It was common for letter writers in the first-century Greco-Roman world to include several greetings from the author and his companions in the closing lines of their epistles. This was true also when the apostles sent their correspondence, and in today’s passage, Paul begins to draw his epistle to the Colossians to a close with remarks about two of his brothers-in-the-Lord, Tychicus and Onesimus.
Tychicus was likely the courier who brought the epistle to the Colossians to the church in Colossae. Many commentators believe that he also carried the letters to Ephesians and Philemon with him for delivery in the region, but in any case, he was going to stay in Colossae at least long enough to provide the church there with more information about Paul’s imprisonment (Col. 4:7–9). We do not know very much about Tychicus. He first appears in Scripture in Acts 20:1–4 as one of the apostle’s traveling companions through Macedonia. Hailing from Asia, it is possible that he was originally from Ephesus, as that city would have been considered part of Asia in the ancient Roman world. In any case, it is plain that he was regarded as a “beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord,” for that is how he is described in Ephesians 6:21 and Colossians 4:7. He also appears in 2 Timothy 4:12 and Titus 3:12 as one whom Paul sent to work among the believers in other places.
Onesimus, as we will see in due time, was a runaway slave who once belonged to Philemon. Apparently, Onesimus was an unbeliever when he ran away from Philemon, but he became a Christian under Paul’s ministry and was sent back to his master (Philem. 10, 15–16). He seems to have been radically converted under the preaching and counsel of the apostle, for Paul saw him as a “faithful and beloved brother.” Onesimus was one of the Colossians, that is, he was from Colossae (Col. 4:9).
The references to these men and others in the closing verses of Colossians indicate that Paul inspired love and loyalty. It would be a caricature of the apostle, then, to view him as a loner who made more enemies than friends. Though it is important for believers to stand for the gospel, we must not mistake standing for the truth with being unnecessarily confrontational. Let us do all we can to build partnerships with other believers and work to promote peace and love in the church.
As believers in the gospel of Jesus Christ, we must always speak the truth, but we must always speak it in love (Eph. 4:15). Our default position should be to build networks with other believers and churches who are passionate for the gospel even when they may have different styles and priorities, not to work or act as if ministries and churches that do not do things the way we do are somehow unworthy of our friendship.