Faithful Friends: A Sermon from Colossians 4:7-18

I preached this sermon at Fruit Cove Baptist Church on Sunday, November 26, 2023. This sermon is the end of the Jesus is Greater Series. The series is a study through the book of Colossians led by Pastor Heath Woolman. My text was Colossians 4:7-18. I am so humbled by the amount of people who have asked for the sermon notes that I decided to publish them. Below is the manuscript, the illustration, and my study notes. Thank you to my church for such wonderful encouragement!

You can watch the sermon at

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Thesis: To realize the will of God in your life, you must surround yourself with faithful friends.

Question: What are the types of friends that God wants us to pursue in our pursuit of God’s will in our life?

Sermon Manuscript


Welcome to family worship service. I am Jason Stanland, the Middle School Pastor and Interim Pastor of Students here. I pray you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends. I know for some of you the holidays are difficult. Maybe the kids no longer come around, or there is some family strife and tension. Whatever your situation, I pray that God was gracious to you this week. I pray you were able to be thankful for every good thing the Lord has given you.

Pastor Heath is away this weekend, and he has asked me to preach. We are concluding our series through Colossians called Jesus is Greater. Before the series began, Heath and I were discussing the series. The student ministry was in the book of Colossians for summer camp. Our camp theme was “Limitless.” For our camp theme, we explored how we as people have limits, but Christ has no limits. He is the uncreated one, the image of the invisible God, the head of the church, the eternal savior of all humanity, and so much more. On Friday morning, I concluded our camp theme with Colossians 4:7-18. Since, I had already preached that text, he asked me to preach today as well that I might encourage you.

Paul wrote Colossians while in prison in Rome. He had already gone on three long missionary journeys. He spent months and years in each location as he spread the gospel, made disciples, planted churches, and he would leave when he established leaders in the local church. Only in Ephesus did Paul leave for another reason. A riot broke out, and it forced Paul to leave. I wonder if God allowed the riot that Paul might continue fulfilling God’s will for his life. Sometimes, God allows adversity into our lives that we stay focused on fulfilling his will.

What was the will of God for Paul? That is actually answered in Acts 9:15-16. Saul was sitting in Damascus, blinded by a vision of the glorified Christ. After three days, God sent Ananias, a disciple in Damascus, who was likely hiding from Paul. This is what the Lord said about Paul, “But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”[1] From the very beginning, God’s will for Paul was to ultimately become a missionary to the gentiles for the gospel. Ananias prays for Paul, and Paul’s sight is restored.

God has two kinds of wills for our lives as a Christian. There is a general will of God to love God and serve him. However, there is also a specific will of God for each of us. Psalm 37:18 & 23 says the Lord has numbered our days and ordered our steps. This means that he has a specific plan for our lives as we seek to follow him. Not only does he have a specific will for your life, but he has specific people that he will send you to help you accomplish his will

If you can accomplish God’s will for your life by yourself, then it’s too small! God designed his will to be fulfilled in community. There is no example in Scripture of someone fulfilling God’s will by themselves. God has given us the church that we might fulfill his will together.

Today we are completing our Colossians series Jesus is Greater by answering this question. We are in Colossians 4:7-18, and I would ask you to stand in honor of God’s word if you are able as we read together.

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.[2]

Instead of giving you sequential points for your sermon, I created a simple illustration. We are going to draw out the illustration together. You can still write the notes in sequential order if it makes you more comfortable, but for the kids we can draw together. Kids you can even just draw a picture of yourself in the middle of the circles. What are the types of friends that God will send you so that you can accomplish his will? We are going to explore 5 types of friends that God brings around you to accomplish his will.

  1. Encouragers (4:7-8) – Onesimus & Tychicus

First, we have encouragers. Paul lists two people that encourage him: Tychicus and Onesimus. I want to walk through Onesimus’ journey first, because it is so fascinating. Onesimus was a bondservant of Philemon. Philemon was a member of the church in Colossae. Onesimus stole something from Philemon and fled. Somehow, he ends up in prison in Rome with Paul. We do not know who got their first, and we do not know if they knew each other.

Can you imagine what that would be like if they did know each other. Onesimus is sitting in his Roman jail cell, and in walks Paul. It would feel like when you dad comes to pick you up from jail. That has never happened to me, but I suspect some of you know what these feels like. 

Now Paul had this awful journey after he left Asia Minor where Colossae is located. He journeyed to Jerusalem to deliver an offering for the church in Jerusalem, but all along the way, people kept telling Paul, “You will be arrested when you get to Jerusalem.” No sooner than Paul arrived, he was arrested. Then he had to be taken to Caesarea for safety. Then he was forgotten, and he sat in jail for 2 years waiting. Paul was sitting in jail in Caesarea waiting to get his life back, probably feeling abandoned. Then he finally gets transferred to Rome. That was awful. He goes to Crete and has to leave Titus there to establish a church. He is shipwrecked. There are snakes! It’s crazy!! Finally, he gets to Rome, and there is Onesimus.

Paul shares the gospel with Onesimus. Onesimus comes to faith in jail. Then Paul disciples Onesimus, and he is now sending Onesimus back with a personal letter to Philemon. Also, Paul sent some people with him just in case he chickens out.

Paul was sitting in prison for two years because God was timing out Onesimus that the two of them would share a cell. Sometimes God encourages us with people, and they do not even know it. God had a plan for Paul and Onesimus, and for years neither knew it. Also, new believers in themselves are encouragement. Being around someone who is new to the faith is great. Everyday they discover something new about God. There is a curiousity to their faith that is delightful. 

If you are not actively sharing your faith and discipling others, then you are missing a huge portion of encouragement in your life!

Tychicus was likely from Laodicea. Many Bibles say servant, but the word is diaconos, which is the title for deacon. Deacons were affirmed by the church, and they were to serve the church in various roles. A mail courier of Paul is the perfect job for a deacon! These are men who come alongside of pastors and help the pastors accomplish the goals of the church. They are lay people who have real jobs, but they are as passionate about ministry as pastors. The church does not pay them to be passionate about ministry. They are not pastors, but they are just as passionate about the church as a pastor.

Not only did he have the role of delivering the letter, but he would have to teach it. Have you ever read one of Paul’s letter and not understood it? Of course! He would have had to explain this letter to the churches of Laodicea and Colossae. This is why deacons are required to be able to teach Scripture. Tychicus was responsible for delivering the letter, and he would then have to explain it to everyone else. 

The deacons of our church have greatly blessed me and enhanced the ministry of our church. As part of my interim role, I have middle school, high school, and college ministry. I am not able to clone myself, so I cannot be in all those spaces at the same time. A couple of weeks ago I had one of our deacons preach to our high school. He did an excellent job! I was so blessed to have him come preach for our high school students.

Another person who always encourages me is a friend of mine named Todd. We met in the Atlanta airport on our way to Wales for our very first international mission trip. He said, “Hi my names Todd, and we are rooming together for the next three weeks. It’s going to awesome!” And it was! We have been good friends ever since. Now he pastors a church on the other side of the river here in Jacksonville. From time to time we get to meet for lunch or coffee. We were at 4 Rivers a few months ago, and he said, “Jesus do what you have to do to make Jesus more like you.” I was not prepared for that! I had to process that one for a bit. Every time I sit with Todd, I find myself wanting to pursue Christ more!

  1. Fellow Workers (4:10-11, 14) – Aristarchus, Mark, Justus, Luke, Demas

Second are fellow workers. Fellow workers are the people who will partner with you to serve the Lord. The fellow worker has fallen in love with serving God as you have fallen in love serving God. You work together hand in hand. Fellow workers are the life blood of you accomplishing God’s will for your life, because without them, you cannot accomplish God’s will.

There are five mentioned here: Aristarchus, Mark, Justus, Luke, and Demas. Mark and Luke we know a fair amount about. Luke followed Paul everywhere. He wrote the gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts.

Mark has an interesting story. At one point, Mark got between Paul and Barnabas. The disagreement in Acts 19 was so sharp, that Paul and Barnabas who were best friends split in ministry. Mark went on the first missionary journey but bailed on Paul and Barnabas. Barnabas wanted to give him a second chance, but Paul viewed Mark as a liability to the ministry. God had other plans for Mark. He went on to serve with Peter. He wrote the gospel of Mark which the early fathers tell us that it is Peter’s account, and that’s why it is accepted as authoritative. 

Later Paul would write, “Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.”[3]Paul did not write that little line for Timothy as much as he wrote it for Mark. He went from seeing him as a liability to the ministry to useful. What a great compliment Paul gave him.

Then we have Aristarchus. This guy is by Paul’s side every time they go to jail. Do you have a buddy like that? Your partner in crime? Everyone should have a buddy like that. When the riot breaks out in Ephesus, the mob could not find Paul, so they grabbed Aristarchus. When Paul was imprisoned in Jerusalem, Aristarchus is right there with him. Church history even tells us that Aristarchus was martyred by Nero just like Paul was at around the same time. They may have died together. This guy followed Paul to the very end. Do you have someone like this who is a partner in ministry? Do you have someone who will go all the way to the end with you?

We do not know much about Justus other than his real name was Jesus, but can you imagine that? He goes to church… “Jesus is here!” Everyone turns, “Oh, it’s just you.” This guy realized real quick that he needed a new name. We do not know what exactly he did as a fellow worker with Paul, because this is the only time we see his name in Scripture. 

The last worker is Demas. Demas is listed here and in Ephesians as a fellow worker, but in 2 Timothy, we read he has abandoned the faith. He would deconstruct and leave the faith.[4] Evidence from apocryphal works that he left the faith for the heresy of Gnosticism. We all have friends like this. People who started in the faith only to abandon Christ. Don’t be a Demas be an Aristarchus! Are you willing to go all the way with someone for the will of God upon their lives?

I think of the student ministry volunteers, sleeping on concrete, up at late nights with me. They bless me so much as they labor on behalf of our teenagers for the sake of the gospel.

  1. Prayer Team (4:12-13) – Epaphras

Third, is the prayer team. Now, in this passage, it is just one guy – Epaphras, but Epaphras gets the longest commentary of all of them. Epaphras is mentioned three times in the NT. Two of those times are from Colossians in 1:7 and 4:12. He was from Colossae, and he was the one who brought word to Paul about the gnostic heresy in Colossae. Paul also noted in 1:7 that Epaphras was the one who brought the gospel to Colossae.

He wrote that Epaphras always struggled on the behalf of the Colossians in his prayers. The word for struggle is agonizomai in Greek, and carries the emotional struggle in his prayers for the church in Colossae. Specifically, He prayed for their spiritual maturity and to be fully convinced in the in the will of God. This appears to be a reference to the false doctrines that questioned the sufficiency of Jesus. Epaphras was deeply troubled by the doctrinal struggle in Colossae. Therefore, he had devoted himself to constant and emotional prayer, interceding on behalf of Colossae for their spiritual maturity!

Do you struggle in prayer over others because of their spiritual state? Maybe you have a child who has left the faith that you earnestly pray for. Do you have someone who prays for you like this?

Bruce Kofler, another one of our deacons and longtime servant in the student ministry tells me every time he sees me, “You know I pray for you every day.” That matters so much to me! In this past year, as the Interim Pastor of Students, I have coveted those kind of prayers.

  1. Brothers & Sisters (4:15-17) – Nympha & Archippus

Fourth is brothers and sisters. Paul identified two people in this role. Nymphas and Archippus. There is a problem in identifying Nymphas because in the Greek the gender is not very clear. It is kind of like Ashley in Gone with the Wind. Predominanly it is a feminine name, but here it appears in the masculine. The by adding the sigma to the end, the name becomes masculine. Later traditions identify Nympha as lady, but they were so far removed historically, that they do not really know. 

What is important is that he housed the church of Laodicea. Paul never went to the church in Colossae. He only knew of them through Epaphras. During his missionary journey, Paul stayed in Laodicea. He likely even stayed in the home of Nymphas and would have known them very well.

You may serve in one of the behind the scenes positions at our church. You may not think anyone knows what you do. Listen, Nymphas made it in the Book! What you do matters! If you are cleaning up diapers in our preschool ministry, it matters, because you are introducing the foundations of the faith to these little children. You may blow off the sidewalks before anyone else gets here. You may help with parking. What you do matters! Nymphas took what he had and offered it up for the church. Many of you have housed some of our missionaries when they are hear on furlough.

There is also Archippus. He is mentioned twice: here and in Philemon 2. We know nothing about this guy from Scripture other than this command. Obviously, Paul and those reading understood this command. Tradition teaches that he was the bishop of the church in Laodicea. Paul may have been challenging his theology or challenging him to lead the church against the theology. The implication is that Archippus was accountable as a leader of the church.

To the pastors, deacons, and teachers in the room, remember you are accountable to God for how we lead, teach, and live. If you teach, then you have a responsibility for how you live and lead. Hear the admonishment from Paul! Be an Aristarchus not a Demas.

  1. The Church (4:18) – “You”

Finally, there is one final group, the church. You may be thinking, “I did not see the word ‘church’ anywhere in these verses.” True, you did not, but the word “you” is everwhere. I have sent Tychicus to “you.” If Mark comes to “you.” Epaphras is one of “you.”

It takes the church to accomplish God’s will for your life. No where in Scripture do you see a lone Christian trying to fulfill God’s will for his life. Not even Jesus tried this. He surrounded himself with others. Everywhere Jesus went, others were there. Even on the cross, John and his mother were standing by his side. You may have not experienced this in your life, because you have not deeply connected with anyone in the church.


Now, this is the Sunday after Thanksgiving. I realize you are all the “super Christians” because you are here! People online, you heard me… just kidding. Many of you have experienced this, and you know what it means to go through life with the church. If you or a family member are in the hospital, someone comes to see you. We pray for one another. If you have never been in a Connect Group, D Group, Radical Mentoring, or Known Collective, then you may have never experienced the community of the church like this. It is these people whom God will surround you to accomplish his will for your life.

If you can accomplish God’s will for you life by yourself, it is too small! To realize the will of God in your life, you must surround yourself with faithful friends. Are you the kind of person that others want to bring into their circle of faithful friends? Do you have a circle of faithful friends that God has given you?

When we are collectively living together like this, then the world will know there is a God because of our love for one another. This goal is not only for us but for those who have yet to come to faith in Jesus. We share with one another and with others because of the singular thought that Jesus is Greater.

Study Notes

  • Tychicus

He is mentioned five times in the NT. Paul described him as “beloved brother and faithful minister.” He was first mentioned in Acts 20:4. He was from the Roman province of Asia. Meaning he likely came from Ephesus, Laodicea, or Colossae. He was not identified with the Colossians like Onesimus. In Ephesians he is not identified with the church there either. He is likely from Laodicea. After the riots in Ephesus in Acts 19, he followed Paul onto Macedonia. 

The Greek word for “minister” is diakonos. Paul used this same description of him in Ephesians 6:21. Tychicus was then a deacon in the early church. This gave him influence and responsibility in the early church. His job was to deliver the letter to Colossae and give an update to the events of Paul’s missionary endeavors. Paul was in chains at the time of writing. According to John Chrysostom he was also there to explain more of the letter to the Colossians.[5] Paul sent Tychicus as a teacher to clarify his letter if there were questions.

Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:12 stating that he had sent Tychicus to Ephesus. This is confirmed in Ephesians 6:21 where Paul has sent him to Ephesus with a letter that was very similar to the letter to Colossae with the same purpose. Again, Paul wrote to Titus in in Titus 3:12 that he would send Artemas of Tychicus to him. Paul appeared to regularly use Tychicus as a courier to deliver letters and speak on his behalf. He was a trusted courier and teacher. Both of these roles are appropriate for a deacon.

Finally, Paul sent him to encourage the hearts of the Colossians. There is no record that Paul ever went to Colossae, but he passed by them when he went to Laodicea. However, there is indication that Paul knew many of them as evidenced in the letter to Philemon.

  • Onesimus

Onesimus is an amazing individual. Scripture mentions him twice. In Colossians 4:9, Paul identifies him as a Colossian. He was a bondservant to Philemon in Colossae, and at some point, he stole from Philemon. Somehow, both Philemon and Paul ended up in jail together. During their time imprisoned together, Onesimus became a believer.[6] At the end of Philemon, Paul sends Onesimus back to Colossae with the letter to Philemon with the company mentioned in Colossians.[7] Onesimus went home to reconcile with his former master and to encourage the church at Colossae as a new disciple of Paul. He accompanied Tychicus because Philemon’s response was not known.

  • Aristarchus

Aristarchus is mentioned five times in the NT. In Acts 19:29, he is identified as a Macedonian who was with Paul in Ephesus. In Acts 27:2, we learn he was from Thessalonica. This means that he likely came to faith in Paul’s second missionary journey and his first time to Macedonia.[8] He then joined Paul as did other Macedonians on his second and third missionary journeys. During the riots of Ephesus on the third journey, the people seized him as one of Paul’s travel companions since the crowd could not find Paul.[9] He survived the riot and was released. He followed Paul all the way back to Jerusalem where he too was imprisoned since he was a Jew.

Tradition states Aristarchus later became the bishop of Thessalonica, but it was short lived.[10]Tradition also states Caesar Nero martyred Aristarchus. Nero also martyred Paul. Aristarchus had a history of being imprisoned and abused with Paul. When Paul went to prison, so did Aristarchus, and possibly they were martyred together.

  • John Mark (Cousin of Barnabas)

Mark is one of the more prominent figures in this list. John Mark, Mark for short, was the cousin of Barnabas. He is mentioned eight times in the NT. The second gospel account bears his name. Although that comes from his time with Peter. Mark is first mentioned in Acts 12:12 where his childhood home was part of the first church. He was a Jew from Jerusalem. He was not a disciple of Jesus, but as a young man, he came to know many of the disciples. In Acts 12:25, we read that he left with Paul and Barnabas on the first missionary journey.

At some point on the first missionary journey, Mark left the trip for Jerusalem.[11] When Barnabas and Paul returned to Jerusalem, they split over having Mark join them for the second trip. Paul would go from viewing Mark as a liability to the mission efforts as a someone very useful for him.[12] Mark did not accompany Paul on the second or third missionary journeys, but he did partner with Paul in Jerusalem and would travel with the group to Colossae and Ephesians.

  • Justus (real name is Jesus)

Not much is known about Justus whose real name was Jesus. Jesus was a common name during the New Testament, but Jesus of Nazareth became such an iconic person, the name disappeared. Jesus would have been his Jewish name, and Justus was his Latin name.[13] Paul identified him as one of the Jews who traveled with him. He was part of Paul’s missionary journey. 

He and the other Jews mentioned prior had been a great comfort to Paul while he was in chains in Rome.[14] History is unclear if these people came by land to him or if they traveled by ship with him. It appears that when Rome relocated Paul, his fellow workers found him. Since he had so much time awaiting his appeal to Caesar, Paul wrote the letters and sent them out.

  • Epaphras

Epaphras is mentioned three times in the NT. Two of those times are from Colossians in 1:7 and 4:12. Paul noted that Epaphras was not a Jew, and he was from Colossae in 4:12. He was the one who brought word to Paul about the heresy in Colossae. In 1:7, Paul noted that Epaphras told him about their faith but also about the legalistic Jews who were teaching false doctrines. Paul also noted in 1:7 that Epaphras was the one who brought the gospel to Colossae. Paul also mentioned him in Philemon 23 as one of the traveling companions but sent his greetings. This means that Epaphras was not with Tychicus when the letter to Colossae would be delivered. Nor did Paul mention him in the letter to Ephesus. Perhaps this means that Epaphras delivered the letter to the Laodiceans that was lost to history.

Paul’s gave the most description about Epaphras. He wrote that Epaphras always struggled on the behalf of the Colossians in his prayers. The word for struggle is agonizomai in Greek, and carries the emotional struggle in his prayers for the church in Colossae. He was praying specifically for their spiritual maturity and to be fully convinced in the in the will of God. This appears to be a reference to the false doctrines that questioned the sufficiency of Jesus. Epaphras was deeply troubled by the doctrinal struggle in Colossae. Therefore, he had devoted himself to constant and emotional prayer, interceding on behalf of Colossae for their spiritual maturity!

  • Luke

Luke is well known in the Scripture. He is only mentioned three times in the NT: Colossians 4:14, 2 Timothy 4:11, and Philemon 24. However, he wrote the gospel account of Luke and the Book of Acts. Some theologians also believe he was Paul’s amanuensis for 2 Timothy. His presence here has led some to suggest that he played a role in writing 2 Timothy for Paul, perhaps as an amanuensis.[15] Paul identified him as the only one with him during the writing on 2 Timothy, and Paul did not pen his own letters. Although, his profession as identified by Paul was a physician.[16]

We know that he was likely from Antioch of Syria. There is an anti-marcionite prologue to Luke written in the second century that gives context and occasion to the gospel writing that indeitifies Luke being from Antioch.[17] This is the home church that first commissioned Paul and Barnabas to mission work. He either was with Paul and Barnabas during the first missionary journey or he joined for the second missionary journey.

Luke was obviously a writer. His gospel account is not an eye-witness account as are the other three. John and Matthew were eye-witnesses. Papias of Hierapolis mentioned Mark as the interpreter and collector of teachings from Peter.[18] Luke published an orderly account like a historian would. He used the gospel of Mark as source material. He possibly used Matthew’s material of an additional resource that has been lost to history. He knew well many of the apostles due to his relationship to Paul and Barnabas. He wrote the Book of Acts the same way, but he was an eye-witness to some of the events, particularly those of Paul.

  • Demas

The NT mentions Demas three times: Colossians 4:14, Philemon 24, and 2 Timothy 4:10. He would accompanied Onesimus to Colossae and is thus mentioned in the first two as a fellow worker. Paul harshly mentions Demas in 2 Timothy as someone who abandoned him. He left Paul because of the “love with this present world,” and he went to Thessalonica. He may have been from Thessalonica, but not much is known about him. Some theologians render the Greek as ‘left me in the lurch.’[19] This has led to a softer judgement towards Demas. They suspect that Demas had to leave Paul for some personal matter, and it inconvenienced Paul. This does not keep with the context of 2 Timothy. He left Paul because of his love for this present world meaning the value systems of this present world, similar to Paul’s statement in Romans 12:2. Other theologians see Demas as one who abandoned the faith and thus Paul.[20]

Paul criticized others who opposed him due to theological arguments, such as in Philippians 1:12-19. The comment about his love for the world likely means that Demas became disillusioned with Christianity and deconstructed his faith, becoming apostate. This creates problems for interpretations, because is Paul stating that Demas lost his salvation? Not necessarily. Paul does not make that argument in 2 Timothy. The idea is that he abandoned God, even if it was just for a season.

  • Nympha

There is confusion about Nympha. Some translations identify the individual as a female (ESV, NASB, and NIV) and others male (KJV). In the original Greek, the name is Nymphas, which is the masculine form.[21]John Chrisostom wrote of Nymphas in the masculine in the late 300’s.[22] To add to the confusion, the Greek literally does not give a masculine or feminine pronoun for whose house. The pronoun is autou, which translates and “their house.” Romans 16:5 uses the same language to identify “their house” in reference to Priscilla and Aquilla. Another understanding could be this is the house of the family of Nymphas, thus “their house.” In this interpretation, Paul would have been addressing a family instead of a singular person.

What is known about Nymphas is that he hosted the church of Colossae at his house. He was not necessarily the pastor of the church in Colossae, but he was a faithful member o the church who willingly shared his home with his brothers and sisters in faith. 

  • Archippus

Not much is known about Archippus. The NT mentions him twice: Colossians 4:17 and Philemon 2. Some theologians have speculated that he was a pastor at the church of Colossae with Epaphras.[23] Others suggest he was the son of Philemon and Apphia.[24] This is speculative at best. The church of Colossae met in the home of Nymphas according to Colossians 4, but it also met in the home of Philemon and Apphia according to Philemon 2. Possibly Archippus was one of the elders and led one of the house churches that comprised the church at Colossae.

The admonishment from Colossians 4:17 may have been in reference to his pastoral leadership in the home of Philemon and Apphia since Onesimus was going home. He would have been responsible for shepherding the house church through the coming tumult of Onesimus’ return and the reconciliation process.

Another possibility is that Archippus inherited the pastorate from Epaphras while Epaphras was away with Paul. He would have been dealing with the gnostic heresy. It is unclear if he was for the gnostic heresy or against it. Paul’s reference to him as a fellow soldier in Philemon 2 likely indicates that he held to orthodoxy. Either way, Paul could have been encouraging him to remain steadfast to orthodoxy and to lead the church to orthodoxy. 

Letters Carried by this Group all written and delivered at the same time.

  1. Ephesians by Tychicus
  2. Colossians by Tychicus
  3. Philemon by Onesimus
  4. Letter to Laodicea by Epaphras Possibly. We know the letter to Laodicea was written and likely delivered. The courier is unknown, and the letter was lost to history. Possibly, the two letters were similar in nature and may have even used much of the same language. 

Letters Possibly written at the same time by carried by a different group.

  1. Philippians by possibly Timothy. Timothy is identified in Philippians 1:1 as a co-author with Paul. However, he possibly was with the other individual who delivered the letter to Titus.
  2. Titus could have come by an unknown individual. This would have been near the end of Paul’s release because Paul was planning to winter in Nicopolis before heading to Espania. 


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ac 9:15–16. All Scripture quotes are from the ESV unless otherwise noted. 

[2] Col 4:7–18.

[3] 2 Ti 4:11.

[4] 2 Ti 4:10.

[5] John Chrysostom, “Homilies of St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, on the Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Colossians,” in Saint Chrysostom: Homilies on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. J. Ashworth and John Albert Broadus, vol. 13, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1889), 309.

[6] Phm 10.

[7] Phm 23-24.

[8] Ac 17:1-9.

[9] Ac 19:29.

[10] “St. Aristarchus — A Prisoner Who Sent Greetings to the Colossians,” NCR, August 4, 2020,

[11] Ac 15:37-39. Scripture does not give the exact reason why Mark left the first journey, but Paul obviously did not approve of his leaving. Barnabas still saw great potential in Mark and wanted to bring him. The issue over Mark joining the second missionary journey led to Paul and Barnabas going different directions in ministry.

[12] 2 Ti 4:11. 

[13] Richard R. Melick, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, vol. 32, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 329.

[14] Richard R. Melick, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, 170.

[15] Thomas D. Lea and Hayne P. Griffin, 1, 2 Timothy, Titus, vol. 34, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 253.

[16] Col 4:14.

[17] F. F. Bruce, The Spreading Flame, (London: Paternoster, 1958), 23.

[18] Papias of Hierapolis, Fragments of Papias: VI, accessed November 23, 2023.

[19] A. F. Walls, “Demas,” ed. D. R. W. Wood et al., New Bible Dictionary (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 269.

[20] Richard R. Melick, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, vol. 32, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 331.

[21] Allen C. Myers, The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987), 772.

[22] John Chrysostom, “Homilies of St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, on the Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Colossians,” in Saint Chrysostom: Homilies on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. J. Ashworth and John Albert Broadus, vol. 13, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1889), 314.

[23] Allen C. Myers, The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987), 82.

[24] Richard R. Melick, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, vol. 32, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 332.