This is a text reader for the article below:
Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...
Title: Living what we learn
Message Audio Player:
Living what we learn
Last week we left off in Colossian 3:18-4:1. So this week we will begin in Colossians 4:2.
“(2) Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; (3) meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, (4) that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.”
These words follow Paul’s encouragement regarding practical ways of living out the knowledge of Christ which he just instructed them should dwell in them richly.
“(16) Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and exhorting one another with all wisdom, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, all with grace in your hearts to God. (17) And whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, GIVING THANKS to God the Father through Him.”
The manifest examples Paul offered involved both family and work relations – including slaves and masters.
It is easy to separate chapter 3 from chapter 4, but such is not the way this or any other letter should be read. So in keeping with Paul’s flow of thought, he seems to be encouraging the Colossian believers that the key to living out their intimacy with Jesus in these practical arena’s of life (as well as all others) is by being diligent in their prayer life. Or said more honestly, by maintaining an open and ongoing dialogue with God throughout the day. Looking, as the writer of Hebrews instructs us, to Jesus the author and developer of our faith so that we might not faint in our pursuit of doing good.
Now Paul instructs us to cease the opportunities afforded us with the world. Due to our ongoing communion with the Father in prayer and our trust in the Spirit’s inner influence over our thoughts and actions – we are to interact with the world in wisdom. Our thoughts, actions and words being INFLUENCED by Him or as Paul here says, “with grace, seasoned with salt”.
Paul also makes a request for prayer, making it clear that Paul needed the prayer and support of these believers no less than they needed his. We are a family!
So Paul was seeking prayer for doors or opportunities to preach Christ.
“(5) Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time.
(6) Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.”
This is one of countless examples of what I was reintroducing you to weeks ago when I mentioned the ongoing nature of faith in God. We do not complete our faith journey at the cross, but rather that is where we begin a lifelong journey of faith in and towards God.
The expression of faith I mentioned at the time was conformity to the image of Christ. To deliberately seek, require and trust God to form Christ in us, on an ongoing basis.
This expression of faith Paul is mentioning is not dissimilar in that it addresses our interactions with the world. So, it would be living out “WWJD” or what would Jesus HAVE me do or say?
Being like Christ is not just about taking on his moral character, but His human ways.
It is a misunderstanding to assume Jesus knew what to teach and how to answer those who opposed Him because He was God.
This is NOT what the scriptures reveal.
Jesus cannot be our example, if what He did, only He COULD do. We ARE NOT God, so if we are to follow Him, what He did He had to do AS A HUMAN with all of the limitations that implies.
Jesus was constantly led by the Spirit in all He said and did. This is why He was able to say that He never did or said anything but that He first heard the Father SAYING it – and so He became a clear picture of the Father.
In like manner we become a clear picture of Christ NOT just in the sinless life we lead, but by seeking in our every moment to be led by the Spirit of God. As we become more and more adept at being led by the Spirit, we will, as Paul just said here, “know how you OUGHT to answer each one.”
Next Paul begins to deal with some specific people familiar both to he and this congregation of believers.
“(7) Tychicus, a beloved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant in the Lord, will tell you all the news about me. (8) I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that he may know your circumstances and comfort your hearts, (9) with Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you.
They will make known to you all things which are happening here.”
You may remember that last week I told you we would go to the book of or rather the letter to Philemon to see the backstory on this man Onesimus who was a slave of this believer in Colossea.
So we will divert our attention in that direction now before finishing up Paul’s ending statements.
Paul’s letter to Philemon
“(1) Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,
To Philemon our beloved friend and fellow laborer, (2) to the beloved Apphia, Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house:
(3) Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
(4) I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers, (5) hearing of your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints, (6) that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.
(7) For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother.
Paul in a not so subtle way is about to offer godly advice to his brother Philemon to not drop the ball in reference to his example as a godly Christian leader. You have taught the Gospel of Christ to many, not do not fail to live it before them as well. Especially in such a pivotal issue as this.
So Paul says…
“(8) THEREFORE, though I might be very bold in Christ to command you what is fitting, (9) yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you—being such a one as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ— (10) I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains, (11) who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me.
“(12) I am sending him back. You therefore receive him, that is, my own heart, (13) whom I wished to keep with me, that on your behalf he might minister to me in my chains for the gospel.”
If you recall those were the words he wrote publicly to the saints in Colossea as well.
“Tychicus, a beloved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant in the Lord, will tell you all the news about me. (8) I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that he may know your circumstances and comfort your hearts, (9) with Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will make known to you all things which are happening here.”
Paul has hedged his bets having addressed this private letter to this Colossian brother as well as mentioning Onesimus to the whole body of Christ in Colossea. He is said to be a faithful and beloved BROTHER who is a Colossian as well. Then Paul places Onesimus in a position of prominence by saying that he will along with Tychius inform them of all things which were happening in Rome where Paul was being held captive in his first imprisonment there.
This was indeed an important position because there was perhaps much regarding his imprisonment which he could not wisely commit to writing. Nero was then in power and as Adam Clarke states, “The reign of Nero was not only cruel, but suspicious, jealous, and dangerous.” So one needed to be careful of what one wrote in letters which could be intercepted.
Then Paul tells Philemon…
“(14) But without your consent I wanted to do nothing, that your good deed might not be by compulsion, as it were, but voluntary.”
From nearly the very beginning of this letter to Philemon I am immediately reminded of the tone which Paul adopts with the Corinthians believers regarding their giving practices – or lack thereof. Paul says something nearly identical to them in 2 Corinthians 9:1-5,
“(1) Now concerning the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you; (2) for I know your willingness, about which I boast of you to the Macedonians, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal has stirred up the majority. (3) Yet I have sent the brethren, lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this respect, that, as I said, you may be ready; (4) lest if some Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we (not to mention you!) should be ashamed of this confident boasting. (5) Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to go to you ahead of time, and prepare your generous gift beforehand, which you had previously promised, that it may be ready as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation.” – 2 Corinthians 9:1-5
Pretty smooth Paul!
“(15) For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever, (16) NO LONGER AS A SLAVE but more than a slave—a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.
(17) If then you count me as a partner, receive him as you would me.
(18) But if he has wronged you or owes anything, put that on my account. (19) I, Paul, am writing with my own hand. I WILL REPAY—not to mention to you that you owe me even your own self besides.
(20) Yes, brother, let me have joy from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in the Lord.
(21) Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. (22) But, meanwhile, also prepare a guest room for me, for I trust that through your prayers I shall be granted to you.
(23) Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, (24) as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow laborers.
(25) The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.”
Now back to Colossians 4. Paul continues his ending statements…
“(10) Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, with Mark the cousin of Barnabas (about whom you received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him), (11) and Jesus who is called Justus.
THESE ARE MY ONLY FELLOW WORKERS FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD WHO ARE OF THE CIRCUMCISION; THEY HAVE PROVED TO BE A COMFORT TO ME.
(12) Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. (13) For I bear him witness that he has a great zeal for you, and those who are in Laodicea, and those in Hierapolis.
(14) Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you.”
We sadly learn of Demas later in Paul’s ministry that he left his ministry with Paul due to his love for this present world (See – 2 Timothy 4:10).
“(15) Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea, and Nymphas and the church that is in his house.”
Now it is a matter of some disagreement on how to translate this person’s name. It could be either Nymphas making it a male or Nympha making it a female.
Quite honestly it makes absolutely NO difference whatsoever. The place or home a church met in transfers zero impact on who led the church. While I have an opinion regarding which is the correct name, I know I could be wrong as well and as I said, it makes no difference.
It was typical in the 1st century to do like many used to do in New York City and have one’s personal home built on top of their business. Some would perhaps have a second story for storage and such and a third for a private dwelling. It is likely that such was the case in Troas where the young man fell to his death from the third story window as Paul was preaching for a particularly long time.
Now there were a few churches which had the luxury to meet in larger buildings like the church in Ephesus mentioned in Acts 19. They evidently met in the School of Tyrannus. But in most cases both biblical and natural history reveal that the early church met in homes…and only after 300+ years did it begin to reluctantly meet in buildings.
In Romans 16:3-5 we see the church of Rome met in Aquila & Priscilla’s home.
In Philemon as we just read, we see that the church met in his home.
In Acts 16 we see the fledgling church of Macedonia meeting in Lydia’s home.
One could search the entirety of the New Testament in vain to find any instructions concerning buildings, exhortations that places of worship should be distinct from homes or that a building somehow accommodates the work of God among His people in a more suitable way than homes ever could.
Paul… being a tent-maker by trade, remains suspiciously silent about how the church should build meeting places to accommodate their growing assembly.
It was not uncommon for financially well off widows to help fund the work of God. We see this in Jesus’ ministry, in some of the early churches as well as in the ministry of Paul.
None of this speaks to WHO was the elders in these churches. Tyrannus, who we mentioned earlier, owned a lecture hall in which it appears Paul exclusively taught. No mention is made anywhere that Tyrannus was a pastor of the church in Ephesus.
“(16) Now when this epistle is read among you, see that it is read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that you likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.”
Now this is a great opportunity to see more of what was going on in the time of the early church. Notice names brought up here as well as a letter to Laodicea which we do not have in the canon of scripture.
Laodicea is of course mentioned in Revelation where Jesus directly addresses specific bodies of believers in various cities. Laodicea was located just 10 miles from Colossae and 6 miles from Hierapolis. These were part of the greater region of Phrygia, where Luke tells us that Paul ministered in Acts 18 along with the Region of Galatia.
As I taught you YEARS ago now, each city had only one assembly of believers. This was in part due to the unity of the faith. The Apostles of the Lamb were still alive and as such there were NO great disagreements in the faith and therefore no divisions due to doctrinal differences. The other reason for there being only one body and assembly of believers in any one city was due to persecution. There simply were not that many believers when compared to the modern world. One more reason, perhaps among several others is because cities were comparatively small alongside modern cities. The only time you hear of multiple churches in a given area was when it was in reference to regions – not cities!
Also this is another reason why we have SO MANY copies of the gospels and especially the letters of the New Testament. When one city received a letter like this one, they had scribes which would make a copy or several which would then be sent on a circuit to other immediately surrounding churches while the original would stay with the city to which it was addressed.
When one of those cities received one of these circuit letters, they would repeat this process so that in the end many dozens of the original would exist at the same general time period.
These letters became increasingly precious as the Apostles of the Lamb began to die off and so more and more copies were made. So that now, the wealth of copies we have of these letters is in the thousands! They are, in the words of a modern scholar, an “embarrassment of riches” when compared to other religions and even natural historical accounts. There is literally NOTHING in the world like it!
“(17) And say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.”
(18) This salutation by my own hand—Paul. Remember my chains. Grace be with you. Amen.”
In the end the overarching message of this letter of encouragement was to live what you have learned. To enter into the good works which the Father has prepared beforehand that we should walk in and so honor Christ in our lives lived in union with God!