A Study of Colossians 4:17–18
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. (Colossians 4:17–18)
As we have reached the end of this great epistle in God’s Word, the apostle has a charge to one, Archippus. This Archippus is associated with Philemon, possibly a member of his household, as we read in the epistle to Philemon.
Now Archippus has received a ministry, “in the Lord”. What that ministry was is not stated, so anything that we say about it is an assumption. The word used is διακονίαν (diakonian), from which we get our English transliteration “deacon”. This is someone who has received a ministry (what that ministry consists of is not stated) and the command from scripture about “deacons” can be found here:
1 Timothy 3:8–13 — “Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.”
Most often this is thought of as a lesser office in a “church” than that of elder or pastor, yet often commentaries speak of Archippus as possibly the pastor of the church in Colosse. A better (in my estimation) view of this is that anyone who ministers for the Lord in any capacity must be found faithful, not just those in a “church” position. “Let every one that nameth the Name of Christ depart from iniquity” (2 Timothy 2:19) is the charge that the Apostle gave Timothy and must be remembered always by us who do indeed name the Name of Christ.
So as the Apostle gives this final charge to the saints at Colosse to give to Archippus, he then offers his own salutation. It is with his own hand. He certifies it, just as any official letter must be certified.
Furthermore, the Apostle adds “remember my bonds” as he closes to give a reminder of his place as “an ambassador in bonds” (Ephesians 6:20). The ambassador in bonds is how he wants them to remember him. I almost get this as how, if asked, Paul would have signed an autograph!
The scriptural record of Acts closes as the apostle is confined to a Roman prison. It was “his own hired house” (Acts 28:30), as he was awaiting a hearing from Caesar. Whether that hearing ever came, we do not know. The last epistle that we have from Paul is 2 Timothy, where we have his rejection by man, but faith in the Lord who stood with him:
2 Timothy 4:16–18 — “At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
The KJV adds the following footnote to 2 Timothy:
“The second epistle unto Timotheus, ordained the first bishop of the church of the Ephesians, was written from Rome, when Paul was brought before Nero the second time.”
The first time, no one but the Lord stood with Paul; but the Lord was the only One that he needed. Tradition tells us (however reliable it may be) that Paul was executed shortly after 2 Timothy was written, yet Paul could trust the Lord even in this.
Philippians 1:20 — “According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.”
Looking at this from our human point of view, this would have been a good time for divine intervention, and a delivering miracle. But the apostle’s hope was not in miracles but in the Lord himself. He had been delivered by miraculous intervention before, but now even though it seemed as though God was not acting, the apostle could say that he finished his course and that the Lord would be faithful even in the event of his death. He even makes the bold statement that “by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear”. Think of the reach that the word of truth had by the time of the writing of 2 Timothy! We saw in the first chapter of Colossians, “the word of the truth of the gospel; Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you…” (Colossians 1:5–6), and now at the end of the apostle’s life, he restates that the preaching is fully known. How gracious of our God to allow all mankind to hear his wonderful message of grace! The Word is fully available to all. It is not shrouded for only some to hear, but the salvation-bringing grace of God has appeared to all men! This gospel is God’s gospel, and it is the gospel of His grace. While mankind still shakes his fist at God, and is in his mind the enemy of God, God Himself has broken down every barrier between Himself and man, reconciling the world to Himself in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:19). A great “amnesty” has been declared giving man a time to “be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). The duration of this time is unspecified, but we know it has been nearly 2000 years thus far. How much longer it will be has not been revealed to us, but the long duration surely shows us the longsuffering of God toward man. We deserve only His judgment and wrath. He is now speaking to us in “grace and peace”. There is but one condition on us, and it is an offer of God’s grace.
The scripture tells us that if we but believe the gospel that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose from the dead, we are saved (1 Corinthians 15:1–4). Those that are saved are justified freely by God’s grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, because that by Him, God’s justice is satisfied, and yet He can show mercy on whom He will show mercy, which in His desire is all mankind, for His will is for “all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). That all are not saved is not because of partiality on God’s part, but because man’s willful rebellion does not obey the truth, but they have pleasure in unrighteousness. God will let them have their way, but I pray that YOU will believe God and His gospel of grace to you. Jesus Christ our Lord finished all that is necessary for you to be saved when He died on the cross for YOU. What is YOUR answer to this gracious offer?
As we close this study of this magnificent epistle to the Colossian saints, ponder the words with which the apostle closes: Grace be with you. Amen.