By Spencer D GEar
What do you do when a pastor’s adultery shatters a church? Jerry Cook, a pastor of a largish church in Gresham, Oregon, USA, tells this story. “A pastor in our town whom I knew only slightly became involved in adultery. As a result, his marriage went on the rocks and his ministry was destroyed. Since he was a strong Christian leader in our area, this brother’s fall came with a resounding crash. His church splintered into a dozen fragments and hurting, confused people were scatter all over the city.
“A year and a half after all that happened, I received a phone call at 7:30 A.M. one Sunday. It was this former pastor. He said, ‘Would you mind if my wife and I came to church this morning?’
“I said, ‘Why would you even call and ask that question? Of course we wouldn’t mind.’
“‘Well’, he said, ‘you know this is my second wife and I am divorced from my first. Are you aware of this?’
“I said, ‘Sure, I’m aware of it.’
“‘Well,’ he said, ‘I’ll tell you, Jerry, we’ve been trying for eight months now to find a place to worship. The last time we tried was a month ago. That morning we were asked from the pulpit to leave. We’ve been met at the door of other churches by pastors who heard that my wife and I were coming. They asked us not to come in, said we would cause too much trouble. Still others have heard that we might show up and called in advance to ask us please not to come.’
“He said, ‘Frankly, I don’t think we could handle it again if we were to come and be an embarrassment to you and be asked to leave. I just don’t know what would happen; my wife is close to a nervous breakdown.’ By now he was weeping. ‘I know that you have video for overflow crowds,’ he said. ‘If you want you can put us in a room where no one will see us and let us watch the service.’
“I said, ‘Listen, you be there and I’ll welcome you at the door.’
“He came with his wife and their little baby. They came late and sat in the back.”
Does this ever bother you? Acts 4:34, “And there was not a needy person among them.” In the church of the Book of Acts it is stated that not a needy person was to be found in the church. Church people met the physical & financial needs of the people in the church. How would they get on with Jerry Cook’s situation of meeting the need of an adulterous former-pastor, new wife and child? Would they be welcome in the early church? Would their needs be met in this church?
We rely on the Salvos, St. Vincent de Paul, counselling agencies, and Centrelink government handouts.
What is the difference between the first century church and the 21st century church? Paul tells us in Col. 4:7-18 that if any church (this church) wants to be a healthy, it will have five ingredients.
Before we examine these 5 ingredients, please note with me some issues arising from this passage:
- “Paul mentions over 100 people by name in his New Testament letters! In Romans 16 alone, there are 26 people listed. Here, in Colossians 4, he mentions 10 individuals.” Paul could not survive in the Christian life alone. He was in deep relationship with people in the churches.
- Close friendship was part of discipleship and Christian growth for Paul. To grow in Christ, you need close relationships. I’m reminded of Prov. 18:24, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
- For Paul, people were more important than programmes.
- Paul’s friends included Luke, the doctor & Onesimus the runaway slave. He had friends who were Jews and with others who wouldn’t have a clue who Abraham was. Some were male, some female. Some were faithful Christians; others were deserters from the faith.
- When Paul talks about real people by name, he roots his letters in real history with real people. This is not fantasy or myth. There is no such thing as Christianity without its historical base dealing with real people in real places in the real world.
- This entire epistle to the Colossians exalts the supremacy of Christ (see especially 1:15ff) and how that impacts our
Let’s look at these five ingredients for a healthy church.
I. First, if this church is to be healthy, it needs faithful people in radical relationships (vv. 7-9)
7Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. 8I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. 9He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here.
Let’s meet . . .
This is the Tychicus of Eph. 6:21; 2 Tim. 4:12; Titus 3:12. Paul sends Tychicus to the Colossian church, in Turkey today, trusting Tychicus to:
He will encourage the Colossian believers. Paul had never been to Colosse. Reading this letter gives one the impression that Epaphras introduced these people to Christ and founded this church and possibly churches at Laodicea and Hierapolis (4:13).
Why has Paul chosen Tychicus to deliver this letter, fill them in on
what is happening to Paul in prison, and to encourage them? We learn 3 important things about Tychicus that caused Paul to have confidence in this man. He’s:
How many people in this church could you describe as a loved brother or a loved sister by you because you know them so well and have such a deep relationship with them that they are dear to you? Honest?
Tychicus was loved, but this verse also says that he was
(from which we get deacon). In ch. 1:7, Epaphras is called a “diakonos”; the apostle Paul calls himself a “diakonos” in 1:23. A “diakonos” is the word to express this idea and ministry: he or she is “one who renders voluntary service ‘in behalf of’ other people so that they may have the benefit.”
There’s nothing in the context to say that Tychicus was a Deacon as we understand it. But he was a “servant of the Lord” or a “minister in Christian work, in a general sense.” We must understand that this person was one who served others. That’s why Christians ought to be so radically different from the secular world. We are here to serve others, whatever their need.
But Tychicus served others not in some occasional, slap-happy way. He was known to be a FAITHFUL minister. He was dependable. I’m reminded of I Cor. 4:2, “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove FAITHFUL.”
One of the fruit of the Spirit, according to Galatians 5:22 is “faithfulness.” If you are lacking in faithfulness, you have a spiritual problem. The fruit of the Spirit are lacking in your life.
What would this church be like if all of us were so growing in the fruit of the Spirit that we were faithful in church attendance, faithful in our giving, faithful in leadership of Brigades, deacons’ meetings, etc.
I go to churches around the country and I find that one of the greatest lacks is preachers who are faithful in preaching the Word of God. The Bible calls all preachers to “preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season” (2 Tim. 4:2). Preachers read the Word, preach around the text, preach what’s in their mind, but many, many are not faithful preachers of the Word.
“Old Faithful is not the largest geyser in Yellowstone National Park [Wyoming, USA], nor does it reach the greatest height [when it spurts forth.] But it is by far the most popular one. Why? It is regular and dependable, hence its name, ‘Old Faithful.'”
God does not call you and me to be brilliant, with brawn and beauty. He does call all believers to be faithful.
Tychicus was the person who was faithful in serving others, no matter what their need. He’s also described as . . .
- “A fellow servant in the Lord” – “a fellow slave of Paul and of Timothy (1:1) who submitted his will completely to the Lord.”
In these final greetings, Paul mentions another faithful person in v. 9. Tychicus is going to the Colossian church with
“Our faithful and dear brother.” If you want to know more about
Onesimus, read the epistle to Philemon. This is an amazing story. Onesimus the slave “ran away from his master in Colosse, came into contact with Paul in Rome, and was converted and completely changed. Paul is now sending him back to his master. Tychicus is serving as his protector, for a runaway slave was liable to arrest anywhere by the . . . slave catchers who were everywhere on the lookout for such slaves. Paul does not say what the congregation is to do with this slave; he says only that he is sending him back as ‘a faithful and beloved brother’ who is from their city.”
First, if this church, any church, is to be healthy, it needs faithful people in radical loving relationships (vv. 7-9). But this is such a low priority in the materialistic western church. I call you to be faithful in your ministry here. Love one another deeply, warts and all. I have warts in my Christian life. Will you love me in spite of them? Will you be faithful in ministering to the needs of people here in this church?
II. Second, if this church is to be healthy, it needs prayer warriors (vv. 12-13)
12Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. 13I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis.
Epaphras is an amazing believer (v. 12). He’s the founder of the Colossian church (see 1:7) but here he is described as a:
- Bond-slave (doulos) of Jesus Christ;
- He’s “always wrestling in prayer for you.” Why?
- “That you may stand firm in all the will of God;
- “That you will be mature and fully assured.”
This church was under threat from the heretical sect known as the Gnostics and there was a danger that this newish church would go under through false teaching.
These Gnostics believed matter was evil, there were mediating beings, salvation through knowledge. So, God and matter were antagonistic. What would they do with Jesus, fully God and fully man (which included matter)? That’s why Paul in Col. 1:15 had to correct this error with this refutation: “[Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth . . .”
Christ was born a human being and he created matter. That directly corrected these false Gnostic teachers.
If false teachers were infiltrating this church, you correct them with sound biblical teaching, but Paul says that the Colossian church, to be healthy had their founder who engaged in “agÇnizomai‘ in prayer.
Epaphras was “always wrestling in prayer” (v. 12. He was in prayer that was “constant, frequent, and intense. He’s a great illustration of Colossians 4:2: ‘Devote yourselves to prayer. . .’ The verb ‘wrestling’ can be translated ‘agonized’ and is the same word used for the prayers of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. This battle metaphor pictures prayer as a struggle.”
Paul uses the same word for himself in ch. 1:29 in a different context: “For this end I labor, struggling [there’s the word] with all the energy he so powerfully works in me.” In his apostolic ministry, Paul was laboring with an agonising, intense struggle.
“Epaphras ever ‘agonizes’ for the Colossians with strong pleading in his prayers, and his prayer for them is that they may ‘stand’ firm and solid, ‘as complete,’ as having reached the goal and lacking nothing to make them true Christians in every way.”
Do you agonise in prayer for Christians in this church that they would stand firm in the faith and grow into maturity in the faith? Do you think there are enough prayer agonisers in this church? What will cause us to agonise in prayer for this church? Will it take the threat of false doctrine, as with the Colossians, or the threat of persecution of Christians, to call us to agonising, struggling, powerful and pleading prayer for believers who are in danger of falling away from the faith.
Leonard Ravenhill wrote much on revival and to challenge the church in many areas. He said: “The church has many organizers, but few agonizers; many who pay, but few who pray; many resters, but few wrestlers; many who are enterprising, but few who are interceding. People who are not praying and praying. . . Tithes may build a church, but tears will give it life. That is the difference between the modern church and the early church. In the matter of effective praying, never have so many left so much to so few. [Brothers and sisters], let us pray.”
Like Epaphras, will you be an agoniser in prayer for this church’s ministry:
First, if this church is to be healthy, it needs faithful people in radical relationships;
Second, if this church is to be healthy, it needs prayer warriors, agonisers.
III. Third, if this church is to be healthy, it will need to minister to those who are slack in fulfilling their ministry (v. 17)
v. 17 Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.”
In v. 17, Archippus apparently was being slack or ineffective in ministry and is urged to complete the ministry that he had received from the Lord. We don’t hear of this person very often in the Word, but Philemon 2 describes Archippus as “our fellow soldier.” But there was something not being completed in this person’s ministry. We are not told what it was.
In today’s church, this can happen to Christians
- Through letting your spiritual life slip.
- How’s your prayer life?
- What about your discipleship?
- To whom are you accountable?
- How does anybody know what spiritual shape you are in?
- We can’t be strong in the Lord if we are weak in some areas and are not fulfilling our ministry.
- What is your ministry and are you doing it?
Sadly, a church that is becoming a healthy church will have to deal with disease in its midst. Some of that will be people who are not completing the Lord’s ministry. God gifts every one of you. Are you doing the ministry that God has given you? If you are doing the ministry that you think you have, you are likely to fail. There are not just one or two ministers in this congregation. You all are gifted for at least one spiritual ministry. Which are yours? Are you doing your ministry in this church? If not, why not? Are you like Archippus who needed challenging?
IV. Fourth, if this church is to be healthy, you will need to minister to the doubters and backsliders in this congregation (v. 14).
v. 14 Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings.
Could we say that there are a number in this congregation who are faithful servants and ministers of the Lord? Would it be safe to say that there are a few, maybe very few who agonise in prayer? Are you backward or slack in exercising the gifts God has given them?
In v. 14 of Col. 4, we have an example of somebody whose name is just mentioned as “Demas sends you greetings.” That tells us nothing more than Demas was with Paul when Colossians was written, BUT something else was happening in Demas’s life. We read about him in Philemon 24 as one of Paul’s “fellow workers.”
BUT if we go to 2 Tim. 4:9-10, which was written about five years later than Colossians, we read, “Do your best to come to me quickly, for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica” (NIV).
Demas, who was with Paul the great apostle, was developing the spiritual disease of backsliding, losing the faith through worldliness. When Paul wrote Colossians he did not condemn Demas, but within 5 years the spiritual disease of worldly thinking and living had infected him.
We are not told exactly what happened, but I John 2:15-16 tells us how this can set in.
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For everything in the world–the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does–comes not from the Father but from the world” (NIV).
Like Demas, we all have within us the potential to develop fickle, fragile, backsliding, apostatising faith that could lead to leaving the faith. We here in the affluent West are especially vulnerable. In even an evangelical church it is so easy to fake it when you are not accountable to anybody. Do you know what things in the world can pull you away from the faith? Where are you vulnerable. Look at the list from I John 2. See if these tempt you:
- “the cravings of the sinful nature.” Galatians 5:19-21 tell us what they are:
v 19,The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery [that’s excessive indulgence in sexual pleasures]; 20idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (NIV).
The first 3, immorality, impurity and debauchery have to do with the matter of sex, the next two (idolatry & witchcraft) deal with false gods. Then follow 8 that have to do with strife and division among people, and the last two with abuses of alcohol.
What could some examples be for you where you are tempted into sexual sin? We live in a very loose sexual society where condoms, porn and prostitutes are freely available. Where are you tempted? If you succumb, you are down the road of worldly thinking and living that may draw you, like Demas, away from the faith.
What other gods could you be serving? Who’s your rock music or reality TV idol? I’m very concerned at the baptism into the occult that is happening with so much access to Harry Potter books and movies for children. Fiction, yes! But dangerous fiction! I spoke with a woman recently who has been wonderfully saved out of witchcraft and she drew to my attention the witchcraft of the Harry Potter series and how attractive it is made to look, but how dangerous it really is.
“Filmmaker and occult expert Caryl Matrisciana explains the dangers of the Harry Potter series and how the books portray a lifestyle diametrically opposed to that of the Christian. Matrisciana and her husband have spent 25 years researching the occult.”
She was an occult practitioner, raised in India. Eventually, she became a Christian and worked through the British media to raise awareness of the dangers of the occult.
Matrisciana encourages Christians in her new hour-long documentary video to take an honest look at the world children fantasise about when reading J. K. Rowling’s books. Through Harry Potter books and audios, children as young as kindergarten age are being introduced to human sacrifice, the sucking of blood from dead animals, possession by spirit beings, and satanic ritual.
Are you tempted to become like Demas through the anger and strife you create or are engaged in, with your family, kids at school, in the workplace, in this church?
What about the temptation to alcohol and drug abuse in this alcohol soaked society that also has a softly, softly approach to illicit drug use?
Back to the examples of the temptations to the principles of this world, stated in I John 2:
- ” the lust of his eyes.” That’s self-explanatory. You will be tempted to lust into worldliness by what you see. Where are you vulnerable? This could be cars, the surf, sex and materialism, TV & internet.
- Also, “the boasting of what he has and does.” I guess this applies to women as well as men. You will be tempted into worldly ways by boasting about what you have and do. Capitalism, wealth and greed foster such.
Is there a Demas streak in you right now?
If this or any other church is to be healthy, it:
V. Fifth & finally: if this church is to be healthy, it will have radically forgiven people in this fellowship (vv. 9-10).
Demas bombed out of the faith. BUT there were two others in Paul’s list of greetings who made serious mistakes but were forgiven – radically forgiven.
The first is:
1. Onesimus (v. 9)
We are told that he is “a dear brother, a faithful minister.” To better understand Onesimus, please read that one chapter book of the NT, Philemon (right after Titus). Onesimus was from Colossae but was a runaway slave. We’ve dealt with him already in this message.
There’s another friend mentioned in Col. 4:10 who experienced radical forgiveness. That’s
Mark was the cousin of Barnabas but he didn’t have a good trackrecord in the faith. He’s also known as John Mark, the writer of the Gospel of Mark. He came a long way with the Lord, but if you remember that when Paul and Barnabas went on the first missionary journey something drastic happened (see Acts 15:39-40):
“They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord” (NIV).
Here in Col. 4:10, Paul and Mark had been reconciled and Paul was sending greetings from Mark. In fact, reconciliation took place to such an extent that Paul was able to say in 2 Tim. 4:11, “Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry” (NIV).
Isn’t this amazing. Paul fought with Barnabas and Mark and they split from him, but then there was reconciliation with Paul so that Paul could say that “he is helpful to me in my ministry.” Wow!
I guess it was 2-3 years ago that I was doing a devotion at the local ministers’ association on Rom. 15:7, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” As an example of the need to accept one another, I said that in my many years of ministry to hurting and sinful people I have found one group of people who find it most difficult to be accepted by church people and they are the redeemed and forgiven homosexuals.
At that point, a leading pastor in this city shouted me down with words something like: “How dare you! These are dangerous people. People need to be protected from them.”
Brothers and sisters, we do not deserve to be part of the church of the living God unless we dare to have, support and accept people from very sinful pasts in our church. All of us were once filthy, rotten, degraded sinners in God’s sight. How dare we look down on forgiven, homosexuals, prostitutes, thieves, cons and other rebels!
Jerry explains: “The compounding thing was that many of the people who had been hurt through his fall [into sin] were now a part of our congregation. Nevertheless, we extended fellowship to that man and the Lord did a cleansing and a healing. We shed so many tears together. I never will forget how he grabbed me and buried his head on my shoulder, a man 15 to 20 years my senior. He wept like a baby and held to me like a drowning man. He said, ‘Jerry, can you love me? I’ve spent my life loving people but I need someone to love me now.’
“In the weeks and months that followed, he met with our elders regularly and wept his way back to God through a most intense, sometimes utterly tearing repentance. If ever in my entire life I’ve seen godly sorrow for sin, I saw it in that man. He literally fell on the floor before our elders, grabbed their feet and implored them, ‘Brothers, can you ever forgive me?’
“God healed that man and restored him to wholeness. Today, he’s back in the ministry.
“I say to you, that brother was restored only because God enabled us to love and accept and forgive him. Love, acceptance, forgiveness—those three things are absolutely essential to any ministry that will consistently bring people to maturity and wholeness.”
Do you know your gifts? Have people, including the leaders, of this church, affirmed them? Are you being slack and ineffective in your ministry? Will you allow God to get hold of you so that you minister in your gifts?
All of you who know Christ have been wonderfully forgiven. Some of you have been forgiven from a deeply depraved lifestyle. I praise God for you. May you know the reality of sins forgiven and grow in grace and knowledge of the Saviour.
 This is found in Jerry Cook with Stanley C. Baldwin, 1979, Love, Acceptance & Forgiveness, Regal Books, Ventura, CA, pp. 9-11. At the time Jerry wrote the book he was pastor of East Hill Church [International Church of the Foursquare Gospel], Gresham, Oregon.
 “Colossians 4:7-18, Why We Need Each Other,” Brian Bill, Pontiac Bible Church, Sermon Central. Available at: http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/why-we-need-each-other-brian-bill-sermon-on-church-body-of-christ-57504.asp (Accessed 19 August 2012).
 R. C. H. Lenski, Commentary on the New Testament:The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians, to the Thessalonians, to Timothy, to Titus, and to Philemon, Hendrickson Publishers, 1937, 1946, 1961, p. 195.
 Brian Bill, op cit. The ESV states that Paul wrote Colossians ca. A.D. 60 (p. 1183) and that Paul wrote 2 Timothy in A.D. 64-68 (p. 1197). [The Holy Bible: English Standard Version, 2001, Crossway Bibles, Wheaton Illinois]. Curtis Vaughan considers that “the Epistle should therefore be dated about A.D. 62 during Paul’s first Roman imprisonment (cf. Acts 28:30, 31) [ The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 11, Zondervan, 1978, p. 166]. Ralph Earle considers that “it is obvious that the second Epistle to Timothy was written not later than A.D. 67. It may have been as early as 65” (1 Timothy, in ibid., pp. 343-344)]
 Based on: “Harry Potter: Witchcraft Repackaged: Making Evil Look Innocent “. Available at http://www.carylmatrisciana.com/site/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=94&Itemid=72 (Accessed 19 August 2012).
Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2015.