The Mystery Revealed, Christ is Enough, so Walk in Newness of Life
As we near the end of Paul’s letter to the Colossians, we come across his final greeting, which contains the salutations of many of Paul’s companions and co-workers in the ministry. This list of names and descriptions may seem meaningless to you as a 21st century reader, however, within them lies an important and invaluable truth and lesson.
Reading through the New Testament and seeing the many letters Paul wrote and exciting adventures he undertook throughout the book of Acts, it’s easy to focus only on Paul and attribute all his success in ministry and mission work just to him. However, the truth is that he was surrounded by an army of helpers. Without these humble servants we would not have the majority of the New Testament. The letters to the Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, and Thessalonians would not have reached their intended audience and thus, would not have been copied and preserved for future generations. The pastor and personal letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon would never have made it to their recipients and great books of history like the gospel of Luke and book of Acts would never have been written. So while Paul was a mighty man in the faith and accomplished much for the kingdom, he would never have been able to leave the lasting impact that he did without the help, assistance, and support of these often under recognized heroes of the faith.
But who were these men? And what’s so special about them? I’m sure that not all Paul’s helpers and assistants are mentioned in the Bible, however, we are given a handful of names at the end of Colossians that gives us a small picture of who these men were. There was nothing special about these guys, in fact some of them had some pretty unremarkable pasts. So let’s take a look at these men and see what we can learn from their stories.
“Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts, and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you of everything that has taken place here. Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, welcome him), and Jesus who is called Justus. These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me. Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas.”
We have an eclectic group of men here. All of them were held in high esteem by Paul, who called them his “fellow servants in the Lord”—the highest commendation Paul gave. Among this group were men like Tychicus, Aristarchus, Epaphras, and Luke who stood with Paul through the thick and the thin and even spent time in voluntary imprisonment on Paul’s behalf. In fact, Tychicus was so faithful to Paul that he was entrusted with delivering most of Paul’s divinely inspired letters across the known world; this was no easy feat in the first century! Later, Tychicus was sent by Paul to relieve Titus and then later Timothy, thus taking over their ministries for a time. This reveals the strength of Tychicus’ character and maturity in the faith. He willing went wherever Paul sent him and was faithful in each task that was set before him, seeing them to completion. Oh, how we need more Tychicuses in the church today!
Aside from these spiritual giants listed among Paul’s fellow workers who seemed to do everything perfectly, there are a handful of other names of men who didn’t always do the right thing and who failed at some point in their lives. These men were Onesimus, Mark, and Demas. Onesimus was a former thief and runaway slave who became a champion of the gospel or as Paul put it, a “faithful and beloved brother.” Quite a turn around, if you ask me! Mark was the cousin of Barnabas who was infamous for deserting Paul on his first missionary journey. This didn’t go over so well with Paul, nevertheless, we see here a restoration between the two men, and Mark is welcomed and promoted as an honored guest. Last, we have Demas. Oh Demas! He was running strong in the faith and had all the outward signs of a strong Christian, but at the end of the day he was eventually lured away by the pleasures and false promises of the world. We know from 2 Timothy that Demas eventually left Paul, the ministry, and the faith to pursue his love for the world. Not a very wise trade off.
So there you have it. Three men with very different stories but all bearing the mark of unfaithfulness at one point in their lives. However, the difference is that Onesimus and Mark turned from their sin and began or returned to faithful service while Demas did the opposite. He was initially faithful but then later on left it all for the world. Of these three men and their testimonies, who do you want to most resemble?
From Tychicus to Demas, the names listed at the end of Colossians can teach us that everyone can be used by God. Whether you’re a runaway slave and thief like Onesimus, a deserter like Mark, or someone like Tychicus who doesn’t seem to have any bad history, you can be used to faithfully serve God and make a lasting impact on His kingdom. It doesn’t matter what you do, where you’ve come from or what you’ve done in the past, as long as you remain faithful to the Word and God’s service you can do mighty things for the kingdom. So let us take heart and be encouraged that the same God who used a runaway slave and former deserter can and will use us. And may we, therefore, strive to become faithful servants in the Lord.
“Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.
Enter into the joy of your master.”