The materials at the close of Colossians reflect its origins as a letter. After final exhortations of a personal nature, the apostle greets his fellow servants in Christ, then concludes with a handwritten salutation. This section has the appearance of a miscellaneous medley; but it does have coherence when viewed in light of the letter's theme. It illustrates in practical ways the nature of Christian servanthood, which is a counterpart to Christ's sovereignty. The theme of ministry/servanthood is evoked by the apostle's own example of Christian concern and by the actions of other persons named.
The apostle requests the prayers of his readers, to the end that “God may open a door for our message” (4:3). Here we find prayer coupled with evangelistic concern. Both the apostle and his readers, in different circumstances, are joined in a common endeavor. Christianity is a missionary faith, and we define our mission in terms of evangelism. However, unless we witness in the power of the Holy Spirit, little can be accomplished for God. Thus we are aware of our need for personal and corporate prayer as we undertake the work of evangelism.
There is a dearth of prayer and evangelism in the modern church. This is not true worldwide, but it is true within American and European Christianity. A revival of prayer is desperately needed if the Gospel is to flourish and new converts are to be ushered into the kingdom of God. This is the challenge of God's Word.
The personal exchanges that follow (vv. 7-17) reflect Paul's close relations with his fellow workers. His strong personal support of them is evident in his words of commendation. He accords each of them respect as a dear brother (v. 7), a servant of Christ Jesus (v. 12), or dear friend (v. 14).
The apostle makes arrangements for a personal emissary (who presumably will carry his epistle to Colosse); presents greetings from other Christians who are with him or who are known to the readers; gives instructions regarding an exchange of letters with the church at Laodicea; and directs a personal word of encouragement to Archippus, who seems to be serving as pastor at Colosse.
Since Paul is in chains (vv. 3, 18) and unable to come to Colosse, he makes arrangements for Tychicus to serve as his personal emissary. Tychicus is to be accompanied by Onesimus, the runaway slave of Philemon. Both of them are described as Christian brothers, and Tychicus as a minister and fellow servant in the Lord (v. 7). Their mission is to bring to the Colossian church news about Paul. Paul expects that this news will encourage [their] hearts (v. 8).
Epaphras is the only person mentioned in Paul's final comments who is also named elsewhere in this letter. Both in 1:7 and 4:12, Paul identifies him as a Christian servant/minister. It seems clear that Epaphras has ministered at Colosse (see vv. 9, 12, which describe him and Onesimus as one of you). The context also suggests that he is not one of the Jews among [his] fellow workers (v. 11); therefore, he may have been a Gentile.
More important is the description of Epaphras's ministry on behalf of the Colossians and those at Laodicea and Hierapolis (v. 13). Though absent from them, he still is concerned for them. He is working hard (v. 13) in praying for them. The Greek word translated wrestling (agonizomenos) is the same verb Paul uses to describe his own ministry (1:29; 2:1).
Epaphras's ministry to these congregations was twofold. While present with them, he offered “God's grace in all its truth” (1:6-7). Now absent from them, he wrestles in prayer on their behalf. Having received Epaphras's report concerning them, Paul shares his prayer burden for them. He also writes this letter as a ministry of teaching and exhortation.
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