God Uses Many People to Accomplish His Purposes

Rob Green April 9, 2017 Colossians 4:7-18

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10 people that God used to accomplish his purposes

I. Paul: The one with a shameful past and challenging present (4:18)

Colossians 4:18 - I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my imprisonment. Grace be with you.

Philippians 3:4-7 - …although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.

2 Corinthians 11:23-28 - Are they servants of Christ?—I speak as if insane—I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death.    Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.

II. Tychicus: The one with a servant’s heart (4:7-8)

Colossians 4:7-8 - As to all my affairs, Tychicus, our beloved brother and faithful servant and fellow bond-servant in the Lord, will bring you information. For I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts…

A. Beloved brother

2 Timothy 4:12 - But Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus

B. Faithful servant

C. Fellow bond-servant in the Lord

III. Onesimus: The one willing to do what is right (4:9)

Colossians 4:9 - …and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of your number. They will inform you about the whole situation here.

Philemon 11-13 - …who formerly was useless to you, but now is useful both to you and to me. I have sent him back to you in person, that is, sending my very heart, whom I wished to keep with me, so that on your behalf he might minister to me in my imprisonment for the gospel…

IV. Aristarchus: The one with a sympathetic heart (4:10a)

Colossians 4:10a - Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, sends you his greetings…

V. Mark: The one who made a big mistake (4:10b)

Colossians 4:10b - …and also Barnabas’s cousin Mark (about whom you received instructions; if he comes to you, welcome him)…

Acts 15:37-39 - Barnabas wanted to take John, called Mark, along with them also. But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work and there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus.

VI. Justus: The one who is committed when few others are (4:11)

Colossians 4:11 - …and also Jesus who is called Justus; these are the only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are from the circumcision, and they have proved to be an encouragement to me.

VII. Epaphras: The one who was the focused shepherd (4:12-13)

Colossians 4:12-13 - Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God. For I testify for him that he has a deep concern for you and for those who are in Laodicea and Hierapolis.

VIII. Luke: The one with a special skill (4:14a)

Colossians 4:14 - Luke, the beloved physician, sends you his greetings…

IX. Demas: The one who would quit (4:14b)

Colossians 4:14b - …and also Demas.

X. Archippus: The one who needed encouragement (4:17)

Colossians 4:17 - Say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.”

Outlined Manuscript

Jesus Uses Different People for His Purposes Colossians 4:7-18 

Aaron Birk 4-4-2017

All of us love to receive personal handwritten letters from people we love. When your child at school writes you…when your close friend on the other side of the world sends their greetings…When I receive beautiful notes from my wife.....hand-written notes I give attention to all the details. You think about every word, every emoji, every punctuation. And how much more if it was from a loved one who you have not heard from in a while and you knew they were in a situation of suffering.

The letter of Colossians is written by Paul to his Christian family…the church in Colossae. The passage today is Paul’s final remarks and personal greetings…his encouragement to the church…and to let his family (Christians throughout Asia) know how he is doing. He signs his personal greetings by his own hand…as he suffers for Christ in a Roman prison. As we read this today…consider the suffering and encouragement in such circumstances. God wants us to be encouraged. God wants us to know that Jesus is supreme. And from the passage to see how 

Jesus uses different people for his purposes.

Read Colossians 4:7-18

1. Jesus uses people with shameful pasts.

Jesus changes Paul from a persecutor of Christ to a preacher of Christ.

“You have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. . . . [But now those who once feared me are saying,] “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they glorified God because of me.”

Galatians 1:13, 23–24 ESV

"But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.” 1 Tim. 1:16 NIV

 

Jesus changes people for God’s amazing plans and not for Paul’s plans.

Jesus changes Paul from a hater of Jesus to a lover of Jesus.

Paul tries to stop the spread of the good news about Jesus to the world…

BUT Jesus uses Paul to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to the world.

 

“The Good News has been preached all over the world, and I, Paul, have been appointed as God’s servant to proclaim it.” Colossians 1:23 NLT

 

No one can stop Jesus doing what he wants. His life changing work throughout the world can’t be stopped.

 

You and I have ugly pasts as well. The way we have treated others and God we often can’t forget. But Christ changed Paul’s life to put the past sins behind him and to seek Jesus and to know Jesus, even if it means sharing in the sufferings of Jesus.

 

[Personal Example]

Jesus uses even people with shameful pasts like Paul who persecuted Jesus, and makes them preachers of Jesus’s love.

 

2. Jesus uses people with a servant heart.

Jesus changes Tychicus from an unfortunate Gentile to a fortunate servant.

You may have never heard of Tychicus, he is not talked about much probably in your bible study, or over coffee, or his life described as the super-Christian. But Jesus looks at the heart, and uses this non-Jewish man in significant ways because is a faithful servant and has a servant’s heart. 

 

Paul sends Tychichus to encourage the church and tell them all the details about being in prison in Rome. Paul says…

 

“As to all my affairs, Tychicus … will bring you information” (v.7)

“For I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts” (v.8)

“They will inform you about the whole situation here.” (v.9)

Paul never went to the Colossian Church, and Tychicus must travel from Rome to the Colossians to deliver letters. One letter is the letter to the Colossians which we are studying together, the other is the letter Ephesians to the Ephesian church.

 

“To bring you up to date, Tychicus will give you a full report about what I am doing and how I am getting along. He is a beloved brother and faithful helper in the Lord’s work. 22 I have sent him to you for this very purpose—to let you know how we are doing and to encourage you.” Ephesians 6:21-22

 

Lastly, is the letter of Philemon which is about Onesimus who is going with Tychichus. 

 

Now Tychichus names means fortunate (lucky) …Tychicus was from Asia Minor, the location of the Colossian and Ephesian churches (the west coast of Turkey)

 

[Show Map of Churches]

 

Jesus desires to change the lives of non-Jewish people. Tychicus is not Jewish. So Tychicus did not grow up hearing the promises of God in the Old Testament. He did not regularly go to temple to hear about God. He was not Jewish. But Jesus changes the life of Tychicus, and uses Christians to bring the good news about Jesus Christ to him and Tychichus trusts in Jesus. 

 

We know then that Tychicus becomes a traveling friend of Paul on his journeys to share Jesus Christ throughout the world.

 

It might look like Tychicus’s background is unfortunate being born in a non-Jewish home, but Jesus changes his life and he becomes a changed man…

 

Paul describes Tychichus as…

 

“Beloved Brother…Faithful Servant…Fellow Bond-Servant.” 

 

Tychicus is changed by Christ to be a man fortunate to carry news to the churches of Asia, Tychichus is fortunate to carry important news of Paul’s situation…And fortunate to tell Christians throughout the world how Jesus Christ is changing lives even in Rome. Tychicus is a faithful servant and messenger…he has a servant’s heart, Jesus uses him for the advance of the gospel.

 

Jesus changes people from unfortunate circumstances to be servants of the greatest fortune in all the world…Jesus Christ. 

 

3. Jesus uses the rebel.

Jesus changes Onesimus from a useless rebel to a useful brother.

 - Onesimus is a runaway slave. One of the letters that Paul writes during  his time in Prison in Rome is the letter Philemon.

 

“It seems you lost Onesimus for a little while so that you could have him back forever. He is no longer like a slave to you. He is more than a slave, for he is a beloved brother, especially to me. Now he will mean much more to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord.” Philemon 15-16 NLT

 

 - Paul encourages us Jesus’s plans were to allow Onesimus to be lost and a runaway slave for a short time so that he could be found by Jesus and returned forever as a brother in Christ. The name Onesimus means useful. And Paul shares in his letter to Philemon how Christ changes Onesimus from a useless rebellious slave to a useful brother. Runaway slaves were killed. But Paul says something different…

 

“I appeal to you to show kindness to my child, Onesimus. I became his father in the faith while here in prison. Onesimus hasn’t been of much use to you in the past, but now he is very useful to both of us. I am sending him back to you, and with him comes my own heart.” Philemon 10-11 NLT

 

Jesus changes Onesimus’s life when he flees to Rome. So he’s a runaway slave in the giant city of Roma and of all people…he meets Paul in prison who tells Onesimus about Jesus Christ. Onesimus trusts in Jesus and is a changed man. Onesimus is now returning to his former master, no longer a rebellious slave, but a changed man.

 

Earlier in Colossians 3 God instructs slaves and masters…

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything you do. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. Serve them sincerely b ecause of your reverent fear of the Lord.” Colossians 3:22 NLT

 

Jesus changes Onesimus…Onesimus now fears God desires to obey God and reconcile the relationship with his Master, Philemon.

Jesus shows mercy and love to useless rebels like you and I and changes us to useful brothers and sisters in Christ.

 

4. Jesus uses people with sympathetic hearts.

Jesus uses Aristarchus to be a sympathetic companion.

Aristarchus was a Jew who was from the city of Thessalonica which is in Macedonia. When Paul first goes to the city, the Jews are so opposed to the gospel…they are violent. But a few Jews believe from this city and accompany Paul in Acts 17. Most the Jews of Thessalonica are pretty against the spread of the gospel.

By Acts 19-20 – Aristarchus travels with Paul to and from Macedonia

But Aristarchus is loyal servant of Christ and in Acts 27 – Aristarchus is with Paul when Paul goes to Rome to be tried as a prisoner. 

Once Paul writes from prison in Rome (Colossians, Philemon, Ephesians, and Philippians) and Aristarchus is with him.

And now Paul mentions how this Jewish man, from a city that was very hostile to the gospel, is a fellow co-worker… one of the three Jewish men working with him in Rome.

Aristarchus has such a sympathetic heart to the sufferings of others that he voluntarily cares for Paul while in prison.

You may not be a preacher or teacher like Paul, but I know many in our family that have sympathetic hearts, that Jesus uses for caring for those suffering

…you have opportunities with Griefshare…cancer ministry…for the children at Hartford Hub, foster care…adoption, Jobs for Life etc.

Jesus uses people with sympathetic hearts for marvelous purposes that impacts the lives of many.

5. Jesus uses people who make a big mistake.

Jesus uses Mark’s mistake to make him a courageous comforter.

- John Mark who is called Mark in the Bible, was a Jewish Christian. Mark’s mother, had a house in the city of Jerusalem where the early church met (cf. Acts 12:12)

 

- Mark is the writer of the book of Mark, which is one of the 4 gospel books in the Bible about the life of Jesus. 

- Mark is the cousin of Barnabas (Col. 4:10).

- The fact the Paul mentions Mark in this letter is proof of how Jesus changing Mark’s life.

- Paul and Mark have some past friendship issues (…they have a history).

In Acts 13: 5, 13 – Mark is with Paul and his Barnabas and they are on their way to present day Turkey to tell people about the good news about Jesus Christ. The journey we know is tough…and Mark leaves Paul and Barnabas… Can you imagine…when you need faithful friends the most…they leave you.

So later, Paul is in Jerusalem (Mark’s hometown) with his traveling companion Barnabas. Remember Mark is Barnabas’s cousin and guess who’s there. It’s Paul’s good friend Mark…awkward family reunion…Paul and Barnabas back from their missionary journey suffering for Christ to share Jesus with those who have never heard about Jesus…and there’s John Mark…the one who left them.

Paul and Barnabas are about to travel again on another journey…and we get to hear more about their relationship problems in Acts 15

“Barnabas agreed and wanted to take along John Mark. But Paul disagreed strongly, since John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in their work. Their disagreement was so sharp that they separated. Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus.” Acts 15:37-39 NLT

 

Paul refused to allow Mark to go with him as a companion on his travels, so Barnabas, Paul’s companion actually chooses to take Mark and sail for Cyprus. 

 

Jesus changes the life of Mark dramatically…and Barnabas and Peter were both important people that Jesus used to encourage Mark to become faithful even through suffering.

Jesus mark mistake and Barnabas’s encouragement to be a courageous comforter for Paul..

- Mark encourages and supports Paul. Mark is with Paul in Rome during his first imprisonment…and represents Paul to churches throughout the area of present day Turkey (Philemon 24; Col. 4:10). 

- Jesus changes Mark so much that Paul asks for Mark to come to Rome to be with him during his final imprisonment before Paul dies, because Mark is so useful.

Pauls says,

…Bring Mark with you when you come, for he will be helpful to me in my ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:11 NLT

How amazing that Jesus changes the unfaithful coward Mark so much Paul says this about Mark in verse 11:

“…these (even including Mark!) are the only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are from the circumcision, and they have proved to be an encouragement to me.” Colossians 1:11

Jesus changes unfaithful cowards into courageous comforters. Praise God! 

There are some here who recently made a giant foolish mistake that you regret…or know a loved one who has…When I have made foolish mistakes it is easy to think I can never be useful again…but Jesus wants us to learn to grow and mature from our mistakes, not to be fearful of messing up and failing. 

6. Jesus uses committed people.

Jesus uses Justus who is committed to Jesus, despite the numbers.

Colossians 4:11 and also Jesus who is called Justus; these are the only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are from the circumcision, and they have proved to be an encouragement to me.

The number of faithful Jews seems so small, but Jesus uses the commitment of a few for great things. Justus is one of the few committed Jews. 

It’s easy to give up. You might be tempted to stop leading a Bible Study, to stop inviting co-workers, or feel like you are the only one sharing Jesus in your family…We have hope knowing that Jesus uses faithful committed followers for purposes that are greater than what we usually see.

 

7. Jesus uses people who labor in prayer

Jesus uses Epaphras’s labor in prayer for building up others, even when Epaphras cannot help physically.

Paul encourages the church, that one of their own leaders, Epaphras greets them.

Epaphras is the man who told Paul about the Colossian church because he brought the good news about Jesus Christ to the Colossians. Paul says,

You learned about the Good News from Epaphras, our beloved co-worker. He is Christ’s faithful servant, and he is helping us on your behalf.” Col. 1:7

Paul gives thanks for people like Ephaphras…servants of Christ…brothers and sisters who pray with intense passion for you…Epaphras encourages Paul. Paul tells how much Epaphras cares for the Colossians. He continually prays they mature as Christians in their faith…he wants the Colossians to be confident in God’s will. Look at verse 12:

“Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God.” (v.12)

As Christians at times we can be immature and doubt God’s will. Just like us, the Colossians should not doubt God’s word is true. Jesus Christ is the Creator and Ruler of the universe and they should be confident of God’s will being accomplished in Jesus Christ. God’s will is accomplished in and through prayers of his people.

[Example of Kevitt in Prayer]

Epaphras prays for the Colossians just as our pastors pray for you. Jesus uses people who labor in prayer.

8. Jesus uses those with education and special skills.

Jesus changes Dr. Luke from an educated skeptic to a faithful believer. 

- Luke is the author of the gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts.

- Luke accompanies Paul throughout many of his travels…And serves as Paul’s personal physician, since he was a doctor. But Luke was not Jewish. Luke was a Gentile born in Syria. And in the gospel of Luke, which Luke wrote…Luke mentions his careful study and investigation into the truth about Jesus Christ. As Luke meets eyewitnesses, studies the information about Jesus from others, Jesus changes Luke’s heart from a skeptic of Jesus to a believer in Jesus.

“…it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.” Luke 1:3-4

- Luke, the loved physician of Paul, travels throughout the world spreading the good news about Jesus Christ and helping in whatever way he can, especially as Paul’s personal physician.

- Luke is with Paul in Rome during his imprisonments as a faithful supporter and encourager.

- Before Paul’s death in Rome when Paul is imprisoned for the second time….Luke is with Paul.

Only Luke is with me.” 2 Timothy 4:11a NLT

[Examples of individuals with special skills at Faith West]

Jesus changes people like Luke…educated skeptics with special skills…to faithful believers.

9. Jesus uses people who turn away from God. 

Jesus uses Demas for his purposes even though he quits following Jesus.

Colossians 4:14b 

Later on Demas will leave the ministry in order to pursue the pleasures of the world. Consider…Jesus was using a man who would later stop serving. God knew that and Jesus uses him anyway to spread the love of Christ.

“Demas has deserted me because he loves the things of this life and has gone to Thessalonica” 2 Timothy 4:10

is that God was using a man who would later stop serving. God knew that. 

We pray that this would not happen to any of us. By God’s grace we will live for Christ all the days of our lives. 

-But remember this … Jesus uses those who turn from God. 

10. Jesus uses people who need encouragement.

Jesus uses Archippus who needs encouragement. 

It is possible that Archippus was taking care of the Colossian church while Epaphras was away, but we are not sure. He clearly had some ministry responsibility he needed encouragement to faithful complete.

Say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.” Colossians 4:17

There are individuals in your life that Jesus wants to use you to comfort and encourage to continue to live faithfully for Christ. 

What a comfort to know when we feel overwhelmed and in need of help and encouragement, Jesus still uses us.

Brothers and Sisters…the book of Colossians is all about Jesus being first. Colossians shows Jesus is like no other in power and wisdom. 

From the closing remarks be encouraged that Jesus is Lord, he uses everyone, all people for his marvelous purposes. 

We must trust in Jesus and seek to do his will. May Jesus’s will be done in our lives as we seek to serve him and may the good news of Jesus Christ continue to spread as we are faithful servants to complete the good works Jesus has for us.

Rob Green

B.S. - Engineering Physics, Ohio State University
M.Div. - Baptist Bible Seminary
Ph.D. - New Testament, Baptist Bible Seminary

Pastor Rob Green and his wife, Stephanie, joined the Faith staff in August, 2005.  Rob’s responsibilities include oversight of the Faith Biblical Counseling Ministry and teaching New Testament at the Faith Bible Seminary. He serves on the council board of the Biblical Counseling Coalition and as a fellow at the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors.

Read Rob Green's Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Green to Faith Church.