Tell Archippus: "See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord."
I. SCRIPTURE IS INTENDED FOR GENERAL READING. The two Epistles are to be read in the Churches. They are not to be reserved for the bishops, the more initiated or the more advanced Christians. All members of the two Churches, young and old, slaves and freemen, illiterate and cultured, imperfect and spiritual minded, are to hear the two Epistles. Now, these Epistles contain about the most advanced doctrine of all writings of the Bible. They approach nearest to what is analogous to the inner Gnostic doctrines of all Scripture teaching. If, therefore, any portions of Revelation should be reserved for the few, it would be these. If these are for public perusal, surely the simpler Gospels and psalms must be also public property. The Bible is a book for the people. It is free to all. No man has a right to bar access to the tree of life on the plea that the ignorant do not know how to help themselves from it and must have its knits doled out by official guardians. The greatest philosopher may find unfathomable depths in Scripture; but a little child may also read clear truths therein. If it be said that the ignorant will misunderstand, the reply is - They will gain more truth on the whole, in spite of misunderstanding, by free access to the Bible than when only led to it by others. God can take care of his own truth; the Bible was written for the people, and the people have a right to their own. No guardians of Scripture who are to measure it out to others at their discretion were ever appointed by Christ or by his apostles.
II. THE SCRIPTURE THAT IS USEFUL TO ONE CHURCH WILL BE USEFUL TO ANOTHER. The two letters were written with special regard to the peculiar circumstances of the two Churches. Yet they were to be exchanged, Much more, then, should Christians who have not had any private Epistle of their own benefit by the public Scriptures. Special wants are not primary wants. The great need of revelation is common to all. The fundamental truths of the gospel are needed by and offered to all. The highest glories of revelation are for all.
III. OUR READING OF SCRIPTURE SHOULD NOT BE CONFINED TO ISOLATED FRAGMENTS. A Church which had been honoured by receiving an apostolic Epistle written expressly for itself would be tempted to depreciate other apostolic writings, or at least to consider that for its own use its own Epistle was of paramount if not of exclusive importance. It would be in danger of making its one Epistle its own New Testament, to the disregard of all the rest. But the advice of St. Paul shows that such an action would be a mistake.
1. Our reading of Scripture should be wide and varied. We must beware of confining our attention to favourite portions. By doing so we get one-sided views of truth, and probably, even if unconsciously, select what seems to support our own notions to the neglect of what would modify them. We may most need to read those Scriptures in which we feel least interest.
2. Scripture balances and interprets Scripture. The doctrine of the Christ which is the leading theme of the Epistle to the Colossians is closely related to the doctrine of the Church which is the central subject of the so-called Epistle to the Ephesians (that, probably, referred to by St. Paul as the Epistle to the Laodiceans).
IV. THERE SHOULD BE INTERCOMMUNION BETWEEN CHRISTIAN CONGREGATIONS. There is too much corporate selfishness in the Church. We should be the better for more ecclesiastical altruism, or rather communism.
1. This is most to be looked for between neighbours. Laodicea was near to Colossae.
2. And it should be cultivated between the prominent and the obscure. Laodicea was an important city, Colossae a small town. Yet the Churches in the two places were to show brotherly sympathy on equal terms and to be mutually helpful to one another. While the strong should help the weak, the weak should beware of selfishness and do their best to serve the strong. - W.F.A.
And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry.Revelation 3:19). The condition of preacher and people react upon each other; the Church takes its colour from, and communicates it to its pastor. Hence the apostle, well knowing the perils surrounding the inexperienced Archippus, sends to him this timely warning to take heed to his ministry. He is reminded of —
I. THE DIRECT AUTHORITY OF THE MINISTRY. "In the Lord."
II. THE IMPLIED DANGERS OF THE MINISTRY. "Take heed."
III. THE IMPERATIVE PERSONAL DEMANDS OF THE MINISTRY. "That thou fulfil it."
(G. Barlow.)Philippians 4:2). But it is by no means certain that he was. He is named in the Epistle to Philemon in such immediate connection with the latter and his wife Apphia, that he has been supposed to be their son. At all events, he was intimately associated with the Church in the house of Philemon, who, as we know, was a Colossian. But, on the other hand, the difficulty referred to, and the fact that the whole section is concerned with Laodicea, points to the conclusion that Archippus, though perhaps a native and even resident at Colossae had his ministry in connection with a neighbouring Church. But what does it matter where he worked? Not very much perhaps; and yet one cannot but read this grave exhortation to a man who was evidently getting languid and negligent, without remembering what we hear about Laodicea and its angel when next we meet it. It is not impossible that Archippus may have received the message more awful than Paul's. "Because thou art neither hot nor cold," etc. Be that as it may —
I. EACH OF US HAS A MINISTRY, or sphere of service. We may fill it full, with earnest devotion and patient heroism, as some expanding gas fills out the silken round of its containing vessel, or we may breathe into it only enough to occupy a little portion, while all the rest hangs empty and flaccid.
II. A SACRED MOTIVE ENHANCES THE OBLIGATION. We have received it "in the Lord." In union with Him it has been laid upon us. No earthly hand has imposed it, nor does it arise from mere earthly relationships.
III. THERE MUST BE DILIGENT WATCHFULNESS TO FULFIL OUR MINISTRY.
1. We have to take heed to our service, reflect upon it, its extent, nature, imperativeness, the manner of discharging it, and the means of fitting us for it. We have to keep it before us. Unless we are absorbed in it, we shall not fulfil it.
2. We have to take heed to ourselves, ever feeling our weakness and the strong antagonisms in our own natures which hinder our dis charge of the plainest and most imperative duties.
3. Let us remember, too, that if we begin, like Archippus, to be a little languid and perfunctory in our work, we may end where the Church at Laodicea ended.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)I. THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY IS A SOLEMN AND RESPONSIBLE TRUST.
1. It is Divine in its bestowal. "Received in the Lord."
2. It is personal in its responsibility. "Which thou hast received."
3. It involves the communication of good to others. "Ministry."
4. It has a special aspect of importance for the individual minister. "The Ministry."
II. THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY DEMANDS UNSWERVING: FIDELITY IN ACCOMPLISHING ITS LOFTY MISSION. "That thou fulfil it."
1. Divine truth must be clearly apprehended and profoundly realized.
2. The whole truth must be declared.
3. The declaration of truth must be full and courageous.
III. THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY IS SURROUNDED by peculiar perils. "Take heed." A shrewd and ever wakeful vigilance is needed against —
1. The stealthy encroachments of error.
2. The pernicious influences of the world.
3. The subtle temptations to unfaithfulness.
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