Greet the brothers in Laodicea, as well as Nympha and the church that meets at her house. After this letter has been read among you, make sure that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans, and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea. Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.” This greeting is in my own hand—Paul. Remember my chains. Grace be with you. (Col. 4:15-18 BSB)
The letter ends somewhat unceremoniously, and there is a very important message in this ending. Rarely does life seem to offer the “grand exit” for people. The old saying about old soldiers just fading away is true for most of us. But Paul gave us a great example in these final words in that he did not grandstand but just kept on saying what was on his heart to say until the end.
Laodicea was not far from Colosse, and he knew they had contact with one another. He had also written to them and there has been significant speculation about that letter, that perhaps it is in our Bible under another name. Usually Ephesians is named as this possible letter. But it would not be surprising that the letter was simply lost. This does not mean that the promise of the eternal nature of the Word of God — “heaven and earth shall pas away but my words will never pass away (Matt. 24:35) — is made invalid. None of God’s word has been lost, but, perhaps, one of Paul’s letters did not seem worthy of God to include in the New Testament. This should not surprise us or upset us. The message of our salvation in Christ and all that we need to know to grow in Christ is in the New Testament.
Nympha or Nymphos, depending on the translator, is mentioned as having a church in her (his) house. This is all we know of this person. It is important to remember to understand the New Testament, that the churches of the New Testament met often in private homes. It was rare in the first century that a church had a building dedicated only for their use. Here was someone who had hosted Paul and his comrades, perhaps, but in true Oriental tradition, proper manners demands that he at least greet this brother or sister in the Lord.
But, again, it is important to follow Paul’s example and remember constantly that people who may not seem so important to others may be very much used of God to do significant things. We should hold all in the esteem of the cross where the blood of Christ was shed for them.
Achrippus is mentioned also in Philemon 1:2, but otherwise he is unknown. The short command was an encouragement for him not to despair in the work that he was doing for God. There is in this the idea that is often derived from “sanctified common sense,” here supported by scripture, that God leads and directs us in life to serve in a certain place for a certain season in order to achieve a certain thing for Him. The fact that we cannot always put rigid boundaries in terms of years or specific achievements, does not mean that there is not something specific God calls us to do. When we have completed our God-given task, then we may move on to the next task God has for us.
Sometimes these times or seasons are very short, and sometimes they are very long. Philip the deacon was in Samaria for only a short time, and in the wilderness with the Ethiopian Eunuch for even a shorter time, but he had apparently completed the tasks in those places that God gave him. But this teaches us about the freedom of the believer and the obligation of the believer. We go where God leads us, we stay where God puts us, until by the Holy Spirit we have done what God has commanded us to do.
Chains and grace: What more appropriate way could there be to end this letter than this? “Remember my chains,” was not a cry out of self-pity or for attention. Rather it was a statement that put before them both the needs of Paul and their obligation to him, and the importance of prayer. They had few examples of Christian fortitude in that day and age among the Gentile churches, so Paul’s example was important for them to know and to follow.
The grace of God would sustain him and them through it all. Whatever befalls us, we can be confident that God will be with us to uplift us and strengthen us and to use us beyond what we could ever do in our own strength for Him. It is always good for every Christian to keep in mind constantly that the grace of God surrounds his life and his every waking moment, and will go before him into eternity and is even preparing a place for him there. And the grace of God will come along after we are gone from this earth to minister to others through our efforts and memories.