Colossians 4:17 And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it.
This verse says more than one thing of great relevance to today’s “church”, certainly of great relevance to the true ekklesia.
Who is this man Archippus?
For one thing, he lived in Colosse, and was a member of the ekklesia there.
For another, he had received a ministry in the Lord.
For a third, he was not fulfiling it.
Finally, Archippus slowness about fulfilling his ministry was made known to the whole ekklesia in that city (and subsequently, through the Bible, to the whole ekklesia till the end of time!)
Let’s focus on the third point. Why was Archippus not fulfilling his ministry? Did he not appreciate the position that had been conferred on him? the privilege? the honor? Why was he remiss about taking up his position?
If these are some of the questions in your mind, they would be a reflection of the state of the churches today.
Today position is considered a position, a privilege, an honor to be coveted.
In many churches, it brings in a lot of money!
Because there is a division line in rank between clergy and laity.
In charismatic and other churches which do not like to speak of clergy versus laity, the preferred term may be “leader” or “office”. They speak of the “office of prophet” versus the “gift of prophecy”. Similarly, they regard the “five-fold ministries” listed in Ephesians 4:13 as “officers” of the church, gifted men who are Christ’s gifts to the church, and as such have an office recognized by the Risen Lord.
Whatever the nomenclature, the titles, the division line in rank is still there.
It’s a division that started in the post-apostolic church.
And the division carried a message.
The ministers were special people in the church. They needed to be treated differently. They needed to be called by their title, or the title as prefix to their name. For example, Apostle Abraham, or Prophet Benjamin, or Evangelist Claudius, or Pastor Dominic, or Teacher Edward.
In the apostolic church, Peter called himself, an elder; John, your brother; Paul had to point out that he was an apostle because there were those who questioned his authority, yet otherwise he signed himself simply as Paul.
Because we treat ministers differently, men who crave different treatment are more drawn towards the “ministry”.
In contrast, in the apostolic church, these “offices” or “positions” were not comfortable to live with.
Apostles were the offscouring of the earth.
To have a calling to minister meant suffering, hardship, possibly death. Their example was Jesus. They knew that the servant could not be above the Master. If the Master was treated with dishonor, persecution, death, the servant must be willing to accept the same. They counted the cost.
In those days, few if any sought the “ministry” for self-serving reasons.
That is why Archippus had to be encouraged to fulfill the ministry that God had given him.
In those days, the ministry did not come with perquisites attached. There was no financial reward, no fame, recognition or privilege in society.
That’s why the harvest was plentiful but the laborers were few.
Archippus was not unique in needing encouragement. Paul was encouraged by Barnabas, who took him to Antioch. Timothy was encouraged by Paul (1 Timothy 1:6-8).
Moses needed encouragement, as did Joshua, Gideon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and many others.
The ekklesia would be blessed if those called to the ministry were less full of themselves, and, perhaps even timid, knowing the weight of their calling, and needing encouragement from the Lord and from their brothers in the ekklesia.