Ephesians 6:21-22, “So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts.”
Ephesians 6:21-24 comprise Paul’s closing words to the Ephesians, and admittedly it would be easy to read over them quickly or to ignore them altogether because, truth be told, the beginning and ending of the New Testament letters often seem to us like formulaic words. It’s not that we think them empty or meaningless, but they we think of them as standard ways to start and finish, and so we usually blow past them without seriously pondering what the Lord might be saying to us through them.
This impulse is understandable, but we have to watch ourselves because every single word of the Bible is God-breathed and designed to accomplish any number of purposes in our lives for the glory of God’s name. Every single word of the Bible is profitable for teaching, correction, reproof, and training in righteousness so that the man or woman of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17). Every single word of the Bible has glory embedded in it, including the opening and closing words of every New Testament letter.
God has so many good things stored away for us in every one of his words, and therefore the question becomes this: are we willing to be patient with the Lord and do the hard work of study and meditation until we come to see something of the spiritual depth that’s present in all of God’s words? May the Lord give us the grace to do just this as we meditate together on the closing words of Ephesians.
Paul’s Love for the Church
Paul writes, “So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts” (Ephesians 6:21-22). Let me draw your attention to three things in these verses. First, notice that Paul truly loved the people he served. For all intents and purposes, Paul planted the church of Ephesus. When he came to that city, he found a handful of believers there because of the work of Apollos, Aquila, and, but they had yet to form these believers into a church, so Paul did.
Given his important role in their lives, Paul could have envisioned himself as the founder of a religious organization and the people of the church as his constituents. But the idea of professional distance between the clergy and the people, which is so prevalent in some circles of the church today, was utterly foreign to Paul. Instead, Paul envisioned the people in the church of Ephesus as his children in Christ, and he loved them with all of his heart.
As Paul wrote to the church of Corinth, “I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me. That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church” (1 Corinthians 4:14-17).
Friends, these are the fatherly, familial words of a shepherd who loved the people he served, and so it is that with fatherly affection Paul told the Ephesians that he wanted them to know how he was doing and what he was doing. He wanted them to know how all those who traveled with him were, and he wanted Tychicus to encourage their hearts. In fact, his desire for communication and blessing was so strong that he went through the financial and circumstantial pains of sending Tychicus from Rome all the way to the west coast of Asia Minor for this very purpose. I’m sure there were other reasons why Paul sent Tychicus to see the Ephesian church, but chief among them all was his fatherly desire to maintain a good, warm, familial connection with them.
Paul’s love for the church, as touching as it is, isn’t ultimately about Paul but about a promise God made to his people long before Paul had life and breath. For example, consider the words of Jeremiah 23:1-4. “‘Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!’ declares the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: ‘You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the Lord. Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the Lord.’”
Part of God’s new covenant promise to his people is that he will give them shepherds who genuinely love them and care for them and lay their lives down for them, and this is why Paul loved the people he served so much—his love was not a human love rather it was a divine love that came from God through Paul to the people he had redeemed for himself in Christ. It was a promised love. It was a new covenant love.
Before I move on to the next point, I want to encourage you to think about how you think about the church. Do you think about the church in biblical ways, or are your ideas more formed by your background and the culture? How would your interaction with the church change if you came to envision it in a more biblical way? With these questions in mind, take the time to reflect on Paul’s relationship to the church of Ephesus and ask the Lord to shape your vision, transform your heart, and lead you in the way you should go.
Paul’s Partnership in the Gospel
Second, notice that ministry is always a partnership, even for one so great as the Apostle Paul. In verses 21-22, Paul mentions or implies himself, Tychicus, others with whom he was ministering, and the people of the church of Ephesus. Ministry is never about one man, no matter who that man is, rather, it’s always about a team of men and women working together, as brothers and sisters in Christ, for the sake of the glory of Christ. Of course, there are some practical reasons for this—all ministries involve way more work than one man can do, and therefore they require a breadth of gifts and talents and resources and time that could never exist in just one person. Even in a small church like the one I serve, I need partners in the ministry to help me do a host of things I can’t do on my own, and they need me as well.
But beyond the practicalities of ministry, there are much more profound reasons why partnership is necessary. For instance, God has designed ministry to be a partnership so that Christ alone will be exalted and the pride of every person who serves him will be crucified; so that every person in the body of Christ, no matter how high their position, will grow in Christ-like humility, always serving but always being served by others; so that each part of the body will play its role to the end that we’ll be built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. The Lord has willed that the work of the Kingdom be done as a body because that is precisely what we are: the body of Christ. There is no such thing as an individualistic ministry in the Kingdom of God, rather, all true ministry is a ministry of the body for the glory of God, and therefore all true ministry is a partnership.
Paul’s Commendation of Tychicus
Third, I want to close this devotional by celebrating the life of Tychicus, our brother in Christ. Tychicus is mentioned five times in the Bible, always in connection with Paul, but the Bible doesn’t tell us much about him. All we know is that he was from Asia, which probably means he was from the region of Turkey, and that he was a beloved brother, a faithful minister in the Lord, and a fellow servant of Paul’s. We do also know that, as part of his work with Paul, he was the one who delivered the letter to the Ephesians, and I’ve sometimes wondered if he had any sense of the great treasure he was holding in his hand as he traveled from Rome to Ephesus. But other than these few things we know nothing about the life of Tychicus. Be that as it may, I must say that if this was all the Lord chose to reveal about me, I’d be happy with that! If the Lord wanted me to be known for nothing more than being a beloved brother, a faithful minister in the Lord, and a fellow servant of others in the body of Christ, that would be more than enough!
Now, I don’t want to make too much of Tychicus here because at the end of the day he was just a man. He was imperfect and flawed and sinful just like the rest of us, and I’m sure there were days when people used words other than “beloved and faithful and servant” to describe him. And yet, even keeping the reality of his brokenness in mind, the bottom line is that Tychicus endured to the end by the grace of God in Christ, and he was found to be faithful. This is such a joy to my soul because, although we don’t need examples of perfect men and women in our lives, we do need examples of beloved and faithful men and women in our lives. We need a cloud of witnesses to inspire us to press on in the Lord and to teach us how to do so.
Many years ago, when I was going through a season of deep and dark doubt about Christianity, one of the things that kept me hanging on was the persistent faithfulness of John Piper. I remember thinking to myself in those days, “He’s a smart man who’s been exposed to all the ideas that are troubling me right now, and yet, he still believes and is faithful to the Lord and his people. If he still believes and is faithful, I can hang on a little longer.” I had been close enough to Pastor John over the years to see some of his flaws, and I had been bitten a time or two by those flaws. But despite his shortcomings, Pastor John was and is a faithful man, and I so needed his example at that time of my life.
In this spirit, I hope you join me in including Tychicus in the cloud of men and women who encourage you in the faith and inspire you to keep pressing on in Christ. Despite struggles within and hardship without, he remained faithful to the Lord and his people, and for that, we should be thankful to God.
Charles Handren is pastor and author currently residing in Saint Michael, Minnesota. His wife Kimberly (1991) is a Spanish and English as a Second Language teacher, and his daughter, Rachel (1994), owns and operates a dance studio in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Charles enjoys reading, cycling, hiking, and traveling. He holds degrees from California Baptist University (Riverside, California) and the American Baptist Seminary of the West (Berkeley, California), and is currently a Doctor of Ministry student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Deerfield, Illinois). Check out his blog at www.onework629.blogspot.com.