Remember that Paul was not writing to the Colossian believers from the comfort of his home or from a plush office in Jerusalem. He was writing from a Roman prison. He was locked behind walls of stone and doors of iron, with shackles on his hands and feet, perhaps chained between two Roman guards. They had stopped Paul from preaching, but they could not stop him from praying. He began his letter by praying for the church (see 1:9), and he concluded it by encouraging the church to pray.
Paul knew that if the church at Colosse was going to overcome the threat of false teachers and their destructive doctrines, the victory would be won in prayer. He urged them to “continue steadfastly in prayer” (v.2), a military term used to refer to an army’s relentless attacks on a city — wave after wave of soldiers would advance until the city was won. Persistent prayer is how you attack the force of sin in your life. Persistent prayer is how you attack the work of the devil in your family. Persistent prayer is how you attack the negative thoughts that pull you down. Whatever you are facing in your life today, keep on praying about it. Let your persistence be an expression of your faith. Don’t give up. (Note: verse 2 says to pray “with thanksgiving”. This is the fifth time in this letter that the Bible tells us to be thankful. Just sayin’.)
After we rise from talking to God, we are to get busy talking to others, the “outsiders” who are still lost in their sins and without Christ (v.5). Make the most of the opportunities God gives you to be a witness to those who are outside the family of God, “seasoning” your speech with the gospel (v.6). The task of the church is to get the people on the inside to go to the people on the outside and bring them inside.
The final section of Colossians is not doctrinal, but personal. Paul mentions ten people by name, his gospel partners. Although Paul was a powerful apostle, he wisely invested in friendships and built a team to accomplish his mission. They were especially important to him while he was in prison.
Tychicus (v.7) was Paul’s trusted friend and was probably the one who carried this letter to Colosse (1,000 miles from Rome, across two seas) — he was a “mailman for Jesus”! Onesimus (v.9) was a domestic slave from Colosse who had run away, only to meet Paul and find Jesus. He was carrying another letter from Paul to his master, Philemon (I’ll discuss his story on November 2). Aristarchus (v.10) had been through danger and adventure with Paul, and he is the only one on the list to whom Paul refers as a “fellow prisoner”. Paul was the only one we know of who was arrested and awaiting trial. This leads me to an amazing conclusion: Aristarchus was voluntarily living in prison with Paul, having given up his personal freedom in order to assist his friend.
Mark (v.10), who had once deserted Paul and cost him a friendship (see Acts 15:37-40), had been restored as a partner. A man called Jesus (v.11, what a name to live up to!) was also there, one of the few Jewish believers to remain with Paul on his mission to the Gentiles. Epaphras (v.12-13) was one of the founding pastors of the church at Colosse, and he loved the church dearly. It was he who had alerted Paul to the threat of the false teachers. Luke is mentioned alongside Demas (v.14) — two men with great beginnings but very different endings (see 2 Timothy 4:10-11). Paul lists two final names: Nympha, a woman who had opened her home for a church plant in Laodicea (v.15), and Archippus (v.17), head of a ministry who evidently needed a kick in the pants (don’t we all sometimes?).
Thank God for your Christian friends today and follow Paul’s example by taking time to thank them and encourage them. We need each other. The Great Commission is a team effort.