Let’s Hear It for Those Little Guys!
Paul often closes his letters with greetings from himself and other believers who happen to be with him wherever he is, in this case, in prison, though scholars debate where (Rome, Ephesus, Caesarea). He mentions here several people who were serving the Lord with him, which gives us a glimpse into the fact that there were many other believers serving with Paul and the other apostles. I say this because when we think of the early Church, we tend to only think of the apostles. Not so. God has always had his people share ministry, whether it was Moses heeding Jethro’s advice (Exodus 18:13-27) or the seventy-two the Lord sent out after having sent out the twelve (Luke 10:1-12, 17-20). That’s right—seventy-two! And let’s not forget the women who followed our Lord and provided for him and his disciples from their means (Luke 8:1-3).
So Paul mentions Tychicus, “a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord,” who may have carried this letter. He is to inform the Colossians (and probably the churches in Laodicea and Hierapolis) of how Paul and his companions are faring and encourage the churches. With Tychicus, Paul is also sending Onesimus, but more about that when we come to Paul’s letter to Philemon. Aristarchus sends greetings, who is a “fellow-prisoner” with Paul, perhaps voluntarily serving Paul in prison. Mark sends greetings—the young man Paul fell out with in Acts 15:36-40. They’ve reconciled. How lovely! By the way, Mark is a cousin of Barnabas, the man who took his younger relative under his wing. No wonder he was called the “son of encouragement.” There is one called, “Justus,” of whom we know nothing but that he was a Jewish believer. There is Epaphras from whom the Colossians first heard the gospel; so no, the apostles didn’t plant every church as is clear from Acts 8:4-8. He “struggles on your behalf in his prayers,” teaching us that prayer (when it is done right) is hard work. There is Luke, here called “the beloved physician.” We may guess that his gifts in that field were a blessing to Paul over and again as Paul was often getting beat up. Then there is Demas, a man who made a good beginning but we learn later deserted Paul for “love with the present world” (2 Timothy 4:9). Let his story sink in your ears. And since Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis are all situated together in the Lycus Valley, he desires that his greetings be sent to those churches as well, especially to the one that meets in Nympha’s house, a feminine name, reminding us that churches at this time met in houses as they do in persecuted nations today. That the letters Colossae and Laodicea were to be exchanged reminds us that God’s word was to be shared from the very beginning. That we do not have Paul’s letter to the church at Laodicea means that we are missing nothing. No doubt, Paul wrote other letters, but God saw fit that we have all that we need of His word to be saved. And finally, a word that every minister needs to hear sent to Archippus, “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received from the Lord.” No matter how rough it gets preacher, teacher, missionary, etc., stay the course (see Bruce, NICNT, 175-86 for more information on these individuals, or any other standard New Testament commentary).
Finally, Paul would have the Colossians “remember his chains.” “Pray for me,” Paul is saying. The man was not made of iron; none of us are. We each need prayer, even the best of us.