Al Jackson says when people think about names from the Bible, they often think of the heroes of the faith listed in Hebrews 11, or they think about Jesus’ disciples.
But at the end of Colossians, those aren’t the names you find.
“These names are not familiar to us,” said Jackson, pastor emeritus of Lakeview Baptist Church in Auburn, Alabama. “We name our sons Paul or Peter or John. We don’t name our sons Tychicus or Aristarchus.”
But even though few might know their names, they are partners in gospel ministry, he said.
“There are no insignificant saints, no insignificant churches, no insignificant pastors.”
And each person listed in Colossians 4:7–18 has something to teach the saints today, Jackson said.
He might not have been a scholar or orator, but Tychicus is an example of the significance of faithful service, Jackson said.
“Tychicus was a man who had the confidence and the trust of the Apostle Paul so much so that he entrusted to him the responsibility of delivering the letter to the church,” he said. “He proved to be trustworthy, and thank goodness, or else we would not have this portion of the Holy Scripture for our lesson today.”
Onesimus was a slave in the household of Philemon before he stole from his master and ran away.
“He came to a saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and apparently was being discipled by the Apostle Paul,” Jackson said. “Paul sent him back to his master not as a runaway slave but now as a brother in Christ. He had been transformed by the Lord Jesus Christ.”
As such, Onesimus was a picture of the significance of reconciliation both with God and with others, Jackson said. “We are reconciled to God and to all of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We don’t harbor hostility or bitterness or an unforgiving spirit … we show love even to our adversaries.”
3. Aristarchus, Mark and Jesus Justus
Aristarchus and Mark both accompanied Paul on missionary journeys, and Jesus Justus had both a Jewish name (Jesus) and a Roman name (Justus).
“These three (Jewish followers of Christ) clearly crossed ethnic and cultural barriers in proclaiming the gospel of salvation,” Jackson said. “Now, there’s an example there for us of the significance of cross-cultural ministry because Jesus said, before He ascended back to heaven, ‘All authority in heaven and earth has been given to Me, therefore go and make disciples of all the nations.’”
Epaphras demonstrated the significance of intercessory prayer in the way he prayed personally, specifically and fervently for the church in Colossae.
“Think about that,” Jackson said. “Here is the founding pastor, and he’s a thousand miles to the west of Colossae, in the city of Rome, but he was ministering to them and for them by means of intercessory prayer.”
Luke, the Gospel writer, showed the significance of loyalty in the way he also accompanied Paul on many missionary journeys and stayed with him when the situation got difficult, Jackson said.
“Luke was loyal to Paul,” he said. “In fact, if you look in 2 Timothy 4 in prison when he’s about to be executed he writes and mentioned Luke several names. He says, ‘Only Luke is with me.’”
There is some word of commendation for every person in the passage except Demas.
“Perhaps even at this stage the Apostle Paul had detected some flaw in Demas’ character, and we know from 2 Timothy 4:10 that he turned away from Paul,” Jackson said.
Demas demonstrates the tragic significance of falling away, he said. “Either we live for this world, or we live for the world to come when King Jesus returns to establish His kingdom. There is no evidence that we have in the Bible that Demas apostatized — he fell in love with this world. It became more attractive to him than the Lord Jesus Christ was attractive to him.”
Jackson urged pastors to remember that this can happen to anyone — that worldliness has sidelined many a pastor over the years.
“It can happen to any of us,” he said. “We must guard our hearts.”
A church met in Nympha’s home, which shows the significance of her hospitality.
“You don’t have to have a big home to be hospitable, you just have to have a big heart,” Jackson said. “And for those of you young men who are not yet married, marry well. Marry a young lady who has a heart for hospitality.”
Paul sent a message to Archippus — “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.”
Jackson said it’s possible he was considering walking away like Demas, and Paul encouraged him to stay.
“We all have seasons, do we not, that we want to walk away from ministry,” Jackson said. “I tell young preachers there are only three kinds of churches — hard, harder and hardest. … Pastoral ministry doesn’t take place on the playground; it takes place on a battlefield.”
That’s why perseverance is so significant, he said, as are the seven characteristics before it.
These eight people who demonstrate them “are not insignificant followers of Christ,” Jackson told those present at the conference. “My dear pastor, fellow pastor, you do not have an insignificant ministry. You may be in a very isolated place. You may preach to only a handful of people. But whether you preach to five or 5,000, your work is infinitely and eternally significant.”
The work pastors are called to is more important than what takes place in the Oval Office or the halls of Congress, he said. “Let the legislators make the laws. Let the barons of Wall Street make the money. But let me preach and let you preach and let us preach the glorious gospel of the bloody cross and an empty tomb and do not, do not ever let the devil tell you otherwise.”
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For more stories from the 2022 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting, visit thebaptistpaper.org/sbc2022.