Colossians 4:7-18

Sunday Morning Bible Study

July 12, 2009


We believe that Paul wrote this letter to the Colossians somewhere around AD 60.

About seven years before this letter was written (AD 53), Paul had begun his longest, most fruitful ministry in one place.  We read about this ministry in Acts 19, where Paul shows up in the city of Ephesus, starts with a small group of disciples, and builds a church that eventually impacts all of the area known at that time as “Asia”.

It was during Paul’s three years in Ephesus that some like Epaphras went out from the church in Ephesus and planted churches in Hierapolis, Laodicea, and Colosse.

Around AD 56, things began to get rough in Ephesus.  This was what Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

(1 Cor 16:8-9 NKJV)  But I will tarry in Ephesus until Pentecost. {9} For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.

Luke records in Acts 19 that the men who made idols for a living stirred up the city into an uproar because their businesses were going under with all the people coming to Christ through the church in Ephesus. No one was buying idols anymore.

Things got so rough, that the church people decided to send Paul away.

Paul traveled up and around to Macedonia, down to Greece, and then decided to head back to Jerusalem by way of Asia.  It would be in Jerusalem that Paul would be arrested, and after having spent several years in prison in Caesarea, he would be shipped to Rome where he is now writing.

As Paul traveled the world, he wasn’t alone.  He had a group of men with him, men he was training.

We catch a little “Polaroid” shot of them as they were on the part of the journey traveling from Greece to Jerusalem by way of Asia:

(Acts 20:4 NKJV)  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.
Note these names.  These fellows are from all the various places that Paul has planted churches.
Berea and Thessalonica were cities of Macedonia.
Gaius and Timothy were both from Derbe, the area of Galatia, Paul’s earliest ministry.
Tychicus and Trophimus are from “Asia”, most likely both from Ephesus (we know that Trophimus was from Ephesus).  These fellows were from the area closest to Colosse.
You’re going to see that some of these fellows are still with Paul, four years after this snapshot in Acts 20:4.

Just a list of names?

When you are reading through your Bible and you get to the ending section of a letter like Colossians, don’t just skip it because it just looks like a bunch of names.

If you play detective, you will find clues in these verses, just like the end of all Paul’s letters.  The clues help you uncover the backstory of what is going on in Paul’s life when he is writing these letters.

Some of these people are apparently in prison with Paul.  Some are friends that come and go, visiting Paul, taking care of Paul’s physical needs, and providing communication with the churches through Paul’s letters.

:7-9 The Messengers

:7 Tychicus, a beloved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant in the Lord, will tell you all the news about me.

:8 I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that he may know your circumstances and comfort your hearts,

TychicusTuchikos – “fateful”

an Asiatic Christian, friend and companion of the apostle Paul

Tychicus was the man carrying the letter from Paul to the Colossians.  He was from the area of “Asia”, most likely Ephesus.

He would be carrying a letter to Laodicea.

Apparently he also carried a letter to the Ephesians at the same time (Eph. 6:21)

(Eph 6:21 NKJV)  But that you also may know my affairs and how I am doing, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make all things known to you;
At the very end of Paul’s life, Tyichicus was on another mission for Paul:
(2 Tim 4:12 NKJV)  And Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus.

This was where Timothy was, pastoring the church in Ephesus.

Look how Paul describes Tychicus:

beloved brother

faithful minister

fellow servant

Tychicus had a mission from Paul

1.  Deliver the letters.

2.  Tell the churches in Asia about Paul’s situation.

3.  Learn about the Colossians – how are they doing.

4.  Comfort the Colossians.

:9 with Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will make known to you all things which are happening here.

OnesimusOnesimos – “profitable or useful”

If all you read is Colossians, you just think that Onesimus was another guy along for the ride with Tychicus.  But wait.  There’s more.

Onesimus is actually one of the main characters in a parallel story that is happening at the same time, chronicled in another letter that Tychicus would be carrying to the city of Colosse.  But this letter was written to an individual, not to the church at Colosse.  It’s the little letter of Philemon.

It turns out that Onesimus was a runaway slave.  He was the property of a friend of Paul’s, Philemon.  Philemon was a wealthy man in Colosse.  He and his wife hosted the church in their home.  Their son Archippus was the pastor of the church.

While Paul was in prison, he ran into Onesimus, led him to the Lord, and is now sending Onesimus back to Colosse to make things right with Philemon.

Paul’s letter to Philemon is a plea from Paul to forgive Onesimus and accept him as a brother in Christ.

In Paul’s public letter to the church, he simply calls Onesimus “a faithful and beloved brother”.

I like that.  When we come to Christ, we become “beloved”.
Some of us have quite a dark past, but when we come to Christ, we find forgiveness and a new start.

(Phile NKJV)  Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved friend and fellow laborer, {2} to the beloved Apphia, Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house:

We think that Philemon was married to Apphia.  They had a son named Archippus, who was also the pastor of the church, which met in their house.

{3} Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. {4} I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers, {5} hearing of your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints, {6} that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. {7} For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother.

Philemon had a reputation of encouraging and “refreshing” others.

{8} Therefore, though I might be very bold in Christ to command you what is fitting, {9} yet for love's sake I rather appeal to you; being such a one as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ;

Paul has a request to make of Philemon.  As an apostle, he could “order” Philemon to do this thing, but he simply appeals to him out of love.  Note the violins playing in the background as Paul mentions his age and imprisonment.

{10} I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains, {11} who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me. {12} I am sending him back. You therefore receive him, that is, my own heart, {13} whom I wished to keep with me, that on your behalf he might minister to me in my chains for the gospel. {14} But without your consent I wanted to do nothing, that your good deed might not be by compulsion, as it were, but voluntary. {15} For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever, {16} no longer as a slave but more than a slave; a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

Apparently Onesimus was a slave who was owned by Philemon.  Onesimus was “unprofitable” because he ran away from his master and ran off to Rome.  Somehow Onesimus runs into Paul who is in prison.  Paul leads Onesimus to the Lord.  Paul is now sending Onesimus back to his master to make things right.
Paul could have justified letting Onesimus stay with him, but he knows the right thing is to send Onesimus back.

{17} If then you count me as a partner, receive him as you would me. {18} But if he has wronged you or owes anything, put that on my account. {19} I, Paul, am writing with my own hand. I will repay; not to mention to you that you owe me even your own self besides. {20} Yes, brother, let me have joy from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in the Lord. {21} Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.

Paul promised Philemon to pay for any wrong doing that Onesimus has done.

{22} But, meanwhile, also prepare a guest room for me, for I trust that through your prayers I shall be granted to you. {23} Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, {24} as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow laborers. {25} The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

Note these names.  They are the same names Paul mentions here in Colossians.

:10-11 Jewish co-workers

: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),

AristarchusAristarchos – “the best ruler”; one of Paul’s traveling pals (Acts 20:4)

He was from Thessalonica, a major city of Macedonia.  He is called a “fellow prisoner” with Paul.

fellow prisonersunaichmalotos (“with” + “captive by spear”) – a fellow prisoner

MarkMarkos – “a defense”

We actually know quite a bit about Mark.

He is also called “John Mark” – “Mark” is a Latin name, “John” is Jewish.

He is a cousin of Barnabas. His family was quite involved in the early church from the very beginning.  The church in Jerusalem met at his mother’s house. (Acts 12:12)

His mother’s name was Mary (Acts 12:12), and the early church often met at her house. It was at this house that the church was praying for Peter while he was in prison and it was at this house that Peter went after he was miraculously released from prison.

(Acts 12:12 NKJV)  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.

When Paul and Barnabas began their first missionary journey twelve years earlier (AD 48), he went with them as a helper (Acts 13:5).  But when things started to get tough at Pamphylia, Mark abandoned the team (Acts 13:13).

When Paul and Barnabas were going to start their second missionary journey (AD 50), they had a huge argument over whether or not to take Mark with them.  Paul didn’t think Mark was very trustworthy, but Barnabas wanted to take Mark.  Paul and Barnabas ended up parting ways with Barnabas taking Mark with him to Cyprus (Acts 15:39).

We know that Mark was reconciled with Paul, since we find Mark in Rome with Paul.

Mark will also spent time with the apostle Peter, perhaps while he was in Rome.  Tradition has it that Mark wrote his gospel between AD 56-63 while at Rome with Peter. 

Mark is called by early church historians Peter’s “interpreter” while in Rome.  It is thought that the gospel of Mark was pretty much the account of Jesus’ life as told by Peter.  We think that Mark has included a brief mention of himself as the young man in the Garden of Gethsemane:

(Mark 14:51-52 NKJV)  Now a certain young man followed Him, having a linen cloth thrown around his naked body. And the young men laid hold of him, {52} and he left the linen cloth and fled from them naked.

At the end of Paul’s life, Mark was in Ephesus with Timothy (2Tim. 4:11).  Perhaps Mark went with Tychicus to Asia as Paul hinted here.

Tradition has it that Mark eventually went to Alexandria, where he started a church.  He died as a martyr in AD 64 in the eighth year of the reign of Caesar Nero.


Redeeming the quitter

Mark had been the source of a problem for Paul.  When Paul had been counting on Mark to be a part of the team, Mark had abandoned the team.   This was why Paul and Barnabas had split up.  Barnabas wanted to take his cousin along …
(Acts 15:38 NLT)  But Paul disagreed strongly, since John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not shared in their work.
Yet at the end of Paul’s life, Paul has seen that Mark has matured.  Paul writes to Timothy in Ephesus:
(2 Tim 4:11 NKJV)  …Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry.

Paul has been working with Mark.  He’s given him a second chance.  Mark has become faithful.  Paul could count on him.

God can take people who have failed before and help them become usable again.

Some of us have “Marks” in our lives, people who are not dependable, people who “quit”.
There may be a time to give them another chance.
Some of us are “Marks”.  We might think that we’ve failed too many times.
God was not in the least finished with Mark when he quit the first time.
Facing the Giants is about a Christian high school football team and their coach, Grant Taylor (Alex Kendrick). In six years of coaching, Grant has never had a winning season. After realigning himself with God, Grant delivers his team a new philosophy. But he will need the leadership of one of his key seniors, Brock Kelly (Jason McLeod).   He will need Brock to learn how not to quit… (play video clip)
As the players are gathered for practice, one of them asks, “So coach, how strong is Westview this year?” Brock answers, “A lot stronger than we are.” The coach asks, “You already written Friday night down as a loss, Brock?” “Well, not if I knew we could beat ‘em,” Brock responds. The coach says, “Come here, Brock. You too, Jeremy.” “What? Am I in trouble now?” asks Brock. “Not yet,” answers the coach. “I want to see you do the death crawl again [a training exercise where Brock will crawl with a player on his back, without his knees touching the ground], except I want to see your absolute best.” “What, you want me to go to the 30?” asks Brock. “I think you can go to the 50.”  “The 50? I can go to the 50 if nobody’s on my back.” “I think you can do it with Jeremy on your back, but even if you can’t, I want you to promise you’re going to do your best.” “All right,” Brock answers.  “One more thing,” Coach Taylor adds. “I want you to do it blindfolded.” “Why?”  “’Cause I don’t want you giving up at a certain point when you could go further.” As Brock takes his position and Jeremy climbs on his back, the coach calls out: “All right, Brock, let’s go. Keep your knees off the ground. Just your hands and feet. There you go, just a little bit left. Show me good effort. That a way, Brock, you keep comin’. There you go, it’s a good start.” Brock then asks, “Am I at the 20 yet?” “Forget the 20. You give me your best. Now, don’t stop, Brock. You’ve got more in you than that.” As Brock slows to a stop, he utters, “I’m not done, I’m just restin’ a second.” The coach continues to yell encouragement until Brock cries out, “It hurts!” “Don’t quit on me,” the coach answers, “your very best—keep drivin’.” “He’s heavy,” Brock wheezes.  “I know he’s heavy.”  “I’m about out of strength.”  “Then you negotiate with your body to find more strength,” Taylor yells, raising his volume to exhort his player, “but don’t you give up on me, Brock. You’re doin’ good. Do not quit on me. It’s all heart from here.” By now the entire team is standing speechless, watching Brock continue on. The coach shouts: “30 more steps…20 more…10 more…1 more,” until Brock finally collapses.  “It’s got to be the 50,” Brock cries. “It’s got to be the 50; I don’t have any more.” “Look, Brock,” says the coach, “you’re in the end zone.”
Facing the Giants (Destination Films, 2006), directed by Alex Kendrick
You could probably go farther than you think if you just don’t quit.

: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.

Jesus – This is not Jesus Christ.  “Jesus” was not a unique name in the first century.

JustusIoustos – Latin for “just”

of the circumcision – these are the only Jewish believers who are working with Paul.

comfortparegoria – to make an address; exhortation; comfort, solace, relief, alleviation, consolation.  Only time this word is used in the NT.

We have an English word, “paregoric”, which is a medicine (for diarrhea).

:12-13 Epaphras

: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.

EpaphrasEpaphras – “lovely”

We believe Epaphras is the man who started the church in Colosse.  Now he’s in prison with Paul.He was certainly the first one to preach the gospel in Colosse:

(Col 1:7-8 NLT)  Epaphras, our much loved co-worker, was the one who brought you the Good News. He is Christ's faithful servant, and he is helping us in your place. {8} He is the one who told us about the great love for others that the Holy Spirit has given you.

Now we see that Epaphras is with Paul in prison.  He is the one who has told Paul so much about Colosse, and even though Paul has never been to Colosse, he writes this letter because of what Epaphras has said.

laboring ferventlyagonizomai – to contend in the gymnastic games; to contend with adversaries, fight; to endeavor with strenuous zeal.  This is how he prayed.

standhistemi – to place, put; to stand

perfectteleios – brought to its end, finished; wanting nothing necessary to completeness; perfect; full grown, adult, of full age, mature

completepleroo – to make full, to fill up; to carry through to the end, to accomplish; of matters of duty: to perform, execute

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

zealzelos – excitement of mind, ardor, fervor of spirit

How could Paul tell that Epaphras had a great “zeal”?  Because of what he observed in his prayer life.

Laodicea … Hierapolis – the other two cities in the Lycus valley with Colosse.

It is possible that the churches in all three cities were started by Epaphras.


Zeal and prayer

It seems to me that you could make a connection between being “on fire” and your prayer life.
Epaphras was a man that God used greatly.
He was also a man that worked hard at prayer.  Laboring fervently.
James wrote,
(James 5:16b NKJV)  The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
We saw that Epaphras was:
1.  A Fellow – he was a part of a team.  He was a part of Paul’s team.
2.  Servant – He wasn’t a “prima-donna”.  He was a humble man who served God.
3.  Faithful – he was someone that God could count on.  He was someone who that Paul could count on.
When we started our study of Colossians, we looked at some of the qualities of Epaphras, and we saw that he was definitely a man that God used.
Now we see the secret of his life.

:14 Luke, Demas

:14 Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you.

LukeLoukas – “light-giving”

He’s called a “physician”.  Paul’s language could be translated, “my beloved physician”.

He wrote two of the longest books of the New Testament:  The Gospel of Luke, and the book of Acts.  He is the only Gentile to write any of the books of the New Testament.

Luke is like the invisible man.

He’s actually in a lot of the pictures in the book of Acts, but you don’t notice him because he’s the guy behind the camera, the one recording everything.  You have to pay close attention to see where he shows up.
(Acts 16:8-11 NKJV)  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. {11} Therefore, sailing from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and the next day came to Neapolis,

Did you notice how Luke uses the word “they” in verse 8, but switches to “we” in verse 10?  It seems that Luke joined Paul in Troas.

At the end of Paul’s life, just before he is executed, Luke was the only one with Paul (2Tim. 4:11).

DemasDemas – “governor of the people”; shortened form of “Demetrius”

At the end of Paul’s life, Demas had backslidden.

(2 Tim 4:10 NKJV)  for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica…



There is a right way to “love the world” and a wrong way to “love the world”.

Jesus said,

(John 3:16 NKJV)  "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
This is God loving the people of the world so much that He sent Jesus to die for our sins.
We too ought to have a heart for the people of this world, that we might help them to come to know God through Jesus Christ.

But this isn’t what Demas did.

Demas’ love wasn’t for the people of the world, but the world “system”, the world that is trying to lead people away from God.

Jesus told a story about seed being in different kinds of soil.

He was teaching how God’s Word works differently in different kinds of hearts.
Some seed landed on a roadside and was eaten by the birds, other seed landed on rocky soil where it didn’t have much depth and ended up withering under the hot sun.
Some seed landed in thorny soil and got choked out by the thorns.
(Mat 13:22 NKJV)  "Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.

When a person gets too enamored with “worldly” things, they don’t see God doing too much in their life.

What are “worldly” things?  It might be about having lots of cars, houses, boats, or clothes.  It might be about having lots of money, travelling around the world, or being seen as an “important” person.  It might be about living for sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

It’s usually the lifestyle that TV and movies make us want to be like.

Jesus said that these kinds of things choke out the effectiveness of God’s Word in our lives.

John the apostle wrote,

(1 John 2:15-17 NKJV)  Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. {16} For all that is in the world; the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life; is not of the Father but is of the world. {17} And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.
You see it in the life of Samson, that great strong man of the Old Testament.
His life was cut short because of his thing for the ladies.
We aren’t told what it looked like for Demas to “love this present world”.
But in the end it caused him to abandon the apostle Paul.
We don’t have to go the way of the world.
Professional football player Troy Polamalu, a three-time Pro Bowl strong safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers, has worked hard to maintain his Christian character since joining the NFL in 2003. Before winning his second Super Bowl championship with the Steelers in 2009, Polamalu agreed to an interview for the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN). “Pride is tough,” Polamalu said to the interviewer. “You go to high school, and it’s pride, courage. It’s all these types of words that we use to motivate us. I don’t think there’s anywhere in the Scriptures … where pride was ever a positive characteristic of anybody. That kind of egotism is a really tough struggle—especially in this business. … It’s a big struggle of mine.”
Polamalu went on to say that it’s not the obvious things that are the hardest to deal with in his life. “It’s … the big things that are the easiest to turn away from. It’s … the accumulation of small things [that are hard]. … People know adultery’s bad and murder’s bad. I’m not going to go out and sleep with the first girl I see. But when your eyes start wandering, [and you become] a little more jealous and envious, and these passions start rising up inside of you—that’s when it really becomes dangerous. Because the Devil doesn’t work that way. His strategy is always to be very subtle and continue to build on top of that evil seed that he planted.”
Polamalu said prayer keeps him rooted. “As your prayer life becomes more and more fine tuned, and your conscience becomes more and more fine tuned, you’re able to start plucking away at these things. [You’re] like, ‘Wow…this is not good.’”
source: Shawn Brown, “Steelers Safety Troy Polamalu: Put Pride Aside,”

:15-16 Laodicea

:15 Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea, and Nymphas and the church that is in his house.

NymphasNumphas – “bridegroom”

It is not until the 3rd century that churches began to meet in their own, separate buildings.  The early church often met in homes.

: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.

Some have suggested that Paul’s letter to the Ephesians did double duty as the letter that went to Laodicea.  It was written at the same time as these letters and was carried by Tychicus, just like this letter.

The other possibility is that we do not have Paul’s letter to the Laodiceans.

:17 Archippus

:17 And say to Archippus, "Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it."

ArchippusArchippos – “master of the horse”; the pastor/teacher in Colosse.

take heedblepo – to see, discer; metaph. to see with the mind’s eye; to discern mentally, observe, perceive, discover, understand

ministrydiakonia – service

We think of “ministry” as something for professional clergy, guys who wear those funny black shirts.

But ministry is simply being a servant.  It’s having a task to do and doing it.

you have receivedparalambano – to take to, to take with one’s self, to join to one’s self; to receive something transmitted

fulfillpleroo – to make full, to fill up, i.e. to fill to the full; to render full, i.e. to complete; to make complete in every particular, to render perfect; to carry through to the end, to accomplish, carry out, (some undertaking)

:18 Ending

:18 This salutation by my own hand; Paul. Remember my chains. Grace be with you. Amen.

Paul often used a secretary and dictated his letters.  Sometimes he wrote a brief greeting in his own handwriting.  In the original copy of Colossians (which we don’t have) this would have been the only part written in Paul’s handwriting.


Don’t quit

Over the years verse 17 has been a Bible verse that has brought me the encouragement to keep going and not quit.
Maybe it’s because if you look at the name “Archippus” and squint a little, maybe I’m dyslexic, but I can almost see my name in his name.
And perhaps this all sounds a little mystical, but there have been times in my life when I’ve simply wanted to quit, and I’ve read this verse and felt like God was speaking to me, Rich, to take heed to the ministry that I’ve received in the Lord, and fulfill it.
Encourage Archippus
Paul’s letter wasn’t written to Archippus, it was written to the church, the “saints” of Colosse.

They were to be the ones to “say” something to Archippus.

Know any folks who are starting to drift a bit?

Encourage them.

God is not finished with you.
Paul wrote to the Philippians:

(Phil 1:6 NKJV)  being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;

You may be discouraged. 

Life may not be turning out the way you thought it would.

You may feel like a failure.

Yet these are the very kinds of things that God uses to shape us.

God doesn’t build character in our lives by giving us ice-cream sundaes.

God builds character through the difficult times we endure.


Once someone came on Michelangelo chipping away with his chisel at a huge shapeless piece of rock. He asked the sculptor what he was doing.  “I am releasing the angel imprisoned in this marble,” he answered.

That’s kind of what God is doing in our lives.  But taking a block of rock and shaping it into a masterpiece takes time.  It takes a hammer, chisel, and some pounding.

Don’t quit.  God is not finished with you.  He has things for you to do.