2019-3-10 Finishing Well

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          March 10, 2019

“Finishing Well”
Colossians 4:17

I competed as a varsity distance athlete during my high school years—on the cross-country team in the fall and on the track team in the spring.  The years, and the races, taught me that no one wins without running the full distance.  Sometimes a runner began, and began well—only to sustain an injury, or to fall prey to harsh conditions, or to pay the price for too ambitious an early pace.  No one won a race without running it to its very end.  The years, and the races, also taught me that finishing well, sometimes, is the difference between victory and defeat—and my career, both in victory and in defeat, displayed this.  I see now that, as an active Christian pastor and a retired distance runner, these truths from distance racing apply in Christian life and ministry.  Let’s explore this further as we hear Paul’s Spirit-led exhortation unto Archippus—and to us.

(HERE READ THE TEXT)

The Holy Spirit leads Paul to mention Archippus only twice: here, in Colossians 4:17, and in Philemon 2.  He is a minister at some level in Colosse—and, hence, he is a co-laborer in the Colossian church with Epaphras, the founder.  It is at least possible that Archippus is the senior pastor of the church in Epaphras’ absence.  Some suggest that Archippus is a kinsman to Philemon (cf. Philemon 2), perhaps even Philemon’s son—for it makes little sense to include Archippus as an addressee if he is not somehow closely associated with Philemon.  This background serves us well as we examine the Holy Spirit’s charge, through Paul, to Archippus.

Paul commands the saints and faithful brothers (Colossians 1:1) at Colosse, “Say to Archippus….”  They, in relaying Paul’s words, will command Archippus in turn, “See (thou)….”  The Holy Spirit, through Paul’s pen and the Colossian church, will call Archippus to pay careful attention—to take special notice—for something likely is amiss.  Either some needful aspect of the ministry has been left undone, or the work generally has been discharged in slack, slovenly manner.  Discouragement, timidity, physical ailment, or other cause may account for the need to exhort Archippus.  Whatever the cause, the exhortation comes—let’s now examine it.

Archippus is to fulfill (Greek pleroo [plhrow]) his ministry.[1]  He shall cause his ministry to happen, with fulfilling its purpose implied.  He also will make his ministry total and complete.  He furthermore will finish his ministry, having done everything involved.  In short, Archippus, in fulfilling his ministry, will complete it (cf. NIV)—whether it may take a relatively brief period of time or the rest of his natural life.  This ministry is service: both fundamentally unto the LORD and secondarily unto the Church and the world—and these according to gift mix and providential station.  In Archippus’ case, he will discharge the duties incumbent upon a pastor.  He will preach the Good News of Jesus Christ and teach the whole counsel of God—Scripture in toto.  He will care for the people’s souls with encouragement, counsel, and wise words tailored to the individual Christian and situation.  He will share the Gospel with those outside God’s saving love—that God, by His grace, may draw them into His fold for eternal safe-keeping.  He will lead the people in their public worship of God.  This, and more, Archippus, will do—and he, like many other ministers of the Gospel, including me, will cry with Paul, “Who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Corinthians 2:16).  To that cry come the Spirit’s answer, again through Paul, “Our sufficiency is from God” (2 Corinthians 3:5).

Archippus needs to remember that he received his ministry from the Lord.  It was neither self-invented nor self-chosen.  Rather, it was given as a gracious gift and solemn charge from the Lord.  It is the Lord Christ (Colossians 3:24) that we serve, and Archippus, and we, will do well to bear this in mind as we serve our risen King of kings and Lord of lords.

Today’s verse applies pointedly to those in full-time vocational ministry; we need not tarry longer over this here—though I may tarry personally over it for quite a while.  Today’s verse also applies generally to every Christian.  We each have ministries that the Lord has given us—and these are consistent with our gift mixes and providential stations.  We discharge these ministries, moreover, to glorify God and to bless Church and world.  If you are unsure of your particular ministry, or of your unique gift mix, then please let me know.  I’d consider it a great honor to try to help.

Let us also be diligent in the discharge of those ministries that the Lord has given unto us.  Let us not omit any needful part, and let us slough off every temptation to sluggishness.  Rest assured, those temptations will come.  Let us serve the Lord with happy diligence for as long as the ministry lasts.  Some works to which God calls us are for a season only.  Others are for as long as we last on earth—and, in that case, God will equip us for the long haul at the right pace, with seasons of rest and refreshment interspersed.  All of us, at the close of this life’s day, want to say with Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).  Let us, then, from wherever we are in life, finish well for God’s glory.

AMEN.

[1] For the following nuances of pleroo, among others not cited here, I am indebted to Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, eds., Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1989).

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