Colossians 4.7-18: Final Greetings

4.7Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. 8I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. 9He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here.

10My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.) 11Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me. 12Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. 13I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis. 14Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings. 15Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. 16After 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. 17Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.” 18I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.

Tychicus carries the letter to the city of Colossae (v. 7), though he serves as more than just a courier.  He will also “encourage their hearts” (v. 8 ) presumably elaborating on the letter’s content where necessary, as well as reporting further on Paul and Timothy’s circumstances.  Onesimus, a runaway slave for which the letter of Philemon was written, will aid Tychicus in this role (v. 9).  By referring to Onesimus as “a faithful and dear brother” (v. 9), “Paul clearly treats Onesimus as on the same level as his trusted associates Epaphras and Tychicus—a quite astonishing thing to do in light of Onesimus’s state as a slave.  Here we find a practical example of the principle that in the new creation there is “no . . . slave or free” (Col 3:11)” (Moo, Colossians, 336).

It’s hard to know what to make of the instructions about Mark (if he comes to you, welcome him”; v. 10).  Perhaps the church knew of the rift that Paul and Mark once had (Acts 15.37-39), and Paul wanted to make sure that they would not treat him differently, for the two had reconciled their differences (cf. 2 Timothy 4.11; Moo, 339).  But beyond such speculation, it’s hard to say.

Verse 11 contrasts Aristarchus, Mark, and Justus with other Jews in the area: “They are the only Jews among my fellow workers for the Kingdom of God.”  This verse most likely expresses Paul’s disappointment that many of his fellow Jews have failed to accept the gospel message and carry out its message to the Gentiles.  But these Jews were a great comfort to Paul, whether in their ministry efforts or in caring for Paul in prison, or both (Moo, 343).

Paul goes to great lengths to praise and commend Epaphras (vv. 12-13), the Church’s founder (1.7).  In fact, much of the commendation of Epaphras matches Paul’s own desires and efforts for the Colossian community (compare 4.12-13 with 1.3, 9, 23, 28-29).  Both Paul and Epaphras earnestly desire for the believers to be “fully assured” (v. 12).  The desire is that the believers would become spiritually mature, grounded in the faith, and fully know Christ—his person, work, and grace.  That is, “that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ” (Col 2.2; Moo, 345).

Paul then asks that the Colossians greet the neighboring church of Laodicea (v. 15) and requests that the two churches exchange letters (v. 16).  This suggests that Paul’s letters were not purely situation specific and thus, at least in this case, applicable to more than one community.  Some have suggested that the Letter to Laodicea is what we know today as “Ephesians,” which is plausible; though, the Letter to Laodicea may also have been lost (just as some correspondence between Paul and the Corinthians has been lost; see 1 Cor 5.9; 2 Cor 2.2-4; 7.8, 12).

We don’t receive any indication of what type of work Archippus was supposed to do (v. 17). Paul likely brings it to the community’s attention in order to provide some accountability and to ensure that the work would in fact be completed.

As was typical in ancient letter writing, Paul takes up the pen from the scribe to place his “signature” on the letter (v. 18; so 1 Corinthians 16:21; Galatians 6:11; Colossians 4:18; 2 Thessalonians 3:17; Phlm 19).  He then asks that the believers remember his imprisonment and that God’s grace be upon them.

This concludes our commentary on Colossians.  I want you to know that we have worked through over 650 pages of scholarship.  Thanks for sticking with it.  We’ll review next.

Grace be with you,

NDS

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