March 17, 2002

For The Sake of The Name - Part Two

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: Colossians Scripture: Colossians 4:10–14


For The Sake of The Name-Part Two

Colossians 4:10-14
Sunday, March 17, 2002 
Pastor Randy Smith

As many of you know, six of us recently attended a Bible conference in Florida, which featured some of the finest preachers in the world. Possibly, the most memorable part of the conference was not any particular sermon, but rather the closing as nearly 300 voices assembled to sing the "Hallelujah Chorus." It was an emotional 5 minutes. Diverse people, all redeemed by the blood of Christ, sang that blessed heavenly song in harmony.

One thing the Lord has been continually impressing on my heart as I grow and mature in the Faith is a love for His church. It's not a love for the building, but rather a love for the people of God. Each person is gifted in a unique way, yet together we as a diverse body can glorify God corporately like that those singing the Hallelujah chorus. I couldn't imagine a Sunday without the activities of church: worshipping God together, singing together, learning God's Word together, praying together, serving one another, and edifying one another. I look forward to Sunday more than any day of the week. What happens here in 2 _ hours this morning is the closest thing to Heaven that we will experience throughout the week.

But loving the church is not just loving Sunday morning. It's choosing to love the church, God's people, throughout the week. Though we have a responsibility to evangelize the lost, nothing should bring us greater joy than to be around other believers, fellow brothers and sisters in God's family. We can discuss what God is teaching us, share common trials and struggles, and pray together. Our greatest loves and desires are similar, and we share the same world-view. And it seems the richer our fellowship is individually with God, the richer our fellowship is corporately with each other. And as you know, this is the essence of true Christian fellowship.

The Apostle Paul shared the fullness of such rich relationships with other Christians. The book of Acts mentions over 100 of Paul's close Christian companions and co-workers. In Romans, another church he had not visited personally, Paul greets 16 individuals by name. Here in Colossians Paul devotes the majority of chapter 4 to the mentioning of 10 intimate friends in Christ. Together they lived out the Hallelujah chorus.

To set the context, last week's message described two individuals, namely Tychicus and Onesimus, who were being sent from Rome to Colossae with the Colossian letter. Next week's message will introduce two Christians, Nympha and Archippus, who are currently in the Colossian region. And this week's message revolves around 6 of Paul's co-workers currently with Paul in Rome who also send their greetings to the Colossian church. The first 3 are Jewish Christians ; the second 3 are Gentile Christians .

Even though Paul and many of these believers had never been to Colossae, they exhibited a strong love for each other and the church. Though Colossians 4:10-14 appears to be nothing more than a simple greeting, it gives evidence of 6 key ingredients essential to a vibrant Christian community. Therefore, we can apply these ingredients to our lives as well, if we truly are members of Christ's body desiring maximum fellowship with Christ and His church.


"Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, sends you his greetings; and also Barnabas' cousin Mark (about whom you received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him); and also Jesus who is called Justus; these are the only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are from the circumcision; and they have proved to be an encouragement to me" (Col. 4:10-11).

1. The Community Supports

First, the Christian community supports each other.

Aristarchus (verse 10) is mentioned 4 other times in the Bible. Aristarchus first comes on the scene during the Ephesian riot in Acts 19, a riot which was caused due to a decline in the sale of idols. The decline in the sale of idols was due to Christian conversions. And as any businessmen in the audience can testify, a decline in sales means a decline in profit. So for greedy financial reasons, Demetrius the silversmith stirred up his fellow workers in protest against Paul. "And when they heard this (Demetrius' speech) and were filled with rage, they began crying out, saying, 'Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!' And the city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed with one accord into the theater, dragging along Gaius and Aristarchus , Paul's traveling companions from Macedonia" (Ac. 19:28-29). Since they couldn't find Paul, the mob took the next best thing, Paul's companions. We might assume that this would be the last time Aristarchus found his company with Paul, but we see his name again during Paul's third missionary journey in Acts 20, and then in Acts 27 accompanying the prisoner Paul on his nautical journey to Rome to stand trial before Caesar. Even after the riot, Aristarchus continued to support Paul .

In writing from Rome, Paul called Aristarchus a "fellow worker" (Philemon 24), and here in Colossians 4:10 he is called a "fellow prisoner". Since there is no evidence of Aristarchus' arrest, it is safe to assume that he, like Tychicus (from last week), freely chose to minister with Paul during his imprisonment. As I mentioned last week, to associate with Paul was to associate with a criminal, a criminal who was deemed a threat to the Roman Empire. Not only was it dangerous, but also it was shameful to associate with a prisoner. From a historical context James Dunn said it well, "In a culture dominated by ideas of honor and shame, the willingness to accept the stigma of prison would indicate a high degree of personal commitment to Paul on the part of those he designates his 'fellow prisoners'". Aristarchus put his personal interests aside. Bless that man's heart.

A distinguishing mark of the Christian community is a group of interdependent individuals who support each other. The ongoing support that we expect from Christ should be freely given by us to fellow members of His body. We stick like glue when the going gets tough. We are willing to limit our freedoms and desires to help a brother or sister in need. We are to "bear one another's burdens" (Gal. 6:2). We are to "bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves" (Rom. 15:1).

Aristarchus was such a person. Regardless of Paul's condition physically (stoning, rods, eye problems, etc., he was a mess) and socially (a man in chains), Aristarchus stuck close to the Apostle's side in support. As an innocent man himself, he willingly shared in Paul's imprisonment.

2. The Community Forgives

The Christian community supports each other and they also forgive each other. If we look at an example from the book of Acts, Mark seems to be a huge disappointment. He was the young man who returned to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas for discipleship. He was the young man who accompanied the two great missionaries on their first journey. But he was also the young man who deserted the missionary team in Pamphylia and returned to Jerusalem. When it came time for the second journey, Barnabas wished to give his cousin Mark a second chance. However in Acts 15:38 we read, "But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work." After a "sharp disagreement" the two parted. Barnabas and Mark sailed to Cyprus, and Paul and Silas went to Galatia. This is the last we hear of Mark in Acts. We are left wondering, did the Lord ever use the young man with such potential? And, did Paul ever reconcile with Mark and Barnabas?

In our test in Colossians we read, "Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, sends you his greetings; and also Barnabas' cousin Mark (about whom you received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him)" (Col. 4:10). Paul is not ashamed to mention Barnabas, and Paul is not ashamed to mention Mark as a "fellow-worker," as he is called in the next verse and in Philemon 24, serving along side him in Rome. Reconciliation was accomplished, and here in verse 10 Paul instructed the Colossian church to welcome Mark and avoid shunning him because of his previous failure. He received support from Paul and appears to have been restored to productive ministry.

In Paul's final epistle we see the situation with Mark come full circle. "Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service " (2 Tim. 4:11). Forgiveness was issued, the relationship was restored, and the partnership in ministry was continued. Mark was not a failure. He became a noted servant for God's kingdom. In 1 Peter 5:13, Peter refers to him as "my son Mark". Mark would later write the Second Gospel and according to tradition, serve as the first Bishop of Alexandria where he would eventually be martyred for his faith.

Think about how many times we blow it before God, but yet He is always there to forgive, to restore, to strengthen, and to give us another opportunity to be used for His glory. He is a God of second chance. And we, created in His image as a reflection of His glory, should do likewise. We learned in Colossians 3, "bearing with one another, and forgiving each other , whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you ." Despite his previous failure, Paul forgave Mark, and eventually restored Mark. The relationship was mended and Mark, alongside Paul, was used greatly by the Lord in ministry.

3. The Community Accepts

The Community supports , forgives and now, accepts . At the end of verse 11, Paul classifies the three men (Aristarchus, Mark and Justus) as fellow workers from the circumcision.

In the first century there were many social barriers. In John 4 we learn of tremendous hostility between the Jews and the Samaritans. In Colossians we recently learned of enmity between men and women, children and parents, and slaves and masters. But the primary rift in the 1st century existed between Jews and Gentiles. William Barclay wrote, "The Jew had an immense contempt for the Gentile. The Gentiles, said the Jews, were created by God to be fuel for the fires of hell. God, they said, loves only Israel of all the nations that He made…It was not even lawful to render help to a Gentile mother in her hour of sorest need, for that would simply be to bring another Gentile into the world. If a Jewish boy married a Gentile girl or Jewish girl married a Gentile boy, the funeral of that boy or girl was carried out. Such contact with a Gentile was the equivalent of death."

With these sentiments, you can imagine the Jews' anger over the belief that Gentiles could be incorporated into the promise of God. How they who crucified the Lord of Glory failed to understand the barriers that Jesus abolished with the cross, the horizontal barrier between God and man, but also the vertical barrier between man and man. They failed to understand that in Christ Jesus, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for in Him all are one" (Gal. 3:28).

For this reason their prideful Jewish nationalistic blinders caused them to reject Christianity and severely persecute those following its beliefs. However, a small remnant of Jews did follow Christ, and of these a smaller remnant became co-workers with Paul (for the "kingdom of God") in his ministry to the Gentiles. Though it grieved Paul's heart that so many of his fellow-kinsmen were rejecting the Messiah (Rom. 9:1-3), verse 11 says that his Jewish co-workers, even though there were "only" 3, proved to be a great encouragement to him. Some Jews "proved" through their character and commitment that they were willing to be ostracized, hated and rejected in order to reach the Gentiles, knowing that God had ingrafted them into the vine on the same blessed status in Christ Jesus.

We are to be like these Jewish co-workers. We are to be like our Lord, accepting all that the He brings our way regardless of race, education, wealth and gender; regardless of what persecution we may be forced to face.


From the Jewish workers we now turn to the Gentile workers , "Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God. For I bear him witness that he has a deep concern for you and for those who are in Laodicea and Hierapolis. Luke, the beloved physician, sends you his greetings, and also Demas" (Col. 4:12-14).

4. The Community Prays

We have already seen that the Community supports , forgives and accepts , but without a doubt, the community should predominately be known as one who prays . In verse 12 Paul says Epaphras, another "bond-slave of Jesus Christ," is "always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers".

It's believed Epaphras was the pastor and founder of the Colossian church. He most likely came to Rome to report to Paul the destructive heresy threatening the churches of the Colossian region. But what's encouraging is while he was in Rome receiving advice from Paul, his heart was with his friends in Colossae! Since Epaphras couldn't be there in person, he was there in spirit through his prayers.

Notice how prayer is not a one-time event, rather Epaphras fulfilled the admonition in 4:2 when Paul said, "Devote yourself to prayer." Verse 12 says he was "always" in prayer. Verse 12 also says that he "labored earnestly" in his prayers. "Labored earnestly" - both of these words are the translation of one Greek word, agonizomai. Agonizomai is where we derive the English word "agonize." The word should sound familiar because Paul used that same word in Colossians 1:29, "And we proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, that we may present every man complete in Christ. And for this purpose also I labor, striving (agonizomai) according to His power, which mightily works within me."

For the maturity of the church Paul agonizomai(ed) in his ministry, he labored to the point of exhaustion. Epaphras agonizomai(ed) in his prayers to the point of exhaustion. In 1 Corinthians 9 the word is used of grueling competition in the athletic games. In 1 Timothy 6 the word is used of fighting the fight of faith. Here in Colossians it is used to describe Epaphras' prayer life, he labored in prayer and he struggled in prayer, similar to an athlete who strained every muscle and agonized for the prize. The words "agonizing" and "prayer" naturally bring to mind connotations of our precious Lord in the garden. "And being in agony He was praying very fervently ; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground" (Lk. 22:44).

And lest it skip our attention, Epaphras' prayer was not for himself, but rather it was for the spiritual maturity of others . This is convicting! How often are we agonizomai(ing) in prayer? How often are we agonizomai(ing) in prayer for someone else? How often are we agonizomai(ing) in prayer for someone else in relation to his or her spiritual maturity? Epaphras prayed that the church might stand (passive voice, shows a divine activity) perfect (or mature). His greatest desire was that God, through His Spirit, would transform the church into mature believers. His concern was for more than physically healthy Christians; it was for more than just conversions. His concern was a plea to see the saints mature in Christ. We find that his burden is similar to Paul's. As Paul agonizomai(zes) in teaching (Colossians 1:28), Epaphras agonizomai(zes) in his prayer (Colossians 4:12). Both men desired the maturing of the saints, fully assured in the will of God (as the text says). This spiritual maturity was imperative as the Colossian church faced the heresy that was seeking to assault their faith.

Robert Murray McCheyne said it well, "What a man is on his knees before God, that he is, and nothing more." Epaphras was such a man; he not only knew the power of prayer but also the content of prayer. All his prayers were an open dependence on God, knowing that He will provide the help we need.

5. The Community Cares

Beyond his great faith in prayer, Epaphras was motivated to prayer by a great concern for the church. Let me take you to the fifth point, the Christian community cares .

Verse 13, "For I bear him witness (Paul saw the heart of Epaphras first hand) that he has a deep concern for you and for those who are in Laodicea and Hierapolis." The Greek word translated "concern" (ponos) can also mean "labor, toil, pain, distress, or affliction." It is a common term for a struggle in battle. Epaphras loved his beloved church in Colossae and the neighboring churches in Laodicea and Hierapolis. His departure from the region painfully grieved his heart. He was deeply concerned, and it drove him to his knees.

As humans we all have concerns. Unfortunately, we tend to get caught up in future and temporal matters and self. These are ungodly concerns and should be avoided. The responsibilities of the day, eternal matters and others are concerns that honor the Lord.

Epaphras had this God-honoring concern for others, and we should as well. Every time we are together it should be a family reunion. When someone is not here, he or she should be missed. We should look for ways to continually edify, help, encourage, love, minister, serve, teach, comfort and greet one another. We should "be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor" (Rom. 12:10). We "should have the same care for one another" (1 Cor. 12:25). And all this should be reflected in our words, deeds and (as modeled by Epaphras) prayers.

6. The Community Perseveres

Finally, the sixth distinctive of the Christian community is perseverance . Last week we spent considerable time discussing the faithful perseverance of Tychicus. There is no wonder why Paul called him in verse 7, a "beloved brother, faithful servant and fellow bond-servant in the Lord". Tychicus was content with humble, behind-the-scenes service, caring only to be recognized by the Lord. He willingly shared the reproach of Paul's imprisonment and faithfully fulfilled the ministries entrusted to his care. Why did he persevere? Because he knew that in serving Paul, he was serving God. Perseverance to the end can only be accomplished when individuals consider Jesus their greatest cause, their greatest joy and their greatest reward.

On the other hand, many fall away when the things of the world appear more attractive. This lack of faith either results in mediocrity from Christians or the abandonment from those who reveal they were never really saved in the first place. "They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us" (1 Jn. 2:19). Many jump on the Christian bandwagon only to fall off before completing the race. Jesus spoke of them in the parable of the 4 soils. Some hear the Word, and receive it with great joy, but they fall away when persecution or affliction arises. Others hear the Word, and the worries of the world and the deceitfulness of riches causes them to fall away. But yet others hear the Word, receive it and show the genuineness of their faith by bearing fruit and persevering to the end.

The reason I say all this is because the final worker Paul mentions in verse 14 is Demas . Of all the comments Paul made of his other companions, Demas receives none. The reader is forced to ask, "Were there concerns in Demas' walk?" "Was this a foreshadowing of Demas' future?" The only other place in Scripture where any details of this man are mentioned are in Paul's final letter, 2 Timothy 4:10. The synopsis is not very encouraging, "for Demas, having loved this present world , has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica." Sadly the pull of the world eventually became irresistible; Demas was drawn away from his first love for Christ and for His suffering people. Demas did not persevere. Demas found his joy in the pursuit of that which is contrary to God, a love for this fallen world. James teaches, "You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (Jas. 4:4). John teaches, "Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 Jn. 2:15). The Christian cannot love both God and the world; he must choose. Demas made his choice very clear.

The question is, did Demas desert only Paul, or did Demas desert both Paul and Christ? I believe it's the latter, but only God knows for sure. John Bunyan in his classic Pilgrim's Progress makes his belief very clear. "Then I saw in my dream that a little way off the road, close by the silver-mine, a distinguished looking man named Demas stood ready to call travelers to come and take a look. He called to Christian and Hopeful, 'Hello, there! Turn aside over here. I have something to show you.' 'What is so important that it warrants our going off of the way to see it?' Christian replied. Demas said, 'This Silver-mine, and some are digging in it for treasure. If you come, with a little effort you can provide richly for yourselves.' 'Not I', said Christian. 'I have heard of this place before and many who have died there. Besides, that treasure is a snare to those who seek it, for it hinders them in their pilgrimage.' And after Demas sought numerous times to persuade the two by enticing them with the worldly treasures of Silver-mine, Christian said, 'I know you; Gehazi, Elisha's servant was your great-grandfather, and Judas was your father. You are walking in their footsteps. Your father hung as a traitor, and you deserve no better.'"

Demas proved to be unfaithful; he is a negative example of perseverance. Jesus had His Judas, Paul had his Demas, and we have those who let us (and the Lord) down either through temporary or eternal unfaithfulness. But the Christian community is to be marked by faithfulness, like Christian and Hopeful in the novel who persevere on their journey until they reach the celestial city.

Well what have we seen? The Christian community should be identified as one which: supports , forgives , accepts , prays , cares and perseveres . When we are walking in the Spirit these attributes should characterize our church. In doing so we bring great honor to our Lord, great testimony to a fallen world, and great comfort to those within our church family.

Do you love the church? I do. Christ does too…He died for it! The Scriptures say He purchased the church with His own blood. May we glorify His name by our Christlike conduct and express our gratitude by supporting, forgiving, accepting, praying and caring for His beloved children… faithfully persevering until the end!

other sermons in this series

Mar 24


For The Sake of The Name - Part Three

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Colossians 4:15–18 Series: Colossians

Mar 10


For The Sake of The Name - Part One

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Colossians 4:7–9 Series: Colossians

Mar 3


Communication With A Heart Toward Evangelism

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Colossians 4:2–6 Series: Colossians