- Locate the Passage
4:7-18 form the closing words of Paul’s letter to the Colossians. It includes commendations, greetings, final instructions, and a benediction.
- Identify the Genre
The macro level is epistolary. The micro level contains the conclusion to the letter.
- Determine the Structure of the Passage
4:2-6 is a lit of closing instructions. The structure is as follows:
Final Instructions (4:15-18b)
- Exegete the Passage
Though the conclusions to epistles are sometimes skipped over in preaching series, there is valuable information to communicate to a modern audience. In this passage, Paul gives final instructions to the church at Colossae.
In 4:7-9, he indicates that he is sending the letter by the hand of Tychicus and Onesimus. Paul commends both of these men. He commends Tychicus as “our dearly beloved brother, faithful minister (pistos diakonos), and fellow servant in the Lord.” Paul describes his purpose in sending Tychicus in vs. 8: “I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know how we are and so that he may encourage (parakalese) your hearts.” Paul’s desire, even in sending the letter-bearer to Colossae, was to build up and strengthen the hearts of the church there. He also commends Onesimus, the run-away slave, as “a faithful and dealy loved brother, who is one of you” (4:9). This is an incredible statement of redemption. Notably, Paul wrote Colossians during the same prison stay in which he wrote the letter commending Onesimus to Philemon, Onesimus’ master, commending Onesimus as a brother who was “useful,” a play on the meaning of his name.
In 4:10-14, Paul extends greetings from some of his companions to the church at Colossae. He notes that Aristarchus (a fellow prisoner with Paul), Mark, and Justus are all of the “circumcision” who were his “coworkers for the kingdom of God.” He notes that these men have been a “comfort” to him. Paul also extends greetings from a group of Gentile co-laborers: Epaphras, Luke, and Demas. Notably, about Epaphras, “who is one of you,” the man who apparently started the church at Colossae, he says, “he is always wrestling for you in his prayers, so that you can stand mature and fully assured in everything God wills…he works hard for you” (4:12-13). Paul again expresses the fact that the church at Colossae is being labored over, not only by Paul, but others, so that they would be built up in their faith. This needs to be read in light of the threat of the theological error in their midst. Paul notes that the founder of the church wants them to stand firm, that he himself desires that, and the men who will bring this letter to them (Tychicus and Onesimus) will work to this end as well.
In 4:15-18b there is a set of four imperative commands: “give my greetings to the brothers and sisters in Laodicea and to Nympha and the church in her home” (vs. 15); “after this letter has been read at your gathering, see to it that it is read in the church of the Laodiceans, and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea” (4:16); “tell Archippus, ‘Pay attention to the ministry you have received in the Lord, so that you can accomplish it’” (4:17); and “Remember my chains” (4:18).
There are important principles in these verses for a modern audience. First, Paul communicates a desire for fellowship with the churches in Colossae and Laodicea, even though he is absent in body (see 2:5). Second, Paul communicates a desire that there would be a circulation of his letters between the churches. Here a principle exists regarding the importance of the Word in the life of the church. Third, Paul encourages a specific member of the church, Archippus. Apparently, Archippus needed to be goaded and reminded of the calling the Lord had placed on his life so that he would fulfill it. Fourth, Paul gives a final exhortation regarding prayer. He instructs the church to “remember,” speaking here of remembering in prayer, his chains. As he prays for them (1:9; 2:5), he expects them to pray for him.
Paul closes his letter where he began, with a blessing of “grace be with you” (4:18). If the church will survive the threat of theological error and flourish to be all Jesus desires for her to be, it will be because of nothing less than the grace of God in her midst.
- Let the Structure of the Text Drive the Structure of the Sermon
- Commendations (4:7-9)
- Greetings (4:10-14)
- Jews: Aristarchus, Mark, and Justus
- Gentiles: Epaphras, Luke, and Demas
- Final Instructions (4:15-18b)
- Fellowship – “greet the brothers and sisters…”
- Devotion – “read my letters…”
- Encouragement – “say to Archippus, pay attention to the ministry which you have received…and accomplish it.”
- Prayer – “remember my chains.”
- Benediction (4:18)
- “Grace be with you!”