“And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it” (Colossians 4:17).
And who was Archippus? Why was he singled out and addressed specially by the apostle? Was this special address to his credit or to his discredit?
All we know about him is that he was connected with the church at Colosse, and that Paul could speak honourably of him as a fellow-soldier. (See Philemon 2.) That is all. He had received a service from the Lord, and he was a fellow-soldier of the apostle. There was thus a strong link between Archippus and Paul. They were fellow-servants and comrades-in-arms, having the same Master to obey and the same Captain to follow. Their hearts and hands were united. But, besides this interesting link, Archippus was under direct and special orders from the Lord. He had a ministry—a service—to fulfil. What this may have been we are not told. Was it the possession of “gift,” as bestowed upon him from an ascended Christ, such as evangelist, pastor, or teacher? or did it lie in the performance of some minor service for the saints at Colosse or elsewhere—as, for instance, “Sister Phoebe” was recognised as a “servant of the church at Cenchrea,” being entrusted with a special kind of service, and commissioned, apparently, to convey from Corinth to Rome the epistle written to that assembly? This was an important service faithfully accomplished, to the benefit not only of “all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called saints,” but of myriads of others, also beloved of God. This we know. Thus Phoebe was a minister, and her ministry was highly honourable—though beautifully hidden—and Archippus, too, may have been equally honoured by a service of danger, for which only one who could be styled a “fellow-soldier” was truly fitted.
Courage was needed for the ministry of Christ in those early days. “Drawing-room-carpet” soldiers were of no use then! “Men” who hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” were in demand, and were, thank God, forthcoming. That was the credential for the field in days when the fire burned, and the sword smote, and the lion raged!
Courage for the truth, courage for service, courage for Christ—that was the grand qualification at such a time.
Men of a different kind crept into Corinth, and did their best to undermine the God-given authority of the apostle in that church; but he spoke of coming thither, and of knowing “not the speech of them that were puffed up, but the power, for,” said he (and let us mark most carefully and diligently the fact) “the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.” What marks that kingdom is not speech, but power—and that ever and always, although the power may not be such as dazzles nature, or carries merely human applause.
Still, it is power and not talk, unction and not utterance, courage and not carnal prudence. Did Archippus, after all, lack this credential because the apostle enjoined him to take heed to the ministry? The exhortation is exquisite and full of encouragement. It is easy to be brave when there is no foe! But Archippus, and all such, had foes on every hand. “There were giants in those days” on both sides, and quarter was neither asked nor taken—at least in comparison. But Archippus was to fulfil the ministry. There might have been a temptation to accomplish three-fourths or nine-tenths of it, and leave the remainder. No, the service must be fulfilled. Hence the force of the exhortation. The chief honour lies in the finishing touch. That tells the master hand. And for Archippus to apply that touch would be his greatest good and highest honour.
Did he thus fulfil? We cannot say. But we do know of One who, reviewing His service of perfect and undeviating faithfulness, could truthfully say “I have finished the work that Thou gavest Me to do” (John 17:4). In Him all credentials for effective service centred and culminated. He needed no exhortation to fulfil His blessed and gracious service. The will of God was ever the delight of His heart, and His glory the one commanding object of His lonely life.
But He, the Son of God and Son of man, stands alone. We, His poor faltering servants, need often to be exhorted, like Archippus, to take heed to our ministry that we fulfil it.
May His grace enable us to do so.