Final Greetings: Observations for the Church
If we are honest, we should all admit that there are parts of Scripture that seem more relevant to us than others. There are parts of the Bible that we read slowly and prayerfully and there are parts that we skim quickly. For many, Colossians 4:7-18 may be easy to pass over, but if we take a closer look there is much to be learned.
One way to approach Paul’s list of names and greetings is to use other parts of Scripture to uncover the lives and stories of the various people – and this approach has great value. Another way to approach the text is to consider what can be learned from the group collectively. As we consider what these people have in common and how they relate to one another there are at least three things that seem particularly relevant for the church.
Observations for the Church
The Role of Diversity in the Church
- A Variety of People
As Paul brings this letter to close he includes a variety of people. There are people from different backgrounds and with different education levels. There are people from different ethnic groups and different professions. It’s a group of people that by worldly standards may not have much in common, but what they do have in common is greater than anything that could divide them.
Earlier in Colossians Paul taught how through Christ all divisions are done away with (Colossians 3:11); in Colossians 4 we see a picture of the diversity that exists within the people of God: Jews, Greeks, a slave (Onesimus), a doctor (Luke), a pastor (Epaphras), and a faithful hostess (Nympha). When God calls people He calls from every race and nation, every economic group and every sector of life and makes us one in Christ (1 Cor. 12:12–13; Eph. 2:17-19).
- A Variety of Gifts
The impact of Paul for the cause of Christ cannot be overstated, but this passage is a reminder that Paul did not minister alone. As God assembles people for His work He assembles a variety of gifts and talents. The body is not made up of one, but of many who work together (1 Corinthians 12:14-21).
In this passage we see how different people contributed to the work. Epaphras started the work in Colossae. Tychicus and Onesimus deliver the letter to the Colossians.Aristarchus, Mark and Justus ministered to and with Paul. Luke was Paul’s friend and physician. Nympha was a host for the church in her city.
God shows His wisdom in how He assembles the church: We all have unique and important roles to play in the work of the body.
The Role of Fellowship in the Church
Another prominent theme in this passage is the deep love and fellowship that grows between followers of Christ. Paul uses all kinds of words and phrases to describe the bond that he has with his fellow ministers and friends.
- Tychicus, Onesimus and Luke are called beloved brothers by Paul
- Aristarchus, Mark and Justus are good friends and comforters for Paul
- Epaphras shows deep love and care for those he serves
From top to bottom this is a passage about the love and fellowship that exists between the people of God. Often the church is often treated as a place to go or an event to attend; as the people of God we must strive to remember that the church is a people who live together in love, unity and fellowship.
The Role of the Gospel in the Church
- The Need for the Gospel in our Relationships
In Colossians 3:12-15 Paul gives instructions on what it looks like to live with one another in light of the Gospel, but in chapter 4 we are reminded of some specific situations where the application of the Gospel impacted relationships.
- Onesimus and his return to Philemon is a great example of how the Gospel should change the way we repent and how we forgive one another.
- In Acts we have the story of a fractured relationship between Paul and Mark, but in Colossians 4 we have proof of their restored relationship and another reminder of how the Gospel impacts our relationships.
Because we are all sinners relationships are hard and messy, but as the church we must recognize that the Gospel changes the way we live with one another.
- The Need for a Serious Commitment to the Work of the Gospel
Probably the most obvious theme in this passage, or the thing that each of these people share in common is a serious commitment to the work and spread of the Gospel. Paul calls Tychicus a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. The same is true of Aristarchus, who Paul calls his fellow prisoner because of his commitment to the work of the Gospel. Epaphras has an evident love for the Gospel and belief in the power of the Gospel in the lives of others.
In this passage we have examples of deep love and great sacrifice for the Gospel that should serve as reminders for us of our calling. As a church we should strive for the same kind of love and commitment to the spread of the Gospel that Paul and his fellow ministers exemplified.