Sermon Notes: Colossians 4:10-15: Unity in the Missional Family of Christ

Good Morning TRC. The Jolly family is away today celebrating Gabe’s 21’st birthday, and since he is SWO summer staff and a river guide for SWO, it is easier for him to have us visit, so we are in Andrews, North Carolina with Gabe on his off day to celebrate.

Chris Hamilton is preaching today, and the following notes are his manuscript for you to use in your study, meeting in discipleship relationships inside TRC, and in your RL groups.

Ya’ll have a great day!

Colossians 4:10-15: Unity in the Missional Family of Christ

Before we get into our text, let’s have a quick refresher. We’ve been in this book for a while, but it’s easy to forget some things. 

Starting in Colossians 1, we see Paul is the one sending this letter, and Timothy is likely his scribe. The letter is to the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae. These were Gentiles.

Paul expresses his deep thankfulness for these believers and explains how he prays earnestly for them. We are then introduced to Epaphras, the church planter of Colossae, whom we’ll talk about later in the message. 

In Colossians 1 and 2, Paul lays a foundation, reminding the Colossian believers of their identity in Christ, having been brought from death to life. He reminds them of the preeminence of Christ and His deity that the infiltrators of the church were putting into question at that time. These infiltrators—wolves in sheep’s clothing—were preaching a Jesus “plus” Gospel. We know the Gospel of Jesus Christ plus “this” or without “that” is really no gospel at all. Paul comes right out and attacks this ploy of the enemy. 

In chapter 3 we see a lot of instruction. As we say here, the indicative (or identity) comes before the imperative (or command). So, chapter 3 is the answer to the question of ‘what now?’

“Paul… takes the opportunity to encourage these believers to press on to maturity in Christ by 1) continuing in their battle against sin, 2) pursuing holiness in Christ, and 3) learning to live as distinctively Christian households.” – Dr. Clinton Arnold (study notes on Colossians)

Fast forward to the final greetings. Tim started us off in this final portion of Colossians. As he mentioned, Paul’s intention at the end of the letter is to establish rapport with the Colossian brothers and sisters. He was not the one to plant the church, and he had not even been there before, yet he wrote this letter of encouragement and exhortation for their edification. 

To bring us up to speed, for those that have slept since we were last in Colossians, Tim showed us a few final takeaways from Colossians 4:7-9. 

  1. We are to be together on mission
  2. Honestly ask yourself, ‘what virtues and values characterize my life? Are they in line with those of Christ?’
  3. We are to encourage each other

Be on mission together, model your life after Christ’s to the extent that when others see you, they cannot help but see the gentle and gracious embrace of Christ, and encourage one another. 

Colossians 4:10-15

Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, welcome him), and Jesus who is called Justus. These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me. Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas. Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.

The overall theme of this passage is: Unity in the Missional Family of Christ

Unity: a common theme throughout Paul’s letters, emphasizing the divine unity found in the fellowship of followers of Christ. Cory Barnes (speaking to us from Colossians 3) put it this way:

““Here, in Christ, there is not distinction in ethnicity, no distinction in ritual purity, no distinction in citizenship, no distinction in social status. If we have Christ, all these things are but minor differences in light of eternity.”

Missional: as Tim put it a couple weeks ago, we are together on mission, and if you have gone through the member’s class here, you have heard the question, ‘what is the whole church were the missionary?’ So why add the adjective missional today? It is the incredible idea, not that Mitch or GlocalNet came up with, but one that is clearly displayed in Scripture. To be a disciple of Christ is to be a missionary. 

There is no hierarchical gifting in the Kingdom. There are not the elite, less elite, and then us. We are all called to good works, all called to engage our domains, whether that is Rome, Cartersville, the Middle East or South Asia. Wherever it is that the Lord has you, you are on mission. 

“The action of a shepherd in keeping sheep…is a good work before God as is the action of a judge in giving sentence, or of a magistrate in ruling or a minister in preaching.” – Williams Perkins (1500s)

Whatever your occupation, whatever your domain, “work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Col. 3:23-24)

Therefore, since these terms apply to each and every one of us in Christ, we are all part of the missional family of Christ. Our mission is that God be glorified as we seek first His Kingdom. 

Paul helps us see how we do that in Colossians 4:10-15. 

Our theme: Unity in the Missional Family of Christ.

Our summarizing statement: As members of the missional family of Christ, we must support, comfort, pray for, persevere with, and multiply each other.

Truth #1: In the family of Christ, we can be unified despite differences in personal conviction (even in the topics of theology and politics). (vv. 10-11)

  1. Aristarchus, brother and fellow prisoner with Paul in Rome. (v. 10)
    1. A longstanding friend of Paul’s who’d joined him on what would eventually become one of Paul’s last endeavors. 
    2. Aristarchus is the only one mentioned as a fellow prisoner in this list of Paul’s companions. 
      1. While this could be Paul using the term prisoner metaphorically, N.T. Wright points out that the literal translation is “fellow-prisoner-of-war” which leads us to believe he literally means Aristarchus is imprisoned with him.
  2. Mark, the cousin of Barnabas (v. 10)
    1. Also known as John Mark, the one whom departed from Paul and Barnabas in Perga (Acts 13:13).
      1. Mark was not as well known throughout the 1st Century Baptist Convention as his cousin Barnabas, but what was known about him was that he had deserted Paul in one of his earlier missionary journeys. 
        1. This is a pretty significant and detrimental thing to be remembered by, which leads to our understanding of the added sentence “concerning whom you have received instructions” denoting a subtle stigma that surrounds Mark.
          1.  Paul recognizes that this disagreement was well-known and mentions how this issue has already been addressed in Colossae, and they are to receive Mark with open arms.  
          2. In this one verse, Paul alludes to their relationship being reconciled. Not only between him and Mark, but also him and Barnabas. 
      2. Mark had served with Paul (Acts 12:25), Barnabas (Acts 15:37-39), and Peter (1 Peter 5:13). This Mark is widely recognized to be the one to author the Gospel of Mark. 
        1. Two influential and definitely effective brothers once at odds with each other, now reconciled and serving together again.
          1. Despite differences in opinion, these brothers were reconciled to one another once again.
  3. Jesus, who is called Justus (v. 11) 
    1. There is not much known about this brother, except that he was either one of the two whom the disciples cast lots on to decide who would replace Judas (Acts 1:23), or that he owned a house next door to the synagogue in Corinth (Acts 18:7).
  4. “Men of the Circumcision” and “my fellow workers for the kingdom of God” (v. 11) 
    1. Paul’s emphasis of “they have proved a comfort to me” is not to say the others are not a comfort, but to show to the Colossians—who were well aware, as most 1st century churches were, of the disagreement between the circumcision and uncircumcision parties—that there are true brothers on both sides of the conversation. 
    2. Two parties once diametrically opposed to one another now working in tandem for the glory of God and edification of one another. (i.e. – fundamentalists, moderates; liberals, conservatives; Calvinists & non-Calvinists; even republicans and democrats).
    3. Regardless of differing opinions on a number of issues, and in this text, issues about circumcision and even missions strategies, regardless, Christ is what unites us.

When we are anchored in Christ, in step with the Holy Spirit, following the Lord’s will, in other words when we are hearing and obeying the Word of God to Love God and Love People by going forth into the nations, into our city, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and teaching them all that Jesus has commanded us, Christ binds us together.

Action Point 1: Support

Aristarchus, Mark, and Justus are there in support of Paul, ministering to him, and Aristarchus is even in prison with him. That’s a real friend right there. There are not too many people I’d be volunteering to sit in prison with. 

Nonetheless, they support one another and Paul. This action of the Church is displayed throughout all the accounts of the new testament church. 

Question: How can you get involved in supporting your brothers and sisters during tough times and in hard places in our community? 

Here’s a handful of opportunities:

Restoration Rome, Young Life, Haven Health Clinic for Women, Family Advocacy Ministry, and Radical Life Groups.

Go to and hover over the “connect” tab. At the bottom you’ll see a tab labeled “serve.”

Where you will be taken to a form you can fill out that says, “If you are interested in serving within our church family, becoming more engaged with our local partners or taking part in global missions, we’d love to connect with you and help you discover where you’d like to serve.

Action Point 2: Comfort

True comfort is found in God, but he provides the body of Christ, He gives us each other that that comfort might be tangibly felt. 

Paul was experiencing great difficulty, yet through the presence of brothers like Aristarchus, Mark, and Justus, he was comforted, having been surrounded by brothers who cared deeply for him and knew that what he needed above all else was to be pointed to Christ. 

The goal wasn’t to rescue him from the hardship, the goal was still the work of the kingdom, and with that end in view, these brothers could get down in the trenches with him and genuinely comfort Paul. 

We all can grow in this area. I especially have room to grow. It’s much easier for me to simply talk about a difficult thing in me or my family, hear someone else talk about their struggles, and then say, “well…God bless,” and keep rolling.  

But we all feel the unsatisfaction and longing for more there.

“How can I get involved in this discipline of comforting my brothers and sisters though? It seems like there should be some sort of group I can get together with.”

If you haven’t been able to plug into a Radical Life Group, I’m not looking to shame anyone. I know that there are legitimate reasons why some cannot consistently participate in Radical Life Groups. But can I encourage you not to throw in the towel. Please don’t neglect yours and your family’s need for deeply rooted community because it hasn’t played out perfectly yet.

RLGs are essential to the life of the church for ministry, impact, and belonging. It is not something that we made up, it’s a biblical principle to be in fellowship with one another, meeting with intention and not just to check a box.  

Here are a few points to think about regarding the essential nature of RLGs from our church leaders:

  1. The corporate body is made up of RLGs and worship is a celebration of how the Kingdom manifested in group life (Acts 2:46)
  2. RLG is modeled on Jesus’ ministry with his disciples and the early church. (the Gospels) 
  3. A healthy RLG is an effect of discipleship, not the cause (Ephesians 4:11-16, 2 Timothy 2:2, Matthew 28:18-20, 1 Peter 5:1-3)
  4. RLG is not a perfect system because it is relational with broken people relying on the grace of God.

Truth #2: In the family of Christ, we can be unified regardless of culture or ethnicity. (vv. 12-13)

  1. Epaphras, a servant of Christ Jesus…always struggling on your behalf in his prayers
    1. First thing to notice is that in regards to Paul, Epaphras doesn’t share the same background in any way. They’re practically polar opposites. Yet Paul, in Colossians 1, talks about him in such an endearing way as his own brother. 
      1. The things that may divide us in this world, the lines of division are done away with in Christ.

Action Point 3: Prayer

Epaphras is noted as a faithful prayer warrior, but this does not set him apart as one of our special forces Christians (like we’ve already established), Epaphras’ relentless prayer life is instead to be an example to us all of how we should pray for one another. Epaphras’ desire is that the believers in Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis would stand mature and fully assured of all the will of God.

How to pray for one another: 

  • Pray that we would be spiritually and humanly mature. 
    • What does that maturity look like in community with believers? 
      • This passage gives us a sort of illustration of what that looks like as we look at Paul’s immediate community while in prison. That example is, as followers of Christ, we must support, comfort, intercede on behalf of, persevere with, and multiply each other. 
      • “Even though the Colossian church sent Epaphras to support and comfort Paul, he was actively supporting the Colossian church by the strengthening work of prayer.” – R. Scott Pace (Christ-Centered Exposition, Colossians)
      • Epaphras knew and understood the intensity of the issues his fellow believers were under which compelled him all the more to pray for their maturity in Christ. 
    • For the believer, this maturity is manifested in both spiritual maturity and human maturity. For more information on these two types of maturity that flow hand in hand for the believer, I refer you to any of the previous sermons in this series on Colossians, and then if you’d like some extracurricular reading, I have three book recommendations for you if you’re interested. 
  • Pray that we would stand fully assured in all the will of God. 
    • What is the will of God? What did this mean for the Colossians, and what does it now mean for us? 
      • “God’s ‘will’ is not restricted to the question ‘what does God want the Colossian Christians to do?’, but is a larger entity, as we see from 1:24-2:5 and especially Ephesians 1:5-12.” – N.T. Wright (commentary on Colossians)
      • There’s a duality and bit of a mystery to this will. We can see both God’s decree and His command; His will that will come to pass, and His will for us to obey. 
      • What Paul is getting at in describing Epaphras’ prayer life is this:
        • N.T. Wright continues, “Epaphras is praying [like Paul] that the young church will understand what it is that God is doing [in the big picture of Scripture, the metanarrative of the Kingdom] and order their lives accordingly, growing into well-grounded Christian [and human] maturity.”
      • Too often we take our finite understanding and try to grasp the infinite wonders of God in bite size pieces. Where we run into trouble is when we treat the will of God like a fortune cookie or crystal ball. 
    • If you want to know the will of God, read His Word, and obey it. Walk in step with the Spirit by feeding the Spirit and not your flesh. Then pray for one another, holding each other accountable (otherwise known as discipling each other) to Christ as the center of it all.

Paul emphasizes that prayer is not just something you do when preaching, teaching, or before eating so that—as Tim Hawkins says—”the McDonald’s calories become miraculously nutritious on the way to your stomach.” 

Prayer is part of the kingdom work. God, in His sovereignty, created this world to operate off of prayer. And it is one of our greatest tools in pointing each other toward Christ. It is vital to the life of a Christian.

Truth #3: In the family of Christ, we can be unified through the persecution and tension. (v. 14)

Action Point 4: Perseverance

First Luke, whom Paul deems the beloved physician. He was well known in the 1st century church. This is the same Luke who wrote the Gospel of Luke and Acts. 

He was likely a Gentile, since Paul makes a point to label the first three men as Jews, and if you were ever wondering how Paul’s imprisonments were seemingly all recorded in Acts, Luke spent much of that time in prison with Paul. What a nice friend.

We see with Luke, and even with Demas—who although not much is mentioned about him—these were longstanding friendships of Paul. Luke was Paul’s companion for probably the longest amount of time out of all these guys. Having been imprisoned with Paul multiple times, and then being deemed his “only companion” in 2 Tim. 4, there was deep bond here.

2 Timothy 4:10 – 

Demas on the other hand, deserted Paul. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. 

Just a few years after Paul writes Colossians with Timothy, Timothy returned to Ephesus and Paul wrote to him shortly before his own death. Right at the end, he includes this statement about Demas leaving. 

The principle at hand is perseverance with each other. But how does this happen?

The goal is longevity. Longevity in the church (i.e. church membership. It is a commitment to one another in a covenant fellowship). How else do we attain this longevity, this perseverance with one another? Radical Life groups. 

3 points of exhortation here from our church leaders: 

  1. RLG should carry the same importance as corporate worship in word and deed with a different function. (Acts 12:12, Acts 16:40, Romans 16:3-5, Colossians 4:15, Philemon 1-2)
  2. Following Jesus is a lifestyle. Your lifestyle should be worth imitation. Your life should be caught by those you lead. (Luke 6:40, John 13:15, Philippians 3:17, 4:9, 1 Peter 1:16, 1 Corinthians 4:16, 11:1, 1 Thessalonians 1:6, 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9, Hebrews 6:12)
  3. Be cautious to avoid programming your time as a group. Allow room for the Spirit to work. Be intentional and personal. (Genesis 12:1-9, Exodus 13:17-18, Proverbs 3:5-6, 16:3,9; Jeremiah 10:23, Romans 14, 1 Corinthians 9:19-20, Galatians 1:10-12, James 4:13-17)

When talking about the perseverance in relationships among believers, one commentator put it really well, “We must allow our sincere care for others and for Christ’s church to be a true labor of love. In addition, the transforming power of the gospel and the glory of Christ must serve as the ultimate motivation for our sacrifice.” – R. Scott Pace (Christ-Centered Exposition, Colossians)

To close this discussion of persevering friendship, biblical brotherhood and sisterhood, hear the words of Lemuel Covell, from 1801:

“Let us then, dear brethren, unite our efforts to cultivate union and harmony while we are passing through this vale of tears, till we arrive in that upper and better world, where divine friendship reigns, in all its unfading glory, and sheds its benign influences on all those happy millions who surround the throne of God and the Lamb forever.”

Truth #4: In the family of Christ, we can be unified regardless of location.

Action Point 5: Multiplication

Like we mentioned, Paul had most likely never even been to Colossae, so the only way he could be involved with these brothers and sisters was through letters and messages from people like Epaphras, Tychicus, and Onesimus. 

Because of brothers and sisters like Nympha, or Priscilla and Aquila, their commitment to the Creation and Missional mandates in Scripture, their courage to gather the Church in their homes, sacrificing their own security, we are deeply in their debt.

In closing, we’ve talked about these two biblical mandates of the Creation and Missional mandate. There are plenty of much smarter people that use different and better words to describe what I’m saying here, but all I’m referring to is Genesis 1:28 and Matthew 28:18-20. 

Genesis 1:28 – And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Matthew 28:18-20 – And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The first, the Creation Mandate, the second, the Missional Mandate. 

How do we do this? 

At TRC we use the language of Kingdom, Disciple, Society and Church. 

Both of these mandates explain that mission. 

K – We are to go forth and proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom, with the goal of transformation, not merely conversion. 

D – We hear and obey the Word of God, and exemplify how others are to do the same. Walking in step with the Spirit, leading a life of discipleship. 

There is no metaphorical discipleship switch. You’re always discipling and being discipled. And as we know we don’t simply drift toward holiness, we do not drift toward biblical discipleship. So instead, the world disciples us, our families, our cities, nation and world. 

We have the good news of Jesus, the truth of the resurrection, true freedom, so let’s share it with our whole lives. 

So, we proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom, we hear and obey the Word of God, then teach others to do the same. 

S – Then society, our domains. God has called us into specific domains. What is that, you ask? Look around you. Where do you work? Where do you live? Who do you interact with? There’s your domain, the society around you. 

The goal is to bring heaven on earth, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Subdue and make disciples. Be the best at your job, whatever glorious occupation that may be. Parents, you have one of the most important jobs, discipling your children and sending them out into the world. 

C – What does all of this produce? What conglomeration of people could possibly do this? The Church. 

The gathering of followers of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

That’s what the church was always meant to be. It’s God’s people, living under His rule and reign. Living, working, discipling and multiplying in His kingdom. That’s the mission.

So how do we do that, Three Rivers?

  1. If you’re not a member here, I encourage you, if that’s something you feel led to do, find Jim Lanier and speak with him about what that might look like for you. 
    1. As we discussed in our IX Marks of a Healthy Church series, we are covenantal members of a local body for a handful of reasons: 
      1. To assure ourselves, each other of our salvation. (John 14:21, 15:10, 14, 13:17)
      2. To evangelize the world (Genesis 1:28, Matthew 28:18-20)
      3. To expose false gospels (Acts 20:28-29, Matthew 7:15)
      4. To edify the Church (Hebrews 10:19-25)
      5. To glorify God (1 Peter 2:12)
  2. Join a Radical Life Group, we discussed the importance of this and how you can do this earlier in the sermon but contact Mark Estes after and ask him about how you can get plugged in there. 
  3. Engage your city. If you think I made up the whole “if you’re not being discipled by the Word, the world is discipling you.” Look at our city this weekend. A city deep in the Bible-belt who for years has for the most part boasted “Christian values.” The enemy evangelizes, but it’s only a mockery of the Gospel of the Kingdom, so Christian, we must engage our city and share the good news of Jesus. Visit under the connect tab to learn more. 
  4. Lastly, engage the world. Talk to Justin Owens, and he can get you plugged into how you can engage the nations with us. 

The goal is multiplication, not to make much of our name, but to make much of Jesus the Christ.

We’ve seen these four truths in our text today, 

  1. In the family of Christ, we can be unified despite differences in personal conviction. (vv. 10-11)
  2. we can be unified regardless of culture or ethnicity. (vv. 12-13)
  3. we can be unified through persecution and tension. (v. 14)
  4. we can be unified regardless of location. (v. 15)

“What is amazing about these dynamics is that the same categories used by the world for segregation actually become useful to the Lord for affirmation. In other words, those things that would otherwise divide us, God uses to unite us. It is through the diversity of the body of Christ in these various areas that we are able to build one another up.” – R. Scott Pace (Christ-Centered Exposition, Colossians)

And in conjunction with these truths, we have seen 5 points of action: 

As members of the missional family of Christ, we must 1) support, 2) comfort, 3) pray for, 4) persevere with, and 5) multiply each other, all for the glory of God. 

May this Psalm (67) be our earnest prayer and vibrant anthem: 

May God be gracious to us and bless us

    and make his face to shine upon us,

that your way may be known on earth,

    your saving power among all nations.

Let the peoples praise you, O God;

    let all the peoples praise you!

Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,

    for you judge the peoples with equity

    and guide the nations upon earth.

Let the peoples praise you, O God;

    let all the peoples praise you!

The earth has yielded its increase;

    God, our God, shall bless us.

God shall bless us;

    let all the ends of the earth fear him!

Grace and peace to you in our Lord Jesus Christ!

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