Volume XXXVIII, #50: The End of Colossians
Like many of Paul’s letters, Colossians ends with some personal comments about people he knows in the church, or people that are with him that want to send their greetings. While we didn’t cover this text in our sermon series, I will use this space to make a few closing comments of my own about what can be gained from these ‘end credits.’
The family of believers is an amazing blessing. Paul had likely never met these Christians face to face. But the wonderful thing about being in God’s family is that you don’t have to have met someone to have a connection with them. The very fact that Paul wrote this letter shows that he cared for these Christians because of their standing in the Lord. In 4:7-8, he says that Tychicus is coming to them and will report on Paul’s situation. Had they ever met Tychicus? We don’t know, maybe not. Either way, in Christ, Paul, Tychicus, and the Colossians were bonded together in love and unity.
Sometimes God’s word gets very real and very personal. In 4:9, Paul says that Onesimus is coming too. Who is this guy? In the book of Philemon, Paul explains that Onesimus was Philemon’s slave who ran away and (providentially) met Paul in Rome. After being converted, he was now returning to Philemon in Colossae. Wow. Turns out all that business about forgiveness and the slave/master relationship wasn’t theoretical! These men were going to have to put this stuff into practice.
There’s hope after failure. In 4:10, Paul sends greetings from Mark, Barnabas’ cousin. This is surely the same John Mark that left Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey (Acts 13:13). Because of that departure, Paul refused to take him on the second journey (Acts 15:36-41). How cool is it that even after that apparent failure Mark continued to work and was recognized by Paul? In 2 Timothy 4:11 (written at the end of Paul’s life), he goes further and says Mark “is very useful to me.”
We are called to invest in others. Paul mentioned in 1:7-8 that it was Epaphras who started the church in Colossae and reported to Paul, prompting him to write this letter. Paul mentions Epaphras again in 4:12-13 and says how hard he is working on their behalf and how deeply he cares for them. Oh, that we would pour ourselves into others the same way Epaphras poured into the Colossians!
Not everyone will make it. 4:14 mentions two people that send greetings: Luke and Demas. By the way, this verse is how we know that Luke (who wrote Luke and Acts) was a physician. Luke shows up all over the New Testament—a beloved co-worker of Paul’s. Demas, however, doesn’t have the same story. 2 Timothy 4:10 tells us that Demas, “having loved this present world,” forsook Paul. Let us always be vigilant to avoid be drawn away by the allurement of the world.
Paul’s letters were meant to be spread. 4:16 gives us a detail that is not only fascinating, but important for our understanding of how the New Testament spread. Paul says that he’s written a letter to the church in Laodicea, and that he wants the two churches to ‘letter-swap’ after they’ve read them. This is what the Holy Spirit always intended—that the writings of the apostles would circulate among Christians who would copy them and preserve them for future generations!