his house arrest in Rome. Aristarchus was faithful and didn't mind being associated with a prisoner of the empire. He placed his own life in danger because of this. I am sure that Paul greatly appreciated this faithful servant. He no doubt sent him on errands around Rome and to the Church there. Are you faithful to the Lord when persecution seems likely? Do you support God's servants when they are persecuted or ridiculed? Would you go to jail for your faith or service? That's commitment. Do you assist God's servants by serving them?

 

b. John Mark

 

Paul gave instructions for the Colossians to welcome John Mark if he came to them. Obviously Paul sent Mark to encourage and establish the different churches on his behalf. They were to welcome or willingly receive Mark as they would Paul himself. What do we know about this man? His mother Mary had an open house. It was a place where the believers gathered for prayer

as can be seen when Peter was jailed awaiting execution [Acts 12:12]. Mark traveled on the first missionary journey with Paul and his cousin Barnabas. He deserted the work along the way for reasons we cannot be sure about.

When Barnabas desired to take him on the second journey Paul disagreed and he and Barnabas split over the matter. But now Paul is recommending him as an able minister. What happened? Barnabas was able to turn his failure around and shape him into a man of God. Mark wrote the Gospel bearing his name. One failure didn't mean that he couldn't be useful to the Lord again. In fact we read this in 2 Timothy 4:11 when Paul is facing the end of his ministry and life. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry. Have you failed in the past? Don't lose heart. God can still use you if you turn to Him and try again.

 

c. Jesus, Justus.

 

Next Paul mentions a man called Jesus, Justus. Jesus is the New Testament equivalent of Joshua. Whilst Justus means just. He was a Jew, one of the circumcision. We know nothing else about Justus. Paul simply refers to him as a fellow worker. But this is a wonderful commendation. He was a team man, a helper. He could work alongside others in harmony. Paul says that he and the others proved to be a comfort to Paul. They had been proven themselves to be faithful ministers. Their ministry comforted Paul in his own afflictions. He could depend on these men. Churches can't have too many fellow workers in them. They share the load willingly and cheerfully. Amen!

 

d. Luke

 

Luke is fairly well known even though Paul doesn't say much about him here. He accompanied Paul on most of his journeys. When you read the book of Acts he is identified in the passages where it says that we went to such and such a place. Paul left Luke and Timothy behind to establish Churches when he was forced out of town a number of times. Luke was a physician or doctor and no doubt ministered to Paul and his traveling companions. He probably ministered to others as well on their travels. Luke wrote the Gospel bearing his name and the book of Acts. When Paul was imprisoned the second time and facing execution Luke stayed with him till the end. He was faithful and used his skills as a doctor in the Lord's work. Luke was certainly a man I would like to have on my team.

Ministers, How Much Do You Care?

Those to whom you minister may not always perfectly understand what you say, but they will soon know whether you love them or not. The secret of many a successful Christian worker is not that he is skilled, full of knowledge, and has endowments which are superior to others, but that those to whom he ministers know that he really cares about them, not in some abstract way, or from sense of duty, but wanting with all his heart the best that God wants for them. They bring comfort to people as did Paul's partners! Do you bring comfort or discouragement to others?

III. The Minister That Prayed

Colossians 4:12-13 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. For I bear him witness that he has a great zeal for you, and those who are in Laodicea, and those in Hierapolis.

a. Epaphras

Paul spoke of Epaphras in glowing terms also. His name means charming or lovely. He was from Colossae the Church that Paul was writing to. Paul probably lead him to Christ when he ministered at Ephesus for three years. Epaphras took the Gospel back to his home town. He started the Church at Colossae and probably the Churches of Laodicea and Hierapolis as well. In Colossians 1:7 Paul calls Epaphras a dear fellow servant and faithful minister. His ministry was one motivated by love and that is what made it so effective. He worked cheerfully alongside Christ's ministers. He was a good team man. Paul calls him a bondservant of Christ. Like Paul and Timothy, Epaphras was serving the Lord out of love and devotion.

The term bondservant comes from the Old Testament. People in debt could sell themselves as slaves to fellow Israelites. Every 7 years the Law required servants to be released from service and paid for their work. If a servant loved his master and enjoyed serving him he could choose to become a servant for life. They were then branded through their ear to identify them as bondservants. They were voluntary slaves! Epaphras was a voluntary slave for Jesus Christ. He did this out of love. Paul now highlights his ministry of prayer. Epaphras was a minister who knew the importance of prayer and devoted himself to it. We can all learn much from him.

1. He Prayed Constantly

Firstly we read that Epaphras prayed always. Epaphras didn't offer up a quick prayer before he went to bed. He was a good example of Paul's admonition in Colossians 4:2, Continue in prayer. He did not pray only when he felt like it, like many Christians do today. He didn't just pray in Church or at Bible study. He prayed constantly seeking God's blessing. DL Moody once shared about prayer. He said I am not one to pray all night. I pray on and off all through out the day.

2. He Prayed Fervently

Paul observed Epaphras as he prayed and noted his sincerity and commitment to prayer. He noted that he labored fervently. The word labor means to agonize. The same word is used in Luke 22:44 where the Lord agonized in prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. Paul uses this word in Colossians 1:29: To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily. There it is translated striving. This word was used to describe an athlete fully committed to his contest. If Christians put as much effort into prayer as they do to their sport the Church would be in revival today. Epaphras prayed fervently. He took it very seriously.

3. He Prayed Personally

Epaphras didn't pray around the world for everyone. He prayed specifically. We read that he labored in prayer for the Churches of Laodicea, Colossae and Hierapolis. I am sure that Epaphras prayed for many by name. God wants us to be specific for people and their needs. He doesn't want us to pray God bless the folk at Orange or even the people of West Orange Baptist Church.  We must pray personally for one another and the lost around us. God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

God loves all but saves individuals who turn to Him. Some people pray generally for the lost and neglect to pray specifically for their neighbors and work mates near them. I trust you don't this.

  

4. He prayed Definitely

Epaphras not only prayed for individuals, he prayed for one specific point. His prayers were very definite. He had a goal in mind for God's people. A goal God would be pleased to bring about. Epaphras was concerned that the believers at Colossae, Laodicea and Hierapolis might mature in their Christian faith. Epaphras wanted them to know God's will and do all of it. Today we often get so wrapped up in the physical needs we have that we neglect the most important things. Our spiritual needs. These are far more important. Whenever you read Paul's prayers in the New Testament you can't help but see how he emphasizes our relationship with God. Paul and Epaphras prayed that believers might stand complete and perfect in all of God's will. A life lived for the Lord is a life that God can bless. A life he can use to bless others. The Lord Himself said to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and He would meet our physical needs.

5. He Prayed Sacrificially

In verse 13 Paul says that Epaphras had great zeal for them. His prayers were the kind that meant sacrifice. Praying that costs nothing accomplishes nothing. If you can't set aside un-rushed time to pray why should God take the time to answer you? The word zeal is the same word we get zealot from. A zealot is someone who is totally committed to a cause. Epaphras was devoted to the Lord and His church and this can be seen by the way that he prayed. Epaphras prayed for the people of three different Churches. That takes time and effort. It takes commitment. Two weeks ago we had a special prayer night for Bill's ministry and only eight people came. How much greater blessing would we receive in our lives and Church if we prayed like Epaphras? Can I encourage you to support the prayer and Bible studies in the Church. Can I exhort you to pray in your homes for one another and the ministry here.  Prayer is so important to God's work.

IV. The Minister That Strayed

Colossians 4:14 Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you.

 

a. Demas

 

Verse 14 also mentions a man called Demas. He is only mentioned three times in the New Testament. In Philemon 23-24 we read this. Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow laborers. Here he is called Paul's fellow laborer. He was faithfully serving his Lord and assisting Paul. In Colossians 4:14 Paul refers to him as one sending a greeting. Then the final reference to Demas is found in 2 Timothy 4:10. for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica—Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. Here we are told that he deserted Paul when he needed him most. Paul was facing execution and Demas didn't want to risk his life. Somewhere along the way Demas wandered away from serving the Lord to serving the world. He allowed the world to steal his heart from Christ. He loved this present world more than the next.

Today we have looked at Paul's partners. A number of men assisted him in the work. Philippians 4 and Romans 16 record for us that ladies also assisted Paul in his ministry.

I.   The Ministers That Served Away

Firstly Paul spoke of the ministry of Tychicus and Onesimus. They are called faithful servants. These men assisted Paul by encouraging and comforting other churches on Paul's behalf. They carried the letters Paul had written for them. They brought word of Paul's ministry. They worked alongside Paul and did not resent his authority over them. Will you be a servant in the Lord's work? Will you assist in the work here? There are many practical ministries in the church. We can receive no greater reward than to hear from our Lord, Well done good and faithful servant. 

II. The Ministers That Stayed

The second group of men listed are those who remained with Paul to serve him. Aristarchus, Mark, Justus and Luke were also faithful. No doubt these men served Paul in Rome and the church there. These men had traveled with Paul on some of his missionary journeys. They had stuck it out in hard times. Paul could depend on them. Are you dependable? Do you bring comfort to the pastor and others? Mark had once failed Paul and deserted the work. But Barnabas restored him. He became a great man of God. If you have failed in the past it doesn't mean that God can't use you again. Trust him and put things right, then start serving again.

III. The Minister That Prayed

Epaphras was a prayer warrior who impressed Paul greatly. He prayed constantly. He prayed fervently. He strained himself to the limit in prayer. Christ said men should not lose heart but continue in prayer. Epaphras prayed personally for three Church fellowships. He prayed definitely for his brethren. Epaphras wanted them to mature in their faith. He wanted them to know and obey God's will. And he prayed to that end. Our spiritual needs are more important than the physical. Let us concentrate on these. He prayed sacrificially. He labored fervently. He was devoted to prayer. Do you pray this way? Do you pray personally and specifically? Are you to busy to pray? If you are to busy to pray then you are out of God's will! Does poor health prevent you from serving in most areas? Then serve through prayer! Prayer is a vital ministry.  

IV. The Minister That Strayed

Demas was the minister who forsook the Lord's work. He started well but finished badly. Let us be careful that we don't allow this to happen to us. Demas was walking with the Lord at one time. Then he allowed the world to steal his affections away from Christ. The love of this present world caused him to desert Paul and the Lord. Are you as faithful to the Lord now as you were a year ago? Is your love growing cold? Be careful lest you should desert the Lord! Amen

2 Thessalonians 3:16,18  Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with you all. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

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