JohnSWilson3 Blog

“…that he may encourage your hearts.”
July 29, 2010, 2:22 pm
Filed under: N Letter to the Colossians

Paul in his letters generally listed those who worked with him in church planting and gave some final thoughts to his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. In this final section of his letter to the Colossians Paul does the same. It is evident that Paul surrounded himself with those who have the same heart. His church planting assistants, who themselves were church planters, trained by Paul, had lived in organic church life, had moved forward in the Lord with His church, and now have been burdened by the Lord to help others live by Christ’s life and to grow forward in Christ with other believers in His body.

Tychicus, the one who takes this letter to Colosse, along with the letters to Philemon and the Ephesian church, is one of His church planting assistants. “He is a dear brother, a faithful servant and fellow slave in the Lord.” He is to let them know of “our circumstances” and to “encourage your hearts.” Tychicus was not going to become “pastor” of the church and preach a weekly service, it is because of those things that cause a church to drift from it’s pure devotion to Christ! He was providing them a letter by Paul to remind them of their glorious Lord Jesus Christ, and who they were in Christ as a result, and to remind them of what living by the life of Christ looks like when they gather together from house to house and within their households. Epaphras, when going to any church gathering, would go for mutual encouragement, like Paul described in the first chapter to his letter to the Roman church. We do not need someone to take charge of the church when it begins to drift from the Lord, it takes the glorious message of Jesus Christ to penetrate the heart and allow Jesus Christ to be head of His church!

Tychicus is also “coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here.” It is possible that the church that meets in Colosse also meets in Philemon’s home with his household. If that is the case then everyone in the household will know Onesimus, the run away slave. But how important to hear Paul describe him as “our faithful and dear brother.” Paul had earlier in the letter reminded them about what living by the life of Christ looks like together as they gathered in their households. How the church moved forward in the Lord would be dependent upon how they accept Onesimus, now that he is a brother in Christ.

Paul lists a number of the church planters that were trained by and work with Paul, each of them giving their “greetings” to the church. The ones he lists first are “the only Jews among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me.” Paul needed them because of Christ in them who comforts us! Paul is possibly thinking of his second letter to the church in Corinth, and all the trouble they had in moving forward in Christ. Paul perhaps is in distress over hearing what has been occurring in Colosse because of the issues he faced with helping the Corinthian church live by the Spirit, but perhaps more so because he is sensing that the prophetic word that he spoke to the Ephesian elder Christians is already coming to past, even after just a few years. It is perhaps for this reason Paul feels God is no longer leading him to go to Spain as he originally thought but must look to going back to encourage the churches that he had formally planted once he is released from the Roman prison.

Paul again mentions his church planting assistant “Epaphras, who is one of you” who had planted the church in Colosse along with Archippus, whom Epaphras left in Colosse so he could go to Rome to find Paul. Epaphras and Archippus had given their lives in sharing Christ with his own people in this area, helping them to gather together and to live by the Holy Spirit. Perhaps Epaphras’ own household was part of the church in Colosse or was the son of Philemon whose household the church gathered in during the week. Given these personal circumstances, and because of the drifting away from Christ as head of the church that had been occurring, Epaphras was under much distress. How hurt he must have been to share this news with Paul and to seek Paul’s advice on what he could do in this crisis to help the church move forward.

Paul says that “Epaphras, who is one of you and a slave of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis.” Epaphras’ prayer must have been similar to Paul’s in the opening of this letter to the Colossians, “since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father…” Perhaps Epaphras, having met Onesimus and knows that Onesimus is going back to his “owner,” his earthly “master,” who is also in Christ, Philemon, perhaps Epaphras is additionally distressed and concerned for the reconciliation that must also happen if the church is to move forward in Christ, instead of like the other human traditions that have come into the church and as a result “lost connection with the Head.”

Only the Lord Jesus Christ can change a heart, how we must pray for one another that we would see ourselves as Christ sees us, how we need to again reread the letters of the New Testament in their entirety in our gatherings, perhaps each taking turns to read part of the letter together and let Christ speak to us afresh about living by His life! Is it any wonder Paul says “after this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.” How we so often pick and choose a “verse” without understanding the full meaning because of it being pulled out of the context and reason for the letter. Let us hear the Christ speak to us personally and to the church through one another.

Paul concludes his letter with a final word of encouragement to Archippus who was left behind by Epaphras to continue to help the church live by Christ’s life. Archippus was perhaps trained by Paul in church planting, and knows that the issues that have surfaced are just the beginning of further pain and distress for the church planter. Paul had suffered much in these past 20 years or so to plant churches that were rooted and founded on the life of Jesus Christ. The enemy knows he is losing ground and is not about to give up his turf without a fight. So Paul tells Archippus “see to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.” Don’t give up!

How easy it is to give up on people when we see them drifting from Christ. I have heard the saying: why help someone who doesn’t want our help? How distressing this can be! But we are “members of one body” we cannot give up on each other! Brothers and sisters we must have a solid faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, who lives in us and whose life we are! His sacrificial love must reign! Only when He is our Lord personally and when we gather with Him as our Head, focused on Him, knowing Christ and Him crucified will He strengthen our faith and His fruit, His life will be made manifest for His glory! It is by faith in Christ that we “stand firm!” Just as Paul told the Roman Christians: “Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.”

Paul reminds the church to “remember my chains.” Why? To encourage the brothers and sisters “to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.” It is all about Jesus Christ and His glory! It is about manifesting His grace, we “are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus,” “he rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” We will stand firm in Christ Jesus our Lord when we see how we are complete in Him, when we live by His life with our brothers and sisters. We must be fully assured of who He is in us and what He has done for us, all the will of God! Yes, God’s “grace be with you.” Let us see God’s grace! Amen!

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