When the night has come and the land is dark and the moon is the only light we’ll see. No, I won’t be afraid; no I won’t be afraid, just as long as you stand by me.
If the sky that we look upon should tumble and fall or the mountains should crumble to the sea. I won’t cry, I won’t cry; no I won’t shed a tear, just as long as you stand by me.
Stand by Me was originally released in 1961 and it peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard chart in June of that year. In 1986 it was re-released to coincide with the movie by the same name and that year it reached to No. 9 on the chart. In 2012 it was estimated that the song’s royalties over the years made it the 6th highest earning song ever and 50% percent of those royalties were paid to Ben E. King.
The second verse is taken from Psalm 46:2, which refers to the fact that even when the world falls apart God’s people can find refuge in Him. That’s not the point of the song though, the point of the song is to celebrate companionship and it taps into a universal human longing. We all long for friendship. We want people that we can count on, that we can run to, that we can lean on when the nights get dark and it feels like the sky is falling in around us.
And God not only wants us to have these types of relationships but through Christ He has created a community where these types of relationships thrive. The church is not an after-thought. The family of God is not simply a by-product of our justification, it was God’s plan to save us and bring us into fellowship with one another; and not just in this life but forever.
But here and now, God has surrounded us with friendships, gospel friendships. He has placed us in one another’s lives to help us stay faithful to Christ, to help us grow in faith and love and every grace, to help us find comfort on dark nights and to give us someone to laugh with when the sun is shining. I’m so thankful for my friends here at Cornerstone; Aren’t you?
The Apostle Paul had friends and he was thankful for them as well. Here at the end of the letter to the Colossian church, Paul lists out some of his friends and he talks about how much they mean to him. There are 10 names that he mentions and some of them are pretty significant. These people fall into 4 different categories but all of them have 1 overarching purpose. They are working together to fulfill their ministry to the church on behalf of Christ.
Read Colossians 4:7-18…
I. 12 Names, 4 Categories…
At the end of Paul’s letters, it is not uncommon to find simple statements acknowledging some of his missionary companions; but for the most part, these acknowledgments are simple. For instance:
2 Cor 13:13 All the Saints greet you.
Phil 4:21 The brothers who are with me greet you.
But here at the end of this letter, we see a long list of names and Paul takes the time to comment on every one of them. He wants the church to know more about his list of companions so he gives them a brief but important explanation of the men who labor alongside him to fulfill the ministry.
First up are the couriers, those men entrusted to carry Paul’s letter to the church.
Tychicus – was a faithful companion to Paul and was a trusted courier for Paul who delivered this letter as well as the letter to Philemon, Ephesians, and most likely the two letters to Timothy. In that day there wasn’t a trusted mail service and that meant that letters were hand delivered. Tychicus was the man Paul turned to often, but he was more than just a delivery boy.
Paul describes him as a beloved brother, faithful minister and fellow servant of Christ. He has been at Paul’s side since Acts 20 which would make him part of Paul’s third missionary journey. He stayed at Paul’s side through the arrest and multiple trials and during that time he was the man Paul trusted to take the letters he had written from prison to the various churches in the area.
When Tychicus would arrive at the church with a new letter in hand he would also give the church an update on Paul’s status. As a fellow minister Tychicus not only delivered the letters but was also in a position to elaborate on them to teach and explain what Paul had written. In other words, he was a missionary, and a teacher and a devoted friend. His name is only mentioned 5 times in the NT but his faithfulness impacted the world.
Onesimus – is the slave written about in the letter to Philemon. He ran away from his master and landed in Ephesus where he met Paul, heard the gospel and was saved, then he began to serve at Paul’s side in gospel ministry. The church in Colossae knows this man but their questions about what happened to him will be addressed in the letters and by Tychicus and Onesimus upon their arrival.
The second list of names makes up a group of Paul’s Jewish brothers and colleagues in gospel ministry.
Aristarchus – stands out from all the other men as a “fellow-prisoner” with Paul and I don’t think this is a metaphor. This man was on the ship with Paul in Acts 27 and he survived the shipwreck that landed them on Malta. He was more than a casual companion but was a faithful missionary that didn’t leave Paul’s side. He greets the church.
Mark (cousin of Barnabas) – is a well-known name among Paul’s fellow missionaries. Barnabas was Paul’s first Christian friend and the two were set apart by the Holy Spirit in Acts 13:2 to take the gospel to Gentile cities and plant churches. Mark joined them on their first missionary journey but he abandoned them in the city of Pamphylia and they completed the trip without him.
Then when Paul and Barnabas were getting ready to take their second missionary journey, Barnabas wanted to take Mark along but Paul didn’t think it was a good idea. Maybe he didn’t trust him. Maybe he thought someone else was a better fit for the work. Either way, this argument was enough to make even Paul and Barnabas split up.
Now it appears that this information had been communicated to the church in Colossae…
V. 10…Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, welcome him)
Somewhere along the way these two men were able to work out their differences and were able to serve the church together. Mark is also mentioned in 1 Peter and since Peter was writing from Rome that probably means that Mark had a significant ministry in the city of Rome. And it was probably from Rome that Mark wrote the gospel that bears his name.
Justus – We don’t know anything else about this man except what Paul tells us here. He was one of Paul’s companions and was one a group of Jewish Christians who were a comfort to Paul because they were fellow-workers who shared the burden of preaching the gospel and planting churches.
This third group of names makes up a list of Contacts for Paul, starting with…
Epaphras – was the man who originally preached the gospel in Colosse and planted the church that this letter has been written to. Epaphras is their pastor but he is also a servant of Jesus Christ and this season of his life is devoted to being by Paul’s side. But he hasn’t forgotten this church nor has he lost his love for them. He prays for them always, in fact, Paul says he agonizes in prayer over them asking God to help them stand mature and to have the full assurance of God’s will for them.
Luke – joined Paul in Macedonia on his second missionary journey and along the way, he was hard at work writing the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. But he didn’t start out as an author. It’s here in Colossians that we learn that Luke’ profession was medicine. He was a medical doctor but he heard the gospel and was saved and God gave him a burden to compile an accurate eyewitness account of the life of Jesus and the life of the church. Luke’s name only appears a handful of times in Paul’s letters but his ministry has changed the world.
Demas – Not all of Paul’s companions have a happy story. Demas was one of Paul’s companions but there came a point when he walked away from the ministry…and maybe worse. While Paul was in prison in Rome Demas deserted him and went to Thessalonica and the only explanation that was given is that Demas was in love with the world. It’s a cryptic mention but it gives the impression that Demas was not just walking away from the ministry but perhaps even from Christ as well.
Nympha – is not known outside of this letter but she has been a generous supporter of the gospel, to the point of opening her home in Laodicea for the church to meet there. She offered what she had to the service of the gospel and for that Paul commands and greets her.
Archippus – is only mentioned here and in the letter to Philemon but Paul does single him out is a specific way when he writes this message to him:
17 And say to Archippus, “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.”
We don’t know what Paul means by this but we do know that he is calling this man out and urging him to fulfill his ministry that he received from the Lord. It may have something to do with Philemon and Onesimus, or it may be something else entirely. But Paul doesn’t want to let him forget that he has been given a task, a responsibility, and he needs to complete it. So Paul is giving him some pastoral encouragement.
The last category contains one name and it is the man himself.
Paul – at the end of the letter, Paul took the quill from the scribe and wrote the final words with his own hand.
Remember my chains. Grace be with you.
This is the same Paul who once persecuted the Christians in Jerusalem. The same Paul who was confronted by Christ on the road to Damascus. The same Paul who frightened the early church even after he got saved because they didn’t know if they could trust him. The same Paul who was welcomed by the church in Jerusalem when Barnabas took him in and vouched for him. The same Paul who spent his life on 4 lengthy missionary journeys to see the gospel of Jesus Christ spread to the ends of the earth.
This is the same Paul who confronted kings, who withstood angry pagan business owners, who had to be smuggled out of the city so that they wouldn’t kill him. The same Paul who preached the gospel in Athens to all the philosophers of his day calling them to repentance and faith in the resurrected Jesus. The same man who was nearly killed by his own countrymen, arrested and kept in prison for 3 years awaiting trial in Rome.
This is the same Paul who wrote of his sufferings in 2 Corinthians 11:
24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.
This is the same Paul who wrote 2/3rds of our NT and then died by the command of Nero. There are few men who have shaped the world like Paul. His intellect amazes scholars, his theological understanding is unsurpassed, his bravery is legendary and his care for the people of God is a model that church leaders have sought to imitate for millennia. And his final words to these dear brothers and sisters in Colossae are, “Remember my chains. Grace be with you.”
12 names, some of which we have never heard before, but all of these names represent people who had a ministry to do. They weren’t all gifted in the same way. They didn’t all serve in the same way but they refused to sit on the sidelines, they got in the game and did what they had to do to see the gospel spread and the church grow. Their ministry is still in effect 2000 years later.
You don’t have to be a celebrity pastor to make an impact for the Kingdom. You don’t have to be a leading figure in the evangelical world to serve Christ faithfully. You can deliver the mail. You can explain the Scriptures. You can support pastors, teachers, missionaries, and others. All you need is to be willing to serve where there are needs. Be faithful, fulfill your calling.
12 names, 4 categories, One Purpose.
II. 1 Purpose…
All of these men came to Christ and at some point in the course of their Christian life, they said yes to the needs around them. They knew the risk of what serving Christ would bring them and they chose it gladly. I’m sure that they were just like you and me. They came to Christ and got involved in the church with no real expectation to do anything incredible for the Lord. Some of them may have been very ambitious but I’m guessing most of them were simply happy to be saved and excited to be learning and growing in their faith.
But something came up and it forced them to reconsider their level of commitment. The church was growing and the gospel was spreading but so was false teaching. Paul was writing letters but he needed someone to transport those letters to the churches…and Tychicus stood up and said, “I’ll go.”
Epaphras traveled to Ephesus for business but while there he heard Paul preach the gospel and not only was his heart set free but his mind began to soar at the thought of this same message being preached in his hometown. I’m sure he felt unqualified and immature, but the need was so great that he couldn’t ignore it. So he went home and began to tell others about Jesus.
Luke was doing fine in his role as a physician but when he heard the gospel and was born-again something changed. He wanted to help the church and this man named Paul was fearlessly risking his own life so that people he didn’t even know could hear and be saved. Something changed in Luke’s heart and he decided that he would risk his life along with Paul to make sure the story of Jesus and the church would be documented and passed to the next generation.
And then you have Archippus, a fellow-soldier who had received from the Lord a ministry. God laid a burden on this man. God made it clear that he had a task to do. Paul knew about it and he doesn’t hold back when he tells Archippus point blank, “fulfill your ministry.”
So here’s my closing thought for you today, “What is your ministry?” How has God called you, gifted you, burdened you to serve the church on behalf of Christ?” Do you have a heart for missions? Do you have a desire to serve in church leadership? Do you want to teach? Or lead a Community Group? Or be a part of the worship team? Or work behind the scenes? Has God laid on your heart a specific ministry that you need to fulfill?
We don’t all have the same gifts and we will not all serve in the same way, but we are one body in Christ and each of us has been given a gift to serve Christ and one another. And whatever our gifts may be we need to use them.
Maybe you would be interested in going to Haiti and working with young kids…we need some adult women who are willing to take on that role? Maybe you and your spouse would be willing to step up and teach a Sunday school class this year, which would allow some of our regular teachers to have a break. Maybe you’re interested in starting a Community group to help all these new families get plugged into Cornerstone. Maybe there is something else that you are longing to do to serve Christ and His church and you just don’t know how to get started.
I want to talk with you, the elders want to talk with you to dream up, plan out, prepare for and take the next step in you fulfilling your ministry. Let’s work together to make the grace of Jesus non-ignorable here at Cornerstone and in the community of Wylie. There are a lot more than 12 names in this room today and I’m sure we can be broken up into more than 4 categories, but if you are a born-again follower of Christ then you and everyone else has 1 purpose.
That purpose is to bring glory to God by making disciples of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit to the ends of the earth. Brothers and sisters fulfill your ministry.
 SONGWRITERS - BEN KING, JERRY LEIBER, MIKE STOLLER