Archippus, Fulfill Your Ministry (Colossians 4:17)

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Audio (7:09)

Saint Archippus, Russian Orthodox icon, unknown location and artist.
Saint Archippus, Greek Orthodox icon, unknown location and artist.

Let me tell you of a warrior for Christ. He was part of a house-church in Colossae, an ancient city 100 miles east of Ephesus. One of the house-church leaders there received a special letter from Paul.

"To Philemon our beloved fellow worker and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house." (Philemon 1b-2)

I want to focus on Archippus.1 Perhaps he was Philemon's and Apphia's son, or perhaps a leader in that congregation. While Paul calls Philemon a "fellow worker,"2 a term he uses often of solid, faithful co-workers in the gospel, Archippus he singles out as a "fellow soldier," a fighter, a comrade-in-arms.3 Perhaps he is a vigorous young man, zealous in the work of the Lord, who reminds Paul of a soldier's single-minded devotion to duty. We don't know.4

Archippus is mentioned a second time in Colossians 4:17, probably written about the same time as the Letter to Philemon. There's a special message that Paul, now in prison, wants to relay to this earnest young soldier for Christ.

"Say to Archippus....

... see that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord." (ESV)

... see to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord." (NIV)

... remember the service that the Lord assigned to you, and try to carry it out." (NJB)

This exhortation has three important elements for us to observe.

1. A Ministry Assignment

First, Paul speaks of a "ministry" (ESV, KJV, NASB), "work" (NIV), "task" (NRSV). The Greek noun is diakonia (from which we get our word "deacon"), "service, ministry, office, assignment."5 Paul is speaking of an assignment, perhaps a church office, ministry, mission, or a special calling of some kind that has been placed before Archippus.

2. Received from the Lord

Second, this ministry assignment is "received in the Lord."6 The implication is that the ministry or calling has been given by the Lord directly, perhaps in prophecy, and acknowledged and accepted by Archippus as valid. Paul has a similar exhortation to Timothy:

"Do not neglect the gift you have,
which was given you by prophecy
when the council of elders laid their hands on you." (1 Timothy 4:14)

3. To be Fulfilled in Obedience and Faith

Third, Paul exhorts this young man, "see to it7 that you fulfill or complete" this ministry. The verb means "to make full," here probably, "to bring to completion that which was already begun; complete, finish."8


Archippus is a sturdy soldier for the gospel, faithful in his congregation. But there is something God has called him to do that he is hesitating to enter into.

What is preventing him? We aren't told.

  • Perhaps it is fear that he isn't worthy of or adequate to the task.
  • Perhaps it is an unwillingness to pay the price in personal cost, strained relationships, perhaps even outright persecution, if he were to go forward.
  • Perhaps other pressing matters have gotten in the way and he has put off following through on this assignment he has from the Lord.

Whatever it is, Archippus's priorities have gotten skewed and he needs a reminder, a gentle push in the right direction.

Stepping Up

My friend, perhaps the reason God put this verse on my heart is because of you. Is there something God has spoken to you that you've hesitated to follow through on? Put off again and again?

Sometimes I receive correspondence from people who regret not going into the ministry when they were young. One even told me he thought that by not doing so he had committed the unforgiveable sin. No. God will forgive you.

But as he forgives you for hesitating, for putting off his direction, he speaks to you again, now, and calls you to step up. You shouldn't wallow in regret. You can't change the past. You can't undo what is already done. But you can come to the Lord today and say, "Lord, forgive me for hesitating. What is the assignment you have for me now, in this time of my life? I want to do it. I want to follow you fully. I am ready to step forward."

And as you pray this prayer, I can see a smile forming on God's lips. He sees a child who is maturing in the Kingdom. A beloved son or daughter who is stepping up to be the disciple he or she has been called and nurtured to become.

No, you can't change the past. And with the passing of time, the exact assignment may have changed some.9 Consult the Lord about it afresh. Talk to your pastor or a spiritual friend about it. And then, to the best of your ability, go forward with the Lord's direction into the ministry and task that he has now set before you, knowing that he will walk beside you to help you.

"He who calls you is faithful;
he will surely do it." (1 Thessalonians 5:24)

So, my modern-day Archippus, I pass on Paul's exhortation to you.

"See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord." (Colossians 4:17)


Father, I pray that you will bless, guide, and embolden your son, your daughter, as they respond to what you are speaking to them. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.

Discussion Question

Here's a discussion forum for a study on Colossians I completed in 2010. If you like, post your response to this question.

Q4. Why do you think Archippus was singled out in Colossians 4:17? If you could invent a story of his role in the Colossian church, how would you describe Archippus? In what ways does he remind you of yourself?


Abbreviations and References

[1] Archippus is a Greek name meaning "master of the horse."

[2] Synergos, "helper, fellow-worker" (BDAG 969).

[3] "Fellow soldier" is systratiōtēs, "comrade in arms, fellow-soldier," a compound noun formed from syn-, "together, with" + stratiōtēs, "soldier." Also used of Epaphroditus in Philippians 2:25 (BDAG 979).

[4] According to the fourth century Apostolic Constitutions 7.46, Archippus was the first bishop of Laodicea. Tradition tells us that he was tortured and stoned to death during the persecution of Nero in front of the imperial prefect of Colossae for having rejected the cult of Artemis-Diana. The Catholic church has a feast day for Saint Archippus on March 20; the Eastern Orthodox celebrate his day on February 19.

[5] Diakonia, BDAG 230, 3.

[6] "Received" is the very common verb paralambanō, "receive." Sometimes the emphasis lies not so much on receiving or taking over, as on the fact that the word implies agreement or approval, "accept" (BDAG 768, 3). "In" (the preposition en) can be translated in the sense of "in" a place. But it has many other connotations. Here it probably is a "marker denoting the object to which something happens or in which something shows itself, or by which something is recognized, to, by, in connection with" (BDAG 329, 8).

[7] "See to it" (NIV), "see" (NRSV), "take heed" (KJV) is blepō, "to see," here with the connotation, "to pay especially close attention to something, notice, mark something." When used in the imperative, as here, it sometimes means "beware" or "look to" (BDAG 179, 4; Thayer, 2).

[8] Plēroō, BDAG 829, 5.

[9] I believe that the essential call remains, even though the circumstances may have changed some (Romans 11:29).

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