What It Means to Be One of You
A few years ago, I heard a sermon that recent events have brought to the forefront of my memory. It was a rare occasion when I was unable to take notes, but I have never forgotten the title of that message. It was called “What It Means to Be One of You,” and it was taken from the last twelve verses in Colossians. I do not recall all of what was said that day, but I would like to borrow the title of that sermon to express a few thoughts of my own.
The Epistle to the Colossians was written while Paul was in a Roman prison. In the letter, Paul dealt with the growing problems of Gnosticism, Jewish legalism, and pagan mysticism in the church. He also stresses two important doctrinal principles: the nature of Christ’s church (Col. 1:18, 24-25; 3:11,15) and the preeminent sufficiency of Christ in all areas of life (Col. 1:15-20, 2:2-15).
At the end of his doctrinal discourse, the Apostle Paul mentions the names of nine other believers in his parting words to the Church at Colossae. Little is known regarding most of these individuals, but the Holy Spirit deemed it appropriate and necessary to record their names in the pages of Scripture. Because all of God’s Word is profitable for us, there is something to learn from this diverse group of individuals:
“All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you, who is a beloved brother, and a faithful minister and fellowservant in the Lord: whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that he might know your estate, and comfort your hearts; with Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They shall make known unto you all things which are done here (Col. 4:7-9).”
Tychicus – Although he is mentioned several times in Scripture as Paul’s trusted scribe and messenger (Eph. 6:21,24; II Tim. 4:12), relatively little is known of this man. He was a Gentile convert that Paul took with him to the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 20:4), and was apparently a capable leader who had filled in for Titus on Crete (Tit. 3:12). With the exception of the final verse, the Epistle to the Colossians had been penned by Tychicus, and he was charged with delivering the letter to the church in Colossae.
Onesimus – He was a runaway slave who, after arriving in Rome, had encountered Paul and was led to the glorious saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. He was returning to Colossae with Paul’s trusted friend Tychicus, presumably because the journey was too dangerous to make alone (because of slave catchers). He carried with him a letter from Paul that was addressed to the master he had defrauded (The Epistle to Philemon). Though he had been at once unprofitable to his master, he now stood on equal footing with Philemon in the presence of the Greatest Master of All.
“Aristarchus my fellowprisoner saluteth you, and Marcus… and Jesus, which is called Justus, who are of the circumcision. These only are my fellowworkers unto the kingdom of God, which have been a comfort unto me (Col. 4:10-11).”
Aristarchus – He was a Jewish traveling companion of Paul and no stranger to the trouble that followed the apostle: he had been seized in Ephesus by a riotous mob (Acts 19:29), and was now in prison with Paul in Rome (Col. 4:10). He was a man who was faithful both to the mission and to his friend – particularly in hours of peril and need.
Marcus (John Mark) – Mark had been led to the Lord by Simon Peter (I Pet. 3:15), and was a man who understood the meaning of restitution. He had, at one time, fallen out of favor with Paul because of his desertion in Perga during Paul’s first missionary journey (Acts 13:13). His uncle Barnabas gave him a second chance, however (Acts 15:39), and he was at some point returned to Paul’s favor – first as an acceptable companion in Rome (Phi. 24, Col. 4:10), and later as a one whose ministry was profitable to Paul in the apostle’s final days (II Tim. 4:11). He also penned the Gospel account that bears his name.
Jesus (called Justus) – Nothing is known of this man, except that he was a Jewish believer who was noted for his righteous living and exemplary testimony (as evidenced by the name used to address him).
“Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis (Col. 4:12-13).”
Epaphras – He was the pastor of the Colossian church (Col. 1:7), and was visiting Paul in Rome at the time that the Epistle was written (Col. 4:12). He had been saved under Paul’s ministry while traveling in Ephesus, and had evidently begun the church in Colossae upon returning to his hometown. He was a fervent prayer warrior, who had a singular love for the church at Colossae and the same desires for her people as the Apostle Paul himself.
“Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you (Col. 4:14).”
Luke – Of all of Paul’s traveling companions, few were as faithful as the beloved physician. He was with Paul at the end when all others were gone (II Tim. 4:11), and he served as the recorder of the apostle’s missionary journeys. He was used by God to write more of the New Testament than any other known penman, and was an accomplished doctor and historian. He was not a preacher, but an incredibly talented layman that was used to encourage the Apostle Paul in a mighty way.
Demas – He was a man with incredible potential, who had shown great commitment to the Lord’s work (Phi. 24) before abandoning Paul and falling in love with the world (II Tim. 4:10). He is a poignant reminder that even the strongest servant of Christ can drift away from the ministry when he loses his first love.
“And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it (Col. 4:17).”
Archippus – He was the son of Philemon, a “preacher-boy” trained by Epaphras, and the pastor of the church that met in his father’s house (Phi. 2). Because Paul had never been to Colossae (Col. 2:1), he had never met this young man. But Epaphras had no doubt prayed for Archippus diligently, and had spoken highly of him to Paul. Paul’s words of encouragement to the young Colossian minister strongly resemble his charge to Timothy, the apostle’s own protege and beloved son in the ministry (II Tim. 4:5).
“The salutation by the hand of me Paul. Remember my bonds. Grace be with you. Amen (Colossians 4:7-18).”
Paul – Little needs to be said of Paul, who was the most visible member of the church. He was a man filled with zeal and committed to the furtherance of Christ’s Kingdom. At the time of this epistle’s writing, he was also the brother of the Colossian church who was most in need of prayer and encouragement.
In reading through this list of names, it becomes very evident how different these men were from one another. Tychicus was a Gentile; Justus was a Jew. Aristarchus and Luke were consistently faithful; John Mark and Demas were at times guilty of desertion. The church at Colossae and the companions of Paul were comprised of people from all walks of life. And looking over this list at the end of Colossians, there is nothing apparent that could have united them – except for Christ.
Paul had written earlier in the epistle that Christ was the Head of the Church, and it was under this Headship that these men had become a body – a cohesive organism working toward a singular purpose. Nowhere is this more evident to me than in the phrase that Paul uses to describe both Onesimus (the criminal and runaway slave) and Epaphras (the diligent minister of the church): he referred to both of these men as “one of you.” When Christ became the preeminent Master in the lives of these believers, they all came to stand on equal soil. Not one man was elevated above another, because Christ had been elevated above them all. Because of the Gospel, these diverse individuals now shared in one magnificent fellowship. They were “fellowservants” (Col. 4:7, literally “bondslaves”), redeemed to the same God; “fellowprisoners” (Col. 4:10), under the same blessed reproach; and “fellowworkers” (Col. 4:11), laboring for the same cause.
From the runaway slave to the educated physician, this body was united by their love for the Savior; and His amazing love had transformed their hearts in such a dynamic way that they had also learned to love one another. Nothing in this world brings more glory to God than a church that functions as one body, united under the Headship of Christ. This is the church as Jesus intended it to be. And this is what it means to be one of you.
© 2010 Jeremy Austin Watts; title from a sermon by C. Scott Pauley