Throughout the book of Colossians, we learn that we are “complete in Christ” (Col. 2:10), and certainly, this is to be the goal of every Christian. Does this mean that you and I are to be exactly alike in every way? In other words, should we expect every mature Christian to be duplicates of another in ability and service? Certainly not (1 Cor. 12:12-31; Eph. 4:16). Being in the fellowship of the body (partnership; participation; partakers) means that each will do their share to strengthen the body, and this becomes even clearer as we consider Paul’s closing comments concerning different individuals who were instrumental to the success of Paul’s ministry.
First, we are introduced to the men who were comforters (Col. 4:10-11). Aristarchus is known as a “fellow prisoner.” According to Acts, he had been a fellow traveler of Paul (Acts 20:4), who nearly lost his life to the riot in Ephesus (Acts 19:29) and who sailed with Paul to Rome (Acts 27:2). Now, he was in Rome with Paul, sending greetings. Then, there is Mark, the cousin of Barnabas who started out with Paul and Barnabas on their first journey but turned back (Acts 13:1-13). Later, he became a point of contention between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:36-41), but eventually, he proved “profitable” to Paul for service (2 Tim. 4:11). Even now, he is included with those who Paul said, “proved to be a comfort to me.” Finally, there is “Jesus, called Justus” (Col. 4:11). We know little of this man, except that he was a Jew “of the circumcision” and a “fellow worker for the kingdom.” Yet, what is known of him is enough; he was a comfort to Paul.
Friends, the truth is, we cannot accomplish what we are capable of accomplishing, unless we receive the right kind of encouragement (comfort). Just as Barnabas, the “son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36), had been the one to encourage John Mark who made a mistake and made him profitable, now Mark, along with two others, was comforting the apostle Paul in his trials. Even so, we need comfort from one another so that we will be able to continue our work in the kingdom of the Lord. Next, let us notice the man who prayed, Epaphras (Col. 4:12-13). We know that he helped start the church at Colossae, and he was from that location (“one of you”). Therefore, he cared deeply for them and those in Laodicea and Hierapolis. According to Philemon 23, he was a “fellow prisoner” of Paul’s. Therefore, being in Rome and far away from the brethren in Colossae, what could he do for them? He could at least pray for his brethren, and that he did! He prayed “constantly” (always), “fervently” (laboring fervently), “personally” (for you), and he prayed “with a goal in mind” (that you may stand perfect and complete…).
Friends, the truth is, we do not have to be at the same location, in the same situation, at the same time to contribute to one another’s success. In other words, we do not have to be present to be a blessing to others! Even Paul himself realized this truth, and he often requested the prayers of others on his behalf (2 Thess. 3:1-2). Even so, we need these prayers for one another so that we will be able to continue our work in the body of the Christ.
Finally, let us consider the two men of contrast (Col. 4:14). First, there is Luke, the “beloved physician.” According to Acts, he was a fellow traveler with Paul on a number of his journeys (Acts 16:10; 20:5; 27:1). In addition, he wrote the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts, which in total make up the majority of the New Testament, and most importantly, Luke was faithful to Paul to the end (2 Tim. 4:11). On the other hand, at the time Colossians and Philemon was written, Demas was a “fellow laborer”, but not long after, it was said of him, “Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world” (2 Tim. 4:10). He serves as a sober reminder of the need to remain steadfast to the end (Rev. 2:10).
Friends, from this context, we learn that the spread of the gospel during the first century was not accomplished through the efforts of great men like Paul and the twelve apostles alone. It was greatly assisted by humble men and women willing to serve as comforters, prayer laborers, and servants to those in positions of great influence. By those who opened their hearts and their homes to the service of the church, as did Nymphas (Col. 4:15). Friends, the truth is, if the gospel is going to spread today, there is a need for us to do whatever we can in service to the Lord, whether it be great or small. Whatever our role in the body of Christ, whatever our ability, we work together (fellowship), and as a result, we are to pray and comfort one another to be faithful to the end!