All my state shall Tychicus declare to you, who is a beloved brother, and a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord:…
The personal references in Paul's Epistles are valuable in several ways. "Proper names, although they be recited alone in the Scriptures, are not to be despised" (2 Timothy 3:16). "For like as if any one should find dry herbs, having neither fragrance nor colour that was pleasing, arranged in the surgery of a doctor, however mean may be their appearance, will yet guess that some virtue or remedy is concealed in them; so in the pharmacopoeia of the Scriptures, if anything occurs that at first sight may seem to be despised by us, yet may we determine of a certainty that there is some spiritual utility to be found in it; because Christ, the Physician of souls, we may suppose, would place nothing insignificant or useless in his pharmacopoeia" (Origen). These personal references are useful:
1. As supplying "undesigned coincidences" (Paley's 'Horae Paulinae,' Colossians 6., 8., and 14.; and Birks' 'Horae Apostolicae,' Colossians 6.).
2. As correcting errors; e.g. the alleged episcopacy of St. Peter at Rome from A.D. -68 is rendered incredible by the silence of St. Paul in all his Epistles from Rome (vers. 10, 11).
3. As helping us to form a vivid idea of the apostle's circumstances at different periods, and their bearing on his life's work and teaching. From these twelve verses we gather such facts as these, each of which may suggest some useful lessons. He was a prisoner, adding his autograph message "in a chain" (Ephesians 6:20); enjoying for the present considerable indulgence (Acts 28:30, 31), and hoping for a speedy release (Philemon 1:22). He enjoyed the company of friends both old and new. Here is Tychicus, probably from Ephesus, a tried companion in toil and peril (Acts 20:4; Ephesians 6:21); and Onesimus (a trophy of Divine grace, a jewel rescued as from the common sewer of the corrupt metropolis; teaching us to despair of no one). These two are being sent to tighten the bonds between the Churches in Asia and the apostle at Rome (vers. 7-10; Ephesians 6:22). Others remain to aid and cheer him. Aristarchus of Thessalonica, one of the firstfruits of Europe, now a voluntary prisoner (Acts 19:29; Acts 20:4; Acts 27:2). Mark, now enjoying the fullest confidence of St. Paul (2 Timothy 4:11): an encouraging illustration of how 'patient continuance in well doing' may cast early errors into oblivion and win back confidence once withdrawn; and a caution even to an apostle against too stern a judgment on a young brother. Jesus Justus, the only other Hebrew Christian mentioned, otherwise unknown, yet worthy of honour in all ages, because "a comfort" to the apostle: an encouragement to workers little known in the annals of the Church (Matthew 10:40-42). Epaphras, probably the founder of the Colossian Church, who had often preached to them and. now prayed much for them. Luke, the first medical missionary, a minister to the soul as well as to the body of the sorely tried apostle. Last comes Demas, mentioned without any commendation; still a fellow labourer (Philemon 1:24), but in whom St. Paul may have already detected signs of that worldly mindedness which led him afterwards to withdraw from duty and danger, if not altogether to make shipwreck of faith (2 Timothy 4:10) - a caution against backsliding in heart (Proverbs 14:14; 1 John 2:15). The salutations to brethren at Colossae further remind us of the social life and limited conditions of the primitive Christians ("Nymphas, and the Church that is in their house"), of the value of an earnest ministry to the Church (ver. 17), and of the duty of cherishing fraternal sympathy with other Churches (vers. 15, 16). This reference to the Epistle to Laodicea suggests to us that, though a letter may be lost and a Church may languish or die (Revelation 3:14-22), the Word of the Lord in the letter and to the Church endureth for ever. Many of these references group themselves around the names of those who were pastors or evangelists, and suggest final thoughts respecting a minister's responsibilities, anxieties, and encouragements.
1. Responsibilities. (Ver. 17.) The ministry was "in the Lord." In union with and in subordination to him he was to exercise it; and only by the utmost vigilance and energy could he fulfil it. To every minister such a charge is given as 2 Timothy 4:1, 2, 5, and such promises as 1 Timothy 4:16. Responsibility inspires zeal (2 Corinthians 4:1, 2; 2 Corinthians 5:9; 2 Corinthians 6:3-10), and fosters that spirit of dependence which ensures the blessing (1 Corinthians 3:7).
2. Anxieties. (Vers. 12, 13.) A faithful minister can aim at nothing less. He cannot adapt the standard of the gospel to the maxims of the day. He has to educate the mind and the conscience, that his flock may be "perfect and fully assured in all the will of God." He must teach and warn, applying general principles to practical details, being himself an example to the flock (1 Timothy 4:12) in labours and in prayers, so that those who know him best may bear such witness to him as Paul does to Epaphras.
3. Encouragements from three sources: sympathy, such as Paul enjoyed from friends at Rome and at Colossae; cooperation from "fellow workers unto the kingdom of God;" affection, such as love to the one Lord and labours for him promote in men of different temperaments, so that we find Paul speaking of many of his colleagues, not only as honoured fellow-soldiers, but beloved friends (vers. 7, 9, 14; Romans 16:12). For all such the apostle breathes the concluding prayer in one comprehensive term, "Grace be with you." - E.S.P.
Parallel VersesKJV: All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you, who is a beloved brother, and a faithful minister and fellowservant in the Lord: