DUNCAN/The Apostle Paul’s heart for his co-laborers in Christ
Turn with me in your Bibles to Colossians 4:7-18. This concluding word is among the richest in all the Apostle Paul's letters. In this epilogue, the Apostle Paul reveals something of his own heart, his concern for the church there at Colossae. The personal references tell you that this church is more to Paul than simply someone, or some body of people that he is interested in. He’s concerned about them individually. He gives individual words of encouragement and instruction and admonition. Though there are many items that we could explore, I'd like to point to four things that this passage teaches us about the character of the Apostle Paul, and which are transferable characteristics that God expects of all fulfilled Christians. First, the fulfilled Christian has a genuine concern for people. Secondly, the fulfilled Christian shares his ministry. Thirdly, the fulfilled Christian appreciates and supports his co-workers. Fourthly and finally, the fulfilled Christian is single-minded in his spiritual focus.
I. The Fulfilled Christian Has A Genuine Concern For People.
The fulfilled Christian has a genuine concern for people. Note that Paul not only remembers the names of these folks, he is genuinely concerned with them about their well-being. Notice why he says he is sending Tychicus and Onesimus. Look with me briefly at verse 8, “For I have sent him to you for this very purpose…” Paul says this is the reason why I am sending these men to you, “that you may know about our circumstances.” He repeats that idea again in verse 9, where he says when Tychicus and Onesimus arrive, “they will inform you about the whole situation here.” Now Paul is not telling this church about his situation because he wants them to have sympathy for him, but because he knows that they are concerned about him. Paul knows that these people are desperately interested in what his condition is: ‘Paul, are you going to be taken to trial? Paul, is there a possibility that you will be released?’ They have dozens of questions in their minds that they wanted answered about the beloved Apostle Paul whom had brought them the gospel. And Paul, even though in a letter where he is going to minister the majestic truth of our Lord and Savior Christ, he does not omit to deal with the human concerns that they had for him. Paul knew how to talk both about the great truths of scripture and those things that concern us as human beings created in the image of God. Notice also in verse 8 that he sends them this servant Tychicus because he wants to comfort and strengthen them. He says, “that he may encourage your hearts.” Paul is not only concerned to tell them about his condition, but also to encourage them in their own place. They may have been downcast, thinking that ‘if Paul is in prison, surely our imprisonment is coming soon.’ And yet, Paul wants to encourage them. Do we have that same kind of genuine concern for people?
II. The Fulfilled Christian Shares His Ministry.
Notice, secondly, in this passage, we learn that the fulfilled Christian shares his ministry.
Paul willingly shares his ministry, and he acknowledges those who work with him: fellow servants (v. 7), fellow prisoners (v. 10), and fellow workers (v. 11). The apostle Paul is no lone ranger. Yes, he is gifted by God in an extraordinary way, supernaturally by the Holy Spirit, but notice that his ministry, he sees, to be a corporate ministry. He is not off on his own. He is willing to share that ministry, and he is willing to acknowledge that other people play integral roles in the work that he does. Do you ever have a tendency to sort of protect your turf in your area of ministry? You've got something that you do well for the Lord and you don't want anybody else in on it. Not Paul. Paul is always sharing the ministry that he does, and acknowledging those who are involved in the ministry, acknowledging them with the glorious titles of fellow servants and fellow prisoners and fellow workers.
III. The Fulfilled Christian Appreciates And Supports His Co-Workers.
Notice also in the passage how Paul is sincere in his compliments to those who are working with him in the gospel. For example, in verse 7 he speaks of Tychicus as his beloved brother, his faithful servant. What a beautiful ascription to this man, what a beautiful word of appreciation of his character and his service. Notice also his words about Mark and Jesus Justus, two Jewish Christians who were serving with Paul. Of them, he says, ‘these Jewish Christians encouraged me and they worked along side me and I'm thankful to God for them’. Regarding Epaphras, he says that he is a bond servant of Christ. On the tombs of the prophets were the words, ‘Servant of the Lord.’ What better title could one have than to be called a servant of the Lord? Paul says that Epaphras is always faithfully laboring in prayers. He is a man of prayer. Think of being called a faithful servant of the Lord and a man of prayer by Paul. How encouraging was Paul as he labored. He doesn't have to hoard the glory to himself. He's desirous of encouraging those who work with him. Do we build up the saints by those types of words of encouragement? Paul did. And so ought we.
IV. The Fulfilled Christian Is Single-Minded In His Spiritual Focus.
Finally, we see in this passage that the fulfilled Christian is single-minded in his spiritual focus. Paul began this epistle in chapter 1, verse 2, initiating the theme of loyalty to Christ, faithfulness to Christ, and even in his epilogue he's still on the theme of loyalty and faithfulness and Christ. For instance, when you see what Paul says he appreciates about these various people, what comes immediately to mind? Faithfulness, commitment, and loyalty. In verse 7 he says what about Tychicus? He is faithful. He is loyal. What does he say about Onesimus? He is a faithful brother (v. 9). What does he say about Mark and Jesus Justus? They have been loyal to him (v. 11), even though the others of his own race have not. And what does he say about Epaphras? He has been loyal to his flock, praying for them fervently, even while he was away, with a deep concern for them (v. 13). Paul highlights the loyalty of each of these people, and it represents the single-mindedness not only with which he has written the book, but with which he conducted his life. May God, by His Holy Spirit, grant us a desire to promote loyalty to Christ amongst our co-laborers in the gospel, just as he did in the life and ministry of the Apostle Paul.