Col 4:14-18 “Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you. Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house. And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea. And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it. The salutation by the hand of me Paul. Remember my bonds. Grace be with you. Amen.”
Although the main part of most of Paul’s epistles was apparently dictated to some of the brethren that were with him, scholarly evidence indicates it was his custom to write his parting words with his own hand. In this case, most of the letter to the Colossians was probably written down by Tychicus and Onesimus. It is likely that, beginning with verse seven of this final chapter, the writing was in Paul’s own hand.
As Paul writes of those that were with him at this time, we clearly see the love and concern he had for each of them; beloved brother, faithful minister, fellowworkers, receive him, etc. He then mentions Luke as “the beloved physician.” Although some scholars debate this, he is likely the same Luke that wrote both the Gospel according to Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. The language of the book of Acts also indicates that Luke often traveled with Paul. While Paul’s physical ailments may have been part of the reason, it is also evident that Luke was a faithful servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
If it seems that Demas does not get the same attention as the other brethren that were with Paul, there may be a reason for that. It is possible that Paul had come to question Demas’ devotion to the cause of Christ. We find in 2 Timothy 4:10 that Paul indicates that Demas had forsaken him. This apparently was more than just a matter of Demas not traveling with him any longer. Paul stated that Demas was in love with the “present world,” and had abandoned the spiritual service of Jesus Christ.
Also obvious in Paul’s writing was the expectation of fellowship and communication between congregations. He expected (“cause that”) the church at Colosse to actively seek that the letter he was writing to them be shared with the church at Laodicea. While we have no record of a particular epistle to the church at Laodicea, it is evident here that they had possession of one of his epistles: it is also evident that he intended the church at Laodicea to share this epistle with the church at Colosse. As it was then, it is good today for congregations to support and share with one another the good news of Jesus Christ.
We find Archippus mentioned in the greeting of Paul’s letter to Philemon. He was apparently a member of Philemon’s household and (according to scholars) possibly Philemon’s son. In Philemon, Paul refers to him as his “fellowsoldier” indicating a close bond and a common cause. Paul is encouraging Archippus in his own ministry, probably to the church at Colosse, advising him to give attention to that ministry. We today are still called on to give attention to our ministry and not be distracted by the confusion around us.
If we have a ministry, it comes from the same source as that of Archippus: we have received it in the Lord. Since He has called us to this ministry, it is our duty and our joy to fill it full! For those who are called to minister, there is no greater sadness than to realize that we are only giving ourselves half-heartedly to the service we have been called to perform. I humbly confess that there have been seasons in my life when I was guilty of this, and I joyfully declare that God is merciful and wonderful to forgive our failures.
Paul closes this letter by calling the attention of the brethren to the authentication of this closing salutation that he has written with his own hand. Some have theorized that Paul’s admonition to remember his bonds was in reference to what might have been the poor penmanship of his efforts due to his wrists being in shackles. While this might be true, I believe there is more to his injunction than that.
Paul is again reminding the brethren of his need for their prayers. He is not merely asking that they pray for him in his physical imprisonment, for this has never been Paul’s focus. He is reminding them again that he is the prisoner of the Lord Jesus Christ (Phm 1:1, 9), and he desires their prayers that he might speak in that Name wherever he is (Col 4:3, Eph 6:18-20). Then he leaves them with a prayer of his own: “Grace be with you. Amen.”
May we live a life of love for the brethren, for the church, and, above all, for Him who has called us to minister to His people!