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Friday, June 19, 2020

Colossians 4:7-9 and Philemon 1-9 (L 27)

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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
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Established November 2008                                         Published: June 19, 2020

For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
Welcome back to HBS.

Last week we looked at the Believer’s relationship to the lost (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).  It is with this truth in mind Paul closed his prayer saying, “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without (Christ, i.e., the lost), redeeming the time” (4:5a).

Because Paul had to address this spiritual concern indicates the Colossians were not sharing God’s truths with the unsaved and untaught.  It also implies these saints ought to get busy doing that very thing.  Paul had a similar message for the saints in Ephesus: “See then that ye walk circumspectly (intelligently), not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.  Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:15-17).

Both Ephesians and Colossians were written circa 62 AD and were delivered to those churches by Paul’s “fellow servant in the LordTychicus (Tih-kih-kuhs).  In Paul’s letter to the Colossians he wrote: “Walk in wisdom…” and to the Ephesians he said: “be careful to walk circumspectly…”  Paul’s saying Believers ought to understand God’s program for the dispensation of grace, because the days are evil, and because no one but God the Father knows when the Age of Grace will end.  It could end in the next ten minutes by the appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ in the clouds to take away His Church whereupon the age of judgment will commence.  Thus, like sand through an hour-glass, time is running out on the this dispensation and the opportunity to “maintain good works:”

This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works.  These things are good and profitable unto men.  But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain” (Titus 3:8-9).

In 1 Thessalonians 5:5 Paul wrote: “Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.”  Sad to say, many Christians today are not walking as “children of light.”  While the lost live their lives  in spiritual darkness, the majority of Christendom walks carelessly, unintelligently, and in fear completely unaware of God’s plan and purpose for His Church today.  They show little interest in discussing spiritual concerns with “them that are without (Christ).”  In that respect, they are not “walking in wisdom,” or “circumspectly.”

Paul used the word “saints” quite often.  Just so you know it is another term for true Believers.  It refers to their present standing because of their new relationship with Christ.  It also signified their separation from the world.  Paul referred to the Colossians as faithful although the contents of the letter indicates some, if not all, were not faithful.  They were in Christ and possessed a new identity, they were children of God, they had found the true meaning for life in Christ, and they are citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20).  But here’s the thing, they were living in Colosse, i.e., the world.  Their position in Christ should not render them silent and they ought not regard themselves so spiritual as to be out of touch with their peers.  They were expected to “walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8), i.e., live out their faith.  They are to share the good news of the mystery with “every man” (4:4-5).

So then, that was the situation in Colosse back then, and nothings’ changed.  Inspiring others and warning “them that are without,” about the coming judgment, i.e., the wrath of God is the responsibility of every true Believer.  It is with these concerns in mind Paul exhorted the Colossians to share God’s truths “in wisdom,” that is, carefully and intelligently saying, “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.  Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man” (4:6).

Please open your Bible at Colossians 4:7-9.

All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you, who is a beloved brother, and a faithful minister and fellowservant in the Lord: Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that he might know your estate, and comfort your hearts;

It’s remarkable that no less than ten people are mentioned by name in these remaining verses which reveals something about the character of Paul, the Lord’s bond servant.  Because of his great concern for the lost he preached the mystery to small groups and large such as the people on Mars Hill (Acts 17:22-31), and wherever he went he had a great deal on his mind one of which was his concern for all the churches (2 Corinthians 11:128).  He often had one or more of his co-workers by his side, and he sent people here and there to carry his letters and to make known the mystery in other places.  And yet, despite all these things, he showed great interest and sometimes deep concern about one of more of these people, which reveals the heart of the man.  It is with these thoughts in mind I now introduce y’all to Paul’s “fellowservant in the LordTychicus (Tih-kih-kuhs).  I wouldn’t be surprised to learn you have never heard of him.  He is one of the Bible personalities that goes unnoticed even though his name appears five times in the N. T.  However his contributions to the ministry are both enduring and noteworthy.

We first meet Tychicus in Acts 20:4 during Paul’s third missionary journey.  He is mentioned as one of Paul’s companions on the way from Corinth to Jerusalem to deliver a gift to the church there (Romans 15:25–26).  We learn that Tychicus was a native of Asia, or what we would call Asia Minor today.  He is called a “dear brother” of Paul’s and a “faithful servant” of the Lord’s (Ephesians 6:21).  In Colossians 4:7, Tychicus was a “faithful minister and fellowservant” who was with Paul during his first Roman imprisonment.  Tychicus escorted the runaway slave Onesimus back to his master Philemon in Colosse.   He also delivered Paul’s epistles to the Ephesians and the Colossians and he brought these assemblies news of Paul’s “state” (his present status): “Tychicus will tell you all the news about me,” “I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts” (Colossians 4:7–8).  Inspiration is also mentioned as part of his ministry in Ephesians 6:22.

Paul intended to send either Tychicus or another man to Crete in order to give Titus a chance to visit him (Titus 3:12).  Later, he was with Paul in Rome during his second Roman imprisonment, and Paul sent him on to Ephesus in order to free up Timothy for a visit (2 Timothy 4:12).  In both Crete and Ephesus, then, Tychicus was an “interim pastor” of sorts, filling in for Titus and Timothy.

To be sure we do not know all there is to know about Paul’s faithful servant Tychicus, but what we do know is exemplary.  He was a trusted messenger, a faithful evangelist,  and a loyal friend.  Paul placed great confidence in him, sending him to manage important tasks for the Body of Christ.  Tychicus without a doubt had the ability to minister in a variety of situations, bringing encouragement to those he served.  He modeled the quality that all church elders are to possess: “Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers” (
Titus 1:9). 

So then, Tychicus had traveled all the way from Paul who was currently under house arrest in Rome to Colosse in order to hand-carry these two letters as well as Paul’s greetings to all the saints.  I remind y’all Paul considered him “a faithful brother,” a faithful minister,” and a “fellowservant in the Lord.”  Plainly said, like Paul, he was sold-out for the Lord and sought to be smack dab in the center of His will. 

Verse 4:9.

With Onesimus (o-neh--sih-muhs), a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you.  They shall make known unto you all things which are done here.”

If you recall, Onesimus’ name came up while studying Colossians 4:1:  Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.”  In verse 4:9 Paul identified him as a  faithful and beloved brother” and “one of you,” meaning not only did he live in Colosse he is now a saved member of the Body of Christ.  Onesimus was a runaway slave.  We learn of this by reading Paul’s letter to Philemon.  Although the details are somewhat murky, we understand when he fled he stole something from him (Philemon 18).  Why and what he stole from Philemon is actually reduced to sheer speculation for no one truly knows.  We also don’t know whether he sought Paul deliberately or came into contact with him by chance in Rome.  We know Paul was allowed visitors while under house arrest, but he did not enjoy freedom of movement.  From Philemon we learn Paul led him to faith in the Lord and soon thereafter he helped Paul.  Onesimus’ name means “helpful” (v. 10-13):

I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds: which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me: whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels: whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel.

Soon after Onesimus accepted the Lord as his personal Savior, Paul instructed him to return to Philemon to own up to his mistakes.  Paul sent this letter to Philemon by way of Onesimus to make this task easier. 

This is an ideal place to segue from our study of Colossians to Paul’s letter to Philemon. 


This is a one page letter from our apostle Paul to his close friend Philemon.  It  focuses on Onesimus, Philemon, and Paul and their interactions with each other.  At first glance it might appear to be an unimportant contribution to the N.T., but it’s an intimate letter carefully crafted by the apostle Paul to demonstrate right thinking and living for the Believer in Christ.  It too was written circa 62 AD along with Paul’s letters to the Colossians and Ephesians.  Let’s begin.

Verse 1.

Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer,”

Paul opened by describing himself as a “prisoner of Jesus Christ” or “a captive in bonds.”  He repeats this three more times (see v. 9, 13, and 23).  Because Paul mentioned this four times indicates it is linked to Paul’s purpose.  He was a “captive in bonds” because he served the risen Lord of glory, so it might be said he is pleading another captive’s case, namely, Onesimus.  The other thing worth mentioning is Paul didn’t write this letter with apostolic authority in mind, as he did in many of his epistles; he wrote to Philemon as a personal friend.  He called Philemon, “our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer” in the ministry.

Verse 2.

and to our beloved Apphia (AF-ee-uh), and Archippus (Ahr-kihp-uhs) our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house:”

Apphia” was a saved woman in Colosse living in Philemon’s household.  Some folks believe her to be Philemon’s wife.  Paul mentioned “Archippus” twice once in this letter identifying him as “our fellowsoldier” in verse 2 and in Colossians 4:17 where he wrote: “And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfill it.”  From this we learn he was involved in the ministry. 

Paul also addressed the “house church” that met in Philemon’s home probably because they all were aware of Onesimus’s departure and his crime, so they ought to be brought up-to-speed on his recent conversion.  The churches Paul planted in the first century were dependent upon the generosity and hospitality of its wealthy members.  Priscilla and Aquila stands as an another example (Acts 18).  Those folks who were well-off would either offer their homes as a place to meet or if  the group was too large for their home they would rent a larger venue elsewhere.  So, this letter implies Onesimus was to be welcomed back by the entire household, namely, Philemon, Apphia, Archippus, and the members of this house-church. 

Verses 3-7.

Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers, hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints; that the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.  For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother.”

In these verses Paul praised God and gave thanks to Philemon for his friendship, his “love toward all saints,” and his stedfast faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  When Paul stated he gave “thanks always in my prayers,” he means to say Philemon was on his prayer-list.  I find this remarkable because Paul had many concerns so his prayer-list had to be extensive.  In his epistles we find Paul praying for the Body of Christ’s physical and spiritual needs, demonstrating his deep concern for all the churches (Romans 1:8-10, 15:5-6; Philippians 1:3-6; Ephesians 1:15; Colossians 1:9-10; 2 Thessalonians 1:3, 11-12).  Paul was a consistent and deliberate prayer warrior and stands as an example for every true Believer in Christ. 

Verses 5-6.

“…hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints; that the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.” 

Some say Paul is buttering up Philemon, or setting him up, for what comes next in this letter, by mentioning his “love and faith toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints;” because the runaway slave Onesimus is now a saved saint, in Christ. 

I happen to think Paul is acknowledging Philemon’s spiritual maturity.  Faith and love are two outward evidences of genuine conversion to Christ Jesus.  Many people are told by their church to “love God  (Luke 10:25-28).  They think genuine salvation depends on their love for God and this indicates the individual is truly saved.  Truth be told our love for the Lord Jesus Christ does not come close to matching His great love for us (1 John 4:10, 19; Romans 5:8-9; Ephesians 2:4-5).  His love for us is unchanging, while our love for him appears to be dependent on one’s circumstances, therefore it’s inconsistent.  It’s a little known fact that Paul never urges us to love the Lord Jesus Christ.  Rather he is always telling us about Christ Jesus’ great love toward us (John 3:16; Romans 5:8, 8:37-39; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 2:4-5, 3:17-19; 5:25).

Verse 7.

“For we have great joy and consolation (comfort) in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother.”

Think this through.  Paul said he has experienced “great joy” and “consolation” because he heard of Philemon’s “love toward all saints.”  This is even more remarkable when you consider he is imprisoned in Rome and awaiting trial before Nero the outcome of which will determine whether he lives or dies.  It’s in these conditions we find Paul saying, “For we have great joy and consolation in thy love…  Paul’s not merely joyful he said, “we (all the saints) have great joy…” because of Philemon’s love (1 Corinthians 12:25-26). 

Paul goes on to say, “the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother.”  The term “bowels” here doesn’t mean the intestines it means the center of one’s emotions, or the heart (see 2 Corinthians 6:11-12).  The word "refreshed" is a military metaphor signifying the rest an army takes while on the march to regain strength for the next battle.  Here’s a biblical example:

That I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed” (Romans 15:32).  Here Paul implies true “refreshment” comes from one saint to another as they enjoy fellowship with one another (1 Corinthians 16:17-18).

Verses 8-9.

Wherefore, though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee that which is convenient, yet for love’s sake I rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ.”

Here Paul puts Philemon's spiritual maturity to the test.  Will he succumb to the natural influences of the “old man,” or will his “love” prove stronger than the earthly desire to punish Onesimus who Paul recognized as his “son” and Philemon’s “brother” (v. 16).
Although Onesimus possessed zero legal rights in the Roman world, because of his conversion he is on an equal spiritual plane with both Philemon and Paul:

For has many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:27-28). 

Unfortunately, we’re out of time my friends.  Place a bookmark here and we’ll finish this lesson when next we meet. 

(To be continued)

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