Colossians 4:7-18 - On Mission

Colossians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  37:13
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On mission… That is quite a loaded statement. Some of our minds go to military combat when we think about that phrase. Some of you maybe even served in the military or serve in the military. We are grateful for your service my friends.
Others may hear that phrase and think of the space program. Mission control. Or the different space missions that we have attempted over the years.
However, today’s message is about a different kind of being on mission. It is about being on mission for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I pray that as we learn more about what it means to be on mission for Christ, we are encouraged to stay focused on the mission God has called us to.
Let us pray.
I am sure that last week many of you felt a little off balance as I pivoted from Colossians to give a quick one week sermon on Philemon. I pray that today, it becomes more clear why we did that!
This is an interesting section of Scripture that we are studying today. Paul gives one of his most lengthy personal messages here despite the letter only being four chapters in modern division. And he spends 12 verses of the 95 total verses of Colossians giving a greeting and farewell.
Many pastors skip over verses such as these, yet this is unfortunate because there is something for us to glean in all of Scripture. And today, we will see some wonderful encouragement and admonition from this section of God’s Word.
As I have already mentioned, I have entitled today’s message, “On Mission.” We are going to see a group of believers in the early church that took their mission seriously. I pray that as we study these verses, we are encouraged to take our mission seriously as well.
Today we are going to discuss three ways that we are to be on mission. The first is...

I. When on Mission, You Should… Deliver the Message (7-9)

Colossians 4:7–9 ESV
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.
We are introduced to the two letter carriers here. Tychicus and Onesimus. Last week we spent some time discussing the situation with Onesimus. He was a runaway slave from Philemon who had come to a saving knowledge of Christ through Paul’s ministry. We saw that Philemon had come to a saving knowledge of Christ through Paul as well! Paul sent the letter to Philemon with these two men at the same time as this letter to the Colossians. The letter of Philemon was one that encouraged forgiveness of Onesimus and reconciliation for these two men so that they could serve the church together.
Knowing this background of Onesimus, it is interesting that although Paul refers to himself and Tychicus as a fellow servant in the Lord, he refrains from calling Onesimus a servant and instead calls him a beloved brother and faithful. We can learn a lot from Paul’s grace here. As an old man, he has learned more and more about the grace and love of Jesus Christ. It is evident in his writings.
It is important to note Paul’s affinity to Onesimus in his letter to Philemon. He refers to Onesimus as his child in the faith and that by sending him, he is sending his very heart to Philemon (Philemon 10,12).
But who is Tychicus? His name means fortunate. He was fortunate enough to hear the words of eternal life from Paul and serve alongside him. He is actually mentioned 5 times in the Scriptures. He was so trusted by Paul that he was considered as a temporary replacement for Titus as the pastor of the church in Crete while Titus was absent (Titus 3:12).
2 Timothy 4:12 shows Tychicus’ value to Paul as he is sent to lead the church in Ephesus in Timothy’s absence.
Most theologians think that Tychicus not only carried the letter to Philemon and Colossians, but also carried the letter to the church in Ephesus based on Ephesians 6:21-22:
Ephesians 6:21–22 ESV
So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts.
I mention all of this information about these two men because they were entrusted with carrying the Word of God to the churches.
Tychicus and Onesimus were trusted men in whom Paul was assured that they would deliver the messages he sent.
My friends, are we trustworthy enough to deliver the message we have been given?
What is this message you may object?
The message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The message that salvation is free and available to all who would repent of their sins and place their faith and trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior. This Jesus who gave His life for sinners some 2000 years ago on that tree at Calvary - and rose from the dead three days later and now has ascended into heaven and is actively interceding on behalf of those who are His saved children.
Are you delivering this message church?
First and foremost, you can’t deliver what you don’t have. Do you have this message? Do you understand the saving power of the Gospel in a personal way? Have you given your entire life to Christ and not held anything back.
As we have discussed last week, the Gospel demands your life. All of you. We are to hold nothing back from our Savior.
I’m going to ask some tough questions for a moment as we consider why we might not deliver the message.
Do you not think the message is worth sharing? Is the message not life-changing enough for you?
Or, as most believers in our nation probably undoubtedly fall into - Do you value how people like you more than you value their eternal soul?
Repent brothers and sisters. Repent of your selfishness that desires your own reputation over the soul of another. Repent for loving yourself more than your God and your neighbor.
And deliver the message my friends. Deliver it like people’s lives depend on it. Because they do. Who has believed who has never heard? And who can hear unless one preaches it to them!
Romans 10:14–15 ESV
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
We must be delivering the message personally and we must be sending out others as we see in Romans 10:15 here.
Today we are going to commission a couple who is preparing to deliver this message of the Gospel. And they are preparing to deliver it in a likely hostile territory where the Gospel has not yet reached. We are following through with sending others.
But can we not also do it here? Can we not share it with our neighbors and friends and family?
We have the greatest message to deliver in the history of the universe. We have the Gospel. Friends, be faithful and deliver the message to the masses.
Next we see that...
Scripture References: Philemon 10,12, Titus 3:12, 2 Timothy 4:12, Ephesians 6:21-22, Romans 10:14-15

II. When on Mission, You Should… Be Devoted to the Work (10-14)

Colossians 4:10–14 ESV
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), 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. 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. For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas.
Next we come to another group of believers that are mentioned. This section has greetings that Paul sends on behalf of his friends and co-laborers in the faith.
This section starts off by mentioning a man named:
Aristarchus - trusted minister of the faith
He was a man from Thessalonica (Acts 27:2) who was of Jewish decent despite his Greek name. He was a trusted man who was charged to take up a collection for the saints and transfer it to Jerusalem (Acts 20:4). He was obviously dedicated to the cause of Christ as he became a fellow prisoner with Paul. He had even suffered by being beaten along with Paul as seen in Acts 19:29.
John Mark (Cousin of Barnabas) - the man with a second chance
John Mark, who wrote the Gospel of Mark, has been widely known as a deserter. We see in Acts 13 that he accompanied Paul and Barnabas on Paul’s first missionary journey and for some unknown reason left and returned home after they entered Asia.
Acts 13:13 ESV
Now Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. And John left them and returned to Jerusalem,
This led to a sharp disagreement later when Barnabas wanted to take Mark on their second missionary journey and Paul did not.
Acts 15:39 ESV
And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus,
This sharp disagreement led to the splitting of these two godly men - Paul and Barnabas.
Yet God was not done with John Mark. It is likely that Peter spent considerable time with Mark.
1 Peter 5:13 ESV
She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son.
He refers to Mark as his son just like Paul had referred to Onesimus that way. Peter knew what it was like to be a deserter and be restored after denying Christ three times. And he poured grace and restoration into Mark. This growth of Mark was obviously recognized by Paul in his later letters such as this as we see Paul’s tone about Mark change greatly.
John MacArthur referred to Mark as the man with a second chance.
Brothers and sisters, our God specializes in second chances. As we move forward through this message today, you might be reflecting on times in your life where you have missed opportunities in sharing the Gospel. I know we all have missed opportunities. But praise God that our God is sovereign and merciful and full of grace.
We need to move forward like Mark and Peter did and not keep looking back upon our failures. But may we walk forward in the power of Christ - being fully devoted to the work He has called us to do.
Next we see...
Justus - comforter for Paul
We are not given a lot of information about this man but we do see that he is a Jewish man who is serving with Paul. He is mentioned along with Mark and Aristarchus as men who have comforted Paul.
This shows us how important it is to have Christian fellowship with like-minded believers. We all need the comfort that a kind word of encouragement brings. Justus and his fellow Jewish friends were just that for Paul - comforters.
Epaphras - church planter in Colossae
We spent some time at the beginning of the book of Colossians mentioning this godly man. He was likely a church planter and Pastor in Colossae (most likely being converted by Paul in Ephesus in the past) and was the man who brought the news of the church of Colossae to Paul. It appears he was also imprisoned with Paul as seen in Philemon 23.
He was a man who had a tremendous heart for his church and fellowship in Colossae. Paul mentions this in great detail in verse 12 here in chapter 4:
Colossians 4:12 ESV
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.
He struggles for his church fellowship in prayer. We can learn a lot about where the real fights are fought. Prayer is part of fighting the battle and frankly - probably the most important part!
Luke - physician who was faithful and consistent to Paul and Christ
Next we come to Luke. Luke obviously has a special place in my heart because he was a physician. He wrote approximately 1/3 of the words of the New Testament even though he only wrote two of the books (Luke and Acts). He had a habit of being thorough!
Little is really known about Luke’s background and he is only mentioned three times in Paul’s letters (Colossians 4:14, Philemon 24, 2 Timothy 4:11). Yet we see his staying power in 2 Timothy 4:11
2 Timothy 4:11 ESV
Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.
According to extrabiblical sources, Luke accompanied Paul until Paul was martyred for the faith by being beheaded in Rome at the end of his third imprisonment.
Luke was faithful and consistent. These are two wonderful qualities we should aspire to.
Demas - deserter
Lastly in this section, we come to Demas. Demas is one who did not continue to devote himself to the work. He stands in stark contrast with the group of godly men around him.
It may be looking too far into this, but it interesting that with all of the people mentioned in this section, there is something kind said about each one other than Demas. It could be that there were some cracks seen in his character already surfacing.
In what is traditionally understood as Paul’s final letter we see the following:
2 Timothy 4:10 (ESV)
For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia.
We don’t know whether Demas ever repented or was ever really a true believer in the first place. Many a person has played the game for a while but deserted when the going got tough. But we do know that he deserted Paul because he was in love with this present world.
That is quite a condemning statement because we see clearly taught in 1 John 2:15:
1 John 2:15 ESV
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
My friends, we must love Christ more than anything else. More than our family, friends, job, comforts, possessions etc. Nothing other than Christ can take first place in our lives.
Demas failed the love test. He loved the world more than Christ.
Jesus gave us another love test as well.
John 14:15 ESV
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
Demas was not willing to love Christ by being obedient to Him.
True believers obey the Word of God and follow Him without compromising.
And when they do mess up, they repent.
When on mission, you should be devoted to the work, you should deliver the message, and...
Scripture References: Acts 27:2, 20:4, 19:29, 13:13, 15:39; 1 Peter 5:13; Philemon 23-24; 2 Timothy 4:11; 2 Timothy 4:10; 1 John 2:15; John 14:15

III. When on Mission, You Should… Discern the Audience (15-18)

Colossians 4:15–18 ESV
Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. 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. And say to Archippus, “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.” I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.
After mentioning his two messengers and then giving a greeting from his fellow ministers of the Gospel, he then moves on to greet some of the future readers of the letter.
Obviously, Paul addressed the Colossian church throughout this letter. But he requested that this letter be circulated throughout the churches. One such church that this letter was to be sent after the Colossians read it was the church at Laodicea. As we mentioned in the first sermon of this series, Laodicea was a neighboring city to Colossae. It was a particularly energetic Christian community at first.
We start by seeing that in Laodicea a woman named:
Nympha - housed a church
Nympha, who is most-likely an affluent Laodicean, has hospitably opened up her house to a church gathering. She sounds much like Lydia from Acts 16 who was one of the chief financial supporters of the church in Philippi as a seller of purple linen. We discussed another house church host as well last week, Philemon, who also housed a church in his home in Colossae. God uses people of all classes, races, socioeconomic standing, and abilities.
Colossians 4:16 ESV
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.
Verse 16 is a great representative understanding of how the early Biblical canon started. Letters were preserved and copied and distributed. The letters that were recognized as authentically from the Apostles and divinely inspired were preserved in the Canon that we have today by the sovereign hand of God. However, as we see here, there were other letters that did not become a part of the Canon. God chose which letters would be a part of the Canon and which ones would not by sustaining the divinely inspired letters and protecting them. This is important to recognize because we understand that man is not inerrant. Not everything Paul would have said or wrote was without error. Yet, the words that Paul wrote while carried along by the Holy Spirit were all inerrant because they were the Word of God - the very words of God.
2 Peter 1:21 ESV
For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
This should not decrease our faith in the Bible - it should instead increase it. God selected which books would be a part of the Bible from the beginning of the church. The recognized Canon was not just something thrown together in AD 325 by the Council of Nicea as many erroneously seem to believe. We see references to the development of the Canon beginning in the first century AD by men such as Clement of Rome in AD 95. There is almost a complete New Testament Canon in AD 170 called the Muratorian Canon which had all of the NT books other than 5!
We can trust the Scripture as accurate because it has been protected and sustained by God Himself. Praise the Lord for Him graciously giving us His Word.
Let’s continue finishing up by moving to verse 17:
Colossians 4:17 ESV
And say to Archippus, “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.”
Archippus - church leader or missionary
Moving on to verse 17 we are introduced to a man we spent some time discussing last week, Archippus. He was likely the son of Philemon and was called a fellow soldier in the faith by Paul.
Philemon 2 (ESV)
and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house:
We discussed that Archippus was most likely either a church leader in Colossae or even a missionary sent out by the church. Paul, in verse 17, says:
Colossians 4:17 (ESV)
And say to Archippus, “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.”
Archippus had been called to some form of ministry and Paul is encouraging him to continue being faithful in in.
Finally we come to verse 18:
Colossians 4:18 ESV
I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.
We see Paul give a benediction of grace as he does so often. And he reminds them of his imprisonment and need for continued prayer.
You might wonder why I called this final point, discern your audience. I used this phrase because we see that Paul knows the people of the church that he is writing to. Even though he had most likely not even visited this church and was not the one to directly plant or start it, he knew them well. Epaphras had informed him of what was going on in the church and told him about the different people there who were serving.
When we are on mission, we must first know those with whom we are serving alongside. This takes work my friends. It takes intentionality. We must understand our team and church fellowship well. We need to know the strengths and weaknesses of our brothers and sisters in Christ and help support one another.
And we must also know the people we are seeking to share the Gospel with as well. We must understand where they coming from. We need to know what issues are going on their lives and what their pre-understandings are. This also takes work and intentionality. But this work pays off in the long run.
I pray that each of us are working on being intentional in sharing the Gospel and being on mission. I pray that we seek to find different ways that we can serve the church fellowship and different ways that we can share the Gospel with those around us. Only then, can we truly fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).
Scripture References: Acts 16, 2 Peter 1:21, Philemon 2, Matthew 28:16-20
As we come to a close I pray that we remember that we are to be a people on mission.
And as a People on Mission...We Should and We Must...
Deliver the Message
Be Devoted to the Work
Discern the Audience
Let us pray.
If you would like to learn more about salvation through Jesus Christ or want to obey Jesus by obeying the first commandment of a believer in going through the waters of baptism - please let me know.
Have a blessed week.
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