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Serving together as the family of God
Colossians 4

This morning we are going to take a look at Colossians 4 together. In this passage Paul lists a whole bunch of people who were serving Christ with him. It is clear from the way that Paul writes that Paul views them as family (This is how he starts Colossians as well- brothers and sisters in Christ). This is how we are to view each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Let's look together at Colossians 4 and glean together from Paul's closing greetings what serving together as family in Christ is about

Interesting: Chapter 3 serves as a perfect segue into talking about us as the family of God for in chapter 3
Paul talks about family life, about how a Christian household is to operate. From talking about how a Christian household is to operate Paul moves on to talking about how the church as family works together for Christ.

Note: Culturally speaking, both chapter 3 and 4 contains some culturally awkward components.

For us the big awkward spot is in chapter 3 wherein Paul talking about slaves and masters (he in a world where 35-40% of people in the Roman empire were slaves and so it makes sense that Paul in his writings acknowledges that slavery exists and then gives guidelines for how the 2 parties should relate to each other. Paul's talking about slaves and masters does not mean that he endorses such- in fact in 1 Corinthians 7:21 Paul writes "if you can gain your freedom, do so").

For Paul the big awkward spot is in chapter 4 - and we are sort of blind to this one in the sense that when we read the text it doesn't register as an issue- it was Jewish Gentile relations and to a lesser extent the role of women in the church

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LESSONS AND PRINCIPLES OF THE TEXT as it relates to serving together as the family of God

1. TO WORK TOGETHER SUCCESSFULLY PRAYER NEEDS TO BE A BIG PART OF OUR LIVES v.1-4

Prayer is talking to God- our heavenly Father. We pray to our heavenly Father in the Name of Jesus by the power and leading of the Holy Spirit.

a. Our prayers need to be multifaceted- in particular we need to be THANKFUL v.2

Our prayers are to be multifaceted- for in talking to God we don't just bring requests. We are talking to God- so we talk about what's on our hearts and minds, we give Him thanks, we confess our sins (for unconfessed sin hinders our prayers), we ask for strength, we intercede for others.

b. We need to be DEVOTED to prayer v.2

-it's not to be a one time thing or an incidental act or an afterthought
-Prayer is to come first. It's to be regular. It's to be part of the fabric of our lives
-we are to persist in prayer

c. As the family of God we need to REMEMBER EACH OTHER in prayer

In being mindful that we are a family- the family of God- brought together in Christ as one, we are to pray for each other

-keep a list!
-requires that we get to know each other
-requires that we care for each other

d. We must pray about our WITNESS FOR CHRIST and out Christian testimony

It's fascinating that a number of times in Paul's letters that he asks for prayer as it regards his witness for Christ. Such teaches us that we to make this a matter of prayer for each other. Such reminds us always that we have a mission- for we are the ambassadors of Christ.

As for our Christian testimony note the instructions of the text v.5-6

"Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders. We to make the most of every opportunity"

We ought to view every engagement with those who don't know Christ as a potential opportunity to talk about Christ and our faith

We need to remember that in identifying ourselves as the followers of Christ- and this is a must (for we are not ashamed of the Gospel) that we are then being watched and evaluated

"Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone."

"Salty speech" NOT a green light to swear but a biblical call to let our faith be heard in our conversations (not in a forced or stilted fashion but naturally as an outflow of someone who is in the Word and talks to God on a regular basis)

A KEY VERSE

1 Peter 3:15 "But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,"


2. SERVING JESUS REQUIRES A TEAM/FAMILY APPROACH v.7-18

When Jesus sent out the Disciples He sent them out 2 by 2

In v.7-8 Paul mentions the following people: Tychicus, Onesimus, Aristarchus, Mark, Barnabas, Justus (also called Jesus), Epaphras, Luke, Demas, Nympha, and Archippus

These folks and Paul worked together. While not related to Paul by blood, they were his family, his family in Christ.

In doing the work of Christ, we are not meant to do it alone. We must work together

Working together is sometimes a struggle, but it pleases Christ and does come with great joy. We are to work together so that discouragement doesn't win.

We all have a part to play- there is a place for every believer to serve- young or old

The Scriptures teach that in Christ we have all been given spiritual gifts for a reason- for the building up of the body of Christ. We to use our gifts (even though it's hard sometimes). We are to carry each others burdens as well (when one suffers all suffer. When one rejoices we all to rejoice) We are called to service and guess when our term of service is up? When we die.

***FURTHER NOTE: Every part of ministry in the family of God is Important!

Note Tychicus' role v.7-9: Mailman and messenger. Chaperone to Onesimus who headed back to Ephesus to reconcile with Philemon. Paul holds up Ty's service!


3. CHRISTIAN AFFECTION IS TO MARK OUR RELATIONSHIPS AS THE FAMILY OF CHRIST

Note how Paul calls Tychicus and Onesimus "dear brothers" v.7,9 and then in v.14 he calls Luke "our dear friend"

We need to work on liking each other. We need to be found doing acts of kindness for each other (even when they are not recognized or returned-- this is the hard part). We are to do so for Christ.

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34

4. TO TRULY FUNCTION AS FAMILY IN CHRIST WE NEED TO BE A PEOPLE OF SECOND CHANCES WHO ALWAYS LEAVE THE DOOR OPEN FOR RECONCILIATION

In v.10 Paul writes "My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas."

In Acts 15:36-41 Paul and Barnabas are recorded as getting into a bit of a fight over Mark being on the team. Barnabas suggested they take Mark along. Paul didn't want Mark to join them because he had recently deserted them when they were out on a missions trip (kind of a big deal!) The net result- Paul and Barnabas went their separate ways.

Fast forward- Mark got right with the Lord, he mended his ways, he took the call to follow Christ seriously. In the end Paul, Mark, Barnabas reconciled.

Another example: Onesimus v.9

Onesimus was a slave who ripped off his master in Ephesus (a man named Philemon) and ran away to Rome. In Rome he hears the Gospel of Christ and somehow gets connected with Paul, committing his life to Christ. After meeting Christ, Onesimus is completely transformed and becomes a dearly loved brother in Christ. For reconciliation Paul sends Onesimus back to Philemon (exhorting Philemon to free him and treat him as he would treat Paul)

Application

Family life is sometimes messy. Relationships are hard sometimes. We need to learn to be forgiving. We need to leave the door open for reconciliation and peace (sometimes things take time). We need to give our anger to God. We need to keep the big picture in mind- it is Christ we are serving and we have been called to serve together.

If there is someone you are at odds with - you know what to do as a follower of Jesus- love them, forgive them, do what you can to make things right

5. A MULTI ETHNIC CHURCH MADE UP OF PEOPLE FROM ALL WALKS OF LIFE- YET WHOLLY COMMITTED TO CHRIST AND TO HOLINESS, THAT'S OUR GOAL.

In taking a look at those who were serving together we see Jew and Gentile working side by side (very radical in the first century)

We also see Paul commending a lady named Nympha - who hosted a church in her house (Paul's commending a woman in that time was a radical thing- particularly a non Jewish woman with a name connected to Greek religion (The Nymphs were regarded as nature goddesses and usually depicted as young nubile maidens)

-Further, we see that a Doctor has joined the team -- Luke
-Additionally, Onesimus is a runaway slave
-Furthermore: Paul and Aristarchus are in jail
-We even have a guy who has been named Jesus- also known as Justus

A couple of things

It's amazing who the LORD uses to build his kingdom -he uses the weak things, the things that are not to bring glory to His name. This gives us hope!

The body of Christ, the family of God is best when it is diverse being made up of men/women/the young, the old, people from different countries, people with different shades of skin colour, people, with different abilities, and people with varying levels of education.

A diverse group of people committed to Christ and to holiness is the picture of the church in Heaven. In Revelation 7:9 it says; " After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb."

Our goal here which we must fight for- everyone one is welcome- let's come together, give our lives to Christ, serve Christ together, committed to the holy teachings of his Word.

6. AS FAMILY IN CHRIST WE NEED TO STAY ON MISSION see v.17

"Tell Archippus: "See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord."

-His name means "master of the horse"
-Paul exhorts him to renewed activity
-some think he a son of Philemon (since addressed in Philemon)

Sometimes we need to hear the call to "get back in the game".

Folks step back from serving and ministry for all sorts of reasons- we don't know why Archippus did but that doesn't matter. What's important to note is that Paul says "Get back in there" "Finish the job" "Serve- and remember, it's Christ you are serving"

Our mission: Matthew 28:18-20

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

7. THE CHURCH, THE FAMILY OF GOD, IT'S ALL ABOUT JESUS

We are his servants. We belong to Him. Everything is about Him and for Him. Apart from Him we are lost in our sins and we are nothing.

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Colossians 3:17