11-19-2021 Colossians 4:10-18
St Paul concludes his letter to the Church in Colossae by sending them greetings from those who are with him. And, it bears noting that of all of those who were with him, only three of them were of Jewish heritage. The remainder were Gentiles who had equally been accepted into the Church. This is worthy of note because, at the time that this letter was written, there was a great divide between the two, with the Jews claiming that those who believed in Jesus were errant.
So, when we look at those who were with St Paul at the time of this writing, we see many names. We see Aristarchus. In Acts, we learn that Aristarchus was a Macedonian from Thessalonica (Acts 20:4), and was amongst those seized alongside St Paul in Ephesus (Acts 19:29). There is Mark, who at this point for the first time is revealed as the cousin of Barnabas. And what we learn, sheerly from this reference alone, is that this previous animosity between Paul and Barnabas and Mark (Acts 15:36-40) had since been reconciled, as Mark was physically present with Paul to send his greetings. Their personal disputes had been cast aside. The grace of God had been working in Paul, changing him overtime, teaching him the love of Christ towards those who had otherwise offended him. Then there was Jesus, whose baptized name was Justis. Honestly, according to what is written in Scripture, we know nothing of him beyond his name and that he was of Jewish descent. But consider what this message says to the Church in Colossae. Consider, if you will, what we’ve already learned about the Colossian Church. There was heresy which had already combined Judaism and humanistic ritualism with Oriental Mysticism. And yet, greetings and prayers were offered on their behalf by three of Jewish heritage and others of Gentile heritage. And these three who were Jews providing great comfort who was an apostle of Jesus Himself. The lines between them were torn down by the grace of God.
And then there stands Epaphrus, who was “laboring fervently for you in prayer.” We have to remember that in their time prayer wasn’t something that they did in their free time. It wasn’t something that they do while they’re staring at phone screens or just kneeling down at the edge of their beds. Prayer, true Biblical prayer, is hard work. It requires time and dedication. It requires the ability to turn off the outside world and all of it’s distractions. There were no cellphone notifications impeding in their prayers, no television in the background, it was a sacrifice of time and energy. And it was also looked down strongly upon in Colossae. Knowing the dangers of false teaching (re: any teaching not accepted by this one Church), this work of prayer to Jesus became all the more dangerous. Again, it’s so easy to think about someone spending time in prayer in our time and age and think it to be no big deal, but in an era where saying the name of Jesus in public was punishable by death, in an era when the apostles themselves were imprisoned and publicly crucified, this was a major risk on his behalf.
But still, they prayed that the Colossians would stand perfect and complete in the Will of God, not bowing down to self-proclaimed leaders of some independent spirituality, not bowing down to false teaching, but rather standing strong in the true faith, regardless of what it cost them. There was neither political nor ecclesiastical amnesty offered to them, but they still needed to remain strong in the faith, regardless of any political or theological threats.
And then, he calls on the Colossians to greet others on his behalf. This is also a powerful statement, because it calls to mind the fact that others that they are allied with have already accepted the truth. The brethern in Laodicea, and Nymphas and the Church in his house. He also insures to include who should head the Church, the ministry. Archippus, “take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.” This is so important, St Paul names someone who should head the Church. Rather than allowing the Church to run rampant, he names the one who should lead it, the one who should organize it. He establishes something unheard of, a hierarchy. But, a hierarchy headed by one who has received the true faith. But, rather than address Archippus directly, he instead wrote it in the letter to the Church, thus Archippus assumes this role through the Church of the Colossians, and through Laodicea, as the epistle was to be shared with them as well.
See, we get this revelation here that there wasn’t one book of Scripture that only applies to one group of people, or one geographical location. It’s so easy to look at the Scriptures and think, “Oh, but this only applies to Colossae, or this only applies to Corinth, or to Philippi.” But, we see here, this letter to the Colossians was written not only to one church, but to all churches, because any of them could fall into the same heresies. And this covers the span of time. The same lessons that applied to the Colossians and the Corinthians and the Philippians applies to us as well. It is very easy to lose sight of that fact. It’s so easy for us to look at the commands set forth in Scripture and question whether this rule or that command actually applies to us or not. But, what we see here is that there was never meant to be a Colossian Church, or a Corinthian Church; there was only meant to be one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. And any logic behind division is contrived by the enemy and is usually rooted in pride. And this one Church is here manifest perfectly. Just consider the backgrounds of each person mentioned, consider the geography of each church. The letter was addressed to the Colossians, but the lessons were to be shared with all of the neighboring churches as well. And all of these people, with all of these backgrounds, put all of that aside to join together in corporate prayer on behalf of the Colossian Church. They were all, regardless of the differences, joined together in the body of Christ.
“If anyone adds to these things, God will add him to the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes way from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the book of life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” (Revelation 22:18-19). The Scriptures are complete. The traditions are established through the teachings of the Holy Fathers. God has told us what to do and what He expects from us. There will be no “Newer Testament” or revised edition. I can only pray that we are able to hear His words and quit allowing ourselves to be divided over matters and positions, especially over worldly concerns. Politics have no place in the Church, until they impede on the ability of the Church to be the Church and live by the commands and the morals set forth by God. At the point that politics control our churches, then politics become our god. Personal opinions about things have no place to divide the Church, unless those personal opinions go against the teachings of the Church as have been handed down for generations, at which time, that person, or that opinion becomes our God. So often I hear from someone who doesn’t study the Holy Fathers because “their teachings are outdated,” but those teachings are the foundation of the Church. All through the Scripture we read about those things that will separate us from God, and those things which will draw us closer. Attempting to manipulate the words of God based around our own desires or opinions are simply heresy. Each of us has our own decision of which path we will follow, for some it’s the truth that will lead to paradise, for others, it’s a lie that will lead to Hell. And this can happen inside the Church, or outside as well. The world will always be the world, no amount of arguing, no government or political positions will change that. It’s when the Church begins to be shaped by these policies, accepting sinful practices, allowing sinful relationships, that we should be concerned. It’s when we begin to view the commands of Christ as “outdated” or “unfair” or even “discriminatory” that we should become concerned. Look at all who greeted the Church in Colossea; Jews and Gentiles, free and slave, prisoners, men and women joined together as one family through the grace of Christ; and yet imprisoned together for their obedience to, and love of Christ. We are nearing the time in our world when such may once again be the case. The world is beginning more and more to vilify the Christian moral standard, and the Church, regretfully, is beginning to give in to that fact. Any stance for true Christian morality is deemed hate speech and uninclusive. Because the world has turned it’s back on God. They’ve deemed His commandments to be too closed minded to sate their desires, and, being the world, because of that, they’ve turned away from those commandments. And, a world without God is very frightening. A population of millions of people free to chase after their fleshly desires is absolutely horrifying. We’ve hit a time where the worst crime you can commit is to be a faithful, devout Christian, upholding the commands of He who died to give us eternal life.
Christ is in our midst. More and more, when I look at the world, I see that statement as a warning more than a promise. But He will overcome, and when He does, I pray that we are truly ready for it. Grounded in the Word of God, through the teachings of the Church Fathers, in the traditions of the Church, obedient to the will of God, not seeking to interpret away the many warnings in the Torah and the New Testament, but clinging to them, in the knowledge that God is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. His expectations never change, and likewise His promises never change. May we all find this truth to be inspiring, to be the cause of hope, the cause of love for all, and may we pray to God that the Holy Spirit will lead us in obedience to His Word.
Christ is in our midst.