Greetings and Encouragement (Colossians 4:7-18)
Preached by Pastor Chris Huff on May 16, 2010
Do you ever come to church and feel like your evening looked exactly like this clip from the movie “Spies Like Us”? We all greet each other, say hi. We say a few words. Then we all say goodbye and leave. But no real connection was made. People were able to get away with living a lie. The church ought to be different. We ought to be a people who gathers not to go through the motions, but to encourage each other in real ways, based on the truth of God's Word.
“Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts, 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. 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), 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. 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. For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas. Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. 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. And say to Archippus, "See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord." I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.” (Col 4:7-18 ESV)
Many letters of the New Testament close with final greetings such as these. We could spend a lesson on each of these people. Many of them are mentioned in other letters of the New Testament. But such a character study would actually stray from the purpose that Paul mentioned them in his letter to the Colossians. Instead, we will take them as a whole and make a few general observations.
A first observation we should note is that Paul had never met the church of Colosse. But he did know many of the same people that they knew. Some of them served alongside of him. So Paul did all this name-dropping for a couple reasons. 1) In order to establish a personal connection with them. 2) In order to establish his own apostolic authority and credibility.
Another observation we can make is that those who sent their greetings almost never simply said “Hi.” Each greeting carried with it information, instructions, or an encouragement. Epaphras not only sends his greetings, but he's praying for you, and working hard (v. 12-13). Please greet the Laodiceans, but also give them this letter, and read the letter that they have. Verse 14 is the only exception to this rule.
Luke and Demas sent their greetings, but these didn't come with any further instructions. Possibly the very mention of their names would carry with them certain ideas. Luke was a Greek, and Paul spoke of him very fondly. The Colossian church was made up of both Jews and Greeks. Paul wanted to relate to them, showing that he had Greek friends as well. Demas, not long after Colosse received this letter, would abandon Paul (2 Tim. 4:10).
Paul could have merely said hello for all these people, and that would have helped him to establish a connection with the Colossians, but that ultimately would have served no purpose. Paul wanted to encourage them. Paul wanted to instruct them. Contrast this with the clip I showed earlier. Did their greeting each other foster fellowship? No. Did it allow them to encourage each other? Instruct each other at all? No. In our church, we must make our gatherings about more than fellowship. We must encourage one another in the Lord. We must instruct one another in God's Word.
A final observation about this passage is that Paul had a bond with the Colossians because of their shared faith in Jesus Christ. He had never met them, but he had heard about their faith (1:3-4). Contrast this with the clip from the movie. What did the character that Dan Akroyd played say at the end? “We're not doctors!” We shouldn't be able to get away with such lies in the church.
Serving the same God, they have the same purpose in life. From time to time, I get an email from a Christian in another part of the world. Though we've never met, we share our faith. Though we've never met, we can encourage one another. Though we've never met, we serve the same God.
Whenever I go to a Christian conference, I get to know other believers in order to encourage and be encouraged by them. It's no small thing to talk with a fellow believer, even if you've never met before. Share what the Lord is doing in your life. Ask them what God is teaching them. Ask them what the Lord has been doing through their church.
All Christian believers are one family in God, whether or not we have ever met.