That Personal Touch

18 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my imprisonment. Grace be with you (Colossians 4).

To end his letter Paul decides to take the pen from his amanuensis and write these final words: “with my own hands”—giving it that personal touch and show of affection and authenticity. In my mind’s eye I can just see the reader, with a final gesture at the completion of his reading, slowly turn the scroll around so that the group before him might see for themselves the handwriting of the great Apostle Paul himself.

And as they gaze at this signature ending, surely Paul’s final words ring in their ears: “Remember my imprisonment” and “Grace be with you,” on the one hand a reminder that faith in this gospel in which they all rejoice can come at such a cost that the grace of God will be required to see them through to the end—and on the other hand a simple request: “Don’t forget me.”

Lord, we thank You for these words written by the Apostle Paul—not just for the benefit of those Colossians so long ago, but for our benefit as well. Help us This Day to remember them and to walk in Your grace. Amen.

In Him

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us … in Christ 4 just as He chose us in Him …. 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ6 in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood … 9 … His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10 with a view to … the summing up of all things in Christ …. In Him 11 also we have obtained an inheritance … 12 … the first to hope in Christ .… 13 In Him, you also … were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise … (Ephesians 1).

The word in verse 10 for “summing up” has as its root a word meaning “to strike on the head.” This is exactly what Paul is doing in this great text. He is trying to beat it into our heads that it is all about Christ. Go ahead, read this again and just count the number of times the Savior is referenced, preceded by a preposition—most of the time “in” and most of the time “in Him.”

Our lives and our very identities are inextricably bound to Christ. We are forever in Him because He is forever in us through His Spirit. All of life is about Him—indeed all of everything is about Him. Those who are not in Him, but outside Him, are of all people most to be pitied, being left outside in the cold. Yet we who are in Him always can enjoy the warm fire of divine fellowship, love, and mercy.

Lord, we thank You that we are in You and that that will never change. Help us This Day to live in this world with a view to being in You. Amen.

Ministry

 

17 Say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it” (Colossians 4).

Apparently Archippus was a Colossian believer called into a “ministry” of some kind. He is listed as one of the recipients of Paul’s letter to Philemon, and there is described as “a fellow soldier” (Philemon 2). Here Paul is encouraging him to “take heed to” or to “take a close look at” his ministry—something which he “received in the Lord” even as a gift, and therefore something which he must “fulfill” for Him. 

We don’t know exactly what was going on with Archippus, but perhaps this faithful soldier was wounded and discouraged and teetering on the brink of leaving the ministry to which God had called him.

It is an awesome responsibility to be called of God—to be called into a relationship with Him through salvation, and to be called into service for Him through ministry. Either calling may be fraught with temptation at times to be forsaken.

Lord, thank You for giving us ministries to fulfill in Your Kingdom. Help us This Day to remain faithful in them. Amen.

All Three

15 Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea and also Nympha and the church that is in her house. 16 When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea (Colossians 4).

Laodicea lay only about 10 miles west of Colossae, thus close interaction between the two cities was highly likely—especially among believers. Per instructions, Paul’s letters (portions of what is now Scripture!) must have been eagerly circulated among them. 

Where the church gathered in Colossae we do not know, but Paul tells us here that the church in Laodicea met in “Nympha’s house.” I find it more than interesting that we know nothing at all of this person—someone who was so instrumental in the furtherance of the gospel in those days! She simply joins the list of many other unsung heroes of the faith that we will spend eternity getting to know.

Lord, we are reminded once again how everything is about You and Your Word and Your Church. Help us This Day to be faithful to all three. Amen.

What a Pair!

14 Luke, the beloved physician, sends you his greetings, and also Demas (Colossians 4).

Now here’s a pair for you: “Luke the beloved physician … and also Demas.” No other companion or co-laborer received such a heartfelt description as Luke: beloved. Just as Jesus, the only begotten of the Father was His beloved Son, so was Luke everyone’s beloved physician. Paul did not write “my” beloved physician, but simply “the” beloved physician—everyone’s beloved physician and brother in the faith!

Then we have Demas—the one of whom Paul would later write: “having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica” (2 Timothy 4:10). What an honor for Demas, that his name should be written here in the same sentence with Luke, everyone’s beloved physician! And yet later this same man would cast such honor away by abandoning his faithful companions. It just goes to show you, we never know what someone might do to disappoint us—or perhaps what we may do to disappoint others.

Lord, help us This Day to remain faithful to You and all those who serve You. Amen.

God’s Will

12 Epaphras, … always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God (Colossians 4).

The word for “perfect” may also be translated “complete”—thus, we are complete and have all we need when we are “fully assured” or “convinced” of “the will of God” for our lives. This is where we find confidence to move in any direction—when we know without any doubt that that direction is headed toward God’s will.

If we are not absolutely sure an action we are about to take is God’s will, we should pause and pray and wait for assurance to come. God’s will is all that really matters, not ours—not our own agenda, not our own machinations, not our own dreams, not our own logic and reasoning.

We must never assume our Lord’s sweat drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane were the result of any doubts about doing God’s will, for that was never in question. He just wanted to be absolutely sure that His Father’s will had no other path than toward the cross: “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

Lord, help us This Day simply to know and then to do Your will. Amen.

Kneeling to Stand

12 Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God. 13 For I testify for him that he has a deep concern for you and for those who are in Laodicea and Hierapolis (Colossians 4).

Four facts concerning Epaphras makes one wonder why Paul did not send him along with Onesimus, rather than Tychicus: 1) it was he who first gave the gospel to the Colossians in the first place (1:7); 2) like Onesimus, he too was “one of [their] number,” a Colossian; 3) he was so devoted to them, “always laboring earnestly for [them] in his prayers;” and 4) he had such “a deep concern for … those who are in Laodicea and Hierapolis”—neighboring cities of Colossae he could have also visited.

And yet, Paul had him remain with him in Rome. We’ll never know this side of heaven, but perhaps he believed Epaphras would be more useful by staying with him and praying for them to “stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God.” He would kneel so that they might stand.

Lord, help us This Day to physically kneel in prayer on behalf of others (and ourselves) so that they (and we) might spiritually stand strong.

At the Mall with Paul

10 Aristarchus … sends you his greetings; and also Barnabas’s cousin Mark .… 11 and also Jesus who is called Justus; these are the only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are from the circumcision, and they have proved to be an encouragement to me  (Colossians 4).

The word “encouragement” is found only in this one place in our bibles. Like so many other Greek words it is made up of a preposition attached to a noun, in this case literally meaning “beside or near the market place.” The idea is companionship, that wherever you went, you had friends who went with you—even just to go shopping.

Yet we know that Paul did not go to the market place just to do some shopping. No, he went there to do some evangelizing—and these three (Aristarchus, Mark, and Justus), who were “from the circumcision” (that is, they were converted Jews), were always there to help him.

Lord, thank You for companions such as Paul had. Help us This Day to be true and faithful companions, too. Amen.

A Changed Heart

10 … sends you his greetings; and also Barnabas’s cousin Mark (about whom you received instructions; if he comes to you, welcome him) … (Colossians 4).

The word “instructions” does not convey any sort of passive suggestion on Paul’s part, for it is the same word used many times by Jesus Himself when referring to the “commandments” of God. Thus, Paul is very serious about how he wants these folks to treat Mark—the same Mark who deserted him and Barnabas years before during his first missionary journey.

Likewise, the word “welcome” does convey any sort of a passive treatment toward Mark, for it describes a warm embrace given in genuine hospitality, as if to a long-lost friend coming to your door. It conveys a genuine gladness and joy that they have come—not simply a fulfillment of Christian duty or social decency.

Thus we see the warm attitude Paul had concerning someone in whom he was once so disappointed that he could not in good conscience continue joining with him in missionary endeavors—to the extent that to prove his point he was even willing to break fellowship with such a godly man as Barnabas (Acts 15:36-40)!

Lord, help us This Day to forgive and have warm hearts toward those who have once disappointed us. Amen.

Unsung Heroes

10 Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, sends you his greetings … (Colossians 4).

Aristarchus was a devoted co-worker of Paul. He is first introduced in Acts 19 where he was taken and “dragged along” by rioters in Ephesus who were unhappy with Paul’s preaching. In Acts 20 he is described as a Thessalonian. In Acts 27 we see him accompanying Paul on his journey to Rome, thus experiencing everything Paul himself did, including the shipwreck. Thus, Paul names him here as a “fellow prisoner.” Paul also sends greetings from him at the end of his letter to Philemon, thus Aristarchus was well aware of the situation with Onesimus, who along with Tychicus is delivering this letter to the Colossian church. 

Except for these short references in the Bible, we know very little of him. Catholic tradition recognizes him as one of the Seventy Apostles and the bishop of Apamea. Aristarchus is one of those unsung heroes of the faith, whom we will one day meet in glory along with all the rest. Won’t it be great getting to know him and to listen to his story?

Lord, how many other unsung heroes are moving around in our midst today? Help us This Day to treat all our brethren as unsung heroes of the faith. Amen.