Read: Colossians 4:7-18
We began our study of the book of Colossians on July 17th and this Sunday (11 weeks later), we will conclude Paul’s letter. If the antiquity of the setting or the loftiness of the theology have made the letter feel a bit impersonal, these final 11 verses bring this divinely inspired book back down to reality. The list of names and description of relationships within these verses remind us that these books of the Bible we read and study every day were written, transcribed, transported, hand-delivered, and read aloud by real people. Sure, they had crazy names like Aristarchus and Tychicus, but they were as normal as you and me.
We would expect to find the things we read in these verses in any personal letter. “Tell so-and-so hello! Remind what’s-his-face that I love him!” What strikes me is that these personal references and acknowledgements are included in the divine revelation of the Scriptures. God wants me to know how Paul feels about these people just as much as He wants me to know the supremacy of Christ above all things (Col. 1). In other places in the Bible, we find commands to love one another, but here we see these commands in action with real people.
What is the spiritual significance of us knowing about Archippus or Demas? How does knowing Paul’s affection for these people shape the way we should live today? To put it succinctly: there is no such thing as a “lone ranger” Christian. We were made to do life together.
Bruce Milne in his book Life Together wrote, “Scripture [then] knows nothing of solitary religion. The salvation it witnesses to is emphatically one which has corporate dimensions. No man can be reconciled to God without being reconciled to the people of God within whom his experience of God’s grace immediately sets him.”
We often think of Paul as a renegade evangelist who wrote divinely inspired books of the Bible from inside the walls of prisons and had the gumption to call the apostle Peter out on his doctrine (Galatians 2:11-14), but the apostle Paul was not a vigilante or a renegade. He was surrounded by people who loved him and were on mission with him. We see it here in our text and in so many others (e.g. the book of Acts).
Those relationships were not always easy. Besides the riff previously mentioned between Paul and Peter, God also wanted us to know that Paul and John Mark’s relationship had major issues (Acts 15:36-39). Doing life together does not mean life will be easy. If it did, there would be no opportunity for genuine love and humility. Love is neither exemplified nor defined when it requires no self sacrifice. If we never disagree, we would never have the chance to defer, and we would never have the chance to rebuke in love.
What do your relationships at North Wake look like? If you were to write a personal letter to another believer across the country, would there be any mention of men and women who are speaking the Word of Christ into your life and pushing you toward holiness and worship? If so, you should let those people (the ones whom you would mention) know how their relationship with you encourages your faith. It’s a great exercise in affirmation. If you struggle to think of a person, let me encourage you to not sit back and wait for them to show up in your life. Go find them! Join a small group. Serve in a ministry. Jump into a class. Search out a book study. You were not meant to do this alone!