Colossians 4:7-18, Romans 15:30-33, Philippians 1:3-7
Many of us want to be the alpha wolf, the one leading the pack. This desire can be subtle and masquerade as goodness, but we all have it in us to some degree. Even Jesus’s own disciples argued about who would be the greatest among them (Luke 22:24). While we may not always argue with our mouths, we compete in our hearts. Inward competition is just as divisive as the outward kind.
One of the fascinating things about this letter from Paul is his specific inclusion of so many names here at the end. Why does the well known and well respected apostle, the “alpha wolf” in this scenario, take time to include these names most of us won’t recognize? Let’s dig deeper and see what we can learn about them.
Tychicus, a native of Asia Minor, delivered not only this letter to Colossae, but also the letter to the church in Ephesus and Paul’s personal letter to Philemon. God used this man to carry the Word of God to His people. The world doesn’t have to know your name in order for you to do something significant for God.
Onesimus. Talk about a step of faith—Onesimus was the runaway slave of Philemon. While in Rome, he met Paul and subsequently met Jesus. Both Colossians and Philemon tell the story of how the gospel saved Philemon’s life. In Onesimus’s relationship with Philemon, we see forgiveness and restoration at work, a glimpse of the unifying power of the gospel.
Aristarchus, from Thessalonica, joined Paul on his journey and gave his life and freedom so that others may know Christ.
Mark had a reputation. He had bailed on Paul earlier which caused a fall out between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:13, 15:39). Mark grew spiritually and now worked alongside Paul, who instructed the church to welcome him. Mark shows us that the gospel is bigger than our conflict.
Epaphras, who was from the Colossae area, “contended” for them in his prayers (Colossians 4:12). The Greek word for “contend” means “to fight for.” Epaphras fought for the church at Colossae in his prayers, demonstrating that we can be fighters not with fists but with hearts devoted to God.
Luke, author of the Gospel that bears his name and the book of Acts, seems to have stayed with Paul throughout his imprisonment, aiding in the ministry of the gospel.
Demas appears to have deserted Paul and chased after the things of this world (2 Timothy 4:10). In his sobering story, we see the reality of our need to pursue Christ.
Nympha was a wealthy Christian woman who valued the gospel over possessions. She hosted the church in her home, using her earthly treasure for heavenly gain.
After naming all these people and more, Paul charges Archippus (possibly the son of Philemon) to pay attention to the ministry he has received in the Lord, so that he may accomplish it (Colossians 4:17).
Paul is not competing with the people he lists in his letter. He loves them. He is not trying to be the alpha wolf. He is trying to be the Lord’s servant.
What would it look like if we as the church laid aside our competition and intentionally encouraged and exhorted our brothers and sisters in Christ? Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Paul’s conclusion to his letter reveals this recognizable love in the way he addresses his friends.
As Christians, may we not be identified by our competitiveness but by our love. And may that love show the gospel at work in our lives to those around us.