Mike Gerhardt, Colossians 4:7-18, Be Graceful part 2, 05-19-19. Coming, Going, Staying? Life is a challenge when you're always moving. After church, little Johnny says to the pastor, “I heard you say that our bodies came from the dust.” That’s right, I did. “And I heard you say that when we die, our bodies go back to dust.” “Yes, I’m glad you were listening.” “Well, you better come over right away and look under my bed because there’s someone either coming or going!” Truth is that we are all coming and going. One day we will be going home to heaven as our final destination.
In our passage, we have people that are coming, going or staying. We already read about Tychicus coming to Colossae to tell them about Paul, and he was joined by Onesimus the rogue slave with a letter to give to Philemon his former master. We also read about Aristarchus, Mark, Justus who were staying with Paul though Mark would soon be going to Colossae. Then there is Epaphras, who founded the church in Colossae. It seems likely that Epaphras also founded the churches in Laodicea & Hierapolis (vs 13). He was probably an itinerant pastor and church planter. He also prayed. One of the secrets of his ministry was prayer. Paul knew about this because they shared the same room for some time as found in Philemon verse 23. We are given 5 insights into this man’s prayer life: He prayed constantly (always), prayer is a learned discipline, it doesn’t come naturally. He prayed fervently (wrestling). The word means agonizing. It is the same word used for our Lord’s praying in the Garden (Luke 22:44). The word described athletes as they gave themselves fully to their sports. If we put as much enthusiasm into our prayers as we do cheering for our team, we would have some exciting prayer times. He prayed personally (for you). Remember the difference between the shotgun & rifle. Some folks pray like their praying for everybody in general and nobody in particular. He carried these people in his heart and prayed for them personally. He prayed purposefully (may stand firm). His great desire was that the believers might become mature in their Christian faith. He prayed sacrificially (working hard, deeply concerned or much distress). At times prayer is difficult. When Jesus prayed in the Garden, he sweat great drops of blood. Paul had great struggles as he prayed for the Colossians 2:1. It’s been said: Prayer that costs something can accomplish anything.
All the men with Paul were named and commended in one way or another but Epaphras was commended for his prayer ministry. This does not mean that the others did not pray but it does suggest that prayer was his ministry. We may not do the things these men did but we can all pray, and for that, he was highly commended! Luke was mentioned last week. Nympha is also mentioned in our text. Most commentators believe this person was a Greek woman who had a church in her house. A nymph in Greek and in Roman mythology is a young female fairy typically identified with nature as in mountains, trees, and flowers. So though the noun is masculine, we believe Nympha was female.
Archippus (verse 17) may have belonged to the family of Philemon; possibly, Philemon’s son. We know that the Church met in Philemon’s house also. Archippus may have been the pastor or a fulltime worker. Paul’s last words before he signs off this letter are directed at Archippus to continue faithfully in his ministry. Maybe Archippus was discouraged? Paul reminded Archippus that ministry was a gift from God. The Lord gave him this ministry (received from the Lord). It is always good to remember that ministry is not something we do for God. It is something God does through us. It is a privilege. But I left one name for last.
Those who Strayed (verse 14b). Demas worked alongside Paul; he was one of his assistants. But one day he would become a great disappointment to the apostle. Demas is mentioned three times in Paul’s letters, first: he is called: Demas my fellow worker along with Mark, Aristarchus, and Luke (Philemon 24). The second time is here in Colossians 4:14. The third reference tells what became of Demas: 2 Timothy 4:10, Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. With that tragic statement, Demas disappeared from sacred history. As I mentioned, at one point, John Mark had forsaken Paul, but he was restored. Demas forsook Paul and apparently was not reclaimed. His sin was that he loved this present world. Each Christian today could also give into the world just as Demas did. It must have hurt Paul when Demas left. It also hurt the work of the Lord, for there are never enough laborers. This decision hurt Demas most of all for he wasted his life in that which can’t last. Only one life will soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last! Christians can get side-tracked by at least 3 things: (1) The attraction of sin. In Barbados is the castle of a man called Sam Lord. At night his men put lanterns in the branches of the trees along the coast. When a ship having just crossed the Atlantic, saw those lights it would think it was the port of Bridgetown where all the other boats were anchored. But it was a dangerous coral reef and the ship was wrecked. Sam Lord wanted to happen because he was a pirate. We are easily dazzled the attraction of sin. We turn towards its bright lights and soon find ourselves shipwrecked. (2) The lure of compromise. Life teaches us that deterioration is not sudden: No garden is suddenly overgrown with weeds (though it seems like that in Northern New York). No building suddenly crumbles. No church suddenly splits. No tree suddenly falls. No marriage suddenly breaks apart. No person suddenly walks away from salvation. For want of a nail the horseshoe was lost, for want of a shoe the horse was lost, for want of a horse, the rider was lost, for want of a rider the battle was lost, for want of a battle the war was lost, all for the want of a nail!
(3) The result of false teaching. As you are no doubt aware, false teaching invaded Colossae. It was called Gnosticism that word means to know. A Gnostic claimed to know God and the angels; they had special insight into the unseen realm. These Gnostics claimed to have superior knowledge of all things spiritual. Paul’s main theme throughout this letter is summarized in Colossians 3:11 Christ is all and is in all. Christ in You the hope of Glory. Christ is all that matters. Of the 95 verses in this letter, Christ is mentioned in 80 of them. We are made complete in him and since we are complete in Christ, we don’t need mysterious Gnostic wisdom, or made rules to generate a superficial spiritual experience. Verse 17, That we complete the work you have received in the Lord
Paul wanted this letter read publicly, to hear it often, to study it and so to overcome and destroy the false teaching of the Gnostics. Christ is what we need, Christ is all we need. May Grace be with you.
See to it that you complete the work God has begun in you by completing the ministry he has given you.