Monday, September 8, 2008

Colossians 4:14-18

Day 24

Luke, the beloved physician, sends you his greetings, and also Demas. Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea and also Nympha and the church that is in her house. When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming form Laodicea. Say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.” I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my imprisonment. Grace be with you.

If you have made it this far, you should be very proud of yourself!! These are the last verses in the Paul’s letter to the Colossians. There will be one concluding post tomorrow which will wrap up what we have studied these weeks in Colossians. I hope this study has been helpful to you-- I have loved doing it and appreciate what God has been teaching me as well.

Luke is with Paul in Rome during his imprisonment there. He is identified as a beloved physician. We know a lot about Luke through other scriptural references. Luke was a gentile who first appears on the scene in Acts 16:10 on Paul’s second missionary journey. He travels with Paul from Troas to Philippi, where he stays after Paul moves on. There was a medical school in Philippi where many believe Luke received his training, and it is likely that he was picked to stay behind since Philippi and its people were familiar ground to Luke. When Paul swings by back through Philippi, Luke joins him once again and stays with Paul all the way back to Jerusalem and ultimately to Rome. There he remains with Paul at least until the writing of Philippians.

Luke wrote two accounts included in the canon of scripture: the Gospel of Luke, and Acts. He got most of his information by carefully interviewing eyewitnesses. When you are reading through Acts, you can tell when he changes to a personal account, because Luke stops saying “they” and begins to say “we”. Luke was especially careful to mention women in his accounts; names and important details that some of the other gospel writers did not mention. For instance, Luke tells about a group of women who followed Jesus and financially supported Him through His three years of ministry (Luke 8:2). This is not recorded in any other gospel. His books are the only books in the Bible not authored by a Jew.

Demas is also with Paul at the time of the writing of this letter. Unfortunately, Demas’s ministry would only last a while longer. In 2 Timothy 2:10, Paul writes of him: “Demas, having loved this present world has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.” How sad that one dedicated enough to follow Paul, who was in chains, to Rome, eventually lost his desire to remain faithful.

Paul also gives a specific message to Archipus (mentioned again in Philippians as a fellow soldier, son of Philemon, hometown Colossae) about his ministry: Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.” Did you notice that the ministry was not decided on by Archipus himself, but “received”? Ministry isn’t necessarily something one aspires to. Rather it is a responsibility that is handed to us from the Lord Himself. He equips us with gifts for the task and supplies the power for the work involved. Our obedience and effort are all that is required. This is a reassuring thought for me as I stand in front of an audience. God has called me, equipped me, and empowers me. The fruit of any ministry is a result of Him at work. We just need to be obedient.

Laodicea was to receive this letter originally addressed to the Colossians as well. We hear about Laodicea in the book of Revelation (chapter 3), when Christ urges their repentance from self-reliance. They were a wealthy church, and apparently eventually their wealth was a stumbling block to them in the end.

Not everyone who starts off well finishes well. We see the church at Laodicea as well as Demas somehow going sour before the last word is written in the New Testament. What made the difference between that and success? I believe it is where our focus lies. Demas became discouraged, probably with his circumstances. So he abandoned ship. Laodicea became focused on their own possessions and comfort. Suddenly the Lord was not so important in their lives.

Where is your focus drawn that might compromise your determination to finish the race strong? Prayerfully identify the things most important to you-- for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

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