Study Notes

Colossians 4:7-18


This morning, we are finishing up the book of Colossians. Paul is wrapping things up with final statements about specific people. Although today these people are long-gone, there is still much for us to learn from Paul's closing comments.

4:7-9 Information For Encouragement

We covered the specifics of the delivery of this letter by Too-khee-KOS and Onesimus a few Sundays ago (3:22-4:1). But this morning I'd like you to notice that the idea behind the bringing of information about Paul's circumstances was for the encouragement of their hearts. Remember, Paul was in jail. He could have said, "Too-khee-KOS, make sure you let them know how miserable conditions are in here. Make sure you tell them about the rats and the filth and the mistreatment I'm suffering. But instead, he wanted them to be encouraged. When writing to the Philippian church, he said,

Phil. 1:12-14 Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in {the cause of} Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the Word of God without fear.

Many of us, when asked about our circumstances, have a tendency to give bad news. When I speak with someone who's said nothing but negative things about their lives, I am drained and bothered. On the other hand, when someone is going through difficult times, but says, "God is faithful, and I know He's working. I'm trusting in Him, and looking for the good in my circumstances," I am refreshed and encouraged.

4:10 Aristarchus

Aristarchus was in jail with Paul at this time, having traveled often with him as they worked and preached the gospel.

Barnabas' Cousin Mark

Barnabas' cousin Mark had a checkered past with the apostle Paul. Remember that Barnabas and Paul had delivered some money that had been raised for people in Judea suffering from the famine (Acts 11:27-30). Then...

Acts 12:25 ...Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their mission, taking along with {them} John, who was also called Mark.

John Mark, Barnabas' cousin, who was living in Jerusalem, decided to accompany them on the mission trip as their helper (Acts 13:5). But when the trip got difficult, John Mark bailed out. When...

Acts 13:13 ...Paul and his companions put out to sea from PAF-os and came to PERG-ay in Pam-fool-EE-ah; and John left them and returned to Jerusalem.

Paul was not impressed with John Mark. He was actually pretty upset.

Later, when Paul told Barnabas that they should take another trip, to see how all of these new churches they'd planted were doing, Barnabus wanted to bring John Mark along.

Acts 15:38-40 But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. And there arose such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. But Paul chose Silas and departed...

As far as Paul was concerned, John Mark wasn't the one he wanted to be serving with. He didn't feel like he could count on him. Fortunately, God doesn't give up on us so easily. Paul himself knew...

Phil. 1:6 ...that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

John Mark kept growing in his walk with the Lord. The years passed, and he continued to mature. By the time the epistles of Colossians and Philemon were written, John Mark was ministering with Paul again, being a "fellow worker" (Philemon 1:24) and useful to him in service (2Tim 4:11).

This tells me that we need to not give up on people so easily. We are too often "one strike and you're out" kind of people when it comes to which Christians we will trust.

2Cor. 3:18 But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

4:11 From The Circumcision

Aristarchus, John Mark, and Jesus (who was called Ee-OOCE-tos for obvious reasons) were the only fellow workers of Paul's from "the Circumcision." "The Circumcision" was Paul's not-so-affectionate nickname for those Christians who were steeped in Jewish legalism.

To Titus (1:10), he mentioned that many of the rebellious people he encountered - empty talkers and deceivers - were of the circumcision. Fortunately, people can be brought out of legalism into grace, as evidenced by Aristarchus, John Mark, and Ee-OOCE-tos.

4:12-13 Laboring In Prayer

Epaphras, as you recall from our early studies in Colossians, was the man who originally brought the gospel message to Colossae. He'd come back to Paul, reporting both the church's progress in faith and the dangerous heresies arising among them. While the trip did result in the letter to the Colossians, he was apparently arrested and was now in prison with Paul (see Philemon 1:23).

But Epaphras did not let his imprisonment stop the ministry. He continued to work hard for the Colossians, the Laodiceans, and those in Hee-er-AP-ol-is, but his labor was now in prayer.

4:14 Luke And Demas

Luke, the writer of the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts, is referred to as the beloved physician here. But Paul doesn't have anything to say about Demas here. Although he told Philemon that Demas was one of his "fellow workers" (Philemon 1:24), maybe he had begun to see indications of what was to come. In Paul's final letter, he wrote,

2Tim. 4:10 ...Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica...

This reminds me that not everyone is going to stick it out in the ministry. Some will be pulled back into the world because of money, worry, or desire. We've got to make sure that we're in this for the long haul, that we're running a marathon, not a 50-yard dash.

4:15-16 Trading Letters

Paul gives some more greetings, and encourages them to be trading letters with the other churches he'd written to.

4:17 Take Heed And Fulfill The Ministry

Paul's exhortation to AR-khip-pos is educational for us. In it, we are taught that the ministry is received from the Lord, but it is up to us to perform it. Like so many other issues in the Christian life, we see that God's sovereignty and man's responsibility are both working hand-in-hand.

So we know that God calls a man to ministry, but then it is up to that man to fulfill the calling.

4:18 With My Own Hand

Although Paul had been dictating this letter to Timothy, he picked up the pen and personally wrote these last three sentences.

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