Colossians 4. 7-18 Mystery of Mission

January 29, 2012 Series: Colossians

Topic: New Testament Passage: Colossians 4:7–4:18

 

The End of Colossians
This is the final sermon in series in Colossians.  It is my prayer that you can, in simple words, explain to someone else what the letter to the Colossians says and, generally, what it means.  So, if you have been sleeping for the last 17 weeks, let make it simple:  The letter to the Colossians is about what it means to be a Christian in more than name. From the beginning, Paul organizes his letter around three words, faith, love, and hope. This is not the first time that Paul uses these three words to summarize the heart of what it means to be a Christian.  The same ideas are repeated in his letters to the Romans, Galatians, 1Corinthians, 1Thessalonians, and Hebrews. (Rom 5.2-5; 1Cor 13.13, Gal 5.5-6, 1Thess. 1.3; 5.8, Heb. 10.22-24). 

The gospel changes us radically.  Before the gospel, we put our faith in someone, we love some way, and we hope for some things—all of this is manifested in how we live.  Belief in who Jesus is and what he did transforms our relationship with God to the extent that God, the Holy Spirit, begins to dwell in us.  And as What we trust, how we love, were we place our hope radically and mysteriously becomes counter-cultural, counter-intuitive, counter-everything.  Through the Word, by the Spirit, our perceptions, our attitudes, and our actions are radically transformed.  Our view of God, of ourselves, and of sin changes.   How we view and do marriage, family, and community changes. Howe we work, how we pray, how we talk to others changes.  This is what faith in Jesus does in us—we’re made alive  All of this is a mystery, meaning, it all comes through REVEALATION and all of it is never fully understood in this life.

But as we grow in our identity we begin to believe what Paul wrote in 2Coritnhians 5.17-20a 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. …We have something to do with our life—we have purpose, meaning, and direction.

V 7-9 The Mission Team
When God gives us a new identity, God also brings us together into the invisible church, his family.  And that family has local expressions, smaller family of families, to help us grow together  And the family that God gathers is as quirky, irritating, wonderful and horrible as any diverse family would be.  But there is where the manifold wisdom of God is made known.  But we are more than a family.  God has also gathered a team of missionaries who are called to do more than just gather, they are called to scatter. And this last chapter gives us insight into what Paul’s team was like.  And we could easily ready past this as a list of names.   Each name is a person with a unique story.  And each story reflects some aspect of the gospel as these individual stories become chapters in the ONE STORY of GOD’s Mission. 

Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts, and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you of everything that has taken place here.

 

Tychicus (On mission despite size)
Tychicus is an errand boy. Scripture mentions Tychicus five times (Acts 20.4, Eph 6.21, 2Tim 4.12, Titus 3.12).  Most likely, he was a convert from Paul’s Ephesus mission, like Epaphras and countless others.  All of them had shared the experience of salvation. And it was a transformation that launched them on mission the rest of their lives.  And though each person filled a different role, the mission was the same—making the gospel known.  (We tend to think that these men, and all the dissciples, were single guys without wives or families).  In truth, mission was not simply for men who did not have responsibility or anything else better to do..

Like Doctor Luke, Tychicus proved to a man of intense devotion to Paul, commissioned by apostle to carry, to their destination, the letter to Colossians and Philemon, and probably the letter to the Ephesians. He experienced all of the great joys and sufferings that Paul did(2Cor 11). Unlike Luke, Tychicus is not remembered for being a doctor, for writing a gospel, or recording the history of the church.  He is remember as a MAIL MAN.  Paul calls him a beloved brother, faithful minister, fellow servant. There is greatness in the smallest gospel work.  God is in our little deeds and we must viewing work asmore or less spiritual non-spiritual.  The gospel brings significance to all work as part of God’s mission.

Onesimus (On mission despite calling)
Onesimus was a slave. According to Paul’s personal letter to Philemon, an unbelieving Onesiumus had stolen from his master. It seems as if Onesimus had stolen from Philemon and fled the small town of Colossae to get lost in the big city of Rome. Somehow, this fugitive slave found himself near a Roman prison where he met Paul, who introduced him to Jesus.  Now, a believer, Paul is sending him back to Onesiums commending him as a faithful band beloved brother.  In essence, the asks Onesimus as a slave who is now a brother.

Onesiums is more than a slave, he is THE example of what Paul hopes for a Christian.  A gospel transformation has taken place.  Onesimus is not returning reluctantly, he is returning joyfully, ready to serve, ready to bring the love of Christ into his role as a slave. This is a step toward restitution. We begin honoring God by honoring our commitments in the situations we are in. 1Corinthiansn7.17, 20-24  17 Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches… 20 Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. 21 Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) 22 For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men. 24 So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.  Faithfulness does not begin pursuing a life of professional gospel living (I can serve the LORD here).  It begins by bringing the gospel to bear on where you are living.  And, if God has called you to more, then that path will be made clear and wide.  The gospel adopts our commitments, situations, and calling as part of God’s mission.

V. 10-11 The Support Team
10 
Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, welcome him), 11 and Jesus who is called Justus. These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me.

Artistarichus (On mission despite suffering)
Not much is said about this man, but what is said teaches us much about the mission of God.  In truth, the mission of God is hard and painful.  Paul says more than once that he carries the “body of the death of Jesus” as he makes life known. Aristarchus is called a fellow prisoner.  It is unlikely that he is actually imprisoned with Paul. But he is on mission with Paul to the extent that he is experiencing the same things.  We hear about Aristarichus first in Acts 19.29, when Paul’s preaching in Ephesus led to a riot—Aristrarchius was there, being dragged to the theater will Paul.  The gospel brings the suffering as a part of the mission of God.

Mark (On mission despite differences)
Acts 15.27 Mark abandoned Paul during ministry in Pamphylia.   37 Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

My guess is not that Mark suddenly changed to adopt Paul’s ways or vice versa.  But I believe they both matured enough to see their shared gospel commitment.  It took humiity on both sides, both agreeing to disagree and move forward.  Now we have Paul speaking about Mark as a “comfort” to him.  Paul did not feel Mark was ready, but he grew.  This growth might have been from Baranabas’ encouragement or from Paul’s discipline, or from both. Mark wrote the gospel of Mark, probably contributed to Luke’s own gospel.  The gospel brings reconciliation in our relationships for mission.

Justus (On mission despite title)
Who exactly Justus is not clear. .  There are several Justus’ in the Bible and no knows for certainty who this one is, though some have identified him with.  I thought I’d do a quick survey of them all.  In Acts 1.23 he is the man who is NOT chosen to be the 12th disciple.  In Acts 18, he is the Corinthian who allows his house to be used with Paul gets kicked out of the synagogue.  And here in Colossians 4, he is the guy with the name of Jesus without the job of Savior.  You don’t need a title of pastor, elder, deacon, or director to be useful for God.  The gospel brings a desire to be used not known on mission.

V. 12-16 The Leadership Team
12 
Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. 13 For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. 14 Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas. 15 Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.  16 And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea.

Epaphras (Preacher & Planters)
A mission is transformed when we begin to see the missionaries among us.  Epaphras was simply a Colossian—a home grown normal guy—who never had aspirations do go plant a church.  He most likely planted three.  He went from a kid without purpose, to a servant of Christ. He as a preacher, a pastor, and a prayer warrior.  Epaphras is an example of one who has matured in his faith.  And it is less about position, accomplishment, or filling up with a bunch of religious accolades; it is about the heart he exhibits himself—one who “wrestles” in prayer for others to be “fully” assured of the gospel. The gospel sends some to be planters.

Luke (Assistants & Friends) Then there is Luke.  Luke was an educated doctor who travelled much with Paul and recorded how the Holy Spirit grew the church of God throughout the different missionary journeys. He wrote two of the most important books in the Bible—a two volume set.  He was highly educated, highly qualified, a leader that men would follow. And yet, it seems that the greatest role he played for Paul on mission was that of a faithful friend (I had that experience when we launched our team).  The gospel sends some to be team members.

Demas (Fakers & Deserters)
And finally, there is Demas.  Not much is said of this man here other than he sends greetings.  At the time Paul wrote this letter, he did not know that Demas would not always be with the team.  In his last letter he penned, 2Timothy 4.10 For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.  This is the hardest part of being on the mission of God:  not everyone, even good friends and family, go with you—even if they do at first.  There are those that walk away softly and those who fall away hard.  And it is heart breaking and sometimes the cost of being on mission.  The gospel sends some away. But it shows us that God even uses those people and situations that disappoint to further his work.

V. 17-18 Conclusion: The Received Ministry

17 And say to Archippus, “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.” 18 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.

Paul directly addresses a man named Archippus.  Scholars disagree on exactly who he is and what Paul expected him to do.  In the greeting to Philemon, Paul seems to identify him as part of Philemon’s family, describing him as a “fellow soldier” used to hosting a church in his house.  What he says to Archippus sounds similar to what he says to young pastor Timothy.  It is possible that he is the interim pastor raised up under Epaphras.  And whether it be from fear, laziness, or something else, he is NOT FULFILLING the ministry he has RECEIVED from Jesus.  .

God calls us differently. But, without doubt, God gives each of us a ministry.  There are fellow workers among us. There are those of you called to take the gospel into your work places. People who are called to take the gospel into the local Hispanic community. There are those of us who are called to take the gospel with teams to Arlington, Everet, Lake Stevens, or Snohomish.  There are people called to take the support those who do. There are those who are called to be deacons and elders ehre.  There are those called to be church planters.  There are those called to take the gospelt o Haiti, to Africa, or other part sof the world. 

The gospel sends everyone on mission somewhere as a fellow soldier. We are all called to live more radically than you have, to reorient your life so that you actually believe in eternity, that you are ready to live what you confess about Christ, that you are willing to submit to His command to Go wherever that may lead because you have faith in him, to love like him, as you hope to see him again.  [PRAYER FOR THOSE ON THE EDGE OF MISSION…may it encourage us]