DEVOTIONALS ON COLOSSIANS
The Christ Life in an Alienated World
Gordon E. Johnson
Rio Grande Bible Institute
Paul's Greetings to Fellow Workers a Lesson in Team Work
Colossians 4:7-18 (NKJ)
We may easily skip over Paul's affectionate conclusion in which he recognizes his friends with Christian grace. However, the reality of interpersonal relationships in churches and parachurch ministries is often not a pleasant reality. Division, envy and party spirit often emerge. We should not be surprised as Paul rebukes the Galatians after expounding the fruit of the Spirit: "Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another" (Gal. , 26).
We often admire the Apostle Paul for his incredible ministry, but he was not a "one man orchestra." In several epistles he greets the brethren with the inclusion of Silas, Sostenes and Timothy, even though they were not co-authors. His gracious commendations were given without respect to status, importance or position; they were more often his personal helpers. Paul was never threatened by his associates' gifts or presence; but rather was magnanimous to Apollos, to Mark, to Peter, to James and Barnabas. What a profound lesson in humility!
Paul concludes his Colossian epistle with due recognition of ten companions:
Tychicus, Onesimus, Aristarchus, Mark, Justus, Epaphras, Luke, Demas, Nymphas and Archippus.
Without Paul's generous spirit we would never have known of these choice servants of God. Paul´s grateful spirit recognized their addition to his ministry. He could not have served so illustriously without them. Paul did have his recalcitrant enemies, jealous believers "supposing to add affliction to my chains" (Phil. ). There were the inevitable judiaizers and notorious Alexander the coppersmith (2 Tim. ). But he recognized the gifts of the Spirit given to all.
In brief what does he say of each? special commendation is given to Tychicus, "beloved brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant," apparently the original pastor of the church; to Onesimus, a recently converted slave who had robbed his master, Philemon, to him the identical words "a faithful and beloved brother, one of you" Paul recognized no social status to stand in the way of full brotherly acceptance by the church. See the letter to Philemon. To Aristarchus, "my fellow prisoner," a unique sharing of suffering; to Mark who had earlier failed Paul, now is greeted with his cousin Barnabas; to Justus among the above who were Jews who had stood with him.
To Epaphras he gives a special note of affection for his spiritual ministry, "a servant of Christ, always laboring fervently for you in prayers to present you perfect in Christ." What a commendation! There can be no greater. With special «cariño» (Spanish-tender affection); to Luke, "the beloved physician" that ministered to his unique physical needs (Gal.4:13, 14); to Demas only a single mention of his name, possibly about to abandon Paul (2 Tim. ); to Nymphas who hosted the church in his house. He commends the reading in all probability of Ephesians, a circular letter to valley churches; and finally to Archippus, "take heed to the ministry . . . to fulfill it," probably the new young pastor who undertakes the solemn task of shepherding the flock in Colosse.
These seemingly simple greetings speak volumes of Paul's deep appreciation for fellow workers, making him an ideal team leader. Paul was an incarnation of his message, dead to himself, alive to God and grateful for the gifted ordinary men and women that aided him. This is the measure of a true leader, magnanimous, humble and courageous with a true servant heart. The Apostle of the Cross lived his message and leaves us his example. May God multiply his species!
Gordon E Johnson