Comfort

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“and Jesus who is called Justus. These are my only fellow workers for the Kingdom of God who are of the circumcision, men who have been a comfort to me.”

Though these fellow workers mentioned here by Paul are his close confidants, labourers and suffering with him in the gospel, they are all of the circumcision, yet have given their lives over to the service of the Gentile believers. Their love is for the people of God and not just a sect that they could belong to. They view the church of Christ from the wide and inclusive perspective that all who believe are part of that kingdom and are precious together in the Lord. They have supported the Apostle Paul in his ministry to the Gentile people, and stood with him against those who would keep out the chosen and elect people, who are not of Jewish descent, from the church of Jesus Christ. 

They are a reliable body of close friends who have supported him and encouraged him in the service of the Lord, and he to them. They have all suffered together and this has been a bond that has kept them close and in touch with each other, especially in their spiritual lives. 

The name Justus, synonymous with Jesus or Joshua, was common in Jewish circles and denoted a man especially given over to righteous living and holiness of life. Some has the suffix “the just” attached to their names afterwards to demonstrate in their lives that they were devoted to godly living and devoted to God. 

These names comforted the Apostle Paul with prayers, reading the Scripture, standing in for him and being a witness with him in the spread of the Gospel on Jesus the Christ. We are fortunate indeed if we have such support in our lives and Christian people who will stand with us and beside us. Nevertheless, when all desert us, we are never abandoned by our precious Lord Jesus, who is a constant and faithful companion and friend to His people. 

Paul eventually felt the sting of rejection and isolation, but the Lord stood with Him in his difficulties when none else was able. He speaks of this in his letter to another brother in the Lord, Timothy. 

“At my first defence, no one stood with me, but everyone deserted me. May it not be charged against them. But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message would be fully proclaimed, and all the Gentiles would hear it. So I was delivered from the mouth of the lion. And the Lord will rescue me from every evil action and bring me safely into His heavenly kingdom. To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”

2 Timothy 4:16-18

The message is everything. What happens to us is in the mercy of the Lord and the Lord will keep us when we are faithful to Him. We will find ourselves alone at times and in these days of great falling away, it is common, but the Lord stands with His people and will never leave us or forsake us…

Receive

“Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, greets you, and Mark, the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you received commandments, “if he comes to you, receive him”)”

Here is another godly brother mentioned who is a fellow prisoner with the Apostle Paul, in chains for the sake of Christ. He was involved with Paul in his many exploits for the faith, including being arrested at Ephesus. He was obviously a dear brother to Paul and Paul is keen that his greeting go to the saints at Colosse.

Also, Mark, otherwise called John Mark, which is striking as Mark disappointed the Apostle at one point in his life by going back from the ministry. After a fruitless mission, the young servant of the Lord is discouraged enough to leave the ministry and return home. Paul was disappointed by this and it caused an argument between Paul and Barnabas. Barnabas took John Mark with him in his ministry where he again proves himself. John mark is also the writer of the book of Mark, and loves the Lord Jesus with all his heart. Now, Paul has forgiven and reinstated him into the ministry and in good faith.

Barnabas also is a contender for the faith and a faithful administrator in the church. Even though he had a sharp disagreement with the Apostle Paul, there is now no rancour and the division has healed up and the characters involved have been changed and reunited by the Lord.

It is refreshing to reads the nuts ands bolts of the relationships of these mighty men of God, who had differences that seemed to tear them apart, yet they were able to resolve their issues and unity in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Each has proved themselves as faithful servants of the Lord, but all having failures and misunderstandings as well. They are united in doctrine and faith and are all subject to the teaching of the scripture and therefore have all things in common. There is no theological divisions or arguments about the truth of God, for all are devoted to the Scripture and to the Lord. The Lord honours them with unity and peace. They support each other in the spread of the gospel and in the encouragement of the churches.

Paul is urging the Christians at Colosse to welcome all who come with Paul’s blessing and commandment.

Together

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“together with Onesimus, the faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will make known to you everything that is going on here.”

This Onesimus is also a brother with a godly character in Colosse who has the same vision as Paul and the Apostles. The Onesimus who is identified as a converted slave to Philemon who ran away and found himself with the Apostle Paul, could well be this person, but we do not really know. Whoever he was, he was a reliable servant of the gospel of Jesus Christ and has been given this trusted job to do in the church at Colosse. 

This is not a one way street of help or encouragement, but is the sharing of the churches of God with each other. Paul is eager to know the news from Colosse but Tychicus and Onesimus will also relate to them the news from Paul. The closeness of the relationships in the New Testament churches is very touching and the levels of trust, are as is fitting in Christ. 

Paul entrusts his work to these two brothers and they are faithful to their dearly beloved brother Paul, who is in chains. 

John Calvin maintains that it was not the runaway slave that is spoken about here, who he labels with a bad character, even thought a converted brother! John Gill identifies the name Onesimus, with the slave of Philemon and tradition holds that he became a trusted and loyal servant of the early church. 

Personally, I prefer the view of John Gill, since he ascribes change and personal holiness to the converted runaway slave and gives space for the grace of God in his life. What a great testimony that God will lift up those who are sinful and change them and make them what they are not, trustworthy and loyal. It is the same for us. We are all moral failures and under the wrath of a holy God, until we repent from our sinful mind and deeds and put our trust in the Saviour Christ. All those who have done mighty things for God are those who are clear about their natural status before God and always conscious of what they have been saved from. God will use the humility of the repentant sinner to do His work and the result will be great glory for His name. 

There are some who will label people according to the multitude of their sins and the magnitude of their failures and exclude them for service and usefulness. This is a great pity and indicates the presence of some judgmental self-righteousness that is willing to keep people down and reminded them that they are failures and always to feel the effect of that. God does not operate in this way, but freely forgives and wipes out the remembrance of all sin from the record of the penitent sinner. 

Paul himself was always conscious of his gross sins and therefore able to forgive the sinful failures, which is all of us! and include them in the work of the Lord. Paul calls Onesimus the faithful and beloved brother, and so he was – forgiven and lifted up to usefulness and a blessing to the church of Jesus Christ.

Purpose

“I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that he may know your circumstances and comfort your hearts,”

The sense of openness in the early church was so striking. There were no divisions and the Christians shared with each other sacrificially and continually as there was need. Paul is sending Tychicus to the church in Colosse to find out what they with need and to comfort them in whatever way they needed to be comforted. He did not just trust to hearsay but sent the trusted Tychicus to help and support. 

There was complete lack of suspicion as they all suffered for the sake and witness of Christ. Perhaps today our problem is that we are too comfortable and feel we can always meet our own needs. There is lack of doctrinal and spiritual unity and everything has become fragmented because of the prevalence of the falsehoods and fake teachers that have infiltrated the church of Jesus Christ. There are names that name the Name but are not like the Name! 

Paul was so like Christ that it was easy to trust him and what he said. He is vindicated by the Spirit of God and his word remains with us today. His first interest was the Christian people in the individual churches and everyone could see it because of the kind of life he led. His sacrifice was as the obedience of Christ, who gave all for our sake. 

Today, we have many who feather their own nests and take from the saints of God, leaving many in hardship while they live privileged and well provided-for lives. This should not be. We look out for ourselves and not the things of Christ or the struggling people of God. Church money is spent on fixtures and fitting and salaries and members suffer with low paid work and are barely able to meet the temporal needs of family. We have many ways to justify what we do, but there should be no gaps in the provision for each other in our church societies. 

How much is spent on paying staff to do outreach? Why does everyone not work at a job to provide for their own needs, as the Apostle Paul did? Why is there one privileged person who must be supported by others to do “church work?” It has a negative impact on the fellowship and a disempowering effect on the body of believers. 

Actual church members remain inadequate and unable to share with others the good news about Christ and the heavenly home. Our characters are suspect as we remain reticent and infants in reaching out to others, saints or sinners! We are passive recipients of talk that seems to go nowhere.

If Paul and Tychicus operated like we do today, the church would have died a long time ago. There is a distinct feeling of winding down and a terrible apathy about spiritual issues in too many places and in too many Christian lives. We are accountable and we are failing the younger generations. Predator leaders prey on the flock of God, it is true, but the sheep allow it and appear spiritually gullible. It is a non-virtuous circle of lack of personal devotion and a dirth of sound doctrine being taught. The lack of both feeds on the failure that this produces, and our churches are reduced to social circles like the world, and just as unjust. 

The preaching of the gospel is forgotten. Neither Saint nor sinner benefit from this and the church shrinks in every way. Leaders are desperate for money to keep going and so pander to the emotional needs, rather than the faithful preaching of the Word, another non-virtuous circle ensues. The Lord weeps. Paul would weep. We do not. Apathy reigns and our purpose is lost. What if Tychicus would visit us today? Who would he turn to, to help the churches of God? Each looks out for its own. We need the Lord Jesus to rescue us again from this present evil age. The sleeping saints need to awaken and search for God again, repent and turn from indolence and self-satisfaction. We need the honest and open preaching of the eternal Good News that transforms lives and turns our hearts to the Lord for good. 

Known

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“All my affairs will be made known to you by Tychicus, the beloved brother, faithful servant, and fellow bondservant in the Lord.”

What trust the Apostle Paul is able to have in the Christian believers in Colosse! Could this be true of a local church in our day? Are we able to have the confidence in each other that we judge kindly and positively and are open and sincere?

The Apostle had an open account with the Christians churches in his day and could be trusted by everyone to do and say the right thing. He was such a man of God and so faithful to the heavenly vision and the Word  of God. His wisdom was peerless and he had an answer for everyone. This is because he also kept short accounts with the Lord and kept his life daily perfect before God. Every sin was confessed and expunged and so his life was holy. He could tell the Christians to be like him, because he was like Christ. 

“Be imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ.”

1 Corinthians 11:1

The attitude and life of Paul was open to the scrutiny of others and he was able to live this life by the power of God. The same Spirit of God dwells in every Christian, so why is there such falling away and apostasy in our days? We have lost the attitude of godliness and excuse our sin and do not seek the perfect life of God. We excuse ourselves by saying that Paul was special, but he was saved in the same way as everyone else and is just a son of the kingdom like everyone else too. The search of holiness will lead us in the way of Paul and of Christ. 

Paul was obviously keen that the other brothers in Christ should report about what he was doing in the other churches and continued his life as a living testimony to the grace of God. Paul did not hide from people, but freely conversed and wrote to them many letters of teaching, encouragement and news about what he was doing. His accountability was universal, and every Christian could know about what he did. His letters were to the churches and were read to the churches so that everyone could see and be clear about what Paul thought and did. 

Paul’s witnesses were also solid and reliable people. He calls Tychicus his beloved brother, faithful servant and fellow bondservant in the Lord. Paul had many who lived and worked like this, a far cry from the celebrity preachers and pastors we have nowadays. The work these men of God did was sacrificial, hard and cost them their lives in the end. They relied on the love of God rather than the acclaim of men and on the faithfulness of the Lord rather than the fickleness of the human heart. They did not play to the gallery, but were honest and sincere and took the place of humility rather than fame and fortune. 

What would happen if we were to live like that today? Perhaps we instinctively know that it would not necessarily go well with us. Look what happened to the Christians in the early church and to our Lord Jesus Christ…

Beloved, let us put on courage and faith as we step out and step up for God. May we live our lives in holiness and honesty before the people God has put around us and make ourselves as the example of our dear brother, Paul and our Saviour JESUS.

Seasoned

“Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.”

Our marker for how we are is the way we speak, to ourselves and other people. Our words betray our mindset for good or bad. Whether we are talking with ourselves and reasoning about or situation and other people, our inner speech should be gracious, remembering we are heard by the Lord. We might think we can be “ourselves” in private, but it is too easy to be hypocritical. We think negative thoughts about others in our private places in our heads, and speak differently about them, as is socially acceptable. Which is true?

God sees our inner life up close and clearer than we do, and it behoves us to pay more careful attention to our private lives.

“Anyone who doesn’t stumble in word is a perfect person, able to bridle the whole body also.”

James 2:3

If we are in control of what we say, we are in control. This includes the private conversations we have with ourselves. It is difficult to patrol the various areas of our psyche. How careful we are and how persistent, betrays our efforts in godliness. We blow hot and cold and still our loving God holds us fast.

We must practice using the seasoning of the Word of God to remind us and teach us how we should be. Applying it to our lives and specifically our speech is our daily task. Watching our private speech will automatically improve our public speech and our general mindset. It is good to rehearse good conversations with people and have a good mindset at all times to help us to speak helpfully to people and not with rancour and bad feelings. The Apostle is instructing us that our speaking should be gracious and helpful to the hearer, and not destructive or encourage ill will or bad feelings.

This can be a difficult skill because there are times we have to speak plainly and point out the bad things that are happening around us, but that also is an acquired skill born of the Spirit of God. It is our attitude to others that is key. We speak to improve their situation and build the other person up, not to continually knock them down. Even as we criticise it is seasoned with the salt of the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.

“Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth, but such as is good for building up as the need may be, that it may give grace to those who hear. Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, outcry, and slander, be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God also in Christ forgave you.”

Ephesians 4:29-32

Redeeming

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“Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time.”

God constrains us to be wise and to live wisely in our lives before all people. We do this because time is short and we do not know how long we have allotted to us. We see his glory in our lives and want to meet Him one day, with treasure stored up in that heavenly place. We don’t know how many people we will be able to influence and witness to for Christ, so all things must be brought under the subjection of a godly life. We seek the wisdom only God can give to live and speak for Him, and to be honest and sincere in all we are as God’s people.

Perhaps we have wasted a lot of time procrastinating and backsliding one way or another, and we need to get the discipline back in our lives to live for Christ. We do this through devotion to the person of Christ, realising that He is a person and we relate to him as a person. We do this through the Word of God and daily meditations on the Word to discover more and more about our God and Saviour JESUS the Lord. As we get to know Him more fully we ask for the wisdom of God with a clearer view of what that is. Then we can walk in the ways of wisdom and be wise people in the Lord. 

“This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their hearts; who having become callous gave themselves up to lust, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But you did not learn Christ that way; if indeed you heard him, and were taught in him, even as truth is in Jesus: that you put away, as concerning your former way of life, the old man, that grows corrupt after the lusts of deceit; and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man, who in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of truth.”

Ephesians 4:17-24

We put off the old way of life that feeds off a futile and unwise mind and put on Christ. We learn from Him in humility and peaceableness, denying the uncleanness of self and greed, and are renewed daily. We seek wisdom, righteousness, holiness and truth, not just to satisfy ourselves with the things of this life and the desires of our earthy selves. If we live according to righteousness, we will necessarily be happy, for the Lord will bless us in our inner souls and others will see the difference from what we used to be and what the world is like around us. Our witness will be strong for it will be sincere. 

If we are living right then we have the opportunity and authority to speak right too. Otherwise we are simply hypocrites who deny the power of the Holy Spirit and have no real faith in the ways of God. Christians are not like other people, and if they are, they are not!

Ignorance of God breeds lack of understanding and so hardness of heart ensues. No one will be attracted by this and no semblance of the love of God will be seen in us. It’s all or nothing. A life of faith or the life of unbelief. 

Beloved, let us redeem the time, lest we waste the time and the outsider goes on in their sin and are lost. There is so much at stake for eternity, so let us walk worthy of our Lord Jesus. 

Reveal

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“that I may reveal it as I ought to speak.”

There are times when our attitude may not be right and we lack love towards other people and speak out of turn or out of tone. Paul asks for prayer that this will not be true of him. 

He also seeks to have the ability to share the gospel fully and openly to show the whole message of God and His plan for sinful people. Paul seeks the confidence that comes from God to preach the gospel with the authority that it should have. Nothing must be hidden or apologetically explained, but put forward as the Word of God and the only way for the forgiveness of sins and the daily walk of fellowship with the Lord. 

There are times when we can be over-awed by our audience and intimidated by the people we are around, and so we soft-pedal the message, not wishing to offend. We must fight the urge to water down the gospel so that it is more acceptable to the fallen human psyche. We are not to hide any part of it, or save ourselves from the embarrassment of giving negative information. We need to reveal the gospel as it is portrayed for us in the holy scripture and preach it from the scripture. 

The classic side-step is the reality of the punishment of God to all those who refuse to repent and believe. It is very offensive to the human mind that God should have that kind of right over us. We believe and are taught in self-determination and the fact that God is in control, offends us greatly. We need to ask for the courage and strength to stick to the message and not be put off by social considerations. Losing friends is a distinct possibility but you will have told them the truth and God will ensure the sharing of His Word will bless and save the lost. 

As the message is revealed in the Scripture so we reveal it to others around us, and especially those who preach it from the front. 

“For if I preach the Good News, I have nothing to boast about; for necessity is laid on me; but woe is to me, if I don’t preach the Good News.”

1 Corinthians 9:16

The messenger of the Lord is compelled to preach the Good News of the gospel in all its glory and fulness. There are warnings against not sounding out this aspect of warning to people, about the wrath of God to come against all who wickedly refuse salvation. 

“When I tell the wicked, You shall surely die; and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at your hand. Yet if you warn the wicked, and he doesn’t turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.”

Ezekiel 3:18-19

This is the warning against not sounding out the warning! We are naturally reticent to do so, but the Lord will help us at the right time and in the right way as the Apostle has prayed for. 

Open

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“praying together for us also, that God may open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds;”

This is what we live for as Christians people. To speak the Word of Christ. Either using voice or the written word, we seek to tell the sinner about the reality of forgiveness and a new life, and the saint, the building up of faith and love. We pray that God will open doors for us to speak for Him and we take every opportunity that He affords us to spread the good news about Jesus. We pray for each other that we will have the courage and knowledge to speak when we get a hearing and the ability to make the most of every opportunity to comfort people with the love of Christ. 

We speak the mystery of Christ. It is a mystery because it is not from the human psyche, and therefore cannot be understood without the Spirit of God teaching us. The message is from God and relates His love for us when we were still His enemies and dead to His voice, He died for us. No one else would do such a thing for us and no one else will love ignoble us. Though we are far from God, He reaches out to us and calls us to come to Him personally and repent of our sin. We can know the freedom from its stultifying bonds, as a gift from God. God is willing to give us total forgiveness for everything and eternal life when this life is over. The love of God knows no bounds and He offers it freely to us. The mystery is His sacrificial love that will hold us fast and bring us safely home to heaven. There is no other gospel and no other salvation. 

The Apostle Paul sought to speak this message at every chance he would get and asks the believers at Colosse to pray for open doors to do so. He is in prison at this point and so his opportunities seem limited, but God is able to deliver his servant and raise him up to speak again. Even in prison Paul is reaching out to the Christians in the churches and writing the letters, of which this is one. Perhaps he is thinking of the door of the prison opening for him, so that he can visit the churches again and further spread the gospel. Perhaps he know this is the end of the line for him, but is encouraging us to take up the torch of truth and run with it. 

Beloved, do we pray for each other in this way? Do we seek to be useful to Christ and be adept at speaking for Him? We put our trust and confidence in the Lord and know that He will help us as we step up to witness for Him. As God opens the door, so we can go through it and make the most of our opportunities to make a difference for Christ and be ambassadors for His sake.

Continue

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“Continue steadfastly in prayer, watching therein with thanksgiving;”

We must pray and not cease…

The Apostle instructs us to continue in prayer and to not give up. We pray and watch for answers and the over arching will of God in all things. We should know the mind of God so that we can ascertain what His will would be because we know his character so well. We can see the work of His will in our own life and therefore get to know His purposes for us and how He works in the life of other people as well. This will inform our prayers and we will pray according to his will, and He will hear us. 

As we watch for the outworking of our prayers and the will of God we will be filled with thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is the burning fuel of the Christian life. It enervates and powers all the praise, worship, service and love for the Lord Jesus. The grateful heart continually rehearses the mercies it has received and this feeds the constant flow of thankful prayer to God. Gratefulness is the fountain head of the power of God in the life of the Christian. The constant flow of it wears away the rock of the hardness of our heart and makes it conform to the will and purpose of the Lord and not the selfishness of our own way. 

As we then pray, we will be looking for the outworking of answers to our prayers with joy and faith. As we see the answers to our prayers we will give thanks in gratitude to the mercy shown to us that God should include us in his will in this way. We will have the victory over the gloom that naturally infests our minds and will rejoice in God our Saviour. 

“Always rejoice. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus toward you.”

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

This is the key to the victory over sin and temptation in the Christian life. It is the path of rejoicing and the living of a life full of gratitude to the Lord for all His love. This is the will of God for every Christian and the powerhouse of the overcomer. Continue in prayer…

Women who glorify God