As the apostle brings his Epistle to the Colossians to a close, he wants to mention those who have been his helpers in a variety of ways. Paul valued his friends and companions and seemed always, except in a few cases, to have colleagues with him during his missionary journeys. He was very seldom alone. In this final paragraph, he mentions eleven people in addition to himself. It teaches us that in the work of the Lord there is a vast variety of individual gifts, as found in 1 Corinthians chapters 12 to 14, but, at the same time, the necessity for united action. Some of Paul’s companions are well known, others are virtually unknown. There are rich and poor, public and private, Jew and Gentile, but all with an important part to play. It gives an illustration of the interpersonal relations expounded in chapter 3 verse 5 to chapter 4 verse 6.
Tychicus and Onesimus are the bearers of Paul’s letter to Colossae, and perhaps the one to Ephesus. He is appreciative of their help and warmly commends them.
Tychicus, vv. 7, 8
Tychicus is mentioned five times in the New Testament.1 Equally, there are five main things said about him. He was:
Onesimus, v. 9
Onesimus is mentioned twice in the New Testament.2 He was perhaps a prison worker. There are three main things said about him.
Seven different co-workers are mentioned. Five of these are also mentioned in Philemon. The two omitted are Barnabas and Jesus Justus. It is good to have fellowship in the work of the Lord. The apostle used his co-workers for a variety of purposes, e.g., he sent Timothy to Thessalonica, 1 Thess. 3. 5, ‘to know [their] faith’.
Aristarchus, v. 10
Aristarchus is mentioned five times in the New Testament, as given below. He was a Thessalonian who was with Paul at Ephesus on his third missionary journey and was exposed to real danger, Acts 19. 29. He accompanied Paul to Asia and Judea from Macedonia, 20. 4, and was with Paul during his treacherous journey to Rome, 27. 2. He became his fellow prisoner, Col. 4. 10, and fellowlabourer, Philem. 24. He was presumably imprisoned with Paul on reaching Rome. Alternatively, the term may be figurative, indicating ‘in captivity to Christ’.3 He salutes the Colossians, v. 10.
Marcus, v. 10
He is called ‘Marcus’, his Latin name, three times,4 Mark five times,5 and John, his Jewish name, once, Acts 13. 13. His mother’s home was open for believers, 12. 12-17. He was with Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey, twelve to fourteen years before the reference here, but turned back, 13. 13. He was recovered, perhaps through his relative, Barnabas, who was his uncle or cousin, and became profitable again, 2 Tim. 4. 11, and wrote the Gospel of the unfailing Servant. His relationship to Barnabas was, perhaps, the reason for the dissension between Barnabas and Paul, Acts 15. 36-41. The assembly at Colossae had ‘received commandments’ concerning him and were exhorted to receive him if he came to them.
Barnabas, v. 10
Barnabas is referred to twenty-nine times in the New Testament, but only receives a passing mention here. His name means ‘on of consolation [or rest]’, Acts 4. 36. He was a native of Cyprus and a constant companion of Paul in the early days of his ministry.
Jesus Justus, v. 11
He was a Jewish helper. This is all we know of him unless Acts chapter 18 verse 7 is another reference. He seems to be one of three Jewish helpers along with Aristarchus and Mark. He also salutes the Colossians. Paul describes them as a comfort and fellow workers unto the Kingdom of God.
Epaphras, vv. 12, 13
Epaphras is referred to three times in the New Testament.6 He is one of three Gentile believers with Paul – Luke and Demas being the others – and a fellowprisoner in Christ Jesus, Philem. 23. Perhaps he is responsible for establishing the assembly at Colossae, Col. 1. 7, and those at Laodicea and Hierapolis. He has a close association with Colossae, v. 12; ‘one of you’– a tender link, cp. v. 9. He is the slave of Christ, v. 12, ‘servant’ (doulos). In his absence, he remembers and salutes the Colossians.
The prayers of Epaphras, v. 12 ‘Praying is working’.7
Paul bears testimony to his ‘great zeal’, his fervour of spirit and untiring interest, v. 13. He may have heard him pray. The unselfishness of his interest is seen in that he prays, ‘for you … Laodicea… Hierapolis’. He had a large heart, cp. 2 Cor. 6. 11.
Luke, v. 14
Luke is mentioned three times in the New Testament.10 He was Paul’s personal physician and faithful companion during his missionary journeys – note the ‘we’ sections in Acts.11 He was the outstanding Gentile writer of the New Testament contributing around twenty-five percent of its content.
Demas, v. 14
Demas is mentioned three times in the New Testament.12 He sends his greetings to Colossae along with Luke. He had been a ‘fellow labourer’ but forsook Paul ‘having loved this present world [age or “opinions, maxims, hopes, thoughts, expectations” Trench]’, 2 Tim. 4. 10, cp. 1 John 2. 15; Jas. 4. 4.
He instructs them to salute, that is, pay respect to, receive joyfully, the brethren in Laodicea, v. 15. They were also to salute Nymphas, v. 15,13 and ‘the church which is in his house’. He was using his resources for the Lord.14
He exhorts them to read the scriptures, v. 16 – ‘read’ is repeated three times emphasizing its importance. We might note that the Lord indicates its necessity by asking ‘have ye not read?’, seven times in all.15 The Colossians had to read this Epistle, cause it to be read in the church of the Laodiceans, and read the Epistle from Laodicea – a reciprocated responsibility. There is no specific record of that Epistle, unless it is Ephesians.
Archippus, v. 17
There is a final message to Archippus referred to twice in the New Testament.16 He had to ‘take heed to [discern, keep an eye on] the ministry’, recognizing that it was a gift given in the sphere of the Lordship of Christ. He had to ‘fulfil it’, see verse 12 – minister liberally to the assembly.
Paul’ salutation, v. 18
The apostolic signature – ‘the hand of me, Paul’ – gives authentication to the Epistle, having dictated it to an amanuensis, cp. 1 Cor. 16. 21; 2 Thess. 3. 17. He concludes with an apostolic request – ‘remember my bonds’.17 He must have been so restricted, yet such bonds get only a brief mention!
The apostolic salute is ‘grace be with you’,18 and farewell, ‘Amen’, concluding the Epistle.
Acts 20. 4; Eph. 6. 21; Col. 4. 7; 2 Tim. 4. 12; Titus 3. 12. He was from Asia and accompanied Paul on his third missionary journey when he was going to Jerusalem via Asia from Macedonia, Acts 20. 4. He seemed to be the bearer of the letters to both the Ephesians, 6. 21, 22, and Colossae, 4. 7, 8. Paul also sent him to Ephesus, 2 Tim. 4. 12, and, possibly, to Crete, Titus
Col. 4. 9; Philem. 10.
Other fellow prisoners include: Epaphras, Philem. 23, and Andronicus and Junia, Rom. 16. 7.
Col. 4. 10; Philem. 24; 1 Pet. 5. 13.
Acts 12. 12, 25; 15. 37, 39; 2 Tim. 4. 11.
Col. 1. 7; 4. 12; and Philem. 23.
F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Colossians, William B. Eerdmans, 1984.
Luke 13. 24; Col. 1. 29; 4. 12; 1 Cor 9. 25, ‘triveth for the mastery’; John 18. 36; 1 Tim. 6. 12; 2 Tim. 4. 7; and here.
‘Filled’, 1. 9; ‘fulfil’, 1. 25; 4. 17; ‘complete’, 2. 10; 4. 12.
Col. 4. 14; 2 Tim. 4. 11; and Philem. 24, as Lucas ‘my fellow labourer’.
Acts 16. 10-17; 20. 5 to 21. 18; 27. 1 to 28. 16.
Col. 4. 14; 2 Tim. 4. 10; and Philem. 24.
His only mention in the New Testament.
Cp. Acts 12. 12-17; 1 Cor. 16. 19; Rom. 16. 5.
Matt. 12. 3-5; 19. 4; 22. 31; Mark 12. 10, 26; Luke 6. 3.
n Philem. 2 as a ‘fellow soldier’, perhaps the son of Philemon.
See also 4. 3; Phil. 1. 7; Eph. 6. 20; Philem. 10.
Cp. 1 Tim 6. 21; 2 Tim. 4. 22.