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Archippus is Encouraged to Complete His Work

Learn about Archippus

Archippus is mentioned twice in the Bible, both times in letters from Paul. First, in the letter to Philemon, Archippus is one of the addressees and is called “a fellow soldier.”

Then in Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae, he inserts a personal message to Archippus. Paul says, “See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.”

When God calls us to a task, we need to complete it. Click To Tweet

Over the years, I have talked to scores of people who enthusiastically share what God has called them to or told them to accomplish. Sadly, when I run into them later, I learn that they haven’t followed through. 

I find that something distracted them, that they decided their own ideas superseded God’s, or some such other excuse.

When God calls us to a task, we need to complete it.

[References: Philemon 1:2 and Colossians 4:17.]

Read more about other people in the New Testament in The Friends and Foes of Jesus, now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Aristarchus Suffers for His Faith

Learn More about Aristarchus

Another of Paul’s friends, mentioned in his letter to Philemon, is Aristarchus. We first hear of him in Acts. We learn that he is a Macedonian from Thessalonica who is traveling with Paul on one of his missionary journeys.

Later, when Paul is sent to Rome as a prisoner, faithful Aristarchus (along with Luke) travel with him. By his actions we see that Aristarchus is both loyal and supportive.

He is also esteemed by Paul as a fellow worker, as well as being mentioned as a fellow prisoner. Just like Epaphras, his assistance to Paul and service to God does not preclude him from suffering.

While righteous suffering for our faith is not a given, it should not be viewed as an anomaly either. Like many others, Aristarchus is afflicted for following Jesus and living a life of service to him.

If we suffer because of something foolish we said or did, that is not suffering for God, but suffering for our errors. Click To Tweet

If we do suffer, however, it is important to suffer for the right thing. If we suffer because of something foolish we said or did, that is not suffering for God. It is suffering for our own shortcomings. There is nothing noteworthy or godly about that.

If we suffer, may we suffer for the right things.

[References: Acts 19:29, 20:4, & 27:2, Philemon 1:24, and Colossians 4:10.]

Read more about other people in the New Testament in The Friends and Foes of Jesus, now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Demas, the Deserter

Learn More about Demas

Whereas John-Mark had an early collapse and then made a comeback, Demas started strong but ended in failure.

He began well. In Paul’s letter to Philemon, Demas is called a co-worker and in Paul’s letter to the Colossians, Demas sends his greetings. Clearly he was involved with Paul’s ministry in a helpful and supportive role.

However, in one of Paul’s darker moments, he sadly laments that Demas “loved the world” and “deserted me.” Despite his one-time standing as a co-laborer of Paul, the man did not finish well.

Jesus said, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Demas first looked back and then he went back, turning his back on Paul, on ministry, and on God.

Looking to our past, we see both successes and failures. Today we stand at a crossroads. What will our future look like? Click To Tweet

Unlike John/Mark who started poorly and finished strong, Demas started well and finished poorly.

Looking on our past, we see both successes and failures. Today we stand at a crossroads. What will our future look like? Will we turn our back on our faith like Demas or finish well like John-Mark?

May it not be said of use that we loved the world more than God or that we deserted our friends and colaborers when they needed us the most.

[References: Philemon 1:24, Colossians 4:14, 2 Timothy 4:10, Luke 9:62.]

Read more about other people in the New Testament in The Friends and Foes of Jesus, now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Epaphras Wrestles in Prayer

The letter to Philemon ends with a list of supporting players who send their greetings and implicitly endorse Paul’s missive of reconciliation.

First up is Epaphras, who by being singled out, stands alone in noteworthy acclaim.  Simply and succinctly, Paul notes that Epaphras is “my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus.”

The Bible only contains two other references to Epaphras, both occurring in Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae.  First, in the opening lines, Paul calls him a “dear fellow servant” and then a “faithful minister.”

Suffering for Jesus, may just be affirmation that what we are doing for him is right. Click To Tweet

Later, in his closing remarks, Paul, again confirming that Epaphras is a servant of Jesus, adds that “He is always wrestling in prayer.”  I’m not really sure what it means to wrestle in prayer, but it is a compelling image. 

I welcome anyone who would wrestle in prayer for me—and I hope to do the same for others.

So, Epaphras is a servant of Jesus, a faithful minister, and a devotee to prayer.  For this, he spends time behind bars.

Doing the right things for Jesus doesn’t necessarily keep us from suffering for him.  In fact, suffering for Jesus, may just be affirmation that what we are doing for him is right.

[Read about Epaphras in Philemon 1:23, Colossians 1:7, and Colossians 4:12.]

Read more about other people in the New Testament in The Friends and Foes of Jesus, now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Onesimus, the Useful One

The focus of Paul’s letter to Philemon is Onesimus, the runaway slave. Ironically, Onesimus means “useful.”

After Onesimus flees, he encounters Jesus through Paul. Paul mentors the escaped slave and the two begin working together. However, it is not right for him to remain with Paul—even though what they are doing is important. To do so would be to defraud Philemon of Onesimus’s labor.

So Paul encourages the runaway to return to his master, despite the risk it involves. A recaptured slave could have been punished or imprisoned for an attempted escape. To facilitate a positive reunion, Paul writes a letter to Philemon, pleading that mercy be accorded his salve.

While we don’t explicitly know the outcome of this drama, we can reasonably deduce it.

First, Paul’s petition on Onesimus’s behalf is so powerfully worded that it is hard to image anyone not complying.

Second, in the only other mention of Onesimus in the Bible, Paul announces that he is sending him and Tychicus to the people of Colossi. Paul also affirms the runaway slave as being faithful and a dear brother.

Since this trip could not have reasonably occurred prior to him returning to Philemon, it can be safely assumed that Philemon did as Paul requested, allowing his slave to return to Paul to work with him on Philemon’s behalf. This would put Onesimus in a position to take a trip to Colossi.

At last Onesimus can be useful indeed—to both Paul and Philemon, as well as to the Colossians and to God. This all happened because he did the right thing, returning to his master despite the risk.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Colossians 1-4 and today’s post is on Colossians 4:7-9.]

Read more about other people in the New Testament in The Friends and Foes of Jesus, now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Philemon and His Friends

The short, often overlooked book of Philemon is tucked towards the end of the New Testament, nestled between letters to Titus and to the Hebrews.

Philemon and Onesimus

Philemon is a letter written by Paul to his friend Philemon about a man of mutual interest, Onesimus.

The short version is that Onesimus is a slave who runs away from his master, Philemon.  Onesimus meets Paul, who tells him about Jesus, mentors him, and encourages him to do the right thing by returning to his master.

To help facilitate the reunion, Paul jots a quick note to Philemon, which has been preserved for us in the Bible.

Philemon and Others

In addition to Paul, Philemon, and Onesimus, there are eight other names mentioned in this brief correspondence: Timothy, Apphia, Archippus, Epaphras, Aristarchus, Mark, Demas, and Luke. For each there is a story to be told and insight to be gained.

Philemon and Jesus

Of course, Jesus is also rightly mentioned in Paul’s letter to Philemon, a total of six times. Jesus is actually the central character in this story, for it all revolves around him, not Philemon and Onesimus.

Is Jesus the central character in your story? Does your life all revolve around him?

[Read Philemon in the Bible.]

Read more about other people in the New Testament in The Friends and Foes of Jesus, now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Doctor Luke: A Quiet Man with a Lasting Influence

Doctor Luke was another companion of Paul. He wrote the Gospel of Luke and The Acts of the Apostles for his dear friend Theophilus, which I address in the books That You May Know (the book of Luke) and Tongues of Fire (the book of Acts).

Despite having penned two major books in the Bible—comprising about 25 percent of the content in New Testament—Luke is only mentioned three times in the Bible, so we don’t know too much about him.

First, we learn that he is a “dear friend” of Paul’s and a doctor. He is also esteemed by Paul as a “fellow worker.” Third, in one of his darker hours, Paul laments that “only Luke is with me.” As such, we see Luke as faithful and persevering.

We also know that Luke was a participant-observer in many of the events he recorded in the book of Acts. We see this through his first person narratives and the use of the pronoun “we.”

Although Doctor Luke was not a leader or an apostle, his contribution to our faith and understanding of Jesus and his church is significant. Doctor Luke’s ministry function was not leading or preaching, but rather playing a silent and almost unnoticed supporting role .

His work was quiet, but his legacy lives on, loudly influencing Jesus’ followers two millennia later.

[References: Colossians 4:14, Philemon 1:24, 2 Timothy 4:11, Acts 16:10-16, 20:4-15, 21:1-18, 27:1-29 & 37, 28:1-16.]

Read more about the book of Luke in That You May Know: A 40-Day Devotional Exploring the Life of Jesus from the Gospel of Luke, now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Read more about the book of Acts in Tongues of Fire: 40 Devotional Insights for Today’s Church from the Book of Acts, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover. [Originally published as Dear Theophilus Acts.]

Read more about other people in the New Testament in The Friends and Foes of Jesus, now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Paul the Reconciler

While Philemon is the recipient of the letter that bears his name, Paul is the author. We know a great deal about Paul, as he is mentioned over 250 times in the Bible, mostly in the book of Acts, but also in the letters that he wrote, as well as once by Peter. Only Jesus is mentioned more frequently.

From these mentions, we know Paul to be a missionary, a church leader, a church planter, a mentor, and a teacher. In the book of Philemon, we also see him emerge as an influencer to reconcile and restore broken relationships.

Reconciliation was the reason for Paul writing his letter to Philemon. Paul’s desire was to see Onesimus and Philemon’s estranged relationship made right.

Paul encouraged both of them to the right thing: for Onesimus to return to his master regardless of risk and for Philemon to welcome him back without penalty.

Paul was able to assume this role of reconciler because he had a personal relationship with both parties. This history gave him a credibility that an outsider would have lacked, allowing him to positively influence them both.

If you, like Paul, are in relationship with two estranged people, should your role be to encourage them to pursue reconciliation? If you’re not sure, talk to God about it. He may have put you in that position for this very reason.

Read more about other people in the New Testament in The Friends and Foes of Jesus, now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Jesus is the Reason

In studying the short letter to Philemon, we’ve looked at the central players of Paul (the author), Philemon (the recipient), and Onesimus (the subject).

There are also brief mentions of eight others: Timothy, Apphia, Archippus, Epaphras, Aristarchus, Luke, John-Mark, and Demas.

The foundational character, however, is Jesus. He is mentioned more often than any other in this letter, a total of six times.

The reality is that without Jesus, none of this matters. He is the ultimately the reason why this letter was written and he is the reason why each person was mentioned.

Without Jesus, Paul would not have been a missionary; without Jesus, Onesimus would have no desire to return to his master; and without Jesus, Philemon would have no reason to show mercy and offer forgiveness.

It is because of Jesus that each of the eight other characters are worthy of inclusion.

Jesus is the reason for the letter to Philemon—and the entire Bible.  Without him, nothing else really matters.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Apphia the Unknown

In the second verse of the letter to Philemon, Paul mentions two obscure people, Apphia and Archippus. Some people speculate that because they are listed together they are marriage partners or ministry partners.

While we don’t know for sure, what is clear is that Apphia is listed first.

It would have been counter-cultural in that day to list a female before a male (or perhaps to even list her at all). But God, through Paul, uses this as a means to elevate the status of women, affirming their role in his church. 

This is not to make women superior to men, but to bring them to a point of parity.

God knows us that’s what counts. Click To Tweet

What is interesting about Apphia is that this is the only mention of her in the Bible, so we have no idea what she did that was so worthy to garner such a prominent place in this letter.

It would be safe to assume that she was worthy of this, be it through her character, her faith, her service, or some other noteworthy trait.

Like Apphia, who we are and the things we do may be largely unknown, but God does know—and that’s what counts.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is from Philemon and Jude, and today’s post is on Philemon 1:2.]

Get your copy of Women of the Bible, available in e-book, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.