There are three clear exhortations in the final verses of this wonderful letter:
- Read it (16): It is important that Paul’s letters are read. Still today their contents are to be digested by the churches. Don’t neglect the Bible as a whole. Don’t let the Apostle Paul stay on the shelf! (This verse shows that there was another letter written by Paul to a neighbouring church at Laodicea. These letters were to be swapped over and read by both churches.) In living the Christian life we don’t make it up as we go along. We are not left to our own devices to decide what is right and wrong. We have authoritative documents, and they are to be obeyed and not merely considered.
- Stick with it (17): Jesus said: ‘’No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’’ (Luke 9:62). Did ‘’Archippus’’ feel like giving up? And what happened to ‘’Demas’’ (14)? There surely is a warning in his story (2 Tim.4:10)? All kinds of forces can combine and conspire against those in Christian service, causing us to feel tempted to drop out of the race. The way to persevere is to ‘’fix’’ our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). If anyone could have given up it was Jesus. Nobody suffered like He did. But He ‘’endured’’. (By the way, we are all in Christian service!!)
- Remember them (18): This is a touchingly simple comment coming at the end of the letter. There is no self-pity in it. It is the briefest reminder of his sufferings. He wanted their prayers, as we have seen. ‘’Remember to pray for me in this jail.’’ The Message. He also wanted them to remember his love for them; his heart for the church as a whole; and the cost of being a Christian. In a way those ‘’chains’’ sum up a whole way of life. Paul was chained to Christ, and as His ‘prisoner’ he knew perfect freedom.
‘’When Jesus bids a man come and follow Him, He bids him come and die.’’ Dietrich Bohnoeffer.