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Dynamics of Paul’s Gospel-Team

Sermon passage: (Colossians 4:7-18) Spoken on: October 3, 2021
More sermons from this speaker 更多该讲员的讲道: Dr. Tan Hock Seng
For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: Colossians

Tags: Colossians

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About Dr. Tan Hock Seng: Dr. Tan teaches New Testament studies, theology and biblical languages in various seminaries in Singapore.

Title: Dynamics of Paul’s Gospel-Team
Preacher: Ps Tan Hock Seng
Date: 3 October 2021

I. Overview of Colossians 4:7-18

There are eleven personal references in this passage;
and they can be ordered into three groups:

A. Those who journeyed to the church [6-9]
B. Those who sent greeting to the church [10-14]
C. Those who whom Paul sent Greetings [15-17]

Those who were going to the church were:

1. Tychicus (4:7–8)
2. Onesimus (4:9)

Those who sent greetings to the church were:

1. Aristarchus (4:10)
2. Mark (4:10)
3. Jesus [Justus] (4:11)
4. Epaphras (4:12–13)
5. Luke (4:14)
6. Demas (4:14)

Those to whom Paul sent greetings were:

1. Laodicea believers (4:15–16)
2. Nympha (4:15)
3. Archippus (4:17)

The three names in Red color are men who had a Jewish mother. That’s why they were subject to Jewish circumcision. Thus, they were called the circumcised.

II. Dynamics of Paul’s Gospel-Team
The first nine names were members of Paul’s Gospel-team. They were not perfect people. As I studied the members, I observed some team-work dynamics which we can learn from, and apply to our church cell groups or Xinfu Xiaozhu.
I will share five team-work principles [Slide #10.0] that I gleaned from today’s Bible texts:

A. Charismata that Complement
Aristarchus & Tychicus

B. Community that Restores
Mark & Onesimus, & Archippus

C. Encouragement that Sustains
Justus, Luke, & Archippus

D. Intercession that Strengthens

E. Commitment that Testifies
Paul vs. Demas

The church in Laodicea met in Nympha’s house. Nympha is a woman’s name. Nympha’s husband had probably died, so she assumed the role as the household’s Matriarch. Her sons were probably young, not mature to be patriarchs of their own families yet. The average size of a Greco-Roman household is about 60 people, including the slaves with their families. The believers met in Nympha’s house for worship.

Dynamics of Paul’s Gospel-Team
The first dynamic that we see is ….
A. Charismata that Complement

In the N.T. there are two words for “Spiritual Gifts”
“Pneumatikon” and “Charismata”.
The word Pneumatikon is mentioned only once in the NT, but “Charismata,” occurs many times.

The Corinthian Christians perceived spiritual gifts as a mark of spirituality.

Thus they boasted “Pneumatikon made me spiritual”. Paul rejected that wrong notion, and he corrected the Corinthians with the appropriate term “Charismata.”

Charismata highlights “spiritual gifts” as “God’s grace to me”. Charismata are for building up the Body of Christ.

That is why I used the word “Charismata” instead of “spiritual gifts” in the first sermon’s point. When we think of “Spiritual Gifts,” let’s think of them as “God’s grace to me,” and not “the Gifts will make me spiritual.”

Paul’s Gospel team had 9 people
Not everyone in the team was a speaker

Those who spoke were: Paul, Aristarchus and Epaphras.

I presume Aristarchus and Epaphras to be speakers because they were the only members who were imprisoned with Paul. Epaphras became a prisoner at a later time, after Aristarchus was released. In the earlier phase of Christian persecution, only those who publicly preached the Gospel were arrested; those believers who were not involved in public-speaking were spared.

Among those who served were:
Tychicus, Onesimus, Mark, Justus, Demas, and Luke.

Only three persons exercised speaking gifts, and the rest (6 people), serving gifts.

In 1 Peter 4: 10-11 , we read,10 Each one should use
whatever gift he has received to serve others,
faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.

11 If anyone speaks,
he should do it as one speaking the very words of God.
If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.
To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Here we observe two functional groups of gifts:

Speaking gifts & Serving gifts.

The Speaking group comprises gifts that are usually exhibited by means of speech. The gifts are publicly visible.

The Serving group consists of gifts that are demonstrated by doing – not just by talks but through actions. The people usually serve behind-the-scene.

We may classify Paul’s listing of Charismata in Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; and Ephesians 4:11-12 under the two groups, as shown in the table. Take note that Paul’s lists of gifts are probably not exhaustive. There are people who serve God with the aesthetic gifts, like music, drama and arts. Those creative gifts are not mentioned by Paul in the NT. So, I believe that not all the gift were listed.

Apostleship Giving
Pastor-Teacher Administration
Teaching Helping
Evangelism Mercy
Exhorting Faith
Discerning of spirits Healing
Prophesying Miracles
Interpretation of Tongues

Aristarchus: was Paul’s team member with Speaking-Gift [4:10]
He became a believer in Thessalonica (Acts 17:1–9).

Aristarchus traveled with Paul from Greece to Jerusalem, and from Jerusalem to Rome (Acts 19:29; 20:4). He became Paul’s fellow prisoner [Col 4:10].

Tychicus was a team-member with a Serving-Gift [4:7]
He came from Asia Minor [Acts 20:4].

As God’s servant,
Tychicus carried Paul’s letters to different people, to Timothy in Ephesus [2 Tim 4:12], and to Titus in Crete [Titus 3:12].
Delivering Paul’s letter from Rome to Colossae would require at least 17 days. Tychicus had to cross Italy on foot; sail across Ardriatic sea; cross Greece on foot; sail across the Aegean Sea, and ride 100 miles on horses to Colossae [2,966 km in 17.5 days].

Tychicus was willing to serve God by doing menial tasks.

In Acts 6:1-4, the Apostles needed to resume preaching the word and prayer which they neglected due to overwhelming social needs . They had to look for replacement to serve the needy. So they appointed seven men, full of the Spirit and wisdom, just to serve the tables.

This incident teaches us that in God’s sight, every task, however small, deserves the best of God’s people. No ministry should be despised as lowly, or unfitting.

In Colossians 3:23 Paul exhorts the servants to “Do everything as for the Lord, and not for people.” Paul and his members also practised this principle because they considered themselves as servants of Jesus Christ.

For application I will share seven principles concerning Spiritual-gifting.

Seven Principles of Spiritual-Gifting. The first principle,

1. You have a spiritual gift

7 To each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the benefit of all

Every believer has at least one spiritual gift [v.7a]

No one should say, “I don’t have any spiritual gift”. You have at least one spiritual gift, just that you have not discovered yours.

The second principle,
2. Your gift is sovereignly given by God.

The Holy Spirit gives each one as He determines [v.11].

a. You may ask God for a particular gift.
However, God is sovereign in His gifting.
He might bestow the gift what you desire, or He
may not, but give you other gift instead.

b. You gift may overlap with your talent.
Talent is a natural ability that you are born with;
Spiritual gift is an ability given by the Holy Spirit
to believers only.

For example, Teaching:
Some people may have the talent to teach, and they also have the spiritual gift to teach God’s word.

Some may not have a talent in teaching, but they are able to teach God’s word effectively and help believers grow.

Principle 3,
3. Your Spiritual gift is meant to serve others [to help build-up the Church]. Gift is not for self-gratification [1 Cor. 12:7b; 1 Peter 4:10]

7 To each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the benefit of all

We must not allow our gifts to divide the Church.

We should not abuse our gift to draw attention to ourselves.

Principle 4,
4. All believers will not have the same gift;
No believer will possess all the gifts

12 The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with [the Body of] Christ [1 Cor. 12:12].

If we see a body with all parts the same, that is not a body. For that reason I do not think that every worshipper in a Pentecostal church will have the gift of tongues. I also do believe that there are members in a non Pentecostal church with Charismatic gifts. It’s just that they don’t exercise their charismatic gift openly.

The fifth principle,
5. The Holy Spirit gifts both the male and female without partiality.
We are not told that there is any particular spiritual gift that is given to men only, or given to women only.
The gift of teaching is not for men only. For example, Aquila and his wife Priscilla, both have the gift of teaching.

Principle 6,
6. We are responsible to fulfill the roles of the serving gifts and some of the speaking gifts even though we are not gifted in those particular ministries.
Concerning the Serving Gifts: We must give, even though we do not have the gift of giving; we are to encourage, even though we do not have gift of encouragement.

Regarding the Speaking Gifts: We should share the Gospel, even though we don’t have the gift of evangelism. We may pray for healing for others, even when we don’t have the gift of healing. But there are certain Speaking Gifts that we are not obliged to exercise. Example, when we don’t have the gift of tongues, we don’t have to fake speaking in tongues.

The seventh principle,
7. We can discover our spiritual gifts by being involved in service.
Taking a Spiritual Gift Inventory questionnaires may give you some idea what your gift could be, but it is not a sure way to discover your gift. The tool is just guide.

Our participation in ministry service is an effective way to discover our gift(s). When we serve, we will know our interest and our strength better.

B. Community that Restores
Paul’s Gospel-team is a redemptive community.
In a redemptive community the members could experience
Acceptance, Forgiveness & Reconciliation

1. Onesimus [We see the experience of acceptance in him].
Onesimus was slave in Philemon’s household in Colossae.
He ran away, and he could have met Paul and became a believer.

As a fugitive, Onesimus needed acceptance; and Paul treated Onesimus as “a faithful and dear brother”. He wrote the church, “Onesimus is one of you” (4:9); in other words, he is a fellow-brother and worshipper.

2. Mark His life was marked by forgiveness.
Mark deserted Paul and Barnabas in Pamphylia during their first mission trip. After reuniting with the group, Paul didn’t want to take Mark back; but Barnabas chose to keep Mark by his side (Acts 15:37–39). So, they parted way. After splitting from Paul, Barnabas patiently restored Mark with his gift of encouragement. Mark, eventually, matured and became a good worker.

Some years later, Mark rejoined Paul’s Gospel team.
Then both Paul and Mark could not just pretend that nothing had happened between them. Paul had to admit his mistake, and forgive Mark; and Mark also had to stop resenting Paul and forgive him.

Onesimus also needed forgiveness and reconciliation. Some mistakes would require restitution. At a later time, Paul would send Onesimus back to Philemon with a letter, pleading for the master’s forgiveness and reconciliation.

In Colossians 3:13 Paul aptly exhorts the Colossians,
“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

You might have heard that Christians often shoot their own wounded comrades.

We are a redemptive community. When someone fails, we should lift him up and develop him further. It takes years for a person to grow, develop, and become a deacon, or an elder or a pastor in a church. But It is take only a few months to crush a person and cripple him/ her in ministry for good.

C. Encouragement that Sustains
Justus and Luke

Justus & Luke were Paul’s encouragers.

11 Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These [Aristarchus,, Mark, & Justus] are the only Jews among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me Colossians 4:11.

As I had already mentioned Aristarchus and Mark, I will only talk about Justus and Luke.

1. Justus
Justus’es other name is “Jesus”. “Jesus” is the NT name for “Joshua” in the OT. In verse 11 Paul acknowledges Justus as his encourager.

When someone is hurting or struggling,
We may encourage by listening
We may encourage by praying
and sharing God’s word
We may share what God had done and is doing.

2. Luke
Luke met Paul at Troas [16:10]. From that time onwards Paul’s mission travelogue in Acts was recorded in the first person pronoun. The “they” pronouns were replaced by the “we” pronouns. Luke joined Paul’s Gospel team, and accompanied him all the way to Rome.

Luke probably helped pen some of Paul’s letters to the churches during Paul’s imprisonment. He himself wrote the Third Gospel and of the book of Acts (cf. Acts 1:1).

You might wonder, “How did Luke encourage someone like Paul?” “What did he do to encourage an Apostle?” And “How do I encourage my pastor?”.

Rick Warren (Author of Purpose-Driven Life)
When Matthew, his third son, a 27-yr-old man died tragically in 2013.

Pastor Rick Warren was paralyzed in ministry for 16 weeks. He wasn’t able to preach any sermon. He could only talked to God, and to his wife. What would you say to a person with deep hurts?

After he regained his strength, he shared a valuable lesson about encouraging people with deep hurts. He said,

“The deeper the grief; the less the word you use.”

When we feel that we have nothing to say to a person who knows life better than us, we can encourage by being present with that person. We don’t have to say anything;. We may just stay quietly by that person’s side. That can be a mean of powerful encouragement. Perhaps, that’s why Luke did.

During Paul’s last days [AD 65-66], he wrote Timothy,

“Only Luke was with me,”(2 Tim 4:11).

Luke encouraged Paul by being with him.

A second century historical source [The Anti-Marcionite Prologue to Luke] states,

Luke was an Antiochian of Syria, a physician by profession. He was a disciple of the apostles and later accompanied Paul until his martyrdom. He served the Lord without distraction, having neither wife nor children, and at the age of eighty-four he fell asleep in Boetia, full of the Holy Spirit.12【1】

3. Archippus
In Colossians 4:17, Paul wrote the church
Tell Archippus: "See to it that you complete the work
you have received in the Lord."

Archippus could be struggling in his ministry, or
more likely, he was not doing what he was supposed to do in his calling.

Paul encouraged by giving him a kick, “Stay focus!” “Complete your work”.

The ministry that keeps people going
during rough times is encouragement

D. Continual Intercession that Empowers

Epaphras was from Colossae [4:12].

Paul told the church [Slide #40], that Epaphras always wrestled in prayer for them.

The word that is translated “wrestling” or “struggling” depicts an athlete striving hard, straining every nerve to compete for the Gold.

Epaphras prayed for the Colossians to
stand firm in God’s will …
mature and
fully assured (Rom. 4:21; 14:5)..

In other words, Epaphras prayed for the believers to realized God’s will.

What is God’s will for every believers?

To grow up in Christ-likeness

Paul spells out Christ-likeness specifically in his letter that:

The believers may become mature in Christ [1:28]
The believers had/ are to put off the old self [3:9; Eph. 4:22]
The believers had/ are to put on the new self [3:10; Eph. 4:24]
Take note that in Colossians, Paul told the believers that they have taken off the old self and have put on the new self. But, in Ephesians, Paul told the believers that they have to put off the old self and put on the new self.

The instructions in Colossians and Ephesians are not contradictory.
They complement to teach both a past-and-present continual act of putting on/ off.

When we become a new creation in Christ, we have put off our old self and put on our new self.

As we grow in Christ, we are to put off our old self and to put on the new self continually.

Finally, growing in Christ-likeness is to be renewed in our image of God.

Epaphras interceded for every believers to realize God’s will, that is, to grow in Christ-likeness progressively.

Let us also pray for one another to grow in Christ-likeness.

E. Commitment that Testifies

As Paul concludes his letter to the Colossian church, he writes :

I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand.
Remember my chains. Grace be with you [Colossians 4:10]

Paul was saying, “Keep me in mind in your prayer.”

Paul explained to the Colossians that he was imprisoned for preaching the Gospel [Col. 4:3].

He requested the Colossian church to pray for him
Firstly, that God may open door for him to proclaim the Gospel;

Secondly, that he may proclaim the Gospel clearly [Co. 4:3-4]

Paul’s unswerving commitment testified of his faithfulness and self-denial in following Jesus. Jesus told his disciples,

“If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me” [Luke 9:23]

In Colossians 3:2, Paul exhorts the believers

Set your minds on things that are above,
not on things that are on earth.

The Apostle John expresses the same concept of “not setting your mind on earthly things” in different words. He wrote,

“Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love for the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world [1 John 2:15-16]

Demas was with Paul when the Colossian letter was written, but he deserted Paul a few years later.

2 Timothy 4:9-10
9 Do your best to come to me quickly,
10 for Demas, because he loved this world,
has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica.

Demas was distracted because he loved the world.
He left Paul without saying “goodbye”. Paul lamented, “Demas deserted me”; “He loved the world.”

Let us continue to help one another to learn to set our mind on things above.


From Paul’s Gospel-team, we could see those few dynamics at work.

Let us learn to:

A. Exercise the Charismata that Enhance

B. Be a Community that Restores

C. Provide Encouragement that Sustains

D. Make Intercession that Strengthens

E. Live the Commitment that Testifies

[1] F. F. Bruce, The Spreading Flame (London: Paternoster, 1958), 230ff.

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