Session 11

Home Bible Study of Colossians – Session 11

Larry Reynolds

 

Tonight we’re going to begin looking at a section in the book of Colossians which focuses on some of the people who made up the church in the 1st century...like several other NT books, Colossians ends with a series of greetings to and from certain individuals... beginning with v.7 and chapter 4 and going down through v.17, Paul mentions ten (10) people by name...this is the type of material would be tempted to skim over rather quickly in our personal Bible study, thinking there’s not much for us to learn from it...but a closer look at this part of God’s word reveals many important truths for us to learn...look at Colossians 4:7-17...

 

Over the next two weeks we’re going to take an in-depth look at the lives of the people listed in these verses...there are some great lessons to be learned from the examples of these people...for example--

--Tychicus, who is described as a “beloved brother and faithful servant”  we will show us a profile in real friendship...

--Onesimus and Mark, both of whom had personal failures in their lives, we teach us about rising above our past mistakes...

--Aristarchus and Demas provide us a study in contrast...Aristarchus stayed with Paul through all sorts of trouble and Demas ended up deserting Paul...those two men will remind us that we always have the options of staying with Christ or straying from Christ...

--Epaphras, who founded the church at Colossae, we will see the importance of having a worthy goal and relentlessly moving toward it...

--Luke, Paul’s beloved personal physician, will remind us of the importance of using our abilities for the Lord...

--Justus, Nympha, and Archippus, who are virtually unknown to us except for the passing reference in this passage, will teach us about the virtue of being willing to work behind the scenes, not drawing undue attention to oneself...

 

This list of names at the end of Colossians is a reminder that the Christian life is a life of relationships...when you accepted Christ into your life, you became a part of a great spiritual family...and as members of the family of faith, we’re to encourage each other, draw strength from each other, challenge each other, and support each other...the concept of Christians drawing strength and encouragement from each other permeates this list of names...notice the recurring use of certain words in this passage...

--”beloved” which is a term of endearing affection is used three times...

--”brother” which means from the same womb is used two times...

--”fellow” which comes from a word meaning to be together with another person is used three times...

And Paul speaks of his beloved brothers and fellow workers as being an “encouragement” to him...the word translated “encouragement” in v.11 is the word from which our word “paregoric” comes...for those of you who may not know what paregoric is, it’s a foul tasting medicine which my mother thought was a cure for anything...and what Paul is saying is that his fellow Christians are like a tonic to his soul...and that is why we need to go out of our way to maintain healthy relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ...

 

TYCHICUS – A Profile in Friendship

 

     Few things in life are more important than friends...that’s why literature is filled with statements about the value of having true friends...listen to just a few of my favorite quotes about friends. 

--Henry Durbanville - “A friend is the first person to come in when the whole world goes out.”

--Old Arab Proverb - “A friend is one to whom we may pour out all the contents of our hearts, chaff and grain together, knowing that the gentlest of hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping, and with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.”

 

     Tychicus was a true friend to Paul.  In verse 7 Paul uses three beautiful phrases to describe his friend.  He describes Tychicus as:

 

·        “our beloved brother”...the phrase means “much loved fellow Christian”[Vaughan]...Tychicus was Paul’s brother because he was a fellow believer...he and Paul had the same spiritual heritage...he earned from Paul the title “beloved” or “much loved” because his great loyalty to Paul...Tychicus stayed with Paul through many difficult situations...Tychicus, who was from Thessalonica, traveled with Paul from Macedonia to Jerusalem to deliver a special offering to the Christians in that area...such a long journey in itself was a difficult and dangerous undertaking...by accompanying Paul, Tychicus had to endure much hardship and be separated from his family, friends, and church for a long time...since Tychicus was with Paul in Rome when he wrote Colossians, many scholars believe he loyally stayed with Paul through his arrest in Jerusalem, series of trials before Felix, Festus, and Agrippa, and the harrowing journey to Rome which included a shipwreck...and it was because of his loyalty, of his refusal to bail out when things got difficult that Tychicus earned the title “beloved” from the great apostle...Tychicus reminds us that true friends are loyal to each other…I think that’s what Henry Durbanville meant when he wrote “A friend is the first person to come in when the whole world goes out.”

 

·        “faithful servant” - Someone has said that the greatest ability in the world is dependability...and Paul could certainly depend on Tychicus to get the job done...the phrase rendered “faithful servant” in v.7 Curtis Vaughan renders “trusty assistant”... Tychicus was someone Paul could trust to do what needed to be done...for example:

o   When Paul needed someone to travel from Rome to Colossae to deliver this letter, Tychicus was the one to whom he turned...

o   When Paul need someone to temporarily replace Titus as pastor of the church on Crete, Tychicus was one the people to whom he turned...

o   When Paul needed someone to fill in for Timothy as pastor of the church at Ephesus so that Timothy could visit Paul one last time, Tychicus was the one to whom he turned...

          What a blessing it is to have friends in our lives like that...friends we can depend on to do what needs to be done...a real friend is someone you can depend on...

 

·        “fellow bond-servant” – It may seem at first reading that the phrases “faithful servant” and “fellow bond-servant” mean the same thing...but they don’t...

o   ”faithful servant” describes Tychicus’ relationship to Paul...the word “servant” in that phrase is diakonos...point is Tychicus faithfully assisted Paul in his ministry...

o   ”fellow bond-servant” describes both Paul’s and Tychicus’ relationship to the Lord...the word “bond-servant” is doulos and it means the lowest of the slaves...point is Paul viewed Tychicus as his equal before the Lord...Paul understood that in the Lord’s eyes they were both servants... the word “fellow” which appears twice in v.7 appears in its various forms more than 25 times in the letters of Paul in the NT...it’s an expression of equality...when we refer to someone as a “fellow worker” or a “fellow citizen” we are saying that we are not above them and we are not below them...instead, we are alongside them...and that is how true friends relate to each other...they walk side by side...

 

 

ONESIMUS AND MARK - Rising Above Personal Failure

 

     Both of these men had significant failures in their pasts...

·        Onesimus’ failure was that he committed what amounted to a capital offense in the 1st  century world...he was a slave who ran away...his master was a man named Philemon who lived in Colossae...Philemon was a member of the Colossian church and there is some indication that the church may have actually met in his home...for a slave to run away from his master was punishable by death, but to make matters worse, Paul’s letter to Philemon which appears later in the NT seems to suggest that Onesimus took some of his master’s money as he left...

·        Mark, who is also known as John, has one of the more interesting stories in the NT...he was the son of a wealthy widow who lived in Jerusalem...we first meet John Mark in Acts 13 where he accompanies Paul and his cousin, Barnabas, on Paul’s first missionary journey...Mark’s failure was that when things got a little tough, he bailed out and went home...this so angered Paul that when it came time for the second missionary Barnabas wanted to take Mark along and Paul, still angry over Mark’s quitting on the first trip, flatly refused...the incident caused a rift in the relationship between Paul and Barnabas...

By the time Paul wrote the book of Colossians, both Onesimus and Mark had overcome their personal failures...and from their examples, want to share with you in summary form five (5) principles for rising above personal failure...

 

PRINCIPLE 1: To overcome personal failure, we must face our failures honestly

It is interesting that neither Onesimus or Mark ran away from their failure...as matter of fact, they both seemed to run toward it...

--Onesimus returned to Colossae to face Philemon and own up to what he did...

--Mark apparently worked for years to re-build his broken relationship with Paul...

 

What want you see in that is neither of them attempted to hide, cover-up, or deny their mistake...they faced up to their failure and that was the starting point to overcoming it...

 

And, in our lives, we will never overcome failure if our only response to it is to cover it up...that doesn’t mean that we must announce our mistakes to the whole world...but it does mean that within ourselves we face them and honestly deal with them...

 

 

PRINCIPLE 2: To overcome personal failure, in times of failure we must seek wise counsel, not sympathy

 

It’s interesting that the paths of Onesimus and Paul crossed in Rome...we don’t know how that happened, but since Paul was under arrest and his movements were restricted, it is safe to conclude that Onesimus sought out Paul...no doubt Onesimus had heard of Paul and perhaps had even met Paul through his master, Philemon...

 

Knowing Paul’s reputation, Onesimus certainly did not go to him seeking sympathy...there is no way Paul would have sympathized with someone who was deceptive, dishonest, and deliberately violated another person’s trust...instead of seeking sympathy, he went to Paul seeking wise counsel...and that’s exactly what he got...Paul led him to faith in Christ and then sent him back home to face Philemon...

 

 

PRINCIPLE 3: To overcome personal failure, we need to resist the temptation of using failure as an excuse to stop trying

Failure is never permanent unless it causes us to give up and stop trying...that’s a temptation which both Onesimus and Mark resisted...and that leads to the fourth principle...

 

 

PRINCIPLE 4: To overcome personal failure, we must allow failure to spur us on to greater things

Instead of frustrating us, we need to learn how to allow our failures to motivate us...many of the world’s most successful people found that failure can be a stepping stone to success...

 

That happened in the life of Nathaniel Hawthorne, the famous American literary figure...he lost his job at a customhouse in Salem and feeling very dejected and defeated he went home to break the bad news to his wife...her reaction surprised him...she said, “Good.  Now you can continue work on your book.”...and with her encouragement he got busy and finished writing The Scarlet Letter, which became a classic of American literature...

 

Both Onesimus and Mark went on to much greater things after their failures...Onesimus found salvation in Christ...Mark became the author of one of the four gospels...both used their failure as a spring board to greater things...

 

 

PRINCIPLE 5: To overcome personal failure, we must remember that God is a God of second chances

It is God’s nature to be redemptive...to be forgiving...to allow us to begin again...that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t take sin seriously...He does...doesn’t mean that God will not judge those who disobey Him...He will...but the picture of God we see throughout the Scripture is that He would prefer to forgive rather than condemn...and if we turn to Him in repentance and faith, He will give us a chance to begin again...

 

That principle can be seen in the lives of person after person in the Bible...for example God did not give up on—

--David when he committed adultery with Bathsheba and then arranged the death of her husband...

--Peter when he denied three times being a follower of Jesus...

--Paul even though he was a great persecutor of Christians...

 

And He didn’t give up on Onesimus when he ran away or on Mark when he turned back...nor will God give up on us...no matter how badly we have messed up...no matter how big the failure...God is waiting to accept us, forgive us, and restore us to full fellowship with Him...all we have to do is turn to Him...

                                                        

 

Later on in Scripture Paul makes a statement about Onesimus and a statement about Mark which are very similar...

--in the letter to Philemon Paul wrote that Onesimus “...formerly was useless to you, but now is useful both to you and to me...”

--in the letter of 2 Timothy Paul instructed Timothy to “Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service.”

 

Both Onesimus and Mark moved from being useless to being useful...how did they do it?...how did they overcome their failures?...by—

--honestly facing their failure...

--by seeking wise counsel, not sympathy...

--resisting the temptation of using failure as an excuse to stop trying...

--allowing failure to spur them on to greater things...

--remembering that God is the God of second chances...

 

Which of those five principles for overcoming failure do you find the most difficult to implement when you are dealing with a failure in your life?  Which is the most difficult for you to grant to another person who has in some way failed you?

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