All my state shall Tychicus declare to you, who is a beloved brother, and a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord:…
I. AFFAIRS OF THE APOSTLE. He gives his reason for not entering on these in his letter. The paragraph is similar in construction to Ephesians 6:21, 22. The difference is confined to two points.
1. The designation of Tychicus as fellow servant. "All my affairs shall Tychicus make known unto you, the beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord: whom I have sent unto you for this very purpose, that ye may know our estate, and that he may comfort your hearts." He characterizes what Tychicus was in the Lord, i.e. within the sphere where Christ appoints and animates. Within that sphere he had the qualities which made him beloved as a brother (an important point in a mission). He had also the qualities which, as they made him fit to be entrusted with the gospel, also made him fit to be entrusted with a mission from the apostle. He was, besides, a fellow servant on an equality with the apostle in being at the call of the Master in services to Churches, and they were to receive him at Colossae in the Lord's name. His mission extended beyond the mere bearing of the letter (which is not mentioned), to conveying intelligence regarding the circumstances, spirit, work, prospects of the apostle and others with him, as would be fitted to cheer their hearts.
2. The association of Onesimus with Tychicus. "Together with Onesimus, the faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They shall make known unto you all things that are done here." Onesimus is mentioned as affectionately as Tychicus. The only difference is the absence of any official designation. His being called "brother" illustrates the principle laid down by the apostle in this Epistle, that there is not bondman nor freeman. The renewal after the image of God had commenced, and was going on, in this slave. And therefore he acknowledges him as a brother. Prominence is given to his being a faithful brother. He had formerly been unfaithful, in the service rendered to his master Philemon, and in running away from that service, lie had been so effectually transformed that already (and much time cannot have elapsed) Paul can vouch for his trustworthiness. His being called "beloved brother" shows that he had exhibited singular qualities of heart, which is very touchingly brought out in the Epistle to Philemon. The interesting circumstance is mentioned, that Onesimus was one of them, a native of Colossae (we may understand), one whose name was to be added to their roll of membership, and who would be no mere nominal addition, but an addition to their working strength. Paul trusted him in much, after having trusted him in littles, when he associated him with Tychicus, not only in bearing the letter, but in declaring to the Church at Colossae all things which were done at Rome.
II. SALUTATIONS FOR THE COLOSSIANS.
1. From three Jewish Christians.
(1) Aristarchus. "Aristarchus my fellow prisoner saluteth you." That he was an active helper of the apostle, may be gathered from his being classed in the Epistle to Philemon among his fellow workers. The beautiful thing regarding him is, that he is so near to the apostle in seasons of danger. For his connection with him, he was subjected to the violence of the multitude in Ephesus. Then a plot of the Jews brings him into connection with the apostle. Then he appears as a companion of the apostle on his journey as a prisoner to Rome. And here he is styled "fellow prisoner." He was not ashamed of the apostle's chains. He was not afraid to endanger his own life for his sake. From the fact of his being styled "fellow worker" and Epaphras "fellow prisoner" in the Epistle to Philemon, which was transmitted along with the Epistle to Colossae, it has not unreasonably been concluded that Paul's friends voluntarily shared his imprisonment by turns.
(2) Mark. "And Mark, the cousin of Barnabas (touching whom ye received commandments; if he come unto you, receive him)." It was an honourable circumstance, which Paul with good feeling notes, that Mark was connected with Barnabas. He seems to have been included within the apostolic circle. He began his Christian career by divesting himself (in no monastic spirit) of the embarrassment of riches. "He was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith." He had the advance of Paul in Christian service, and generously introduced him to the Church at Jerusalem, and afterward, when the work could not be overtaken at Antioch, knowing the fitness of Paul, he went forth to Tarsus to seek for him, and when he had found him, brought him on to Antioch. For a long time they laboured conjointly, and for a time we read of Barnabas and Paul as though the older in service exercised an influence over the younger, not yet fully conscious of his powers. But their plans diverged with regard to the kinsman of Barnabas who is mentioned here; and so sharp was the contention between these good men that they parted asunder, one from the other. It may be assumed that Mark was blameworthy in not going with them to the work. He was apparently swayed at the time by some reason of personal convenience. Whether Paul or Barnabas was right in regard to his again being associated with them in service, is a different question. It appears from this notice that Mark had won his way back into the apostle's confidence. Already commandments touching him had been sent on, and now there is bespoken for him a favourable reception, should it fall in with his plans to pay a visit to Colossae.
(3) Jesus Justus. "And Jesus, which is called Justus." He lived a life upon which light shall one day be cast. All that we know of him is from the notice here. He commended himself to the apostle, as interested in the health of the Colossian community. And he comes in for his share of commendation in the language which follows. The three commended. "Who are of the circumcision: these only are my fellow workers unto the kingdom of God, men that have been a comfort unto me." There would be unbelieving Jews at Rome who would not be sorry for his chains. But there were others (apparently) who had advanced from Judaism to Christianity. It might have been expected, on common Christian grounds, that these would have shown sympathy with him. It is against them (by implication) that he makes complaint. He does not deny altogether that they were helpers, but they were not his fellow helpers; they were not his fellow helpers toward the kingdom of God in the wide sense in which he understood it. They stood aloof from him because of his estimate of the Law. All the more honour, then, to the three in Rome who, free from prejudice, had stood by him, and been a comfort to him when he needed it.
2. From three Gentile Christians.
(1) Epaphras. "Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, saluteth you." This Epaphras, who (probably after he had come under the influence of Paul at the Asiatic centre, Ephesus) founded the Colossian Church, was himself a Colossian. He was formerly styled "fellow servant;" here, without relation to others, he is styled "a servant of Christ Jesus." It would be absurd to translate it "bond servant," though it holds that Christ is absolute Disposer of his servants. Epaphras was a servant in an official sense, at the call of Christ for special service in the Churches. As their minister, he is naturally the first of the Gentile three who sent their salutations to the Colossian Church. The character in which he appears here is float of a minister absent for a time from his flock.
(a) His prayerfulness. "Always striving for you in his prayers, that ye may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God." A minister is sometimes necessitated, by the state of his health, to be absent from the sphere of his work proper. In these circumstances his great resort is prayer. Paul had difficulty in telling how greatly he strove for as many as had not seen his face in the flesh. Here he tells how Epaphras was always striving for the Colossians in his prayers. How much they must have been in his thoughts, that they came so much into his prayers, and, when they did come, occasioned so much wrestling! It was a comprehensive object for which he wrestled. It was that they might stand perfect and fully assured in every separate will of God. If we think of a single division of time or single set of circumstances, the prime necessity is to know the will of God regarding it. If we think of our relation to that will, it implies three things. We must not only know, but must stand without wavering in the will of God. Then we must stand, not in part, but in the whole of the will of God, relative to time and circumstances. Lastly, we must not only stand in the whole of the will, but have the full assurance that we are standing. This last is the climax of our relation to it. Beyond all knowledge and rightness of disposition, it is to be desired, for our own comfort, that, before and in the doing of the Divine will, we have an unwavering persuasion that it is really the Divine will, and no ignis fatuus of our own imagination, that we are following. This, indeed, is contained in promise: "And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left."
(b) His labour. "For I bear him witness, that he hath much labour for you, and for them in Laodicea, and for them in Hierapolis." There is a very beautiful association with the name Mizpah: "The Lord watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another." The Lord's servant, Paul, was witness between Epaphras and the Colossians, and he vouches for their minister's labour in his absence. It is a word which approaches in meaning to "anguish." It comprehended much more than his prayers. He was often engaged, by himself and in consultation with Paul, on the Colossian problem. He was often seen (when not sharing the apostle's confinement) about the city after business affecting the Colossian Church. Nor was his burdensome labour confined to the one Church. It extended to the Church of Laodicea, and to the Church of Hierapolis. These were Churches in the neighbourhood. The three towns were situated in the valley of the Lycus. Colossae was the least important of the three, but it was there, probably, that by means of Epaphras the gospel had been first received, and from which, by his means also, the gospel had been extended to Laodicea and to Hierapolis. If we understand his having had an equal interest in the formation of the three Churches, it was only natural that his anxious labour extended to the three.
(2) Luke. "Luke, the beloved physician." What is the ideal of a physician? He is, in the first place, one who enters thoroughly into the duties of his profession. He is one who keeps abreast of medical knowledge, and may be able at some sacrifice to make contributions to it. He is one who has skill in the practice of his profession, and does not grudge labour, fatigue, even exposure to danger, in seeking to remove disease and alleviate pain. Such a physician has in his hands the means of powerfully attaching men to him, by services rendered to them. He is also one who has Christian sympathies, who enters into the spirit and follows the example of him who, while ministering to men's bodies, ministered also to men's souls. He is one who embraces the opportunities which his profession presents of speaking words of warning and of comfort. He, who thus attaches men to him by a double bond, may well be called the beloved physician. The third Gospel, and the Acts of the Apostles, bear evidence to the general culture of Luke. It has been made out that the first of these bears evidence of special medical knowledge. It may be inferred that Luke rendered to Paul valuable professional assistance. He may have been, under God, the means of saving his life. From his being called, in the Epistle to Philemon, a "fellow helper," it may be inferred that his help to the Christian cause was not confined to his professional services nor to his literary services, but that he directly took part in the proclamation of the gospel.
(3) Demas. "And Demas salute you." From the honourable mention of him here, and from his being numbered among the fellow helpers in the Epistle to Philemon, it is evident that at this time he stood in the confidence of the apostle. When we remember his subsequent desertion of the apostle ("Demas forsook me, having loved this present world"), it is remarkable how he is mentioned here without any epithet such as "beloved" or "faithful."
III. SALUTATIONS FORT THE LAODICEANS TO BE COMMUNICATED BY THE COLOSSIANS. "Salute the brethren that are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the Church that is in their house." It is not to be wondered at that there should be a Church gathering connected with a private house. Where there was a place of general gathering for a Church at that time, it would be very unimportant. We can understand that, as a rule, there would be little gatherings from evening to evening, in private houses, of Christians in the immediate neighbourhood. These at times would grow into large gatherings. The apostle had never been at Laodicea, but he may have seen Nymphas. He had at least heard of him, and he had pleasant associations with him and the little gathering in his house. And, among the brethren in Laodicea, he singles them out for his salutations. The medium of the apostle's salutations to the Laodicean Church was to be the Colossian Church. They were as a Church to say, "We in Paul's name salute you." It was an act fitted to promote good fellowship between the two Churches.
IV. READING. "And when this Epistle hath been read among you, cause that it be read also in the Church of the Laodiceans and that ye also read the Epistle from Laodicea." This letter was to be read at a general gathering of the Church in Colossae. There was another letter, which had been addressed at a previous period to the Church at Laodicea (salutations only are sent at this time). It was not the will of the Head of the Church that the letter should be preserved. The apocryphal letter to the Laodiceans is only a cento made out of Paul's writings. There would be what was peculiar in each of these letters, but, being addressed to neighbouring Churches, there would be much that was adapted to them both. And so he instructs that both should be read in both places.
V. INSTRUCTIONS FOR ARCHIPPUS BY THE CHURCH. And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it." We are not told what the ministry was, but the probability is that he ministered in the gospel in the absence of Epaphras. It cannot with certainty be inferred that he had shown remissness in his duties. It is an injunction which may be laid on a minister in any circumstances. It is specially to be laid on a minister, in view of a more critical condition of the Church to which he ministers. There are advantages and incitements, but there are also difficulties and temptations connected with a sacred position. The interests involved are very great, and it is fitting that we should seek to fulfil that service which we have received in the Lord, with a deep feeling of our responsibility to the Lord. In the fact of the injunction being laid on Archippus by the Church, there is an implied rebuke of the hierarchical spirit.
VI. CONCLUSION. "The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand. Remember my bonds. Grace be with you." The apostle has, from necessity of his position, employed an amanuensis. When the amanuensis has done his work, Paul takes the pen in hand, and adds, "The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand." And feeling the difficulty of using the pen in consequence of his bonds, he adds, very naturally and very affectingly, "Remember my bonds." This bore evidence to the depth of his interest in them and in the truth. He had not the paths of dalliance trod. He had gone the length of bonds. It is principally to be regarded as a powerful enforcement, of all that he has said, including his request that they should pray for his liberation. There is added the briefest form of benediction: "Grace be with you." Never, however pressed for space or inconvenienced, can he leave out the thought of the Divine bestowal on us in our unworthiness. - R. F.
Parallel VersesKJV: All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you, who is a beloved brother, and a faithful minister and fellowservant in the Lord: