March 24, 2002

For The Sake of The Name - Part Three

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


For The Sake of The Name-Part Three

Colossians 4:15-18
Sunday, March 24, 2002
Pastor Randy Smith

If you can remember, last week I discussed my love for the church. This week, I want to back up and ask you a very important question. What is the church? To answer that question, many might turn to the aid of a variety of informational sources. We all know the Internet contains a wealth of information. Personally, I conducted a search on the Internet under the word "church." To my surprise, I received almost 12,000 hits! Each hit seemed to have its own definition of the church, everything from the ridiculous to the blasphemous. Let me share a few of the churches along with some descriptions that I came across.

We are familiar with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and possibly the Church of Christ, Scientist . The Seekers Church advertised themselves as "a Christian Community, a small Ecumenical Christian church committed to working openly with feminist theology, relationships among women and men, and our commitment to justice and peace." Missions groups focused on Art, Dance and Sexuality. The Agnostic Church interestingly included a draft of the Agnostic Bible. However, that contradiction is second to the Church of Satan . There was the Church Women United . The Church of the SubGenius claims to have started in 1980 and is "dedicated to total Slack, exposing the Conspiracy, and informing the public of the end of the world and arrival of the X-ists." Maybe you've heard of the Church of Virus . They are a "rational, atheistic religion memetically engineered to fill an ecological niche in the idea-space of humanity created by recent advances in knowledge."

One of the most unique was the Virtual Church of the Blind Chihuahua . Yes, they can be contacted at They are a "sacred place in cyberspace named in honor of a little old dog with cataracts, who barked sideways at strangers, because he couldn't see where they were." Their slogan, "The courage to be ridiculous before God." They must have a lot of courage! There was also the Church of the Firstborn. They describe themselves "not a religion with dogmas and buildings. There are no meeting requirements or organization memberships. Rather, it is a level of spirituality and connectedness with the heavens and with others on earth who are likewise minded. The Church of the Firstborn is not an earthly denomination but an ecumenical general assembly of believers who attain communion through the veil with Almighty God and the holy angelic hosts. It consists of humble men and women who have sought God diligently to the point of coming into his (and her) very presence and being called after the holy order of God, that they might be princes of peace, preachers of righteousness and carry forth God's work on the earth."

The Universal Life Church had an interesting slogan. "We accept Everyone From All Faiths, Beliefs and Religions. No Requirements or Commitments Ever! Become an ordained minister in less than 3 minutes and start your own ministry or church of any faith or religion, today. The Universal Life Church Has More Than 20 Million Ordained Ministers."

Folks, of the 12,000 hits, these were found in the first 70! Many in the world are confused about the definition of a church; unfortunately many professing evangelicals fair no better. Some are starting their own anonymous gatherings under no authority whatsoever, some are preaching a false gospel not according to the apostolic doctrine delivered once and for all to the saints, and some (as we have recently observed with Harold Camping) are trying to abandon the church altogether . According to him, we can't even use the word. What is the church?

Since Jesus Christ is the revelation of God (Jn. 1:18), and the Scriptures are the revelation of Jesus Christ (Lk. 24:44), and Jesus Christ ordained the church (Mt. 16:18), the best (and only) place to discover the true nature of the church is the Bible. In that Book we read that: Jesus Christ purchased the church with His own blood, Jesus Christ will build His church, Jesus Christ will shepherd His church, Jesus Christ will protect His church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against His church.

There is only one church, the company of born-again believers chosen by God and sanctified by the blood of Christ. Only that church will triumph during this all-out assault by Satan on the identity of the church. And though the victory is certain, we are nevertheless living in a time of warfare . Are you willing to fight for the church? Christ has not left His troops ill-equipped, He has given His church three provisions to work in conjunction with His Spirit for guaranteed victory. See if you can identify them in our text this morning as we conclude the letter to the Colossians.

"Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea and also Nympha and the church that is in her house. And when this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea. And say to Archippus, 'Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.' I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my imprisonment. Grace be with you" (Col. 4:15-18).

The three provisions during warfare are also listed as the three points of the sermon: our fortress , our soldiers and our weapon . All three will only be effective when they cooperate in conjunction with the Commanding Officer.

1. OUR FORTRESS (4:15)

Let's first turn our attention to our fortress. "Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea and also Nympha and the church that is in her house" (Col. 4:15). Biblically, the church can be divided into different categories: Visible Church - those on earth identified with a church; Invisible Church - God's true saints either on earth or in heaven; Universal Church - Professing believers scattered amongst the world; and Local Church - a select group of professing believers gathered in one location.

In verse 15, Paul is speaking with reference to the local visible church in Laodicea (located 10 miles West of Colossae). Initially, in this verse, Paul greets all the churches in Laodicea and then appears to send specific greetings to one of those Laodicean churches, which met in Nympha's house.

Though we meet in beautiful public buildings today, history shows the early church met in homes until the third century. Other books in the New Testament also make mention of these house churches. It appears: Lydia hosted a church in Philippi (Ac. 16); Pricilla and Aquila hosted a church in Rome and Ephesus (Rom. 16; 1 Cor. 16); Gaius hosted a church in Corinth, which appears to have housed the entire church of Corinth (1 Cor. 1:2; Rom. 16:23); and Philemon hosted a church in Colossae (Phm. 2).

Unfortunately we know few details surrounding these house churches, but one thing fascinating about these churches was their relationship with each other. Remember, Paul had never been to the Colossian region, yet he was able to greet some of the saints by name. There appears to be a communal bond of love, which knit the network of these churches closely together.

In the NT we often read of letters of commendation, as the Christians would travel from one church to another. For example, one case came last week in the person of Mark. "Mark (about whom you received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him.)" (Col. 4:10). There was Phoebe in Romans 16:1, "I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea." In the early church even the missionaries reported to, and were sent out from, the local churches (Ac. 13:1-3). Every epistle in the NT is directed to either a church or a leader of the church. There are no letters addressed to people who are running loose not affiliated with a local church. There was a tight network of believers relationally in tune with each other and committed to the same cause. And despite horrific persecution, God worked through those churches. They persevered, and they grew. We have much to learn, especially in a day and age when commitments are weak, relationships are superficial, and the need for the church even amongst evangelicals is attacked.

We too must emulate our Christian forefathers in their commitment to the local church. There are many advantages. One advantage is protection , as I mentioned earlier, the church is a fortress . Obviously God is our ultimate mighty fortress, but He uses the church as a place of protection for His children.

This protection comes formally through faithful undershepherds or elders, ever on the guard for false teachers and dangerous heresies. They are undershepherds who faithfully teach and preach and rebuke and correct according to God's Word; they are undershepherds who emulate their Master, know their flock by name and gently lead them to greener pastures. But this protection also comes informally from fellow believers in the form of accountability: people intimately involved in our lives, people asking us the hard questions, people who love us enough to tell us when we are wrong according to the Scriptures. That's why any individual not affiliated with a local church; or affiliated and sporadically attending; or affiliated, faithfully attending, but wrapped in an isolated cocoon, is placing him/herself in a dangerous predicament and failing to take advantage of the spiritual protection Christ offers through His church.

We call this room a sanctuary. If used as a "holy place", the term is more appropriately applied to believers as the temple of God's Spirit. But if used as a place of refuge or safety or protection , the term may be used to categorize the church. This is a fortress during a fierce battle. If I'm on the front lines all day, I need the church where I can be encouraged, where my wounds can be bandaged, and where I can trained for better warfare. Warriors (and all of you are!) allow me to be clear; the battle is not here in the fortress! The gravest sin is when we fight each other and casualties, due to our carnality, are dropping off from friendly fire. Even those of us who have never attended a military academy know that's no way to win a war. "I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord" (Phil. 4:2).

Our battle is not here; it's out there! Our battle is against the spiritual forces of wickedness. Our battle is against every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God. Our battle is against the god of this world who has blinded the minds of the unbelieving. Our battle is against darkness and unrighteousness and every evil thing that opposes the glory of God. And if you are fighting the way God expects, it's a grueling battle. That's why we need the fort , the sanctuary , and the hospital .

2. OUR SOLDIERS (4:17)

Unfortunately, too many Christians (and might I be blunt) often because of their sin are so in need of the hospital that they are oblivious to the war to which they were called. Hence, the Commanding General is forced to work with a few faithful soldiers committed to their calling, trying to pull the weight for the rest of the infantry. Epaphroditus in Philippians 2 was described as a fellow-soldier. Archippus in Philemon 2 was described as a fellow-soldier too, but unfortunately here in Colossians 4 the soldier is about to be court-marshaled.

Look at verse 17, "And say to Archippus, 'Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it'" (Col. 4:17). It's difficult to be certain as to the exact nature of this man's ministry. Some have suggested he was called to preach, hinted at by the words, "which you have received in the Lord". Possibly Archippus was entrusted with the apostolic gospel and shepherding of the Colossian church in lieu of their Pastor Epaphras' tenure with the apostle Paul in Rome.

Nevertheless, this soldier had ceased to finish the task entrusted to his care. That God expects all of His soldiers to fight according to the talents and gifts He has given them is without question. In order to win a war, every soldier must understand his or her special role. But the soldier must also be faithful to persevere with his/her given responsibility until the cease fire is declared! Something caused Archippus to quit: Sidetracked? Exhausted? Frustrated? Lazy? Whatever the reason, Paul found no excuses. Archippus was encouraged to re-engage the opponent and resume the ministry to completion.

Paul said elsewhere, "Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier " (2 Tim. 2:3). As soldiers, all of us are to be in the business of pleasing our Enlisting Officer. He has purchased us and equipped us with: every spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph. 1:3), everything pertaining to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3), gifts of the Spirit for the common good (1 Cor. 12:7), and the full armor of God (Eph. 6:13). Should we not be a good steward and use what has been entrusted to our care? Can we please our Enlisting Officer by standing on the sidelines? No, we please Him by effective and faithful fighting according to His commands.

Let me ask you a question. In fierce warfare, bullets flying over your head, how would you respond to a fellow soldier more concerned about his comfort than battling the enemy? Would you say something? Paul did to his fellow soldier! First 4 words of verse 17, "And say to Archippus…" Take that with verse 16, "And when this letter is read among you." This letter was addressed to the church! The whole church was commanded to tell Archippus to get off his duff and out of the foxhole! Warriors don't tolerate complacency from their fellow-soldiers, there's too much at stake! Everybody with his or her specialized responsibilities is needed. We are interdependent; we are a chain only as strong as our weakest link. Are you the weakest link?

The Christian church has been deceived into thinking that we are at peacetime. This is the most effective battle strategy from the enemy. Without knowing it, our complacency and propensity toward leisure actually works against our Commander's cause. Remember, if we are not fighting for God, we are fighting against Him (Mt. 12:30).

3. OUR WEAPON (4:16, 18)

A wartime mentality really helps us evaluate the use of our spiritual disciplines. Take prayer for example, our walkie-talkie with God. In peacetime our walkie-talkie is collecting dust or we're praying for our ingrown toenail. In wartime we always maintain communication with the General pleading for directions, reinforcements and supplies. How about money ? In peacetime we are spending our money on vacation homes and golf; in wartime were spending our money on ammunition and training. Consider our spiritual armor , our defense system. In peacetime we keep our defense down; in wartime our shields are up, we are on high alert, lest we be vulnerable to the enemy's attacks. Think about Scripture , our sword. In peacetime it hangs above the fireplace; in wartime we never leave the barracks without it.

That leads us to part 3, our weapon. "And when this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea… I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand…" (Col. 4:16). In Ephesians 6 Paul lists the 6 components of our spiritual armor. They consist of girded loins with truth, the breastplate of righteousness, feet shod with the preparation of the gospel, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit. Five are defensive; the last one is offensive, "the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God" (Eph. 6:17). There is no greater example of wielding the sword than our beloved Savior as He used Scripture to battle the evil one in the wilderness.

In Colossians, Paul knew he was writing as a mouthpiece for God and he understood the value of God-inspired Scripture. That's why he said in verse 16 to have "this letter read among you." Also in that verse he wanted the Laodicean church to read the Colossian letter and he wanted the Colossian church to read the letter coming from Laodicea (I believe that was the book of the Ephesians). From these admonitions one can understand how Paul's letters were copied, collected, and exchanged at an early date… for both he and the church knew that they were the Word of God.

Elsewhere Paul said, "And for this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received from us the word of God's message, you accepted it not as the word of men , but for what it really is, the word of God , which also performs its work in you who believe" (1 Thes. 2:13). To the Ephesian elders in Miletus Paul said, "How I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable " (Ac. 20:20). What's profitable ? "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

Scripture is the sword of the Spirit. Is there any better way to engage the enemy? Is there any better way to hear from your General? Is there any better way to be commanded? Is there any better way to be encouraged? Is there any better way to be healed? Is there any better way to be trained? Is there any better way to be successful in battle?

To Joshua , the commander of God's army, the Lord Himself said, "This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success" (Joshua 1:8). Remember in Psalm 1, the blessed man is the one whose "delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night."

Our weapon is the Word, whether it be temptation, evangelism, depression, or whatever, "the Word of God (must) dwell richly within us" (Col. 3:16). We can't draw the sword from someone else's scabbard. If we don't wear it, we can't wield it and we will reach in vain when the enemy strikes. We must carry it in our heads to savor it in our hearts to use it in the Spirit.

After mentioning our fortress, our fellow-soldier and our weapon, Paul picks up the pen from the scribe and adds these closing words in verse 18, "I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my imprisonment. Grace be with you" (Col. 4:18). We are reminded again, for the third time in this chapter alone, that Paul was a prisoner of war. He was not encumbered with non-essentials. He was willing to suffer for his cause.

And though he was imprisoned for the Gospel, he kept fighting as a good soldier, praying (as we saw in 4:3) that God would still allow him to speak forth the Word. Paul preached the Word, and as this letter we've enjoyed the past 6 months testifies, he also wrote the Word. In this glorious letter he wrote about: walking in a manner worthy of the Lord; receiving the forgiveness of sins; understanding the Person of Christ; the sinfulness of man; enduring suffering; engrafting of the Gentiles; indwelling of Christ; striving toward spiritual maturity; deception through mysticism, legalism and asceticism; seeking the things above; putting on the new nature and putting off the old; unity in the church; husband and wife relationships; parent and child relationships, employer and employee relationships, communication with God and man, and evangelism. And then he gave us an example of 9 individuals serving for the sake of the Name, applying this material, and devoted to the greatest cause.

Chapter 1, verse 2 begins with the word "grace"; chapter 4, verse 18 ends with the word "grace". Sandwiched by those two words are 94 verses screaming of God's unmerited favor resting upon sinners like you and I.

Our enemy had been defeated; the outcome of the battle has been determined, yet the war still wages, and we must be prepared. Fortunately, God in His grace has fully equipped us with the church , fellow soldiers and the Scriptures . We must recognize the battle and fight the good fight until the day that the church militant will be the church triumphant. The day when we lay down our arms and enter our heavenly rest and hear our Commanding Officer say, "Well done, my good and faithful soldier."

other sermons in this series

Mar 17


For The Sake of The Name - Part Two

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