Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.” Colossians 4.17.
Who was Archippus and what was his work? We don’t really know; except that Paul begins his letter to Philemon (who lived in Colossae) with the words, “To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker, to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier and to the church that meets in your home” (Philemon 1.1-2), which suggests that Archippus is Philemon and Apphia’s son. The expression “our fellow soldier” that Paul uses of Archippus here is one he reserves for those who share with him the task of preaching and teaching and proclaiming the gospel (Philippians 2.25, 2 Timothy 2.2-3), so it is a fair assumption that that is the “work” that Archippus is to complete; and that is underlined by the fact that the word translated “work” here is diakonia which actually means “ministry”.
So Archippus has a ministry, probably of preaching and teaching, within the church at Colossae; and now Paul tells him that he must “complete” it. Again, the word used is important. It is pleroo which doesn’t really mean to complete but to “fill” in the way that a cup is filled. It is rather as if Paul sees the ministry that Archippus has received in Christ as something independent of Archippus himself. The purposes of God contain this specific defined period and area of ministry but it remains empty until Archippus fills it; and if Archippus fails to fill it or packs it in before it is fully filled, the purposes of God will be hampered or delayed. The call to Archippus is to be true to the task that God has given him and not to abandon it before it has been completed. Maybe there was some danger of Archippus doing just that. Maybe he felt he was getting nowhere … having no effect. Maybe he was weary and discouraged and was thinking, “What’s the point?”
The point, says Paul, is that the ministry was given you “in the Lord” and that is what gives it validity and importance and makes it vital that it should be completed. Keep going!
I find it remarkable that my random text-selection program should have given me this text this morning. I was given it once before — three years ago — on the last day of a conference I had attended. Then, I was wondering whether the time had come for me to move out of my present church and leave my ministry there. And the speaker said: “Tell Archippus … and you can put your own name there … ‘See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord'”. It was enough. God had spoken. I knew I had to stay put. Now, once again, I have been asking the same question: “Is it time to move on?” … and again I am given this text. I think I know what God’s answer is!