Tell Archippus: See to it that you complete
the work you have received in the Lord.
Archippus is referred to in the last sentences of Paul’s letter to the Colossians. He is also mentioned in Philemon 2, and referred to as a fellow soldier. Some think that he was the son of Philemon. As a fellow soldier with Paul, he had seen the example of Paul, was acquainted with other disciples and had been given work by the Lord which Paul reminded him to complete. Some surmise that it was a shepherding responsibility in the absence of Epaphras. Without knowing more of the details of his life and ministry, we may only speculate as to the exact call of the Lord on his life as well as the need for Paul’s reminder to complete that work.
Since memorizing this verse some thirty years ago, I have often reflected upon the need to complete the work that the Lord has given each of us to do. Although differing in scope from person to person it essentially focuses on the Great Commission. There are three aspects of making disciples included in the Great Commission. (Matthew 28:18-20) These include going (literally, as you go), bringing them into identification with Christ, and teaching them to obey.
The term “as you go” directs us to form relationships with those with whom we come into contact. This includes neighbors, relatives, co-workers and those with whom we carry on business. All of these are God given opportunities for identifying with them, serving them and praying for them in the hopes of developing a bridge that would carry the weight of the Gospel to their hearts and minds. To complete this work means that we make the most of every opportunity. We see these relationships as valuable because God’s love needs to be expressed through them. Some years ago I was challenged by the example of Lorne Sanny. After retirement from the Navigators, he made a list of all his relatives no matter how distant genealogically or geographically. He and Lucy then set out and personally visited each of them with the intent of finding out where they were spiritually and building a relationship with them. They were completing the work that God had given them to do. Are we similarly motivated with all our relatives, friends, and neighbors? Are there some with whom we need to develop relationships and trust the Lord to use our lives with them, or have we settled only for relationships with a few?
The second area of challenge for me in this verse is to bring others into identification with Christ. Paul reminds Archippus to “complete” the work. Does this leave room for the thought that “I made an effort, but they weren’t interested?” I have heard estimates that the average person hears the gospel nine times before he trusts the Lord. When should I say enough is enough, and stop my efforts to reach others for Christ? As I write this I am reminded of a man who has been a friend for the past thirty five years. On several occasions he has declined opportunities to look at the Bible together. He has been open to several devotional books and periodically we have had a short discussion about Christ. Earlier this year I thought I should make another attempt to share the Gospel with him and traveled to his home where we spent the afternoon together. As we discussed the gospel message, I could sense no repentance or admission of need on his part. He is in his late 80’’s and does not have many more years left in which to trust Christ. This verse challenges me that I have not completed what Christ would have me to do in his life. I recently purchased a book by Max Lucado called “Grace”. I plan to visit him again in the next several weeks and share some thoughts with him as well as give him the book. In as much as I am able, I hope to complete the work the Lord has given me in his life.
The third part of the Great Commission is declared to be “teaching them to obey.” I recently met with an individual involved with another ministry. He showed me some directives for a similar ministry to his in which the goal of meeting with another individual for one year was to be sure that they were attending a church. This falls woefully short of Paul’s statement in II Timothy 2:2. “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” The work God had given Paul to do in another life was not complete until he could see four generations through that person’s life. How tempted we are to think that when people are doing well spiritually, avoiding major sin, attending church services regularly, doing good works, and tithing that our work is done! As long as they remain faithful, available and teachable, our work is not complete until those they have discipled are discipling others.
Although there are a number of possible reasons why we don’t complete the work the Lord has given us in the lives of individuals, let me mention just three. These are doubt, delay, and discouragement. Doubt is the first and foremost. It is simply a lack of faith in the Lord’s ability to use us or a lack of faith in the Lord’s ability to change lives. To delay is to put off until tomorrow what I know I should do today. Tomorrow never comes. In regard to several individuals, I can recall delaying my response too long and the opportunity was lost. Discouragement occurs when we look at ourselves or at the lives of others. It is only when we steadfastly look at the Lord and His promises that we are able to complete the work we have received in the Lord. Perhaps the most encouraging verse to me in this regard is II Thessalonians 1:10. “With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith.” It is His power that will fulfill and complete His work in the lives of others. Do we have the faith that will prompt us to the acts that lead to the completion of the work He has given? It so, then we can rest in His power to enable us, like Archippus, to complete the work we have received in the Lord.