This is the last of a series of posts looking at a biblical example gospel partnership–working together to advance the gospel of Christ. In the previous two posts, we saw that this involved being together in fellowship and ministry. In this final post, we see that gospel partnership means being Together in Faithfulness. Once again, we return to the end of Colossians for our example.
“Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts, and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you of everything that has taken place here. 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. And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea. And say to Archippus, ‘See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.’ I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you” (Col 4:7-18).
Faithful in Serving
How is faithfulness seen in gospel partnerships? It starts with faithfulness in serving. We saw earlier that both Tychicus and Onesimus were called “faithful” (8:8,9). They are a great example. Today, one of the things that is so disheartening is seeing people who began well but have fallen into unfaithfulness. Sadly, Facebook has become a place for finding friends who haven’t remained faithful. Though professing faith during high school and college, they are now caught up in all kinds of sinful living, denying the Savior they once confessed.
Even here, Paul mentions Demas (8:14). We cannot know why, but even here all he says is that Demas is with him. The sad reality of this man’s life comes in Paul’s final letter. In 2 Timothy, the apostle says, “For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me” (4:10). Here was a man who is numbered among the apostolic band. He is working side-by-side with the apostle Paul, but even that was no guarantee. He ended up abandoning the faith. How much more for us? Like Demas, are we slowly finding ourselves falling in love with the world more than Christ? Are we slipping in our faithfulness to the calling Christ had put on our lives to minister for him?
In contrast, we see Nympha—the widow who served God by opening her home to the Church, giving them a place to gather and worship, faithfully committing herself and her resources for something eternal (8:15). And we see Luke (8:14). Here’s the doctor who faithfully stayed with Paul, treating his needs, all the while keeping track of facts and details, interviewing eyewitnesses, preparing to write one-fourth of the New Testament, documenting the ministry of Christ and rise of the Church in the Gospel of Luke and its sequel, the Book of Acts. These are the examples to follow as we seek to remain faithful to the gospel.
Faithful in Difficulty
Secondly, faithfulness in gospel partnerships comes in being faithful in difficulty. What does Paul tell the Colossians? He says, “Remember my chains” (4:18). Though a prisoner of Caesar, he was suffering for Christ. He was willing to be faithful to his Savior regardless of the difficulty of his circumstances.
Do know what he says earlier in the letter? Earlier in chapter 1, he explains his ministry, and says, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (1:24-29).
Paul says he struggles and toils with all of the energy God works in him. For what does he toil? To present everyone mature in Christ. He does this by proclaiming the Son in wisdom and with admonishment. But notice, he also did this in suffering. More than that, he rejoiced in his suffering because filled up what was lacking in Christ’s sufferings. That doesn’t Christ didn’t suffer enough. No, it means that the Gentile people didn’t see the sufferings. They didn’t see the cross.
So, through Paul’s suffering to bring them the gospel, they get see a glimpse of the love that led Christ to suffer for them on the cross, to redeem them from God’s wrath against their sin. Read his letters, read the book of Acts, and you see that Paul suffered much. How tempting is it to pack it in when things get difficult? How easy is it to believe we deserve a break when life puts the pressures on. Paul didn’t let his suffering be an excuse for him to stop living for God. Just the opposite. Paul persevered in the midst of that suffering.
Fulfill Your Ministry
Over the last few posts, we’ve sought to see an example of that it means to be partners together in gospel ministry. Knowing how to live this way is important it’s our calling. As God’s people, we have a calling to be together in faith and life and ministry. Having the example of Paul and his fellow workers in Colossians 4, let us prayerfully seek to live out the example we’ve seen. As Paul said to Archippus, so we say to ourselves and to one another, “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord” (8:17).