Loving Lord, in pursuing you may I find you; in finding you may I serve you. May it be so today.
Read COLOSSIANS 4:2-18
2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
7 Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant[a] in the Lord. 8 I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our[b] circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. 9 He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here.
10 My 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.) 11 Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews[c] among my co-workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me. 12 Epaphras, 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. 13 I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis. 14 Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings. 15 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.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘For all the saints who from their labors rest, / who thee by faith before the world confessed, / thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest. / Alleluiah!’1
Urgently, Paul now returns to the subject of prayer, calling the Colossians to continual, watchful, thankful praying (v 2). Remember Jesus’ anguish in Gethsemane when he urges the disciples, ‘Watch and pray’.2 Perhaps there’s some anguish here too, as Paul specifically asks their prayers for his own ministry – not that he be set free but that the message might be set free with clarity (v 4) – and that outsiders might view us and hear us as messages too: ‘The goal is to bring out the best in others in conversation, not put them down, not cut them out’ (v 6, The Message).
Paul concludes with a roll call of ten names. What stories must lie behind each! Some are listed elsewhere, like Tychicus (v 7) and Aristarchus (v 10) who are long-standing companions.3 Some names shine out like Onesimus, the runaway slave,4 who is now called a ‘faithful and dear brother’ (v 9); and Mark, once rejected by Paul,5 but on his way to become a Gospel writer. Another Gospel writer, Luke, is identified as ‘the doctor’ (v 14) – the only place we learn this detail. Epaphras, who was singled out earlier,6 receives the longest description, as a wrestler in prayer for the Colossians. Demas, sadly, recalls a darker story: Paul wrote later, ‘Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me’.7 Little is known about Justus, Nympha, and Archippus but they each deserve to be on the roll call too.
In God’s kingdom no names will be ignored and sometimes headlines will be taken by the least likely. It reminds me of the Lamb’s book of life.8 As Paul pens his last words, we give thanks for what he teaches us through this letter.
Let’s marvel about the loyalty, faith, and restoration in the stories behind these names, as we give thanks for all the saints who from their labors rest.
Lord, thank you for this list of faithful believers. They challenge me to serve you alone, not the praise of others.
1 WW How, 1823–97 2 Matt 26:40,41 3 Acts 20:4–6 4 Phil 15,16 5 Acts 15:38 6 Col 1:7 7 2 Tim 4:10 8 Rev 21:27
Click here to sign up to receive the EXTRAs via email each quarter.
© 2023 Scripture Union U.S.A. All rights reserved. Reproduction of the whole or any part of the contents without written permission is prohibited.
Encounter with God is published in the USA under license from Scripture Union England and Wales, Trinity House, Opal Court, Opal Drive, Fox Milne, Milton Keynes, MK15 0DF.