World English Bible translation
4:7All my affairs will be made known to you by Tychicus, the beloved brother, faithful servant, and fellow bondservant in the Lord. 4:8 I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that he may know your circumstances and comfort your hearts, 4:9 together with Onesimus, the faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will make known to you all things that are going on here. 4:10 Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark, the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you received commandments, "if he comes to you, receive him"), 4:11 and Jesus who is called Justus, who are of the circumcision. These are my only fellow workers to the kingdom of God, men who have been a comfort to me.
Today's passage is characteristic of the writings of the Apostle Paul. In the concluding portions of his letters, he always gave some brief autobiographical information and sent greetings from those who were around him to wherever he was writing. He used these opportunities for two different functions. First, Paul wanted to stress that Christian ministry was a group project. No one person was to receive glory from God's work. Paul always involved other people in his work and gave credit freely to others. He was not one to hog the spotlight. Secondly, Paul wanted to give credibility to those whose work he approved so that others would know whom to trust. We shall see that this is especially important in this passage.
The people who are listed here are all-important figures in Paul's ministry about whom we know very little. Each of them are mentioned several times throughout the New Testament so we know that they were active in the early church, but little else. Tychicus, Aristarchus, Mark and Justus are mentioned briefly in the Acts of the Apostles as well as short references in Paul's works. Onesimus is the subject of the short letter to Philemon that we have preserved. We know from this work that he was a slave who had run away who Paul sent back to his master.
Tychicus is mentioned in the letter to the Ephesians as delivering that letter of Paul's as well. Many believe that this letter and the letter to the Ephesians were written very close to one anther. It is even possible that the letters were delivered on the same trip. Tychicus would not only have been trusted as a messenger, but as someone who would have been able to answer questions that the reading of the letters would have aroused.
Another interesting note here is that Paul reminds these believers that they have been commanded to receive Mark if he were to come to them. If one reads the Acts of the Apostles, one might get the impression that Paul had lost faith in Mark, but apparently whatever doubts Paul may have had about Mark's sincerity had been dealt with by this time.
There is a hint in this passage that Paul's purpose in singling out these men was in order to authenticate them. "These are my only fellow workers to the kingdom of God, men who have been a comfort to me." Now there were other people whom Paul trusted that are not mentioned here, notably Silas, Timothy and Titus. These trusted men are not mentioned apparently because it was unlikely that they might be coming to Colossae anytime soon. What Paul seems to be really saying in this passage is that these men may be trusted, but others who claim to be from Paul may not be trusted. This has, of course, also tended to support the speculation of some heretical teaching that may have been active at Colossae.
In any case, what we have here is another example of Paul building up the people who help him. Paul is lavish with praise. He believed in allowing other people to be active in his ministry. He made his work a group effort. It is indicative of good Christian leaders that they are always preparing the next people for leadership. The Body of Christ does not begin with us nor does any part of it belong solely for us. God will always be leading us to empower other people for His cause.
What other Christians do you know that you could write such praise about? What are you doing to support the next generation of believers?
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