Colossians 4:17

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

And say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.” Colossians 4:17

Paul’s words here are taken by many scholars as a rebuke of Archippus which are intended to urge him back to a proper fulfillment of his duties. Why anyone would come to this conclusion is a bit hard to understand. Paul begins with, “And say to Archippus.” The letter is written to the church at Colossae. It was to be read to all there, and then it was to be read to the church at Laodicea. To rebuke someone like this at the very end of the letter would be inappropriate at best.

Instead, the words, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received,” are certainly a note of encouragement. Paul’s letters are written as notes of doctrine. They are intended to instruct the churches in how to handle false apostles, false teachings, and heretical ideas which crop up. Archippus had received a “ministry” which he was responsible for. In Greek, it is diakonia, or a deaconate. But rather than being a deacon, it is probably meaning that he was in charge of the deacons. Some take this to mean that he was the lead pastor, or at least in a similar position.

This position he received “in the Lord.” Rather than saying, “from the Lord,” Paul uses this term. It means that he was not an apostle, but rather had received his ministry from someone who was already in the Lord, and was acknowledged and ordained to the position that he held. This is an implicit reference to the idea of the “apostolic age” which was coming to an end. When those who had received their ministry “from the Lord” were all gone, there would be no more apostles from the Lord. Rather, all would be ordained “in the Lord” from that time on.

As he was in such a ministry, Paul was encouraging him. Being in the position of a pastor brings with it many headaches as people come forth with a constant stream of ideas about what they think, despite have little or no theological training, and having spent limited time in Scripture itself. It can be maddening at times to live in a world full of “specialists” to lead. Archippus apparently bore this type of thing as well, and Paul was encouraging him to apply the words of his epistles to his ministry. It would allow him to “fulfill it.” By relying on his ordination, and by applying OT Scriptures and whatever New Testament writings were being circulated, including apostolic epistles, he would be strengthened to perform his duties in an effective manner.

Archippus is mentioned just one more time in Scripture, in Philemon 1:2. There he is called “a fellow soldier.” As these two letters were written at approximately the same time, we can see that Paul’s note in this epistle is not one of rebuke, but of encouragement. Archippus was in the battle, and he was working effectively, but he needed the additional encouragement of Paul’s apostleship to strengthen him.

Life application: When going to your pastor, or some other person you might correspond with who has a ministry, it is courteous to ask rather than dictate. The person you are speaking to is fallible and could very well be wrong on an issue, but to charge at him like a bull can only put up a wall which is then hard to later break down. Let your words be seasoned with salt, and work without belligerence. Remember, you are one person coming to an individual who probably hears from many people over the course of a week. How easy it is to get eroded down if everyone is on the attack!

Lord God, thank You for those people who have gone before us, searching out Your word, carefully analyzing it, and making helpful commentaries on it. We have 2000 years of knowledge heaped up that we can draw from in order to understand this precious gift. Help us to pay heed to those things we are taught, and to also apply our own study time in pursuit of Your superior word! Amen.

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