PAUL’S FINAL WORDS TO COLOSSE
Col. 4:15-18 “Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house. And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea. And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it. The salutation by the hand of me Paul. Remember my bonds. Grace be with you. Amen.”
We will begin this mediation by looking at Paul’s,
SALUTATION TO THE BRETHREN AT LAODICEA
He says, “salute the brethren which are in Laodicea.” This city is only twelve miles from Colossae. There were several Churches in this area. Paul had never been to Colosse but he had spent time in Ephesus. Laodicea was also in the area and he knows Christians or knows of them there. So he says, “salute the brethren which are in Laodicea.” Paul Loved God’s people wherever he found them regardless if he had personally met them. There was a battle for the minds going on in his day as it is in ours. He makes personal contact with these Christians even though he may not mention them by name. To know Paul and to know he knows who you are, and where you are, and the kinds of spiritual problems you are facing, puts iron in your spiritual legs to stand for the truth without wavering. It is a blessing to see how broad Paul’s vision is and how interested he is in all Christians. If we do not watch it we live and die in a very small world and resist someone telling us that there are Christians in other places who are our brothers and sisters in Christ. If they do not agree with us (there must be agreement on the plan of salvation) on what we consider an important point of the faith, we often go so far as to say, “Well, I’m not for sure, if they do not agree on this (whatever it is), that they are really saved.” I am not saying that we should associate with or endorse doctrinal error in another. This letter we are studying has urged Christians in this local church to take a stand and not allow anyone to put them under law. Paul says, “enjoy your freedom in Christ. You are not under the law. Don’t let anyone judge you in meat, or drink of respect of a holyday, etc.” Now if the Colossians took a stand on this, and I believe they did after receiving this instructive epistle, they would no doubt offend those who were trying to lead them astray. Paul does not judge all these who are wrong as being unsaved. So there is a Scriptural separation within the family of God. But it never justifies us treating a disagreeing brother/sister as an unsaved person.
One of the problems I have seen among Christians is the demand they make on others, once they see a particular truth (no matter what it is), especially in the area of separation. It may have taken the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ twenty years to bring us to the place where we were willing to accept what God had been saying all along. But once we see it, we do not want to give the other brother five minutes to make up his mind! If he hesitates, we bash him with our clandestine theology and question whether he is even saved. We say to our selves, “If he were spiritual he would discern this truth.” But when we stand up in church and give our pious testimony we go back twenty or thirty years before we embraced that idea and we leave the impression that we were saved all that time without standing for what we believe right now. Paul said, “Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea.” Amen, Paul! Then he says,
We do not know who Nymphas was. Bishop Hadley Moule says he was “the leading Christian there.” He also has a footnote in his commentary that says, “We may fairly assume that he was the Philemon of Laodicea.” Lockyer says of him, “A believer of Laodicea or Colosse to whom Paul sent a loving greeting. He was an influential person whose house was used as a meeting place for Christians.”
John Gill says, “ And Nymphas; which some, unskillful in the Greek language, have taken for a woman; whereas it is the name of a man, as the following words show; and is a contraction of Nymphios, or Nymphidios, or Nymphodoros.”
Someone else has suggested that he was the son of Philemon. The reason that I have quoted several good scholars is to show that where the Bible makes a statement without an explanation there are many speculations. We will just have to learn from what it does not say. There are things that we believe without a need for explanation. No matter how much we would like to go further with a statement of Scripture, it is better left where it is. The next statement of Paul is important:
SALUTE THE CHURCH IN HIS HOUSE
The word “church” translates “ekklesia” and this word is a compound word made up of two words, “ek” which means, “out of” and “kaleo” which means, “to call, to utter a loud voice.” When you put these words together it means, “a called out assembly.” It is used in Acts (Acts 19:32, 41) to describe a town meeting and it is called an assembly. It came to be used in the New Testament of “an assembly of Christians gathered for worship in a religious meeting.” The entomology of the word makes it necessary, if we believe in verbal inspiration, to say that a New Testament “ekklesia” can always meet to assemble. In the case of our text it met in Nymphas’ house, i.e., at a definite location.
Our Church burned on January 8, 1978 on a Sunday morning. It was a cold windy day. The winds were blowing that morning at about 40 miles an hour. A heater in the attic of our church is where the fire began. I had gone to my office about 4:30 a.m. that Sunday morning to study and pray. The first I knew of the fire was when the fire department showed up at Church knocking the doors down. We had built offices on the church and the heating system was separate from the main system and it was the same for the electric wiring in the offices. So the scent of the fire did not come into my office and the electricity did not go off when it did in the rest of the building. I heard a commotion in the building and went out to discover smoke all over the place and firemen everywhere. I went back into my office and put on my overcoat, picked up a tape recorder, my bible, and a set of KJV tapes I used to listen to the Bible. I thought, “this fire will never make it to my office.” Well, it did. There were no fire walls in the attic and the 40 mile an hour wind, once the fire broke through to the outside, served as a wind tunnel and went wild. I lost 23 years of accumulated books, and all my sermon outlines, most of which could not be replaced. I’m trying my best to get your sympathy!!! It was a total loss. But it did not burn the new sign with the marquee that stood in front of the building. I put these words on the sign the next day, “The Church did not burn, just the building.” The Lord blessed miraculously and we were able to rebuild for the insurance and reenter the building on July 4th of that year. The week before we entered the new building I changed the sign to read, “The Church that did not burn will meet again here this Sunday.”
I said a lot to say this. And it is important. A New Testament Church can meet in a locality. It can meet in its own building. It can meet in a home. It can meet out in the forest like many Christians did in Russia during the days when it was unlawful to meet and worship. The church is local and it is not invisible. I know that not everyone will agree with that. But I believe it is a sound doctrine based on the etymology and use of the word in the New Testament. You say, “What about in heaven?” Well, first of all, that is not now. Second, what about it? Will it be assembled and visible then? I’m going to leave it right there. Next Paul says,
CIRCULATE THE EPISTLES
Paul says, “And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.” The words “is read” translate “anaginosko” and means, “to distinguish between, to recognize, to know accurately, to acknowledge, to read.” It is an aorist tense verb which is referring to the event of reading with understanding or to read until you know accurately.” When that event is completed, “cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans.” The word “cause” translates “poieo” and means, “to make, to carry out, to execute.” It is an imperative verb which is a command that expresses urgency. I believe that Paul recognized that what he wrote was the Word of God (1 Thess. 2:13) and it was needed in all the churches that they might know God’s will on the subjects dealt with.
We have all the books of the Bible brought together in one volume. I use only the KJV and the text from which it is translated. The reason I do this is that I do not believe that a translation of Scripture can be better than the text from which it is translated. If you have a faulty text, you have a faulty translation. I believe that the Greek texts used to ATTEMPT TO CORRECT the King James Bible are full of errors. Now don’t write and try to correct me on this, it is too late to save me on this subject. I have studied the manuscript evidence and am thoroughly convinced that this is the right position. There are many good books out there that have thoroughly dealt with this issue if you are interested. Which Bible? and True or False? are both books written By David Otis Fuller and can be obtained in most local book stores. I do not endorse all the books written on the KJV. Some are written in the wrong spirit and intellectually dishonest. Next Paul makes,
AN EXHORTATION TO ARCHIPPUS
John Gill says this name was common among the Greeks. He suggests that Archippus was co-pastor with Epaphras who was in Rome with Paul at the time of the writing. Others suggest that he was the first Bishop of Laodicea. This is based on speculation and tradition. What we know is that Paul said, “say to Archippus that he take heed to the ministry . . .” The words, “take heed” translate “poieo” and mean, “to make, to carry out, to execute, to see, discern, of the bodily eye.” It is a present active imperative verb. The present tense means to keep on watching the flock with the eye, and I am saying this to you as a command, because it is urgent in the light of the Gnostics who are trying to infiltrate the Church there with their heresy. The urgency of Paul in this may indicate that Archippus is intimidated by the Gnostics. They were brilliant in knowledge. You see, brilliant men can be wrong. They need to come out of the intellectual philosophical clouds they have created to live in, and accept the simple truths of the Bible. We must not be intimidated by so-called scholarship when it is against the plain teaching of the Word of God.
The words “ministry which thou hast in the Lord” speak of a call of God to the ministry. God calls preachers. You say, “Preacher, how do you know that you are called?” My answer is that you will know it. The words “thou hast received” translates “paralambano” and means, “to accept or acknowledge one to be such as he professes to be.” It is an aorist active indicative verb. This means that at a point of time in the past (aorist tense) that Archippus had voluntarily responded (active voice) to God’s call to the ministry.
Paul adds, “that thou fulfill it.” The word “fulfill” translates “pleroo” and means, “to fill to the full.” It means to run the race, to finish the course, and to complete the job leaving nothing out that should have been done. Paul gives personal testimony to the fact that he practiced what he preached in this passage in 2 Timothy 4:7 where he said, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” A preacher may not do all he sets out to do in his ministerial life. The reason being, he may have wanted to do some things God didn’t call him to do. But he can do what God calls him to do and be faithful until the end. God’s power and gifts are given with the call. No one can say, I didn’t finish what God wanted me to do because He didn’t give me the wisdom and power to do it. If God tells you to fly, He’ll give you wings. Amen! Paul is saying to Archippus, “God called you, you acknowledged the call, and committed yourself to it, now do it.” Then,
PAUL GIVES HIS PERSONAL AUTOGRAPH
He says, “The salutation by the hand of me Paul.” In commenting on this Bishop Hadley Moule says, “Then at last the Apostle takes the pen from the hand of his amanuensis, to add the accustomed autograph (cp. Rom. 16:22; 2 Thess. 3:17) at the close, the token of affection and the guarantee of authenticity.”
There are no personal autographs of the original Scriptures or any signatures of Paul. All we have are copies of originals. But we do have the promise of the preservation of the Word of God. Psalm 12:6-7 says, “The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.” Maybe the reason that God did not allow the originals to remain is because we have a tendency to worship the LETTER, even THE TRANSLATION. Then Paul says,
REMEMBER MY BONDS
Bishop Moule continues, “As he does so (lifts his hand to personally sign the epistle) the long chain which fastens him to the warder makes itself felt and heard; and with this comes up to his soul all that it means, the afflictions of the Gospel, the glory of being the suffering witness to his Lord; and the Colossians shall remember it too, and help him in it with their prayers.”
I have suffered so little for the gospel. When I come to a passage like this and realize the cost in suffering by those who got this Bible to me, I want to bow and kiss their feet as I thank the Lord who called and empowered them to do it. Then finally, Paul says,
GRACE BE TO YOU
This is really an appropriate way to end this book. It is all about grace. Guy King says about this final word, “One word remains, to round off his Kind Regards—a word that, as a matter of fact, holds the secret spring of all hope of Full Salvation—‘Grace be with you’. Almost all of Paul’s letters begin and end with it—Romans just ends with it. Is Hebrews by him? Anyway, it bears his ending, this ‘Grace.’” – Guy King in Crossing The Border, An Expositional Study of Colossians.
Grace is one of the greatest words in all the Bible. It is also one of the most abused and misinterpreted words. I praise the Lord for the day I began to understand grace as a Teacher in addition to the means by which I was saved. There were many years as a fundamental Baptist that I did not trust grace as a teacher of holiness. I thought that grace needed the help of law. I thank the Lord that my view of grace has changed to complete trust in her (Grace, that beautiful lady) as the only teacher of holiness that produces a humble holiness and not a self-righteous arrogant one. I will end this meditation with the words of Paul in 2 Timothy 2:1, “Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”
May the Lord bless these words to our hearts.