September 14, 2014

The End

Colossians 4:15-18 Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. 16 After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea. 17 Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.” 18 I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.

Paul continues his personal closing remarks to the Colossians and he mentions the church of Laodicea. And in the Greek it says “greet my brothers.” Now Paul was not excluding women from his greeting. He personally greets Nympha and the church in her house. We are told there is neither male nor female, in Christ. Paul is simply using a term that is understood to cover both men and women.
Paul also mentioned Laodicea earlier in Col. 2:1, where it says:
2 I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally.
And also in verse 13 of chapter 4 where he noted Epaphras’ laboring for all the believers in the cities of Colosse, Laodicea and Hierapolis.
Laodicea is one of those cities that we know about, but not because they did something great for the Lord. It’s mentioned in the Book of Revelation, where the Spirit states this:
Revelation 3:14-16 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this: 15 ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I would that you were cold or hot. 16 ‘So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.
As Tychicus traveled east toward Colossae, Laodicea would have been the first city he came to.
The House Church
There was a group of believers meeting at Nympha’s house. It is quite possible that it was part of the Laodicean church because of the way it is written about in verse 15. It does not tell us that she was a leader of that church, but it simply acknowledges that she hosted a meeting of believers there. And it was not the only place where believers met, either. Her house was probably one of many houses where believers in Laodicea gathered to fellowship together. There are large churches today that meet, for instance, on Sunday morning, and then in the evening they break up into small groups in house churches. I don’t think the church of Laodicia could gather together in one particular place at the same time, but they certainly met in house churches throughout the city.
So what was Nympha doing? She was practicing hospitality. Do you realize that hospitality is one of the ways we can minister to people? She may not have even known everyone in the church, which means opening your home and heart to strangers. You can be a kingdom worker in this way. When you take the time to introduce yourself to visitors; when you invite people to your home or out to eat, when you open your home for Bible studies, for fellowship times; just like Nympha did, you are sharing your possessions for the advancement of God’s kingdom.
As an aside here, we’ve probably all been trained and conditioned to focus all our Christian activity around a building, rather than on other believers. Christians have called the building where they gather on Sundays “God’s house,” or “the Lord’s House” and we still hear that term used today. But God does not dwell in buildings made with human hands, rather He dwells in human hearts that have yielded their lives to Him. The church is not made out of wood and stone, it is made out of flesh and bone.
The early church met and fellowshipped in the homes of believers.
Romans 16:5 also greet the church that is in their house….
1 Corinthians 16:19 The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Prisca greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.
Philemon 1:2 and to Apphia our sister, and to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house:
So here is an interesting question… when did churches turn into buildings? A Russian Times news site had an article that said:
“Archaeologists have unearthed what they believe to be the first Christian church ever built. It’s located in a cave underneath the Saint Georgeous Church in Rihab in northern Jordan – where it’s thought early Christians fled to escape persecution.
Built in 230 AD, Saint Georgeous is believed to be the oldest “proper” church in the world.”
The Church in the first century did come together on occasions in large numbers (Acts 4:23-24,31, 12:12). Those meetings would have required someone with a very large house or someone with access to a large facility. Most of the meetings we read about in the book of Acts, are smaller gatherings – for instance where believers would come together for the breaking of bread in their homes (Acts 2:46) – or where an individual might gather a with a few believers for fellowship.
I’ve often thought about some of the super large and extravagant buildings that are used by some church groups. You’ve probably heard of the Crystal Cathedral, for instance. And I’m not in any way endorsing what they taught there. Construction on the Crystal Cathedral began in 1977 and was completed in 1980, at a cost of $18 million. The building was constructed using over 10,000 rectangular panes of glass and houses one of the largest organs in the world. The church’s board filed for bankruptcy October 18, 2010. They had $43 million in debt.
There’s certainly something to be said for churches that meet in homes.
Moving on, Col 4:16 says:
Colossians 4:16 And 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.
This is the only place in the New Testament where Paul commands that a letter is read by a group of believers, who aren’t the party to whom it was addressed.
It seems that the public reading of Paul’s letters was necessary when the churches met together because some of those believers would have had difficulty in reading it for themselves. In I Tim 4:13 and Acts 20:20, the apostle also commands that Scripture be read publicly. Today, we can read the Bible online, or your computer can actually read it to you; and you can read it in almost any hotel or motel. But in the first century, there were only a handful of authoritative letters circulating among the churches. So Paul’s commands to read his letters publicly and to pass his letters around, helped the believers to hear and learn the Word.
But here is a strange phenomenon. Even though the Bible is everywhere around the world, why is it that so few people spend time trying to read it, meditate on it, and understand it?
Paul mentions also that there was a letter of his that was coming from Laodicea. In all likelihood, Paul refers to the book of Ephesians. The oldest manuscripts of epistle to Ephesians do not contain the words “in Ephesus” in Ephesians 1:1, meaning that it was a letter meant for several churches. Tradition links the letter with the city of Ephesus but the name of that city nowhere exists throughout the text.
The letter of Colossians was to be read by the Laodiceans – it was not written to them, but it was for them; they would benefit greatly from its teaching – and of course it is the same for us. Colossians wasn’t written to us, but it was written for us. We can greatly benefit from what Paul says in that letter.
Colossians 4:17 And say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.”
Archippus is called the “fellow-soldier” of Paul and Timothy. According to Phil 1:1,2 he may have been a member of Philemon’s household.
He is mentioned twice in the New Testament (Col 4:17, Philemon 2) and both times have to do with the Colossian church. Since Paul wrote these words to be read to the church publicly, it is possible that this verse not only served as a personal reminder to Archippus, but it was also a public acknowledgment and confirmation to the church that Archippus was tasked with a certain ministry, and that the church should encourage him in that ministry.
The word Paul used is διακονίαν which is where we get the word for deacon. The first deacons were chosen in Acts 6. The men who were picked were men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, and their ministry was to assist the Apostles in ministering to the new believers in the sharing of food.
So Paul tells Archippus, “Take heed” ie give it your undivided attention. It is in the imperative. Anyone who has a special ministry from the Lord needs to take heed and pay attention that they would be faithful in carrying out their mission. Pay attention to it, understand it, and do it.
Colossians 4:18 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my imprisonment. Grace be with you.
Paul picks up the pen to add some comments with his own hand. He does this only in four letters. We get an idea of why he did that, in 2 Thess:
2 Thessalonians 3:17 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand, and this is a distinguishing mark in every letter; this is the way I write.
Kings would use a seal on their official letters so people would know that the letter they were reading was official. For Paul, it was his personal handwriting that proved the letter was from him, and not a fake. There were probably letters circulating among the churches that claimed to be from Paul as we see in 2 Thess 2:1-2.
2 Thess 2:1-2 …that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us.
Remember my chains
This is the first and only place where Paul seems to ask for support because of his imprisonment. He asks for prayer for the spread of the Gospel (Col 4:3-4), but only in this one verse does he seem to ask for some kind of support.
Paul says remember my chains. It’s hard to imagine what the Apostle went through for the gospel. He was persecuted everywhere he went. He was thrown in jail, he was beaten and stoned. He wrote letters to churches with great difficulty. But the Gospel, through the writing of Paul and other New Testament writers has transformed millions of lives over the years. It is good for us to think about the cost of having the gospel in our hands. Remember my chains, Paul says. His chains should be a motivation for us to serve God, even in difficult circumstances.
Grace
Paul ends his letter to the Colossians with the statement: “Grace be with you.” He writes that at the end of all his letters. It’s more than just wishing someone well.
What is Grace? Grace is best described as “unmerited favor.” But what does that mean? It means that Jesus died on the cross for men and women who didn’t deserve to be reconciled to God. So Paul’s wish is that they would be blessed with God’s continued favor, and realize the full blessings and joy of salvation that God freely granted to them.
As a final note, as we read over Paul’s comments about his close friends, we see that these are all people who were willing to make sacrifices to follow Christ and are laboring in the ministry in one way or another.
It has been said that, “If in the course of life you have the privilege of having one true friend, you have been blessed beyond all measure.” Isn’t that true? Paul had some faithful friends who stayed by his side and labored with him for the gospel.
Proverbs 13:20 He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will suffer harm.
Once of the most important things we can do is to choose our friends very carefully. Are you blessed with close Christian friends, like the apostle Paul was? Are you a close and faithful friend to someone else? God created us with a need for close fellowship. If we don’t have that, then our relationship to God suffers. He designed us for fellowship, not only with Him, but with others.
I think all believers struggle with friendships; not only having good, close, Christian friends, but also being a good, close friend to others. And I don’t think that Paul’s relationship with his co-laborers in the gospel developed overnight. These close friendships developed over years, they developed through trials and tribulations together, through travels together, through prayer together, through laboring together, and through a common love for the Lord Jesus Christ.