A Final Word and Reading

10 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), 11 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. 12 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. 13 For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. 14 Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas. 15 Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. 16 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. 17 And say to Archippus, “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.” 18 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you. (Colossians 4:10-18)

This morning we will complete our study together through the book of Colossians. I am thankful that we have been able to learn from this book which so clearly exalts Jesus Christ and gives us such clear direction on how to live for Him. Today we will once again meet a few people that Paul mentions as he closes his letter. Paul is thankful that God has provided for him others who will bear his burdens, share his joys, and who have a passion for getting the gospel message to people who desperately needed to hear it. 

In these mentions of various people, we see God’s people coming together in significant service, working together to make possible the spread of Christianity to a lost world. Not perfect people, for sure, but people. And that is what it takes. It takes the church functioning as it was designed to function. People, you and me, working together to get the message out, of salvation and of living not for ourselves but for Christ. This message of the gospel does not stop at sharing the plan of salvation. It does not stop there. It includes each of us living out our faith in ways that we have seen in this book of Colossians. That is, each of us serving each other, our marriages and homes openly honoring Christ, in our work having an ethic that says, “I am doing this in a way that honors my Savior, and for His glory.”

This is what Paul meant when he said in Colossians 2:6-7, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” That is a great verse to pin up and to remember daily – “As you received Christ, so walk in Him.” This is different than saying a prayer for salvation and then going on with life as usual. There is no life as usual for someone who is in Christ. Being a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17) brings with it many changes: a growing life, not without sin, but dealing with sin, confession, repentance, and putting on new habits that are pleasing to God.

This book has helped us, helped me to see the magnificence of Christ, both in His power and in His kind grace, and how to honor Him not just with our lips, our speech, but in how we live each day. God help us to live this life He has given us for Him!

In these final words Paul brings our attention to two men, Luke and Demas: “Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas”

Luke was a friend and fellow minister with Paul, and was also a physician. He traveled frequently with Paul and was a Gentile, as we can see from verse 11. He may have been like a personal physician for Paul, and though he would have certainly ministered to Paul and others who traveled with them, he probably had a much more broad role than just Paul’s personal doctor. Luke would have been very educated as a doctor, and we know he was educated too from his New Testament writings of Luke and Acts. Luke is a great example of a person who, though studied in a particular field, in his case medicine, didn’t let that keep him from ministering in this unique way as a traveling missionary with a band of outcasts.

I wonder how often people become so identified with their field of study, their jobs, that they fail to look outside that at other opportunities that are before them to serve the Lord in unique ways. Like they feel so locked-in to whatever they do that it becomes too much a part of who they are. Our particular jobs should never overshadow what God is directing us to do outside of that. None of us are locked in to what we are doing now. Late in life career changes should always at least be considered, or anytime in life. We are not what we do, we are servants of Christ. Where does He want us to serve? When God called Martyn Lloyd-Jones in the early 1900’s out of medicine to become a preacher, he was ridiculed and called a fool. But he wasn’t driven by what people around him thought. He was first of all God’s child and a servant of Christ. God used him mightily for His glory. God pulled Luke from his primary career as a doctor to serve on the road with Paul, and to serve with Paul even while in prison. 

Demas is also mentioned as one who sends his greetings to the church. While it appears Demas was a faithful minister at this point, the story of his life takes a turn. Just three or four years after this writing we see him again mentioned in Scripture…

9 Do your best to come to me soon. 10 For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. (2 Timothy 4:9-10)

Demas, having served with Paul during the writing of this letter to the Colossians, has left him. He has apparently left his first love, Christ, and has exchanged that for a new love, the love of the present world. This change happened sometime between the writing of Colossians and 2 Timothy.

He is an example to us of our need to be ever moving toward Christ in life and in ministry. It should give us great pause as we read of him. Does it not move you emotionally to wonder, “Will I remain faithful? Am I greater than Demas? Am I above this man? Am I better than he was? Am I stronger than Demas was? Am I somehow immune from the pull of this world and all of its promises of wealth and pleasure and satisfaction?” Our answer should be we are not better, and we are not immune, so we ask, “Please God, keep me in your grace, keep my mind on you. God please prick my heart regarding sin, please keep me on the narrow path that leads to life.” “God help me” should be our plea! We are not to focus on condemning Demas, but focus on our walk, our lives with Christ, and God’s work in us for His glory. Paul felt the sting of abandonment from one who appeared faithful. That is a very painful sting. But more than that, it is Demas who has lost more than Paul, it is Demas who has been deceived. When leaders fall into grievous sin, it is a warning to us all. Our tendency may be to lash out, but it is really an opportunity for personal evaluation. Where will our sin lead us if we fail to deal with it? What are we doing about it?

Paul then concludes with this…

15 Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. 16 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. 17 And say to Archippus, “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.”
18 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you. (Colossians 4:15-18)

More greetings to the church people. The church people in a neighboring city, to Nympha who hosts a church in her home. He emphasizes sharing of letters such as this among churches. And a final word to encourage Archippus who had received a particular ministry to fulfill. Lastly Paul says, “Remember my chains. Grace be with you.”

Many times at the end of a message I will end with the reading of the passage we looked at together. The reason I do that is so that you and I can hear it again in light of what we have just learned. Sometimes after studying a passage it seems new, and we see it with more meaning than perhaps we have before. So my hope is always that we see it anew after our study of it. Today we will do something like that. As we conclude this book together, I want us to hear the entire book of Colossians, having studied the whole book together. We have not done this before, but I want us to today. Also, you know, these letters, as Paul commands, were most likely read in their entirety when received by a church. They weren’t first of all studied, but they were read like letters. We don’t normally do that. But today I want us to hear it that way. I have asked others to help read this book with me this morning.

[reading of Colossians]