Tell Archippus!

 Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord” (Col 4:17).

We just finished a flyover sermon series through Paul’s Letter to the Colossians. We painted in big brush strokes, pulling out a few dominant themes. Occasionally we landed and surveyed the foothills in more detail. Three major themes I highlighted are:

First, Paul’s gospel is about more than personal salvation and the afterlife. His gospel announces the New Creation is bursting forth into the present, and Christ is reigning as Lord over his redeemed community.

Second, Paul’s pastoral goal is to lead the believers into wisdom and maturity defined as “Christoformity”: living and seeing the world as Christ did. Thus, “We proclaim [Christ], admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ” (1:28-29). For “in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (2:2-3).

Third, Paul calls the church to cultivate a radically new social ethic, to heed the high calling to be God’s New Humanity which requires “stripping off the old self” (characterized by sexual confusion and divisive speech) and “putting on a new self” (3:9-10). “As God’s chosen people, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Forgive one another…and over all these put on love” (3:12).

Unfortunately, I had to skip the seemingly mundane “Final Greetings” section at the end of Paul’s letter. He greets various people and gives some individual instructions to people like Tychicus, Mark, Aristarchus, Nympha, Demas and others.

As eyes glazed over in the pews as I waxed bold on massive and somewhat abstract concepts like “New Humanity” and “radical social ethic,” I failed to mention one obscure little verse at the end of the letter that is a fitting, down-to-earth way to bring every person into Paul’s pastoral orbit. So, let me just offer this nugget here. In a passing comment, Paul singles out an individual who was sitting in that little house church assembly when this letter was first read aloud. How his ears must have perked up as he heard his name invoked and singled out by the great apostle!

 Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord” (Col 4:17).

We don’t know much about Archippus (but he appears in Philemon 1:2), but we do know that he had a ministry to complete. He received this ministry role from/in the Lord. Paul gives him a gentle kick in the butt by reminding him out loud in front of the entire assembly not to neglect this task.

What was this ministry? How vital was it in the grand scheme of things? Perhaps it’s best that we don’t know, so we can all be reminded that the Lord has given each of us particular gifts as well to put to use in our own ministry within the community of believers. As Paul tells another church:

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

Perhaps we also need to have our ears perked up in worship on Sunday, to hear our name called out in front of the entire congregation, to jolt us out of our tendency to become a spectator on the sidelines of church life.

“Jill, see to it that you faithfully keep giving that person a ride to church who couldn’t attend otherwise. This is your ministry from the Lord.”

“Dick and Sandy, see to it that you keep showing up to teach those Sunday school kids.  This is your ministry from the Lord.”

“Bonnie, see to it that you keep sending those cards to people on their birthday, anniversary, and especially cards of encouragement to those who have asked for prayer. This is your ministry from the Lord.”

“Huddle leaders, see to it that you keep gathering together to “teach and admonish one another” (Col. 3:16) to grow deeper in your faith. This is your ministry from the Lord.”

Now, insert your name and heed your own ministry calling within the Body.

 Tell ______________: “See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord to ____________________________” (Col 4:17).

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