Summary: Exposition of Col. 4:7–18
“Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here. My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.) Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me. Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis. Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings. Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea. Tell Archippus: ‘See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.’ I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you” (Col. 4:7–18).
What should gospel–centered friendships look like?
In Paul’s letters, it is very clear that he had a lot of friends. In Romans 16 he mentions thirty–three friends, and in this passage we see eight friends who were with him in Rome while he was in prison, and he mentioned and greeted friends at two other churches, Colosse and Laodicea. The one thing that brought all these relationships together was Christ and the gospel they shared in common. They had all been saved by the gospel, and it was this gospel that energized them as they sought to reach the world for Christ.
What do gospel–centered friendships—friendships that are centered on Christ—look like? And, do our relationships with Christians reflect these characteristics?
Solomon said this about friendships:
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? (Eccl. 4:9–11).
We all need friendships that enable us to be more effective in our callings and that pick us up when we stumble. Proverbs says,
He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm (Prov. 13:20).
Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend (Prov. 27:17 KJV).
No doubt, the relationships Paul had with these people helped him to grow wiser in his service to God and also in seeking to reach the lost. They also encouraged him and sharpened his countenance. Paul could not serve God alone; he needed others. He had many friendships, and we can learn a great deal about specifically gospel–centered friendships through his conclusion to Colossians.
Big Question: What do gospel–centered friendships look like as we survey Paul’s list of intimate friendships at the end of Colossians?
Gospel–Centered Friendships Are Like Family Relationships
“Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here” (Col. 4:7–9).
Interpretation Question: What does Paul’s identification of Tychicus and Onesimus as “dear brother” say about their relationship?
One of the ways that Paul identifies both Tychicus and Onesimus is by the phrase “dear brother” (vv. 7, 9). Paul saw and related to both of these men as family. Tychicus and Onesimus were sent to share Paul’s circumstances with the Colossians as he was in prison, and they also went to encourage the hearts of the saints (v. 8). Tychicus probably carried the letter of Colossians to the congregation and possibly the book of Philemon as well (cf. 4:9). This duty was not unfamiliar to him, as he also was the one who Paul sent to the Ephesian church with his epistle. Ephesians 6:21–22 says,