Colossians 4:2-18


“Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds:  that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.  Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.  Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.  All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you, who is a beloved brother, and a fruitful minister and fellowservant in the Lord:  whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that he might know your estate, and comfort your hearts; with Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you.  They shall make known unto you all things which are done here.  Aristarchus my fellowprisoner saluteth you, and Marcus, sister’s son to Barnabas, (touching whom ye received commandments:  if he come unto you, receive him;) and Jesus, which is called Justus, who are of the circumcision.  These only are my fellowworkers unto the kingdom of God, which have been a comfort unto me.  Epaphras, who is one of you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.  For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis.  Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you.  Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house.  And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.  And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it.  The salutation by the hand of me Paul.  Remember my bonds.  Grace be with you.  Amen.”


‘Masters, Employers, Look After Your Employees’


“Colossians chapter 4, the first verse obviously, is part of the exhortations beginning in verse 18 of the last chapter, which hinges on verse 17, which hinges on everything we said before that, in regards to the Christian life, wives and husbands, children, parents, employees. Now certainly masters would be in the place of employers in this day.  “Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.” (verse 1)  Those of you who are employers, those of you who have people working for you in some degree or other, ‘give unto them that which is just, which is fitting in regards to a fair wage.’  Throughout the Scripture the Bible says the labourer is worthy of his hire [ie worthy of his wage], and God asks that, he believes in just weights and measures, and that a fair wage should be given for a fair day’s work, knowing that we also have a Master in heaven.  And I’m glad that, not only then can we be assured that our master will give us a fair day’s wage.  Ah, that’s not a lot of consolation to me, because I don’t want justice when it comes to my Master in heaven, I want mercy, I want a day’s wage, and a year’s wage on top of it.  He’s giving to us grace and mercy, he’s giving to us not what we do deserve, because who wants that.  He’s giving us what we don’t deserve.  So, reflecting our Master in heaven, we should be to those who we have involvement with in regards to their lives, those who demonstrate equity, and that which is just in regards to remuneration, in regards to pay and so forth. 


‘Pray For An Open Door’---It’s Our Responsibility To Bring Christ To Men, But Only God Can Bring Men To Christ


“Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds:  that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.” (verses 2-4)  “Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving.” (verse 2)  Which assumes that we started at some point.  It’s “Hold fast with strength” and it is “Continue to hold fast with strength in prayer,” assuming that you and I realize that prayer is a spiritual exercise, that it is a struggle, that it takes endurance and strength.  My alarm went off early this morning.  And because it was the coldest day of the year, here’s my excuse, you ready?---I jumped out, set it back half an hour, jumped back in again.  It went off so soon again, I’m sure it wasn’t a half hour, must have missed.  You know, it takes strength, it takes endurance.  You know, if you sit up at night, and you’re tired, you know, you try to read your Bible, you try to pray at 11 o’clock at night, you’re nodding, you know.  You put on David Letterman, and you’re wide awake.  Ah, because prayer is a spiritual exercise.  And we are to endure in it, we are to use strength, hold fast with strength in prayer, is something that we are to continue to do.  We’re exhorted to pray.  You know, interestingly, ‘exhorted to ask.’  And then you know those verses that Jesus gave us, and it’s a commandment, it’s not a suggestion.  And the tenses are ‘Ask, and keep on asking, and it shall be given.  Seek, and keep on seeking, and you shall find.  Knock, and continue to reverently knock,’ because you remember whose door you’re knocking on, ‘and it shall be opened unto you.’  But as I look at those verses, the thing that always amazes me is, we are to be the second ones who ask.  The most remarkable thing to me is that God stoops down and is the first one to ask.  And what he does is he asks us to ask him.  He actually stoops down from heaven and says to us, ‘Ask me, ask, and keep on asking, it will be given.  Seek, and keep on seeking, you will find.  Knock, and keep on knocking, and it will be opened to you.’  And that’s the staggering thing about it to me, is that’s not coming just from the pen of Matthew, that’s coming through Matthew, from God.  And he is the first one who does the asking, who stoops down so low that he would ask of a human being, to ask him.  And here it says we should continue in prayer, make that part of our lives [see].  “and watch” be vigilant, “in the same with thanksgiving.”  And we should do that with thanksgiving.  Now that’s not always easy.  Paul is making this request of the Colossians from prison.  ‘Thanks Lord, I love this prison-gray, it goes with my robe, thanks Lord, I love the guard that comes on the third shift, he’s really something.’  You know, Paul is asking this, remember, with a chain around himself, from prison, ‘continue in prayer, watch in the same, and do that with thanksgiving.’  And he says, “withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds;” (verse 3)  Interesting, it’s a door of the Logos, a door of the Word of God, to preach the Gospel, a door of utterance to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds.  So, Paul says, in that praying, as you remember to pray and seek and ask of God, he said, ‘please, make us part of your prayer-life.  Remember to pray for us, that a door of utterance would be granted to us.’  If Paul needs an open door to share the mystery of Christ, certainly we need an open door to share the mystery of Christ.  I hope that my wife and I, and the pastors and their families here are a continual part of your prayer-life.  I can’t imagine facing what we face without being held up continually in prayer.  I think we need to remember to pray for the missionaries that we have out in the field.  We can tend to go through a day and not think of them at all, and what a situation that they’re in.  For the believers that are in public office, and what a mission field that is these days, what an important thing prayer is, praying that there would be an open door, this outreach down by the University of Pennsylvania, down in West Philly, pray that there’s an open door, pray there’s an open door.  You know, because when that door opens, and the Holy Spirit moves, it’s not relative to man’s eloquence or wisdom [remember, Paul was not looked up to, nor was he an eloquent speaker, yet he was the number one evangelist in the early New Testament Church], but it’s in the demonstration of the Spirit and the power of God, that man’s wisdom wouldn’t stand in the eloquence of man, but in the power of God.  And it has to be supernatural.  It’s [evangelism is] like trying to crack a coconut, you know, it’s a stronghold, and there are principalities and powers, and we’re asking God ‘grant us an open door, let us show the love of Christ, we believe that the hour is short and the labourers are few.’  You know, my personal burden is right there, Philadelphia.  Years ago God gave me the verse he gave to Paul when he sent him back to Corinth and he said ‘Go back into the city, I have many people here.’  And me personally, that’s my mission field, and that’s what I feel in my heart is this city, this greater metropolitan area, and there are millions of unsaved people here.  I drive down 95 and I look out across the city, and I see steeple after steeple after steeple after steeple after steeple, cross after cross after cross after cross on those steeples, and I know in my heart that the city is by and large un-churched.  Those are buildings, those are not living congregations.  There are some, but I mean, by and large there are millions in front of us to reach.  And I really encourage you, between now and this weekend, and certainly after that also, but to be praying for an open door here to share the mystery of Christ, very important.  And to make that part of your own life, as you’re seeking to share the love of Christ with your parents or your grandparents or aunts or uncles or brothers or sisters relatives or friends.  Understand that there’s a supernatural part of that.  We sow, we water, only God brings the increase.  He’s very much central in the issue of someone coming to Christ.  It’s our responsibility to bring Christ to men, but only God can bring men to Christ.  And there’s a supernatural act that’s involved there.  You know in John where it says ‘you can’t see the kingdom unless you’re born again, that you must be born of water and the Spirit,’ that’s passive there, it’s God’s work.  The part that we play in it is being the beneficiary of a Divine act.  And certainly we need to pray that there is an open door, Paul asking for that.  And then the open door, you know, he’s in Rome, remarkably, and chained to this guard, and I wonder if there’s a guard there as he’s dictating this letter, listening to Paul saying ‘Pray there’s an open door,’ you know, ‘for me to share the mystery of Christ, for which also I am in bonds.’  “That I might make it manifest, as I ought to speak.” (verse 4)  Paul says, ‘I want it to be clear when I share it, I want it to be concise, I want it to be filled with love, I want to make that message manifest as I speak it.’ 


Walking In Wisdom Towards Non-Believers


Exhortation, “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.” (verse 5)  “Walk in wisdom towards those that are without”, ‘Walk in wisdom in regards to the unbelieving world.’  A difficult situation.  Again, you should pray for us, anybody that has access to the media, you know what it’s like to hear someone who has great public access say something, and you go ‘Ohh, that’s not gonna go over,’ you know, it’s a difficult situation.  And the [carnal] media loves the craziest of us all, that’s who they like to put up there.  Again, I’m always reminded of that van-load of Christians, traveling from Texas to Florida, that something told them something Satanic was going on in Texas and they needed to go to Florida.  That was before the last election I guess.  So they’re escaping Satan, headed for Florida, and as they were driving in this van, they somehow got the idea that their clothes, the clothing they had on, was still affected by the demonic activity that was in Texas, and somehow then, felt they were led to take their clothes off, and burn them by the side of the road, and move on without their clothes.  And of course they were pulled over by the State Troopers,  and they said, ‘Oh, we’re born-again Christians.’  The media says ‘Great!  This is the story we’re looking for about born-again Christians!’  Well if they’re born-again, I’m born again again, I’m not that, somebody’s saying, ‘Please represent us out there, somebody with wisdom, walk out there towards the unsaved world.’  And you imagine, they look at some of these guys on TV, I mean, some of this stuff is crazy.  I remember Robert Tilton a couple years ago, they were questioning him for living in a mansion, and having this yacht in back of his house.  And he said, “My job is so filled with tension, that I was having nervous difficulty, and I needed some release, some kind of leisure, so I took up golfing, but hitting that little ball around there just made me more tense than ever, and I realized that probably fishing would relieve my tension.  So I bought a mansion in Florida and a yacht so I could go fishing.”  I mean, he tells this story about laying on top of the letters that people send in and praying for them, and he weeps and is so intent on praying for all the letters that come in, that he lays there so long that the ink absorbs through his skin, and that’s why he had to have plastic surgery, because it made wrinkles on his face.  You know, what does the unsaved world think when they hear this stuff???  Help us, Lord, we’re fighting an uphill battle.  I remember on the West Coast, there was this evangelist, and Kathy and I would sit there with our mouths open.  He’s got a fur hat, a big cigar, and a can of beer, [laughter] and all these women in bikinis bringing him prayer-requests and stuff, and he’s on there [TV].  Anybody whose on the West Coast knows who I’m talking about, too.  And he was yelling at the people in San Francisco because they hadn’t been sending him money, and he cursed at them, ‘You send in your blankety-blank money or I’m going to go off the air in San Francisco.’  I’m thinking, ‘There’s a threat!’  And people send their money in.  [Probably thought this comedy show was worth the few dollars they sent in J ]  But unbelieving people look at this and think, ‘This is the Church???’  Oh, and look, that happens on more than one front also.  Paul says, ‘If an unbeliever walks in amongst you, and you’re all speaking in tongues, he’s gonna think you’re outa your minds.’  You know, people say to us sometimes, ‘Oh that Calvary Chapel, they’re grieving the Spirit [for not speaking in tongues publicly].’  Now let me tell you something, we want to grieve certain spirits.  You understand?  I believe the gifts are for today.  I’m at home alone before the Lord, I pray in tongues.  I believe there are gifts functioning today.  But I believe we come here to study the Word of God.  And if you open up an environment with this many people, for people to stand up and prophesy and speak in tongues, you will attract every nut for a hundred miles who wants an audience this big.  And if an unbeliever comes in and, and some of you have been through this kind of experience.  You know, you’re going to a Pentecostal church, and you can set your clock, ‘MY CHILDREN’ you know, it’s quarter after 11, she goes off every week, you know.  And a friend of yours gets saved and says ‘Should I come to your church?’ and you go, ‘Ah, no, I think you should go to this other church.’  And then you know you’re in trouble when you can’t tell your friends who get saved to come to your church, because you know it’s a little too nutty and they’re not going to understand what’s going on.  We have to act with wisdom towards those who are outside.  Imagine what an unbeliever thinks if they get around this “holy laughter,” which really should be called “unholy laughter”, which is an antithesis to genuine revival, where there’s broken hearts and weeping, and repentance, but instead where people are rolling in the aisles, barking like dogs, roaring like lions, carrying on, jumping around, and now there’s the new one, they don’t make any noise, they go [he’s got this manure eating grin on his face], and that’s “joy unspeakable,” that’s the latest thing.  [laughter]  You know, look, we’re laughing, and I understand the laughing, but understand this too, Jesus is coming.  Understand how sad it is, because he has a whole other side of the Church that is in a post-Christian era that is ordaining homosexuals, embracing abortion, that has forsaken holiness, and the cause of Christ, and calls itself the Church [but they aren’t the real Church, Body of Christ, they’re spiritually dead Christians, not even Christian], and is being very accepted as being tolerant and open-minded, and politically correct.  And you have people acting like they have lost their minds, getting great [media] coverage on another side, and somewhere in the middle of that, we need God to move again by his Spirit, his Holy Spirit, and to give the Church a voice, and an open door, for the cause of Christ, and that we would walk there with wisdom towards those that are outside, understanding, that Christ came and died for them, has paid the most unimaginable price.  The center of what needs to be communicated to them is not demons sending us to Florida, not [un]holy laughter, not immorality.  The center of what needs to be communicated was that on that cross two thousand years ago, God’s love was demonstrated to you in a way that you will spend the rest of eternity trying to comprehend.  And in that there is life, and there is forgiveness, and there is joy, and there is peace.  He died, and he rose again on the third day, he ascended into heaven, he’s coming again, he is Lord of lords, he is King of kings, and every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, the glory of God the Father.  And somehow the truth and the purity of the Gospel needs to be communicated.  [applause]  Pray there’s an open door.  We need to walk in wisdom.  You know, you talk to somebody unsaved about “the local Body.”  Now what are they gonna think that is if you are talking to the unsaved world in church jargon?  I remember years ago when Jimmy Carter tried to talk to Playboy Magazine about the fact that he struggled with lust, and they just ran miles with that, or whoever he talked to.  And he was trying to be honest about being a Christian man. But the unsaved world is going to take you and hang you with that. 


“Redeeming the time”---What Does That Mean?


“Walk in wisdom towards them that are without, redeeming the time”, that means, ‘buying up every opportunity that comes,’  OK, we’re going to walk in wisdom,’ well when an opportunity comes to you, then don’t pass it up.  If there’s an open door, an opportunity comes to demonstrate wisdom and love to someone in the unsaved world, don’t pass it up.  It says, ‘redeeming the time, buying up every opportunity, redeeming the time.’  And what a challenge that is for us, redeeming the time, because we think there is a lot of it.  But it goes by quickly, ask a 70 or 80-year-old that’s here tonight how quickly that time goes by.  [amen, I’m 67 and Pastor Joe is 62, we’re gettin’ close]  You know, you can get a clock, and they’re about 85 bucks, I’ve seen them, and of course it gives you the time.  But then what you do, is you program your age in there, there’s a little computer circuit, and it figures out on the average, how many years you have left to live, and it translates it into seconds, and puts it across the top, and it shows them counting down.  So when you’re sitting there looking at your clock, to see them go, you see your life ticking away… that’s not a bad idea in some ways.  I wouldn’t want to look at that all day, waste my time, my seconds, but…  USA Today said the average American will spend six years of their life sitting at red lights, the average.  Some of you get tickets and spend less time, but the average American will spend six years sitting at red lights.  Now do me a favour, every time you’re at a red light, pray for me, would you?  It would do me good to know that you’ll all be praying for me for six years.  You don’t have to get up at 5am to do that, either.  Chuck Smith, I know, drives with an open Bible next to him.  [Pastor Chuck just died this year, God bless him.]  And when he’s at a red light, he glances down.  And the great thing is, you don’t have to look up, because the person behind you beeps when the light changes.  [laughter]  I remember coming over from downtown awhile ago, I was so tired I pulled over to the red light, and I was sitting there, honk, honk, I look up the light was green.  You want to do that while you’re stopped at a red light, not while you’re moving, so.  “Redeeming the time,” it is precious.  The Psalmist says “teach us to number our days.” 


Your Speech Should Be Something That Acts Like A Preservative In People’s Lives


“Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” (verse 6)  That’s a tough one, isn’t it?  “Let your speech be always with grace.”  My speech is condemning sometimes, harsh sometimes.  I’m better than I used to be, but I ain’t as good as I should be.  ‘Let your speech be always with grace, but seasoned with salt,’ not grace to someone’s distraction, seasoned with salt, be gracious.  Not crude, not immoral, gracious.  Important, but seasoned with salt.  Salt in that culture had several, but two main purposes.  One was to enhance taste, to season with salt means to make the things you say more palatable, that works.  But salt was [also] a preservative.  That was one of the main ways, they salted meat, they salted fish, they preserved things.  You remember Jesus said, ‘You are the salt of the world, you’re the salt of the earth, you are the preservative’ (cf. Matthew 5:13)  If the Church wasn’t here on the earth right now, judgment would begin.  In Genesis 18 and 19, we know from the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah, the angel said to Lot and his family, ‘I can do nothing until you come out of here,’ because Abraham  said, ‘Won’t the God of all the earth judge righteously, certainly he won’t judge the wicked along with the just.’  And Peter says he knows how to separate them.  But right now you’re a preservative, you and I, a preserving factor in this nation and on this earth.  Your speech should be something that acts as a preservative in peoples lives.  Don’t give people license to sin, don’t make fun of their sin, don’t joke along with them in their sin.  Don’t be enablers with your mouth.  Yes, you should be gracious in your speech, but there should always be salt.  If it looses it’s saltiness, Jesus said it’s not good for anything but to be thrown out and trodden under the foot of men.  So, your speech.  You want an open door to share the mystery of Christ, you want to walk in wisdom, redeeming the time, so your speech, when you open your mouth, should always be with grace, this is an exhortation for all of us, “seasoned with salt, that you may know how ye ought to answer every man.” 


The People That Traveled With Paul




Now from verse 7 down to the end of the chapter Paul gives us a series of exhortations in relationship to the people that he knows.  You know, Paul, when you read him, he’s very pragmatic.  You could imagine Paul as being kind of stoic, and kind of cold, and kind of straight-forward [I’d say also very analytical].  But we read of over a hundred, in the Epistles that he wrote, over a hundred people that are involved with him.  And Paul had one Timothy, but many Timothy’s.  He reproduced himself in the lives of many people, not just one Timothy, but there were many Timothy’s in his life, but by different names.  And Paul had a great gift of spending time with people, and in that, communicating his walk, his love for Christ, Christ’s love for him, very important.  And he goes through some of those here.  He says, “All my state, shall Tychicus declare unto you, who is a beloved brother, and a faithful minister and fellowservant in the Lord:”  ‘Now everything about me shall Tychicus declare unto you, notice this, who is a beloved brother, a faithful minister and a fellowservant of the Lord.’  Man, it would do my heart good to hear Paul say that about me.  Wouldn’t it you?  Those are three good things to be, a beloved brother---now for you ladies, I know it’s not a good thing to be a beloved brother, so beloved sister---faithful minister, fellowservant.  A beloved brother, I appreciate those beloved brothers in my life.  A faithful servant, minister, diakonos, serving the Body.  A fellowservant, bond-slave in this sense, “in the Lord:  whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that he might know your estate, and comfort your hearts;” (verse 8)  Now, ‘for the same purpose, he knows my estate, all my estate, in verse 7, ‘when he comes to you he’s going to let you know everything that’s going on with me,’ “whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that he might know your estate, and comfort your hearts.”  ‘that he might come and see how you’re doing.’  Acts chapter 20, we hear of Tychicus, there with Paul after an uproar in Macedonia and so forth, it says there accompanied him into Asia Spater, Berea, and of the Thessalonians, Aristarcus, Secondus, and Gaius of Derby, Timotheus of Asia, and Tychicus and Triphemus.  Ah, we find these men with Paul in the Book of Acts, traveling with him.  And Tychicus now seems to be one particularly close to Paul, because he says ‘He’s going to let you know everything about me.  When he gets there he’ll communicate my condition, what’s going on in my life, and he’s coming also to know your estate, and to comfort your hearts.’  Now from Rome to Colossi is about a 1,000 miles.  [actually it is 1,500 kilometers, or about 500 miles, as the crow flies.  Overland it could have been 1,000 miles]  Now I can’t imagine saying to anyone, ‘I want you to go to Denver, and let the church know there how I’m doing.’  No plane, no car, this is on donkey, on boat, on foot, a thousand miles, Paul sends this man, this is a faithful man, to go to them. 




And no doubt he’s part of the company that’s bearing this letter, so Tychicus, we meet him, “with Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you.  They shall make known unto you all things which are done here.” (verse 9), “who is one of you” so he’s from Colossi [this Onesimus].  ‘they’ll let you know everything that’s going on here at Rome here, in the prison, and with the church at Rome.’  Philemon, verse 11, and you don’t have to turn there, I’ll turn there, we hear of this man Onesimus being commended to Philemon, he says to Philemon, “I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds.”  Paul said here, in prison, and perhaps Onesimus also in prison near Paul, but he’s saying ‘I’ve begotten him in my bonds, I’ve had opportunity here in prison to lead him to Christ, he’s part of the fruit of this ministry here,’ part of what Paul gives thanks for, “which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me.”  Onesimus was a runaway slave, had run away from his owner, Philemon.  His name has the idea of being worth something, Onesimus.  Philemon had the right in Roman law to kill him.  When you had a slave, he was a possession.  It was different from a servant, who worked for you for a wage, a slave was owned, and could be dealt with in any way.  If he broke something or burned something he could be put to death, there was no protection.  And Paul says, “Onesimus,” owning him, “a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you.”  ‘Not below you, he’s one of you.’  Paul when he wrote to Philemon, he’s saying ‘receive him.  He’s a son, I’ve begotten him in my bonds,’ “who was unprofitable, but is now profitable” ‘to the Kingdom, to me, and to you.’  Now in one sense, that’s all of our story.  We were slaves to something before we came to Christ.  All of us, slave to drugs, slave to pleasure, slave to money, slave to something, ambition, success, power.  And in that, unprofitable.  Well, there may have been a value system that the world would have esteemed in some of it.  But in the long run, what would it have accomplished in eternity, what would it have counted for?  And yet in Christ now, begotten into the Kingdom, unprofitable, now profitable, Onesimus being owned by Paul and endorsed [whose real owner was still Philemon]. 




“Aristarchus my fellowprisoner saluteth you, and Marcus, sister’s son to Barnabas, (touching whom ye received commandments:  if he come unto you, receive him;)” (verse 10)  Aristarchus, we read about him in Acts chapter 19, he is there in Ephesus, all of a sudden we hear in the midst of that riot, when they’re singing ‘Great is Dianna of the Ephesians’ and Paul was ruining the idol-making business of the Ephesians there and they were dragging people out into the arena and beating them, we find Aristarchus with Paul there.  We find Aristarchus in chapter 27 with Paul, setting sail for Rome, and he ends up in the hurricane, the Euroclidon, shipwrecked, swimming to shore.  This guy had some rough years with Paul.  And now he is Paul’s fellowprisoner, I don’t know if it was through suspicion, if he’s locked up in Rome, or he’s just a prisoner of Christ as Paul considered himself.  Aristarchus comes with Paul’s commendation, he had been through high water and deep places with Paul, no pun intended, ‘he salutes you.’ 


Marcus, John Mark


“Marcus, sister’s son to Barnabas, (touching whom ye received commandments:  if he come unto you, receive him;)”  Now this is John Mark, this is the young man, who on Paul’s first missionary journey in Acts chapter 13, he’s called John twice there, John Mark.  He is related to Barnabas, ah, they went on their first missionary journey, they came into the area of Pamphilia, and there was a malaria that was raging through that area, as they wanted to come up to the higher ground, Lystra and Derby and Galatia were.  Then that journey from down in the area where there were harbours up to the plateau was a dangerous journey because of thieves and robbers.  John Mark decides to go back, he quits, he throws in the towel.  Whether he’s afraid, whether he’s homesick.  You know, it’s interesting, he’s Barnabas’ nephew, and what happens in that journey as you follow it, it starts out being recorded as “Barnabas and Paul” [as recorded in the Book of
Acts], and as the journey goes on, it goes on to being recorded as “Paul and Barnabas” from then on.  And Paul evidently a very strong man in his nature ends up taking the lead, and maybe Mark didn’t like that, we don’t know, maybe ended up getting orders from Paul instead of Barnabas.  But he went home, and stranded them, left them without the help they needed.  So on the second missionary journey [of Paul], Paul and Barnabas, getting ready to leave, and Barnabas says, ‘Hey, let me call up Mark, let me fax him a message and get him over here, and take him with us,’ and Paul says ‘No way, I ain’t taking him.’  And Barnabas says, ‘What do you mean, he’s going with us, my name means son of consolation, and I’m taking him.’  And Paul said, ‘Well my name means small, and I’m not.’  ‘And a contention arose between them,’ it says, ‘so sharp that they split up.’  Now, you know you look at that, and you think, ‘Who was right?’  Well obviously they were both right.  John Mark was not the proper traveling companion for Paul, but he was for Barnabas.  In Corinthians we hear the rift being mended between Paul and Barnabas, we hear Mark here being mentioned, and Paul says, “receive him.”  2nd Timothy, as Paul is signing off, he says, ‘Mark is valuable to me in the ministry.’  He ended up spending years with the apostle Peter, and he ends up under the anointing of the Holy Spirit putting his quill to the page and writing the Gospel of Mark.  Someone whom we may have looked at, that seemed very defeated spiritually, very useless, bailing out on the great apostles in their most needful time, somebody that we might have written off, Paul endorsing him, ‘if he comes, receive him.’  Interesting, I traced, just for the Mark in all of us, the Mark in you and the Mark in me, there’s enough Mark and failure in all of us to be able to relate.  I traced the struggles of one individual, in the years of his life, for those of you this evening that may feel like ‘What’s the use?  I’ll never amount to anything, I try and try, never adds up, never works out.’  This person had less than three years of formal education.  In ’31 failed in business.  He was defeated when he ran for State legislature in ’32.  He failed again in business in ’34.  He was elected to State legislature in ’35, ran for Speaker of State legislature and lost in a landslide.  He ran to be lecture, which is less than a member of the State legislature, was defeated in ’40.  He was defeated for Congress in ’43.  He was elected to Congress in ’46, sought re-election and was thrown out in ’48, and crushed.  Went back to business, failed again in another business, decided to run for the Senate (why not?) in ’55, defeated.  Ran for Vice President in ’56, and was crushed in a lopsided election, defeated as he ran for the Senate in ’58, and then in ’60, 1860, Abraham Lincoln runs and becomes President of the United States.  And no doubt one of the greatest Presidents that the nation has ever seen.  Failed, defeated, failed, elected, thrown out, defeated, defeated, elected, defeated, failed, defeated, crushed, defeated, President.  That’s why he had all of those wrinkles and looked so old when you see pictures of Abraham Lincoln, it wasn’t the Presidency, it was getting there.  And I’m thinking that he was there for that hour, interesting man, had read through the Bible many times, but was not a believer.  When his son died, he mourned, his wife couldn’t get him out of mourning, and called in a pastor to talk to him, who said ‘Your son, sir, is not dead.’  He says, ‘You’re mocking me.’  He said, ‘I’m not, your son is in paradise, he’s in heaven with the Lord.’  Lincoln thinking long about that, riding a train past Gettysburg, seeing the crosses in the Battlefield, the Gospel of Christ and the resurrection dawning on him, the Holy Spirit bringing him, having a conversion experience then, and then writing the Gettysburg Address.  Sitting in Ford’s Theater the night that he died, planning to outlaw alcohol in America.  The guard that was supposed to be watching him across the street in a bar drinking.  Saying to his wife, ‘Honey now that the War is over, and things are settling down, you know what I want to do?’  She said, ‘What?’  “I want to go to the Holy Land.’  He said, “I want to start in Bethlehem where He was born, and I want to follow his footsteps all the way, and then I want to go up to Jeru---’ and the bullet went through his head.  God saved him for a moment, for a time, “for such a time as this [Esther]”, for a purpose.  Mark, failed early, pulled out, thought ‘I’m not cut out for this,’ and ends up to be a great man, valuable for the cause of Christ, serving Paul, serving Peter, not Mary (and then Peter, Paul & Mary, stay with me here
J), and then ends up putting his hand to the page and writing the Gospel of Mark.  So be encouraged, please. 




“and Jesus, which is called Justus, who are of the circumcision.  These only are my fellowworkers unto the kingdom of God, which have been a comfort unto me.” (verse 11)  Now we hear of a Justus in Acts 18:7, probably this man.  Jesus, probably Joshua was his name [Hebrew: Yeshua],  “who are of the circumcision.  These only are my fellowworkers unto the kingdom of God, which have been a comfort unto me.”  So, three of those there with him in Rome that were Jewish believers Paul says, “there of the circumcision…a great comfort to me.” [Comment: many of the believers were either Jewish or Judeo-Christian.  But the term “of the circumcision” meant they were Jewish believers from Judea itself, under the administration of Peter and James in Jerusalem.  The churches of God in Asia Minor and the rest of the Roman Empire were Judeo-Christian, made up of God-fearers (God-fearing Gentiles and Jews Paul drew out of the synagogues, cf. Acts 13-19).  See] 




“Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.” (verse 12)  Epaphras, probably saved in Paul’s work in Ephesus, “who is one of you,” again, from Colossi.  “Labouring” agonizing is the word, “fervently for you in prayer.”  Man, I hope that there are people who agonize fervently for me in prayer, what a blessing it is.  He agonizes fervently for you in prayer.  The reason, “that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.”  “Perfect”, mature.  Not so that you can win the lottery, not so that you can have a million bucks, ‘that you may be mature and complete in the will of God.’  “For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them of Hierapolis.” (verse 13)  These three cities, of Colossi on one hill, Hierapolis on the side of the other, kind of facing one another, and Laodicea down a little further in the valley. 


“Luke, the beloved physician”


Luke, is with them, “Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you.” (verse 14)  Now if Paul did not write the Book of Hebrews, then Luke wrote the majority of the New Testament, because the Gospel of Luke is long, and he wrote the Book of Acts, and those two, excluding Paul writing the Book of Hebrews, would make him the major contributor to the New Testament.  There was not many greater days that when Paul as some point said, ‘Anybody know a doctor, I got an ear infection, or got the West Nile virus, I got something, I gotta see a doctor,’ you know the day that Paul hooked up with Luke was a remarkable day.  And as you go through the Book of Acts and you hear the word “we, we set sail”, and you know Luke was personally traveling with him in those journeys, Paul no doubt would not have traveled as long and as far and as wide and as successfully without this man next to him, ‘Luke, the beloved physician.’  Those people in those days owned their own doctor.  Most doctors were Greek in culture.  Roman Senators and Caesars owned their own doctors.  Not bad an idea today, it’s cheaper than paying for Blue Cross Blue Shield, owning your own doctor, but, just kidding.  This beloved physician, this man, traveling, educated, the grammar in his writing remarkable, lending itself to some of the most remarkable records the Holy Spirit uses a man to produce in the New Testament, the beloved physician, with Paul to the end. 


Demas---We Can Have Everything In Balance That Should Be In Balance, And Still Find Our Hearts Can Grow Cold


“and Demas, greet you.”  Now, Demas is given a recommendation, mentioned previous to this.  Here, Paul says “Demas”, there’s no beloved, no faithful servant, there’s nothing valuable in all of the other things he says.  I’m wondering if Paul is watching something in the heart of Demas, because as he writes to us in 2nd Timothy he will say ‘Luke is with me,’ but he’ll say, ‘Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present age, and has departed to Thessalonica.’  ‘Demas hath forsaken me, having loved---agape---is the word there---this present age.’  Isn’t it interesting, in John chapter 3, Jesus said there are those who love darkness more than light, and the word is “agape” there also, and it speaks of devotion, something intentional, from the heart.  ‘Demas hath forsaken me, having loved, he’s devoted to this present age, in contrast to the one to come.’  Paul just said before that, ‘I’ve fought the fight, I’ve kept the faith, there’s laid up for me a crown of righteousness, not for me only but for all those who love the Lord’s appearing,’ and so forth, ‘I’m ready to be poured out, I’m ready to be offered.’  Ah, he’s looking forward to what the Lord has for him.  “But Demas hath forsaken me.”  Now look, it’s a lesson for all of us.  Because we can say, ‘Ah, you know, that church, it’s too charismatic, it’s not charismatic enough, it’s too Armenian, it’s too Wesleyan, it’s too Calvinistic, it’s this.’  Now look, here is Demas, with Paul in his journeys.  He sees the perfect balance of that which is charismatic and Pentecostal, and fundamental.  He sees the perfect balance in theology.  He sees people healed.  He witnesses the miraculous.  And the point being, we can have everything in the balance that it should be in, and still find that our hearts can grow cold, and we can fall in love with this present age.  You know, we start out in Christ, on fire, sold-out, witnessing.  We don’t know the difference between an Epistle and an Apostle and we’re telling everybody about Jesus and about his love, and I’m saved, and we don’t know anything about theology, and just the fire is stoked.  And then as time goes on, we kind of think, ‘Hey, I’m running along pretty good here,’ and we forget to shovel coal into the boiler, the maintenance has kind of dropped, ‘No, I don’t need to go to fellowship all the time, I’m doing great, don’t need to read my Bible all the time,’ and we kind of, you know, we kind of wane, we can wane in our zeal, and in our submission to the Spirit and to the Word of God, and find our hearts growing cold.  And there’s a warning, because you see, when we’re in that condition, there’s only one thing that we need to do, we need to get on our knees, and get alone with Jesus, and say ‘Jesus, my heart is cold, I’m cooling, restore unto me the joy of thy salvation.  You say that you don’t break a bruised reed, you don’t quench a smoking flax, Lord, breathe on the altar of my heart, bring flame back, Lord, into my life.  Give me zeal again, Lord, stir my heart, Lord.’  And that’s all there is that’s necessary.  Ask, ask, and it shall be given, seek, and you shall find, knock, it shall be opened.  Remain in prayer with strength, watch with thanksgiving.  Demas, just mentioned by name. 


“And While You’re At It, Tell Archippus…”


“Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house.” (verse 15)  Most churches, probably up into the 3rd century, were nothing like this where we meet, they were in people’s homes.  They had, of course large gatherings in Solomon’s Portico in the Temple in Jerusalem when the Church first began, 3,000 were saved on the first day, 5,000 saved a few days later, the Church grew quickly.  But the gathering of the church took place in homes, it wasn’t until probably around the 3rd century that church buildings started to be built, so larger congregations could gather. [we really aren’t sure about this, especially in Judea and Jerusalem, where the estimated number of believers was in access of 50,000 in Judea.  Also, Rodney Stark and Oskar Skarsaune talk of archeological finds of Judeo-Christian synagogues, one found in Jerusalem, another found in Asia Minor.]  So, “Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house.  And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.” (verses 15-16)  So it was to be read publicly.  So there was an epistle sent to Laodicea that we don’t have record of.  “And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it.” (verse 17)  How’d you like that?  You know, here’s a letter that’s circulated through the churches, ‘and by the way, tell Archippus to get off his rear-end and get busy, will you.’  “say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it.”  “Take heed, be constantly taking heed, to the ministry,” now it seems that Archippus either had a church in his home or was called to the pastorate in some way.  It seems specifically more of a ministry pointed here.  “say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry” notice Paul says, “with which thou hast received in the Lord…”  Paul is convinced that God has a calling on this man’s life, and a great exhortation to all of us.  “Take heed to the ministry that thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it.”  (verse 17) 


In Closing:  “Remember My Bonds”


“The salutation by the hand of me Paul.  Remember my bonds.  Grace be with you.  Amen.” (verse 18)  Someone else evidently writing the letter for him, but his own signature at the end, and either because of the opthimolia, the disease he had in his eyes, for one reason or another, Paul did sign, his writing was obvious, he did an earlier Epistle, wrote that himself, and evidently he wrote that in large classical Greek structures, because he was able to read that, the New Testament everywhere else was written in Koine Greek.  Here he signs off, ‘and you see, this is my own signature,’ must have been big and sloppy, because of his struggle to see.  And very interesting, when it seems he raises his hand to sign this letter, he looks, and he says “Remember my bonds.”  That’s very unlike Paul in some ways there.  It’s almost, in all the Epistles when he talks about being a prisoner of Christ, this is the one place where there’s almost a pathos, and Paul says, ‘Do me a favour, I know that you love me, remember me in these bonds.’  And I can almost see it as he, clanking his chains as he signs with his own hand, you know, “Remember my bonds.  Grace be with you.  Amen.”  And grace be with you, Amen.  Read ahead, we head into the Thesssalonian Epistles.  We will be talking, Lord willing, if he tarries, over the next month or two, about the Rapture of the Church, the return of Christ, the antichrist, the great deception in the last days.  Very timely that we’re here in these letters now.  And remember, for those of you who may be, have a little condescending attitude towards prophecy, ‘Not necessary for what kind of fruit it produces,’ listen, Paul was in Thessalonica for three Sabbaths [ie he was keeping the Sabbath J] and driven out of town.  And in three weeks he had talked to them about the 2nd coming of Christ, about the Rapture of the Church, about the antichrist, because he has to write back and straighten all of those things out.  And Paul knew as well as anyone, what were important truths to get into the lives of new-believers [it’s why more often than not, new-believers cut their spiritual teeth on prophecy and the 2nd coming of Christ].  John says, ‘any man that has this hope, the hope of the blessed return of Christ, the blessed hope of being caught up to meet the Lord in the air, any man that has this hope, purifies himself, even as he is pure.’  It is a purifying hope.  If you believe that Jesus Christ could come tonight, you’re not leaving here and going to the bar.  If you believe that Jesus Christ could come tonight, and you could meet him face to face tonight, you’re going to live your life a certain way.  Oh, it’s easy to say I believe that, but we’re talking about belief, we’re talking about our lives being consistent with our confession.  And if we say we believe that Christ could come at any moment, not putting it off for seven years, but that his return is imminent, it’s at hand, it’s a wonderful thing.  It’s a wonderful thing, because then I could say, ‘Lord, come today, Lord, just come now, Lord, get me out of this, Lord, stop this, Lord, come now.’  That’s a wonderful thing to live with.  And the other side of it is, ‘Lord, I want to be found about your business when you come.  In the middle of all of this insanity.’  Just think of what it means to Christians that are being persecuted around the world tonight.  Think of what it means to Christians that have seen their children die in front of them, that are longing for that reunion.  Think of what it’s meant through the ages.  But to us, the Church that is tonight closer to the return of Jesus than any Church [era] that has ever been on the earth, what it should mean to us…[connective expository sermon given on Colossians 4:2-18 by Pastor Joe Focht, Calvary Chapel of Philadelphia, 13500 Philmont Avenue, Philadelphia, PA  19116]


related links:


What was the Early Church like?  See,   


Pray for an open door.  About “asking, seeking,  knocking.”  See,