by Al Maxey

Issue #663 ------- June 12, 2015
Wars may be fought with weapons, but they are
won by men. It is the spirit of the men who follow
and of the man who leads that gains the victory.

Gen. George S. Patton (1885-1945)

Our Fellow Soldier Archippus
Honoring an Unknown Hero of Faith

Thomas Paine (1737-1809), an English-American writer and pamphleteer whose "Common Sense" was perhaps the primary text behind the call for American independence from Britain, thus leading to the American Revolution, wrote, "These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph" [The American Crisis, December 23, 1776].

One of the metaphors the apostle Paul favored in his writings was that of a soldier, for he understood only too well the call to ministry was in many ways a "call to arms" in a cosmic conflict for the lives of men. He spoke of the "full armor of God" (the "armor of light" -- Rom. 13:12) that was supplied for the disciples of Christ that we might be able to stand our ground in the spiritual battles we daily encounter (Eph. 6:10f; cf. 1 Thess. 5:8). We are called to spend our lives devoted to fighting the "good fight" (1 Tim. 1:18; 6:12; 2 Tim. 4:7). We are called to "endure hardship like a good soldier of Christ Jesus," pleasing our "Commanding Officer" (2 Tim. 2:3-4). He refers to Epaphroditus as "my fellow soldier" (Philp. 2:25), and he informs Philemon that Archippus is "our fellow soldier" (Philemon 2). It is this last individual, whose name appears only twice in all of Scripture (Col. 4:17 is the other occurrence), that I would like for us to consider in this issue of my weekly Reflections. Who was this man, and why is he brought to our attention in these two passages of Scripture? What can we learn from Paul's brief statements that might help us in our Christian warfare? Let us begin by noticing what is stated in these two passages from the pen of Paul:

  1. Philemon 1-2 -- "Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon our beloved brother and fellow worker, and to Apphia our sister, and to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house" (NASB).

  2. Colossians 4:17 -- "And say to Archippus, 'Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it'" (NASB).

As a point of historical reference, it should be noted that both of these passages were written during Paul's first imprisonment in Rome (which would have been around the years 61-63 A.D.; indeed, these are two of the four epistles known collectively as "The Prison Epistles" of Paul), and both were written to believers in the city of Colossae (one to the whole church, the other to three individuals within that church, although it was addressed secondarily to the rest as well). There is considerable speculation as to the relationship of Philemon, Apphia and Archippus (the three individuals to whom the brief epistle known as "Philemon" was primarily addressed). Since this is considered by most biblical scholars as "the most personal of all Paul's letters," dealing largely with the issue of a slave who has run away from his master, it is assumed that the three persons named in the salutation are the family (father, wife and son) from whom the slave, Onesimus, fled, and for whom Paul now intercedes. Although Apphia (which was a very common Phrygian name, occurring quite frequently within Phrygian inscriptions) is referred to by Paul as "our sister" (Philemon 2), this was in the same sense that Timothy was referred to as "our brother" (Philemon 1): it simply denoted the fact that they were part of the same spiritual Family of God -- brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. Thus, she was "apparently the wife of Philemon; 'sister' being in the Christian sense" [Dr. A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, e-Sword]. It is only natural that, in a letter to the owners of this slave, Paul would address the wife also, for "she is as much a party to the decision as her husband, because according to the custom of the time, she had day-to-day responsibility for the slaves" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 11, p. 458]. "The apostle addresses her because, as the mistress of the household, her consent would be necessary to the reception of Onesimus on a new footing" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 21, Philemon, p. 13].

As for the third person mentioned in the address of Paul's brief personal epistle, a man named Archippus: "Who this person was we cannot tell; there have been various conjectures concerning him" [Adam Clarke, Clarke's Commentary, vol. 6, p. 534]. "Some have suggested he was the son of Philemon and Apphia, but this can be neither proved or disproved. The nature of his ministry has also been widely discussed without firm conclusions" [Holman Bible Dictionary, p. 94]. Although there is some debate, the majority of scholars are comfortable regarding this man as the son of Philemon and Apphia, and that he further had significant spiritual responsibilities within the church at Colossae. Paul characterizes him as his "fellow soldier" (Philemon 2), which would be a reference to the spiritual warfare of one on "active duty" for the Lord, and he additionally speaks of this man's "ministry" which he had received from the Lord (Col. 4:17 -- this is the same word used in a similar statement of Paul to Timothy: "Do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry" -- 2 Tim. 4:5). The church was meeting in the home of this family (Philemon 2), and most feel the local flock's pastor was Archippus (a name meaning "master of the horse" or "chief among horsemen"). "Clearly Archippus had a call 'in the Lord' as every preacher should have" [Dr. A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, e-Sword]. "The whole tone of the passage here suggests that, like Timothy's, it was a ministry of some prominence in the church" [Dr. Charles Ellicott, Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 8, p. 118]. Some feel he may have been "serving as pastor in the absence of Epaphras" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 11, p. 226], which may be suggested by the wording of Paul in Col. 4:12-13. "Epaphras was at this time in Rome with St. Paul, and it is possible that Archippus was filling his place temporarily" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 21, Philemon, p. 1].

"Up to the third century we have no certain evidence of the existence of church buildings for the purposes of worship; all references point to private houses for this. In Rome several of the oldest churches appear to have been built on the sites of houses used for Christian worship" [The Expositor's Greek Testament, vol. 4, p. 212]. "The early Christian churches often met in homes. Not until about the third century do we have records of separate church buildings" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 11, p. 458]. "Before the third century there is no certain evidence of special church buildings for worship" [Dr. A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, e-Sword]. Thus, we are not surprised to find the church in Colossae meeting in the home of this family (Philemon, Apphia and Archippus), nor is it overly surprising to find the son of this godly couple (if indeed Archippus was their son, as most believe) serving as the "minister" for these disciples of Christ Jesus. Nor is it unusual or unexpected to find the apostle Paul, who admitted, "I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches" (2 Cor. 11:28), challenging the various leaders of these congregations to "take heed to" and "fulfill" and pay special attention to "the duties of" their ministries bestowed upon them by the Lord, as he did with both Timothy and Archippus (2 Tim. 4:5; Col. 4:17). [NOTE: For more on this particular aspect of church history, about which many are quite unfamiliar and even unaware, the reader might find my following recent study rather enlightening: Reflections #649: "The Church Building: Is it a Blessing or a Curse?"]

With regard to this special charge or challenge by Paul to Archippus in Col. 4:17, some see this as an indication that Archippus may have been somewhat derelict in his duties and responsibilities as a minister of the gospel. "Those betray their trust, and will have a sad account at last, who do this work of the Lord negligently" [Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, e-Sword]. "This individual warning would not have been sent in an epistle designed for the whole church (in Colossae) if there had not been some failure of effort or duty on the part of Archippus" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 20, Colossians, p. 227]. Most scholars, however, feel this is reading far too much into Paul's statement, especially in light of the fact that a very similar charge was given to Timothy. "The injunction which Paul wants delivered to Archippus resembles the ones given to Timothy (1 Tim. 4:16; 2 Tim. 4:5), none of which imply that the persons concerned had been dilatory and needed prodding" [R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul's Epistle to the Colossians, p. 207]. Albert Barnes (1798-1870) rightly observes, in my view, "There is no evidence, as has been supposed by some, that Paul intended to imply by what he said that Archippus had been remiss in the performance of his duties, but the apostle doubtless meant to encourage him and to excite him to increased ardor and zeal in the work of the Lord. It is always proper to caution even the most faithful and self-denying servants of the Lord to 'take heed,' or 'see to it,' that they perform their duties with fidelity. The office of the ministry is such, and the temptations to unfaithfulness are so great, that we need constant watchfulness" [Barnes' Notes on the Bible, e-Sword]. "The message to Archippus can hardly be regarded as necessarily suggesting more than that his work was specially important and arduous, demanding from himself earnest watchfulness" [Dr. James Hastings, Dictionary of the Apostolic Church, vol. 1, p. 89]. Therefore, "there is no need to infer any slackness on his part" [Dr. W. Robertson Nicoll, The Expositor's Greek Testament, vol. 3, p. 547].

Apart from these few details, many of which require some degree of educated assumption and speculation, we know nothing definitive about this brother in Christ named Archippus. According to a well-known tradition of the early church (found in the Apostolic Constitutions, a late 4th century collection of treatises), Archippus became the presiding bishop of Laodicea. This was a city near Colossae, and one which some have speculated Archippus may have had some dealings based upon the verses immediately preceding Paul's charge to him (Col. 4:12-17). About a century earlier, in the writings of an individual known as Pseudo-Dorotheus, the name of Archippus was included in a listing of the names of the Seventy (some manuscripts set the number at 72) mentioned in Luke 10. The vast majority of scholars, however, believe this "has little historical foundation" [The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 1, p. 284]. In the Greek Martyrology (a catalogue of martyrs and saints arranged according to the order of their feast days), Archippus is said to have been stoned to death (along with his father and mother: Philemon and Apphia) at a place called Chonae, which was near Laodicea. Whether any of this is factual or not, we shall probably never know. What we do know, however, is that the apostle Paul regarded him as a valuable "fellow soldier" in the "good fight" to bring the good news to a lost world. Thus, we honor this little known warrior of the Word, as we should all who strive to serve their Savior to the best of their abilities and opportunities.

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Readers' Reflections

From a Reader in Indiana:

This is the old, old man from Indiana (84 next month) and still teaching! Please send me a copy of Hugh Fulford's article that you mentioned in your last Reflections (Issue #662: "I Ain't No Stinkin' Duck"). My life has been full of preachers like that, but praise the Lord for people like Carl Ketcherside and Leroy Garrett and now you, Al Maxey. It makes me know that I was never alone! God bless you!

From a Reader in Canada:

Your latest article ("I Ain't No Stinkin' Duck") was a hard one for me to read, for I have been affiliated with the Church of Christ group for over 45 years. A long time ago, however, I realized that the expression "Church of Christ" was really just another error of sectarianism. In fact, the word "church" does not even appear in Scripture. Rather, we are simply "called out ones." The last I checked, WE, as individuals, are the "church," and our every action in our daily lives constitute a form of "worship" unto our God. We may choose to meet with other called out ones in some specific location, as a mere convenience, but these brethren are only a small part of the universal Body of Christ. They are definitely not the only true part (as many in "our" group claim). That level of arrogance is almost inconceivable for any Christian to entertain! I happen to have tremendous respect for how the faith-group denominated "Church of Christ" understands the need for weekly Communion. I also know that this understanding is not a doctrine supported by Scripture, but merely a tradition we hold dear. It is my preference, and there are no other groups here that do it this way. Therefore, I guess I'm stuck with continuing to attend where a bunch of old stiff-shirts go who still think they are the only true church because they don't use musical instruments! So, I guess I'll have to continue to be branded by my association with this branch of the Stone-Campbell Movement, but if this is the worst thing that can happen to me, then I will die happy! I love you, Al. God bless you.

From a Reader in Texas:

This may be the most ridiculous concept I've ever shared, but when I was reading your latest Reflections ("I Ain't No Stinkin' Duck"), and as I considered what Hugh said in his article which you reviewed, my mind went directly to the food court in a large city mall. If we take the concept of food being a life-giving necessity, then we are able to maintain life by means of our connection with food. In the food court, you may find 50 different offerings and varieties of "food," ranging from Chinese to Mexican, barbeque to seafood, etc., all of which build the body up and sustain life. In much the same way, various "groups" of Christians point people to God and His Son, who was sent for our redemption, although these groups may differ with regard to their man-made traditions. Having played my horn for almost every denomination, I can verify the presence of the fruit of the Spirit in all of these denominations (which groups the very conservative part of our own heritage would condemn). People like Hugh Fulford want to trap us with the idea that all of these denominations proclaim another way to God rather than through Jesus, and that is just NOT the case! Every last person I've met over the years from these numerous groups are just like you and me. They want to show others the love of God and tell how He has sent His Son for our salvation. To the best of their human ability they are simply attempting to be faithful servants of the Father. PS: I look forward to meeting you and worshipping with you this coming Sunday (June 14)! I'll be the one coming through the door most looking like Santa!

From a Minister in Texas:

Just read "I Ain't No Stinkin' Duck." Well said! I don't think I was ever a "Church of Christ preacher," although I have never been employed by any other group. I have, however, preached for other groups on occasion, and I have realized that they were doing the same thing as I am: seeking to serve God to the best of their ability. In fact, I have often found them to be miles ahead of me in their understanding of worship (among other subjects)! I have also engaged in preaching what I had come to understand to be Truth, even though it contradicted what I was taught and what the brethren I was employed by believed. A time or two I didn't even get run off! (LOL) Keep up the good work, brother!

From a Reader in Alaska:

Your essays always help clarify my mind and heart on Christ. My view is that there are NO denominations, there are only congregations of believers with differing traditions. The rock on which Jesus built His "church" is the Word, which is the foundation of all congregations of His disciples. It troubles me to see squabbles between congregations for two reasons: 1) these disagreements are mostly based on traditions, which reflects a form of social/cultural bias/discrimination, and 2) I fail to find in the Scriptures that I have an obligation, or even authority, to judge other congregations. What I do have the authority to do is worship as I understand the Word of God with those people with whom I choose to worship. Thank you for your efforts, and keep on writing! God bless your work for Him!

From a Well-Known Leader & Author:

The journey from prejudice, ignorance, pride and fear is a long and painful one. It calls forth our deepest commitment to Truth. It tests our integrity and character. They killed our Leader when He tried to liberate those in the chains of legalism. Thank you, Al, for your recent article "I Ain't No Stinkin' Duck." It filled our plates with much to ingest and digest!

From a Minister in Tennessee:

Thanks, Al, for this study ("I Ain't No Stinkin' Duck"). It surprises me that brethren claim to speak where the Bible speaks and remain silent where the Bible is silent, yet then brazenly claim that the name "Church of Christ" is THE name with which we are to identify ourselves. Not one single inspired writer thought so! Yet, we are so wed to that name that we will charge a person with heresy if he puts up one like "Church of God" (which is found in the Bible). Keep up the good work, Al. There are brethren who are now opening their eyes and ears, and who are now recognizing the difference between what the Bible actually says and the old traditional hearsay.

From a Reader in Alabama:

I loved your last Reflections ("I Ain't No Stinkin' Duck"). The denial by so many in the Churches of Christ that they are a "denomination" just drives me crazy! Our new preacher has, for the past several months, had a whole series of lessons on the "one true church." We have heard ad nauseam the evils of denominationalism, instruments in worship, and the "plan of salvation" twice on Sundays and at every "invitation" on Wednesday nights. We are a membership of less than 50, of which only two teens have not been baptized, so we all know this "plan" frontwards, backwards, sideways, blindfolded, hands tied behind our back, and standing on our heads! I am so sick of this! There is a more progressive congregation of the "Church of Christ" in another city nearby, but I am so disgusted with all the condemning and calling out of the "denominations" by our group that I don't want to have anything to do with a place that has a sign out front that says "Church of Christ" because of the legalism associated with it. By the way, are you familiar with the book "Muscle and A Shovel"? Well, it has been introduced into our congregation, and many here think it's the best thing since sliced bread! I read it and was so sad! What an arrogant message! It mainly taught that anyone who believes differently than those of us in the "Church of Christ" group are dishonest, power hungry, money seeking, etc. It hit me like a ton of bricks that I don't really belong in this group any longer! Yet, I must "remain silent," for I am a woman!! Please pray for us, and Thank You for your Reflections.

From a Reader in Georgia:

Not to be overly crass, but the attempt by Hugh Fulford (yea, verily, anyone) to defend the position that the "Church of Christ" is NOT a denomination, but is the only true church to which one must belong is similar to the defense Bill Clinton made of his immoral behavior with Monica Lewinsky. One can say that they aren't doing what they are in fact doing, and in some instances they may actually believe it themselves, but it doesn't make it true! The arrogant proclamation by some sects within this faith-heritage (Churches of Christ) that the whole of Christendom is separated into "us" and "them" is something that is beginning to change! More and more are coming to realize how incorrect, and damaging, this was, is and will continue to be if maintained. Way to keep 'em honest, my friend!

From a Reader in Colorado:

I will applaud the day when we can freely speak of simply being in the "Body of Christ." The word "church," when I hear it, brings up thoughts of order, ritualism, legalism, division, yes even hatred (because your church is "wrong"). When I speak of "Body" it paints a picture of family, care for one another, love, concern, and equality because of Jesus' sacrifice. I am who I am because He is my "Elder Brother" and I am a co-heir with Him. He is the Head of the "Body," which is His church. I believe we desperately need to know who we are "in Christ." We are to look like Him. His "Body" of people are those who see who/whose they are, and what God has done for them, and this is not because they attend at "the right building with the right name." I will not be prideful when I kneel on a beach with a masked man with a sword standing behind me: I will not look over at the one next to me and ask, "Are you a member of the 'Church of Christ' group?" Christ's "Body" is bigger than our boundaries!!

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