Fellow-Workers unto the Kingdom
This is the final section of the epistle. Paul writes a letter to the church at Colossae, and three of his fellow workers (Aristarchus, Marcus, and Justus) also send along their greetings and salutations to the Colossians.
PAUL’S THREE FRIENDS
1. He was Paul’s “fellow prisoner.”
a. The most natural way to take this expression is that he too was imprisoned in Rome as Paul was.
b. And it is to be assumed for the same reason: for preaching Christ. (Not as Tychicus—the thief!)
c. Aristarchus was a faithful disciple of Christ.
d. The term indicates a man who is willing to SUFFER in the ministry of Christ.
e. Matt. 16:24-25 – the cost of following Christ.
• This is NOT the plan of salvation.
• We are saved by faith and faith alone.
• But once saved, God expects us to follow Christ.
• And following Christ… in a world that hated Him and crucified Him… means suffering for the followers—to one degree or another.
• Jesus says that those following Him ought to be willing to suffer to the ultimate—a cross—a form of cruel death.
• This does not mean that everyone who follows Christ will suffer martyrdom, but it does mean that everyone who follows Christ will suffer.
• There was recently a man in Afghanistan who professed faith in Christ and was about to be tried in a Muslim court… and executed for his faith… that’s persecution!
• There is a COST to following Christ.
• Aristarchus was willing to pay the price. He ended up in jail as Paul did.
f. I Tim. 3:12 – Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
• It is possible (it happens all the time) to be a carnal believer… and to avoid suffering for Christ’s sake.
• The world hates godly believers… because the lifestyle of a godly believer shines light on their darkness and they hate that.
• But the world doesn’t hate the believer who lives like they do… (let’s eat, drink, and be merry! Let’s live for today! Live it up—you only go around once!)
• But ALL those who walk in the Spirit and live godly lives shall suffer persecution… for their faith.
• Godly believers are suffering and paying a huge price in many countries around the world today: China; Muslim countries…
g. In America, we don’t suffer that much for our faith in Christ.
• Persecution seems to come in waves and in various locations throughout the history of the church.
• Paul tells us to PRAY for those in leadership positions so that we might not have to face severe persecution. (That we might lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.)
• God has blessed us in this nation. Keep on praying for it may not last forever.
• But even in times of relative ease, there is always SOME form of persecution that occurs.
• I Tim. 3:12 is always true—everywhere. ALL who live godly shall suffer persecution to one degree or another.
• In this land, it is more often subtle… laughter… mocking… by passed for a promotion… considered odd… rejected by family…
• It is a far cry from being chased out of your country… or burned at the stake… or imprisoned.
• But it IS a form of persecution… and expression of the world’s hatred for our Savior, Jesus Christ. They can’t get at Him so they get at His followers.
h. A true follower of Christ ought to be WILLING to suffer for His name’s sake.
• The degree to which we are called to suffer varies wildly from believer to believer.
• For a believer who decides to get baptized the consequences might vary from being executed… to losing one’s job… to being ridiculed by old friends.
• But we ALL should have a heart WILLING to suffer.
• Godly believers are willing to pay the price… and there WILL be a price to pay: one degree or another.
• Believers who are not as godly can avoid the suffering… through compromise and worldly living.
• To some who have professed faith in Christ getting up an hour early for Sunday school is too much to suffer!
• Forget about SUFFERING for their faith—some folks are unwilling to be put out at all in the service of Christ.
• They will come to church and serve Christ IF it is convenient… if it does not upset their busy schedule of fun things to do…
• They will help serve in the local church as long as it doesn’t mean any inconvenience in their lives… as long as they don’t have to sacrifice any of the things THEY want to do…
• For them coming to the evening service is a nuisance… a hassle…
• Signing up to help clean the church—that’s out of the question! If I’m going to clean up anywhere, it will be at MY house!
• The TRUE Christian life is a crucified life… a life of death to self… and alive unto God… a life not lived for self, but for the Lord and in the Lord’s service… as the Lord leads… regardless of the price—even if it means jail!
• Aristarchus was willing to pay the price in following Christ. He was a fellow PRISONER with Paul.
i. Serving Christ in our land does not involve overt persecution… but it DOES involve the crucified life… a life of self sacrifice.
• And if disciples of Christ are expected to be willing to pick up a cross… surely it is not too much for believers to be expected to be inconvenienced for Christ… to put themselves out a bit in serving Him… in going the extra mile…
• There is a soft and effeminate Christianity today that seems unwilling to suffer at all… and one must wonder whether it is true Christianity at all…
2. He salutes the Colossian believers.
a. He was not going with Onesimus and Tychicus, but stayed behind.
b. He stayed with Paul in Rome… perhaps not by choice (prisoner!)
3. He was one of the men who traveled with Paul on his missionary journey.
a. Acts 19:29 – He was from the region of Macedonia… and the city of Thessalonica.
b. He was seized along with Paul during the riot in Ephesus (caused by the idol makers unhappy with Paul’s message.
c. There Paul and Aristarchus could have been beaten to death… until the town clerk brought order to the crowd.
d. Acts 20:1 – From Ephesus, Paul left for Macedonia… and Aristarchus accompanied him there.
e. Acts 20:4 – Then when Paul went from Macedonia ultimately back to Jerusalem, Aristarchus was with him. They brought the love gift from the gentiles to the poor saints in Jerusalem.
f. It is likely that Aristarchus was there with Paul during his incarceration at Caesarea.
g. Acts 27:2 – he went on the infamous ship ride with Paul to Rome… which became a shipwreck.
4. Philemon 24 – Aristarchus is called Paul’s fellow laborer.
a. He was a worker… a laborer… a servant.
b. He was involved in the WORK of the ministry.
c. Eph. 4:11-12 – the ministry involves WORK.
d. Are you involved? HOW are you involved in the work of the ministry? What is your ministry?
e. If you are born again, God has gifted and equipped you to serve and function in the local church.
f. To have a gift and not use it for God’s glory in the local church leaves the church without a God-given, God-designed function. (Like a body without a knee or without a finger.)
g. And to have a gift designed to function in the Body and not use it also deprives YOU of fulfilling your God given purpose… and thus, it leaves you unfulfilled!
h. The Body needs YOUR service… and YOU need the Body’s ministry too.
i. Be like Aristarchus: a fellow worker! Join in and get busy serving the Lord in the local church.
5. Aristarchus was with Paul during some of his most difficult times!
a. The riot in Ephesus…
b. The shipwreck off Cyprus…
c. Imprisonment in Rome…
d. He was no fair weather friend… but loyal… through thick and thin.
e. Very often in life, going through such trials and storms together STRENGTHENS the bond between people.
f. On a human level—those who experience a hurricane together… or a flood…
g. In the spiritual realm… those who go on a missions trip together… those who go through stormy times together in a local church and stick it out to the end…
h. There is a sense of bonding and camaraderie that develops.
i. I’m sure that the difficult times Paul and Aristarchus experienced together caused them to be knit together in the Lord.
j. After so many years of serving the Lord together—a deep sense of true FELLOWSHIP arises.
k. This is God’s intent for our service in the local church too. This sense of true fellowship is DEEPENED and enriched by time and experiences.
l. There is naturally a much deeper sense of a bond of fellowship among those who have been serving together in a local church for 20 years as opposed to those who have been attending and serving for one year.
m. One of Paul’s desires for the believers in Colossae was that they would (over time and through various experiences) be KNIT together in love. (Col. 2:2)
n. That’s a good reason to be faithful in serving in the local church… it is a bonding together that does not occur with folks who are constantly hopping from one church to another.
o. Paul and Aristarchus had been through the waters and the fires together… and had many memories of God’s deliverances and faithfulness.
1. Marcus is also called Mark… the author of the gospel.
2. Acts 12:12 –
a. He is sometimes referred to as John Mark.
• John was his Jewish name…
• Mark (Marcus) was his Roman name.
• This was a common practice for Jews in those days.
b. His mother Mary opened up her home for the believers to hold prayer meetings. (Prayer for Peter to be released!)
2. Col. 4:10 –
a. John Mark was a cousin of Barnabus.
b. Acts 13:1-3, 5 – This Barnabus was the man who was called of the Lord to go with Paul on the world’s first missionary journey.
c. When Paul and Barnabus went on their first missionary journey, they took John Mark with them. (We will look at that story at another time). (Cf. Acts 12:25)
d. John Mark accompanied Barnabus.
4. I Peter 5:13 – some believe that Peter led Marcus to the Lord.
5. Philemon 24 – he (along with Aristarchus) is called a fellow laborer.
1. Jesus is a common Jewish name. It is actually Joshua.
2. This Jesus (Joshua) was also called Justus.
a. Joshua was his Jewish name.
b. Justus was his Roman name.
c. Justus was Latin meaning “just” or “righteous.”
d. He would have been called Joshua the Just.
3. We know almost nothing about him except for this passage.
a. We know all about the good deeds of Paul.
b. We know almost nothing about the good deeds of Justus.
c. However, God does… and that’s what counts.
d. This is the way it is with MANY of our fellow believers.
• Some men their deeds and ministries are seen and known.
• Others, their deeds and ministries are not seen or known… except to the Lord.
• Many believers minister for the Lord behind the scenes… quietly going about their ministry… not blowing the trumpet before them to be seen of men.
WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT THEM
A. Jewish – by birth or as a proselyte
1. vs. 11 – “who are of the circumcision.”
a. This means that all three of these men were either Jewish (Hebrews) by birth OR they were Gentile proselytes to Judaism… who then became Christians.
B. Fellow workers with Paul
1. These only are my fellow workers.
a. “Only” – This does not mean that there WERE no other fellow workers.
• It means that all the rest of them were gentiles. These men were the only fellow workers of the “circumcision.”
• While in Rome, there were only a few Hebrew Christians who helped Paul during his imprisonment.
• Most of Paul’s fellow countrymen rejected his Christian message. Many Jews openly opposed the spread of the gospel.
• Even many Hebrew Christians had a hard time accepting Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles… and did not offer him the kind of help that perhaps they should have.
• Some legalistic, Hebrew believers in Christ had a hard time accepting the uncircumcised gentiles, and they continually attempted to put these gentile converts under the Law…
• Thus they gave Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, a cold shoulder… sometimes preaching Christ out of contention.
• But there were three notable men from the circumcision—Jews who had become Christians—who truly understood GRACE… and thus they had wonderful fellowship with Paul and served the Lord together with him.
b. Fellow workers – that was Paul’s term for the believers. WORKERS!
• Every believer should be a WORKER… working in the Lord’s work.
• Of course it is God who works IN us. He does the work and He gets the glory.
• However, we as believers need to be YIELDED and willing for Him to work through us.
• God does the work… but so do WE. God uses our hands… our feet… our mouths… our skills… our talents…
• But we need to be ready and available for the Lord to use us.
• Are you available to be used of the Lord in any way He sees fit?
• What ministries ARE you involved with in the local church?
c. Let’s look at how often this theme appears in the New Testament:
• Acts 9:36 – Dorcas was FULL of good works.
• Acts 13:2 – Paul and Barnabus were called to a work for God.
• Rom. 16:12 – Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa, who labour in the Lord. Salute the beloved Persis, which laboured much in the Lord.
• Rom. 16:21 – Timothy was his workfellow.
• I Cor. 3:9 – For we are labourers together with God.
• I Cor. 15:10 – but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
• I Cor. 15:58 – always abounding in the work of the Lord.
• I Cor. 16:10 – he worketh the work of the Lord.
• II Cor. 5:9 – Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.
• II Cor. 6:1 – we are workers together with Him.
• Eph. 4:12 – for the work of the ministry.
• Phil. 2:16 – I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.
• Phil. 2:25 – Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour.
• Phil. 4:3 – help those women which laboured with me in the gospel.
• Col. 1:10 – being fruitful in every good work.
• Col. 1:29 – Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.
• I Thess. 1:3 – Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love.
• I Tim. 5:17 –Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.
• II Tim.2:15 – Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed.
• II Tim. 3:17 – That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
• Titus 3:14 – learn to maintain good works for necessary uses.
• Heb. 6:10 – God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love.
• Ecc. 12:12 – much study is a weariness of the flesh.
d. The work of the Lord is WORK.
• It involves a LOT of work… ongoing chores… responsibilities… no end to the WORK.
• The work of the ministry involves much LABOR.
• For the work of the ministry to continue it requires many LABORERS.
• And whether it is in the mission field or in the local church, laborers seem to be scarce.
• Everybody wants the work to be done…
• Story: Three men named: everybody, somebody, and nobody. When it was time to clean the church, everybody thought that somebody would do it. But when it came right down to it, nobody ended up doing it!
• Paul was called to teach and preach the word.
» But for him to do this important job, it required LOTS of other people laboring behind the scenes.
» There was much work to be done… arrangements to be made… food… transportation… clothing… ordinary chores that were necessary for the work to continue.
» Aristarchus, Justus, and Mark were such men. They LABORED in the work of the Lord.
» For Salem Bible Church to function, it requires LOTS of men, women, and children laboring behind the scenes.
» To keep a church functioning requires MANY laborers.
» And in many churches, 10% of the people end up doing 90% of the work.
» The ratio here is a bit better than that… but it is still unbalanced.
» If that is the case, that means that 90% of the people are taking advantage of the labors of others and are NOT doing their share of the work.
» Ex: cleaning up the church. If a small number of folks offer to help, they end up doing it every couple of months. If every able bodied person offered to help… each person would only have to clean up once a year or so!
» I don’t understand why every able bodied person does NOT offer to help. Is it not your gift? Are you not led? My guess is that if we were truly yielded and available… the Lord would “lead” many more of us to serve… and that we might discover that we have the gift of helps after all!
» That is NOT the way it ought to be. The work load in the local church ought to be SHARED…
» We should ALL be laborers TOGETHER… co-workers
» The work of the Lord involves teaching Sunday school and singing in the choir—but also mowing the lawn, fixing a leaky sink, scrubbing toilets, vacuuming the rugs, changing diapers, making tapes and CDs, visiting, passing out tracts, setting up tables, going to the dump…
» It’s not very glamorous… but it is necessary for the work of the Lord to continue.
» Let’s pray that God would stir up folks HERE to become more INVOLVED in the work of the Lord… awaken us from our sleep and lethargy… and see the need to roll up their sleeves and DO the work of the ministry.
» The RIGHT % is to have 100% of the believers here involved in the work of the ministry.
» The right kind of response to a message like this is, “Hey, what can I do to help? Here am I send me!”
» If you are NOT involved and would like to be—we would love to get you connected to a ministry where you could contribute to the work of the Lord in this place!
C. Comforters to Paul
1. They comforted Paul by being an encouragement to him during his Roman imprisonment. (Those in prison need encouragement!)
2. Comfort = paregoria (not the most usual term for comfort)
a. Solace, relief, alleviation, consolation.
b. I Thess. 4:18 – the best way to bring REAL comfort to a brother… real SPIRITUAL comfort is through the Word of God.
c. Rom. 15:4 – For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
d. We need to be reminded of what the Bible says when we are down and discouraged… reminded of things we already know.
e. Were it not for these men who comforted Paul, who knows whether he would have been able to say, “I have finished my course; I have kept the faith.”
f. You and I can have a REAL spiritual impact in the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
g. And you don’t need to be a professional counselor with a degree in psychology. In fact, a simple believer who knows God’s word is what is really needed. That believer can share the word and bring true and lasting comfort… life changing words… words of life!
h. Maybe you know a believer who is discouraged and could use some paregoric.
i. We have the Word—the Balm of Gilead. Use it to encourage others… spread that balm generously.
j. One little word of encouragement can change the whole direction of a person’s life…
k. It can cause a discouraged person who is about to throw in the towel and do something really foolish… to turn around… trust in the Lord again… regain HIS strength… and continue… and finish his course.
3. Fellow workers have a responsibility to COMFORT one another…
a. This too is part of the work of the Lord.
b. If the work is to continue… the workers need to be cared for… encouraged… comforted… exhorted… challenged… admonished…
c. Paul wasn’t afraid to let people know that he needed to be comforted… relieved… encouraged.
d. Being incarcerated can be VERY discouraging.
e. These men brought a bit of relief to Paul during his stay in prison… as paregoric brings relief to a baby teething.
f. II Cor. 1:4 – the ability to comfort others is usually learned the hard way… through difficult experiences through which we are comforted of God!
g. We ought to bear one another’s burdens… and thus lighten their load.
h. The greater our personal RELATIONSHIP to God, the better equipped we are to be a comfort to those who need to be comforted.
i. Paul’s friends had a close personal relationship to the Lord… and thus were able to be a paregoric balm to the apostle in prison.
FELLOW WORKERS UNTO THE KINGDOM
1. UNTO the Kingdom.
a. Unto: moving in the direction of… toward…
b. This speaks of a future Kingdom—the kingdom to be established by Christ when He returns.
c. Rapture; Tribulation Period; then the Second Coming and the establishment of the long awaited Messianic Kingdom.
d. Note that these are not his workers IN the kingdom but UNTO the Kingdom.
e. Despite what our Reformed brothers say, the kingdom has not begun! The King has not arrived.
f. We are not IN the Kingdom presently, except positionally. We have been translated into the kingdom of His dear Son… just as we are seated in the heavenly positionally…
g. Conditionally—we are on earth.
h. Nor are we advancing the Kingdom. We are certainly not establishing the kingdom by preaching the gospel.
i. There can be no kingdom until the King arrives!
2. John Calvin is typical of Reformed theology when he blends together the kingdom with the church dispensation.
a. His interpretation of Col. 4:11 – He says that Paul “calls the gospel the kingdom of God, for it is the scepter by which God reigns over us.”
b. They say that there will be no literal earthly Kingdom established by Christ—that the church is presently the Kingdom.
c. They teach that all promises to Israel of a future Kingdom have been cancelled—and spiritually fulfilled in the church instead.
d. The gospel is NOT the kingdom. The church is not the Kingdom.
e. The Kingdom is that future Messianic Reign of Christ established at His Second Coming in power and great glory… as ALL the prophets predicted.
f. We are not “picking on” the Reformers. They were extremely brave and courageous godly men who were used of the Lord in a mighty way.
• Reformers like Calvin and Luther saw truth in the Scriptures that had been hidden by Rome for many centuries.
• The truth they saw was essential: salvation is by grace through faith and NOT by works!
• They fought for that truth and suffered to proclaim it.
• We rejoice in their work and are the beneficiaries of it.
• However, when they left Rome, they took some of Rome with them.
• The issue of their day was soteriology… and they advanced that truth.
• However, ecclesiology was not the issue of the day… and they “unwittingly” took Rome’s view of the church—the Amillennial view—that the promises of a literal Kingdom made to Israel are being presently fulfilled in the church spiritually. The church IS the Kingdom.
• It wasn’t for another 300 years before the truth in this area was dusted off and brought to light by Darby and others…
• He saw clearly from a study of the Scriptures that the church is a unique dispensation of God… separate in every way from Israel, her law, and her promises.
• He saw clearly the difference between Israel, the church, and the future Messianic kingdom—as different programs of God.
3. The dispensationalist takes God’s Word at face value.
a. The kingdom means the kingdom as described in countless other places in the Scriptures.
b. The Kingdom is FUTURE.
• We have an inheritance coming in that future kingdom.
• II Tim. 4:1 – the kingdom is linked to Christ’s appearing—the Second Coming.
• II Tim. 4:18 – Paul was not IN the kingdom during the church age. But he did expect that the Lord would preserve him UNTO that kingdom… characterized as heaven on earth.
• II Tim. 2:12 – a wonderful promise to believers who endure suffering in this life: if we suffer with Christ in this life… we shall reign with Him in His future Kingdom! Awesome!
• Our reward in that future kingdom is based upon our faithfulness in THIS life. This life counts!
• II Peter 1:11 – all true believers of this age will have an entrance into that glorious future Kingdom. But those who were DILIGENT in their walk will be rewarded with an ABUNDANT entrance! (abundant = rich)
4. Thus, Paul’s point in Col.4:11 is that Aristarchus, Marcus, and Justus were faithful fellow workers UNTO that glorious future Kingdom.
a. They will receive an ABUNDANT entrance into the kingdom… rewarded richly for their willingness to suffer and endure in this life…
b. And they will be richly rewarded for their many labors in this life… though often unnoticed by men.
c. This life is a time of working for Christ… serving Him and often suffering for it.
d. Those who faithfully endure and suffer in this life will not go unrewarded. They will be ABUNDANTLY rewarded.
e. This was true for Paul’s three friends. It is equally true for us!
f. Rom. 8:18-19 – the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed in us.
g. The coming of Christ to establish His glorious Millennial Kingdom is a time of REVELATION… where the sons of God (hidden away in God now; unnoticed by the world) will be manifested for who we really are: SONS of the Living God! Awesome!