Stephen Caswell © 1999
The Danger of Standing Alone
A few winters ago, heavy snows hit North Carolina. Following a wet, six-inch snowfall, it was interesting to see the effect along Interstate 40. Next to the highway stood several large groves of tall, young pine trees. The branches were bowed down with the heavy snow--so low that branches from one tree were often leaning against the trunk or branches of another.
Where trees stood alone, however, the effect of the heavy snow was different. The branches had become heavier and heavier, and since there were no other trees to lean against, the branches snapped. They lay on the ground, dark and alone in the cold snow. When the storms of life hit, we need to be standing close to other Christians. The closer we stand, the more we will be able to hold up. -- Carl G. Conner, Elizabeth City, North Carolina.
Last Sunday morning we looked at Paul's Partners. We saw the men who served with Paul in spreading the Gospel. They ministered in all sorts of ways for the Lord. Some wrote letters, some prayed, some were sent on errands for the apostle. Others stayed with Paul and served in Rome. They faithfully carried out their ministries as part of a team serving the same Lord. That's what the Church's ministry is all about people working together in partnership for the Lord. Actually it's closer than that, we are all part of one family, the family of God. In today's passage Paul deals with the Family Fellowship. He closes the epistle with practical commands that assist fellowship in the family. Paul gives four commands to the Church regarding this:
Colossians 4:15 Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea, and Nymphas and the church that is in his house.
a. Christian Friendship
Firstly Paul commands the believers at Colassae to greet the brethren at Laodicea. The Laodicean Church was situated about 10 miles north west of Colossae. Because believers are all part of one family they should be warm to one another and encourage each other. The word greet ajspazomai means to embrace in one's arms, to welcome or salute. Christians should be warm and friendly to one another. Christ commanded us to love one another and this love must be extended to all believers. We shouldn't put up barriers between ourselves and other brethren. There is only one Church that belongs to God even though there are many denominations. All those who have been born again of the Holy Spirit are in that Church. The common greeting in the Middle East was a kiss of greeting and warm hug. This is seen from many of Paul's epistles.
1 Thessalonians 5:26 Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss. What's the difference between a holy kiss and an ordinary kiss? About 2 minutes! In Australia a warm handshake means the same thing. Friendship should be shared within the local church to believers in other churches.
Warmth Rather than Light
People join churches more because they want warmth than light. We like to think it's our stunning proclamation of the truth that keeps them in the pews. Sermons may get them into church the first time, but what keeps them coming are friendships that foster inward awareness and support. -- Jack R. Van Ens,
b. Christian Fellowship
The second thing we observe here is that Christians were enjoying fellowship in their homes. Nymphas had a Church meeting in his home. Many references to this practice can be found in the New Testament. For the first three hundred years the Christian Church met in private homes. In many countries today this practice is still observed because of necessity, like China and North Korea. Many large Churches today had their beginnings in a house church situation. Certainly our homes can be used for Bible studies and hospitality. After all the Church is not the building but the people. The word Church ejkklhsia means called out ones. I think it is great when people use their homes for Christian fellowship. After all, we are all family. Homes are made for families. Christian friendship and fellowship spring out of love. This command to greet one another is based on our love for the brethren.
Fellowship - No Passive Worship
The fellowship of the body is always two-way; receiving and giving. Wanting only to receive is not fellowship. We may not all be preachers, but when we come to worship we nevertheless bring what we have. There must be help of the pulpit from the pew. Sitting and looking on will not do. We must give others to drink, not necessarily by speaking, but maybe by quiet prayer. Every member of the Body has a ministry, and every member is called to function in the place appointed by the Lord. It makes no difference who does the work if the glory is His. Watchman Nee
Friendship and fellowship are an integral part of the Christian Church. God never intended for us to stand alone. Do you greet others in the fellowship? Do you look out for new folk and welcome them? Do you open your home up to others? Do you use it for the Lord's work? You should! After dealing with greetings Paul addressed the need for:
Colossians 4:16 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.
a. Speak God's Word
Paul's second command relates to the Scriptures. He told them to read this letter before the whole Church of Colossae. The word read ajnaginwskw means to know again, to read in public. It wasn't just for the leaders or special Christians. God's word is for all. Everyone must listen and obey it. Paul knew only too well the importance of God's Word. The whole Colossian Church would benefit from listening to God's word and heeding it. False teachers had come to town spreading heresy. They taught that Christ wasn't enough, you needed more. Paul's solution to this was to teach the truth about the Lord Jesus Christ and His salvation. Today we neglect to read God's Word at our own peril. Paul instructed Timothy about public Bible reading too. 1 Timothy 4:13 Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. We must also study our Bible at home. We are blessed to have it. I would rather let my soul soak in half a dozen verses of the Bible all day than rinse my hand in several chapters. Charles Haddon Spurgeon
b. Share God's Word
He then instructed them to share their letter with the Laodicean Church. And the Laodicean Church were to read their letter too. Why? It wasn't written to them was it? Because God's word is profitable for all believers. What God said to people 2000 years ago is just as relevant to us today. God's word is authoritative and Paul knew that they would benefit by listening to it. The Bible was not given to increase our knowledge but to change our lives. -- D. L. Moody,
At first only the Church itself received these letters. But Paul encouraged them to share their letters since this would edify them. No doubt this lead them to copy them and circulate the word more widely. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. Let us respect it and listen to it. Let us study it and obey it. Let us share it with others who don't know the Lord!
Bible - Food for the Soul
If a farmer doesn't plant seeds, he will never harvest a crop. It doesn't matter how weed-free his ground is; he must also plant and cultivate good seed. In the same way, we can only reap a harvest of purity and integrity by planting the good seed of God's Word into our lives. I'm not talking about merely reading the Bible. I'm talking about allowing the Holy Spirit to plant the truths of Scripture deep into our hearts and minds through consistent Bible reading and memorization, meditation and prayer. To be effective, and to remain pure, truth must be planted in our hearts daily. The next area Paul addressed was:
God's word has authority because He wrote it. Do you treat it with respect and obey it? Do you listen when it is read? Do you study it at home and allow it to transform your life? Do you share it with others who don't know Jesus Christ? Do you encourage other believers from God's word when they are struggling? God's word is relevant and authoritative. Please don't neglect it!
Colossians 4:17 And say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.”
Archippus was the pastor of the Colossian Church. Philemon 2 to the beloved Apphia, Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house: In Philemon 2 Paul calls him a fellow soldier, one engaged in the same battle. Paul has a command for this servant of Christ.
a. Watch Over Your Ministry
The words take heed blepw come from the verb to see. Paul commanded Archippus to watch out or look to the ministry he received. Why does Paul say this? Perhaps Archippus had become discouraged after of the Gnostic teachers had spread their heresy. So Paul encourages him to be on guard and keep serving the Lord. Because he had received his ministry from the Lord he should press on even when things are hard. One day he would have to give an account of his service to the Lord, so he should see to it that he serves well. Then he would receive a reward.
b. Fulfill Your Ministry
Paul encouraged him to fulfill his work. The word fulfill means to fill up, complete, execute, or finish something. It wasn't time to retire yet. Their were more battles to be won. Their was still work to be done. Archippus was a faithful soldier of Jesus Christ that had found the going hard. He needed some encouragement from Paul to keep at it and finish his work. God's servants need this from time to time. Do you encourage the Lord's ministers? They need it!
Ministers - Putting Christ First in Ministry
In order to effectively minister, church leaders must establish priorities for their work. We must first be committed to Christ, then to one another in Christ, and finally to the work of Christ in the world. -- Ray Outland,
Although Archippus was the pastor of the Colossian Church there is still a lesson for all of us. God has given each of us different gifts and abilities he wants us to use in His service. Are you being faithful to the Lord? Are you watching over your ministry opportunities? Are you fulfilling the plans God has for your life? Are you using your spiritual gifts in the Church? After charging the leaders Paul spoke of:
Colossians 4:18 This salutation by my own hand—Paul. Remember my chains. Grace be with you. Amen.
a. Receive My Greeting
Paul wasn't content to just encourage others to greet one another. He sent his own greeting to them as well. The word salutation in verse 18 is the noun form of the word greet in verse 15. Paul had a genuine concern for all believers, even those he had never met like these saints at Colossae. He longed to see them and wanted to assist them in any way that he could. He hoped to visit them and probably did after he was released. He wrote this to Philemon in Philemon 22. But, meanwhile, also prepare a guest room for me, for I trust that through your prayers I shall be granted to you. Paul set a good example when it came to Christian fellowship and friendship.
b. Remember My Chains
In closing Paul commanded them to remember his chains. Why? The word remember means to be mindful of, recollect, call to mind. Paul did this for two reasons. Firstly he wanted them to remember why he was in prison. Paul was a prisoner because of his faith in Christ. He remained faithful to the Lord even though it meant suffering and imprisonment. Paul wanted the Colossians to be faithful to Christ also. He wanted them to remember his example. Philippians 1:12-14 But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
Witnessing in a Soviet Prison
The effect of the Christian life lived out in difficult situations is often quite dramatic and forceful in its impact on the non-Christian. An article that appeared in Christianity Today was about Christians in the Soviet Union. A former criminal, Kozlov, later a church leader, wrote of life in a Soviet prison: "Among the general despair, while prisoners like myself were cursing ourselves, the camp, the authorities; while we opened up our veins or our stomachs, or hanged ourselves; the Christians (often with sentences of 20 to 25 years) did not despair. One could see Christ reflected in their faces. Their pure, upright life, deep faith and devotion to God, their gentleness and their wonderful manliness became a shining example of real life for thousands."
Secondly Paul wanted them to pray for Him. He knew that God would answer the prayers of His people. Paul wanted them to pray that God would use this imprisonment for his glory and then provide for his release. This in fact happened soon after. Hebrews 13:3 Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated — since you yourselves are in the body also. Many are in prison today because of their faith in Christ. We must pray for them. We must intercede that God will give them His wisdom to know what to say and how to witness. We should pray God would give them His grace, keep them faithful. We must pray for their families and their needs. 500 Christians die for their Lord every day. We can't sit by and do nothing.
The Voice Of The Martyrs and Brother Andrew are two ministries that help our suffering brothers. They provide prayer calendars so that we can pray more effectively. You can also give money to them which they use to assist those who suffer for Christ.
Prison ministry is another ministry that works among prisoners. These are practical ways to help our afflicted brethren. Will you help this way? The word remember in Colossians 4 and Hebrews 13 are both commands. If we don't remember them we are disobeying the Lord. Will you commit yourself to pray for these suffering brothers? Will you help them financially with your gifts? Then can I encourage you to contact these ministries about receiving their prayer letters.
When we discern that people are not going on spiritually and allow the discernment to turn to criticism, we block our way to God. God never gives us discernment in order that we may criticize, but that we may intercede. Let's pray for all believers especially those suffering.
c. Relays God's Grace
Paul's final words close the way that the started, with God's grace. Paul began the letter by saying that we have received all we need for salvation in Jesus Christ. There is nothing we can add. God has given us everything by grace. Why look further? Just claim the fullness you have received from the Lord Jesus Christ. We need only to appropriate God's grace in our lives!
Paul showed the Colossians his concern by greeting them. He expressed his love for them and desire to see them. Do you personally greet other believers? Are you genuinely concerned about your brothers and sisters in Christ? Do you remember our brothers and sisters who suffer for their faith? Do you pray for them? Do you support them financially? To neglect them is to be disobedient to the Lord! Paul wrote to the Colossians to assure them that they were complete in Jesus Christ. They didn't need anything else. Christ possessed the fullness of the Godhead and they were complete in Him. They had received it all by God's grace. Are you looking for something more? Than stop your search. Just get to know the Lord Jesus Christ better and appreciate what you have in Him!
God never intended for Christians to stand alone. We need each other. In Paul's conclusion he encourages the family fellowship. He shares four things that will assist this.
Friendship and fellowship are vital ingredients in the Christian life. Do you greet the brethren? Do you welcome new folk? Do you open your home to others to share the Lord's work?
Paul knew the importance of God's word. God's word is always relevant. It is inspired and authoritative. He commanded believers to read it and share it. Are you reading God's word? Do you obey it? Do you share it? We ignore it at our own peril! Please don't neglect to study the Bible. Many Christians don't have their own Bible. They long to have it but can't get one.
God has called men into ministry. Archippus had received a commission to pastoral work. Paul encouraged him to fulfill his ministry. Do you encourage God's servants? But this applies to all believers since God has given everyone a spiritual gift to be used in His service. Are you watching out over your ministry for Him? Are you fulfilling the work God has for you? Are you using your spiritual gifts?
Paul commands us to remember those imprisoned for their faith. Are you remembering the persecuted saints? Do you think of them and pray for them? Do you support them financially? You should! To neglect this is to disobey God. We are all in the same body as Hebrews says. Let us have fellowship with all the saints. Let us love one another by greeting each other, sharing the word, fulfilling our ministries, exercising our gifts and remembering to pray for each other.
Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.