During the last few weeks, we have been spending time exploring the lives of early Christians. It is our hope that in doing so we might better understand how their journey can enlighten us in our walk with Christ. We have spoken about Barnabas, the son of encouragement and Mark, the comeback kid who was given a second chance at life in ministry. Last week, we spoke about Lois and Eunice, women of sincere faith who led their grandson and son, Timothy, to faith and into the mission field. Today, I would like us to look at Tychicus. Now, a quick show of hands, how many of you have heard about Tychicus? I suspect few, if anyone, listening today has heard of Tychicus. This is precisely why we should explore his life. Tychicus’ lack of Christian celebrity means that of the characters of the New Testament, we are probably most like him. The reality of our situation is that most of us while we engaged in our church, have no Christian celebrity. That is, no one knows us or our story outside of church and yet we remain essential to the continuing story of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In this regard, we and Tychicus have much in common.
We learn about Tychicus only through the Apostle Paul’s letters to the churches Paul had a hand in establishing. In the letter to the Colossians, Paul wrote, “6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. 7 Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. 8 I am sending him [Tychicus] to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts” (Colossians 4:6-8).
The first thing we come to realize from Paul’s letter to the Colossian church is that ministry is not a one-person activity. The Apostle Paul, for as influential as he was to the early church, did not work alone. Paul had help and those fellow ministers circulated among the early churches. Paul’s letters and traveling ministers held the churches together as a network. There were no denominations or dioceses or adjudicatory structures. There were just churches, small gatherings of people who believed in God, and who were mutually supportive of one another. In this passage from Colossians, we see that Paul is working to strengthen that network by sending Tychicus to carry this letter to the church. This network system kept the early Christian Church focused on cooperation, not self-reliance. The churches focused on evangelism not competition. The early churches focused not on praying that God would save the lost souls of the world but they, the church, would have new opportunities to witness for Jesus.
This little passage from Colossians should cause us to ask ourselves some questions about our focus. Think about the church you currently attend. Is that church the only church you ever attended or were you once part of another Christian fellowship? Most people have been part of other churches. We change churches because we move away or we leave because of a personal conflict, theological differences, music preferences, preaching styles, color of carpet in the sanctuary, and the list goes on. Now, comes the hard question. How many of us continue to pray for the churches we left? How many of us continue to maintain the fellowship connections with the members of our former church as a means of keeping the network of churches alive and as an expression of the broad concern for the church of Jesus Christ? Most Christians probably do not pray for their former church fellowships. Paul’s letter, and the presence of Tychicus, is an example for us that we too ought to be engaged in supporting the network of churches. We, therefore, see in Tychicus an example for us to follow in being part of the fiber that keeps the network of churches alive and vibrant. Why is that important? Paul identified that in our togetherness our “conversation[s] [would] be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” The Christian witness to the world is made powerful when churches are united in their display of grace first toward one another and then toward those who do not know Christ. We all have much work to do in this regard.
The second thing we notice from this short passage is that the letter is carried by Tychicus. Paul does not speak of Tychicus background, so it is reasonable to assume that some people in the Colossian church knew Tychicus or at least knew his name. What do we know about Tychicus? We encounter Tychicus in the Book of Acts. In Chapter 20, Luke wrote, “Because some Jews had plotted against him [Paul] just as he [Paul] was about to sail for Syria, he [Paul] decided to go back through Macedonia. 4 He [Paul] was accompanied by Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy also, and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia. 5 These men went on ahead and waited for us at Troas” (Acts 20:3-5). Tychicus was from Asia and was part of the Paul’s missionary team going into Macedonia, modern day Greece. Tychicus had become a student of missionary work learning as a team member how to share the Gospel message across cultural lines. Tychicus was a student of the Gospel and was engaged in the mission of the church. Tychicus reveals to us an important lesson for our faith journey. First, we must be a continuous student of God Word. We must be always seeking to improve our relationship with God and understanding of His Word. And while we must be a continuous student it must be with a purpose of applying our knowledge and not as a perpetual student who simply learns for the sake of learning. As Christians, we are not just become a greater container of the good news and comfort of Christ for ourselves, but we must also become a conduit of that grace to others. American musician Johnny Cash put this thought to a song entitled, “No Earthly Good.” A portion of the lyrics go this way:
Come heed me, my brothers, come heed, one and all
Don't brag about standing or you'll surely fall
You're shining your light and shine it you should
But you're so heavenly minded, you're no earthly good
If you're holding heaven, then spread it around
There's hungry hands reaching up here from the ground
Move over and share the high ground where you stood
So heavenly minded, you're no earthly good
The gospel ain't gospel until it is spread
But how can you share it where you've got your head
There's hands that reach out for a hand if you would
So heavenly minded, you’re no earthly good!
This is the sentiment that Paul was sharing again that we must be “always full of grace and seasoned with salt.” We must be both heavenly minded [full of grace] and earthly good [seasoned with salt].
Paul saw our friend Tychicus just that way. Look at how Paul described Tychicus. Paul said, “He [Tychicus] is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord.” First, to Paul, Tychicus is a dear brother. The Greek word for dear means that Paul and Tychicus had a mutually affectionate relationship. They genuinely cared about each other’s wellbeing. Paul then added the reason for this affection by calling Tychicus a brother, signifying that Paul and Tychicus each had been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ making them brothers. They were not biologically brothers. They were brothers because through the blood of Christ they had been adopted into the family of God. The brotherhood in Christ gave rise to the depth and nature of their affection for one another. Jesus set the standard for discipleship. He said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). We cannot expect the world to love Jesus, if Christians cannot love one another. Our friend Tychicus, showed his love to Paul and was recognized as a “dear brother” in Christ. So, we need to ask ourselves, am I acting as a dear brother or dear sister to other Christians? If not, why not? If not, do I recognize that my behavior is outside the teaching of Christ and quenches the work of my church?
There is an often-told story that speaks to the point of loving one another. It seems there was a church seeking a new pastor. The church invited a pastoral candidate to preach. The candidate preached on the command to love one another. The congregation was stunned. Everyone thought the sermon was the most beautiful and compelling message they had ever heard. The leadership of the church immediately offered the candidate the position as pastor. The first Sunday the new pastor was to preach, the sanctuary was filled with congregants eager to hear this pastor deliver another wonderful message. The pastor preached on the command to love one another giving word for word the message given as a candidate. People thought, it was an excellent message the first time, and was still good the second time. The next Sunday the pastor gave the message to an expectant congregation. It was word for word the same message to love one another. The leadership of the church was in a panic believing that they had called a pastor who only had one sermon. The leadership team met with the pastor during the week and said the message on loving one another was an excellent message the first time, good still the second, but it was concerning to hear it the third time in a row. One member of the leadership team said, “You know pastor, there are other commands in the Bible you could preach on.” The pastor said, “I know that there are other commands. And we will move onto to those commands, just as soon as we get this one right.” Tychicus got it right. He was a dear brother because he genuinely loved. There is little point for a church to move forward if the command to love one another is not done rightly.
The second thing we learn about Tychicus is that he was “a faithful minister.” Tychicus was faithful toward completing his duties for the church. He was someone people could depend upon. If Tychicus said he would be there, he was there. We Baptists have church covenants. In one church I used to attend, the covenant said that we would be “just and punctual in all our dealing.” This was an expression of being faithful toward one another in the activities of the church. Tychicus was a faithful minister. The Greek word Paul used for minister suggests that this person promoted the welfare and the interests of the church over any of his own personal ambitions. Tychicus was an example for all members of a church. We each must lay aside personal ambitions for the greater cause of Christ. James, in the New Testament book bearing his name, wrote, “For where you have envy and self-ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice” (James 3:16). We probably all have been in churches where the interest of one or two people seems to govern the congregational activities. The telltale sign of this sort of situation is when you hear people in the church say things like, “Well, what will ‘so and so’ think? Or ‘so and so’ is going to be upset if we do that. Or what do we need to do to keep ‘so and so’ happy?” In that church setting, the mission is not the gospel, the mission is keeping “so and so” from causing further disruption. Tychicus was not a “so and so”. He was a faithful minister who diligently worked to advance the good of the church without self-ambition. We should do likewise.
The third thing we learn about Tychicus is that he was “fellow servant in the Lord.” The Greek word, σύνδουλος, sü'n-dü-los, Paul used here for fellow servant meant Tychicus was Paul’s colleague both having the reputation and posture of a servant of Jesus in sharing the gospel. It is largely in that posture that Paul said he sent Tychicus to the Colossian church to share news of Paul and to encourage the hearts of the people of the church. Tychicus was there to be a fellow servant of the church. We would do well to learn from Tychicus and be available to support our sister churches, not by conforming them to our image, but by being fellow servants in Christ.
The faith journey of our new friend Tychicus gives us insight into our own walk with Jesus as Lord and Savior. Tychicus lived as a dear brother, willing and available to others as an expression of the love of Christ that was within him. Tychicus lived as a faithful minister, willing and available to do the work of the church. He was humble to recognize the need to continually enrich his life with God’s Word and discerning enough to realize that he must also minister to others offering wisdom and comfort. Tychicus lived as a fellow servant to the Lord accepting that he had a responsibility to share the gospel with those God placed in his path. Tychicus lived full of grace, seasoned with salt, knowing how to answer everyone. We would be wise to see if we are living likewise. Amen and Amen.