Colossians 4:7-18 - July 30 - James Faux

Intro: the “Christian midlife crisis”

The midlife crisis. Typically when you hear that phrase you think of a man in his 40s or 50s, going out and buying a flash car.
But midlife crises affect women too, and it’s more than just acting on impulse. Other signs include,
Feeling sad or a lack of confidence, especially after a big milestone accomplishment or birthday
A sense of loss of meaning or purpose in life
Feeling unfulfilled
Feelings of nostalgia
Feelings of regret
Let me read you someone looking back on their own experience of a midlife crisis:
“My dissatisfaction was whiny and irrational, as I well knew, so I kept it to myself. …[It was] like a constant drizzle of disappointment. What annoyed me most of all, much more than the disappointment itself, was that I felt ungrateful, the last thing in the world I was entitled to be.”
The good news with the midlife crisis is that it usually turns out to be a phase, people talk about a U-shaped experience - you go down for a few years, then you find a new equilibrium and things feel better again.
But there’s a version of the midlife crisis that can happen for Christians. The Christian midlife crisis. And that one is much more dangerous. Because you don’t always have the upward turn at the end of it.
The Christian midlife crisis. What have I been doing, all these years, making all this effort to read the Bible. To know Jesus in his word.
When – I could be out there, living, experiencing so much more – spiritually speaking?
Isn’t it time for me to move on from this basic stuff, from endlessly returning to the same old message of forgiveness in Jesus and a life of repentance? Isn’t it time to upgrade to a more real spirituality?
Colossians is a letter written to a church in danger of sliding into a Christian midlife crisis. Wondering if it’s time to upgrade. To add a little something to Jesus. The appeal of the Jesus Plus gospel is strong.
We’ve worked through the whole letter. Paul’s shown why sticking with Jesus alone is not only right but wonderful. He’s slammed Jesus Plus.
The main message of the whole letter – to quote 2:6 – is, “Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him.”
And now, we’ve arrived at our final passage. A list of – as the NIV puts it – “final greetings.”
Link into passage
And if we’re honest – it’s the sort of passage we’re pretty good at skipping over. A long list of names? No thanks, quick, move on.
But we’re going to do it tonight guys! And stay with me. I actually think this is the best, most exciting, most fitting end to the letter that you could think of.
→ reading

1. Jesus: more than enough for the “big names”

Well done on reading, a lot of interesting names there!
The question is, why is Paul spending such a big chunk of the letter on all these greetings? Most of his other letters don’t have such a long sign-off. It must be important.
I think there are three big reasons why, our three points this evening. And the first thing you might notice if you’re familiar with New Testament is, there are some pretty big names in this list.
So point one: Jesus is more than enough for the big names.

1a. Big names from the early church
What big names?
Well, check out v10 for example: “My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark.”
And then v14: “Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas, send greetings.”
Mark and Luke. Ring any bells? It’s almost certain these are the same Mark and Luke who wrote the gospels. And they would mostly have been known back then as big names in the missionary world.
They were both key players in Paul’s missionary groups, taking the gospel all round the Mediterranean, breaking new ground through the Roman world, risking their lives in dangerous travel, speaking to dangerous crowds, being imprisoned…
And there are others here who we might not be quite as familiar with, but who were probably just as well known back then. Aristarchus in v10, he’s part of Paul’s missionary team. And so is Demas down in v14.
So why is Paul passing on greetings from these guys. Is he just showing off, name dropping? Like if I went, “Oh yeah the other day I had a phone call from Justin just asking me for a bit of advice. Justin, yeah as in Justin Welby?”
No - Paul has a much more specific purpose in mind. Remember the situation. Threat of Christian midlife crisis. False teachers around, subtly peddling a Jesus Plus gospel.
These names add massive legitimacy to Paul’s argument to stick with Jesus alone.
A bit like when you see a new Christian book, maybe an author you don’t know – it helps if there are endorsements from people you do know and trust.
But it’s more unique than that. These guys, Mark, Luke and so-on – Their witness, their mission, their writings– humanly speaking, these guys are the reason there is a church at all.
If it wasn’t for them, the gospel would never have made it beyond Jerusalem. And what gospel is it that they’ve been sharing? The same old gospel that Paul’s been defending in this letter. The gospel of forgiveness and transformation in Jesus alone.
The greetings from these men is effectively a word to say, “We endorse the Jesus Alone gospel.”

1b. Big names from your own life
But there’s an even bigger name-drop for the Colossians - someone much less famous, but far more important for the Colossians. Epaphras.
Read v12-13: “Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis.”
Epaphras, “who is one of you”. So who is he?
From what we can piece together, Epaphras was converted under Paul’s ministry in Ephesus – which is just a few miles down the river from Colossae.
So Epaphras puts his trust in Jesus, his whole life changes. And at some stage, Paul sends him back home to Colossae. And Epaphras shares the gospel with people back there, they start to come to faith – and a small church is formed.
Just think how the Colossians must have felt towards Epaphras. I mean, think of the person or people who shared the gospel with you. Or under whose ministry you first began to flourish and mature as a believer.
They mean a lot to you, I imagine. Certainly that’s the case for me. When I think back to the way those people invested in me, loved me, taught me faith in Jesus alone – I’m so grateful, and my heart warms to them.
And yet. Usually, life moves on doesn’t it. You move church, move city. You remember those early days fondly.
But perhaps, in subtle, slow ways – your faith evolves, slightly. Maybe in good ways, maybe you’re maturing. Or maybe in… Not such good ways, like the Colossians.
Epaphras didn’t stay in Colossae forever. It seems he went back to work with Paul on the mission field.
In his absence, over the years… Life has moved on for the Colossians. And recently, they’ve just been dipping into this Jesus Plus Christianity. Trying out a slightly new… expression of faith.
So how must this have sounded? Epaphras – your first teacher, your first Bible study leader – he’s still praying for you. He’s wrestling in prayer for you.
And he’s praying something very specific – middle of v12: “that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.”
Stand firm. Mature.
In other words, he’s praying that the Colossians wouldn’t drift. But that they would keep going with Jesus alone.
One of the things about going on in the Christian life is that – even though your circumstances change, you change and grow as a person – the gospel doesn’t change.
And there’s something challenging about that. Everything else is changing, new, more challenging phases of life come along… Sometimes it’s pretty hard to believe that this same gospel of Jesus alone is really sufficient for the next challenge. The next situation.
That’s the attraction of allowing extra things to creep in. A bit of religious rule-keeping to help with this new struggle I’m facing, when Jesus just doesn’t motivate me very much any more.
A bit of extra spiritual experience to keep me interested, when Jesus doesn’t seem very interesting any more.
These endorsements here from Epaphras and the others say to us – don’t waver. Hold fast to Jesus. Don’t drift to something new, more exciting. Jesus alone is still sufficient. That’s not a naive thing to believe.
And I guess Epaphras could be something of a model for us too?
Are you an Epaphras-figure to someone? Important in someone else’s spiritual life at some point, maybe even now? Maybe someone we’ve been discipling 121, or someone in our connect group.
This is a great reminder– keep wrestling in prayer for those people. Even over the summer break! And maybe, just now and then – it could be encouraging to them if we just check in. To let them know we’re still praying for them.
Or more broadly, it’s so helpful to keep up contact with your Christian friends from your early days, when you first got going in faith.
We’ve got some Christian friends from University days, we’re sort of locked into friendship now being godparents of each other’s children. They visited us last weekend, and it was great to catch up, have a lot of laughs…
But also just so refreshing to hear the ways in which they’re keeping going with the same old gospel. Jesus alone, still. Even though life has changed.
Jesus - more than enough for the big names.
But what makes Jesus more than enough? Second point – Jesus: more than enough to transform lives.

2. Jesus: more than enough to transform lives

Two of the people mentioned in this list have fairly chequered histories. The Colossians would have been aware of that, and we know about it from elsewhere in the New Testament.
So we’ve got Onesimus in v9, and Mark in v10. And I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Paul includes them here at the end of this letter.
2a. Onesimus
Firstly Onesimus. Have a look at v9: “He [Tychicus] is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you.”
Who was Onesimus? He was a slave, who used to work for a man called Philemon. But Onesimus ran away, escaped.
By the way on slavery – we’re not going to go into the ins and outs of the Bible and slavery right now because we spoke about it 2 weeks ago – do go back and listen, or ask in Q&A if you’d like to.
Now Philemon is a church leader in the town of Laodicea, which is nearby, one of the Colossians’ sister churches – let’s call it Trinity Church Laodicea.
So Onesimus was on the run, but then he met Paul. Heard the gospel. Put his trust in Jesus. What does he do now? Continue to run? Or… Will he use his newfound freedom in Christ some other way…
So just imagine the scene. Christ Church Colossae are gathered on a Sunday morning (or wherever it met). All of a sudden – who’s that walking in? Someone introducing himself as Tychicus, a friend of the apostle Paul. Wow, ok!
But wait. Who’s that chap next to him. Hey isn’t that… Onesimus? The slave who ran away from Philemon’s house, over at Trinity Laodicea? Isn’t that him?
Yeah I remember him from when we went for our weekend away there! What on earth is he doing here? Won’t Philemon have to put him to death?
Then Tychicus motions everyone to calm down. “It’s ok everyone. Yes, this is Onesimus, Philemon’s runaway slave. But – praise the Lord – he’s one of us now!
“And we’re on our way back to Philemon’s house. Onesimus wants to reconcile with Philemon now that they’re brothers in Christ.”
We simply can’t appreciate how stunning this must have been. Runaway slaves just didn’t return home. For obvious reasons.
But knowing Jesus makes Onesimus prize reconciliation with a brother in Christ above anything else. Even his own earthly freedom.
Only the gospel can produce that level of selflessness and love.
2b. Mark
And then there’s the story of Mark.
If you track Mark’s career in ministry up to this point. It begins promisingly– the apostle Paul’s main colleague on his first missionary journey is Barnabas – and that’s Mark’s cousin. And Mark ends up part of the group too.
But then the second mission begins… And we don’t know why. But Mark ends up bailing. Heads back to Jerusalem before they’ve really got going.
A bit later on, Barnabas makes the case to get Mark back on the team. But Paul says no, he doesn’t want to risk Mark bailing on them again. The argument gets heated, and Paul and Barnabas actually end up splitting. Parting ways.
And Mark is the reason for that split. It’s not good. I guess in the early church… Even just mentioning his name would have brought up bad feelings.
Disagreement. Division. Controversy. Church politics. Bitterness. Resentment.
But. Look again at v10. “My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark. The cousin of Barnabas… You have received instructions about him. If he comes to you, welcome him!”
Mark and Paul… Are on good terms again! Mark sends his greetings. There’s clearly been some sort of reconciliation. Forgiveness has taken place. The team is back together again.
To the extent that in the bracketed bit – I love this, it’s very sweet – Paul actually seems to be trying to big Mark up, almost rehabilitate his reputation.
Welcome him, Christ Church Colossae! This guy’s alright. He’s a brother.
And again, it’s the gospel that brings about reconciliation like this.
Mark and Paul back together again – they’re living evidence of the humility. The swallowing of pride. The reconciliation. The forgiveness – that only the gospel can bring.
So… Why would anybody ever move on from, away from, this gospel? Ultimately what do you have to gain by trading in the message of “Jesus Alone” for a newer, flashier model?
I met a guy once, he came along to a Bible study I was leading – and he was quite disruptive. He just didn’t like the way we were trying to grapple with the Scriptures seriously, to figure out what they meant and how they should be changing us.
I took him out for a coffee later that week and asked him about where he was coming from. And he said, “I used to be really into the Bible like you guys. Decades ago (he was in his 50s).
“But now I’ve realised that’s not really what it’s all about, you know? You start off with the Bible but then you need to actually get out there and make a difference in people’s lives.”
And I kind of get what he was saying. But… What he was missing was, it’s the repeated soaking yourself in the Scriptures, the continual obsession with knowing Jesus better and better – that’s what produces the change in people’s lives. You can’t separate the two!
Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue in him – He is the fountain from which forgiveness and reconciliation flow.
But there’s even more here. Final point. Jesus is more than enough to change – not just individuals, or individual relationships – but he’s more than enough to change the world.

3. Jesus: more than enough to change the world

What does the world need more than anything else?
The singers tell us, “Imagine all the people. Livin' life in peace.”
Social media tells us, we need an “everything app” called X – something to bring everyone together on one platform, crossing all social and geographical boundaries.
The politicians tell us, we’ll be “stronger together”.
Everyone knows the answer: we need togetherness. The human race needs unity. But no one has ever come close to bringing us there.
Except that… In this list of names, we have evidence of a movement. That did – that still does – have the power to bring everyone… Together.
3a. Don’t reconstruct the barriers
Just cast your eyes down at the three people mentioned in vv10-11. Aristarchus, Mark, and Jesus called Justus.
And now just notice the comment Paul adds, halfway through v11: “these are the only Jews among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God.”
Paul – himself a Jew – only has three other Jews who work with him on his mission team. The rest? Luke, Demas etc.? Gentiles.
Tiny little comment. Huge implications. Paul’s reminding the Colossians – that the monumental wall, barrier, that once existed between Jew and Gentile has been knocked down.
He’s saying, Look at me, I was a Pharisee, but there are only three Jews on my team! He’s saying, remember 3:11 – “Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised.”
But he’s also saying, don’t put up that barrier again guys. You might remember that the warped version of Christianity the Colossians have been drifting towards has elements of Judaism in it.
2:16 tells us – they were adding in certain rules about eating and drinking, certain Jewish religious festivals “New Moon” and “Sabbath”.
The gospel brings about the unity, togetherness, that the world longs for. All humanity has access to God, access to life, to forgiveness, to transformation.
Move away from Jesus alone. Begin to add anything to him, whether Jewish in flavour or not. And you’ll start putting up barriers again. Don’t do it.
3b. A global family
But the togetherness the gospel brings– it comes across in another way here too.
So you’ve got all these greetings flying backwards and forwards. 2 people visiting Colossae in person- Tychicus and Onesimus. 6 people sending their greetings from a distance. Paul saying hi to Laodicea and Hierapolis.
And there aren’t just people politely saying, “send my regards” to each other– it’s way more intimate than that. Look at v7 “Tychicus is a dear brother”.
Or v9 “Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother”. V11– these people “have proved a comfort to me”. V14 – “Our dear friend Luke.”
Dear, dear, dear… Brother, brother, brother… V15 too – “give my greetings to the brothers and sisters at Laodicea.”
These people are like family. They love each other. That word “dear” is literally “beloved”. They care for each other, they want to know how each other are doing.
I love how Tychicus and Onesimus – so they’re actually coming in person to Colossae, and the obvious reason is just to deliver this letter, and then for Onesimus to go home to his old master.
But look at v8 - “I am sending Tychicus for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts.” It’s similar at the end of v9– “They will tell you everything that is happening here.”
There’s such a bond between these people. What they’d love most of all is just to have a good old catch up together. A heat-warming reunion. Hear each other’s news, any encouragements, any struggles.
Last week it was much quieter here on Sunday because half the church were up at Evie and Martin’s wedding. And just chatting to those of you who went, you were saying it was basically like a reunion of the last 10 years of people who’ve been at Christ Church.
And it sounded absolutely lovely! There’s such a bond created between Christian brothers and sisters. We have everything in common, and we genuinely care about each other. Christian friends are dear, dear brothers and sisters.
This is the togetherness the gospel produces! Person by person, church by church, a worldwide family is being created. A new humanity.
3:11 again: “Here there is no Gentile or Jew, no circumcised or uncircumcised, barbian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.”
This is the kind of humanity the world desperately wants. It’s what we have in Jesus. And when Jesus returns– it will be the worldwide reality.
Why would you drift anywhere else, go hunting for a newer model.
Just before we close. There is one name on this list that we haven’t touched on. And it’s the last one before Paul’s final sign-off.
V17 – “Tell Archippus, ‘See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.’”
Archippus is clearly a church leader of some kind. And Paul says, “complete your ministry.”
Paraphrase: Everyone sends their greetings, we love you all loads. But oh – Archippus? Do your job mate. Love, Paul. Full stop.
Silence in church.
Some ending! I think the fact that this comes last is telling. It’ll be ringing in everyone’s ears. Archippus’ most of all, when he hears it!
I don’t think this means Archippuus was necessarily a Jesus Plus preacher.
But perhaps he’s just been… Getting soft around the edges in what he’s been teaching, in some way? Perhaps showing a bit too much interest in that false gospel? Not correcting it strongly enough?
Archippus. Listen to me. It’s not worth it. Stick with the plain old gospel. Stick with Jesus alone.


The title of this series in Colossians has been “More than Enough”. That’s a great title. Jesus is more than enough.
But what about when we hit the Christian midlife crisis. What about when our Christian life feels like a constant drizzle of disappointment. What about when we feel ungrateful. When we feel the need to find something more than Jesus Alone?
We need to re-learn that Jesus alone is still more than enough, even today. Just like he always was.
Let’s leave the final word to 2:6-7. “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him. Rooted and built up in him. Strengthened in the faith as you were taught. And overflowing with thankfulness.”