Archippus was a relatively minor figure mentioned briefly in two New Testament passages, yet examining what the Bible tells us about him can provide some valuable lessons for Christians today. In this in-depth post, we’ll explore everything the Bible reveals about Archippus and reflect on how his story applies to our lives as believers.
In the New Testament, Archippus is directly referenced in Philemon 1:2 and Colossians 4:17. He lived in the first century AD and was a member of the early Christian church. Beyond those basic facts, little is known definitively about his life. However, by looking closely at the context around the verses mentioning Archippus, we can draw some conclusions about who this important early church leader may have been.
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- Archippus was a leader in the early church, possibly taking over Epaphras’ ministry.
- Paul wrote about Archippus in his letters to Philemon and the Colossians.
- The letters seem to indicate that Archippus may have been at risk of neglecting his ministry.
- Paul encouraged Archippus to fulfill the ministry he had received from the Lord.
- Archippus’ story reminds us to be diligent and faithful in the ministries God has given each of us.
Archippus in Philemon
The book of Philemon is one of Paul’s shortest letters, written to Philemon, a slave owner in Colossae, about his runaway slave Onesimus. In the opening verse, Paul addresses this letter to Philemon as well as Apphia, Archippus and the church that meets in Philemon’s home:
Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker—also to Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier—and to the church that meets in your home: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philemon 1:1-3)
Paul refers to Archippus as a “fellow soldier” which indicates that he was likely an important leader and minister in the church at that time. Paul frequently used military metaphors like “fellow soldier” to refer to his co-workers who were laboring alongside him spreading the gospel message.
Some scholars believe Archippus may have been Philemon’s son and Apphia’s brother, since they are addressed together at the beginning of this letter. If this theory is correct, it would make sense that Archippus had a leadership position within the church that met in his family’s home. However, there is no definitive evidence about Archippus’ family connections to Philemon or Apphia.
Archippus in Colossians
The other New Testament mention of Archippus is found near the end of Paul’s letter to the Colossians:
Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.” (Colossians 4:17)
Here Paul specifically instructs the Colossians to relay a message to Archippus, encouraging him to finish and fully carry out the particular ministry he had been given. This indicates Archippus was currently ministering in some capacity to the church at Colossae.
Based on the context of the passage, it seems Paul was concerned that Archippus may have been neglecting or falling short in the ministry work he had been entrusted with. Many scholars believe that Archippus took over for Epaphras, who founded the church at Colossae while Paul was in Ephesus (Colossians 1:7). Epaphras later informed Paul of the Colossian church’s struggles with false teachings, leading Paul to write this letter (Colossians 1:8). If Archippus did replace Epaphras as the primary leader of the Colossian church, it would make sense that Paul would want to encourage him to fully commit to shepherding the church amidst its difficulties with false doctrines.
This verse illustrates how even important church leaders like Archippus could occasionally become complacent or distracted from their ministerial duties. Paul recognized this tendency and offered gentle but firm words exhorting Archippus to fulfill the calling that the Lord had placed on his life.
Though the two brief biblical references give few definitive details, we can piece together a basic profile of who Archippus likely was:
- A ministry leader in the early church – Archippus held an important position of leadership and ministry, likely taking over for Epaphras in shepherding the church at Colossae.
- Associated with Philemon’s household – He may have been part of Philemon’s family, perhaps his son, and could have helped lead the church meeting in Philemon’s home.
- At risk of neglecting his ministerial duties – Paul’s message to Archippus in Colossians indicates he may have been slacking or falling short in fulfilling his ministry calling.
- In need of encouragement and exhortation – Paul wrote to admonish and urge Archippus to re-commit to the work the Lord had given him. Archippus’ story reminds us that even faithful ministers occasionally require correction and guidance.
Though we only have a few brief verses about this little-known early church leader, the example of Archippus still holds important lessons for Christian ministry today, which we will explore in the next section.
Lessons from Archippus
While we don’t know many details about Archippus’ life story, the few biblical references we do have can teach modern Christians important spiritual lessons about being faithful ministers for Christ:
Be Diligent in Fulfilling Your Ministry
Archippus had apparently been given a specific ministry role by the Lord. However, Paul sensed the need to warn Archippus not to neglect that ministry but to diligently carry it out fully.
This should remind all Christians that God calls each of us to specific kinds of service and ministry. Our gifts and callings might not be as formal or official as Archippus’ leadership position. However, we each have a vital “ministry” we have received from the Lord, whether it’s sharing the gospel with our neighbors, caring for the sick, teaching children, encouraging the downcast, or supporting our local church.
Like Archippus, we must be careful not to become sluggish, distracted, or complacent in fulfilling these spiritual duties. We need to heed Paul’s admonition and see to it that we follow through on the ministry assignments God has entrusted to us.
Stay Faithful through Difficult Seasons
Archippus was ministering during a turbulent time when false teachings were infecting the Colossian church. This could have been a challenging environment to shepherd God’s people. It’s understandable why Archippus may have grown weary and allowed his zeal to wane.
Yet Paul exhorted Archippus to stay faithful and not give up even in the midst of difficult circumstances. This reminds us that ministry will not always be easy or enjoyable. There will inevitably be seasons of hardship, confusion, conflict, or persecution that could tempt us to throw in the towel. But Paul’s words to Archippus should encourage us to persist in serving the Lord even through the darkest valleys and toughest trials. God often uses our endurance and faithfulness in difficult situations for greater glory and good.
Accept Correction and Guidance
It’s easy to gloss over the brief mention of Archippus and focus only on the main subject of Paul’s letter. But imagine how significant these few words of correction must have felt to Archippus when they were first read publicly to his church community.
Rather than reacting defensively, Archippus apparently accepted Paul’s challenge to re-commit to his ministry. This models a humble willingness to receive godly counsel even when it stings our pride. The Body of Christ functions best when we appreciate correction that helps keep us on track rather than resisting it.
Leave a Worthy Legacy
We don’t know much about what happened after Paul’s warning to Archippus. But church tradition indicates that Archippus did in fact go on to leave a strong legacy of Christian ministry. Some scholars believe he may have even become the Bishop of Laodicea.
Imagine centuries from now if someone were to read a brief mention of your name in an old letter. Would the legacy and impact of your life reflect a story worth telling? May the example of Archippus inspire us to finish our lives well for the glory of God.
In summary, though the Bible gives us only a small glimpse of Archippus, his story provides an encouraging model of persevering through ministry challenges while remaining faithful to our calling from the Lord.
In conclusion, Archippus’ brief appearances in Scripture illustrate the vital role that even lesser-known ministers played in the early church. His example encourages us to diligently carry out the work God has assigned us, to endure struggles relying on God’s strength, and to humbly accept correction and guidance to stay on course. As we strive to emulate Archippus’ perseverance, let’s pray that we too would leave a lasting legacy for the Kingdom of God. What ministry has the Lord entrusted to you? How can reflecting on the life of Archippus inspire you toward greater faithfulness?