Fellow Servants of the Lord Just less than a month ago much of the

Fellow Servants of the Lord
Just less than a month ago much of the world saw the MVP of the NBA Kevin Durant give an
impassioned acceptance speech in which he credited his mother with being the real MVP for all she’d
done for him in going without as a single mom, putting food on the table and always believing in him. It
was a touching tribute to moms just before Mothers’ Day and another of many instances in life where
the one who gets the acclaim rightfully acknowledges the debt he owes to so many who have helped
him or her and made it all possible.
It is almost certainly the case that no one in church history exceeds the apostle Paul in terms of acclaim.
Some liberals occasionally even try to pit him over against Jesus as the founder of Christianity, but he
was nothing of the sort. Instead, he was a servant, a slave, of the gospel and called to be “an apostle of
Christ Jesus by the will of God” (Col. 1:1). Despite all he did for the sake of Christ and the gospel, he in
humility viewed himself as less than the least of all the saints (Eph. 3:8). Paul recognized the importance
of others to the success the Lord had given him in the propagation of the gospel. He names some of
them here at the end of the letter to the Colossians, calling them “fellow servants in the Lord.”
The first listed is Tychicus, described as a “dear brother” (literally, “beloved” brother, or “favorite”
brother). He is called the same in Eph. 6:21 and was evidently the one who brought that letter to the
Ephesians just as he brought this one to the Colossians. A native of the province of Asia, he was among
the delegates from Gentile churches who accompanied Paul to Palestine in the year 57 with those
churches’ monetary gifts for their brethren in Jerusalem. He is also mentioned as a messenger of Paul in
2 Tim. 4:12 and Tit. 3:12. He was a close friend and fellow servant of Paul, though I’m confident there
are no churches around the world named after him or kids named after him! He served, as so many
great servants do, behind the scenes, not interested in getting name recognition, but in getting the
message of the gospel to the lost and the apostolic word to the churches on how to live. No doubt he
did this at considerable personal risk, for traveling about in those days, particularly on behalf of and with
Paul, would not have been easy, for he was imprisoned, flogged countless times, often near death,
beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger
from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea,
danger from false brothers and sisters; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and
thirsty, often without food, cold and naked” (2 Cor. 11:25-27). He deserves some honorable mention!
Next Paul mentions Onesimus, “the faithful and beloved brother,” who had been a slave of Philemon
and was a member of the Colossian church. He had run away from his master and in Rome had come
under the ministry of Paul and been converted to Christ. He had proven himself “useful” (meaning of
his name) to Paul, but Paul sent him along with Tychicus so that he might return to Philemon “no longer
as a slave but more than a slave, a beloved brother” (Philem. 16), allowing them to reconcile. These
two close associates of Paul would tell the Colossian church how Paul was doing imprisoned in Rome.
Paul mentions next Aristarchus, “my fellow prisoner,” who sends his greetings. Aristarchus was the man
who had been with Paul in Ephesus under great personal danger when a riot broke out there (Acts
19:29). He later went with Paul as a delegate from the church at Thessalonica to minister to the church
in Jerusalem and also accompanied Paul when he and Luke set sail from Caesarea for Rome in appeal to
Caesar. As a side note, I visited that place on my recent trip to the Holy Land and saw the remains of the
place where Paul was kept under house arrest in Herod’s magnificent palace on the Mediterranean.
Paul also sends greetings from Mark, with whom he had had a bit of a falling out some twelve years
earlier when Mark had left him and Barnabas at Perga instead of going on with them to evangelize in the
southern Galatian region. This is the Mark who wrote the gospel that bears his name, showing that
even good Christians can sometimes be at odds with each other for a time about how to proceed. In the
end, they have reconciled, no doubt owing to the influence of Barnabas, who has lived up to his name,
“son of encouragement.” Mark had become a key helper to Paul. As his last imprisonment drew to an
end under Nero in Rome, where he languished in a cold dungeon, he asked Timothy to “get Mark and
bring him with you, for he is useful in my ministry” (2 Tim. 4:12).
Next on the list is Jesus, also called Justus, who with Aristarchus and Mark were the only Christians of
Jewish birth who were actively engaged with Paul in the gospel ministry at this time. Remember how
Paul would at first go to the synagogue in each town he entered to share the gospel; many would
believe, but many more would resist and persecute him. These fellow Jews he has mentioned worked
together with Paul and were a “comfort” to him. Everyone needs encouragement and support along the
way, even Paul. We usually energize and motivate others better with positive words than negative.
Paul next mentions Epaphras. We talked last week about the importance of prayer and here is a classic
example of a prayer warrior. He was another member of the Colossian church who was described
earlier in this book as “our beloved fellow servant,” and “faithful minister of Christ on your behalf” who
“has made known your love in the Spirit” (1:7). Here at the end of this letter he is mentioned again as
one who “is always wrestling in his prayers on your behalf.” The word translated “wrestling” is
agonidzomai, which does mean to “contend in an athletic contest,” and then to “endeavor with
strenuous zeal, to strive”—it is the basis for our word “agonize.” Epaphras wrestled with God on behalf
of the Colossians, that they would not fall prey to false teaching, but would walk worthy of the Lord, just
as Jacob had wrestled with the angel of the Lord in Gen. 32. Paul testifies that Epaphras “has worked
hard for you,” on which Bruce comments, “Praying is working; and by such fervent prayer Epaphras
toiled effectively on behalf of the churches of Colossae and Laodicea and Hierapolis.” Oswald Chambers
said the following in his devotional My Utmost for His Highest:
Prayer does not equip us for greater works— prayer is the greater work. Yet we think of prayer
as some commonsense exercise of our higher powers that simply prepares us for God’s work. In
the teachings of Jesus Christ, prayer is the working of the miracle of redemption in me, which
produces the miracle of redemption in others, through the power of God. The way fruit remains
firm is through prayer, but remember that it is prayer based on the agony of Christ in
redemption, not on my own agony. We must go to God as His child, because only a child gets his
prayers answered; a “wise” man does not (see Matthew 11:25).
Prayer is the battle, and it makes no difference where you are. However God may engineer your
circumstances, your duty is to pray. Never allow yourself this thought, “I am of no use where I
am,” because you certainly cannot be used where you have not yet been placed. Wherever God
has placed you and whatever your circumstances, you should pray.
So we should. For we stand here in this text among two of the gospel writers, Mark and Luke, both
friends and fellow servants of the great servant who considered himself less than the least of all the
saints, the apostle Paul. We stand in a great heritage in the church of those who were faithful servants
of the Lord and have the privilege of continuing on in that great work. The gospel that has been
entrusted to us, to all of us, is not ours to mold and shape as we see fit. It is a stewardship, for it is the
gospel of God, the good news that comes from God, and it is our responsibility to proclaim it wherever
and however we can, in the churches and in the world, so that all people might know the call of God to
turn from sin and find healing and reconciliation for their lives in Jesus Christ. We stand at a time in
history when our country and most of the Western world and too much of the church is falling prey and
being taken captive by “philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the
elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ” (2:8). Let us continue in the great
heritage of faithfulness to the Lord, as fellow servants of Christ, preaching and living out the truth, for
the glory of Jesus Christ.