Colossians 4:7-18, “7 Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. 8 I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts, 9 and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you of everything that has taken place here. 10 Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, welcome him), 11 and Jesus who is called Justus. These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me. 12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. 13 For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. 14 Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas. 15 Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. 16 And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea. 17 And say to Archippus, “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.” 18 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.”
In the 1st Century letter writers in the Greco-Roman included several greetings from the authors and his companions in the closing lines of their epistles. This was also true when the apostles sent their communication. In Colossians 4:7-18, we see this too, as Paul draws to a close his epistle to the Colossians with remarks about his coworkers.
Tychicus likely was the courier who brought the letter to the Colossian church. It’s thought he also carried the epistles of Ephesians and Philemon with him for delivery in the region staying long enough to share information about Paul’s imprisonment (Colossians 4:7-9). There is not much information on Tychicus, except in Acts 20:1-4 as one of Paul’s traveling companions through Macedonia. Tychicus is highly regarded by Paul who says of him; he is a “beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord” described as such in Ephesians 6:21 and Colossians 4:7. He also appears in 2 Timothy 4:12 and Titus 3:12 as one whom Paul sent to work among the believers in other places.
Onesimus was a runaway slave who once belonged to Philemon but who ran away from him. Onesimus became a Christian under Paul’s ministry and was sent back to his master (Philem. 10, 15–16). He seems to have been radically converted under the preaching and counsel of the Paul for he saw him as a “faithful and beloved brother.” Onesimus was from Colossae (Colossians 4:9).
Onesimus and Tychicus, whom Paul mentions in Colossians 4:7-9, were Gentile Christians, but there were also several Jewish Christians that Paul counted among his friends and workers while he wrote to Colossae from prison. Three of these men are mentioned in Colossians 4:10–11.
Aristarchus is the first Jewish Christian mentioned in Colossians 4:10 as one of the three “men of the circumcision” included in Paul’s “fellow workers for the kingdom of God.” Like Tychicus in Colossians 4:7, we do not know a lot about Aristarchus, but it is noteworthy that Paul refers to him as his “fellow prisoner” (v. 10). It may be possible that he was literally in chains as well for some perceived crime against the Roman Empire. Commentators often take this as a reference to Aristarchus’ willingness to voluntarily stay with Paul in his sufferings and provide for the apostle’s needs while he was in prison. What we do know for sure is that Aristarchus was a traveling companion of Paul from Macedonia, specifically the city of Thessalonica (Acts 19:29; 20; 4; 27:2).
Mark (Col 4:10) is the same John Mark who was the son of Mary, a woman whose house was used as a meeting place for some of the early Christians (Acts 12:12). He is also the man named in the early church as the author of the Gospel of Mark, a text that finds its origin in the preaching of the Apostle Peter. Since Rome is traditionally seen as the place of Mark’s composition, Paul’s mentioning of him in Colossians 4:10 lends credence to those who believe Paul was in Rome when he wrote Colossians. The imprisonment recorded in Acts 28:17-31 could very well be the period when the apostle penned this letter.
John Mark, who was the cousin of Barnabas (Col. 4:10), is known for being in the middle of Paul and Barnabas’ split in Acts 15:36-41. This split was due to their disagreement over Mark’s usefulness for ministry. It is not entirely clear in the Acts account whether Paul was right in his refusal to take Mark with him on that occasion. Colossians 4:10-11 shows us though, that whatever the problem was, Paul and Mark were eventually reconciled and became partners in ministry once more. May you and I as God’s people seek such reconciliation in our own lives.
Some of the most essential information that we possess about the early church comes from the closing greetings of the Pauline epistles. Paul’s letter to the Colossians is no exception in this regard. It is Colossians 4:14, for example, that tells us about Luke, the author of the third Gospel being a physician. Knowing Luke’s vocation is one of the facts that helps scholars come to the conclusion that Luke did in fact author the Gospel that bears his name. Commentators have pointed out the prevalence of medical vocabulary in Luke and the book of Acts, indicating that the person who wrote this portion of Scripture was likely a practicing doctor. Luke also was a Gentile and probably the sole biblical author who was not from a Jewish background. Since Luke and Acts represent about one-fourth of the total length of the New Testament, Luke’s contribution to sacred Scripture is by no means insignificant. More information on Luke’s activity on Paul’s missionary journeys can be found in the “‘we’ sections” of the book of Acts, places where Luke indicates his presence with Paul through his use of the first-person plural pronoun in the narrative (Acts 16:8-17; 20:5-15; 21:1-18; 27:1-28:16).
Epaphras, the evangelist-pastor who first brought the gospel to Colossae, is also mentioned in this passage as one who sent his greetings to the Colossian church when Paul wrote his epistle to the believers in that city (Colossians 4:12-13). Colossians 4:13 mentions his hard work in Laodicea and Hierapolis, two cities that were located near Colossae. Epaphras was something of a regional evangelist in that part of Asia Minor. Even though he was not present with the church at Colossae when Paul wrote, he continued to strive on behalf of the Colossian Christians in his prayers. This would encourage the Colossians, reminding them of how much they prospered on account of the prayers of other Christians, especially their shepherds. John Calvin notes how Paul admonished “the Colossians not to look upon the prayers of their pastor as useless, but, on the contrary, to reckon that they would afford them no small assistance.” Even today, the prayers of our pastors and elders should be among the things that we treasure the most, for their labors on their knees do more good for us than we can imagine.
We come to the remaining three verses Colossians and to Paul’s final chance to deliver greetings and final instructions to the church at Colossae. Colossians 4:16 contains an interesting and somewhat unusual request that the Colossians have the letter read in the church of the Laodiceans. Usually, we do not find specific instructions from the Apostles that their correspondence should be read by those other than the primary addressees of their letters, which in this case was the church at Colossae. That Paul includes such a request in this passage may simply reflect the fact that the close proximity of Laodicea to Colossae would make it easy for the churches to share their letters with one another. Even so, it also shows that Paul understood that his letters, while delivered to individual persons or congregations, also contained teaching applicable to all Christians.
Elsewhere in Scripture, Paul uses the term remember in connection with prayer (Ephesians 1:16), so it is likely that his call in Colossians 4:18 for the Colossians to remember his chains is a request that they pray for him regarding his imprisoned condition. Such prayer might include a plea for them to intercede for his release and adds to the earlier prayer request that they ask for his opportunities to share the gospel to be increased (v. 3).
Colossians ends with a note that Paul wrote these greetings with his own hand (v. 18). This means he relied on a scribe to put his thoughts to paper and, after approving the letter’s contents, he took the pen himself to pass final words on to Colossae. These words include a prayer for grace, which is what we should extend to all people.
If the Apostle Paul could implore those who knew him to pray for him in his condition of suffering, then we should be ready as well to ask others for prayer when we are in need. We should likewise also remember the sufferings of Christians whom we know, both near and far, and pray for the Lord to make His presence felt in them. Let us pray regularly for the needs that we know of and ask others to intercede on our behalf as well.